A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our friends (and especially to our loyal blog followers whose readership of our posts we are especially grateful for).
As an old Alleynian (that’s the title given to anyone who has been a pupil at Dulwich College, the college founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, the great actor, theatrical entrepreneur and friend of Shakespeare) my Christmas card for this year is that delightful nativity scene by Domenichino which, among so many other of the Uk’s finest paintings (Rembrandts, Rubens, Raphael’s, Poussins, Gainsboroughs, Dutch Italianates, Claudes, and so many more) were bequeathed to the college through the art dealers Bourgeois and Desenfans when their collection, originally made for the King of Poland, fell through when that country was triparted at the end of the eighteenth century.
What a bequest and what a treasure to look after! How could anyone part with any of these wonderful pictures which I only recently saw again when attending the extraordinary Escher exhibition mentioned in my previous post.
And yet one of these priceless treasures, precisely that Domenichino, was sold off by the then trustees to pay for a leaking roof repair in 1971 for £100,000 (!). Fortunately, it was bought by the National Gallery of Scotland where those north of the border can still admire this enticing work. And all this despite an adjournment debate in the House of Commons where the trustees and the minister who consented to the sale were condemned by George Strauss MP who, like the rest of those who care about these things, was astounded that only three weeks’ notice had been given before the Sotheby’s auction!
The gorgeous Domenichino returned to Dulwich Gallery for just a month over Christmas and New Year of 2011-12 to celebrate the world’s first purpose built art gallery’s bi-centennial. Let England’s shame be Scotland’s glory I say!
Can these things happen today? Regrettably they can. Northampton Museum’s Egyptian scribe Sekhemka’s statue was recently sold for almost sixteen million pounds to ‘an unidentified buyer’. I am glad to note that that that museum has been struck off the official national museums association.
How appalling! The poor scribe is now probably destined to imprisonment in a remote swiss bank vault and we, the public, will be denied the view of yet another treasure, this time not through fanatic vandalism but through sheer investment egotism.
At least we can still enjoy Domenichino’s pastoral scene on public view.
And with this positive thought Sandra, our three cats Napoleone, Carlotta, Cheekie, our ducks Flip and Flop (and even our goldfish Tira and Molla) join together to wish you all the joys and comradeship this joyous and (for Longoio) amazingly mild season (the capers are still flowering!) of Christmastide may offer you.
Above blanched virgin
to the drone of shepherd’s pipes
angels unfurl praise
As cattle shelter
walled city lours reticent
against bitter wind
It would be simple
to clothe the naked baby:
turn straw into gold
Waiting in twilight
the time passes so slowly
alone and at peace