Sunday, August 28, 2011

Urbanism at PAFA

I finally saw PAFA's Urbanism show only a few days before it closes (Sept. 4). Urbanism: Reimagining the Lived Environment at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts showcases the work of five young artists that testify to Philadelphia's vibrancy as a city of urban art. What better time to engage with urbanist sensibilities than after Irene has challenged the fragility of our cities. This is the last week of the show, so go see it. Unfortunately, there is no published catalog. If you cannot justify the $15 tickets, consider the bonus of Eakins' Gross Clinic without anyone else in the space, the PAFA faculty show, the permanent American collections and, of course, the Furness masterpiece. Unfortunately for you, another great show, Abstract Expressionism and Its Discontents, just closed this weekend.

Back to Urbanism: Arden Bendler Browning takes the Richard Diebenkorn tradition of abstract landscapes and makes it spin. Although the works are very painterly, their execution on TYVEK and their casual hanging suggest possibilities that go beyond the museum walls (murals, street art, etc.). Browning is a grad of Carnegie Mellon and she completed her MFA at Tyler.

Amy Walsh, a PAFA graduate and Tyler professor, creates dialectical constructions. The assemblage of arbitrary materials create Duchampian frames with keyholes. Through the keyholes, neurotically fantastic architectural interiors await the viewer. This is a lot better than the recent photographic school that builds meticulously models, photographs them, and exhibits the photos.

The Dufala Brothers bring together a graphic meticulousness (Steven) and a sculptural conceptualism (Billy). Both brothers studied and teach at PAFA. They are probably the best known of the exhibition thanks to their multidisciplinary engagement with music, hipsterdom, but most importantly, trash. A body of their work arises from a collaboration with a dump in North Philadelphia that they have turned into an art co-op (with internship, installations, etc.) This is really exceptional stuff, unpretentious Philadelphian at its best, and first featured at Haverford College: PROBLEMY (and gallery talk). To read more about this promising collaborative, see Shaun Brady's "Disposable Heroes: The Dufala Brothers Turn Trash to Treasure and Back Again," in the Philadelphia City Paper (June 30, 2011). The photo above (City Paper, Neal Santos) shows the Dufala Brothers completing their dumpster-coffin for the PAFA show.

Finally, the work of Ben Peterson takes a very thin graphic stance towards representation but combines thematically strange illustrations. I must admit that Peterson's work is so demure that it didn't grab me too vigorously. I do like Peterson's surreal vision. It takes an illustrative graphic style that one might encounter in book illustration and explodes it into urban-striving scale.

All four artists make me extremely excited about the Philadelphia young art scene. I do believe that America's cultural capitals (NYC and LA) have set an agenda focused on Identity. Thanks to a long tradition of urbanism, Philadelphia offers the refreshing alternative of Urbanism.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Return to Camelot

Wonderful little essay by Mark Girouard on the discovery and dissemination of the Middle Ages in British culture: "A Return to Camelot," The Wilson Quarterly (Autumn 1981), 178-189.

Although we find a few medieval antiquarians in the 18th century (most famously Horace Walpole), the love for the medieval does not become official until King George III hires James Wyatt as court architect in 1800. Breaking the Graeco-Roman imperial style, George commissions the first Gothic palace at Kew and renovates the interior of Windsor. Girouard sees the turn to the Gothic as a direct response to the French Revolution across the channel. Under this environment, Sir Walter Scott emerges as the most popular writer across the western world, Pugin designs a Gothic Parliament and jousting is revived. Sadly, however, King George III's Gothic palace at Kew Gardens is torn down by his son, who had "issues" with his father.

The feudal fantasy infiltrated into many unexpected aspects of British culture, such as sports The iconography of soccer and cricket springs out of the jousting fantasy. Girouard uses the illustration above (my quick sketch) to show the knights-scout moral trajectory. But all this comes to an abrupt end with the experiences of World War I. The massacre and trauma reveal the total irrelevance of medieval fanfare and ethical codes in modern realities. England's Gothic romance springs up quickly in the 1800s, flourishes over the century, and dies, in the 1910s.

