It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday/The Last Supper

Leonard da Vinci's The Last Supper

As in most years, our church had a form of a Last Supper re-enactment as part of the Maundy Thursday service. Tonight's version featured the setting of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper and featured a brief history of the famous painting in the beginning narrative. It was well done with various men offering a short soliloquy, followed by a reflection by one of the pastors and then Holy Communion.
Several  years ago, I had done a lengthy paper for a Western Civilization class on this painting.  I found the story fascinating and Leonardo even more fascinating.  The following are excerpts from that paper and I cited the sources at the bottom.  Since this is for fun I refuse to use footnotes!

Leonardo Da Vinci painted the original fresco on one of the walls of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Matteo Bandello, who was a novice monk at the time, recorded that Da Vinci would sometimes work on the fresco from sunrise to sunset without stopping and at other times would spend hours a day standing in front of the work with his arms folded across his chest staring at the figures on the wall. Bandello also reports that on one occasion he saw Da Vinci leave another job site and walk quickly across the village in the hot sun to the monastery only to pick up a paintbrush to paint one or two strokes.

Da Vinci based the figures of the Last Supper on real people, people that he encountered and people that he just saw in passing. Detailed sketches of faces and body features, such as hands and studies of the folds of cloth for Peter’s sleeve are found in Leonardo’s sketchbooks. He also made lists of possible reactions of the disciples, such as twisting the fingers of a hand or turning to look at a companion. Leonardo also broke with a tradition from the Middle Ages in which the disciples are shown as being stiffly linear in their arrangement at the table.

Work began on the fresco in 1495 and concluded sometime after 1497 (a fire at the monastery destroyed records so the dates are based on other documents). Sadly, within a few years the paint had already begun to flake and crumble. Leonardo had used a dry-wall painting technique that was appropriate; however, it was his experimentation with mixing oil and tempera for the painting on the dry plaster that was the cause of the subsequent flaking off of the paint. Working on dry plaster enabled him to work slower and to be able to re-paint but resulted in the paint eventually flaking off the surface. Moisture and dampness in the refectory also contributed to the incompatibility of the paint and prepared wall surface.

Restorations have taken place from time to time. Recent efforts have revealed many hidden details such as a hand drawn sketch done on the prepared wall before the final preparatory coat of gesso and imprimatura. Several authentic copies of the fresco have survived and have been invaluable in restoration efforts. The fresco is so fragile that extensive work is not practical. Today’s viewer sees only about 20% of the original version of the Last Supper and while it appears ghost-like on the wall of the ancient monastery viewers still witness the expressions and gestures of the apostles and the details of the table set for the meal that were painted over 500 years ago.

Sources Cited

Bruce Cole, Masaccio and the Art of Early Renaissance Florence(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979) 208-209

Stefan Klein, Leonardo’s Legacy (Cambridge:Da Capo Press, 2010) 1-3

CharlesNicholl, Leonardo Da Vince Flights of the Mind (New York: Penguin Group Inc., 2004) 292-293

Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization: A Brief History Volume 1: to 1715 (Boston: Wadsworth, 2011) 255-256

Giorgio Vassari, Artists of the Renaissance (New York:Viking Press, 1978) 179



Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's Good to Laugh (at yourself)

I pulled a magazine out of the mailbox one afternoon this past week.  I won't name it here, but you may recognize it after I describe what was on the cover.  I was enchanted when I saw the cover.  There was a dazzling display of beautiful cupcakes, arranged on a pedestal bowl.  Just lovely, ooooh aaaah, I thought.  The cupcakes were white cake, baked in little paper cups and then displayed in larger paper cups:  green with white polka dot paper cups.  The frosting was a smooth, robin's egg blue and perched on top of each cupcake were two sweet little pansy blossoms.  Oooh, aaah, I thought.

Then I had this sudden surge of inspiration:  Wouldn't it be wonderful to make these for Easter?  Oh, yes, yes, I have to do this. I know how to make those little pansies, I have the decorating tip to make them and all the colors, too.  I could just see those little cupcakes sitting on my pedestal bowl, just as pretty as you please.

And then the bubble burst.  Really, you're going to bake the cupcakes, make the frosting, decorate the cupcakes, and then prepare the little flowers and attach them to the cupcakes?  Really, so when do you plan to do this?  As I walked into the house I started to laugh at myself because it was just a ridiculous thought that I would have time to do such a project. 

