A Happy Discovery

  Several years ago my favorite postcard went missing. I use them as bookmarks and assumed I had accidentally left it in a book I returned to the library. I lost this particular bookmark before.  Luckily I missed it almost immediately and raced back and found the book reshelved in the Yorkville branch of the New York Public Library with my bookmark still inside!

This morning while doing some research I opened a book and viola!      

 Postcard of Laus Veneris, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

I’ve had this postcard since my freshman year of college. I bought it at the campus bookstore at Washington University in St. Louis little knowing that I would go on to study the Pre-Raphaelites for my senior project and later my MA thesis. And I found the bookmark in an exhibition catalog for a show at the Peabody Essex Museum on the Maya – the subject of my second MA thesis.  Not sure what the universe is trying to tell me – one obsession lost and lodged within another, both of them pushed aside too often as I work through my daily life in a largely unrelated field. 

The culprit that swallowed my bookmark.

The subject of the painting is from Tannhäuser, a German Minnesinger (writer of lyric poems and songs), who died after 1265. Little is known about him, his poems date from 1245 to 1265, and his lineage is assumed to related to the Lords of Thannhausen in Bavaria. He was a courtier at the court of Frederick II of Austria (1230–1246), 

  Tannhäuser in the Codex Manesse (1340) 

Here he wears the habit of the Teutonic Order and may have fought the Fifth Crusade (1213–21). Tannhäuser  became a legend and was transformed over the centuries into a knight and poet who found the Venusberg (Venus’ underground dwelling) and lived with her there, worshipping the goddess. For a year. He if silly leaves and travels to Rome to ask forgiveness from Pope Urban IV. The Pope declares this as impossible as it is for his papal staff to blossom and Tannhäuser leaves. Three days later, Urban’s staff blooms with flowers. Messeengers are sent to recall the knight but he has returned messengers to Venusberg and is never to be seen again.

Though the Tannhäuser story is only a legend I feel that the current Pope would not have sent Tannhäuser away with that answer.   

 Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial on Friday, September 25, 2015.                John Minchillo/AP Photo 

 

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Timeless Shakespeare and Ephemeral Fashion

So I finally did get a New York Fashion Week invitation from Miu Miu and went there on Thursday night to a gathering at their 57th Street boutique. The charming Lorena greeted my friend and me at the door and showed us the new perfume that was just launched as well as the new handbags – gorgeous but unaffordable for me, I purchased the fragrance.

  
My friend and me at the event, on the second floor, amidst the fall fashions.

  
A coat very much like my grandmother’s (which I inherited after she passed away almost 25 years years ago now.)

  
Grandma’s coat – I’m not a fan of fur, but this is the only item that belonged to my grandmother that I have – so I do keep it and wear it in the winter.

  
A lovely suede boot.

  
We stayed at the party briefly and then headed out for drinks and appetizers at the Harvard Club and I went to a lecture by Neil Rudenstine on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I hadn’t seen him for 20 years, so it was delightful to hear him lecture on his speciality, Renaissance literature, after last knowing him as President of Harvard.

 

Glyn Maxwell’s review of Ideas of Order in The New York Times, on January 30, 2015, ends with this paragraph:

Who is the poet of Shakespeare’s sonnets? Not who was he — who cares? — who is he? Which is it? Now or forever? Life or work? Rage or resignation? Boys or girls? It’s so hard to describe him, except to say he constantly changes his mind, thinks of everything, states it beautifully and cannot entertain an idea without imagining its polar opposite. He should probably write plays.

And returning to Miu Miu, the brand has been running a series of short films called “Women’s Tales” with the latest by Agnès Varda. The contradiction between the offering of a gift of fashion to a young girl more interested in education is a compelling one. I have enjoyed watching the whole Prada and Miu Miu brand concept of Muiccia Prada  develop over the years. As a feminist, former Communist and a woman with a Ph.D in political science, Ms. Prada is not your typical fashion designer. The Jolie Laide concept of the lines and their advertising campaigns have always drawn me in. Though I love brands that are simply gorgeous with beautiful feminine dresses such as those produced by Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera, Prada and Miu Miu often have a certain awkwardness or ugliness that makes them more intriguing. As if they were works of modern art – you need to understand the background and philosophy of the artist before you can appreciate what you are being offered. 

I was happy to see the button collector also featured in “Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse” in the short film below – enjoy!

http://www.miumiu.com/en/women_tales/10/film?cmp=internal_mail_en_ENG_comm_les3boutons_04092015

Through the Looking Glasss

It’s Fashion Week in New York and again my invitations went astray. Just kidding – I can’t afford what most of the shows are displaying in any case, but it’s always exciting to see collections from inventive new designers or new creative chiefs showing their first collection for a house.

I did see the MET’s China Through the Looking Glass exhibit several times this summer and enjoyed the beauty of the dresses – especially those displayed in close proximity to the Buddhist sculptures as here with Guo Pei’s lotus flower dress. If the show had not been so crowded this room could have served as a place of quiet contemplation.

  
 My favorites were the Gallliano designed Diors in the Astor Court which was transformed into “Moon in the Water,” the Chinese translation of “through the looking glass.”

    
The show was a multimedia extravaganza with film clips chosen by Wong Kar-wai throughout the three floors of the exhibit.  Curator Andrew Bolton designed an experience that was visually rich and extravagant. A fine integration of the art and fashion and the cross currents of East and West influencing and interpreting and misinterpreting each other through centuries of contact from early trade in silks, through the history of opium, the Cultural Revolution and beyond to the present. These are light touches at history, but it is all there and may provoke deeper thoughts about cultural appropiations and uses after leaving the crush of visitors in the galleries.

The title of the exhibit seems apt – a world all topsy turvy and difficult to define – what is dream and what is reality.

 John Tenniel 

Lions and griffins and bees

I’ve been seeing animals all around the city – live ones certainly, but of course many representations of beasts in art, architecture and store windows. Though I love visits to the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo, there is always the tension between the excitement of seeing the animals up close and the realization of how compromised their lives are in captivity. I know zoological foundations do much to help the wild cousins of the creatures on display, but I can’t help but feel sorrow for the animals in the zoo enclosures. 

Upper East Side lions – there are so many in all the boroughs guarding  people’s homes!

  

  

Not a lion but a young snow leopard at the Central Park Zoo.

  

Griffins are all over the city too – this one in The Metropolitan Museum of Art is from a bronze cauldron. Judging from the griffin’s size the cauldron itself must have been enormous! Many of these, including this one, were from Olympia at the sanctuary dedicated to Zeus. It certainly makes sense that the king of the gods would merit a super sized one. According to Herodotus, a cauldron created for King Kroisos of Lydia could hold 2,700 gallons.

  
And bees – I love bumblebees and try to grow flowers that will entice them to my terrace. I found this fellow in a The Conservatory Garden in Central  Park.

  
And then this large fellow on Fifth Avenue in the Gucci window.

   
 

Not sure those are the types of flowers that would attract him, but as he’s holding a handbag he’d be hard pressed to gather pollen right now in any case!