Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rubens: The Adoration of the Magi

Public Domain Image: ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ (1633-1634), oil on canvas painting by Peter Paul Rubens, 328 cm x 247 cm, located at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England, UK.

The Adoration of the Magi, the oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), depicts the Biblical episode as is given in the Gospel of Matthew's (2:11) in which ‘Three Wise Men’, or ‘wise men from the East’ visits the newborn Jesus Christ, though the number of men is not mentioned in Matthew's account.

Traditionally, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ in art, refers to the Nativity of Jesus and the visit of the Three Magi, who followed a star to find Jesus and visited him with gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold and worshipped him. The Orthodox Church celebrates The Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity (on Christmas day, December 25). The significance of the visit of the Biblical Magi is often taken to represent that from birth Jesus Christ was recognized as king of the earth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Claus Village Amusement Park

Public Doman Photo: Santa Claus Village Amusement Park, Arctic Circle, Finland

The Santa Claus Village is an amusement park located 2 km from the Rovaniemi Airport in the Lapland region of Finland. The significance of the park is that the Arctic Circle passes right through it. It is a very popular photo spot for tourists because the moment you cross a white line marked in the village, denoting the Arctic Circle, you have entered the Arctic area.

There are many interesting tourist attractions in Santa Claus Village, including the Santa Claus's Office where visitors can chat with Santa and take photos with him during ‘office hours’, and several shops and restaurants where you can purchase souvenirs and other items related to Santa Claus.

Gustav Klimt: Litzlberg am Attersee

Public Domain Image: Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzberg on the Attersee) oil painting of 1914-1915 by Gustav Klimt

Yet another Nazi-looted Gustav Klimt painting ‘Litzlberg am Attersee’(Litzberg on the Attersee), the image of which can be seen above fetched $40.4m at an auction at Sotheby's in New York in November 2011, after it was returned to the rightful owner by the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria.

Litzlberg am Attersee, painted in 1914-1915 by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), features the scenes on the shores of Lake Attersee in Austria. Litzlberg is an island of the lake.

Since 1900, during the summers, Klimt usually visited a château at Litzlberg in Lake Attersee (also known as the Kammersee), the largest lake of the Salzkammergut area of Austria.

The landscape, inspired by pointillism and painted just before Klimt’s death, shows his perfect mastery of color and visual imagery through dots and brushstrokes, though it is just a routine painting that he used to produce during his visits of Attersee. Klimt is reported to have painted over fifty landscapes, mostly inspired by the area around Lake Attersee, especially in the last years of his life.

During the Second World War, the Nazis looted ‘Litzlberg am Attersee’ from the house of the Austrian Jewish woman Amalie Redlich after deporting her to Poland in October 1941. She was later killed in a Nazi concentration camp. Georges Jorisch, her ten-year-old grandson, escaped from Vienna with his father when the Nazis captured the city. The young Jorisch and his father had to spend two years in a cellar in Brussels, hiding, to escape capture by the Nazis.

After 1941, the Salzburg-based art collector and dealer Friedrich Welz the acquired the painting. Later he exchanged it against another work of art with Salzburg’s modern art museum (Museum der Moderne Salzburg).

Recently, Jorisch, who retired as a camera shop manager in Montreal, Canada, succeeded in convincing Museum der Moderne Salzburg that he is the lawful sole heir to ‘Litzberg on the Attersee’ which once had hung on the wall of the apartment of his grandmother Amalie Redlich.

The museum returned the painting, which had an estimated value of €30m (£26m) then, to Jorish in early 2011, but, after Jorisch promised to donate €1.3m (£1.1m) to the museum to construct an extension which would be named after Amalie Redlich. In November 2011, at an auction at Sotheby's in New York, the landscape painting was bought by the Zurich-based art dealer David Lachenmann on behalf of an anonymous client.

The return of this painting by the museum reminds one of the history of the seven-year long legal battle fought by the late Maria Altmann (18 Feb 1916 – 7 Feb 2011) against the Austrian government, claiming five Gustav Klimt paintings belonging to her family and looted by the Nazis. She finally won the case and retrieved the paintings which were sold in auction for a total of $327m for the five paintings, making it the most expensive single lot return of Nazi-looted art by Austria.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ISS Expedition 16 crew members pose for Christmas photo in Zvezda

Public Domain Photo: International Space Station’s Expedition 16 crew members (from left) Russian cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko (flight engineer), US astronauts Peggy A. Whitson (commander) and Daniel Tani (flight engineer) pose for Christmas photos in the Zvezda Service Module on 25 December 2007 - Source: NASA

El Greco: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio)

Public Domain Image: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio), oil on canvas painting (1577-1579) by Spanish artist El Greco, 173 cm (68.1 in) x 285 cm (112.2 in), located at Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, Spain.

The oil painting titled ‘The Disrobing of Christ (El Expolio)’ was created between 1577 and 1579 by the Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco (1541-1614) for the High Altar of the Sacristy of the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, Spain, where it is located now.

The painting features Jesus Christ in a bright red robe gazing at the Heaven amidst a violent crowd of people who are about to crucify him. A man points an accusing finger at Christ, while two others are arguing, and some others are making disturbing gestures and creating chaos all around. While Christ, the dominating central figure is in a serene composure, a person wearing a green dress holds a rope tied to Christ’s right hand, while trying to disrobe him for his crucifixion. Another man in yellow and white dress drills a hole on the cross for driving a nail through one of Christ's hands.

Apart from the usual crucifixion scene figures, El Greco also painted The Three Marys (Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, often considered the same woman as the disciple Salome), who are featured in distress and contemplating on the unfolding unbearable scene of crucifixion of Jesus.

While The Disrobing of Christ is considered one of El Greco’s most famous works, some art writers and critics consider it his masterpiece. The painting was highly acclaimed and over 17 versions of it are known to exist, some in reduced sizes and other versions painted by El Greco himself.

However, the Cathedral authorities did not appreciate the painting very much, mainly because of the depiction of The Three Marys in the painting and for painting the heads of other people above the head of Jesus. Reportedly they refused El Greco payment for his work and the artist had to go to arbitration after which he was awarded part payment of his claim.