Today, at the de Young: MASTERS OF VENICE

Today, self and the husband went to see the “Masters of Venice” exhibit at the de Young, there through Feb. 12.  The day was radiant (if a bit chilly).  There had been a storm just the night before (Our trellises were knocked down). The paths to Stow Lake were muddy and littered with debris.  Clumps of (apparently dead) earthworms lined the path leading to the museum’s main entrance.

Here are some things that self learned from the exhibit:

  • The paintings, 50 in all, were amassed by the Habsburgs.
  • The museum in which they were housed was in Vienna.
  • The voice introducing the audio for the exhibit was that of John Buchanan, the Museum Director who sadly passed away in December.
  • Many of the subjects were women, which seemed contradictory:  Women in Renaissance Venetian society (self learned from the exhibit audio) were viewed as distinctly subservient. Yet they seemed an endless source of inspiration for the (male) artists.  Therefore, who were these women? Biblical subjects, like Judith who cut off the head of Holofernes. Figures from ancient mythology.  Quite a few were nude, and all had meaty hips and thighs and exceedingly tiny breasts. Self wonders what the women of Venetian Renaissance Society thought about these naked women in the paintings. The audio mentioned that several could possibly have been courtesans. One of these possible courtesans was depicted with great branches of laurel leaves framing her head, one breast coyly exposed. The subject’s face was so at odds with her deshabille. It was a great portrait, by a painter self had never heard of: Giorgione.

There was Andrea Mantegna’s painting of Saint Sebastian, pierced by arrows. Self had seen copies of this painting in books. She expected it to be large, befitting the subject. But it was surprisingly small. The saint’s body was surprisingly robust, the skin like alabaster. An arrow pierced his chin and went through his forehead, but the face was not disfigured. The expression was not what self expected (Perhaps she expected something akin to Bernini’s Medusa, the face in a moment of transformation.) The audio remarked on the extraordinary three-dimensionality of the saint’s feet.

She wished there had been audio for Titian’s “The Entombment of Christ.”

Another of her favorites, for which there was audio, was Tintoretto’s “The Flagellation of Christ” :  the figures of the men beating Christ were so ferocious, their arms flexed, caught in the moment just before their blows connected with the bound form between them.  And another thing:  Christ was not the ascetic, suffering figure self was used to seeing from his depictions on the cross. This Christ figure was monumental, greatly muscled.

From the Museum store, self bought a pair of dessert plates, on sale for $13.99!  The design was of a painting by Bordone, “Allegory of Mars, Venus and Cupid.”  Here’s a close-up:

Bordone’s "Allegory of Mars, Venus and Cupid," c. 1560

Later in the afternoon, after self was back in Redwood City, she heard on the car radio that Gngrich had beaten Romney in South Carolina, by double digits.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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