Monday, March 31, 2008

Creative, or just a copy

From the anonymous copy owned by the Prado through the Mona Lisa like Raphael, Picasso, Leger, etc. Are these, too, cold and lonely works of art?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Last week's Word of the Week at Oxford University Press blog:

Word: skeuomorph [SKYOO-oh-morf] a decoration that takes its form from the nature of the material used or the method used to make it. The word is also used for an object that copies the design of a similar object made in another material-- a plastic Adirondack chair would be a skeuomorph. From Greek words meaning 'form' and 'vessel.'

So ANYTHING copied in plastic is a skeuomorph. Like those vinyl boots that have seam-marks molded right into them because they are copies of leather ones. Those plastic Japanese laundry baskets with the marks of woven reeds molded into them. Len suggests a veggie burger: it looks like meat, it's really not. And Krab made from fish paste and colored to look like crab legs.

I wonder about "takes its form from the nature of the material used" -- would this include a ram's horn made into a sound producing device; that is, a shofar? Chain-saw sculpture made out of a tree? Chia pets? A coffee table made of a tree root?

The poor Greeks: they didn't have plastic, I guess they were thinking of gourds made into drinking vessels, or ceramic drinking vessels made to look like gourd vessels. (If the word really does date back to the Greeks, rather than having been made up from Greek roots more recently.)

I'm afraid actually using this wonderful word would be wildly ostentatious. Too bad.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hip or Straight?

From my Mona Lisa Files.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For a Change

The un- Mona Lisa!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cat or Cow?

Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely work of art?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Books of Jocondological Interest

Illustration from Art Dog by Thatcher Hurd

Illustration from Faith Ringgold's Dancing at the Louvre

Art for Beginners by Dani Cavallaro, illustrated by Carline Vago-Hughes

Back cover, Leonardo Visits Los Angeles by Greg Constantine

More Mona Lisas to come, I'm a dedicated jocondophile.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mona Lisa Objects

For more Mona Lisa objects see: Jocondologie

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Will in the World"

Shakespeare's lifetime was full of events as compelling as those in his plays. Any author, however, claims at his peril that he knows exactly how reality and Shakespeare's fictions line up. In Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare author Stephen Greenblatt presents the real events in a most fascinating way. Then he quite frankly speculates on how Shakespeare reflected them in his poetry and plays.

Some questions will never be answered. Many authors have pondered them, sometimes rather trivially, sometimes, as in this book, in a thought-provoking way. Was there a real lover -- a man who inspired Shakespeare to write the early sonnets? A real dark lady for the later sonnets? Did the trial of the secret Jew Roderigo Lopez influence the creation of Shylock? Are the witches in Macbeth related to the witches in the deep and disturbed fears of King James? How did the death of Hamnet, Shakespeare's young son, relate to the creation of Prince Hamlet?

Greenblatt is most interesting when describing the complexities of life under Queen Elizabeth. The tension over the perceived Catholic menace, the residual Catholic faith among many inhabitants of the realm, the yearning that some felt because of the loss of Catholic ritual -- all are shown to be interesting topics in themselves, all most interestingly tied to the content of the plays.

I love the way Shakespeare's early life is connected, speculatively, to his career. For example, I enjoyed the discussion of whether Shakespeare had a history as a deer poacher at Sir Thomas Lucy's deer park at Charlecote near Stratford (shown in a photo from our visit in 2000). Then I enjoyed the speculation of what this did to Shakespeare: "Throughout Shakespeare's career as a playwright he was a brilliant poacher -- deftly entering into territory marked out by others, taking for himself what he wanted, and walking away with his prize under the keeper's nose." (Will in the World, p. 152)

Ultimately, the book also is most interesting for its interpretation of the plays. For example, I like this:
Macbeth leaves the weird sisters unpunished but manages to implicate them in a monstrous threat to the fabric of civilized life. The genius of the play is bound up with this power of implication, by means of which the audience can never quite be done with them, for they are most suggestively present when they cannot be seen, when they are absorbed into the ordinary relations of everyday life. If you are worried about losing your manhood and are afraid of the power of women, it is not enough to look to the bearded hags on the heath, look to your wife. If you are worried about temptation, fear your own dreams. If you are anxious about your future, scrutinize your best friends. And if you fear spiritual desolation, turn your eyes on the contents not of the hideous cauldron but of your skull: 'O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!' (3.2.37)" (Will in the World, p. 355)

All this snow is getting boring...

... but maybe it will all melt soon. At least it's a little warmer today and the giant ice dam in our driveway is clear. That's thanks to Lenny lifting huge ice boulders after breaking them up with a shovel. What a bad winter it's been!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Theft of Mona Lisa

More of my old cards of Mona Lisa.

I have never been certain about the date of issue of the four cards above. They depict in sequence: "Once upon a time there was a portrait of a woman called 'La Joconde'..." continuing as the thief (barefoot), runs away as the guard sleeps; then as a painter paints "The 4 Nails from La Joconde, ordered by an American;" and finally show how the thief sleeps with the stolen painting.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old Mona Lisas: Another side of Jocondologie

My antique Mona Lisa postcards almost all date from the time of the famous theft of the painting from the Louvre. The one above is labeled "La Joconde" and notes that the painting disappeared from the Louvre on August 21, 1911. The next one adds the recovery date: December 12, 1913, in Florence.
During the year and a half that the painting was missing, a number of satirical postcards played on the disappearance. The next one "prays" to St. Anthony of Padua. In the blank spot was an invisible ink Mona Lisa that apparently appeared when heated (on the back, is some soot from a candle). On the actual card, you can see a very, very faint image of her face.
Two more satiric cards with silly verses. The second one promises "I will come back when chickens have teeth."

More to come...