Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Monday, 12 November 2018

{off to Nice...}

I know it's been a long time since I posted and I have so much to catch up on, such as my book launch. But tomorrow is my B-day and I'm headed to Southern France!
When I was 17, I moved to France to start my undergraduate studies...I absolutely loved the Midi, and in particular, Montpellier, but I didn't like the approach to Art History, and so I abandoned my French education and moved back to Canada to start a BA at UBC. But it was when I was living in the South of France that I took a trip to Florence, where my love for Italian Renaissance Art History started....and set me on a very particular career path!
{me at 17 on the balcony of my flat in Montpellier}

Here I am 20 years later, headed back to the Midi, an author of a book on Italian Renaissance court collecting, a lot of degrees and experience under my belt, although I don't feel much different than that 17 year old, to be honest. On reflection, it's sometimes the risks we take, the things that don't completely work out as we thought they were going to, that are the making of us.
So with that, I shall remember to take risks & remind myself that mistakes are never 'fails' but simply part of the journey of life-long learning.

I'm off to stay in the Le Beau Rivage, a 19th-century hotel, which was one of the first seaside hotels in Nice in the continuation of Promenade des Anglais. It became a favourite of artists and intellectuals such as Matisse, Fitzgerald, Nietzsche and Chekhov. so I'll be in good company.
{Matisse's Nice}

A bientôt, & bises,

Sunday, 30 September 2018

{autumn at Chota House}

It's beginning to look a lot like autumn here at Chota House. There's a crispness in the air, and the plants are slowly turning...


I picked up these lovely clippings on my walk along the canal. simply lovely.
have a fabulous rest of the weekend!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

{postcards from India-Goa}

{the stunning interior of St. Francis of Assisi, Old Goa}

In January, I spent two weeks in India, a land that I have known most of my life either through tales of family history or in summer sojourns. I am finally slowly blogging about the trip. My first post was about my long-standing relationship with India, my second on our first day or so in Mumbai and I left you with my last post arriving into Goa after our overnight train from Mumbai.

The last few years I have spent editing a textbook on the Global Renaissance, exploring European art of this era in the light of global connections. The book considers the movement of objects, ideas and technologies and its significance for European art and material culture, analysing images through the lens of cultural encounter and conflict. Throughout the book, there are moments when India appears within the early context of Portuguese trade and expansion (before the British East India Company had had its monopoly). A colleague of mine had written a chapter on altarpieces, and included one of the first colonial altarpieces made specifically for export: The Saint Catherine altarpiece in Goa, made in Europe and shipped to Goa. I was thus eager to return with my art historical knowledge to see the vestiges of these early cross-cultural dialogues expressed through art and architecture.

I had remembered Goa fondly as a child; it was different than the cities that had had a British presence. Indeed, Goa has something remarkably distinct about it. I remembered specifically going to see the remains of St Francis of Xavier and being told by the local guide that his body was no longer displayed to the public as an overly eager pilgrim had bit off the saint's toe in excitement!

So....we arrived on the overnight train and were taken by State Express to a lovely hotel in rice patties. We were eager to see historic Portuguese houses that we feared wouldn’t be open the next day--Sunday--so we arranged for a taxi to take us to the Palacio do Deao and the Braganza House in Quepem, about 10 km away from where we were staying.  These houses are an extraordinary legacy of Portuguese rule and early exploration.
Palacio do Deao is run by a couple who have spent time and money renovating it. It was built in the eighteenth century by a Portuguese nobleman, who was the Dean of the Church, and founder of Quepem town. You can also book a lunch there, but unfortunately they were all booked up for us. We entered the beautiful house to the sound of old music playing and were confronted by the remarkable altarpiece. The house is beautifully decorated with a clear sense of layers of history.... The pictures really tell you more than I can in words:
{the colourful exterior with stunning gardens}

{the stunning grounds}

We then took a short drive to Chandor Village to visit Braganza House, which is still owned by the same family that built it in the seventeenth century. Judith, a descendent, showed us around the house, pointing out significant artefacts such as Chinese porcelain and old portraits as well as detailing the fascinating history of the house and the fates of their family (no photography inside sadly, but check out the link for some interior shots).
{Braganza House}

