Friday, June 30, 2006

Now Still Showing, Graffiti Art!! (The Late 20th Century Eclipse Of Intensely Focused Artistic Primitivism By Urban Guerrilla 'Art Stars')

"The Brooklyn Museum [of New York City] has been criticized for exhibitions like "Hip-Hop Nation" and "Star Wars" that seem to blur the line between education and popular entertainment. Is "Graffiti," another show presumably with popular appeal, more of the same? Yes and no.

On the downside, the 20 aerosol spray paintings from the early 1980's on display, including works by once-famous graffiti artists, like Daze, Crash, and Lady Pink, are negligible as works of art. And it does not help that the exhibition's designers have erected walls within the main gallery, where children are invited to create graffiti themselves.

On the other hand, though it does not go into its subject as deeply as it could have, the exhibition represents an interesting and possibly instructive sociological episode in recent art history: the story of an unusual convergence of avant-garde high culture and grass-roots youth culture, with each side bringing its own sets of values, understandings, and aspirations.

The embrace of graffiti by high culture goes back to Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly, whose paintings contain elements resembling anonymous signs found on public bathroom walls. The broader background is modernism's fascination with all things perceived as primitive. Picasso's appropriation of African tribal art, Paul Klee's imitation of children's art [sic], and the celebration of the self-taught painter Henri Rousseau are examples.

The kind of graffiti under consideration in the Brooklyn Museum's show is not like bathroom primitivism. The New York subway graffiti artists of the 70's worked fast in the night, using aerosol spray cans. But the mix of bold, wildly distorted lettering, luminous color and cartoon imagery betrayed a practiced understanding of illustration, design, scale and theatrical impact. It was the work of talented preprofessionals.

Graffiti still had a certain outlaw allure. It was (and still is) illegal, and the artists took real risks — of being arrested by the police (or grounded by their parents) and of physical injury — in doing the things they did. So it had a romantic attraction to high-culture people like Norman Mailer, who wrote the text for a subway graffiti photography book called "The Faith of Graffiti" in 1974.

Two developments in the late 70's conspired to bring graffiti into art galleries. One was the crackdown on graffiti in the subways by city officials; the other was the efflorescence of the scene in the East Village [Manhattan], where youthful exuberance, insouciant rebellion and spontaneity were the prevailing values, and artists like Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who were or had been involved in graffiti, were major stars.

Suddenly works on canvas and paper by the ex-underground artists were showing and selling in fancy galleries in New York, Europe, and Japan. The eminent 57th Street dealer Sidney Janis put on a major exhibition of graffiti art in 1984 and bought a lot of graffiti painting too. In 1999 Mr. Janis's heirs donated about 40 graffiti paintings to the Brooklyn Museum, and it was from that group that the museum's contemporary art curator, Charlotta Kotik, selected the present show." ...

Ken Johnson "When Aerosol Outlaws Became Insiders: Graffiti Art at the Brooklyn Museum" June 30, 2006


At the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Klee and America
June 17–September 10, 2006

Swiss artist Paul Klee’s (1879–1940) remarkable work has long struck a responsive chord in America, with both collectors and artists. He was greatly admired by the abstract expressionists for his inventiveness and genius for composition. Earlier, he had a profound influence on Germany’s Bauhaus, and his work was a victim of Nazi art purges. Approximately 80 works of extraordinary quality will be on view, among them works collected by Ernest Hemingway, Clifford Odets, and Mies van der Rohe. The Phillips Collection’s 13 works by Klee, one of the cornerstones of the collection, has served as inspiration for American artists including Richard Diebenkorn, Gene Davis, and Kenneth Noland.

Paul Klee [1879-1940], Death and Fire, 1940
((46 x 44 cm (18 x 17 1/3 in))
Klee Foundation. Bern, Switzerland.

... "Klee grew up in a musical family and was himself a violinist. After much hesitation he chose to study art, not music, and he attended the Munich Academy in 1900. There his teacher was the popular symbolist and society painter Franz von Stuck. Klee later toured Italy (1901-02), responding enthusiastically to Early Christian and Byzantine art. ... Klee died relatively young [sic] of a slow and wasting disease, his death horribly mimicked by the death of peace that signified World War II. His last paintings are unlike any of his others. They are larger, with the forms often enclosed by a thick black line, as if Klee were protecting them against a violent outrage. The wit is gone and there is a huge sorrow, not personal, but for foolish and wilful humanity.

Death and Fire is one of Klee's last paintings. A white, gleaming skull occupies the center, with the German word for death, Tod, forming the features of its face. A minimal man walks towards death, his breast stripped of his heart, his face featureless, his body without substance. Death is his only reality, his facial features waiting there in the grave for him. But there is fire in this picture too: the sun, not yet set, rests on the earth's rim, which is also the hand of death. The upper air is luminous with fire, presenting not an alternative to death, but a deeper understanding of it. The man walks forward bravely, into the radiance, into the light. The cool, grey-green domain of death accepts the fire and offers wry comfort.

Three mysterious black stakes jag down vertically from above, and the man strikes the skull with another. If fate forces him down into the earth, he does not go passively or reluctantly: he cooperates. Death's head is only a half-circle, but the sun that it balances in its hand is a perfect globe. The sun is what endures the longest, what rises highest, what matters most, even to death itself. Klee understood his death as a movement into the deepest reality, because, as he said, ``the objective world surrounding us is not the only one possible; there are others, latent''....

Text credit: WebMuseum, Paris. With thanks.

Image credit: (c) Klee Foundation, Bern via Department of Art, University of Wisconsin. With thanks.

Museums In A Time Of Warfare: Washington's National Archive And Some Museums To Be Closed Fourth Of July Due To Flooding, Deferred Maintenance

"Flood damage kept the National Museum of American History and the National Archives closed Friday at the start of the busy Independence Day holiday weekend.

The Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Visitors Center castle, also closed since Monday because of basement flooding, were to reopen, said Smithsonian spokesman Peter Golkin.

Some of the most severe damage to Washington's cultural attractions is at the National Archives, home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The historic documents were all safe in a vault, officials said, but other documents were at risk of mildew damage, and crews were using giant dehumidifiers to try to protect them.

Grime stained the walls after flood waters rose to 8 feet in a two-year-old theater on Monday, knocking out the power. Clumps of debris, carpet and ceiling tiles remained Thursday.

''It's starting to smell like the bayou, isn't it?'' facility manager Tim Edwards said.

The flood damage at the Archives was expected to cost at least $2 million dollars to repair, but the Archives still planned to host its annual Fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence on Tuesday, and officials hoped to reopen the building later next week.

The Archives, which finished a $100 million renovation three years ago, typically has 5,000 visitors a day in June and July.

No Smithsonian museum exhibits were damaged by flood waters, Golkin said. Most damage was limited to mechanical equipment, but at the American history museum had flooding in the lower-level cafeteria and gift shop.

Carpeting and other fixtures need to be replaced before the building can reopen, Golkin said. It wasn't immediately clear how long that would take."

Associated Press "Water Damage Shuts D.C. Museums for July 4" via June 30, 2006



Phillips Collection of Art

Alfred Sisley
Flood at Port-Marly, France
1876 (160 Kb); Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France


Sisley, Alfred (b. Oct. 30, 1839, Paris, Fr.--d. Jan. 29, 1899, Moret-sur-Loing), painter who was one of the creators of French Impressionism.

Sisley was born in Paris of English parents. After his schooldays, his father, a merchant trading with the southern states of America, sent him to London for a business career, but finding this unpalatable, Sisley returned to Paris in 1862 with the aim of becoming an artist. His family gave him every support, sending him to Gleyre's studio, where he met Renoir, Monet and Bazille. He spent some time painting in Fontainebleau, at Chailly with Monet, Bazille and Renoir, and later at Marlotte with Renoir. His style at this time was deeply influenced by Courbet and Daubigny, and when he first exhibited at the Salon in 1867 it was as the pupuil of Corot.

By this time, however, he had started to frequent the Café Guerbois, and was becoming more deeply influenced by the notions which were creating Impressionism. During the Franco-Prussian war and the period of the Commune, he spent some time in London and was introduced to Durand-Ruel by Pissarro, becoming part of that dealer's stable. In the mean time, his father had lost all his money as a result of the war, and Sisley, with a family to support, was reduced to a state of penury, in which he was to stay until virtually the end of his life.

He now saw himself as a full-time professional painter and part of the Impressionist group, exhibiting with them in 1874, 1876, 1877 and 1882. His work had by this time achieved complete independance from the early influences that had affected him. In the 1870s he produced a remarkable series of landscapes of Argenteuil, where he was living, one of which, The Bridge at Argenteuil (1872; Brooks Memorial Gallery, Memphis, USA) was bought by Manet. Towards the end of the decade Monet was beginning to have a considerable influence on him, and a series of landscape paintings of the area around Paris, including Marly, Bougival and Louveciennes (1876; Floods at Port-Marly, Musée d'Orsay), shows the way in which his dominent and evident lyricism still respects the demands of the subject-matter. From his early admiration for Corot he retained a passionate interest in the sky, which nearly always dominates his paintings, and also in the effects of snow, the two interests often combining to create a strangely dramatic effect (1880; Snow at Véneux; Musée d'Orsay). Naturally different, he did not promote himself in the way that some of his fellow Impressionists did, and it was only towards the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer of the throat, that he received something approaching the recognition he deserved.

