Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Age of Rembrandt

What does one do when the living room is a mess of stuff that belongs in a closet; workmen are deconstructing a wall to put in a new pipe and the noise in infernal. Escape! Nomally I'd just go to work, but we're having a seriously slow spell. So off I went to have coffee and a bagel at a favorite neighborhood spot. Then into Central Park to finish reading the paper [Science section says morality may be genetic -- that everything might be gentic is the fad of the time since the genomic code has been cracked], and do the puzzle. And then I read a review of the new show at the Met: The Age of Rembrandt -- not just Rembrandt but 280+ paintings, all the mid=1600th century paintings the Met owns, of which usuallly no more than 1/3 are on view.

The show just openned so I did a quick calculation: there will be a crowd; but it's too soon for school groups, it's Tusday morning, maybe a possible crowd level. A good way to spend a couple of hours although it's such a beauiful blue-sky day it's almost a sin to go indoors. But I do and the crowd is sizable, but a quiet crowd -- that strange, vibrating silence of people in a museum ... except for the accursed cellphones and their annoying rings. People whisper, move politely so as not to block other people's views, go slowly from place to place, congregatge in gaggles in front of the paintings mentioned on the audio guide [which I eschewed].

A wonderful show telling me what Holland was like in the mid-1600s; the portraits of serious genelemtn in velvets, the women in satin, sometimes with their heads on the platter of a large lace ruff - always a middle aged face, such propriety and prosperity accumulated well into life. But the bawdies are there too in the Hals paintings, eating, drinking, merry making, flirting. There are village scenes and beautiful Reisdael landscapes and Kaiser village scenes, looking truly peaceful There are shepherds and cowherds -- cyoung boys. Some, but not many, religious scenes. A few still lifes, flowers or dead birds and lobsters, A few Vemeers whih are a little disappointing because the beautiful light in reproductions is not so light and bright and the paintings are small. And then there are the Rembrandts, the portraits of burgers and their wives, Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Honor, and RVR as an aging man with his lumpy nose and little, bright eyes, a solid, serious man.

A whole world was there in those rooms, a time and place. And the usual religious paintings in which Abraham and family are dressed like the Dutch except for a turban on Abraham's head. A group of upstanding citizens, sometimes with their children or their dogs, a world that existed for a while and now lasts as it was painted by a wonderful group of geniuses.

Here is a picture of my own still life which I noticed on the table as I was having dinner. I cleared the odds and ends and left what would be a painted -- or even, for the ambitious, a quilted -- picture.

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