Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Exhibit: “Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure”

“If music be the food of love, play on;” Twelfth Night, Shakespeare

Painters in the 17th century Netherlands had a strong affinity for music with more than one in ten of the works from the Dutch Golden Age incorporating such themes. Twelve of the existing 36 paintings by Johannes Vermeer include musical references. The current exhibit in London “Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure” displays five of these works by Vermeer, along with paintings with musical motifs by his contemporaries Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch.

Music in the Netherlands of that era was not a complex, lofty art, but rather a popular pastime for all classes. People enjoyed simple and accessible musical entertainment such as chamber music performed and sung in their own homes, often holding concerts with friends. Music as part of one’s life was frequently depicted in the forms of various symbols in paintings. In portraits, the depiction of music scores and instruments signaled the social status and talents of the subject while in illustrations of scenes of daily life, the musical items revealed the intellectual and social status of the people in the picture.

The important role of harmony in music became a metaphor for the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. Scenes of music lessons in particular were popular as they offered the rare occasion of a natural setting in which an unmarried man and woman could be together. In Gabriel Metsu’s painting, a male music teacher has stopped a lesson to offer his young female pupil a glass of wine. In the background of Metsu’s “A Man and a Woman seated by a Virginal,” (Fig. 1) we see behind a curtain, a portion of a picture of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” which foreshadows what will happen to the two people in the painting.

Fig. 1
Gabriel Metsu (1629 - 1667)
A Man and a Woman seated by a Virginal
about 1665, oil on oak
38.4 x 32.2 cm
The National Gallery, London, Inv. NG839
© The National Gallery, London
Fig. 2
Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675)
The Music Lesson
about 1662-3, oil on canvas
73.3 x 64.5 cm
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

Fig. 3
Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675)
A Young Woman seated at a Virginal
about 1670-2, oil on canvas
51.5 x 45.5 cm
The National Gallery, London, Inv. NG2568
© The National Gallery, London

Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” (Fig. 2) portrays a woman playing the virginal and a man listening intently. The woman seems to be focusing on her music, but her reflection in the mirror above her head reveals she is looking toward the man suggesting she has intimate feelings for him. Inscribed on the lid of the virginal are the words “Musica Letitae Comes Medicina Doloris” (“Music is a companion in pleasure, and a balm in sorrow”) which allude to the inner thoughts of the woman. At the time, the virginal symbolized the female voice and the viol that of the male. The viola da gamba lies behind the woman as if waiting to be played in harmony with the virginal. Such drama between a man and a woman is hidden within this tranquil painting.

The artists began to devise ways to draw viewers in as active participants of the unfolding romances in the paintings instead of letting us remain simply observers. The women portrayed in Vermeer’s “A Young Woman seated at a Virginal” (Fig. 3) and Gerard Dou’s “Woman at the Clavichord” cast appealing gazes toward the viewer as if inviting us to pick up and play the viols at their sides.

Music may very well be the key to deciphering 17th century Dutch paintings.

The exhibit displays viols, guitars and virginals from the 17th century and will also host musical performances from the era from Thursdays through Saturdays.

“Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure” runs until September 8, 2013.

The National Gallery, London
Trafalgar Square,
London WC2N 5DN
The United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7747 2885
Opening times:
Mondays – Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays 10:00 – 18:00
Fridays 10:00 – 21:00

Monday, 12 August 2013

History and Design go hand in hand at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy in Amsterdam

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy

With its mix of guest rooms ranging from one star to five stars, The Lloyd Hotel is unlike any other. Inside the rooms might be grand pianos, beds long enough to fit seven to eight people, soundproofing fixtures strong enough for concerts, a bathtub and swing set up in the rafters or a gigantic kitchen. This place is filled to the brim with the playfulness typical of Dutch design.
There’s also a lot of interiors with movable parts, or you can just freely use any of the furniture in the corridor. Different from a regular hotel, the bathroom and toilet might be right in the middle of the room, or furnished in another such way to draw the eye. In these guest rooms you could bring in a room divider, take a shower right alongside your bed, or submerse yourself in the tub; they propose and allow an entirely different use of time and space than in our daily lives.

5-star room. Bath area is designed by MVRDV.
The Lloyd Hotel, located on Amsterdam Harbor’s eastern wharf, draws its name from the original owner of the building, the shipping company Lloyd. Originally constructed as a hotel where emigrants to South America could have a physical examination and a few days’ rest, at that time as many as nine hundred people could stay at the hotel. After Royal Dutch Lloyd went bankrupt in 1935, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WWII, the building was used to hold members of the underground resistance. After the war ended, it turned into a regular penitentiary, and later again a reformatory centre for youth. From the second half of the 1980s, it was put to use as studio space for artists.

Between 1989 and 1999, artists created work, lived and interacted there.
They took down the walls creating the melancholy and enclosed impression, and brought about a complete change with what came before: an open space and open atmosphere, in which a variety of people could come and go. The open-minded and creative spirit of the artists was taken over by Suzanne Oxenaar and Otto Nan, the founders of the current Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, and this can be seen all over the hotel in different forms.

When the building was being renovated for use as a hotel, what counted most was the concepts of “a release from the dark past” and “welcoming the sense of playfulness, bringing the space alive”. The Dutch architecture agency MVRDV made the central area of the hotel into a light and open atrium. Inside the building is the Cultural Embassy; which lives up to its name, always surrounded in works of contemporary art and design. For example: on the top floor, there is Suchan Kinoshita’s work, at the entrance to the restaurant and café, which are popular locally as well, the work “Lloyd Life” is on display, by the Amsterdam-based artist Chikako Watanabe. Moreover, in the upper reaches of the café, there is a library, and space provided for exhibitions and workshops, where visitors can walk around freely. At Lloyd Hotel and the Cultural Embassy, design and art have integrated to create an experience for all five senses, and its attitude and conception of remembering its history with respect is mesmerizing.

*Click here for more photos.

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy
Oostelijke Handelskade 34
1019 BN Amsterdam
The Netherlands
t: +31205613636