Messengers, watchers, spooks: Lucas North and Hermes

I was thinking about how I might connect Richard Armitage’s portrayal of MI-5 agent Lucas North to the pantheon of Greek gods.  I did a little Lucas North word association and one deity in particular came to mind.  I had just started a web search and lo and behold, I came across this…

What the heck…I’ll give it a try.  I answered the questions for myself and the quiz generated a response of Thetis – Sea nymph, daughter of Nereus, shape shifter, mother of Achilles – OK, I’ll take that.  I already had an inkling of what would happen if I answered the questions “as” Lucas North, and sure enough, the quiz generated this result:

As I suspected...

As I suspected…

Hermes was a second generation Olympian god – the son of Zeus and yet another of his extramarital affairs.  This time Zeus carried out a stealth courtship of Maia, the daughter of the Titan Atlas (of holding up the earth on his shoulders fame).  The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has this to say about the affair:

Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus,     [5]   —a shy goddess, for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived within a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronos used to lie with the rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at dead of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera fast.  (Source:  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu)

The bolded section tells us the principal occupation of Hermes among the other Olympians…he was the messenger.  As such, he’s often seen wearing a winged hat or sandals and described as “fleet footed” or some other such epithet.

The FTD Floral logo makes much more sense now...

The FTD Floral logo makes much more sense now…

In addition to his duties as messenger, usually flitting about on some or another errand for Zeus, Hermes also had a reputation for being clever and sly, a trickster from birth…rather like the Norse Loki in that respect.

Ooops, sorry!  Got distracted for a minute there... Source:  www.fanpop.com

Ooops, sorry! Got distracted for a minute there…
Source: http://www.fanpop.com

Where was I?  Loki…tricksters…Hermes – Right!  So Hermes was a sneaky little deity from the cradle.  One of his most memorable myths happens when he was only hours old and snuck away from his mother to steal the cattle sacred to his elder half brother, the mighty Apollo.

Baby Hermes and the Cattle of Apollo Source:  http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/13623/13950481/images8/Fig8.2.jpg

Baby Hermes being chastised by his mother for stealing his brother’s toys. “Who? Me?”
Source: wps.ablongman.com

In addition to being the furtive messenger of the gods, Hermes was also the patron deity of thieves and travelers – both groups who benefitted from an ability to come and go largely unseen.

We’ve also previously encountered Hermes in his role as psychopompos, or the leader of souls as they cross between the world of the living and that of the dead.  He is one of the few Greek deities who frequently acts on behalf of humankind in the regular course of his activities, not simply because it suited his purposes in the moment.

Hermes is a bit of an enigma…he belongs to the Olympian pantheon, yet he often seems to exist on the fringe of it, in fact he is strongly associated with the concept of boundaries and transitions.  To skirt the boundary between worlds, his cunning and alacrity served him well.

Lucas North is arguably the most enigmatic of the characters that Richard Armitage has inhabited to date.  It’s probably the reason I haven’t touched on him yet – he is so many different things at one time, he’s hard to classify.  Many people have discussed the complexities of this character and Richard Armitage’s portrayal of him, but every time I think I have a handle on him, I see something new.

The similarities between Lucas and Hermes are numerous…both are messengers, whether literal, who can forget Lucas as the leather clad messenger in Spooks 8.5?

What the man does with gloves... Source: Spooks 8.5 (Servetus' cap)

What the man does with gloves…
Source: Spooks 8.5 (Servetus’ cap)

Or figurative…Lucas’ whole existence as an operative makes him a messenger of something to someone, somewhere at sometime.

The sly, covert nature of Lucas’ job is a clear source of comparison, but so is the fact that Lucas, like Hermes has a foot in two worlds.  He is constantly making adjustments to fit in better here or there.

Lucas explains his tattoos to Harry in Spooks 7.1 Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

Lucas explains his tattoos to Harry in Spooks 7.1
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

It’s not only the demands of his profession, but the splinters within him that keep Lucas from fully being part of any one world, but rather ever hovering along the edges, never quite fitting in anywhere no matter how he tries.

Lucas North, always on the fringe... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

Lucas North, always on the fringe…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com (my crop)

At least Hermes had the winged sandals to make his hovering a bit easier.

