Norse Legends – VI

Hold on to your Sleipnir Dr Spo the Viking stuff will come shortly in the meantime there’s more to the Rijksmuseum than saintly wooden statues. Here’s a few more things that caught my fancy.

Having seen perhaps the most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum on our first visit – in juxtaposition with Franz Hal’s of the same name – it was interesting to see it at a greater distance and surround by the modern paraphernalia of restoration. Very helpful guides are in place to explain both the need for and the process of restoration. I had not realized the painting had been attacked several times and required extensive restoration in 1975.

Pierre Cuypers, the Rijksmuseum architect, designed this piano as a wedding gift for his second wife Antoinette. The gift reflected their deep Catholicism. The images on the piano case show two scenes from the story of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It alludes the sacrifice Antoinette made in giving up her musical carrer for marriage. Rather oddly it took an extensive search to find out her name – the label certainly did not mention it and neither did most online biographies of Cuypers.

Two Mothers: When I first saw the title of this terra cotta by Frans Stracké I was a little puzzled and then I got it. As Laurent mentioned the labelling on the various pieces are great examples of what museum captions should be. I was fixated on the human and canine figures until my attention was drawn to the fisherwoman’s bad luck at fishing – she has only two fish in her pouch and her net is empty.

Painter Thérèse Schwartze was known for her portraits of Dutch royalty and the prosperous bourgeoise of Amsterdam society. With a touch of irony we know the name of the dog in this painting but not the French model who posed with him. It appears Schwartze started this painting in 1879 while a student in Paris and finished it five years later????

This rather foreboding figurehead graced the frigate Prins von Orange. Built in Rotterdam in 1828 the warship was armed with sixty canons.

And we end Willy’s tour with Intrigue – James Ensor’s rather grotesque if carnivalesque painting. His signature masked figures were an open challenge to bourgeois society of the time. Needless to say they did not meet with public approval.

I only wish I had more time to spend as I only saw two floors of two wings of this remarkable collection. Ah well the next time.

September 7th has a plethora of celebrations but I think I’ll forego World Beard Day and National Salami Day (oh grow up!) in favour of a favourite sport of Canadian drivers: Tailgating Day.

Norse Legends – V

Again nothing about the Valhalla of the Norsemen but a few photos of works that caught my fancy in that Valhalla of Museums: the Rijksmuseum.

On our last visit to Amsterdam in 2012 the Rijksmuseum was under massive renovation and only highlights of the permanent collection were on display. We managed to see many of the more famous works as well as one small but fascinating exhibition and talked about the day we would have access to the full collection.

But as often happens I became fixated on a few items particularly in the Middle Ages and Renaissance Galleries and particularly with the wood sculptures that once graced churches, monasteries, and convents in the Low Countries.

We tend to forget that until the late 16th century Catholicism dominated religion in Holland. Though the reforms of Luther had little impact on the Dutch many embraced the tenets of the Anabaptists and subsequently Calvin. As a result many of the churches, convents and chapels were stripped of their popish adornments.

The Altar of the Virgin of the chapel of the Confraternity of the Virgin at St Janskerk in ‘s Hetogenbosch was filled with lively figures and scenes from the life of the Virgin. Only a few fragments remain and they are arranged in their original order for the display. Adiaen van Wesel (c 1417-after 1490) created this highly original altar between 1475 and 1477. I find the Joseph and what is definitely an angel band particularly expressive.

Sometime between 1460 and 1480 an artist known as the Master of Joachim and Anna created this intimate scene between Mary’s parents for a large altar dedicated to the life of the Virgin. After years of being childless they greet the news of her pregnancy with a tender embrace.

Created for the predella or base of a large altar piece around 1520 three scenes show scenes from the life of Christ when he appears at a meal table: Christ Visiting Mary and Martha; The Last Supper; and the Supper at Emmaus. All speak to the celebration of Mass. The creator of these three scenes is unknown.

The diagonal planes of the figure that almost becomes as one with the rocks that surround him struck me as being almost out of place amongst the other works in the gallery in its modernity. But it was created in Brussels by the Master of Hakendover over 450 years ago. A repentant Peter, face contorted and hands clasp, recoils in contrition for denying Christ.

Many of the sculptures were stripped of their polychrome including the Repentance of St Peter above, and this statue of Saint Ursula and her Virgins. Hendrick Douverman carved the work around 1520 and St Ursula wears the fashion of a high born lady of the time, as do her companions. Legend says that she and her retinue of 11,000 virgins were murdered by the Huns – here six of her friends seek protect under her cloak. Obviously it didn’t work!

September 6th is Coffee Ice Cream Day and Read A Book Day – so I think I’ll find a nice cafe on one of the canals here order a gelato and try a few more chapters of John Julian Norwich on the Fall of Byzantium.

Norse Legends – IV

And Lurker was right – the numbering is confused – blame it on jet lag.

