Stuck in Toronto – there are worse places to be, of course – I feel the dearth of great art. It isn’t like walking around virtually any city in Italy, say, where you can be treated to absolute delights in a random manner. For Good Friday, I thought I’d post some images pertaining to the day. All three were taken in Perugia, Italy, in 2019. First two are high reliefs along the steep staircase that leads up to the Convento di Monteripido. The third is an image of Saint Veronica from inside the Tempio di Sant’Angelo (also somewhere you reach after quite a climb, something consistent with so many Umbrian cities). Her story has always enchanted me.
For all who celebrate, I wish a joyous and hopeful Easter.
Today is the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene. I love this image of her, by Italian artist Carlo Crivelli, circa 1470. She is giving some excellent side-eye. FYI, this is a detail of a larger painting.
This is a remarkable piece of writing. I don’t know the writer’s work well, but I seem to recall he did some excellent reporting on Syria and Iraq. The focus on architecture and its meaning is refreshing — I, too, am a fan of Sir Roger Scruton — and I can only hope he (the writer) isn’t entirely prophetic.
This is magnificent. I have been lucky enough to see it in person – in the Magdalena Chapel of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. Detail from Giotto’s Scenes from the Life of Mary Magdalene: Mary Magdalene sees the risen Christ.
It is the feast of St. Michael, and in honour, I give you Raphael’s 1504 St. Michael, also known as “Little St. Michael” (to distinguish it from another St. Michael painted by Raphael years later). I love this. Slay those demons, friends!
Brilliant, lovely lady. I so enjoyed this – a bit of a profile, along with her ten rules for appreciating art.
Piero della Francesca’s restored ‘Resurrection’ is ready for public consumption, to our great benefit and in time for Easter.
The fresco described by Giorgio Vasari, the father of modern art history, as the Renaissance pioneer’s “most beautiful” artwork and hailed by British novelist Aldous Huxley in 1925 in the essay “The most beautiful painting in the world”, is a symbol of Sansepolcro. Indeed gunnery officer Anthony Clarke in 1944 famously decided at the last minute not to bombard the town because he remembered about the masterpiece he would otherwise have risked destroying.
The long restoration work was carried out by Florence’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of Italy’s most well-known restoration laboratories, and the art superintendency of Arezzo and Siena, with a 100,000 euro donation from Buitoni manager Aldo Osti.
This is worth another trip to Italy.
I don’t usually do book recommendations on my site but today I will. I read insane amounts — mostly non-fiction but some fiction — and the fact that I am taking time to write about these two books tells you what they meant to me.
The books are Bettyville, by George Hodgman, and The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. In a way, they are similar: both stories about family, about the past, about loss and love and about being grateful in the present. But they are different, of course.
The Hare with Amber Eyes is drawn against the painful backdrop of the relentless (and seemingly endless) persecution of Jews in Europe, the sickness of the Holocaust, and also has a strong art history focus (something I really appreciated).
De Waal is English, but a descendant of the (originally Russian) Ephrussi family, for a time on a par with the Rothschilds (even related by marriage to them) in terms of wealth and influence in parts of Europe. Proust’s Swann is said to have been based on Charles Ephrussi.
When de Waal inherits some “netsuke” from a favorite relative (he represents the fifth generation of his family to inherit them), he decides to trace their journey, which includes stops in Paris and Japan and Vienna. And it is truly something, particularly when you discover how the netsuke escaped being stolen by the Nazis, while pretty much all the rest of the Ephrussi art was taken.
In some ways, the book reminded me of the brilliant movie, “Woman in Gold”, though the former unfolds over a much longer period of time.
Bettyville is, on the surface, a memoir with less grandeur, but Hodgman’s portrait of his mother, Betty, is mighty grand. My own mom died, just short of her 93rd birthday, last year, and I saw so much of her in Betty. Same generation, same decency, work ethic, wit, and a similar stubborn dance with declining independence. The same good, strong people.
Hodgman is a successful editor and writer who, after growing up in Missouri in the ’60s and ’70s as a clever — though struggling and often bullied — gay kid, moved to New York. Along with an enviable career, he got into drugs, went into rehab, had some dysfunctional relationships, all of which he writes about with tremendous humor and no self-pity.
When his mother began fading, he moved back, initially to find someone else to care for her, but then decided to see her home, as he says, himself. In the process he finds “home”, in a manner. It is certainly touching to see him discover Missouri — fly-over country — as an adult, after having felt out of place so often as a kid and teenager. Honestly, I laughed, I laughed so hard I cried, and I just plain cried.
Read them both!