Image and text credit: WebMuseum, Paris, France. With thanks.

Nation's Capital Poaches Leading European Organist, Composer, And Music Professor For One-Time Only, Free Recital At Washington National Cathedral

Naji Hakim, organist, composer, professor of music
Organist of Trinity Church, Paris
[Honoured successor to Olivier Messiaen]
Composer in residence at the Trinity College of Music, London

Celebrity Organ Recital
Washington National Cathedral
Sunday, July 2, 2006 at 5 pm
Free, but offerings will be received
at half-time.

Naji Subhy Paul Irénée Hakim has for the last twenty years been one of the most important representatives of the great French tradition of organist-composer-improvisers. Born in Beirut (31 October, 1955), he studied with Jean Langlais, and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, in the classes of Roger Boutry, Jean-Claude Henry, Marcel Bitsch, Rolande Falcinelli, Jacques Castérède and Serge Nigg, where he obtained first prizes in harmony, counterpoint, fugue, organ, improvisation, analysis and orchestration.

He is a licentiate teacher in organ from the Trinity College of Music in London. He also received first prizes at the International Organ Competitions at Haarlem, Beauvais, Lyon, Nuremberg, St. Albans, Strasbourg and Rennes, the composition prize of the “Amis de l’Orgue” for his Symphonie en Trois Mouvements (Paris, 1984), and the first prize in the International Competition for Organ Composition, in memory of Anton Heiller for The Embrace of Fire (Collegedale, Tennessee, 1986). In 1991, he received the Prix de Composition Musicale André Caplet from the Académie des Beaux-Arts. His works include instrumental, symphonic and vocal pieces. He was the organist of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, Paris from 1985 until 1993, when he succeeded Olivier Messiaen at l’église de la Trinité.

He is much in demand as a recitalist, improviser and teacher, with engagements for concerts and masterclasses taking him all over the world. He is also professor of musical analysis at the Conservatoire National de Boulogne-Billancourt, and visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

He is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications in Paris. In 2000 he became member of the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae in Rome. In 2002, he received the title Doctor honoris causa of the University Saint-Esprit of Kaslik, Lebanon. In 2004 he became composer in residence at the Trinity College of Music, London.


Ouverture Libanaise Naji Hakim
(b. 1955)

Cantabile César Franck

Sakskøbing Præludier (U.S. premiere)

Mit hjerte altid vanker
Nærmere, Gud, til dig
O Gud, du ved og kender
At sige verden ret farvel
Hil dig, Frelser og Forsoner
Den mørke nat forgangen er
Nu blomstertiden kommer
Op, al den ting, som Gud har gjort
O kristelighed
Så vældigt det mødte os først i vor dåb
Befal du dine veje

N. Hakim

Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582 Johann Sebastian Bach
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier

Bach’orama N. Hakim

Improvisation [on surprise themes]


Please see the Washington National Cathedral's
Organ Recitals
page for more information on
organ recitals and organ demonstrations.

The Washington National Cathedral is an informal
part of Washington D.C.'s unsanctioned "Flying
Music Conservatory".

Organist, Composer, and Guest Flying Professor Haji Hakim

Photo credit: Via Binns Organ Program in the Albert Hall, Nottingham, UK. With thanks.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Russian Federation And President Putin Seek To Reverse Dramatic Depopulation Through Repatriation

"Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 26 gave his approval to a government program encouraging what it calls "compatriots" living abroad to return to Russia. The six-year plan, under which repatriates will receive cash and social benefits, is part of an effort to reverse the country's dramatic population decline.

When Lira Goldman heard about the repatriation scheme, she was thrilled. Lira, a 29-year-old Russian Jew, left Russia in 1999 for Jerusalem, where she now works in a jewelry shop. She is happy in Israel and has no intention of returning to Russia, but she says she would nonetheless like to keep this option open -- that's why she welcomes the repatriation plan.

"Actually, it's a beautiful step. For the first time, they've thought about their citizens, even former citizens, because Russia has never cared for people," she says.

"There are people who come back [to Russia], you never know how life will turn out. Russia is still our motherland, we cannot be separated from it," Lira adds. ...

Besides offering cash and social benefits to repatriates, the program will also help those who gave up their Russian citizenship get it back....

Speaking on June 27 to a meeting of Russian ambassadors in Moscow, President Putin stressed the need to ease citizenship procedures and called for the speedy implementation of the repatriation scheme.

"We assumed that the current decisions were sufficient in this sphere. But strangely, when talking to citizens via near-live television link, I was surprised to find out that some of our compatriots were offended by our position, the way in which we work with them abroad, that they were stumped by our actions regarding the extremely difficult conditions to obtain Russian citizenship," Putin said. "This is strange, because Russia needs an inflow of immigrants."

According to official figures, Russia's population, now 143 million, shrinks by some 700,000 people each year due to high mortality and a low birthrate. The authorities have long been trying to bring back ethnic Russians from outside Russia to help reverse the trend.

The scheme approved this week, however, makes no direct reference to ethnic Russians. A Kremlin spokesman said the plan targeted "holders of Russian passports, Russian-speakers with dual citizenship, or people who are planning to apply for Russian citizenship."

Putin has ordered the creation of a special commission to run the program. In a parallel move, the Federal Migration Service plans to open branches in all former Soviet republics, the United States, Germany, and Israel to attract potential repatriates.

Demographers, however, are cautious about the repatriation plan. Andrei Volkov, a leading demographer at the Russian State Statistics Committee, says the plan could slightly improve the country's demographic picture, but only if the state carefully studies the needs of the population it wishes to repatriate." ...

Claire Bigg "Russia: Moscow Attempts To Entice Russians Back Home" Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty June 28, 2006

Russia And Its Neighbors Beyond the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Union State ... [Click on image for enlargement.]

[There must be a non-Baltic summer intern working in Radio Free Europe's graphics department.]

RUSSIANS OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA: A total of some 30 million ethnic Russians remain in the republics of the former Soviet Union, including large diasporas in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. This historical legacy has often been a source of tension between Russia and its neighbors. "Support for the rights of compatriots abroad is a crucial goal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his April 2005 state-of-the-nation address. "It cannot be subject to a diplomatic or political bargaining. Those who do not respect, observe, or ensure human rights have no right to demand that human rights be respected by others."

Image and caption credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. With thanks.

Lukashenka Regime Sees Belarusian-Russian Union State As Acorn Of First Eurasian And Then Universal Integration

"Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday vowed a military buildup in response to what he said was a threat from the West, and said the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons could not be ruled out, Associated Press news agency reports.

Lukashenko said in comments broadcast on state television that, in his view, Belarus did not need strategic weapons on its territory.

“I don’t think there will be a situation that would require the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons,” he said during military exercises between Russian and Belarussian forces — the largest ever for the two countries.

However, he qualified his remarks by saying: “If a threat to security existed, there is no need to rule anything out.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry declined comment on Lukashenko’s comments.
In an apparent desire to downplay relations with Belarus, President Vladimir Putin declined an invitation to attend exercises Saturday involving warplanes, combat helicopters, and tanks." "Belarus to Respond to Threat From West by Russian Nuclear Weapons" June 26, 2006 2004/08/04/belarus.shtml


Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov: CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization: Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan] rapid deployment forces can resist foreign pressure

Sergei Martynov: next CSTO summit might approve list of terrorist organizations

Belarus suggests mechanism to make EurAsEC [Eurasian Economic Community] resolutions compulsory for all member-states

Sergei Martynov: EurAsEC becoming universal integration organisation

Belarusian Official State Telegraph Agency News Headlines June 29, 2006


PRESS RELEASE Embassy of Belarus Washington D.C., June 23, 2006

"Statement by Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia with regard to political declarations by the leadership of the United States and some European Union member-states on Belarus.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia expresses grave concern about recent frequent harsh declarations by the United States and some European Union member-states addressed to the political leadership of the Republic of Belarus and its President Alexander Lukashenko, as well as about political decisions restricting ability of the leadership of the Republic of Belarus to pursue foreign-policy.

The goal of such position is to question legitimacy of the President of an independent country who was publicly elected on a democratic basis in accordance with the Belarusian legislation.

Unfortunately, this has become customary in the foreign-policy of the US highest leadership which results in aggressions against sovereign member-states of the United Nations.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, of parliaments of Russia and other member-states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, in the capacity of international observers, jointly agreed on a positive assessment of the referendum and Presidential elections that were held in the Republic of Belarus. It is clear for unbiased observers that the duly elected President enjoys the support of majority of Belarusian voters.

