Thursday, July 23, 2015

Faces in Iran

This is a long telephoto shot...Nadia was waiting for us while we were in a garden. Richard took it and I love the scene he caught: the young, hip Iranian girl with her phone and her hair showing (God forbid) and her casual seat (Nadia loved to perch on window sills or relax on the floor) scrolling through her mail, contrasted with the woman in her traditional garb.

Woman selling incense which wards off the evil eye.

Shopper bazaar Tehran - about 100 degrees

Famous Iranian actor, director at airport.

One of many groups who wanted our photos.

Ice Cream Seller

Figure - Persepolis

Bookbinder - Kerman bazaar.

Nadia in her Girl with the Pearl pose.

Driver in Kerman, not praying - consulting his phone.

Nadia posing for a photojournalist we met. 

Caravanserie worker

Shopper with beautiful scarf. 

Sometimes faces weren't easy to see.

I liked her red high heel, which I bet she kicks up once she gets rid of the chador.

Nadia's sister on the left.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Birthday Parties

Two birthday parties on Saturday: one in West Hills for our four-year-old cousin, twice removed ; one in Villa Park for my eighty-year-old brother-in-law. We spent most of the day on the freeway. 

 Guess which party featured sack races and a piñata?
Chess and wine for the eighty-year-old.

Four year old strategizing: figuring out his attack on the pinata.

I also became a triple G Aunt on Sunday. My sister Eilleen's daughter, Kim's daughter, Jennifer's daughter, Denise (by marriage) had a son, Oliver Ray who is my great great grand nephew. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

St. Apollonia

In the National Gallery, there stood sweet St. Apollonia, a virgin martyr, holding her pincers to her chest in this painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. In the pincers is one of her teeth, violently pulled as part of her torture in 249 AD. The Romans demanded she renounce her Christianity and when she withstood the brutal extractions and wouldn't comply, they built a fire and threatened to burn her alive if she persisted. She voluntarily jumped into the fire and died.

Torture by dentistry immediately brings to mind "The Running Man" when Dustin Hoffman is tortured (by a dental probe in a cavity) to answer the question, "Is it safe?" 

Apollonian became the patron saint of dentistry and those suffering from toothache. I found a dental clinic named St. Apollonia and given those pincers and her suffering, I can't imagine why anyone would want to name a clinic after her. Why not name it the Little Shops of Horrors Dental Clinic?
Remember this?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Queen of the National Gallery

The most memorable portrait in the gallery, this is the visage of the Countess of Tylenol, er... Tyrol. She looks vaguely familiar because she's inspired a number of scary women in illustrated books and cartoons.

I'm thinking of printing it and sticking it on my bathroom mirror to remind me about the horrible wardrobe mistakes we maturing women can make. Not in the possession of aging, withered breasts, I don't have to worry about that one, but the hair and makeup errors are a possibility. Her situation is a clear case when an obscuring veil might have helped.

If this painting isn't a caricature (which I think it is), then it is a tragedy - particularly if the condition was caused by Paget's. As it happens, I know two people who suffered from Paget's disease, both with badly curved spines and backs, but no facial deformities. I'm not sure which would be the lesser of two evils - bent over so you can hardly walk or having your face ruined. Ruined faces I know about from my Acoustic Neuroma group...if your facial nerve is affected during AN treatment it may result in paralysis. The result is very difficult to live with. I was lucky my facial nerve wasn't affected; I could have ended up this way. Experts in facial re-animation can now help people with paralysis and make significant improvements.

From Wikipedia:
"The painting is in oil on an oak panel, and measures 62.4 by 45.5 cm. It shows a grotesque old woman with wrinkled skin and withered breasts. She wears the aristocratic horned headdress of her youth, out of fashion by the time of the painting, and holds in her right hand a red flower, then a symbol of engagement, indicating that she is trying to attract a suitor. However, it has been described as a bud that will 'likely never blossom'. The work is Matsys' best-known painting.
The painting was long thought to have been derived from a putative lost work by Leonardo da Vinci, on the basis of its striking resemblance to two caricature drawings of heads commonly attributed to the Italian artist. However the caricatures are now thought to be based on the work of Matsys, who is known to have exchanged drawings with Leonardo.
A possible literary influence is Erasmus's essay In Praise of Folly (1511), which satirizes women who "still play the coquette", "cannot tear themselves away from their mirrors" and "do not hesitate to exhibit their repulsive withered breasts". The woman has been often identified as Margaret, Countess of Tyrol, claimed by her enemies to be ugly; however, she had died 150 years earlier. In 2008 Michael Baum, emeritus professor of surgery at University College London, suggested that the sitter suffered from a rare form of Paget's disease, in which the victim's bones enlarge and become deformed.
The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery in London, to which it was bequeathed by Jenny Louisa Roberta Blaker in 1947. It was originally half of a diptych, with a Portrait of an Old Man, in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, which was lent to the National Gallery in 2008 for an exhibition in which the two paintings were hung side by side.
The portrait is thought to be a source for John Tenniel's 1869 illustrations of the Duchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


I studied this painting closely; I'm interested in the idea of witches and what they were cooking up. It's an overall grisly scene; the fat, ugly witches are engaged in various nefarious activities while some poor chump has just been hanged, dangling over the whole scene.

Suddenly I noticed the witch in the middle left is looking at her iPad! She even has a stand like mine.
Is she reading a recipe to the white haired beauty to her right or is she casting a spell via the effigy in her left hand? Yikes, maybe that was Steve Jobs being channeled from 1646.

God, this is getting creepy...I think I'll ask the stewardess for a drink!! But hold the eye of newt, for Heaven's sake. 

