Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Och Aye ... Happy Noo Year.

 Best wishes to you all for
Blessed and Peaceful New Year
 and thanx for your continued prayers.

May God bless you and your families always.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Holy Family

  The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
"Murillo, The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, about 1675-1682 Photo © The National Gallery, London”.

Today id the feast of the Holy Family. The painting above is called the Heavenly and Earthly Trinities; and it has been painted in the sign of the Cross.

Looking vertically from the top downwards we see God, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and Jesus looking up to His Father in Heaven. That is the Heavenly Trinity.

Looking horizontaly from left to right we see the Virgin Mary, Jesus and His earthly father Joseph. The Earthly Trinity.

Four things of importance to note in this painting by Murillo. God in Heaven is looking down and blessing the Holy Family. Jesus responds to His Father by looking up to Heaven. Mary is looking at Jesus and perhaps thinking about the Son of God saving the world; whilst Joseph is looking at us, significant this, inviting us to join in the Holy Family.That is because we are part of the Holy Family through our own Faith and trust in the Lord.

Not much is known about Jesus’ childhood. The Bible records the story of His birth in Bethlehem, His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem a few days later, and then the Holy Family went to live in Nazareth. Their home town. We don't know much more about Jesus' early days of His life; apart from when His parents found Him teaching in the Temple at the age of twelve or so.

We are left to wonder what He was like as a baby. Crawling on the ground and then taking His first hesitant steps. I wonder what His first words were when He spoke.

One thing for sure though. He was much loved by His earthly parents, who devoted themselves to His up-bringing, until He was ready to start His work on earth as His Father willed.

Like most parents, they must have wished many good things for Him as He grew up, even though they knew who He really was and what His mission in this world was to be.

Mary, however, carried an additional burden in her heart. She knew from those early days what was to happen. Simeon in the temple had told her: “… sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart”. Luke 2:35. Joseph was there to witness it all.

Can you imagine what they went through as parents? Knowing of the torture and Crucifixion which Christ would suffer.

And Mary, endured that pain even more as she followed her Son on the way to Calvary.

Yet … despite all that. Despite knowing well ahead what was to happen, despite witnessing the Crucifixion for herself, one thing must have sustained Mary and encouraged her throughout her ordeal: the sure knowledge that Jesus was/is the Son of God and that He will rise again from the dead.

That thought alone should help us when we too go through difficult times. No matter how difficult our situation we should hold on to the fact that our Lord, the one we profess to love and follow, is the Son of God. By His death and Resurrection He has conquered evil once and for all.

And no matter what our situation may be, we can assuredly turn to Mary, and seek her help in bearing the difficulties we go through.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Blessed Christmas to you all


Friday, 19 December 2014

A Message from Father Francis Maple

This Christmas we need to focus on the greatest reality there is - that God loves us so much that He gave us His only Son to free us from our sins! We need to be grateful for His love and respond to His love; and the best way to do that is by surrendering our life completely to Him, as He has surrendered Himself completely to us. How do we do this - by putting Him first in our daily lives? This means that we build our day around Him. We need to give Him quality time in our prayer life. As we meditate on His birth and see Mary holding her divine Child in her arms we can think of her saying, "Would you like to hold Him?" Then she hands Jesus to you and you get to hold the God of the universe in your arms. But we do not just stop there – we realise EVERY DAY we can hold Jesus in our arms when we receive Him in the Eucharist! To believe that Jesus, who is God, and who the Universe cannot even begin to contain, became a little baby for us and continues this humility in the Eucharist is amazing - What a gift He has given to us! How very blessed we are!

I also realize and appreciate that there are some who think Christmas is a hard time. You may be experiencing loneliness or illness, or you may be in sorrow because you have lost someone dear. You need to know that you are never alone! Jesus became one of us so that He could be near us! There is never a time when you need to feel that no one cares or that you have to go through your struggles alone - YOU ARE LOVED! This is what Christmas is about, and this needs to be our hope that brings us through the darkness.

Remember that no matter how dark the darkness is - it can never conquer the Light! Try this - go into a dark room and light a match or candle and watch just how the darkness flees from the power of the light. Jesus is that Light and He is inside of YOU! That is so true. Cling to this Truth, and know His power!

