Probably the only downside to our move is that in order to be on time for Sunday morning choir practice we need to catch a bus just after 7am. This isn’t normally my best time of day, but now the snow has melted and the temperatures are above 0C it’s actually quite pleasant. The morning light on the last two Sundays has been beautiful, and made me think of Edward Hopper’s painting “Early Sunday Morning”.
Other than feeling grateful for the spring weather, much of our spare time lately has been spent at St Bart’s, preparing for and participating in the usual epic schedule of Easter services. (For a representative sample of our Easter music this link will take you to a YouTube video that someone in the congregation recorded last year – I may have linked to it before, in fact.) From where I was sitting the services all went really well, I certainly enjoyed myself, and a late brunch on Easter morning was the perfect way to recuperate after it was all over.
Apart from singing, any spare time we’ve had over the last couple of months has mostly been spent at home, although I have managed to see a number of exhibitions thanks to our excellent volunteer director at the Morgan. Not a lady to let the weather get in the way, she has been busily arranging all sorts of visits, so as well as seeing the latest crop of Morgan shows I’ve been on very informative viewings of exhibits on Donatello sculpture and early printed books from the Aldine press.
The Morgan is currently commemorating 150 years since Lincoln’s assassination with an exhibit about him, focussing particularly on his skill with words. I can see that it’s an important show, but I think perhaps I missed some of its impact through being neither American nor terrible well-versed in that period of history. Much more to my taste was the Rose Haggadah display – a brand new illuminated manuscript, heavily inspired by Medieval traditions, and just exquisite.
The Donatello show, or, to give it its proper title, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, has been advertised as one of the season’s must-sees. I am admittedly completely spoilt (plus of course have seen loads of this stuff, in Florence and elsewhere, myself), but I found it a little disappointing. The way they’ve displayed the work is interesting – apparently (and appropriately) they used an architect to design the exhibit layout, rather than using a gallery designer – but it was a much smaller show than I was expecting, and only about half the work on display was actually by Donatello himself. That said, our tour guide (MoBIA’s Director of Education, I believe) was excellent and passed on a number of fascinating facts. Most interesting was Donatello’s sculpture of St John the Evangelist, both for its striking appearance and because of the awareness it shows of perspective and optical illusion. Viewed here, just above eye level, the torso is elongated and heavy, the head seems way too big for the body and leans forward oddly, but when raised up to the height for which it was created (a niche on the facade of the Duomo), it all comes into proper proportions – we were encouraged to test this for ourselves by crouching on the ground beneath its pedestal and it really made a difference!
The last exhibition I want to talk about, Aldus Manutius: a legacy more lasting than bronze, was spectacular for quite different reasons. The rare book world is currently marking 500 years since Aldus’ death, and given that he effectively invented the hand-sized printed book I think we all have a reason to be grateful to him (I’m resisting the temptation to position him as grandfather to the Kindle, for which you should also be grateful!). The main reason this was such a special experience was because our tour was given by the collector who owns most of the books in the show, G. Scott Clemons, who was an excellent, enthusiastic and informative guide to Aldus and his life and times.