Category Archives: Painting

Magi in Arts – 1

My December has started in a very busy atmosphere of visiting Manchester. I didn’t make it to any of Christmas markets but I once again tested my ability to organise travel. I believe I am very good at it, although in future I would greatly prefer for it to be organised for me. I was lucky, nonetheless, to have come back on December 1, as very soon the storm Xavier came down on Europe, and many flights had been cancelled, trains delayed, and roofs torn off in Manchester. I didn’t experience any of it, so I have been quite fortunate.

I shall hope to make up for my absence (cats being ill, me teaching-editing-translating almost at the same time) with a regular Christmas time feature, this year focusing on the visitation from the Magi to bring the newly born Jesus the gifts. There were some posts from previous years dedicated to the same subject:

James Tissot and T.S.Eliot

Diego Velazquez

The Magi of the Vatican

Edward Burne-Jones

And this year’s first painting is The Wise Men Enter Jerusalem by William Hole.  Like many Europeans and particularly Englishmen of his time (e.g. William Holman Hunt), William Hole visited Palestine (around 1900) to study the background for a cycle of his religious paintings illustrating the life of Christ. He subsequently also painted several works on the subjects from the Old Testament.

In this painting we see the wise men enter Jerusalem on camels – a nod to a tradition, earlier depicted by James Tissot.

The picture was found here.

 

In Defense of Noah’s Arch

I recently had to comment in a discussion on one of socnets about the plausibility of the story of Noah’s Arch. The argument was that the story was never questioned, then the person took interest in science, and before long the story of the most ancient sea journey amidst the deluge became a myth.

Regular readers know that I’m not a religious person, however I do have faith. It’s neither Christian, nor some other, but a set of what I hold to be true of the world where I live. However, being a historian I realise that these “myths” are not the mere old woman’s tales but the examples of how our ancestors made sense of this world. They may appear exaggerated to us today but at the very core they are not at all contradictory to the event as it was. 
 
In case with Noah’s Arch the problem is that, rather than acknowledging the limited worldview of our predecessors we let our own erudition run wild. We come to imagine an arch the size of the Titanic, and a pair of every species grows to the size of an average zoo. The purpose of saving Noah was to rebuild the mankind; naturally, Noah would have to eat and to grow crops, and he needed animals to do so – domestic animals, that is. In his time these would most likely be sheep, and it was absolutely possible to take a couple of “baahs” on board. 
I mentioned the story of St. Ursula that I wrote about previously. It’s one of the best-known Christian myths that sprang from the misreading of an abbreviation and inspired a popular theme in medieval painting. Yes, today we know there had not been 11,000 virgin martyrs, and the iconography appears a good subject for mockery. Instead, why cannot we appreciate the art of composition, the colours, the studies of a dress?
 
On to my socnet argument. 
 
“The Noah story as I knew it had it that he was allowed to take a pair of every species. Given the time we are talking about, it would not be a zoo, so generally he would be able to take some creatures in a boat with him. Scientists, historians, archaeologists have long established that the story of Noah’s Arc is one of many reverberations of the story of the Great Flood, references to which we can find not only in the Bible but also in American Indian myths, and in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first ever epic song. As much as I am not religious myself, I’m an historian, and the biggest problem we have with these “fables” is that they are taken at face value and taught in the same vein, then later we discover our critical faculties and begin to refute the story altogether. We need to realise that it is through fables, parables and extensive iconography that our ancestors made sense of this world. It would be a shame if, by discarding these stories as old woman’s tales, we also threw away the ability for rich, imaginative thinking. We should believe the story of Noah’s Arc, as it is depicted in the Bible, no more than we believe today the story of St. Ursula and 11000 virgin martyrs, but it doesn’t mean nothing similar had ever happened. I felt I had to say this because in Russia in the late 1990s an academic “school” appeared that claimed that all history, as we know it, especially starting from our era, was a creation of a limited number of European scholars from 17th c. onwards. If we say that those myths are just myths, we merely give strength to this theory that would happily refute Darwin with all his apes, if it could”.

The Persistence of Pancakes: Artemy Lebedev Studio Revisits Salvador Dali’s Painting

A renowned Russian design studio run by Artemy Lebedev revisited the famous 1931 painting by Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory.

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory (1931)

Dali’s work was painted during his Freudian phase, but also allegedly contained reference to Albert Einstein’s relativity theory. Even if the second argument was not quite true, the Time is clearly seen in this work as a moving substance, something not solid, and therefore, relative.