Guy of Gisborne and Hades: Coercive Courtships

Have you ever thought that Richard Armitage’s potential as an onscreen lover has been grossly under utilized thus far in his career?  That idea must be very active in my subconscious since I seem to keep gravitating to it as I seek to connect his pantheon of characters to the classical tradition.  Today’s association is a variation on a familiar theme.

I imagine that most people’s first thought of the god Hades is not that of a “love connection,” but oh yes, that’s where I’m goin’. Hades, along with Zeus and Poseidon, was one of the elder generation of Olympian gods – offspring of the Titans Cronos and Rhea.   When the Olympians defeated the Titans and became the reigning champ deities on the earth, the three brothers drew lots to determine how they would divvy up the world.   Zeus got the earth and sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.  Apparently grumbling ensued as Hades expressed his dissatisfaction at the turnout before leaving for his new kingdom in a huff.  Zeus shrugged saying something like, “I don’t know what his problem is, his kingdom is the biggest since he gets everyone eventually!”

Hades enthroned

Hades enthroned

It’s probably not surprising that Hades is not one of the best represented gods within the Greek pantheon.  Although there is no inherent sense of evil or malevolence associated with the god Hades or the Greek Underworld – also referred to as Hades, death and gods of it are not the most popular mythological topics.  Generally, Hades is depicted as glum and gloomy…a perfect match to his environment.

Curiously, one of the most famous stories associated with him has to do with his selection of a bride.  As the god of the Underworld, Hades didn’t have a lot of opportunity to meet women, so he asked his brother Zeus to give him a bride from among Zeus’ many daughters.  Zeus decided on Persephone, his daughter by the grain goddess Demeter (another of his sisters – incest was definitely not a problem for Zeus), but since he knew Demeter would object to the match, he gave Hades the nod to go ahead and take Persephone by force.

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

Abduction of Persephone from the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina

Persephone was innocently picking flowers in a meadow when the ground split open and Hade’s chariot sped out.  The image above shows the moment when Hades scooped Persephone up to carry her away.  This moment is also depicted in magnificent baroque glory by the Italian sculptor Bernini.

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Abduction of Proserpina (Persephone) by Bernini

Hard to believe that's marble isn't it?!

Hard to believe that’s marble isn’t it?!

Hades carried Persephone with him to the Underworld, with every intention of making her his queen – actually, he was a pretty good catch in the eligibility department – but he also knew that she would rather not be there and that her mother would doubtlessly come to look for her.  As a result, he needed to find a way to make sure she would stay with him permanently.  While she was with him, he was solicitous and kind to her, doted on her actually, but she continued to spurn his gifts until one day when her hunger got the best of her.  Persephone finally accepted his gift of a pomegranate and ate six seeds before she realized the consequences.

Hades courts Persephone

Hades courts Persephone with food and drink

When Demeter eventually convinced Zeus into forcing Hades to return Persephone to her, Hades played his trump card.  Demeter could take her daughter back for part of the year, but since Persephone had consumed food (six pomegranate seeds) in the Underworld, she was required to spend six months of the year in Hades with him, as his queen.  Courtship complete.

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts

A downright saturnine looking Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) woos a reluctant Marian (Lucy Griffiths) with gifts
Image Courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Guy of Gisborne’s courtship of Marian in Robin Hood struck me as equally coercive.  Despite the fact that she persistently resists his advances, he continues to pursue her – determined to make her his own.  Like Hades, Guy is an eligible match for Marian in terms of fortune and social position, but like Persephone, Marian is not convinced.

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again...

Marian rebuffs Guy yet again…
Image Courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Despite the fact that she is physically “stirred by him” as Guy boasts to Robin in S1.8, Guy has his work cut out for him in making her his wife.  He tries just about everything, including manipulating her affection for her father, before finally telling the Sheriff (Keith Allen) that he will take her by force in the final episode of S2 – what Hades had done from the start.  Ultimately, while Hades’ coercive courtship was at least partially successful, Guy’s is an utter failure, leading to Marian’s death and his own brush with madness.  Kind of makes me wonder about that whole “if at first you don’t succeed” strategy when it comes to courtship.

**update…not a part of the Hades – Guy discussion, but too cool not to use here

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone  By Ewelock at Deviant Art

Thorin and Bilbo as Hades and Persephone
By Ewelock at Deviant Art

Sing to me, O Muse! : Richard Armitage and InspiRAtion

For those who don’t know, I live in Wisconsin.  In addition to a reputation for cheese and beer, Wisconsin is a state prone to wild swings in weather.  Subzero temperatures and snow falling by the foot in the winter, extreme heat and humidity in the summer.

