Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Museum-Hopping

Above, a mirror in a stairwell of the Museum of Design reflects contrasts between traditional and contemporary decorative arts found in the museum.

Hotel de Lalande, an elegant townhome built in the late 1770s, is home to the Museum of Design and Decorative Arts, or MADD. The son of the original owner inherited it but held the unfortunate honor of serving as an attorney in the Parliament of Bordeaux during the Revolution and was sentenced to the guillotine in 1794. The property passed through the hands of several owners before the city of Bordeaux acquired it in 1880 and converted it into the headquarters of police and vice control. In the middle of its sprawling garden, an inartistic jail for “sailors found in violation of discipline and girls who infringe the laws of morality and decency” was constructed.

The Decorative Arts Museum opened in the former home in 1955, with a collection illustrating applied arts in crafts from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Extensive remodeling in 1984 returned the museum’s rooms to their former aristocratic appearance. Contemporary decorative arts collections were added in 2013, providing the opportunity to observe the development and relationship of old and new forms of French art side by side.

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Postcard from Naples, Italy: Snippets shot in final four museums

Detail of “The Devil and the Holy Water,” Salvatore Postiglione, 1887, Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano

Inartistically and illogically clumping works from four museums in this one post – 15th-century religious paintings, a Joan Miro retrospective, a house museum, contemporary art. The museums are getting short shrift in treatment because they are the final ones the blog will visit in Naples before moving across the boot of Italy. The grouping does offer a glimpse of how diverse and rich the art offerings found in Naples are.

As is oft the case, our camera lens seems to often focus on the devils lurking in religious art, but what dark thoughts were in the mind of Neapolitan painter Salvatore Postiglione when he conceived of “The Devil and the Holy Water” are unclear to me.

I never had thought of holy water as dangerous before. But, indeed in hindsight, it should have been obvious that the Coronavirus devil was lurking in fonts at the front of Catholic churches everywhere. Catholics always pause to dip their fingers in the communal pool of water and immediately raise them up to touch their face to make a gesture symbolizing the Holy Trinity and baptism.

March brought the draining of the fonts, but how many viral contaminants were shared by the faithful by then? So very, very sad to think of those who might have been harmed by turning to their religious rituals for reassuring comfort….

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Bits glimpsed in a final few museums

Banner on Palacio Episcopal promoting Ars Malaga exhibition of polychrome sculpture by Pedro de Mena (1628-1688)

Combining a few images from some remaining museums representing the diversity of the city’s offerings from a private 18th-century house museum containing a private Coleccion del Vidrio y Cristal to the only four-year-old impressive Coleccion del Museo Ruso showcasing works on loan from St. Petersburg in a former tobacco factory.

And there are museums with exhibits where no photographs were allowed. Several of these are dedicated to Malaga’s favorite son, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

From a white father and a small glass of water of Andalusian life was I born. Born from a mother, daughter of a daughter aged fifteen from the district of Percheles in Malaga, that beautiful bull that engendered my forehead crowned with jasmines.

Pablo Picasso, 1936

He was born in a home on Plaza Merced, now a house museum, Museo Casa Natal. Although the last time Picasso was known to visit the city of his birth was in 1901, purportedly he always held affection for Malaga. Receiving a commitment from Andalusian authorities to construct a museum, a daughter-in-law and grandson of Picasso donated work that makes up the core of the collection of the Fundacion Museo Picasso Malaga in 2009. The works are now housed in the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, a Renaissance building with Mudejar elements, and adjacent new construction.

The Olga Picasso exhibition there, which closed in June, was among my favorites of the trip. The exhibition pairs period paintings by Pablo Picasso paired with letters and personal photographs a grandson found in Olga’s portmanteau.

Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) was born in the Ukraine but left when she joined the Ballets Russes under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). Pablo Picasso was working on the d├ęcor and costumes for one of the ballet productions when he encountered the young dancer in Rome in 1917. They married in Paris in 1918 and had one child, Paul.

In the first years of their marriage, Olga often served as the model for his work. His increasingly unflattering depictions of her reflected the deterioration of their relationship. And, by 1927, Picasso had a new muse attract his interest, Marie-Therese Walter (1909-1977).

Picasso’s first marriage resulted in a separation in 1935, but the couple never divorced. Olga continued to follow him around with Paul in tow and wrote letters to her estranged husband almost daily. All unanswered.