This Christmas let us pray for each other and accept the love of the Christ Child, and of Our Father who gave Him to us, our best Christmas present. Mary and Joseph, we thank you for the part you played in bringing Jesus to our world.

Daily Homilies from Father Francis Maple HERE

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Think on ...

OK … let’s get ready for a biology lesson.

The human brain is not there for the sole purpose of keeping ones ears apart. It has a specific purpose all or its own.

Primarily, it is there to make us think – I know it has other functions too, so hands down all those who were about to correct me.

Where was I? Oh yes … the brain is there to make us think. Yet looking around the world these days one often finds many people under-using that particular function.

They make decisions based on instincts, feelings, opinions garnered from dubious sources such as magazines or flaky friends, or even as a reflex to the rumblings of their stomachs.

Decisions based on thinking, considering various view points, and pros and cons are a thing of the past and are often avoided because they involve … thinking.

One’s brain hurts too much for such exercise.

I remember years ago at work I had a big notice in my office with the word "THINK" printed in large letters. Its purpose was to encourage my team to come up with realistic, cost effective solutions to the problems we had to resolve - and by and large, it worked.

I'm sure some of you have experienced on the road many silly manoeuvres by other drivers, or pedestrians, which could have put them and others at risk. Or people at work trying to cut corners, or save time, and end up creating more work and difficulties than before.

Try visiting internet discussion forums and see how often people ask the most inane questions or seek advice to such basic issues which should come as second nature to anyone with a pea-sized brain like an ostrich's.

It makes you wonder how much thinking went into the process of considering the matter in the first place.

Watch the news on TV or read the papers and you'll discover many examples of half-baked ideas and ill-thought-out decisions made by people you would have thought would know better.

So … where is all this leading to? You might well ask.

Well … it is leading nowhere, unless we think about it, and resolve to use our brains more effectively.

Not that I am accusing you dear readers … no … it’s the others you know.

Let me give you just one example: I placed all my shopping on the conveyor belt in the supermarket for the check-out assistant to scan and total my bill. At the end of my shopping I put one of those dividers that separates my shopping from the one belonging to the customer behind me.

The check-out assistant picked the divider up and looked for the barcode indicating the price !!!

Exasparated ... I told her it was given free to customers.

She let me have the item !!!!!!!

Admittedly, she was young, probably her first day at work, perhaps not well trained, or ...

P.S. – If you think about it for a moment, I bet you can recognize an individual or two whose actions are not based on the same thinking process that you or I would use. I'd be glad to hear your stories.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Important scientific facts you need to know

Scientists have counted the number of heartbeats a mouse has in a lifetime and found a direct relationship with its size and weight. They then did the same with an elephant and found the relationship/ratio between the number of heartbeats and the size of the elephant to be the same as that of a mouse.

This means that all creatures have a number of given heartbeats in a lifetime commensurate with their weight and size.

A mouse being small and fast-running has a very fast heart beat. He therefore uses his allotted number of heartbeats quickly and dies in a matter of a few months.

The elephant on the other hand has a slower heartbeat per minute and lives much longer.

From this we deduce that humans too have a given number of heartbeats allocated to them at birth; give or take a few heartbeats either way.

And the faster we use our heartbeats the shorter our life would be.

This is a good reason why we should all be fat and sit in front of a TV with a large pizza rather than waste our heartbeats jogging, playing football or other sporting pursuits.

Another interesting fact about animals, or insects, involves crickets. You know, those little creatures who chirp incessantly throughout the night in summer.

Well, apparently the number of chirps they make per minute varies depending on the weather. The hotter it is the more chirps per minute; as many as forty or so chirps a minute in really hot steamy nights. But as the weather gets a little cooler the number of chirps a minute is less.

At a temperature of zero degrees centigrade the insect does not chirp at all because he is frozen solid out in the cold.

In England every year people gather for a worm catching contest. They go out in a field and tap the ground with sticks imitating the sound of rain. This excites the worms which come out of the ground and are quickly caught and put in a bucket. The winner is the person who catches most worms in a given period of time.

Last year no one caught any worms in the contest.

It rained all day and they held the contest in the local church hall and the worms could not dig through the concrete floor.

Women who wear perfume are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than those who do not. That’s because mosquitoes are attracted to the gentile scent of perfume.

The same does not apply however for men who wear after-shave. This is because men tend to use too much after-shave lotion and they smell like mature manure thus attracting flies instead.

Men who drink a lot, especially liquor such as whisky, rum, vodka and so on, tend to turn mosquitoes into alcoholics when they suck their blood.

An old friend of mine used to drink at least a half-bottle of whisky or rum a day. He lived to age 92 and when he died he was cremated. It took the fire brigade a week to put the flames out.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Stark Reality

John and Fiona were very distraught parents. They stayed behind in church after Mass and asked to see Father Ignatius.

He suggested they wait until everyone had gone, and eventually he came back in the church from the car park, having seen the last of the parishioners leave.

The couple were sitting up front next to the statue of Our Lord. Father Ignatius joined them and said jovially, “how are you both? And where is Lea today?”

“It’s about Lea that we want to talk about Father,” said Fiona.

“She doesn’t want to come to church any more,” added John, “she’s met some new friends and they’re leading her astray. She says church is boring … and she wants to do her own thing.”

“And you feel there’s nothing you can do about it …” continued the priest.

“That’s right Father, the more we argue with her the more she becomes stubborn.”

“That’s understandable,” said Father Ignatius gently, “parenting is not that easy despite what many people might think; and despite what the experts would tell you to do.

“In reality, there’s nothing you can do about it. Your daughter is old enough to do what she wants.

“As they grow up, children want their independence. Lea may get in with bad company, as you say; she may go totally off the rails, get into real trouble, and there’s very little a parent can do.

“I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I sympathize with you and what you must feel; but in reality we can only live our lives and not the lives of others.

“We may try to control other peoples’ behavior, through persuasion, pleading or downright force. But success depends on a number of factors and to a large extent the other person should be willing to alter their behavior to what you wish it to be.

“This isn’t helping much is it?” asked the priest quietly as he prepared them to understand the situation.

“Do you mean we do nothing?” asked Fiona holding back her tears.

“I didn’t say that …” continued Father Ignatius.

“I wonder how Mary and Joseph felt when they lost Jesus when He was twelve. They looked everywhere and were concerned about their young teenager.

“But in reality, they had no need to worry did they? Perhaps they should have trusted God a little more. Maybe they did, and I’m judging them too harshly …”

“What exactly are you saying Father?” asked John.

“Do you trust God?” was the direct reply from the gentle priest.

“Eh … yes, of course …” mumbled John.

“OK … let’s consider the facts … you say she met some new friends.”

“Yes … she’s left school now and she is at college. She’s made new friends there … they’re OK I suppose. But they’re not Christian and she feels she’s becoming independent by not going to church.”

“And does God know about this?” asked Father Ignatius.

The couple were stumped and said nothing. The priest continued.

“I suggest you let her be. If she doesn’t want to go to church, don’t make an issue of it!”

“But … it’s a mortal sin!” exclaimed Fiona.

“It’s her mortal sin … not yours,” said the priest, “Besides, let’s assume you can force her to get to church every Sunday, and she does attend against her wishes, and sits there fuming and cursing under her breath. Would that make you feel better? Would it be a bigger sin do you think, than not attending church at all?”

“So you’re advocating we do nothing? I’m surprised at you Father” said John getting a little angry.

Father Ignatius smiled.

“That’s the second time I’ve been asked whether I’m suggesting you do nothing; and I repeat, I did not say that.

“I suggest first of all that you trust God, and I mean really trust Him that He has a hold on this situation and He is in full control. Can you do that?”

They nodded silently.

“Good, then I suggest you don’t force her to come to church on Sunday. Or even mention it. Just come by yourselves as you always do.

“If you do so already, continue with your family prayers. Before meals, evening prayers or whatever prayers you say together as a family.

“She may or may not join you; leave it to her to decide.

