Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

Travel is so edifying.

Here is what I learned in my visit to Museumplein today.

The Dutch are very strict about access to construction sites.
But do not worry. Although you cannot drop in to visit the construction site, you can send it a nice letter, as it has its own mailbox.

There are many museums and memorials in Amsterdam that honor Dutch resistance to the evil German Third Reich. Then on the Museumplein is the Rijksmuseum (same root word), which honors Dutch world dominance, displaying centuries of splendor in art and material culture while conveniently overlooking centuries of colonization, exploitation, and enormous Dutch culpability in the international slave trade. Germans invade, bad. Dutch invade, check out the fabu silverware!

The most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt's The Night Watch.This is clearly size-queen curating. Sure the painting is 12' x 15' (and that's after someone lopped off a couple feet when the painting was removed from its original location and put someplace smaller). But really it looks like bad stage lighting with even worse stage direction.

The coolest thing about The Night Watch is that there is a mini-me version by Gerrit Lundens, just 2' x 2.75'. One of the guys who posed for the original painting liked it so much he commissioned Lundens to make a smaller one for him to hang around the house.

If only the Night Watchmen had gone over to the K-Mart Portrait Studio, they could have gotten one of those packages that come with a whole bunch of wallet-sized reprints, and saved Lundens the trouble.

I think the most exquisite thing in the Rijksmuseum is Caesar Boetius van Everdingen's Winter.It is such a simple image, crafted with such amazing detail. Although you would expect no less than genius from someone named Caesar Boetius van Everdingen.

I imagine they teased him something fierce in grade school.

Both Gabriel Metsu's The Hunter's Present and Pieter Codde's The Return of the Hunters have naughty visual puns on "birding" which the Rijksmuseum informs visitors (twice) is 17th Dutch slang for getting it on.

I find this very troubling. My limited exposure to birding suggests it is the most anaphrodisiac of pursuits.

The birding thing haunted me the whole way back to the apartment where I'm staying. I couldn't help but wonder if this fellow was taking the name of the Vondelpark (pronounced Fondle Park) a little too seriously.
And were those some sort of incognito sex toys they were selling at the Dirks, our local discount grocer? If only the museum had been full of less sexual imagery, like nudes or something.

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