Liaoning Museum in Shenyang, my home city in Manchuria, the capital city of Qing Dynasty before the Manchu people conquered the Han China inside the Great Wall and made Beijing new capital, had many art and craft treasures, mostly as the legacy of the former imperial glory. Due to the fragility of those Chinese paintings and calligraphy on silk or paper, and my dwelling in the U.S. for more than half of my life now, I hadn't the chance to view most, if any, of those the most valuable works collected in that museum, till last September, when they assembled some of their most notable works on display, including one of the most famous paintings from ancient China - 簪花仕女图 Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers by 周昉 Fang ZHOU, Tang Dynasty, (active 766～779 - 785～804). The sublime and exquisite painting captured the luxury and easy of the court life during the most self-confident period of Chinese history - Tang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.).
Another finest example was an ancient copy by an unknown Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) artist of a legendary painter 顾恺之 Kaizhi GU (c. 344-405), on the theme of an ode to the beautiful Goddess of River Luo, who had a romantic encounter with the poet, 曹植 Zhi CAO (192-232), in his romantic poem of the same title.
摹顾恺之洛神赋图 Copy of Ode to Goddess of River Luo by Kaizhi GU, 佚名 Anonymous, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), 26.3x641.6cm
Other works on display included some imaginary and realistic landscapes, such as 茂林远岫图 Landscape of Luxuriant Forest and Distant Cave by 李成 Cheng LI, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and 荷乡清夏图 Clear Summer Lotus Country by 马麟 Lin MA, Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and 竹西草堂图 Bamboo West Cottage, by 赵雍 & 张渥, Yong ZHAO & Wo ZHANG, Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368):
茂林远岫图 Landscape of Luxuriant Forest and Distant Cave, 李成 Cheng LI, 北宋 Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), 45.5x143.2cm, Liaoning Museum, Shenyang, China
茂林远岫图 Landscape of Luxuriant Forest and Distant Cave, 李成 Cheng LI, 北宋 Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), 45.5x143.2cm, Liaoning Museum, Shenyang, China
荷乡清夏图 Clear Summer Lotus Country, 马麟 Lin MA, Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), 41.7x323cm
荷乡清夏图 Clear Summer Lotus Country, 马麟 Lin MA, Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), 41.7x323cm
竹西草堂图 Bamboo West Cottage (detail), 赵雍 & 张渥, Yong ZHAO & Wo ZHANG, Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), 27.5x125.3cm & 27.4x81.2cm
竹西草堂图 Bamboo West Cottage, 赵雍& 张渥, Yong ZHAO & Wo ZHANG, Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), 27.5x125.3cm & 27.4x81.2cm
There was a rare portrait by another famous painter of Yuan Dynasty, 赵孟頫 Mengfu ZHAO (1304), 红衣西域僧图 Red Robed Western Monk, depicting a high Buddhistmonk with from the Central Asia (west to China), meditating under a Bodhi tree. The features of the monk were vividly depicted and the colors of the green rock and his red robe, formed great contrast yet without clash, due to the less than fully saturated nature of the colors employed. An unforgettable piece.
红衣西域僧图 Red Robed Western Monk, 赵孟頫 Mengfu ZHAO, 1304, 26x52cm
There were more notable paintings, such as these two below, whose attributes I failed to record, though:
Calligraphy was a highly regarded art in China, though I am not trained in that field and could only respond to them due to their visceral impacts. Below are several pieces I found amazing, many for their sheer scales, and beauty of course:
草书古诗四帖 Cursive Calligraphy Four Poems, 张旭 Xu ZHANG,Tang Dynasty, 29.5x195.2cm
There were many other treasures, particularly archeological artifacts, in Liaoning Museum, as I reported before. Due to time constraint, I skipped those sections, and visited briefly another special photography exhibit - Indigenous Americans:Maya, Aztec andNative Americans-by Jeffrey Jay Foxx, together with some fabric objects.
Visiting my home city art museum turned out to be quite a wonderful experience.
Recently, I gradually wrapping up several projects in the pipe, one of them is an installation or mixed media work, which is also part of my ongoing "White Dress" series, titled Cage.
Cage Paper, Ink and Oil on Paper, Pin, Wooden Frames, 16.5" x 16.5", Completed in 2013
These white dresses, in the ongoing series, represent elements of community or society simultaneously homogenous and individual, both fluid and rigid, at once becalming and menacing, as manifested in the intertwined red threads here, which formed both the supporting network and the constraining cage these flying white dove like dresses were to be confined into.
Earlier this year, I started to work on some fruit drawings, mostly with figs and pears as my subject. Later, I decided to commit such effort onto canvas with oil paint to depict my edible subjects. Finally I completed a painting with two pears, revealed from a diamond-shaped slashed opening. The bright color on the fruits contrasted strongly with the muted background.
Below are several drawings I made earlier this year.
Recently, I chanced by Lake Merritt in Oakland and noticed a plaza equipped with a nice little fountain, in front of a glass paneled cylinder building, whose rather dull fortress shape at first failed to impress me then as I walked to the other side of the street, the building suddenly became mightily impressive, with half of its cylinder back-lit and bulk became candy-like translucent and visually engaging.
Later, on the same day, I was told that the intriguing structure was a cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Light, and it also had an interesting interior warranting a visit. As soon as I entered, I was quite stunned by the bold, simplistic yet intricate patterns created by many architectural elements - lattice walls, geometric "columns" and boat-shaped ceilings, etc., just underneath the class panel skins. I had a strong feeling that I was inside the hull of a gigantic ship - Noah's Ark, perhaps?
The cathedral was definitely one of the kind and its modernistic features strangely generated as much spirituality as conventional ones if not more.
Even the chairs and paneled dividers reiterated the patterns of the cylinder walls and their simplistic beauty and eloquence was simultaneously humble and ethereal.
There were other elements of interests in the cathedral, but they paled somewhat comparing to the basic building structures.
I was encouraged to visit a crypt at the lower level, Crypt of the Holy Angels, which had air of comforting and mystery, with many juxtaposing interesting visual elements throughout its long corridors.
Reproduction of Michelangelo's Pietà
This amazing cathedral building helped to change my perception of Oakland, the poor cousin of its more glamorous San Francisco across the Bay.
It is safe to say that even if "there is no there there," Oakland still boasts some architectural gems, such as the Cathedral and several others from earlier era, such as the Sears Department Store, I. Magnin Building and Paramount Theater, all of them I walked by on my way to BART (subway) station from Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Quit a while ago, I made a video to present my oil painting, Liberation Road, so as to show its details with the "camera" panning across the canvas. The video was a success; however, during that panning process, viewers could not see the painting itself and it could be frustrating.
