Sunday, 30 November 2014

Give to charity without costing you a penny

It's this time of year again folks; and I'd be happy if you join in this year's fund raising event which will not cost you a penny.

It's simple and easy to do.

Here's how it works.

For every comment you leave below I will donate £1 (that's $1.56)
to 
THE SALVATION ARMY

up to a maximum of £100 ($156).

It's as simple as that.

No repeat comments please.

No anonymous comments.

Tell all your friends about it.

In the meantime

enjoy this Seasonal video.


Friday, 28 November 2014

The worms of worry.


It happens to all of us I suppose.

You’re going through life quite happy with your lot, not a care in the world, perhaps even looking forward to something nice you had planned for yourself, or some event or other which would have cheered you up and then … suddenly … all change …

You see the news on TV and something depressing is announced in that robotic monotone voice which those newscasters are born with … or trained to perfection.

It could be something about the economy … or the rate of inflation … or something terrible that’s happened somewhere or other in the world … whatever it is – it’s bad news.

You could open a newspaper or switch on the radio … and it’s bad news.

You receive a letter or phone a friend … and it’s bad news.

Suddenly … your happiness and short-lived cheerfulness is wiped away and the worms of worry start burrowing in your brain.

Worry … worry … worry … what if this happened to me … what if I couldn’t cope any longer … what if … what if … what if … worry … worry … worry.

Jesus said to his disciples, “And so I tell you not to worry about the food you need to stay alive or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is much more important than food, and the body much more important than clothes. Look at the crows: they don’t sow seeds or gather the harvest; they don’t have store rooms or barns; God feeds them. You are worth so much more than birds! Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?” Luke 12: 22-25

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I Don't Look Good Naked Anymore

Do you dare watch the video?

Monday, 24 November 2014

What's this Clementine Hunter?

I have been asked by Lulu to do a critique of Clementine Hunter's paintings and art work.

Clementine was born in 1886 or 1887 and died in 1988 at the age of 101. She lived in Louisiana and was a self-taught artist. She lived and worked on a farm and never learnt to read or write.

She didn't start painting until the age of fifty or so using some paint and brushes left behind by some visiting artist.

Most of her paintings depicted life in the plantations during the early 20th century and as such are a good historical record of that era. The painting I have chosen above however is different. It is called "Mary Going to the Barn" and was painted in 1955. I like it because it would make a lovely Christmas card showing a pregnant Mary on her way to the stable/barn guided by three angels.

Clementine's first paintings sold for as little as 25 cents. But by the end of her life her paintings were exhibited in many galleries and museums and sold for thousands of dollars.

She was noted for painting on anything, particularly discarded items such as window shades, jugs, bottles, and gourds and cardboard boxes.


This next painting entitled "Two Ladies Gossiping" was done on a cutting board.
I am sure whoever bought it never used this cutting board at all. And rightly so.

Clementine's paintings remind me a lot of L S Lowry about whom I have already written recently. You will notice that he was a contemporary of Clementine Hunter.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

What's this Titian?

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian in English, was born somewhere between 1488 and 1490 (must have been a long pregnancy!) and died on 27 August 1576 (can't tell you the exact time).

He was an Italian painter and the most important one of the 16th Century Venetian school. 

He was known as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (a line from Dante's "Paradiso") because of his mastery of the paintbrush. You can see above his self portrait painted in about 1567. 

He was very versatile painting portraits, landscape backgrounds and mythological and religious subjects and was famous for his use of color - no black and white monochromes from good old Titian.  

Here's another painting of his known as "The Man with a Quilted Sleeve" which he completed in 1509 - the painting that is, not the sleeve.

See how the man is gazing at you as if to say "What are you looking at? Do you want a fight?"

By the size of that sleeve, one would be best advised to run away fast before feeling the effect of all those muscles.
And here's another Titian painted in 1515 known as "Portrait d'une Femme à sa Toilette"; which does not mean a woman in the toilet, but in English has been translated as "Woman with a Mirror".

Whilst you admire the beautiful brush strokes and the vivid use of colour, I on the other hand, am still trying to work out whose arm in a blue sleeve is on the bottom right trying to steal her bottle of perfume.

Maybe it's the man with the quilted sleeve!

