Tag Archives: Caravaggio

Germany, Berlin – more fab museums and art – Part 2

Even though I am here for two weeks I am not going to get through all the places I want to see – especially the museums. But I am giving it my best shot knowing I will be back.

The Gemaldegalerie (or Old Master Paintings) has a great collection of European art from the 1300s to 1800. When you buy a three day museum pass you can go into a choice of 30+ museums over 3 consecutive days for free and you get audio guides for free too. It is the latter that is my nemesis as once I start listening I have to keep listening and next thing I know four hours have gone by. This certainly happened to me in the Gemaldergalerie located in the futuristic Kulturforum which also houses the concert hall for the Berlin Philharmonic and many embassies.

The modern environs of the Kulturforum and the genuinely old St Matthäuskirche

One of the nice things about visiting German museums and art galleries is getting more of an appreciation for the art from this country where of course the collections are extensive.

Below are examples of Holbein, Dürer and Cranach

German artists knew their stuff!

Of course the Gemaldergalerie also has artists from other parts of Europe – some of my faves below – Therbusch self portrait (the monocle is so well done I thought if was hanging from the painting at first not part of it), De La Tour, Rembrandt (feisty youthful self portrait) and Botticelli.

Selection from the Gemaldergalerie

More Botticelli and Cranach – I think my friend Sylvie would comment that while these are magnificent paintings they also an excuse for male titillation pre-porn mags. She may be right?!

Selection from the Gemaldegalerie

And some more I liked (sorry Rembrandt crept in again!). The strong and intelligent looking lady at the bottom is by Velazquez.

I am always thrilled to see a Caravaggio and this one was great – Love Conquers All – a look at sacred and profane love where profane, in the form of Cupid, is clearly winning out and having a grand old time. Given this was painted in the early 1600s it was very cheeky even then but also the start of the naturalist rather than idealized style that so many copied afterwards. Possibly the figure was modeled by one of his apprentices.

Caravaggio – Love conquers All

His arch enemy the painter Baglione had done something similar earlier but in the traditional stylised format but he felt that Caravaggio had stolen his idea so he reworked his painting to give the Devil in his painting the face of Caravaggio! The first version with the devil turning away is right next to the Caravaggio in this museum. The one with the devil’s face in full is in Rome

Baglione’s first version

And if I’m not falling for Caravaggio’s then it has to be Vermeer – there are two here but this is my favourite – The Glass of Wine. As usual with his paintings you have to wander what is going here. Why is she drinking but he is not? Is she being seduced? He doesn’t seem that interested to me? I wander if it is a draught she is drinking to miscarry a pregnancy? That is just my theory though!!

Also in the Kulturforum is the Kunstgewerbe Museum – which houses craft objects and fashion and much more from the Middle Ages to today. Loved it here.

Tiffany glass, Art Deco and writing and jewellery boxes

Gorgeous dresses from a while back and the necessary undergarments – no worse than Spanx?

Can you ever have too many lbds? Dior and YSL do their thing.

Another museum I visited on Museum Island was the Neues Museum which now houses the Egyptian collection and the especially famous Bust of Nefertiti. The latter was in a room on its own but no pics allowed. Suffice to say that I was in the room with it alone most of the time – so much space so few people in Berlin – love that. I am showing two shots from the web as she is stunningly beautiful but even better to see it for real. A Must. And of course lots of controversy about whether it should be returned to Egypt!

Bust of Nefertiti, Neues Museum

I have a real love of Egyptian culture because they wanted to create beauty from such an early period of history and they did an excellent job too. The figure below is carved from wood – about 2300 BC!! So much movement.

The figures below are all from tombs of kings or wealthy nobles. The top left is an offerer bearer or handmaiden and the top right is a cloaked figure. The ones below are especially lovely. On the left the man’s wife and daughter have their arms around him and on the right, unusually, the man and the woman have their arms around each other (usually just the women who have their arms around the men). Touching.

Below top right is an engraving of Nefertiti and Akhenaten and their three daughters basking in the rays of the sun – this was the first time a religion had been monotheistic in that only the Sun (actually the light that the Sun generated) was venerated above all others.

From a different era the Golden Hat is one of just four found from Bronze Age Europe. It has very detailed carvings particularly believed to be about astrology and the calendar and lunar changes. It appears they were worn for certain religious ceremonies and were so tall so that they could be seen from far away. Fascinating.

