Miffy is serious art @ the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Cartoon in AD newspaper

Cartoon in AD newspaper

Dick Bruna (88) can measure up according to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with greats like Vermeer, Mondriaan and Gerrit Rietveld. On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of Miffy, his most famous creation, Bruna therefore opened an exhibition in the museum.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Miffy the Rijksmuseum shows ‘Dick Bruna – Artist’, an exhibition in which the work of graphic designer and artist Dick Bruna is exposed for the first time in an international art historical context. Prints and drawings from Bruna’s great examples Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Willem Sandberg, HN Workman and Bart van der Leck appearing alongside his own book covers, posters, collages and drawings. In the presentation of a total of 120 objects can be seen, including Miffy itself.

Buttermilk campaign 1971

Buttermilk campaign 1971

More than half a century of graphics. Bruna’s distinctive style of clean lines, primary colors and abstract forms can be seen in his book covers to include the detective series The Shadow (Havank) and Maigret (Georges Simenon) from the Zwarte Beertjes (Black Bears) publications, posters for the publishing house AW Bruna & Zn. and the Dutch Milk Union and designs for Miffy.

Although Dick Bruna loves the work by artists such as Matisse, Léger, Workman and members of De Stijl, and is repeatedly mentioned in interviews as his artistic examples, this is the first time that the art historical theme in his oeuvre is made as extensive visible.

The Rijksmuseum studied the art historical connections with other artists and drew on the rich own print collection to show the relationships with other artists. Bruna’s creations put next to his inspiration, we can see at a glance the influence and inspiration. Bruna combines techniques such as cutting and the release of perspective, from the colorful French avant-garde with the harsh imagery and color palette of De Stijl. Conversely he admired Picasso, Rietveld and architect JJP Oud, in his folders and posters Bruna shows their simplicity and clarity.

NijntjeMuseumIn the presentation of a total of 120 objects is also considered in the design of Miffy. Nowhere is Bruna’s skill, patience and the ability to display color with the spaciousness of the flat surface, more clear than in the – seemingly simple – creation of the famous rabbit.

The exhibition Dick Bruna. Artist can be visited from August 27 – November 15, 2015 in the Philips Wing of the Rijksmuseum.

Start Of Cultural Season

uitmarkt_logoThe Uitmarkt is a vibrant three-day celebration of the Netherlands cultural scene! It started yesterday, August 28 and will finish on Sunday August 30. It is the largest annual festival in the Netherlands, officially launching the new cultural season by showcasing the very best in music, art, theatre, dance, opera, literature and cabaret performances. Some 2,000 performers take to almost 30 Amsterdam venues, producing 290+ events while entertaining 500,000 visitors throughout the weekend. What’s more, it’s all free!

Museumplein and Leidseplein – the cultural heart of Amsterdam – are home to the Uitmarkt this year! Performances are held outdoors and indoors at numerous theatres, museums and venues near these two primary locations. A wealth of information is available at stands on the Museumplein.

Bees in Rome


A Barberini bee. One of the many still buzzing around Rome on buildings & monuments. This is in Palazzo Barberini.

In the early eleventh century, the Barberini family settled in Florentine territory of Val d’Elsa (Elsa Valley). Their family named derived their surname from the Castel of Barbarino. Before they were known as the Barberinis, their surname was Tafani, which literally translates into “the Horsefly.” This insect graced their family crest until Pope Urban VIII’s (Maffeo Barberini) changed it to the bee, which was a much more honorable choice because it was believed to represent wisdom. Early in the family’s history they gained wealth and prominence through the sale of textiles and intermarriage with other noble merchant families in Florence.

One of the first prominent members of the Barberini family was Francesco di Antonio Barberini. He was responsible for building the family’s Florentine palace at Santa Croce. Francesco di Antonio did a particularly astute job at building up the family textile business. He organized trade with the eastern cities of Rangusa (also known of Dubrovnik, located in southern Croatia) and Ancona (located on the north-eastern coast of the Italian peninsula). Francesco di Antonio even opened a branch of the family business near Istanbul, in the town of Pera.

The early political years of the Barberini were marked with conflict with another famously powerful Italian family, the Medicis. In the 16th century the Medicis were the most powerful family in Florence. This was the result of the Medicis overthrowing the Republic of Florence and installing themselves as rulers in 1530. The Barberini’s helped in the defense of the city, putting them in bad favor with the Medicis. As a result of this, Francesco’s two sons were forced to leave the city. Nicolo went to Ancona, while Antonio fled to Rome. However, this quarrel would follow Antonio to Rome as he was stabbed at the hands of the Medici in the streets of Rome in 1559.

Triton fountain with bees in the shield

Triton fountain with bees in the shield

Before Antonio’s death however, he summoned his nephew Francesco di Carlo Barberini (1528-1600) to Rome in 1555. Francesco di Carlo quickly associated himself with the church and rose in prominence at similar speed. He was given the clerical rank of monsignor (one below a cardinal) and the titles of papal treasurer and the apostolic protonary, an important legal position. He used these titles to accumulate huge sums of wealth for his family. He was also active in promoting the clerical career of his nephew Maffeo Barberini, to whom he would bequeath his wealth through circumventing traditional church processes. Maffeo would then use this wealth and status to his advantage, eventually being elected as Pope, taking the title of Urban VIII.Barberini bee. One of the many still buzzing around Rome on buildings & monuments. This is in Palazzo Barberini.

To trace the bees, start at the hive, Palazzo Barberini. The family palace has part of the collection of the National Museum of Ancient Art. Highlights are Raphael’s 1518 portrait of his lover, La Fornarina (the baker’s daughter), Carvaggio’s Judith Slaying Holofernes (1599) and Henry VIII by Holbein (1536).

