I think this is a beautiful post.
Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765) is a painter of the Baroque age who specialized in romantic paintings illustrating the grandeur that was Rome. He painted several paintings in different settings of Roman ruins. His style is to bring together many famous building and creating the illusion that you can see them all by just being in one spot. In reality these monuments and building are spread out in a large area. However he lived in an era when Popes used artists and architects like Bernini to create a theatrical setting for the urban planning of Rome. To this day no matter where you are in Rome just look around and you will be seduced by the view. This is what makes the beauty of the City. I will always remember our arrival in Rome in July 2007 when the driver taking us to our new home took the Appian Way towards the Arc of Constantine and around the Colosseum down Via dei Fori Imperiali, that was impressive and gave us right away a feel for the eternal beauty of Rome. In many ways had the Popes not hired all the numerous artists/architects/sculptors during the Renaissance to design a grand new capital by using the glorious past as a backdrop,what a missed opportunity that would have been. The point of it all was and is to impress any visitor to the City, we can only be thankful they did. The Papacy for all its flaws, did create artistic excellence.
In this painting we see the Hercule of the Farnese which was located in the Palazzo Farnese (now the French Embassy in Rome) until it was moved to the Museum of Archeology in Naples. It never stood in the Roman Forum. The Colosseum or Amphitheatre of the Flavians, as it was known since it was built under the Flavian Dynasty. On the hill the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome where the Temple of the Divine Claudius should stand. In the background the Basilica of Constantine and on the left the temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, none in their actual place. All of it misplaced but so romantic with the great big fragments of other buildings thrown here and there for good measure. Panini’s style will be copied by other painters of the period, it was all the rage of the time to have such grand paintings in one’s humble palace or grand home.
At the same time in England painters like Richard Wilson, the father of English landscape painting and co-founder of the Royal Academy, who had studied in Italy was painting English country landscapes. Reproducing often from memory, on canvas the soft Sun light and sky colour with drifting clouds giving the ensemble a dream like quality. Think of his painting ”A distant view of Rome from Monte Mario” painted in London years after he had left Rome. An amazing tableau and very faithful to that view of Rome.
You do need the room to go with such paintings, you just can’t hang it over the couch in your finished basement or you can visit Rome and see it for yourself.
Yesterday at the National Gallery I went to look at the re-opened room containing the wall paintings from the MacCallum-Jackman Cottage on West Wind island on Go Home Bay in Georgian Bay, North of Toronto.
The large Cottage was built in 1911 and Dr. James MacCallum was an ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Toronto. He was also a Member of the Arts and Letters Club. He knew a lot of artists in Toronto and he wanted to commission wall paintings on Canadian subjects. He became friends with artists who would later in 1919 become the members of the Group of Seven, the famous Canadian Landscape artists. Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer and Tom Thomson will work as a team on the various murals. On his death Dr MacCallum bequeathed the paintings to the National Gallery, the new owner of the Cottage Mr and Mrs H.R. Jackman asked A.Y. Jackson in 1953 to paint additional more panels for the Cottage. Today the entire collection stands in a room replicating the Cottage living room at the NGC and can be admired by all. The panels are quite beautiful and represent that period in Canadian History in the first half of the 20th Century when all things were Canadian in theme and spirit, they also show Go Home Bay and the Georgian Bay area for all its natural beauty.
But the story does not end there, the son of the Jackman’s Dr Eric Jackman and Mary and the current owners of the storied cottage commissioned artist Sarah Merry to reproduce the original so they could hang again as panels in the living room of the cottage. It took 15 years to do this project and her work was unveiled in 2013 for the whole community to see. Thus the memory of Dr. MacCallum can be commemorated. For Dr. Jackman, the occasion was also deeply personal. “The cottage is the only permanent home that all my children know,”
The original painted panels above the chimney in the cottage living room, as they appear now in the NGC on the first floor. Left panel French settlers and missionaries with natives. Right panel hunters. (Click to enlarge)
Original painted panels decorated the room all around.
a fisherman and painted panels of luxuriant nature very much in the style of the Group of 7 came to be known.
the island like all islands in Georgian Bay are rocky outcrops. The two little framed paintings below the large panels are more of the nature in the area painted by the same artists later in the 1920’s.
this panel was over a window in the cottage which explains the strange shape.
Again a familiar scene the ferry boat which brought people to the islands and also brought mail and groceries during the Summer months when most people would come up from Toronto with family for their vacation period. What is interesting about these painted panels is how they reproduce life as it was then. The area today has not changed very much and is still very picturesque.
In hindsight this project of Dr. MacCallum is somewhat extravagant when one comes to think about it. Of course the painters, his friends, who painted for him these panels were not famous back then and no one could envisage the fame they would encounter as of 1919 and for the rest of their lives. Icons of modern Canadian Landscape painting. We are very lucky that Dr. MacCallum and the Jackman’s had the forethought to protect these paintings for posterity, from a simple cottage to the National Gallery of Canada.
Today is the State Opening of Parliament in London, this means the Queen comes to Parliament in Westminster to read the Speech from the Throne which is the legislative program of Her Government for the coming months. It is a way of announcing to all what Parliament will discuss and which bills will be studied.
We have the exact same formula in Canada, same ceremonial with small differences.
In Ottawa, the Governor General comes down Sussex Drive from his Residence at Rideau Hall in the State Landau with a mounted escort of the RCMP.
The Queen is 89 years old and the Duke of Edinburgh is 94. They both looked frail today. The Imperial State Crown weighs 5 lbs. or 4.3 Kg. Heavy if you have to wear it for 90 minutes. The train made of ermine is so heavy that it has to be carried by pages , the Queen would not be able to move forwards without them holding it up. She also must move forward while wearing the train because of the weight of it.
Prince Philip wears many decorations and I found out that he earned every one of them for his service during the Second World War in the Royal Navy. He wears the uniform of Admiral of the British Navy. The Queen’s gown is the same as in past years. She has a tendency now of wearing the same costumes instead of having new ones designed. She puts on the State Crown and the long train in the Robing Room which is some distance from the House of Peers (Lords) and is used only when the Sovereign comes to Parliament. I was told that she handles the Crown herself and makes sure it sits properly on her head, she is not helped with that.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arriving at Parliament, he now attends all Opening of Parliament since he has been delegated by the Queen some of her duties.
The protocol of the opening of Parliament reminds us of the stability of the institutions that govern us and our traditions. This is why I have, like so many other Canadians, a problem with our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose dislike of Parliament is well known. He does not see the point of the Institution, he has ignored Parliament and tried several times now to undermine it and the Constitution so that he can remain in power and impose his own right wing agenda. All our Institutions are under attack with Harper, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the Constitution, Parliament and the Charter of Rights. The general Federal Election is coming soon in October and it will not be too soon for many of us.
The activities are winding down for Volunteers at the National Gallery of Canada or I should say we are now going on the Summer schedule. Volunteers are busy in other area with the end of the School year. The lectures Les Mercredis Culturels and Wednesday Mornings have ended, our 55th Season. I have just completed the arrangements for the new Season starting on 23 September, we will have 24 very diverse topics for our lectures in French and in English. This new Season will focus on the Museum its collections and experts with a special presentation on Louise Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun who was the Official Court Artist of Queen Marie-Antoinette. She will be the topic of our Summer Showcase in 2016.
Vigée-Lebrun painted beautiful portraits of the Queen and her children, her friends and other notables at Court. She will go on after the arrest of the Royal Family to work in Italy, Austria for the Mother of Marie-Antoinette, Empress Maria-Theresa and at the Russian Court in St-Petersburg before returning with the Restoration and Louis XVIII to Paris. She was such a great artist that during these long years of exile she will never be out of work or alone. She is invited to all the European Courts and paints the greats of this world.
Louise-Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842)
In 2016 the NGC marks the year of women artists so Vigée-Lebrun is a fitting subject.
During the Summer we still have the daily Docent’s Choice and until end June we have in house school groups who come to visit. There are other activities to occupy the Docents, until September when the regular season starts again.
It has been a busy year and I am happy to be not so busy. Not to forget Chagall opens on 28 May and the NGC is open everyday from 10am to 6pm.
Today 24 May is the Birthday of Queen Victoria who is 196 years old. It is also the National Capital Marathon Weekend, some 10,000 + runners from around the world participate. We live in the middle of Marathon central so our streets were closed to traffic. It is a nice atmosphere, lots of people out enjoying themselves.
