I read Helen Macdonald’s excellent “H Is for Hawk” this past winter. An engrossing novel of obsession and grief – one of the best I’ve read recently. What drew me to the book, in addition to the marvelous reviews, was the subject. I had just returned from a wintery trip to Vienna – complete with a blizzard to compete with the ones we’d been experiencing in the Northeast. And then several days after I arrived the Austrian and German television stations reported that Boston had been hit with yet another large snowstorm! Several times over the winter, after I had returned home to New York, I heard people remark “well at least we’re not in Boston!”
But back to falcons and hawks – while at the Neue Burg, which houses the Arms and Armour collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, I came across these Falcon Hoods.
And Hawk Hoods
I was fascinated and as usually happens, to me at least, once your are aware of a new object, word or topic you meet it again everywhere.
And thus, back in New York I came across this charming portrait at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This Flemish portrait was painted by the artist Wallerant Vaillant, who was born in Lille and died in Amsterdam. It is simply titled “Portrait of a Boy with a Falcon”. But who is this elegantly turned out young aristocrat? I’ve no idea – another “art mystery” as we used to say in school.
I adore birds of prey and we can see many in New York – mostly red-tailed hawks like the famous Pale Male, but peregrines as well as the occasional bald eagle. Plenty for them to eat with a bounty of squirrels and pigeons available in our parks and the high perches we’ve built for ourselves all around Central Park are particularly enticing nesting spots – at least the older buildings. These new all glass towers are useless to our feathered friends – no where to rest or raise a family at One57! But a perfect hawk haven below.
Photo by Lincoln Karim posted at http://www.palemale.com
Loved this team of elephants pulling the cart
This South Netherlandish tapestry is on view in Gallery 305 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. What attracted me was the pair of white elephants. The theme is from Petrarch’s I Trionfi (The Triumphs) and Louis XII commissioned a series of tapestries after the work was translated into French. This particular one has been cut down and was from a series most likely created for Bishop Symphorien de Bullioud of Soissons, a man familiar with Italian culture from trips to Milan and Rome.
The figures include Alexander the Great and Charlemagne – both sporting symbols of the French kings including Charlemagne’s fleur-de-lys and Alexander’s scepter. Plato and Aristotle stand with them. And the women being trampled by the elephants? Death. Hope that should I ever meet white elephants that would not be my fate.
Lovely tables all set up inside Cedar Lake in Chelsea on the night of Thursday, May 22nd. The evening honored artist Richard Tuttle, Clifford S. Ackley, the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Curator of Prints and Drawings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and David and Evelyn Lasry of Two Palms Gallery. Despite the rain that evening, the rather noisy interior was filled with artists and those involved with printmaking as collectors, critics, gallerists and other supporters. My table included the executive director of the new printmaking studio Guttenberg Arts. They provide the space and time for practicing visual artists to develop their work and expand their reach through artistic collaboration, and the promotion of their work to curators and collectors throughout the Tri-State area. http://www.guttenbergarts.org/ What a marvelous endeavor! And I was fortunate to meet one of the talented artists they support, printmaker, Kirtsten Flaherty that evening.
Last weekend the 8th Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and Workshop was held in New Orleans. Sponsored by the Middle American Research Institute, the yearly gathering is smaller than a major conference and a real chance for scholars to hear about the recent research of their colleagues and meet up and coming graduate students from institutions throughout the country, but many from the Louisiana, Florida and Texas area.
Normand Hammond, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at Boston University, presented his research from the site of Cuello, Belize. The site was inhabited from 1200 BC through the end of the Late Preclassic. He showed evidence from the Middle Preclassic of residential structures and a sweatbath grouped around a courtyard and persistent renovation programs for more than 500 years until they were finally buried beneath a later ceremonial structure. Floral and faunal evidence shows a community with a maize based diet and some root crop agriculture as well as hunting and puppy farming for additional protein sources. All the dogs were raised to the same age, just less than a year, and then butchered for food. There was trade in exotic goods and suggestions of ranked society. That a community with such a small population (perhaps a little over 100 households and 600-700 people) should be this developed in the first half of the first millennium BC shows that much more work should be done to discover Middle Preclassic evidence at other sites which may have been destroyed or buried by later building programs. I’ll have to add Prof. Hammond’s “Cuello: An Early Maya Community”
Figurine from Cuello
“John La Farge’s Second Paradise: Voyages in the South Seas, 1890-1891”
Addison Gallery of American Art
So who knew that John La Farge (an artist I am familiar with from his stained glass windows at Boston’s Trinity Church and some lovely paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) traveled to the South Seas before Gauguin? Not I until my friend called me to go on a road trip last weekend to see the show at the Yale University Art Gallery. The exhibit includes sketches and a few paintings, but the stand outs of the small show are his vibrant watercolors. These works are much more ethnographic than the paintings of Gauguin, who of course had an entirely different aesthetic, and La Farge seemed to me to present a truer vision of life on the islands of Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji. La Farge’s naturalistic technique was used to illustrate not only ritual dances, but every day tasks and children at play as well. On a cold and dark January afternoon, the beauty of the watercolors provided a stunning contrast.
The show has closed in New Haven, but is traveling to the Addison Gallery of American Art and will open on January 22, 2011.
There are two recent exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts that you should check out. The Albrecht Dürer exhibit highlights his intensely detailed prints including engravings, woodcuts, etchings and drypoints. These are all choosen from the MFA’s own collection. He was a vituoso draftsman and if you are not familiar with his work, the 45 prints that have been selected are a wonderful introduction to this German Renaissance artist.
The second exhibit is in the room adjacent to the Dürer show – Harry Callahan is a talented American photographer, who worked in the the mid-20th century. The photographs are in both color and black and white and Callahan’s wife Eleanor is the subject of many of the works. I particularly enjoyed the images of trees and shadows.
Be sure to note Callahan’s color portrait of a woman entitled “Chicago” and Dürer’s engravings of women – the likeness is quite striking not only in the facial similarities of the women but in their head gear as well.
These tough economic times have stalled many expensive loan exhibits and collaborations with distant museums, but the upside is the opportunity museums have to display treasures from their own collections.