Finally, I mastered a way to incorporate two video clips into one single final video and they can be played simultaneously. For this project, I deliberately keep my left clip static, so as to show the complete painting, while the right clip demonstrate the details, exactly as the video above, since I re-used my previous video as the second clip.
Actually, the number of the clips is not limited to two and all the clips can be animated. I can easily think of a useful example: one clip shows various details of the completed painting, while the other clip plays the painting process or the talking head of the artist. I also learned how to crop and re-size the assembled videos, in order to reduce black borders, if so desired.
Last September, when I returned to my home city, Manchurian Shenyang, I visited the Industrial Museum of China, located in the Tiexi District, which was the industrial quarter of Shenyang and the heart of the heavy industrial in China since 1910s through 1980s, when the changing demographics and economy model left the district behind, culminating in about 75% unemployment rate in 1990s in that district, whose population's plight was documented by a heart-retching documentary, Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, recording the decline of the district and the consequences on its once proud industrial worker residence. Now, though largely through controversial land deals, the district came out of the deep depression, a visit to the museum still brought mixed feelings to many people in Shenyang - nostalgia, sadness, anger, resignation, and reasonable or unreasonable hope and pride.
The museum was converted from a huge decommissioned factory, with an impressive modernistic façade:
The museum documented briefly the industrialization of China, which generally started fin the Yangtze Delta and later on, Manchuria, administered by warlords and Russian or Japanese conquerors. Below are some machinery from that era:
U.S.HPM Juice Press, 1877
Grand Marshall Zuolin Zhang, a champion of education and industrialization in Manchuria, early 20th century
The most interesting item was a table tallying Tiexi workers' strikes and their often victories - improved work conditions and increased wages. The table only cover years from 1919-1944. Apparently, since the Communists took over, no such strikes were allowed to take place:
Workers Strikes and their victories (1919-1944)
The main section of the museum was devoted to the heydays of Tiexi District in 1950s-1970s, when it was the center of the production of the entire nation. There was much chest-thumping heroism, as seen in these relief sculptures below:
Even on the machine tool from that era, there was such writing: Stressing Revolution.
Then we saw the somber side of the museum - the remain of a huge factory and the recreation of manufacturing scenes:
Next, we saw the recreating of workers' canteen - a large dining hall, adorned with banners representing most prominent factories once existed in Tiexi District, Shenyang. The canteen was a functioning restaurant and one could buy food cooked similar to those served in former canteens from various factories, and some fancier stuff:
Workers' canteen and traditional aluminum lunch boxes from those era
From food, we moved on to lodging. In 1950s, several quite beautiful Soviet styled housing were built for workers - and it was quite an award and honor to be able to like there - Workers' Village. Below are picture of the large compound and several recreated units, furbished with genuine items donated from former residents:
Similarly, there were other household items from that era, including a collection of ration coupons for any merchandize one could think of - grain, cloth, wine, cigarette, cooking oil, sugar, etc.:
Household Items from 1950-1980s, including food, cloth ration coupons
Barber Tools, 1970s
There was a trolley bus from now defunct bus line, No. 11 in Shenyang, which used to serve Tiexi District and beyond, into civil servants quarters where I grew up:
Recreated Bus Stop for now defunct No. 11 Trolley Bus in Shenyang, serving Tiexi District and beyond
Recreated No. 11 Trolley Bus in Shenyang, serving Tiexi District and beyond
Since we are touching on transportation, I also include couple pictures of old vehicles and a train locomotive from the Transportation section, but omitted those of various sedans and jeeps as they didn't interest me:
There were tractors and mining tools as well:
And they never forget to include items to demonstrate their military might:
Finally several artwork in different sections of courtyard:
Visiting the museum was time traveling experience and quite poignant one.
Yesterday, I completed another oil painting - a modest 16" x 20" abstract work: Lantern. This painting was the continuation of my exploration on the texture of an almost chromatic background. This image came to me, again, at the time I was about to fall into sleep. A pulsating and glowing slowly emerging from a foggy background. I hope my attempt at least do partial justice to my vision:
Previously, I have discussed an special exhibit we saw there - A Retrospective of Urs Fischer, whose surreal and macabre sculptures, installations and paintings were fun but less than truly satisfying. Now, I'm turning my focus to MOCA's core permanent collections.
The hallway, painted with mysterious and disturbing images of wheels and gears, and characters, created a dangerous industrial look, boldly declared the location as like no other museum or gallery.
The galleries were less in your face and rather conventional, allowing visitors to pay attention to the displays. This museum focused on the contemporary works, those created in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including works by de Kooning, Rothko, Kline, Twombly, Krasner, Miró, Pollock, Giacometti, Johns, etc. and some other names I was less familiar with. Below the the works I liked most:
Last weekend, in the art district of Berkeley, California, I saw some wonderful paper cut art exhibit at the gallery of the City Art Commission, City of Berkeley. They were layered yet pure, delicate and substantial. Lovely works by Joy Liu and Robert Trujillo.
After a series of interruptions and delays, by my traveling to Los Angeles and China, in July and September, respectively, and other unavoidable chores, finally I finished an oil painting, "Surveying", a first in quite a while.
Surveying, Oil on Canvas, 28" x 22"
This semi-abstract work was inspired by a vision of a field of destruction, where only visible things are charred stumps or stalks. Above this vast destruction and sadness, glided a ghostly white figure, who, through her outstretched arms, tried to touch the wounds of the earth, consoling the suffering souls as her survey the misery. A vision of sorrow and compassion.
This painting is also part of my "White Dress" Series, though this is the first one in the series has a "person" wearing the dress.
I was quite relieved and humbled by the praises it garnered when I post it on Facebook. Thank you all, for your support!
James Turrell: A Retrospective explores nearly fifty years in the career of James Turrell (b. 1943, Los Angeles), a key artist in the Southern California Light and Space movement of the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition includes early geometric light projections, prints and drawings, installations exploring sensory deprivation and seemingly unmodulated fields of colored light, and recent two-dimensional work with holograms.
I felt very lucky to be able to purchase a pair of just-returned timed-tickets to Turrell's show. The light installations of Turrell at LACMA was too programmatic and calculated and I didn't feel much connection to them. Later, when I saw his site-specific installation at De Young Museum in San Francisco, a burial mound and a round shrine behind a little wooded pathway, I felt that whimsical, mysterious work more engaging:
Afterwards, went to Ahmanson Building to see its permanent European painting collections. At the lobby of this building, we saw another massive sculpture: Smoke, Edition 1/3, 1967, fabricated 2005, Tony Smith (1912-1980). Size did matter.
