bagarres: fun fact: you can explore museums on google street view  I’d seen this mentioned,…

Friday, February 28th, 2014


fun fact: you can explore museums on google street view 

I’d seen this mentioned, but never actually tried it out. So I did, and one of the first museums I noticed that they had was the Getty in L.A.:


And I thought I recognized the large painting in the thumbnail, so I clicked through, and yeah! They chose to start the Street View tour in front of that Winterhalter painting with the crazy-awesome silk moire patterns that I geeked out about after my visit there:


And then I started getting really excited, because I was pretty sure that the portrait that started my whole Sargent obsession was on the other side of that wall, hanging in the next room behind the Winterhalter. So I hurried through the doorway and turned around and…


Aw, nuts. That’s the painting, of Thérèse, Countess Clary Aldringen, but apparently they didn’t secure the rights from its current owners, the Greif family, so it’s blurred out in Street View.

So I had to go back and stare at the images of it that I posted after my visit.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Looking at images of it on the computer is looking at images of it on the computer. To really feel that rush I probably need to make a trip back to the Getty and see it in person.

But I’m definitely going to spend more time doing the art museum tours in Street View. It has at least a taste of that in-person excitement.

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thegetty: We asked visitors to imagine the first line of the…

Friday, March 1st, 2013


We asked visitors to imagine the first line of the tantalizing letter in Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, and, wow. Here’s how we imagined the rest, based on a first line by Iris reader Beth:

Dear woman in blue,

Let me tell you of the future.

You will be forgotten. Your name, your age, your family, your home, the child you carry—of them, future generations will know nothing. And it is normal that it be so. For we are ordinary people, not popes and queens for the history books. Of our quietly lived but deeply felt lives, the details slowly fade.

Your image, however, will be immortal. Through it, you will travel far—not by horse and cart, or merchant ship, but through the sky. You will leave your country and go to lands of which you can hardly dream: Peking, the Portuguese colonies (they will call it “Brazil”), that poorly mapped western island of America the Spanish have named California. Illustrious individuals, including Dutch compatriot Vincent van Gogh more than two centuries hence, will draw inspiration from you. There will be wars, and republics, and kings and queens. But in the end, though you will leave your home of Delft, you will not go far—just north to the big city, Amsterdam, whose museum will offer you pride of place forever.

Of you we will remember only one fleeting moment, the cool morning when you unfolded this letter and, filled with emotions we will never tire of guessing, gasped. And for this we are grateful. For this ordinary moment speaks to all of us who seek the extraordinary: to love and be loved.

With deep affection,…

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, about 166364, Johannes Vermeer. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest)

I visited the room with Woman in Blue Reading a Letter on my recent trip to the Getty, but there was a crowd, and I’m a dork, so I just gave it a quick look from across the room.

But I love this letter.

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Pretty dresses at the Getty, third of three. From the Getty…

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Pretty dresses at the Getty, third of three. From the Getty placard:

Portrait of Thérèse, Countess Clary Aldringen (1896)

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)

Oil on canvas

As if about to speak, Countess Clary Aldringen (1867-1930) invites the viewer to enter her space (actually Sargent’s London studio, complete with stage props). The white satin gown — with wide sleeves emphasizing her lithe figure — is rendered with Sargent’s bravura technique, painted at lightning speed at the height of his career. Commissioned by the sitter’s husband, while he was counselor to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy in London, for the family castle in Czechoslovakia, the portrait exemplifies the international quality of Sarget’s practice, as well as why Rodin called him “the Van Dyck of our times.”

Lent by Renée and Lloyd Greif

[me again]

There’s an interesting article about Sargent, and this painting, at the Getty web site: 85 Years after John Singer Sargent. Another site dedicated to Sargent has a page that gives this provenance for the painting:

Formerly in the collection of Aldringe, Clara, Countess, until 1930.

Latour, Henri de Baillet, Countess, 1930-1945.

Anonymous collection, 1945.

Unknown collection,

Sotheby’s, New York, New York Sale (Nov. 22, 1988), lot 56.

If I’m reading that correctly, it says that the painting belonged to Thérèse (the lady in the painting) from the time it was painted (when she was 29) until her death at 63. It then passed to a different countess, the wife of Count Henri de Baillet-Latour, a Belgian aristocrat who was the third president of the International Olympic Committee, and whose tenure including presiding over the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics. He died in 1942, and if my guess is correct his wife survived him by three years, until 1945, when she died and the painting passed through a couple of unspecified owners until it was sold at auction to its current owners, the Greifs, in 1988.

I spent a while staring at that strand of pearls on the dress’s bodice. I don’t know what you would even call that sort of jewelry, but then I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the adornments of 18th-century aristocrats. But I thought it was pretty.

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Pretty dresses at the Getty, second of three. From the Getty…

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Pretty dresses at the Getty, second of three. From the Getty placard:

Portrait of Princess Leonilla of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (1843)

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873; active in France from 1834)

Oil on canvas

Winterhalter flattered his aristocratic patrons with suave compositions that conveyed their wealth and sophistication. Typical of his clientele was Leonilla (1816-1918), a Russian-born princess active in fashionable Parisian circles. She is portrayed reclining on a luxurious carpet amid silk bolsters on the portico of a seaside palace. Although the setting was considered exotic and her pose daring, the sumptuous gown is a reminder of Leonilla’s refined background.

[me again]

This portrait dominates its side of the room. When I entered I noticed a couple examining the lower part of the painting, and I wondered what they were looking at. When I got a chance to approach closer I understood; the moiré patterns Winterhalter painted in the silk gown are amazing.

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Pretty dresses at the Getty, first of three. From the Getty…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Pretty dresses at the Getty, first of three. From the Getty placard:

Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield (1777-1778)

Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727-1788)

Oil on canvas

When this portrait of Anne Thistlewaite (1759-1798) was exhibited by Gainsborough in 1778, critics agreed that he had captured the sitter’s aristocratic refinement. While one contemporary observer found the hands and drapery to be unsubstantial and unfinished, others recognized that when the portrait is viewed from a distance, the loose brushwork coalesces into rich, luxurious textures and forms.

[me again]

Someone (*cough* Ian *cough*) asked what was up with all the art museum posts lately. It’s just… I’m like this. Sorry if it’s too much.

In the interest of hanging onto any followers I can, I’ve tried using the queue. So: Only one of these per day for the next few days. Or, well, only one queued one. The obsessive impulse could certainly strike again in the meantime. But I’ll try to queue them if I can. These things have been hanging around on a wall somewhere for hundreds of years; I should be able to wait a few days before posting them.

Should be.

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