229 The glory of Maarssen Station

Over the course of the years, Schwartz’s pleasure in taking the train from his local station in Maarssen has declined drastically. However, the station has risen immeasurably in his esteem now that he knows that it was here, in June 1845, that the Doppler effect was first demonstrated experimentally. In his new enthusiasm, he launches a plan to commemorate that event in art whenever a train passes the station. Continue reading “229 The glory of Maarssen Station”

228 Two royal collections in London

The choice of subjects in a new exhibition of Dutch pictures from the British Royal Collection is compared with that in a 1971 predecessor to this show. Schwartz detects a shift from aristocratic sporting subjects to poor man’s scenes from daily life. Until 30 October, the visitor can go from Buckingham Palace to Dulwich Picture Gallery to admire another royal collection, including splendid Dutch paintings. Assembled for the last king of Poland, it ended up, 20 years after his abdication, in a London suburb. Continue reading “228 Two royal collections in London”

227 Senseless sensibility

Two exhibitions of Dutch genre paintings take competing approaches to the interpretation of these irresistible depictions of everyday life. One show, in Haarlem and Hamburg, interprets them as moral warnings to the viewer; another, in Rotterdam and Frankfurt, sees them as nothing more than fun subjects. Schwartz introduces into the discussion the ideas of the literary historian René van Stipriaan, whose theories about farces for the stage open new possibilities for interpreting paintings as well.

Continue reading “227 Senseless sensibility”

226 How Sterre came home

The jacket image of the new summary illustrated catalogue of the Mauritshuis is the double portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his wife Suzanna van Baerle, Sterre. This brings back vivid memories of the acquisition of the painting by the Mauritshuis 13 years ago. Schwartz tells the inside story of his role in that coup, and that of the venerable Julius Held. Continue reading “226 How Sterre came home”

225 The 20th century strikes back

The Foundation for Prussian Palaces and Gardens has published a massive compendium of the easel paintings it lost during and after the Second World War. Most turn out not to have been destroyed, but misappropriated or taken off by the Russians as "trophy art." Schwartz stands up for the international conventions that prohibit taking cultural heritage as booty, no matter how just a war might be or how much one’s own side has suffered. Continue reading “225 The 20th century strikes back”

224 Learning moments

Commemorating the death of two old friends in the past year, Schwartz thinks of experiences with them that changed his life. With Bob Cahn he learned a lesson in gentlemanliness and from Stuart Hampshire the importance of supporting institutions in which you believe. Putting these two things together goes some way toward a model for the good life in society, a better one than preaching to others about their deficient values. Continue reading “224 Learning moments”

222 The captain of the Barony

In 1622 Jacques Callot published a suite of 25 etchings of beggars that established a more humane image of the vagabond than had been current until then. The title print of Callot’s series is a lanky, insolent figure with a banner reading Capitano de Baroni. Schwartz hypothesizes that in Dutch eyes he would have been seen as a caricature of the "beggar" – the Dutch rebel – who was captain of the Barony of Breda. This was Justinus van Nassau, whom Callot was later to etch, and Velazquez to paint, as the vanquished commander of Breda. Continue reading “222 The captain of the Barony”

221 Leonardo’s Last Supper and my first breakfast in Milan

To be creative is to do something for the first time. The chance of doing something worthwhile for the first time and doing it right is about the same as the chance of shooting a hole in one the first time one picks up a golf club. On the basis of this insight, Schwartz sketches a minor theory of creativity. Continue reading “221 Leonardo’s Last Supper and my first breakfast in Milan”