National Gallery – summer party continued

I walk down the hall looking for my next painting. The central hall is converted into a bar. The nibbles are free, but I don’t have time to stop. There are musicians playing in the corner and the atmosphere is spirited. By the time I get to the designated hall the seats are all taken, but there is space by a bench to put my bag down and lean against.

Another lady comes and describes two paintings. One by Mantegna, ‘The agony in the garden’ and the other a similar painting by Bellini done five years later. She takes us through Mantegna’s version. Jesus in his bleakest moment kneeling on a hard rocky pulpit and praying. His disciples are fast asleep away from him but huddled together. Judas can be seen leading soldiers to him in the not too far distance. A dead tree symbolising the cross next to him with a black bird depicting the bird of death. As Jesus prays you can see angels hovering on a cloud, but they don’t look comfortable and it looks like they are going to topple over from the clouds any minute. In the distance Jerusalem can be seen walled off but drawn in great detail. It gives the feeling that Jesus is isolated and away from all that brings him comfort. The painting is quite bleak.

The Bellini version on the other hand shows the same scene with all the elements drawn in a different way and is brighter and is not as gloomy. When the audience is asked which one they would prefer to take home, the opinion is divided, but when asked which painting is more realistic most went for the first option.

My next stop is Monet’s ‘Water Lilies, setting sun’. On the way I stop off to see Rimini’s 14 century masterpieces of 3 paintings which has been brought together for the first time in the U.K. I don’t have much time to linger. So a quick glance and then off to see Monet.

Once again I’m too late and there is nowhere to sit, but I’m still lucky enough to find somewhere to lean against and deposit my coat and bag. I should have left them in the cloakroom but it’s too late now. Again another lady explains what an impressionist is and how they painted. She gives us a quick description of Monet’s garden in Giverny and how he painted the different versions of his many Water Lilly paintings. She compares the sunset painting to another one of his day time versions and gives us an idea about how he painted each one and the differences. I’ve only noticed versions of his paintings done in daylight before. The sunset version is a wonderful picture of a weeping willow reflection in the still waters with dispersed water lilies floating on top. The sunset brings out striking colours in the night sky and it is reflected in the water. As tonight’s theme is all about the senses she reminds us of the time of day when it is painted, when everything is still, there is not a ripple in the pond, the day life have retired and the night life haven’t woken up yet. Once again you are transported to a far away place and this time you are in Normandy in Monet’s garden admiring his water Lilly pond as the sun sets.

My next and final stop is room 29 to see Mignard’s ‘The Marquise de Seignelay’. This time I get a good seat and a dress historian comes to tell us the story. The lady in the study is a recently bereaved widow who is dressed in the most exquisite blue coloured dress. The dress is dyed using the crystal Lapis Lazuli which had to be imported in those days and ground down to get the effect. It is a symbol of wealth. The lady takes us through the various interpretations of why she is dressed like that and why she only has two of her children in the picture when she actually had five and what they symbolise etc etc. The story of the Marquise is known and she tells us what happens to them after the portrait was done. The Marquise does find a suitable husband, which was the intention of the portrait but she dies three years after they marry.

It is very late and I am tired, but definitely not tired of London.

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