Mark Girouard is best known for his pioneering studies in domestic architecture. Life in the English Countryhouse: A Social and Architectural History (1978) transformed the history of architecture. The essay offers a taste of the larger book project, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman (1981).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Frankish Roof Tiles: Morea

Medieval roof tiles tend to be thrown away in excavations because they are both plentiful and undiagnostic. In contrast to beautifully shaped stone or clay tiles from antiquity, medieval tiles seem vernacular, produced locally with less regulation or form-work. Luckily, the discipline of medieval tiles in the Peloponnese is witnessing a renaissance. My experience with medieval roof tiles began in 1991 at the Morea Project. One of the few things that makes a medieval settlement recognizable on the landscape is the scatter of roof tiles. If tiles is all you got, then you start taking them seriously. While surveying countless medieval settlements in the Peloponnese and looking at thousands of tile fragments, the eye began to recognize certain patterns. A few analytical drawings and reconstructions produced a distinctive tile system that Fred Cooper articulated most succinctly in our project monograph, Houses of the Morea (Athens, 2002), pp. 23-35. I will quote Fred's analysis:"The distinctive Frankish roof tile system has a different shape altogether for the pan and the cover. The pans are somewhat wider than the Byzantine (ca. 0.25-0.30 m.) and the flanks turn upwards sharply to for an edge for insertion underneath the closing edge of the incumbent cover tile. The cover is quite broad (0.20-0.30 m.) in comparison to older and later examples. In section, the arch forms one ogive or, at least, the arch tightly curves at the peak. Cover and pan are relatively thick, ca. 0.025 m. (figure 1).

Another distinctive feature of the Frankish variety is the interlocking system of covers above pans. Adjoining pans are separated by the span of the cover, rather than the reverse that is typical of other types of roof tile systems, in which the lower or pan tile has flank sides abutting, while a narrower cover tile spans a width no more than necessary to close the joint. In the Byzantine system, bothpans and covers abut.

Still another characteristic of the Frankish type is the fabric: course and mottled black to red by uneven firing. The underside or unexposed surfaces are quite crumbly, often having straw embedded, a result of nested stacking. Exposed surfaces are more evenly fired and usually bear finger impressed loops on both covers and sometimes on pans.

In an exploratory trip to Burgundy, France, I found the same type of tile system in use on extant Romanesque church roofs, such as Vezeley, as that used for the churches of Glarenza and Andravida and at our kastro sites. This is to say, the technology, but probably not the tiles themselves, came directly from the Frankish homeland of the Morea occupiers. The topic of Frankish roof tiles is one of several which I will pursue further. In any event, the presence of Frankish tile fragments on the ground at sites is taken as evidence for a medieval date."

Fred Cooper has, indeed, done a lot more fieldwork in Burgundy since this publication, but he has not published his conclusions. One more thing I'd like to add. Right around the time that the Morea Project began, Charles Williams had been excavating a Frankish complex in Corinth. In his early explorations, he thought that he might have identified a distinctively Frankish (versus Byzantine) roof tile. But in the course of the excavations, he seems to have grown more and more uncertain about the diagnostic potential of the tiles.

Cooper had encountered the Frankish tiles in two additional projects, in the Minnesota excavations of the Frankish Cathedral in Andravida and in his excavation of Karl Blegen's dump in Pylos. Yes, you read correctly. Nestor's Palace in Pylos contained Frankish material. Blegen excavated Pylos in 1939 and the 1950s. As was common, he tossed all the medieval roof tiles in his excavation dump. Cooper talks about finding newspapers that provided termini for the layered dump that he re-excavated in the 1980s.

Cooper's Frankish tile thesis needs obvious refinements and has been a topic of intense debate among the Morea Project staff. Even at its preliminary articulation, the roof tiles of the Morea Project thesis presents invaluable evidence in roof tile scholarship. It should also be noted that the Morea Project was an architectural survey and not a pedestrian surface survey. We were, thus, forbidden from collecting any archaeological material from the ground. We simply noted it, sketched, and photographed it. This means that we, unfortunately, do not have a sample study collection. Luckily, there is no shortage of these roof tiles on the ground. Here is an example from Kastro tes Orias (pp. 116-118), photographed in 1994.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brick Stories

In Vasari's hierarchy of art, it doesn't get much lower than bricks. Byzantine archaeology tends to disagree. Back in 1954, Alison Frantz excavated the Church of the Holy Apostles in the Athenian Agora and directed its restoration. The works were published in, Frantz, Agora XX: The Church of the Holy Apostles (Princeton, 1971).

