Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Color and Emotions

The Topography of Emotion: New Study Maps Feelings in the Body

Bodily topography of emotions associated with words (via
new study by a team of Finnish researchers recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) analyzes where we feel emotions in our bodies. Through color-coded visualizations that show different emotions, the team discovered where we physically experience a total of 14 different sensations, including love, anxiety, depression, fear, sadness, and happiness.
The researchers worked with a group of 773 participants (including a control group of 72) from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan. Participants were shown various stimuli and asked to identify on body silhouettes where the accompanying emotions were felt. Interestingly but not surprisingly, most of those stimuli were art — short stories, which were all vignettes written by the scientists that described emotional events such as driving to the beach with friends (happy) and encountering a dying child at the hospital (sad), and 10 second movies clips sourced from a variety of feature films. The scientists also used photographs depicting facial expressions. 
Basic emotions triggered by narrative. Image via PNAS.
Basic emotions triggered by narrative (via
According to the data visualization, love, happiness, anger, pride, and anxiety are felt more strongly in the upper regions of the body — in the heart and head, mostly — whereas sadness, depression, and shame are more strongly concentrated in the limbs. Interestingly, surprise and envy circulate strongly in the upper chest and head, which may suggest a correlation between the two. Negative emotions often leave us feeling “cold,” whereas positive ones literally light up the body, making us feel as if we’re on fire.
Further breakdowns of bodily topography of basic emotions (anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise and neutral) by narratives, movies, and other peoples’ facial expressions reveal additional insights. Watching emotional movies triggers a range of only five emotions (fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and neutral), whereas emotional imagery guided by narratives and emotions inferred from other peoples’ emotional expressions bring about a wider range that includes anger and surprise. Films provide visual imagery which already exists in the empirical world (exterior) and must then be processed emotionally, whereas narrative stories necessitate that the participant has their own individual experience (interior) of the text. Both narratives and films offer constructed, fictionalized realities, and the emotional maps of bodies based off of other peoples’ facial expressions show more intensified experiences of surprise and happiness than those triggered by narrative.
Bodily topography triggered by emotional movies (above) and expressions (below) (via
Bodily topography triggered by emotional movies (above) and expressions (below) (via
With this study, the scientists intend to further emotion research; their results, they say, could “even provide a biomarker for emotional disorders” and assist in helping better understand mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. They propose that these body emotion maps are culturally universal, which would mean there’s a distinct biological basis for how we feel. “These sensations,” they write, “could underlie our conscious emotional experiences.”

Monday, May 26, 2014

Red for Memorial Day

I plan to wear red, white and blue for Memorial Day to show my thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service.

I ran across a review of the new, swanky restaurant Crustacean  in Beverly Hills, California. I like the idea of using color in cocktails and below the lush picture (pun intended) is the recipe.

Mrs. Red
From: The Crustacean Restaurant
Yield: 1 serving

2 slices fresh red chile
1 slice strawberry
¾ ounce French vanilla syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce St. Germain liqueur
1 ½ ounces vanilla vodka
Chile slices and mint for garnish

1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle together the red chile and strawberry slices. 

2. Add the vanilla syrup, lemon juice, St. Germain and vodka. Shake well with ice. 

3. Strain into a martini glass. Float red chile slices on top or garnish with mint and a chile slice on a wood pick.

Read more from Barbara Hansen at,, @foodandwinegal and Facebook.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Art History 101-Sando Botticelli's Muse

Sando Botticelli (1 March 1445-17 May 1510)

Botticelli became a pupil of Fra Filipo Lippi as a young man. By age 15 he progressed to the point where he established his own studio-workshop and employed artists to  help  him complete commissions.

Botticelli,s famous mythalogical painting, Primavera.
"Primavera" c1482.
Uffizi, Florence 203x314cm Tempera on panel. (w)
 The picture celebrates the arrival of spring and is filled with mythological symbolism. Venus, Goddess of Love, is in the centre of an orange grove on her left Flora, Goddess of Flowers and Spring, appears clad in garlands of flowers. Next to Flora is the nymph Chloris, she is pursued by Zephyrus, God of Wind, who has a burning passion for her. The Roman poet Ovid describes Chloris as transforming into Flora, Goddess of Flowers, symbolizing the beginning of spring, and Botticelli has placed both figures side by side within the same painting.

On the right of Venus are The three Graces, female companions of the Love Goddess who perform their dance at the onset of spring. Next to the Graces stands Mercury, Messenger of the Gods, who inspects the orange grove and protects the garden from intruders.
Floating overhead at the center of the picture is Amor, the son of Venus, he is blindfolded as he shoots his arrows of love, their flaming tips certain to intensify the emotion of love in whoever they strike.
Flora, one of the three graces and Venus, all shown below, are thought by many scholars to be portraits of Botticelli's idolized Simonetta Vespucci. He also depicted her as Venus in The Birth of Venus.

