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Category Archives: Exploring

in which this Judith makes plans to travel to visit the artwork of Judith

Judith out and about: Dayton

So close and yet so far.  The Dayton Art Institute is only 38 miles from my home base, yet I have never ventured there. I’m a little obsessed with fuel efficiency so I was trying to combine the trip with another task, but there was no errand to take me that direction. Or there was an errand – but not enough time to stop. And finally — after all the years of writing this blog –the perfect opportunity presented itself.

Today was a success! Two Judith’s and a special exhibit of Alphonse Mucha!!

One of my earliest posts was “Judith’s chest” — focusing on the story of Judith on a decorated cassone, or bridal chest, crafted by The Master of Marradi. The image was tiny, so it was a thrill to see all 5 feet of the wood panel up close.

The Master of Marradi, “The Story of Judith and Holofernes,” 15th century, Tempera on wood panel, 15.75 x 58.5 in., Dayton Art Museum, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Now that I can get a closer view moving right to left, it is clear Judith is striking a repeated blow to Holofernes neck as the maid waits to catch his severed head — and the soldiers are looking totally disinterested. Those bed curtains must be thoroughly sound-proof.

Next the duo can be seen strolling back to Bethulia with Holofernes’ head in a basket, once again flanked by unsuspecting soldiers.

Then finally the soldiers find the headless body of their commander — mysteriously dressed in his blue armor although he was naked in bad moments before — and they appear to become alarmed. A little late.

So yes — this artwork is much better viewed at close range.

Seeing the second Judith also helped to settle a question. This painting was discussed in “Judith as film noir ” and it was determined that multiple versions exist. Since thousands of miles and over two years separate my view of the original and this copy, it is hard to compare.  But the painting at DAI is definitely not inferior.  Judith is still lovely, the maid is still looking expectantly, and Holofernes is still detached from his body — minus his gaping mouth. However, this painting is incredibly dark in comparison to the photo of the Saraceni in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. So dark I wish I had a flashlight. Even though I appreciate that low lighting can make a woman look … younger.

Carlo Saraceni, “Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” c.1615-1620, Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 42.5 in, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA

 

The other success of the day was the exhibit “Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau.”  The exhibition presents 75 works from the private Dhawan Collection of original lithographs, proofs, drawings, and posters in addition to books and portfolios of one of the originators of French Art Nouveau. Although he never got around to depicting Judith, Mucha did produce a lithograph of Salome (that slut) as a carefree gypsy.  But more importantly, his style did influence later artists who depicted Judith as a sexualized femme fatale in the early decades of the 20th century. And set standards for advertising imagery.

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), “Salome,” 1897, lithograph, 31 × 41 cm, Dhawan Collection

 

Although Mucha did not have the forethought to immortalize Judith, the museum does have works by other artists that were astute enough to chose her as their subject at one point.   A fine portrait by Henner

Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905), “Head of a Woman”, circa 1900, Oil on canvas, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA

 

And one of my most favorite contemporary artists, a treatment by Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley (1977- ), “The Honourable Augustus Keppel, Admirable of the Blue II”, 2006, Oil on canvas, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA

 

Plus I have to give a nod to the equally lethal Jael ..

Alessandro Turchi (1578–1649), “Jael and Sisera,” circa 1600-1610, Oil on copper, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, USA

It was a good day for a short drive and a gem of an art museum.

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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Loreto

Technically, this is not a painting of Judith. Nor is it a painting of a severed head. But it IS a painting of one of the most powerful and vengeful women I have ever seen.

Behold the Cochimi Princess — royalty of the aboriginal people of central Baja California peninsula.

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Alejandro Curiel, “Cochimi Princess”, 2014, mural, Municipal Palace, Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico

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This is one wall of a mural that extends around the atrium and up the stairwell of the Municipal Palace of Loreto, Mexico.  The range of historical characters depicted include a Jesuit priest and some local musicians, in addition to regional plants and animals.  Other images of this magnificent work by Alejandro Curiel can be viewed on BajaNomad.

In this section of the mural, the Cochimi Princess is larger than life and scary as shit.  Sitting upon a throne of golden eagle wings, her upper body is painted black with her eyes rimmed in red.  She is depicted as a warrior, with attendants wielding a spear and a bow — flanked by griffins (mythological creatures with the head of an eagle and body of a lion). While there are no severed heads in view, I would not be surprised they are hidden behind the boulders.

Although the princess may be mythological, the Cochimi people of the Baja peninsula were very real. They were first encountered by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, then again by Jesuits who came to establish missions in the late 17th century.  The Mission San Javier established in 1699 is one example.  The cave paintings known as the Great Murals of Baja California are attributed to the Cochimi’s shamanic rituals, and the paintings of Sierra de San Francisco were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1993 for their significance to universal cultural traditions.

I imagine that — just as Judith defended the Bethulian’s from the attack of the Assyrians — the Cochimi Princess was prepared to defend the Baja natives from invaders.  However, she was unable to defend them from epidemics of Old World diseases that eventually caused the extinction of her culture — leaving only the cave paintings to recall their existence.

Let me add that Loreto and the surrounding area in the Baja Peninsula are charming and historic.  On the Sea of Cortez and north of the playground of Cabo San Lucas, Loreto is a cozy waterfront town set between the dramatic “La Giganta” Mountain Range and the Bahía de Loreto National Marine Park. The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries as the first Spanish colonial settlement in the peninsula.  The Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto is located in the center of town while Mission San Javier is located in the mountains west of town. Also in the mountains are two of the paintings of Sierra de San Francisco: “Cuevas Pintas” (15 km to the west) and “La Pingüica” (60 km to the North). And if you are really fortunate, you may see Blue Whales breaching and Mobula Rays flying out of the gulf waters — depending on how much local beer and tequila you imbibe.

 

 

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Posted by on June 12, 2017 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: St. Louis

First a HUGE “Thank You” to the city of St. Louis for giving FREE admission to their glorious Art Museum and Zoo in Forest Park.

Because it gave me the perfect opportunity to play hooky and be a tourist.  And I happened to review the original post on Vasari just yesterday and realized “Wow, I really LIKE this painting!”  So how could I pass up the opportunity to see it up-close-and-personal?

In which case, it is even more inspiring.

In “Judith works out”, I talked about this artwork before seeing it in person.  The simple image on the internet hinted at the strength of this Judith.  In a room full of other early Renaissance paintings, this is still a stand-out.  The crispness of the profiles and the uniqueness of the colors sets it apart from contemporaries — even if it wasn’t about Judith.

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Two works by another artist of the late Renaissance are also part of the St. Louis Art Museum’s collection:  “The Discovery of the Body of Holofernes” and “Judith Displaying the Head of Holofernes” by Luca Giordano.  These two are part of a practice series for the ceiling of the chapel of Certosa di San Martino in Naples entitled “The Triumph of Judith.” — discussed in Judith on top.  The amount of activity in these paintings is overwhelming with churning horses, panicking soldiers and soaring angels — culminating in God appearing on a cloud above the scene.

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Yes, it’s always gratifying to find an artist who puts Judith in her well-deserved vaunted position in the world.  Pretty much how I envision myself every day.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in Exploring, No category

 

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Judith out and about: Los Angeles

I waited too long to write about seeing Judith in Europe, so I am now driven to write about my most recent encounters with Judith before the memories fade.  Therefore, before I unpack and pack again, I will share my day in Los Angeles.

It starts with a trip to the Getty Museum.  As with many of my trips, there was not enough time because I was not prepared for the magnitude of the museum.  The site and architecture is breath-taking in ways I can’t describe. I did follow a guide through the special exhibit, Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV.  And I would have followed guides throughout the day but had to move quickly because “LA traffic, you know.”  Of particular interest was Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts, because I was after Hans Schilling’s Barlaam and Josaphat (1469) that contains a page about Judith.  The book is on display, but sadly the pages are open to Josaphat Meeting a Blind Man and a Beggar.  <sigh> I wonder how often they turn the pages and how long it takes to get back to Judith?

