Sunday, May 17, 2015

Common glassware in Dutch Still Life painting during the Golden Age – Jugs.

This is a continuation of the series about glassware in Dutch paintings.  It is time for Jugs – These were made of ceramic either white, white and blue or brown looking more earthenware. They had a metal (pewter) cap attached to the handle and can be opened by pressing a thumb-lever just like a German stein today. The jugs were used for both beer or white wine. Vermeer used a white one for “The Music Lesson”, “The Sleeping Maid”, “this beautiful white-blue one for “The Procuress” and “Girl interrupted at her music” amongst others.

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Johannes Vermeer – The Procuress - @ GemäldegalerieAlteMeister of Dresden, Germany

@ the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

My own

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Selecting and Arranging Objects to convey messages in modern Vanitas images. Prose statements in Vanitas.

Most people think that Vanitas images are “dark”, which; if you have been reading my blog you would know by now that this is not the case. Vanitas paintings were about the existing strict moral code in Calvinist Dutch Republic not about “Goth culture/subculture”.

Vanitas were very popular and many Dutch painters made a living from them. Antoine Steenwick, Peter Claesz, Harmen Steenwyck, David Bailly, Willem Calaesz Heda, Jan Davidsz De Heem and others.

After reading and researching a lot about the Dutch Golden Age, my own take is that Vanitas paintings were popular because the wealthy used them as pre-emptive “show off” pieces. That is, to tell the world about their awareness of the moral decay that can accompany wealth (specially unearned wealth). By hanging one of these pieces in their homes, the wealthy wanted to tell visitors “although I am rich, I follow our moral code (I have God teachings present in my life) and I am aware that wealth is temporary”.

Once you understand this, it is a lot easier to compose images that follow that line of thought. Here are good examples.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Common glassware in Dutch Still Life painting during the Golden Age, the Flute and Venetian glass

These were tall flute glasses normally shown with wine or beer. Pieter Claesz and Willem Claesz Heda used them quite often as shown in his still life “Breakfast with crab” at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia (one of the few World’s top museums I haven’t visited) and ”Ham and Silverware”. The one I used in my “Still Life a la Kalf” is made in Sweden according to the traditions of the times. The one shown at right can be seen at the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

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Willem Claesz Heda – Breakfast piece with a Lobster (1648)

@ Getty Museum

My own replica

See it here in a “Vermeer-Kalf” scene

Venetian glass – As its name indicate, these were made in Venice and easily identifiable by the ornate symmetrical “wings” at each side of the stem. The glass itself was quite thin and therefore fragile, no wonder they are really rare and as you can guess very expensive. The glass is shown tipped over in the first image from a Pieter Claesz painting.

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Pieter Claesz -Banquet piece @ Getty Museum

@ the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

My own improvised glass

Monday, November 24, 2014

Common glassware in Dutch Still Life painting during the Golden Age, the Pass Glass A.k.a Pala glass

Another very common object in the Dutch Still Life paintings. These were usually octagonal glasses that were used for beer in drinking games. The glass had a blue glass swirl going around that was used to measure the beer in it. The glass was passed on from player to player (hence their name). The player in turn had to drink from measure to measure in one gulp, if he missed (no women were allowed) then he had to do it again. Here are some examples of pass glasses in Dutch Paintings. The last “photo-painting”  shows my own in one of my still lifes.

Since I could not find a real pass glass I had to “make” mine. I found a tall glass and I devised the swirl around it. The swirls is transparent but I could easily turn it blue, which I did for another glass…stay tune, it will be  included in this winter’s Still life run.

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Rembrandt Van Rijn (1637) @ Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of Dresden, Germany

Pieter Claesz – Still Life with Drinking Vessels

My own….

Rembrandt is holding one of these in his well-known Rembrandt and Saskia in the Scene of “the Prodigal Son in the Tavern” (first picture from left to right). Experts believe that the glass was cheap in the XVII Century which explains why you can see it in a Tavern.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Common glassware in Dutch Still Life painting during the Golden Age, the Berkemeyer.

Berkemeyer – This German/Dutch glass was definitely popular in Holland at the time and it was included very often in still life paintings of the time. It looks very similar to a roemer, both being hollow with a thick stem; however the Berkemeyer top is a conical bowl whether the Roemer is oval. Berkemeyers are the most commonly found glass from the Seventeenth century, at the time was customary to hold it by the foot as shown in these details from Vermeer’s “The Glass of Wine” (at left) or Frans Hals “The Merry Drinker” at right.

Some examples of Berkemeyers
@ Getty Museum, Los Angeles
@ Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
My own …replica from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
In a “Vermeer” theme photo painting. Tip over as a symbol of fleeting life.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Common glassware in Dutch Still Life painting during the Golden Age, the Roemer.

Never before or even after has Still Life painting being as popular as during the XVII Century Dutch Republic also known as the Golden Age. Still life painting developed different styles, little breakfast (ontbijts); banquets (banketjes); ostentatious (pronks), flower bouquets, vanitas etc. Most of these styles used glassware, sometimes because their texture (as a way for the artist to showcase his skills), sometimes to provide a symbol (broken or tipped over glass) or sometimes just as a recipient as in flower bouquets.
These glasses appear over and over again in the paintings of Piter Claesz, Pieter Claeszoom Heda, Willem Kalf, Jan Davidsz de Heem, Abraham Van Beyeren, Clara Peeters, Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Frans Hals, Rembrard Van Rijn and other masters. However the still life masters made extensive use of them, they painted dinner tables after all.

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Pieter Claesz – Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA Pieter Claez - LACMA
Los Angeles, CA
My own, showing a small roemer
I thought it may be interesting to readers to see in one place all different glasses and their names and places where to see them.
clip_image008Roemer – The name Roemer (sometimes seen as rummer) comes from the German word “Roman”. This glass can be found in several sizes, sometimes real big sometimes smaller. It appears very often in all still life and genre paintings, normally with white wine or water. See these examples:
The base could be round or sometimes had small spikes similar to a Berkemeyer (see Berkemeyer). The glass stem is hollow and has prunts on the outside. These prunts could have different shapes, sometimes they looked like berries, sometimes like spikes. At the time, people ate with their hands which were greasy; the prunts helped prevent the glass from slipping and were common in other glasses like the berkemeyer or some other goblets.
See these examples from the Getty Museum in LA.
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Next post will be about Berkemeyers and other type of glasses
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another Exhibition…. 100% XVII Century

Yet again, busy setting up for this Exhibition at the McKay Art Centre in 197 Main Street, Unionville. I have “grouped” my work in three main areas: “Vermeerish”, Spanish Bodegones and Dutch Golden Age Still Life (Vanitas, Flower Bouquets and Ontbijtjes or “Little Breakfast”)

I have also created some sheets explaining what a Vanitas piece is, why Flower Bouquets were so popular in XVII Century Dutch Republic and a self-explanatory photo sequence of “Girl Playing with a Balance” so that people can easily see that NO, they are NOT paintings.


I hope that you can drop by and check it out!

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tim’s Vermeer, the missing counter point

When people get see my photographic work which is about creating photos that look like XVII Century paintings (see it here), it only takes few minutes for them to ask me whether I have seen the film Tim’s Vermeer.  I finally can report that I saw it a week or so ago.

Many of my “photographic-paintings” are using Vermeer compositional elements, lighting and objects. I have also created fictional stories behind my scenes using real known facts from Vermeer’s life and from XVII Century Dutch Republic. I have therefore spent much time and effort researching the period and Vermeer’s life. That being said, I recognized that I am no expert or pretend to be one, however, as someone who has read few books about Vermeer, I could easily spot the flaws in Tim’s theory. I cannot explain how someone like Phillip Steadman, who wrote“Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the secrets to the Masterpieces” would not use his knowledge of Vermeer’s work to offer a counterpoint to Tim Jenison’s quest for an intricate, primitive mechanical photocopier to circumvent his own inability to painting and then, furthermore suggest that the Dutch Master shared his lacking.

Steadman in his book explores and offers convincing argument that Vermeer used a camera obscura. If you are interested in Vermeer’s work, I highly recommend this book, it is intriguing, well written and offers a lot of insight into Vermeer’s work. One of his arguments is that Vermeer painted in layers, starting from almost outlines in basic color shapes as under paintings (see here about this topic). He then, worked his way up in layers until the paint is finished. It is something that has been researched and proven through X-rays and other non-intrusive mechanisms. Also, many of Vermeer’s paintings have a small orifice that is known to be used to pin strings and create perspective, another proof that he did not used a mechanical device like Tim's.

Steadman knew all this very well, he writes about them in his book and the under paintings in dead colors as it was called is one of his arguments he puts forward. Steadman's argument is that Vermeer used the camera obscura to explore compositions and to create the first under painting which is a sort of outline. Why wouldn't he say so in the documentary? Maybe he did, and the producers conveniently cut them out. It would have destroyed Tim’s argument and it would have render the movie useless which means unprofitable, SONY would not have liked that.

I admire Tim Jenison for his persistence, he put quite a bit of his own money and effort into the project. I created my own set to shoot my “Vermeers” (see here how I did it in this article) so I have a faint idea of what he went through. However, just because Tim Jenison requires an ingenious mechanical-reproduction-printing device to paint a scene, it does not mean that Vermeer needed it as well.

Tim did a lot of research on "The Music Lesson" and Vermeer, there are many studies on Vermeer's technique, specially the under-paintings and his painting work in layers, NOT in small dabs matching tonalities. If I could find them, Tim sure did.

