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San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Old Orphans

Holkam Hall / Red Parrot Bedroom

Holkam Hall / North Dining Room

There are nine pairs of pictures in this post, but what they have in common (either within the pairs or among the pairs) is not necessarily a lot.

Chintz / Ethel Sans 

Edwardian Parlor

Mainly, the unifying force is my own determination to look at these images in just this way (and to preserve them for my own future reference in just this way).

Gallery / Frans Franken

Roma Antica / Giovanni Paolo Pannini

Fabricating daily features on a rolling screen like this obviously requires much gathering of images. Some few of the gathered ones never quite fit. Those become potential orphans.

Concert : Friedrichs des Grossen / Adolf Menzel

Madame de Pompadour / François Boucher

Orphans come from who-knows-where, but they don't become true orphans until they have sat around for months or years waiting for a meaningful context that never arrives.

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Here and now, these particular orphans have become unusually impatient and have crowded willy-nilly into an unlikely proximity which can never become coherent.

Trinity College, Cambridge

Trinity College, Cambridge

But with the spread of higher education during the past century, the quality of coherence itself has assumed an exaggerated authority, as if life itself were a classroom with a lesson plan.



Now at last the eighteen orphans here can in conscience be dispatched to the featureless void of virtual storage (a destination resembling the afterlife, as the Ancients conceived it).

Winter Palace / Red Drawing Room

Stroganov Palace / Yellow Drawing Room

How thoroughly, how rapidly have the people depicted in these orphaned pictures disappeared from the world and from the thoughts of the living. Yet their furniture lingers on.

Dinner party / Marcellus Laroon

Musical Tea Party / Marcellus Laroon

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Claude Monet made many paintings of "grainstacks" at different times of day in the open air in France during the year 1890. Then 79 years later along came Roy Lichtenstein, floating high on the first wave of Sixties Pop. He seized upon Monet's template and produced cartoon-dot silkscreens in a more-or-less monochrome series with flat-finish opaque pigments. I wonder if people in the far future will be interested enough to study these evidences of such a radical value-shift occurring over such a short span of time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Michael Haneke's production of Così fan tutte opened in March 2013 at Teatro Real in Madrid. The set by Christopher Kanter and costumes by Moidele Bickel mingled the spirit of Watteau with the spirit of Armani, a mixture that managed to look simultaneously inevitable and sinister.

Haneke invented a new relationship for Don Alfronso and Despina (William Shimell and Kerstin Avemo) as an embittered couple of the older generation in silvery satins of the Ancien Regime. In a filmed interview, Haneke compared the Watteau couple to George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, playing "get the guest" against the two naive younger couples.  

Production photos by Javier del Real.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Recent work on denim by Galician artist Rubén Grilo (b. 1981).