The story about Queen Victoria and the Capital Ottawa is about how she chose this in the middle of nowhere lumber camp at the entrance to the Rideau Canal to be the final choice for a Capital for Canada. The Chief Minister at the time John A. Macdonald a willy Scot worked his charm on her as early as 1857 by showing her nice water colours of the surrounding area and by 1864 she decided that Ottawa would be it. Not knowing that it was a mud town full of drunk and rowdy lumberjacks. Up to that time Quebec City had been the Capital since 1608 but then politicians moved the Elected Assembly to Montreal, because it had paved streets and lights and then to Toronto which did not have much and then to Kingston on Lake Ontario which was far to close to those damn Yankees. For years we celebrated on 24 May the Empire but after Victoria’s death in 1901, the celebration where held in her memory.
The British Hotel (1834) in Aylmer, Quebec beautifully restored. Aylmer, named after a Governor General, is a small town 10Km West of Ottawa on the Quebec side of the Outaouais River. The town is full of building like this one. The Brit is famous because in the 1950’s all the Jazz and Blues great names came to play here. This was the place. The owner for many decades was this old Polish fellow and when he died at the age of 98 some 7 years ago the family sold the building. It was in very poor state, an investor bought it and voilà. Aylmer was known in the 1930’s to 1960 for the big band and Jazz Clubs who came to this small town and brought with them the monied crowd of Ottawa who also went to the Connaught Racetrack and posh Golf Clubs. The reason for the popularity of Aylmer was the rather liberal liquor laws of Quebec where bars open at 7am and close at 3am. In Ottawa bars opened at noon and closed promptly at 11:30pm. The difference between French Roman Catholics and English Presbyterians.
The weather has been very cool if not cold some nights very unseasonal. There is clearly climate change. It is worrisome.
Here is some pictures of the last few weeks and things we have been up to.
Ugo Rondinone, FEET, which is one of 9 sculptures based on the Chinese Scholar’s rock. Based on ancient Chinese Literati tradition of appreciation for eroded stones that take the form of landscapes or living beings. Can be seen in the smaller visitors entrance of the National Gallery of Canada.
A special exhibit on Chagall opens at the NGC this week. The theme is Daphnis and Chloé. The set of lithographs titled Daphnis & Chloé is considered Chagall’s most important graphic work. Through fanciful compositions and bright hues, the artist illustrates the pastoral idylls of the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé on the island of Lesbos, as recounted in a second-century Greek tale.
National Gallery of Canada
The Archbishops Palace c.1848 on St-Patrick’s Street on the South side of the Cathedral.
The old War Museum which has been closed and empty for the last 10 years, next to the NGC. It was recently sold to Prince Karim Aga Khan for his peace foundation. He is the step-son of Rita Hayworth. The Aga Khan is the leader of the Shia Ismaili branch of Islam. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. He had a very modern Embassy Chancery built next to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Though he is considered an Imam in Shia Islam, for a holy man he is not the usual type, he is a ski champion, raised in Europe, he is a billionaire and spends his money on international development through his foundation.
The Flag of the Montreal Canadien Hockey Team flying in front of the Mayor of Ottawa’s Office. After the Canadien beat the Ottawa Senators in the semi-finals.
Casa Loma in Toronto, the largest Castle Palace in North America built by General Sir Henry Mill Pellatt in 1913 for the sum of $3.5 million dollars. He was a wealthy and important businessman/investor in Canada and the Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment. I will have to do a separate entry on Casa Loma it is a wonderful place to visit. Not pictured here is the Lodge and the stables and garage across the Street which are equally grand in design.
Queen’s Park, Legislative Building of the Assembly of the Province of Ontario in Toronto. The building was completed in 1893 in the Romanesque style.
the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts on University Ave in Toronto home of the Canadian Opera Company. Opened in 2006.
the auditorium, really a beautiful space. We saw Blue Beard’s Castle by Béla Bartok, a Robert Lepage production and Erwantung by Arnold Schoenberg.
Osgoode Hall, Law school and seat of the Law Society of Ontario. Built in 1829 in the Palladian style during the reign of George IV the building was completed under William IV, it stands across the street from the Four Seasons Centre and next to Toronto City Hall.
On our balcony while Will is planting lavender and other plants, our Nora, can you see her hiding next to the Lavender.
