DSS Exhibition Tempest Brewing?

Somewhat tangential to our purview, but dealing with an  exhibition I”m likely to go to (the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum), we are just starting to hear rumblings of this … an excerpt from the Toronto Star:

The Conservative government is staying mum on a letter from senior Palestinian officials opposing a planned exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon declined to comment yesterday on accusations that the six-month exhibit, set to begin in June and organized in co-operation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, violates at least four international conventions or protocols on the treatment of cultural goods that were illegally obtained.

Both Canada and Israel are signatories to all of the agreements, the Palestinians say.

In letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and top executives at the ROM, senior Palestinian officials argue the scrolls – widely regarded as among the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – were acquired illegally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.

The letter of protest sent this week to Harper was signed by Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. The letter to the ROM bore the signature of Khouloud Daibes, minister of tourism and antiquities.

I personally doubt anything will come of this, but it’s an interesting bit of fallout from all the repatriations going on of late; one wonders why we haven’t seen a demand from Palestinian authorities to repatriate the scrolls … (one isn’t surprised that the Star is setting this one up as a vehicle to bash the government) …

300 Se/Pre/Interquel Gossip

Excerpt from a piece at MTV’s Splashpage:

About a year ago, news broke that Frank Miller was developing a “300” quasi-sequel. Snyder, who was in Las Vegas this week to pick up a Director of the Year award at ShoWest, revealed that he has indeed heard Miller’s idea for a graphic novel about the events that followed the key battle of “300” — and he likes it.

“There’s something that happens in history between Leonidas dying at the Hot Gates and Platea,” Snyder said. “That’s a year that’s left out of the [original] movie. A lot happened.”

Although it was dramatized terrifically, Snyder’s “300” told the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, which occurred in 480 BC. The film’s final moments mention that one year later, at Platea, 10,000 Spartan warriors helped defeat a huge Persian force; in a historical context, an equally important event occurred when the Athenian navy crushed the Persians in the battle of Salamis. According to Snyder, “300 Part II” will focus on the intense 12 months when these battles were taking place.

“Frank is definitely working on an idea,” Snyder explained. “If Frank comes up with a great idea and draws something cool, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t make another movie.”

There’s a video interview on site (which I can’t access for some reason) …

Skull-a-Day Ad for Pompeii?

One of the nice things about these four-day weekends is that I have time to check out things that are of interest to me. In this case, an item in the LA Times blog notes (inter alia):

Chalk it up to an over-eager marketing team at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

On Wednesday, Roman-style advertisements for the museum’s upcoming exhibition “Pompeii and the Roman Villa” were spotted on sidewalks throughout the city. The sightings were first reported by our friends over at the Curbed LA blog.

Turns out the ads were chalk drawings, some of which depicted the profile of a Roman youth along with the words “Pompeii” and “LACMA.” The museum had stenciled 20 such drawings at four locations throughout L.A.

… and here’s a photo of the ad:

From the LA Times blog
From the LA Times blog

… which I found interesting because I’m a skull guy (at school I’m surrounded by thirty or forty skulls of various types; heck, I’m wearing a t-shirt with a skull on it right now). Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the non-Classics blogs I follow is called Skull-a-day and this stencilled ad from LA struck me as somewhat familiar. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but it seems to me the folks are making use of/inspired by a stencil provided from Skull-a-day quite a while ago … here’s a representative image of the stencil on a tshirt:

from Skull-a-day
from Skull-a-day

From the Horatii to Cleopatra

Here’s an interesting bit of synchronicity … my spiders picked up a piece in the Independent which is about Giotto’s Lamentation of Christ … the incipit, however, is rather more in the purview of this blog:

There is also anachronism in viewing. We can’t help looking at pictures through our own later eyes. We see them in ways their first spectators could never have. They suggest to us things that didn’t exist then. This needn’t be a distraction. If the likeness is precise, it may help us focus the picture more clearly.

Take Jacques-Louis David’s painting, The Oath of the Horatii. It’s a frieze-like, neo-classical composition. It shows an ancient Roman legend. Three brother-heroes, their right arms extended straight out, are swearing self-sacrificial loyalty to their father, who holds up their swords.

But the contemporary US painter Alex Katz saw it this way. The gestures, he said, “are very, very clear, they’re very decisive – clear in what they are supposed to be as gestures… When I saw the David with the three swords I thought of three guys with cigarette lighters and a woman with a cigarette. That’s what it looked like to me.”

We’ve leapt from ancient Rome (where the scene is set) or the late 18th century (when it was painted) to a Hollywood scene in the mid 20th century – three young blades, shooting out their arms to offer some broad a light. This is far from the subject of the picture. But the precision of the visual likeness brings the modern viewer very close to the shape and speed of its three simultaneous lunges.

… which reminded me of this on-set photo from the Claudette Colbert version of Cleopatra (directed by Cecil B. DeMille):

from the John Springer Collection
from the John Springer Collection

… which coincidentally, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week, coverage of which was also flooding my email box … here’s a representative bit from the Baltimore Sun:

Claudette Colbert is the sauciest Cleopatra since the 1st century B.C. in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 production of Cleopatra, a classic from those frisky days before Hollywood got itself all moral and safe.

DeMille, the master of the early-Hollywood epic, spent his career giving the people what they wanted, and what that meant was movies featuring as much titillation as contemporary standards would allow, usually in stories based on history or the Bible. Colbert had scorched the screen twice already in DeMille productions – 1932’s The Sign of the Cross, in which she famously took a nude bath in asses’ milk, and 1934’s Four Frightened People – but neither of those is as much fun as Cleopatra, in which she seduces two continents, gets delivered to Caesar (Warren William) wrapped in a rug and distracts poor Marc Anthony (Henry Wilcoxon) so that he doesn’t know which way is up, much less which way is Rome.

Of course, it’s all delightfully anachronistic; Colbert’s about as Egyptian as George Washington, and the 1930s vernacular doesn’t exactly match the time period. But who cares? Colbert is riveting (in costumes that weighed as much as 60 pounds), DeMille’s mastery of the deliciously overblown is unmatched, and the film’s huge art-deco sets belong in a design museum.

For my part, I’ve always hoped someone would find a copy of the Theda Bara version … photos like this from a 1917 flick definitely spark curiosity (although we admit there seems to be obvious anachronism here as well; whether it’s delightful or not is probably a matter of personal taste):

Wikimedia Commons Photo
Wikimedia Commons Photo