An afternoon in Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna 

As I walked into the museum, the townscapes caught my attention. After watching Museum hours, I knew I should watch for smaller scenes in bigger paintings. This particular one, The Freyung in Vienna by Bernado Bellotto, caught my eyes – the people bowed down in reverence to the passing carriage. It reminded me of stories of generations ago in Kerala.  


And yet, as I take a step back, I see that it is not to the carriage that they are bowing but to something else completely – it is only then I notice the carriage driver is bowing as well. A scene from my visit to Italy unfolds on the left as a procession comes out of the church. Practices over centuries have hardly changed. Italy of Caneletto remains! 


One of the statements in my audio guide makes me start at the painting above this one. As a photographer, there are several times I have been a slave to the rigidities imposed on me by the landscape – several times when I have moved right and left to get some structure into my view finder and they never cooperated! Here all Caneletto needed to do was paint the church a bit more to left and pull the wall in front to avoid being eclipsed by the hospital! 

Zoffany’s Portrait of Emperor Francis II at age of seven first caught my attention because I thought the carpet was real one superimposed on the portrait just as you have babies picture books these days where you can feel the skin of the animals. As I went closer I realized that all textures were just paints. The audio guide spoke of his education artifacts showing the different areas in which he received education. Today a common child is busy with education in all areas. 


Duplessis’s portrait of Gluck talks about the moment of inspiration where he seems to get a light from above that flows all the way to his fingers poised over the harpsichord – the placement of the portrait seemed to be done deliberately to have his eyes look up at the light.


I slowly came, in search of my husband, to the Breugel section of the museum. Here hung two paintings side by side. There were several relationships portrayed here. Some of these were pointed out  in the description. Whether it was because of my hunger or my love for food I cannot say. The butchered ox on the right side at the back of the big painting caught my eye. The goriness of this was lightened by the extensive use of light colour. The tail standing stiff on top seemed like a hook around the stick on which it hung. Contemplating on how many people this would feed and whether the peasants butchered this for the nobility visiting them or just for themselves, I moved to the next painting. It was startling to see a focussed painting of an ox! In today’s world, I would have said, he wanted to zoom into this scene. Yet, it was a different scene from the surroundings – how many more stories could I weave out of these two paintings? Presenting Marten van Cleve’s peasant parlour with noble visitors and the Slaughtered Ox from around 1566. 



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