Thursday, June 25, 2015

25 Paintings by the Old Masters! The Legend Of Semiramis

Christian Köhler,
Semiramis, 1852,

Oil on canvas
According to the legend, Semiramis was of noble parents, the daughter of the fish-goddess Derketo of Ascalon in Syria and a mortal. Derketo abandoned her at birth and drowned herself. Doves fed the child until Simmas, the royal shepherd, found and raised her.

She then married Onnes or Menones, one of Ninus' generals. At the time, King Ninus besieged, in vain, Bactria, and might have been forced to withdraw without the guidance and courage to Semiramis. She found a way to break into the citadel and to take it; she herself boldly executed the plan she had conceived, and gave Ninus the city where he found immense treasures. 

Ninus was so struck by her bravery at the capture of Bactra that he tried to compel Onnes to "yield her to him of his own accord, offering in return for this favor to give him his own daughter Sonanê to wife." When Onnes refused to exchange his wife for the king's daughter, Ninus "threatened to put out his eyes unless he at once acceded to his commands."

Onnes, out of fear of the king, and out of doomed passion for his wife, "fell into a kind of frenzy and madness," and hanged himself. Ninus then married her.

After Guido Reni (1575 - 1642)
Semiramis and Ninus

She and Ninus had a son named Ninyas. After King Ninus conquered Asia, including the Bactrians, he was fatally wounded by an arrow. Semiramis then masqueraded as her son and tricked her late husband's army into following her instructions because they thought these came from their new ruler. After Ninus's death she reigned as queen regnant for 42 years, conquering much of Asia.

Guido Reni (4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642)[1] was an Italian painter of high-Baroque style. Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the son of Daniele Reni and Ginevra de’ Pozzi. As a child of nine, he was apprenticed under the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert. Soon after, he was joined in that studio by Albani and Domenichino. When Reni was about twenty years old, the three Calvaert pupils migrated to the rising rival studio, named Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the "newly embarked", or progressives), led by Lodovico Carracci. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who followed Annibale Carracci to Rome. Like many other Bolognese painters, Reni's painting was thematic and eclectic in style. More

Semiramis and her son Ninias
Woodcut illustration
printed by Johannes Zainer at Ulm ca. 147

Semiramis' Rule

Ninus' tomb

She restored ancient Babylon and protected it with a high brick wall that completely surrounded the city. Then she built several palaces in Persia, including Ecbatana. Diodorus also attributes the Behistun inscription to her, now known to have been done under Darius I of Persia. She not only reigned Asia effectively but also added Libya and Aethiopia to the empire. 

Pierre Bellet (1865–1924
oil on canvas, signed in 1892

Semiramis Called to War
Jacques Stella, 1637, 
oil on slate, 
36.1 x 53.5 cm

Jacques Stella (1596 - 29 April 1657) was a French painter. He was born in Lyon. His father was François Stella, a painter and merchant of Flemish origin, but he died too soon to train Jacques in painting. Jacques Stella trained in Lyon before spending the period from 1616 to 1621 in the court of Cosimo II de Medici in Florence, working alongside Jacques Callot. In 1621 Stella moved to Rome, where he spent the next 10 years and won a reputation thanks to his paintings, small engravings and painted work on stones (onyx, lapis-lazuli or simply slate). Particularly working for pope Urban VIII, Stella was influenced in Rome by classicism and more specifically by the art of Nicolas Poussin, with whom he became an intimate friend.

Returning to Lyon in 1634 before moving to Paris a year later, Stella was presented to Louis XIII by cardinal Richelieu. The king made him peintre du roi  and granted him a pension of 1000 livres. He returned many times to the theme of the childhood of Christ - five different versions by him of "Jesus discovered by his parents in the temple" exist. From 1644 he took part in the decoration of the Palais-Cardinal. Towards the end of his life he devoted himself more and more to drawing. More

She then went to war with king Stabrobates of India, having her artisans create an army of false elephants to deceive the Indians into thinking she had acquired real elephants. This succeeded at first, but then she was wounded in the counterattack and her army again retreated west of the Indus. 

Armenian tradition portrays her as a homewrecker and a harlot. These facts are partly to be explained by observing that, according to the legends, in her birth as well as in her disappearance from earth, Semiramis appears as a goddess, the daughter of the fish-goddess Atargatis, and herself connected with the doves of Ishtar or Astartë.