Today, I'd like to showcase a rare working drawings from the annals of Byzantine wall decoration. Paying attention to tossed bricks pays off. The exterior walls of Holy Apostles make extensive use of pseudo-Kufic ceramic decoration. Byzantine architectural historians know that these decorations pretend to look like Arabic script but were executed by artists who did not know the language. Byzantine pseudo-Kufic is an early form of Orientalism, if you will. To read more about this interesting topic, see George Miles, DOP 18, 1964 and Laskarina Bouras' study of Hosios Loukas.

During the Holy Apostles conservation, Frantz found a broken half brick in the rubble core of the south wall of the south apse. The rough side of the brick contains a drawing in black that looks like an architectural sketch working out a pseudo-Kufic pattern. As Frantz notes, the sketch does not match any of the designs precisely, but it best resembles one of the 37 recorded designs (Fig. 2, no. 6). I've sketched the sketch above (based on photo, pl. 5b) and the executed design below. Isn't that amazing? I'm telling you, there's much wisdom in bricks and tiles.

The design sketch is one of the few examples of Byzantine process drawings that survive. Obviously, it served its ephemeral purpose. The artist sorted out what he wanted to sort out and then dumped it. As the brick was already broken, it was of no architectural use. It was scrap. Vasilis Marinis and I have organized a session, "From Idea to Building: Ancient and Medieval Architectural Process" for the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians (April 18-22, 2012, Detroit), which will address such issues of drawings as process.

Frantz's Holy Apostles restoration was completed in 1956 just in time for the dedication ceremonies of the Stoa of Attalos on Sept. 3, 1956. Whereas the Stoa of Attalos has dominated the brunt of criticism against American imperialism, few speak of the Holy Apostles in the same vein. I am not sure of the politics, but it seems that Frantz saved the monument single-handedly and guaranteed funding from the Kress Foundation for its restoration. I have heard apocryphal stories about the anti-Byzantine attitudes of 1950s Agora, but I haven't verified them. But I digress.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Three Fingers of Clay

I have begun working on the Byzantine house publications of Chersonesos for Adam Rabinowitz's upcoming monograph, Excavations in the South Region of Chersonesos, 2001-2006: A Multidisciplinary Approach, ed. Adam Rabinowitz, Larissa Sedikova and Paul Arthur.

One aspect of the study will reconstruct the roof system based on fragments unearthed in the complex's debris. The scholarship on house roofs is practically non-existent, since most medieval houses of the period hardly survive above a few courses.

I will start with a wonderful ancient building inscription that records the restoration of a covered walkway in Athens' city walls in 306 BCE. It's a valuable document because it discusses the juncture between the roof tiles and the wooden beam support: “And after laying upon the sheathing moistened rushes [κάλαμον], and under these (i.e. between the planks) beanstalks [λοβόν] or rushes he shall cover the whole with a layer of clay mixed with straw [δορώσι] three dactyls in thickness.” Although the text is 1,000 years before the houses at Chersonesos, it gives some insights on a vernacular building method with a long afterlife. It gives a precise measurement of three fingers (1 1/2 inches) for a layer of clay mixed with straw as the binding agent.

My explanatory sketch above is based on L. D. Caskey, “The Roofed Gallery on the Walls of Athens,” American Journal of Archaeology (1910) 14, pl. V.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Frankish Church in Chalandri: Franciscan?

My last post, where I reported on a little-known new excavation of a Frankish chapel in Athens, generated a wonderful discussion among a group of specialists, notably Diana Wright, "The Duke of Athens Makes His Will," Surprised By Time (Aug. 12, 2011) and Pierre MacKay, who knows Mendicants in Greece like nobody's business

I would like to report on the paper trail on the identification of Chalandri's Frangomonastiro with the Franciscans. The Deltion article reported succinctly on the excavation of the 13th-c. chapel and marshaled all the recent citations, primarily the 1960 Greek translation of William Miller's Latins in the Levant. So, the question remains. Is this really a Franciscan foundation? and if so, what are the arguments for such an attribution?

