A break from all the previous Byzantine related articles but still with with mentions on Byzantium.
Hello and welcome back to another article from The Byzantium Blogger! This one will be another special edition article, although this one as the first one in a long time to not be Byzantine history related. This article will once again cover another kind of masterpiece I created, which are those frescos found in my bathroom, which I have returned to working on. For some years, I have been painting the walls of my bathroom with different patterns based on art forms from different parts of the world, and now with Byzantine history as the new hobby in my life, I decided to erase some of the old art I made some years ago and paint over them Byzantine art and symbols. As I said this article will not really be Byzantine history related, but still it will also cover a bit of Byzantium as I made Byzantine related art in the bathroom tiles. Like the Complete Byzantine Genealogy article, this one will be another special edition piece because it will focus more on a personal project I did and how I did it rather than a historical research. This article will not only cover the finished product, which are the painted tiles but the process of doing it and where I got the ideas from. Before beginning, I will have to say that this article will no longer be a very long one like those I made before.
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First of all, I began painting my bathroom as early as 2012, but the art from 7 years ago may have been unplanned and unrefined doodles and patterns. However, in the next year I updated the art with a more systematic style based on medieval frescos including the detailed stained-glass window which is still up and still with its 2013 art, except for the lower-right corner with the French style stained glass dating back to 2015, which I wrote about back in that year. 2013 brought an update to the bathroom-fresco hall but both 2014 and 2015 also brought in new changes to the hall such as the first Roman-Byzantine flags and Dutch style blue-and-white tiles as part of the yearly restoration program in the bathroom. However, in both 2016 and 2017, work was halted in the bathroom and no updates were made within those 2 years but 2018, on the other hand was when work in the bathroom resumed with more ideas for art coming into my mind. Last year brought a major restoration project to my bathroom with additions of Portuguese style tiles, a replica of the famous Japanese art known as “The Great Wave”, and various 2 color combinations. Now in 2019, this year, last year’s work was continued even more with an extension to last year’s work which filled in all the empty spaces in the bathroom and with added Byzantine symbols and other patterns. Now let’s begin with the Byzantine symbols and inspired art. Since June of this year, I have been slowly drawing and afterwards painting the Byzantine coats-of-arms on my tiles lining the whole lower portion of the southern wall of the bathroom. These Byzantine symbols were based on the heraldry or coat-of-arms of different Byzantine families or states during the time of the Byzantine Empire (330-1453), although most of these crests only appeared in the latter part of Byzantine history from the 11th to 15th centuries. From right to left, the Byzantine crests begin with the seal of the Doukas family (imperial dynasty from 1059-1081) on the tile clinging on to the door area, which is as simple as a white cross on a blue background. The next tile to the left is a variant of the classic Byzantine imperial banner of the tetra-grammatic cross of the Palaiologos Dynasty (1261-1453) with the 4 yellow Beta symbols opposite from each other and separated with a yellow cross, except in this tile it uses a purple instead of red background. The next tile features the famous double-headed Byzantine eagle, though this one is yellow over a green background with 2 stars, one above each head- this one is the flag of the exiled Byzantine Empire in Nicaea (1204-1261) or more specifically the coat-of-arms of the Laskaris-Vatatzes family that ruled it in the years when the crusaders and the Latin Empire took over Constantinople. Next to it then is the coat-of-arms of the Latin Empire which ruled Constantinople from 1204 when the 4th Crusade captured it from the Byzantines up until the Byzantines retook the city in 1261; this symbol though was only attributed to the western Latin Emperor Philip I of Courtenay who held the title from 1273-83 after the Latin Empire fell and like the Byzantine flag shows a yellow cross over a red background but on the 4 spaces instead of Beta symbols it uses 4 encircled crosses with 4 additional small crosses in the corners making it have a total of 16 corner