The Aardvark Blog
Our New Website, more musings, Titian or Titien , books and more
Our New Website, more musings, Titian or Titien , books and more
After what seems like several lifetimes - but is actually just over a year - our new website is now finished and will be publically viewable today or tomorrow (I am not entirely sure about the process of publishing to the web, but apparently it is happening).
This new website represents a great deal of work by a number of people inside Aardvark and without and I am extremely grateful for everything that they have done. I weep somewhat that our lovely gallery section is filled with notices of exhibitions that won't now happen (we have reluctantly cancelled all events until the end of August). I am not sure how our autumn programme will fare - obviously H.Art has been cancelled amongst other events worldwide (so much for Oktoberfest 2020!) , but we will leave looking at other autumn fixtures until a bit nearer the time (I remain an eternal optimist).
Please let us know your thoughts on the new website. We will continue to add content - both in general and about individual titles - and hopefully it will grow into a very useful resource. I am still putting on numerous books every day so rest assurred the stock will change over time.
Last Saturday I had only my second day off over the last month (the other being on Easter Sunday), and although i paid for it somewhat with the number of orders I had to find and pack on Sunday it was still a relief to have a day off from the bookshop. However much you love a place it is good to get away from it from time to time. I have henceforth decided to take Saturday off every week so I am afraid I won't be here to take orders or answer queries if you should call on that day. I will be back in again on Sunday and can call you if you leave a message on the answerphone.
I took the opportunity to read and listen to music on Saturday and what a terrific pleasure it was. I managed to read all the unread New Yorker articles over the last month. Whilst doing this I was having my own Alfred Schnittkefest as I have made the happy discovery that much of his music is available in recordings of differing technical quality on Youtube. Many of these recordings are difficult or expensive to buy as CDs or records and I therefore took the opportunity to make my way through several String Quartets, his Concero Grossi 1, his 1st Symphony ( a strange kitchen sink work which seems to include everything you have ever heard, and best of all his Piano Quintet written after the death of his mother. If you have never heard Schittke before I would say that this is a great place to start. I confess that I am not sure what it is about his music that appeals to me so much - when I have tried to discuss him with professional musicians I have been met with a studied blankness - but he just seems to me to channel so much of the experience of modern life. In our current locked down environment the pieces seem all the more miraculous to me. Also on Saturday I finished the last part of the WBUR radio podcast series 'Last Seen' about the robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. Absolutely fascinating and I was genuinely sorry to come to the end, What a fantastic cast of characters and how picturesque the Boston mob world was at that time.
Sunday after I had finished a very long day in the shop here I relaxed by watching the BBC arts documentary on the remarkable National Gallery show of Titian's Poesie paintings completed for Philip II of Spain. How sad it is that this exhibition opened just in time for it to close three days later, but what a consolation it is that we have such a superb record in this film ( that even includes interviews with Mary Beard). I have long had a special interest in Titian of this period as I have a print based on another picture that he painted for Phillip - 'Jupiter and Antiope' sometimes known as the Pardo Venus although I think it extremely unlikely that any Satyr would have been brave enough to remove Venus's duvet covers if he wanted to keep his hooves.
As with the six paintings in the National Gallery this is a lush and beautiful painting set in an idealised landscape with plenty of human flesh on display (some male but mostly female). These are disquieting pictures to a modern eye, as we find ourselves being both amazed by the artist's facility and somewhat ashamed by our forced voyeurism. They are also in the main pictures that are more about power than sex, and the final picture in the Poesie Series 'The Rape of Europa' is a particularly unnerving image. These images were clearly an influence on Picasso when he compiled the images for his Vollard Suite as well as on numerous renaissance and mannerist artists nearer to Titian's time. My print is a reversed image of the painting and is generally faithful to the painting with the exception that the huntsman has gone from being a youth to a bearded man of around 40. I believe the print to be French ( from the spelling of his name Titien) and probably dating from the seventeenth or early eighteenth century. It is hard for me to look at these paintings without thinking of the 'renaissance' works created by Cindy Sherman which seem to me to satirise so perfectly the male gaze. Unyet Titian's handling of flesh is extraordinary and the way he paints the back of Venus seated and pulling Adonis on her right seems to have the same respect for matter and force that an engineering drawing has. It is a masterpiece of movement and physicality. Also an artistic departure from Ovid's poem according to M Beard in the documentary as Venus woke up to find Adonis gone.
There is so much to be said about these pictures - old mens works for a young man in his early twenties - and so much to learn about their history after they were acquired by Phillip ( remaining together for a mere 20 years before being split up and subsequently landing in galleries around the world. One of which - to bring this blog full circle - is the Isabella Stewart Gardner music the subject of the Podcast discussed above.
As we move into the second month of the lockdown I am constantly amazed by the books that people are purchasing from us both online and over the phone. Some are obvious - lots of detective stories and practical books on knitting and textiles. Others less so. We have for example had a mini-boom in sales of Roman and Greek texts both in translation and in Loeb editions. Lots of works on philosophy and politics. A fair number sales of CDs and musical scores ( including one this morning to one of Britain's most distinguished cellists). People are I think emerging from the darkness of the early days of lockdown and starting to think again. And hopefully Aardvark will continue to be here to help them do so.
Until we meet again ...
Published by Aardvark Books Ltd on (modified )
Death of Roger Emmerson, English Civil War Society
A coda to my earlier exchange of letters on the bookshop
Musings for the Between Time 4
Musings for the Between Time 3
An email from an unhappy customer and my response