The main citation for a Franciscan attribution was the Greek edition of William Miller's classic, The Latins in the Levant: A History of Frankish Greece 1204-1566 (New York, 1908). Those that know the history of this unsurpassed work know that the legendary Byzantinist (and once Prime Minister) Spyridon Lambros produced a Greek translation immediately after the English original, in his journal Νέος Ελληνομνήμων (1909). Lambros' translation basically endorsed Miller's volume as the best available history of Frankish Greece and antiquated a whole lot of earlier studies (Buchon, Hopf, etc.) for Greek readers. In 1960, Angelos Phouriotis produced a complete translation of Latins in the Levant with the added bonus of updated annotations and illustrations, Ιστορία της Φραγκοκρατίας στην Ελλάδα (Athens, 1960). In other words, the Greek 1960 translation surpasses the English original in its inclusions of 50 years of scholarly commentary.

So, here is my reconstructed chronology for Frangomonastiro.

1851. The will of Walter V de Brienne (1312) is published by Marie Henry d'Arbois de Jubainville, “Testament de Gautier V de Brienne, duc d’Athènes,” in Voyage paléographique dans le département de l'Aube (Paris, 1851), pp. 332-340. . d'Arbois de Jubainville publishes this material again in, Catalogue d'acted des comtes de Brienne 950-1354 (Paris 1872), p. 44. The will is vague about money that de Brienne left for the Franciscans of Athens.

1881. The name "Franko Monastiri" is first identified in Ernst Curtius and Johannes Augustus Kaupert's atlas, Karten von Attika (Berlin, 1881), pl. 5 (Download here). Elements of buildings are still standing.

1892. The ruins of a building (not existing anymore) are mentioned by Tassos D. Neroutsos in the pioneering study, "Χριστιανικαί Αθήναι (Christian Athens)" Β'1 "Η εκκλησία Αθηνών επί Φραγκοκρατίας (The Churches of Athens in the Frankish Period" Δελτίον της Ιστορικής και Εθνολογικής Εταιρείας 4 (1892), pp. 51-204. Naroutsos's account is the first Greek topographical investigation of Frankish monuments in Attica. Sadly, Neroutsos died the same year section B'1 was published. He is the first scholar to suggest a connection between Frangomonastiro in Chalandri and de Brienne's Franciscans. This is what Neroutsos says, and you can see hat the association is just speculation: "Σ'αυτή την περίοδο, επίσης ανέρχεται το "Φραγκομονάστηρο" που τα ερείπια του για καιρό βρίσκονταν στους πρόποδες του Πεντελικού και πιθανόν να είταν η έδρα των Μινωριτών, που μνημονεύονται στη διαθήκη του τελευταίου δούκα." ["'Frangomonastiro' belongs to this period. The ruins of Frangomonastiro were to be found on the slopes of Mount Pentelikon for many years. This is probably the Franciscan center that [de Brienne's] will commemorates."](p. 82, n. 65)

1908. William Miller publishes Latins in the Levant. He discusses de Brienne's will but makes not association with Chalandri.

1933. Anastasios Orlandos mentions the ruins in his Index of Medieval Monuments of Greece, Ευρετήριον των Μεσαιωνικών Μνημείων της Ελλάδος 3 (1933), p. 177.

1960. Citing Neroutsos, Phouriotis mentions the possibility that the Chalandri Frangomonastiro may have received de Brienne's benefaction as a Franciscan monastery.

2001. Rescue excavation of Frangomonastiro, in the building of Attike Odos. Neroutsos suggestion, via Phouriotis is reconsidered.

