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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Small Treasures

Pyx in the Form of a Dove, c. 1220-1230

Aquamanile in the Form of a Horseman, probably English or Scandinavian, 13th Century

Reliquary Châsse, champlevé enamel on gilded copper with oak core, c. 1175-1180

Holly Kinship

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Red and Green at Titian

Cardinal Pietro Bembo, c. 1540

Doge Andrea Gritti, 1546/1548

Portrait of a Lady, c. 1555

Vincenzo Cappello, probably c. 1540

The Venetian insight for colors... red... green... chestnut... white... silver... black...

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

(Old Masters)


Titian - The Portrait of Ranuccio Farnese

There is a Titian room at Washington National Gallery of Art. What I like most from all his works on display there is this portrait. Everything is greatly rendered: the contrast (both subtle and striking) between the age of the boy and his obvious high rank, the subtle differences in the nuances of red in his tunic, and the look: shy and firm, innocent and aware of his position and power.

The boy would become Archbishop of Naples at the age of fourteen, and he later would serve as Bishop of Bologna, Archbishop of Milan and Ravenna, and Cardinal Sant'Angelo, dying at the age of thirty-five (NGA).

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)



Giorgione at the Washington National Gallery

The Holly Family, c. 1500

Portrait of a Venetian Gentleman, c. 1510

Like other paintings associated with Giorgione, this striking portrait presents difficulties of attribution. Both Titian and Sebastiano completed paintings by Giorgione that remained unfinished when he died prematurely in his early thirties. (It was said that Giorgione, fond of poetry, music, and beauty in all forms, contracted the plague from his mistress.) A second hand seems to have been at work in this painting, too. The portrait’s format, with its subject glancing sidelong at the viewer from behind a parapet, was developed by Giorgione, and the soft, shadowy gradations of tone also recall his style. Its overall aggressive mood, however, points to another painter, one who both used bolder strokes and possessed a more active, worldly outlook—perhaps Titian or Cariani. The unidentified sitter’s expression of calculating, almost cruel, appraisal is amplified by the gesture of his closed fist. The inscription on the parapet does not help to identify either the sitter or the artist, although Titian sometimes “carved” his initials in a similar manner on painted parapets. These letters, VVO, have been interpreted as a form of the Latin vivo (in life). This would suggest that the portrait was painted from life and that it confers a measure of immortality on both subject and painter. It may be more likely, however, that it abbreviates a humanist motto, perhaps virtus vincit omnia (virtue conquers all)(NGA).

Knowledge of Giorgione’s life and career is in inverse proportion to his artistic importance. He remains one of the least documented and most influential of all Renaissance painters. A single signed painting exists (NGA).

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

El Greco at Washington National Gallery

Saint Martin and the Beggar

Saint Ildefonso

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

San Juan de la Cruz - attributed to Francisco Antonio Gijón

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Jacopo Tintoretto - Christ at the Sea of Galilee

Whenever I am in front of this painting the words German Expressionist Cinema come to my mind. I talked about this association with some friends; they disagreed. Howewer, think at some stylistic features shared by those movies: chiaroscuro lighting , surrealistic settings... a remarkable fluidity of mobile framing (Pam Cook, Cinema Book), dream like atmosphere... uncanny evocation of Stimmung (Louis Giannetti, Scott Eyman, Flashback, A Brief History Of Film).

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Boathouses near Key Bridge

(Stories from Key Bridge)

View of Georgetown from Key Bridge

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Speed Limit: 30

Europeans should not dramatize: it is about 30 Miles/Hour

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Key Bridge by Night

Click on the image to see clearer.

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Deers in Key Park

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Stories from Key Bridge

(Washington, District of Columbia)

Virginian Side of the Potomac, up from Rosslyn

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Potomac in the Mist

(Washington, District of Columbia)

Stop Bitching! Start a Revolution!

No more, no less. As I did not know about Zendik, what's it about, I suggested the folks a variation, Start Bitching! Stop a Revolution! They are all young and have the sense of humor.

(Church in America)

Preaching on the Street

(Church in America)

Jazz Band at Dean & De Luca

Dean & De Luca, on the M Street in Georgetown.

Sometimes only the instruments are there. I visited Dean & De Luca in the summer. It looks a bit Parisian (well, kind of).

But this was in the summer when it was warm and everything was fine. Now winter came. I was again yesterday there and this time I found the folks.

I tried a first video, only the guys were just taking a break. So I waited a little and I tried again.

(Washington, District of Columbia)

The Skate Rink from the Sculpture Garden

I was there firstly in the afternoon. I came again in the evening, so I recorded a second video.

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi at Washington National Gallery of Art

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi - The Adoration of the Magi,
c. 1440/1460

The work was started by Fra Angelico. Later, Fra Filippo Lippi took it over and finished the painting. The purity of style of Fra Angelico in all its noble simplicity within the superb richness of the composition of Fra Filippo Lippi.

It is one of my beloved favorites when I get to the Gallery.

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Richard Caton Woodville - War News from Mexico

Richard Caton Woodville lived between 1825 - 1855. This painting dates from 1848.

