When I left the restaurant after lunch today I found that the light rain and light drizzle of this morning had stopped. A heavy rain replaced it. As a result, I decided to stick with an indoor program for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the closest indoor activity recommended by either my tour book or walking tour app, the National Gallery, was about a 20 minute walk away.
A slight wind blew. Between my umbrella and my rain jacket I stayed dry above the knees. But my lower pant legs and shoes got quite wet.
After the gallery, I went to the Slovenian National Museum, only a few blocks from the gallery.
Let’s get a sloppy, wet start on the afternoon, shall we?
The National Gallery of Slovenia is a fair-sized art gallery that focuses largely on Slovenian art. It divides its rooms into time periods, with the ground floor having a room for art dated from 1200 to 1600, along with a room devoted exclusively a major Slovenian artist, Zoran Mušič (1909 – 2005).
On the first floor (i.e., one up from the ground floor), individual rooms present art from specific periods starting from 1600 up through to quite recently.
You know me. Any attempt by me to describe, let alone analyze, the art would be risible, ridiculous, or possibly risibly ridiculous. Be that as it may, I do want to comment on a few of the pieces.
First, let me group together two pieces in different rooms and from different periods. For one, the Medieval art room displays a wood carving by Gorenjski Rezbar, circa 1450, of Saint George slaying a dragon.
The second is a painting by Hans Georg Von Geigerfeld, whom the art world should definitely shun because his name has a lot of letters to type. Hans Georg’s painting is also of Saint George slaying a dragon. It sits in an almost ridiculously elaborately decorated frame.
If you read my post on the Ljubljana Castle, you know there is a major debate here about who killed the Ljubljana dragon. Some argue Saint George did the deed. But others say it was Jason and the Argonauts. I saw no artworks at the gallery depicting Jason slaying a dragon.
True, nothing in the gallery said the works showed Saint George slaying specifically the Ljubljana dragon. It might have been another one. Still, the exclusion of Jason makes it clear the gallery favours the Saint George side of the argument. It’s reprehensible that the gallery displays its bias in this way.
Another painting I feel is worthy of note might be a bit difficult to see in my picture of it. The gallery mounted it high up, above another painting. So I photographed it at an angle and there is some glare on it.
The painting, by Jacob van Kerckhoven is titled “Fish, Two Wicker Flasks, Onions and Walnuts Oil”, circa 1712. There is clearly something that looks like a crab in the picture. It’s even in the foreground. Yet it doesn’t appear in the title. Did the painter group it in with the fish? If so, I think that’s an insult to the crab.
Don’t get me wrong. I think fish are fine and noble creatures. Properly prepared, they’re delicious. But a crab is a crustacean, not a fish. Crabs have their own identities. The painter should accept and embrace that.
However, that’s not the primary point I wanted to make. I wanted to say that I think that one of the major shortcomings of the art world is that there aren’t nearly enough paintings and sculptures of fish and other seafood. So, bravo, Mr. van Kerckhoven for lessening that deficiency. Bravo!
My final comment on the gallery’s permanent exhibits is on a painting by Anton Karinger titled simply, “The Dog,” 1868. All I want to say is, who doesn’t like cute dog pictures? Sure, some people might have wanted Mr. Karinger to create excitement by adding some action, such as the dog fetching a stick or playing poker. But I think the heartwarming nature of the painting is sufficient on its own.
When I was there, the National Gallery had on two temporary exhibitions. When I bought my ticket to the gallery, the ticket seller asked me if I wanted to pay €2 more to see both the permanent and temporary exhibits. I wouldn’t normally expend such an exorbitant sum for an extra dose of art. But I wasn’t eager to head back out into the rain, so I decided to splurge.
The first exhibition was a room packed chock-full of sculptures of varies sorts and subjects by Ivan Zajec (1869 – 1952), a Slovenian sculptor. It’s a pity he didn’t live just a bit longer so he could sculpt me as an infant. Then again, considering how many of his sculptures were in that room, he must have been a busy man. He might not have had time to sculpt me even if he lived long enough.
The second temporary exhibition was a photograph collection from Spain. All of the works were old black and white pictures. And all of them were photographs of artists’ studios. In most, but not all cases the artist was in the studio when the picture was taken.
I didn’t snap any pictures in that exhibition for two reasons. First, I didn’t find them particularly interesting. And, second, I thought that taking a photograph of a photograph was too recursive.
The Slovenian National Museum
When I left the National Gallery, the heavy rain that fell when I entered it had changed to, no, not fire and brimstone, but a very light drizzle. Nevertheless, I decided to stick to my plan of indoor activities because the sky still threatened and the forecast still called for rain.
It was the right decision. I didn’t take more than a few steps outside before the heavy rain started again. Fortunately, a building nearby holds not one, but two museums, the Slovenian National Museum and the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. The tour book I use describes both of those museums as skippable unless I have a special interest or it’s raining.
I do like archaeological museums, which is what the Slovenian National Museum is. And it was raining. So, off I went to the National Museum. I’m less interested in looking at dead flora and fauna or pictures thereof in a museum, which is what the Museum of Natural History is, so I didn’t take in that one.
The National Museum is on two levels. The ground floor holds its larger, heavier exhibits. They were mostly stone funerary altars, votive altars, tombstones, and funerary steles. I might have missed some, but I think they all dated from the first few centuries CE. Most of them had inscriptions on them. When they did, the placard the museum mounted beside the object included translations of the inscription into Slovenian and English.
The inscription on one of the votive altars said simply, “To Jupiter.” I thought that was rather optimistic. I mean, here it is almost 2,000 years later and the farthest humans have traveled is to the moon. People are contemplating going to Mars, but it hasn’t happened yet. But here these ancients expected to go to Jupiter, the next planet over from Mars. But maybe I misinterpreted the inscription.
On the way up to the second floor there is a small room that contains an Egyptian collection, including a mummy.
The upper floor contains a much wider range of ages of artifacts. Some date from many millennia BCE. Others date up to, I think, the 16th century CE. The objects are mostly the usual archaeological fare, stone and metal tools, pottery, jewelry, weapons, coins, and such.
One of the oldest and most interesting is a Neanderthal musical flute from 45,000 years ago. I honestly would not have guessed that Neanderthals, or any of the protohuman and human cousin species, had musical instruments. They say you learn something everyday. So there’s something I learned today. Now I just have to make up for the several years worth of days when I learned nothing. But at least I didn’t fall farther behind today. Yay, me.