Dutch Masters at the Met

 

There are only two styles of portrait painting:

the serious and

the smirk.

Charles Dickens

 

Halima Aden in Vermeer’s Girl With The Pearl Earring, Harper’s Bazaar Oct 2017

The exhibit that just opened at the Met yesterday brings together sixty seven of the Museum’s greatest works by Dutch Masters.  In Praise of Painting orients visitors to key issues in seventeenth-century Dutch culture—from debates about religion and conspicuous consumption to painters’ fascination with the domestic lives of women.

This fresh perspective on the Dutch Golden Age unites paintings typically displayed separately in the Museum’s galleries. Rembrandt’s Gerard de Lairesse and Lairesse’s own Apollo and Aurora are presented side by side for a thematic and visually compelling narrative about the tensions between realism and idealism during this period. My favorites from a few of the grand masters featured:

Virtually ignored in his own time, Johannes Vermeer is now considered an Old Master. His fascination was the faithful reproduction of beautiful light on canvas best seen on his most famous work Girl With a Pearl Earring. Using the camera obscura that became available in the Netherlands in the mid-17th century, Vermeer’s best works generally feature windows, and Vermeer would use his new tool to depict the light shining through them in ways never before seen in his time.Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring (which inspired the Harper’s Bazaar interpretation with model Halima Aden at the top of this page) appears seductive precisely because of her restraint and the gorgeously observed fabrics. The coy glance lends it a sense of undefinable mystery,

Danaë (finished in 1636) is Rembrandt van Rijn’s best nude painting and one of his greatest masterpieces. It depicts Danaë, the mother of the ancient Greek mythological hero Perseus, welcoming Zeus who came to her in the form of golden rain. This painting was bought by Catherine II of Russia in the 1770s and has been housed in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg ever since.

Considered the greatest and most famous portrait painter of all time, Rembrandt was a master of observation, chiaroscuro and, perhaps most importantly, brutal honesty, as seen in his self-portraits. These depict the ravages of time on the artist’s face without any sense of vanity, and are heartbreaking when seen in succession.

A generation older than Rembrandt, many of the great’s works would not have been possible without the work of Frans Hals. Hals’ work featured looser brushwork than any who had come before him, introducing a lively sense of movement and a lived-in quality to many of studies. The most famous example of this being The Laughing Cavalier.

Unlike many traditional Baroque artists, Hals did not paint completely objectively. He would create an atmosphere and a different sense of composure for each subject to convey a true sense of self in his paintings. In this way he would accentuate not only their status in society through various symbolic gestures and dress but also portray features of the sitter that made them human.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share the painting that most inspires you.

xoxox

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

Fifty Plus Fools

 

Let us be thankful 

for the fools.

Without them,

the rest of us could not succeed.

Mark Twain

 

 

Between work and family duty, days easily slip by without a hearty laugh. I drive carpool and find it incredulous that most days, teens are stumped by the question “Any jokes today?”  April Fools is fun-tactic reminding us to enjoy being ridiculous!   May we escape the fate of those who take life all too seriously.

While the author of Fifty Shades of Grey was still toddling in her diapers, Long Island housewife Penelope Ashe was an overnight sensation with her tawdry, sex-filled romance novel Naked Came the Stranger. Except she didn’t.

Naked Came the Stranger was the brainchild of Mike McGrady, a Newsday columnist who set out to hit the bestseller list with an intentionally horrible book. He asked 24 Newsday colleagues to write a chapter full of sex, bad writing, and bad writing about sex. With a bunch of smutty nonsense in hand, McGrady edited the book to make it even worse. Apparently bad was good enough for an independent publisher to pick up the book. McGrady got his sister-in-law to pretend to be Ms. Ashe and the book sold 20,000 copies before the hoax was revealed,  They sold a hundred thousand copies sold in its first year and continues to sell to this day.

 

 

In 1962 before the advent of color TV, Sweden’s only television station announced that their “technical expert” was going to show people how they could get their black and white TV sets to show color. The expert claimed that research proves covering your television screen with a cut open pair of women’s stockings could alter the laws of physics and cause the light coming from the TV to appear in color.

Thousands of Swedish viewers fell for the hoax. Technology did catch up a few years later and Swedish TV actually did began broadcasting in color a few years later – on April 1, 1970.

 

 

Han van Meegeren was a small and dapper man, a Dutch artist of limited ability. His confidence made up for what he lacked in talent, successfully passing off his own paintings as newly discovered works by the renowned 17th century artist Jan Vermeer.  He ran the greatest art hoax of the 20th century pocketing the equivalent of $30 million before he was unmasked.

Edward Dolnick, author of The Forger’s Spell, explains how Van Meegeren made a career of Vermeer.

 

 

Van Mergeeren may have been even more successful if he had a genius accomplice like the husband and wife team of Helene Balltracchi and Wolfgang Fischer.  Helene came up with the fake history of a painting on the spot after a Christie’s expert asked her to explain the provenance of Girl with Swan, purportedly by Heinrich Campendonk. “I hadn’t planned anything,” she insists, “but my grandfather lived in Krefeld and so did the artist. So I could easily say they were connected.” To lend her account credibility, Wolfgang staged a black-and-white photograph of Helene impersonating her grandmother. Wearing a black dress and a strand of pearls,  posed in front of several paintings from her grandparents’ collection. The photo was slightly out of focus, and printed on prewar developing paper. Hanging on the wall at left is a fake Fernand Léger and at far right is a phony Max Ernst.

Click on “Leave a Comment” top left to share how your life’s been richer as a fool.

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

Sacred Healing: The Peruvian Despacho

The best gift you can give your partner

is to dress like his parents

and apologize.

@BisHilarious tweet

Peruvian-Despacho-elements-Powerful-Goddess

My heart is overflowing from the happiest and most memorable Valentine’s week of my entire life–no sex involved!  With an expanded view of love beyond romance, there was so much to celebrate: cozy dinners with neighbors and friends, thoughtful surprises of gifts and flowers, dance parties with fun people, and most meaningful of all, a very unusual Valentine’s party my daughter and I attended.

A Powerful Goddess Shaman decided to avoid unnecessary angst and disappointment Valentine’s can bring when our beloved fails to show or deliver what we expect. She hosted a beautiful Peruvian Despacho Ceremony with her favorite people to affirm how we are the true source of unconditional love and healing. My daughter and I were moved to tears as we explained every element we chose to be part of the artwork we created for each other. This most touching experience made me felt seen by loving eyes, grateful to be blessed and bless in turn. My daughter said, “I’ve never cried so much tears of joy!”

Despacho is a Spanish word for “dispatch” or “shipment.”  It is a symbolic offering of your prayers for support, thanksgiving,  desires and blessing. The ceremony can be performed individually or as a group, a most meaningful celebration for birthdays, weddings, memorials, milestones and life transitions. A despacho is similar to a mandala or sacred creation in that it holds symbolic elements and the prayers of the participants for whatever concerns them: relationships, finances, health, career, etc. As the shaman adds elements to the despacho, it becomes a living prayer that brings energy shifts and healing.

To create your own, begin with a large piece of white paper that will serve as the wrapping for all of your offerings. Choose each ingredient you add for its significance and bless it with a prayer or intention before positioning it harmoniously with the other symbols at the center of the paper. Include elements to signify fire, earth, water and air. Examples:

Soil for the feeling of being grounded and secure

Sugar and candy to bring sweetness and love

Corn and grains to symbolize growth and nourishment

Flowers for beauty, joy and love

Arrange your symbolic items with great care and beauty on the paper. Take your time thinking of what else can symbolize what you are praying for.

When your mandala is complete, fold the paper and tie up the bundle beautifully. You can ceremoniously burn your creation to let your intention become part of the air, bury it in the earth to compost for new endeavors, or release it into a river as a symbol of letting go of your desires as they become part of nature’s flow of energy.

Peruvian-Despacho-Powerful-Goddess

Choose the symbols then assemble your Despacho at the center of a sheet of square paper

Peruvian-Despacho-symbols-Powerful-Goddess

This Romeo could not resist tasting the sweets I chose to symbolize joy, fun and play for my daughter’s mandala

Peruvian-Despacho

She cried on my lap as I explained the symbolism of each element I chose for the artwork I dedicated to her

Peruvian-Despacho-sample-Powerful-Goddess

Wrap your creation beautifully before burning, burying or releasing into a body of water

Peruvian-Despacho-bundle-PowerfulGoddess

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what symbols you might choose for your Despacho.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

No Feet Left Behind

The one thing that can solve

most of our problems

is dancing.

James Brown

Dancing-Classrooms-The-Pierre-Gala-Sharon-Birke

Exasperated by the computer induced anti-social and sedentary lifestyle of my teens, I signed Mr. Highschool Senior for social dance classes last week. “This will make you famous with the girls in college!,” I assured him. Yet the minutes were long waiting for him to come out of that first lesson.  Was I just wasting time and money?  He finally stepped out of class grinning, “Dancing is fun!” Whew–Thank you, Goddess!

This week, by some fantastic coincidence, I heard about Dancing Classrooms: a 10 week (20 session) social development program for 5th and 8th grade children using the vehicle of ballroom dance.  The dance floor is, after all, a literal level playing field, doing away with the learning barrier between the gifted and talented and those with special needs. In social dance, every child is treated like a lady and gentleman, taught how to connect with and respect members of the opposite sex, given a safe environment to enjoy movement.

Kudos to teachers and school administrators who recognize that a developing personality thrives beyond grades and testing, that adding fun and engaging character education fosters respect and teamwork, affirming a child’s self-confidence with a sense of joy and accomplishment. All this while teaching good posture, considerate manners, and the importance of eye to eye contact with other human beings. They may even discover that their limbs have uses beyond being hunched over tech gadgets!

Social dance changes children’s perception of themselves and I love how the Dancing Classrooms program sets expectations that help elevate their outlook in life.  Thank you to Pierre Dulaine who founded this program in 1994 and the fabulous men and women who continue to make learning essential life skills fun and easy! I was totally impressed by the children who showed off what they learned in 10 short weeks at last night’s gala.

To donate, volunteer or partner your public school with the Dancing Classrooms program: http://www.dancingclassrooms.com/Page/About/

A closer peek through the lens of legendary NY Times society photographer Bill Cunningham

NYTimes-Bill-Cunningham-Dancing-Classrooms-Gala-Sharon-Birke

You’re never too young or too old for fun on the dance floor!

Dancing-Classrooms-Gala-Sharon-Birke

 A mighty proud 5th grade ballroom dancer

Dancing-Classrooms-5th-grade-ballroom-dancer-Sharon-Birke

Watch their video “Mad Hot Ballroom”

 Photos © Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Paris: What to See and Do?

If Chanel gave liberty to women,

Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent

Le-Pont-Alexandre-III-Pont-Paris-485x728

Sunset at Le Pont Alexandre III, my favorite bridge in town

On my return trip to the City of Light., I may not change my mind about the Eiffel Tower being an eyesore, but I am open to being converted into a Francophile. Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to tell me what else to add to my list:

Le Barrio Latino  in the Bastille (Metro Ledru Rollin) for four floors of dancing and dining.

Piano serenade at the Four Season George V Dine or chill with a drink at their cozy lobby bar and restaurant, admire the history of the opulent carpet and tapestries.

002870-11-gallery Crazy Horse (12 Avenue George V  75008) for burlesque in an intimate, old world setting.

Privacy with high tea at the Mariage Freres (13, Rue des Grands Augustins) on a charming, exceedingly quiet Parisian street. When you enter the door, you’re transported to another time with dark wood furniture and tea tinted yellow walls lined with their iconic black and red lacquer tea packaging–beautifully detail oriented and deserving of being voted #1 luxury tea brand by Newsweek.

Musee de Artes Decoratifs (107 rue de Rivoli  75001) because I love objects that are both functional and pretty.  This museum is at the end of one arm of  the Louvre, offering exceptional temporary shows and a fabulous permanent exhibit.  I hear museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, at least for their permanent collections.  I’m thinking of Sunday brunch at their great new outdoor cafe facing the Tuillerie gardens. too.

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent  (5 avenue Marceau 75116) houses the workshop studio of the great designer and their current exhibit “Kabuki” is dedicated to Japanese costume theatre.   I’m very curious to see emblematic haute couture prototypes and YSL’s design sketches where he used masculine codes to give women security and audacity whilst accentuating their feminity.

xoxox

Madame Butterflies Are Free

You cannot say to the sun, “More sun.”

Or to the rain, “More rain.”

Arthur Golden in Memoirs of a Geisha

Madame Butterfly’s latest run at the Metropolitan Opera ended last week fluttering on to other world stages, for who isn’t fascinated by the exotic?  Who isn’t intrigued by the mystery of the geisha?  Who doesn’t want a faithful lover who pines for our return–when and if we feel like it?

My young daughter tells her brother “I love you” and waits for him to reciprocate.  He–brothers being the way they are–rolls his eyes and she cries indignantly, “But he’s supposed to love me back!”

I assured her that loving someone doesn’t make him obligated to love you back.  And to remind them that childhood sibling squabbles are practice for dealing with their future spouses, I added, “Even when you’re married.”

“Ha!” My son laughed incredulous, “Even with my wife?!”

Yes, we are free to love as we choose.  And there’s no greater freedom than in loving simply because.

Special thanks to Mountain for the quote he shared in response to the “Love After Love” poem on this blog’s “Be Divine” page:

True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.  -Antoine De Saint-Exupery

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

xoxox

Flamenco Passion

I have everything I had 20 years ago,

only it’s all a little lower.

Gypsy Rose Lee

Flamenco Goddess by Sharon Birke www.PowerfulGoddess.com

She was only 12 years old when her little heart was swept away by a flamenco performance.  Since then, Marina Elana has dedicated her life to a dance that requires grace and the disciplined precision of the “compas” (rhythmic pattern.)

El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud stance, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet.  In traditional flamenco, emotional maturity is required to adequately convey the “duende” (soul) of the genre. Thus, unlike other dance forms where dancers must turn professional early to take advantage of youth, many flamenco dancers hit their peak in their thirties and continue to perform well beyond their fifties–much like the way a woman owns more and more of her power with age.

“Classical flamenco,” the style used by dance companies, is characterized by a proud, upright carriage that makes every woman look like the Powerful Goddess that she is.  At its most authentic, flamenco is danced informally at gitano (Gypsy) weddings and celebrations in Spain. “Flamenco puro,” the form closest to its gitano origins, is always performed as a solo improvisation.

And in the tradition of the courageous gypsies who originated this dance, Marina now makes New York her new home, designing her destiny with a production “Simplemente Flamenco” at Le Poisson Rouge this Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.  Ole!

 

Flamenco Goddess by Sharon Birke www.PowerfulGoddess.com

 

 

 

Flamenco Goddess by Sharon Birke www.PowerfulGoddess.com

 

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC

Flamenco Goddess by Sharon Birke www.PowerfulGoddess.com

xoxox

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