“Lead by example. If you really trust in God you will hand over your daughter to His care. If you stumble and wobble and if your Faith falters you will set her a bad example; and you’ll give her proof that your own Faith is only skin deep.

“She is free to decide what she wants in her life. It’s a gift given to all of us by God. Not to be restricted or controlled by any one else; this is what you’d be doing, albeit with good intentions, if you force her to go to church.

“Pray for her, like you’ve never prayed before. Ask God to protect her, to guide her and to bless her.

“Praying is not doing nothing; it is the most positive action we can take.

“She may well return to God in due course, or she may never do so. It’s a risk we all have to take with our loved ones. But it is their choice to make, no matter how hard or how painful it is for us to watch and to accept.

“We can only live our lives, not that of others. Let us be a living example to others rather than pay lip service to it.

“I’ll visit your home perhaps a little more often than I usually do, and let us pray that God will one day soon welcome her back as He does any prodigal child.”

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Give to charity without costing you a penny

It's this time of year again folks; and I'd be happy if you join in this year's fund raising event which will not cost you a penny.

It's simple and easy to do.

Here's how it works.

For every comment you leave below I will donate £1 (that's $1.56)

up to a maximum of £100 ($156).

It's as simple as that.

No repeat comments please.

No anonymous comments.

Tell all your friends about it.

In the meantime

enjoy this Seasonal video.

Friday, 28 November 2014

The worms of worry.

It happens to all of us I suppose.

You’re going through life quite happy with your lot, not a care in the world, perhaps even looking forward to something nice you had planned for yourself, or some event or other which would have cheered you up and then … suddenly … all change …

You see the news on TV and something depressing is announced in that robotic monotone voice which those newscasters are born with … or trained to perfection.

It could be something about the economy … or the rate of inflation … or something terrible that’s happened somewhere or other in the world … whatever it is – it’s bad news.

You could open a newspaper or switch on the radio … and it’s bad news.

You receive a letter or phone a friend … and it’s bad news.

Suddenly … your happiness and short-lived cheerfulness is wiped away and the worms of worry start burrowing in your brain.

Worry … worry … worry … what if this happened to me … what if I couldn’t cope any longer … what if … what if … what if … worry … worry … worry.

Jesus said to his disciples, “And so I tell you not to worry about the food you need to stay alive or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is much more important than food, and the body much more important than clothes. Look at the crows: they don’t sow seeds or gather the harvest; they don’t have store rooms or barns; God feeds them. You are worth so much more than birds! Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” Luke 12: 22-25

Monday, 24 November 2014

What's this Clementine Hunter?

I have been asked by Lulu to do a critique of Clementine Hunter's paintings and art work.

Clementine was born in 1886 or 1887 and died in 1988 at the age of 101. She lived in Louisiana and was a self-taught artist. She lived and worked on a farm and never learnt to read or write.

She didn't start painting until the age of fifty or so using some paint and brushes left behind by some visiting artist.

Most of her paintings depicted life in the plantations during the early 20th century and as such are a good historical record of that era. The painting I have chosen above however is different. It is called "Mary Going to the Barn" and was painted in 1955. I like it because it would make a lovely Christmas card showing a pregnant Mary on her way to the stable/barn guided by three angels.

Clementine's first paintings sold for as little as 25 cents. But by the end of her life her paintings were exhibited in many galleries and museums and sold for thousands of dollars.

She was noted for painting on anything, particularly discarded items such as window shades, jugs, bottles, and gourds and cardboard boxes.

This next painting entitled "Two Ladies Gossiping" was done on a cutting board.
I am sure whoever bought it never used this cutting board at all. And rightly so.

Clementine's paintings remind me a lot of L S Lowry about whom I have already written recently. You will notice that he was a contemporary of Clementine Hunter.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

What's this Titian?

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English, was born somewhere between 1488 and 1490 (must have been a long pregnancy!) and died on 27 August 1576 (can't tell you the exact time).

He was an Italian painter and the most important one of the 16th Century Venetian school. 

He was known as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (a line from Dante's "Paradiso") because of his mastery of the paintbrush. You can see above his self portrait painted in about 1567. 

