Thursday, April 23
Listening to an audiobook as I roam around is a big part of my experience. It’s the way I cope with long weeks of silence, the kind that comes with not knowing the language. Writing scratches the itch I have to communicate beyond ‘I want to buy ten stamps, please,’ but I also want to hear English. Intelligent, lively, thoughtful English. Joanna Bourne’s http://www.joannabourne.com/ books are excellent for this since she’s as much adventure as romance, it takes place on the peninsula, and the audiobook reader is superb.
Today my destination was Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, in no small part because they have a major Bosch triptych, The Temptation of St Anthony.Think back to my experience of viewing the Bosch in Madrid – vying with the crowd for more than a glimpse. Not here. People came in twos and threes, and in between I sat before it, alone. Examining a painting this complex and rich, with time to view each detail and then step back and see it as a whole, is a genuine luxury.
After an hour, I drifted through the other rooms, soaking in the peacefulness of art viewed without jostle. That’s not an unmixed blessing; these storehouses of treasures need supporting, and seeing the other patrons was like looking in a mirror – definitely senior and preponderantly female. I winced a little bit, not because of aging, per se, but because I belong to an identifiable type; formerly fierce, once-upon-a-time outrageous women, now earnest, harmless, and gray-haired. Grandmotherly with an artistic bent.
Several works caught my eye, despite feeling somewhat over-saturated in religiosity. This Tiepolo is not only vigorous and lively, it’s a way of imagining the Flight into Egypt that doesn’t feature dirt roads, sand, or donkeys.
This Salome looks properly ambitious and cold-blooded, instead of the decadent slut she is too often portrayed. She’d make a credible Lady MacBeth, too.
Finally, this Mary looked like a virgin teen mother, still a child herself, instead of simpering or featureless as an egg.
I was struck by a large painting of animals crossing a ford, in particular, a shaggy white goat. Took pleasure in doing a little drawing. I used sienna and umber conté crayons and a little white chalk.
Stumbled over a little exhibition devoted to red chalk drawings. Nice.
Had lunch on the terrace overlooking the mighty river Tagus.
Pigeons are aggressive. I saw a dozen pigeons converge on a tray someone left on a table. They went all Animal Planet, like vultures fighting over a carcass.
Back inside and upstairs to look at work by Portuguese painters. This view of hell is much grimmer and less hallucinatory than Bosch. Good for a month of nightmares.
The day had flown by. Ready for some gelato, I headed towards the Santini’s I’d visited on day one. After I’d walked fifteen minutes, I paused to look inside the Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s sleek indoor food market. Behold, I spy an outpost of the very same Santini’s. I ordered a chocolate, caramel and coconut combo if you must know. Worth every calorie.
Ubered back to the B&B and slept in peace, which I don’t take for granted and truly appreciate.
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