Saturday, September 4, 2010

Life and Works of Peter Paul Rubens

Here is a video clip that gives a short introduction to the Life and Works of Peter Paul Rubens.

Peter Paul Rubens brings together in one person singular artistic gifts, major humanistic knowledge, mastery of Latin and several modern languages and a knack for diplomacy, becoming an example for a handful of artists.

Rubens's family was originally from Antwerp. The serious political and religious living in the Netherlands in the 1560s lead the family into exile in 1568, moving first to Cologne and then to Siegen, where Peter Paul was born on 28 June 1577.

Soon Rubens began his career as a painter, with his master Tobias Verhaeght, a painter of landscapes. A year later moved to the studio of Adam van Noort, a ‘skilful painter of figures’ but that was for a very short time, and then he went to the studio of Otto van Veen. Much of his earliest training involved copying earlier artists' works, such as woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger and Marcantonio Raimondi's engravings after Raphael. Rubens completed his education in 1598, at which time he entered the Guild of St. Luke as an independent master.

Due to his mother's illness in 1608, Rubens planned his departure from Italy for Antwerp, but she died before he returned. His return coincided with a period of renewed prosperity in the city with the signing of Treaty of Antwerp in April 1609, initiating the Twelve Years' Truce. In September 1609, Rubens was appointed court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, the governors of the Low Countries. He remained close to the Archduchess Isabella until her death in 1633. Rubens cemented his ties to the city when, on October 3, 1609, he married Isabella Brant, the daughter of a leading Antwerp citizen and humanist, Jan Brant.

Ante el Guernica

Ante el Guernica, originally uploaded by Museo Reina Sofía.
Visitors to the work "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso, photo: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Detail of Guernica mosaic mural, Rome

Detail of Guernica mosaic mural, Rome: Mosaic rendition of Guernica, which portrays the horror of war and was inspired by the German aerial bombing of the Basque town of Gernika in 1937.

Banner Gernica de Picasso en Plastilina (Clay)
Guernica - Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

Guernica: Mural by Pablo Picasso

Guernica en Guernica, originally uploaded by Luis Alberto Lecuna.

Mural of Picasso's Guernica in the town of Guernica (Gernika) by Pablo Picasso: This is a photo by by Luis Alberto Lecuna on Flickr.


Portrait of Picasso by Juan Gris

PD Image: Portrait of Picasso (1912), oil on canvas painting by Juan Gris aka José Victoriano Gonzales (1887-1927), dimensions 93.4 cm X 74.3 cm (36.77 x 29.25 in) currently in the collection of Mrs. and Mrs. Leigh Block, Art Institute of Chicago.

The Actor (L'acteur), painting by Picasso

PD Image: The Actor (L'acteur), a 1904 oil painting by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, dimensions 196 cm x 115 cm (77.25 in x 45.38 in) located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA.

The Actor (L'acteur) was painted by Picasso over another painting, because he could not afford to pay for new canvases in 1904-1905, when created it. The painting, one of the biggest from Picasso's Rose Period, portrays an acrobat in a dramatic pose with an abstract design in the background. Its estimated worth is over $100 million.

The Actor (L'acteur) is a celebrated work by Picasso during his Rose Period, a transitional period from his Blue Period to romantic hues and styles and themes. In 1952 Thelma Chrysler Foy, daughter of Walter Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler automobile company, donated The Actor to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

This Pablo Picasso work ‘The Actor’ was damaged on January 25, 2010, when a woman fell over it and created a rip of about 15 centimeters in length in the lower right corner. The museum stated that the rip did not affect the artwork's focal point, and they intend to have the painting repaired in a few weeks.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Green Peafowl - Pavo muticus

PD Image: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus), monograph (1872) of the Phasianidae or the family of the pheasants by Daniel Giraud Elliot (1835-1915).

PD Photo: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus imperator or Pavo imperator imperator) male

PD Photo: Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) in the Taipei Zoo, Taiwan

The Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) belongs to Galliformes, an order of birds containing Turkeys, Grouses, Chickens, Quails and Pheasants. They are known by names such as gamefowl, gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds or galliforms, peacock, peahen, wildfowl or simply fowl. These birds are found in most of Southeast Asia, and it is the closest relative of the Indian Peafowl or Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) found in the Indian subcontinent.

Males and females of Green Peafowl look almost similar, and it is quite difficult to distinguish their sexes during most part of the year when the males have no visible trains. However, the males of the subspecies imperator (P. m. imperator) and spicifer (P. m. spicifer) are overall bluish green.