Artemy Lebedev design studio revisited the image in the context of the Pancake Week craze. So we see pancakes instead of pocket watches. Since a pancake’s substance is soft by nature, Dali’s idea becomes inverted and follows a different track, not from exactness to relativity, but from movement to immobility. Here pancakes represent a fixture that, despite its unenduring state, persists in time and in mind.

I am not sure what name the Russian designers gave to their work (the inscription on the image merely says “Happy Pancake Week”), so I thought that the paraphrase of Dali’s original image was rather fit.

Artemy Lebedev Studio’s image

 

Exhibitions Expected At the State Hermitage Museum In 2013

Perhaps there is no better way to eventually visit a city than to start learning about upcoming events. So, in a hope to finally visit St. Petersburg I’d like to post here provisional list of exhibitions I found interesting that are currently listed on the State Hermitage Museum’s website. As the museum authorities note, the titles and dates of the exhibitions may change, but we shall hope my choice will remain more or less the same.

Paul Cezanne, Card Players. From the Courtauld Institute collection, as part of the series “Masterpieces of world museums at the Hermitage
When: Feb 27 – May 26, 2013.

The Legacy of German Expressionism. From the George Economou collection
When: May 13, 2013 – Jan 20, 2014.

The Corporate Unity. The Dutch group portrait of the Golden Age from the collection of the Museum of History of Amsterdam
When: June 8 – Sept 1, 2013.

The White City. The Bauhaus architecture in Tel-Aviv
When: June 12 – Sept 15, 2013.

El Lisitsky and Ilya Kabakov
When: July 17 – Sept 15, 2013.

Wilhelm II and Anna Pavlovna. The royal luxury of the Dutch court
When: Sept 25, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014.

Fluxus. Jurgis Maciunas. Russia Atlases
When: Oct 5 – Nov 3, 2013.

Britannia silver from Queen Victoria’s time
Oct 23, 2013 – Jan 19, 2014.

Contemporary Japanese Art
Nov 9, 2013 – Feb 9, 2014

Salvador Dali and his Spanish contemporaries
Nov 23, 2013 – Feb 16, 2014

More events.

And if you are based in Australia or plan to travel there before May 2013, bear in mind that you can visit a unique exhibition of ancient artifacts from the Hermitage collection that date back to the time of Alexander the Great. “Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasures” is exhibited at the Museum of Australia in Sydney until May 10, 2013. The exhibition is sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, JCDecaux, Etihad Airways, and National Geographic Channel among others.

Alexander the Great’s exhibition displays (courtesy of The Hermitage)

Mikhail Baryshnikov Art Graces New York, Scheduled For Moscow In 2013

Alexandre Benois’s costume design
from The Art I’ve Lived With
(more highlights at ABA Gallery)


New York’s ABA Gallery hosts the first-ever public display of the private art collection of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world-famous Russian ballet danser. Titled “The Art I’ve Lived With“, it offers a generous insight into the artistic taste and inner world of one of the greatest men-of-arts of the second half of the 20th c. In 1975, soon after leaving the USSR behind, Baryshnikov purchased the “1917 Jean Cocteau drawing of impresario Serge Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes, and Christian Berard’s design for George Balanchine’s ballet “Mozartiana””, Bloomberg reports.

Initially, Baryshnikov was interested in the Russian artistic scene of the fin de siecle, and particularly the Ballets Russes, so his choice gravitated towards the works of Leo Bakst, Alexandre Benois, and Sergei Sudeikin: “I knew the names of those artists from the tender age, from textbooks. They are people who worked in the imperial theater in Russia. They left Russia with Diaghilev and did costumes for Vaslav Nijinsky and Mikhail Fokin“.

Later the scope of collection grew bigger, but the focus has remained on drawings. Baryshnikov’s collection of drawings now includes Valentine Gross’s portrait of Nijinsky in the ballet “Le Spectre de la Rose”, a costume design for “Carmen” by Antoni Clave featuring the French dancer and choreographer Roland Petit, and a 1903 pencil drawing of a woman by Ilya Repin, Bloomberg states.

The exhibition has opened on December 4, 2012 and is expected to migrate to Moscow in 2013, to let Baryshnikov’s native compatriots study the more private side of Mikhail. He says, however, that he is unlikely to ever sell his collection; he’d like to bequest it entirely to his own foundation.

An Interview With the Secretary of Salvador Dali, Enrique Sabater

Until May 10, 2012 an exhibition of rarely seen artwork of Salvador Dali was exhibited in Paris. All objects on display belonged to one-time secretary of the great artist, Enrique Sabater. The video from PressTVGlobalNews is a fair introduction to the kind of artwork that went on display. And below is my translation (from French) of an interview with Mr Sabater, conducted by Nathalie d’Allincourt for L’Objet d’Art edition (April 2012).

