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An Elephant in Rome & my art week

I had no idea that TV chef and pasta sauce entrepreneur Loyd Grossman was an erudite art historian who had studied art at Magdalene College Cambridge.

He has written a well-researched account of the baroque sculptor and painter Bernini whose works have so enhanced Rome.

Bernini was patronised by the Papacy in general and Pope Alexander V11 in particular.

Pope Alexander was concerned to make Rome as artistically attractive as popular but not for spiritual reasons.

Rome and the Vatican prospered from pilgrims and visitors; he wished to counter the Protestant Northern Reformation; he wished to glorify his own family.

Bernini was a shrewd businessman as well as a master carver.

He masterminded the colonnade at St Peter’s Square, carved his own statue of David and oversaw a statue of an elephant with an obelisk on his back outside the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva near Piazza Navona.

The book concentrates on this statue – that of David scarcely gets a mention – and no photograph but there is a helpful walking guide around all the obelisks of Rome, a city that has more Egyptian obelisks than Egypt itself.

All in all a stimulating read in lockdown.

Our art course on perceptions of non-Western art continued this Thursday with China and Japonisme.

The theme was the influence of Japan upon artists like Lautrec , Monet and Van Gogh.

As for China that country was producing landscape paintings 1000 years before Poussin and Claude.

Sadly the lesson was marred by one person who used the open interactive session at the end to deliver a party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party.

Quite why these types should imagine their trenchantly assertive views are of any interest to an art group I know not.

This lady’s theme was that the arts only flourish only under a Labour government citing the Festival of Britain 1951 (Clement Attlee PM ) and The Dome c.2000 (Tony Blair PM).

This is a highly questionable assertion  but as the person held forth I was reminded of Hilaire Belloc’s couplet on the Swiss:

Behold the Alpine race

with its bold and stupid face …

For this perfectly described this woman’s porcine features as she held forth. I also thought of one of my late mother’s observation:

I hate people with principles. It’s always their principles.

About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts