The Richard mask

We are going to the most southern point of The Netherlands next week to a rented self-contained cottage for our holiday and we plan on going for outings into Belgium and Germany as well, maybe even drive to Luxemburg for a day. We know the mask rules are stricter in those countries than they are here, so Mr Esther wanted to order a few extra face masks to take with us on holiday. He is a heraldry geek and ordered masks with the coat of arms he had once designed for himself and had registered as his own…

(Yeah, his ‘Corona beard’ is getting long!) He ordered them in three designs but as they came in a set of four, he had a special mask made for me as well. Ever supportive of me and my fangirling, he ordered a mask with the painting my mother had once made for me of The Crucible

Here is the mask in more detail..

Pretty cool, right?

Masks here in The Netherlands so far are only mandatory in public transport, not in other public spaces. Restrictions here aren’t as tight anymore and this week the news came that Covid 19 cases are on the rise again. It won’t surprise me if masks become mandatory here in public indoor spaces like shops and restaurants as well, which means I may be using this mask far more than just our holiday. So, Richard Armitage on my mouth and nose – not a bad way to walk around this summer.

Spot the difference

Michelangelo…

My cats…

Uncanny, right? 😉 Almost good enough for the “Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine” (“Between Art & Quarantine”) project over on Instagram. The project started during quarantine as a lark where this lady invited people to share images of art works re-created at home. Click on the above link, if you’re so inclined, it’s so very entertaining to look through all the fun entries.

At the Victoria & Albert Museum

Before I go into a whole “Armitage fan experience in London” post, I’m first posting about something else I was able to do there. I had arrived in London last Sunday morning and spent a lovely day just hanging out and chatting with my brother and some with my niece.

Then on Monday I had the day to myself and I decided to finally visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. I had never been there and had always meant to go there one day. It was a good day to pick that, as it was a cold, dreary and very wet day. Picture taken from the bus I was on; the window was wet, it almost looks like an impressionist painting.

20200224_124333I got to the museum and somehow it seemed much larger than I had thought. I mean, I knew it housed a very diverse collection but this was much bigger than I had expected.

20200224_125127

I wandered around on the ground floor a bit, particularly liking the statues gallery…

… and then went in search of the café for something to eat. The old café was beautiful, but alas there was no space for me to sit there…

20200224_131447

So, I sat in the more modern section and really enjoyed my scone and cup of tea.

20200224_132040

Even going to a bathroom at the café was a museum experience with old tiles and fawcets bearing Georg Vth initials, which indicates they were somewhere from the beginning of the 20th century.

Speaking of royalty, on my way to the medieval section I passed the car Harry and Meghan had used at the end of their wedding day

20200224_134844

It was basically an ad for the vintage cars exhibition that was also on at the V&A but that I didn’t end up visiting.

In the medieval section I was struck by this early 16th century tapestry from Brussels depicting Queen Esther (she after whom I have been named):

20200224_135918

I also love looking at old books, like this early printed book from 1521, not long after the printing press had been invented.

20200224_141316

Some more nice vistas as you walk through the museum:

I have seen lots of medieval art and statues and the like in many museums over the years, so for me the high point of the museum was something I have not seen that much of: an exhibition on early photography. Even just looking at all those cameras before you enter the room was fascinating.

I was in awe seeing an early heliograph image of Christ carrying the cross from 1827. You can barely see the image but it’s there (click to enlarge)…

… and an 1840’s daguerreotype image of a collage of famous faces.

I liked this 1850s image. Imagine keeping that little dog still enough for long enough to create this image!

An early camera was on display…

And there were more fascinating 19th century images, with one image also of Alice Liddell, who was the ‘real’ Alice in Wonderland.

Absolutely fascinating, including some early 3D imagery you could see through this viewer but that I couldn’t take pictures of.

The other section I was fascinated with was the theatre collection (with a little movie glam thrown in).  The horse for the War Horse production was there…

20200224_151632

And other theatre costumes…

There was the Henry V costume as worn by Richard Burton…

And a costume designed by Dior for Vivien Leigh in a movie…

Vivien Leigh seems to have bequeathed some of her memorabilia to the V&A. The Oscar she had won for A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1950s was on display…

… as was a telegram addressed to Laurence Olivier (Vivien Leigh’s husband at the time) from Lillian and Dorothy Gish, movie stars of mainly the silent movie era, congratulating Leigh on her brilliant acting performance in Streetcar.