Semiramis staring at the corpse of Ara the Beautiful.
Painting by Vardges Sureniants (1860-1921)
Vardges Sureniants (Armenian: 27 February 1860 – 6 April 1921) was an Armenian painter, sculptor, illustrator, translator, art critic, and theater artist. He is considered the founder of Armenian historical painting. His paintings feature scenes from Armenian fairy-tales and various historical events. Although Sureniants had one exhibition dedicated to his works in his lifetime, he was admired by many of his contemporaries which include many well-known figures in Russian and Armenian society including Martiros Saryan, Ilya Repin, and Vladimir Stasov. More

According to the legend, Semiramis had heard about the fame of the handsome Armenian king Ara. Semiramis was enamored with Ara's vigorous physical power and so sought to consummate with him. She asked Ara to marry her, but he refused; upon hearing this, she gathered the armies of Assyria and marched against Armenia.

During the battle, Ara was slain by Semiramis. To avoid continuous warfare with the Armenians, Semiramis, reputed to be a sorceress, took his body and prayed to the gods to raise Ara from the dead. When the Armenians advanced to avenge their leader, she disguised one of her lovers as Ara and spread the rumor that the gods had brought Ara back to life, ending the war.   More

She had a new statue erected to the gods and offered them many sacrifices for saving Ara. The people believed that Ara was revived, and Semiramis was saved from another battle waged against her.

In order to eternalize her love for Ara, she named his son Karthos after him, who was born from his wife Nuvard and aged twelve at the time. Although he was so young, she made him ruler of Armenia. More

Despite all her splendid achievements Semiramis would not be satisfied until she had added to her empire by a victorious war. As the only unconquered country in Western Asia was India.

She not only reigned Asia effectively but also added Libya and Aethiopia to the empire. She then went to war with king Stabrobates of India, having her artisans create an army of false elephants to deceive the Indians into thinking she had acquired real elephants. This succeeded at first, but then she was wounded in the counterattack and her army again retreated west of the Indus. More

Flemish tapestry
Queen Semiramis and her servants
c. 1480 CE
Honolulu Academy of Arts

Semiramis, who was both Nimrod's wife and Tammuz’ mother, was worshiped as the "mother of god" and a "fertility goddess" because she had to be extremely fertile to give birth to all the pagan incarnate gods that represented Nimrod. Where Nimrod is the "sun god", Semiramis is the "moon goddess'. She was worshiped throughout the world by each of the titles associated with Nimrod's worship. For instance, the respective Greek and Roman names applied to the worship of Semiramis include: Aphrodite and Venus, the goddess of love; Artemis and Diana, the goddess of hunting and childbirth; Athena and Minerva, the goddess of crafts, war and wisdom; Demeter and Ceres, the goddess of growing things; Gaea and Terra, symbol of the fertile earth; Hera and Juno, the protector of marriage and women, who was the sister and wife of Zeus in Greek mythology, and the wife of Jupiter in Roman mythology; Hestia and Vesta, the goddess of the hearth; plus Rhea or Ops, who was wife and sister of the Greek horned-god Kronos. 

Edgar Degas 1861
Semiramis Building Babylon
Oil on canvas, 151 x 258 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

In spite of her cleverness, though, she also sowed the seeds of her own destruction. As she raised her son, she imbued him with divinity in the eyes of the priests and people as the means of retaining control as the divine mother without seeming to aggrandize herself. As Damu grew he became used to having every whim instantly gratified by a subservient, indeed groveling, populace. For safety's sake he had a personal bodyguard/companion group which he was never without, and which formed an elite corps of soldiery loyal and accountable to him alone. Upon coming to maturity and demanding of his mother to be installed as king, she not only refused him this--but, seeing him now as a challenge to her rule, slated him for the same death she had meted to his father. Damu caught on to her scheme, and pre-empted his "assumption" by slaying his mother with his own sword, and putting down any priestly protests by purging the hierarchy of all who would not vow allegiance to him. Thus Semiramis died after reigning as queen over Babylon for 102 years. More

The Oath of Semiramis
by Pietro da Cortona
Oil on copper, 51.2 x 70.7 cm
Collection: The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Semiramis, queen of Babylon, is interrupted while dressing, by a messenger telling her of a rebellion; she takes a solemn oath to abandon her toilette until peace is restored. Her hair is undone and she prepares to take up weapons.