The ballroom was exceptional, with large chandeliers and gorgeous mirrors intended as a mini version of Versailles. The history of the family is one of changing political times. Originally Portuguese, the first owner was particularly favoured by the ruling house of Portugal and throughout the ages, members of the family fraternised with well-known individuals such as Lenin. In the 20th century, the family was largely responsible for the independence of Goa from the Portuguese, but their fortunes were soon dramatically changed when India (now independent of the British) seized control of Goa and in the process took all their lands. The house is the only thing that remains of their former glory, although it too was supposed to be seized by the government. Judith was eager to tell us about her aunt, the former owner of the house who refused to let the house go when government officials stormed into the main sitting room and showed documentation that claimed the house was state owned. The old lady, instead, pulled out her own documents from the archives and told them to leave!
After a long day and little sleep, we returned to the hotel &reclined by the pool and relaxed after our adventure.
The next day, we took a taxi into old Goa where we saw the historic Portuguese churches. We started off at the Bom Jesus, also known as the church of st. Francis of Xavier, whose body is on 'display' (although you can't see it) on top of a cenotaph, miraculously uncorrupted. We were greeted by many pilgrims purchasing wax votives and as we neared the basilica, we could hear singing, as there was a church service.
{my parents outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus}

{wax votives}

{Basilica of Bom Jesus}
 The facade is rather stunning with the red laterite exposed, this church was built between 1594-1605.

{the interior of the basilica}

{a richly gilded altar with a statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order of Jesuits}

Attached to the basilica is the chapel (1655-98) of St. Francis Xavier, which most pilgrims really come to see; it is here that St Francis of Xavier's body is on display in a casket, resting on a marble cenotaph that none other than Cosimo de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany sent over.

{St. Francis Xavier}

{glimpses of stunning tiles throughout}

{IHS: often used by the Jesuits to reference Christ (Iesus Hominum Salvator)}

{church goers}
We then walked across the way to the Sé cathedral, which I was particularly eager to see because of the Saint Catherine altarpiece.

 The Sé cathedral (1562-1652) is one of Goa's most important ecclesiastical buildings (Se meaning Bishop's See), with work being undertaken at royal expense during the reign of King Sebastian. I was particularly struck at how beautifully decorated the church is, and must have been, with traces of frescoes still visible. The thing that was particularly interesting to me was just how the altarpieces in the various chapels spoke to a sort of visual syncretism, or the mixing of local artistic traditions with Christian iconography.
{the exterior of Sé cathedral)

The high altar is an amazing golden structure depicting St. Catherine of Alexandria, and replaces the original altarpiece I had come to see. The original is in the sacristy, which unfortunately was locked when I arrived. St. Catherine was a particularly important saint for the Portuguese in India as it was in 1510 on the feast of St. Catherine that the governor of Portuguese India, Afonso de Albuquerque captured Goa from the Islamic sultans of Bijapur. The cathedral thus has a particular colonial history that conveys the complicated history of this time, which brought trade, colonialism, conversion, and expansion all together. 

{traces of paint}

I remember this altarpiece the most out of all of the chapels. It's intriguing to me as it is a common subject one finds in Renaissance altarpieces but the style in which it is rendered looks like St Sebastian would be more at home in the Gitagovinda--an indication of the syncretic nature of artistic styles at this time. Christian subject matter but rendered in a local style.

 Our next stop was the church of St Francis of Assisi (1661), with a remarkably beautiful interior built for the Franciscans.
{St Francis of Assisi}

{details of some of the painted decoration}

{the pulpit}

{side chapels}

{tombstones fill the central nave}

Nearby to the cluster of gold churches, are the ruins of the church of St. Augustine (1602), reputed to have been one of the most beautifully decorated churches of old Goa. Not much remains but a slowly eroding bell tower, yet walking the grounds you can get a feeling of how big the church must have been, and the presence of tiles everywhere you look, suggests it would've been a colourful interior indeed!


{tiles near the high altar and gravestones marking the nave}
Our final stop was to the Church of Our Lady of the Mount (1557), perched on a hilltop, the church was closed but the main attraction is the stunning view of Old Goa from here!

{views of Old Goa}

...& with that, our time in Goa was up and we headed to Kochi (formerly Cochin) next.
stay tuned for more soon!