art in the blink of an eye: Steffen Dam’s “Cabinet of Curiosities”

On a visit to one of our local art museums yesterday, I once again stood in front of  Steffen Dam‘s Cabinet of Curiosities for a good long time (click on the image for closer observation):

Steffen Dam, Cabinet of Curiosities, 2010

The name itself, Cabinet of Curiosities, is so evocative of an old time sense of wonder, with many objects gathered together for us to observe closely, to think about in terms of each other, in a way that we wouldn’t if we came across them out in the world.  Continue reading


Portraits of Maria Portinari: The Eye of the Beholder

Portraits have been on my mind recently.  Here’s one of Maria Portinari which is part of an altarpiece painted when she was about 14, just after her marriage to Tommaso Portinari in 1470 (click on the image to be taken to one you can look at more closely):

Hans Memling, Portrait of Maria Portinari, 1470

And here’s another portrait of Maria with her daughter by a different artist, also part of an altarpiece and painted around seven years later:

Maria Portinari and her daughter, Hugo van der Goes, Portinari Altarpiece, 1477-8

The difference in Maria’s appearance is striking.  The question is, to what can this be attributed?  Continue reading

art in the blink of an eye: Whistler’s “Quiet Canal”

In one of the bedrooms at the Paine Art Center (Yes, bedrooms in an art center.  It’s really more of a historic house.) is a little Whistler etching.  It’s really very charming.

James Abbot McNeill Whistler, "Quiet Canal," 1879-80, etching

Continue reading