Monday, March 11, 2013

Organ Recital on Sunday

I went to church at Westminster Abbey, which was amazing.  I think that the best way to experience churches and cathedrals is to attend a service, you get much more out of seeing the building used for its intended purpose.  The choir was sounded incredible.  I took a quick look around, although photos are not permitted, I learned after taking one.  Oops.
Illegal picture inside Westminster.

Then I headed our for some more walking in the cold. I walked up the southbank of the river, catching some lovely views of all the buildings I've now seen up close; Westminster, St. Paul's, Parliament and Big Ben.

View from the south bank of the Thames.

View of St. Pauls from the south bank
I went up the OXO Tower to get a view out over the river, named for the bouillon cubes.  I discovered a nice warm restaurant at the top where I had some tea and chips to warm up.

Lovely tea with chocolates and chips.
View from the OXO tower, similar to that of the Tate Modern, just slightly further west.
 Further walking was necessary after this as the tube station I was hoping to use was closed for work this weekend.  Sigh.  While walking to my destination, I discovered this station which is very clearly permanently closed, if you look closely you can see that behind the metal gate the opening is bricked over.

Permanently closed...
I was again close to the National Gallery, so a second visit was necessary.  I can really only do art in 90 minute intervals and there is so much to see.  Even after two visits, I still have only seen two-thirds of the works.  Today's favourites were: 

Portrait at the Age of 34, Rembrant

This painting is closely related to a self portrait etching made by Rembrandt in the previous year, 1639. In both the print and the painting the composition is influenced by Raphael's 'Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione' (Paris, Louvre), by Titian's Portrait of Gerolamo (?) Barbarigo in the National Gallery and by Albrecht Dürer's 'Self Portrait' of 1498 (Madrid, Prado). 

This portrait shows Rembrandt at the height of his career, presenting himself in a self-assured pose wearing an elaborate costume in the fashion of the 16th century. It seems as if Rembrandt refers deliberately to his famous predecessors in this portrait, and thus places himself in the tradition of great 'Old Masters'. The word 'conterfeycel' (more properly conterfeytsel) is an archaic Dutch term for portrait.

The Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio
Two of Jesus' disciples were walking to Emmaus after the Crucifixion when the resurrected Jesus himself drew near and went with them, but they did not recognise him. At supper that evening in Emmaus '... he took bread, and blessed it, and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight' (Luke 24: 30-31). Christ is shown at the moment of blessing the bread and revealing his true identity to the two disciples.

Caravaggio's innovative treatment of the subject makes this one of his most powerful works. The depiction of Christ is unusual in that he is beardless and great emphasis is given to the still life on the table. The intensity of the emotions of Christ's disciples is conveyed by their gestures and expression. The viewer too is made to feel a participant in the event.

The picture was commissioned by the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei in 1601. Caravaggio painted a second, more subdued version of 'The Supper at Emmaus' about five years after the Gallery's work.
 After that I went back to Westminster for a short organ recital at 5:45 and then around 6:30, I headed home after a full day of exploring.

Big Ben at Twilight.

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