Now when I first started this series of art critiques, the intention was to comment on really weird and unusual works of art out there. And I am very pleased that the series has proved popular amongst my readers, some of whom have suggested paintings for me to research and write about. (More suggestions please).

Someone wrote reecently suggesting I am like Sister Wendy (Wendy Beckett) the art historian who presented a series on art on the BBC in the 1990s.

Whilst I can assure you all that I am not as knowledgeable as Sister Wendy, one thing is for sure; I find it sometimes really confusing as to why certain artists find it necessary to paint totally unrealistic and unusual paintings.

Look at this one for instance, also by Titian, and painted in 1550.

It is entitled "Venus and Organist and Little Dog". I don't know about you, but I find this scene most odd and disturbing. Imagine for a moment a woman who wants to relax after a long day's work cleaning and cooking and doing the housework; and she wants to listen to some music.

She takes all her clothes off and lies on the bed and calls in one of her minions and asks him to play the piano whilst she spends some "quality time" with her dog.

As you can see, the pianist is somewhat distracted and, because he knows the tune by heart anyway, decides to take a swift look where he shouldn't whilst the lady is occupied with the dog.

The dog notices the naughty peeping Tom and yaps to warn the lady.

Whereupon the lady casually says to the man, "Keep your eyes on your organ please. And whilst you're at it, would you mind drawing the curtains. I don't want the gardener outside to see my behind!"

All that captured in just one painting by the marvellous Titian. Art is such a wonderful thing!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What's this Rodin?

Once again our art critique turns to a marble sculpture. This one is by Auguste Rodin and is known generally as The Kiss. It was completed in 1882.

The sculpture was originally titled Francesca da Rimini because it was in fact meant to be the 13th-century Italian noblewoman from Dante's "Inferno" (Circle 2, Canto 5).

Apparently, Francesca fell in love with her husband's younger brother, Paolo. If that's not bad enough, it seems she fell in love with Paolo whilst reading a story about Lancelot. (Hmmm ... I wonder what was in that book!).

Her husband Giovanni Malatesta, (which means John Headache) - he should have been called Ivor, (think about that for a moment).

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, Francesca's husband Giovanni, discovers the couple reading the book, and more besides, and so he kills them.

In the sculpture, if you look carefully, the book about Lancelot is seen in Paolo's hand. You can't see it in this photo but the book is behind Francesca's back. I wonder what chapter he was reading just before he kissed her.

Also, in the sculpture, the couple's lips do not actually touch, suggesting that they were interrupted by Giovanni and killed before they actually kissed.

OK ... by now your mind should be doing somersaults as mine certainly is.

Imagine the scene for a moment. We have a couple secretly in love with each other. They read a book which somehow encourages them to take their clothes off and kiss. They are discovered by the irate husband who kills them both.

How? Does he shoot them? Attack them with a sword? Or hit them on the head with the book?

Unfortunately, we do not have the answer to that question; but as I explained earlier, all this is supposed to have happened in Dante's story "Inferno" years previously.

For some inexplicable reason Rodin decided it would be a good idea to make a marble statue of it all.

Obviously, he can't chisel a big block of marble from memory. And I doubt that Dante had any photos in his book from which Rodin could copy.

So the sculptor goes out searching for two really good looking models.

He finds a good looking man and a beautiful woman and asks them if they wouldn't mind taking off their clothes and kiss. After he recovers from the punch on the nose which the man gave him, Rodin tries to stop the nose bleed, and suggests they all go to the taverna for a few glasses of vino.

A bottle or two of wine later he explains calmly that he wants to make a large marble statue of Francesca and Paolo in an amourous embrace.

Well, with the wine and possible fame going to their heads they agree to pose for him; but the young woman is concerned about posing in the nude.

"What will mamma say when she sees me?" she asks Rodin.

"Don't worry about that," replies Rodin, "no one will be looking at your face!"

So they go to the studio, which is a marble stone throw's away from the taverna, take off their clothes, brush their teeth, and pretend to kiss.

One thing I've discovered in my research for this critique is that sitting naked in that particular pose on a piece of marble for hours on end can be very uncomfortable indeed; especially in the freezing cold. The male model in particular was somewhat nervous of the whole thing, especially considering where the lady's right knee is positioned.

