Some fine things

Here are some of the finer things in life that I especially enjoy.
I make no claim that this page is organized, consistent, or constant.

The Alchemist
Cornelis Bega: Dutch: 1663: H. Schickman Galery, N.Y.
Courtesy of Carol L. Gerten Fine Arts

Click here for a higher-resolution version of this painting.
This picture is a long-time favorite, partly because this chap's arena looks a lot like my own shops and labs. It is likely that the alchemist is revered and feared as a wizard (technically competent person) by folks on the outside, even as they sometimes are driven to utilize his talents. Here he is with his socks rolled down, engrossed in his technical work amid the tools and materials of his trade, with little companionship evident or needed. He personifies, perhaps, the archetype of the can-do engineer, particularly those who do experimental research, invent gadgets, or make things. The art folks can comment on the composition, use of light, color, and technique. I know that this is a satisfying, resonant picture. I suppose I identify with this guy. With a bow to Ecclesiastes, he seems "happy in his labors, for that is his lot." Lucky chap.

Battle of San Romano
Paolo Uccello: Italian: c1440: Uffizi, Florence.
Click here for a higher-resolution version of this painting.

I first saw this picture while visiting the Uffizi Museum in Florence with my oldest daughter, the art historian. That experience was a treasure - how often do you get to visit an art museum with a professional expert who also happens to be your progeny?
This Uccello picture caught my attention, for reasons that I did not entirely fathom at the time, but that seemed to go beyond the fierce masculine themes of war, death, weapons, and steeds. Recently, I learned that the picture is one of the earliest and best examples of the use of the rules of perspective. The lances are some major elements that delineate the perspective. But the important point is that the perspective is established without enslaving the art to the technical device. Another important development here, according to my daughter, is the depiction of the horses as rounded three-dimensional creatures; they are still stylized, but they have depth and vitality.

Gerardo di Jacopo Starnina: Italian: c1400: Uffizi, Florence.
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This painting was also discovered in the Uffizi. The longer you look the more you see. It's intricacies make it hard to appreciate on the small screen. We have here a whole mob of hermits or monks going about various pastoral and aquatic activities in an apparently idyllic setting. Then one discovers, maybe with the help of an expert plus access to the rest of the panels that are housed in other museums, that these vignettes show us that the life of a religious hermit is the only way to triumph over death, especially the plague, which was a main concern of the time. Regardless of the message, the picture catches the imagination. The original is pretty dark; I lightened it a smidgen to improve access to the details.

Created: 27 Jan 2000 by Gary Cloud Last Updated: