Meandering Through Dali’s 1943 Madonna

Spending two hours in one room in a museum gives you plenty of time to see the art that you usually pass by. When you’re in a museum that you often go to, don’t you gravitate toward your favorites or the works that you know something about?  On a recent evening, I was stationed in a gallery at the Chazen Museum of Art while parents of incoming college students meandered through.  While being friendly and answering questions, I had time to meander a little bit through the gallery on my own, and I noticed a Salvador Dali painting, tucked in a niche, that I’d never noticed before.

Salvador Dali, The Madonna, 1943, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin

It’s rather small, only 20 x 11 inches, so just 6 inches larger than piece of legal sized paper.  And it’s quite striking.  And lovely. The Madonna stands towering over man and mountain while babies with Matisse-like shadows swirl around her.  The baby that she holds, barely, doesn’t really have a face, and although I find this to be kind of disturbing,  it’s really no more disturbing, when you think about it,  than out-of-proportion Medieval and Renaissance babies that look like muscular little adults or whose heads appear misshapen.  (Seraphim (which often appear as baby heads with wings) can creep me out, too, although that’s a different thing entirely.) Continue reading


Prosperity and Peace and Everything Nice: 10th century Islamic Bowls

These Islamic bowls fascinate me, and I’m not sure why.  They’re startlingly simple.  I don’t read Arabic, and I never remember what the inscriptions say. (Because I just looked it up, I can tell you that the inscription on the bowl below reads either: “Planning before work protects you from regret; prosperity and peace,”(1)  or “Deliberation before action protects you from regret. Luck and well-being.”)(2) There seems to be a slight disagreement about the translation, which I also find fascinating.)   I rarely see one of these bowls, but when I do, I practically swoon.

Bowl with Arabic Inscription, 10th century, Nishapur, Iran, Museum of Metropolitan Art, New York

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