He was very versatile painting portraits, landscape backgrounds and mythological and religious subjects and was famous for his use of color - no black and white monochromes from good old Titian.  

Here's another painting of his known as "The Man with a Quilted Sleeve" which he completed in 1509 - the painting that is, not the sleeve.

See how the man is gazing at you as if to say "What are you looking at? Do you want a fight?"

By the size of that sleeve, one would be best advised to run away fast before feeling the effect of all those muscles.
And here's another Titian painted in 1515 known as "Portrait d'une Femme à sa Toilette"; which does not mean a woman in the toilet, but in English has been translated as "Woman with a Mirror".

Whilst you admire the beautiful brush strokes and the vivid use of colour, I on the other hand, am still trying to work out whose arm in a blue sleeve is on the bottom right trying to steal her bottle of perfume.

Maybe it's the man with the quilted sleeve!

Now when I first started this series of art critiques, the intention was to comment on really weird and unusual works of art out there. And I am very pleased that the series has proved popular amongst my readers, some of whom have suggested paintings for me to research and write about. (More suggestions please).

Someone wrote reecently suggesting I am like Sister Wendy (Wendy Beckett) the art historian who presented a series on art on the BBC in the 1990s.

Whilst I can assure you all that I am not as knowledgeable as Sister Wendy, one thing is for sure; I find it sometimes really confusing as to why certain artists find it necessary to paint totally unrealistic and unusual paintings.

Look at this one for instance, also by Titian, and painted in 1550.

It is entitled "Venus and Organist and Little Dog". I don't know about you, but I find this scene most odd and disturbing. Imagine for a moment a woman who wants to relax after a long day's work cleaning and cooking and doing the housework; and she wants to listen to some music.

She takes all her clothes off and lies on the bed and calls in one of her minions and asks him to play the piano whilst she spends some "quality time" with her dog.

As you can see, the pianist is somewhat distracted and, because he knows the tune by heart anyway, decides to take a swift look where he shouldn't whilst the lady is occupied with the dog.

The dog notices the naughty peeping Tom and yaps to warn the lady.

Whereupon the lady casually says to the man, "Keep your eyes on your organ please. And whilst you're at it, would you mind drawing the curtains. I don't want the gardener outside to see my behind!"

All that captured in just one painting by the marvellous Titian. Art is such a wonderful thing!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What's this Rodin?

Once again our art critique turns to a marble sculpture. This one is by Auguste Rodin and is known generally as The Kiss. It was completed in 1882.

The sculpture was originally titled Francesca da Rimini because it was in fact meant to be the 13th-century Italian noblewoman from Dante's "Inferno" (Circle 2, Canto 5).

Apparently, Francesca fell in love with her husband's younger brother, Paolo. If that's not bad enough, it seems she fell in love with Paolo whilst reading a story about Lancelot. (Hmmm ... I wonder what was in that book!).

Her husband Giovanni Malatesta, (which means John Headache) - he should have been called Ivor, (think about that for a moment).

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, Francesca's husband Giovanni, discovers the couple reading the book, and more besides, and so he kills them.

In the sculpture, if you look carefully, the book about Lancelot is seen in Paolo's hand. You can't see it in this photo but the book is behind Francesca's back. I wonder what chapter he was reading just before he kissed her.

Also, in the sculpture, the couple's lips do not actually touch, suggesting that they were interrupted by Giovanni and killed before they actually kissed.

OK ... by now your mind should be doing somersaults as mine certainly is.

Imagine the scene for a moment. We have a couple secretly in love with each other. They read a book which somehow encourages them to take their clothes off and kiss. They are discovered by the irate husband who kills them both.

How? Does he shoot them? Attack them with a sword? Or hit them on the head with the book?

Unfortunately, we do not have the answer to that question; but as I explained earlier, all this is supposed to have happened in Dante's story "Inferno" years previously.

For some inexplicable reason Rodin decided it would be a good idea to make a marble statue of it all.

Obviously, he can't chisel a big block of marble from memory. And I doubt that Dante had any photos in his book from which Rodin could copy.

So the sculptor goes out searching for two really good looking models.

