Wednesday, 31 August 2011

I couldn't walk past an art gallery without 'paying a visit.' Maybe it's a hangover from childhood when nobody ever walked past a church without dropping in.
When I stopped by the National Gallery a few days ago, it wasn't with any specific intention of seeing this exhibition. But when I wandered through, I found myself in a bubble of peace and calm on what was rather a scratchy and bad-tempered day. Even the security guard told me how uplifting he found it to sit there all day ...
And needless to say, even though it's free to get in, there were hardly any visitors because 500 year-old Italian altarpieces don't attract crowds.
I'm ashamed to think how often I've scooted past them with barely a glance. It's the domestic, human details that move me most ... a servant with a towel flung over her shoulder boiling water for a baby's birth, or testing the temperature of bathwater with her hand; a pair of shoes kicked off before an altar; the harassed and worried look on a priest's face as he supervises the exhumation of a saint; a strand of hair combed over a bald head. It was like being in a dark, Italian church, hearing a distant chanting of monks (I never thought I'd approve of background music in an art gallery but this time it works) and I sat there until closing time when I was the last one there and they had to throw me out.

4 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

Mary, that picture is exquisite. As you say, the detail is so interesting. I think I should love to be able to visit the exhibition and experience the calmness that you felt there, possibly aided by the Plain Chant? Thank you for bringing it to our attention, I shall look through the images again.

mary said...

It was beautiful, Toffeeapple; and beautifully installed, too. I hope you get a chance to see it.

A Trifle Rushed said...

Mary, I'm compiling a list of things to do when I get back to London, I'm certainly including this exhibition, it sounds perfect. Thanks .

mary said...

I hope you enjoy it, and I'd love to know what's on your list!