Are You Up For a Museum Visit?

First, a scenario from yesterday morning, one only partially informed by reality:

[The scene is a snow-clogged street in Milwaukee. A BBC correspondent is interviewing a city public safety official:]

Correspondent: “How would you characterize this storm?”

Official: “This seems to be a significant snowfall event.”

[A ragged man shuffles into the camera’s field of view. Why, of all people, the man is a 19th Century British sailor, turned ashore after being court-martialed for a buggery incident involving the ship’s milch-goat. His waist-length pigtail is tied off with a bread-wrapper twist-tie and his dun-colored rags are malodorous. His cheeks are red and frost rimes his nostrils. He glances at the official and she recoils noticeably.]

Sailor: “Snowfall event? Significant? Why, it’s nothin’ but a fookin’ blizzard, matey!”

[The sailor shuffles away through the snow. Cut to a commercial…]

Here in Quincy we had about eighteen inches of snow. The storm reminds me of early New Year’s Morning back in 1982. Betsy and I were at a New Year’s Eve party at a neighbor’s house with our nine-month-old son Tyler. At about two in the morning we decided to drive home. We were amazed when we left the house to find that two feet of snow had fallen since we had gotten to the party!

This sort of weather lends itself to sedentary activities, such as the series of virtual museum tours offered by Google with its new Art Project. Here’s a fascinating painting to explore, a detail-filled scene imagined by Pieter Brueghel the Elder back in the sixteenth century:

Dutch Proverbs

Here are a couple of my favorite vignettes from the painting:

What proverbs are these peculiar scenes meant to illustrate? I have no idea; it would be interesting to read a detailed exegesis of the scenes in this painting!




Filed under Visual Arts

10 responses to “Are You Up For a Museum Visit?

  1. Joan

    One of them is To Hold A Candle to the Devil .. To flatter and make friends indiscriminately. To the right of that one (not shown completely) is To
    confess to the devil. which is to reveal one’s secrets to an enemy. Hard to tell what those creatures are. The ‘devil’ looks like nothing I’ve even seen. A tree branch is growing from his head. At any rate, they are far scarier than Freddie Kruger.

    I don’t know what the one above is yet but I’ll take a look later.

  2. Joan

    Ok I found the other one. Hope it’s correct. That thing he is crawling inside of is a world globe. Here is what they say it means

    “You have to stoop to get on in the world” ( To succeed one must be devious)


  3. Darrell

    I don’t know if this will transfer, but . . .
    A museum visit of sorts. There is a great slide show out there but I can’t send it outside of an e-mail. But these give an idea.

  4. Virginia

    Darrell, That is a great slide show. The photos are very clear and nicely colored for that time period.

  5. Darrell

    I think Brueghel was “cryptic” to say the least. Could this be christian schizophrenia made manifest? Speaking of museums, etc., a weekend ago TCM ran “Lust for Life: (Kirk Douglas does Van Gogh). I missed most of it but I think I saw it on the late show when I was at HHS or maybe even Eugene Field. I did see the late show version on KHQA of Moulon Rouge (Jose Ferrer does Toulouse-Lautrec, 1951) while at EF and was absorbed by it. Ha . . . I think most kids wanted to meet Stan Musial, but I wanted to meet Van Gogh . . . but he was slightly dead by that time so I had to settle baseball greats. But recall, Joan, I did get to Amsterdam and Van Gogh still lived on in a way there.
    Virginia, glad you like the photos. I don’t think they were hand colored, but apparently made with 3 filters, probably on transparent glass plates . . . the same effect as 3 color projecting with a very large screen home video theater?

  6. joan

    I was wondering how they got color like that in 1910 Darrell. Magnificent photos. Thanks!
    PBS does Van Gogh, intermittently .. They have shown the Lust for Life movie and then done a sort of mini travelogue/docudrama of his life. It’s been awhile. Saw an exhibition of his paintings at the St. Louis Art museum years ago. Seeing the real thing as opposed to a photo is just overwhelming.
    Yeah Brueghel had some weird stuff but he also has beautiful genre paintings which are not spooky.

  7. Virginia

    I was impressed by the color. I thought at first they were photos then noticed the dates and assumed tinting. On revisiting the website I saw the information about the filters. I didn’t realize anyone used filters for photos that early. Thanks for posting them and the follow-up.

  8. Darrell

    TMC had Lust for life last week. BUT there was a studio release from the time (ca 1955) with studio exec Dore Scherry (sp) about the films making. At that time a good deal of the old van Gogh places still existed. Anyway, a local lady could still remember seeing Van Gogh when she was a small child in the 1890’s; she came up to kirk Douglas (in van Gogh attire, make-up, etc) and said that he bore a strong resemblance to the artist. kirk was blown away by it , and accepted it as a real compliment.
    The filters were doing what film emulsions would do few years later (ca 1919-20 when the first color movies were made by Eastman-Kodak): producing a color image. Then it (image) could be reproduced by color printing tecniques. I don’t know when B&W filter photography with red through blue came in . . . some of the older astronomy books at the HPL in the ’50’s would show pics of Mars taken with red and blue filters . . . and the effect each had viv a vis penetration of haze and dust, even though they were reproduced in B&W. But I have a hunch they were being used in ca. 1860’s- ’70’s. Star photos were being taken as early as 1851 BTW (by Bond at Harvard). A lot of “modern” stuff may be surprisingly old . . . but many people today, especially those who dabble in “technology” are often historical illiterates . . and erroneously believe that the immediate contemporary scene represents really new stuff. I ran into so much of this when I taught Western Civ 2 that I tried to get the Division Dean at Fresno City College to let me teach a course in the “history” of technology; he was interested in the idea, but nixed it because it “smacked of upper divisionism” . . . a no-no at a community college in California. Some years later at Mat-Su College in the Palmer Wasilla area of Alaska, I actually ran some of it in when I did a course on modern Europe (from 1870 to 1945). Basically, since about 1910, there hasn’t been all that much new . . . and since ca 1955 . . . . even less really.

  9. Joan

    A. Kirk Douglas does look a lot like Van Gogh. Maybe a tad more handsome. (grin)
    BTW Isn’t there a Van Gogh museum in Holland?
    B. Your short history of color film technology is fascinating. Seems like the way the color printer work now. Three basic colors and black. You’re right. When we see a color photo, we don’t always think they can be that old, but I am sure we have color home movie films my parents made back in the 40’s so why not color filters made on glass much earlier. Sad the University was so short sighted about your projected course. That would have been awesome.

  10. Darrell

    Not really shortsighted at Fresno. They were prohibited by the Calif Powers that Be from offering such courses at a junior college.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s