Thursday, November 3, 2011

Random Musings 9

This morning I received an email from Sladmore Gallery announcing the current exhibition at their Jermyn Street location in London, and I so wish I could go see this in person before it closes next month. The picture you see here should give you a clue. Yes, they’re doing The Dog Show. Now, in the world of art history, animals have never been taken too seriously. Think “dog” and “art” and the first think that comes to mind is the ridiculous picture of dogs playing poker. To some extent, Victorians like Edwin Landseer perhaps did make animals in art seem trite with paintings like Trial by Jury where dogs hold court, but Landseer also was enormously famous for Monarch of the Glen, a beautiful picture of a stag in the highlands which came to be seen as an icon of national pride. Dogs, however, have been faithful companions for centuries and frequently appear in art, such as in just some of these important paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Anthony van Dyke and Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard. The exhibition at Sladmore Gallery focuses on 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculptures, which is another reason to see the show since combining these two media in one show is so infrequently done. And if you’re wondering why I chose this particular image of a West Highland Terrier by the British artist Lilian Cheviot, it is an homage to the memory of my own adorable little Westie named Duchess, who died in 2003.

Speaking of the Met, the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia opened to the public on Tuesday. I had an opportunity to preview them the week beforehand, and they are simply magnificent. The image you see here is of the restored Damascus Room, which is but one of the many galleries that have been reinstalled after an 8-year renovation. The room showcasing a number of exquisite carpets is just stunning, but my personal favorite sections showcase objects from the Ottoman Empire and India. Considering that cultural relations between the U.S. and various Islamic nations and peoples have been precarious to say the least, these galleries can only help in educating about the fascinating culture of Islam and its exquisite works of art from so many parts of its world for over a millennium. You can read from The New York Times a full review and description of the galleries by Holland Carter, who describes them as being “beyond fabulous,” which they are.

In case you haven’t heard the news, the world population is now at over 7 billion. That number alone is staggering to say the least, but the rate of growth is even more disturbing. At the current rate of population growth, it is estimated that by the year 2080 we will have 10 billion people on the planet. Whatever happened to those futuristic modules of living in underwater colonies or outer space? Someone needs to start working fast to accommodate our ever-increasing population. But did you ever wonder what number you were at your birth? Turns out, I was person number 3,678,956,784. I’m also the 77,803,200,647th person who’s ever lived on the planet. Go to the BBC population calculator app to find out your numbers and learn more about population growth around the world. You may be surprised by what you find out.

Finally, whenever I report on the British royal family, I always get scolded by a number of my friends for being a royal follower.’s part of history, and I love it. (Besides, I recently made a lovely visit to Hampton Court Palace, and without the royal family, that place probably wouldn't exist right now.) Parliament made history this week by reforming the rules for the royal family’s line of succession. It has always been that daughters are passed over in favor of sons, even when they are born first. Henry VIII had two daughters before he got his son, who became Edward VI. Only because Edward died young and childless did Mary and Elizabeth subsequently become rulers. This change means that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will & Kate) have a daughter, she will automatically be the heir to the throne regardless if a son is born afterwards. Interestingly, this law now automatically changes the current line of succession. It had been Charles, William, Harry, Andrew (Charles’s brother) and his daughters Beatrice and Eugenia, then brother Edward, then Anne and her children. But with this change, Princess Anne now has moved to 4th and her son and daughter are higher in the line of succession now too. The Guardian had an interesting report on all this, and they pointed out a few important historical turns that could have made British history very different if this law had been changes ages ago. One of the more interesting possibilities from modern history relates to Queen Victoria’s first-born, Princess Vicky (1840-1901), whom you see here. She was married to the Crown Prince of Prussia and eventually became Empress of Germany when that country was united. Her son eventually rose to power and took over the imperial throne as Emperor Wilhelm II, ruling Germany during World War I. But technically speaking Vicky would still have been heir to the throne of England, so upon the death of her mother she would have been named Queen Victoria II but remained Dowager Empress of Germany. When she died 7 months after her mother, her son Kaiser Wilhelm II then would have become King of England and thus united England and Germany into one imperial nation. Can you imagine if that had happened? World War I may never have happened...or we all would be speaking German right now.

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