This never seems to get old to me...

This never seems to get old to me…

Today is one of those “dog days of summer” that makes me remember the icy winds of January fondly – there’s no pleasing some people is there?  To make things even better, the A/C is out in my car, and now the passenger window had decided not to open.  Suffice it to say that today’s fifty minute commute in 90+ degree heat left me feeling more than a little wilted.  I arrived at my office in need of some serious inspiration!

I walked into the office and this is what I see:

Making special note of circled area...

Magnetic wall in my office:  make special note of circled area…

Ahhh,  I’m feeling better already!  I love the 1st birthday cake pic of my daughter and the collage of Greece, but Richard Armitage seems to act as some sort of balm for me from time to time.  Suddenly, I was feeling inspired, so I mapped out another section of Recovery.

When it comes to inspiRAtion for me (and a whole lot of others in the fandom from the looks of it) Richard Armitage certainly functions as a personal Muse.  The Greek Muses were a collection of goddesses who functioned as the personification and “patron” divinities of arts, literature and science.  The earliest references name three, but by the classical period their number was firmly set at nine.  They are most often identified as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the personification of memory).  The Greeks believed that The Muses epitomized the arts and inspired creativity through their own artistic and literary works.  By the later Hellenistic period, each Muse became associated with a particular genre of creativity and could be identified visually by an emblem or attribute.

muses table

Even earlier than this it became customary for writers to call upon the Muses for inspiration at the beginning of a literary work.  Below are the first lines of three famous poems:

muse quotes

Homer is “writing” very early in the Greek literary tradition, so it is in no way surprising that he does not refer to a particular Muse by name (in this case Calliope, since The Iliad and The Odyssey are epic poems), but simply refers to her as “Goddess” or “Muse”.  The Latin poet Vergil, writing in the 1st century BC, would have been well aware that Calliope was the Muse specific to epic poetry, but rather than name her, he also simply invokes the “Muse”.  This is almost certainly a deliberate homage to Homer.  Regardless, this tradition of calling upon a Muse for inspiration was one started by the Greeks that is still in use today.

I think it might be rather difficult to associate Richard Armitage with a specific area of inspiration…he seems to inspire many different people in a variety of different ways.  Some are inspired to create original artworks based on him or one of the characters he brought to life, others write stories or poems while still others create fan vids or write and record original songs.  Everytime I think I’ve seen it all, something new emerges.

One thing though seems to be timeless… “Sing to me O Muse, a song of…..SQUEEEE!!”

Look...even the interviewer is doing it!!  Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Look…even the interviewer is doing it!!
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Given his immense and, seemingly, effortless ability to inspire, perhaps we really should inaugurate a new Muse:

Armitage bumps out Sappho as the 10th Muse... Source:  Wikimedia with a little help from richardarmitagenet.com

Armitage bumps out Sappho as the 10th Muse…
Source: Wikimedia with a little help from richardarmitagenet.com

John Porter and HeRAkles: Battered but not beaten heroes

I have been searching high and low for a classical connection to my favorite Richard Armitage character…John Porter.  I love every damaged, heroic inch of this character from his fingertip gently stroking the cheek of his distraught daughter on a computer screen, to his anguish when he learns of his mate Steve’s death….emotion aplenty.  Then there is the plain physical beauty of the man – I especially love his tantalizing teres.  Although not as obvious, there are a lot of connections to the classical tradition in Porter’s story – they just have to be fleshed out a bit more since they tend to be more conceptual than visual.  That said, it is to the visual (and how) that I turn today.

I’ve looked several times lately at a favorite sculptural work of mine known as the Farnese Hercules (I saw him “in the flesh” in 1992, and the impression has never left me.)   The connection to John Porter struck me only today.  Hercules is the Latin equivalent of the Greek hero HeRAkles.  The Romans adopted him and his mythology wholesale from the Greeks, and his Latin name has become more commonly known than the original Greek version.  There is an enormous volume of myth surrounding Herakles, especially as pertains to his famous Twelve Labors.  Less well known is the reason why he undertook the labors in the first place.

