Archive for April, 2011
From the outset the Allies found stymied by Stalin’s hot and cold approach even when he was pestering them for material help. Following the Atlantic Conference in 1941 Churchill sent Lord Beaverbrook while Avrell Harriman from Roosevelt was included. The delegation had service members to help them with assessing actual needs of Russia. Their discussions were frustrating and in Harriman’s words ‘ pretty hard sledding.’ There were also moments of surprise and warmth. General Hastings Ismay, Churchill’s personal representative on the Services committee found Russian soldiery,- from top to lower ranks, was very finicky about saluting. Ismay’s Marine orderly once reported his embarrassment of commanding salutes at every turn by Russian officers but his superior let him a free hand saying, ‘ acknowledge their compliments handsomely’. This Marine in his impressive blue uniform was one day being given a guided tour. The Intourist guide showed a building and said,’This is Eden Hotel, formerly Ribbentrop Hotel’. A little later, ‘We are on the Churchill street, formerly Hitler street. The guide pointing to the Railway station intoned,’The Beaverbrook railway station, formerly Goering railway station..’ Stopping short the guide offered a cigarette,’Will you have one, comrade?’
The Marine took it and thanked, ‘Thank you comrade, formerly bastard!’
When Ismay later reported this to Churchill he relished it so much it became a standard joke, one among his repertoire of after-dinner pleasantries.
Michelangelo Buonarroti(1475 – 1564) Italian
Sculptor, painter, architect, poet.
A giant in an age of giants ‘the man with four souls’ who has crowned a lifetime of work with achievements of highest rank in architecture, sculpture, painting and poetry, was born at Caprese on March 6, 1475.
The Buonarroti were a Florentine family of ancient burgher nobility brought to straitened circumstances. With his father’s death the boy was put out to nurse with a stonecutter’s wife. “I drew the chisel and the mallet with which I carve statues in together with my nurse’s milk”. Later he was taught to read and write his native Italian, but art became his dominant passion.
In 1488 he was apprenticed to two leading artists of the day: He turned to nature and his works soon outshined those of his masters.
Next he turned to sculpture in the school formed under the patronage of the Great Lorenzo de Medici. Soon he came under the eye of the Great Lorenzo himself. Forthwith the boy was taken into his household where he remained until Lorenzo’s death in 1492.
(bronze bust by Volterra. done in charcoal, 1978)
A style was being developed on the classical Greek lines; Paganism gave way to Christian piety as he came under the spell of that fierce prophet Savanarola.
In poetry and philosophy Dante provided the inspiration; in his own realm of art, he was very familiar with the styles of Ghirlandais, his early tutors, Ghiberti, Grotto and Donatello.
In one of the scuffles with a fellow student, he got a blow on his nose which marked him for rest of his life. His deeper emotions – for he was in and out of love – he found expression in a series of exquisite sonnets, bulk of which was addressed to V.C…..
After his patron’s death he travelled about Venice, Bologna, Florence and Athens to Rome. The year 1499 marks his first real work of Christian sculpture ‘Pieta’. From then onwards he was prolific. In 1504 he carved out ‘David’ from a spoilt block of Carrara marble, nine cubits in height. In eighteen months he had carved out the masterpiece, a statue of amazing beauty.
Next year he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II who set him to work on the construction of his own tomb. This task dragged on for years, causing trouble and bitterness between the sculptor and the pope’s executers: It was never completed, but the famous ‘Moses and the Group of Slaves’ were part of the scheme.
Three years later Michelangelo accepted the commission to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A work of more power and loftier conception is hard to find. His agony and the ecstasy is the quientessence of the artist in the throes of creation.
The next decade saw Michelangelo busy on the work for Julius’ tomb and on the colossal figures for the Medici Chapel. After a brief entry in Florentine politics, in 1534, he left Florence for Rome.
In his sixtieth year he was appointed as the chief architect, sculptor and painter to the Vatican by the order of Pope Paul IV.
In the same year he began his fresco in the Sistine chapel, ‘The last Judgement’ which took him seven years to complete. In 1547 he was made architect of St. Peters, whose cupola is his great contribution to architecture. The same year saw the passing of one oasis in his troubled life – the widowed poetess Vittorio Colonna, who was the only woman in his ascetic life and whose love was cerebral as well as spiritual. The bulk of his sonnets – statues in words, roughhewn and beautiful in their rugged vitality – are addressed to her.
Another seventeen years had to pass before he could join her. He had lived long years alone, wedded to his art, “a wife who was too much for him”. A generous man to others and a mean one to himself, he lived frugally. He was irritable, quick tempered and arrogant, but the creative fire in him made him lead an ascetic life only for art! He has enriched the world with what he could carve out of his tormented soul.