 

In the privacy of Salvador Dali 

Nathalie d’Allincourt

A personal secterary to Salvador Dali, the Catalan Enrique Sabater lived for over ten years next to the master and his muse, Gala. After the Musee de Cadaques l’Espace Dali exhibited an anthology of 120 works that the master had given him and often dedicated: drawings, watercolours, photographs, objects…

The photos that underpin the exhibition were made throughout the years passed close to Dali. Were they intended to be art or merely a matter-of-fact? 
I adore photography that I have practised since childhood. Near Mr Dali there was no restriction, I could photograph at any moment. In 2004 I presented the scores of my photographs at the exhibition in Barcelona marking Dali’s centenary. Almost always these photos show the artist in an intimate atmosphere.

People are aware of the theatrical aspect of Dali’s personality. Was he really different in private life? 
He had two personas. When we were all three together with Gala (we had a breakfast together every morning), it was one person, absolutely normal. He was very intelligent, passionate about science and had many scientists as his friends. But when he appeared in public, he acted in a very theatrical manner, to the point of changing his voice.

How did you live all those years next to Dali? 
Every year we spent summer in Catalonia, at the house of Portlligat. Mr Dali worked in the morning and in the afternoon, after a short siesta. After 6pm he often received visits from young artists who came to show him their work. After that there were 15 days in Paris, at the hotel Meurice, then in New York where we stayed for 4 or 5 months at the hotel Saint Regis. In New York every Sunday Andy Warhol came to have a dinner with three of us. We always stayed at the same hotels, in the same rooms. Twice a year we spent a few years at the Ritz in Barcelona for familial reasons. Likewise, we visited Madrid and stayed at the Palace Hotel, to see the Prince Juan Carlos, the future king.

Did Dali visit other museums or artists of his generation? 
The master knew all the museums and collections, but he did not feel the necessity to put himself vis-a-vis the work of other artists. The only museum that we did visit was the Centre Pompidou because we collaborated with them a lot. Since our stays in Paris were short, we particularly loved visiting certain streets, like Rue Jacob. Throughout his life Dali upheld the connection with Picasso. It is often considered that the two had been enemies for political reasons: Picasso was a Communist, of course, but Dali was not at all a Fascist! They maintained the distance without ever breaking the connection: the word was sent by trumpet. Each one in their own way was acutely aware of what they had to say to another, and so they did. In April 1973 Dali was immediately informed about Picasso’s death, and we left for Mougins. Picasso treasured his trumpets, which his son Claude inherited from him.

You hold the academic sword of Dali in your possession…
Yes, he gave it to me the next day after receiving it, and this is the first time I am showing it to the public. On the sword a polished space was prepared for a gravure, a dedication created by Dali for the paper letters of Gala. The object was not leave Paris without being engraved! I am also showing a preparatory drawing.

You met Dali in 1968 during an interview and you never left until 1981. What was it that made you leave him? 
In 1972, Dali and Gala charged me with commecialisation of the master’s work. But in 1981 Gala went mad. Dali, ennerved, could no longer make enough to satisfy the enormous want of money this woman had had. Behind my back Gala began to deal with real gangsters, and the market got flooded with forged lihographs. I ended up infoming the Spanish government. A New-Yorkean solicitor of Dali came to try and explain to Gala that she needed to stop. I left, despite the master’s insisting on me staying.

Are you going to write the memoirs of this exciting time?
They have already been written, it only remains to publish them…

Translated from French by Julia Shuvalova

The Original Paolo Veronese Pieta Found In Tashkent

While some Russians openly express disdain for workers from Uzbekistan, the capital of the CIS state has now got an impressive claim to fame. A painting Pieta (The Mourning of Christ) at the Tashkent Art Museum that has long been considered by someone unknown is declared to have been painted by Paolo Veronese, a celebrated master of the late Italian Renaissance. The one currently shown by RIA Novosti website does indeed resemble Veronese’s manner and lighting:

Paolo Veronese, La Pieta (RIA Novosti)

The painting that used to hang on the third floor of the art museum was brought to Tashkent by the Grand Duke Nikolas Constantinovich (1850-1918). His diary mentions that this was an original painting, most likely brought from one of his journeys to Europe in 1860-70s. However, it was only the restoration works that led to revisiting the diaries, conducting analyses and eventually declaring that Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum happens to own the painting by the great Italian.

The leader of the restoration project Dilshod Azizov said that more “important announcements” were to made at a later stage.

The initial announcement came earlier in November, and the Radio Liberty correspondents and art historians from the West were not quite sure the canvas could indeed belong to Veronese, although they did not doubt its Venetian origins.

The Grand Duke Nikolas was an eccentric member of the Russian imperial family, and Tashkent museum holds another testimony of the love for Italian art on the part of this Romanov. During one of his voyages to Europe with his beloved Fanny Lear, a divorcée from America, he visited the villa Borghese where he saw a nude sculpture of Polina Borghese, Napoleon’s sister, by Antonio Canova. The Grand Duke was so impressed that he commissioned a similar sculpture to an Italian master Tommaso Solari, but obviously with Fanny’s face instead of Polina’s. The exact copy was later sent to St. Petersburg where it stood in a park for a number of years. When the Grand Duke was already in exile, forever separated from his beloved American, his mother found the sculpture during a walk in the park and decided to send it to Tashkent.

So the exact copy of Canova’s sculpture commemorating an American woman who, inadvertently perhaps, led the Grand Duke to ruin, can now be seen in full glory at Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum. But a Western or Russian traveller need not to go so far to see it: a smaller copy is displayed at the Yussupov Palace in St. Petersburg.

Tommaso Solari, a copy after Antonio Canova,
Tashkent State Fine Arts Museum (Wikipedia)

A Bout du Souffle (Longing for a Vacation)

Last night in a company of several translators we discussed the fact that Jean-Luc Godard’s title, A Bout du Souffle, is not correctly translated in either Russian, or English. The original title indicates that the protagonist is about to have the last breath; the translation suggests that he is doing something, barely breathing. It may be hard to grasp the difference, but it does exist.

The mis-translation is quite applicable in my case because I have been working on a project for over a year now, and I feel veeery tired. I hope I can get a vacation soon, for I am very glad to be engaged in this project, so I need to recharge the batteries.

In the meantime, just to give you a heads-up about what I’ve written/done and may be of use to you here are some links to Qype reviews (which are not getting posted directly to the blog for some reason):

Cathedral on the Blood (Yekaterinburg)

Heaton Park (Prestwich)

Manchester Craft and Design Centre (Manchester)

Central Library (Manchester)

Olivier Morosini Hairdressing (Manchester)

Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow)

The Albert Memorial (London)

I’m also in the process of compiling a couple of Russian guides for Qype; in the meantime, here are some I did in the past:

Best places to write in Manchester

Manchester Public Transport

Manchester Streets

Monuments in Manchester

Moscow Museums

Northern Quarter

Parks and Squares in Manchester

Marc Chagall, Window to the Garden

Last but not least, an exhibition of little-known works by Marc Chagall is open at the Tretyakov Gallery until 30 September. It features his illustrations to My Life autobiography, etchings to the Bible, The Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, and Lafontin’s Fables, the ceramic 6-piece table set for his daughter’s marriage, as well as many little-known paintings and collages. The exhibition is generously augmented by the artefacts of Jewish everyday life between the second half of 19th and early 20th cc.: menoras, cups, hanukkiahs, painted wall rugs, sketches of decorated tomb stones, and even a marriage contract. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue. If you wonder, I’ve been there this week and was very pleased. The display celebrates Chagall’s 125th birthday anniversary and comes as a part of the Literature and Language Year between Russia and France.

Pedro Saenz – La Tumba del Poeta

pedro-saenz-tumba-del-poeta
Pedro Saenz, The Poet’s Tomb
madrid-monument-pain-of-matador
Pain of the Matador (photo by Greg Wesson)

The painting by Pedro Saenz La Tumba del Poeta reminds me of two things. One, is Pain of the Matador monument in Madrid; another is a poem by Nikolai Zabolotsky written shortly before his death when he and Alexander Tvardovsky visited Italy and stopped in Ravenna by Dante’s tomb. I translated this poem but I’m still slightly unhappy with two stanzas, so I’ll omit them.

To Florence-mother always a stepson,
I chose Ravenna as my final home.
Stranger, accuse me not; let Death alone
Torment the soul of the cheating one.

I didn’t take my broken lyre with me.
It rests in peace among my native people.
Why then you, Tuscany, for whom I’ve longed so deeply,
Now on my orphaned mouth are kissing me?

Go on, almight bellman, ring your bells!
The world is still awash with blood-red foam!
I chose Ravenna as my final home
But even here I found no rest.

Julia Shuvalova © 2012