Friday, November 18, 2005

In the News...

Italian map find...
The oldest map of anywhere in the western world, dating from about 500 BC, has been unearthed in southern Italy. Known as the Soleto Map, the depiction of Apulia, the heel of Italy's "boot", is on a piece of black-glazed terracotta vase about the size of a postage stamp.
Its engraved place names are indicated by points, just as on maps today, and are written in ancient Greek.
The sea on the western side, Taras (Taranto), today's Gulf of Taranto, is named in Greek. But the rest of the map is in Messapian, the ancient tongue of the local tribes, although the script is ancient Greek.
The seas on either side of the peninsula, the Ionian and the Adriatic, are depicted by parallel zig-zag strokes.
Many of the 13 towns marked on the map, such as Otranto, Soleto, Ugento and Leuca (now called Santa Maria di Leuca) still exist.
It was known from ancient Greek literature that the concept of a map existed and that some had been drawn but none had been found.
The ancient Chinese had a well-defined system of map-making, but modern cartography descends from techniques laid down by the ancient Greeks.

Napoleonic Pearl:
The fifth largest pearl in the world has become the most expensive in history after being sold at auction for almost £1.6 million.
Known as La Regente, the pearl, above, was bought by Napoleon Bonaparte for his second wife, Marie Louise.

Jane Burden Mural Mystery:
SHE WAS a poorly educated but stunning model, married to the leading Arts and Crafts designer of his day. And, like many a model before and since, she had an affair with the artist.
William Morris was besotted with Jane Burden from the moment he was introduced to her by their mutual friend, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
She was 18, he 25. Now, in the house where they spent the first five years of their marriage, a mural celebrating their love has been discovered after lying hidden behind panelling for 140 years.
The find at the Red House in Bexleyheath, southeast London, which Morris had built for his marriage to Jane in 1860, has excited the property’s present owners, the National Trust. But they do not know who painted it; was it Morris, or one of his circle in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood?

It might have been Rossetti, who painted Jane on many occasions and with whom he subsequently had a torrid liaison.
“This is a remarkable find because the painting has been hidden from view for so long,” Robert Quarm, curator of the Red House, said yesterday.
“Morris was very much in love with Jane at the time of these paintings, which were done a long time before the affair. We always wondered if something like this lay behind the panelling, as the house was the centre of an artistic community, and they put much of their energies into decorating it.”
The mural, in glowing, earthy colours, bears the French proverb Qui bien aime, tard oublie (He who loves truly, forgets not easily), a quotation from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowles. The 14th-century author of The Canterbury Tales was a major influence on Morris. It is tempting to think that Morris, who was devastated to discover that his wife was sleeping with his best friend, covered up the mural in a fit of jealous rage.
The more prosaic truth, however, is that the panelling was erected by a subsequent owner who clearly thought it was not the best example of Pre-Raphaelite art in the house, which has other, better, wall paintings by Rosetti and Edward Burne-Jones.
Morris had a successful interior design business in London, but he was so tormented by his wife’s infidelity that he travelled to Iceland to bury himself in writing poetry and translating Norse sagas. The couple never divorced. Morris died in 1896; Jane outlived him by 18 years, and was still being drawn by artists in her later years.

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