A Generous Commission

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_West_005.jpg

Shortly before Nelson left England for the last time, he found himself sitting next to Benjamin West at an honorary dinner. The admiral complimented the painter on his Death of Wolfe and asked why he had produced no more pictures like it.

“Because, my lord,” West said, “there are no more subjects.” He said he feared that Nelson’s fearless courage might produce another such scene, and “if it should, I shall certainly avail myself of it.”

“Will you, Mr. West?” Nelson said. “Then I hope I shall die in the next battle.”

He got his wish — West found himself painting The Death of Nelson the following year.

Demo

giotto circle

When an emissary from Benedict XI asked Giotto for a sample of his work, the artist dipped his brush in red ink and painted a perfect circle freehand.

He got the commission.

“Calamities of Genius”

Homer was a beggar; Plautus turned a mill; Terence was a slave; Boethius died in gaol; Paul Borghese had fourteen trades, and yet starved with them all; Tasso was often distressed for five shillings; Bentivoglio was refused admittance into an hospital he had himself erected; Cervantes died of hunger; Camoens, the celebrated writer of the Lusiad, ended his days in an alms house; and Vaugelas left his body to the surgeons, to pay his debts as far as it would go. In our own country, Bacon lived a life of meanness and distress; Sir Walter Raleigh died on a scaffold. Spencer, the charming Spencer, died forsaken, and in want; and the death of Collins came through neglect, first causing mental derangement. Milton sold his copy-right of Paradise Lost for fifteen pounds, at three payments, and finished his life in obscurity; Dryden lived in poverty and distress; Otway died prematurely, and through hunger; Lee died in the streets; Steele lived a life of perfect warfare with bailiffs. Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield was sold for a trifle to save him from the gripe of the law; Fielding lies in the burying-ground of the English factory at Lisbon, without a stone to mark the spot; Savage died in prison at Bristol, where he was confined for a debt of eight pounds; Butler lived in penury, and died poor; Chatterton, the child of genius and misfortune, destroyed himself.

The Terrific Register, 1825

Termespheres

Dick Termes paints murals on spheres. And he does it with a unique “six-point” perspective technique that permits a remarkable optical illusion.

As you watch this video, try to convince yourself that the front half of the sphere is transparent and that the mural is painted on the concave interior of the farther side — that is, that you’re standing in the center of the pictured room and turning in place to your left. If you succeed, the spin will seem to reverse direction and you’ll find yourself inside the painting:

Ninger Note

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ninger.jpg

Counterfeiting was a lot harder in the old days.

In the 1880s, Emanuel Ninger, known as “Jim the Penman,” drew $50 and $100 bills by hand, spending weeks on each one. Fifty bucks was a lot back then, about $2,000 in today’s money, so the effort was worthwhile. This also meant that his “work” ended up in the hands of rich people, and he actually gained a perverse following who realized the forgeries’ value as works of art.

He drew this note in 1896, just before the Secret Service nabbed him. He’d left a note on a wet bar, and the bartender saw the ink run. Ninger served six months and was forced to pay restitution of $1. He never forged again.