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Railing Against It

Early Morning, Station Platform

In the station car park two men lean on the bonnet of a white van, wreathed in the noise of important radio communication. Their role is printed in fluorescent yellow across their flak jackets: ‘Environmental Enforcement Officer’. The loud radios are on their shoulders, their utility belts bulge with objects full of function, the belt cuts into the waist of one of them to create a perfect wave form. He has a no 1 crop and a swallow tattoo on the back of his neck, his companion is a shorter younger wannabe version, perhaps he is saving up for the tattoo and the stomach. Their van also has ‘Environmental Enforcement’ written on it, the lights are on and the engine is running.

It takes a while to work out what these two are doing, what aspects of the environment they are enforcing, shouting at trees to grow maybe, telling raindrops which way to fall (down?). Do Urk and Splurk lounging on their bonnet have advanced environmental enforcement accreditation I wonder; making seeds grow in Fibonacci spirals for example, or enforcing Newton’s Laws of Motion perhaps? They stop one attractive young woman after another, eventually (the train is late) I realise; they are car park attendants checking tickets.

Stylish, Functional and Bulletproof

The bulletproof flak jacket style, usually modelled by TV war reporters and inner city policemen, is obviously necessary for this ordinary area of the Southeastern Railways empire. Particularly at this time of the morning, full of self important businessmen and feral schoolchildren travelling to the most selective schools in the country clutching their Latin homework. You could accuse the visual language that clothes Urk and Splurk of turning the volume up to eleven, but it is really part of a long tradition. A tradition that, in a convoluted manner, reminds me of Rubens, Rembrandt and Veronese, Alexander the Great obviously and a loathsome pop song that includes the words ‘You don’t have to turn on the red light’.

The Functions of Portraiture

In art, one of the functions of portraiture is to aggrandise, to mythologise the banal. The activities in the station car park took me back to a painting in the National Gallery, London: Thomas de Keyser’s ‘Portrait of Constantin Huygens and his (?) Clerk’.

Thomas de Keyser: ‘Portrait of Constantin Huygens and his (?) Clerk’. 1627, Oil on oak. 92 x 69 cm. National Gallery, London

An important man is sitting in a well-appointed room, he is not looking at us, he is receiving a letter. This is a Northern European painting, smallish and carefully painted, a cultural context which tells us to be aware of detail, composition and possible layers of iconographic meaning. From 1625 Huygens was secretary to the Stadtholder, or the chief executive of the province of The Hague, and the House of Orange. He is the self-consciously northern version of Baldasarre Castiglione’s the Courtier, as painted by Raphael.

 Where Does the Door Lead To?

Where do we find clues for all this? There is a doorway revealed by the pulled back tapestry, why? A painted space within a space; always a clue. Is the tapestry relevant for example? According to the usual sources, it is St Francis of Assisi being presented to the Sultan (in essence, St Francis promoting peace through dialogue not war) it is rumpled, and dark in such a way that it doesn’t present us with another space to seductively slip into, it is a luxurious object. This makes sense, that was the sitters role, to source luxury objects for his employers, and as a diplomat to promote peace.

Thomas de Keyser: ‘Portrait of Constantin Huygens and his (?) Clerk’. 1627, Oil on oak. 92 x 69 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Doorway

But where does the door lead to? Through art (the tapestry) we go to where? Art is a significant part of diplomacy, as this painting shows us, the sitter understood that language well.

Rubens and Alexander the Great

One of Huygens first acts for the newly married Prince Frederick Hendrick, was to negotiate the purchase of Rubens’ ‘The Marriage of Alexander and Roxane’.

Rubens: ‘Modello for Marriage of Alexander and Roxane’, oil on panel, 40 x 30 cm

That painting had a specific, relevant message. Frederick’s wife, Amalia although an important dynastic bride, was not of suitable rank or pedigree for the House of Orange. Like Vasari for the Medicis, Huygens organised art and it’s setting, a visual language that emphasised the ancient ancestry of the House of Orange. Hence the subject of the Rubens painting, Alexander married Roxane, the daughter of a chieftain, in a strategic marriage although legend tells us that Roxana was ‘the only passion which he, the most temperate of men, was overcome by’ (Plutarch: Life of Alexander, 33:47). A marriage equally disapproved of; Roxane was not of the right blood, any child would not be pure Macedonian.

