Friday, 16 July 2010

Travel and Blogging

This is the first time I've written about a trip, rather than focus on reviewing the art and art exhibitions we traveled to see, and I've discovered some benefits, a sort of "Why we travel, and blog later." I'm taking a break in the sequence to mention three of the many things that have I've learned in the process, and to acknowledge the usefulness of the Internet for broadening my knowledge about anything. It's great when you can Google the name of a Polish artist you never heard of and find extensive information on his or her work, plus additional images. And it's frustrating when you get virtually nothing.

First, Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland who was responsible for a huge portion of the amazing art collections in Dresden. I'm still learning about the political situation during his reign and about his art patronage, as well as trying to understand the complex map of northern Europe during his day (Italian Renaissance politics begins to seem simple and straightforward compared to that of the area that would become Germany.) I learned that he was called Augustus the Strong because of his great strength, illustrated by the fact that he could win at fox tossing using just his pinkie finger. Fox tossing?

We went to the ossuary in Sedlec, near Kutna Hora in Czech Republic. In graduate school my colleagues would talk about the macabre chapel in Rome on the Via Veneto, and I just now recall that there was also one in Milan. I'd never taken the time from my research focus to visit them, so Sedlec was a first. Now I'm hoping to get to some of the others. The Web provides extensive information, history, and pictures of several bone chapels.

Third, in the National Museum in Wroclaw I was attracted to a very large 19th century painting by an artist I'd never heard of, Wilhelm Leopolski (1826, 28 or 30-1892). I'll put in my snapshots here, but there are multiple images on the Web and you can buy reproductions in various sizes and styles. I was attracted by the huge size of the painting, its historical-style subject, and the very fresh paint handling, possibly visible in my detail of his hand and drapery. The title is The Death of Acernus, 1867. Thinking this must be some classical subject that I'd never heard of, I started Googling Acernus, only to find that it is the Latin pseudonym for a Polish writer and poet of the second half of the sixteenth century, Sebastian Fabian Klonowic, who was called "the Sarmation Ovid." He died in the public hospital in Lublin, Poland. Most of his works were burned by the nobles and the Jesuits and the rest are scarce. There seems to have been a significant interest in him in the mid-19th century. Not reading Polish, I haven't found more information beyond lists of the titles of his works. There are two other versions of this painting, one in the Lviv Art Gallery (Lvov), Ukraine. I've found almost nothing about Leopolski except the many reproductions of his paintings.

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