Monthly Archives: October 2013

What is a masterpiece?

Did you know that a masterpiece was literally a master piece: a piece of work that had to proof the creator of the masterpiece had the right skills?

Salvador Dali  - The Persistence of Time

A Dali masterpiece

In mediaval Europe guilds were formed to group craftsmen and merchants with the aim to protect their respective professions and to control the quality of the craft.
In the guilds, knowledge and experience were exchanged. New members were trained in the craft. After a thorough training, a pupil could be recognized as a craftsman with the title of “journeyman”. Everyone who wanted to settle as an independent craftsman had to proof his skill with a master piece: a sort of practical exam that showed the technical skills of the candidate master.
In the Painter’s guilds for instance, the candidate master had to create an original painting according to the guidelines of the guilds.
This painting was his masterpiece.

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss

A Klimt masterpiece

Pablo Picasso- Guernica

A Picasso masterpiece

Edward Munch - The Scream

A Munch Masterpiece

Remarkable artists – Postman Cheval

Ideal Palace

Postman Cheval – The Ideal Palace – south

Today, Ferdinand Cheval is considered to be one of the most remarkable representatives of naive architecture, but during his lifetime people thought of him as the village idiot.

Did you know…

  • the building that made him world famous is called Le Palais Idéal (the Ideal Palace)
  • he was actually a postman; people called him Facteur Cheval
  • how it all started:
    • one day in 1879, he tripped on a stone and almost fell
    • looking at the stone, he was overwhelmed by its beauty and he put the stone in his pocket
    • the stone reminded him of a dream he had a year before. In that dream he was building a palace
    • the next day he went back and found more stones. He continued to do this for 33 years
    • Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement and so he started to build his Ideal Palace
    • he merely worked at night by the light of an oil lamp
    • Just before he died, he received recognition from André Breton and Pablo Picasso

This was the first stone he collected:

Facteur Cheval - first stone

His first stone

This is the Ideal Palace:

The Ideal Palace -Facteur Cheval

The Ideal Palace

The ideal palace

The ideal palace

Facteur Cheval - detail East

detail East

Facteur Cheval -detail - north

detail – north

  • Cheval wanted to be buried in his Ideal Palace, but this is illegal in France
  • thus, he started building a mausoleum in the same style as his Ideal palace on the local  cemetary
  • he spent 8 more years on the mausoleum
  • 1 year after he was finished, he died
  • Ferdinand “Postman” Cheval was buried in his Ideal Mausoleum

This is the mausoleum:

mausoleum Facteur Cheval


Remarkable artists – Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous painters in history, but did you know…

Vincent Van Gogh - self portrait

Vincent Van Gogh – self portrait

The Red Vineyard - Vincent Van Gogh

The Red Vineyard – Vincent Van Gogh

Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Van Gogh - Bedroom in Arles

Van Gogh – Bedroom in Arles

Vincent Van Gogh - The Night Cafe

The Night Cafe

Vincent Van Gogh - Starry Night

Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh - Irises


  • Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime: The Red Vineyard. The buyer was Anna Boch, a Belgian Painter.
  • When Van Gogh’s paintings are sold today, they are among  the most expensive painitngs ever
  • At the age of 32 he went to the art academy, but was sent away after 3 months
  • He only painted 10 years, but produced 2100 art works in this period
  • His brother Theo sent him money to survive.
  • He worked as a missionary in the Borinage, a Belgian coal mining region
  • He suffered from tinnitus. As a result he heared non-existing sounds.
  • About his cut off ear:
    • Some say tinnitus was the reason why he cut of his ear: to stop the sounds in his head
    • Other sources say that he cut of his ear accidentally in a fight with Paul Gauguin, using a razor blade.
    • And yet another story tells Paul Gauguin cut of Van Gogh’s ear with a sword in a fight for a local girl
    • It is said he cut of his ear and brought it to a prostitute
  • He had periods he was very depressive and in which he had hallucinations
  • He stayed in mental institutions for this.
  • Dr Gachet treated him. A portrait from Van Gogh of dr Gachet was sold in 1990 for US$ 82.5 million
  • Officialy, he commited suicide with a revolver (but the gun was never found)

3 Favourite Sculptures in Florence

I guess it wouldn’t be fair, not to mention anything about the sculptures in Florence. Especially because one of the most beautiful sculptures ever made, can be found there.

These are my 3 favourites:

Giambologna – Rape of the Sabine Women (1574-82)

In the Loggia Dei Lanza, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, you can see this mythical statue. The dynamic protagonists in this scene accentuate the dramatic subject.

giambologna - Rape of the Sabine Women

giambologna – Rape of the Sabine Women

Giambologna – Rape Of the Sabine Women

Donatello – David (circa1440)

Less famous than Michelangelo’s David and hardly comparable:

  • Black bronze vs snow white Carara Marble
  • modest size (1,58m) vs monumental size (5,7m)
  • feminin (slim, senual, female hat) vs masculin (strong, muscles, confident)

Despite these differences, i really like the Donatello version of David.

Donatello -  David

Donatello – David

Michelangelo – David (1501-1504)

One of the most beautiful sculptures of all time. And if you are in Florence, you should really see the original version of the statue inside the Uffizi museum.  The original version is magical, it is of a godlike beautiness.  This is a Masterpiece. All copies of David are pulp.

Michelangelo - David

Michelangelo – David

3 Favourite Paintings in Florence

I’ve been to Florence, Italy and i think that everyone should see it. The whole city is a joyfull witness of the Renaissance. The museums are stacked with masterpieces.

These 3 paintings made a huge impression on me:

Parmigianino – The Madonna of the Long Neck (1534-1540)

There is something about this weird painting that makes it fascinating.

The long neck of the madonna and the strange deformation of her child could be seen as amateurish, but stilll, if you see this painting in real life it catches your attention and keeps it.

The colors are well chosen and in perfect harmony. The composition holds a tension with the packed people on the left and the peacefulness of the madonna, whose volume takes half of the space of the whole painting.

Parmigianino - The Madonna of the Long Neck

Parmigianino – The Madonna of the Long Neck

Sandro Botticelli – The Birth of Venus (1486)

This iconic painting has influenced many artists from the Renaissance until today’s graffiti artists in L.A.

Sandro Botticelli - Birth of Venus

Sandro Botticelli – Birth of Venus

Antonio Ciseri – Ecce Homo (1871)

This is really a masterpiece and an underestimated painting.  I really got goose bumps watching this in the Palazzo Pitti.

In this original setting, the main actors are shown from the back. Jesus, the king of the Jews, is being humiliated and we are witness of the moment Pilate is showing him to the furious crowd. You can see the yelling crowd and the anger on each face of the spectators. They  are really hungry for blood and want him to be crucified. One man on the roof of a building is holding his hands above his head, his fists clenched.

Antonio Ciseri - Ecce Homo

Antonio Ciseri – Ecce Homo