Choirs of Angels Painting in Italian Choir Books, 1300-1500 by Barbara Drake Boehm

By Barbara Drake Boehm

This pleasant publication describes and illustrates the Metropolitan Museum’s selection of approximately forty illuminations from Italian choral manuscripts. Representing the paintings of Gothic and Renaissance masters either celebrated and nameless, those important work in miniature---with their compelling narrative, incredible colour, and shining gold---bear witness to extraordinary aesthetic accomplishment. The choir books they light up are a wealthy resource of knowledge concerning the improvement of chant, whose unforeseen transcendent tonalities have abiding allure at the present time. in addition they function fundamental resources for the research of the lives of non secular groups and of the philosophy and religion that infused medieval Europe, providing a glimpse of Italy on the sunrise of the Renaissance.

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This vessel exhibits a distinctive spout form with a thick, full lip characteristic of Phase I Moche ceramics. The animal’s ears, nose, eyes, whiskers, fangs, and oval-shaped jaguar pelage motifs are accentuated with white clay slip to emphasize the physical abilities of the jaguar. Moche potters probably had good knowledge of animal characteristics and were able to identify this figure as particularly a jaguar, rather than simply a large feline. The widely opened mouth with sharp fangs additionally conveys the idea that this animal is capable of killing any mammal living in its territory.

His pupilless eyes suggest blindness. The bulbous nose, serious frown, and unusually oversized left hand are other possible indications of disfigurement. Perhaps this man suffered from certain tropical diseases, which are usually accompanied by high fever and swelling skin. Many Moche ceramics depict this type of portrait of a disfigured person suffering from a painful or deadly disease. The social status of these diseased figures may have been elevated out of respect for their determination to survive cruel illnesses.

Although it would be a hard task to distinguish the species of these painted animals, both fish and sharks were important dietary resources for the Nazca people and played a major role in the lives of fishermen. Interpreted as sharks, the images on this vessel would have been a reminder of the danger of sharks to fishermen, who used simple totora reed boats, and other people who may have gathered small shells and fish near shores. SO One of the most popular themes found on Nazca ceramic vessels is a vast variety of birds, depicted in different iconographies and painted in polychrome.

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