Eventually, when the sculpture was finished it quickly became controversial because of what and who it represented. When critics first saw it in 1887, they suggested the less specific title Le Baiser (The Kiss).

And somehow, this made all the difference and it became very famous and a great work of art.

Which goes to prove ... It's all in the title folks, not in the mind. You can paint or sculpt anything you want, as long as you give it a great title it will become famous and admired.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What's this L S Lowry?

Continuing my series of art critiques, I would like to introduce you to L S Lowry, an English painter who lived from 1887 to 1976.

Laurence Stephen "L.S." Lowry was born in Stretford, Lancashire, in the North of England and many of his paintings depict scenes from Pendlebury, Salford and surrounding areas. His paintings were usually of urban landscapes and he painted human figures in a simplified way which was referred to as "matchstick men."

The scene you see above is of the Northern town of Huddersfield which was painted in 1965.

Those of you who have read my book "VISIONS", and my other books and stories about Father Ignatius, will know that they are set in an un-named Northern town in England in the 1950's and 60's. The scene above is the sort of view one would imagine Father Ignatius would have from his office window high up in St Vincent Parish House.

You can see the hills fare away, often covered with snow in winter; the small terraced houses huddled together, sharing whatever warmth they have between them, and hiding behind the large tenements providing shelter from the Northern winds blowing down the hills; with people rushing to their homes or places of work as the acrid smelling smoke from those factory chimneys fill the gloomy skies.

In 1932 Lowry's father died leaving the family with debts, whilst his mother became ill and bedridden, relying on her son for care.Lowry often painted well into the night after his mother had fallen asleep.

He regretted that he had not received recognition as an artist until the year his mother died and that she was not able to enjoy his success.

Two years after his death, a famous song about Lowry by "Brian and Michael" topped the UK charts in 1978. I post a video below which shows a number of Lowry paintings and, in case you have difficulties with the accent, I also post the lyrics to the song for you to enjoy.

If you watch carefully, at about 3 minutes 30 seconds of the video, this is the sort of church St Vincent Parish would look like.




He painted Salford's smokey tops
On cardboard boxes from the shops
And parts of Ancoats where I used to play
I'm sure he once walked down our street
Cause he painted kids who had nowt on their feet
The clothes we wore had all seen better days.

Now they said his works of art were dull
No room, all round the walls are full
But Lowry didn't care much anyway
They said he just paints cats and dogs
And matchstalk men in boots and clogs
And Lowry said that's just the way they'll stay

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now canvas and brushes were wearing thin
When London started calling him
To come on down and wear the old flat cap
They said tell us all about your ways
And all about them Salford days
Is it true you're just an ordinary chap

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Now Lowries hang upon the wall
Beside the greatest of them all
And even the Mona Lisa takes a bow
This tired old man with hair like snow
Told northern folk its time to go
The fever came and the good Lord mopped his brow

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street with sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street with sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Michelangelo's Pietà

The Pietà is possibly the most famous of carvings and paintings in the history of Christian art. The scene depicts the body of Christ just after it has been taken down from the Cross cradled in the arms of His Mother, the Virgin Mary. Other Pietàs depict the body cradled by other figures, but in most paintings and sculptures it is Mary.

The sculpture shown above is by Michelangelo and is located in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

It is unique among Michelangelo's sculptures, because it was the only one he ever signed. When he heard that people thought it was sculpted by another sculptor, Cristoforo Solari, Michelangelo carved his signature on the sash the Virgin Mary wears on her breast.
Michelangelo sculpted another Pietà known as The Deposition, or Florence Pietà.

It depicts the dead body of Christ, Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea in the hood, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Michelangelo worked on this sculpture from 1547 to 1553. It is believed he wanted it to decorate his tomb, and that the hooded figure is a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. However, he smashed the sculpture after working on it for about eight years because he discovered an impurity in the marble.

It was eventually restored by its new owner.

Friday, 14 November 2014

What's this Lucas van Valckenborch?














Years ago, when I worked in London, I had this huge painting in my office. Not the original, of course, but a very large print. It hung on the wall in pride of place and was the first thing that caught the eye of anyone coming in to visit me.

Unfortunately I cannot make it any larger here, because, believe me, it needs to be full size to be better appreciated.

