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Notable Portuguese Paintings
The Saint Vincent Panels, atr. To Nuno Gonçalves, second half of the 15th century: six panels (+ predella and the ‘martyrdom series’, mostly lost). 207 x 504 cm, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon.

The Saint Vincent Panels are the most mysterious, most controversial and the most discussed art work in the entire panorama of late Portuguese medieval art. It generated fights between art historians, outrage in conferences and an amount of books where every type of analyses is plausible: from the most historiographic study to the exoteric approaches, as far as there being a theory on how the panels should be read upside-down.

It’s hard to define these panels with so much controversy surrounding them and so many difficulties in iconography and specially the strangeness these panels cause in the artistic picture of the second half of the 15th century in Portugal. They appear as an exquisite work of art, beyond any capacity of any apparent painter contemporary to the author of these – strongly attributed to Nuno Gonçalves – mentioned by Francisco de Holanda, in his De Pintura Antiga, as the only good painter in Portugal at the time. It is this document that is recurrently used to prove the attribution of these paintings to Nuno Gonçalves, where Francisco de Holanda explicitly states so, but without providing a description of the painting. Furthermore, documentation of the time refer to Nuno Gonçalves as a royal painter, author of the famous Tapeçarias de Pastrana, a work where the intricate detail of the weaponry relates to the presence of the artist in the same battle it depicts.

The apparent distance of canonical methods applied in art is not justified by a lack of capacity on behalf of the Portuguese painters, but rather by a matter of generalized taste of the time and influences. In the 15th century, relations with Burgundy and Flanders were strong with Portugal due to marriages and commercial guilds; patronage reinforced a very heavy influenced of these regions, and it shows in most our religious painting, where color prevails over perspective and anatomy is still on its earlier explorations. But to put the Portuguese artistic experience side-by-side with the Italian Renaissance is a battle asking to be lost. We have to ignore the Italian experience in a time where Portugal was rising to become the greatest empire in naval capacity of the world, in a region where the dominant taste was late-gothic architecture with overwhelming decoration – a type of building known as Manuelino. This does not mean Portugal detached itself from the Italian Renaissance, it means its social conditions forced the country to adopt different artistic tastes and approach, best responding to the magnificence of an Empire.

The Saint Vincent Panels receive its name from the saint depicted twice in the two central panels – respectively the Infante panel (central right) and the Archbishop panel (central left). It’s a controversial attribution, seeing as Saint Vincent here carries none of his iconographic symbols: the rope is merely scattered on the ground and the book is not a common attribution for a martyr (although some exist, mainly in D. Duarte’s Book of Hours); it goes as far as not carrying the palm of martyrdom. However, it would have been recognized by the time: he wears the Dalmatic, according to the tradition of those who were deacons of the church. This is also reinforced by the fact that these panels were originally found in the 19th century in the church of São Vincente de Fora (Saint Vincent being the patron saint of the City of Lisbon). José de Figueiredo defended these to be an adoration altarpiece, where the painter intended to represent a procession.

There are too many theories to take into account into this post, which is why we will follow one single theory, that of the panels being a celebration of a generation, the one D. Duarte’s descendents, that of Afonso V, particularly after his conquests in North Africa. This takes into account a possibility of the execution of these paintings: dendrochronology revels the wood comes from the Baltic between 1442-1452, which allows us to assume the piece was done a decade or two later, perhaps like most theories support: between the decades of ’50 and ’70 of the 15th century, when Nuno Gonçalves was active.

The organization of these panels was suggested, and generally accepted, by Almada Negreiros, who based himself on the perspective and combining of the floor tiles. The common denomination of the panels are (left to right): the Friar panels, the Fisherman panels, the Infante panel, the Archbishop panel, the Knights panel and the Relics panel.

The greatest controversy might be the one related to the identification of the figures here represented. Despite there being bibliography stating a possible identification for every (more than 60) face here painted, this is absolutely wrong: the processional character of the painting requires the ‘face of its time’ to create an effect of that of a mass – the people following the saint in holy procession. In fact, underlying sketches prove that the number of portraits is only 10, most of the identifications still under heated debates by modern Academia.