Essential Vermeer: Vermeer's Painting Technique
Vermeer and the Art of Painting
National Gallery (London, UK): Vermeer and Technique

I was also very surprised that the film did not interviewed people like Arthur Wheelock, a respected authority of everything Vermeer, or Marjorie E. Weissman, Curator of Dutch Painting at the National Gallery in London, another respected authority who has written several books about Vermeer and his works. Maybe they refused to dignify the "show" and its theory behind with their name. I would have... the fact remains that nobody in the film calls Tim’s theory to task, which acts in its detriment. There is not one single person in the film who doubts him, the way he doubts Vermeer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vermeer at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A while ago, I decided to drive to Washington and personally see the 4 Vermeer paintings hosted by the National Art Gallery imagein Washington, DC. It turn out to be a long 11 hours drive from Toronto, but it was definitely worthwhile. 
One thing that immediately impact anyone visiting the NGA’s Vermeer exhibit is the small area dedicated to it. You would think that these masterpieces would deserve a bright open space for prominence sake. Instead, see the map at right; the four of them are in a very small, not so well illuminated room, the very first at left from the rotunda at the very entrance. Here is a link to the room map and its contents
The NGA was careful enough that placed the small paintings in a small room that in my humble opinion resembles a schilderijkabinet which is Dutch for ‘painting cabinet’. These were rooms dedicated to the display of paintings during the XVII century in the Dutch Republic and Flemish provinces. The normal small paintings in display were called kabinetstukken or ‘cabinet pieces’.
 FB_May 17, 2014-Washington-56I took a couple of photos that included my favourite model (my daughter) next to the paintings, not because I wanted to show off (ok, maybe a little); but to provide a point of reference for the painting size, which is obviously small.FB_May 17, 2014-Washington-55
The next two small rooms in marked in yellow also have some other kabinetstukkens but of different themes, still lifes, portraits and landscapes. The first has many small still life including one of Ambrosious Bosschaert the Elder (who was the father of this style), his brother in-law Balthasar Van der Ast and a remarkable trompe l’oeil. 
The NGA is one of the best museums I have ever visited, I guess because my interest in classic paintings. I would place it amongst the top in the world, certainly in North America. Their collections is outstanding and include works by Raphael, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van Dyck, Rubens, Titian, Botticelli, Canaletto, el Greco, Goya, Velazquez, Murillo, etc., etc.
So, no regrets about driving down for 11 hours and another 12 driving back. It was worth every minute of it.
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Girl Reading a Letter at an open window

In his book Vermeer’s Hat Professor, Timothy Brooks takes us through the vibrant trade between the new Dutch Republic and the far east, specifically China. He goes through almost every painting identifying objects used by Vermeer and connecting them with the Dutch trade via the first publicly traded company in the world, the Dutch East India Company, Vereenigde Oostindische Blog2014__20120721_Vermeer_GirlClosedWindowAndKeptLetterCompagnie or VOC for short.
Blog2014__20130408_girl-reading-a-letter-by-an-open-window-by-johannes-vermeer Reading the book gave me some ideas about what could possibly doing the “Girl Reading a Letter at an open Window” a.k.a. “The Letter Reader”. Here is my story which is split into two images. Fist the girl in Vermeer’s painting is gone, second a woman is there reading the letter.
First: A girl has read a letter from her lover; a merchant traveling to the Far East on a trading ship. The window is her favourite place to read his letters; the bright light allows her to see all the details of her lover's writings. By now, she carefully folded the letter and tucked in with the all others in a secure drawer in the dresser next room. The Picture in the background reflects the time when she was anxiously reading the letter. 
The self-repeating theme in the frame is an allegory to the many times this scene has occurred in the past but also, to the infinite nature of Vermeer's work.

Second (right): Catharine Bolnes, Vermeer wife has found a letter from an admirer addressed of one of her
older daughters. She must have forgotten to put it away. Catharina is now reading the letter in stupor realizing that her daughter hasn't told her about this pretender. Why hasn't she told her, Is she preparing to elope, like she and Johannes did?

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer -Girl reading a letter at an open window- c. oil on canvas 32 3/4 x 25 3/8 (84 x 65.5 cm) Staaliche Kunstammlungen, Dresden. 
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Modern photographic renditions of Johannes Vermeer paintings

Very recently I posted one of my “Vermeer” photographs in my Facebook page (Levin Rodriguez Photography). One of my friends searched the “original” and commented about the story behind my version or extension as I call them. I realized that my rendition meant much more to her once she compared it with the actual Vermeer painting. This was a kind of a revelation to me, because I assume that most people know Vermeer’s oeuvre and that they are familiar with his 35 paintings. They are not so many after all.
Therefore I have decided to compile both versions in this post. At left you will have Vermeer’s painting, at right my rendition, you would have to click on it to read the story behind it.  Alternatively, you can come to on June 11-15th to an Exhibition in the McKay Art Centre, Unionville Markham to see them printed on canvas, which in itself enhances the painting effect.  The Exhibition details are here
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Did I mentioned, that you are kindly invited to connect with me via Levin Rodriguez Photography? Just ‘Like” it or ‘Share’ it.