January 31, 2014

The Girl With the Pearl Earring in Bologna: A Report

Reported on February 9th.
What an impressive exhibition! This small exhibition has 36 fabulous paintings from Holland's Golden Age. There are examples from Dutch masters such as Rembrandt (4), Frans Hals, Ter Borch, Claesz, Van Goyen, Van Honthorst, Hobbema, Coorte, Van Ruisdael and Steen.

Exhibited are Vermeer's first first painting: Diana and her nymphs as well as Rembrandt's last work. Then there is Fabritius' beautiful Goldfinch. The master' s paintings demonstrate their mastery in painting light, fabric, skin, tiny details (see Steen's Girl with Oysters) and mastery in depicting gold ornate jewelry (see Hal's Portrait of Aletta Hanemans). All quite impressive.

Turns out that Vermeer's enigmatic The Girl with the Pearl Earring, painted in 1665, is not considered a portrait but was meant as a painting of an oriental girl. In fact, the painting's original title was the Girl With the Turban. 

File:Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665).jpg
The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer (1665) 
I liked that most of the paintings were organized by theme in different rooms:  Portraits, Everyday life of ordinary people, still lives, the girl with pearl earring. The rooms were not numbered so you enter a main room with portraits, at the end go left to see the "everyday life" and later walk through the main room with portraits to see the still lives and from there you go to see "the girl." Listening to the audio guide was helpful and helped me avoid straining my eyes in the dark rooms.

Take your time going through because once you leave the last room with the Girl with the Pearl Earring you can't turn around. This is not written down anywhere and I witnessed a couple furiously fighting with the woman guarding the exit. The word exit "uscita" was posted outside the last room, not just inside the last room. So one would see it when it was too late. Plus the last room is incredibly dark, so be prepared or turn on your audio guide and skip reading.

Before you enter the exhibition, you must drop off your coat, purse and any other large items at the FREE deposit area. Then you can pick up audio guides. The shop is in the same area and I must say didn't have much of interest. I usually like to purchase the catalog but was disappointed with the printed quality of several favorite paintings in the book. I ended up purchasing postcards.

Another no-no is that none of the text by the paintings or about the period o the walls are in any language other than Italian. Big mistake! Not sure if the audio guides are available in English, please inquire. Considering that this is the only stop in Europe, the curator should have expected visitors from different parts of Europe (who don't speak Italian). That said, the paintings speak for themselves.
After touring the world for a year, this and 36 other paintings from Holland's Golden Age will be on exhibit in Bologna, the exhibit's only European stop from February 8th through May 25th, 2014 in Bologna's beautiful museum Palazzo Fava, via Manzoni 2.  The museum has organized another exhibition, Around Vermeer, with 25 contemporary Italian artists exhibiting works inspired by Vermeer. The Italian artists include Guccione, Sarnari, Raciti and Forgioli. This 2nd exhibit is on the floor above the main exhibition. No extra payment is necessary to view the second exhibit.
Tickets can be purchased here or directly at Palazzo Fava.
Linea d’Ombra
 tel. +39 0422 3095
fax +39 0422 309777  
info@lineadombra.it 
www.lineadombra.it

January 28, 2014

Jan 29 -31st : The Days of the Blackbird

Photo by Andreas Trepte, www.photonatur.de

I giorni della merla, "the days of the blackbird" refers to January 29th, 30th and 31st, and are supposed to be the coldest days of the year.

It is curious how this old Italian saying is still widely used in the local media and among Italian citizens, especially when we are close to the end of January. Will the giorni della merla be as cold as they are famously known for? This is what everyone seems wonder about, while they wait for the weatherman to make his predictions for this period. When the weatherman announces dropping temperatures and this year, snow, people seem to remember the legend that the nonni told them as children.

There are a couple of legends which explain why these 3 days are referred to as "the days of the blackbird"1.  
The first legend says that blackbirds (called merli in plural which makes no reference to their color) were once white. January consisted of 28 days while February had 31 days. Apparently one of these birds started chirping happily on January 28th, happy that cold January was finally over. January was so angry at the bird's behavior that it asked to borrow 3 days from February in which it unleashed snow, wind, freezing temperatures and rain. The bird hid in a chimney and when it came out it was black from the smoke. Blackbirds have been born black ever since.

A simpler version of this legends states that a female white bird, a merla, and her chicks hid in the chimney during the coldest days of January to stay warm and when they came out they were black from the smoke.

According to the legend, if the "days of the merla" are cold, the spring will be nice; if the 3 days are mild then spring will be late.

Note: Wikipedia, Giorni della Merla