In short, there is no strong reason to associate this building with Franciscans, although it is certainly Frankish. This quick fact-checking exercise has produced all kinds of interesting questions. You might note from his will that de Brienne commissioned a church at Lecce for his memory. Wouldn't it be interesting to compare the church in Italy with the duke's buildings in Greece? We are confronted with a truly global order that moves beyond Greece-France. Whether Franciscan or not, the little chapel on the slopes of Mount Penteli need to be related to the more famous Frankish Monastery excavated by Anastasios Orlandos. It is important to note that Orlandos implicated the Franciscans in this building, as well, although he argues that the building was a Greek church that might have been later sold to Latins monastics (to explain the toponym Frankish Monastery).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Frankish Church in Chalandri

It is not everyday that a new Crusader church is discovered. During the constructions of the Attike Odos in Chalandri, Athens, the Greek Archaeological Service carried out rescue excavations at a small chapel dated to the 13th century. Given the huge delay in Greek publications, this project was just recently published in the Archaiologikon Deltion. Few libraries in the U.S. subscribe to this journal, so I review the finds here. My sketch below interprets the original configuration based on the report by Aikaterine Pantelious, "Συμβολή Λεωφόρου Πεντέλης και Αττικής Οδού. Φραγκοκκλησιά," Αrchaiologikon Deltion 56-59 (2001-2004) [2010], B'1, pp. 512-515.
The "Frangokklisia" is a single nave chapel with a later narthex addition. Hundreds of such churches exist in medieval villages and kastros but very few have been published. Their size and vernacular characteristics are not spectacular enough for most art historians. If someone brought together the evidence for such chapels from the 12th-15th c., however, we would see that they represent a dominant form of religious space and outrank the better-known masterpieces. Their small size, moreover, addresses all kinds of interesting questions about private versus public forms of worship, as raised by Thomas Mathews 30 years ago in his seminal, "Private Liturgy in Byzantine Architecture: Toward a Reappraisal," Cahiers Archeologique 39 (1982), pp. 125-138.

Frangokklisia in Chalandri is especially interesting because it was designed with a funerary function in mind, judging from the arcosoleum that protrudes from the South wall (Tomb 3). The later narthex housed two additional burials (Tombs 1 &2), but it is hard to say how much later this space was added. A damaged section of the semicircular apse (marked "x" in my sketch) revealed a deposit of 15 denier coins, giving the building a nice terminus ante quem of 1280. Given the disturbed nature of the site, no further stratigraphic observations could be made.

A building was first noted here by Anastasios Orlandos, Ευρετήριον των Μεσαιωνικών Μνημείων της Ελλάδος 3 (1933), p. 177. The name "Franko Monastiri" was first identified at this location in Ernst Curtius and Johannes Augustus Kaupert's important survey, Karten von Attika (Berlin, 1881), pl. 5 (Download here). The excavators have associated this funerary chapel with a Franciscan Monastery mentioned in the will of Walter V of Brienne, Duke of Athens. I am not qualified to evaluate this identification, I leave this to Pierre MacKay and Diana Wright.

All things considered, this is an archaeological discovery whose significance is inverseley related to the size of the excavated building (only 12 ft wide). It contributes to the growing corpus of medieval mini-churches, as well as, to future investigations of funerary chapels, and (potentially) to the history of the Franciscan Order in Greece. Congratulations to the 1st Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities in Greece for this spectacular find, which should have made headline news. I urge all readers to read the article in the Deltion (I can email you scans if your library does not subscribe).

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

House burials in Taiwan

August is really the month of archaeology and I feel terribly guilty for letting mid-century Athenian films overshadow archaeology. So, I'll start with an old preoccupation, a journal article from the "to-do" list. Remember, how last October I gave a paper on fetuses buried under Byzantine house floors? An interesting cross-cultural comparison comes from Taiwan. There are no connections here with anything Mediterranean and this reference will be surely buried deep in some footnote.

The Puyuma people living in the southeast of the island of Taiwan practice an interesting form of domestic burial. Their houses are divided into two spaces (see sketch above), a large living space and a bunk for communal. They are built on a natural slope with the bunk at the higher end of the house and the sleepers resting their head up the slope. The dead are buried within the house, on the lower slope of the house with their heads facing downhill. The heart is located on one corner of the room. The first deceased member of the family is buried on the opposite corner of the room with each additional death added towards the hearth side. When the burials hit the limit of the hearth, a new house is built. The Puyuma houses have two subsidiary rooms for cooking and storing grain. I've sketched the general arrangement above based on the following source:

Josiane Cauquelin, "Puyuma," in Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, ed. Paul Oliver (Cambridge, 1997), vol. 2. pp. 1232-1233.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States