I’ll get the day back, of course. But I’m unsure if getting extra time on April 14th is an accomplishment. Unless it’s your birthday on April 14th, what’s special about it?
Anyway, now it’s April 3rd (or it is in Germany as I write this) and I’m coming to the end of my second full day in Europe. Yesterday was primarily family time, as an adjustment day, I’m fine with it. When I’m in Europe I feel the constant urge to be out taking in the enormous mounds of history available, and wasting any of it hanging around someone’s house can get painful. Today I took in my cultural fill with the Alte Pinakothek, Munich’s most famous art museum.
|Fall of the Damned, Rubens|
Rubens’s best paintings in the museum lean toward the gruesome. His painting of The Massacre of the Innocents (1637) has heaps a dead babies scattered around it, but does show the mothers trying to rip the skin off the faces of the soldiers busy jabbing spears through infants. The Fall of the Damned (1620) has a plethora of terrific serpentine monsters chewing on chubby sinners.
In my earlier post about the Alte Pinakothek, I discussed my favorite painting in the collection: “The Battle of Issus” by Albrecht Altdorfer. It astonished me once again when I saw it up close; the detail that Altdorfer put into the cavalry in the foreground, and how it merges into a cosmic view of the landscape beyond is remarkable not only for the 15th century, but for our own time.
|Holy Family, Rembrandt|
|Charles V, Titian|
My personal favorite Rembrandt painting is Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer, but that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which bizarrely feels farther away from me than Munich. It’s an image that appeared in many of my history books in high school in the chapters about Greek philosophers.
Speaking of high school textbook pictures: Titian’s 1548 portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that hangs in the Alte Pinakothek is perhaps the single most frequent image I’ve seen from books on Early Modern European history. It’s a perfect royal portrait, too. Charles V appears regal, but also human—his unfortunate enlarged jaw from his Habsburg heritage barely disguised under his beard. He appears important but also relaxed. You can tell from the painting that the emperor was not a person that anyone would soon forget meeting, even as ill and impaired as he was at the time he sat for Titian’s paintbrush (Charles suffered from gout that almost crippled him in late life).
By the way, what is it with gout and European royalty? Every ill monarch in history was afflicted by this acute inflammatory arthritis. Apparently, it comes from dietary problems: eating too much red meat. As only royalty could afford to eat large quantities of red meat during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Era, it makes sense it would attach itself to royalty. Everyone else had to settle for malnutrition and pneumonia.
Tomorrow, I plan to return to a museum that I moved through far too fast the last time: the Deutches Museum, a massive depository of science and industry. If it’s been invented, it’s in there. Even Bob Hope, who was made of plastic and adhesives and programmed with the same ten jokes.