Friday, 4 April 2014

Shadowy figures and a definition of hell

Lunchtime Veronese at the National Gallery. Veronese born in Verona - but a Venice painter.

The Family of Darius before Alexander (about 1565-7).  Darius, King of Persia, was defeated by Alexander the Great. Here he is being brought before Alexander. This painted for the country palace of the Venetian Pisani family at Montagnana near Padua.
The painting is huge and the reproduction doesn't do the colours or the composition justice. But very striking is the shadowy quality of the horses (bottom left) and figures on the balustrade, as if they were sketched in and not quite there.

More shadowy figures and a vision of hell in The Railway Man/Eric Lomax.

The cell in a Victorian prison in Singapore:
"The door was shut and we looked around our new home. It was totally, empty: a stark oblong space, about nine feet long, six feet across and with a very high ceiling.  The walls were peeling, had once been thickly painted in white and were utterly blank. The door was solid and steel-clad, with a rectangular slot like an English postbox. There was a small window, very high up in the end wall, through which we could see the sky. It seemed to be a nice day outside. "
The food:
"The main events .... were the delivery of the so-called meals three times a day. Each consisted or rice and tea, or at least a quantity of slightly discoloured hot water which looked like tea. This was our main fluid intake for the day, and thirst usually preceded it by many hours."
 The first sight of fellow prisoners who had been there for some time:
"In the yard were about twenty prisoners, most of them apparently unable to walk. Some lay flat out; some were crawling on their hands and knees. Several were totally naked. Almost all had one thing in common: they were living skeletons, with ribs and bones protruding from shrunken flesh."

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy