Featured post

Provincetown Carnival 2018

Provincetown celebrated 40 years of Carnival celebrations this last Thursday on August 16th. The 2018 theme was “Mardi Gras by the Sea.” The clang and clatter of this colossal Brouhaha shook the shifting sands surrounding the tiny town sending shockwaves that could be felt all the way to the Bourne Bridge which was reported to have swung ever so slightly as a tsunami wave of unleashed frivolity passed through the ether!
I love a parade, especially when an even balance between High Drag and iron pumped muscle is on view with a piquancy of the tastefully salacious. The term, “dressed to kill” comes to mind and some of the revelers rollicking down the roadway certainly set the joint on fire which was appropriate to a sultry afternoon in August.
The pairing of Mardi Gras with Provincetown is natural for a village long revered for its outsider status even if the luxury condominium crowd threaten to homogenize the witches brew that simmers in the cauldron of history there. I am here to tell ya that the waving dance of summer heat mirage, reflecting off the sands of Ptown, can singe the straight and narrow, reshaping an innocent bystander into a Cha Cha Mama of whatever sex or persuasion.

Taffy, Frankie and Todd, all decked out in the traditional colors of Mari Gras, yellow for power, purple for justice and green for faith. These meticulous couturier gowns are designed and created by Rodney Vanderwarker AKA “Frankie” with assistance from his husband Todd Paul. Some of the details include specially designed and printed fabrics, complete color coordination of fabrics, feathers, jewels and even nail polish. It took all winter to make these divine creations, right down to the night before the parade. I wiggled my way into their lair and snapped far too many photos chronicling their metamorphosis from OK Guys into Belles of the Ball. You will see  their magical transformations in my flicker slide show connected at the bottom of this post.

 

Two handsome Genies looking for their lamp to be rubbed the right way. So, make a wish and see what you get.

These ladies and their escort are all lined up and ensconced comfortably front row center on Commercial Street at the base of McMillian Wharf. I never get to chit chat much with the crowd so I can only speculate on the message intended by their costumes, but they look to me to be into Voodoo considering the skulls and magic mojos, etc. Whatever the intent, their vibe was festive and joyous and yes, a wee bit mischievous.

The couple on the left have a stunning allure, otherwise known as, Sizzling Hot. They towered above the crowd but had no attitude except love and delight. The fellows on the right have a menacing scowl but I’ll bet they’re real pussy cats at heart.

Now, it’s not every day you come across their Imperial Majesties Josie and Nappy but when present, they lend an undisputed élan to the proceedings

I love this bunch a boys with their sexy androgyny. Ah the blush of youth!

 

Click Rodney’s kisser to see the whole show

Featured post

Winterhur

You may remember the first leg of our journey to three of the du Pont estates, in and around Wilmington, started with Longwood gardens. All three of these spectacular estates incorporate extensive gardens and that was the major inspirational motive for T2H2, The Two Happy Husbands Leo and Iory, to traipse off on the North Eastern Regional Amtrak and see for ourselves the wonders of “America’s garden capital.” Come with me and meander the paradise byways of Winterthur a gift to the people and an expression of all that is great about the USA.

Photo by Iory Allison

Winterthur is one of the great du Pont estates of Wilmington, Delaware. This is a view of the Museum that evolved from the original home built in 1839. Over generations a number of renovations beginning in 1880’s continued with major additions throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. These alterations to the house eventually grew to a grand total of 175 rooms. The entire collection is devoted to historic American architectural interiors filled with exquisite American antique furnishings and decorative arts.  In my photo we see the original entrance façade radically transforming the porte cochere into a glass enclosed conservatory.  

Photo by Iory Allison

Henry Francis du Pont developed a life long passion for collecting and displaying his vast collection of American antiques in “historic” room settings that he fashioned from authentic architectural interiors and carefully researched fabrications. In this way he created appropriate settings for the enjoyment of his family and friends, eventually opening the home as a museum to the general public and scholars in 1951. Mr. du Pont was a fanatic for elaborate table settings appropriate to the lavish entertaining of his era.  His other abiding interest was for flowers and gardens and here we see a magnificent display of pink tulips grown on the estate, picked and arranged the morning of our visit. 

 

Photo by Iory Allison

The Chinese Parlor enjoys a historic wallpaper made in China in the 18th century. The card table in the foreground is set up for Bridge (a favorite game of Henry Francis and his family.) Completing the lived-in look are full cocktail glasses and cigarettes in the ashtrays. In addition to these “homey” touches the room is awash with lovely bouquets of flowers fresh from the greenhouses.

Photo by Iory Allison

And here is the interior of the conservatory we saw in the first photo. The seasonal flower display is being protected by an enormous wooden sculpture of an eagle with wings spread wide (my estimate, about eight feet.)

Photo by Iory Allison

The ever-charming Mr. Leo posing for me in one of the seasonal garden follies that are now decorating the landscape of Winterthur estate until January 5, 2020. This particular neo-classical temple folly is a handsome construction with attractive colors that seem made especially for my hubbie’s costume. 

 

Photo by Iory Allison

Henry Francis du Pont created extensive gardens all planted in a “natural” style. The Azalea Woods is comprised of eight acres beneath a lofty canopy of trees interspersed with flowering dogwoods. The meandering paths delve into the quiet corners of this charming woodlands.

