The Emperor’s New Clothes

In their preamble the Musée des beaux arts makes a point of explaining that the current blockbuster exhibition should be considered more for it’s subtitle: Napoléon Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace.  And indeed the focus is on the elaborate dress, art work, and accoutrements of Emperor of the French as Bonaparte was declared in a referendum which involved the participation of 3.6 million voters.  If tallies and Talleyrand are to believed 99% of those who went to the polls were in favour of crowning Napoléon Emperor.  And I would say that 99% of the exhibition is made up of objects surrounding the Emperor; however the last room looks at him in exile – first on Elba and then St Helena.  And more specifically a section looks at the glee with which his downfall was celebrated in Europe and particularly England.

The room is line with a remarkable collection of caricatures and satirical drawings many from the McGill University collection and many by English satirist James Gillray.  I recognized his style and a few of the drawings but had never put a name to either.  His pen was indeed dipped in acid no matter if his subject was French or English.

Gillray’s version of the Coronation on December 2, 1804 was quite different from but just as imaginative as David’s famous painting.  Needless to say it had a very “Anglo” spin to the event.

coronation_procession_of_Napoleone_the_1st_Emperor_of_France,_from_the_church_of_Notre-Dame_Decr_2d_1804_by_James_GillrayThe Imperial procession wends its way out of Notre Dame through a phalanx of banner totting guards.  Overhead a banner proclaims ‘Redeunt Satania regna, Iam nova progenies cœlo demittitur alto!’ (The Kingdom of Satan returns, already a new generation has appeared on high.)  Not an anthem or antiphon that would have been sung during Paisello’s monumental coronation mass.


procession-1The procession is lead by ‘His Imperial Highness Prince Louis Buonaparte Marbœuf’ (a delicate hint that perhaps Carlo Bonaparte had worn horns), ‘High Constable of the Empire,’ very theatrically dressed and carrying a drum-major’s staff. Behind him gambol ‘The Three Imperial Graces, viz. their Imp. High. Princess Borghese, Princess Louis (cher amie of ye Emperor) & Princess Joseph Bonaparte.’ Pauline Borghese was Napoleon’s sister; Hortense was Josephine’s daughter who was married to Napoleon’s brother Louis; Julie Clary was married to Joseph Bonaparte who was having a disagreement with his brother and did not attend the coronation.  Napoleon’s mother sided with her older son and was also absent.

procession-2After them comes ‘Madame Talleyrand (ci-devant Mrs. Halhead the Prophetess*),’ a stout woman, who is ‘Conducting the Heir Apparent** in ye Path of Glory’ – and a most precocious little imp it looks. After them hobbles ‘Talleyrand Perigord, Prime Minister and King at Arms, bearing the Emperor’s Genealogy,’ which begins with ‘Buone Butcher,’ goes on with ‘Bonny Cuckold,’ till it reaches the apex of ‘Boney Emperor.’

* An obscure reference possibly to Joanna Southcott who purported to be a Prophetess and pregnant at the age of 64 with the new Messiah. **Napoléon Charles was the Emperor’s nephew and Josephine’s grand-son – he was in line for the throne but was only three at the time of the Coronation.  He died two years later.

procession-3Pope Pius VII. follows, and leading him by St Peter’s Keys is ‘his old Faithful Friend’ the devil disguised as an acolyte.  Cardinal Fesch (Napoleon’s uncle) sends up clouds of incense filled with the praise of the great unwashed and uninformed: ‘Les Addresses des Municipalités de Paris – Les Adorations des Badauds – Les Hommages des Canailles – Les Admirations des Fous – Les Congratulations des Grenouilles – Les Humilités des Poltrons.’

procession-4Then comes the central figures of the pageant, ‘His Imperial Majesty Napoleone ye 1st and the Empress Josephine,’ the former scowling ferociously, the latter looking blowsy, and fearfully stout.  As we know the Empress was neither and was considered one of the beauties of the age.

