Saturday, April 05, 2014

Diamonds are Forever exhibit to explore the history of famous diamonds and the monarchs who possessed them

A history resource article by  © 2014
George Stuart's 1/4 life-sized sculpture of Catherine the
Great in robes of state.  The Imperial Crown of Russia,
created for her coronation, contains 4936 diamonds
including the second largest red spinel diamond in the
world at 398.72 carats.  Her scepter contains the 189.62
carat rose-cut Orlov Diamond which once served as the
 eye of a Hindu deity in a temple in Tamil Nadu, India.

Photo courtesy of
I just made my arrangements to fly down to Los Angeles so I could attend a unique exhibit of museum-quality replicas of world-famous diamonds at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura, CA opening May 3, 2014.  This exhibit entitled "Diamonds are Forever" will be presented along with a display of George Stuart's 1/4 life-sized sculptures of the monarchs that at one time owned these famous gems.

Scott Sucher, one of the world's foremost experts on the technology of documenting and replicating famous historical diamonds and the gemologist who created the jewels on exhibit will deliver two presentations, "Tracking the Hope Diamond" and "Evolution of Diamond Cutting".  He has images of his full sized diamond replicas on his website

Some of the replica jewels on display will include the Hope Diamond, the Regent Diamond, the Beau Sancy, the Orlov, the Mirror of Portugal and the famous Koh-i-Noor that was once adorned the Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Majal.

Although the Hope Diamond and the Koh-i-Noor are probably the most famous of these jewels, I actually think the Regent Diamond is one of the most beautiful.  At 140.64 carats, it is not as large in its cut form as either the Hope Diamond or the Koh-i-Noor, but it is reputedly one of the most perfectly cut diamonds in the world since it was cut and faceted back in 1710 CE.

Scott Sucher's museum quality replica
of the Regent Diamond.
The Regent was supposedly found by a slave back in 1698 and, in its rough form, weighed an astounding 410 carats.  The slave found the diamond in the Kollur mine in the Guntur District of India and supposedly secreted the stone inside a large wound in his leg. This gruesome beginning was further compounded by an English sea captain that killed the slave and stole the diamond.  The gem found its way to a diamond merchant who eventually sold it to India's English governor at the time, Thomas Pitt.  Afterward, the diamond was sometimes referred to as the Pitt Diamond.

After many attempts to sell it to various Members of European royalty, including Louis XIV of France, it was purchased by the French Regent, Philippe II, Duke of OrlĂ©ans in 1717 for £135,000 (£17,385,050 as of 2014),. The stone was set into the crown of Louis XV for his coronation in 1722 and then into a new crown for the coronation of Louis XVI in 1775. It was also used to adorn a hat belonging to Marie Antoinette. In 1791 its appraised value was £480,000 (£48,882,550 as of 2014) - Wikipedia

George Stuart's sculpture of Marie Antoinette who
once used the Regent Diamond to adorn an
elaborate hat that included a sailing ship.
courtesy of
In 1792, during the French Revolution, the Regent was stolen along with the other crown jewels of France but was eventually recovered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. Napoleon used the gem to adorn one of his swords.  But when Napoleon died, his second wife, the Empress Marie Louise, took the diamond back to her family home in Austria.

The empress' father returned the stone to France and it was subsequently incorporated into the the crowns of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Napoleon III.  Finally, it was mounted in a Greek diadem designed for Empress Eugenie, it's last fashion makeover, and remains in that diadem today in The Louvre.

Artist/historian George Stuart has created sculptures of most of the people who have touched the Regent and some of these sculptures will be on exhibit along with the replica stones.  Mr. Stuart will also unveil a new figure he has just created of Shah Jahan exclusively for the upcoming exhibit.

I developed the website for Mr. Stuart's Gallery of Historical Figures, a project that began back in 2005 because of my passion for the history these sculptures represent.  Later I was named to the board of directors for the Historical Figures Foundation and continue to serve in that capacity.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan seated on the Peacock Throne embellished
with the famous Koh-i-Noor Diamond receiving deputations in Delhi.

Image courtesy of the British Library and Wikimedia Commons.
When the executive director of the Foundation told me about a new collaboration with gemologist Scott Sucher of who would not only create historically accurate replicas of famous crown jewels for Mr. Stuart's historical figures but appear with Mr. Stuart at a new exhibit featuring the figures with crown jewel replicas, I was intrigued.  I'm sure I will find it to be a fascinating weekend.

The exhibit "Diamonds are Forever" will be on display in the Smith Galleries of the Ventura, CA from May 3 to August 24, 2014.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Classic Trial of Orestes for Matricide slated for January 29 in Chicago

An ancient history resource article by  © 2013
Orestes and Elektra by Menelaus after Praxiteles
1st century CE.
 Photographed at the Palazzo Altemps
in Rome, Italy 
by  © 2009

I see that a group of attorneys in Chicago are planning to put Orestes on trial for matricide on January 29th, 2014.  They're only a few thousand years late!  Talk about how slow the wheels of justice turn!