20200224_152413

There were more awards on display from other actors for other performances:

20200224_152612

And some music related memorabilia of David Bowie…

and Madness…

20200224_153936

This is just a tiny impression of all there is to see at the V&A and I saw way more than I took pictures of. It’s a great museum, very diverse and I by far haven’t seen everything. I may have to return there again sometime.

By the time I finally emerged from the musem at the end of the afternoon, it had stopped raining. I again took a bus, this time to Piccadilly Circus, and the view was somewhat less impressionist:

20200224_165931

I was off to go and meet Hariclea for evening theatre shenanigans at the Harold Pinter Theatre. More on that in my next post. 🙂

Statues in da house

The latest “Mach’ Was” challenge has ‘statues’ as its topic. When I read that, I looked up from my laptop, glanced around my living room, and figured that wouldn’t be a problem…

My mother loves statues and has little statues all over her house, dozens  and dozens of them at least. I guess it is through her that I have come to appreciate them as well and when I take that look around my living room, dining room and back garden (I won’t even mention what can be found upstairs), I see statues in various sizes surrounding me; apparently I have collected quite a few of them myself over the years! Mr. Esther has joined in with contributions as well. We are no deliberate statue collectors but, yes, we do now posess quite a few!

On a little antique desk that also carries our phone, we have these three little ones. I didn’t photograph them on the desk as that corner was just too dark, so I set them in a row on our dining table. I can hold all three easily in one hand.

Statues1

We bought the little head on the left years ago at the prehistoric site of Lascaux in France; it’s a replica of a 23.000 year old figurine called the Venus de Brassempouy! The middle head is something we bought at the famous German Meissen porcelain factory after a tour we did there – pretty much the only thing we could afford. 😉 The cat on the right we bought at the British Museum in London last year after seeing the real deal ancient Egyptian cat in the collection. We have a black cat right here at home and couldn’t resist this small replica which looks just like her!

I also quite like the artist Nikki de Sainte Phalle and her famous colourful voluptuous “Nana” women. Do a google image search combining her name and the word ‘nana’ and you’ll see what I mean. When I was a child living just outside of Jerusalem, we played on this huge monster slide in a residential area in Jerusalem which she had designed. It’s still there, my kids also played on it 8 and a half years ago…

Monster

Anyway, a few years back my younger brother was working in a furniture store and saw this ‘Nana’ woman…

Statues3

… it’s made of a thick kind of papier-mâché, he immediately thought I’d love it (and he was right!) and he got it for me.

I also have these two African mothers:

The one on the left I got from my mom once. Alas it fell and the baby’s head broke off in such a way that it could not be repaired. I still love it, though, so I have kept it. The one on the right is my most recent acquisition, I only got it about two weeks ago. My mom recently sold the cottage in the north of The Netherlands that she owns and that statue is from there. While clearing out I immediately claimed it as my own, luckily there were no other takers.

On the windowsill by our dining table we have these two tall and very slim wooden figures…

The left one we bought at an Asia market, it’s an Indonesian statue. I can’t recall where I got the right one, but we’ve had both of them for many years now.

I have a favourite painting that I have yet to see for real. It’s Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. My parents knew this and got us this little statue, now standing on our piano (that no one plays)…

Statues8

We have some more cat statues as well, besides the black cat in the first picture I shared above. And we have a snail! And a Buddhist monk!

The yellow cat on the left I got from my younger sister, it has a suncell battery and when the sun shines it waves its little paw! It’s Asian (I think Thai, maybe Chinese) kitsch and I find it funny! The other cat is something we once got from our neighbours after we took care of their cats while they were away on holiday. The little glass snail I saw at an arts & crafts market once and I just found it cute. The buddhist monk is a gift I got from the kids a few years ago.

Speaking of buddhist monks gifted to me by my kids… I have a whole row of little monks right underneath our TV screen! They were a Mother’s Day gift. 🙂

Statues15

My daughter found this following family statue on top of a recycling container about a year ago… We both liked it and gave it a home.

