Monday, January 23, 2017

National Gallery and Trafalgar Square

Along our walk to Trafalgar Square
There are such beautiful little vignettes that open up along our walks revealing segments of history and life in London.  Today was the first foggy day, but still no rain.

National Gallery across Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, once the King's mews, marks the division between the wealthier west end of London and the poorer east end.  The government felt that by placing the National Gallery here, it would be accessible to all Londoners.  The current building is the 3rd home for the collection.

Interesting about the National Gallery is that, unlike other European national museums, it was not formed by nationalizing an existing royal or princely art collection. The British royal collection remains in the hands of the royal family.  The collection began when the British government bought 38 paintings from John Angerstein and opened it to the public in his townhouse.  While the collection is not as expansive in holdings, it is as comprehensive as any other major museum.  The works are magnificent.  We spent our time in the Sainsbury wing which holds 13th-15th century paintings.  

The Wilton Diptych

Of particular interest was the Wilton Diptych, an extremely rare survival of early English medieval painting. Most religious pieces from this period were destroyed by the Puritan iconoclasm.  On the left panel Richard II kneels as he is presented to the Virgin Mary and the Christ child on the right panel.  We have been watching the Richard II episode of The Hollow Crown which traces Richard's reign and fall.  In the play, John of Gaunt speaks of the Precious Stone set in a Silver Sea (England). The timely finding of this diptych brought history to life and reality to drama.

Mars and Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Recently, I've been seeing a lot of art that reminds me of the current administration in DC.  Mars and Venus again roused such feelings.  In the painting Venus watches Mars sleep. The meaning of the picture is that love conquers war, or love conquers all.  Such was the message of the Women's marches this week: love beats hate.  
More pics at flickr.