Pretentious Art History Pet Peeve No One Actually Cares About™:
90% of the things y’all caption as being “like a renaissance painting” are actually like a baroque painting.
This is Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter by Periguno. Dated 1482.
Renaissance art is all angular and mathematical looking with gratuitous columns and architectural elements because one-point perspective was the cat’s pajamas at the time. Everyone is just kind of standing around and being chill, and there’s just as much (or even more) detail put into the background architectural elements as there are the subjects in the foreground. Everything is usually very symmetrical and/or the horizon line is very prominent. The lighting is usually bright, even, and sunny.
Check out this entombment scene by Fra Angelico in 1440:
Symmetrical, wide crop, emphasis on linear perspective, brightly lit, and everyone kind of has the same look on their face. They’re burying Christ but they’re just kind of like “meh.” about it. Renaissance.
Compare it to Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ, dated 1604:
Baroque paintings have tightly cropped, and often diagonal, compositions with really dramatic lighting. 99% of the time, everyone will be doing The Most™– that is, in precarious positions with very expressive, anguished faces. The background is really dark, hazy, or not even visible because the entire composition is being taken up by a mangled pile of bodies. They’re burying Christ and they actually look really upset about it. Baroque.
Main portal of the church of San Francisco, Lima (Unidentified architect, 1673).
The church of San Francisco is probably the masterpiece of limeño Baroque architecture, built after the collapse of the previous building en 1656. The building of the new church took several years to complete, beginning in 1657, when the first stone was laid, and lasting until 1673 when the temple was finally consecrated by the bishop of Cusco Manuel de Mollinedo y Angulo.
Although the design of the church belongs to Portuguese architect Constantino de Vasconcelos, and its construction was undertook by Manuel de Escobar, - one of the main architects and alarifes active in Lima during the seventeenth century- the author of the main portal remains unknown. Due to its similarities with contemporary retablos , specially with Asencio de Salas’ retablo of the Immaculate Conception in Lima Cathedral, it is assumed that its author was an ensamblador, although his identity is unknown.
This baroque portal is one of the largest in Lima, being three stories high, built in stone and brick. The first story consists of a group of six columns on each side of the arched door, with two larger columns in front of two pairs of smaller columns, a common arrangement in mid-seventeenth century retablos. The columns have Corinthian capitals over a fluted shaft with its lower third section carved with a helicoidal pattern. This feature, and also the female draped heads in the upper part of the shafts, are also usual in contemporary retablos. The shorter set of columns support a small entablature, while the bigger pair of columns support the larger entablature that separates the first story from the second, with similar female draped heads adorning the frieze.
In the middle section, the entablature breaks to give place to the main niche in the second story, embraced by the arms of the open cornice produced by the breaking of the entablature. Four fluted corinthian columns, with the lower third of their shafts with an amelcochado (zigzag) pattern, compose the second story of the portal, making space between them to three arched niches: in the main niche stands the statue of the Immaculate Conception and the other two contain the statues of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic.The second story is notably narrower than the first, with curious stone lanterns in its outer edges.The four columns previously described support an entablature that arches over the main niche.
The third story is made out of brick covered with plaster, painted in such a way that it resembles stonework. It consists of a large oval window - which gives light to the choir of the church - surrounded with broken cornices, webbed volutes and short fluted pilasters with bracket capitals that support an arched cornice.
One interesting feature of the portal is the presence, under the main niche, of the Pope´s symbols carved in stone: the pontifical tiara and Saint Peter´s keys. The reason for their presence in the portal is this: since the franciscans have a vow of poverty and the building of the church had cost a fortune (an estimate of over two million pesos), the Pope declared it of his property, not the franciscans`, thus avoiding the inconsistency between the order´s vow and the wealth of the church. Pope Clemente X gave the church of San Francisco the same privileges that the Archibasilica of Saint John of Letran, seat of the Pope in Rome, and ordered the carving of his symbols in the portal. In exchange, the franciscans had to make an annual donation of one pound of white wax to show its submission to the Archibasilica.
INTRODUCTION UMQRA is a string of letters that appears during The Hounds of Baskerville, where John Watson mistakes the casual flashing of some car lights for a Morse code and translates it into letters. Inside the show the letters have no meaning, but they might have one intended for the viewers.
Here I’m going to illustrate several attempts to discover a possible hidden meaning and present some possible solutions.
WHY UMQRA COULD BE A CODE There is a good chance that, even if inside the show it was but a casual string of letters, UMQRA might have an actual meaning intended for the viewers.
When writer has the provide a casual string of letters for one of their plots, they might as well make use of the occasion and choose something meaningful, these letters are going to stay in their work for the time being after all.
In addition, UMQRA gets repeated quite a lot, both verbally and visually. When something has such a prominent presence on screen, we’re probably supposed to pay attention to it.
Of course a writer might amuse himself generate random letters using a software or a dice or they might just pick up the first letters that come to their mind, but then this creates the problem of undelivered expectations. Like for romantic tropes, when the satisfying resolution of a “Will They or Won’t They” storytelling is that they “Will”, if something looks like an encrypted message, but ultimately isn’t an encrypted message:
The writers loses an opportunity to astonish their public;
Those who firmly believed it to be an encrypted message would be disappointed after spending much time trying to solve it;
A sequence of letters without sense appears in the writer’s work forever.
This lines of dialogue from A Scandal in Belgravia could also be applied to the UMQRA letters.
SHERLOCK: This is your heart and you should never let it rule your head. You could have chosen any random number and walked out of here today with everything you’ve worked for but you just couldn’t resist it, could you?
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS Here some well fitting solutions:
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SOLUTION AND THE ENCRYPTION TECHNIQUE Since the string of letters that ultimately happened to be
UMQRA doesn’t have to make sense
The solution must be precise: The creator of the hidden message didn’t have to worry about the final form of the encoded message. This means that they had complete freedom in choosing the content of the hidden message. For this reason the solution must be something that they very precisely wanted to convey.
Since the solution is a short, probably single, expression, there is no full sentence that ultimately has to make sense and can prove that the solution is the correct one. For this reason, if
the creator of the hidden message was interested in making sure interpreters were confident in the fact that they had reached a solution, rather than to leave them in doubt forever:
The solution should be an expression evidently meaningful: This means that the solution should not be ambiguous and a hidden message itself.
The encryption technique should not be overtly complicated: There should not be doubt about the fact that to provide a solution the interpreter used a sensible technique and did not go out of his way to give an explanation Without a full sentence to verify the correctness of the solution, twisted techniques can be used to provide many unreliable, often biased, solutions.
Since the purpose of a hidden message is to convey a message:
The solution should be meaningful in the context of either the UMQRA scenes, the episode or the show.
USEFUL INFORMATION The structure of the code:
Morse code chart for letters and numerals.
The position of letters in the English alphabet (numbering can also go from A=1 to Z=26):
APPROACH #1- CIPHERS UMQRA could be a cipher, an encrypted message obtained with a series of well-defined steps, generally substituting a character for another character.
APPROACH #2 - FOREIGN WORDS UMQRA could be a foreign word. A quick search on Google gives no results.
APPROACH #3 - SPELLING LETTERS’ NAMES Letters have names. Spelling out those name might be part of the solution.
Here an attempt using Latin letters’ names:
If you spell out the letters’ names, you get: V EM QU ER A If you reverse the order of the letters:
A ER QV EM V The sequence could be recombined into Latin words: AER QVEM V
Even if the words actually exist in Latin, they do not form a complete sentence, even if AER and QVEM’s gender matches. I think a rough translation could be: AIR THAT IS [missing verb in the passive form] 5
Even if we could take this as something about Series 5 or “airing”, this solution does not have the expected characteristics:
It’s not precise; The hidden message’s content is limited by the fact that is has to be composed by Latin letters’ names. When creator of the message has complete freedom in choosing its content, because the encrypted form doesn’t have to make sense, why should they add a step that limits the precision of the hidden message?
It’s not evidently meaningful;
The encryption technique is a complicated and unknown technique;
Writing a message using only letter’s names;
Reducing the letters’ names to letters;
Reversing the order of the letters.
APPROACH #4 - CHANGING THE DIRECTION OF THE TEXT Before John reaches the cars, everytime the light flashes the word “umqra” appears several times and the “umqra” at the bottom is always turned upside down.
This might mean that the change of direction
might be relevant to the solution of the code, for example one could start from:
“arqmu”: same letters in reversed order;
“pibwn”: how the symbols look like once turned 180° (or some similar letters).
APPROACH #5 - THE ENCRYPTED MESSAGE IS IN THE MORSE CODE The solution could have nothing to do with the letters, but be hidden inside the dots and dashes.
Here some failed attempts:
The dots and dashes might represent a number in binary code: Dot = 1 Dash = 0 Which in this case would be: 110 00 0010 101 10 = 6 0 2 5 2 THIS NUMBERS HAVE NO MEANING. or
Dot = 0 Dash = 1 Which in this case would be: 001 11 1101 010 01 = 1 3 13 2 1
THIS NUMBERS HAVE NO MEANING.
The numbers might stand for the letter which has that position in the alphabet:
A=0: 6 0 2 5 2 = G _ C F C A=1: 6 0 2 5 2 = F _ B E B THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING. or
1 3 13 2 1 = B D N C B
1 3 13 2 1
= A C M B A THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
could be read from the end to the beginning: Morse code: . . ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . ___ . ___ . . ___ = U M Q R A Mirrored
: ___ . . ___ . ___ . ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . . = N R Y M D THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
Dots might be changed into dashed and dashes into dots:
: . . ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . ___ . ___ . . ___ = U M Q R A
with inverted symbols:
___ ___ . . . . . ___ . ___ . ___ ___ . = G I F K N
THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
The signal could be read from the end to the beginning:
101011100011101110001110111010111000101110100010111 = U M Q R A
Mirrored signal: 111010001011101000111010111011100011101110001110101
Morse code from mirrored signal: ___ . . ___ . ___ . ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . . = N R Y M D The result is the same for mirroring the Morse code.
THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
On signal might be changed into off signal and off signal into on signal: Signal: 101011100011101110001110111010111000101110100010111 = U M Q R A Signal with inverted on and off transmissions: 010100011100010001110001000101000111010001011101000 Morse code from signal with inverted on and off transmissions:
. . ___ . ___ . . . ___ . . ___ . = I T E T E I N R
THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
The signal could be 8-bit ASCII Chars: On signal = 1
Off signal = 0 (00000)101|01110001|11011100|01110111|01011100|01011101|00010111 = ENQ Q
W \ ] ETB
THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
On signal = 0 Off signal = 1 (00000)010|10001110|00100011|10001000|10100011|10100010|11101000 = STX
THIS STRING HAS NO MEANING.
APPROACH #6 - A GROUP OF PEOPLE Being one of the letters a M, a possibility is that U.M.Q.R.A. are the initials of the components of some group of people that Mark Gatiss belongs or belonged to.
APPROACH #7 - ANAGRAMS “UMQRA” could be an anagram on is own or with another word (see the “crossed keys” argument below). “UMQRA” is be the anagram of “U MARQ”, which could stand for “You Mark”.
But I really don’t see why Gatiss should have wanted the phrase to be “You Mark” instead of any other phrase involving his name, like “Is Mark” for example, which would have become SIMQRA. “You mark” is not really a specific phrase and anagrams from a phrase to a nonsense word allow for very specific original phrases.
This solution does not have the expected characteristics:
It’s not precise; The creator of the message has complete freedom in choosing its content, because the encrypted form doesn’t have to make sense, so why choose “You Mark” instead of any other moresignificant phrase involving Gatiss’ names?
