Tuesday, 21 August 2012

How to impress your arty friends

    Philippe Daverio is a French-Italian-German art critic, lecturer and journalist who gained notoriety for making some of the best cultural TV programmes in the disheartening and famously pagethree-like landscape of italian television.
 His erudite conversations can spark interest in the most seemingly dull subjects. He is terribly good at putting art into context, relating it to history and economy or other art forms such as literature, music and design, and has a vast knowledge of anything mittle-european.
    Dressed in his trademark bow tie, he spices up his TV shows with cheeky anecdotes, and can talk with the same passion and erudition about a painting by Raffaello and a French musical organ.

   This year he has published a very entertaining and pleasant book, Il Museo Immaginato. He plays at designing an ideal museum where he can hang any work of art. He went as far as sketching every room of his virtual institution, that is designed like a house and includes for example a kitchen ( with works by Zurbaran, Cotan, Campi, Rembrandt ), a cellar ( Velasquez, who else?), he selected Veronese for the dining room and so on.  There are a few lines for each work, crammed with information and ideas.

   Do you want to appear as scholarly snob as Mr Daverio himself ? Here are some expressions I picked up in the book that you can carelessly drop in your arty conversation !

HANCHEMENT ( or Contrapposto): the body posture of classic sculpture where the weight is supported by one leg ( Standbein, let's throw in some German too) while the other (Spielbein) is relaxed. Useful also to describe Cranach's ladies posture.

DRANG NACHT SÜDEN: it's the pull towards the South. Barbaric hordes felt it, and Goethe of course but why not apply it to all the Gran Tourists and to the northerners dwelling in the Riviera, such as Matisse ?

VERGISSEMEINNICHT: what? Do you still call this humble blue flower from Durer's Annunciation forget-me-not ? Then you wouldn't be referencing the importance of it in medieval German culture as a symbol of enduring love and, later, freemasonry.

MENUS PLAISIRS : No, this is not found in restaurants, it's the part of the royal household that would have organised, say, Wills & Kate's wedding. The Duke in charge for the Menus Plaisirs was in charge, for example,  for the design of porcelains or ephemeral decorations, fireworks and music.

NICCHIO: that's a scallop, but not in its edible form. The Coquille Saint Jaques was the symbol of Saint James, it's were Botticelli's Venus stands and is seen in many architectural niches ( hence the name) both painted in trompe l'oeil or sculpted. Piero della Francesca has genially reversed it in his Pala di Brera and made it into a striking element from which an ostrich egg ( at the time though of as hermaphrodite, so self-fecundated) is hanging.

WUNDERKAMMER: of course you already know about this cabinet of wonders that was the favourite guilty pleasures of princes and dukes all over Europe. Who was the trend-setter?  It was the typically prognathous Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II , who had withdrawn to his castle in Prague and was curing his melancholy with compulsive collectionism.

FLOHPELTZ: It's that soft and luxurious fur worn by Parmigianino's young girl and many other painted ladies; apparently it was used to attract lice and fleas away from the body and head. I confess I might have a jacket with a furry collar... seems much less nice now.

ACCROCHAGE: You are not really still calling it the museum's "display", are you?

DAS LAND WO DIE ZITRONEN BLÜHN: Goethe again, speaking about Italy, the land where lemons bloom.  Stick some French in your sentences and you are sophisticated, but try German and you'll be... übercool

Here is part 1 of Daverio introducing his book ( in Italian)

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