When the lights go out

10 02 2015

Last evening wasn’t what I would call a typical Monday evening. In some rather untypical company, after the lights went off, I stood waiting for a box containing a 15th century lady to be opened, showing little of the trepidation my irrational fears of the dark would typically have invoked; the promise the evening held was an unveiling of the lady’s exquisite beauty for her debut in Singapore.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

Delicate but yet well preserved, the beauty of the lady of nobility, is one that is beautifully captured by an associate of Leonardo da Vinci,  Ambrogio de Predis. The portrait, one of several masterpieces from the da Vinci school that is making an appearance in Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum, as part of the Da Vinci: Shaping the Future exhibition that runs until May 2015. While the highlight of the exhibition is perhaps the pages out of da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus from Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana’s collection, the masterpieces the Ambrosiana has brought over, also deserve much attention.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

The rather uninspiringly named “Portrait of a Lady” that had until the 19th century been attributed to da Vinci himself, goes on display for the first time from today. It is part of a changeover of inspiring art work and pages of the Codex at the midway point of the exhibition, made necessary by a three-month limit on exposing the original works, following which they have to be returned to the dark.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

For a opportunity to celebrate beauty as expressed  in oil and to be awed by the genius of da Vinci contained in the pages of the Codex Atlanticus, do visit this wonderful look at what the museum refers to as history’s foremost ArtScientist, Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition interestingly, also sees models of da Vinci’s innovative ideas on display.  The exhibition ends in May 2015. For more information and ticketing details, do visit the ArtScience Museum’s website.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Unwrapping the painting.

Unwrapping the painting.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Biblioteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

Examining the details.

Examining the details.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai's St. John the Baptist.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai’s St. John the Baptist.


More on the changeover (Art Science Museum Press Release):

Singapore (11 February 2015) – ArtScience Museum today unveiled its eagerly-anticipated renewal of the original masterpieces showcased at Da Vinci: Shaping the Future, as the exhibition approaches the second half of its run. The refreshed displays include a new collection of 13 original pages of the Codex Atlanticus, da Vinci’s largest notebook, and three new paintings from the School of da Vinci.

As part of the renewed collection, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view a neverbefore-seen original Codex Atlanticus page, Drawings of Two Compasses. This folio features two drawings of intricately decorated compasses, which were important tools employed by da Vinci to determine the proportions of his machines and to mark designs on paper before he applied ink to his drawings.

Another beautifully illustrated page in the renewed collection is the Giant Crossbow, one of da Vinci’s most striking and celebrated folios from the Codex Atlanticus. Drawn with elaborate details and technical skill, the folio includes precise measurements of the machine’s components and a figure atop the machine to provide an indication of the scale.

The Giant Crossbow is a prime example of how da Vinci used his artistic skills to illustrate complex technical concepts.

“More than any other figure in history, Leonardo da Vinci represents the unity of art and science. Therefore, it is a great privilege to be able to bring a new collection of da Vinci’s masterpieces to ArtScience Museum, as part of this groundbreaking exhibition. What is particularly exciting for us is that one of the pages from the Codex Atlanticus, which arrived from Italy this week, is being shown in public for the very first time. We are grateful to have been able to work so closely with Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana to realise an exhibition that vividly illustrates how da Vinci’s genius, creativity, and systems thinking continue to inspire and shape the world we live in now,” said Ms. Honor Harger, executive director of ArtScience Museum.

Dr Irene Lee, co-curator, ArtCORP Pte Ltd, adds, “It has been an honour to be a part of this project and to bring the original works by da Vinci from Milan to Singapore. Singapore, like da Vinci, is very forward-thinking, and it is only fitting to have these masterpieces displayed in this innovative city.”

One of the new original paintings that will be on display is the visually arresting Portrait of a Lady. Donated to the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in 1618, the painting was attributed to da Vinci until the 19th century. While the references to da Vinci are evident, such as the knotted golden braid on the lady’s garment, the mesmeric painting remains elusive as both its subject and author have yet to be confirmed despite generations of study by critics and scholars. While some leading scholars firmly attribute the painting to da Vinci and others favour a more prudent attribution, these controversies have never debased the work’s appeal, only increasing its mystery.

Other new paintings from the School of da Vinci that will be showcased are Christ Child with the Lamb by Bernardino Luini, the most famous Milanese painter in the early 16th century, and Adoration of the Child with Saint Roch by Giampietrino.






Sur le pont d’Avignon: Exiled Popes and a broken bridge

28 12 2009

The popular children’s song Sur le pont d’Avignon comes to mind each time one thinks of Avignon. The lyrics of the song describes people dancing on the bridge in a circle … conjuring up images of jovial folk dressed in their medieval finery dancing in celebration on what must have been a magnificent Pont Saint-Bénezet, stradled over the Rhône.

Sur le pont d'Avignon: On the Bridge of Avignon

The Chorus of Sur le pont d’Avignon,

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond

translates into:

On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a ring

Le Pont d'Avignon: Pont Saint-Bénezet (The Saint-Bénezet Bridge)

What is left of the bridge these days, are four remaning arches, where there had been twenty-two arches supporting the length of the beautifully constructed bridge. A large part of what had been a 900 metre long bridge was swept away by a flood in the late 17th century. A first glimpse of the bridge on the approach from the cool shadows of the tree lined ramparts of the city walls, against the drone of the gentle chorus of cicadas, who one might suggest, were attempting to mimic the tune of the children’s song, provides a foretaste of the impressive divine inspired work. The solid looking bridge, inspired by the vision of a shepherd boy, Bénezet, after whom it is named, who, in a vision, was commanded by angels to build a bridge across the river, was constructed in the late 12th century. For sometime the bridge served strategically as the only built river crossing between Lyon and the Mediterranean. Standing on what is left of the bridge, one feels a sense of awe and can’t help but marvel at what is truly an impressive feat of medieval engineering.

Sur le pont d'Avignon: The Palace of the Popes as seen from the Saint-Bénezet Bridge

The bridge offers a wonderful perspective of the walled city of Avignon and the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) where the day had actually begun. The Palace of the Popes, built in the 14th century, served as the seat of the Papacy during a tumultuous period of time when the Papacy took leave of absence from its seat in Rome – the only period of time since the establishment of the Papacy when it had been based outside of Rome. The Palace with its 15000 square metres of floor area is an impressive piece of medieval architecture and is in fact the largest Gothic palace in Europe. It was built from 1335 to 1364, after a French dominated Papacy had moved from the strife and hostility it faced in Rome in 1309, serving as the seat of the Catholic Church until 1377, when the Papacy moved back to Rome. It continued serving as the seat of two rebel popes installed by factions opposed to Rome during the Papal Schism that followed the departure of the Papacy, until 1403.

Palais des Papes - The Palace of the Popes

View from the Ramparts of the Palace of the Popes

Roof at the Palace of the Popes

The Palace of the Popes

Cathédrale Notre Dame-des-Doms and the Palace of the Popes

Across from the Palace of the Popes, stands the delightful Petit Palais, which houses the Musée du Petit Palais and its collection of mainly Italian and French primitive and early renaissance art, including Bottlcelli’s The Virgin and Child. On display is what perhaps a glimpse of the art from a period of time during which the awakening of art and culture had started, from a time when art, architecture and much of life, was dedicated to the glory of God.

Botticelli's The Virgin and Child (1465)

Giovanni Baronzio's Madonna and Child (c. 1343)

Outside the palaces, the streets, that had on the walk into the walled city that morning, been filled with the dissonance of a student protest, one that maybe one expects to come across on the cobble stones of a city as French as the dissension of its citizens is, seemed quiet in the heat of the Provencal summer afternoon. Wandering around somehow seemed a lot less interesting after the morning’s journey into the city’s colourful past.

The quiet streets of Avignon

A Medieval Tower in the centre of Avignon