The Parliamentary Assembly believes that such evaluations and actions with regard to the leadership of the Republic of Belarus are the interference into internal affairs of a sovereign state and considers them as an effort to damage interests of Union State of Belarus and Russia.

Such practice with respect to the independent state is unacceptable and offends not only Belarusian people, but also nations on behalf of which such declarations are made."

Minsk, Belarus, Europe.

Photo credit: With thanks.

Recalling George Catlin's Painted Images Of Native Americans Which Toured The New Old World (Europe) In The Middle Of The 19th Century

George Catlin's 'Indian Gallery'
(Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)
(Currently open and on view indefinitely after touring the United States, 2002-2005; Smithsonian museums are free of admission charge.)

"George Catlin's Indian Gallery" is hung in the Grand Salon on the second floor of the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery [across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House and the U.S. War Department, since renamed the Old Executive Office Building] in a way that recalls the Indian Gallery as Catlin displayed it during his tours in Europe. This installation features several hundred portraits, landscapes, and scenes of American Indian life. Catlin, a lawyer turned painter, visited 50 tribes living west of the Mississippi River from present day North Dakota to Oklahoma from 1830 to 1836 to record the "manners and customs" of Native Americans. These paintings — drawn from the nearly complete surviving set of Catlin's first Indian Gallery painted in the 1830s — are considered an authentic record of early Plains Indian culture and one of the most important collections at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Can you recognize who this George Catlin painting depicts and the famous Native American leader with whom he was associated?

Image credit: Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Barren Property Speculation Versus Urban Renaissance: Our Own Nation's Capital Today Versus Historic, 19th Century Lemberg (Lviv), Austro-Hungary

"In the 1830s, the Austrian geographer and statistician W. Blumenbach wrote: "Lviv's population grew more than twofold, totaling 75,000; and the city's beauty was enhanced. The number of buildings, built in a new style, mostly beautiful, is 2,612; of which 425 are civic, mainly churches and cathedrals. There are 77 named streets, with 11,718 families living there. The streets are maintained out of the Magistrate's profits; all of them are covered with cobblestones and are lit; apart from a few which are lit by the moon. Good water systems provide the city with water, and the romantic outskirts serve as a place to rest".

The "burgher house" type of building prevailed within the city's boundaries: a typical house of the Galician middle class was a two- or three-storied rectangular building, often with an inner courtyard. The logical system of room arrangements can be traced on the facades: in the horizontal division, in the rhythm of windows, and in the accents of the main entrances. Balconies carry consoles shaped as a lion's head or acanthus leaves. Smooth surfaces are covered with sculptural relief portraying traditional mythological characters or, more often, with the traditional emblems of the Galician merchants: Mercury, dolphins, and cornucopias as a way of wishing success to the owner-trader; in the niches are patron saints. Peace and welfare were symbolized by such popular motifs as doves, flowers, and sometimes seasons of the year: spring is ploughing; summer is harvesting; autumn is bleaching linen; winter is the time for weddings. Parts of such buildings have been preserved until the present day, continuing to amaze us with the simplicity and skill of their planning.

In Lviv with its numerous institutions, besides craftsmen (about 60% of the city population), many officials, students, merchants and representatives of so-called free occupations also lived: doctors, barristers, painters, architects and plasterers. Families of priests constituted a special section where national traditions were preserved.

It was common to come across people from all over the world in the streets of our city; and everybody, whatever language he spoke, could find his own language there. Lviv's special aura was an inspiration; for many-outstanding artists, actors, singers, and men of letters the city was a muse.

Architectural masterpieces were created by Paul of Rome, Gartman Witwer, Petro Viytovych and others." ...

Lviv : A Journey Through The Centuries from

Lviv, Ukraine celebrates its 750th Anniversary this year! It is an "Unofficial Cultural Capital City of Europe 2006"! [Under the currently divided Europe, only E.U. Member States are eligible for "official" 'European Cultural Capital City' designation].

However, the historic central core of Lviv, Ukraine is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Stare Selo Castle near Lviv, Ukraine, Europe. Part of Western Ukraine's "Golden Horseshoe" of Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment-era Castles and Palaces. Some of these Castles and Palaces are now restored as Museums, while others -- including those used as Soviet-era prisons and mental hospitals -- will require at least another generation before they are fully restored, and redeveloped, to their Central and Eastern European splendor.

Photo credit: (c) Vladyslav "Slav" Tsarynnyk and Lviv Ecotour. With thanks.


See also Barry Zwick "A liberated Lion City is roaring:
Westerners have discovered Lviv, a place of fine dining, Baroque and Rococo treasures and excellent prices" Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2006

Why Would Anyone Ever Want Actually To 'Live' -- Or Raise Children -- In Our Nation's Capital City?

"Housing prices are leveling off in affluent neighborhoods in the District [of Columbia] but are escalating significantly in poorer areas, a sign that the city's economic boom is moving from west to east, according to a study being released today.

"People who are talking about a market cooling are focused on particular neighborhoods -- they're not seeing the big picture," said Peter Tatian, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, who analyzed home sales and new construction in neighborhoods throughout the city. "We see some signs of [slowing] in certain neighborhoods, like [affluent] Ward 3. But in lots of parts of the city, we're still seeing strong price increases of 18, 19 percent."

Housing prices are surging in ... many neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River and east of 16th Street NW, while Capitol Hill, Cleveland Park and LeDroit Park appear to be leveling off, the study found.

That's basic economics, said Jalal "Jay" Greene, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. "Land costs are just cheaper east of the river," he said. "You can acquire land and rehab or build new and come out with a product that's in the $350,000 to $400,000 range and that's going to be attractive to a part of the market that can't afford the huge price increases that we've seen elsewhere. ...

Housing construction in the city began in earnest in 1998, but hit a 40-year high last year. The city issued 2,860 permits for new housing units in 2005, an increase of nearly 50 percent over 2004 and the highest number since 1966, the study found.

And the pace of new construction this year is unabated. In the first three months of this year, the city issued 1,327 building permits, up 135 percent over the same period last year.

Nearly all the homes under construction this year and last have been condominiums or apartments, as opposed to single-family housing.

If that trend continues, it could throw the city's housing supply off balance, Tatian said.

"We're heading in a direction that maybe we want to stop and think about," he said. Condominiums and apartments tend to attract singles or couples, while families with children seek houses.

"If we're not attracting families as well as singles and couples without children, we're creating a population base that is not going to be as stable in many neighborhoods," he said. "People will come here and spend a few years, and when they decide to get married or start a family, they leave."

Greene said the frenzy of condominium construction is fueled by several factors, including the city's lack of large tracts of land and problems with its school system. ...

More investors are buying housing in the District, especially condominiums, the study found. In 2004, 20 percent of condos were owned by investors; last year, that figure increased to 34 percent.

"Everyone's trying to get on that bandwagon and make a quick buck," Tatian said. "It's adding to the price pressure that we're seeing." ...

Today's study is the first in a series of quarterly reports about the District's housing market that will be issued by the Urban Institute.

"So much is changing so quickly in the city that an annual report is just not frequent enough," Tatian said.

The study can be viewed on the Web at"

Lyndsey Layton "Price Increases Migrating To Poorer [District of Columbia]Neighborhoods: Previously Hot Areas Cooling, Study Finds" Washington Post June 28, 2006

Black Civil War Memorial in Shaw, a traditionally African-American neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on the eastern side of the city's traditional 16th Street "dividing line".

Photo credit: (c) Soul of America. With thanks.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Different Crematoria.... And Gyorgy Ligeti's Musical Legacy Of Brilliance And Unsettling Clarity

... En cris trenchans et lamentations ...


Sunday, June 25, 2006, Vienna

" ... György and Marta Kurtag ended the ceremony with quiet and introspective playing of Bach on the Feuerhalle’s unassuming upright piano. Ligeti’s legacy of music that raged, passionate and fierce, searing with fearsome intelligence and wit, invading the listener with sadness and hurt and pain, included Lontano, Melodien, Atmospheres, Apparition, Le Grand Macabre, and his Requiem, all of which speak with brilliant and often unsettling clarity...."

Vocalist Barbara Hannigan reporting on Gyorgy Ligeti's funeral, in Vienna, on Sunday, via Jerry Bowles' Sequenza21.

Feuerhalle, Central Burial Ground, Vienna, Austria, Europe

Photo credit: DER WIENER ZENTRALFRIEDHOF © 2006 Otto Buchegger, Tübingen, Germany. With thanks.