The most heated debate, and controversial of all, is the identification popularized to be that of Infante D. Henrique, or better known as Henry the Navigator (4), a member of the Illustrious Generation, the prominent figure in the opening era of the Age of Dicoveries. To understand why this attribution is most likely wrong, we need to look at the other figures surrounding the saint in the so-called Infante panel.

The easiest one to identify would be that of the lady kneeling on the right, before the saint (1): that is Isabel of Coimbra, wife of Afonso V and mother of prince John, future John II. This seems to be so according to the clothing and the jewelry the lady wears, which are all documented: specially the green dress with a red opa (a variation of the houppelande) and the emerald of her necklace. Common to generational representations, we do not arrive to this conclusion without looking around: the woman standing tall behind Isabel of Coimbra, in widower clothes, would be Leonor of Aragon (3), wife of D. Duarte, king of Portugal, coinciding with the possible date of the execution of this painting – D. Duarte would have then died, thus the queen being represented s a widow. And this relation of king and queen denotes that, if Isabel of Coimbra is there, then the man facing her, also kneeling, is her husband, Afonso V of Portugal (2).

Afonso V became notorious for his conquests in North Africa, a fame that his ancestor, Afonso IV, achieved also, turning a chapel at Sé de Lisboa, where these paintings were, into a referential place when it came to the fight against the infidel – that is, the muslim empire. That is where Afonso IV is buried, celebrating his conquests in the battle of Salado, and one can only consider Afonso V’s conquests of the same caliber.

Which brings us to ask who the young man (5), kneeling between Afonso V and the tall figure in dark (which we will analyze next) is. The answer is obvious, for a painting that depicts a generation, and it can be deciphered in the opened book, at the hands of the saint, which reads: “…for the Father is greater than I.  I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.  I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John:14:28-32). This passage states a clear message of respecting the father and the forthcoming of a prince who honors the father.

Furthermore, the painting suffered alterations from 1480 on. The adolescent male figure standing between the two older male figures, as studies have shown, suffered an intervention: his hand suddenly appeared grabbing a sword. With the reading of the King-Queen relation, this appears to be elusive of Prince John, future John II, who was also armed knight at the age of 13 at the battle of Arzila. The message of respecting the father, stated in the book, and the upcoming prince seems to denounce the future John II as king of Portugal, something embodied in Afonso V himself, before the figure of his father, D. Duarte.

This brings us to most controversial of all: the male figure dressed in black (4). It is important to be aware of 15th century fashion: men did not shave their beards, unless they faced certain death. Effigies of the time present men without beard, which contradicts directly their contemporary representations. However, at the time, D. Duarte was an exception. A chronicle found in Rio de Janeiro describes D. Duarte as ‘having more moustache than a beard’, a fact that, by being stated, denotes the strangeness of the king’s choice of fashion. But what’s more intriguing, is the hat and dark clothes: his burgundian hat would be justified by the fact that his sister, Isabella, became duchess of Burgundy, and greatly influenced Portuguese fashion with burgundian models. There is also a sadness described by Zuarara in his Crónica da Guiné (Chronicle of Guinea) related to D. Duarte’s loss of his brother, D. Fernando, the Infante Santo, arrested and killed in the Tanger, a death haunted the king for the rest of his life.

This deviates the common attribution of this figure as being Henry the Navigator. In fact, representations of Henry the Navigator do not relate to the one present at the Saint Vincent Panels. And besides, doing a reading of a generational representation at the time of Afonso V’s victorious battles against the infidel, it would make no sense to put Henry the Navigator in this specific location. Theories, however, exist that he is present – in the Knights panel, being the man with white hair in the front, kneeling (6).

I slept almost all day today, but I had a really wonderful dream.

And I know other peoples dreams are boring, but this was just too weird not to share.

I dreamed that I somehow ended up with the One Ring, but I just hid it away somewhere really secure and didn’t even touch the thing. And then Sméagol turned up on my doorstep, and i decided to try and rehabilitate him, even though everybody called me crazy because of it.

But I succeeded

And then I decided to go destroy Sauron. 