Heading back down the slope to Piazza Barberini is Fontana del Tritone (1643), by Gianlorenzo Bernini, who had many commissions from the Barberini pope: the papal crest hides under the merman. In the north corner of Piazza Barberini is the Fontana delle Api, the Fountain of Bees, a marble clam shell with three bees at its basin, designed by Bernini in 1644 as a gift from Urban VIII to the people.

Bees appear throughout the Vatican Museums, in particular on the frescoed walls of the Gallery of Maps. There are also bees in St Peter’s Basilica on the baldacchino above the main altar and on Urban VIII’s tomb in the apse to the right.

Stained-glass windows with bees illuminate the church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli on the Capitoline Hill, and bees decorate the Borromini-designed church of Sant’Ivo by Piazza Navona.

The swirly dome of Rome's Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza church, designed by Francesco Borromini.

The swirly dome of Rome’s Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza church, designed by Francesco Borromini.

Money No Problem

The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. The work, housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is considered his finest work, and has been described as “the culminating work of International Gothic painting”.

The painting was commissioned by the Florentine literate and patron of the arts Palla Strozzi, at the arrival of the artist in the city in 1420. Palla paid 300 florins for the altarpiece, or about six times the annual salary of a skilled labourer. According to Robert Baldwin, Associate Professor of Art History – Connecticut College, both Palla Strozzi and his father, Onofrio, appear in the painting − Palla as the man in the red hat in the forefront of the painting, and Onofrio as the falcon trainer situated behind the youngest king. According to other opinions, the falcon trainer depicts the commissioner Palla Strozzi with his eldest son Lorenzo to his right. Finished in 1423, the painting was placed in the new chapel of the church of Santa Trinita which Lorenzo Ghiberti was executing in these years.

The works shows both the international and Sienese schools’ influences on Gentile’s art, combined with the Renaissance novelties he knew in Florence. The panel portrays the path of the three Magi, in several scenes which start from the upper left corner (the voyage and the entrance into Bethlehem) and continue clockwise, to the larger meeting with the Virgin Mary and the newborn Jesus which occupies the lowest part of the picture. All the figures wear splendid Renaissance costumes, brocades richly decorated with real gold and precious stones inserted in the panel. Gentile’s typical attention for detail is also evident in the exotic animals, such as a leopard, a dromedary, some apes and a lion, as well as the magnificent horses and a hound. Or an assistent helps one of the three Magi in the Adoration to put on his riding gear – which is painted using gesso and pure gold.

The frame is also a work of art, characterized by three cusps with tondoes portraying Christ Blessing (centre) and the Annunciation (with the Archangel Gabriel on the left and the Madonna on the right). The predella has three rectangular paintings with scenes of Jesus’ childhood: the Nativity, the Flight into Egypt and the Presentation at the Temple (the latter a copy, the original being in the Louvre in Paris).


Small Bells, Big Meaning

doge01The buttons on the jacket of the doge of Venice are called campanoni d’ori, ‘big golden bells’, and if you’ve seen them once, they will never escape you. Venetian painting is Republican painting and the ceremonial cloak of the doge, the head of state, is also omnipresent. When I saw this picture of Doge Leonardo Loredan in London, I heard the knots tinkling, very softly. Tick, tick, ting, ting, as hollow wooden bells.

Loredan was the elected leader of the Venetian Republic from 1501 to 1521 (okay, chosen by two committees, not by the whole people). I tried to imagine how our own elected leaders in this cape would look like. That did not quite succeed.

doge02Doge Leonardo Loredan had the choice of three coats: white with gold, crimson or scarlet. The latter was only for mourning. From the 12th century until the collapse of the Republic in the 18th century the Venetian doge wore such a robe, and the details always meant something. When he stood still, he wore the golden bells on the front, like a statue, as in this painting that resembles a classical bust. When he moved, he pushed the buttons sideways, and if he was to appear as a warrior in armor, then he placed the row of bells on his right shoulder in chivalrous tradition. Everyone knew that, so everyone knew what was going on.

Maybe our elected leaders should still wear such a cloak, so we finally know what they’re up to …

Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501-04) by Giovanni Bellini, in National Gallery, London.


Life Of Man

The curtain is lifted to give us a clear view of an inn, where young and old are enjoying eating, drinking, playing and flirting.

But for Jan Steen, it was not just about cheerful conviviality. His message is concealed in a small detail by the window. Up in the dark attic, a boy is blowing bubbles next to a skull. Although life is wonderful, eventually it will burst like a bubble.

Jan Steen, The Life of Man, c. 1665, Mauritshuis Den Haag

Details of Art

In the huge, 13 meter wide The Feast in the House of Levi (formerly the Last Supper), this little cat is secretly fishing for a bone from under the table cloth.

The Feast in the House of Levi or Christ in the House of Levi is a 1573 painting by Italian painter Paolo Veronese and one of the largest canvases of the 16th century, measuring 555 x 1280 cm (18 x 42 feet). It is now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. It was painted by Veronese for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, a Dominican friary, as a Last Supper, to replace an earlier work by Titian destroyed in the fire of 1571.

However, the painting led to an investigation by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Veronese was called to answer for irreverence and indecorum, and the serious offence of heresy was mentioned. He was asked to explain why the painting contained “buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs and other such scurrilities” as well as extravagant costumes and settings, in what is indeed a fantasy version of a Venetian patrician feast. Veronese was told that he must change his painting within a three-month period; instead, he simply changed the title to The Feast in the House of Levi, still an episode from the Gospels, but less doctrinally central, and one in which the Gospels specified “sinners” as present. After this, no more was said.

Take a visit to the Details of Art website