Sunday, November 23, 2014

3-D Illusion

Cinema, since its inception, aspired for realism from the silent movie through the talkie and the technicolor to the wide-screen, the 3-D and the surround sound.  But the 3-D effect is still only an illusion on the flat 2-D screen, an illusive reality masquerading to be real and deluding the spectator away from the hard fact that the world we experience in life is truly and really 3-D, be it a townscape or landscape, a street vista or an open field, wherever the real action is.  A curious paradox, indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Castiglione from Swann

A few weeks ago I was at Swann’s Galleries for their print auction, accompanying my friend Stephen.  It was a totally new adventure; I have never been to an auction of any kind.  The session of Old Masters’ Prints went from 10:30 to 12:30, and went through 240 lots chronologically from Dürer to Goya.  At one point, I made a bid, and, lo and behold, ended up owning an etching by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664), a contemporary of Bernini.  The small print measured 4-3/4” x 8-1/2”; and it was titled ‘A Satir Resting Beneath a Herm of Priapus,' circa 1645.

I knew that, Castiglione being a less known name unlike Dürer, Rembrandt, Piranesi, and Goya, even Lucas van Leyden and Goltzius, the print is likely to find competitors that mattered.  Still, I moved impulsively as the proceeding went quickly; and, lo and behold, the bid fell on me with apparently no other bidder.  I had no regrets, however; it was settled at a price half that announced in the catalog.  In fact, there was a special feeling of victory.   During my graduate years at Harvard, students in art history were encouraged to buy prints from the dealers who regularly came to the Fogg, many priced low.  There was a Castiglione at $85, a landscape, that I coveted but could not afford at the time.  Having never forgotten the fish that had escaped, I was jubilant to have netted it some half century later. 
The catalog mentioned that my print came with two etching portraits by Anthony van Dyck, unillustrated; I read but paid no special attention, and was pleasantly surprise to find them when I went to pick up the Castiglione a few days later.  The bonus prints were, of course, welcome.  But I immediately recognized one as Inigo Jones (1573-1652), and I was thrilled.  He happened to be a favorite figure of mine along with Bernini — architect, theater designer, and the pioneering Palladian -- an English Bernini, so to speak. 

The inscription reads: “Celeberribus vir Inigo Iones praefectus architecturae Magnae brittaniae regis etc” and in smaller print “Ant. van Dyck pinxit   R.V. Vorst sculp.  cum priuilegio” As I suspected, the etching is not by Van Dyck; the etcher was Robert van Voerst (1596-before 1636).  It is still a magnificent portrait.

The other portrait was of Frans Francken I (1542-1616), a painter from Antwerp who populalized Kunstkammer genre, depicting galleries of wealthy collectors.  It is inscribed: “Ant. van Dyck fecit aqua forti,”  Its special attraction is that the depiction leaves the body of the half-figure only sketchily outlined and illustrates the process of completing the picture.

My biddiing paddle, incidentally, was a beautiful number 111, the opus number of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, so Stephen reminded me.