Can there be anything more disheartening than arriving at the airport, only to be told that your flight has been delayed for 28 hours? The comforts of home simply cannot be matched by the Holiday Inn and though I love California, the area around Los Angeles International Airport is not particularly inspiring and lacks the razzmatazz required to hold the interest of two bored teenagers. What to do? Count the number of cars that pass through the adjoining McDonalds ‘drive-thru’ or watch re-runs of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ on FOX?
A quick visit to the tour desk revealed the close proximity of the Getty Centre, Los Angeles – crisis averted as we made a dash for the bus and headed out to Bel Air.
With no preconceived idea of what we might see, you can imagine my delight to discover that I had been provided with the opportunity to examine a number of medieval illuminations, paintings and artefacts. My personal favourites though were the panels, small enough to be carried with the owner or displayed in a private chamber or mounted on a wall.
The Madonna of Humility c. 1345 to 1350. Artist – Guariento di Arpo (Italian)
I loved the vivid colour and composition of this piece and was surprised by its size –with original frame: 33 x 17.1 cm (13 x 6 3/4 in.)
The Annunciation c. 1348 50 1350. Artist – Paolo Veneziano (Italian)
I was really taken with the shape of this panel and its ability to be folded for transportation. Framed, it is only 22.9 x 26 x 2.5 cm (9 x 10 1/4 x 1 in.)
Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata and An Angel Crowning Saints Cecilia and Valerian c. 1330 Unnamed Italian Master.
The third example, and my personal favourite, embodies all that I imagined a medieval panel would be – ‘delicately painted and small enough to hold in one’s hand, this panel was probably crafted to complement the private devotions of a single owner, the Blessed Delphine de Signe –
This folding altarpiece depicts Saint Francis receiving the stigmata on the left and an angel crowning Saints Cecilia and Valerian with floral wreaths on the right. Delphine de Signe, an aristocrat living at the court of Naples in the early 1300s, had sworn a vow of virginity. Despite this, a marriage was arranged between her and Elzéar de Sabran, also a member of the court. Elzéar was a deeply religious youth, and Delphine was able to convert him to chastity by recounting the legends of Cecilia and Valerian, early Christian martyrs who took a vow of celibacy for their spiritual beliefs. Although they suffered from family opposition, Delphine and her husband remained devoted to one another and honored their common vow. Since the unusual subject matter of the virgin saints would have held symbolic import and served as a model for Delphine and Elzéar’s own marriage, Delphine may have been the first owner of this diptych. The couple belonged to the lay Third Order of the Franciscans, which explains the depiction of Saint Francis at the left.
The J.Paul Getty Centre in Los Angeles is a truly remarkable museum and not one I would have considered to include in my travel itinerary, but for a delay and as serendipity is a theme often associated with Lions and Lilies, one that that I thought to include as my first blog entry.