Smoke, Edition 1/3, 1967, fabricated 2005, Tony Smith (1912-1980), LACMA
Across the lobby, in the courtyard outside, there was another installation caught my eyes - they resembled drying spaghetti. I didn't find out the attributes to this artwork. Or was it just a functional curtain?
In 2010, Matisse's large ceramic, La Gerbe (The Sheaf) was bequeathed to LACMA. Commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney F. Brody in the early 1950s for the courtyard of their home by A. Quincy Jones, the ceramic reflects the work Matisse had been doing with large, colorful paper cut-outs.
La Gerbe, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), LACMA
This very modest exhibit was really just a tiny snapshot of this great artist and it didn't add or subtract anything I knew of or felt for him.
We then entered the section of German Expressionism - one of my favorite period in art history - turbulent, stark, menacing yet beautiful. There were familiar works by my favorite artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Käthe Kollwitz; yet, the most terrifying and fascinating objects were posters rallying people to fight against red tides and protect homeland:
Schützt Eure Heimat! (Protect Your Home!)
Untitled, 1919, Wilhelm Plünnecke (1894-1954) & Der Einzige Damm Gegen die Rote Flut
Motiv aus Improvisation 25 (Motif from Improvisation 25), 1911, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Deutsche Werkbung-Ausstellung, Cöln 1914
Reiter (Riders), c. 1915, Ludwig von Hofmann (1861-1945)
Gedenkblatt für Karl Liebknecht (Commemorative print for Karl Liebknecht), 1919, Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)
Exiting this nightmarish world, we entered a "saner" world in the late 19th Century to early 20th Century. The disturbance was definitely still there but much calmer and more ordinary comparing to the time and soil which had fertilized the German Expressionists. I am going to record the works I saw in chronological order within each section of the stated time frames.
Comparing to the epoch of old masters, this era could be broadly termed as modern era. It started with works in more or less traditional manners then rushed into the period dominated by the impressionism, post-impressionism, cubism, expressionism, and so on. From the featured works below, we could see the artists went into many directions, trying out the best personal expressive means and styles, and the resulting explosive emergence of these styles were truly exciting:
Mermaids Under Water, 1874, Félix Ziem (, 1821-1911), & Weeping Figure at a Sepulchre, 1898 & The First Morning (Albert and Charlotte Dubray Besnard and their Son, Robert), 1881, Paul Albert Besnard (1849-1934), & Man Smoking a Pipe, c. 1875, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière (1831-1900)
Le Havre, Bateau de Pêche Sortant du Port, 1874, Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Portrait of A. Cassabois, 1877, Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
Les Baigneurs (The Bathers), 1896-97 Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)
Still Life With Cherries And Peaches, 1885-1887, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Sous-Bois, c. 1894, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Boy With a Straw Hat, 1896, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
The Red Cow, 1889, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Fruit Dish on a Garden Chair, c. 1890, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Motif Romanesque, 1890, Maurice Denis, (1870-1943)
Sometimes, artists seemed went backwards and became more cautious, less adventurous; however, in the long run, the progression was unstoppable and those seemingly backwards leaps were only regrouping before the next giant leaps.
A View of Frauenchiemsee, 1891, Wilhelm Trübner, (1851-1917)
La Place du Théâtre Français, 1898, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
The Opera 'Messalina' at Bordeaux (Messaline descend l'escalier bordé de figurants), 1900-1901, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Le Pont du Carrousel à Paris, c. 1903, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
From the more or less decorative paintings above, to the deeply expressionism paintings below, the change of style and subjects were startling:
Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal, 1903, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) & Woman with Blue Veil, 1923, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire, c. 1904-1905, Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)
Violinist on a Bench, 1920 (based on a 1914 original), Marc Chagall (1887-1985) & Knabe mit Apfelsine (Boy with Orange), 1911, Albert Bloch (1882-1961)
Jeannette III, 1910-1913, Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Strand in Nidden (Beach at Nidden), 1911, Max Pechstein (1881-1955)
Two Women, 1911-1912/1922, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) & Still Life with Jug and African Bowl, 1912, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Sunday in the Alps, 1922, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Badende (Bathers), 1913, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)
And paintings became increasingly abstract since the beginning of the twentieth century:
Architectonic Painting, 1917, Lyubov Popova (1889-1924 & Untitled, c. 1920, Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956)
Reverie (Study for the Portrait of Frank Burty Haviland), 1914, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) & Young Woman of the People, 1918, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Tea, 1919, Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Portrait of a Girl/Still Life, 1919-20, Max Pechstein (1882-1955)
Pride of the Gatekeeper, 1929, Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Sometimes artists felt the need to shout to be heard and understood, and art became a verbal statement, for better or for worse:
La trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe], (The Treachery of Images [This is Not a Pipe]), 1929, René Magritte (1898-1967)
Yet, no words could beat iconic images to impress and move audience:
Head of Christ, c. 1932-1938, Georges Rouault (1871-1958) & Adam and Eve, 1935, Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Village in Thuringia, 1943, Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
Bridge and Wharf, 1945, Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Group of Figures (Groupe de Personnages), 1938, Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Mojave, 1941-1942, Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)
Flight, 1952, Hans Hofmann (1880-1966)
When American artists started to dominate the art scene in the mid-20th century, flashy and brass pop art dominated the scene; yet occasionally, some art with great subtlety and beauty emerged, such as below works by Jasper Johns and Jean Dubuffet:
Figure 7, 1955, Jasper Johns (born 1930)
L'Effacement des Souvenirs (The Effacement of Memories), 1957, Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Then, there were other artists who staked out independent paths for themselves and created works both representative and abstract, with great vibrancy and excitement:
Freeway and Aqueduct, 1957, Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Two Women, 1957, David Park (1911-1960)
Purely abstract artworks in the new era could be just as vital and eloquent:
Montauk Highway, 1958, Willem de Kooning, (1904-1997)
The Ballantine, 1958-1960, Franz Kline, (1910-1962)
Elegy to the Spanish Republic 100, 1963-1975, Robert Motherwell, (1915-1991)
Band in Boston, 1962, Robert Irwin ( born 1928) & Roman Notes #3, 1970, Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
After the late 19th - 20th century art, we moved backwards time wise, into the older, more classical world of 18th Century-early 19th Century. Classicism and romanticism were the dominant styles of the period.