I did see something NOT about Judith but one degree removed from Judith: a painting of Danaë” by Orazio Gentileschi, newly acquired by the museum and prominently displayed. The painting depicts Danaë in her locked room recieving Zeus in the guise of a shower of gold – which results in the birth of Perseus, an event his grandfather tried to prevent because it was foretold his grandson would kill him (Which he did in a freak accident with a discus, go figure). Next to murderous biblical heroines, mythical allergories are a favorite subject, especially when trickery and unforeseen consequences are involved.

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Orazio Gentileschi, “Danaë”, 1621, oil on canvas, 161.3 x 226.7 cm, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

 

Even though the Schilling manuscript was open to the wrong page, I did get to see another item from my catalog:  a stage prop from Martha Graham’s 1950 production Judith, representing The Tent of Holofernes.  It does not appear to provide protection from sun or rain but it is a substantial garden structure. Plus the guard had to shoo away several school children because it would also make a nice jungle gym.

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Isamu Noguchi, “Tent of Holofernes,” 1950, bronze, 108 x 109 x 54 in, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

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Isamu Noguchi, “Tent of Holofernes,” 1950, bronze, 108 x 109 x 54 in, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

 

From the Sculpture Garden, I headed back to Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Once again, there was not enough time because I was not prepared for the magnitude of the museum complex.  I did take a guided tour of their Modern Art collection which was an excellent choice for me given my limited understanding of that period. Learned A Lot about appreciating modern styles in a short amount of time.

The Baroque Collection was my actual destination in order to find the Doccia porcelain of “Judith and Holofernes” (1746-50).  Apparently made after a bronze by Agostina Cornacchini, this piece is both delicate and strong with intricate features considering the relatively small size.  And I am still a little obsessed with the headboard of the bed.

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After Agostino Cornacchini, “Judith and Holofernes,” 1746-50, Doccia porcelain with original wood base, 17 in.without base, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

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And then I took a risk.  A Huge Risk.  Because one of my favorite portrayers of Judith lives and works in LA, I mapped out a plan to go to the gallery where he exhibits.  Only, I found he no longer exhibits at that gallery. So I sent an email asking if there was another exhibit space … and his partner invited me to the studio.

That is an invitation I am not going to pass up no mater what the traffic is like.

Thus I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Emil Kazaz and his muse, Monet. I cannot say enough nice things about the hospitality and generosity of this couple. They spent at least an hour with a stranger discussing our mutual obsession with Judith, their passion for Emil’s art, and his upcoming exhibits in Russia and Dubai.

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Judith, Judith IV and Emil in the studio

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Emil Kazaz, “Judith IV,” 2016, Bronze, 21 x 15 x 12 in,

 

The visit was electrifying. Not only did I have the opportunity to see his latest Judith IV along with several works in progress but … Emil sketched my portrait! I’m immortal!! Thanks so much again to Monet and Emil.

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Judith and Emil Kazaz

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Emil Kazaz, “Judith” 2016, ink on paper

 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Budapest

End of the road for Judith – this time.

Budapest in June is lovely.  The Danube is lovely and the restored buildings are lovely. The people on the streets are lovely – even if I can’t read any of the signs.  I mean, who would not be happy to arrive at a hotel and find this:

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I was hoping to see Giovanni della Robbia’s terra cotta statuette of Judith in the Museum of Fine Arts.  But there were two problems:  (1) the Museum of Fine Arts was closed for major renovations and select items have been moved to the Hungarian National Gallery in Buda Castle – which i knew in advance – but (2) no one could confirm if the della Robbia was one of those items. The only way to confirm the location of the statuette was to go to the museum and look for it.  Oh my, if I had to go to Buda Castle then I would do it.

If I had to stop in a street side cafe with a view of Matthias Church, then I would do it. And if I had to eat goulash and drink Hungarian wine, then I would do it.  All for the sake of art.

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Maybe that explains the deteriorating quality of my photography.

Keeping with the theme of surprise, the visit to the Hungarian National Gallery did not disappoint.  The first surprise:  Giovanni della Robbia’s terra cotta statuette of Judith was not on display.  But the second surprise:  there were two Judith‘s I have never seen before!