Pietro da Cortona (1 November 1596/7 – 16 May 1669) was born Pietro Berrettini, but is primarily known by the name of his native town of Cortona in Tuscany. He was the leading Italian Baroque painter of his time and, along with his contemporaries and rivals Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, was one of the key figures in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture. He was also an important designer of interior decorations.

Cortona worked mainly in Rome and Florence. He is best known for his frescoed ceilings such as the vault of the salone or main salon of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome and carried out extensive painting and decorative schemes for the Medici family in Florence and for the Oratorian fathers at the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome. He also painted numerous canvases. Only a limited number of his architectural projects were built but nonetheless they are as distinctive and as inventive as those of his rivals. More

Legend has it that after Semiramis died, she ascended into heaven and was returned to earth inside a large egg which fell into the Euphrates river. The egg was pushed ashore by a dove and she emerged from the egg as Astarte or Ishtar (in English, Easter)  More

This hand-coloured engraving, by Martin Heemskerck, probably made in the 19th century after the first excavations in the Assyrian capitals, depicts the fabled Hanging Gardens, with the Tower of Babel in the background More
Ancient Greeks and Persians believed her to be the legendary queen of king Ninus of Babylon, who oversaw the building of the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. More

Rene-Antoine Houasse, 1676 CE, 
Semiramis and Nebuchadnezzar Build the Gardens of Babylon
Palace of Versailles

H. Waldeck,
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
oil on canvas, 
94.5 x 174 cm

H WALDECK he was born in Essen, Germany, in 1928. From 1943 to 1945 he attended the Federal Acadamy for Master

Guercino (1591–1666)
Semiramis Called to Arms. 1645

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (February 8, 1591 – December 22, 1666), best known as Guercino, or Il Guercino, was an Italian Baroque painter and draftsman from the region of Emilia, and active in Rome and Bologna. The vigorous naturalism of his early manner is in contrast to the classical equilibrium of his later works. His many drawings are noted for their luminosity and lively style. More

Matteo Rosselli
oil on Canvas
68 7/8x86 1/4in

Matteo Rosselli was an Italian Baroque Era Painter, 1578-1650. An influential artist of the early 17th century in Florence, he is described by the early sources as being of a gentle disposition and as a dedicated and dignified painter, although he lacked originality and power. His work is characterized by the simplicity, descriptive naturalism and refined colour of the Counter-Reformation art created by such Tuscan artists as Santi di Tito, Bernardino Poccetti, Lodovico Cigoli and Domenico Passignano, yet he was also responsive to Venetian and Emilian art. He received his early education in Gregorio Pagani's studio, which he attended from as early as 1587. His initial inclination was towards classical and balanced compositions, in which the influence of Andrea del Sarto, whose frescoes he copied in the Chiostro dello Scalzo, is clear. On 26 February 1599 he was admitted to the Accademia del Disegno and in 1605 went to be with Passignano in Rome for six months, greatly enriching his artistic experiences through this contact. He returned to Florence in the same year and, on Pagani's death (1605), completed his master's unfinished works with great success. Pagani's influence can be seen in the bright colours of Rosselli's Adoration of the Magi. More

Andrea del Michieli, called Vicentino - VICENZA 1542-1617 VENEZIA
Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk;
S.V. no. 147 
190 by 282 mm

This work bears inscription in brown ink, left: Semiramis, and in another hand (possibly the artist's), right margin: M. Benedetto andrea vicentino/Passa....sta enchontro il largo della Farina; bears old attribution in ink, lower left: And.a Vicentin; bears inscription in ink, verso. 

Semiramis, the beautiful Queen of Babylon, is depicted combing her hair, at the moment when a messenger enters the room to announce that the city is in revolt.  She promptly interrupted her toilette and rushed out to quell the rebellion.  More

Andrea Michieli or Michielli , better known as Andrea Vicentino ( Vicenza , 1542 about - Venice , 15 May 1618 ) was an  Italian painter of the Republic of Venice , the period late- Renaissance and Mannerist .

A pupil of Giovanni Battista Maganza , he moved to Venice in the mid- seventies of the sixteenth century by registering the guild of painters in 1583 . He worked together with Tintoretto at Palazzo Ducale , where he contributed to ' Arrival of Henry III in Venice ( 1593 ca.) at the Hall of the Four Doors. More

Adriaen Backer
Semiramis Receives Word of the Uprising in Babylon (1669).