Satan and Death with Sin Intervening, 1799-1800, John Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Fussli), (1741-1825)
Judgment of Jupiter, 1786-87, John Deare (1759-1798)
Judgment of Jupiter (detail), 1786-87, John Deare (1759-1798)
Spoils of the Temple_ After a Relief from the Arch of Titus, Rome & Scene from the Arch of Titus, c. 1791, Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746-1810)
The 10th of August, 1792, c. 1795-1799, Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard (1770-1837)
Thetis Bringing the Armor to Achilles, 1804, Benjamin West (1738-1820) & Portrait of Second Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810, Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835)
Portrait of Monsieur Gest, 1819, Alexandre Dubois-Drahonet (1791-1834)
St. Sebastian with St. Irene and Attendant, 1858, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
Further back in time, we were in the 16th-18th Centuries, a time when paintings were the highest artistic achievements in the visual field, and the old masters actively created their long-lasting legacies:
Allegory of Salvation with the Virgin and Christ Child, St. Elizabeth, the Young St. John the Baptist and Two Angels, c. 1521, Rosso Fiorentino Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (1494-1540)
Madonna and Child with Saints Jerome and Francis, c. 1525, Paris Bordone (1500-1571)
Portrait of Giacomo Dolfin, c. 1531, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (c. 1489-1576)
Portrait of a Young Nobleman, c. 1545, Veneto-Lombard School (late 16th century)
Allegory of Navigation with an Astrolabe Ptolemy, 1557, & Allegory of Navigation with a Cross-Staff: Averroës, 1557, Paolo Caliari Veronese (1528-1588)
The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth, St. John, and a Dove, c. 1609, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) & The Israelites Gathering Manna in the Desert, c. 1626-1627, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
The Sleeping Danae Being Prepared to Receive Jupiter, 1603, Hendrik Goltzius (1558-1617)
Mercury and Argus, c. 1645-47, Carel Fabritius (c. 1622-1654)
Samson and Delilah, 1668, Jan Havicksz Steen (1626-1679)
The Snyders Triptych, c. 1659, Jan Boeckhorst (called Lange Jan) (1605-1668)
Portrait of Cardinal Roberto Ubaldino, Papal Legate to Bologna, 1627, Guido Reni (1575-1642) & A Philosopher, c. 1631, Jan Lievens (1607-1674)
The Raising of Lazarus, c. 1630-1632, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of Marten Looten, Holland, 1632, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669) & Portrait of Dirck Jansz. Pesser, c. 1634, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of Pieter Tjarck, c. 1635-1638, Frans Hals (1582/1583-1666) & The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, c. 1638-1640, Georges de la Tour (1593-1652)
Winter Scene on a Frozen Canal, c. 1620, Hendrick Avercamp (1585/1586-1634)
Still Life with Herring, Wine and Bread, 1647, Pieter Claesz III (1596_1597-1660)
Interior of the Mariakerk, Utrecht, Holland, 1651, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597-1665)
Last paintings section we visited was the Medieval and Proto Renaissance Paintings - they were strange, otherworldly and their distinct beauty, once accepted, could be overwhelming:
Worshipping Angels, c. 1325, Ugolino di Nerio (active 1317-c. 1327)
Virgin and Child with Sts. Louis of Toulouse and Michael, before 1362, Luca di Tommè (active 1356-1389, c. 1330-after 1389)
Madonna and Child with Sts. Nicholas and Paul, c. 1370, Luca di Tommè (active 1356-1389, c. 1330-after 1389)
The Archangel Gabriel, 1388, & The Virgin of the Annunciation, 1388, Bartolo di Fredi (c. 1330-1410)
A Bishop Saint and Saint Lawrence, c. 1404-7, St. Stephen and St. Bruno, late 14th-early 15th century, Gherado di Jacopo di Neri Stamina (active 1360-1413)
Triptych of the Madonna and Child with Saints, c. 1440, Neri Di Bicci (1419-c. 1491)
Fragment from a Cassone Panel 'Shooting at Father's Corpse', c. 1462, Marco Zoppo (1433-1478)
Madonna and Child, c. 1465, Jacopo Bellini (active 1421-1470/1471)
Portrait of a Man, c. 1465, Petrus Christus (1410-1472)
Adam and Eve in Paradise, Transfiguration of Christ on Palm Sunday, Abraham and the Three Angels, and Baptism of Christ, c. 1467, Jan Polack (1450-1519)
Triptych of Madonna and Child with Angels; Donor and His Patron Saint Peter Martyr; and Saint Jerome and His Lion, before 1483, Master of the St. Lucy Legend (active c. 1475-c. 1501)
The Triumph of Alexander, c. 1485, Bernardo Rosselli (1450-1526)
Holy Family, c. 1497, Fra Bartolommeo (Baccio della Porta) (1472-1517)
Finally some sculptures - from Greek period through 18th century:
The Lansdowne Bust of Athena of Velletri, Kresilias (430 B.C.-420 B.C.), 2nd-century copy after a Greek original of circa 430–420 B.C.
The Lansdowne Athlete, Rome, Roman, 1st century B.C. or 1st century A.D. copy after a Greek original of circa 340-330 B.C. by Lysippos
Biographical Sarcophagus, probably c. 176–193, possibly Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey), Roman
The Bateman Mercury, Roman, 2nd-century copy after a Greek original of the 4th century B.C.
Panels from the Retable of Agnès de Beaufremont, c. 1424, France, Workshop of Joinville-Vignory (active 1393-1442)
Tombstone of Alberto Barbiano, c. 1442, France, Meuse Valley
Christ and the Twelve Disciples, c. 1450-1500, France, Normandy
Saint Catherine, Germany, Ulm, c. 1510, Linden wood with traces of polychromy & Processional Cross, c. 1550, Spain
Saint Scholastica, Germany, c. 1755, Circle of Ignaz Günther (1725-1775)
We also saw some old drawings, mostly by the Italian artists from 16th century through 18th century - master draftmanship:
The Entombment, c. 1530, Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (called Parmigianino) (Italy, Parma, 1503-1540) & Crucifixion, c. 1764, Ubaldo Gandolfi (1728-1781)
Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, c. 1631-1632, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (called Il Guercino) (1591-1666)
Hercules Rescuing Deianira, c. 1669-1671, Domenico Maria Canuti (1626-1684) & Dancing Figure and Other Studies (verso), c. 1555-1558, Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-1596)
Rodin Sculptures at the Entrance to Norton Simon Museum
Revisiting Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Los Angeles in July 2013. I vividly remembered the two amazing portraits by Rembrandt - his self portrait and that of his young son Titus and I was really looking forward to studying them again.