Simonetta Vespucci was born Simonetta Cattaneo de Candia, in 1453 in the province of Geona. Her parents, Gaspare Cattaneo della Volta and Cattocchia Spinola de Candia were grand nobles of the area with very high connections. At the age of 16, Simonetta was married to Marco Vespucci, a Florentine student at the Banco di San Giorgio in Genoa and a distant relative of Amerigo Vespucci. Marco was desperately in love with the young Geonese beauty and his proposal was accepted due to his advantageous connections to the Medici Family in Florence.
Simonetta and Marco were married in 1469 in Florence, at the Medici’s palazzo in Via Larga and then the reception was held at the lavish di Careggi. Simonetta had won the favor of the Medicis immediately. Her beauty and grace soon mesmerized the whole of Florence, and caught the attention of more than one man.
Giuliano de Medici was perhaps her most notable suitor, and he had no qualms to declare his affection publicly. It is reported that at La Giostra (a jousting  tournament) in 1475, held at Piazza Santa Croce Giuliano entered the lists bearing a banner on which was a picture of Simonetta as a helmeted Pallas Atena painted by Botticelli himself, beneath which was the French inscription La Sans Pareille, meaning “The unparalleled one”.

Botticelli never married, he had no chance to court Simonetta for she was married to a very prominent man who was a close friend of the powerful Medici family. Nevertheless, Botticelli asked to be buried at her feet. She preceded him in death by over 30 years, but his final resting place is at her feet.

Simonetta Vespucci's Possible Depictions in Art

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Season for White

Scientists define white as the "presence of all colors" when light is split by a prism into its many hues. In America, the rule of "Don't wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day" is thought of as strange in other countries and cultures. White is the color for brides to wear here, and the color of mourning in Japan.
Whatever the culture, I think the white frocks shown on the following celebrities highlight why we wear white, it is a neutral which flatters most skin tones.

When an outfit is right, it's so right, as proven by the stars who made our best-dressed list this week. Emma Watson showed us how to take an item from our everyday wardrobes and make it red carpet ready, while Cate Blanchett, Paz Vega and Nicole Kidman made us crave white, white and more white for months ahead.
Check out our best-dressed of the week picks and let us know if you agree!
Jennifer Lawrence in Jason Wu
Jennifer looks like a goddess no matter what color she wears!
It is so nice to see Jennifer Lawrence out of a Dior ball gown and into a slinky, sexy dress. The velvet fabric is clinging to her body in all the right places and her red lipstick adds the perfect pop of color.
Selena Gomez in Lanvin
Two neutrals combined for a cute, classic look. Black is best worn by dark haired women
The satin bows going up the side of Gomez's dress make this one incredibly sexy look -- business in the front, party on the side.
Cate Blanchett in Ralph Lauren
Cate can carry off this goddess look. White looks stunning against the neutral pebble background.
Blanchett looks like a statuesque beauty in this one-shouldered white dress. The column gown is the perfect silhouette for her long and lean figure proving, once again, that Cate is a true style icon.
Emma Watson in Ralph Lauren
Emma has a sophisticated fashion sense. Note grey against another neutral does not "pop."
THIS is how you make a white button-up appropriate for the red carpet. Watson's carefully draped grey skirt adds just enough elegance to her white top, yet still makes the "Noah" star look comfortable and fashion-forward.
Nicole Kidman in Altuzarra
Nicolle looks so cool and ladylike  yet her shoes are so attractive and playful, they highlight her slim ankles.
White is one of those colors that instantly helps you look young and fresh. This pleated frock makes Kidman's red lipstick and strawberry blonde hair shine, while also being light and fun for her press tour.
Paz Vega in Elie Saab
Paz would look lady-like with a lined skirt, but her neutral shoes elongate her legs in this longish skirt.
In case you didn't know, pearls are IN. And here, Vega is showing us the perfect way to make this tried-and-true trend work. Her ivory dress skims over her body ever so gently and the embellishments add just the right amount of texture.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Art History 101-Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) was the greatest (although not the highest paid) portrait painter at the court of King Henry VIII.
He first moved to England from his native Germany in 1526, and came under the patronage of Sir Thomas More. More was a devout Catholic, which was awkward for Holbein, who had Protestant leanings due to the new and dangerous Lutheran ideas that were growing in Germany.
Nonetheless, no friction grew between Holbein and More during the two years of this, Holbein’s first stay in England. Returning to his wife and children in Basel in 1528, Holbein bought two houses, using some of the money he had earned from his very successful portrait business.
In 1532, he again left his family and moved back to England, this time under the patronage of Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, who introduced Holbein into Henry VIII’s court. There, he painted some of the most brilliant and influential portraits in the history of art.