Photo by Iory Allison

Beneath the towering trees, a carpet of Spanish Bluebells and numerous wildflowers spread out as if preparing for the celebration of a Fairy wedding!

Photo by Iory Allison

And here is where some of those magical spirits live in the Enchanted Woods, a special garden of magic and whimsey.

Photo by Iory Allison

At the edge of Azalea Woods lush green lawns open out with drifts of pink azaleas enticing us to follow along and enter the cool shadows of the Pinetum where a variety of conifers hold majestic place in the undulating landscape – seemingly combing the cloud mountains searching for life giving rain.

 

Photo by Iory Allison

This is my favorite “folly,” The Ottoman Tent. In the cool protected shade overlooking the calm waters of an idyllic pond I can feel the presence of Suleman Pasha listening to a rambling tune played on a stringed Oud as he idly nibbles sweet dates and sips rose petal tea.

 

Click the dancing putti and let them take you on a walk through Winterthur

Featured post

Longwood Gardens

T2H2 trundled off to Wilmington, Delaware the first week of May to visit three of the great duPont gardens, Longwood, Winterthur and Nemours. Once there, we discovered – as one brochure describes it, “The Brandywine Valley is America’s Garden Capital” I would concur and one up that bravado by declaring the whole area, including the city of Wilmington, is a big slice of heaven.

 

NC Wyeth, “The Medicine Ship” Scribner’s Magazine illustration 1915, Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington,  photo by Iory Allison. I know this jolly bunch doesn’t have a hell of a lot to do with my narrative but the general atmosphere plucks my heart strings and what a harp is being played here!

If you have been following the wandering exploits of T2H2 (The Two Happy Husbands, Iory and Leo) you will know that we’ve been dashing around the globe and having one oo-la-la experience after another. But truth in disclosure, the world that I present to you in the Glamour Galore Blog is heavily edited and enhanced, mostly by erasing the hordes of humanity who are charging off in the same direction as our humble selves. The result of all this jostling to get a peak at Mona at the Louvre or Michelangelo’s hefty Sibyls hanging off the Sistine ceiling, is more or less an uncomfortable group hug rather than an exalted experience of divine splendor. Taking this conundrum into account, we’ve been rethinking directions and destinations – not to mention destiny but that is anyone’s guess so let’s not go there. Where we do want to go is some place more convenient not involving interminable security lines, pat downs or shake downs. All of that hoopla leads to being packed into a tin can that only after a life time of delays on the tarmac of this or that airport will haltingly hurl us, at the speed of light, into the ionosphere. In a word, “UGH!” And it doesn’t matter what you pay, class distinctions won’t exclude you from being squeezed into a puny space that any self-respecting sardine would never put up with without protestations of extreme umbrage!

With all of this in mind we have cast our wander-lusting gaze to ports of call closer to home and more to our liking. Gardens loom large in our hearts and minds, especially my husband Leo’s garden. If you haven’t visited his patch of bliss in the Fenway Victory Gardens, Boston – put down that PB&J you are munching and dash over. You’ll find him at A-1, right by the Richardson stone bridge over the Muddy River.  Right now, he has a voluptuous multi-petal pink rose in full bloom that is reminiscent of the blush on an angel’s cheek. And if angel’s cheeks are not your usual experience in life then hop the next train to Wilmington, as we did, and high tail it over to Longwood Gardens where you can glimpse something like my picture below. Whenever you get there the gardens will be in spectacular bloom.

 

Sunken garden, Longwood gardens, photo by Iory

So, this is where we ended up, but how did we get there? Amtrak’s North East Reginal took us from South Station, Boston to down town Wilmington where we put up at the Double Tree Hotel. What the Double lacks in prestige it more than recompensed by accommodating us in a room that was almost as large as our apartment back home. Two Queen beds prevented any tossing or turning, sending us directly to dream-land as soon as heads hit the plethora of squishy pillows. I had reserved a rent-a-car when I made my arrangements and that too was as easy as pie (you gotta wonder for whom pie manufacture is easy…Enough Iory, get on with it!) Ok, alright already, now where was I, oh yeah…The car rental counters are right there at the very nice train station, and the car pick up is directly across the street. All three of our garden destinations were about a ½ hour drive from downtown Wilmington. The farthest away being Longwood, just over the Delaware border into Pennsylvania. 

Fountain Terrace, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory Allison

The big deal, as you may know, at Longwood is the Fountain Terrace, it has recently, summer of 2017, reopened after a two-year facelift that cost $90 million smakeroos! It’s wonderful what gunpowder and paint will buy (G & P, are sources of the duPont fortune.) The original aquatic   extravaganza was installed by Pierre S. duPont in 1931 and then, as now, the evening displays incorporate light shows of illuminated water in rainbow colors. I read in my research, pyrotechnics too, jets of fire are apparently incorporated in the show – now that’s one oo-la-la spectacle I would definitely go back for.

