Recently my Paul and I watched Monuments Men, a movie about a group of men who helped restore priceless works of art which Hitler had stolen from Europe. Like, all of Europe. This should not come as a surprise, because: Hitler. But the mind still boggles. There are at least two reasons I might want to talk about this movie, but today’s reason is that the work of art which provided something of a centrepiece to the film was Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child which had been (and again is) housed in Brugge, Belgium.
I am not sure if my mother was excited to see this work of art in real life because it was a Michelangelo or because she was aware of it’s almost-lost-to-posterity history, but if it was the latter, I definitely didn’t grasp it as an almost fifteen-year-old, and if it was the former, I guess I wasn’t that interested in Michelangelo because he was not so involved with Vikings and Druids and the parts of European history I was actually interested in at the time.
Grandma G had long tried to make an art appreciator out of me. She gave my parents a notebook into which to paste postcards of famous artwork which she periodically sent from the Met, with her own notes/explanations/history. I kind of liked going to the Met with the Grandparents G, and I did enjoy looking at the works of art–even being quite willing to sit in front of a painting for some time, as I observed real Art Appreciators did–but that was because I was inventing stories in my head to go with the scene I was viewing.
The summer after 9th grade, my parents cashed in some savings accounts and took TheBro and me to Europe for a month. Probably some people thought they were crazy, but I don’t know that any of us have ever regretted it. We went to Sweden for two weeks with Grandma M, who is Swedish and had friends there, then we visited various bits of Switzerland, spent a day or two in Vienna and Brugge, and then finished up with a week in London. That trip is one of the favourite memories I have, but the Madonna and Child sculpture was not the only art I failed fully to appreciate. After last night’s movie, I’m kind of disappointed that this is the best photo I got of it:
I also think I was more intrigued by the legend and the painting of the nuns and candelabra-antlered stags than I was by the Chagall windows, which were heartlessly difficult to photograph anyway–although it must be said I am besotted with Chagall’s art now.
To be fair to myself, I’m pretty sure there were ropes keeping us from getting any closer to that Madonna and Child–and probably the windows, too. Plus, when I was almost fifteen, I had this camera:
I guess I still can’t claim to be an art expert, but let’s put it this way: I’m really glad those Monuments Men got that art back.