Wednesday April 22,
This time I took Uber straight out of the gate, to the glorious Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. http://museu.gulbenkian.pt/Museu/en/Homepage\
My priority was to preserve every shred of cartilage I have left in my hips and knees. It was uptown, and in Lisbon, they mean straight up. I swapped a thirty-minute uphill climb for ten minutes by vehicle for 3 euros. A bargain! I wanted to smack myself in the head. I could’ve had this little bit of ease all along. Once again, pain teaches me what pride won’t let me learn.
The Gulbenkian was named for a Turkish oil man who loved art as much as breathing, and made this provision for a home for works he called his children. * I have not inquired into his family life. The man had exquisite taste and threw not only money but his skill at long and complicated negotiations into his acquisitions. The museum building was thoughtfully designed to conserve and show the artwork in the best way for viewing, and the presentation of objects and paintings was exactly as I would wish.
It didn’t just have paintings by old masters, it had some of their best work. Very Frick-ish feel, though not jumbled in a house rejiggered to serve as a public venue, yet it retains the sense of a single discerning and, yes, obsessed, eye. My kind of guy.
They were out of the English audio guides. I plunged in. I whipped through the Egyptian room, slowed a little bit by the coins display. I usually can barely see such small objects, but these were suspended and lit in such a way that even I could make out the intricate designs clearly. Below is an example – the coin was about the size of my little fingernail. I don’t know what it commemorated when it was struck in 400-350 BC, but the couple looks pretty frisky. I ended up spending much more time with textiles, porcelains, and glass that I have in other collections. I loved the Portuguese patterned oriental carpet with a design of the ships on water – you could see the east and west collide.
Also, due to his Turkish heritage, Gulbenkian has objects from that part of the world. A fifth-century glass beaker and glass lamp from mosques amazed me – think of the odds of glass surviving those ages.
By the time I reached western European art, I’d slowed down and fallen into the moment. This was a detail of a smallish portrait of St. Joseph. The whiskers captivated me. Northern renaissance, of course. My people.Loves of the Centaurs, by Rubens. And by love, he means more a verb than emotion.
And this portrait of a woman who, fully dressed, personified carnal flirtation with a look and a single gesture.
No way I could walk past this Weenix painting of hunting trophies.
I’ve spent months painting rabbits, some more successfully than other, and this is what I aspired to. This is what a pelt should look like.
I ended up circling back to this painting multiple times.
After my lunch in the downstairs cafeteria (vegetable soup, fresh fruit, the ubiquitous pastis de natal) I sketched just the rabbit for an hour. Made a couple of attempts, on more than one page of my sketchbook, using pencils and Conte crayon. Mostly I wanted an excuse to look at how Weenix did this.
Saw many portraits that were unique in the liveliness of expression of the sitters. Cracked up over this one –
“Everybody’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man.” – ZZ Top.
Loved this little Sargent of the boat under the willows.
I had lunch and then explored the grounds – art students were sketching, scattered across the lawn and back garden vying with the resident ducks and pigeons for the green space.
Meandered around in the gardens, watched baby ducklings paddling in formation behind the mama duck on the pond, then went back inside to revisit some of my favorites.
Stayed until 5, then foolishly imagined walking back would be downhill. Nope.
Should’ve called Uber.
* The collection nearly ended up in the states. This respected collection was shown in both London and Washington DC. Curators in both cities courted him in hopes of the coup of winning the ultimate future of the collection. During WWII the British government managed to offend him and they were out. He ended up in Lisbon, and ultimately decided to leave his collection here.
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