Monday, June 26, 2006

'Mythological' Filmmaking: Writer-Director Theo Angelopoulos, Cinematographer Andreas Sinanos, And Composer Eleni Karaindrou's "The Weeping Meadow"

"The first in a proposed trilogy of films from veteran Greek writer-director Theo Angelopoulos, "The Weeping Meadow" tells the story of orphaned girl Eleni (Alexandra Aidini), adopted by a Greek family returning to their homeland in 1919 after the Russian Revolution [and the outbread of a cholera epidemic in Odessa]. We follow Eleni through adolescence, marriage to her musician half-brother Alexis (Nikos Poursanidis), and motherhood, and see how her life and those of her husband and twin children are ripped apart by World War II and the ensuing Greek Civil War.

Angelopoulos draws on all manner of Greek myths surrounding wandering, passion and exile in "The Weeping Meadow" - in interviews he has described his female protagonist as 'the Eleni of myth, the Eleni of all the myths who is pursued... but who also pursues absolute love'. The film though is no arid exercise in historical recreation, and those without any prior knowledge of Hellenism shouldn't be dissuaded.

Favouring his trademark lengthy travelling shots, Angelopoulos and cinematographer Andreas Sinanos conjure up a range of mesmerising images created without reliance on digital effects: hundreds of white sheets billowing on washing lines, the interior of an opera house converted into a makeshift refugee settlement, a vast floating funeral procession with black flags attached to the rowing boats, and the waters practically closing over a flooded village.

Water is a crucial motif in "The Weeping Meadow", where history itself resembles a force of nature, shattering societies and arbitrarily sweeping away the lives of human beings: Angelopoulos keeps off-screen the most harrowing events, such as Alexis's experiences in the Pacific campaign, concentrating his focus on an increasingly grief-stricken Eleni." ...

Thomas Dawson January 14, 2005


BERLIN -- "Greek master Theo Angelopoulos' new film is the first in an intended trilogy, which he hopes will stand as the summation of all his work. It's a typically poetic film, rich in powerful imagery, which sees a bitter personal tragedy unfold against the major events of 20th century Greece. Although the director doesn't mine any new ground here, either in terms of style or content, it's still a pleasure to sit through nearly three hours of perfectly controlled, visually evocative filmmaking.

"Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow" unspooled in competition at Berlin, where it was a critical favorite. More festival appearances should be assured, while its weighty themes and name director could lead to art house distribution in Europe and the States. Although the film is 170 minutes long, this probably won't hamper its performance at the boxoffice as viewers familiar with Angelopoulos' work will know what to expect.

"Trilogy" features an interesting narrative split between big history and personal drama. It centers on Eleni (Alexandra Aidini), a Greek immigrant from Russia who elopes with the unnamed Young Man (Nikos Poursanidis) -- the son of her much older fiance Spyros (Vassilis Kolovos). The two arrive in Thessaloniki, where he continues his career as a musician and she brings up their two sons. The Young Man then departs to America in search of a better life for his family. But Eleni cannot join him, and she is left in Greece to suffer the ravages of World War II and the Greek Civil War.

Eleni's story is submerged in the film's historical events -- Angelopoulos purposely avoids allowing viewers to build up a strong identification with its main character. Whereas a more conventional historical drama would have used Eleni's story as the engine of the plot, she's just one element of the director's vast historical tableau. Sometimes he focuses on her, sometimes he focuses on events elsewhere. This approach succeeds in depicting the broad sweep of events in 20th century Greece but occasionally leaves the film lacking an identifiable core.

Acting is similarly intriguing, mixing Angelopoulos' usual stylization with techniques drawn from the classical Greek stage. Eleni's final tragic pose is something that's not usually seen onscreen, a deep expression of pathos which has more in common with classical theater than contemporary acting. The director's desire to merge ancient and modern styles -- and themes -- also surfaces in an innovative scene in which the father delivers a soliloquy to refugees sheltering in an abandoned theater.

Angelopoulos' imagery will hold no surprises for his devotees, and it's none the worse for that. His crowd formations are meticulously composed, and a standout scene uses a funereal procession of boats to express the grief of his characters -- something which, again, resonates fully with the Greek classics. Sometimes, however, his imagery runs the risk of appearing obscure. A scene of dead sheep strung up on a tree left many confused, though specialists in Greek literature may know what he's getting at.

Funding for the next two installments of the trilogy is reportedly in place, though scripts have yet to be finalized."

Richard James Havis "Trilogy: Weeping Meadow" February 26, 2006

The film won the European Film Academy Critics Award in 2004.

The second film of the 20th Century Trilogy, The Dust of Time [2007], is in pre-production.


"The three evocative words received by Alexander [in Eternity and a Day, 1998] from the Albanian [orphan] boy during the course of their journey capture the film's nostalgic and contemplative tone. The first is korfulamu, a delicate word for the heart of a flower, a literal 'word of comfort' for his physical suffering. The second is xenitis, the feeling of being a stranger everywhere that reflects his occupational distraction and estrangement from his family. The third is argathini, meaning 'very late at night', a word akin to the metaphoric 'twilight' of one's existence. Inevitably, the words express the poetic essence of Angelopoulos' indelible cinema as well: the soul of the Greek village, the sentiment of perpetual exile, and the dying of a culture."

From Aquarello "Senses of Cinema"

Related Reading: The Films of Theo Angelopoulos: A Cinema of Contemplation by Andrew Horton and The Last Modernist: The Films of Theo Angelopoulos edited by Andrew Horton.

Tree with hanging dead sheep, from a riverbank town in the far northeast of Greece, near the borders of Turkey and Bulgaria.

Image credit: "The Weeping Meadow" film still. With thanks.

James Hampton's "Throne of the Third Heaven" To Be A Highlight Of Reopening -- After Six And One-Half Long Years -- Of National Museum Of American Art

"PRESENT: A pioneering collection of folk art, including James Hampton's wild "Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly." The tin-foil covered monument was living in a Washington garage until the museum stepped in to save it after the artist's death in 1964.

ABSENT: The country's decorative arts, which for years were better than anything made here in painting and sculpture. The museum has borrowed several rooms of superb federal-era furniture from private collector Linda Kaufman, and some arts-and-crafts ceramics and glassware from other Smithsonian museums. That may show it's got ambitions to move further into this domain.

PRESENT: Works by lesser-known African American artists such as William H. Johnson and abstractionist Norman Lewis, who until recently might have been left out of the story of American art.

ABSENT: The probing, tough works of more recent black conceptualists, who've challenged our standard notions of race.

PRESENT: Selections from the museum's growing collection of American photography, installed in a corridor near the gift shop and floor-to-ceiling in a first-floor gallery meant to introduce visitors to "The American Experience."

ABSENT: Examples of important photo-based art, for example by Cindy Sherman or Nan Goldin, in the contemporary galleries on the third floor. Or any fine-art photography at all in the chronological account that spans the second. (There are photographs in a display on the Civil War, but they're mostly presented as documents rather than art.)

PRESENT: A handful of portraits, of varying quality, by figures such as Charles Willson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, John Trumbull and Thomas Sully.

ABSENT: More and better works by these early American masters -- and anything at all by artists like Martin Johnson Heade and William Harnett -- to take the full measure of the first American accomplishments in art.

PRESENT: The world's greatest collection of paintings of Native Americans, made by George Catlin in the 1830s.

ABSENT: Art works of the period by Native Americans, as well maybe as early photographs of Indians, to balance the view of things presented by the white man's paintings.

PRESENT: A beautiful Whistler from 1866 called "Valparaiso Harbor," one of his very first poetic blurs.

ABSENT: Anything else of note by this most influential of American artists." ...

Blake Gopnik "What's There . . . and What's Not: A Sampler of Smithsonian American Art Museum Hits and Misses" Washington Post June 25, 2006

James Hampton's "Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly" has been an inspiration for classical and jazz orchestral and oratorio music world-wide.

The National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery reopen to the public on July 1, 2006; after being closed for renovations for six and one-half years. In the meantime, this Historic District of Washington, D.C., of which the two National Museums (housed in the historic U.S. Patent Office where Walt Whitman once nursed Union Soldiers during the U.S. Civil War) were a long-time centerpiece, has been transformed, under "urban renewal" into an sports, entertainment, and night-life district rivalling Georgetown and Adams Morgan, D.C., and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. There is no room now, in this Historic District, for either a Washington, D.C. Music Conservatory or a downtown campus of the University of the District of Columbia. However, there was development space left in the Historic District, fortunately and just barely, for the new Shakespeare Theatre Company's Harman Center for Shakespeare and the Arts.

National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Shakespeare Theatre Company Harman Center for Shakespeare and the Arts

Photo credit: African-American Artists. University of Wisconsin -- River Falls.

Sir Norman Foster's Contextual New Holland 'Island' Project, Petersburg, The Russian Federation

Dear faithful summer readers: While I attend to clearing my flooded, and now silted, Washington, D.C. basement from frogs, please forgive me for posting this older piece of news, which I missed earlier despite my being highly interested in the New Holland/Mariinsky Opera, Petersburg, Russia, redevelopment scheme. Living in two American cities badly scarred by lack of contextual new architecture and planning, I am very excited by the contextual quality of this Petersburg, Russia redevelopment scheme. (I visited this wonderful historic early industrial site in March 2003).