This is a story of guilt and redemption for the most part, very much like the central theme that runs through John Porter’s character arc.  A bit of back story would probably be useful.  Herakles was one of the many illegitimate children of the god Zeus (Jupiter in Latin) and as such was on the bad side of Hera, Zeus’ wife. (Ironically, the name Herakles means “the glory of Hera” in Greek)  Hera is a really interesting character…she hates her husband/brother (yep – incest was common among ancient deities), yet she is insanely jealous of his extracurricular activities.  She can’t take her jealous rage out on him – he is much too powerful, so instead, she lashes out at his lovers and his extramarital offspring.  Hera had it in for Herakles from the cradle where she sent snakes to kill him

"Baby" Hercules strangles the snakes.  I love how the classical Greeks depict infants as miniature adults... Source:  Vase Painting by the Berlin Painter in the Louvre

“Baby” Herakles strangles the snakes sent by Hera.
I love how the classical Greeks depict infants as miniature adults…
Source: Vase Painting by the Berlin Painter in the Louvre

Herakles grew into a man of tremendous strength and courage, but he was a bit of a loose cannon, so there were bumps in the road for him throughout his life.  As a young adult he married a princess named Megara and sometime later in a state of insane rage caused by Hera killed both his wife and their children.  Like Orestes, he fled to Delphi for advice from the oracle.  To redeem himself from his crimes, he was sentenced to carry out what came to be called the Twelve Labors of Herakles…a series of monumental tasks engineered by Hera to set Herakles up for failure and disgrace.  (and thereby keep him off of Mt. Olympus which he had been promised – along with immortality)

One by one Herakles completed each task.  The Farnese Hercules, a Roman copy of a Greek original sculpture by Lysippos, is perhaps the most famous depiction of Herakles.  It lives in the Naples Museum today.

Herakles in a moment of rest... So-called Farnese Hercules Source:  Wikimedia

Herakles in a moment of rest…
So-called Farnese Hercules
Source: Wikimedia

Here we see Herakles in a rare moment of rest, having completed almost all of his tasks.  We can see the skin of the Nemean Lion (Labor #1) draped over the club he leans on.  In behind his back, in his right hand Herakles holds the Apples of the Hesperides (Labor# 11)  The exaggerated musculature of this piece is one of its most striking elements, but I’ve also always found the weariness of the powerful Herakles extremely moving.  He is so close to achieving his goal, so close to redemption, if only he can find the strength to go on.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) in a moment of rest Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

John Porter (Richard Armitage) in a moment of rest
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

He seems so similar to John Porter (here as he digs a grave in Strike Back S1.4).  A powerful male in the midst of an unpleasant, but necessary task.  Labor that no one else can do, labor that stands between him and his quest for redemption.  There are moments in Strike Back when Porter’s exhaustion is almost palpable…it’s not just a physical response, but a mental one as well.  The result is deeply emotional and evocative.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) fights for the will to go on... (Strike Back S1.6) Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com Source

John Porter (Richard Armitage) fights for the will to go on… (Strike Back S1.6)
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com 

Boxer at Rest, a Hellenistic Greek bronze thought to have been inspired by the Lysippan Herakles, also captures this same attitude of dogged exhaustion…the feeling of digging deep inside to find the energy both physically and mentally to achieve the goal.

"Boxer at Rest" Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, inv. 1055.  Lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the Republic of Italy, 2013

“Boxer at Rest”
Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, inv. 1055.
Lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the Republic of Italy, 2013

These are heroes who have been through the wringer.  They have toiled, they have struggled and for just a moment they are at rest…battered, but not beaten.

Richard Armitage (ok, Guy of Gisborne) and Apollo: Spurned Lovers

The character of Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) in Robin Hood (BBC 2006-2009) is a rich source for classical comparisons.  I’m returning to another story of the Greek god Apollo for this one.  As I mentioned here, Apollo was one of the most renowned of the gods in the Greek pantheon, and like his father Zeus, in addition to all of his supernatural powers, he also seems to have had a supernatural libido…in layman’s terms – Apollo was a major player.  The fact that some of his would be lovers were were noticeably repulsed by him didn’t seem to be much of a hindrance to Apollo.  Convinced of his own irresistibly, he pursued a number of human women and nymphs who turned him down repeatedly.  Unfortunately (for the women and nymphs) Apollo’s refusal to take “no” for an answer usually put them into a difficult circumstance.

