Hostage situation

Well, the country is being held hostage again by the unions.
There's a protest march in Brussels against the budget cuts the European leaders are going to have to do to get their affairs in order.
What does this have to do with an over-thirty art history student?
The busses are on strike...
Ugh. Looks like I'll have to go into town with my car because I have a lecture at 1pm and according to the transport company's website only 40-75% of busses are out but do not ride at regular intervals in my area.

This does beg the question: How are those people who are going to demonstrate going to get to the station if the busses are on strike?


We're off...

First day back at university today:
- Bus arrives 17 minutes late at destination.
- First lecture: bored to death.
- In between lectures: water pipe bursts and floods hallway. Slippery lolz ensue.
- Second lecture: Was mostly ok. Lord Elgin and the British Government are still perceived as the bad guys according to the archaeologist speaking ex cathedra.
- Missed the bus because of road works and bus stop being suprimated. When I arrived at the station for the next bus it was 11 minutes late.

Bleh. It seems I'll have to catch an early bus each morning to be on time if I have to add up the delay time to the e.t.a.
I may seem like a Garfield-wannabe by next week.
Who wouldn't hate Mondays if you have to be in the lecture hall at 8 am.

picture credit: Steven Fruitsmaak


Banana Box Update

I'm up to 20 Chiquita Banana Boxes as of today. So half way off the main target already.

We've also managed to negotiate about 0.5% off our mortgage! \o/


Prado discovers new Pieter Brueghel the Elder painting

It is always a thrilling time for scolars when a piece of art turns up that has been hidden (sic) in a private collection.
The owners sent it to the Museo del Prado for a cleaning. Experts have now attributed it to Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
The most fascinating bit of this is that it is a tuchlein. Tuchlein has for a great deal been ignored by scolars because of the rarety and lack of research to build upon.

I am always sceptical when it comes to linking pieces to 'the big names'. Especially when works are autographed.
The provenance of the work is always the trickiest bit. It is all too tempting to identify existing works with works mentioned in sources only on the grounds of an identical or related subject. Referring to old texts to make a pedigree more impressive and link a work to Brueghel are very very tempting.
We also know Breugel (the Elder) had the habit of painting the same subject a number of times in different versions. Different versions even were even part of the same collection. For instance, Jean Noiret owned two versions of the Wedding and Fair. Kaiser Rudolf II owned two versions of Calvary and Babel.

So I hope the Museo del Prado did their homework on this one.

They reference a painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels [Inv. 10818, sold in Paris at the Petit Gallery on June 10, 1904 (sale Fontaine-Flament, no. 12, reprod. Bastelaer and Hulin de Loo, 1907, cat. A-32). In 1905 work was owned by Marie Croquison of Courtrai, who in 1933 donated it to his nephew Dr. Frans Heulens, which in turn donated it in 1988 at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.] and another fragment in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (cat. 728 A, which is no longer attributed to Brueghel the Younger, and is mentioned in passing as not being completely watertight but could have been fashioned after a model -perhaps taken from this one, or used the same).

They do not mention a version of the Sint Maartensfeest painted by Pieter Balten (which is now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp). There is mention of the same subject (drawing) in the Musée Atger, Montpellier. Or another copy in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (nr. 425). Engraved by N. Guerard (1648-1719).

Although I have my doubts about the attribution of the work to Balten (or indeed his workshop), because there is another version of the Feast in the Rijksmuseum also attributed to Balten, which does look entirely different.
The relationship between Balten and Brueghel is, however, more complicated. In 1551 they collaborated on an altarpiece (destr.) for the Mechelen Glovemakers. Balten's other works, for example the Ecce homo (Fine Arts Antwerp), reveal that the two artists were closely associated: a group from the Ecce homo reappears as an independent painting (Brussels, A. de Heuvel priv. col.) by Brueghel’s son and imitator Pieter Brueghel the younger.