procession-5Three harridans, ‘ci-devant Poissardes,’ (formerly fishwives) support Josephine’s train, whilst that of Napoleon is borne by a Spanish don, an Austrian hussar, and a Dutchman, whose tattered breeches testify to his poverty. These are styled ‘Puissant Continental Powers – Train Bearers to the Emperor.’

procession-6Following them come ‘Berthier, Bernadotte, Angerou, and all the brave Train of Republican Generals …’ but they are handcuffed, and their faces display, unmistakably, their scorn for their old comrade.

procession-7Behind them poses a short corpulent figure, ‘Senator Fouché, Intendant General of ye Police, bearing the Sword of Justice.’ But not content with that weapon Fouché grasps an assassin’s dagger.  Both it and the sword are soaked in blood.  The rear of the procession is brought up by a ‘Garde d’Honneur,’: a jailer with the keys of the Temple Prison and a set of fetters; a spy with his report, ‘Espionnage de Paris;’ Monsieur de Paris, the executioner, bears a coil of rope with a noose, and a banner with a representation of the guillotine – and a prisoner, holding aloft two bottles respectively labelled Arsenic and Opium.

But as well as the satirical jabs at the fallen Napoléon there is one object that dominates the room and has with it an air of melancholy: a large wooden bird cage.  In 1819 Henri-Gratien Bertrand, who had accompanied Napoleon into exile, designed a large birdcage for the gardens of Longwood House. Several Chinese carpenters, who were tasked with making the constant repairs to the poor-constructed house, built the cage and stocked it with doves and pheasants.


Though initially Napoléon was pleased with it he eventually released all the birds.  As he did he is said to have remarked that St Helena didn’t need any more prisoners.

On this day in 1922: The first segment of the Imperial Wireless Chain providing wireless telegraphy between Leafield in Oxfordshire and Cairo comes into operation.

Exhibition Hopping – Part III

I began writing this post after my second visit to this exhibition in October, 2014, somehow it never got finished and posted.  It ends April 6, 2015 and I think I may just pay another visit.

Douglas Cardinal’s design for the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) was much criticized when it opened back in 1989, as were what was considered the
Disneyfied exhibits.  It has proven to be the most popular of the museums in the Capital region
with over 1 million visitors a year.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization recently changed its name to The Canadian Museum of History.  Other than the cost of all the changeover – signage et al – and the opportunity for new political appointments I’m not sure what exactly the change accomplished.  The building is still the landmark structure that Douglas Cardinal created in the late 1980s – though strangely the Wikipedia entry for the museum made no mention of the First Nations architect until a week or so ago.

The stunning sweep of the Grand Hall has been home to the largest collection of First Nations’ totem poles in the world.  And it also houses a plaster cast of one of my favourite pieces:  Bill Reid’s The Spirit of Haida Gwaii.

The Grand Hall is an astonishing feat of design and houses an amazing collection of West Coast totems.  At the moment Canada Hall, one of the main exhibition areas has been “closed to make way for the new Canadian History Hall, opening July 1, 2017.”  God only knows what new wonders are in store but given the current government’s attitude to heritage I am afraid – very afraid.  However the rest of the museum is open and they are still staging interesting exhibitions tracing our history including a fascinating exhibition on the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.

Empress of  Ireland, Canada’s Titanic – Canadian Museum of History

A left click on the catalogue cover
will take you to the exhibit website.

For some reason – that well-known Canadian passive-aggressive trait? – the curators felt that it was necessary to add the tag-line “Canada’s Titanic” to the name of the exhibit.  Perhaps because it is an unknown marine disaster even to most Canadians they felt it was needed to draw in the crowds.  Mind you this is not an unusual trick in the art world, I recall an exhibition in Milan that trumpeted  Caravaggio where the angle was not the very posthumously trendy artist but his influence on Northern artists.