And a cordial thank you to Bob Shingleton's On An Overgrown Path Norman Foster entry, and comments, for inspiring me to post something today, despite a long night spent bailing out our basement:

"Lord Foster, the celebrated British architect, has been chosen to head a hugely controversial £184m scheme to remodel a swath of St Petersburg's historic centre. He will follow in the footsteps of Dutch and Italian architects by transforming the now decrepit [West Petersburg] New Holland Island.

The triangular island was created in 1719 when the Admiralteisky and Kryukov canals were dug. Used principally as a timber depot for shipbuilding and construction, it has also housed, until recently, an arsenal and a jail.

Now this largely empty quarter of the city is to be transformed into a 7.6-hectare (19-acre) complex of modern art galleries, a theatre, hotel, shops, apartments and restaurants walled by offices, linked to the city centre by new bridges connecting it directly with Nevsky Prospect, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Hermitage Museum. An earlier scheme, championed by Valery Gergiev, director of the Kirov opera and ballet, to create a startling new opera house [near] the island led to the international competition that has propelled Lord Foster to the fore.

Mr Gergiev wanted to build Russia's architectural equivalent of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, in the guise of a 61-metre (200ft) glass cube suspended over New Holland Island. His architect, the Los Angeles-based Eric Owen Moss, also came up with an extension of the Mariinsky boasting huge canopies that resemble crumpled plastic bags.

Oleg Kharchenko, the city's chief architect, said: "We're used to beautiful, harmonious buildings that are humanist and enchanting, not formless glass structures. There's no enthusiasm for this in the city." The Kremlin, run by Vladimir Putin and other St Petersburg-sired politicians, quashed Mr Gergiev's audacity.

Just 23 metres high and employing a sophisticated system of natural ventilation and an energy strategy to maximise the insulating properties of snow and the cooling potential of the surrounding canals, the Foster development promises to be low-key and subtle.

It has the approval of the Committee for the State Inspection and Protection of Historic Monuments. The development is funded by the Russian developers, ST New Holland, although the cultural buildings will be state-run. Lord Foster believes that his new New Holland should complete by 2010.

Island surrounded by wall of offices to include:

· New Kremlin-funded opera house

· Arts complex including hotels, restaurants, theatre, galleries, dance academy and pedestrian piazzas

· Restoration of Tsarist timber stores, blacksmith's house and jail tower; Soviet-era jail to be stripped out

· New outdoor arena beneath a glowing cupola surrounded by boutiques and restaurants with views across the water. This will be used for open-air performances, flooded for regattas and frozen as a skating rink

· And a 400-seat Rotunda for traditional theatre."

Jonathan Glancey "Foster to lead £184m project to transform the ancient heart of St Petersburg" Guardian February 15, 2006,,1709978,00.html

Link to images of Foster and Partners plan for New Holland Island, Petersburg, Russia redevelopment project; and to plan for Moscow City Towers, the tallest skyscraper project in Europe, proposed for Moscow, Russia. (One must click on the 'Current Projects' link).

Historic Plan for New Holland 'Island', Peterburg, Russia.

Image credit:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Post-Soviet Proto-Union State Honors Great Patriot War Dead And Sets Plans For Union Festival Of Cultures And Athletic Spartakiad

"The 29th meeting of the Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) opened here on Thursday with a minute’s silence in tribute to the memory of the fallen soldiers of the Second World War. Andrei Kobyakov, the deputy premier of the Belarussian government, presiding over the meeting, said that the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the war is a mournful date for the peoples of all former Soviet republics.

Regarding the business part of the meeting of the Integration Committee, Kobyakov said it was planned to discuss 17 questions and documents, some of which would be referred to the meeting of the Interstate Council of EurAsEC due here on June 23.

The Integration Committee discussed, specifically, the draft concept of EurAsEC international activity worked out by Belarus ... It also heard reports on the work to draw up a comprehensive programme to reinforce and equip the boundaries of the EurAsEC countries (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).

The committee also discussed plans to hold a festival of cultures and a spartakiad of the peoples of the community’s member countries."

ITAR-TASS "EurAsEC meeting opens with tribute to memory of WWII dead" June 22, 2006

Memorial to the Nazi Destruction of Minsk, Belarus; part of the Moscow Kremlin Great Patriot Cities of the Great Patriot War Memorial. Moscow, Russian Federation.

Photo credit: Memorials to the Great Patriot War, 1941-45. Western Missouri State University, Missouri, United States. With thanks.

Distinguished American Composer Ingram Marshall On Japanese Deer Chasers, 'Success', And The Life Of Composing Music In America

"What is the defining moment in a "successful" composer's life that could be called a "tipping point"? This was the question, brought up in conversation with a colleague, that became the focus for this article. When I started, I thought it would be short, simple, and to the point. I would interview a representative group of colleagues and, I was sure, they'd all have an event that could be pointed to unreservedly as this magic moment. Would it be a commission, a recording, a publishing contract, a great review maybe?

It turned out to be not such an easy question to answer, either on specific grounds or more general ones; the concept of a tipping point in a composer's career is something which can't be accepted without questioning, and what actually constitutes success in the world of contemporary classical music is no easy issue either.

Of late, the term "tipping point" has become quite fashionable, largely due to the book of that title by Malcolm Gladwell. It designates a moment when a series of events or circumstances conspire to create an unstoppable rush to success or widespread popularity. Gladwell uses the paradigm of the infectious epidemic, such as the deadly Spanish Influenza of 1914. His first example is the unexpected fashion success of a type of shoe known as the Hush Puppy.

Most of his examples concern marketing and advertising and deal with phenomena in the world of mass popular culture rather than anything close to art, so I wondered how relevant his ideas and examples would be to contemporary classical music composers. A phenomenon such as the Gorecki Third Symphony, which almost overnight became a "pop" music chart-busting recording in England in 1993, might fit into the Gladwellian paradigm, but I don't think that heady rush into popularity changed the Polish composer's artistic life at all; it just confirmed for him the rightness of his direction. After all, he'd written the piece in 1976, nearly twenty years earlier.

These days, tipping point is often used to refer to a point of no return, and is employed rather ominously by science writers in describing the doomsday scenario of global warming. With the ideas of catastrophic climate change and worldwide epidemics in mind, perhaps for our purposes the less volatile term "turning point" might suffice to describe a moment in a composer's career when she suddenly finds herself successful, or feels that she has "made it," or something along these lines. But what is it that could be called the signification of arrival in the world of new music composition?

In terms of scale, no success in the contemporary classical music world can match the book sales of millions attributed to The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, one of Gladwell's more interesting examples of tipping point activity gone wild. But perhaps an unexpected success or sudden rash of publicity can propel a composer into a higher realm of notoriety and engender some kind of elation of arrival, of having made it into the big time.

Classical music composers, compared to their colleagues in the popular music industry, may not have the sales numbers, but perhaps the analogue of the tipping point can be useful. But we have to use the concept somewhat awkwardly. The idea might be that one reaches a point of no return, that one's music has become sufficiently admired, bought, talked about, programmed, recorded, published, as to dump the composer into a free fall of ecstatic acclaim and acceptance from which he will never return. In other words, his or her stature as a big time composer is solidly locked in; that would have to be the idea, wouldn't it?

There are obvious examples of composers who, at some point in their careers, went from being strictly underground, cult avant-gardists to widely accepted, famous celebrity artists—almost household names. Perhaps the most glaring example is Philip Glass. When his collaboration with Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs, Einstein on the Beach, was staged at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1976, it seemed that overnight, thanks to the publicity surrounding it, he became a "famous" composer. The cultural clout of the venue seemed to be the extra weight he needed to tip over into the limelight, no matter that he went back to driving a cab the week after the big success. Of course, the Met as an institution didn't produce the opera, but allowed the hall to be rented out on two nights when it was dark; for Glass and his supporters this was a bit of good luck.

Philip might disagree that this was the "tipping point" in his career, but he'd have to agree that his life changed after that. Did "Einstein at the Met" really send him on his way to unstoppable success? I think it did. But I also think that had it not happened there it would have someplace else—although a staging in Brookln, Chicago, or San Francisco wouldn't have had the same cultural clout.

But let us reconsider the Gladwellian model of a tipping point, where a series of small events can escalate and push a phenomenon, whether it be a disease, a type of footwear, or a book, into huge numbers (or relatively large numbers, in the case of a classical composer such as Glass). The escalation seems ineluctable, and it lasts for a relatively long time or creates a self-sustaining system.

Still, it seems to me that there are tipping points that may appear to do that but actually create a temporary rush of success that peters out, so that the artist feels he is back to square one. I suspect that this kind of situation is more common for most composers; in this case, there is a "near miss" pattern where big things seem imminent but somehow the rush to make it into the big league never quite happens. I call this the "Deer Chaser" version of the tipping point.

