Friday, November 5, 2010

The Museum Slug

We have visited several museums now and I have been dubbed the “museum slug”. Apparently, I take longer than any other human to make my way through a museum. This from my speedy children. As slug, I feel I am probably best prepared to regale you all with museum stories.

Albertina art gallery:
This museum was once the house of Maria Christina, favourite daughter of Maria Theresa. Now isn’t that just awful? Maria Theresa had something like 8 kids and she played favourites! Maria Christina was the only one allowed to marry for love. Poor Marie Antoinette got fobbed off on Louis XVI and it certainly didn’t get her ahead any. Get it? A-head? I still got it. At any rate, Maria Christina’s husband, Albert was something of an art collector so her house became an art museum.

We actually didn’t see much of the main collection. We were so busy in the exhibition galleries looking at Michelangelo, Picasso and Kentridge. The children’s favourite was Kentridge. He is much more current than Picasso, or Michelangelo for that matter. His thing is performance art. He plays with film and drawings. It wasn’t my cup of tea but Rhys thought some of the films were hilarious. On the way out of the museum we actually bumped into him and he graciously accepted to have his picture taken with the kids. Our brush with fame... so to speak. Heh, heh.

I wasn’t keen on Picasso either but I was interested in how his art was all politically motivated. His drawings and paintings were macabre and violent and a wee bit disturbing. It certainly isn’t something I’d want to hang in my home.

The Michelangelo exhibition was my favourite. I learned a lot about him. He wasn’t the nicest person in the world and was difficult to get along with. He copied statues and then passed them off as his own. He competed with Da Vinci and Raphael for commissions. He was brilliant at composition but not considered as good a painter as Raphael so he would sketch compositions for other painters and they would paint them. He lived a long life in interesting times. I am looking forward to Italy!

Sisi Museum and Kaiser Apartments:
Sisi is short for Queen Elizabeth. She was married to Franz Joseph in the 1800’s; part of the Hapsburg clan. She was a very beautiful woman and she is something of a celebrity in Hungary and Austria even today. Her museum was excellent, and she can be compared in some ways to Princess Diana, although she was never the philanthropist Diana was. Sisi had no desire to be empress. She didn’t like the role once she was in it and she actually was not all that fond of people either. She wrote poetry and her words reflected such a sad and unhappy life. I think she may have suffered from depression. Everyone always spoke of how beautiful she was and she spent quite a few hours every day on a beauty regime. In contrast, she wore a veil more and more as she grew older because she didn’t want people looking at her anymore. She felt caged and like her life was not her own. She sympathized with the Hungarian people and was instrumental in gaining partial freedom for the country thereby winning the affections of the Hungarians. In the end she was assassinated. The killer actually wanted to assassinate someone else but as the other person had missed their train, he decided to kill her. Imagine being second choice assassination! It sounds like some comedian’s one liner. It wasn’t until after she died that public opinion turned in her favour and statues were made of her and history was written. Her coffin in the crypt always has the most flowers on it as well.

The Neue Museums:
There were three museums in one place and the ticket covers them all: Ephesus museum, Armour museum and Musical instrument museum. We began looking at statuary from Ephesus. Apparently the Austrians had excavated there as well so felt it was their right to take a few mementos of their trip. Our favourite was the bronze statue of an athlete. That's him there on the left. The Austrians had found him in over 200 pieces and had pieced him back together. Talk about the ultimate 3D puzzle!

I had the most fun at the Armour museum. They had some seriously disturbing armour there. Initially, knights wore chain mail shirts but these weren’t strong enough to withstand a powerful blow. That is how the first armour began. It started with a cover for the torso and then moved slowly over the rest of the body. It spread to the horses as well and although there are no complete surviving suits, pictures indicate that horses may have worn armour covering their entire bodies, even their legs! Things really got rolling though, when armour became fashionable. The metal-workers tried to follow what was hip and groovy.

The suit on the left had a widely flared skirt and leggings that ended in clown shoes on the feet. It was for a wedding. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not sure WHOSE wedding. We’re guessing he was a real rat, but that’s just a guess. We’re also not sure if the groom wore this or one of the guests. Perhaps hardest to believe after seeing this is that wearing armour was seen as macho. Knights were regarded as heroes and every male wanted to show his status as a hero and big, brave guy by clanking around in a suit. It also marked him as wealthy since it was expensive to have a suit made.

Now, looking at the picture on the right, one figures this had to be a male going through some sort of mid-life crisis as he has armoured his manhood in a most provocative way. How does one order a suit like this? Does it come in small, medium and large? Julia figured it should have a little spike on it so it could all be part of the protective gear. Fighting would take on a hip-hop dance-like quality as the knight could give a left jab, right high-kick with his ultra pointy toes and then a hip thrust. I leave the rest to your imaginations.

We didn’t find the musical instrument museum as fascinating as we thought after the fun of the armoury. The best part was being able to listen to the instruments being played on your audio headset after hearing a bit about them. After we were finished, though, we went to the Haus der Musik and that was amazing. It explored sound and hearing as well as how sounds work together to create new sounds or “music”. My favourite part was learning about the many composers alive in Vienna at the same time. I was told this was the dullest part of the museum, of course.

I didn’t realize so many famous composers were all alive at one time. Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Haydn all were living in Vienna around the same time. You probably all knew that Beethoven composed while deaf but did you know that Schubert composed at a desk? He was too poor to own a piano so he would compose at his writing desk! If he needed to hear the music he wrote, he’d have to visit a friend who owned a piano. He wrote quickly and rarely needed to change what he composed. Amazing. There were 9000 musicians living in Vienna at the same time as the famous bunch I listed. That was 3% of the population. We know the music of a few but statistically there must have been several hundred gifted musicians in the city and we only really know the music today of a very few. I wonder if their music is the best there was to offer or if they just happened to be in the right place at the right time.


maryanncart said...

Holly, I am laughing hilariously at your comments about the armour! WEll done...and I hope that Rhys and Julia will let LSFA have their comments about the music and arts! What a grand trip you are having....Much much love Mom