By the way, after his invasion of India, back in Babylon, Alexander made another strategic marriage, to a new Persian wife, Staterira, a daughter of King Darius. After Alexander’s death, Roxane had Staterira and her child murdered.

Veronese?

And the relationship to Veronese, and uniforms?

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’, 1565-7. oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London

Veronese’s Family of Darius before Alexander, a painting that turns on misidentification, the grandmother appealing for the lives of her family, but to the wrong man, and one of her grandchildren in the painting is of course: Staterira.

The Police?

I don’t need to mention that awful song again do I? ‘Sell your body to the night’, yuk.

Rembrandt?

Well you can understand Huygen’s knowledge of art when you discover that he was one of the first of Rembrandts patrons and he recommended him for his first significant commission.

Rembrandt: ‘Portrait of Maurits Huygens’, 1632, oil on oak. 31 x 25 cm. Kunsthalle, Hamburg.

This portrait of Huygen’s brother leads some critics to believe that the other figure in this painting is not his clerk, but his brother, also employed by the Stadtholder, what do you think?

Travel and Visual Language

Or the painting?

Thomas de Keyser: ‘Portrait of Constantin Huygens and his (?) Clerk’. 1627, Oil on oak. 92 x 69 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Painting Within a Painting

Above the mantelpiece is a marine painting in the style of Jan Porcellis, whom Huygens admired, and it tells us about travel of course, he had spent time in the English court, and that is another pointer to this form of composition. Paintings within paintings, painted spaces within painted spaces, are always important signposts.

Visual languages have meaning too, often to do with status, or the wish of the portrayed to achieve a higher status (think of the flak jackets). The same is happening here. As second-generation immigrants from the Catholic Southern Netherlands, the Huygens needed noble status, and how do they do that? Promotional image making: knowledge; wealth; success, all evident here, but look at the basic forms of the composition itself. In his time in the English court, Huygens would have seen the grand but less formal paintings of the nobility and royalty in the Stuart court and the collection of the Earl of Arundel in particular. Notice the simple point that he is sitting whilst others stand; a royal prerogative. This painting appropriates the language of nobility and power, marries it with Vanitas themes (to avoid accusations of arrogance) Again this part of a Northern tradition,

Jan van Eyck: ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’, 1434, oil on panel. National Gallery, London

it was what van Eyck was doing with the Arnolfini Portrait of two nouveau riche aspirant Italian cloth merchants some two hundred years earlier

Vanitas

Those Vanitas themes are most prominent on the table, the lute referring to his interest in music, as well as books and architectural drawings (with the Dutch architect Pieter Post, he designed his own house), luxury goods of little use in the long, long afterlife. The globes, those two huge round orbs behind the table, refer his interest in geography and astronomy (he designed telescopes and other scientific instruments). Truly a Renaissance man and keen to tell us so.

Thomas de Keyser: ‘Portrait of Constantin Huygens and his (?) Clerk’. 1627, Oil on oak. 92 x 69 cm. National Gallery, London

By Their Boots Shall Ye Know Them

It’s all in the uniform of course, the clothing. Look at the sombre but expensively tailored clothing, the uniforms of these two. The clerk (if it is a clerk, not Constantin’s brother) wears shoes, he is an indoor clerk. Whereas Constantin wears splendid riding boots, almost theatrical in their bootness; a travelling man, in considerable style.

Notice also the hands and gloves, which make a complex centre of attention on the left and, via a gently curving line draw attention to his un-gloved hand lying on the architectural plan on the table. The gloves are fringed with Orange, either a discrete reference or a piece of specific uniform for those working for the House of Orange, its shows he is ‘hand in glove’ with his employer.  