Following the tremendous success of the National Hellenic Museum’s Trial of Socrates in January 2013, Patrick Fitzgerald, Dan Webb, Patrick Collins & Bob Clifford take on another ancient Greek in the Trial of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, of the cursed House of Atreus. 
The Trial will take place at the UIC Forum – 725 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60607, Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 from 6 to 9pm. Reception to follow immediately after the trial. Tickets available through TicketMaster: $100 per ticket; student tickets: $50 (must present valid Student ID). 
Judges Richard A. Posner, Presiding, Charles P. Kocoras, William J. Bauer, and a jury of distinguished citizens of Chicago, will decide the validity of these charges. Orestes will be defended by Dan K. Webb (Winston & Strawn) and Robert A. Clifford (Clifford Law Offices). Counsel for the prosecution will be Patrick J. Fitzgerald (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP) and Patrick M. Collins (Perkins Coie). 
A bronze sculpture of Aeschylus from the
Archaeological Museum of Florence, Italy.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The trial is based on The Oresteia, by Greek playwright Aeschylus (525-456 BC), a foundational literary work that examines the crucial place of law in society, depicting the movement from primitive retaliatory vengeance to civilized justice and a hopeful new order under the rule of law. 
Consisting of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides, the trilogy constitutes a deeply affecting study of crime and punishment, probing such irresolvable and vexatious issues as the nature of justice, the frequent conflicts between love and duty, the torments of moral decision making, our obligations to the gods, society, and ourselves, and the spiritual consequences of irremediable actions. Above all, the Oresteia shows us the burdens of a culture based on the lex talionis—an eye for an eye—and the blessings of a jury trial in a court of law.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

What is the basis for the claim that the tomb of Atahualpa has been found in Ecuador?

A history resource article by  © 2013

Mixed media sculpture of Altahualpa by artist-historian
George S. Stuart
.  Photographed at the Ojai Valley Museum
in Ojai, California
by  © 2006 The last couple of days there has been several news postings about the possible discovery of the tomb of Atahualpa, last independent Inca ruler, in the highlands of Ecuador.  Unfortunately, after reading the articles I found the claim was not particularly substantiated by more than just a statement by a group of researchers that a formation 260 feet tall by 260 feet wide has been discovered  in the Llanganates National Park in Ecuador and "might" somehow be the tomb of Atahualpa.  Of course the article also says the researchers admit the "structure" may just be an unusual rock formation.

After looking at the images, I do think the formation looks man-made but how they connected this find with Atahualpa is a mystery to me.

The article points to "artifacts" that have been recovered but there was no explanation about their purpose, how they were determined to be Incan or any attempt at dating them.  Looking at the pictures of the "artifacts" included with the article,they appear to be extremely primitive in nature - more neolithic looking than pre-Columbian.

Stone formation found in in the Llanganates National Park
in Ecuador proposed to be Atahualpa's lost tomb.
courtesy of . 
I'm also wondering what sources they are using that may have claimed Atahualpa's body was stolen by his followers and whisked off to the highlands of Ecuador.  According to Spanish sources, Atahualpa's body was partially burned then interred in a "Christian" burial after he was strangled by a garrote following a mock trial at Cajamarca in the Peruvian highlands in 1533.  Of course I must admit Atahualpa is thought to have been born in what is now present day Quito, Ecuador so it is at least plausible that remaining clan members may have sought to return his body to the region of his birth.

If the structure is a tomb, it is of such monumental size that you would think it would have had to have been built before the Spanish conquest then repurposed as I doubt the activity needed to quarry and transport the stone then build a structure of the size reported would have gone unnoticed by the Spanish.  Perhaps it was the tomb of Atahualpa's father, Huayna Capac, who engaged in a number of monumental building projects before he contracted smallpox and died in the epidemic of 1527.  Maybe it is one of Huayna Capac's food storage silos that he purportedly built around his empire.  I've got to admit, as someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest who has frequently visited Idaho, the structure sort of resembles a big potato cellar!

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Replica tomb of King Tut to rise again in Luxor

An ancient history resource article by  © 2013

I see the committee presently overseeing Egyptian antiquities is planning to re-erect a dismantled replica tomb of King Tutankhamun, placing it beside the former residence of

Howard Carter opens the innermost shrine of Ki...
Howard Carter opens the innermost shrine of King Tutankhamen's tomb near Luxor, Egypt which one of carter's water boy discovered. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
discoverer Howard Carter on Luxor's west bank. The replica, built between 2009 and 2012 by Madrid-based Factum Arte, was constructed using 3D scanners to accurately capture the structural features of the tomb.

It was one of three tombs reconstructed as part of a project to provide an alternative to tourists when the tombs of Tutankhamun, Nefertari and Set I are closed to the public in 2014 because of damage from the respiration of the high number of visitors each tomb receives.

The project was apparently delayed by the recent civil unrest. I had always hoped to travel to Egypt and see Tutankhamun's tomb for myself but it is looking more and more unlikely as the social upheaval there continues and travel becomes increasingly difficult for me due to health issues.

Life-size composite replica of rock cut tombs near Beni Hasan Egypt
built from 2100 to 1100 BCE.
 Photographed at the Rosicrucian EgyptianMuseum in San Jose, CA by .  © 2006
At least I had a chance to explore a life-sized replica of an Egyptian rock cut tomb when I visited the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California in 2006. The replica is a composite of tombs of Egyptian governors and nobles discovered near Beni Hasan, Egypt and were built from 2100 to 1100 BCE.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum also exhibits one of only three known remains of Apis Bulls in the world. The Apis bull, a black beast with distinct markings, was the most important of all the sacred animals in Egypt and his worship, instituted by Raneb in the Second Dynasty, began in Memphis about 2740 BCE. The bull was thought to serve as an intermediary between humans and the great god Ptah (later Osiris).

Mummified Head of an Apis Bull photographed
at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum by
 © 2006
Anyway, if, like me, you can't make it to Egypt anytime soon, maybe you can visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA instead or, at least, for the time being. If you'd like to see more of the marvelous artifacts and museum-quality reproductions on display there, check out my image set on Flickr.
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