Tag Archives: tiger’s eye

Chatoyant Skies

Chatoyancy is the term used to refer to the cat’s eye effect that occurs when a fibrous mineral or fibrous inclusions line up parallel to one another and create that famous shimmer. (It comes from the French for cat’s eye.) More generally it can be used to refer to that sort of shimmer and texture, even if it doesn’t create the classic cat’s eye effect.

As chrysocolla reminds me of Claude Monet, blue pietersite is a chatoyant stone that reminds me of El Greco.

Pietersite is breccia aggregate of hawk’s eye and/or tiger’s eye. (It’s chemical makeup is silicon dioxide.)

Those stones are created when silica replaces crocidolite (blue asbestos-sodium iron silicate), a fibrous mineral. Hawk’s eye is when the quartz replaces the crocidolite directly and the rich gold and browns of tiger’s eye occurs when some of the crocidolite has decomposed into iron oxide before the silica replacement happens.

Basically pietersite is hawk or tiger’s eye that’s been broken apart and twisted and generally mangled then squashed back together again. This gives each stone a unique patterning and coloration. Melding swirls, chunks of very different colors all together, a gentle variegation of shades, different angles of chatoyancy in the same color scheme– all in the rich gold and brown and red of iron oxide ranging to sleek grey and steel blues. The one of a kind nature makes for an addictive gemstone-each piece tells its own story.

The pieces with the blue and steel shimmer remind me of El Greco’s moody skies.

El Greco (1541-1614), Domenikos Theotokopoulos, was a Greek-Spanish painter. He was born on the island of Crete (then owned by Venice) studied in Italy, and spent his career in Spain. His time in Crete and Italy appears to have given a slightly Byzantine fascination with color and a feel for mannerist elongated forms.

He moved to Toledo with hopes of becoming a court painter and moving to the capital. He did get two commissions from King Philip, but the king wasn’t satisfied with the paintings and gave him no further commissions. So El Greco settled in Toledo.

His View of Toledo is one of my favorite paintings. The broody ambiance and deceptively simple perspective always intrigues me. Yet there’s something refreshing in the colors. Like a slightly raw breeze after a muggy day.

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is a beautiful example of the elegance of his elongated figures, his skill at portraiture and shows off how well he handles the complexity of composition.

Sometimes there is a surreal edge to his paintings that makes for an interesting counterpoint to the almost hyperrealism that some of his Spanish Renaissance contemporaries espoused. (Juan Sanchez Cotan and Francisco de Zurbaran are my favorites in that category.)

El Greco’s painting of Laocoon is a great example of his taking the fluid and elongated figures to  nightmarish extremes. (And of a lighter but still tempestuous sky.) It’s inspired by a story from the Aeneid: Laocoon is a Trojan priest who tries to warn his people against taking in the wooden horse that the Greeks left behind. For his pains the vengeful gods send sea serpents to strangle him and his sons and frighten the Trojans into accepting the horse.

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In what distant deeps or skies…

I had that whole poetry stuck in my head problem again while working with tiger’s eye. It’s such a vibrant stone. (This particular one was very lively. And irascible. It kept trying to escape on me!)

So, besides bickering a little with the stone, I can never play with tiger’s eye without Blake running through my head.

 

The Tyger

by William Blake

 
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 The Tyger is another piece I enjoy simply for the words themselves. Its symbolism doesn’t really do anything for me (for that I tend more towards John Keats) but I like the rhythm. You can almost feel the powerful beast padding through the forests of the night.

William Blake (1757- 1827) was another denizen of the Romantic era. He was a poet, painter and printer. I generally prefer his poetry to his other work. When I read the line “burnt the fire of thine eyes” it isn’t Blake’s own blocky and marginally striped tiger that comes to mind, but instead the work of another era. Henri Rousseau‘s 1891 painting Suprise! leaps up immediately to take it’s place.

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November Gems

Citrine, tiger’s eye, and topaz have all attributed to November birthdays. And while I’m not big on limiting myself to any single type of stone (even though my birthstone is opal, which I adore), it’s always fun to dabble in the stones of the season! Especially when they come in such wonderful rich colors. Here are some of my favorite November gems.

And here’s another. In 1900, the artist Alphonse Mucha created a series images inspired by different gem stones (he’d already done the times of day and flowers) and one of the ones he created was Topaz.

Topaz, Precious Stones Series, Alphonse Mucha

Topaz, by Alphonse Mucha

By this time he was already a well established artist. He’d taken Paris by storm at the very end of 1894 with a poster he knocked out in a few weeks for a Sarah Bernhardt play. The poster was such a hit (presumably the play was as well) and he designed several other posters for her. His flowing lines and pastel colors were strikingly different from the bolder colors of many advertisements of the time. (With the flowing hair and sort of vaguely classical/medieval outfits I tend to think of him as a distant cousin to the much less stylized but also ‘flowy’ Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.) In the year of the creation of the Precious Stones series the style he’d created, which had once been called Style Mucha, became known as Art Nouveau.

Supposedly he tried to distance himself from being labeled Art Nouveau after the style took off on it’s own, and was troubled by his commercial successes, worried that it wasn’t real art. He spend a good chunk of the rest of his life trying to prove he hadn’t sold out.

Look at the quality of the design and the detail. It’s amazing how great the art in advertisements for things like beer and chocolate and champagne used to be. And sad that someone who put so much effort into it couldn’t realize that it was real art.

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