You might find the device known as a deer chaser in formal Japanese gardens. It's a wooden contraption through which water is funneled: a slow drip from a source above it slowly accumulates into a carefully balanced trough which, when sufficiently filled, suddenly tips forward on its fulcrum, allowing all the accumulated water to rush down onto a lower level. This process causes a loud thwack to be heard." ...

American composerIngram Marshall in NewMusicBox June 21, 2006.


Mr Marshall and I both had works performed at the First Annual New Music West Festival, in the San Francisco Bay Area, in 1976 -- his work for watercourse and electronics and my work for carillon. I have admired his work, and his thoughts, ever since. Three months ago, his orchestral work "Bright Kingdoms" was premiered by the Oakland-East Bay Symphony under progressive conductor Michael Morgan and a commission from the progressive Magnum Opus commissioning program in the San Francisco Bay Area; a program, administered by Meet the Composer, which has allowed smaller community-based orchestras to do the commissioning of American orchestral music which the richer San Francisco Symphony fails to do.

Magnum Opus: This is the fourth season of the Magnum Opus project, one of the largest commissioning projects of new symphonic works in the U.S. Sponsored by Kathryn Gould through Meet the Composer, Inc., it grants the Santa Rosa, Marin and Oakland East Bay symphonies to jointly commission, premiere and give repeat performances of nine new works by American composers over five years.

Oakland East Bay Symphony, under Michael Morgan

American composer Ingram Marshall.

Photo credit: New Albion Records. With thanks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

EU - US Summit In Vienna, Austria To Be Followed By Summits Of CSTO And EurAsEC Presidents In Minsk, Belarus; Union Shield 2006 Exercise Begins Today

"On June 23, Minsk will host summits of two interstate institutions at once – the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Community. Presidents of member-states of these organisations will arrive in Minsk to take part in summits.

The Belarusian foreign ministry informed BelTA, Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov is expected to be the first to arrive in Minsk on June 22. After him Kazakhstan leader Nursultan Nazarbaev will arrive. On the same day Tajikistan president Imomali Rakhmonov is expected to arrive in Minsk.

On June 23 Belarus will welcome Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin as well as Armenia president Robert Kocharian and Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

At present the CSTO consists of Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. EurAsEC consists of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine are observers in this organisation."

Belarus Official State Telegraph Agency "CSTO, EurAsEC presidents to convene in Minsk" June 20, 2006


"Six aircraft of the Russian Air Force long-range aviation — two Tu-160, two Tu-95MC and two Tu-22M3 — are taking part in the manoeuvres Union Shield 2006 in the Republic of Belarus today, the information and public relations service of the Russian Federation Air Force told BelTA.

The Tu-160 and Tu-95MC aircraft took off from Engels airfield in Saratov region, while the Tu-22M3 took off from Saltsy airfield in Penza region.

"The long-range aviation will perform the tasks they were assigned at Belarus' firing ranges and will return to their bases without landing in Belarus," explained the source."

Belarus Official State Telegraph Agency "Russian long-range air force takes part in Union Shield 2006 exercise" June 21, 2006


"Kupalle (Solstice, June 21) is the most loved and cherished pagan holiday in contemporary Belarus. The tradition is very ancient. Under different names this holiday is celebrated by all peoples of indo-european group. During the summer Solstice, Yaryla (God-Sun) was reaching its biggest power. Kupalle - is a hedonistic summer celebration of the lands fertillity in the name of a female God - Kupala. It seems like she is considered a lunar Goddess by some pagan sources, although direct translation of the name is "She Who Bathes". Lately it was renamed into a christian celebration of a male saint - Ivan Kupala. There is a whole complex of traditional rituals, beliefs, love and agricultural magic. Supposedly in ancient times Kupalle was celebrated in the night from July 6 to July 7. During the day of July 6 young girls were going into the meadows to collect different "kupal'skiia" (made on Kupalle) plants and remedies - corn flower, ferns, etc. It was considered that the plants gathered at this time have particular strengths for curing and magic. Part of these plants were used in food. Some plants were used for magical protection and the wreaths of these plants were put on the walls of the houses to protect against bad spirits. Some of the plants were used in the "kupal'skiia" wreaths which were weared on the head by young men and women durin Kupalle celebration. Here is more of the description of Kupalle celebration among ancient eastern slavs from the Saint Petersburg's Naturist Society.

The central part in Kupalle celebration was a fire. This fire was symbolizing life and Yaryla, and was expelling deathj. During the day young men would prepare the place to start ther fire. They would go around the village collecting old things - clothes, broken barrels - and would take them out to the chosen for festivity place. Usually it would be a meadow, a forest glade, a bank of a river. Guys would. Then later the youth would go around the village calling with their special Kupalle songs for the celebration. Special ritual food was cooked on the fire - fried eggs (egg symbolized both sun and life), kulaha (a sort of a pudding made of wheat powder), vareniki (dumplings stuffed with berries - blueberries, cherries, raspberies). The oiled wooden wheel would be set on fire to symbolize sun.

Kupalle usually involves youth going into the forests and the meadows, wearing flower and grass garlands and wreaths on their heads (see this modern picture of Katia on Kupala night). There will be many rituals ofl purification practiced - jumping through the fire, bathing in the river or rolling in the grass dew. There would be a lot of dancing in karagods, competing in strength. A popular type of magic practiced on Kupalle night was fortune telling. The girls would put their wreaths on the water and let the river carry them. The one that would come to the bank or get entangled with another mean that there will be a marriage. Also it was believed that if you pick the leaf of plantain growing at the crossroads and put it under the pillow - you are verylikely to dream your future spouse on Kupalle night. One could burn a bunch of flux plants in Kupalle fire and chant: "Flux, give birth", to increase its crops.

It was believed once a year on Kupalle night near midnight the fern has a glowing flower - "Paparac'-kvetka". The lucky couple that would find it would live happily and would be able to foresee the future. It was believed that on Kupalle night rivers are glowing with a special light, trees can speak in the human language and even walk from place to place. It was believed that the Sunset on Kupalle night is special. The Sun sets down "playing" - dividing into concentric circles that expand and contract.

It was also believed that the witches could spoil things on this night. Different ways to protect yourself and your household were used. You could put garlands of special plants that have magical protective properties on the outside of your house. You can put into your rye burning coals from Kupalle fire. Of course the hands of working women were protected by red ornament on the sleves. Sometimes to be completely safe you have to drive all your cattle through the purifying Kupalle fire. The purifying power of Kupalle fire was so believed that people would dry out on it the shirts of the sick to cure them, or bring little children close to it to expell all bad spirits.

For those interested, you can watch a documentary "Night on Ivan Kupala" to learn more. Also here are some notes about celebration of Kupalle by Ukrainians in Canada."

Text and photo credit: Virtual Guide to Belarus Holidays and traditional celebrations in Belarus: Pagan Celebrations. With thanks.

American Fine Arts Critic Asks, Has American Opera Finally Arrived? ... And What About American Musicals?

"When Central City Opera [near Denver, Colorado] first presented "The Ballad of Baby Doe" in 1956, the world premiere came more than 350 years after Claudio Monteverdi's "Orfeo," which is generally considered the first operatic masterpiece.

Although Italy can claim an unbroken four- century opera tradition, it's almost impossible to delineate an American operatic tradition because the form is still so comparatively young in this country.

Some earlier examples exist, but the first golden age of American opera dates back only to the 1950s, with the creation of such landmark works as Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah" and Douglas Moore's "Baby Doe," which will see a new production at the Central City Opera opening Saturday.

Given this short history, it's not surprising that American opera hasn't yet arrived. But there is plenty of evidence that it is getting there.

No American operas made Opera America's list of the 20 most produced works in North America in 2004-05, but the organization's professional member companies did mount a not-insubstantial 68 productions of American pieces, including eight world premieres.

Since 1990, almost 200 new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America. The 2005-06 season saw debuts of John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" at the San Francisco Opera and Tobias Picker's "An American Tragedy" at the Metropolitan Opera.

In Europe, the English National Opera opened a production of Adams' "Nixon in China" on Wednesday, and the Opéra de Marseille presented Gian Carlo Menotti's obscure "Maria Golovin" in May.

"It's still not anywhere as accepted as the standard rep clearly is," said Peter G. Davis, music critic for New York magazine. "It takes a special push by companies to put it over. But it does seem to be more accepted now than when I was kid."

The still slightly unformed nature of American opera is reflected in the startling diversity of opinions surrounding it. Experts cannot even agree on exactly how to define the field.

David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera, for example, considers Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Sreet" one of the five most important American operas ever created.

Yet, strictly speaking, it is a musical, getting its start in 1979 at the Uris Theatre on Broadway. Adding to the confusion is George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," which also opened on the Great White Way but is generally accepted as an opera.

Musicals and operas have traditionally been differentiated by their degree of through-composed music, the kinds of voices they require and, more recently, by Broadway's insistence on amplification. But, increasingly, these distinctions are becoming blurred.