crosses. Next to this is another classic imperial double-headed eagle which is in this case a black-outlined one over a yellow background, the imperial banner of the Komnenos Dynasty which ruled Byzantium from 1081-1185 and later ruled the independent Byzantine Empire of Trebizond from 1204-1460. Next to it then is the famous yellow double-headed eagle crowned but this time on a purple background and at the center of the eagle is a circle with the purple monogram of the Palaiologos imperial family which actually depicts the Greek letters for PALG or the acronym for Palaiologos. On the tile next to this is another common Byzantine symbol, the famous Chi-Rho appearing as PX which is Greek for the first letters of Christ’s name (CHR) seen as yellow over a red background with the Alpha (A) and Omega symbols on opposite sides of the PX; this was however not only used as a Byzantine imperial symbol but also for the Western Roman Empire that ruled at the same time as Byzantium being the Eastern Roman Empire from 395 until the west fell in 476 leaving the east to survive as the remaining Roman Empire. The next one happens to be a cross-over tile back with the Byzantine tetra grammatic cross and the 4 yellow Beta symbols over red, except here there are 2 of these squares with the 4 Betas on opposite sides from each other while 2 squares opposite from each other feature the red cross over a white background which is the flag of the Italian Republic of Genoa, a great ally of the Byzantines. The 2nd to the last tile to the left depicts the famous double-headed eagle of Byzantium but this time the yellow one in the original background and also with the Palaiologos monogram at the center; these yellow double-headed eagles were not only used in imperial flags but as patterns in the robes of emperors as well especially during the Palaiologos period in the last years of their empire; although the Palaiologos family continued ruling the small state of Montferrat in Italy even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Last in the row is a single tetra grammatic yellow cross in a red background, this happens to be what is called Byzantium’s national flag which is actually only depicted in the 14th century Castilian Book of Knowledge of All Kingdoms or Libro del Conosçimiento de todos los regnos in Spanish; here the 4 Beta symbols opposite of each other most probably means “King of kings ruling over the kings” in Greek, although in my depiction they may not look too much like Bs but like firesteels. This is it for the bottom row of Byzantine flags, though above the red tile with the double-headed eagle is the royal standard of the Persian Sassanid Empire which was Byzantium’s imperial enemy from its earliest days up until the Sassanids were defeated in 628 by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. This Persian royal standard known as Derafsh Kaviani depicts a yellow-golden flower like symbol over a purple background surrounded by red; this symbol is not very well-known these days but the standard of the President of Tajikistan uses a similar version of it. To the left of the Sassanid flag is the famous Spartan shield symbol of the red Lambda (L) over black surrounded by red and next to it is the gold and dark blue symbol of the Cult of Kosmos from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018) in 5th century BC Greece. Next to the symbol of Kosmos is another Byzantine cross-over with the same red squares, yellow crosses, and 4 Betas opposite each other but opposite them are the 2 white crosses over blue or the symbol of the Doukas Dynasty; this symbol was also used for Byzantium’s Despotate of Morea in Greece in the last years of Byzantium while the blue part with the white cross in my theory would evolve into the blue and white of the flag of Greece. Now the last but possibly most impressive replica of Byzantine art I made in the bathroom is the one based on the ceiling of the 5th century Mausoleum of the Western Roman empress Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy after having seen it, although mine is made with acrylic paint and not mosaics and in the wall instead of in the ceiling. Of course, I did not paint the entire space to look like the mausoleum’s ceiling but only a portion of the wall using 4 tiles all connected each other with one large dark blue background supposed to represent the night sky while the 5 colorful circles in alternating pattern supposed to represent stars and in the middle of them are what are supposed to be flowers. This part out of all the frescos turns out to be one of the most difficult to paint as it requires a steady hand to fill in the smallest corners but of course, the difficulty of painting this replica is nothing compared to making a tiled mosaic of it.