Monday, July 06, 2015

National Gallery

You can only spend so much time in a state of awe. I planned to spend hours in the National Gallery, but after about three hours, we burned out. Our aged brains just don't work the way they used to. At some point, the greatest masterpieces in the world start blending together and all you want to do is sit down. Breaking our visit into two days helped a lot as did forgetting about the guide books
and simply wandering around stopping at anything that caught our eye. Like we share one eye....I mean anything that caught either Richard's or my attention.

Although the galleries were crowded, behavior was civil and we could view everything without fighting for position. There was a large group of children wandering around with pencils and paper, plopping on the floor sketching what they liked. They were having fun and we enjoyed watching them get lost and dreamy eyed, hunched over their creations. 

Gainsborough didn't complete this painting...I believe he died before it was completed. The older girl's right arm is painted as to be tweaking the tail of a cat perched on their laps. You can see the pencilled-in sketch of the cat if you look closely. Barbara, who along with Nancy, taught me to look closely, will be sure to see the cat. 
The scene here is all happiness and smiles; behind the children, the cat is terrorizing the bird. Father Time is doing something in the upper left. All is not sweetnesss and light in Hogarth's portrait of The Graham Children, painted in 1742.

More big cats here in bad situations. I love the movement in this Reubens (The Lion Hunt) even though the subject is grisly. 

What a dress!! Look at the detail on the fabric in the close up. The painting is by Francois-Hubert Drouais "Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame". Although she was born to a bourgeois family, she became a mistress to King Louis XV and remained his friend long after that relationship ended. 

Without magnification, you can't imagine how delicate and life-like the fabric is. The actual painting isn't lit well enough and you can't get close enough. The joys of digital photography. 
Jesus, learning to read. Looks a bit young for that sort of thing. I liked the frame, the light and the fact that Joseph is almost out of the frame making Mary and Jesus the whole focus. Joseph was always playing the supporting role. 
Here's another clever reflection effect in a portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

I think I found the martlet; it's not easy to see.
Liked the blue in this. "Virgin and Child in a Landscape". The painter, Grazio Gentileschi, painted on lapis lazuli frequently, as was the fashion at the time. You could get hooked on adding that majestic and arresting color to whatever was on the easel.

More beautiful blue. This painting is hung in the top row and yet I noticed most people tried to 
capture it on their cell phones by standing on tip toe. I wondered why they didn't re-position such a popular work. 

Overall, the National Gallery is great to're free to wander and the collections make some sense. Trying to find particular galleries is frustrating because they aren't in sequence. A minor criticism in the face of superb organization and the best price ever....FREE. There's excellent marketing and the gift shops are scattered here and there so plenty of opportunity to spend money of every kind of museum related souvenier. The cash registers were ringing merrily away and people seem inclined to cough up some cash for gee gaws given what they've saved on admission. 

Caravaggio..way, way out there for 1500. His depiction of boys brings up the question of his sexuality. Most of the young men in his paintings look like girls and there is an erotic undertone to them. This boy
s reaction to a lizard bite looks feminine to me; some art scholars speculate the painting is an allegory on the sting of love...or lost love? Caravaggio was, according to Wikipedia, a street brawler and in trouble with the law for much of his life. 

I think this is the same boy - he has a similar abundance of hair, and the off-the-shoulder white shirt reveals similar shapely shoulders.
So much for day 1. 

The girl with the pearl becomes The girl with the drink!

Our Nadia looking like the Girl with the Pearl while she was guiding us in Iran. She was anticipating a trip to Istanbul in the week after we left her. She couldn't wait to get rid of her head scarf and have an alcoholic beverage.

She sent this photo of herself today, unveiled and downing a shot. I hope they're ready for her cause here she comes.

Walking around the Embankment

London is more like London today. Drizzling on and off and 62 degrees - much more comfortable for walking around. I was rooting around Marks and Spencer taking photos of the packaged food, but they asked me to stop. I thought it was funny that you can take pictures of the Rembrandts in the National Gallery but M&S won't let you take a photo of their chicken salad packaging. 

I got a few anyway - of the Gastropub fare:

They have a good selection of ethnic foods to go. Ethnic may be considered politically incorrect n London. 

I think a cucumber-gin and tonic sauce sounds great on Seabass. I wonder what a vegetarian suet is?
We'll never know because it's far too noisy for me to eat in this pub.  Fortunately, in most places, the music level is tolerable but the crowds are loud and boisterous. It's a bit of a drag when you have to choose your dining experience based not on the food but the decibels. 
Just as I was feeling sorry for myself bumbling down the uneven stairs somewhere I noticed a woman ahead of me with two blind men holding onto her shoulder. Both men had canes they were tapping and she was giving a running narrative on what was happening and giving them instructions about curbs, veering left and right etc. You have to have guts to attempt a walk with two blind men in Trafalgar Square. I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

And speaking of blind men, I ran into this memorial and had to look up Henry Fawcett. He was blinded in a shooting accident at an early age, but went on to complete an excellent education. He was influential in getting Darwin's theory accepted. He fought for suffrage. As Postmaster General, he established a number of enduring programs including savings stamps and parcel post. All that, and he died at 51.

And then I saw the camel statue. Suddenly camels seem to be everywhere. This one is a memorial to the Imperial Camel Corp members fallen in the first World War.

 And how to end up spiraling down the Google rabbit hole.....from Wikipedia. What a leap in technology from camel mounts to the medi-vac.

"The 2nd Battalion of the ICC (Imperial Camel Corp) together with the Hongkong and Singapore Mountain Battery marched some 30 miles from El Arish, surprising the Turkish forces at Bir el Hassana, who surrendered without resistance. Some local Bedouin fired on the British, who suffered one casualty, a soldier who was shot in the ankle. Because he could no longer ride his camel the British evacuated him by aeroplane, in the first recorded case of aeromedical evacuation."