December 11th, 2006

little review

Poem for Monday

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We didn't have to retrieve our kids from my mother until late afternoon (father went to Redskins' game, probably officially out of playoff contention now), so we got up early and, in order to avoid the waits and crowds that the exhibit has been getting, arrived shortly after 10 at the Sackler Gallery's In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000. I'd heard that the exhibit was amazing, but "amazing" doesn't begin to do it justice. The gallery has nearly 100 of the oldest Biblical scrolls, codices and books in existence, including the oldest surviving manuscripts of the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy and fragments from both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the earliest known Gnostic Gospels. I've read them in translation and about them for years, but actually seeing them, standing in the same room as them...I got chills. The exhibit is kept very dark to preserve the crumbling manuscripts, so one has to get very close to read the information cards and see the artifacts, and it feels like sacred space. Charles Freer, of the Sackler's sister museum the Freer Gallery, was a collector of Biblical relics, but a lot of the material is on loan from the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the Bodleian scholars wrote a lot of the cards. I could read the Hebrew and Latin more easily than the one Old English manuscript on display...there was also an ancient Torah in Arabic, the Septuagint in Armenian, and a stunningly illustrated Irish Bible with Celtic decorations, among many wonderful items you should check out on the web site if you're at all interested. I cannot recommend this exhibit highly enough.

Then, since we were already downtown, we went to lunch at the National Gallery of Art's Pavilion Café overlooking the Sculpture Garden and, at this time of year, the ice skating rink, where I had very good chipotle chicken panini, and then we went to the National Gallery itself to see Strokes of Genius, an exhibit on Rembrandt's drawings and prints, with particular emphasis on variations in printing on different types of paper and vellum and changes he made to the images after printing them in later versions. It's a big exhibit with an entire long gallery devoted solely to his religious prints and another with images of neighbors and people he knew personally. But our main reason for going into the National Gallery was to see The Artist's Vision: Romantic Traditions in Britain, which I knew had some paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones as well as a couple by Blake. I always love the Pre-Raphaelite women and the surreal atmosphere in Blake's work but I really enjoyed the sublime landscape painting as well, and I think this is the first time I've ever seen John Ruskin's art on exhibit rather than reading what he had to say about other people's.

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Stopped at the New Age store in Gaithersburg because I was in the mood after Crystalis, retrieved the kids, had a late dinner because we all had late lunches, played Happy Feet Uno, got a submarine in my Pirates of the Mysterious Islands pack. Whoo! Now a little more than five hours till I find out if I'm having a mid-life crisis or just a difficult month. Sigh!