Sunday, August 10, 2014

On the road again: London, day 2

I slept--fitfully, with frequent awakenings due to stress dreams, but still--for the better part of eleven hours last night, which was a huge treat.  After a shower and a quick lunch--the oddest imitation of a Cuban sandwich I've yet tasted--I headed to the National Gallery to spend the afternoon enjoying its many treasures. 

From the entrance to the museum, Trafalgar Square was a joyous collection of people enjoying a positively perfect London afternoon.

Click an image to see a larger version. 

As I was leaving the gallery at closing time, I couldn't help but wander by the square's big blue chicken and take a few happy snaps.  This one came out the best.

I was able to see the majority of the paintings in the museum, though if I had more time I could use another day to see the rest.  I studied many, many pieces from artists whose work I had at least some familiarity with.  I also found some whose work I did not know but now will seek.  Paolo Morando was one of the new painters whose work I enjoyed.  His Saint Roch caught my eye early in the day.

I was struck by this piece from Palma Vecchio, whose work I've seen many times before. 

Though Vecchio painted it in about 1520, it's easy to imagine it as a Rossetti piece from centuries later. 

Another painter whose works I know almost nothing about was Joachim Beuckelaer.  I was quite taken with his four large canvases depicting his take on the four classic elements.  This one, Fire, particularly struck me, but all were powerful, frank, and fresh takes on this old subject. 

I could go on and on, of course, because so much great art was on display, but it's late here, and I want to rest.

Okay, I have to show you Jan Brueghel the Elder's The Adoration of the Kings

and contrast it with Jan Gossaert's painting of the same title (sorry for the side angle; it was all the crowds made possible). 

Oh, hell, I can't skip these two amazing creations of Peter Paul Rubens, The Watering Place

and Samson and Delilah.

I've seen very little from Nicolo dell'Abate, but his The Death of Eurydice, particularly its fantastic (in all senses of that word) sky

has definitely whetted my appetite for more. 

Seeing two incomplete pieces from Michelangelo was also fascinating.  Here, he's painted all but the left of The Manchester Madonna

while in The Entombment he left blank bits here and there, as well as the large section in the lower right corner. 

The gallery's sign speculated, based on some existing drawings, that Mary Magdalene was to have been kneeling in that large open area.

I really need to stop this art tour, but I don't want to fail to include another painter, Francesco Pesellino, whose The Story of David and Goliath

and The Triumph of David and Saul

drew my attention for so long that I now will seek more of his work.  

Might as well toss in Botticelli's Mystic Nativity; it's magical. 

I absolutely must share with you Da Vinci's The Virgin of the Rocks

and his sketch, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, which was stunning even in the dim light in which they had to keep it.

I'm making myself stop, but these represent only a fraction of the paintings I photographed, which in turn were a tiny fraction of the ones I had the privilege of seeing. 

The evening's entertainment was a different sort of art entirely, but one that I greatly enjoyed:  The production at the lovely Palace Theatre of the musical by Roddy Doyle from a novel and then a movie of the same name (though the novel was originally The Partitions), The Commitments.

The story was fun, though I knew it already, the cast was amazing, and the music, mostly soul, with a smattering of rock, was delightful.  I later learned from the program that understudies were filling several of the key roles in this performance, but I certainly felt in no way cheated; they gave incredible performances.  The show filled me with delight; catch it if you get the chance. 

Afterward, dinner took me to the L'Atelier Robuchon right around the corner from the Palace, where I enjoyed an eight-course tasting meal. 

This entry is already way too long, so I'll spare you the food porn shots and say simply that every bite of every dish was positively delicious.

Okay, twist my arm:  this strawberry pre-dessert was astonishing, light and flavorful and evocative of summer while perfect at its job of cleansing the palette.

On the walk back to the hotel, I had to stop and try to capture the lovely full moon hanging over London. 

Though this shot does it no justice, you may perhaps be able to glean a small sense of how beautiful it was.

A glorious day indeed.

Tomorrow, I begin trying to both work and tourist, so don't expect any more entries of this size. 

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