A story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses gives a great example of this tendency of Apollo – complete with two gods having a pissing contest (pardon my  language 🙂 – RA isn’t the only one who gets to throw out off color slang around here!)  over the relative size of their weapons.  You can find a translation of the whole story here, but the nuts and bolts of it go something like this:

The great archer Apollo is teasing Eros (Cupid) about how tiny his eensy weensy little bow and arrows are.  What Apollo apparently forgot was that Eros’ arrows might be tiny, but they packed a huge wallop – one that not even the other gods were immune to.  To prove the might of his weapon he shoots Apollo with a golden arrow causing him to fall in love with the first person he sees…in this case the nymph Daphne.  To really drive the point home, Eros shoots Daphne with a lead arrow, causing her to be turned off by Apollo in a big way…the result?  He sees her and falls madly in lurve…she sees him (and presumably the acute case of bedroom eyes he’s shooting at her) and takes off running.  The chase is on!

Even a nimble Naiad like Daphne can’t outrun the great god Apollo forever.  Just at the point that he catches her, (beautifully articulated in marble by the Italian sculptor Bernini) she appeals to her father, the god of a local river to help her escape Apollo.  Her father does so by turning her into a tree…a laurel tree (we might know it better as the tree that produces bay leaves in the US).

Apollo and Daphne Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Apollo and Daphne
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Apollo mourns his “lost” love by making a wreath of the leaves that sprout from her as the metamorphosis is complete.  The laurel becomes a sacred tree to Apollo and the laurel wreath one of his frequent attributes.   (You might think that Apollo would learn from this episode…um, not so much!)

I noticed a certain similarity between Apollo and his inability to leave Daphne alone and Guy of Gisborne’s refusal to take no for an answer in his persistent pursuit of Marian.  One scene struck me as particularly similar to the scene above between Apollo and Daphne.

Marian strains away from Guy's embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11) Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Marian strains away from Guy’s embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11)
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Guy has caught the object of his desire, but as he leans in to kiss her, she very clearly strains away from him before he can reach her.  (Right about now I’m yelling at my TV… “What is wrong with you woman?!”)   Marian’s poor taste in lovers aside, like Apollo, Guy’s caught her, but he won’t be able to keep her.   A moment later, lacking the intercession of a divine father, she wrenches away and flees from him.  One might think that Guy might take the hint and find more accessible prey, but like Apollo, he will pursue her desperately – to no good end for either of them.

Psst…Apollo?  Guy?  Hint…if a girl runs away or would rather turn into a tree than kiss you…she’s just not that into you!  (Don’t worry, there are plenty of us who are! 🙂 )

ὅ παῖς καλός – Richard Armitage and the Fountain of Youth

Robert Ascroft released two new images of Richard Armitage this week that have generated a quite a lot of discussion and I’m happy to jump on the band wagon with a καλός offering.

The ancient Greeks valued youth and youthful vitality enormously, so much so that they personified the idea of youth in a goddess named Hebe ( Ἥβη).  A fairly minor player in Greek mythology,  Hebe was  the daughter of Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the Greek pantheon.  Her principle role, until she was married to the deified hero Herakles, was as a cupbearer who served ambrosia and nectar to the other gods on Mount Olympus .  Hebe also had the ability to bestow eternal youth and to make the old young again

Hebe serving ambrosia and nectar to Hera Photo:  www.theoi.com

Hebe serving ambrosia and nectar to Hera
Photo: http://www.theoi.com

The pursuit of youth is certainly not unique to the Greeks.  Several lines of discussion on blogs this week addressed how youthful Richard Armitage appears in the image below.  I’ll allow that some of the youthfulness may be courtesy of Photoshop or other photographic “magic”, but the whole tone of the shot conveys an idea of youthful vim from the perch on a narrow seat to the untucked tee and unlaced Converse sneakers.

Picture of youthful vitality Photo by Robert Ascroft Courtesy of richardarmitagenet.com

Picture of youthful vitality
Photo by Robert Ascroft
Courtesy of richardarmitagenet.com

Youthfulness seems to be an element of life that we all wish to maintain in some shape or form.  In part, I think, youth is a state of mind.  I have known people who were “middle aged” in their twenties, but I have an 81 year young friend at church who yesterday expressed an interest in joining a laser tag outing.   I’m not surprised that Richard Armitage is able to convey a look that belies his actual years, even without sipping from Hebe’s nectar cup.  He’s admitted in past interviews to thinking of himself as younger than he is.  He’s also made no secret that he enjoys an active lifestyle and he’s pretty clearly physically fit.  All of the above speak of a youthful attitude inside that shows through.   In an industry where youth seems to be something of an obsession, I think he’s looking pretty good – ὅ παῖς καλός!