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Vermeer at Washington National Gallery of Art

A Lady Writing, c. 1665

Anytime I see it, another painting comes in mind, that I have seen in Zwinger, many years ago, Brieflesendes Mädchen am offenen Fenster

Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665, 1666

Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664

The balance is empty; the meaning comes from the painting on the wall: it depicts the Last Judgment

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yellow Leaves Left by Winter

(Around Fairfax Circle)

Pan's Labyrinth

(Around Fairfax Circle)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Tin Soldiers of Andersen are in Clarendon

There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and blue. The first thing in the world they ever heard were the words, “Tin soldiers!” uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands with delight when the lid of the box, in which they lay, was taken off. They were given him for a birthday present, and he stood at the table to set them up.

The table on which the tin soldiers stood, was covered with other playthings, but the most attractive to the eye was a pretty little paper castle. Through the small windows the rooms could be seen. In front of the castle a number of little trees surrounded a piece of looking-glass, which was intended to represent a transparent lake. Swans, made of wax, swam on the lake, and were reflected in it. All this was very pretty, but the prettiest of all was a tiny little lady, who stood at the open door of the castle; she, also, was made of paper, and she wore a dress of clear muslin, with a narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders just like a scarf. In front of these was fixed a glittering tinsel rose, as large as her whole face.

But there is much more in Andersen's tale. Click here if you forgot it.


(Hans Christian Andersen)

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen passed away

Karlheinz Stockhausen died on December 5. He was 79.

It is difficult to characterize his music in a couple of lines. He belongs to the great family of radical artists of the twentieth century who made no concession to the public taste and just followed their own roads, setting the new roads of art. Messiaen, Varèse, Webern, Schaeffer, Mondrian, Klee, Cage, Tenney, Brakhage... to give only a few names here, somehow related to Stockhausen... electronic, concrete, stochastic, ergodic music... music, painting, film, with subtle connections between them.

Klang was the title of the cycle of compositions created by Stockhausen after 2003; also the name Tenney gave to the basic musical unit in his seminal Meta Hodos.

Here are four fragments from Stockhausen's creation... tinny drops from his immense work:

Klavierstuecke Ⅹ

HYMNEN integrates a wide variety of national anthems and transforms them electronically (Click here if the video does not appear).

Kontakte (Click here if the video does not appear).

Helicopter String Quartet (Click here if the video does not appear).

(Musica Nova)

Virginian Winter

(Around Fairfax Circle)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Innemann, Miller, Kminek - the Czech Way of Reinventing the Fairy Tales

I was looking on the web to see whether I could find more data about Praha v září světel (Prague at Night), a movie made in 1927 by Svatopluck Innemann, one of the pioneers of Czech cinematography. I found unexpectedly a small gem of 49 seconds: Červená Karkulka (Little Red Riding Hood). A tale told rapidly and joyfully, going directly to the essential points while keeping a laughing eye towards us, suggesting that everything is an exaggeration and should not be taken too dramatically.

(Click here if the video does not appear)

Soon after finding the movie of Innemann, I met with another Červená Karkulka, a color animation this time, made in 1948 by Zdenek Miller.
While Innemann tells us the tale very straightforwardly, Miller takes definitely a baroque approach. He develops the story, embroiders new characters and situations and builds his own tale over the known tale.
Grandma and the daughter are saved by a mailman, as the hunter had found the old tale too scary and had run for help.
However Grandma thanks the hunter (most probably for keeping with the old tale), starts the gramophone and invites him for a dance (while the mailman has troubles outside with starting the engine of his car).

(Click here if the video does not appear)

And look at this Sněhurka a sedm trpasliků, made in 1933 by Oldřich Kmínek: the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs told in 29 seconds!

(Click here if the video does not appear)

(Filmele Avangardei)

(Modernism in Central Europe)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spirit of Christmas

Christmas Trees Yard in Pan Am Center (Fairfax, Virginia)

Christmas Trees Stand in Pan Am Center (Fairfax, Virginia)

Christmas Tree in Ballston Common Mall (Arlington, Virginia)

The Guards in front of the Clyde's (Georgetown, Washington DC)

(Church in America)

Paul Schrader: The Four Most Important Movies

Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay for such movies as Scorsese's Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ, among others. He also was the director for his own Exorcist, and for other films (American Gigolo, Cat People, Mishima, etc).

A book written by Schrader (Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer) had a profound impact on my views about movie architecture. It is a fine cross-cultural analysis, following the three dimensions (everyday, disruption, stasis) in the films of these masters, each one from a very different universe (Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant). It came that I read the book just after I had discovered the world of Ozu. I tried then to think other movies in the same dimensions (Away from Her, In the Mood for Love, 2046, Unglassed Windows Cast a Terrible Reflection, The Way to Shadow Garden). Again, totally different universes: of Sarah Polley, Wong Kar-Wai, Brakhage.

In the most recent issue of Newsweek, Paul Schrader tells us which are his four most important movies and gives us his reasons:
  1. The Rules of the Game. It's everything a film should be: witty, innovative, entertaining, full of ideas and social relevance.
  2. Tokyo Story. Director Yasujiro Ozu lifts melodrama into transcendence—there's never been anyone like him.
  3. Persona. Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece about his life and the women who had the misfortune of loving him.
  4. The Godfather. The Big Manicotti for American cinema. Everything good about U.S. storytelling is epitomized here.