A ceiling fresco does not need to be beautiful in any case, but it often tells the truth about the times in which it was painted and about the people inspecting it in their social context.
The above picture struck me in the “Gentlemen’s parlor” of a big Plantation house near New Orleans built in 1856. It shows the heads of two men left and right from the center of the ceiling’s ornament painting. “This tells us that men are in the center of the universe” the tour guide explains to the visitors group.
Nobody makes any comment. I wait for the female guide to deliver some additional ironic comment, but she unbelievably also doesn’t. Might it be true that there are still people in a modern Western country of the 21st century who carry on believing in that?
It might well be that the people in the 19th century were even more clever than we are today. Why did they paint that stuff on the ceiling in the men’s parlor? If it should have been a political exclamation they would better have it painted on the ceiling in the lady’s dressing room. She was the one that had to be constantly convinced of being some crap on the edge of universe.
I think it would probably have been for this reason: The women had the centric men painted on the ceilings of their own rooms knowing that they would stare up the whole day in conviction and satisfaction. Meanwhile the world outside of men’s parlors was changing without them taking notice.
This is not an ornament, it’s an historic site.