Category Archives: art

A Debauched King Who Loved Art: Charles II

We might blame it all on Cromwell and the puritans. They avoided having fun, and imposed that odd way of living on everyone else.  So when Cromwell  finally died in 1658, it is not a huge surprise that some people went overboard  on the pleasures of the flesh.

The restored king, Charles II was one of them.  Debauched? yes. But not demonic. Just debauched. He was the “merry monarch”. Charles loved women. Not just physically, though that was one of his main pursuits. He loved them in the ideal sense too.It is odd, therefore, that he left no legitimate heirs.13 illegitimate kids. But no heirs.

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Too bad there because he was followed by his brother, the dreadful James I:I., who would be deposed.

BTW, a fun fact – remember Princess Diana? She was descended form 2 of Charles II’s illegitimate children.

And Charles II also restored Christmas to Britain (it had been banned by Cromwell).

And Charles loved to collect art.

In fact, one of the great stories from that era is the effort he made to re-start the royal art collection (that Cromwell had sold off). Indeed, the current royal collection starts from the works that Charles bought.

Charles had a good eye. Jonathon Jones offers more insights in his review of paintings from the royal collection now on exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery.

It is a fun read! Go for it!

Charles II reigned for 25 years, a long time. One would not claim that his rule was a great success in terms of policy. Indeed, he seems to have “sold out” to Louis XIV. And by the time of his death, at the age of 54, it was understood that he had no interest in matters of state. Indeed, just before he passed on, he engaged in an orgy with all 3 of his mistresses. Worse still, it was rumored that on his deathbed he converted to the Catholic faith. That may have been why he got no grand state funeral. There was an effigy made wearing royal garments of the day.

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These still exist, and you can buy photos of them, including the undergarments.  Somehow that seems appropriate.

But the point again, here was a man who was corrupted by power but not in a mean way. Unlike Henry VIII, for example, he seemed just happy to follow his bliss.


David Cassidy, Meet November

David Cassidy passed on, which gives me a chance to reflect on what he represented for many people. He was a pop star, and perhaps the only major one during a time when pop played second fiddle to rock. Cassidy was in fact, the most famous pop start of that period, the 1970’s.

What was pop all about? It was light entertainment. Just serious enough to claim innocent sincerity, but not too much. It was positive, invigorating, fun. Vox has more to say about Cassidy and pop, but you get the idea.

This year, we saw the release of a very different sort of artistic expression. A film by the name of November. It is based on a book called Rehepapp by Estonian writer Andrus Kivirähk. I would argue that if anything is the opposite of pop, this is it.

… the filmmakers say, “both mythologies look for a miracle; for an ancient force that gives one a soul. This film is about souls – longing for a soul, selling your soul and living without a soul.”

Innocence is lost. Something else takes the stage. It is more serious and more dangerous. My question — does this tell us something about where we are headed?

Here is the trailer

An Encounter with Egyptian Surrealism

from Laura Cumming’s review of shows at the Tate Liverpool.

The first show is of early work by John Piper. Interesting. And then …

There is no door between this show and the next, which feels right, since nothing could prepare you for the sheer strangeness of Surrealism in Egypt. If you once thought this movement oversold, from Buñuel’s sliced eyeballs to Dalí’s molten watches, consider an art that turns tortoises into heroes and flying eggs into eyes, where donkeys laugh their heads off and a lizard’s tongue becomes the barbed wire binding a chain gang.

There is much more! Read on!

Modigliani and his Nudes

Modigliani was quite the young stud.

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And it is not a huge surprise that this young stud liked painting nude women. Errr … not just nude, but in poses that suggest something

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It was the pubic hair, apparently, that caught the eye of the police and at least on one occasion caused them to shut down an exhibit of his paintings.

Lara Feigel reviews the Modigliani retrospective at the Tate., which is a fun read. It starts off this way

We fight against the nude in painting, as nauseous and as tedious as adultery in literature,” proclaimed the Italian Futurists in 1910. The nude was dead; the speeding car more thrilling than the female body. Yet by 1919, Modigliani had almost single-handedly resuscitated her. This was not the decorous nakedness of Manet, the woman seen at a distance, wreathed in allegory. Neither was it the mutilating brutality of Picasso, whom Kenneth Clark saw as engaged in “a scarcely resolved struggle between love and hatred”. These were warm, living women, bursting out of the frame towards the viewer; women drifting languorously to sleep or writhing with pleasure. Naked flesh, captured on the canvas, would never be the same again.

See what I mean? Read on!




A Scandal in the Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is a treasure by any standard. Here it is from the outside

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Inside, you see stuff like this


We learn from Wikipedia that it was pulled together in the 17th century

Cardinal Scipione Borghese … was the collection’s instigator and collected the majority of the collection.

Here he sits

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And his collection was private. The idea of making it public came roughly a century later. From the History Blog

Prince Marcantonio Borghese IV made extensive alterations and renovations to the villa and rearranged its prized collection to turn it into a full-fledged public museum instead of a private house that allowed visitors the way it had been since Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s days. Marcantonio turned to architect Antonio Asprucci to turn his vision of the new museum into a reality, and they worked closely together on the project for two decades starting in 1775. Craftsmen, builders, painters, antiquities experts all dedicated themselves to this ambitious goal with an attention to detail that was recognized as an artistic achievement without parallel in its time.

Here is good old Marcantonio, looking rather dapper

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The galleria is home to a great many incredible works of art, including a Caravaggio collection. Though we learn from The History Blog that  3 of those works are now to go on loan to The Getty Museum .

And we see this

The project is sponsored by FENDI which somehow links it to the value of the Made in Italy brand. It’s a laudable goal that I hope to see succeed and become a standard for all researchers no matter what the subject, but how about they fork over some of the billions they make flogging logoware to fashion victims to FIX THE A/C IN THE GALLERIA BORGHESE?! Seriously it’s insane that the director of the gallery has a deep-pocketed sponsor for the research institute which is under no particular time pressure while the paint is literally peeling off the canvases in the museum itself.

How could it be?

The Case of the Farting Statue(s)

A rather alarming tongue in cheek post by David Mitchell of the Guardian

It focuses on this idea

… the Victoria and Albert Museum is considering adapting its copy of Michelangelo’s David so that it makes a farting noise whenever anyone walks past. This would be part of a “takeover” of the museum by the Beano as a celebration of the comic’s 80th anniversary. The information comes from a leaked memo on the subject written by the museum’s festival manager, Sophie Reynolds.

And why end there?  Could it be the solution to the Brexit issue?

Stories about Women?

I have read the complaint many times that there are too few major roles in film for women. Men dominate.

And we might go further. Hollywood has been for many years now awash in films from the action story genre. We see the same storyline over and over again — evil villain seeking to destroy the world or take it over clashes with handsome young hero or heroes. Even the male characters are cliche.

Whatever happened to stories about the real world?

One solution is for people to start writing these stories. And while they are at it, writing stories where women are major characters. That is what Elinor Cook is doing-

Very cool!

check out her story!