The little cupcakes on the magazine cover are beautiful.  Maybe I will just put the magazine in my pedestal bowl and put it on the table. Yes, that will be just fine and much easier, too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Blog

If you like old places, then please read my new blog!  Just click on Doorway Into the Past and you'll be there!  The first feature is a place I've always loved to visit, Mission San Jose.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Quiet Place

Nestled deep in the heart of the city, along the banks of the river, is a quiet sanctuary.  The hum of the city traffic is audible, but seems far away.  A place for lunch, a place to sit quietly, a place to learn about art.  It is the Southwest School of Art. but in years gone by it was the Ursuline Academy, the first girls school in San Antonio.


 In 1851 7 French Catholic nuns were sent from New Orleans and Galveston to establish the school.  The First Academy was designed by Francois Giraud and Jules Poinsard for pise` de terre (rammed earth) construction.  It is the largest known structure of its kind in Texas.

Subsequent buildings would be built with locally quarried limestone.

The old lunchroom is now home to the Copper Kitchen.  They serve wonderful homemade lunches that you eat in this cozy room.  I've been eating an occasional lunch here for over 25 years, and I always think I can hear the chatter of the girls still lingering in the walls and their dainty steps on the lovely wood floors.
 The arched windows are part of the chapel, which is used today for social events and a meeting room.  Years ago I went to an event here and was able to go into the chapel.  It was beautiful!

I had eaten lunch one day back in January and then walked out, intending to make pictures.  I don't know what it is about cats, but they just seem to appear wherever I am.  This friendly little cat greeted me and then posed obligingly for a picture.  He didn't seem to mind the cold.  It was 40 degrees and I had no coat on.  Fortunately, the battery in my camera went out and I didn't freeze to death in the courtyard while making pictures.

I love this quiet place, and appreciate its serenity every time I visit.  I'm thankful for the San Antonio Conservation Society that purchased the property in 1971 after the school moved out to the suburbs.  A group of former students were instrumental in the initial efforts to protect the complex from demolition.  Restoration of the facades of the buildings began in 1974, using funds from a grant from the Economic Development Administration.  This would be the first time that federal grant funds were used for restoration purposes in the United States.  The property was sold to the Southwest Craft Center (former name of the SSA) in 1975; they have continued to use adaptive preservation on the property. Oh, and did I mention that the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in November, 1969?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lenten Thought #3

Thought #1:  Love
Thought #2:  Peace
Thought #3:  Forgiveness

I think Easter is mostly about forgiveness.  After all, Easter morning is all about the sacrifice on Good Friday so our sins would be forgiven.  That sacrifice and subsequent forgiveness shows us God's love and brings peace to our hearts. 

Not only do we need God's forgiveness, but we need to be forgiving of others.  We've all heard stories about people who carry a dying grudge against someone, living a miserable life that is either full of anger and/or bitter resentment just because they can't forgive the other person.  What about forgiving ourselves, too?  We can carry around baggage of our own just because we can't forgive ourself for something in the past.

In her book Against Wind & Tide Anne Morrow Lindbergh's reflection on forgiveness seems to sum up the wonder of forgiveness between God and humans and between humans.

"Forgiveness--mercy seems to me the most beautiful thing on earth, perhaps because it is unearthly, and the touch of God in us: 
the miracle of mercy, the unexpected, the arms of the prodigal son's father, ...the cup running over".


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tarts and pizza

Two weeks ago Jaydon and I spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon in the kitchen making tarts.  I had seen this recipe on a blog I like to read, Mulberryshoots.  The recipe was easy, and they looked yummy so I decided to try them.  It was a perfect recipe for cooking with a nine year old!  We had a good time and the tarts turned out good even though I put too much filling in them.  We are definitely making these again.  I know that I came away with good memories of our time together; I hope Jaydon did, too.

Raspberry tarts in the prep stage

Last Friday we had Gammy night at Cameron's house.  I decided to try the cooking experience with both boys and let them make a pizza.  Cameron got into this!  He had fun making the pizza, posing for a picture, and eating the finished product.  Again, I came away with good memories and I think Cameron did, too.  (Just to note, Jaydon wasn't too interested in the pizza making process, not sure why).

A proud pizza chef!

From time to time Jaydon has done things in the kitchen with me.  Now that he and Cameron are older I hope we have more kitchen time together!  I have so many good memories of time spent in the kitchen with my grandmother, and with my mother, too, and I want my grandchildren to have the same experience. 

I still remember watching my grandmother make biscuits or cornbread from scratch.  She had no recipe to follow and didn't use measuring cups or spoons!  I asked her how she knew what to do, and her reply was that she had done it so much she just knew what was right.  I can't cook like that, but I can make memories like she did!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Winter is over

There's an old saying around here, "when the mesquite trees bloom, winter is over".  Supposedly, they will not bloom before the last freeze of the winter.  I've never known them to be wrong.  When I saw this tree yesterday, I knew that winter is over.