It is also worth noting that the horseback figure on the Feast reappears several times in the Cavalry by Balten sold at Christie's in July 2005 (lot nr 7).

Comparing these compositions could yield even more information about a work we have thought to be lost for so long.
On a related note I would like to recommend The Bruegel enterprise (De firma Bruegel) catalog (Maastricht/Brussel 2001) on painstakingly comparing works from the workshop of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (and many others) which generated a lot of interesting information on the copying practice, shop organisation and sixteenth/seventeenth century markets.

x-posted from The Art Detective


Beg, steal or borrow?

'Gimme loads of money!' I said to the bank manager.

He said: 'Yes, I will.'

Alas, we'll have to pay it all back. I wasn't wearing a balaclava and toting a AK47.


Househunting (part 7)

We got a call from the real estate guy. The house is ours, they agreed with our final bid!
ZOMG! We're going to be in debt for the next twenty odd years!

Ah well, all in a good cause. Friends of ours said we'd be doing the right thing.
Dr Livingstone and myself were already discussing how we'd arrange all of the furniture. We both want a new made-to-measure bookcase. I did have to compromise, the Dr's exact words were: 'No, they're not going on every wall in the room, I don't want to live in a bloody library!'.

Right. It's off to the shops to get hold of some Chuiqita banana boxes. I've already hoarded eleven over the past two weeks. I'm aiming for the round number of fourty.
This means we'll be moving house again, around the New Year. We've moved a lot over the last couple of years.
This'll be the third time in seven years. And hopefully the last! So we'll be getting another chance to throw out some of the rubbish we've accumulated over the years. And I'm not someone who keeps everything just in case.

I've already made a start by sifting through old cassettes I used to record. I've even got a recording of a Top 30 from 1985. Radio was soooo slow in those days.
I'm making a list of songs I still like. Then I proceed to go to the library. Which is like one big iTunes, really. On the plus side I don't have to pay for the songs. A lot of them aren't available online anyway due to copyright laws and what not.
Yes I'm a cheapskate. And a pirate.


Lorre-a-like three

I couldn't resist. Here's one more.


Shocking Proust

I'm having my second round of shock wave therapy today. Last week my left elbow was up for it. Now I'm having the other side treated.
All I can say is: It's bloody painful. The doctor had administered local anesthesia and I'd taken a couple of painkillers about an hour or so in advance. To really, in my opinion, no avail. But it doesn't last very long. As long as you take big, deep breaths it'll fly by.
This machine gives off 800 pulses of high energy waves so it gets rid of some calcification on some mysteriously named exotic sounding bits of my body.
After the treatment I didn't feel a thing. I just felt a bit flustered and a bit light headed from breathing heavily. It felt like I'd sucked all the oxygen out of the room. "Now I understand why you asked me if I wanted the air conditioning on" I told the doctor. "Well, you're in luck. In July we were in a room without and two patients fainted."
It beats surgery anyhow. It's just five minutes of uneasiness. Now I will probably have to wait about two months to notice any improvement.
I asked the doctor if I could read a book while she was treating me. "Well, it's never been done. In fact your the very first person to ask".
After the treatment she asked me if I'd managed to read anything. I did manage one page on the life and times of Marcel Proust. I do feel like a snob. Bringing him along as a comfort.
Ten minutes and I was out the door. The local anesthesia was still working, so I drove home using one arm.
This Friday I'll be taking the bus, I can't change gears with an arm that doesn't respond.


Househunting (part 6)

On Saturday we had an appointment to see another house. At 9.30am.
At just a stone's throw away from one of the mills where I work as a volunteer. House surrounded by woodland and fields. 70.000 square meters.

Dr Livingstone wanted to buy forthwith, on impulse. I wanted to have a bit of time to reconsider. Granted, it was a neat and tidy house. And no neighbours. Plenty of space. But just a bit too expensive (the owner said there would be no negotiating about the price). And too much garden (though uncultivated, which means loads of trees keeping the sun away from the windows. I like my sun).
It really was a steal at the price it was going and a lot of interest too (two more people showed up as we left). The very nice real estate guy gave us a bundle of paperwork to read through (all possible certificates on isolation, electricity, ground composition etc).