Another form of art I worked a lot on in the bathroom, though mostly in last year’s restoration project were Azulejo inspired tiles. Azulejo is a form of Portuguese and Spanish painted tiles, usually blue and white in pattern although other colors are added to it as well while its actual purpose was to control temperature inside buildings aside from adding design elements. The art form of the painted Azulejo tiles common in Spain and Portugal originates with the Arabs who ruled the Iberian Peninsula for most of the Middle Ages, and coincidently this form of art was made to imitate the Roman and Byzantine mosaics. In my bathroom on the other hand, the Azulejo style tiles are basically simple alternating patterns and do not depict characters of stories like those in the walls of buildings, churches, restaurants, schools, and even bathrooms all over Portugal, although the simple designs I have were also based on the tile designs in Portugal. Surprisingly, only a small part of the Azulejo inspired tiles have the classic blue and white pattern, one part having blue and white alternating right triangles crossing each other. The style of the alternating colored right triangles was based on the backgrounds used in the flags of Portuguese cities that are district capitals without the coat of arms on them. The samples of the alternating right triangles I have in my bathroom made last year other than the 3 blue and white triangles (based on the flag of the city of Braga in Portugal) are 6 green and white based on the flags of Porto and Vila Real, 4 blue and yellows based on the flag of Bragança, 2 purple and yellow based on the flag of Coimbra, 2 red and yellows based on the flags of Évora and Viseu, and 2 of the red and white pattern based on the flags of Faro, Aveiro, Guarda, Leiria, and Santarém. In this year’s addition to the alternating colored triangles I added 3 purple and white ones based on the flag of Setúbal, and another 3 blue and red ones which does not exist as a background for the flags of the Portuguese cities. Aside from the alternating right triangles, I also made another Azulejo style geometric pattern of alternating parallelograms and diamonds with different colors which are simply tessellations found in different parts of the bathroom. One tile uses alternating blue and white vertical parallelograms with light blue diamonds above them, 1 tile using red, pink, and white, 1 using purple, lavender, and white, 2 tiles combined with black, gray, and white, and lastly 2 combined tiles at the bottom portion of the east wall with a combination of dark green, light green, and white. Other than the tessellations and the right triangles are 3 blue and yellow alternating crosses where the blue sides are opposite to each other the yellow opposite to each other found right above the toilet on the northern wall. A major work of art in my bathroom from the Portuguese inspired series is a set of 4 tiles on the eastern walls combined with one large diamond at the center containing a green-compass like object and red and white backgrounds while outside the diamond is a vast green background with 4 squares, one per each corner. This work of art in the bathroom is one of the most recognizable pieces as it is one of the largest and even if being an azulejo inspired one, it barely contains any blue except for 2 parts in the 4 squares per corner. An enlarged version of the pattern on the 4 squares is seen in one tile in the southern wall where 2 squares of a blue diamond on a black background are opposite to each other while a yellow decagon/ circular object on a white background are also opposite to each other.
