Mark of the Beaver part Deux

While on a kayak trip recently I saw the following evidence of strategic chewing…

Mark of the Beaver 2

Hard to believe beavers have this level of intention in designing and building structures from wood. I recall an economics professor of mine at New York University who was a graduate of MIT. His school ring had an image of a beaver, the animal considered to be the “Engineer of the natural word”.l word” .

MIT Beaver ring

He also relayed a funny anecdote, which is that students wear the ring with the beaver facing them and then turn it around after graduation — the explanation?  That during the hard work of earning a degree there, the beaver “shits on you”, and once you have graduated, the beaver “shits on the world”, or something like that.

Mark of the Beaver 2_

Art of Composition – Vermeer’s Cupid

What a fascinating development in a famous painting: Smithsonian magazine had a great article today featuring a mid-restoration Vermeer painting called Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. This is the painting prior to restoration:

Vermeer GRALAAOW - prior to restoration

It turns out that an artist other than Vermeer painted over a Cupid in the upper right corner of the painting — previously it was thought that Vermeer himself had covered it up.

Now, ongoing restoration work has added yet another wrinkle to the story of the 1657 masterpiece: As Germany’s Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden announced earlier this week, a recent bout of laboratory testing confirmed that a long-hidden Cupid found in the top right-hand corner of the canvas was painted over not by the Dutch Golden Age artist, but an unknown party who acted decades after Vermeer’s death. Although art historians have known of the little god of love’s existence since 1979, they previously believed Vermeer covered up the figure himself and, as a result, decided against restoring the painting to its original form. [Link]

This change in understanding led to a decision to reveal the Cupid, and the restored painting invites us all to reassess the composition of the painting (I’m an amateur, but it’s still fun).

Here is the painting about half-way through its current restoration:

Vermeer GRALAAOW - mid-restoration

It is fascinating to see the obvious geometry inherent in the composition as Vermeer’s original work is revealed, and indeed it makes more sense (not that anyone would have criticized the composition before? I’ll have to look into it).

I added the following lines to see how things line up:

Vermeer GRALAAOW alignment with Cupid

Clearly the two faces are connected in such a way that their intersection points towards the open window, and in the screen shot showing more of the light, one can see how balanced it will be after the Cupid is fully revealed:

Vermeer GRALAAOW - 4

The Marketer’s Dilemma

Whenever I see a product like this, I sympathize with the business people who are under pressure to liven up a product category.

RiceKrispies

I grew up eating Rice Krispies — perhaps every day for years — and so the brand has deep resonance for me despite our household being mostly organic at this point. When I saw this crazy packaging recently I couldn’t believe it existed.

Can you imagine the meetings that led to this promotion? Starting with “How do we give people something new?” and continuing through “…which shades of green….?”

Barn + Baroque = Heaven

This weekend we had the pleasure of hearing Simone Dinnerstein perform a series of baroque music pieces for solo piano in a benefit put on the Berkshire Bach Society. It took place in a restored barn in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, which was an extraordinary location (apparently the barn was relocated from Chatham NY, restored and rebuilt beam by beam).

Beautiful Barn

Ms. Dinnerstein performed works by four different composers with no sheet music and no break, for more than an hour of continuous music.

Inside the barn

The program was an impressive series of pieces that the performer strung together as a result of their “rondo” forms in common. She played them without breaks in between, and of course straight through without a single sheet of music to look at.

S Dinnerstein May 2019 Recital

I found Shumann’s Arabesque to be particularly wonderful. Apparently he wrote it at a time of deep melancholy but also a time of passion for his wife-to-be Clara, and to me it sounded very “Up” and uplifting. Here is a discussion of his supposed state of mind at the age of 29, when he wrote it (link):

His relationship with Clara Wieck had reached a point of no return, as her father vehemently opposed anything that might interfere with his daughter’s career as a pianist and strongly disapproved of Schumann as a possible son-in-law. Geographically yet not emotionally detached from Clara, he was able to communicate with her only through letters and in his own music. This has been proposed as an explanation for this work, which alternates passages of wistful longing with more robust, declamatory episodes.

In today’s turbulent world, one can only wonder at the peace and High Culture that is an event like this. The deepest gratitude is the clear choice of responses.