Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Carnival in Rome

Jose Benlliure y Gil  Oil on Panel  1881

Fastnacht Day, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnivale, Pancake Day–whatever you call it, celebrate it today!  How do you celebrate? Eat, drink, be merry!  And don’t just eat, eat fatty, rich foods like fastnacht and paczki (doughnuts), pancakes, king cakes, or anything else you may not be able to eat starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Today marks the last day of Shrovetide, the period before Lent.  It is a time of self-examination for Christians.  The general idea is self-reflection leads to repentance and the absolution of sins.  It is a way to prepare for the somber season of lent.  And by prepare, I mean eat alot.

Jose Benlliure y Gil is a Spanish painter of the late 19th and early 20th century.  He is known for both his beautiful portraiture, as well as his work based on flowers and floral work.  This painting is a lovely combination of both.

To me, this painting is somewhere between Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist, and I love it.  There’s so much happening with the flowers and the costumes and the banners.  My favorite is the woman on the left in red lowering a basket of flowers from the balcony.  Who is she lowering them to?  Or is an admirer sending them up?

And I  also like the child on the right.  It looks like a young person has just tossed flowers and maybe pamphlets or flyers over the balcony.  You can see blue papers or pieces of fabric and flowers floating down in front.

The cool tones of the palette, especially cerulean blue, contrast wonderfully against the warm grey walls.  And the texture is just layer after layer.  The blotchy walls, the fabric, the flowers.  There is just great depth in this painting that I enjoy.

Please check out Museo CarmenThyssen Malaga for a description from the museum where it is housed.

I hope you have enjoyed your final day of Mardi Gras!

 

 

jose-benlliure

Jose Benlliure y Gil  Self Portrait

 

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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

Paul Delaroche  Oil on Canvas  1833

On this day, February 12, 1554, teenage former queen of England Lady Jane Grey was beheaded at the Tower of London.  Her cousin, Edward VI, named her as his successor on his deathbed in 1553.  He was bypassing both of his half-sisters, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn.

Many historians believe the king was pressured by his advisor, who happened to be Jane Grey’s father-in-law, the Duke of Nuthumberland.  And although that may have played a role in his decision, I think he genuinely believed Jane Grey was the right choice for the role.  She was well-educated and well liked, having lived with his step-mother and sixth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr.  It’s said her husband, Lord Guidford Dudley, was the most well liked man in all of England.  And most importantly, she was Protestant.

Of course, she also had a very strong claim to the throne.  She was the granddaughter of Mary, King Henry VIII’s younger sister.  According to his will and the line of succession she was third in line.  Had it not been for a change of heart to add his daughters back in line late in his life, she would have been the first in line.  Many at the time refused to recognize the change in succession, making Jane Grey the most legitimate candidate in their eyes.

However, the line of succession set forth by Henry VIII was clear.  More importantly, Jane Grey’s supporters abandoned her as soon as it was clear that the tide was turning in Mary’s favor.  The young queen, only 16 or 17 years old, was left to face a charge of treason, along with her husband and father.  The treason charge was based on the fact that she signed papers “Jane the Queen” during those nine days.  Although there was an unsuccessful rebellion, Wyatt’s Rebellion, to fight for her cause, it’s generally believed she was not involved in any way.

There is an amazing account of the execution of Lady Jane Gray called The Chronicle of Queen Jane, and of Two Years of Queen Mary.  Below is an excerpt from this anonymous work.

The hangman went to her to help her of therewith; then she desyred him to let her alone, turning towardes her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therwith, and also with her frose paast” and neckercher, geving to her a fayre handkercher to knytte about her eyes.

Then the hangman kneeled downe, and asked her forgevenesse, whome she forgave most willingly. Then he willed her to stand upon the strawe: which doing, she sawe the block.

Then she sayd, booke, good mayster lieuftenaunte, therefore I shall as a frende desyre you, and as a christian require you, to call uppon God to encline your harte to his lawes, to quicken you in his waye, and not to take the worde of trewethe utterlye oute of youre mouthe. Lyve styll to dye, that by deathe you may purchase eternall life, and remembre howe the ende of Mathusael, whoe, as we reade in the scriptures, was the longeste liver that was of a manne, died at the laste: for, as the precher sayethe, there is a tyme to be borne, and a tyme to dye; and the daye of deathe is better than the daye of oure birthe. Youres, as the Lorde knowethe, as a frende, JANE DUDDELEY.”

Here is a link to the book in its entirety: Chronicle of Queen Jane

Paul Delaroche was a highly lauded and critically acclaimed French history painter.  His tendency to paint British historical events made him very popular in England as well as France.  His scholarly dedication to historical accuracy made him popular with art critics and academics alike.

This painting, although showing one brief moment, has the ability to tell such a story.  The former queen’s ladies wail at the loss of their mistress.  One had been her maid since infancy.  Lady Jane Grey reaches her hand out for the block, unable to see.  Her white dress seems to remind the viewer of her youth and innocence, as well as her willingness to accept the punishment of her cousin, the queen.  The executioner looks calm and patient, ready to do his duty.

It’s such a beautiful painting for such a dark moment.  I find it so striking and lovely, and much more powerful than a gruesome, bloody painting would have been.  And although Delaroche took some liberties with the setting, he did a superb job of depicting an important historical event accurately and wonderfully.

When you think about it, Lady Jane Grey is just another person destroyed in the wake of Henry VIII.  His muddled succession wishes, the division between not only his counrtymen, but his own children in their views of religion, and his overall disregard for human life he seems to have passed down to his heirs.  So today we remember Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen, her life given in the service of sovereign and country.

Angels of Bataan

Liberation of the Angels of Bataan from Santo Tomas

US Army photo  1945

On February 11, 1945, 3,785 internees were liberated and finally evacuated from Santo Tomas in the Philippines.  Among them were 77 Army and Navy nurses, the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.  This was the largest number of American woman to ever be held captive.  But they weren’t just women, they weren’t just POWs, they were nurses, and they didn’t forget it.

They never neglected their duty or obligation.  For more than three years under harsh conditions they aided the thousands of American and British POWs interned in the camp.  Even when their food was rationed down to 700 calories a day, they each worked four-hour shifts, ensuring the safety and comfort of others as well as themselves.

Just hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, the Philippines was also attacked.  By December 26, Manila had fallen.  The 20,000 American troops and 80,000 Filipinos began to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula.  Shortly thereafter, all foreigners were transported by the Japanese to Santo Tomas, a large university that was turned into an internment camp.  These were mostly Americans and British, but there were a number of nationals from all over the world, including 400 children

They were basically told to fend for themselves.  There was a nightly roll call and monitors, but not much else.  However, they were not allowed to leave the compound, and those that attempted escape were severely punished.  While at first the locals were able to pass food and letters through the fence, the Japanese soon cut them off completely from the outside world.  There would be nothing, including food, to help them.

The Japanese selected an “executive committee” to run the camp.  They essentially did what any city would do.  They set up a police force and a hospital.

Captain Maude Davison of the US Army Nurse Corps was 57 years old with 20 years of service when she took command of the nurses in Santo Tomas.  She and second in command Josephine Nesbit kept the nurses on schedule, even insisting they continue to wear a proper uniform while on shift.  After liberation, many of the internees credited the nurses for saving their lives.  The nurses credited their routine and those in command for saving theirs.

It’s said the nurses were most proud of that fact that 77 nurses went in to Santo Tomas and 77 came out.

I was unable to find a painting of the Angels of Bataan, but I think this is such a great photo of liberation day.  It’s an official US Army photo.  If you look to the far right with her back to the camera you see an older nurse, uniform cap in place.  Such strong determination, perseverance, and sense of duty to their country and profession.

 

 

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Newly liberated Army nurses pose before boarding a flight to the U.S., Feb. 20, 1945. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History)

 

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Photo taken three weeks after liberation at Letterman Hospital.  (Photo courtesy of http://www.west-point.org)

There’s so much to learn about Santo Tomas, the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor, the Bataan Death March and work camps, and the thousands of men and woman of all nationalities that endured World War II.  I would encourage you to read more.  I’ve added a few links below.

Photos of Santo Tomas

National WWII Museum

Maude Davison

Josephine Nesbit