I believe the painting is called September 1585. I can't find any other title, perhaps that's when it was painted by Lucas van Valckenborch, a Flemish painter who lived between 1535 and 1597.

When I started this series of posts about art, the intention was to show various masterpieces which I classified as somewhat unusual or "odd" and see the humourous side behind the work of art. This particular painting is not "odd" in the sense of the word, but I found it at the time somewhat unusual because of the great details that it encompasses.

Look for example at the forefront in the left - people are bringing in a harvest of apples or fruit, and someone is trying to sell them to the two people by the table.

Behind the two men there's a horse drawn cart, a gathering of people and children playing in a circle.

Behind the cart there's a castle scene where people in a boat are trying to catch something hanging off a rope - another sport I suppose.

Then there's the landscape in the background with the castle, the trees, the clouds and the birds in the sky.

In the foreground, there's a feast being laid on a table surrounded by hungry people; and some people playing a game with a ball and a circle.

It's as if every bit of this huge painting is a scene in itself worthy of its own frame as a work of art.

Many a time at work, when I had a difficult managerial problem to solve, I stood infront of this painting to try to clear my head for a moment or two. I'm quite pleased that I have now found it and post it here for you to enjoy.

One thing though ...

I never worked out what that man on the extreme right facing the wall is doing. Any ideas?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

What's this Rembrandt?

In this art critique we consider Manny's suggestion "The Anatomy Lesson" by Rembrandt. In this oil on canvas dated 1632 we see Doctor Nicolaes Tulp explaining the "musculature of the arm" to other medical professionals.

Basically he had nothing better to do one day, and instead of carving a joint of meat and enjoy a good lunch with his family, he decided to cut a human being instead. He asked a short man living next door to him to volunteer for the experiment by paying him a few pence.

"Will it hurt?" asked the short man.

"No, it is a completely armless procedure!" replied the good doctor.

For good measure he invited a few other doctor friends mainly for amusement, but when they discovered that Rembrandt would also be there painting the whole event, several of the doctors paid good money to be included in the painting. Fortunately for Renbrandt they all looked the same with pointed beards, so he agreed for all of them to be there since he could copy paste their faces over and again. To distinguish Doctor Tulp though, he asked him to wear a hat.

Cutting people up to learn anatomy was a yearly event in Amsterdam, in Holland and this one is dated 16 Januray 1632. Usually an audience attended the event to make notes and learn about different parts of the body. Real blood was used because tomato ketchup had not yet been invented at the time.

As already mentioned, the doctor in question was called Tulp. Originally, his name was Tulip but in one of these operations he accidentally cut his I and was hence known as Tulp.

Since that sad incident he unfortunately was no longer able to tip toe through the tulips, or through anything else for that matter.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

What's this Rubens?

I am very pleased that this series of art critiques is proving popular judging by the number of new readers on my stats. But it is you, my loyal readers, to whom I should be grateful for your return visits, encouraging and often witty comments, and for suggesting artists and painters for me to research and critique.

I still owe Manny one more critique which I am currently working on. He has set me a real challenge I fear. 

But today we take a closer look at Sir Peter Paul Rubens as suggested by Mary. If you have not visited her Blog yet I urge you to do so. Mary has not been Blogging often lately but I assure you that when she does, whether it is a humourous post, or one of her serious devotionals, they are posts well worth reading. You can visit her HERE.


Peter Paul Rubens lived between 1577 and 1640 and was a very famous Flemish painter of the period.

He was a prolific artist and his works were mostly religious subjects, as well as a lot of mythological subjects, and hunt scenes. He also painted portraits of friends, as well as several landscapes. Basically, you name it, and he painted it. Except of course the garden gate and fence which remained un-painted despite being told and nagged many times by his wife. Believe me, I know the feeling; I have still to paint the garage door although in my opinion it looks fine ... you know how some women are? Always going on and on about the same thing ... I mean, I painted the wretched door three years ago. Why does it need re-painting?

Anyway, back to Rubens. He painted on canvas, slate as well as wood it seems. In fact he painted on anything except of course the wooden gate and fence which I've already mentioned. (I can hear voices in my head saying "Paint the garage door" - how can you switch your conscience off?)

Now one thing you'll notice about most of his paintings, (except landscapes), is that he had a special penchant, (fondness), for painting fully-rounded and plump women; hence the term "Rubensian" or "Rubenesque" to describe women of a certain size. None of these skinny models you see in modern magazines, for Rubens. They had to be fairly big and rotund. This is because he had a lot of flesh coloured paint to get rid off, and since no one paints gates and fences this colour he painted nudes instead.

In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, at the age of 53, Rubens married his 16 years old niece, Hélène Fourment.

You can see her in the painting above, known as "Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap", getting out of the bath. Most people would use a towel I suppose, but there were none available that day - so a fur wrap it was. As you can see, she is no skinny lady is she?

The young niece inspired the voluptuous figures in Rubens paintings from 1630 onwards. The most famous of which is "The Three Graces",

I'm not sure which one is Ruben's niece, but judging from the colour of her hair I'd guess it's the woman on the left.

Now I can understand a painter wishing to paint nudes, nothing wrong with that I suppose, especially if you have bought a lot of paint which you want to use up before its "sell-by" date. So, asking a few people to model for you is in this case acceptable, I guess. But to actually paint your own wife naked, and then display the painting for all to see ... Well, that's another matter.

Can you imagine him saying, as she steps out of the bath, "Hold it there, darling! Just wrap this piece of fur delicately around you, showing enough interesting bits ... Don't worry about the fur moulting. It was a mangy old dog anyway; and you can have another bath. Let me get my paint brush!"

And then displaying the finished painting is like a modern day man taking a photo of his wife naked and posting it on social media for all to see. How would you react I wonder?

Can you imagine the conversation in the supermarket when Rubens' young wife met her friends?

"Oh ... you have put on some weight dear? Especially on the derrière!"

Or ...

"It's a good painting really. You should be proud of your healthy features. Do you think your husband would paint me naked? I have a lovely tattoo on my bottom!"

You can add your own imagined discussions below; and also, suggest more masterpieces for me to research and critique.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What's this again Michelangelo?

Once again, I find myself writing a critique of one of Michelangelo's works. This marble statue represents the Biblical character David; you know the one? The boy who went to fight and killed the giant Goliath.

For a start, I put it to you that this is totally inaccurate and Michelangelo must have been on the vino again when he sculpted it. David definetly did not go out fighting Goliath in the nude. Had he done so the crowd would have taken many photos with their cell-phones and posted them on social media. So, grow up Michelangelo and enough of all these nudes!

Now I am sure that as you look, or marvel, at this marble masterpiece of the Renaissance period your eyes will immediately focus, as did mine, on one focal point.

What exactly is David carrying on his shoulder? I looked at the statue from every angle eyes fixed at the left hand, (most of the time), and I could not work out what he is holding. Suggestions please!

Apparently the statue was created between 1501 and 1504. Can you imagine? Three years for a model to stand naked in the great outdoors with no clothes on? He was obviously freezing cold when the work was eventually completed ... with all that marble all over the place.

Monday, 10 November 2014

What's this Van Gogh?

When first I started my series of critiques of oil paintings the intention was to find "odd" or unusual paintings thereupon one can see the humourous side behind the unintended original reason for undertaking the painting itself.

Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd say, or write, without a shot or two of whisky. I'd better read it again and see if it makes sense to me. Hmmm ... yes it does. It means that at first I was trying to be a little funny about odd paintings like the nude woman in Manet's having a picnic with two fully dressed men.

But then I discovered more serious paintings like the beautiful Murillo I spoke of yesterday; and I asked you, my readers, (both of you), to suggest some "interesting" paintings for me to research. 

I am very grateful to Lulu  who suggested Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Now try as I might, I find it very difficult to say something funny about Van Gogh or this oil on canvas painted in June 1889.

The artist in question had a very difficult life and this particular painting shows the view from the east-facing window of the asylum room where Van Gogh was staying at the time after the ear cutting incident.

I HEAR YA - says one of the regular visitors to this Blog.

Basically, what happened is that on 23 December 1888 Van Gogh had a breakdown and self-mutilated his  left ear. He voluntarily admitted himself to a lunatic asylum, as they were called at the time, on 8 May 1889, where he set up a painting studio and painted this scene from his barred window.

