Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In front of Jollife Hall.

Nature by Numbers

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag

By Alan Bradley ( A Flavia de Luce Mystery)

The title from a poem by Sir Walter Raleigh

I loved this quote!

"Althought he was a very great musician, and a wizard composer of symphonies, Beethoven was quite often a dismal failure when it came to ending them. The Fifth was a perfect case in point... It (the ending) was like a bit of flypaper stuck to your finger that you couldn't shake off.The bloody thing clung to life like a limpet. I remembered that Beethoven's symphonies had sometimes been given names: the Eroica, the Pastoral, and so forth. They should have called this one the Vampire, because it simply refused to lie down and die."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Taste for Dutch

Rembrandt's 'Night Watch'. The painting may be more properly titled The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. It is on prominent display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and is its most famous painting.
Rembrandt belonged to the Saint Luke's Guild. The guild of Saint Luke was the most common name for a city guild for painters and other artists in early modern Europe, especially in the Low Countries. They were named in honor of the Evangelist Luke, the patron saint of artists, who was identified by John of Damascus as having painted the Virgin's portrait.

'The Art of Painting' Jan Vermeer.
The Art of Painting, also known as The Allegory of Painting, and or Painter in his Studio, is a famous 17th century oil on canvas painting by Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer. Many art historians believe that it is an allegory of painting, hence the alternative title of the painting. It is the largest and most complex of all of Vermeer's works.

The Laughing Cavalier
Frans Hals (c. 1580 – 26 August 1666) was a Dutch Golden Age painter especially famous for portraiture. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Hals was also instrumental in the evolution of 17th century group portraiture.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring, March 2010

The tree across the street in the Cook's yard is in full blossom.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living Sculpture

The stories behind the art:

The proportions are not quite true to the human form; the head and upper body are somewhat larger than the proportions of the lower body. The hands are also larger than would be in regular proportions. One explanation is that the statue was originally intended to be placed on a church façade or high pedestal, and that the proportions would appear correct when the statue was viewed from some distance below.

This is a copy of the statue standing in the original location of David, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans
Little Dancer of fourtten years:

The original wax model was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1956. Beginning in 1985, Mr and Mrs Mellon gave the US National Gallery of Art 49 Degas waxes, 10 bronzes and 2 plasters, the largest group of original Degas sculptures, among them this sculpture.

Degas' heirs (wife and daughter) made the decision to have 27 of them cast in bronze. The casting went on at the Hébrard foundry in Paris from 1920 until the mid-20th Century, producing the posthumous Degas bronzes that can be seen in many museums.

Like many of Rodin's best-known individual sculptures, including The Thinker, the embracing couple depicted in The Kiss sculpture appeared originally as part of a group of reliefs decorating Rodin's monumental bronze portal The Gates of Hell, commissioned for a planned museum of art in Paris. The museum was never built.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Stunning! I will defer to ny Cyber Friend's review, since I agree with her wonderful review. This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I read a review of this book last weekend,
downloaded it from Audible, have spent the last few days glued to my iPod until its battery ran down (twice), and finished it late last night.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling books I have ever
read. It's not just that it's well-written, but that the subject matter
is so unbelievable and staggering and has such implications from our
medical past, and for the future of medicine.

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman living in rural Virginia in the 1940s and 50s. A wife and mother of five, she died at the age of 31 at Johns Hopkins medical center, in the black ward, of cervical cancer. A few months before she died, her doctor retrieved a tissue sample from her cervix and gave it to one of his assistants --something they did routinely at this teaching and research
center-- to place the cells into a culture and see if they could grow and replicate. Such cells usually died in a matter of hours, but if they could be kept alive, were increasingly useful in the new field of virology.

Henrietta’s cells lived.

As was the practice then, they named this new cell line HeLa, using first letters from both of her names. HeLa cells were so robust, and replicated so fast, that their use has revolutionized medicine. From the moment the doctors at Johns Hopkins started using them, and giving them out to other researchers to use, they began to spread exponentially, and the infant arm of research known as virology—the
use of human cells to study medical conditions, treatments, cures, and now genetics-- grew with them. HeLa cells are now so prevalent and common in medicine that nearly every researcher in the world has touched them, and they’ve gone up in space. They have been bought and sold, replicated and shipped worldwide. They have unfortunately also contaminated other cell lines, causing uncounted millions of dollars in damage to vital research.

And for over 40 years, her family never knew. Science writer Rebecca Skloot heard snippets of information which got her interested in the HeLa cells, realized the significance of their story, and spent more than 10 years researching and composing this book, interviewing Nobel laureates, pharmaceutical techs and CEOs, lawyers and medical ethicists, and most importantly, the family of Henrietta Lacks. She’s done a brilliant job weaving Henrietta’s story, those of her children, and the progress of science and the HeLa cells, into a moving, iveting, personal narrative. Her access to and eventual closeness with Henrietta’s children was a dangerous course for a journalist needing objectivity to tell this story, but she handled it well. I may even forgive her for making me cry.

Skloot is particularly good about the clarity of her scientific explanations for the layman, and the timeline of important scientific events and discoveries made by the use of HeLa cells. And in a strong Afterword, her even-handed examination of the legal and moral ramifications of human tissue handling, and the desperate need of science to have access to human tissue to serve the needs of
us all, is thought-provoking in the extreme. I can’t get it out of my mind, in fact, and will probably be thinking about it and discussing it for the rest of my life.
It’s that important.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Secret Lives of Paintings

Simonetta Vespucci painted by Sandro Botticelli. He was reported to be in love with her, and when she died at a young age (24?) he was devastated. Subsequently he used her image on Primavera (Venus on the half-shell)

In Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.:

The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England. Originally designed by the interior architect Thomas Jeckyll to display Leyland's extensive collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, the room was radically redecorated in 1876 and 1877 by the American-born artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), whose painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain hung over the mantel. Although he was at first merely asked for advice about what color to paint the shutters and doors, Whistler took over and eventually transformed the entire room into a "harmony in blue and gold," adorning its shutters with gorgeous golden peacocks and painting every inch of the ceiling and leather-covered walls with a pattern of peacock feathers. Leyland was shocked by the unauthorized redecoration and refused to pay the full amount that Whistler demanded for his efforts. In response to the contentious lawsuit that ensued, Whistler painted two peacocks squabbling over a bag of coins at the far end of the room--and he never saw his masterpiece again.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Artistic Endeavors

Yesterday's Art Talk was about 'Scandals, Schemes and Scalawags. By Mary Ellet Sweeney.

Georges De La Tour: The Fortune Teller

Young fop, having his fortune told and being robbed by the Gypsies at the same time.

Edward Manet: Luncheon on the Grass

Public was appalled, in part because they knew exactly who the three people in the forground were. Mary compared it to seeing Joan Foster naked, and two city councilmen clothed.

John Singer Sargent: Madame X

Madam X (Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau) was originally painted with one strap hanging down over her shoulder. Public was so upset at the first showing, that he re-painted the strap as above. Mary said that she was famous for being famous, like Paris Hilton. I recently read a novel of the incident: 'Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the fall of Madame X' by Deborah Davis.