27 January 2015

In recovery: English double-headed eagles

The Luttrell Psalter was created between 1320 and 1340, at the commission of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, lord of the Manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire. It is full of wonderful images which include the best dragon ever painted, and amazingly detailed pictures of daily life.

What I want to know is: Why did Sir Geoffrey want – did he want it or did the artist want it? – this painting with double-headed eagles? These look like imperial-central European eagles, and the double-headed eagle was also an emblem of the Hanseatic league.  Does the coach indicates a visit by central European royalty via the Baltic and North Seas to the Hanseatic port of Boston on the English coast (27 miles from the Luttrells), and then a Luttrell escort to London.

Can some reader answer this question?

20 January 2015

In recovery: St. Peter and the baby

Pietro Lorenzetti, 1310-1320.  Seattle Art Museum.

 Saint Peter and Saint Paul rarely, if ever, smile.  In fact, do people in paintings ever smile at the baby Jesus?  This triptych, however, shows a gentle merriment across the three panels.  The triptych also suggests that, even if presented on individual panels, some of this type of painting may have been done of people posing together, rather than alone.

Look at the baby.  He is cranky, tired, and about to snuggle into his mother, except that he has been distracted.  

Peter is jingling his keys and wiggling the fingers of his right hand. The baby looks back at him.  Their eyes connect.  The mother is tired, too, but she is trying to keep her pose for Lorenzetti.  She starts to glance at the keys. 

Now look at Paul.  He is grinning, and his eyes focus directly on Peter's keys.  The three panels are held together by the four sets of eyes.  

If you look at this panel, Peter and Paul's eyes are looking at Christ's hand, and the key and sword are much more prominent. Peter and Paul are the same type, but there is not the flash of a moment's interaction that we have in this triptych.

13 January 2015

In recovery: The woman in a hurry

This wonderful 17th-century Dutch painting narrates a fragment of a story about a woman in a hurry whom we cannot see. 

We are standing in a room that looks through the pantry, the front hall, and into a formal parlor. We see the elaborate wrought-iron handle and latch on the door we would go through into the pantry, the fine frame on the pantry door with a string of onions (there is another string of onions on the other side of the door, a towel, then the light from the front door into the hallway, and then the door which has just been unlocked opening into the parlor . 

The woman we cannot see is in a hurry, but we will take some time to look at the details she sees a hundred times a day.  Such as the backsplash tiles around the base of the pantry wall where the water splashes when someone is scrubbing the tiled floor with that broom.

17th-C tiles very like these are for sale on eBay. They have the common oxhead tile motif in the corners as do the backsplash tiles. 

The front door is hinged on the left, as you are coming in, and judging from the shadow it casts, the woman left it half-open.  She took off her shoes in the hallway and left them on the doormat, before going into the parlor.  

She is coming back immediately, as she did not take the time to put her shoes away, and she has left her keys in the parlor door. 

This is a moderately well-off household. They have a gilded leather chair -- possibly more than one of them, and at least one high-quality painting in which a lady possesses considerable affluence of her own. (Look at all that red fabric in the bed canopy, tablecloth, and upholstery.) She seems to be about to undress for the benefit of the gentleman to her left, but she will do so slowly. She has no need to hurry.

The unseen woman who is hurrying has left other signals of affluence and haste in the parlor.  She owns a cloth-of-gold table cover with a fringed and embroidered edge.  There is another painting whose content we cannot see.  Someone has put an open book face-down on the table, and whoever pinched out the candle flame knocked the candle crooked. 

The unseen woman will be back in a moment, lock the door to the parlor, slip on her outdoor shoes -- never glancing in our direction, and go back out, closing off the light from the hallway, and we will never know why she is in such a hurry.

06 January 2015

My left thumb

If all goes as planned, this blog will appear on 6 January to announce the surgery on my left thumb, a procedure called Resection Arthroplasty. As you can see in this X-ray, there is no padding, no cartilage, between the base of the metacarpal (the long bone of the thumb) and the corner of the trapezium at the carpometacarpal joint.  The thumb has slid to the right, there are bone spurs growing around it, and every movement is extremely painful.  The number of things I haven't been able to do with my hands has been increasing.  For more than a year, I have not been able to move my thumbs under the other fingers when playing the harpsichord.  Any pulling on clothes can become an agony. Picking up a book or holding a wine glass hurts. Tying a shoelace is like being a kindergartner again. It is a risk to try to lift a large pan for the oven.  I have three different kinds of gloves for protection and support.

I have been promised that once I recover from the surgery -- 2 weeks in a hard cast, 4 weeks in a splint, lots of therapy for 2-3 months -- I will have nearly complete use of the thumb again, and no pain.  Then I will have to schedule the same procedure for the right thumb, something that will be much more complicated, as I am almost exclusively right-handed.

There is an ingenious technique involved in this surgery.  They will take some of the tendon that runs along the arm and up to the ball of the thumb, just beside those blue veins at the wrist.  Part of the tendon they attach to the metacarpal , and then to the next metacarpal to anchor it.  Then the rest of the tendon is made into a little pillow to fill the space left when they remove the trapezium.

The procedure takes about one and a half hours, then more time is required for going into and coming out of anesthesia.  I should be home in time for lunch.

Later: home well before lunchtime, but we ate early.