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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,” 1612, 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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Judith out and about: Munich day 2

When I look back, I wonder: did I really see all this in one day?  Two museums with over a thousand works of art and a palace with ten courtyards and one-hundred-thirty rooms?  My feet say “Yes” and my bladder says “Hell, yes!”  Oh, what I do for Judith.

The day began at Alte Pinakothek, which brings together art from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods. Unfortunately, there is no photography allowed, so I have no record of my visit.  But I did have the opportunity to view Simon Vouet’s “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” – one of four that he painted.  She did seem to be just as relaxed as I imagined in Judith and Belle Watling.

Simon Vouet, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 1615-27, oil on canvas, 96.8 x 73.3 cm, Old Pinakothek of Munich, Munich, Germany

Simon Vouet, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 1615-27, oil on canvas, 96.8 x 73.3 cm, Old Pinakothek of Munich, Munich, Germany

 

Around the corner is Neue Pinakothek, the first public museum in Europe dedicated to contemporary art ranging from Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Art Deco, and Impressionism.  My goal was “Judith”  by August Riedel, and the first thing to note: this painting is so much more beautiful than an image on the internet can ever convey.  The color, the detail, the subtle expression on her face – it has to be seen in person. And it is the size of real life.

August Riedel (1802–1883), “Judith,” 1840, Oil on canvas, 131 x 96 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

 

The color and texture of the fabric give the impression it could be touched. No wonder I titled the previous post on this artwork Judith gets real.

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August Riedel (1802–1883), detail of “Judith,” 1840, Oil on canvas, 131 x 96 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

 

Of course, there is so much more than Judith in this collection and I am glad to have the excuse to roam.  Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Klimt all on crisp,clean well-lit display. And then this surprize:

Gabriel von Max (1840-1915), "Monkeys as Judges of Art," 1889

Gabriel von Max (1840-1915), “Monkeys as Judges of Art,” 1889, Oil on canvas, 84.5 x 107.5 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

 

As I learned, Gabriel Max was also interested in anthropological studies and surrounded himself with a family of monkeys, which he painted often.  I wonder what the art critics really thought?

Almost dead center of the city is Munich Residenz, the former royal residence of the Bavarian monarchs and largest city palace in Germany.  In one of the ten courtyards, I stopped for a late lunch before entering the galleries.  Although the first buildings at this site were erected in 1385, alterations were made up until King Ludwig III of Bavaria occupied the palace shortly before the revolution of 1918.  It was his father, King Ludwig II of Bavaria – builder of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles – who commissioned the elaborate (but leaky) Winter Garden on the roof of the Festsaalbau. A brief tribute to the Swan King seemed appropriate before renewing the search for Judith.

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Swan King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1864-1886), Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

 

Within the vast halls of the residence, there are two Judiths to be found with the help of a detailed map. The most amazing room in the residence is the Antiquarium (Room 7), which at 66 meters (216.5 feet) is the largest and most lavish Renaissance hall north of the Alps.  It has to be seen to be believed for immensity and elaborateness of the decoration.  But alas, no Judith.

Onward to the Imperial Hall (Room 111), which in the 17th century was the largest and most important room for festivities and ceremonies.  The theme of the imagery is “princely rule based on reason and virtue,” depicted in heroic figures from classical antiquity and the Old Testament as examples of virtuous behavior. So of course, this is where we find Judith.

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Imperial Hall (Room 111), Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

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Tapestries and “Judith,” Imperial Hall (Room 111), Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

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unknown artist, “Judith,” 17th century, Imperial Hall (Room 111), Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

 

If I can read the Latin inscription correctly, it says “Hoc ducis assirii caput est Juditha recidit. Sobria mens vincit, ebria victa iacet” – which translates roughly to “This is the head of the Assyrian general Judith cut off.  A sober mind overcomes drunken lies.”  An appropriate reminder before entering any occasion serving alcohol – or falsehoods. Until a latin scholar provides a better translation, in which case I may still prefer my own.

The Green Gallery (Room 58) is next, another setting for splendid festivities but was also a picture and mirror gallery.

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Green Gallery (Room 58) , Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

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“Judith and Holofernes” above door in Green Gallery (Room 58) , Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

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follower of Caravaggio, “Judith and Holofernes,” 17th century, Green Gallery (Room 58), Munich Residenz, Munich, Germany

 

And it was about the time I found the last Judith in the deepest area of the residence that I realized: they had no accessible indoor plumbing due to renovations and the nearest restroom was sixty galleries away.

Sixty galleries.

No, I did not stop to take pictures. Only this one as a reminder: always visit the bathroom before entering a royal palace – unless you happen to be royal and have a valet with a chamberpot.

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Remember what you mother said: Use the bathroom before car trips … and tours of royal palaces.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Munich day 1

A lovely train ride north from Verona brings me to Munich and more art devoted to Judith. I started at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum) because, well, it is one of the most important museums of decorative arts in Europe.  In addition, it is one of the largest art museums in Germany – although frankly I was focused and skipped a few centuries.

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Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, Germany

 

The goal was Conrad Meit’s diminutive Judith, discussed in Judith is exposed.  In addition to being petite, she is a study in contrasts – virtuous and voluptuous, well-coiffed and unclothed, feminine pose and ferocious sword, demote and deadly.  Yes, Meit captured a lot of meaning in a relatively small statuette.

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Conrad Meit (1480-1550), “Judith,” 1510-15,, Painted marble, height: 30 cm, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, Germany

 

The second stop for the day was Villa Stuck.  I knew I was taking a chance that “Judith and Holofernes” (1927) would not be in the house … and it was not.  But the visit to this museum was far from a waste of my time because the vision of Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) is fully on display.  Discussed in Judith and Lili, Von Stuck had a non-traditional perspective on art.  He co-founded the Munich Secession to transform ideas of what constitutes art and embarked on making art part of ordinary life – in everything from architecture to furniture.  Villa Stuck is the manifestation of this approach, in which you see Von Stuck/s art in the interior design and furnishings in addition to his paintings.

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Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany

 

So in the place of Judith, the Villa showcases one of Von Stuck’s first artworks to ignite attention to his erotic style: The Sin (Die Sünde), 1893.  In fact, it is placed over the infamous Sin Altar designed by Von Stuck – which is adorned by statuettes from antiquity and nautilus shells rather than items associated with sin.

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Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany

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Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), “The Sin,” 1893, oil on canvas, 90.2 x 53.3 cm, Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany

 

At least it’s not that attention whore, Salome.

For a scholarly video on The Sin (Die Sünde) that is also fairly provocative, visit Khan Academy: Symbolism & Art Nouveau – Stuck, The Sin.

And I almost forgot: there was a lovely exhibit about Hans Christiansen on the third floor.  He was also one of the proponents of German Jugendstil but his style was much lighter, his pallet much brighter and his subjects tended to focus on nature mores than heighten sexuality. At least that was the impression of this exhibit that also featured snippets about his successful family life.  No murderous heroines included.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Verona

Many lovers flock to Verona to celebrate Shakespeare’s romantic tale of Romeo and Juliette. Little do they know that the Castelvecchio Museum of Verona also houses paintings of Judith – a lover of another sort.

Actually, Verona is home to many interesting historic points of interest as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Castelvecchio is not even the most significant (that honor goes to the Roman amphitheatre, Piazza Bra, Ponte di Pietra, Arco dei Gavi, Porta Borsari and numerous Medieval structures).  But on the trail of Judith, the museum provides two fine examples of the story of Holofernes fate.

First from Judith gets a giggle, Pietro Ricchi’s tenebrism on display as Judith prepares for a delighted exit from the tent with the Head of Holofernes.  In detail, she really looks quite pleased with herself and a little … provocative.

