When I visited Italy many years ago, I particularly remember a visit to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, where I made my first acquaintance with the works of Caravaggio. When we continued on to Florence, I was excited to hear that additional works were located in the Uffizi Gallery. We spent the day visiting other sights, reserving a few hours at the end of the day for the museum. We saved the best for last, only to discover that the Uffizi was under construction and that they had moved Caravaggio’s works to a different section. And the section was located a distance away from where we were. @#$%! So we ran, and luckily managed to get in a quick, breathy view of his pieces just under the wire.
While I do find Caravaggio’s works to be magnificent, his tumultuous life made his art all the more intriguing. His story includes all the makings of a hit reality TV show: poverty, celebrity, violence, death, imprisonment, libel, poisoning. But his influence on painters from then on has been undisputed, and Valentin De Boulogne is one of the many who have followed in his footsteps.
Aside from a few particularly stunning pieces, such as Last Supper (1625-26) and David with the Head of Goliath (1615-16), what’s lovely about the capsule exhibition on display at the Met is that you can follow Valentin’s progress as an artist. There are a few pieces which play on the Fortune-Teller theme: one was completed around 1615-16, and another was completed approximately ten years later between 1626-28. Comparing the two is quite revealing. And there are two depictions of the Judgment of Solomon, one completed only three to five years after the prior. The reason for the duplicate confounds even the scholars.
A few pieces also reflect a desire to present an alternate point of view, such as Innocence of Susanna (1621-22). The tale from the Book of Daniel is of a young girl propositioned by two men as she bathes. The men attempt to blackmail her into sex but she refuses, so they falsely accuse her of promiscuity. Daniel suggests that the men should be cross-examined, during which the lie becomes exposed and the accusers are put to death. The story has been illustrated by many artists, but the renditions often feature the moment when the two men approached Susanna as she bathed. Valentin chose to portray the moment of judgment, with each character appearing more human, more vulnerable.
Valentin De Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio is on display through January 22 at the Met Fifth Avenue, then it moves on to the Louvre.
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We waxed poetic about Estela in one of our posts a while back, and the team behind it has now brought its talents to the Upper East Side. (And not a moment too soon.) Restaurateur Thomas Carter and chef Ignacio Mattos are behind Flora Bar and Flora Coffee, located within the Met Breuer. Flora Bar just recently started serving brunch, which consists of items off the raw bar menu and a couple of choice entrees.
But Flora Coffee provides a sufficient menu for grazing prior to any museum outing. You can choose between a couple of sandwiches or a couple of salads. Or you can get a good cup of joe (they serve Parlor coffee) and indulge in some of the in-house pastries. We would highly recommend the Sticky Bun. Adam Platt revealed that pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz infuses it with a “subversive touch of black cardamom”. We don’t know if it’s black cardamom or black magic, but it worked.
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