My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Alte Meister angels

Dresden's Alte Meister museum is like a mini-Louvre – although it would seem small only by comparison to something as ridiculously huge as that.

Located in Dresden’s own palace, amusingly called the Zwinger -- complete with fountain-filled courtyard, a la the Louvre – the museum has a solid collection, featuring Reubens, Rembrandts and of course, it’s most famous courtesy Raphael, the Sixtine Madonna:

I’ve previously thought it a bit of a shame that a detail, a tiny piece of such a large work, could be so popular that the rest of the painting is overlooked – there are tons of tourist tat featuring the engels in the gift shop, but just a poster and a card of the entire image.

But after walking through room after poorly air conditioned room of relgious altars and Dutch landscapes, it’s easy to see why the masses find Raphael’s “saucy” – as they call them here – angels so appealing. Their cuteness is simply refreshing.

And so I sat there, on an oval leather bench, as tour groups and seniors streamed in and out of the room, looking at these two little angels and wondering what they were thinking. They’re at the feet of Mary and Jesus (I forget who the other two figures are, and don’t care) in heaven. The parapet they rest on and the curtains to the side are meant to show the divide between our world and heaven, according to a handy sign.

So you’ve got these angels, right? And they’re in heaven, at the foot of Jesus. And yet they look like they’re daydreaming, looking out over our world. If all your existence has been in heaven, is it still heaven for you? Or do angels daydream and wonder what our lives are like? Would they envy us? And how much would that suck?

So yeah. Their image may have been commercialized (along with the Louvre’s Mona Lisa) into a tourist draw and a gift shop top-seller, but I don’t doubt that hundreds of years ago, when it hung in some church, that those figures won the admiration and the thoughts of people then, too. Some things are popular for a good reason.

Aside from artists beginning with the letter R, there’s also a full room of Canelletos, two large scenes to each long wall, with smaller ones next to each door on the shorter walls. Now a room of perfectly painted Venetian canals is no poor entertainment, but I admit I was even more amused by the plaque under the paintings. If I read it correctly, this museum is contending that Canelleto’s name was Antonio Canal – so really, he was Mr Canal. Did he get that name after painting the canals so much, or did he paint the canals so much because of his name? I’m sure I could solve this little mystery by wiki-ing it, but sometimes a bit of vagueness is preferable...

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Blogger Joie said...

I love how you take a serious topic like art galleries and museums and put your twist on it. I love it. What a good read... I especially love the part about the angels in the painting and what they are thinking.. What are they thinking.. and if I ever get there to see them, I too will probably sit on the oval bench and ponder that very question. Maybe they're wondering 'are we there yet' or 'are you nearly done so we can do something else' something really simple like 'what will we do later?' How fun.



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