Return Journey, on the Platform

I watch two men in clothing that stands out somehow. It is too clean, the check shirts are buttoned too firmly, the clean jeans have an ironed crease, the black shoes are shiny. They are closely questioning a much younger man in grubby grey tracksuit bottoms and a T shirt with ‘Keep Calm’ etc printed on it. It is quickly apparent that they are plain clothes ticket inspectors, they wear their ‘plain clothes’ slightly theatrically, to make it clear that it is a costume relevant for their importance and occupation,

“I wouldn’t lie to you, you know. I’m going to Swanley to get the money to come back. I ain’t got no money and that’s straight up. But when I get there, Swanley I mean, then I’ll get the money to come back, know what I mean.”

The inspectors are puzzled by the rationale behind a journey to get the money to pay for the journey to get the money, perhaps they have not seen enough Pinter or similar. Do we feel as if we’re in a play? We are anyway; beneath the blue suburban skies my train arrives and takes me away.

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Early Morning Train

Jammed into my seat, I watch two suited men silently jostle their laptops to gain space on the narrow table. There is exactly not enough room for two open laptops. The loser has to angle his virtual portal, the winner gets the flat keyboard and no reflections; happy days. Watching this battle for space is one of the minor joys of my morning commute.

The Painted Space within a Space

As in paintings, the lesser space within the greater is equally helpful in understanding the wider space around us, as for example in the Loggia in Piero della Francesca’s ‘The Flagellation’.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino.

That painted space can also be small, a window or mirror (The Arnolfini of course).

Renoir: The Umbrellas

Or smaller still, can we include those objects that contain something relevant, the skulls and shells in Vanitas paintings? Containers that once held life are now just empty space; the lack of current content being the point of the painting. Thinking further on a container that might, or might not, be empty look for example at the band box in Renoir’s ‘The Umbrella’s’ in the National Gallery, London.

Renoir: ‘The Umbrellas’ 1881-5, 108 x 115 cm. Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Famously, this painting was made in two halves (the right hand in 1881 the left in 1885) and is therefore a favourite for History of Art teachers trying to show ‘development’.

Renoir: ‘The Umbrellas’ 1881-5, 108 x 115 cm. Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London. With time division

There is a noticeable change in colour and brushwork here, from the earlier stages of Impressionism to what is often called The Crisis (well amongst those who have to set and write essays about it). That crisis shows itself in the return to darker colours (French Ultramarine as opposed to the lighter Cobalt Blue on the right), creating harder edged form with chiaroscuro as opposed to using colour to make pictorial depth. The band box, sometimes called a hat box, is carried by the girl in the left centre, it was used to fetch and carry small objects around the city (Paris), usually for the Millinery trade. The best text for this by the way is ‘Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art’ by Charles Harrison

Two Little Birds

We stop at a station, two sparrows are fighting on the platform, small fluttering movements in tight swirling flight patterns. Both try, unsuccessfully, to gain height for advantage, then swoop to fight on the ground.

Hausmannisation

The composition and the narrative of The Umbrellas pivots around that box. It tells us that she has a purpose; why do we need to know that? This painting is set in Haussmannised Paris (the complete redevelopment of the centre, the first invention of the modern industrial city, a place of elegant boulevards, ostentatious wealth and crowds; of spectacle.) One of the characteristics of new urban life is the removal of the old certainties.

Dress to Impress

Clothing in late 19th Century Paris no longer denotes status, cheap copies of all styles are available, prostitutes wearing versions of haute couture exploit this dissonance. As Harrison points out, many images from the period represent mistaken identity, men warmly greet women they assume are of equivalent status, but then realise they have got it badly wrong. The central girl’s clothes are, as part of Renoir’s developing style perhaps, timeless. Whereas the clothes of the woman on the left, with the umbrella and children, are specific and dateable. Renoir had done something similar with his painting, La Loge, in the Courtauld, contemporary critics were unsure as to the status of the woman in the box (la Loge): cocotte or lady?