He finds a good looking man and a beautiful woman and asks them if they wouldn't mind taking off their clothes and kiss. After he recovers from the punch on the nose which the man gave him, Rodin tries to stop the nose bleed, and suggests they all go to the taverna for a few glasses of vino.

A bottle or two of wine later he explains calmly that he wants to make a large marble statue of Francesca and Paolo in an amourous embrace.

Well, with the wine and possible fame going to their heads they agree to pose for him; but the young woman is concerned about posing in the nude.

"What will mamma say when she sees me?" she asks Rodin.

"Don't worry about that," replies Rodin, "no one will be looking at your face!"

So they go to the studio, which is a marble stone throw's away from the taverna, take off their clothes, brush their teeth, and pretend to kiss.

One thing I've discovered in my research for this critique is that sitting naked in that particular pose on a piece of marble for hours on end can be very uncomfortable indeed; especially in the freezing cold. The male model in particular was somewhat nervous of the whole thing, especially considering where the lady's right knee is positioned.

Eventually, when the sculpture was finished it quickly became controversial because of what and who it represented. When critics first saw it in 1887, they suggested the less specific title Le Baiser (The Kiss).

And somehow, this made all the difference and it became very famous and a great work of art.

Which goes to prove ... It's all in the title folks, not in the mind. You can paint or sculpt anything you want, as long as you give it a great title it will become famous and admired.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What's this L S Lowry?

Continuing my series of art critiques, I would like to introduce you to L S Lowry, an English painter who lived from 1887 to 1976.

Laurence Stephen "L.S." Lowry was born in Stretford, Lancashire, in the North of England and many of his paintings depict scenes from Pendlebury, Salford and surrounding areas. His paintings were usually of urban landscapes and he painted human figures in a simplified way which was referred to as "matchstick men."

The scene you see above is of the Northern town of Huddersfield which was painted in 1965.

Those of you who have read my book "VISIONS", and my other books and stories about Father Ignatius, will know that they are set in an un-named Northern town in England in the 1950's and 60's. The scene above is the sort of view one would imagine Father Ignatius would have from his office window high up in St Vincent Parish House.

You can see the hills fare away, often covered with snow in winter; the small terraced houses huddled together, sharing whatever warmth they have between them, and hiding behind the large tenements providing shelter from the Northern winds blowing down the hills; with people rushing to their homes or places of work as the acrid smelling smoke from those factory chimneys fill the gloomy skies.

In 1932 Lowry's father died leaving the family with debts, whilst his mother became ill and bedridden, relying on her son for care.Lowry often painted well into the night after his mother had fallen asleep.

He regretted that he had not received recognition as an artist until the year his mother died and that she was not able to enjoy his success.

Two years after his death, a famous song about Lowry by "Brian and Michael" topped the UK charts in 1978. I post a video below which shows a number of Lowry paintings and, in case you have difficulties with the accent, I also post the lyrics to the song for you to enjoy.

If you watch carefully, at about 3 minutes 30 seconds of the video, this is the sort of church St Vincent Parish would look like.

He painted Salford's smokey tops
On cardboard boxes from the shops
And parts of Ancoats where I used to play
I'm sure he once walked down our street
Cause he painted kids who had nowt on their feet
The clothes we wore had all seen better days.

Now they said his works of art were dull
No room, all round the walls are full
But Lowry didn't care much anyway
They said he just paints cats and dogs
And matchstalk men in boots and clogs
And Lowry said that's just the way they'll stay

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now canvas and brushes were wearing thin
When London started calling him
To come on down and wear the old flat cap
They said tell us all about your ways
And all about them Salford days
Is it true you're just an ordinary chap

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now Lowries hang upon the wall
Beside the greatest of them all
And even the Mona Lisa takes a bow
This tired old man with hair like snow
Told northern folk its time to go
The fever came and the good Lord mopped his brow

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street with sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street with sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Michelangelo's Pietà

The Pietà is possibly the most famous of carvings and paintings in the history of Christian art. The scene depicts the body of Christ just after it has been taken down from the Cross cradled in the arms of His Mother, the Virgin Mary. Other Pietàs depict the body cradled by other figures, but in most paintings and sculptures it is Mary.