What I didn't remember so well were the amazing array of medieval paintings, often on gold ground, depicting the life and death of Jesus and Virgin Mary. Below are those paintings I liked most, more or less grouped in chronological order:
Coronation of the Virgin Altarpiece, 1344, Guariento di Arpo ( c. 1310 -c.1370)
Madonna and Child, c. 1340, Paolo Veneziano (active 1333-1358) & Coronation of the Virgin Altarpiece Coronation of the Virgin, 1344, Guariento di Arpo (c.1310-c.1370)
Virgin Annunciate, c 1410-15, Pieto di Giovanni, called Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-1414) & Branchini Madonna, 1427, Giovanni di Paolo (1403-1482)
Branchini Madonna (detail), 1427, Giovanni di Paolo (1403-1482)
Baptism of Christ, early 1450s, Giovanni di Paolo (1405-1482) & The Resurrection, c. 1455, Dieric Bouts (1420-1475)
The Crucifixion and Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels, c. 1465-70, Juan Rexach (active 1443-1484)
From Bellini, Memling, the style of the paintings started to have more individual characteristics and became more naturalistic and less ritualistic. They were still stylish, almost startlingly modern:
Beauregard Madonna, c. 1455, White Carrara marble, Attributed to Desiderio da Settignano (1429-1464) & Portrait of Joerg Fugger, 1474, Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516)
Christ Giving His Blessing, 1478, Hans Memling (c. 1430/40-1494)
Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1480-85, Neroccio de 'Landi (1447-1500)
Saints Benedict and Apollonia, c. 1483 & Saints Paul and Frediano, c. 1483, Filippino Lippi (1457-1504) & Fidelity, c. 1485, Fresco transferred to canvas, mounted on wood panel, Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1501/02)
Raphael, Giorgione, Cranach the Elder were the standouts amongst the following group of paintings - naturalistic traits further develop yet still with certain medieval manners:
Madonna and Child with Book, c. 1502-03, Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael (1483-1520) & Head of a Venetian Girl, c. 1509, Zorzo da Castelfranco, called Giorgione (1477/78-1510)
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, after 1510, Vincenzo Catena (c.1470-1531)
Adam, c. 1530 & Eve, c. 1530, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)
Susanna and the Elders, 1564, Jan Massys (c. 1509-1575)
Allegory of Nature, 1567, Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)
The following group of paintings, including those by El Greco and Rubens, presented rich offerings of personalities of the sitters and the virtuosity of the artists. Every piece was memorable:
Portrait of an Elderly Man, c. 1575, Giovanni Battista Moroni (1525-1578)
Portrait of an Old Man with Fur (Manusso Greco?), c. 1590-1600, Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco (1541-1614)
Mars and Venus, 1599, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1562-1638)
Portrait of Sebastian Munster, c. 1597-1600, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
The Holy Women at the Sepulchre, c. 1611-14, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
David Slaying Goliath, c. 1616, & St. Ignatius of Loyola, c. 1620-1622, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Meleager and Atalanta and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar, c. 1618-19, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Birth of the Virgin, c. 1627, Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664)
Saint Francis in Prayer, c. 1638-1639, Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664)
Now we entered the shrine of those two most remarkable portraits by Rembrandt. The intimate and often humble domestic scenes by Dutch masters contrasted dramatically with catholic painters such as Rubens:
The Liberation of St. Peter, 1618, Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger (1580-1649)
Landscape with Ruins and Animals, 1624, Roelandt Savery (1576-1639)
Man in Armour Holding a Pike,c. 1630, Jan van Bijlert (1597_98-1671) & Young Man with Red Berret, c. 1629-1630, Jan Lievens (1607-1674)
Self-Portrait, c. 1636-38, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of a Boy (Artist's son Titus), 1655-60, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Details of Self-Portrait and Portrait of a Boy, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of a Bearded Man in a Wide Brimmed Hat, 1633, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Portrait of a Young Man, 1650-55, Frans Hals (1582-1666)
Back to the catholic Italy and France, we saw more pageantries again, though in a reduced scale comparing to those from Rubens' era:
Martha Rebuking Mary for Her Vanity, after 1660, Guido Cagnacci (1601-1663)
Louis XIV in Costume, c. 1663, Mlle. de La Vallière in Costume, c. 1663, Joseph Werner (1637-1710)
Reclining Nude, c. 1713-1717, Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
The Personification of Faith, c. 1725-1730. Francesco Solimena (1657-1747)
Interior with Monks, c. 1725, Alessndro Magnasco (1667-1749)
Interior with Monks (detail), c. 1725, Alessndro Magnasco (1667-1749)
The Triumph of Virtue and Nobility over Ignorance, c. 1740-1750, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770)
View of the Santa Maria della Salute with the Dogana di Mare, c. 1780, Francesco Guardi (1712-1793)
Now, we were in a transition from old school to the new age - starting with French painter Ingres, we entered the realm of modern psyche:
Bacchante Supported by Bacchaus and a Faun, 1795, Terracotta, Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738-1814) & Baron Joseph-Pierre Vialetès de Mortarieu, 1805-06, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
Doria Francisca Vicenta Chollet y Caballero, 1806, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) & The Abduction of Psyche by Zephyrus to the Palace of Eros, After 1808, probably before 1820, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823)
Chess Set, c. 1850, Ivory pieces, wood board inlaid with ivory, India: Delhi region, 1825-1875
With the advance of Impressionism and its immediate predecessors, such as Corot, Manet and Courbet, the modernists took firm hold of fine art world that their works were the sure bets for museums to stage blockbuster special exhibits, therefore it was almost unimaginable how startlingly revolutionary or "scandalous" they once were.
Still Life with Fish and Shrimp, 1864, Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
The Cicada, 1865-1875, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) & The Ragpicker, c. 1865-1870, Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
Madame Manet, 1874-1876, Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
Stream of the Puits-Noir at Ornans, c. 1867-1868, Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy, c. 1882, Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891)
There were several excellent Van Gogh paintings. His 1885 "Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow)" was very interesting due to another painting completely hidden underneath . Those paintings of his clearly demonstrated his development and the artistic triumph:
Still Life, 1884, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow), 1885, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Painting covered by Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow), 1885, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Head of a Peasant Woman in a White Bonnet, 1885, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier), August 1888, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Portrait of the Artist's Mother, October 1888, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Mulberry Tree, October 1889, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
I didn't remember that there were so many Degas' works in Norton Simon Museum - both sculptures and paintings. One of the reasons might be that I mistook several of his works depicting lower-class Parisians as painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, who was celebrated for such unflinching depictions. Now let's see some more innocent sitters for Degas, including his actresses and dancers:
Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, 1878-81, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Actress in Her Dressing Room, c. 1879, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Woman Ironing, c. 1884, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opera, 1895, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Cézanne pushed modernism further and his cerebral endeavors continued to challenge and delight:
Uncle Dominique, 1866, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Farmhouse and Chestnut Trees at Jas de Bouffan, 1884-1885, Paul Cézanne (1836-1906)
Tulips in a Vase, 1888-1890, Paul Cézanne (1836-1906) (left); Vase of Flowers (After Cézanne) (t), 1896, Odilon Redon (1840-1916), & Vase of Flowers, 1880-1881, Cézanne (1836-1906) (right)
Moving away from the somewhat flinty Cézanne, we were back to the world of women, populated by Morisot, Degas, Renoir, etc. - fashionable, sensuous and a bit anxious:
Woman in a Moorish Costume, 1869, Jean-Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870)
In a Villa at the Seaside, 1874, Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Fan: Dancers on the Stage (t), 1879, & Girls Beside the Sea, c. 1875, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Waiting, c. 1879-1882, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
The Laundress, 1873 (t), Woman Combing Her Hair Before a Mirror, c. 1877, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) (left); Nude, c. 1872, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) (right)
Woman Drying Herself after the Bath, 1876-77, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Then in a world of caricature, vulgarity and grotesque, personified by figures recorded by Degas, Forrain and Toulouse-Lautrec:
Madame Dietz-Adele Monnin, 1879, Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Head of a Woman with Veil, c. 1878-1880, Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931)
At the Cirque Fernando, Rider on a White Horse, 1887-1888, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
The Streetwalker (formerly Portrait of a Prostitute), 1892-1894, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
And then the singular, nonpareil Paul Gauguin with his monumental Tahitians:
Tahitian Woman and Boy, 1899, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
In Boudin's world, fashionable women were decorates of the gray world, muted and strangely comforting:
Beach at Trouville, 1873, Louis-Eugène Boudin (1824-1898)
Beach at Trouville, 1888 (t), Beach at Trouville, 1880, Louis-Eugène Boudin (1824-1898)
Then, the purely landscape, almost completely devoid of human figures - I particularly loved the landscape paintings by Courbet:
A Courtyard on the rue de la Fontinelle, 1874-1878 (left), The Pont Neuf, Paris, c. 1875-1879, (top right), The Pont de L'Estacade, Paris, c. 1880-1884 (bottom right), Stanislas-Victor-Édouard Lépine (1835-1892)
Marine, c. 1865 -1866 (t), & Cliff at Étretat, the Porte d' Aval, 1869, Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) (left); The Entrance to the Port of Le Havre (formerly The Entrance to the Port of Honfleur) (bottom) c. 1867-1868, Claude Monet (1840-1926) (right)
Now, the distinction between paintings as fine art and as decorative objects started to got blurred with the advance of Émile Bernard and particularly Roussel and Vuillard. These paintings were the excesses of fin-de-siècle; the last grasp of the innocence destined to be marred or destroyed by modern machine time:
Still Life with Flowers, 1887, Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
Brittany Landscape, c. 1888-1889, Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
Still Life with Apples and Violets, 1890-1891, Paul Sérusier (1864-1927)
Reunion des Dames, c. 1893, Ker-Xavier Roussel (1867-1944)
Autumn: The Chestnut Gatherers, 1894, Georges Lacombe (1868-1916)
The Dressmakers Under the Lamp, c. 1891-1892, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
First Fruits, 1899, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940)
Lucie Hessel, c. 1905 (t), & The Pitch Pine Room (formerly Denise Natanson and Marcelle Aron in the Summer House at Villerville, Normandy, Summer 1910 (b), Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) (left); Synchromy in Yellow, 1900-1913, or 1915, Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) (right)
Lower Main Street, Murnau, 1910, Gabriele Münter (1877-1962)
Inclined Head of Kneeling Woman, 1911, Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919)
Picasso was the giant of the twentieth century and his bewilderingly diverse works always awed audiences if not always moved. His "Bust of a Woman" moved me deeply while his "Woman with a Book" though impressed me greatly but failed to touch me:
Bust of a Woman, 1923, Oil with fixed black chalk on canvas, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Woman with Mandolin, 1925, & Woman with a Book, 1932, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Kandinsky, Feininger and the purely abstract Picasso gave us a hallucinatory world dotted with many human miseries of the new century:
Sketch for Deluge I, 1912, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Woman with a Guitar, 1913, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) & Near the Palace, 1914-1915, Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
Even Modigliani, with his eternal woman as object, actually belonged to the group above. Abstract anxiety:
Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jeanne Hebuterne, 1918, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
It was with Matisse, with his interests in Moorish art, that we were back to the saner humane world, though his women's overt nakedness firmly separated themselves from their sisters in Manet and Renoir's sphere.
The Black Shawl (Lorette VII), 1918, Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Nude on a Sofa, 1923, Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Portrait of Leila Claude Anet, 1930, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)
With works by Braque, Klee & Feininger, we are back to more clashing abstract world - brooding, violent yet beautiful:
Pitcher, Score, Fruits and Napkin, 1926, Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Artist and Model, 1939, Georges Braque (1882-1963)
Two Heads, 1932, Paul Klee (1879-1940)
The Tug, 1934-1937, Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
Tiptoe Down to Art, 1950, Hassel Smith (1915-2007)
Tall Figure IV, 1960, Alberto Giacometti, with Exotic Landscape, 1910, Henri Rousseau (l), Horseman, 1947, Marino Marini, Artist and Model, 1939, Georges Braque (m), The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies), 1941, Diego Rivera (1886-1957) (r)
Norton Simon Museum had several sculptures inside the building, such as the Marini and Giacometti works above; the glory of its sculpture collections were in the front and in its enchanting sculpture garden. In front of the entrance to the museum, there were several seminal sculptures by Rodin - those monumental bronze bodies danced in the shimmering summer light:
Jean de Fiennes, Vetu, 1884-95, & The Walking Man, 1905, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Pierre de Wissant, Nude, 1884-95, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Monument to Balzac, 1897, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
The Burghers of Calais, 1884-95, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
The sculpture garden had many modern sculptures and my favorites were "King and Queen", 1952-53, by Henry Moore and "Sitting Cheetah", 1996, by Gwynn Murrill:
Sculpture Garden, Norton Simon Museum
Sitting Cheetah, 1996, Gwynn Murrill (1942-)
Sitting Cheetah, 1996, Gwynn Murrill (1942-)
River, 1939-43, Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
Air, 1938, Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
King and Queen, 1952-53, Henry Moore (1898-1986)
In addition, we saw a bit more of sculptures in a special exhibit titled: Beyond Brancusi, The Space of Sculpture. My favorite of those modern works, was "Vertical Zag I", 1969, by the great Louise Nevelson:
Beyond Brancusi, The Space of Sculpture
Untitled, 1969, Acrylic on formed Plexiglas, Craig Kauffman (1932-2010)
Vertical Zag I, 1969, Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) & The White Gunas (Abstract Sculpture), 1946, Marble, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
In July, I visited Los Angeles for the second time. During my first LA trip, I visited Getty Center and this time, for my first museum stop, I opted for its sister museum, the Getty Villa, an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria, located in Malibu. Its excellent collection completely justified its great fame.