Green Peafowl are one of the largest Galliforms in terms of overall length and wingspan but lighter than Wild Turkeys. The male Green Peafowl grows up to 3 meters/ 10 feet long, including its ‘train’ and weighs up to 5 kg/ 11 lbs. The female measures 1.1 meter/ 3.5 feet in length and weighs about 1.1 kg/ 2.4 lbs. Green Peafowl have large wingspans of about 1.2 meter/ 4 feet, and is a better flier capable of sustained flight, unlike Indian Peafowl.

The habitat of Green Peafowl is widely spread in Southeast Asia including India, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia (Java). They prefer forests (tropical and subtropical, evergreen and deciduous forests), and are found amongst bamboos, grasslands, savannas, scrubs and farmland edges. It nests on the ground laying 3 to 6 eggs.

Green Peafowl’s diet consists mainly of fruits, invertebrates, reptiles, frogs, and other small animals. Like the other members of its genus, the Green Peafowl can even hunt venomous snakes. Ticks and termites, flower petals, buds leaves and berries are their favorite foods. Their predators include large cats such as the Clouded Leopards, Leopards, Tigers, Jungle Cats and Fishing Cats. The Green Peafowl is an endangered species included in the IUCN Red List.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba)

PD Image: Coscoroba Swan at the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England.

The Coscoroba Swan (Binomial name: Coscoroba coscoroba) is a species of waterfowl found in South America. It is the smallest of swans (not a true swan), weighing about 4 kg/ 9 lbs. It belongs to the subfamily Anserinae in which ducks, swans and geese are classified. Coscoroba Swans have an average lifespan of twenty years.

The Coscoroba Swan’s beak, legs and feet are red and it has white plumage with black edges to the wing feathers, which are visible only when they are in flight. Its cygnet is of a patchy color with brown and gray hues.

The Coscoroba Swan breeds in South America from southern Chile and central Argentina south to Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. In winter it migrates to central Chile, northern Argentina, Uruguay and the south east Brazil.

The Coscoroba Swan’s habitat is swamps and lagoons with flourishing vegetation and grass. It feeds on grasses, small water plants, mussels and fishes. The female incubates the eggs, while the male guards the nest and protects the fledglings against predators.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tourists watching tigers in Tiger Temple, Thailand

PD Photo: Tourists watching tigers in the Tiger Temple (Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua), a Theravada Buddhist temple in Western Thailand which looks after several tigers that can be petted by visitors.

The Buddhist temple located in Saiyok District of Thailand's Kanchanaburi province close to the border with Myanmar, about 38 km north-west of Kanchanaburi along the 323 highway, was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for numerous wild animals, including tigers. Tourists can even have themselves photographed while they hug or pet the tigers in the open grounds.

Lions mating

PD Photo: A pair of lions mating in the Masai Mara National Reserve (also spelled Maasai Mara), a large game reserve in south-western Kenya

Lions grow to reproductive stage in about four years, and females (lionesses) may even have given birth to cubs by this age. Lions do not mate at any particular time of year, though the females are polyestrous. A lioness may mate with more than one lion when she is in heat. During a mating bout that could last several days, the couple copulates twenty to forty times a day and they may even forgo eating.

Trial of the Jews of Trent

PD Image: Trial of the Jews of Trent, manuscript (handwritten on paper) of 1478, from Trent, Germany. Repository: Yeshiva University Museum, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011, USA. Copy Rights Information: No known copyright restrictions; may be subject to third party rights.

‘Trial of the Jews of Trent’ was consequential to the disappearance of Simon, son of Andreas Unverdosben, a cobbler or tanner in Trent, Germany. According to reports, ‘the harmonious relations between the Christians and the Jews in Trent had excited the anger of the semi demented Franciscan friar Bernardinus of Feltre, who was a son of a notorious enemy of the Jews.’ In his sermons he predicted that at the next Jewish Passover a ritual murder would occur, and Simon, a twenty-eight months old child, disappeared on March 23, 1475.”

On the eve of Easter Monday, March 26, the body of a child was found in the river near the house of Samuel, the head of the community, who along with others hastened to notify the bishop. But Samuel and others were arrested. Rumors were spread by another person that the Jews use the blood of Christians for ritual purposes at the Passover.

On the story, historian Ronnie Po-chia Hsia wrote, "On Easter Sunday 1475, the dead body of a 2-year-old Christian boy named Simon was found in the cellar of a Jewish family's house in Trent, Italy. Town magistrates arrested 18 Jewish men and five Jewish women on the charge of ritual murder - the killing of a Christian child in order to use his blood in Jewish religious rites. In a series of interrogations that involved liberal use of judicial torture, the magistrates obtained the confessions of the Jewish men. Eight were executed in late June, and another committed suicide in jail".

Seventeen Jews were forced to confess under torture, and 15 including Samuel, were burned at the stake. Meanwhile, Simon became the focus of veneration for the local Catholic Church. Bishop, Hinderbach of Trent, tried to have Simon canonized. “Over one hundred miracles were directly attributed to Saint Simon within a year of his disappearance, and his cult spread across Italy, Austria and Germany.” The 'saint' Simon was eventually considered a martyr and a patron of kidnap and torture victims.

Saviour Church, Copenhagen, Denmark

PD Photo: Saviour Church, Copenhagen, Denmark, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,

Licensing for reuse/ publication: “No known restrictions on publication”.

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

PD Photo: Victoria Memorial Hall at dusk

Victoria Memorial Hall situated in the Indian metropolitan city Kolkata was built on the initiative of Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India. On the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, Curzon suggested building a fitting memorial to the Queen. The funds for the construction of the memorial were to be collected from the Indian people.

The people of India responded positively to Lord Curzon’s suggestion and total cost of construction of this monument was contributed by the people by way of donations. Prince of Wales King George V laid the foundation stone on January 4, 1906 and the Victoria Memorial Hall was constructed and opened to the public in 1921.

Oriental Magpie Robin

PD photo: Female Oriental Magpie Robin found in India

Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) is a small bird, though earlier put under a different nomenclature, now considered an Old World flycatcher. They are particularly well known for their songs and were once popular as pet birds/ cage birds. They are widely used in pet trade in many parts of Southeast Asia.

This Magpie Robin species is 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) long, including the long tail that is usually held cocked upright. It is similar in shape to the smaller European Robin. The male has black upperparts, head and throat apart from a white shoulder patch. The under parts and the sides of the long tail are white. Females are grayish black upper body and grayish white under parts; the females of this race are the palest.

They have local language names such as Kampung, Cerang, Polkichcha, dhyal or dhayal. The Magpie Robin (Doyel or Doel) is the National Bird of Bangladesh, and it is a widely used symbol in Bangladesh on currency notes and other objects of importance.

They are commonly found in many parts of tropical South and Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, (Copsychus ceylonensis), Pakistan, Burma (Copsychus musicus), Indonesia, Thailand, China, Singapore and Philippines.

Oriental Magpie Robin is found in open woodland, cultivated areas often close to human habitations. It is seen on the ground, bushes, branches of trees, and sings loudly from the top of trees or other perches during the breeding season. They are common birds in urban gardens as well as forests.

A number of other varieties of this bird have been named, including C. nesiotes, C. zacnecus, C. nesiarchus, C. masculus, C. pagiensis, C. javensis, C. problematicus, C. amoenus, C. adamsi, C. pluto, C. deuteronymus and C. mindanensis, though many are not well distinguishable from one another and the classification itself is disputed. There is more geographic variation in the plumage of females than in that of the males.

Oriental Magpie Robins breed mainly from January to July. Males are quite aggressive in the breeding season, and protect their nests and their territory. The mating signs of the male include puffing up the feathers, raising the bill, fanning the tail and strutting. They nest in tree hollows or niches in walls or building.The female is involved in most of the nest building. Four or five eggs are laid in intervals of 24 hours. The eggs are incubated by the female bird in 8 to 14 days.

The diet of Magpie Robins includes insects and other invertebrates, and they are known to eat insects, geckos, leeches, centipedes and fishes.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Banded coral shrimp - Stenopus hispidus

PD photo: Stenopus hispidus (banded cleaner shrimp) from ‘The Coral Kingdom Collection’, University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, credited to Photo Collection of Dr. James P. McVey, NOAA Sea Grant Program.

Banded coral shrimp, also known as banded boxer shrimp, banded prawn, coral banded shrimp and barber-pole shrimp having the scientific name Stenopus hispidus, is a shrimp-like decapod (ten footed) crustacean. Though this invertebrate is commonly known as a shrimp, it is not a true shrimp. They are commonly found in anchialine pools which are landlocked water bodies with a subterranean connection to the ocean, and on coral reefs.

