Transylvanian winter landscapes of 2017 by Marin Gruia

Marin Gruia's landscapes are classical and sensitive, displaying a subtle color palette. His winter landscapes in particular fit this description and their special charm is rendered by the inclusion of elements typical to his homeland, Transylvania. The haystacks laden with snow for example are masterfully rendered through the relief structuring of the oil color paste. Here are two very recent such paintings, made in September 2017, oil on canvas, ca. 70 x 50 cm.
For updates you can follow his Facebook page HERE
See more of his winter landscapes HERE.
See his working technique described in a previous post HERE.

Winter landscape by Marin Gruia

"Winter in Transylvania" by Marin Gruia


Celtic costumes workshop

In Romania, the Celtic civilization has enjoyed little interest on the part of reenactors and historical festival organizers so far. There is a single Celtic Festival, organized a couple of years now in Beclean/Baile Figa, but the Celtic reenactment camp merely provides a distraction for festival goers who are there to enjoy the massive evening rock concerts. Several reenactment groups also have Celtic costumes among those of other "barbarians" and, naturally, Dacian and Roman ones. The most numerous Celts, with the most elaborate costumes, are to be mentioned among the members of Omnis Barbaria NGO.

Inside the "Celtic village" during the 2016 Celtic Festival in Baile Figa
Virtus Antiqua acknowledges the relative neglect of the ancient Celtic civilization, despite the impact in had on Transylvania at least, during the Iron Age. One of the weekend workshops organized part of the "Labyrinth through time" at Camp Virtus, near Cluj, thus focuses on recreating Celtic textiles and dress elements employing fabric that might have been used during Antiquity. The workshop "Atelier de reconstituie istorica - costume celtice" is held Saturday, September 23rd, at Camp Virtus - find directions HERE.


Dacian pottery workshop

Modelling by hand Dacian clay pots
Saturday, the 16th of September, between 11 AM and 15 PM, the meeting at Camp Virtus, in Salicea, near Cluj, is dedicated to ancient Dacian pottery. As many are interested today in the little-known Dacian civilization from the present-day territory of Romania, we have decided that some of our project entitled Labyrinth through time shall be dedicated to it. This meeting of experimental archaeology will consists of a presentation of the pottery shapes considered typical o the Dacians, many modeled by hand, including the distribution of handouts, followed by the actual clay modelling of shapes such as the cup, the jar-pot and the so-called fruit bowl. The pots will be pit fired in October, during our special Labyrinth through time event, in one of the centers of the actual 1 ha labyrinth inhabited by historical characters.

Dacian pottery experimental archaeology meeting at Camp Virtus
Free access on Saturday for a fun, outdoor experience for the entire family, involving a bit of education in historical and patrimony matters. See you at Camp Virtus!


Collectibles from Transylvania

Handle -

Dracula, small metal spoon, enamel, vampire, bat, blood drops, Romania, collectible spoon by the Transylvanian Trove, Halloween gift 

I have recently added to my Etsy shop the Transylvanian Trove this collectible little spoon from Romania with vampire decoration: the handle is in the shape of Dracula and the bowl is decorated with bats and blood drops. Inscribed "Romania" and "Dracula" in archaic font. It is made of common metal alloy (not silver), with enamel decoration in white, black and red on the front, while the back is left undecorated. Dimensions: 12 x 2.5 cm (4.7 x 0.9 inches).
Spoon bowl - Dracula, Romania

Lot of 25 vintage metal pins, collection of pins from different countries, fashion accessories, collectibles, traveling souvenirs

 My shop also includes another collectibles item, a lot of 25 metal pins from different countries that I have visited (Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Andorra, Austria, Slovenia etc.) and organizations (UNV, UNCCD).


Ancient pottery workshop

New experimental archaeology meeting this weekend, at Camp Virtus, near Cluj - "Intalnire ceramica antica". In a series of reenactment and reconstruction meetings part of the Labyrinth through time cultural project, this workshop focuses on the modelling of Roman and Dacian pot shapes. After the pots have dried, during a subsequent meeting the team project members and volunteers shall experiment with the old firing technique, namely pit firing.
Feel free to join us, despite the cloudy weather, September 9th between 11 AM and 15 PM in Salicea, near Cluj, to learn more about how the ancients modeled out of clay the largest category of everyday items they used and to experiment the process hands-on.
"Labirint prin timp" is partly financed by the National Cultural Fund Administration and organized by Virtus Antiqua NGO. Don't miss out on the news and stay tuned for the final event, in October this year, the creation of an actual labyrinth with different cores inhabited by Dacians, Romans, Celt, gladiators, auxiliary soldiers, civilians, perfume makers and hawkers!