And so it was with The Empress of Ireland,  Canada’s Titanic: a passing mention of the White Star liner of iceberg fame, but the focus was on the disaster in 1914 that took the lives of 1032 of the 1477 people on board in the 15 minutes that it took the Canadian Pacific steamship to sink.  On May 28 the Empress left the dock at Quebec City an hour and half after it’s scheduled departure time of 1500; by 0220 on May 29, not twelve hours later, she lay at the bottom of the St Laurent.  A voyage that had begun with music, laughter, no doubt some tears and high expectations ended swiftly and without warning.

One of two Canadian Pacific steamships that plied the Atlantic the Empress of Ireland was launched
on January 27, 1906 and arrived in Quebec City for the first time on July 7th of that year.  Before
that foggy evening in 1914 the liner had made 95 eastbound crossings of the Atlantic.

The exhibition itself begins with music, laughter and dockyard sounds as you approach the  space via a small gangplank.  One of the most striking things about the exhibition (arranged with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax) is the sound-scape.   As you progress through the areas the sounds of shipboard life follow you.  The first sound is a Salvation Army Band playing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” – particularly poignant as 150 members of that religious group lost their lives on that fateful voyage.  As you leave the exhibition it is also the last sound you hear – faintly in the background after having passed a shadow outline of the ship created by the names of all those on board.

A piano – much like the one that graced the Grand Salon of the Empress – is all set appropriate  music
for the first evening out:  The Empress of Ireland Waltz composed in 1906 by Myrtle Wallace.

Between there are the sounds of shipboard life – the ship’s bell ringing the hour,  the genteel sounds of first class and the more earthy sounds of life in third class.  The sight and sound images of the ship that tranquil late spring evening are evoked in small items such as the bugle that called first class passengers to dinner, an ingenuous fold out sink from third class, a Sally Ann sing-song in the music room, the murmur of a late night card game, the eerie sound of the engines in the fog covered night.
As the viewer moves closed to that terrible moment when the fog cleared and both the crews of the Empress and the Swedish collier Storstad became aware of what was about to happen the atmosphere becomes heavy, almost menacing – again an effective piece of design.

Abandon Ship Awakened in the night The icy waters Image Map

Abandon Ship | Awakened in the night | The icy waters | Image Map
A left click on the ship’s bell will enlarge each photo.

As the ship’s bell rings the sounds of panic draw you into the heart of the disaster:  a darkened space with one of those bells dramatically spotlit at it’s centre.  At first glance the surround projections of drownings and people in panic treading the icy water (the currents at Pointe-au-Père are particularly treacherous and the temperature in the river was around 6C) seemed a bit over-the-top and almost cartoonish; but when mixed with the lighting and sound-scape have an overpowering effect.

A page from the exhibition catalogue shows the impact the disaster had on the culture of the region.

Thought the event is at the centre of the exhibition the aftermath is well chronicled.  The impact on the surrounding communities is documented with photographs of the rescue and retrieval efforts. Newspaper headlines blare the local and international magnitude of the tragedy, letters and wires – CP corporate, news service and more touchingly personal – record the desperate attempts of families to get information about passengers.  And the industry built up around the tragedy – souvenirs, first-hand accounts in tabloids, broadsheets, song sheets and books – are displayed and prove that human disaster has always been big business.

Sailors taking the coffins of children – of the 138 children on board only 5 survived
including Grace Hanagan – off the vessel Lady Gray at the pier in Quebec City.

Photograph: Library of Congress

Within days of the disaster the Government had set up a commission of inquiry – an emergency amendment to the Canada Shipping Act was rushed through Parliament to allow this unprecedented move.  The work of the Commission and the subsequent court battle between CP and the Swedish ship again are documented and well-explained for what were complicated and often politically motivated proceedings.  By the time it had been settled by the British Privy Council in 1919 other events had relegated the disaster into the back pages of history.

Passengers posing for a group photo on board The Empress of Ireland as it departs.
The stories of many of them can be found on the commemoration website Empress 2014.

Throughout the exhibition we catch glimpses of passengers: some wealthy and well-known, others known only to family and friends:  Sabina Barbour and her two daughters, Edward and Marian Adie, Egildo and Carolina Braga and their young son Rino and many others.  The passenger list was a diverse one including actor Lawrence Irving (brother of Sir Henry Irving), his wife Mabel Hackney and members of their theatrical troupe, the Salvation Army delegation and 300 immigrant workers who had recently been laid off at the Ford Motor Plant in Detroit.