The first new Judith is statue by László Dunaiszky (1822-1904), that does appear in the museum catalog as “Judit es Holofernes” – if you would like to view a better image.  Judith is rather expressionless but Holofernes looks somewhat astonished.

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László Dunaiszky (1822-1904), “Judith and Holofernes,” 1862, marble, 67 cm, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary

 

The second surprise appears to be the work of Franz Xaver Karl Palko (1724-1767).  I say “appears to be” because my photograph of the description is a complete blur.  However, this is the same composition as the work discussed in Judith wins a prize – except I thought the artwork was in Moscow.  That’s only 2000 km away, 2 days on the train or a 2.5 hour flight.

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Franz Xaver Karl Palko (1724-1767), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1745, oil on canvas, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary

 

And there is one other surprise for the day that I did not even recognize until much later. I purchased a teeshirt with traditional Hungarian embroidery to wear on the return flight home, only to find upon my return it had been handmade by … Judith!!

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Home again!!

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Vienna day 2

Just when you think there could not be more Judith, there are.

Two destinations today with two different outcomes.  The first is the Leopold Museum, across from the Kunsthistorisches Museum – but representing an entirely unique period in the development of artistic expression.  The core of the collection is Austrian art of the early 20th century, featuring the transformation from Wiener Secession, Art Nouveau/Jugendstil movement to Expressionism. Although I came primarily to view Kolomon Moser’s Judith and Holofernes,  I lingered to learn about the intricate lives of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and the women that influenced their lives.  This is an exhibit space that flows easily and provides insight into the lifestyles that spawned the movement away from traditional art to alternate forms of expression that underpin Modern Art today.

But back to Kolomom Moser.  Even within the context of the Leopold, this painting of Judith is still a departure for the artist.  Although it takes on more form in person, I can only surmise Moser was playing with red pigments when he conceived it.  Having recently heard a lecture on Wassily Kandinsky and his fascination with color symbolism and psychology, I wonder if there was some influence from afar.

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Koloman Moser (1868–1918),” Judith und Holofernes,” 1916, Oil on canvas, 49.5 x 37.9 cm, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria

Maybe it’s all the angst of the time period that drove me to take a detour.  Or maybe it’s all the years I spent studying Psychology (and years and years).  Or maybe I’m just an egghead who loves history – but probably it’s all three that lead me to this address.

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Actually, the small museum in Freud’s apartment/office is fascinating but the wine shop around the corner was equally invigorating.

The truth is there is much more to see in Vienna and not enough time on this trip.  In fact, there was really not enough time for my last destination so I saw a small portion of the immense complex known as The Belvedere.  But, OH the things I saw in that small portion!!

 

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View from the Upper Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

 

First, the one thing I can show you – because the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere has an inconsistent policy regarding photography.  Without any idea what I was walking into, one room of the museum is devoted to Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783) – a German-Austrian sculptor who seems to have something in common with Arcimboldo.  That “something” being a penchant for creating portraits that deviate substantially from traditional depictions.  Perhaps due to an underlying mental illness in later life or to visitations by the spirit Hermes Trismegistus, Messerschmidt began to devote his work to “character heads” that represent the 64 canonical grimaces of the human face. The museum owns sixteen of these sculptures, displayed on 4-foot plinths that bring them to eye-level. Arrayed in a circle, they really are a most unusual and unsettling sight – and a curiosity of art.


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But about that inconsistent policy regarding photography: use of a camera is allowed through-out the galleries UNTIL you reach the Klimt collection.  I am usually very attuned to restrictions on photography and respectful of the policy. HOWEVER, I am taking the time to rant here because (a) it was not clear that photos were not allowed in the Klimt galleries, (b) while the guard was yelling at me for trying to take one discrete photo of Klimt’s Judith AT LEAST THREE PEOPLE NEXT TO ME TOOK PICTURES!! and (c) the guard then FOLLOWED ME through the remaining rooms while people continued to take photos all around. I began to wonder if he was actually an escapee from the Messerschmidt exhibit (where pictures are are allowed BTW)!!