The banded coral shrimp grows to a few centimeters in length and has red bands around its body and antennae. Its body is covered with short spines for defense from other creatures. Stenopus hispidus is used as a common aquarium pet because of its bright colors and it is a cleaner that removes dead tissues, algae and parasites from larger fish.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whitetip reef shark - Triaenodon obesus

PD Photo: Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) off the Hawaiian Islands; the photo came to public domain from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

PD Photo: Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), Guam, Mariana-Islands, from NOAA's Coral Kingdom Collection, Photo by David Burdick

PD Photo: Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), Guam, Mariana Islands, photo by David Burdick. The slender body of the whitetip reef shark is adapted for squeezing into small holes on the reef.

PD Photo: A group of whitetip sharks (Triaenodon obesus) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, photo taken in July 2004 by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA

The whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus)is also known as blunthead shark, light-tip shark, reef whitetip shark and whitetip shark. It is a comparatively small requiem shark, not exceeding 1.6 meters/ 5.2 feet length and weight around 18 kg/ 40 lbs. It has slender body and short but broad head, tubular skin flaps beside the nostrils, oval eyes, and white-tipped dorsal and caudal fins.

It is one of the most common sharks found in and around Indo-Pacific coral reefs, from Indian Ocean, through Southeast Asia to Australia, central Pacific Ocean, near South Africa and off the west coast of Central America. These usually are found in/ near KwaZulu-Natal, Red Sea, Indian subcontinent, Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, Aldabra Group of island s, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Chagos Archipelago, off southern China, Taiwan, Ryukyu Islands, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, northern Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, Hawaii, Pitcairn Islands, Costa Rica, Panama, and off the Galápagos Islands.

Whitetip reef sharks spend much of their day time resting inside caves. At night they hunt fishes including eels, squirrel fish, snappers, damsel fish, surgeon fish, trigger fish, parrot fish, goat fishes, octopuses, lobsters and crabs. Despite their nocturnal habits, whitetip reef sharks sometimes hunt in daytime also.

Whitetip reef shark is viviparous. Female whitetip reef sharks are followed by prospective mating males, who grasp her pectoral fin and the two of them get into positions suitable for copulation. Females give birth to 1 to 6 pups on alternative years. Whitetip reef shark pups reach sexual maturity when they grow to a length of around 1.1 meter/ 3.6 feet and an age of 8 to 9 years. On the Great Barrier Reef, males live to 14 years and females to 19 years; the maximum lifespan of may be upwards of 25 years.

Whitetip reef sharks may approach swimmers closely but are seldom aggressive unless they are provoked. They are well-suited to ecotourism diving, and with conditioning they can be hand-fed by divers. Such tourism practices can be found in some of the Carribean islands, though the sharp species may vary.

PD Photo of a swimming white tip reef shark, facing three-quarters towards the camera; whitetip reef sharks are commonly encountered by humans and pose little danger.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed whitetip reef sharks as ‘Near Threatened’, as its numbers have dwindled in the recent decades due to increasing fishing. Whitetip reef sharks are caught for food, though there are reports of ciguatera poisoning caused by consuming them as food. The slow reproductive rate and limited habitat preferences of this species also renders its populations vulnerable to overexploitation.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taylor Swift performing in Philadelphia in 2009

PD Photo: Country music singer Taylor Swift performing on stage in Philadelphia on 1 August 2009, during her Fearless tour.

Brown Boobies, large seabirds

PD Photo: Adult Brown Booby on Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals (the largest atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands).

PD Photo: Brown Boobies building a nest on the ground with sticks/ stems of creepers in Coral Sea islands, Australia.

PD Photo: Brown Boobies returning to nest at sunset, Coral Sea Islands, Australia. This bird is being TRACKED; enlarge the photo (CLICK) and see a wring-like numbered device on its leg.

The Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), a large seabird of the gannet family, Sulidae, grows to about 76 centimeters / 2.5 feet in length. The Brown Boobies’ heads and upper bodies are black or dark brown and their bellies and the rest of the bodies are in contrasting white. Their beaks are very sharp with many jagged edges. They have short wings and long tapered tails. They have powerful webbed feet to help them in swimming and diving, just like a frogs limbs, but with three fingers in the front with web between them and a toe on the back.

Brown Boobies are mostly silent, but bird watchers have reported hearing sounds similar to grunting or quacking made by these birds. Brown Boobies dive deep in water, plunging into seawater at high speed.

They mainly eat small fishes, squids and leaping fish. They are agile fliers and use strong winds and high perches to assist their takeoffs, as they are clumsy in takeoffs and ladings.

Brown Booby pairs or couples are known to stay together for many seasons and they perform elaborate greeting rituals and dance-like movements. These birds nest in large colonies, laying two chalky blue eggs on the ground. They generally breed on islands and coastal plains in the pan-tropical areas of Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. They frequent the breeding grounds of the islands in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea islands.