Amongst the 465 survivors was Grace Hanagan, the seven year old daughter of Salvation Army bandmaster Edward Hanagan.  Both her mother and father died in the tragedy and Grace grew up with the memory of that horrible night.  Towards the end of the exhibition there is a CBC video *of the annual Salvation Army memorial for the members who were lost on the Empress and Grace remembers the events of May 29, 1914.  She died at the age of 87 in 1995, the last remaining survivor.

“God Be With You Till We Meet Again” can be heard faintly in the background as visitors walk by a
silhouette  of the ill-fated Empress made up of the names of her passengers and crew.  A moving
commemoration of the worst marine disaster in our history

*A few of the figures given in this 1986 video differ from what is listed in the exhibit.

February 27 – 1861: Russian troops fire on a crowd in Warsaw protesting against Russian rule over Poland, killing five protesters.

Exhibition Hopping – Part II

Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars – Musee de Beaux-Arts de Montreal  

As I mentioned in a previous post this exhibition, which ends October 5, is a marvel on several levels.  The objects – most from the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – are remarkable in both imagination, design and workmanship.  And Hubert Le Gall’s exhibition design is an ingenuous, imaginative and witty evocation of the bibelots and kickshaw of Imperial Russia that doesn’t ignore the darker side of history.

The first room reflects the strong Orthodox believes of Russia and her Imperial Family. Traditional Easter eggs are on display, But what Easter eggs: suspended or cupped miniatures made from or encrusted with gemstones from the semiprecious to diamonds. A golden iconostasis-like wall houses icons, precious both for their religious significance and the artistry in their creation.

This miniature Easter egg pendent is only one of a glorious series in the first room of the exhibition. It was created in the Fabergé workrooms around 1900 using enamel with gold accents.

The Iverskaya Mother of God was particularly venerated in Russia and many legends grew up around the healing powers of the icon. The Virgin has a scar on her cheek inflicted by a soldier sent to destroy the original icon. The Fabergé setting for this copy is mounted on silver gilt and accented withe silver, garnets, sapphires, topaz, zircon, diamonds and pearls.

Citrine, gold, silver, enamel and a circle of diamonds create this extraordinary egg pendant from the Fabergé workshop.

The shadows of the second room evokes the symbols and history of the Romanov dynasty. The cases hold personal items that were meant for everyday use but still intended to show the wealth and standing of the Imperial court. Designer Hubert Le Gall’s concept captured many of the contrasting aspects of Fabergé’s relationship with the Imperial Family and the beau monde of the period.

Today Fabergé is chiefly thought of as the maker of the elaborate Easter Eggs that were presented by the Csar to his wife each Easter from 1885 until 1917.  It was a tradition began by Alexander III who presented Maria Feodorovna with the Imperial Hen Egg in 1885.  After his father’s death Nicholas II  continued the custom and every Easter presented one to his wife Alexandra as well as to his mother the Dowager Empress.  Of the fifty-two Imperial Eggs created by the Fabergé workshop five are in the Lillian Thomas Pratt collection.  Each of the exhibition rooms features one of the five; the most elaborate being the Peter the Great that is displayed in the second room.

The Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg was presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by Czar Nicholas II in 1903. It was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Saint Petersburg. Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin used gold, platinum, silver gilt, diamonds, rubies, enamel, watercolour, ivory, rock crystal, gilt bronze and sapphires in its creation.

The Egg features watercolour portraits of Peter the Great and Tzar Nicolas II and of the first wooden structure built in Saint Petersburg and the Hermitage – all surrounded by elaborate (and perhaps subconscious) reminders that the city was built on a swamp. When opened a miniature of Falconet’s The Bronze Horseman raises out of the shell – the Thunder Stone is carved from an unfinished sapphire.

