Monday, October 8, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam

Rottderdam in Netherlands had a wonderful art museum - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, whose collections far surpassed my expectations, fresh after my stay at Amsterdam, where Rembrandt and Van Gogh were amongst the highlights in its world renown museums.

Since Rotterdam, two relatively small paintings haunted me ever since.  The first was one of the several versions of The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 

The tower of Babel c. 1565, Oil on Panel, 59.9 x 74.6 cm
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Brueghel c. 1525 - Brussel 1569)

In Bruegel's eyes, the Tower of Babel was an imposing fortress, with a broad base and classical arches in rows atop rows, like the an ever-growing Colosseum in Rome.  The setting was seaside, common in the Netherlands, with ships swamping in the emerald green tranquil harbor. 

The imagination of the painter was astonishing.  His most intricate gargantuan structure not only had fantastic sense, but also quite logical and looked almost like a scientific sketch.  Zooming into the details, I was amazed and excited by many details he incorporated into the panorama.  You may see laborers of every trade and tool of every kind, schematically employed on all levels of the tower, reaching to the clouds, before a Babelonian confusion of tongues stopped their lofty endeavor.

The second favorite of mine was a painting with even more overt religious theme, The glorification of the Virgin by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Leiden 1465? - Haarlem 1495?):

The glorification of the Virgin 1490 - 1495, Oil on Panel, 24.5 x 20.5 cm
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Leiden 1465? - Haarlem 1495?)

This remarkable small panel was just as crowded with details as the Bruegel, but these details were larger and easier to see but just as hidden, by blinding light in this version.  The painting depicted an adoration of Mary.  In typical style of the time, Mary looked a typical European beauty, pale, and delicate, with an almost bald large forehead.  The baby looked strange too, with his outstretched thin arms and legs, he resembled the skeletal angels surround them, half hidden by light and darkness.  Mary, in magnificent red robe and wearing a huge crown, carrying Jesus in her elongated elegant hands, seated on the moon sickle and crushing the dragon under it, surrounded by angels with musical instruments and the instruments of the passion, all of which illuminated and silhouetted by the heavenly light surrounding mother and child. With the diminishing of the light away from Mary and the Jesus, these angles and the instruments took on a ghostly impression, and gave this painting a hallucinatory effect.  A most strange and beautiful depiction of enthroned Mary and Jesus. 

According to the Museum, "this depiction of Mary refers to the Revelations of St. John 12:1: 'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.' The panel was originally part of a diptych. The other panel is in Edinburgh and depicts the crucifixion of Christ. The panel in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh."

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 54: My Favorite Paintings in Mauritshuis, Den Haag, Netherlands
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 52: My Favorite Paintings at Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Netherlands

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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