We visited bright and early on a sparkling weekday morning and were delighted to witness the crisp formality of the terraced water garden, very reminiscent of the Orangery Terrace at Versailles. However, even better than the extravagances of the various Louis back in the old country, Longwood’s fountains dance and weave to music in a stunning ejaculation of show stopping magnificence with some of the 1,719 jets reaching a fantastic erection of 175 feet rocketing in the air! Needless to say, this goes way beyond a mere oo-la-la experience, this is Grand Opera in water and if I’m not mistaken I believe some of the musical accompaniments are just that, grand opera arias.

Conservatory interior, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory Allison

On a quieter, but no less extravagant, note the Conservatory halls stretch in various distant directions on a scale of grandeur that literally takes your breath away. Then, when the initial shock wave of surprise and delight calms, one takes a deep breath saturated by an intoxicating array of floral perfumes that are guaranteed to knock your socks off. In that state of undress and drunken glee the impact of color, texture and seemingly infinite flower forms wash over your senses cleansing away the detritus and grime from the mundane world, rejuvenating one’s spirit to a place of serene peace.

Flower Walk, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory Allison

Outside, along the Flower Walk all abloom with the glories of Spring, I came across the three graces who were all dolled up, determined not to be out done by the fantastic display of white foxgloves punctuating deep beds of tulips, purple globe alliums and clusters of chiming blue bells.

Flower Walk, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory

And speaking of Foxgloves, the heavy abundance of the Goddess makes these beauties dance with shear delight and regal pride!

Flower Walk, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory Allison

And talk about tulips, but no, our voices are completely drowned out by the thundering chorus of chromatic crescendo and contrapuntal rhythms of hue that are the gardeners coloratura design and conceit, Brava, Bellissima!  

Conservatory flowers, Longwood Gardens, photo by Iory Allison

Here is a mini-mountain of extravagance that shouts aloud, “You are my slave!” I eagerly surrendered myself to her irresistible seduction and cry, “Yes, let me plunge into your depths!”

And so, you too can eschew the shackles of ordinary life, dive into my place of Glamour where spells are cast and dreams come true.

Click the urn to indulge in an intoxicating world of astounding beauty at Longwood Gardens

In the weeks to come we will visit Winterthur and then Nemours

Featured post

Malaga 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Fifth Stop Malaga, All Aboard!”

Malaga was a big surprise to me. Leo was intrigued by the city having heard good reports from his parents because of its picturesque location on the Mediterranean surrounded by mountains. The Guadalhorce River that runs through the city divides the Sierra de Mijas mountain range which we see here to the west of the city and the Montes de Málaga to the east. This photo is taken from the summit of mount Gibralfaro where we were staying at Parador de Málaga overlooking the city and its busy port.

This is one wing of Parador de Málaga and our room was at the far left high above the city with the incandescent Mediterranean Sea stretching out beyond the horizon. The Parador hotel chain is the Spanish national system of elegant hostelries scattered across the country designed to promote tourism. All of the Paradors enjoy spectacular locations in historic and or traditional style buildings. Parador de Málaga is nestled into the surrounding pine forest of Mount Gibralfaro and has easy accesses to a system of pedestrian  paths meandering  through the trees and down to the city with charming views of the surrounding landscape and sea.  Directly above the Parador is the Castillo de Gibralfaro originally part of a Phoenician lighthouse.

 

This is one of the two balconies illuminating our room framed by a tangle of red and purple bougainvillea with orange trumpet vines both in perpetual blossom enlivening the Gibralfaro woods surrounding the Parador

This is a view from our principal balcony overlooking the seaside neighborhood of Plaza de Toros enthusiastically squeezed by modern apartment towers. You can see the shimmering Mediterranean where a cruise ship sails out on its nervous progress to the next port of call.

 

It is an easy walk from our hotel up to Castillo de Gibralfaro and we enjoyed exploring the picturesque ramparts with their distinctive pyramidal points atop the merlons of the outer walls. The Castillo crowns Mount Gibralfaro giving views in all directions. Here we are looking inland across the city and all the way out towards the Sierra de Mijas Mountains in the distance. 

The castle was built in 929AD by Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba, on a former Phoenician enclosure and lighthouse, from which its name was derived – gebel-faro (Arabic and Greek, meaning rock of the lighthouse). Yusef 1, Sultan of Granada, enlarged it at the beginning of the 14th century, also adding the double wall down to the Alcazaba.

The castle is famous for suffering a three-month siege by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, which ended only when hunger forced the Malagueños to surrender. Afterwards Ferdinand occupied the site, while his queen took up residence in the town. It was in use as a gunpowder arsenal and military base by the Spanish government until 1925.

One of the permanent residents of Castillo de Gibralfaro, a red squirrel, gracefully leaps over the ramparts on his way home in the towering Cypress standing guard within the ancient fortress.

 

A studious young visitor to El Castillo consults his map guide, making sure he and his family have not missed any of the exciting sights.

The most important monument of Malaga is the cathedral seen here from the El Castillo de Gibralfaro affectionately nicknamed “La Manquita,” loosely interpreted as “one-armed woman” because only one of its intended two towers was completed.

Quite frankly after trudging around Spain for the better part of three weeks and then landing in the incredibly comfortable and luxurious Parador de Malaga I was hesitant to leave the confines of our hotel. Especially after exploring the Castillo directly next door and enjoying a delightful luncheon at La Terrazita Café comfortably positioned within the Castillo gardens with great views out onto the Mediterranean. I thought I might as well take advantage of the huge bathtub of our room and plunge into the steamy perfumed suds of a bubble bath, hey, our suite was overflowing with all these cool and groovy bathroom amenities, so why not dive in?

