I am well into my third week, and I decided to hit some more museums. Today I went to the Museum of Art downtown. It is another really impressive looking building that dates back to the Spanish empire.
There are a couple of things about this Museum. I do not want to bag on Mexco, It's just that it is hard for countries like Mexico to compete with Empires. The British Museum is probably the best in the world, and for good reason. They sacked a lot of the world and took their stuff (they wanted to keep the French from getting it).
Speaking of the French they have the Louvre, among other places. Then there's the good old US of A. The Met in New York has to be one of the greatest art museums on the planet, and it's not even the National Art Museum. When you look at the wealth of empires (real or implied) how can any country compare?
So, in some ways my expectations were out of wack when I walked into the Mexican National Museum, but hell. They have one. And it also contains works of art that are a reminder of the fact Mexico's roots go back a long, long, long way.
I find something magical in the most recent Mexican art. Their use of colors and abstractness just pushes emotion at me. Even their contemporary art, from a few decades ago, hinted at what was to come.
Some of the older pictures, from the 1800's more traditional panoramas and scenes, were a surprise because they showed a Mexico City valley with the late still intact. It's easy to imagine why people wanted to live here.
Then it Gets Weird
As I walked back in time, I eventually got to the really old stuff. And the really weird stuff. Here's my line of thinking. Today it is easy to be judgmental about old paintings without meaning to be. I don't know what difficulties they had, I don't know what techniques they used, and I don't know what pressures they were under.
But my gut tells me that a few things were true. 1. Most people that commissioned paintings were really powerful. That meant no one was going to tell them "no". 2. I imagine many of those powerful people were not necessarily nice or kind, so there was a little of putting lipstick on the pig. I say say that because some of the elements in these old photos make no sense at all. It was like the sponsor, wanted to look like a hero, but also wanted to get what he wanted to get in the painting.
With no social media, really no long-distance communication of any kind, the king, the baron, the lord, would be free to direct any kind of crazy thing they wanted. I am not saying this was unique to Mexico, many of the religious paintings act the same way! They're crazy. It was like no one could walk into the room, look at the canvas and say, "What the hell!?"
Here's a few of my favorite examples:
Baby heads? Seriously?
And then you have to make sure you paint the dishes... that way everyone knows how much gold you have.
And what's with the angel? Little kid? in the white pajamas holding, what? Dragon Eggs?
Winter is coming.
But this has to be my all-time favorite. The 40-year-old angel. Just look at the expression on his face.
You know, there was more art, but really, it's impossible to share anything else that would top the look on that angel's face.
The baby heads with wings are called putti (putto in the singular) and they are a form of angel. There is a Wikipedia article on this, but it seems like the true meaning and purpose might have been lost in time. The church may have decreed a kind of hierarchy of how angels would be represented in paintings, but I was unable to find any factual information on the topic, just a few modern-day bloggers who said, "yeah, that's weird."