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Pietro Ricchi (Lucchese) (1606 c.-1675), “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” Oil on canvas, 83 x 99 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

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Pietro Ricchi (Lucchese) (1606 c.-1675), detail “Judith with the head of Holofernes,” Oil on canvas, 83 x 99 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

The second telling of the tale is by Giovanni Giuseppe dal Sole.  Or maybe Gian Gioseffo dal Sole, depending on how his name is spelled that day. When I wrote Judith touched by an angel, I had only a small image of the painting to view.  As you can see, it is actually life-sized!  So I could not help but try to insert myself into this moment in art history.  At least I did not try the protagonist’s role.

dal SoleGiovanni Giuseppe/Gioseffo (1654-1719) Judith inspired by the angel 1697 Oil on canvas 210 x 290 cm Museo di Castelvecchio Verona IT

Giovanni Giuseppe dal Sole (1654-1719), “Judith inspired by the angel,” 1697, Oil on canvas, 210 x 290 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

Giovanni Giuseppe dal Sole (1654-1719), "Judith inspired by the angel," 1697, Oil on canvas, 210 x 290 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

Giovanni Giuseppe dal Sole (1654-1719), “Judith inspired by the angel,” 1697, Oil on canvas, 210 x 290 cm, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

 
It helps to meet a professional photographer along the way.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Exploring

 

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Judith out and about: Milan day 3

Here is the worst part about procrastinating: you lose things in the interim. Just as I may have lost the photographs of one of the BEST mornings of my life.  Losing the photographic record may be one of the worst.

The story begins with Judith wanders the streets – a post detailing the street art of Christian Guémy, aka C215.  Through persistence and internet sleuthing, I found the location in an industrial section of Milan.  So on a quiet Sunday morning – my last day in the city – I braved the subway system to look for the street. By an amazing coincidence, the location was just one block from the station exit in Isola!  As I stood there taking pictures, a group of segway tourists drove by – American segway tourists (because who else is dorky enough to ride a segway)!  Since I was in the middle of the street anyway, I took a chance and asked one of the group to take my picture in front of the artwork.

And now – a year later – I can’t find it.  Would St. Anthony give me a little assistance even now?

HOLY CRAP the answer is yes!! Because here are the photographs for which I was searching!

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Via Gaetano do Castillia in Isola, Milan, Italy

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Via Gaetano do Castillia in Isola, Milan, Italy

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Via Gaetano do Castillia in Isola, Milan, Italy

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Christian Gummy (C215) (1973- ), “Judith et Olofernes,” 2010, Stencil work, Spray paint on metal, Via Gaetano do Castillia in Isola, Milan, Italy

That guy on the Segway was actually very talented for balancing on a platform, operating an iPhone, and confronting a crazy woman in the middle of the street.  Wouldn’t you agree?

But now for something completely different – and more surprises.

The next stop: La Scala.  Yes, La Scala – as in  the official name Teatro all Scala, the most famous opera house in the world.  Let me be honest right here:  I know next to nothing about opera, not even sure I enjoy opera although I do acknowledge the immense talent and rich history of the art form. Maybe if I learned Italian (or German) I would LOVE opera, but at this moment I am a Philistine about it. But even a Philistine knows that La Scala has hosted many of the finest singers in the world during the past 200 years. And I can certainly manage going through the Museum of Teatro alla Scala. 

And in the very first room of the museum: Judith on the lid of a pianoforte. Although the portrait to the right looks none-to-happy about her neighbor.

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Judith Returning with the Head of Holofernes, spinet lid, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

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Giving Judith the stink eye, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

The spinet

In the remaining rooms of the museum are numerous artworks devoted to another Judith – Giuditta Angiola Maria Constanza Pasta, perhaps the greatest of opera singers and certainly one of the most famous attrice cantante (singer actresses) in history. She was discussed briefly in Now for something completely different (LXIV).

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Gioacchino Seranglei (1768-1852) “Portrait of the singer, Giuditta Pasta,” oil on wood, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

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Karl Brullow (1799-1852), “Portrait of the singer Giuditta Pasta,” oil on canvas, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

 

Between 1824 and 1837, Pasta sang regularly in London, Paris, Milan and Naples. From 1830-31 in Milan, three roles were written specifically for her voice and became her major successes: Donizetti’s Anna Bolena given at the Teatro Carcano, Amina in Bellini’s La sonnambula and his Norma. Her performance also contributed to the success of La Scala, and she is appropriately immortalized in its halls.

