This post goes out with deepest sympathy and grief for the country and people of Norway. I was there once years ago. My husband and I took the Hurtigruten, one in a fleet of small ships that travels up and down the coastline delivering passengers and mail. We went from Bergen to the limits of Nord Norge at the Russian border, and back again, a voyage of more than a week. I'll never forget the excitement of that trip, passing the Arctic Circle early on, adding layers as we went north, standing transfixed by the astounding scenery of water, mountains, glaciers, and coast - and with blessedly fine weather though it was April and still deep winter in much of Norway.
We were in and out of small and large harbors, day and night, constantly marking new superlatives - the northern most Gothic cathderal (Trondheim), the northernmost deciduous forest, etc. Sea eagles flew over our heads, dolphins jumped around the prow, gorgeous King Eider ducks thronged the waters. It is a most beautiful country with an envied history of peace and cooperation among their people. The events of last week are still - will always be - hard to believe.
Houses at Sandvicken
Claude Monet also went to Norway once. He liked to paint snow scenes so he too went North in winter (1885) - though went he got there he found a bit more snow than he'd anticipated - and apparently deplored his own lack of success with skiing. With sympathy and respect, and in the middle of a summer heat wave, here are a few of Monet’s cool views of the great country of Norway.
Big news! - Very Expensive Art! Nothing new, but in this case, the Art is the Darmstadt Madonna by Hans Holbein, and the sales figure somewhere around 70 million dollars. That may sound like a lot of money, but for this breathtaking masterpiece it is rock bottom. I was amazed to read of the sale - it is incredible to think that a work of this importance could still be in private hands - and that it will remain the property of an individual. The sale moves it from the private but titled hands of a prince with a big inheritance tax bill to pay to the common but very wealthy hands of a German industrialist, who, it is reported, will allow it be seen by the public. (The price would have been much higher if it hadn't been a German national treasure so must remain in the country.)
Hans Holbein is best known for his portraits of Henry VIII and his English court. Looking for work as a result of the religious turmoil dividing Europe in the wake of the Reformation, he got to King Henry - via the Humanist circles of Thomas More - on the recommendation of the philosopher Erasmus, and the rest is literally history. Lucky Henry to have Holbein as his official court painter as he demolished England's Catholic traditions and built the Anglican Church - and lucky us, to have so many beautiful Holbein portraits of contemporary English court and society! The Darmstadt Madonna was painted in 1526, the same year Holbein left for England. It is a Catholic painting, a remnant of a German mindset that was eroding under the pressures of the Reformation; the wealthy banker/soldier Jakob Meyer von Hasen, kneeling at the side of the Madonna and Child, is a staunch opponent of the new belief and likely needed the divine protection they represent. Two boys, a child and an infant play as if unconcerned but it is thought that at least one of them had already died. On the other side are two of von Hasen's wives, one deceased, and his living daughter, who bows meekly as she fingers her long coral rosary. Holbein's landmark style is a vivid amalgam of new and old, North and South - the incredible detail and clarity of Northern Europe, and the deep space and robust forms that show the influence of the Italian Renaissance. Holbein would be a supreme artist at any moment in time, but this masterpiece is the perfect testament to a singular man's extraordinary skill as well as a clear, articulate document marking where humanity was at a particularly significant place and time.
Click on the images below to see the painting and details and read the captions, along with other paintings and portraits by Holbein.
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