Tuesday Night - Flight In
Our flight into PHL arrived on time. From there we picked up our rental car and headed to Rani’s mum's place. In route we ordered a large cheese pizza from that nearby pizzeria which seems to have a new name every other time we visit. However, the pizza itself remains fairly consistent, and Rani swears it’s some of the best NY pizza around, though I think she’s somewhat bias. We had dinner at the house and then retired for the night.
Wednesday – Philadelphia Museum of Art, Shopping
The next morning we got to the Philadelphia Museum of Art at around 11am. The front entrance, made famous by Rocky was closed off due to Thanksgiving Day preparations so we entered through the back. We spent a total of four hours at the museum and saw a majority of the European and American works while steering clear of the contemporary gallery, those being the 20th century works. Now I won’t go through every single painting and sculpture which struck my interest, as that would make for a tedious and long boring account of my visit, but … oh what the hell, here we go:
We started off with the European works on the right wing of the second floor, which takes you through Renaissance to Neo-Classical/Romanticism. These galleries are notable for featuring not only paintings and statues but also some very elaborate displays of doorways, altarpieces, and furniture for their respective periods, providing a well rounded introduction to the artistic trademarks of each particular age. It’s quite an experience walking from gallery to another and seeing the variety of styles and themes.
Some works of interest in the first dozen or so galleries included Musical Group by Callisto Piazza, Scenes from the Book of Esther by an unknown German artist, Kicking Horse by Aelbert Cuyp, Shipwreck on a Rocky Coast by Bonaventura Peeters, Lute Player by Theodor Rombouts, Encampment in a Storm by Pandolgo Reschi, Landscape with a River at Twilight by Aert van der Neer, Landscape with a Wooded Road by Meindert Hobbema, and Rhetoricans at a Window by Jan Steen. One of the most striking works was Saint Sebastian Cured by Sain Irene by Luca Giordano, a large baroque painting with a strong composition and a pasty white Sebastian. An adjunct wall features another huge work, Still life with Terms and a Bust of Ceres by Frans Snyders, which stood out on account of its brilliant use of color displayed by what appears to be a wreath of fruits and vegetables. This room also had two curious still lifes, Vanitas by N.L. Peschier and Still life with Grapes by Pieter de Ring. The former showcased a wonderful rendering of a skull but the number on display was so overwhelming that it boarded on parody. It’s an awesome painting but the ‘less is more’ approach might’ve resulted in a more assessable piece of work. The Pieter de Ring piece is a fairly standard still life but it has this one particular leaf which is so meticulously detailed that it becomes the focus of the painting.
A nearby gallery is devoted entirely to Dutch works. Here there is an excellent classic still life, Ham and a Roemer by William Claesz. Heda, as well as an interior, Saint Bavo, Haarlem by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam. The latter displays wonderful architectural rendering of the space but very little in the way of light or shadow. Some tiny figures are added below for scale. Soliders Beside the Fireplace by William Cornelisz.Duyster presents a smaller interior scene which is lit entirely by a small fire on the ground. We also have a Moses Striking the Rock by Jan Steen which aroused my interest for all the wrong reasons, notably because a majority the Israelites resemble a bunch of Dutch people partying outside, though if you look closely you’ll notice they’re personifying different earthly activities—or at least that’s how one might read into it. Of all the works in this room one particular caught by attention, a small interior known simply as Kitchen by William Kalf. For whatever reason it really appealed to me. It is hung amongst four or five other Dutch genre paintings. I waved Rani over to guess which one was my favorite. She said without a doubt that it was the kitchen scene. I think she’s beginning to recognize what certain aesthetics strike my fancy.
The next couple galleries featured similar works, including The Last Drop by Judith Leyster and Chaffcutter with his Wife and Child by Caspar Nescher. There’s also another interior scene by Jan Steen, The Doctor’s Visit, which provides an excellent example of storytelling by way of genre painting. Nearby is a wall showcasing various still lifes with fruits and dead fowl, the most interesting being Fruit, Dead Partridges, and a Parrot by Jan Fyt. I’ve seriously never quite gasped the appeal of these sort of works but nonetheless it appears to have been a very popular subject. This room also contains a number of small religious works, two of which, Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Jan Baptist Weenix and Woman Plucking a Duck by Nicolaes Maes, both showcased some very irregular but effective use of lighting.
Afterward we stepped into a large room where statues of each of the four seasons were located at each corner. The seasons which each statue was meant to personify were detailed on a small plaque on the north wall, though Rani and I ended up debating as to whether or not the seasons were mixed up. Spring and Winter were definites but Fall and Summer were open for interpretation on account of the items they were holding. For example, the statue listed as Summer was bearing harvested wheat and a sickle, which most people would agree associate with Fall. Rani and I argued about this for about five minutes before finally agreeing to disagree.
Nearby was a gallery of religious works executed by Mexican artists. Some of the paintings were very impressive, including Portrait of Reverend Mother Maria Antonia de Rivera and Black Virgin and Child, both by unknowns, and The Archangel Michael by Juan Correa the Younger (?).
Works of interest in the next dozen or so galleries included Alchemist by David Teniers II, a very strange painting called Still Life with a Tortoise by an Englishman known simply as ‘Black’, View of Verona with the Old Castle and the Scaligero Bridge by Bernardo Belotto, Catechism by Alessandro Magnasco, and The Death of Saint Francis Xavier by Lodovico Mazzanti. In the Spanish Gallery we at first couldn’t locate the token Ribera but eventually found it—granted it was a virgin and child painting that didn’t display any of grittiness characteristic of this artist’s work. We also passed through room decorated with many wonderful landscapes and portraits by Gainsborough Room.