"We ourselves no longer know what is and what is not a contemporary opera," said conductor James Conlon, who becomes music director of the Los Angeles Opera in 2006-07. "This opens up what should be a very impassioned and lively, polemic discussion."

F. Paul Driscoll, Opera News magazine's editor in chief, is leery of opera companies staging musicals, because he believes the two forms require different skills." ...

Kyle MacMillan "Has American opera finally arrived? -- Born in the '50s, the U.S. version still searches for its voice" June 21, 2006

Montezuma's Head-dress, which Cortez brought from the "New World" to the "Old World". Presently, in the Collection of the National Museum of Ethnology, Vienna, Austria; though Mexico is seeking the historic object's return to Mexico City.

"Of the numerous feather artefacts that have been brought from Mexico to Europe only eight have survived over the centuries. Three of them are part of the collection belonging to the Ethnological Museum of Vienna. The best-known piece if the feather headdress which consists of over 450 tailfeathers of the quetzal bird that have been fixed to a fibre net. Part of the fame of this artefact is due to the persistent rumour that this headdress once belonged to Montezuma, penultimate king of the Aztecs. Research has shown that there are no proofs for this assumption.

Towards the end of the 16th century this headdress was part of the Ambras collection of Archduke Ferdinand of Tirol, who had probably bought it from Count Ulrich of Montfort. At that time it was called "Maurisco hat". In the 19th century it was presented to the ethnographic department of the Natural History Museum."

Gerard W. van Bussel

National Museum of Ethnology, Vienna, Austria

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

ICOM Virtual Library of World Museums

Photo credit: Microsoft Encarta. With thanks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Second Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates And Other Of The World's Foremost Minds Opens Today In Jordan To Address 'A World In Danger'

"With human development stalling in many parts of the world, with opportunity still lacking for many, and with instability still threatening to derail hopes of peace around the globe, The King Abdullah II Fund for Development [Jordan] and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity [United States] invited the world’s Nobel Laureates, heads of state and other esteemed leaders representing different nationalities, religions and creeds to gather in Petra, Jordan once again to discuss and define their roles in responding to these emergencies.

His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan said, “We all share a responsibility to act -- to address the inequalities, asymmetries and threats to peace that abound. For more than 100 years, Nobel Laureates have represented excellence in the pursuit of humanity’s advancement, and Elie Wiesel and I have invited this distinguished group along with a number of leaders from different disciplines to convene once again in Petra and carry this promise of generations forward.”

Agenda items for the two-day Petra II conference include

Challenges to Global Security and Human Development;

Strategies and Activities of the Nobel Laureates Initiative;

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process and Regional Issues; and

Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates.

Elie Wiesel, founder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the 1986 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize said, “It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to work among fellow Nobel Laureates, leaders and His Majesty King Abdullah II to explore the most critical problems of our time. Last year in Petra, we launched the Nobel Laureates Initiative to deepen cooperation and foster regular communications between Laureates. This year, we will report advancements made by the initiative, as well as define a role for Nobel Laureates in response to humanitarian emergencies.”

Expected participants, moderators and media leaders of “Petra II: A World in Danger” will include Nobel Laureates from all six disciplines (Peace, Economics, Literature, Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology and Medicine). Joining the Nobel Laureates will be world-renowned leaders from the public and private sectors, as well as from civil society. A sampling of those in attendance include Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard C. Holbrooke, Founder of Medicines sans Frontiers Bernard Kouchner, Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Sathirathai Surakiart, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund Representative Stephen Heintz, and Library of Alexandria Representative Ismail Serageldin. Attending Nobel Laureates include in Chemistry: Peter Agre, Aaron Ciechanover, Johann Deisenhofer, Avram Hershko, Yuan T. Lee; in Medicine: Richard Axel, Baruch S. Blumberg, Christian de Duve, Eric R. Kandel; in Physics: Georges Charpak, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji; in Economics: Finn E. Kydland, Robert A. Mundell; in Literature: Wole Soyinka; and in Peace: Frederik W. de Klerk, Jose Ramos-Horta, The Dalai Lama."

Embassy of Jordan, Washington, D.C. "His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel, to Host the Second Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates in Jordan" April 25, 2006

The Ancient Nabataean Treasury Petra, Jordan.


The Nabataeans

Photo credit: Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia. With thanks.

Honeywell - Nobel Initiative to Bring Leading Scientists into the World's Classrooms

MacArthur Fellow John Harbison's 'Abu Ghraib' Chamber Piece Unsettles New England Early Summer Chamber Music Festival

"When the Rockport Chamber Music Festival commissioned John Harbison to write a work to celebrate the festival's 25th anniversary, the composer had no idea that he would write a piece in response to the events in Abu Ghraib . As he told the sold-out audience at the premiere Sunday afternoon, the subject came as a surprise to him, the music unbidden. At intermission he remarked to a smaller group that he was relieved to leave the uncomfortable world of this piece when he was done with it.

``Abu Ghraib" for cello and piano did make an odd offering for a celebration, but it is a strong and disturbing piece that lodges in the mind. The 15-minute work is in four sections, two ``Scenes" interspersed with two ``Prayers" that arise in response to the scenes. The first Scene begins with piano and cello playing not quite in unison, a half-step apart, creating a painful dissonance. The second Scene medidates on an Iraqi lullaby that Harbison was asked to transcribe in 1962; the melody is a cousin to those of two familiar Western hymns, ``Rock of Ages" and ``Silent Night." These appear in disintegrating form, but the effect is nothing as simple as ironic commentary. It's something more terrifying than that -- they seem to reflect a society falling apart.

The first Prayer is build on an eloquent cello melody. The second Prayer closes with the opening intervals stretched out by an octave. They are still clashingly dissonant, but there is a wider space within them. The sound is still too bleak to represent anything like hope, but it does suggest that there are always other possibilities.

Harbison said he prefers to write music for his friends and to have them in mind as he composes. ``Abu Ghraib" was specifically intended for pianist David Deveau , artistic director of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, and cellist Rhonda Rider. They played the work with insight, passion , and conviction." ...

Richard Dyer "Harbison's 'Abu Ghraib' is haunting" Boston Globe June 20, 2006

An American inspired solo chamber music performance at Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad, Iraq.

Beethoven, Shostakovich, Britten, Harbison... "Classical" music and the dissonant real world sometimes intersect, though not often.

Photo credit: CBS News.

United States And Russia Reach Agreement To Continue Securing And Destroying Soviet Nuclear Warheads, Chemical Weapons, And Killer Germs

"The United States and Russia reached a last-minute agreement saving a program to secure or destroy Soviet nuclear warheads, chemical weapons and killer germs, U.S. officials said yesterday, breaking a long logjam and averting a rupture weeks before President Bush travels to St. Petersburg.

The program, a multibillion-dollar effort designed to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists or rogue states, was set to expire Friday amid a stubborn disagreement over legal provisions. But U.S. and Russian officials cut a deadline deal in Moscow on Friday that will extend the program for seven years and effectively take the issue off the table for Bush's trip.

Although overshadowed by disputes with Iran and North Korea, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program with Russia represents the most expansive disarmament effort in the world and the prospect that it could be halted deeply worried arms-control specialists. The program, which began 14 years ago after the Cold War ended, has deactivated thousands of warheads, missiles and bombers and made progress toward securing biological and chemical weapons.

But the work has gone slower than hoped and Russia still maintains thousands of additional aging nuclear warheads as well as vast stockpiles of other weapons that specialists fear are vulnerable to theft or sale on the international black market. U.S. contractors in Russia would have had to shut down activities if Friday's agreement had not been signed by U.S. Ambassador William J. Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.

"The extension of the umbrella agreement is critical," said Raphael Della Ratta, a weapons specialist at the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council. Without it, "nuclear weapons delivery systems would not be dismantled, chemical weapons would remain unsecured and undestroyed and biological pathogens would remain unsecured as well." ...

The extension had been held up for years mainly by a dispute over liability. Under the original agreement, Russia was responsible for any mishaps, even accidents or negligence by U.S. contractors. Russia has balked at that provision. The renewal keeps the original language for current projects but will address Russian concerns for future projects. It does not affect a separate plutonium-disposal program announced in 1998 but never started because of a similar dispute.

A collapse of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program would have marred Bush's visit to St. Petersburg next month for the Group of Eight summit. The meeting will be the group's first held by Russia, which is eager to use the occasion to showcase its reemergence on the world stage as a major power. ...

The Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement was reached in 1992 at the instigation of Sens. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and was renewed in 1999. Since then, it has deactivated or destroyed 6,828 nuclear warheads, 612 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 885 nuclear air-to-surface missiles, 577 submarine-launched missiles, 155 bombers and 29 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, among others, according to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

But it still has much to do. About half of the nuclear warheads, ICBMs, ICBM silos, submarine-launched missiles and nuclear submarines targeted by the program have yet to be eliminated, according to the agency. A chemical-weapons destruction facility is more than 60 percent unfinished and the Government Accountability Office reported that it may not open by 2009.

