Andrew Mellon, archaeological enterprise, Archaeology, Arnolfini Portrait, Art and taxes, Art collecting, Art donations, Art philanthropy, Battle of Agincourt, David Levine, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Eliot Elisofon, Flemish painting, France, H.G. Wells, Herod the Great, Holy Land, Income Tax, J.B. Priestley, Jerome S. Rubin, Jewish Revolt, John Canaday, Kipps, La Rochefoucauld, Life magazine, Low Countries, Masada, Maxim, Morris Bishop, National Gallery of Art, Portrait of a Lady, Quentin Matsys, Rogier van der Weyden, Science fiction, Sixteenth Amendment, Tax minimisation, The History of Mr. Polly, The Money Changer and his Wife, The Shape of Things to Come., The War of the Worlds, Tono-Bungay, Washington DC, Yigael Yadin
My copy of this issue has its cover on backwards – the title and date are on the other side:
The cover shows Portrait of a Lady by Rogier van der Weyden illustrating the major article ‘The Flowering of Flemish Art’, by John Canaday, art critic of The New York Times. He describes the background of early 15th century Flanders, with the best Flemish artists no longer being lured away to France after the 1415 French defeat at Agincourt, and painting in a locale that was ‘now bourgeois rather than princely…this tough-minded, practical society’:
The new society was not homely. If it was bourgeois, it was not provincial. Representatives of the great banking and merchandising firms went back and forth across all Europe, and foreign houses maintained their commercial ambassadors in the Low Countries. This was cosmopolitanism of a new kind, and was so conducive to growth, variety, and experiment that any suspicion of provincialism might better be attached to the preciously cultivated, closed society of the feudal courts.
He describes The Arnolfini Portrait:
The textures of metal, glass, and wood, of velvet and linen, of the fur of the little dog, all accepting the light to reveal their own natures; the consistency of this light’s flow from its sources (one window seen, and one unseen in the foreground beyond the picture frame but revealed by the fall of light on the floor and on the bridal couple); the continuity of the space as we look into the picture, and the unquestionable truth with which each object assumes its distance from the eye and its proper relationship to the other objects in the painted room – all this description of light, space, and the solid volumes unifies the picture in ways that are explicable technically even if they are all but superhuman in technical execution. We have already said that at this level craftsmanship becomes genius, but the picture is also held together by the unanalyzable factor of the artist’s sensitivity to psychological unity.
‘The Flemish Eye’ is a gravure portfolio of details of paintings, including Quentin Matsys’s The Money Changer and his Wife:
Also in this issue:
The Masada excavations were perhaps the biggest archaeological enterprise ever attempted in the Holy Land, and their yield has been enormous. We undertook two campaigns – seven months in 1963-64 and four months in 1964-65 – and by the first of May, 1965 we had excavated almost all of the entire built-up area of Masada. A small section was intentionally left excavated to give future visitors a “before and after” impression…
As important as the discoveries are, Masada will remain for all of us primarily a symbol for those who prefer death to spiritual and physical bondage.
There are photographs by Life Magazine’s Eliot Elisofon.
A cistern at the southern tip of Masada, excavated by Herod’s engineers:
An aerial view shows the Hanging Palace, with ruins of its circular pavilions in the foreground:
In ‘Art and Taxes’, Jerome S. Rubin writes about the role of the taxman in the building of America’s greatest public art collections:
The combined effects of the income tax which limits the accumulation of wealth, and of estate and gift taxes, which limit its transfer to the private objects of the taxpayer’s affection, have been to sharply inhibit the private collecting of art on the grand scale in the United States. Other factors and influences aside, there has been a striking parallel between the rise of the role of the tax collector and the decline of the great private art collector in the United States…
The difficulty of accumulating capital or transmitting it to the next generation is, however, but half the story. The corollary of the eclipse of the private collector has been the refulgence of the public collector; the spectacular growth of museums and other public collections in the United States, especially over the past three decades, is also demonstrably linked to the brooding omnipresence of the tax collector…
The very origins of the National Gallery of Art, one of the most splendid repositories of works of art in the world, directly involved a brush with the tax collector [by US Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon], and the story illustrates, in rich Renaissance colors, the felicitous union of public benefaction and private tax saving.
David Levine provides the illustrations:
A maxim is an observation on behaviour, abstracted and generalized, laid to the account of humanity at large and expressed with the utmost concision. A perfect maxim is compounded with careful art; it requires a discovery of the only exact words, and sound structure of thought, and verbal harmony, rhythm, and balance. Its brevity is the product of long labor. It is the great achievement of the literary miniaturist.
I reread The War of the Worlds after an interval of many years [to write an introduction], during which science fiction had become a recognized and widely popular genre. Scientific discovery and our technological triumphs have given contemporary writers a jumping-off platform, already almost out in space, that the young Wells of 1897 could not command. Nevertheless, he is easily their master. If you want science fiction at its best, then the early H.G. Wells is your man. Nobody has beaten him yet. One reason is that even here he is a novelist, not only discovering scientific wonders and menaces but also giving us people, not cardboard figures but real people in whom we can believe…
[His early science fiction was followed by] Kipps, Tono-Bungay and Mr. Polly, which represent his most personal and lasting contribution to the English novel. He stands or falls by them. And I think he stands.