The Train Gang

The war for supremacy of the table has entered a new phase of the campaign; the phone call. Loudly calling your PA to check on today’s vital meetings; yes I’m so important that my PA is standing by at 7.30 in the morning. The counter sally is to phone other meetees to check the length of your agenda.

The Girl with the Band Box

There are clues in the Umbrellas, the girl with the band box is bare headed and without gloves. Always indicators of low status, as Manet shows in Bar at the Folies Bergere. Behind Renoir’s girl, a man is leaning up close, is he:

  • Offering her his umbrella against the rain? His status is clearly high, it is an unlikely offer unless he is confused by the classic nature of her dress. Will that offer end well?
  • Propositioning her? The band box, as a badge of office, denotes the sort of low paid job taken by country girls come to the city. These girls often resorted to prostitution, barmaids at the Folies Bergeres had much the same reputation.
  • Saving her? This depends on a reading of the ‘Internal Spectator’, who are we looking at her or, who is she looking at? Are we a female companion, as in for example Morisot’s ‘A Summer’s Day’? Unlikely given our knowledge of Renoir’s character. Are we another predatory man, like the presumed client/ viewer in Manet’s Olympia? Or, are we her rescuer who will save her from the predator?

Renoir was not a subtle painter, nothing about his work or attitude to women leads one to assume any empathy with her plight. For his approach look at the woman and her girls on the right, the earlier painted figures in Cobalt Blue. Contrast the two figures who look directly at the viewer, the girl with the box, mute poor and vulnerable and the sickly sweet overdressed little girl with the hoop and smug smile and all the security that the artists can give her.

Open the Box

Back to the band box, when you look at the painting itself, there are two possible readings, closed or empty.

Renoir: ‘The Umbrellas’ 1881-5, 108 x 115 cm. Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London. Detail: Band Box

We see the black shiny cloth cover or, the darkness is the interior, the inner cloth covering the wood from which it is made. Are the marks on the left of the dark space the reflections of her hand and sleeve? Or, are they part of the covered interior? The way that the deeper blue continues up to the right, as though following an interior curve, leads me to assume emptiness. The parallel grey strokes also indicate the flat bottom of the box. On balance, although it is debatable, after looking for some time, I would say that the box is empty. I.e. she is not actually at work at that moment, or is possibly returning from an errand. Funds are therefore likely to be low. The smallest painted space within a space contains no respite for the girl.

The Train Gang

Like a set piece battle, the sort represented in Ucello’s: ‘Battle of San Romano’, we have entered the final skirmishes, the pushing of the laptop lid beyond 90 degrees, moving your machine forward at each jolt of the train; sparrows trying to gain height. At no point do the two protagonists ever make eye contact.

Projecting?

You could, and some viewers have, put forward the notion that the figures around the girl, the bourgeois mother and well-dressed children, are projections of her wished-for future.

Renoir: ‘The Umbrellas’ 1881-5, 108 x 115 cm. Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

In the same way that it is possible to assert that the Gonzaga figure in Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation is creating the scene, can we say that the girl is dreaming a future? A future that could be brought about by the man behind her with the umbrella, or more likely by us the viewer; her look has a sense of appeal in it. A similar scenario that could be constructed out of the reflection in the mirror of Manet’s bar. Whatever the answer, this is a painting about what it was like to be looked at as a young woman in Paris in the later 19th Century, and for that matter what a young Parisian woman looked like. “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” as John Berger wrote in ‘Ways of Seeing’ many years ago.

Back to the Train Gang

The battle next to me has been won; the man on my right is looking smugly into his own virtual space, he is being transported to somewhere else; the future? And where might that be? An exciting Powerpoint about growth forecasts (not great by the look of it). An ostentatiously full future of course, no possibility of mistaking this man for a chancer. At the terminal he will proceed the City, to exert his financial power. Perhaps to demand that the workers whose pensions he lost must take less than the minimum wage, poorer working conditions and ‘flexible working conditions’. FTSE directors pay increased by 55% last year, average pay increase in the UK last year was 0.9%.