This is one composer I personally like a lot, he was probably one of the greatest composers of the XXth Century and I always enjoy his music. He composed 15 symphonies which have themes and a complex history surrounding their creation. He also composed music in various genre. Though born in St-Petersburg in the last years of Imperial rule before the Revolution, he grew up in Soviet Russia and worked as a musician and composer during Stalin’s 30 year dictatorship. He suffered personally and he knew that despite his great fame at home and abroad, he could be arrested and killed on Stalin’s orders at any moment, that almost happened in 1937 and again in 1948.
To me Shostakovich represents the Russian People under those terrible years of Communism, how they persevered despite it all and survived.
I have been thinking of him a lot in the last few days. He use to say at the end of his life about the dictatorship of Stalin, how can people say; I did not know, I did not understand what was happening, how could they not have known. This is so true of any country where events create disharmony and fractures in Society. I hear such voices now around me here, people who say; I am not interested in what is going on, I do not vote, I do not read or listen to the news, why should I care. Will these same people later claim that they did not know or did not understand?
Under Stalin’s rule (1922-1952) some 30 million Russians where killed in his numerous purges, victim of his paranoia. This video made with the support of the Canadian Government and Canadian producers in 1997, is very interesting and well made, speakers are people who knew Shostakovich, friends, family, colleagues.
In 2015 we celebrate the 750th Anniversary of the Birth of Dante Alighieri who was born between mid-May and mid-June 1265 in the City of Florence in Tuscany. In those days Florence was a City State ruled by various powerful families divided by factions. Florence was then a large city, considered to be the fourth largest city in Europe, a major Financial Centre in Europe. Dante is one of the greatest Poet of the Western World and his masterpiece the Divine Comedy has inspired poets and authors through the ages. Dante is also the founder of the Italian language by making it accessible to all in Italy when regional dialects still prevailed. He is a towering figure of the Italian Renaissance. His works are still required study in all schools in Italy.
Dante Alighieri was born into a family with a history of involvement in the complex Florentine political scene, and this setting would become a feature in his Inferno years later. Dante’s mother died only a few years after his birth, and when Dante was around 12 years old, it was arranged that he would marry Gemma Donati, the daughter of a family friend. Around 1285, the pair married, but Dante was in love with another woman—Beatrice Portinari, who would be a huge influence on Dante and whose character would form the backbone of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dante met Beatrice when she was but nine years old, and he had apparently experienced love at first sight. The pair were acquainted for years, but Dante’s love for Beatrice was “courtly” (which could be called an expression of love and admiration, usually from afar) and unrequited. Beatrice died unexpectedly in 1290, and five years later Dante published Vita Nuova (The New Life), which details his tragic love for Beatrice. (Beyond being Dante’s first book of verse, The New Life is notable in that it was written in Italian, whereas most other works of the time appeared in Latin.)
Around the time of Beatrice’s death, Dante began to immerse himself in the study of philosophy and the machinations of the Florentine political scene. Florence was then was a tumultuous city, with factions representing the papacy and the empire continually at odds, and Dante held a number of important public posts. In 1302, however, he fell out of favor and was exiled for life by the leaders of the Black Guelphs (among them, Corso Donati, a distant relative of Dante’s wife), the political faction in power at the time and who were in league with Pope Boniface VIII. (The pope, as well as countless other figures from Florentine politics, finds a place in the hell that Dante creates in Inferno—and an extremely unpleasant one.) Dante may have been driven out of Florence, but this would be the beginning of his most productive artistic period.
In his exile, Dante traveled and wrote, conceiving The Divine Comedy, and he withdrew from all political activities. In 1304, he seems to have gone to Bologna, where he began his Latin treatise “De Vulgari Eloquentia” (“The Eloquent Vernacular”), in which he urged that courtly Italian, used for amatory writing, be enriched with aspects of every spoken dialect in order to establish Italian as a serious literary language. The created language would thus be one way to attempt to unify the divided Italian territories. The work was left unfinished, but it has been influential nonetheless.
In March 1306, Florentine exiles were expelled from Bologna, and by August, Dante ended up in Padua, but from this point Dante’s whereabouts are not know for sure for a few years. Reports place him in Paris at times between 1307 and 1309, but his visit to the city can’t be verified.