The story of how Lillian Thomas Pratt came to acquire this  treasure has become legend and as with many legends it’s a bit difficult to separate the truth from the elaboration.  The story was that she outbid many richer women and then proceeded to pay for it clandestinely out of her household money so her husband wouldn’t find out is colourful if apocryphal.  Mrs Pratt’s wealth was modest when compared with many of the other collectors but her husband John Lee Pratt  supported her passion for Fabergé and Russian objects.  She did indeed outbid several people for the Egg and paid À la Vieille Russie the $108,534.00 it cost in thirty-three monthly installments.  I’m not sure if – as another version has it – she paid for many of her purchases using her Lord and Taylor’s credit card but it is highly possible.

This attractive hare in silver and gold with garnet eyes is a pitcher created in the Fabergé Moscow workshop sometime before 1899.

These remarkable parasol handles were the work of two of Fabergé’s renowned workmasters: Mikhail Perkhin (left) and Erik Kollin (right).

Many households would display sets of demitasse spoons bearing the hallmark of Fabergé; this set in silver, silver gilt and enamel were made between 1908-1917.

I found the silver and gold Kovsh of the Worthy Knights even more remarkable than the Imperial Easter Eggs. The enormous drinking vessel honoured the bogatyri or mythical medieval warriors who founded the first empire of the Csars.

Though the Imperial Easter Eggs may be the most famous pieces it should not be forgotten that Fabergé created all manner of objects – practical and ornamental.  Many of the pieces that came out of his workshop on Bolshaia Morskaia were available to even people with modest incomes.  And the House was famous for its enamels and silverware as well as its work in precious and semi-precious stones.

Meant to reflect the Faberge workrooms the curved tables – modeled on the worktables at the studio – allowed a closer look at some of the trifles created to amuse and astound the Court and impress visitors. A few of the items are from other jewellers but reflect the influence of Carl Fabergé‘s workshop on the art of jewellry making throughout Europe.

What can I say – even if the Romanov’s sometimes when over the top with blinge they had good taste in dogs.  Many of the little knickknacks created for them and their family indicate that the dachshund was a favoured family animal.

This French bell pull was created in the Cartier studios around 1915; crafted in silver, gold, silver gilt, ivory, smoky quartz, enamel, rubies, garnets and pearls it shows the Fabergé influence at work in France.

Made of smokey agate with ruby eyes this little fellow is said to have graced a mantel in the apartments of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in the Antichkov Palace.

Nose to the ground, tracking a prey this little dachshund is crafted in agate again the eyes being inset rubies. The exact provenance is unknown as the object is unmarked. Despite his questionable pedigree he’s still a very attractive little lad.


The fourth room is the darkest on many levels – it is crowded with memories of the Romanov family: framed portraits, the Red Cross Egg and personal items.  And lurking in the background is the unrest, the poverty, the vast inequalities of life in Csarist Russia.

The Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg was given to the Dowager Empress in 1915 in recognition of her work as president of the Russian Red Cross. It contained portraits of members of her family who served in the Red Cross tending the War wounded and dying in the hospital established by the Empress in the Alexander Palace.

Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin‘s created numerous frames for the Imperial photographs. This star frame in gold, silver, enamel and seed pearls holds a portrait of the second daughter, the Grand Duchess Tatiana. It was taken by the Csar and Empress to Yekaterinburg and is the only thing that is known to have survived the events of 1918.

It has a rather chilling effect after all the light and sparkle of the geegawgery of the previous displays.  However it puts a personal face on the people for who much of these extravagances were created.  It gives the impression of a family that for all their faults and foibles cared for each other.  And it leads to final Fabergé piece in the exhibition: the Star Frame.  This is the only object taken into exile by Nicolas and Alexandra that is known to have survived.

The room in the basement of the Ipatiev House where the Imperial Family was ruthlessly butchered on July 17, 1918. It had become a clandestine pilgrimage site so was demolished in 1977. In July 2003 the Church on the Blood was consecrated on the site.