PS:  try scrolling up on this image slowly from bottom to top…I really like the impact!

Looking for Richard Armitage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

On a recent trip to New York City, I was determined to be as unscheduled as possible with the exception of a couple of must do activities.  One was to have a pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup at Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side – seriously, just do it, it’s really that good!  The other, absolute must, was a visit to the Met.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the world with a collection ranging from ancient to modern.  It is a cultural mecca for visitors from around the world who could easily spend days wandering its hundreds of galleries and not see everything.

I never pass up an opportunity to visit an art or cultural museum.  I love to be able to literally walk through thousands of years of human activity in a few hours.  Equally interesting to me is the cross section of humanity roaming the exhibits.  I must confess, for a person in my line of work (ancient art and archaeology) I may actually be the worst museum visitor in the world in that I have an notoriously short attention span in exhibits.  I am not a person who must read every single placard on every single piece in every single case.  I look at what I like and move along.  (Don’t even get me started on the headset brigade…)  I fake it really well when I bring students to a museum though!

On this trip I found that I was much more focussed than ususal because I had an expressed purpose of seeking out Richard Armitage in the Met.  Hold on, hold on, – no need to call out the APM Guard – I was not looking for the man in the flesh, but rather his image amongst the classical works.  The seed that became this blog was planted shortly before I went to New York.  I thought at the time: What better place to start my search for Richard Armitage in the classical tRAdition than the spectacular Greco-Roman galleries of the Met?   As I walked up the stairs to the entrance, I swear, the clouds parted and I heard a choir of cupids singing:

Metropolitan Museum of Art - NYC Entrance to Greco-Roman Exhibit

Metropolitan Museum of Art – NYC
Entrance to Greco-Roman Exhibit

When I planned for this mission, I had a particular image of Richard Armitage in my mind’s eye – one that had always struck me as quite classical in compostion:

ra pink shirt

Recognise Magazine by Keith Clouston (14 June 2011)
Photo Courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

The partial profile, the contemplative gaze, the overall compostional quiet of the image all reminiscent of the art of classical Athens (particularly that of the 5th century)

I have to admit a certain amount of intial overload as I entered through the Geometric galleries – nerd alert!  I must give my travelling companion credit for having the wisdom to just stand back when I began to bounce back and forth between cases like a pinball – I love this stuff:

Krater, second half of 8th century b.c.; Geometric Attributed to the Hirschfeld Workshop Greek, Attic Terracotta  H. 42 5/8 in. (108.25 cm) Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.14)

Krater, second half of 8th century b.c.; Geometric
Attributed to the Hirschfeld Workshop
Greek, Attic
Terracotta
H. 42 5/8 in. (108.25 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.14)

As much as I love the material of this period and the one just before it (for which almost nothing is on display – not entirely surprising – I call it “pottery only a mother could love”) I was not going to find many reflections of Richard Armitage among the stylized figures that are characteristic of Geometric vase painting, so we headed off to the classical galleries.  I was not disappointed, I found a number of interesting examples, especially in the study collection, that will eventually appear here, but I found a particularly striking image when we reach a special exhibit on Sleeping Eros:

Enthroned Zeus (fragement of ceramic cup) MMA Rogers Fund, 1911

Enthroned Zeus
(fragement of ceramic cup) MMA Rogers Fund, 1911

The image depicts the king of the gods, Zeus, seated on a throne with a tiny Eros flying in to place a wreath on his head.  If we zoom in a bit closer, we can see the remarkable similarity of Zeus to several bearded profiles of Richard Armitage:

Detail of previous image

Detail of previous image

I love the long, straight line of the nose and slightly stern brow.  The hand lifted near the face is noteworthy as well.  The real kicker for me though, has been a subject of considerable chatter in Armitageworld over the past week:  chest hair.  This vase painting shows a shirtless Zeus with clearly defined chest hair…not remarkable among adult males of the human variety, but definitely not common in Greek vase painting representations of the same.  It was clearly meant to be that I find this one tiny fragment of a vase in a enormous collection of whole vases…like the gods knew I was coming or something.  🙂