Photo credit: Wikipedia.
Adriaen Backer (ca 1635, Amsterdam — buried 23 May 1684, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Golden Age portrait painter, active in Amsterdam and Haarlem. He was born in Amsterdam. Adriaen probably learned to paint from his uncle Jacob Adriaensz Backer. In 1666 he traveled to Italy with Dirck Ferreris. In December 1667 he was back in Amsterdam and a witness when his brother Jacob married.

Backer married Elsje Colyn on August 27, 1669 and the couple had two sons, who both died very young. Backer lived on Spui, behind Begijnhof, Amsterdam. Christoffel Lubienitski was his pupil and learned to paint portraits from him.

Backer produced several group portraits of Hofje regents as well as historical allegories for city commissions. According to Houbraken his Last Judgement hanging in the court room (vierschaar) of the Amsterdam City Hall (now called the Amsterdam Royal Palace) was one of his best works. More

Tischbein the Elder, Johann Heinrich
Semiramis receives the news of the Babylonian revolt
Oil on canvas
73 x 56 cm.

Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder, called the Kasseler, (3 October 1722 – 22 August 1789) was one of the most respected European painters in the 18th century and an important member of the Tischbein dynasty of German painters, which spanned four generations.

His work consisted primarily of portraits of the nobility, mythology scenes, and historical paintings. For his mythology paintings he mostly resorted to models of the highest aristocracy.

William de Leftwich Dodge
Semiramide, Act I scene xi. 
Illustration for The Great Operas edited by James W Buel 
Large lithograph.

William de Leftwich Dodge (1867–1935) was an American artist best known for his murals, which were commissioned for both public and private buildings. Dodge was born at Liberty, Virginia. In 1879, his mother, Mary de Leftwich Dodge, an aspiring artist, moved her family to Europe. After living initially in Munich they moved to Paris, where she worked on art. Dodge later followed her example and became an artist. He spent most of his childhood years in France. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts and took first place in the examinations in 1881. He also studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme and with Raphaël Collin at the Académie Colarossi, and traveled to Munich for studies there. More

Scene from the tragedy of Semiramis by Voltaire
Louis Jean Desprez

Louis Jean Desprez (occasionally but incorrectly Jean Louis Desprez) ca 1743–18 March 1804 was a French painter and architect who worked in Sweden during the last twenty years of his life. Desprez, who was born in Auxerre in Bourgogne, studied architecture and was awarded the Great Prize of the Académie d'architecture in 1770. He traveled frequently to Italy and was associated with Piranesi in Rome, when he came to the attention of Swedish King Gustavus III, who offered him a two-year contract as director of scenic decorations at the new Stockholm Opera founded by the King two years earlier. 

As an architect, Desprez designed in a monumental, neoclassical style influenced by his study of Greek and Roman ruins in the south of Italy and in Sicily.His greatest project was one never realized: the magnificent new palace planned by the King for the Haga Park outside Stockholm. Because of lack of money, only the foundations were ever built and the project was abandoned after the assassination of the King. His most significant completed project was the conservatory building in the new botanical garden in Uppsala, inaugurated after his death on May 13, 1807. More

Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596–1675)
Story of Semiramis.1627-1638

Abraham van Diepenbeeck (9 May 1596 (baptised) - May-Sept. 1675) was an erudite and accomplished Dutch painter of the Flemish School. After having received a classical education, he became a pupil and assistant of Peter Paul Rubens. He handled mythological and historical subjects, as well as portraits, with great skill and vigor and was a good, sound colourist. He went to Antwerp about 1629 and made his first successes in painting on glass, among his productions being windows in the cathedral there representing the "Acts of Mercy". Similar work at the church of the Dominicans. Van Diepenbeek was admitted to the guild of painters in 1638, and became director of the academy in 1641. It was after a visit to Italy that the artist began to paint chiefly in oil and to illustrate. Among his illustrations are fifty-eight designs engraved by Cornelis Bloemaert for the Abbe de Marolles' "Tableaux du Temple des Muses". During the reign of Charles I of England, van Diepenbeeck was in England where, besides painting portraits of the first Duke of Newcastle and his family, the artist illustrated that nobleman's book on "Horsemanship". He died, aged 79, in Antwerp. More

Demetre Chiparus (1886-1947)

The Slave Woman [The Queen of Babylon]