The First Piece of Bad News

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I didn’t take long for the New Year’s first piece of crap news to arrive here. Some idiot broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard wielding an axe, evidently in “retaliation” for the latter’s cartoon of the prophet Muhammed. The cartoonist saved himself by fleeing to the house’s panic room. His grandchild was also there. The police thereafter arrived and disabled the attacker with shots to the leg and hand, and he has now been charged with attempted murder and is recovering in the medical wing of the prison Vestre fængsel, Ã…rhus. Congratulations asshole, you’ve just made the world a little less tolerable a place to live.

For what little it’s worth, our sympathies and best wishes and hopes for a peaceful rest of the new year go out to Westergaard and his family.

Above: one of the infamous cartoons (not by Westergaard); prescient at the time, painfully topical now.

He came here the same way the coin did

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A short note on the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. It seems to me that this incisive fable about one man’s search for answers is the equivalent of the filmmakers handing us the keys to their art. Only now, after 25 years of making movies, have they created an overtly Jewish film. Characters such as John Turturro’s shifty bookie, Bernie Bernbaum, in Miller’s Crossing (1990) and John Goodman’s unforgettable, devout convert Walter Sopchak in The Big Lebowski (1998) now appear as discrete signposts in the oeuvre, wild cards tipping the winning hand the Coens have been playing all along.

Merry Christmas!

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Things remain busy here — still working on that diss. Have just finished the introduction, so I’m getting there. But now it’s Christmas, with all that entails, so the blogging here will remain rather perfunctory, but I wanted to at least get something up here and since I was just in Paris for a day and a half, here are some thoughts on the big Venetian show currently at the Louvre.

It’s basically a much expanded reconfiguration of the Titian Tintoretto Veronese exhibition displayed at the MFA in Boston over the summer. That show was a focused if somewhat academic effort with an impressively high-quality selection of paintings. The Paris version includes most of those works, with a few notable exceptions, adds loads more and expands the scope to cover Jacopo Bassano and other artists of the late 16th century. So, lots of great paintings and well worth a visit, but is it a better show? Not really.

Check the Pedigree

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While I remember, there’s this little curiosity. At the Christie’s preview I went to the week before last, there was this astonishing intarsiaed Louis XIV tortoise shell/pietra dura cabinet, which went on to sell for a good £4.5 million.

Anyway, what leaped out at me immediately, being mired fatally in Titian’s prints at the moment, was a little dog design inlaid on one of the drawers. This dog actually has a pretty distinguished pedigree, probably originating in a very damaged, early 1530s drawing by Titian in the Louvre, which was reproduced in several engravings in the later 16th Century, and it also migrated into the master’s very large and famous — and famously perplexing — mythology, also in the Louvre, called the ‘Pardo Venus’.

This painting is usually thought to have been initiated in the 1510s and finished in the 1550s and sent to King Philip II of Spain, but for complicated reasons I won’t go into here, the documentation advanced in support of this is highly unlikely to refer to the Louvre canvas, which rather looks like a painting of the early 1530s. The dog, then, seems initially to have been devised to accompany the shepherd in the drawing, before it was transferred wholesale into the collage-like painting.

The Italian craftsmen behind the cabinet, who cannot have seen the painting, must have known the dog from one of the prints after the Louvre design. Another example of the enduring popularity and wide dissemination of Titian’s printed designs. Wonder whether some of the other animal designs have similar sources…

Er, OK, this is really obscure, but I’m off to Paris and the Louvre now, so maybe that’s why I thought of it.

Our World at COP15

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Yes, the big event of the week for many is of course the Climate Conference in Copenhagen and the Bunker’s there in the form of Thomas Thorhauge, who is working with the grassroots visual communications group Biggerpicture to convey the aspirations of the World Wildlife Fund at the conference. He is part of a handful of illustrators cartooning live in one of the cafes in the main aisle of the Bella Centre, as well as publishing the pamphlet Draw the Line every other day. Check in with them if you’re there and here’s Thomas’ own report if you read Danish.

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Picture’s from Biggerpicture’s Flickr page showing Erik Petri, Thorhauge and Ole Qvist-Sørensen, as well as an issue of Drawing the Line.