When I visited the Pergamon museum some of the items were still under renovation and in particular the thing everyone wants to see – the Pergamon Altar. However given it is likely to be 2025 before this has been restored enough for people to have access again this is an option I thought I would check out instead. It was actually surprisingly good. A digital artist has created a panoramic vision of not just the altar but all the surrounding areas of Pergamon as it would have been in the day and you can view it at ground level of any of four levels you can climb up in the center of the circular room – there is sound and light turning day to night and it is pretty darn fab. Some attempts to give a feel for the effect are below.

Roll on 2025.

And finally for this post a quick visit to the Nikolaikirche which was originally built in 1230 but has been restored a few times. It is super modern inside.

Strange hanging Jesus and St Nicholas piece – not sure why?

And then next door to the Knoblauchhaus – a joy for Biedermeier furniture lovers.

Germany, Berlin- two days in Potsdam

While the city of Berlin has great historical focus everywhere you go – it tends to focus on WW1, pre WW2, WW2, Post WW2, the Wall and post the Wall. So it is quite fun to take the 45 minute trip out to Potsdam which wallows much more in the 18th and 19th centuries when every kaiser was called Wilhelm or Freiderich (or Wilhelm Friederich!) and where every member of the family gets their own castle and usually a summer one as well.

Potsdam is such an interesting place with so much to do that I visited over two seperate days – one for the palaces and surrounding grounds (407 acres of them) and another for the old Town, church and museums.

On arrival we started at Schloss Sanssouci built by Frederick the Great – the great German kaiser – who much preferred speaking French and hence the name of this palace – these days he might have called it “Akuna Matata”! This was just his equivalent of a “man shed” where he invited his mates to enjoy art, music, life the universe and everything in the very best of surroundings. His mates included Voltaire who would visit but never stay over? Although the yellow exterior is a little faded and could do with a lick of paint the building is lovely as are the interiors.

Panoramic view of Schloss Sanssouci

Exterior of Schloss Sanssouci – a homage to Rome’s Pantheon

It seems that every room where art is to be displayed included a sofa or chair – although apparently not really for sitting on but for showing off beautiful fabrics. Frederich the Great has done a pretty good job.

Interiors of Schloss Sanssouci

Also he was a fan or marquetry so amazing floors and the theme of spider’s web as per the ceiling below was a big thing.

Beautiful floors and ceilings

Even beds and doors had to be “hidden” by gorgeous drapes – love it.

Guest beds at Schloss Sanssouci – wouldn’t be great to be over 6 foot tall

Of course the grounds, including the well know Orangerie, around the Schloss which included significant vineyards are lovely to wander around and all grounds are free access so that the locals can enjoy them at weekends for picnics etc.

Orangerie and grounds between the two Schloss’

Just when you think you can’t beat Schloss Sanssouci you come to the real place – the big one known as Neues Palais. It has 200 rooms, a marble hall, a shell grotto and as probably one of the most perfect rococo buildings in existence in the world today. Even though rococo was out of date by the time he built this, he liked that style and stuck with it. I admire his willingness to not go with the pack.

the front of the Neues Palais

The back of the Neues Palais

And this is where the Servants and admin were based including the kitchens!

The grandeur of the Neues Palais

The shell Grotto in the Neues Palais

More art and sofas in the Neues Palais

Loved this domed room with reliefs on the walls. Gorgeous

And after all that grandeur, the town of Potsdam itself is not too shabby at all. Some fabulous buildings that look all the more impressive against a blue sky. Everything is done on a grand scale in Berlin and Potsdam.

Die Alte Rathaus and Nikolaikirche in Potsdam

From inside the legislative assembly grounds you can capture all the well known buildings in Potsdam

Nikolai Kirche – grand outside but simple clean lines inside

Then I visited the Museum Barberini (partly because it sounded a bit like Babani). They had an excellent exhibit of Italian art that had been primarily influenced by Caravaggio including the painting of his below. A lot of Potsdam has an affinity to Italy so this exhibit makes a lot of sense.

Caravaggio’s Narcissus from every angle – this man was a genius.

Italian art influenced by Caravaggio’s art

Beautiful ceiling and a Bernini bust of Pope Urban – his primary benefactor

Also enjoyable in Potsdam is the Holländisches Viertel – the Dutch Quarter which is four streets that are a mini Amsterdam – now with shops and restaurants but beautifully restored. Apparently much of Potsdam was built on swamp land and when it was drained canals were formed – in order to maintain and manage them the mayor at the time enticed people from the Netherlands to move here so that they could be properly maintained by the experts and he built them homes like they had at “home” so they would feel more at home!

A strongly recommended place to see if you are in Berlin and nice to get out of the city without having to go very far at all.

