F is for Falcon and H is for…

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

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The of Triumph of Fame over Death

Loved this team of elephants pulling the cart

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.