Experimental archaeology meeting at Camp Virtus
Such activities contribute to the development of Camp Virtus, an open-air reenactment center focusing on the history, material culture and practices of the inhabitants of Transylvania during Antiquity - mainly Romans, Dacians and Celts.


Labyrinth through time - free online resources

One of the objectives of our reenactment project Labyrinth through time, financed by the National Cultural Administration Fund [AFCN] of the Romanian government, is to make available free online a series of resources regarding ancient history, reenactment, and patrimony. These are the handouts provided to volunteers and visitors at every weekend meeting, but online they may reach a wider audience.
The handouts contain general presentations on topics related to the reenactment activities performed at Camp Virtus: ancient plants, gardens and gardening tools; textiles, looms, and weaving tablets in Antiquity; Roman altars and ceremonies; food and cooking; bread and ovens; Celtic clothes and costumes and others.
All handouts [in Romanian only] can be downloaded in pdf format from the project's pages on the Camp Virtus website HERE

Handout sample - Roman altars and ceremonies pdf


Linocut mounting and framing

I usually write about my art projects while they are still fresh in the studio, so I rarely get to follow up to the final, mounted works. I have recently recovered a mounted and framed linocut work from 2015, part of the Nurnberg project, from an art gallery and re-discovered the series. The print rendered below now hands in my home.
Unlike with other prints, for this larger work I chose a strong, colorful passepartout and a copper-colored frame, not of the thin, simple kind usually employed for graphics. It is like approaching prints like "proper" oil and acrylic paintings, thus making it more "serious" and "respectable".

See the Nurnberg linocut project HERE.
"Nurnberg" linocut by Ana-Maria Gruia
linocut project in the making by Ana-Maria Gruia


Marin Gruia - abstract paintings in blue

Marin Gruia is a painter of flowers and landscapes, but he has always attempted to expand towards oniric surrealism and, lately, to abstract compositions. These latter painting experiments also envisage larger formats than his usual, a mix of techniques (including subtle collage for example), and the creation of improvised tools and implements in search for spontaneity, novelty, and the pure pleasure of color and texture. Here are his best 2017 blue abstract compositions, oil on canvas.
For updates you can follow his Facebook page Marin Gruia.

Abstract painting by Marin Gruia
Abstract painting by Marin Gruia

Abstract painting by Marin Gruia


Balneum Mariae in alchemy and pharmacy

Balneum Mariae (also known as Mary's Bath, water bath, bain-marie or double boiler) is a process of controlled heating in a pot with liquid, usually water, aimed at heating substances in controlled conditions (in terms of both time and temperature) or keeping them warm over longer periods of time. In fact it limits the maximum temperature of the substance in the main container to the boiling point of the liquid in the second boiler.
As the name indicates, the process has been attributed to he alchemist Maria Prophetissima or Mary the Jewess (3rd c. A.D.) The process was nevertheless known before, during the Roman period for example, and became common in cooking, industry, chemistry and pharmacy.

Alchemical balneum Mariae from Coelum philosophorum, Philip Ulstad, 1528
Discover more about the inter-twined history of pharmacy and alchemy by visiting the temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.


The pharmacist's costume

Habit d'apoticaire, in
“Recueil les costumes grotesques et les métiers de Nicolas de Larmessin”.

Reproduction of a 17th-century engraving depicting the typical costume of a pharmacist, imagined as consisting of the tools of the trade – an alembic is worn as a hat and iconographically the most significant element, but there are also typical jars, tools, containers, a syringe and various medicinal plants. All visual elements are identified by inscriptions in French. From the work “Recueilles costumes grotesques et les métiers de Nicolas de Larmessin”.
The alembic is a distillation still, borrowed from alchemy, consisting of three parts. The cucurbit, a heated pot that contains the liquid to be distilled,   the ambic, covering the cucurbit like a cap, collecting the vapors and leading them down a descending tube, and   the receiver, holding the condensed distilled liquid. The term comes from Arabic (al-anbī), in itself a borrowing from Greek (ambix), meaning cup or beaker.