So i got some friends together, which included veritasrose herestowishing, historiography (who i think was occasionally a robot for some reason?), and chibiflakes who looked like a young John Travolta in Grease. And then we went to a really fancy library and found some old book that we kept calling the Silmarillion even though it was just one page with a Redwall-like riddle we needed to complete our quest. 

The riddle led us to a grandfather clock that was secretly a magical inkjet printer. It didn’t use regular ink, it only used “fresh blood, freely given” (which i now realize came from that one scene in goblet of fire). chibiflakes was the one who figured it out. 

We needed it to print the rest of the riddles that we needed to get into Mordor, so we filled a coffee cup with blood, and offered it to the grandfather clock printer.

The clock-shaped blood-printer was at the place i went to high school for some reason, so we had to make sure we didn’t get caught. Because historiography was a robot, and didn’t have have any blood, we had her stand guard while we dealt with the printer situation.

We almost got caught by my high school German teacher, but historiograph was able to distract him by talking about the German football team.

Meanwhile, my dad was trying to rally the admiralty board and persuade them to abandon the blockade and commit all their spaceships to an assault on the Mordor. Which was a floating space island for some reason?

After we finally printed everything herestowishing is the one who figured out the riddle, which lead us to an underpass that was actually the entrance to a cave. And that was when Sméagol showed back up, angry and kind of hurt by the fact that I had tried to leave him behind, even though he didn’t know where we were going or why. 

After exploring the cave for a while, Sméagol smiled and hopped up and down and said something like “We knows these caves, we does! We used to lives here. Sméagol will can find many tasty fishes for friends!” and then he ran/crawled off and we set up camp. historiograph decided to head back home because she was afraid the water in the caves would short out her circuitry.

Sméagol still wasn’t back yet, and herestowishing was giving me this look, and i was like “What? What did I do?” 

And herestowishing just came right out and said it “Gollum. You know what happens. You’ve seen the movies and read the books. He’s going to betray you.” 

And I was like “But he’s movie Gollum! So he didn’t get kicked beat up a really OOC Faramir this time, and Sam’s not going to go totally OOC and attack him this time! And he’s Sméagol now anyway!”

And veritasrose took my side and said “He knows these caves better than anyone. We need his help to get to the volcano before Mordor destroys the entire space fleet.” 

But herestowishing was just like “I still don’t think he should be here. How do you think he’s going to react when he realizes what we’re trying to do?”

And veritasrose was like “What?!? You mean you haven’t told him yet?”

and i was like “No! He wasn’t supposed to know until after, but we took to long!”

 chibiflakes, who was the designated paper-plot-item-carrier/codex guy/minimap-creator didn’t say anything because he was drawing map and then Sméagol came back, and chibiflakes read the next riddle.

herestowishing was the one who figured it out we had to fight the Balrog next.

Only in my dream it wasn’t really a balrog, instead it was a giant angler fish/octopus hybrid and we had to run through water that was almost knee deep to get past it. Everybody made it and herestowishing saved chibiflakes who fell down and dropped all the papers.

And then on the other side was a really big cavern with a deep pool of water that disappeared into the distance all we had was a soggy map. Sméagol finally figured out what we were doing, and he got really upset because i’d lied to him and told him that the ring was already destroyed.

And then he had a moment where Gollum nearly came back, but he was mostly still okay, just really angry and kind of scary.

And then some stuff happened, and there was some arguing that eventually ended with And he’s Sméagol now anyway, veritasrose and me swimming to Mordor. 

Meawhile, during the space battle, the Milano showed up along with the ravager ships to assist Admrial Tallahassee and his fleet (i don’t understand it either) and then the Millennium Falcon was there and so was the Normandy, and Legolas was an x wing pilot in Rouge Squadron, and Gimli was his wingman and Eowyn was Rouge Leader. Han was the Heir of Gondor, and Eomer was Leia’s brother. But this was all stuff i just knew via dream logic. Also, my Dad was apparently best friends with Admiral Hackett or something?

Anyway, we reached the volcano, and there was a really tense moment when we thought Sméagol really was going to turn on us, but it didn’t happen. And then there was another one when I wanted to become the Dark Lord or something, but then veritasrose was like “if you do that, Sméagol will bite your finger off” so i decided not to.