Holbein, Step by Step

Holbein’s method of working was to set up a viewing apparatus and trace the outlines of his sitter’s face, using a device similar to the one drawn by Albrecht Dürer, a German artist who was a generation older than Holbein.
Holbein would then lightly model the traced face with pencil and/or colored chalks, but leave the clothing as the simple outlines. (See first illustration above of Richard Southwell)
He then took this tracing, as well as some written color notes, back to his studio and painted the portrait from these. (Imagine how little time his subjects had to "pose.")  Recent examination of Holbein’s portraits has shown that he used some combination of egg tempera and oils as his painting medium, but it is not clear whether these two were combined in an emulsion, or painted consecutively. 
Artists work with compositional systems: a poet might work within the Petrarchan sonnet form, the French ballade, or the sistina (among many others), and a musician might work in the sonata form, or in one of the several cyclical forms. With regard to color, a painter first decides on a value composition and follows this with a hue scheme.
Color has three aspects: hue, value, and chroma. Hue is what we generally mean when we say color—red, yellow-green, blue, etc., are all hues. Value is how dark or how light a color is, and chroma is how grey or how intense a color is.
Holbein used a value scheme that comprises a light-value focus (the face and collar) that is supported by a dark base (the clothing). This dark shape is further designed to surround the light-value face (using hair, hat, beard, shadow and sometimes even a straightforward dark outline). The whole of this is presented against a mid-value background (see illustration 3).
Next comes the choice of a hue scheme, which adapts itself to the value composition. These hue schemes are plotted on the color wheel. Those directly across from each other on the wheel are called complimentary colors, those not quite opposite each other are called near-complimentary, and so on.

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein

(Note the red used in More's sleeve and the green background, an example of the artist Holbein's use of complimentary colors.)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Art History 101 Albrecht Durer

I've heard the story behind this painting. It's of Albert Durer's brother's hands. He worked as a blacksmith and supported Albrecht so he could become a painter, giving up his dream of becoming one too. It's a very touching story of sacrifice and love.  Durer was a brilliant print maker and businessman. The common people were able to buy some of his religious prints which he priced low to make them accessible.

Hands I - Albrecht Durer -

A supremely gifted and versatile German artist of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) was born in the Franconian city of Nuremberg, Germany, one of the strongest artistic and commercial centers in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. He was a brilliant painterdraftsman, and writer, though his first and probably greatest artistic impact was in the medium of printmaking. Dürer apprenticed with his father, who was a goldsmith, and with the local painter Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced woodcut illustrations for major books and publications. Dürer revolutionized printmaking, elevating it to the level of an independent art form. He expanded its tonal and dramatic range, and provided the imagery with a new conceptual foundation. By the age of thirty, Dürer had completed or begun three of his most famous series of woodcuts on religious subjects: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498 11"x14") 

 He went on to produce independent prints, such as the engraving Adam and Eve (1504 

 and small, self-contained groups of images, such as the so-called Master Engravings featuring Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513)

 which were intended more for connoisseurs and collectors than for popular devotion. Their technical virtuosity, intellectual scope, and psychological depth were unmatched by earlier printed work.

More than any other Northern European artist, Dürer was engaged by the artistic practices and theoretical interests of Italy. He visited the country twice, from 1494 to 1495 and again from 1505 to 1507, absorbing firsthand some of the great works of the Italian Renaissance, as well as the classical heritage and theoretical writings of the region. One of his writings includes the first scientific treatment of perspective by a Northern European artist.

Dürer's talent, ambition, and sharp, wide-ranging intellect earned him the attention and friendship of some of the most prominent figures in German society. He became official court artist to Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and his successor Charles V, for whom Dürer designed and helped execute a range of artistic projects. In Nuremberg, a vibrant center of humanism and one of the first to officially embrace the principles of the Reformation, Dürer had access to some of Europe's outstanding theologians and scholars, including Erasmus (  captured by the artist in a shrewd portrait.. For Nuremberg's town hall, the artist painted two panels of the Four Apostles (1526)  bearing texts in Martin Luther's translation that pay tribute to the city's adoption of Lutheranism. Hundreds of surviving drawings, letters, and diary entries document Dürer's travels through Italy and the Netherlands (1520–21), attesting to his insistently scientific perspective and demanding artistic judgment.

The artist also cast a bold light on his own image through a number of striking self-portraits—drawn, painted, and printed. They reveal an increasingly successful and self-assured master, eager to assert his creative genius and inherent nobility, while still marked by a clear-eyed, often foreboding outlook. They provide us with the cumulative portrait of an extraordinary Northern European artist whose epitaph proclaimed: "Whatever was mortal in Albrecht Dürer lies beneath this mound."

Self Portrait At 26 - Albrecht Durer -
Durer at age 26

Jacob Wisse
Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University