In 1308, Henry of Luxembourg was elected emperor as Henry VII. Full of optimism about the changes this election could bring to Italy (in effect, Henry VII could at last restore peace from his imperial throne while at the same time subordinate his spirituality to religious authority), Dante wrote his famous work on the monarchy, “De Monarchia,” in three books, in which he claims that the authority of the emperor is not dependent on the pope but descends upon him directly from God. However, Henry’s popularity faded quickly, and his enemies had gathered strength, threatening his ascension to the throne. These enemies, as Dante saw it, were members of the Florentine government, so Dante wrote a diatribe against them and was promptly included on a list of those permanently banned from the city. Around this time, he began writing his most famous work, The Divine Comedy.
In the spring of 1312, Dante seems to have gone with the other exiles to meet up with the new emperor at Pisa (Henry’s rise was sustained, and he was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1312), but again, his exact whereabouts during this period are uncertain. By 1314, however, Dante had completed the Inferno, the segment of The Divine Comedy set in hell, and in 1317 he settled at Ravenna and there completed The Divine Comedy (soon before his death in 1321).
The Divine Comedy is an allegory of human life presented as a visionary trip through the Christian afterlife, written as a warning to a corrupt society to steer itself to the path of righteousness: “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery, and lead them to the state of felicity.” The poem is written in the first person (from the poet’s perspective) and follows Dante’s journey through the three Christian realms of the dead: hell, purgatory, and finally heaven. The Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through hell (Inferno) and purgatory (Purgatorio), while Beatrice guides him through heaven (Paradiso). The journey lasts from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300 (placing it before Dante’s factual exile from Florence, which looms throughout the Inferno and serves as an undercurrent to the poet’s journey).
The structure of the three realms of the afterlife follows a common pattern of nine stages plus an additional, and paramount, tenth: nine circles of hell, followed by Lucifer’s level at the bottom; nine rings of purgatory, with the Garden of Eden at its peak; and the nine celestial bodies of heaven, followed by the empyrean (the highest stage of heaven, where God resides).
The poem is composed of 100 cantos, written in the measure known as terza rima (thus the divine number 3 appears in each part of the poem), which Dante modified from its popular form so that it might be regarded as his own invention.
Virgil guides Dante through hell and a phenomenal array of sinners in their various states, and Dante and Virgil stop along the way to speak with various characters. Each circle of hell is reserved for those who have committed specific sins, and Dante spares no artistic expense at creating the punishing landscape. For instance, in the ninth circle (reserved for those guilty of treachery), occupants are buried in ice up to their chins, chew on each other and are beyond redemption, damned eternally to their new fate. In the final circle, there is no one left to talk to (as Satan is buried to the waist in ice, weeping from his six eyes and chewing Judas, Cassius and Brutus, the three greatest traitors in history, by Dante’s accounting), and the duo moves on to purgatory.
In the Purgatorio, Virgil leads Dante in a long climb up the Mount of Purgatory, through seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (an allegory for the seven deadly sins), before reaching the earthly paradise at the top. The poet’s journey here represents the Christian life, in which Dante must learn to reject the earthly paradise he sees for the heavenly one that awaits.
Beatrice, representing divine enlightenment, leads Dante through the Paradiso, up through the nine levels of the heavens (represented as various celestial spheres) to true paradise: the empyrean, where God resides. Along the way, Dante encounters those who on earth were giants of intellectualism, faith, justice and love, such as Thomas Aquinas, King Solomon and Dante’s own great-great-grandfather. In the final sphere, Dante comes face to face with God himself, who is represented as three concentric circles, which in turn represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The journey ends here with true heroic and spiritual fulfillment.
Beatrice and Dante come face to face with God
The tomb of Dante Alighieri in Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.
I agree with the points made by the writer who is presenting many truism about a complex situation which is too often misunderstood.
The one beautiful thing about Rome is the many traditions and festivals which have endured since time immemorial and do not change despite the passing of time and fashion.
Rose petals are dropped from the open oculus of the Pantheon on Sunday to celebrate the Pentecost. The tradition is very ancient, possibly dating back to 609 AD. During the Pentecostal mass, rose petals are dropped from the oculus onto the faithful to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit. At noon on Sunday, the Vigili del Fuoco (firefighters) of Rome, after climbing on top of the Pantheon’s dome (almost 44 meters high), drop thousands of rose petals as the choir chant the sequence of Veni Sancte Spiritus.
The Pantheon was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa a close family friend and right hand man of Emperor Augustus during his reign (27 BC – 14 AD) and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian about 126 AD.
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).
It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” (Latin: Santa Maria ad Martyres) but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.