From there we explored the rest of the right wing on the second floor. More works of interest included Courtyard of a Palace by Michele Marieschi, Burintoto on Ascension Day by Canaletto, Rialto Bridge by Michele Marieschi, North Terrace at Windor Castle by Paul Sandby, Oliver Cromwell and His Daughter by Emanuel Leutze, Burning of the Houses of Parliament by Turner, Scene during the Eruption of Vesuvius by Joseph Franque, and The Storm by John Linnell. Works of special note include a stunning little piece called Lilac Blossoms by Chistiaen van Pol, some horrendously ugly sketches of made by Constable for his Boat Passing a Lock, and a very odd work Eugene Delacroix of a Dominican convent in Madrid. Also, much to my disappointment, the reproduction of Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus was not out on display.
After finishing the right wing we went over to the left to see their galleries of Gothic works. Our visit here was brief because at that point we noticed we were pressed for time, so I can’t say I was really able to take in any of the works. Perhaps next time. I did catch a glimpse at Rogier van der Weyden’s awesome Crucifixion and Jan van Eyck’s small gem-like painting of Saint Francis.
Here there we hurried down the right wing of the first floor to see the rest of the European works. Paintings included Waves by Gustave Courbet, The Thorny Path by Thomas Courture, Woman Ironing by Francois Bonvin, Faust and Marguerite by Hendrik Jan August Leys, The Thames, London by Jules Bastien-Lepage, Engraver by Francois Bonvin, Rocky Seashore by Ivan Konstantinovitsch Aivasovsky, Il Saltimbanco by Antonio Mansini, and Interior of a Tavern by Peter Severin Kroyer. One piece which really stood out to me was Liverpool from Wapping by John Atkinson Grimshaw. Really beautiful work. Also on display was one particular painting I’d been anticipating, A Reading from Homer by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oh, and having missed the two Orientalist works by Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts I was eager to see The Philadelphia Museum’s Portal of the Green Mosque, and to my luck it was on display. Unfortunately this piece is probably often overlooked by most visitors on account of it hung beside the huge handsome Moorish Chef by Eduard Charlemont. This same room contains another interesting work in the same vein, Arab Chief by Mariano Fortuny.
This wing also featured a work I was very excited to point out to Rani yet another Nocturne by Whistler. Rani really, really dislikes his seascapes.
After the Impressionist galleries we reached the Contemporary section of the wing, which none of us were interested in seeing. We skipped over to the left wing to see the Museum’s American collection. Works of interest included Penn’s Treaty with the Indians by Edward Hicks, Pepper- Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market by John Lewis Krimmel, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin by John Singleton Copley, Rachel Weeping by Charles Wilson Peale, and lots and lots of old furniture and tableware, most of which was made in Philadelphia. There was also another painting by Peale known as The Staircase Group which was receiving a lot of attention, probably due to the actual step included at the bottom.
As you’d expect there were lots of wonderful landscapes of old America. Works of interest here included Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittredge, Platte River, Nebraska by Albert Bierstadt, After the Storm by William Bradford, Newport Coast by William Trost Richards, Breaking Home Ties by Thomas Hovenden, Grand Canyon of the Colorado River by Thomas Moran, Pichincha by Fredric Edwin Church, A Coming Storm by Sanford Gifford, Landscape with Yellow Bushes by George Inness, and Orchids in the Jungle by Martin Johnson Heade. Standout works were … well, virtually everything by Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer, and of course Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Annunciation. Note that the Eakins painting The Gross Clinic was located at the Perelman Building. With us being pressed for time we were unable to swing over and see it. Again, perhaps next time.
After getting home from the museum we considered the idea of heading back into Philadelphia that night to check out Nocturne at the Shampoo Club. Ultimately we decided against it, as not only would it entail driving all the way back into town but it would also be crowded what with it being the day before Thanksgiving. Oh, and this particular event was 18+. Being the old, bitter man that I am, 18+ always strikes me as a negative, and if I’m already hesitant about going then it’s enough to encourage me to stay away. In lue of not going into the city we did some late-evening clothes shopping and took advantage of the Black Friday sales—you know, without having to go out on Black Friday. Not having to deal with long lines and hoards of irate shoppers is always a plus.
Thursday through Saturday – Thanksgiving, Babysitting, Drag Me to Hell, and Valley Forge
Early Thursday afternoon we drove up to Beth and Eddie’s where they were hosting Thanksgiving for Rani’s family. On the way there we got a little bit of snow mixed with rain but not enough to cause any problems. Dinner was nice. Nothing traumatic and disastrous took place. Earlier that morning Rani had prepared some mashed potatoes which everyone at dinner enjoyed very much.
Seriously, they better have enjoyed my wife’s mashed potatoes!
Afterward we went to Rani’s sister Kate’s place where we spent the rest of our visit babysitting little Emily and watching movies. On both Friday and Saturday we made trips out to Valley Forge. Friday night we watched Drag Me To Hell. Nothing terribly exciting to report. Saturday afternoon we made our flight back out to Chicago. Checkpoint security at PHL was very laid back compared to ORD. I don’t think we even saw a backscanner. No pat downs either.
Oh, and while in eastern Pennsylvania I took the opportunity to check out some more local brews. I had two ales from Tröegs, Troegenator Double Bock and Java Head Stout, both of which were excellent, especially the latter which had a fantastic coffee flavor. Next was Allentown’s Bagpiper's Scotch Ale, which to me seemed much too sweet to be called a Scotch. I honestly did not enjoy this one very much. It was terrible by any means but I was disappointed. I think I’ll make note to avoid Allentown beers. And last I had a SlyFox’s Ichor, a decent Quadruple with some nice malty notes.
Anyway, that’s that.