Putting the rant aside, the Klimt collection is perfectly enchanting.  The twenty-four works form the largest collection of oil paintings by Klimt in the world, ranging from portraits and landscapes to allegorical scenes.  By far, the most famous are The Kiss (1908/1909) and Judith (1901) – exhibited in a darkened room to allow the gold pigments to radiate. And while The Kiss is truly spectacular, of course I was enrapt by my namesake.

Gustav Klimt, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 1901, oil on canvas, 84 × 42 cm, Austrian Gallery, Vienna, Austria

Gustav Klimt, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1901, Oil on canvas, 84 × 42 cm, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

 

Revisiting Judith goes Full-on Femme Fatale, I still feel the same after seeing her in person: “She beautiful but kind of scary.   Powerful but kind of sinister. Glittering but kind of tarnished. Who I want to be but kind of not.”  She does what art is meant to do: to reveal insights that are normally obscured by direct observation and to enrich experience – even if somewhat disturbing.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Vienna day 1

At this point in writing about the trip to visit Judith, I have surprised even myself with the immensity of the task. And as I prepare to write about the day in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, I am once again overwhelmed and delighted at the opportunity to see these artworks in person.  I mean, who wouldn’t be excited when this duo greets you at the front steps?

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Musicians in front of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

Although those two were hard to miss,  it would be easy to miss Gustav Klimt’s pictorial cycle of the periods of art that decorates the arches above the entrance staircase if you are not prepared to look upward.  Of course, Vienna is the epicenter of everything Klimt – and if you are entranced by his work, the museum even provides a telescope in order to provide a close-up view of the soaring murals. If you follow in my footsteps, Do Not Miss these thirteen semi-hidden treasures!

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Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Pendentive paintings of the periods of art, 1890, Entrance staircase, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

Also before I launched into rapture over the many paintings of Judith in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, I would like to take a moment to comment on the doorways to the salons – specifically to the busts above the doorways.  I don’t know who they are, but in every salon they look down on the patrons from a protective perch.  Rather than being creepy or intimidating, I felt rather welcomed and encouraged by their presence.  So here is to the door monitors, whoever you are.

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Using the audioguide provided by the museum, I began with the Italian Renaissance painters who proceeded in somewhat chronological order. It was somewhat an orgy of artwork and Judith was a prominent participant …

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Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), “Judith with the head of Holofernes, c.1580, Oil on canvas, 111 x 100.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Salon IV, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Liss Johann (1597 c. -1631) Judith with the head of Holofernes,” 1622, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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after Cristofano Allori (1577–1621), “Judith with the head of Holofernes (1),” 1613, Oil on canvas, 120.4 x 100.3 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620), “Judith Presenting the Head of Holofernes,” 1610-1615, oil on canvas, 90 x 79 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Simon Vouet (1590-1649), “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1615-1620, Oil on canvas, 115 x 86 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651), “Judith presents Holofernes’ head to the people,” 1593, Oil on oakwood, 34.5 x 44.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

With all this astounding artwork to admire, when I finally turned the corner to the Northern Renaissance I can hardly complain about one piece that is missing.  Hardly …

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… except it’s a Judith by Lucas Cranach the Elder.  The only artist who was more obsessed with Judith than I am. So a few tears were shed, a couple of curse words escaped and there may had been foot stomping and a pout.

So in place of Judith, I contemplated three Saxony princesses who look a lot like Judith.  Because in the end, most of Cranach’s portraits of Judith resemble each other.  A lot.  In fact, I think she might have borrowed clothing that belong to these princesses …

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), “Sybilla, Emilia, and Sidonia von Sachsen, Princesses of Saxony,” c.1535, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

However, my disappointment was short lived when I realized a side gallery held one of my favorite artists who did not paint Judith – Arcimboldo!!  Although he did create a stained glass window for her, Arcimboldo never immortalized Judith in produce – even though she would have been a ripe subject.

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Winter,” 1563, oil on linden wood, 66.6 x 50.5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Water,” 1566, oil on linden wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593), “The Summer,” 1553, oil on linden wood, 67 x 51 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

Yes, it was a frenzy of fine art but well worth it.  I outlasted the musicians and I’m ready for another day!

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Still standing, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

 

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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Exploring

 

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