When we got into the car we kinda had something like an argument. I asked Dr Livingstone what he likes about the house, and he asked me what I disliked about it. I didn't want to write it off just yet, but it wasn't the WOW! vibe I got off the other property (the one where we retracted the bid).
So once we got back home, we had some coffee in the sun outside and we took a closer look at everything.

The owner told us he had done all the renovation on the house himself (which I never ever like, no matter how neat everything looks).
The electricity certificate proved this. The installation is allowed to continue to operate for another 18 months, after that there needs to be a follow-up check by some specialist company because a few things were amiss. I didn't like the list of things that were written down and still had to be carried out.
My biggest issue (although a bit counter intuitive) was the surrounding grounds. Having no near neighbours is a big plus, but I really son't see myself taking care of woodland.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Dr Livingstone said he could easily do all of that. But then I reminded him of the state of his back as it was right now. I agree with him on the uniqueness of the house, but I thought it best not to rush into this Great Enthusiasm.
Dr Livingstone went on to do some more work in his shop and I pondered the rest of the morning on the house hunting issue.

Around 3pm I collected him and we went to our nice newly found beer pub to talk things over.
It was a bit crowded, so we decided to take a walk in the nearby forest. Just to get a bit of air, relieve the tension we'd been carrying around since morning. So we put forth all the pro's and cons of the house we'd seen and compared it to the house we'd formerly bid on.
By that time we ended up at the pub again and had a Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Meroode Tripel and a Waterloo (well, two actually).
The Waterloo Tripel is supposed to have been given to the troop fighting there in 1815 and supposedly given them strenght and courage.

Which is exactly what we did and Dr Livingstone picked up his mobile and called the estate agent (not the one we'd seen that morning, but the one we'd been emailing the past weeks).
Dr Livingstone told him we'd put in a new offer. If the guy managed to sell the house for a lesser price to us, we'd split the difference down the middle and he'd pocket a handsome sum of money on top of the commission he's probably squeezing out of the sellers already.
In all of those weeks not a single prospective client had been to view the house. He did say there were two parties coming to visit on Monday and he'd meet up with the owners on Tuesday.
We've not heard anything so far, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.


I, spider.

This beauty was crawling along a bedroom wall, just before I got into bed.
It hid behind the curtain, I didn't bother to get up as long as it didn't bother me.
Needless to say I didn't sleep much.
Next morning I inspected the curtain area. Nothing. More uneasy nights.

I didn't know what kind of spider it was. Some have a really nasty bite, I once got a really painful allergic reaction, but nothing a Zyrtec couldn't take care of.
So it showed up a couple of days ago in another room. Dr Livingstone was watching a detective series on the telly and he didn't want to get up to come and have a look (nor could he physically really, his back still hurts like hell).
But I insisted he come up and I brought a big mug and a card with me to catch it and put it out side.

First I had to take a photograph of this creature. It was humongous (to me). That leg span must have been a good 7 cm (I recon as big as the picture).
It's kinda spooky how its eyes reflect the flash of my camera.
So I looked it up. It's just a common House Spider, Tegenaria duellica. My little garden wildlife book didn't exactly reassure me. It says:

The House Spider (or Cobweb Spider) is undoubtedly the monster of the pack!

Notice the exclamation mark at the end. ! Brrr. It's wiki page tells me:

With speeds clocked at 9.73 ft/s (2.97 m/s), the giant house spider held the Guinness Book of World Records for top spider speed until 1987 when it was displaced by sun spiders (solfugids) although the latter are not true spiders as they belong to a different order.

Notice the word Giant.
Apparently it prowls around the house looking for females. The book continues:

This is the spider that you will see scuttling across the living room floor in the evenings, particular in the autumn and early winter months.

Right. Rub it in. I know summer has ended. I've had the heating on the last couple of days.
Sigh. I really want a house with double glazing.


Anti-social shopping

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for shoppers using an evironmentally-friendly transport.
What I object to is the anti-social manners that seem to accompany it.
Look at the picture. This is my local supermarket in a backward part of rural Flanders.
See the bike on the left? It totally blocks the entrance! And no owner about.
I stood and watched for a bit. It was comedy capers. Loads of shoppers with carts full careening all over the place, in an effort to avoid the bike.


Househunting (part 5)

An update on the househunting business: The real estate guy got back to us saying the owners didn't find it a very exciting price.
So we upped the bid with 20K, saying we didn't wan't to bid any higher untill some of the questions we'd asked had been answered.
One of these was the isolation on the roof. We're very certain it isn't isolated as the seller claims and we've asked for some proof. His word will not do. We're looking at 20K extra costs if we have to put down isolation.
The estate guy said the owner did not want to respond to any of our questions if we didn't put in a bid higher than 300K.
Which is a pretty strange reaction. Does this guy want to sell the house or not? Does he seriously think we'll just buy a house without knowing what exactly we're buying?
Dr Livingstone didn't sleep a wink.
So we retracted the bid the following day. Real estate guy emailed us saying he understood our reaction and he is having a hard time selling the place because the owner is 'a man of principle'.
Whatever that means.


Lorre-a-like too

He's another mock-up I did of the Lorre/Özil tandem. It's eary how similar they really look.



During the football match Belgium - Germany I noticed something. I'm probably not the first one.
Germany's midfield star Mehut Özil is the spitting image of the legendary movie star Peter Lorre!


Where's mah bucket?

It seems this The Verve song was written especially for Dr Livingstone.
Here are some of the lyrics:

"All this talk of getting old
It's getting me down my love
Now the drugs don't work
They just make you worse

His pain killers have the very annoying side effect of making you feel dizzy and vomit. He did have a good night's sleep, but this morning was kind of a rude awakening.
So I was off to the pharmacy for some anti-nausea pills and another kind of painkiller.
This one works without the unwanted queasiness. He's having an afternoon siesta right now.
I should have a some kind of power nap too. I've been accumulating sleep losses for two nights now and I'm feeling a down.
But first I must attend Dr L's needs. Poor thing.

I'm relieved he's not feeling desperately ill from my cooking.


The Doctor's back

Poor Dr Livingstone. He's at home. Lying absolutely still. That's probably a first for him. But it's the drugs that are making him drowsy, sleepy and numb. Without them, he'd be gritting his theath and potter about. It's for his own good. We were in ER last night.
He has severe back pain, shooting pains going all the way down to his shins. I've never heard him wince before, he's really in agony. It's quite terrible. And he can take a lot.
He's scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday.
Meanwhile I'm playing Nurse Racket. He needs to rest for four days in a row. Lying down. NOT in a chair. I have talked him out of doing that. So has his physio. And our doctor. And his squash partner (a nurse). And a collegue who's also laid up at home with back troubles.

He's drifted off into sleep now, I can hear a slight snoring sound emerging from the sofa which is covered with pillows.


Dr Müller's garden

I've been gardening, as long as my elbows permit me to do so.
Yesterday I've pulled out nettles. Too late I realized that one glove has a tear in it...
These nettle things are very cumbersome to get rid of, and I'm not using any weed killers. Mouser is always a few paces away, keeping an eye on me. And things rustling in the undergrowth.
The roots of the Urtica nettles seem to interconnect underground, like Vietcong tunnels. The trick is to get hold of the beginning of a root, gently pull it above ground, without having it snap.
I felt like Tintin pulling out wires in the garden of Dr Müller. However, I didn't discover red lights in the trees as Tintin did in The Black Island. I must say I was really disappointed. If there were counterfeiters active in the area, I would have liked to gotten my hands on a few bags of phony banknotes. Could have helped with a down payment for the house...