Dacian car flag

Atelierul de istorie has added, upon request, a new product to its history-inspired portfolio: a small car flag with the ancient Dacian draco standard - black on white background. The flag is resistant to weather conditions and comes with a plastic support for your car's window. The flag can be adapted to one's motorcycle as well, though special metal stands must be obtained elsewhere.
See all novelties HERE

Car flag with the Dacian draco
Folded car/motorcycle Dacian flags
The motif is original, reproduced after a large-size, two-piece linocut print of the draco, inspired by depictions on ancient Roman monuments such as Trajan's Column.

Original draco depiction by Ana-Maria Gruia for Atelierul de istorie



Linocut and golden foil draco painting

Another painting inspired by the ancient Dacian history has been sold by my online shop, Atelierul de istorie. It is a sofa-size painting depicting the Dacian war standard, the half wold half serpent dragon that the Romans called draco. It is a highly decorative, even Art Nouveau-like work, with the main motif as linocut print, glued onto canvas, and the background with golden foil. In order to confer the foil more radiance, underneath I have applied a layer of red acrylic paint, and a black painted acrylic frame renders no need for an actual frame. Here is the painting in context.
See the item page HERE
Another variant, smaller size, HERE



Marin Gruia - painting in progress

My father, Marin Gruia of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, is one of the established painters of the city and of Transylvania, with his classical, sensitive style of painting flowers and landscapes, mostly oil on canvas. He has taken steps lately in going a bit beyond his usual style, experimenting with textures, colors, and techniques. The following series of pictures illustrate this process, exemplified on another "Flowers" painting - working his way out of the background and into the details in the foreground - the flowers, the vase, and the signature.

Background - by Marin Gruia

Flowers - by Marin Gruia

Flowers and vase - by Marin Gruia

Signed and finished - by Marin Gruia


Tooled leather keychain

I have recently posted pictures of this tooled veg tan leather key chain in a leather craft group on Facebook and I got comments that the model was stamped, not tooled by hand. This was in fact flattering, considering the decoration looked so even and good, but still I felt the need to reveal the process for clarification. So here are illustrations of the working stages, from form cutting, to drawing tracing, incision, tooling, fine cuts making and dyeing, all made by hand. The product is available on our website, Atelierul de istorie, and the decorative model is inspired by ancient history, aka the Draco war standard of the Dacians.
For intense comments feel free to join out Facebook handmade leather craft group, Marochinarie artizanala (Romanian mostly, but not exclusively), with 182 members so far.
Draco leather key chain

Handmade tooled leather project

Leather project by Atelierul de istorie


Goddess Gruia - my first linocuts

I started experimenting with linocut printing in 2007, during an art camp in Calimanesti, Romania. I used the most basic, low-quality, Communist linoleum still available on the market and an old spoon for printing, but found the effects and process fascinating from the very beginning. Not to mention that it was fast enough for my desire of quick results :) Applying the ink with my fingers (in lack of a roller) was also convenient for allow more variation, increased color effects, and the convenient Epreuve d'artiste - no numbering necessary system :))
Here are some of my initial works, medieval in inspiration.
See my current works available on Etsy HERE.

"Matthias House" linocut print inspired by the old city centre of Cluj-Napoca, Romania - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Urbanscape" lincout inspired by medieval architecture in Krems an der Donau, Austria - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Holy women"lincout inspired by the medieval iconography of holy women - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"The entrance of the Virgin into the Temple" Biblical linocut by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Tailors' Bastion" linocut of one of the historical monuments in Cluj - by Ana-Maria Gruia

"Urban landscape" inspired by Slovenia - Ana-Maria Gruia


Alchemical confusions in pharmacy II

Another confusion born out of the adoption of alchemical terms in late medieval and early modern pharmacy relates to the troublesome use of multiple names for the same apothecary product or of the same name for several products.
Among the solutions with multiple names one can mention for example Potassium acetate (the potassium salt of the acetic acid)that was referred to as either "terra foliata tartari", "sal Sennerti" (Sennert's salt), "tartarus regeneratus", "arcanum tartari" (alchemical), or "sal diureticus". These terms refer to the product's properties, alchemical value or the name of a person who prepared it.

Johann Heinrich RAHN,
There were also no less confusing cases of solutions with the same name:
§  aqua fortis =  concentrated azotic acid, wine spirit, concentrated soda solution
§  lapis infernalis = all caustic substances
§  nitrum =  saltpeter, talcum, borate of soda, potassium azotate
§  chrysocolla = copper alloy, borate of soda

Discover more on the topic by visiting the "Pharmacy and alchemy" temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca.
See also previous blog posts on the topic here: