Friday, June 29, 2012

Sepia Saturday # 132 Syncopated Time

    When it comes to sports, I'm on the side lines cheering. Always a spectator, I'm not much of a player of anything.

    If it hadn't been for Burt in the photo chosen this week, I'd have passed, but I've harbored a secret crush on Burt Bacharach for years. Handsome and talented, he has my eternal admiration as a player, but as a player of the flugelhorn, not tennis. Every last flugelhorn player I know is grateful to Burt for the flugelhorn parts he wrote into his songs like "Walk on By". Flugelhorning sadly is another activity I've only rarely watched and never played.

    How did Burt find time to play tennis? He wrote more than 70 top 40 tunes according to Wikipedia,  "characterized by unusual chord progressions, striking syncopated rhythmic patterns, irregular phrasing, frequent modulation, and odd, changing meters".  Those tricky bits are what made his tunes stick in your head for days. Not only that, but he was married to Angie Dickinson which must have been absorbing to say the least. Then he was married to the great Carole Bayer Sager!

    I like to think about Burt not with a tennis racket but with a baton in his hand and if I'd had any say he would have been chained to his music stand, syncopating and certainly not running around with Dinah, nice as she may be. 

    It's amazing how well some people manage their time.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012


    Heavy rain kept us cooped up in Amsterdam but by mid-afternoon it finally let up and we had just enough time to make the train to Haarlem and the Frans Hals museum. With only an hour to visit, we moved at a fairly good clip checking the items we wanted to see off our list when we rounded a corner and were stopped in our tracks by this large painting.

     "Four Regentesses of the Holy Spirits Almshouse", 1641 painted by Johannes Verspranks. The 5' by 7' painting of four middle-aged women, faces framed in magnificent millstone ruffs, was hanging alone on a plain fwall, all the more stunning in the stark setting. The figures are in repose, but alert with the accoutrement of their management and administrative work arrayed on the table in front of them. The scene looks like a meeting is ready to begin with one of the women just taking her seat. Richard took a close-up shot of the hand of the woman in the foreground.

    These sturdy and calm looking women were talented managers and care givers, the career women of the mid 17th century. Three of them have rings visible on their index fingers. The plain piece of simple adornment along with their similar dark, luxurious clothing conveyed a subdued power and 
    sense of sisterhood. 

    Only one magnificent millstone ruff survived from this period and lives now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Softer and more casual than those worn by the Regentesses it is believed to have been worn by young men. The Regentesses' ruffs were more formal, pleated and heavily starched. 

    Keeping well dressed must have been a huge job considering the dirt, dust and grime that were part of everyday life in those days, even in the lives of the upper classes and wealthy. If these ruffs weren't enough to care for - imagine keeping them clean, ironed and starched - consider the foot decoration men wore during the same period, at least men who were having their portraits painted. Three rosettes decorate the socks of the lutist in the family portrait below while his garter sports a fancy bow, a match to the one on his shoes. This painting by Jan Miense Molenaer, of his family, also hangs in the Franz Hals museum.

    You'd need a "girl with a pearl", like the fictional Greta to do all that fancy bow work and collar starching.  We saw Vermeer's masterpiece on another visit to the Mauritshuis museum collection in the Haag, but that's another story.

    Back to Jan Molenaer who was married to Judith Jansdr Leyster, one of the first female artists in the Netherlands. Her painting, "Monsieur Pekelharing" circa 1629 also hangs in the Franz Hals museum. Some experts speculate that she was a student of Hals; other accounts have her competing with him. She had a commercial studio with a couple of male painters working for her but apparently slowed down after having 5 children (duh) and painted privately thereafter in a studio with her husband.

    The museum visit was short, but excellent and as we left we had a quick look at the lovely enclosed garden:

    then went on to have dinner in the Haarlem town square:

     where we enjoyed a simple dinner with a delicious, large glass of Brugse Zot Belgian Beer.