Italy, Florence – I get some home decoration ideas from the Palazzo Pitti and a special note of interest if you have red hair.

A visit to the Palazzo Pitti gave me some home decoration ideas. What? OTT? Come on these were the Medicis – they had to show off.

So firstly something subtle for all my ceilings so that I have something to gaze at while reclining on my chaise longue.

Ceilings in the Palazzo Pitti – maybe a bit much but also rather fab at the same time

Now for the walls. A Titian and a Caravaggio natch and then cram as much as I can on every other wall. Also note that the first portrait shows a hair colour named after Titian and based on many southern Italians’ colouring. Who else gets their hair colour named after a famous painter? All we blondes get is “dumb” (but we know better)

Titian, Caravaggio and using paintings as walllpaper

Then a sculpture of a young Michengelo, a canopied bed and a very very big vase – and I’m done.

Now I’m heading to IKEA – they have everything.

sculptures and furniture at Palazzo Pitti

After all that it was nice to take a stroll (well stagger really as it is all uphill) in the Boboli Gardens behind the Palace – also built by the Medicis of course. The higher you climb the better the view back to the Palazzo.

Next two days are food tours in Florence and then Bologna.

Italy, Florence – Academia and Uffizi Gallery

A day of more walking(introductory tour to Florence) and then an afternoon in the Uffizi Gallery. My kind of day but my feet are killing me – and yes I am wearing sensible shoes. Those cobblestones are a killer and what’s with all those cars in what is supposed to be a pedestrian only area?

First stop, an essential must see – Michelangelo’s David. It is impressive but slightly weird because it is so huge. I still think Bernini is a better sculptor – albeit I accept he was around a hundred years later. Decided to offer David up in various tones – viewer can choose the one they like best:)

Michelangelo’s David

Some more pics wandering around Florence between walks. The little wine door was the first “Vino ATM”. You banged on the door, pushed in your empty jug and some money, waited a few minutes and out came a full jug of wine. Very cool. Bring them back I say.

Around Florence

And finally the Uffizi – highlights for me were another Caravaggio and also seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus- such a well own painting so exciting to see it for real – and it is truly lovely.

Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Botticelli strut their stuff

Italy, Rome – Day 3 – Catacombs, Theatre of Marcellus, Borghese Gallery and oodles of brilliant Bernini and captivating Caravaggio. Not to mention pistachio flavour gelato – all bliss.

I was in luck today as met another traveller at my hotel who had booked a private full day Rome tour and who asked if I wanted to join him – I certainly did as it included two spots I had wanted to see but hadn’t managed to confirm. En route we stopped at the Theater of Marcellus which shows really clearly how layered Rome is with Republic era Rome, Empire era Rome, Medeival Rome and then sometimes more modern Rome usually one on top of one another – it gives  the concept of going underground a whole new meaning and they were certainly master recyclers. Note below that above these Roman arches are apartments – which are still being lived in and are worth a fortune. What an amazing view they have.

Theatre of Marcellus

These are the catacombs of St Sebastian (we preceded this with the underground tour of St Clemente church but no pics allowed) which you access via the Appian Way (the “bees knees” of Roman Roads). They run for something like 9 kilometres which is why you need a guide to show you around or you might never come out! There are simple tombs for the plebs (Roman reference not mine) and then there are also three necropolis (necropoli?)- these are family tombs for the wealthy and are well decorated as you can see – and remember they are from around 300AD.

Catacombs of St Sebastian

Was very excited to visit the Borghese Gallery for the two geniuses (genii?) artists – Caravaggio and Bernini. 

Starting with Caravaggio – he was a bit of a rebel and changed the way light was painted away from the tradional approaches of the time. He liked a black background and most importantly he employed realism. The first pic (top left) is his own self portrait; the one of the Madonna was very controversial as the child was too old and naked and had no halo, the angel looks like a witch and the face used for the Madonna was that of a local prostitute. No-one quite knows why but my view is that he wanted to select a person who might also not know for sure who the father of her child was. Anyway Caravaggio got into a lot of scrapes and fights and was always being rescued by his patrons but then died under mysterious circumstances. 

Caravaggio at the Borghese

Finally my favourite of the day – Bernini. The sculpture of the reclining lady was Napoleon’s sister – considered somewhat racy as you might imagine. The image of David about to defeat Goliath with his sling is supposed to be his head (but probably not his body!). But the star of these sculptures for me are the cushions that Napoleon’s sister is reclining on as you feel you could squish them if you wanted to. Even more amazing is the hand of Pluto on Persephone’s Thigh and her hair. Hard to remember this is solid marble!

Bernini at the Borghese