As most of you know, Don McLean sang a beautiful song about this particular painting and this artist. Before I let you enjoy it, (the video is great, I assure you), please remember to suggest some more "odd/interesting" paintings for me to review in this series. Thank you Lulu.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

What's this Murillo?

  The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
"Murillo, The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, about 1675-1682 Photo © The National Gallery, London”.


Four things of importance to note in this painting by Murillo. God in Heaven is looking down and blessing the Holy Family. Jesus responds to His Father by looking up to Heaven. Mary is looking at Jesus and perhaps thinking about the Son of God saving the world; whilst Joseph is looking at us, significant this, inviting us to join in the Holy Family.


Not much is known about Jesus’ childhood. The Bible records the story of His birth in Bethlehem and the early days of His life but not much more.

We are left to wonder what He was like as a baby. Crawling on the ground and then taking His first hesitant steps. I wonder what His first words were when He spoke.

One thing for sure though. He was much loved by His earthly parents, who devoted themselves to His up-bringing, until He was ready to start His work on earth as His Father willed.

Like most parents, they must have wished many good things for Him as He grew up, even though they knew who He really was and what His mission in this world was to be.

Mary, however, carried an additional burden in her heart. She knew from those early days what was to happen. Simeon in the temple had told her: “… sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart”. Luke 2:35. Joseph was there to witness it all.

Can you imagine what they went through as parents? Knowing of the torture and Crucifixion which Christ would suffer.

And Mary, endured that pain even more as she followed her Son on the way to Calvary.

Yet … despite all that. Despite knowing well ahead what was to happen, despite witnessing the Crucifixion for herself, one thing must have sustained Mary and encouraged her throughout her ordeal: the sure knowledge that Jesus was/is the Son of God and that He will rise again from the dead.

That thought alone should help us when we too go through difficult times. No matter how difficult our situation we should hold on to the fact that our Lord, the one we profess to love and follow, is the Son of God. By His death and Resurrection He has conquered evil once and for all.

And no matter what our situation may be, we can assuredly turn to Mary, and seek her help in bearing the difficulties we go through.

Book of Kells

Continuing my series of posts about paintings and art in general; in this illustration from the Book of Kells we see the four evangelists depicted as a man, eagle, ox and lion.

Do you know who is which? Click HERE and read Brian Gill's article "Bringing a Message of Hope and Love".

Friday, 7 November 2014

What's this Leonardo?

Following my last art critique of the famous painting by Manet, Lulu kindly responded to my request and suggested that I also do an expose on the painting the Mona Lisa.

At this point, and to go off at a very happy tangent, may I encourage you to visit Lulu's Blog. She writes from the heart and I always feel that her posts are genuine and straight-talking. Click HERE.

To get back to the Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda in Italian, or La Joconde in French, or the Mona Lisa in English, (I don't know what it's called in other languages), this is an oil painting on poplar by Leonardo da Vinci. Basically, it is a painting on a piece of wood which Leonardo found one day in the garage having finished painting the garden fence and gate. Apparently he had some paint left, and so as not to waste it, he decided to paint the young lady next door whilst her husband, Francesco del Giocondo, was on a business trip to Rome and the trains were running late that day.

Art experts and historians believe that the painting was painted between 1503 and 1506, although some claim that Leonardo may have still been working on it as late as 1517; which you must admit is a very long time for a person to sit still to be painted.

It is the best known and most visited painting in the world. It has been talked about more than any other painting and it was also sung about by Nat King Cole and others. The reason for this is the enigmatic smile on the lady's face.

"Why is she smiling?" experts have asked. "Is it because she's having her picture taken?" or "Is it because Leonardo, painting her, has forgotten that his trouser zipper is undone?"

After extensive research, and through many conversations with art experts in London, and a friend living in the house next door to where my aunt lives, I can reveal for the first time why the Mona Lisa is smiling so. The reason is so obvious and so simple that I'm astounded it escaped so many art experts over the years.

If the lady in question had to sit still from 1503 to 1506, or possibly 1517, she was quite simply grimacing because she wanted to go to the toilet.

It's as simple as that.

Let me know if there's any other unusual painting you'd like me to research for you.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

What's this Manet?


One of the many Blogs I visit from time to time is authored by Manny. I believe he is an engineer by profession, but I know full well that he is very well read. His posts cover many subjects, but he excels and surpasses himself when writing about literature. Try this post for example: CLICK HERE.