Statues9

We also have a little wooden viking boat with little wooden vikings in them. Bought it in Denmark for the kids when they were little, we still like it and keep it as an ornament now. The figurine on the right is a chess piece we also bought at the British Museum. It’s something my husband fell in love with, a replica of one of the Lewis chessmen from the 12th century, probably originating from Norway.

Speaking of my husband… he loves history, especially Roman and medieval history and is a bit of an expert on heraldry. So, we now have a knight with shield in a corner leading to our hallway, which we also use as a pedestal for the bust of a woman. In our back garden we have two stone lions with coats of arms. One coat of arms is from my family, the other coat of arms, the one on the right, is my husband’s. His family doesn’t have one, so he designed one himself and recently had it registered. 🙂 He also painted all these shields himself.

As this post has now landed in our back garden, let me also share some more statues we have there!

The one on the left, another bust of a woman, we got last year in Poland, it was dead cheap! Yeah, we don’t really buy durable quality, we just get what appeals to us in the moment. The pedestal it’s on was also a leftover from my mother’s cottage that we confiscated. The family statue on the right is one we bought when Mr. Esther and I became parents; it was also our first garden statue. I also love this statue…

Statues11

… she’s made of concrete, so nothing special there, but I find her so pretty!

Coming back into the house, I also have a number of small statues in my DVD cupboard…

The head on the left I made myself during a workshop with colleagues some 5 or 6 years ago. It’s supposed to look like my one ex-colleague… Of course it hardly looks like her, except for maybe possibly the hair, but for a first attempt at ever doing anything like this, I was quite proud. My daughter subsequently decided she also wanted to make one, so the pink one is hers. On a side note: that baby photo on the right is a picture of my grandmother, taken in 1908!

And last but not least these…

I can’t remember where I got that tiny squirrel. The owl is a beeswax candle that we never had the heart to burn. The angel on the right is a gift from my in-laws.

So, there you have it, Herba and Pö: my house is a hot mess with loads of statues!

Esther-Daddy Day

This evening the Jewish festival of Purim starts, celebrating the Persian Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people from genocide some 2500 years ago. My parents gave my siblings and me names from the Hebrew bible (old testament). So, my brothers and sisters are called: Rachel, David, Daniel (in fairness, Daniel wasn’t named by my parents; he came to our family age 11 and fit right in, name and all!), Joel, Rebecca and Jonathan. And then there’s me, Esther, named after Queen Esther herself! Hence also the title of this blog – I am named after the biblical queen in The Book of Esther and books tells stories, which in a way I do here as well, sharing stories and experiences in my life.

My parents always enjoyed giving me Queen Esther themed gifts. Many of them I don’t have anymore, or are scattered throughout the house and I don’t know where they are, but I do have two paintings still hanging on my walls here. One of the them, called “The town of  Queen Esther” was painted/printed by an acquaintance my parents had many years ago…

Queen Esther 2

It’s not my fave painting ever, but I like it enough to keep on my staircase wall.

A second piece of art I own hangs in my living room and was once given to me by my parents. It’s an absolutely fascinating ink drawing they got me when we were all visiting the artistic town of Tzfat (Safed) once in the north of Israel…

Queen Esther 1

If you look closely you’ll see that the figure of Esther and the pillars next to her are made up of tiny Hebrew lettering. We were told that the whole text of the Book of Esther is worked into this ink drawing! I just love this. This drawing is not only connected to my name and that bible story, it is also forever connected to my parents who picked it out for me. I can still see myself standing outside this artist’s atelier together with my parents, deciding on this particular work of art.

Tomorrow is not only Purim, the festival of Esther, but is also the second anniversary of the passing of my father. I am happy to have such mementoes as this one that keep me connected to him. So, as this evening/tomorrow is the happy festival of Purim as well as a day during which I commemorate my dad, I am dubbing March 12th, 2017 “Esther-Daddy Day”!

According to Jewish custom you say “May his memory be for a blessing!” and I can honestly say that although I will miss him forever, my father’s memory truly is a blessing. For tomorrow I wish for my family and myself to be filled with not only sad but also many happy memories and in Yiddish I wish to those who celebrate (my Jewish brother and sister among them) “A freilichen Purim”!