Gazing at this beautiful graphic on the cover of the Met’s Winter 2017 Bulletin, I thought to myself: Why, that looks like Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s backdrop for Mozart’s Magic Flute. More precisely, it’s identified as being by Karl Friedrich Thiele, “after” Schinkel’s design for The Hall of Stars in the Palace of the Queen of the Night. Here is the original by Schinkel:
Here is Diana Damrau, singing the Queen of the night’s famous – and famously challenging – aria, Der Hölle Rache:
Born in Prussia in 1781, Karl Friedrich Schinkel was a man of extraordinary gifts. He was not only a set designer but a painter and architect as well.
Back to the Met Bulletin: For two hours I’ve been lost in image searches prompted by this slender, unpretentious little volume. Here are some of the results:
If ever it could be said that a person’s very soul has been captured in an image, then surely it was done in this portrait of Louis-Remy Robert by his friend Alfred Thompson Gobert. The two were colleagues at the Royal Porcelain Factory at Sèvres. Commentary provided on the Met’s site explains how technical necessity resulted in a striking work of art:
Robert’s colleague Alfred Gobert, head of the Enameling Workshop at Sèvres, is shown here with his head slightly bowed and his eyes half closed (in part to help maintain his pose during a long exposure in bright sunlight), as if lost in thought. The shallow depth of field—only Gobert’s face is in focus—and the flecks of light and soft massing of shadows so characteristic of prints from paper negatives heighten the sense that this portrait is a privileged meditation by Robert on the interior world of his friend.
We know of this model nothing but her last name, Miss Keene.
I confess I exclaimed with delight upon seeing this photo! This school was founded in 1823 by George Barrell Emerson, second cousin to Ralph waldo Emerson. It is described in the Bulletin as “the most prominent school for young women in Boston.”
Described in the Bulletin as “a superb example of Atkins’s cameraless photograms of algae and plant specimens,” these and similar images were created by placing “plant samples directly on light-sensitized paper. The resulting cyanotypes, or blueprints, appear as negative images against a sea of Prussian blue.”
Ah, J.M.W. Turner, master of light….If you haven’t seen the film Mr Turner, featuring Timothy Spall’s brilliant and memorable portrayal of this genius of British painting, I recommend it very, very highly.
Just viewing this trailer made me yearn to see it again, in its entirety. Why aren’t there more movies like this?
As usual, this intensive period of image searching took me far afield, in this case somewhat outside the province of the Met Bulletin:
Date unknown, but probably not long after 1835, when Baron Gros committed suicide.
(Nine months later, our own Miss Marple, we still miss her so much.)
Roberta goes to the library to pick up a few items and, finding herself surrounded by riches (in several formats), avails herself of them liberally, then runs out of steam…
One sunny Saturday morning, Roberta decided to visit the library. Her intent was to pick up two books she had reserved, perhaps one or two additional mysteries, and a volume on art history.
Miller is Roberta’s local branch, a repository of more fabulous stuff than you can shake a stick at. (Please pardon the recourse to clichés – one is not up to much else, at present!) Roberta headed straight upstairs, where the new books for adults awaited her. I mean, why pass up a chance for some serendipity thereabouts? And lo: serendipity there was – in spades (those pesky clichés again). Her resistance held firm on the fiction side but broke down around the corner in nonfiction. Why here was Every Good Endeavor, a new work by Dr. Timothy Keller, Senior Pastor at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, whose wisdom, compassion, and eloquence had so impressed her in The Reason for God.
Okay – I am now officially switching to the first person. Writing about yourself in the third person is just too weird! (Who is that woman, anyway?)
I am also currently reading The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. For 21 years, Rabbi Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. In this book, he attempts to reconcile the claims of faith and science; indeed, he believes that the perception of a schism between the two is erroneous in the first place. Rabbi Sacks writes with wit and elegance. Me, I am happy to receive good counsel from wise men and women, whatever their affiliation!
Moving from the 200s (religion and spirituality) to the 500s (science), I found several items of interest. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of writers who are able to explain exciting new developments in physics and astronomy in ways that are accessible to what one might term the lay reader. For example:
Here I must confess to a tendency to take such books home with the best intentions, only to return them to the library unread. I did, however, finish – and greatly enjoy – those last two titles. (Before the Fallout is as much a history book as a science book and made for really riveting reading. Preston begins by describing what happened to one woman when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I reads Before the Fallout when it came out in 2005 and that scene has remained vivid in mind, in Preston’s measured retelling, a true horror story. “Silver treasure” indeed….) Mirror Earth currently resides on my night table – or one of my several night tables. Wish me luck.
It’s the kind of book I love: you can just dip into it from time to time and get your fill of wonder. Isabel Kuhl begins her survey with the great pyramids of Egypt – that chapter is subtitled “The First Houses Built for Eternity” – and ends with some spectacular structures by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind, and others:
And in between these two astonishing extremes of time and place, one jaw dropper after another:
[Click here for panoramic views of Chambord.]
Whew! I’m just about done in. And I so wanted to explain about the mysteries and the DVD’s – almost exclusively British mysteries….Ah well, it will have to wait. But I do want to mention a CD that I picked up: This was true serendipity, aided by prominent placement on a display of audiovisual materials on Miller’s richly endowed first floor.
Among the musical selection on this disc is one I especially love, Handel’s coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest.” I plugged the title into the YouTube search box and got some marvelous results. Here are two of my favorites.
First, the 2004 wedding of Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Australia (by way of Scotland, as can be seen by her father’s attire);
I was thrilled by this one. It’s an Anglophile’s dream – this Anglophile’s, at any rate:
I owe a debt of gratitude to the good people of the Miller Branch, a place that, in my retirement years, has become a home away from home!
I’m deeply grateful for “Think before you buy that puppy,” an article by artist and writer Betsy Karasik. It appears on the Op-Ed page of today’s Washington Post. This is the concluding sentence:
Saving an animal from starvation and homelessness is its own reward, but the beauty of rescuing an animal is that from an emotional standpoint, it turns around and rescues you right back.
Some of us know the truth of this from experience.
And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to sing the praises of one of the most precious books I own:
The pictures are marvelous; the stories, simply told and charming. The “cover cat” is named Blackie. In 2005 she went to live at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, England, having been given up for adoption by a hairdresser who had developed an allergy to her fur. Author and photographer Richard Surman tells us what happened next:
She is a rather grand cat, more used to the scent of hairspray and pomade than rigours of community life, and thoroughly resistant to the allure of the Priory’s wild woodland. It certainly took some time for Blackie to settle in: carefully guarding a pink ball that was her treasure, she was very wary of this radical change of environment, and for a while all that could be seen of her was a pair of startled eyes staring from the undergrowth in the garden, or from deep in the shadows in the priory entrance hall. But both the present Abbot, Father Stuart, and Sister Mary Bernard, devoted a great deal of time and patience in encouraging Blackie to be more at ease, and little by little she came out of her shell.
Richard Surman’s work is beautiful. To see more of it, click here.
We find Blackie’s resemblance to our own Miss Marple rather striking:
(Research on Burford Priory revealed that it has passed into private ownership. I hope and trust that provision was made for Blackie.)
Several days ago, I awoke to this delightful sight out our back windows:
The above three photos were taken with a Panasonic FZ-20 digital camera with a 12x zoom lens. The two below were taken with the same camera in the optional wide screen mode. Be sure and click to enlarge; these look beautiful in full resolution.
All pictures were taken by my husband Ron.