And then Sméagol referred to himself as “I” for the first time and we threw the ring into the volcano and it was very emotional, and veritasrose took a selfie.

ways to immediately become my favourite:

  • be a romanticist
  • be SUPER ADORABLY ENTHUSIASTIC about being a romanticist
  • say that you are an academic because it turns out it’s not actually possible to be Indiana Jones
  • teach a class on postmodernism
  • make the theme of that class historiographic metafiction
  • put Borges, Byatt, and Rushdie on the reading list for it
  • when explaining the course, make a joke referencing a tv show written by Charlie Brooker
Everybody’s here talking about 9/11 attacks and shit. The genocide of black males/people of color is still happening! Men with badges not fit to carry weapons are legally terrorizing my brothers of color because of their race, ethnicity, clothes, hairstyles, and social markers. Everyday I remember all lives lost through violence, not just on September 11th.
—  carolyn

Was tagged by adventureinateacup and historiograph so here it is!

Handwriting Meme:

1. Mallorie

2. fortheloveofgodtellajoke

3. Leave ‘Em Laughing

4. Most British actors that have gentlemanly qualities

5. Purple, any and every shade

6. STAT!

7. Jimmy Buffet, The Doors, Foster the People

8. 19

9. Chocolate milk (don’t hate, it’s amazing) Oh and most teas.

10. earlgreytea68

My current shit list:
1. Depression
2. Clarkey
3. Morning classes
4. Historiographical essays
5. The HSC
6. Life in general

So my life is fantastic right now, how are you all?

In this extraordinary work of scholarship, Ari Joskowicz explores the ways in which Jewish public figures—scholars, journalists, parliamentarians, rabbis—used anti-Catholicism and anticlericalism to construct a collective Jewish identity compatible with a modern national identity … Joskowicz has mastered the historical narratives and the historiographical traditions of two of the most studied countries in modern Europe, in addition to the literature produced in four languages about the Jews in both national traditions. He moves effortlessly between or among all of these. This is a stunning and stimulating work of scholarship.

Painting: King Varazdat fights off assassins by Juliano Zasso 1833-1889 Italy.


King of Armenia (384-386), nephew of King Papes. Historians describe him as a handsome and athletic young man. According to tradition, he took part in one of the last Olympic Games (before Theodosius the Great abolished them in 394), and won the fisticuffs contest.

According to Saint Mesrop Mashtots, the priest and historiographer of the Catholicos Nerses the Great, names the father of Varazdat as Anob, while the identity of the mother of Varazdat is unknown. The father of Varazdat, Anob who was an Arsacid prince was the older paternal half-brother of Papas. Also, according to Faustus of Byzantium (Book IV, Chapter 37), Varazdat proclaims himself as the nephew of Papas and the historian reveals Varazdat’s relations to the Armenian Arsacids. Hence the paternal grandfather of Varazdat was the Arsacid monarch Arsaces II (Arshak II), who ruled as Roman client king of Armenia from 350 until 368 as his paternal grandmother was an unnamed woman whom Arsaces II married prior to his Armenian kingship, who died before the year 358. Little is known on his early life.


As a ruler, Varazdat is given less flattering description. He wished to marry the Persian princess, which incurred displeasure of the Roman Emperor and ruptured the Roman support of Armenia. Also, Varazdat perfidiously assassinated Mushegh Mamikonian, Sparabet and renowned hero, which caused indignation and rebellion of the noblemen. Varazdat was then defeated in a battle by Manvel, Mushegh’s brother, and was forced to flee the country.


Mushegh was wrongly accused of disloyalty to the Crown and King Varazdat had him arrested and killed after listening to the false rumors spread by Mushegh’s councilor - Bat Saharuni.


Later, Theodosius the Great captured King Varazdat to exile to an island.


Sources: Nazaryan, G. (2014, Augustus 22). King Varazdat fights off assassins. Juliano Zasso. [Facebook post]. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/kh8ljz3. & Nazaryan, G. (n.d.). T H E A R S A C I D D Y N A S T Y. Retrieved from www.armenianhighland.com.

#Armenia #king #Varazdat #Arsacid #dynasty #ancient #history #Armenian

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