This afternoon I went to the Jacquemart-Andre Museum to see the special exhibit on Perugino. The paintings were on loan from the Vatican. They were quite lovely, as you might imagine, but there weren’t enough of them to fill out a show. The Vatican kindly topped up the supply by throwing in a few by his student, Raphael. Well, that was nice of them.
My favorite painting was a bust of a modestly dressed, affluent, beautiful young woman, ostensibly a portrait of Mary Magdalen. It was a rare thing, a character study of a female. So often we are portrayed in some role or other.
Perugino, bless his heart, could have shown her in mourning or looking like your basic fallen woman and, instead, gave us a look into the soul of an individual. That painting alone was worth the price of the whole show.
For me, the only trouble with seeing a great painting in a museum is that you can’t live with it. You can’t watch the light change it or see how you react to it when your mood changes. There is only the 30 – second pause before you move on to the next one. The best you can hope for is that you will be able to revisit the painting or find a reproduction, and live with that.
Me, I’m living with this old house, 24/7. When I wasn’t communing with the Magdalen I was looking at the museum, which is a converted house. I realized that although they dressed everything in Beaux-Arts clothing, they did what they wanted with the space. The photo is of a reception room. It has light, windows, a hole in the ceiling, columns, curves, whatever they felt like doing. I had been concerned about some changes that will go against the accepted canon of how one modernizes a traditional space. I was pleased to be reminded that the only thing that matters is that the finished work holds together. Now let’s hope it does that.