Sunday, May 05, 2013

Miles to go.

I have no idea why I developed a yen to haul out my art books and flip through them.  I mean, yeah, that's why I bought them, but this particular impulse was strong and sort of demanding.  If it was my Higher Power with some part of The Plan in mind, I still have no idea what or why, but when it's harmless and doable, I've learned to just go with it, and it's fun.
So I'm leafing through books I've had for many years, and a couple that I recently bought to replace lost copies from previous life.  After college, I workled at an art museum.  Answering the phone and telling people where the bathrooms were, but still.   They had a museum librarian and I considered what a cool job that might be and took some relevant classes at the univeristy.  And bought books.

The ones in the stack aren't all we've got, just what I've been in the mood for.  17th and 18th Century Art was a textbook I used for an art history course back then, fall 1979.  Not sure how my original copy left my environs, but a replacement was delightfully inexpensive on eBay, and so was 1948's edition of Gardner.   History of Art for Young People, and the National Gallery book were gifts from Dad, and excellent general history with luscious photos.  Vermeer -- gift from Mom --  is one of those creative geniuses who make me believe in the existence of the soul.  His light-bathed little deceptively ordinary house scenes have that luminous quality that seems to reveal something inexplicable. 

Holbein came from around the same time as that 17th-18thc. art history class.  $3.99 on a sale table, circa 1980.

I keep coming back to this portrait.

This is Charles de Solier, Sire de Morette, painted in about 1534.  According to the text, he was France's Ambassador to the English court.  According to the French version of wiki, that was brief.  I find little on him in a cursory search, but it's the portrait that grabs me.

This particular portrait is appreciated by artists (that link goes to the French PlusPedia entry done in Google Translate which explains the slightly odd wording), and deserves that appreciation, but isn't in that "everybody's familiar with it" category.  It wowed me immediately, even in my extremely dull-witted 20's.

Not only does the detail in that calm, smart face amaze me, but it's more than just physically realistic.  I fancy I can tell what he's thinking.  There's some weariness, but he's still in the game.  He's seen a lot and not much will surprise him anymore. The power and money and alliance game shifts but doesn't fundamentally change, and I think he's fairly recently come to an awareness that there will be a day when he just can't care much about the diplomacy game.  According to the link he lived to be wonderfully old for the time, around 30 more years after this portrait.  But the day to hang it up is not here yet.  Bring on the next thing.

1 comment:

ronnie said...

Holbein turns up periodically in Hilary Mantel's books about Thomas Cromwell and the Tudors, "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies". He is portrayed as being bemused and sometimes exasperated at the demands and desires of his famous models.