Before we dived into exhibition, in the central courtyard, which contained an amphitheater, we were confronted by a gigantic metal wheel, with many concentric circles and spokes, and just above the center of the wheel, a small chair, at a terrifying height, all sitting squarely in the center stage. The wheel turned out to be the set for the Greek play, Prometheus Bound, attributed to Aeschylus. Too bad that the performances wouldn't start after we'd left Los Angeles. It would have been a wonderful night.
Going into the villa, we briefly admired its pleasant proportion and muted decor but the villa itself was only a diversion for the collections were the real deals.
The first group of exhibitions consisted of Greek amphora and other kind vessels of different styles and functions and from different regions. I was no expert in that field and didn't try to comprehend all the subtleties; rather, I recorded whatever took my fancy:
Next, we came upon some impressive statues of gods and goddesses:
Marbury Hall Zeus, Roman, A.D. 1 - 100
Marbury Hall Zeus (left) and Venus Genetrix, Roman, A.D. 100-200
Head of Athena, Greek, 160-150 B.C. (l) & Head of Apollo, Roman, A.D. 175-200 (r)
Head of Hermes, Roman
Statuette of a Fertility Goddess, Greek (left)
Move on to next section, we saw more vessels, richer and more decorative; but again, I only responded to whatever touched or pleased me:
Next, we entered a reconstructed shrine or temple - a hall full of columns and in the niches, statues of gods, goddesses, and nymphs:
In the next shrine, for the Roman sculpture, Lansdowne Herakles, we encountered some of the most memorable and smoothly executed works, though somewhat plastic, however impressive they were:
The Lansdowne Herakles, Roman, c. A.D. 125
Leda and the Swan, Roman, A.D. 1 - 100 (r)
In the next section, several sirens gave me great delight:
We then moved on to another part of the vast villa, which contained much funeral artifacts, with an imposing Venus thrown in:
Fragmentary Wine Cup with Achilles, Greek, c 490 B.C., Wine Cup with the Suicide of Ajax, Greek, c. 490 B.C. (l) & Lidded Storage Jar with the Blinding of Polyphemos, Etruscan, 650-625 B.C. (r)
Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles, Roman, A.D. 180-220
Venus, Roman, A.D. 100-200
Then we spent some time outdoors, to enjoy the view of a large reflection pool and an enchanting intimate garden:
Silence Riding a Wineskin (l)
Bust of a Youth, Reproduction of a Roman sculpture from the 1st Century AD (right)
Then we went to another section with more burial artifacts, amongst more sculptures of gods and goddesses - by then I totally lost track of grouping principles, such as the periods and styles of those wonders:
Sarcophagus Panel with Medusa and Theater Masks
Herm of Dionysos, Greek, 100-50 B.C. (l) & Head of a Young Bacchus, Roman, A.D. 1-50 (r)
Wall Fragment with a Muse (left)
Then we were in a room with predominantly Roman artifacts, including emperors and empresses, mixed with other Greek objects:
Bust of a Woman, Roman A.D. 140-150 (l) & Head of Julia Titi, Roman, c. A.D. 90 (r)
Torso of a Man Wearing Armor, Roman, A.D. 83-85 (l)
Head of a Man, Roman, 100-1 B.C., Getty Villa, July 2013
Victorious Youth, Greek, 300-100 B.C.
Torso of an Athlete, Roman, c. A.D 100 (l)
Wine Cup with a Man and a Youth Kissing, Greek, 510-500 B.C.
Relief Fragment with a Horse and Rider, Greek, c. 500 B.C.
Grave Monument of a Girl, Roman, A.D. 120-140
Relief with Antiochos and Herakles, Greek
Gravestone of Myttion, Greek (l), Gravestone of Mynnia, Greek, c. 370 B.C. (r)
Then there were more daily objects and curiosities on display in the following rooms:
Vessels for Scented Oil - Herding Scenes, Greek, c. 580 B.C. and Veiled Woman, Greek, 575-550 B.C.
Vessels for Scented Oil, Greek or Roman, 100 B.C.- A.D. 25
The final section featured some impossibly ancient artifacts, such as ancient Greek Apollo and Cypriot earthenware:
Folding Tripod with Horses
Harp Player, Early Cycladic, 2700-2300 B.C.
Bowl with Scenes of Daily Life, Early Cypriot, 2000-1900 B.C. (middle)
At the end of viewing the permanent collections, we also had the wonderful opportunity to see a special exhibit: Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome, which presented 145 objects that bear witness to the athletic and military victories, religious rituals, opulent lifestyles, and intellectual attainments that shaped Classical culture at its peak and included the amazing Statue of a Youth (the Mozia Charioteer), 470-460 B.C., Sikeliote (Sicilian Greek), with remarkable marble curving representing soft, wrinkled drapery over hard and muscled body (see detail below):
After Castello and Duomo, the other main attraction in Ferrara was its city wall. From the description of its being a walled city, I planned to have a casual stroll atop the city wall but I realized once there that Ferrara's size far exceeded my expectation and to do so would take hours. A bicycle ride might be more feasible but it might still be too challenging; besides, I also realized then that not all sections of the wall were well preserved enough accommodate a continuous walk or ride through. We decided on a section which was mostly ruins simply because it was in the directions we were heading to. But it was quite a wonderful sight nevertheless.
Ruin of City Wall, Ferrara
Old City Wall
Ferrara's main art museum, Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara, was housed inside Palazzo dei Diamanti, which obviously got its name from its studded façade.
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara (Palazzo dei Diamanti)
The collections were mostly religious paintings, ranging from 16 through 18th century. Of which, the older, more medieval works affected me more, for their strangeness and touching naïveté. Some pale or faded frescoes were exceptional beautiful as well.
