Saturday, May 16, 2009

the museums, part one

I had some wonderful museum experiences in Madrid and London last month. I don't know a lot about art, but I know I love to look at it. My mom was an art major in college, and I always loved looking through her books. I didn't usually like to read the text that explained the works. I always preferred creating my own stories about them.

The weather was awful in Madrid for strolling around El Retiro park, so while J had a meeting one afternoon I spent four hours in the Prado. The museum has 9000 paintings in their permanent collection, and they can only display about 1/7 of them at any one time. One of my favorites, Portrait of Dona Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches, is not out right now.

But here are a few other favs that I think I will never tire of:

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Boshch. It boggles my mind that he painted this around 1500. It is so weirdly wonderful!

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. I love the colors, the starry ceiling of the portico, and the connecting of the two scenes, man's fall and redemption, with that beam of light. I only wish Mary looked a bit more joyful.

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez. It's the best-known work in the museum, and some say the greatest painting ever. It struck me as enormous the first time I saw it. This time I gave my brain a work out puzzling over its complexity.

This is my second visit to the Prado. The first visit was all about, "Oh my gosh--there is THAT!" My mom had books on Goya and Velazquez, so it was like seeing old friends from my childhood, only much-improved versions. This time the awe was not so dumbifying, and I could actually form some ideas about the psychology of the portraits, for example. And since I'd already been there I knew where my favorites were and could give them more time.

In London J and I went together to the National Gallery. When Georgie was a baby I bought her a children's book about paintings, and we loved to look at it together. Now I know that they were all works from the National Gallery. What a wonderful surprise! There were probably twenty or so that I recognized from that children's book. Here are a few favorites:

A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer. Athena, I thought of you and your camera oscura.

The Adoration of the Kings by Jan Gossaert. The clothes. Especially, the red tights.

Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger. I think this is my very favorite. I don't even know where to start. That curtain is my favorite color green. That fur-lined coat is to die for. I love the expression and attitude of these guys. They're like, "We are pretty much the most handsome, intelligent, and well-attired gents you'll come across any time soon. So just deal." I love the magic symbols on the floor. I love all their rich, smart dude paraphernalia. And most of all, I love that distorted skull in the foreground. Because everyone should have one of those in their portrait, right?

I have a good deal more to tell about London museums, including an amazing, exclusive opportunity I had there. But I will have to save it for another post.


Mike and Mal said...

Haha! Your description of The Ambassadors is crackin' me up!

Brenda said...

Did you get to see Cupid&Psyche when it was here? I am never prepared for a paintings' actual size and vibrancy when I see it.

Ave said...

Beautiful post. I love the green curtain too. I can't help but think that those two gents look like Henry VIII though.