Simple plan today. Go to Double B coffee, then up to the red room of excellent hunting dogs, and restart my exploration. Break at 5pm for dinner, then hurry back to roam the hallowed halls until 9 at night. It’s going to be a long day.
Double B coffee was having a blind tasting of beans. An educational and competitive event for whatever the coffee bean equivalent of sommelier is, I guess. There was a lot of sniffing and tasting from multiple cups.
Okay, every post could be a variation of this – I was on my way to see X, when I saw Y. Two hours later… Today I was going to the hunting dog room, when I saw a small painting with this pair of hounds.
I had to stop and draw them. Did them together and separately. A passing tourist took a photo of me that serendipitously included the guard who kept a sharp but benevolent eye on me. It’s my favorite.
After lunch I ventured to the Dutch and Flemish rooms. Oh my, Rubens. I turned a corner and blinked. It was like he suddenly turned on the lights. Everything from the rooms before receded, becoming flat and dim in memory. His work looked supercharged with life, vivid and bright. Not just his luscious woman, either. I already knew he had an unmatched grasp of the pleasure of carnality. This small portrait of fierce old man’s face stopped me in my tracks.
It was dark-thirty by the time I walked through the Rembrandt gallery. Rubens is hunger and appetite; he exults.
He didn’t flinch from the dark. His darkness wasn’t a featureless void, it was a deep well that he could dip into and draw out compassion and empathy. “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” – Nietzsche. **
I got to spend a good quarter of an hour essentially alone with his Prodigal Son, a theme that resonates through my own life. Rembrandt understands the shame of degradation, the benediction of touch, the unexpected, undeserved, and unconditional welcome home.
His painting is forgiveness made visible.
**When I was checking the exact wording of the Nietzsche quote, I came across this interesting link about that very question.
Here’s a brief excerpt. “…People are losing their souls. Sex and Money are the draw. Emptiness the motivator. The hole of the abyss is filled with them, not what they were after. Addicts always start out with a view they can tempt the abyss and not be caught. Every addict ends up saying ‘Oops.'” – Mike Leary.