So here we are in Amsterdam. It has not been the least stressful of trips thus far. Our flight was delayed out of Toronto – and just as well as I wouldn’t want to have taken off in the thunder storm that closed the airport. The driver we had arranged to pick us up was a no-show and I am in current communication with the company who are refusing to issue a refund. There were a few problems with our hotel room – first time I’ve ever been disappointed by but that is a story for another day. However we are here and we are alive.

Rather than go on with tales of woe I’ll simply share a few photos and the odd comment.

After a nap – a light snack to tide me over until late dinner.

The area is in the Museum area – art galleries, antique stores, cafes, and the odd – gasp – pot stop. No this is an art gallery!

Now this is the sort of lawyer you want to do business with!

There were three more of these however the titles were…. not the sort of thing you put on a family blog.

A very tiring day ended up in a pleasant wine bar called Shiraz. An arrangement of charcuterie – meats, cheese, croquettes, figs – and a tasting flight of some very nice wines put us in the mood for bedfordshire.

September 5th is Cheese Pizza Day – I’ll save the celebration until I get on the boat where they have a pizza parlour.

Norse Legends – II

Unfortunately the good Doctor will be once again disappointed when he discovers that I am penning a post under a misleading title. Neither will Fricka drive her rams through this one, nor will Thor wield his hammer.

In honour of Skyscraper Day I thought I’d post a few photos and facts about a building that during my youth was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth: the Bank of Commerce Building on King Street in Toronto. From our room on the 30th floor of the hotel we had a wonderful view of this historic treasure which I was able to capture in several photos.

At the corner of King and Jordan it lorded it over the financial district like a limestone temple of Mammon from its completion in January 1931. At 34-storeys it held pride of place in the Empire until supplanted in 1962 by Toronto’s CIBC Building which was quickly bested by the Royal Bank’s Place Ville-Marie in Montreal a year later.

However in the days of Muddy York it was the site of a more modest structure: the first Methodist Church in the city.

The secular took over the site when the Theatre Royal replaced the modest Methodist chapel in 1833. The arts then gave way to commerce in 1887 when the Canadian Bank of Commerce built a seven-story head office that served the need of the bank until a series of mergers signalled the need for something a little bigger, a little grander, a little more indicative of the importance and status of banking in the Queen’s City.

The rather opulent style has been referred to variously as Art Deco via Beaux Arts with a touch of Romanesque Revival. The tower contains set-backs at various levels and long vertical windows in orderly rows rise from the sixth floor to the observation deck on the 34th floor.

The four heads that grace the observation deck gaze stoically out across the city. They represent Courage, Observation, Foresight, and Enterprise. All worthy attributes much admired in “Toronto the Good”.

The main entrance and detailing around the ground floor windows further the architects desire to create a symbol of the strength and reputation of the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

Perhaps it has been surpassed by the glass and steel towers that surround it but the old building still reflects a strength and beautiful that has lasted for almost a century.

September 3 – well hey we’ve already done Skyscraper Day – we stayed in one, we visited one. More more do you want.

Norse Legends – I

I am sure that when my good friend Dr Spo saw this title he had visions of Eddas both Poetic and Prosaic but sadly that is not to be. I am simply using the title that the good marketeers at Holland America have given our upcoming cruise to denote posts of our current jaunt into the wider world.

So to begin at the beginning – well slightly before the beginning: on occasion we travel standby using my passes from the years I spent slaving working for Air Canada. As we are on standby this can be a touch problematic: there are limited flights and many people trying to get both onto and off of our Island home. Labour Day Monday (today) had looked pretty good then suddenly the flights filled up – or more specifically the one at the civilized hour of 1130. The other flight (there are two to Toronto) is at 0505 and still had seats available – yes dear reader that is 0505 in the morning. Rather than take a chance we opted for the sure thing of the flight at dark o’clock.

Now this meant getting up at 0300 and heading out to the airport – yes dear reader that is 0300 in the morning! And that necessitated heading to Bedfordshire the night before at 2100 and getting a decent night’s sleep. Unfortunately that was not to be – a mysterious sound much like the rhythmic thumbing of a compressor pump made sleep impossible. Finally at 0100 – yes dear reader 2 hours before the alarm was set to go off – we discovered the source: the foot treadle of a sewing machine. I will say no more.

We’re staying on the 31st floor of the modern tower behind the original 1914 Beaux-Arts style building.

So with less than two hours sleep we checked-in, boarded our flight and bumped and roller coasted our way to Toronto. Thank god for Ativan. With the time change we arrived in Toronto at 0630 and we were down to the hotel by 0800. But that was a bit of a problem as normal check-in is 1400. But we were staying at 1 King West and experience taught us that the remarkable people who work the front desk would do their damnedest to get us settled as soon as possible. Rosalie checked us in and got my cell number, Dominic took our luggage, we headed off for some breakfast and by 1000 we were in our suite on the 30th floor.

By 1013 we were in bed and making up for those lost hours of sleep.

September 2 is Blueberry Popsicle Day – who know that there was such a thing as a blueberry popsicle? I think I’ll go in search of one!