 

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Borcacchi, “The singer Giuditta Pasta,” watercolor on card, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

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Giovanni Battista Comolli (1775-1831), bust of Giuditta Pasta, marble, Museum of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in No category

 

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Judith out and about: Milan day 2

The second day in Milan contained two destinations:  Pinacoteca Ambrosian and Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco. Oh joy! And two entirely different experiences.

The Pinacoteca Ambrosian is off the beaten path – small and quiet and intense.  The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco IS the Beaten Path – large and loud and a kaleidoscope of activity.

So why these two extremes? Think library versus castle – and there lies the difference.

The Pinacoteca Ambrosian (aka Ambrosian art gallery) is part of the Biblioteca Ambrosian – a historic library founded by Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631), who searched Western Europe, Greece, and Syria for books and manuscripts.  Perhaps the most exciting acquisition was twelve manuscripts of Leonardo DaVinci, including the Codex Atlantic’s – covering subjects from mechanics to hydraulics, from sketches for paintings to mathematics and astronomy, from philosophical meditations to fables, including curious inventions such as parachutes, war machineries and hydraulic pumps – all written in DaVinci’s curious code. But I was not there for DaVinci – no, it is always about Judith.  And the Pinacoteca Ambrosian contains two:  Andrea Fabrizi Parmigiana’s Judith with the Head of Holofernes,16th century (from Judith in a stew) and Giuseppe Vermiglio’s Judith and Holofernes, 1623-25 (from Judith is cleansed).  Alas, no cameras allowed, but both paintings are much more engaging than their photographs.

Biblioteca Ambrosian, Milan, Italy

Biblioteca Ambrosian, Milan, Italy

 

The path to the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco was no less historic but more well-known.  Castello Sforzesco (aka Sforza Castle) was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the foundation of a 14th-century fort. The most prolific owner was Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), the patron of many artists including Leonardo DaVinci and the man who commissioned The Last Supper – as well as Lady with an Ermine to portray his mistress, Cecilia Gallerani.  My goal here was Giulio Cesare Procaccini’s “Judith and Holofernes” (c.1620) – a dramatic, Mannerist depiction of the psychological struggle within Judith and physical struggle between Judith and her prey. This time: photography is allowed – but it does not do the painting justice.

ProcacciniGiulio Cesare (1547 c.-1626 c.) Judith and Holofernes (3) 1620 c. Oil on canvas 182 x 140 cm Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, Room XXVI

Giulio Cesare Procaccini (1547 c.-1626 c.), Judith and Holofernes (3), c. 1620, Oil on canvas, 182 x 140 cm, Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy

 

But the ultimate prize of Castello Sforzescoi is Michelangelo’s last incomplete work, the  Pietà Rondanini

the  Pietà is a meditation on death and the salvation of the soul. In this work the sculptor discards the perfection of the human body and its heroic beauty and transforms the dead Christ into an emblem of suffering. The physical arrangement of Mary and Jesus, the mother’s head above that of the son, is suggestive of various moments of the life of Christ: the deposition from the cross; the burial and even the resurrection: in the dissolution of Christ’s body in the mother’s embrace. Left incomplete due to the death of Michelangelo, the Pietà is a testament to the last period of the great master’s creative genius. (1)

Exhibited alone in a quiet room secluded from everything else, there is a sense of being in a chapel where viewing the sculpture is an act of worship. The unfinished state of the work is raw, and the feeling of Mary’s grief is visceral as she supports the body of her crucified son. For a Michelangelo scholar, I imagine this sculpture provides insights in how he worked. But to my untrained eye, it evokes thoughts about what might have been – had he lived, had it been finished.  Then again – perhaps it is just as it was meant to be to provoke our thoughts.

Sforzesco-Pieta-Rondanini-01 Sforzesco-Pieta-Rondanini-02

 

(1) The  Pietà Rondinini, Castello Sfornisco website

 

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Exploring

 

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