Juan de Arellano Basket of Flowers (c.1664); Museo del Prado, Madrid
"Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do"--St. Thomas Aquinas
To the left: the latest issue of Christoff's Old Masters, on the theme of "The Sporting Life". This issue, digitally accessible through the link above and in print in several weeks, is a visually and intellectually captivating investigation into the theme of the great outdoors in Old Masters and Classic-Modern painting. Perhaps as a respite to the culture of confinement we must live through at the moment, this issue's essays, images, and erudition will transport one to the exciting world of "Man against Nature" as depicted in the most glorious paintings of the genre dating from the 15th through 20th centuries--and with a particular focus on Winslow Homer and the "struggle against the elements" in his art.. This issue also provides an overview of the record-breaking auction season that took place between July and October 2020, along with an analysis of present macroeconomic conditions by way of top Barron's contributors and independent analysts of excellent reputation. This overview also includes a look at the gold market, always a good indicator of rising interest in the hard-asset market and therefore long-term investment in art. Above all, this issue is dedicated to the theme of sporting art, The feature gallery of the issue is Thomas Colville Fine Art, LLC, whose five decades specializing in 19th and 20th century American and European art brings to life the 'great outdoors' in a splendid collection of Impressionist and Abstract works.
As seen in The Montecito Journal, Santa Barbara, my work involves the advisory and curation of private collections centered upon, but not limited to European Old Masters. This specialization includes Spanish and Italian Renaissance and Baroque works, driven by a passion for the emotional intensity, "beautiful violence" and the mythological-religious impact of these paintings. Other areas of interest include American19th and early 20th century works; Italian Modernism, and where possible, American and Russian Impressionism. At this time I do not have an independent gallery, but I work with established dealers of excellent reputation based in Manhattan, Vienna, Madrid and Paris to tailor small, exquisite collections. These consist of known and 'unknown' great names in the history of art, with a focus on undervalued artists whose works, according to the temper of the times and the reading of the tea leaves, stand to appreciate in value.
- As a former writer-analyst of the commodities market, the historic classic gold standard and of the 'bankers' bank' traditions of pre-war Europe for two well-known American publications, I stress the critical, long-term value of art as investment as a secondary factor to the primary goal of creating a powerful aesthetic experience.
- I began in this field as a result of my work for and personal relationship with the Princely House of Liechtenstein, one of Europe's most fabled art collectors, when I lived many years in Vienna. In addition, I have a small in-house press, William Caxton & Sons Publishing LLC, based in Washington DC, through which I publish a new print journal, Christoff's Old Masters, monographs and my own literary works.
HARD-ASSETS MATTER: LATEST MACROECONOMIC HIGHLIGHTS
Updates on the ongoing destruction of free market capitalism, the rampaging U.S. national debt and the faux-money frenzy of the Federal Reserve.
“We have gold because we cannot trust governments”
― Herbert Hoover
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NOTES FROM THE POLO LOUNGE: LATEST ESSAYS
On The Beautiful Violence of Old Masters Painting December 1, 2020
"To define art is to define life.” —William R. Bradshaw, 1890
Once upon a time, there was a rape that changed the course of world history. The event was immortalized in a stunning work of art, Tarquino e Lucretia, by the late Renaissance Venetian painter Tiziano Vecellio, or more commonly “Titian” in the English-speaking world. The scene depicts the soldier Sextus Tarquinius, the son of a sixth century (BC) Roman king, dagger in hand, implacable anger, insatiable desire in his eyes, about to assault the “chaste and virtuous” Lucretia, wife of his cousin and kinsman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. The intensity of the image captures the aggressor’s passion and his victim’s horror as his body lunges forward and she recoils in fear—a voluptuous figure of blonde waves and alabaster body engulfed by the lonely luxury of her dark bedroom. Tarquinius has come one evening to visit the home of Lucretia and her husband, Collantinus, and other visiting fellow soldiers. Aware of and aroused by the noblewoman’s famed dignity and reputation, Tarquinius stealthily enters her room that night and threatens to kill her if she does not consent to his advance, stating that he will defend the murder to her husband as an honor killing of an adulterous discovery between her and one of her slaves. Following the act, Tarquinius flees and Lucretia later tells the entire story of what took place before her husband and her brother. She then commits suicide before the two of them, declaring that in the choice between life and honor, death is the only way to preserve the latter. In the ensuing outrage, led by Collantinus and his friend Lucius Iunis Brutus, war is declared on the royal Tarquinius family and the Kingdom of Rome is destroyed. In its place, the ancient Republic of Rome is established, built on the martyrdom of Lucretia, who lives on in Western memory as one of the nine great heroines of antiquity. “Alas, Tarquino!,” the poet Ovid would write during the reign of Augustus nearly five centuries later. “How much that one night cost you your Kingdom!”
The emotions captured in Titian’s rendering of that criminal scene on Lucretia’s wedding bed are as seductive as they are dreadful.....(please click here for the essay)
On the Necessity of Elitism in the Fine Arts
Marcia A. Christoff September 2020
Near the end of life, a man or woman might ask themselves what destiny would have had in store for them if at some critical juncture in their maturity he or she had heeded the wisdom of a cautionary friend or a far-sighted foe. Today, what was once called ‘high art”, or the more safely neutral “fine art”, is confronted with the same question. It is on the defensive everywhere in the Western world. Although recent record sales at Old Masters auctions and a steady increase in attendance at the major museums prior to the coronavirus pandemic suggest an encouraging longing for the lofty, the position is deceptive. The institutional status of high art survives tenuously under a veneer of tradition; it is almost absent in education and broader media; its influence marginalized to that of a well-educated cult. The implied reason for this is that so-called elitist art has no place in an increasingly egalitarian society.
If, however, the natural hierarchies of art that are to be enjoyed in any free society are eradicated, there will disappear with them one of the most powerful expressions of the principle of equality in that society: popular access to and education through aesthetic excellence. Such is the fate of the cultural life of this country if vigilance is not practiced by those who defend Western high art and resistance is not directed towards those whose long-term agenda is to discredit and even destroy it.... Please click here for more
"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it,
can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do"
--Galileo Galilei (d.1642)