Staircase and Assunzione di Santa Maria Maddalena, Maestro della Maddalena Assunta, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara
San Giorgio, Maestro attivo a Ferrara nella prima metà del XV secolo
Madonna col bambino fra due vasi di rose, Ercole Roberti (l), San Sebastiano, Vicino da Ferrara (r)
Madonn in trono col Bambino, Maestro dagli occhi spalancati (l), Gesta, il cattivo ladrone (particolare di Crocefissione), Maestro dell'Agosto (?) (m), San Petronio, Ercole Roberti (r)
Arcangelo Gabriele annunciante Stigmate di San Francesco, Natività, Lotta di San Giorgio col drago, Pittore ferrarese o romagnolo (?)
San Giovanni Battista, Maestro di Figline, Palazzo Diamanti
Natività , adorazione dei magi, Maestro dell'Adorazione di Ferrara
San Cristofore (l), San Sebastiano (r), Maestro Ferrarese
La musa Urania, La musa Erato (r), Pittore attrivo a Ferrara
Giudizio di San Maurelio (l), Martirio di San Maurelio (l), Cosmè Tura
Ritratto di tre devoti, Baldassarre d'Este
Annunciazione, Viola da Ferrara
Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia, Scuola tedesca, Meister des Hausbuchs (?)
Madonna col Bambino, san Giovannino e un angelo, Biagio d'Antonio
Due Vedute di città, Girolamo Marchesi detto Girolamo da Cotignola (?)
Conversione di san Romano, Battesimo di san Romano, Sebastiano Filippi detto Bastianino
Madonna col Bambino, santa Lucia e san Matteo, Sebastiano Filippi detto Bastianino
La Circoncisione, Sebastiano Filippi detoo Bastianino
Perseo e Andromeda, Bernardino Cesari (?) (left) and Angelo custode, Carlo Bononi (right)
Due guerrieri, Pietro Muttoni, detto Pietro Della Vecchia, attribuito (top), Lanzichenecco (bottom left), Davide, Giuseppe Caletti (r), Pietro Muttoni, detto Pietro Della Vecchia
San Sebastiano, Francesco Zaganelli (left) and Santa Caterina, Girolamo Sellari detto Girolamo da Carpi (right)
Tobiolo e l'Arcangelo Raffaele, Girolamo da Carpi
San Luigi IX di Francia, Girolamo da Carpi
San Paolo apostolo, Domenico Panetti (?)
Allegoria di Sant'Agostino come Maestro dell'Ordine (fascimile del disegno a tempera su carta), Girolamo Domenichini
Allegoria di Sant'Agostino come Maestro dell'Ordine (fascimile del disegno a tempera su carta), Girolamo Domenichini
Allegoria di Sant'Agostino come Maestro dell'Ordine (fascimile del disegno a tempera su carta), Girolamo Domenichini
L'Antico e il Nuovo Testamento, Benvenuto Tisi detto Garofalo
Sapiente con compasso e globo (Atlante ?), Giovanni Francesco Luteri detto Dosso Dossi
Storie di Costantino e di papa Silvestro, Benvenuto Tisi detto Garofalo
Polittico Costabili, Benvenuto Tisi, detto il Garofalo, Giovanni Luteri, detto Dosso Dossi
The rest of Ferrara continued to offer endless visual pleasures, including Palazzo Massari which was another main museum but was closed for the time being.
By the time children left their schools, this museum city suddenly became much more alive and we had a peep of the people in Ferrara, young and old.
While in Bologna, we made a day trip to Ferrara, where the main attraction to me was the immense Castello Estense (former seat of House of Este), with its drawbridges, dungeons and moats intact, and was rightly recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.
House of Este was a powerful dynasty and its most (in)famous member might be one of the Duchesses - Lucrezia Borgia. Their Castle, at once fanciful and forbidding, dominated the central part of the surprisingly sprawling city; and adding an extra dose of menace, in front of it, there was a statue of the fanatical Girolamo Savonarola, who was indeed born in Ferrara.
Castello Estense and the Statue of Girolamo Savonarola, Ferrara
Our tour started with a walk around the bulging structure and then through its gate and drawbridge, we entered the courtyard and walked through some disorienting corridors, while collecting on the way some informative views of the defense system of this fortress.
Then we passed by a large kitchen and then descended to the most scary dungeon I'd ever seen, the recently visited one, inside Palazzo Ducale in Venice, included.
After the gloomy dungeon, we moved into a most sumptuous sphere - the Palace, which impressed mostly with its fancifully decorated and molded ceilings, curtains and impressive arrays of coats of arms. The tastes of those former masters and mistresses had very peculiar tastes.
Coats of Arms
Art collections in the castle, however, were less impressive, as if they were mere afterthoughts.
However, at one wall I did see a drawing sketch of some interests, though not as well defined and energetically rendered as the drawing sketch I saw in Firenze (Florence) by Michelangelo.
Between Castello and Cattedrale di San Giorgio (Duomo), there was another impressive structure - Palazzo Municipale (City Hall), where we saw two imposing bronze statues of Marchese Niccolo III d'Este and Marchese Niccolo III d'Este, sitting atop tall pedestals, flanking the main entrance. Time constraint ruled out our visiting the Palazzo, but I spent enough time to admire those two enormously powerful sculptures and pondered on the personalities of those Estes.
Marchese Niccolo III d'Este outside the entrance arch - the Volto del Cavallo to Palazzo Municipale, Ferrara
Statue of Borso d'Este (l) and Marchese Niccolo III d'Este (r), Palazzo Municipale
Statues of Borso d'Este (seated) and Marchese Niccolo III d'Este, Palazzo Municipale (right)
Statue of Marchese Niccolo III d'Este
Cattedrale di San Giorgio (Duomo) was a beautiful, marbled cathedral and I particularly liked its three beautifully proportioned pediments.
The interior of the Duomo was warm and atmospherically dark but not gloomy. It also boasted a photo of the visiting Pope John Paul II to this very Cattedrale di San Giorgio.
Photo of the visiting Pope John Paul II in Cattedrale di San Giorgio (Duomo), Ferrara
The marbled Campanile and the rough-looking side façade of the Cattedrale were equally fascinating including rows of tall arches which had stalls beneath them. Spiritual and earthy life intermingled together harmoniously.
Piazza Trento e Trieste, Cattedrale di San Giorgio (Duomo)
Right across the plaza, while admiring the Duomo and the Campanile, we had a typical Ferrara meal for lunch at Piazza Trento e Trieste - Cappellacci di Zucca: pumpkin enclosed in home-made pasta. Delicious.