Greco's Ghosts

Art. History. Culture.

Boston Bloggin: Day Three

Ok, Day Three was actually two days ago, but the hassle of travel at the end of Day Three and the craziness of returning to work the next day has delayed this post slightly. Day Three saw a return to the Museum of Fine Arts to attempt to see the galleries that I missed on Day One. But sadly, I still didn’t make it through contemporary or Asian art, nor did I see anything on the 3rd floor or any of the special exhibitions on ground level. The place is huge. I could have used at least 2 more days there. And I wanted a repeat journey through the Goya show, but there was just not enough time.

Aside from this fantastic art tour, I was able to check out some legendary eating & drinking landmarks. Friends of mine live right by the Bell in Hand bar, the oldest bar in America. Right across the street is the Union Oysterhouse, where I had the pleasure of enjoying a huge amount of delicious seafood the evening of Day Two. Union Oyster House duplicates as a Boston museum of its own, with walls covered in paraphernailia dating back to its opening in the early 1800s. Supposedly the menu has hardly changed at all since then. Scrumptious.

My day back at the MFA began in the European galleries, where I attempted to find where I left off. I then ventured through American art and into Ancient. Then in the afternoon I attended a lecture by the Museo del Prado’s visiting curator and expert on all things Goya, Manuela Mena Marqués. Follow my stream of consciousness for some Day Three snippets below.

Frans Francken the Younger
Allegory of Man’s Choice Between Virtue and Vice, ca. 1635


“This is my new favorite painting. I’ve never seen a work of art that so blatantly combines symbolism of mythology, the Bible, the Gates of Hell, and all kinds of awesomeness. A blind Cupid cautions against the personifications of unbridled desire. A monkey king being carried by fools ridicules the objectification of power. At top center, Minerva/Athena, goddess of Wisdom, oversees judgment, while at bottom center, Satan straddling a demon coaxes the vulnerable. Both Satan and his demon connect with the viewer’s gaze, as if they both know the best ways to tempt you and draw you in.”

“There’s a little girl here with her mom and she is wearing a pink cape that says ‘GIRL POWER!’ on the back. Her mom is gently leading her through the galleries, softly chatting with her about the paintings she likes. Way cute.”

“Oh, the Dutch. So much genre, so little time. Just kidding, there was clearly a ton of time.”

Hendrick Goltzius
Susanna and the Elders, 1615

Goltzius Susannah

“I don’t know why but I hate this painting. I find it horrible. The only good thing about it is the dolphin fountain at the bottom right.”

Thomas Cole
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1828

Cole Expulsion

“This serves as proof that Cole is awesome. This canvas describes the sublimity and violence of nature like none other. No doubt the tiny figures of the distraught Adam and Eve are inspired by Michelangelo. No doubt the craggy tree trunk in the left foreground is inspired by Salvator Rosa. Could there even be some reminiscence of rococo pastorals in the lush garden beyond the scene of expulsion? I could stand in front of this painting for hours.”

At the lecture by Manuela Mena Marqués, she begins her talk about Goya’s drawings by describing the print her mentor, Eleanor, showed her. It was the first time Manuela was struck by Goya and the stories he tells. She gets choked up talking about this, which in turn gets me a little choked up as a fellow Goya lover. Do I remember when I fell in love with this artist? Yes, it was in grad school, when his grotesque Caprichos left a significant mark upon me.

Manuela talks about Goya’s sketchbook from his travels in Italy and how he copied many of the old Masters but did mostly unconventional studies, such as observances of nature. From studying Goya’s drawings Manuela tells us that Goya was an artist who truly had everything already in his mind before he went to work. He did little preparatory drawings and when his paintings are X-rayed they show very few redos, only minor corrections.

“This lecture is supposed to end at 3:00 – Manuela is still talking and doesn’t sound like she’s even close to being done! I’m that douchebag in the front row who now has to get up and walk out early. I hate the fact that I have to catch a plane from here and not hear the rest of this. Manuela is an inspiration and I’m convinced I need to read all her books now. Viva España.”

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