The sculpture shown above is by Michelangelo and is located in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

It is unique among Michelangelo's sculptures, because it was the only one he ever signed. When he heard that people thought it was sculpted by another sculptor, Cristoforo Solari, Michelangelo carved his signature on the sash the Virgin Mary wears on her breast.
Michelangelo sculpted another Pietà known as The Deposition, or Florence Pietà.

It depicts the dead body of Christ, Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea in the hood, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Michelangelo worked on this sculpture from 1547 to 1553. It is believed he wanted it to decorate his tomb, and that the hooded figure is a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. However, he smashed the sculpture after working on it for about eight years because he discovered an impurity in the marble.

It was eventually restored by its new owner.

Friday, 14 November 2014

What's this Lucas van Valckenborch?

Years ago, when I worked in London, I had this huge painting in my office. Not the original, of course, but a very large print. It hung on the wall in pride of place and was the first thing that caught the eye of anyone coming in to visit me.

Unfortunately I cannot make it any larger here, because, believe me, it needs to be full size to be better appreciated.

I believe the painting is called September 1585. I can't find any other title, perhaps that's when it was painted by Lucas van Valckenborch, a Flemish painter who lived between 1535 and 1597.

When I started this series of posts about art, the intention was to show various masterpieces which I classified as somewhat unusual or "odd" and see the humourous side behind the work of art. This particular painting is not "odd" in the sense of the word, but I found it at the time somewhat unusual because of the great details that it encompasses.

Look for example at the forefront in the left - people are bringing in a harvest of apples or fruit, and someone is trying to sell them to the two people by the table.

Behind the two men there's a horse drawn cart, a gathering of people and children playing in a circle.

Behind the cart there's a castle scene where people in a boat are trying to catch something hanging off a rope - another sport I suppose.

Then there's the landscape in the background with the castle, the trees, the clouds and the birds in the sky.

In the foreground, there's a feast being laid on a table surrounded by hungry people; and some people playing a game with a ball and a circle.

It's as if every bit of this huge painting is a scene in itself worthy of its own frame as a work of art.

Many a time at work, when I had a difficult managerial problem to solve, I stood infront of this painting to try to clear my head for a moment or two. I'm quite pleased that I have now found it and post it here for you to enjoy.

One thing though ...

I never worked out what that man on the extreme right facing the wall is doing. Any ideas?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

What's this Rembrandt?

In this art critique we consider Manny's suggestion "The Anatomy Lesson" by Rembrandt. In this oil on canvas dated 1632 we see Doctor Nicolaes Tulp explaining the "musculature of the arm" to other medical professionals.

Basically he had nothing better to do one day, and instead of carving a joint of meat and enjoy a good lunch with his family, he decided to cut a human being instead. He asked a short man living next door to him to volunteer for the experiment by paying him a few pence.

"Will it hurt?" asked the short man.

"No, it is a completely armless procedure!" replied the good doctor.

For good measure he invited a few other doctor friends mainly for amusement, but when they discovered that Rembrandt would also be there painting the whole event, several of the doctors paid good money to be included in the painting. Fortunately for Renbrandt they all looked the same with pointed beards, so he agreed for all of them to be there since he could copy paste their faces over and again. To distinguish Doctor Tulp though, he asked him to wear a hat.

Cutting people up to learn anatomy was a yearly event in Amsterdam, in Holland and this one is dated 16 Januray 1632. Usually an audience attended the event to make notes and learn about different parts of the body. Real blood was used because tomato ketchup had not yet been invented at the time.

As already mentioned, the doctor in question was called Tulp. Originally, his name was Tulip but in one of these operations he accidentally cut his I and was hence known as Tulp.

Since that sad incident he unfortunately was no longer able to tip toe through the tulips, or through anything else for that matter.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

What's this Rubens?

I am very pleased that this series of art critiques is proving popular judging by the number of new readers on my stats. But it is you, my loyal readers, to whom I should be grateful for your return visits, encouraging and often witty comments, and for suggesting artists and painters for me to research and critique.

I still owe Manny one more critique which I am currently working on. He has set me a real challenge I fear. 