However, the next day after an absolutely lux breakfast buffet on the second floor balcony of the formal dining room, yes this is the view from that perch, we decided that we could gather our energies and trundle on down to town on the winding pedestrian path that would take us to the town hall surrounded by gardens that you can see above. 

Along the very pleasant winding path to Malaga center we paused at a mirador where this handsome guitarist was playing selections from Enrique Granados’ “Goyescas,” Los Majos Enamorados one of my favorite pieces of quintessentially Andalusian music.

I am so glad we mustered up the energy for this walk into town because every step was a miracle of tumbling gardens with every imaginable variety of flower tree and vine, many in bloom and all beautiful.

As we approached the rose garden and orangery surrounding the city hall at the bottom of the hill, we came across neighbors walking their dogs and exchanging gossip with animated gestures while the canine contingent patiently awaited their respective masters to pipe down and get on with it. I like the guy’s coat that ingeniously reveals a light gray tweed pattern drifting like a cloud from the background of what looks to me like the soft black cashmere wool. Can I say that the effect echoes his beard and cropped hair?

  Peeking out from lush foliage of Mount Gibralfaro gardens tumbling down the hill side we glimpse Malaga’s stately town hall.

 

Here we see a view of the The Alcazaba peeking out from the surrounding woods of Mount Gibralfaro as seen from the rose garden at the bottom of the hill. The Alcazaba is a palatial fortification of Málaga originally built by the Hammudid Moorish dynasty in the early 11th century and it was respectively built on the ruins of earlier Phoenician and then Roman fortifications that extend all the way up to the summit and Castillo de Gibralfaro.

 Give Leo a bunch of flowers and he will equal their beauty with the brilliance of his smile. Can you see that he is sporting his cap from the Fenway Garden Society of Boston where he has tenderly cultivated his little piece of paradise for the last 28 years? This particularly vibrant bougainvillea vine has been pruned to blossom in a dense cluster of flowers

Punctuating a traffic round-about at the head of the rose garden by the town hall, this enormous fountain with its surrounding park full of impressive trees creates a pleasant relief to modern Malaga apartment towers crowding the Plaza de Toros neighborhood.

At the center of the rose garden is a lily pool and these tiled wall murals which are actually the backs of built in benches that face the rose beds. This mural includes flora and fauna with a towering cactus at the midpoint and a flutter of colorful butterflies hovering about a scattering of flowers.

“El Biznaguero” is a bronze sculpture by Jaime Fernández  Pimentel (1963) which enjoys pride of place at the center of the Pedro Luis Alonso Gardens next to Malaga town hall. Here we see the tops of orange trees softening the grandeur of the domed towers.

El Biznaguero is a street vendor who sells Biznagas, a traditional bouquet of fragrant jasmine blossoms woven into the dried flower heads of ammi visnaga a kind of wild carrot which I would call Queen Ann’s Lace. These arrangements have become a symbol of Málaga so much so that even the Málaga Spanish Film Festival awards a silver or gold plated Biznagas to the winners.  

I spied this ultra-cute wall mural inside the vestibule of a nineteenth century apartment house in the old city of Malaga

Approaching Málaga Cathedral from the north façade we can see one of the two distinctive towers of the north transept standing to each side of  Puerta de las Cadenas or door of the chains (see lower middle photo, column with chain) this demarks the place of asylum for those individuals seeking protection of the church against civil law. It also serves as the entrance to the transept of the Cathedral.

Beyond this is the one completed monumental bell tower of the west front or main ceremonial entrance to the Cathedral.

The interior of Malaga Cathedral built over two and a half centuries 1528 – 1782 and has a soaring multi-domed ceiling upheld by clusters of Corinthian columns extended by supports holding aloft the beautiful vaults decorated with scallop shells in the corners.

More of the remarkable vaults of Málaga Cathedral surrounded by stained glass windows

If you know me, you’ll probably know that I am a sucker for trumpeting angels and crystal chandeliers.

The choir of Malaga Cathedral (1633-1660) is a great Baroque wonder, carved from Mahogany, cedar and red granadilla woods all from the new world. The animated character of each sculpture pulses with life and exalted emotion depicting, apostles, saints and martyrs and doctors of the church. 

Soaring over the choir stalls are two organs in architectural cases that reach to the limits of the vaulted ceiling.

Before we leave Málaga let’s let Baby Pip-Squeak get the last word, “Green is more than a color, it’s is a philosophy!” And boy ain’t that the truth. I caught B.P.S. in the Málaga Botanical Garden where she was spreading the good news. Rock on Squeak!! 

To see more of Malaga click here

                    

Featured post

Sevilla 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Fourth Stop Sevilla, All Aboard!”

I know, I know you’ve already seen the handsome visage of Sr. Romero, but really, how can I resist this cute pose of my Little Darling? We were checking into The Casa Imperial Hotel in Sevilla and I caught him ready to roll and see that wonderful city literally pulsing with tempting delights. But first a few pictures of our hotel which was a humdinger and once again deserving of the, “Ay Caramba!” exclamation.

The main staircase of Casa Imperial is tiled with a cheerful array of colorful patterns on the steps and running up the walls with figurative panels inset at the middle landing. These designs are typical of the Mudejar style mixing the Moorish and Christian influences that blended after the reconquest of Spain. The early history of Casa Imperial is not documented but structural evidence places the construction date about the mid-17th century, somewhere around 1650.

The four patios that meander back from the surprisingly narrow entrance façade are divided by “screens” of marble pillars and enticing hallways leading to the next open space where delicate fountains fill the quiet with the calming trickle of water. Each courtyard patio has two levels surrounded by suites of rooms that open onto the central spaces. The gardens are filled with neatly trimmed fruit trees and potted flowers. Along the covered walkways surrounding the gardens comfortable seating furniture is grouped and interspersed with antique wooden chests that hold the household linens used in the guestrooms.

On the second floor of the middle patio cloister, a mysterious hallway leads to a narrow set of steps guarded by ancient wrought iron banisters with fancy grillwork. From this passage you can ascend to the roofs of Casa Imperial from whence you can see the surrounding church steeples and roofs of the town.

Sevilla is a city of sumptuous surprises in the form of palace museums. Here we are at the front gate of, “Palacio de las Dueñas” The palace name derives from the monastery of Santa María de las Dueñas, which in 1248 sheltered the nuns and servants of Alfonso X. Today it is the Sevillano residence of the 19th Duque de Alba and before him its most memorable Dueña was his mother the celebrated Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba who was the most titled aristocrat of Spain, Europe and the world in her era (1926-2014) and one of the country’s richest individuals.

In the Duchess’s later life she became infamous for her two marriages to younger men, first to a defrocked Jesuit priest who had been her confessor and then after his death to a businessman 24 years her junior. As a result of excessive plastic surgery she presented an alarmingly messed up visage that one would not want to meet inadvertently all upon an afternoon. Despite this loss of face the old broad was beloved by the populace who would call out, “Ole!” in response to her trembling Flamenco dance maneuvers of later years.

In a corner of the main courtyard of Las Dueñas this handsome marble statue of Bacchus is brilliantly lit by the afternoon sun that also casts a clear shadow of a hanging lantern and crenulated arch.

The main courtyard of Las Dueñas is planted with beautiful roses beneath palm and ficus trees with a tiled fountain sounding a trickle of water from a marble bowl.

This is one of a pair of  antique Mudéjar courtyard doors that protects the carved stucco and tiled arch leading to the “Hall of the Gipsy.”

 

This is the “gypsy” dancer the room is named for. Here we see, “Pinrelitos” a bronze statue by Mariano Benlliure, 1909, of a young “Bailaora” or flamenco dancer from Cádiz. Pinrelitos looks a lot more cheery than most flamenco dancers I have seen who tend toward the impassioned heart rending agony of emotional turmoil that a gypsy “outsider” can express with authenticity- free of the restraints of propriety.

I have read that Mariano Benlliure was a friend to Duchess Cayetana’s father. I do not know when this statue came to be in the collections of Palacio de las Dueñas or who purchased it.  I suspect that several other sculptures of the palace that caught my eye are also by Benlliure because of their mischievous and dynamic revelry. In all of these sculptures there is an iconoclastic “twinkle in the eye” of the bon vivant that reflected or perhaps inspired the character of Duchess Cayetana who was an avid fan of flamenco dancing and bull fights. This is the quality that endeared her to the public as when on the occasion of her third wedding when she was 85 she slipped through the front gates of Las Dueñas where the ceremony took place and entertained the crowd with a brief impromptu flourish of Flamenco dance. Putting aside her venerable age and exalted title of Spanish Grandee, the most daring part of this performance was her completely ravaged face distorted by excessive plastic surgery. But judging by the warm applause of the assembled audience on the street, apparently what everyone saw was the indomitable spirit of a woman way beyond the restrictions of Spanish formality, so phooey on you Philip II and all your dour decorum.

And here is a daring little darling held high on a marble pillar gracing the cloister of the main patio. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that it is also by Mariano Benlliure who included various rascally babies in his oeuvre. More to my point, here I feel the palpable presence of Duchess Cayetana permeating Las Dueñas as expressed in this brazen baby tripping the light fantastic and having a dammed good time in the process!

This is a corner of the library of Las Dueñas with comfortable seating furniture and book cases stuffed with a collection of volumes both antique and contemporary. The palace is very much a lived in home with collections of bibelots decorating all available surfaces, some precious and some simply charming.

This is an intimate view of the private chapel of Las Dueñas. The walls are half covered with Mudejar tiles of lush colors incorporating the coppery iridescent glaze that adds depth to the overall impression.

On a table protected beneath the cloister surrounding the main patio these two sculptures reference both bull fights and Flamenco dancing, two of Duchess Cayetana’s great enthusiasms. The jacket of the Maja on the left is recognizable as a matador’s chaquetilla or short jacket and along with her cap tilted at a rakish angle she presents the saucy attitude of a gypsy dancer with her tambourine and rose pinned to her breast.

Leaving Las Dueñas, we wandered the streets of Sevilla and came across an area of fashionable shops displaying glamourous wedding gowns. Here we see a supremely chic evening ensemble with a variation of the matador’s chaquetilla as an evening jacket, proof of the abiding fascination for Traje de Luces (suit of lights) referring to the sparkling “bling” created by the reflective sequins and gold braid of the traditional matador’s costume.

A little further on, at 8 Cuna Street we came across Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, a gem of Mudejar Renaissance revival style embellishing an original 16th century palace. Doña Regla Manjón y Margelina, Condessa de Lebrija bought the palace in 1901 three years after the death of her husband and spent 13 years renovating and installing her collections of archeological and architectural artifacts including a large display of ancient Roman floor mosaics which were primarily from the ruins of Italica an ancient Roman town near Sevilla. Condesa Lebrija collected many other ancient artifacts from Rome, Greece, Persia and China that are displayed in handsome cases around the rooms and hallways of the first floor of the Palace.

Doña Regla Manjón was granted the title of Countess of Lebrija in 1912 in recognition of her abundant cultural and charitable work. She was a scholarly person who loved and collected books all her life. She and her husband Federico Sánchez Bedoya, who had been the mayor of Sevilla, amassed a considerable library of over 6,000 volumes including the historical archives of their respective families which The Condesa accommodated in an impressive library at Palacio Lebrija. In 1931, when the Condesa was suffering from failing eyesight she donated the major part of her library to the University of Seville. She and her husband also collected fine and decorative art and those collections are displayed in the sumptuous second floor private apartments also open to the public by guided tour.

I think that it is a telling detail speaking volumes about Condesa de Lebrija that she decorated the front entrance of her palace with an ensemble of tiles that incorporate vignettes of women as artists practicing the fine arts and letters. Above we see an attractive and apparently competent young woman practicing the fine art of “La Escultura” or sculpture. In the four spandrels of the two arches in the vestibule one can see, sculpture, painting, music, poetry. These women are definitely not muses of the arts inspiring male artists but rather they are the artists themselves practicing the noble arts. It is my supposition that Condesa de Lebrija who was an educated and creative person in her own right intended to send a message of her pride in the valuable contribution of women to the cultured world.

This is the mosaic floor of the central patio of Palacio de Lebrija. It was created in the 3rd century BC and is from the ruins of Italica an ancient Roman town near Sevilla. The god Pan is at the center with pictures of the various amorous exploits of Zeus surrounding. It was found in an olive grove close to the Italica forum and reassembled at the Palacio in 1914.

This is a corner of the main patio of Palacio de Lebrija. The elaborate Mudejar carved stucco work decorating the arches is characteristic of Andalusian Spain and provides endless material for close examination to trace the elaborate designs. The equally complex geometric patterns and sumptuous colors of the tiled wainscoting provide lively color to the overall design scheme. An unusual ingredient in the collection are the terracotta wellheads scattered about the periphery of the patio, each one has a unique wrought iron stand.  

Here we see a corner of the main patio showing one of the fanciful doors that contrasts dramatically against a festival of textures, patterns and colors. The detailing on the custom made display cabinets complement and enhance the collections within. I especially appreciated the fragment of a diagonally fluted pillar sitting on top of the cabinet. This is an example of the thoughtful arrangement of the art and artifacts in the Palacio de Lebrija. Even though each component part enjoys its own complexity of design the individual pieces are arranged to exhibit their own importance and intrinsic beauty.

The landing of the grand staircase is lavishly decorated with tiles rescued from a 16th century ruined convent. The proportions of the staircase are immense and also includes a carved renaissance frieze with portrait busts and above that a soaring antique ceiling in Mudejar style. These important architectural elements were from other palaces and incorporated into the Lebrija by La Condesa.

 

Here is a marble bust of La Condesa de Lebrija with a lineup of antique dignitaries gracing an adjacent cabinet keeping her company. Would it be irreverent for me to say that she reminds me of Gertrude Stein? In my defense they were both imposing women collectors at more or less the same time although of vastly different tastes and interests in art.  

La Condesa de Lebrija as a younger woman in the costume of Cleopatra at a fancy dress ball. Now, my regular readers know that I am a sucker for fanciful pageantry and this portrait is a wonderful example of what to wear at a grand bash. Right on Condesa!

To see more of Sevilla click here

Featured post

March For Our Lives Boston 2018

“If I Die In A School Shooting, Lay My Body On The Steps Of Capitol Hill.”

Cry of the students 

On March 24, 2018 I joined the March For Our Lives student protest march in Boston. The march was inspired by student survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. The Boston march was organized by local students and it began at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, wound its way through the neighborhoods and on to the Boston Common.  

This is the third march I’ve gone on since Trump and his nation-less cohorts muscled their way into power. Trump and of his gang of thugs, have already stolen over a trillion dollars with their “Tax Breaks” benefiting the oligarchs. Now they have the lame idea to arm teachers and bring the disease of violence, hate and paranoia deeper into our schools. This abhorrent idiocy was universally rejected by the crowd. My own idea is that there are no “good guys” with guns. Guns are made to kill people in order for the manufacturers and distributors to make money.

But the students of March For Our lives did not invite the adult population to join them on the podium except for a few trusted teachers. They organized, marched and spoke for themselves. I gladly honor their capabilities and invite them to speak through their presence and their signs in my photos that follow. The youth of our nation are the future of civilization and I pray that they, in the wisdom of idealism, will put the brakes on the death machine who only wants to steal all the money and set Mother Earth on fire to cover their tracks.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small gaggle of counter-protesters calling themselves “Resist Marxism” grumbled and growled at the crowd after infiltrating the march. I heard one of them screech incoherently about bloody tampons and one of their signs read, “suck my dick ” (see below)  Here they are surrounded by a circle of Boston bicycle cops who were in turn were surrounded by Veterans For Peace. As soon as the Students started their speeches this motley bunch, seething with hate, started shouting trying to disrupt the rally with megaphones and yelling. As a result, the police swiftly escorted them off the Common.

Counter-protesters hiding behind mangled versions of the Second Amendment.

Counter-protesters hiding behind masks, afraid that they will be exposed for who they are

Looking into the eyes of a poisonous snake

Any idiot can destroy and kill. It takes intelligence and the great effort of cooperation to give birth and create!

 Click here to see more photos of the March For Our Lives

 

Featured post

Cordoba 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Third Stop Cordoba, All Aboard!”

Puerta de San José, one of the nine doors in the eastern wall of the Mezquita Cathedral of Córdoba

This vast structure was begun as a mosque in 784 by Abd al-Rahman, first Emir of Córdoba and underwent four major expansions until 987 when it reached its present outward dimension.

Today the Mosque Cathedral has been extensively cleaned, restored and maintained and Puerta de San José, as seen above, is a fine example of the meticulous work being done. In the bay to the left you can see how the mark of time has deteriorated the original façade.

In 1236, King Ferdinand III of Castille reconquered Córdoba and converted the Mosque to a Roman Catholic Cathedral. In 1523 the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, was constructed in the center of the old Mosque. The cathedral was in continuous construction well into the eighteenth century.

Torre del Alminar stands 305 feet high and is the bell tower of the Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba. It is in the same position and replaces the original minaret of the mosque. Here we are looking from the cloister of the eastern wall surrounding the Patio of Ablutions where the Muslin faithful cleansed themselves before entering the mosque for prayer. This is now referred to as the Patio de los Naranjos named for the orchard of orange trees neatly planted in rows.

The original fountains of the Patio of Ablutions were supplied with water from wells dug into the then unpaved courtyard and from cisterns collecting rain water. These were later replaced by aqueducts bringing water from springs in the Sierra Mountains. Here we have the Fountain of the Olive and you can see behind the boy, gazing into the clear water, the silver-gray foliage of an Olive tree.

Patio de los Naranjos as seen from Torre del Alminar or bell tower. I was amazed by the good repair of the vast stretch of tiled roofs covering the cloister and original mosque of which you can only see a small section in the upper right of this photo.

While climbing up the interior stairs of the Alminar tower one can see these horse-shoe shaped arches supported by marble pillars which are remnants of the original minaret. In the foreground iridescent tiles cover a dome over the interior entryway of the Puerta del Perdón which is one of the main entrances to the Patio de los Naranjos.

One of the old bells in the Alminar tower

Inside the ancient mosque of Córdoba a forest of 850 pillars upholds the wooden ceiling. Some of these are reused from the original Roman temple on this sight and others were collected from the Visigothic ruins of Saint Vicente monastery that also stood here. Still other pillars were fabricated of granite, jasper, porphyry and marble for the original mosque and the several expansions over a period of 200 years. All the capitals are of different designs executed with highly refined craftsmanship.

These columns support a unique design said to have been invented here. The design consists of double arches with their distinctive poly-chrome masonry enabling the wooden ceilings to be an elegant 35 feet high.

A closer view of the famous double arches of the Mosque

Poetry in stone tinted by the light of stained glass windows

The most important arch of the Mosque marks the Mihrab, the empty niche that points toward Mecca where the faithful direct their prayers. The floral and vegetal decorations are created by tiny glass tiles backed with gold and colored pigments. They make an awe-inspiring effect of spiritual magnificence.  

This is the ceiling dome of the Macsura, located directly in front of the Mihrab. The Macsura is where the Caliph and his court prayed. It is also covered gold mosaic decorations flowing easily over the complex scallop shapes of the dome. In my photo I was thrilled to be able to capture the “ladders” of light penetrating the stained glass windows creating an ethereal effect.

Some cute kids on school tour horsing around when they caught me photographing them

Saint Juan of Avila despairing of respect from the kids on tour or is he just flummoxed by the task of writing “Audi, filia” an ecclesiastical treatise that took him 42 years. Either way, as a writer myself, I can identify with moments of weary perplexity.

In the center of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Córdoba Cathedral) is this magnificent Choir, all carved from Antilles mahogany. It was conceived and created by Pedro Duque Cornejo y Roldán, the most prolific sculptor of the 18th century in Spain. Begun in 1748 he worked on it until his death in 1757 when his sons and select pupils completed the work in 1758. It seems like lightning speed to me considering it is composed of 109 stalls with a blowout Bishop’s Cathedra flanked by additional thrones on either side which you can glimpse behind the shining brass eagle pulpit.

