Baltimore’s jewel: The Walters Art Museum

February 19, 2009 at 3:24 am (Art, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington))

Too long, too long have I been absent from this exquisite house of treasures. Feast your eyes:

Still Life with Allegory of Human Life -  Joris van Son (Flemish, 1623-1667)

Still Life with Allegory of Human Life - Joris van Son (Flemish, 1623-1667)

"Vanitas" Still Life - Adam Bernaert (Dutch, active ca. 1660-1669)

"Vanitas" Still Life - Adam Bernaert (Dutch, active ca. 1660-1669)

Saint Paul - Pieter Verelst (Dutch, ca. 1618-1678)

Saint Paul - Pieter Verelst (Dutch, ca. 1618-1678)

Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes - Trophime Bigot (Master of the Candlelight) (French, ca. 1579-1650)

Judith Cutting Off the Head of Holofernes - Trophime Bigot (Master of the Candlelight) (French, ca. 1579-1650)

The dramatic lighting employed by this artist put me in mind of works by Caravaggio, such as this:

The Supper at Emmaus

The Supper at Emmaus

Back to the Walters:

Winter Landscape - Joos de Momper the younger (Flemish, 1564-1635)

Winter Landscape - Joos de Momper the younger (Flemish, 1564-1635)

The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector's Cabinet - Jan Brueghel the elder (Flemish, 1568-1625) and Hieronymus Francken II (Flemish, 1578-1623)

The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector's Cabinet - Jan Brueghel the elder (Flemish, 1568-1625) and Hieronymus Francken II (Flemish, 1578-1623)

The above work is part of an installation called “The Chamber of  Art and Wonders.”

chamber It is an inspired concept – I would gladly have set up camp in that room,  for hours – even days!

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saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata -  El Greco (Greek, 1541-1614)

saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata - El Greco (Greek, 1541-1614)

Boat Shaped Salt Cellar - Patanazzi family (Italian, active ca. 1580-1620)

Boat Shaped Salt Cellar - Patanazzi family (Italian, active ca. 1580-1620)

Plate with Perseus and Andromeda - Milan Marsyas Painter (Italian, active 1525-1535)

Plate with Perseus and Andromeda - Milan Marsyas Painter (Italian, active 1525-1535)

The Mourning St. John the Evangelist, Virgin Mary, and St. Mary Magdalene - Anonymous (Italian)

The Mourning St. John the Evangelist, Virgin Mary, and St. Mary Magdalene - Anonymous (Italian)

Portrait of a man at Prayer with St. John the Baptist - Hugo van der Goes (Netherlandish, active ca. 1440-1482)

Portrait of a man at Prayer with St. John the Baptist - Hugo van der Goes (Netherlandish, active ca. 1440-1482)

Crucifix with Mourning Virgin and St. John the Evangelist - School of Florence (Italian, active ca. 13th century)

Crucifix with Mourning Virgin and St. John the Evangelist - School of Florence (Italian, active ca. 13th century)

I was stopped in my tracks by this painting, as it so resembled the Cimabue Crucifix that is invariably at the center of the story of the catastrophic  flood of 1966 in Florence, Italy.

the Cimabue Crucifix

the Cimabue Crucifix

(See Dark Water.)

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The special exhibit concerned the Saint John’s Bible. This is a remarkable undertaking:  “…a contemporary manuscript edition of the Bible commissioned by Saint John’s University in Minnesota.” Here’s the link on the Walters site.

Here is an example of the style of illustration to be found in the Bible:

the opening illustration for the Gospel according to St. Matthew

the opening illustration for the Gospel according to St. Matthew

The Saint John’s Bible has been conceived of as a Bible for the twenty-first century. A fascinating, ambitious project!

Other manuscripts and facsimiles were also on display. (The Walters has a superb early manuscript collection.) One, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, had a story behind it that grabbed me right away. In 1998, at an auction at Christie’s in New York, an anonymous collector purchased a 13th century prayerbook for 2 million dollars. The prayerbook was a palimpsest, meaning it consisted of a work written over an earlier text contained on those same pages. In the case of this particular book, the overwritten material proved to consist of several treatises by the Greek mathematician Archimedes (287-212 BC) which had been copied out by 10th century scribes of the Byzantine Empire.

the Archimedes Palimpsest

the Archimedes Palimpsest

The purchaser of the prayerbook deposited it with the Walters Art Museum for purposes of preservation, study, conservation, and exhibition. Retrieving the original text has required excruciating and painstaking effort. But the reward lies in bringing to light the oldest surviving copies of  these works, a patrimony bequeathed to later civilization by a genius of the ancient world.

Read more about the Archimedes Palimpsest.

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Admission to the Walters Art Museum is now free, though in these parlous times, arts organizations are deeply grateful for the support and contributions of their patrons. There is a delightful store, where I indulged (again!) my passion for art  books:

waltersbook

Salads and sandwiches are available in a pleasant dining area. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday; see their site for details.

3 Comments

  1. BooksPlease said,

    Just beautiful! I see you had a good time there.

  2. Mindy said,

    For more photos of the Saint John’s Bible, check out the story written about the exhibit showing at St. Bede’s Monastery in Eau Claire.

  3. Scaffolding Boards : said,

    i bought several art books for my kids and they loved it `

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