Late Titian in Venice

The great exhibition of Titian’s late work shown this past autumn in Vienna has now moved to the Accademia in Venice in a rather amputated, but still beautiful incarnation. Worth seeing alone for the rare chance to see the Kromeríz Flaying of Marsyas and the Accademia’s own Pietà, which did not travel to Vienna, hung next to one another. A constellation singularly revelatory of central concerns in Titian’s late work.

Otherwise, the Venice exhibition unfortunately misses many of the main draws of the Vienna show: the St. Petersburg St. Sebastian, the Escorial Crucifixion, the Prado Danae, the Fitzwilliam Tarquin and Lucretia, and the entire, extremely fascinating section on replicas, are not there. Partially making up for these omissions are three pictures from Naples: the magnificent Portrait of Pope Paul III, the Magdalen, which provides fine comparison with the privately owned one that was also displayed in Vienna, and — most notably — the recently restored San Domenico Maggiore Annunciation. The inclusion of this latter picture makes one wonder why the San Salvatore Annunciation, which was a centrepiece in Vienna, was sent back to its permanent home across the city instead of having it displayed alongside this picture — a genuinely great opportunity wasted.

On Bellini’s San Zaccaria Altarpiece

During Albrecht Dürer’s second stay in Venice, in 1506, he wrote back to his friend Willibald Pirckheimer in Nüremberg about his experiences in the Serenissima, amongst other things describing the artists at work there. Of the elderly but still very much active Giovanni Bellini, he wrote that he was still “der pest im Gemoll” — ‘the best in painting.’ When Dürer wrote this, Bellini had recently completed his altarpiece for the Church of San Zaccaria (where it remains), dated 1505, a so-called Sacra Conversazione, ie. the Madonna and Child surrounded by select saints, a traditional model in ecclesiastic art dating back centuries. But crucially innovative, hugely influential, and deeply touching.

This was a time when a trio of young, ambitious and singularly gifted artists, Giorgione, Sebastiano Luciani (later anointed ‘del Piombo’) and Titian — the latter two pupils and the former a close associate of Bellini’s — were poised to displace the older master as the central innovator in Venetian painting, and change its course forever. The San Zaccaria altarpiece, however, is evidence that Bellini himself understood what was happening. Far from oblivious to the innovations of Central Italian artists, especially Leonardo’s dissolution of the barrier between individual and world, Bellini was at this point consistently defining his figures in clear, but liquid light, proving that he was, indeed, still pest im Gemoll.

Ceci n’est pas dansk tegneseriekultur

Metabunkerens Afdeling for Moderne Kunstâ„¢ er stolt af at være først med afsløringen af nedenstående kunstværk. Der er tale om et stykke konceptkunst – en let bearbejdet ready-made: citatet stammer fra en diskussion på Danmarks største tegneserierelaterede site, Værket – “Ceci n’est pas dansk tegneseriekultur” er en både kompleks, subtil og tankevækkende afsøgning af det sprudlende tankegods, der sætter dagsordnen i dansk tegneseriekultur netop nu. Vi håber at Metabunkerens dansklæsende brugere vil værdsætte dette storværk-in-spe lige så højt som vi selv.

Og nu, mine damer og herrer: værket!

Worlds of Difference — Thoughts upon Gary Gygax’ Passing

gygax.jpgGary Gygax, who just passed away, changed my life. Indirectly but still. He was one of the great imaginary enablers of our time. His creation, along with several others, not so much of Dungeons & Dragons itself, but of the role-playing game as an immersive storytelling form, has been central to the development of my imaginary since I was about ten. I never knew much about the man, other than the fact that his name was eminently fitting — I always imagined him as a kind of warlock existing somewhere between fact and fantasy. The ancestor of the waking dreams my fellow travelers and I have shared for so many years.

I was first introduced to the idea of the roleplaying game by a good friend who was not only more streetwise than I, but had an older brother and through him a bunch of hoodlum-in-the-making big friends that also happened to enjoy imaginary worlds. What they were doing at this time was edgy, not nerdy. I simply didn’t get how all this was possible, but it sounded cool. So he invited me along to one of their D&D sessions, as an onlooker and -listener, and that was all I needed — everything clicked. The very next day in school, I drew up a map of a fantasy world in imitation of the one I’d seen the night previous and recruited a bunch of my friends as players to my gamemaster, establishing the pattern of most of my roleplaying since then.

Picks of the Week

The appearance of realism in a superhero costume made from real materials is generally recognized to be difficult to pull off, and many such costumes do not even bother to simulate the presumable effect on the eye and the spirit of the beholder were Black Bolt to stride, trailing a positronic lace of Kirby crackle, into a ballroom of the Overland Park Marriott.”

— Michael Chabon

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The New Yorker: Michael Chabon, “Secret Skin.” This essay on the superhero costume might literarily be much ado about nothing, but it’s a crackling read.
  • American Gods for free! Neil Gaiman’s most succesful novel, and one of his best despite it petering out somewhat in the end (as usual), has now been made available for online reading in its entirety. A good read.
  • Venetian pigments. OK; this is rather old, and for nerds, but I hadn’t seen it, and am one. And it’s a great article, containing interesting new information on especially Bellini and Titian’s Feast of the Gods.
  • Hype: Smittekilde 10 Years

    I’m in Venice at the moment and have no steady internet connection, and am thus not able to do much here on the blog. But I’d like to take the time out to advertise this: the 10-year anniversary of Zven Balslev’s quality art zine/publication, and now art publisher and record label, Smittekilde! Congrats!

    If you happen to be in Copenhagen, there’s an anniversay reception going on tomorrow night. Details on the flyer. Also, check out Smittekilde Records here.