Many of Munich’s museums are only €1 on Sundays and I’m kind of a cheap bastard so it seemed like a good place to start. I got up early and dragged my jet lagged ass down to the Alte Pinakothek (or “Old Art Museum”) which houses paintings ranging from the 14th to 18th centuries. I saw a wonderful Rembrandt exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum a couple years ago and I was excited to see more of that kind of thing.
So I’ll just start by saying that the Alte Pinakothek is a fantastic, world class museum and I was awed at the quality and at the quantity of the pieces. There are important works from a lot of the masters of that age and it’s a huge building full of them. I guess the famous Bavarian King Ludwig was a big art collector and a portion of the works come from his collections. Experiencing this museum was a privilege.
So I was very impressed, but I did start to notice some patterns in the styles of the art. Certain groupings of paintings share similar characteristics that in retrospect are kind of silly and don’t make sense. Here are some of my thoughts on those issues:
1. Hairless Jesus. We all know that there has been some bias in the paintings of Jesus, depicting him as a white man who often looks more European than anything else. Obviously, this is because it was white Europeans painting him. What I noticed this time though is that he is never depicted as having any body hair. No chest hair, no noticeable arm or leg hair, just that big old beard and the long locks up top. The painters (ALL of them) wanted Jesus to have that really rippin’ skinny, hairless bod. It’s important to look your best while being tortured and crucified.
2. Gratuitous nipples. There are a lot of paintings where it would be a perfectly normal scene except some woman just whipped out a boob for no reason. I wonder if that’s more about the proclivities of artists or if ladies of the day just whipped out boobs more often. I have no problems with melones being out there. Censorship of wabos doesn’t make a ton of sense to me (#freethenipple). But in some of these paintings, I think it was bordering on absurdity.
3. Silly hats. I have a theory that back in olden times, social status was determined by how ridiculous a hat you could wear without people making fun of you. That’s why lords and ladies and nobility wore the silliest outfits with goofy collars and entire bouquets your head (see Nipple Poking Lady above). It’s because at that point you’re already in power and nobody would dare make fun of you for wearing a stupid outfit. I think it would even become a challenge to become more and more absurdly dressed just to see if the people around you would say anything. There are some remnants of the silly hat thing in modern society, i.e. the Pope, chefs, etc.
4. Demons are sweet looking! Depictions of angels are far more common but they are boooooring. Some of my favorite paintings were of demons and devils and freaky monsters. I feel like that was more of an opportunity for the artists to be creative. A few of my favorites:
5. This guy is my favorite. I think he has a boner? Maybe bulging codpieces were a fashion? He’s also clearly bought into the silly hat concept.
The Alte Pinakothek is part of trio of art museums all clustered together. The others are the Neue Pinakothek which has art from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Pinakothek der Moderne which has Modern Art as the focus. I’ll be in the Munich area for another week and a half or so. I hope to get out to some more museums during that time. I’ll report back.
One last thing! An important update! I’ve decided that I’ll be keeping to a rigorous blogging schedule to keep myself engaged and working on something. I will post every Monday and Friday, plus any other time that I feel like it. The site will improve over time as I figure out this new fangled “internet” thing, but please check in because I’ll be posting fairly often.