As you leave the exhibition there is one final image: the room where the family was assassinated in Yekaterinburg. History records that the jewels hidden in the corsets of the Empress and Grand Duchesses acted as body armour with bullets ricocheting but not penetrating; in the end the death squad used bayonets and gun butts.  It is not known as fact but can be assumed that some of the jewellery that prolonged their death agonies came from the workshops of Carl Fabergé.

Many of the photographs I have used in this post come from the catalogue for Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars published by the MBAM and VMFA and from the MBAM members publications.  I suggest looking at their website for more objects and fascinating information on the exhibition.  I am only sorry I wasn’t able to get down for a second look – I know I missed things the first time around.

September 27 – 1777: Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States, for one day.

A Limited Collection – Part II

On of the great joys of museum going is when a curator successfully leads you from one contrasting media to another.  I always remember stumbling out of the Green Vault at the Albertinium Museum in Dresden bedazzzled with the baroque splendor of its gems, gold and silver and being confronted by the stark Tim Burton-like sculptures of Thomas Reichstein and Andreas Feininger’s black and white photographs of a long past Amercia.  It was a strange juxtaposition of periods and medium and even stranger it worked.

Much the same effect was achieved with the Rijksmusuem’s mounting of a small exhibition to mark the publication of a catalogue of the complete works of the Dutch engraver Hendrik Goltzius (left in a self-portrait).  In the preceding room are two enormous works: the most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum’s collection, Rembrandt’s The Militia Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch (The Night Watch)  faced by The Company of Captain Reinier Reael and Lieutenant Cornelis Michielsz Blaeuw, Amsterdam painted in 1637 by Frans Hals.  Rather amusingly the crowds around the Rembrandt were thick (in more ways than one said he rather smarmily) and the cameras were clicking like mad while few people spent any time looking at or recording the Hals.  Yes the Rembrandt is the more dramatic and more justly famous but the Hals is as worthy of time spent for its details of dress and the smug arrogance of the posers or poseurs if you will.

Frans Hals’ treatment of a Militia Brigade has a static quality to it that is typical of its time – this was all to change when Rembrandt approached a like subject five years later.  Though not as popular as its Gallery companion the Hals is still a magnificent study in individual portraiture and no doubt pleased it sitters.

But I digress – in moving from the two huge canvases with their broad painterly strokes reflecting the development of Dutch art of the Golden Age to the small fine lines and cross hatching of the engraver’s art there was a pleasantly startling contrast that magnified the achievements of both art forms.  Not as bold perhaps as the experience at the Albertinium it still was a master stroke on the part of the Museum curators.

Golzius was the leading Dutch engraver of the Baroque age, he excelled at both creating his own painterly scenes and adapting the work of others.  Strangely a childhood accident left him with a deformed right hand (right, in an engraving by Golzius) that was perfect for holding the engraver’s burin.  It allowed him a control of the tool that expanded the effects which gave his engravings a depth and dimension that changed the art of the engraver for future artists.   He is credited with over 399 engravings and more than 500 of his  designs were used by other print makers.  He also adapted the work of other artists, most principally the Flemish painter Bartholomeus Spranger.

‘Eer boven Golt’ (Honour surpasses Gold)  the title is taken from Golzius’s motto, features only a fraction of the engravings in the collection at the Rijksmuseum.  As usual I was transfixed not by the major engravings (beautiful as they were) but by a set of pen and ink drawings, possibly based on works of Spranger, that Golzius did as preparatory work for four engravings depicting Old Testament defenders of Israel.   They are shown carrying the weapons they used to defeat their enemies and in the background the scenes of their heroic acts.  From these drawings Golzius engraved the plates which were then printed by Jacob Matham, Golzius’s step-son and one of the master printmakers of the time.



And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

1 Samuel 17: 40-51


YAEL (JAEL) The Song of Deborah


Extolled above women be Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite,
Extolled above women in the tent.
He asked for water, she gave him milk;
She brought him cream in a lordly dish.
She stretched forth her hand to the nail,
Her right hand to the workman’s hammer,
And she smote Sisera; she crushed his head,
She crashed through and transfixed his temples.
At her feet he curled himself, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he curled himself, he fell;
And where he curled himself, let it be, there he fell dead.