Now onto the last art series I have in the bathroom both made last year (2018) and this year (2019), these are some more Portuguese, Byzantine, and other art inspired by other parts of the world. One of the largest series in the bathroom is on the right edge of the northern wall made last year featuring 9 squares of red and white patterns with alternating blue and white in the middle and within them symbols representing the 8 courses of a school a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away- these 8 courses are music management (the musical note), entrepreneurship (the money bag), marketing (the graph), film (the film reel), multimedia arts (the camera), theatre arts (the masks), computer science (the atom), and information technology (the cable), while the tile representing the 9th course which is fashion (the sewing kit) is found on a separate space to left of the panel and not connected to it as this tile was only made this year but having the same patterns as last year’s work. In the middle of the panel of the 9 courses is the tile of the former shower knob which now has a blue, white, and gold classic Portuguese Azulejo style pattern surrounding the knob in a form of a flower. Below this panel is a series of 6 tiles all connected to each other with the same dark blue background dotted with golden stars while the faucet at the center of it is surrounded by one large golden star; this portion was inspired by the central ceiling of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy. Extra art works I have in the bathroom include a tile with the French national football team logo (the rooster on a blue background) with 2 French flags made to commemorate the victory of France in last year’s world cup and beside this is a tile depicting a replica of the famous Japanese woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai made from 1829-1832. Another thing this year I experimented on in the bathroom was the black and white patterns and here a set of 2 tiles on the southern wall features a central part consisting of a black and white chessboard and surrounding it are white columns lined with black as well as black and white stripes; this portion was inspired by an altar in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, Italy. Meanwhile on the right corner connecting the south and west walls is a type of medieval ceiling design I decided to paint on the corner tiles which have red diamonds in the middle separated with the blue outer wedges by a gold border which has some extensions overlapping into the red and blue areas; this design was inspired by a ceiling in the church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune in Strasbourg, France. Last but not the least is the final piece I just finished today (August 31, 2019) before September begins, which was inspired by the marble floor patterns in the church of Sta. Prassede in Rome. This art in the eastern wall of my bathroom is also somewhat Byzantine in style but it appears much simpler and minimalist in color just with a large maroon square in the middle, a diamond with black and white checkers and a gold border going around 4 circles in each of the 4 corners in alternating dark green and maroon colors. As this was the last to be finished it was also one the most tiring to paint because of its large size and large quantity of paint that had to be used to fill in the spaces despite using limited colors. The black and white checkered board around the large central maroon square was difficult in the way of making it precise but at the same the finished product of the checker board is not very even. The outer part of the 4 tiles were much easier except in aligning the circles and surrounding gold lining but at the end, the finished product I can say looks satisfying enough but is still not an exact replica of the marble floor of Sta. Prassede.
Before I conclude the article, I just want to say that painting a bathroom seems fun but the process of doing it is very tiring, requires so much water that the sink becomes the painting palette, paint getting all over your hands, and it will hurt your body a lot, especially if the bathroom is very tight like in this case my bathroom which is just a simple box. However, even a room so small and plain such as my bathroom can have the potential to be a different world of all kinds of art forms that could even rival the most decorated Byzantine church or Renaissance/ Baroque palace, however I haven’t gone that far yet. Also it was not that easy to just start painting and fill up all the tiles as it took so much inspiration, which in my case came from the fascinating art and symbols of the Byzantine Empire and the geometric patterns of the Portuguese Azulejos to actually carry out the restoration project for my bathroom. After all, it took years to perfect the bathroom and since 2012 I have been working on it but over the years, the art just kept on developing in more systematic patterns rather than random pop-ups as it originally was. It takes a lot of ideas and inspiration, and even travelling to other countries (for these kinds of ideas) to make quality art on the tiles, which is why from 2016-2017, no new art was made in the bathroom but in 2018 the tide turned and the restoration of the bathroom came once again up until its final completion this year. As for August 31, 2019 the final full restoration phase is completed now where the Portuguese and Byzantine worlds meet as their art forms are seen together in the same room, but of course this not really the end as in the near future I might have new ideas and will want to put them into restoring them by painting over the remaining original 2012 tiles- although some of the original tiles were still kept for legacy purposes. The latest restoration process actually took place in the span of 2 years but in 2 phases which were related to each other in producing the same forms of art; the first phase taking place from July to October in 2018 and the second one from May to August of 2019 which saw the completion of it. Now with the restoration project of this year completed, almost the entire bathroom is covered in different art forms making the area at last no longer an ordinary bathroom but a gallery itself as it not only has painted tiles but a hand-painted stained-glass window while on the other hand the shower as the primary purpose of the bathroom is no longer in use leaving only the sink and the toilet as the only working parts of the bathroom. Anyway, this is all for now from the Byzantium Blogger as a buffer article or break from all the Byzantine history related ones, even though this still had Byzantine related things, but still this hopefully would be a good break from the previous Byzantine related articles which I will go back to next time. Well, up next will be another intense researched topic on the “Byzantine Personality”, but still, thanks for viewing!