It’s not evidently meaningful; Though it has the name of the writer of the episode, the “you” part has no evident meaning.
APPROACH #8 - ROMAN NUMERALS Roman numerals employ combinations of letters. U could be a V as the U letter doesn’t exist in the Latin Alphabet. U = 5 Q = 100 M = 1000
APPROACH #9 - CHEMICAL SYMBOLS
Some attempts: UMQRA = URANIUM + ? + ? + RADIUM ARQMU = ARGON + ? + ? + URANIUM Q and M could potentially be numerals.
THE DECRYPTION MIGHT INVOLVE KEYS The real name of the inn in The Hounds of Baskerville is “The Bush Inn”. They went to lenghts to change the name of the inn in several panels to “The Cross Keys”.
This could be:
A possible reference for the Lestrade/Saint Peter parallels (see here).
A possible reference to the Microft/MiKEY hidden messages found by @waitingforgarridebs (see here and here). The name “The Cross Keys” is a bit similar to “Microft/Mikey”. This is the same episode where “Mycroft’s name literally opens doors.” is from.
A possible reference to the fact that UMQRA is a message to be solved along with another message or with more than one key (probably appearing in Series 2, as in series 1 this code wouldn’t have be planned yet and the elements to find a solution should have been given before the two-years-long hiatus). A list of possible keys can be found on the entry dedicated to ciphers.
They might have wanted to add “Vegetarian cuisine” and chose a name they fancied more.
More than one of the above.
WHO COULD HAVE CREATED THE HIDDEN MESSAGE If UMQRA is a hidden message, it has probably been created by one of this people:
Writer of the episode and co-creator of Sherlock;
Areas of expertise:
Studied Theather Arts in college.
If he has studied latin, he’s probably not an expert, as he was asking on twitter for a translation from English to Latin. “Latin scholars! What would be the translation of the phrase ‘No digging here’?”
Writer of other Sherlock episodes;
Seems to be into codes, though some of these codes might be part of a long term plot, so they might have been created by Moffat or/and Gatiss:
Ancient Chinese number system to be deciphered with a book;
The non-existent key code that can open every door;
Today’s excursion with the cinematic tools was into the Valance Chantry for Leliana’s personal quest. I looked at a lot of pretty statues
The lovely paintings
And the stained glass up around the higher level.
The stained glass is interesting because it’s the story of Andraste and we get more pictures of her than just the ephemeral blonde woman we see on the picture above Herald’s Rest in Skyhold or the statues where she’s holding fire.
Mostly what caught my attention was this picture, however.
That’s Shartan. The ears, chains and elvhen figures on either side of him (one in prayer and one in servitude) make that obvious. The Chantry expunged most of the elvhen influence from the Chant of light, to the point where Shartan’s canticle is dissonant. But here he is, done in glass and holding a key (probably an allegory to Saint Peter and the Key to the Kingdom, making him basically Andrastian St. Peter).
And now I’m having emotions about Andraste and Shartan.
Hello :-) I am a big fan of your blog, but the recent posts about the Catholic Church are a tiny bit offensive. Tumblr users are brilliant because they are supporters of feminism , homosexuality and can understand things better than most politicians. But Catholicism is important too people and it's not nice to have somebody's religious beliefs insulted. I really do love your blog but please stop with the catholic posts. No hard feelings please I just needed to say it xxxxx
um, anon, I’m Catholic. Catholicism is important to me. I have a whole 16-page tag for my theological views and favorite books and views of Jesus and discussions of Catholic mythology.
If I have said something incorrect, please let me know. But it is not offensive to talk about the Church’s faults, its dark history and the sins that it continues to commit today. It is necessary. It is true. I love my Church but it has done terrible things, things that deny the God we preach belief in. And if we do not have the courage to confess our sins, because whitewashing our history makes us feel better, look better, then we are even less worthy of the keys of Saint Peter.
If that reality makes you uncomfortable, I am sorry. But I won’t stop with the Catholic posts.