Judges 5:23-27


JUDITH – The Canticle of Judith


Begin ye to the Lord with timbrels, sing ye to the Lord with cymbals, tune unto him a new psalm, extol and call upon his name.
The Lord putteth an end to wars, the Lord is his name.
He hath set his camp in the midst of his people, to deliver us from the hand of all our enemies.
The Assyrians came out of the mountains from the north in the multitude of his strength: his multitude stopped up the torrents, and their horses covered the valleys.
He bragged that he would set my borders on fire, and kill my young men with the sword, to make my infants a prey, and my virgins captives.
But the almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.
For their mighty one did not fall by young men, neither did the sons of Titan strike him, nor tall giants oppose themselves to him, but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her face.
For she put off her the garments of widowhood, and put on her the garments of joy, to give joy to the children of Israel.
She anointed her face with ointment, and bound up her locks with a crown, she took a new robe to deceive him.
Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty made his soul her captive, with a sword she cut off his head.
The Persians quaked at her constancy, and the Medes at her boldness.
Then the camp of the Assyrians howled, when my lowly ones appeared, parched with thirst.
The sons of the damsels have pierced them through, and they have killed them like children fleeing away: they perished in battle before the face of the Lord my God.
Let us sing a hymn to the Lord, let us sing a new hymn to our God.

The Book of Judith 16: 2-15




Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.
And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.
Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.
And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.
And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi.

Judges 15: 9-17


Though the engravings are nothing less than masterpieces for some reason I find the pen and ink drawings, though lacking in detail and dimension, the more interesting and for me satisfying.

30 June – 1886: The first transcontinental train trip across Canada departs from Montreal. It arrives in Port Moody, British Columbia on July 4.


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Great Artist – Bad Citizen

Not so long ago his paintings could be had for a song – and a dance too I would think – but now Caravaggio is among the hottest painters in the world.   It seems every time I turn around in Rome there’s another poster advertising another Caravaggio Exhibition.  Last year we had the big blockbuster at the Scuderie del Quirinale – people were lining up for 4 to 5 hours in the hot sun to get in – you’ll notice there was no first person in the statement.   Then we had La Notte di Caravaggio on July 18 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death – notice the use of the first person for that event.  Yes I did the rounds of two of the three churches that boast Caravaggios and lined up for three hours to get into the Villa Borghese then tromped home at four in the morning which for the Master, if tales that are currently being told are true, would have been early.

Now the Archivo di Stato di Roma (Archives of the City of Rome) have mounted an exhibition that reveal some of the dire and dirty deeds surrounding Michel(I’m no Angelo) da Caravaggio.  Deeds  that heretofore had only been whispered about in dark alleyways and smokey taverns.  Documents from the archives detail a criminal dossier that would make lesser men blush.  Here’s the short list of his police file:

  • May 4 1598: Arrested at 2- 3am near Piazza Navona, for carrying a sword without a permit
  • November 19 1600: Sued for beating a man with a stick and tearing his cape with a sword at 3am on Via della Scrofa
  • October 2 1601: A man accuses Caravaggio and friends of insulting him and attacking him with a sword near the Piazza Campo Marzio
  • April 24 1604: Waiter complains of assault after serving artichokes at an inn on the Via Maddalena
  • October 19 1604: Arrested for throwing stones at policemen near Via dei Greci and Via del Babuino
  • May 28 1605: Arrested for carrying a sword and dagger without a permit on Via del Corso
  • July 29 1605: Vatican notary accuses Caravaggio of striking him from behind with a weapon
  • May 28 1606: Caravaggio kills a man during a pitched battle in the Campo Marzio area

The good people over at the BBC have a great inter-active article on a few of the police files and documents on display at Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza.  He really was the bad boy of Renaissance art. 

18 febbraio – Santi Massimo, Claudio, Prepedigna, Alessandro e Cuzia