Lugar hailed the extension but called on Congress to remove other conditions that threaten the program: "If the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the number one national security threat facing our country, we cannot permit any delays in our response."

Peter Baker "U.S., Russia Break Impasse on Plan to Keep Arms From Rogue Users" Washington Post June 20, 2006

Soviet Union Nuclear Test Site.

The Soviet Union became the second nation in the world to detonate a nuclear device on 29 August 1949 (the U.S. had previously exploded eight devices). Between that date, and 24 October 1990 (the date of the last Soviet, or Russian, test) the Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests, by official count. As with the U.S., the term "test" may indicate the near simultaneous detonation of more than one nuclear exposive device, so the actual number of devices exploded is 969 (for comparison, the U.S. has conducted 1056 tests/explosions using at least 1151 devices).

Photo and text credit: USSR Nuclear Weapons Tests and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions: 1949 through 1990; The Ministry of the Russian Federation for Atomic Energy, and Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation; ed. V. N. Mikhailov; 1996. With thanks. Russia/Sovtestsum.html

National Symphony Orchestra To Open Its Beautiful Concert Hall For Free Introduction To Classical Music Concert And Season Sampler

On Thursday, June 29 at 6 p.m., the National Symphony Orchestra will perform a sneak preview of its upcoming season in the beautiful Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Associate Conductor Emil de Cou leads a program that includes Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and an excerpt from his Symphony No. 10, in anticipation of the NSO’s Shostakovich Centennial [under the baton of the National Symphony Orchestra's great conductor laureate Mstislav Rostropovich]. Anderson's The Typewriter reveals the great things to come during Serious Fun, the NSO's celebration of humor in music [under the baton of Leonard Slatkin]. An excerpt from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet offers a taste of the Citywide Shakespeare in Washington Festival, as Washington's prepares for next season's opening of the Sidney Harman Center for Shakespeare and the Classical Arts, under the visionary leadership of Michael Kahn, in the revived downtown of Washington, at Gallery Place. The first movement from Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony looks ahead to the next installment of the NSO’s popular Composer Portrait series. An excerpt from Daphnis et Chloé showcases Ravel’s romantic ballet, which will be performed in full later in October. The finale from Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique offers a glimpse into the new NSO Family Concerts. Other works to whet your appetite include Dvorák’s Slavonic Dance in C major and the extraordinarily powerful final movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, known as "The Titan".

Free, no tickets required.

National Symphony Orchestra

Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C.

Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington Director Michael Kahn, the driving force behind the revival of Shakespearean Theater and the Classical Arts in the newly revived downtown of Washington, D.C., at the Gallery Place Metro stations. Michael promises to make the Sidney Harman Center for Shakespeare and the Classical Arts, in downtown Washington, a leading incubator for the new classical arts in the United States.

Photo credit: Columbia University, New York City. With thanks.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lukashenka Regime Celebrates Opening Of New National Library Of Belarus; White House Imposes Financial Sanctions On Lukashenka Regime

"The lofty mission of Belarus is to be a cultural center, source of good and spirituality in the heart of Europe, a meeting point of the eastern and western civilizations. The “precious diamond of knowledge” which is shining bright in the capital’s main avenue embodies this mission, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko declared today at the official opening of the National Library’s new building.

According to the head of state, construction of the new building became common matter of all Belarusian people. “Implementation of this important national project once again demonstrated creative power of the Belarusian people. It confirmed that we are a united nation capable of most grandiose deeds,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

“When taking a decision about the construction we dreamt of erecting a temple which will become a national symbol of the young and independent Belarus, our calling card, embodiment of the most important traits of character of the Belarusian people who went down in history not as aggressors, invaders and destroyers but as workers and creators, thinkers, scientists and enlighteners,” the president emphasized."

Belarus Official State Telegraph Agency "Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus’ lofty mission - to be cultural center of Slavdom" June 19, 2006


"The United States on Monday imposed targeted financial sanctions on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and top officials of his government in response to what Washington called a fraudulent presidential election in March.

President George W. Bush issued an executive order outlining the sanctions, which came a month after the United States imposed a travel ban on Belarus officials after the re-election of Lukashenko in a ballot Western governments denounced as rigged.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the order, effective immediately, prohibits U.S. companies and individuals from engaging in any transactions with those cited.

"These persons will not be able to access any assets that they might have in the United States, and U.S. financial institutions, wherever located, will not be able to provide any financial services to them," Snow said.

The order applied to Lukashenko and nine other people, including the justice minister, the head of Belarus state television, the internal affairs minister and the president's national security adviser.

As a reason for the move, Snow cited the "fraudulent presidential election in March 2006, repression of post-election demonstrations, and continued detention of activists and opposition supporters, including former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin."

Bush referred to Belarus in a speech on Monday to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's graduating class in Kings Point, New York, saying he wanted to see freedom extended to Belarus, "where we support the reformers seeking to erase the stain of dictatorship from Europe."

Reuters "US imposes sanctions on Belarus officials" June 19, 2006

Belarus Manuscripts Nominated to the UNESCO Memory of the World Registry.

"This collection of manuscripts and books printed from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries reflects the diversity of the history and culture of Belarus, which then formed part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The period was notable on the one hand for a flowering of culture, society and the economy and on the other for a rise in national, religious and political strife. It was then that the Belarusian tongue became the official language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The humanist tendencies of the Renaissance began to predominate in Belarusian culture. All these factors favoured the appearance in Belarus of manuscripts and printed material pertaining to the various religious denominations, in several languages - Belarusian, Palaeoslavonic, Polish, Latin, Yiddish - and several alphabets (including Arabic). The spread of the Reformation, and the intensification of the religious struggle, contributed to the development of polemical literature, which was religious in form but social and political in content."

Photo and text credit: UNESCO. With thanks.

The Venetian Renaissance Painters Bellini, Giorgione, And Titian, And The Most Beautiful Painting Of All Time -- The Envelop Please!

"Imagine a world where all our modern bromides about art were still fresh ideas.

Where an image of a naked woman in a landscape wasn't a cheesy cliche, but a radical move. Where you could be the first person ever to take pleasure in a flashy brushstroke. Where artists were just starting to contemplate the possibility that a work's meanings might be suggestive and slippery rather than all tied down.

Such an art world once existed -- in Venice, circa 1515.

A stunning exhibition opening today at the National Gallery called "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting" puts us at the moment when the business-as-usual of later Western art was still deeply unusual.

It's easy to take endless pleasure in the best of these paintings. It's hard to imagine they could leave anyone cold.

Titian's "Noli Me Tangere," a smallish painting of a rolling landscape in which a miraculously graceful Christ meets an equally exquisite Mary Magdalene, would be a strong contender as most beautiful picture of all time.

Titian's "Portrait of a Man With a Glove," from the Louvre, and his "Bacchanal of the Andrians," a huge picture of sun-licked frolics that has come here from the Prado in Madrid, are very nearly as great. Likewise several pictures by his rival Sebastiano del Piombo; by Giorgione, the young master who had kick-started the new style but died in 1510, before it flourished; and by Giovanni Bellini, the grand old man of Venetian art who launched the city's scene in the 1470s and continued to move it forward right up to his death in 1516. Even theoretically "lesser" Venetian artists such as Palma Vecchio, Paris Bordone and Gian Girolamo Savoldo turn out works that are easy on the eyes and absolutely charming.

What's harder to recognize at our late date is all the radicalism and novelty that underlies the beauty.

Take Titian's "Noli Me Tangere," painted around 1514, when he was perhaps 25 years old." ...

Blake Gopnik "Veering Off in Venice: At the National Gallery, A Renaissance Shift That Set Narrative Aside" Washington Post June 18, 2006

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. link to this exhibition.

Titian's "Noli Me Tangere" ["Let No One Touch Me"] from the National Gallery of Art, London. About 1514.

Is it, or is it not, the most beautiful painting of all time?


Noli me Tangere

about 1514

about 1487 - 1576

NG270. Bequeathed by Samuel Rogers, 1856.

This is one of the two earliest works by Titian in the [National Gallery of London] Collection.

Christ appears to the Magdalen after the Resurrection to comfort her. At first she thinks he is a gardener; when she recognises him he tells her not to touch him -'noli me tangere' (let no one touch me) - as told in the Gospels (John 20: 14-18). Elsewhere, the Bible records that Christ will soon ascend to heaven and send the Holy Spirit down to his followers: he does not want them to cling to his physical presence.

X-ray photographs show that Christ was originally painted wearing a gardener's hat and turning away from the Magdalen. The landscape was also drastically altered while the work was in progress.

On loan to the exhibition 'Giorgione, Bellini, Titian. The Renaissance of Venetian Painting' at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC from June to September 2006.

Oil on canvas
110.5 x 91.9 cm.

Image and caption credit: National Gallery of London. With thanks.