But today we take a closer look at Sir Peter Paul Rubens as suggested by Mary. If you have not visited her Blog yet I urge you to do so. Mary has not been Blogging often lately but I assure you that when she does, whether it is a humourous post, or one of her serious devotionals, they are posts well worth reading. You can visit her HERE.

Peter Paul Rubens lived between 1577 and 1640 and was a very famous Flemish painter of the period.

He was a prolific artist and his works were mostly religious subjects, as well as a lot of mythological subjects, and hunt scenes. He also painted portraits of friends, as well as several landscapes. Basically, you name it, and he painted it. Except of course the garden gate and fence which remained un-painted despite being told and nagged many times by his wife. Believe me, I know the feeling; I have still to paint the garage door although in my opinion it looks fine ... you know how some women are? Always going on and on about the same thing ... I mean, I painted the wretched door three years ago. Why does it need re-painting?

Anyway, back to Rubens. He painted on canvas, slate as well as wood it seems. In fact he painted on anything except of course the wooden gate and fence which I've already mentioned. (I can hear voices in my head saying "Paint the garage door" - how can you switch your conscience off?)

Now one thing you'll notice about most of his paintings, (except landscapes), is that he had a special penchant, (fondness), for painting fully-rounded and plump women; hence the term "Rubensian" or "Rubenesque" to describe women of a certain size. None of these skinny models you see in modern magazines, for Rubens. They had to be fairly big and rotund. This is because he had a lot of flesh coloured paint to get rid off, and since no one paints gates and fences this colour he painted nudes instead.

In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, at the age of 53, Rubens married his 16 years old niece, Hélène Fourment.

You can see her in the painting above, known as "Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap", getting out of the bath. Most people would use a towel I suppose, but there were none available that day - so a fur wrap it was. As you can see, she is no skinny lady is she?

The young niece inspired the voluptuous figures in Rubens paintings from 1630 onwards. The most famous of which is "The Three Graces",

I'm not sure which one is Ruben's niece, but judging from the colour of her hair I'd guess it's the woman on the left.

Now I can understand a painter wishing to paint nudes, nothing wrong with that I suppose, especially if you have bought a lot of paint which you want to use up before its "sell-by" date. So, asking a few people to model for you is in this case acceptable, I guess. But to actually paint your own wife naked, and then display the painting for all to see ... Well, that's another matter.

Can you imagine him saying, as she steps out of the bath, "Hold it there, darling! Just wrap this piece of fur delicately around you, showing enough interesting bits ... Don't worry about the fur moulting. It was a mangy old dog anyway; and you can have another bath. Let me get my paint brush!"

And then displaying the finished painting is like a modern day man taking a photo of his wife naked and posting it on social media for all to see. How would you react I wonder?

Can you imagine the conversation in the supermarket when Rubens' young wife met her friends?

"Oh ... you have put on some weight dear? Especially on the derrière!"

Or ...

"It's a good painting really. You should be proud of your healthy features. Do you think your husband would paint me naked? I have a lovely tattoo on my bottom!"

You can add your own imagined discussions below; and also, suggest more masterpieces for me to research and critique.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What's this again Michelangelo?

Once again, I find myself writing a critique of one of Michelangelo's works. This marble statue represents the Biblical character David; you know the one? The boy who went to fight and killed the giant Goliath.

For a start, I put it to you that this is totally inaccurate and Michelangelo must have been on the vino again when he sculpted it. David definetly did not go out fighting Goliath in the nude. Had he done so the crowd would have taken many photos with their cell-phones and posted them on social media. So, grow up Michelangelo and enough of all these nudes!

Now I am sure that as you look, or marvel, at this marble masterpiece of the Renaissance period your eyes will immediately focus, as did mine, on one focal point.

What exactly is David carrying on his shoulder? I looked at the statue from every angle eyes fixed at the left hand, (most of the time), and I could not work out what he is holding. Suggestions please!

Apparently the statue was created between 1501 and 1504. Can you imagine? Three years for a model to stand naked in the great outdoors with no clothes on? He was obviously freezing cold when the work was eventually completed ... with all that marble all over the place.