Not to be outdone, I thought I'd start a series of posts about art, to complement my already published series on history. (Click on the tab Giggles and Fun to read my history posts).

A few days ago I posted about Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco, (see, I can use arty words already), "The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Vegetation".

Today, we'll study Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe", also known as "The Luncheon on the Grass".

The first thing I noticed when I studied this wonderful oil on canvas, (more arty talk), is that it can't have been much of a luncheon, (or déjeuner), since there's no sight of any French Fries or chocolate milkshake. What kind of picnic is this without French Fries? Manet missed a trick there, but never mind.

The third thing I noticed, (the second being the subtle use of colours and the masterful brush strokes).

... As I was saying, the third thing I noticed is that we have here a naked lady having a picnic with two fully dressed men, whilst another half naked woman is having a wash in the river in the background.

At first I thought that it must have been very hot that day and she needed to cool down, but then, on reflection, I started to worry about any ants or insects that may be in the "herbe" in the vicinity.

I also noticed that the two men are happily talking to each other and totally ignoring the naked lady beside them; very uncharacteristic of most men I know.

Intrigued by all this I researched the painting a little more. I was surprised to discover that Manet' wife Suzanne Leenhoff posed for the naked woman, although the face on the painting is that of another model. Stranger still, the men sitting beside her are Manet's brother Gustave, and his brother-in-law Ferdinand Leenhoff.

You can imagine the conversation as they prepared to sit for the painting.

"Hello sister, you've put on some weight lately."

"It's all them French Fries that does it. Gustave, where have you put the French fries?"

"Édouard ate them. The milkshake too!"

And there you have it friends. An expose of Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe".

If there are any other artworks you would like me to research and critique, (another arty word), please let me know.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

What's this Michelangelo?

This Michelangelo painting from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is entitled The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Plants.

Now, I am not much of an art expert, but I can see clearly that the big orange circle is meant to be the sun, and the man exposing himself on the left is the moon, and the bit of green in the left corner are the plants. So what is the white circle by God's left hand?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A bit more country

This post is inspired by a Blog post written by Ceil Ryan. She really has a way with words. If you haven't visited her I suggest you do so HERE.

In her post Ceil mentions that she went hiking in the forest. So today, on a beautifully warm November day, I decided to go to a nature reserve not far from where we live ... and I took a camera with me.

So, with no commentary whatsoever ... enjoy!






Sunday, 2 November 2014

Michael peeved the boat ashore ...

This post is inspired by Michael, a fellow Blogger whose posts are always far better than mine will ever be.

A couple of weeks ago Michael wrote a brilliant post about his pet peeves when he is in church. You can read it HERE.

Well, this Sunday a similar thing happened at our church. We had a Baptism during Mass and as ever the church (and car park) were packed to the limit and more. There were many people whom I had never seen in church before; no doubt relatives and friends of the proud parents and even a few more besides.

Good, I bet God was happy to see the church so crowded. The priest too, judging from the collection plate.

We could not get to our usual seat so we decided to stand at the back. No problem there.

Throughout Mass, standing there at the back was a young lady wearing a very tight, (3 sizes too small I'd guess), black backless dress suitable for a night out at the theatre or a dance or party, rather than church. The backless dress hugged her every contour and it was so short that it barely covered the essential. It was  made of that type of material which somehow lifts the tight dress up whenever you walk.

Now I'm no fashion expert, but why do some women wear dresses made of that material? It must be uncomfortable as they walk for the dress to go for ever upwards.

Anyway, this young lady was carrying a small child in her arms and kept pacing up and down in front of us. Every so often she would stop and with one hand feebly and unsuccessfully try to pull the dress down again.

The child, like they all do when our sermons are extra long, as today's certainly was; I forgot a word that the priest said, you know ...

To continue, as I was saying before I interrupted my thoughts, the child began to cry. To soothe him the young woman stopped walking and rocked the baby gently up and down on her chest. As she did so her tight dress responded by raising the hemline up rhythmically at her every movement without her realising it.

I did not know where to look ... Actually I did, but I feared a sharp elbow in my ribs from you know who.

I pretended not to notice, but then, if I hadn't noticed, I would not be writing here about it; would I?
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