Details of the lineup of choir stalls on one part of one half of the Choir of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. The whole ensemble is of staggering complexity, superb artistry and wild extravagance, just my kind of thing!

Christ in glory, the point of it all. For me this depiction of the final evolution of Jesus is the important message of Christianity, revelation of the divine as radiantly beautiful.

See more of Cordoba

Featured post

Toledo Spain 2017

T2H2 Visit Spain November 2017

“Second Stop Toledo, All Aboard!”

We arrived by train in Toledo to find this charming Neo-Mudejar station alive with color from the tall stained glass windows, surrounding tile walls and floor. This spectacular wall of Mashrabija screens (turned wooden spindle screens) backed with colored glass, was the original ticket counter of the station. I am a particular fan of the eclectic and revivalist styles used so effectively in the second half of the nineteenth century and into the first decades of the twentieth. This marvelous concoction was designed by Narciso Claveria de Palacios (don’t you love that name) and completed in 1919. It references the Mudejar style (a combination of Islamic and medieval Christian designs) that is present in all the ancient communities of Castille or Islamic Iberia of which Toledo was an important city in both epochs.

This is a view of Toledo Cathedral from the 4th floor terrace of our hotel, La Posada de Manolo  Do yourself a favor, drop the burger you’re munching, pack a bag and dash to Posada Manolo ASAP!  The hotel is nestled into the center of Toledo right beside the Cathedral and although compact and small it is also warm, cozy, and every inch is a masterpiece of textual grace with lots of custom wrought iron details that incorporate a variety of   dragons. The fourth floor breakfast room has this same view inside and out on the terrace and its proximity to the ancient masonry pinnacles and towers of the cathedral allows for close inspection of that church. In the opposite direction we could see a jumble of tiled roofs, all encrusted with lichens of surprisingly vivid colors. Beyond these I could see the rural and wild country side just beyond the Tagus River surrounding Toledo.

The bell tower of Toledo Cathedral is 301 feet tall and crowned by a triple tiara referencing the Papal crown. This tower is the great landmark of the city made ultimately famous by El Greco in his painting, “Vista de Toledo” (1596.)  The narrow streets of this perched city built on a steep rock formation rising precipitously from the surrounding Tagus River, makes the tower seem impossibly tall in its audacious reach for heaven.

Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo is considered to be the greatest achievement of the Gothic style in all of Spain. Begun in 1226 it was in process of construction until 1493 when the vaults of the central nave that we see here were completed. I am enamored of round architectural shapes in general and when they appear as windows I am particularly enthralled. The vast colored windows known as “Rose Windows” have a strong universal appeal because of their grace of form and explosion of color that refracts light into its constituent parts and thereby reveals the glory of the divine. 

So here they are, Mother and child, Mary and Jesus. They express such a tender love toward each other, especially Jesus’s gesture of his hand caressing the chin of Mary. His tender embrace has elements of mature reciprocation as if the child has presentment of the sorrow his mission must tragically encumber his mother with. To me, mother and child recognize each other over infinite incarnations and by this insight have deep sympathy for the inevitable imperfections each must embody in the quest for resolution in their tumultuous reach for spiritual evolution.

Some you may recognize this photograph as my Christmas card this year. I am deeply gratified to have been able to capture the meaningful alignments that are present in this image. The way Mary and Jesus stand out against the background of the surrounding cathedral has a surreal quality that “pops out” at you and this is fitting for a church that is dedicated to Mary. It is the Mother who brings us the possibility of innocence and the potential of life anew. She is the eternal source of nurture and care, swathed in the strength of generous abundance. She is sure of herself without arrogance knowing that death is the inevitable outcome of her travail. She knows herself to be a window into eternity.

Within a compositional concern, I see the organ pipes horizontally projecting from left to right one direction folding into the other and echoing this construction, in the tradition of contrapposto rhythm, Mary leans her hip to the right, supporting the seemingly easy weight of Jesus. Above them soars the fantastic ambition of the pointed arches of the nave that resolve their tension in the perfect halo of the rose window, embracing the divine pair in an aura of prismatic glory!

I am enormously fond of cloisters and when visiting San Juan de los Reyes, a royal monastery in Toledo originally intended to be the mausoleum for Ferdinand and Isabella. I heard whispered laments of vespers echoing from the shadows of time.

We came across this monastery quite by chance as we wandered the narrow medieval lanes of the city. It was an oasis of quiet in an otherwise tourist invaded world and I sank deep into the peace of the place. Because of its original intention to shelter Spain’s most important monarchs it enjoys a wealth of gothic embellishments that are profoundly beautiful.

Two tiers of cloisters surround the “Paradise Garden” at the heart of San Juan de los Reyes.

The extreme grace of the gothic tracery decorated by a wealth of verdant garlands that are alive with humans and animals both fantastic and real, animate the cloister with a royal celebration of this world and the next.

The picturesque streets of Toledo twist and turn, following the tortured history of Celts, Romans, Visigoths-the original Christians, Moors and then the reconquest by Alfonso VI of Castille on May 25th, 1085. This is, in some ways, only the beginning of the convoluted history of this important Spanish city.

On our way out of town, on a sparkling clear morning, we pause for photos with Toledo Cathedral and the Alcazar in the background.

Here’s looking atcha!

Click here to see more of Toledo