Early Morning Train

Hot and crowded, this is a train with five cramped seats in a row; in a two then three formation with a narrow passage between. People try to stand in this gap; standing room by the doors is full. At one end of the carriage, just beyond those doors, is a separate area with twelve first class seats, generously surrounded by space. All are empty bar one. A man sits alone, in splendour. The rest of us sweat and stand and stare at him in his isolation, in his splendid palace.

One Space Seen from Another

Looking at this carriage as a composition, a distinct space within another one, makes me think of paintings, of the smaller painted space within the larger painted space. This set up often occurs in early Northern European art, symbolising the Virgin Mary as the portal to heaven for example. It is a theme that must have been familiar enough for Van Eyck to use the mirror in the Arnolfini portrait in 1434, and the window to the left as a form of referent to that type of composition.

Jan van Eyck: ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’, 1434, oil on panel. National Gallery, London

The train passes through an empty country station, at the end of the platform are two cats, one pure black, the other black and white. The piebald cat stands looking towards London, the black one sits staring towards the coast. They are close together almost touching, yet appear to pretend the other does not exist.

Space to Space

The space within a space arrangement is a form of Golden Section. The relationship of the smaller to larger area is the same as the larger to the whole. Mathematical ratios draw attention to the sets of relationships that govern the entire process. In the same way, the relationship of one painted space to another allows the artist to consider making the whole pictorial space and presenting it to the viewer.

The Ideal City and the Flagellation

Does that sort of Northern composition travel? Can we see it for example in Italian art? Try looking at Piero della Francesca’s ‘The Flagellation’,

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino.

a painting that has been much analysed and mythologised. I recently visited ‘The Ideal City’ exhibition in Urbino. The ‘Flagellation’ was exhibited under that title. The main draw to the show was the comparison between the Ideal City image itself and others, e.g. ‘The Ideal City’ from Baltimore.

Unknown Artist: ‘Ideal City’, Last Quarter Fifteenth Century, Oil on Panel, 67 x 240 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino

A fascinating exhibition, but what stood out was the range of available forms of communication; successful or otherwise. The wall texts for example had been translated into the most tortuous English possible.

Herr Professor

Standing in front of the ‘Flagellation’ an elegant, white suited, white haired German History of Art teacher spoke into the air and pushed back his hair. Behind him his young students texted, showed each other pictures on their phones, some wrote down his every word clearly not listening to any of it. This lack of interaction pointed up how one space in Piero’s painting communicates with the other, through the language of mathematics (the geometry and linear perspective) and of art (light and form). We might not know the exact intentions behind this image, but these lines of communications were stronger than those between the hair stroking Herr Professor and his charges.

The Theories

In the Flagellation (1458-60), a group of three stand in the foreground, on red tiles crossed by white.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: the group of three

To the left, in the midground is a loggia, (the praetorium) in which Christ is whipped.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: the praetorium.

The whipping pillar stands within a complex series of black and white tiles, on a circle within a square. A seated figure on a dais wearing a splendid hat watches.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: seated figure.

He frames a doorway, in that further space we can see a set of stairs leading upwards; it is brightly lit.

This might or might not have been painted for Federigo da Montefeltro, the condottiere (mercenary commander) who ruled the small state of Urbino from 1444-1482,

Piero della Francesca: Federico da Montefeltro.1472-4. Tempera and oil on Panel, 47 x 33 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

or for Ottaviano Ubaldini, Federigo’s Chief Counsellor and Treasurer, a famously well-read humanist. It is possible, just, to identify the bearded figure with portraits of Ottaviano, and the other with Ludovico, il Gonzaga Marquis of Mantua. None of the figures looks like Federigo, who was not shy of including himself where necessary.

Evidently, the Flagellation was made for a cognoscente. Northern art was familiar in Urbino, Justus of Ghent produced many paintings for it, Ottaviano owned a van Eyck painting. The games played with space here and in the Studiolo (several of the inlaid doors in the exhibition) display ease with characteristic Northern uses of pictorial space.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: the group of three

The Threesome

Art historians get most excited about the identity of the group of three, and their relationship to the flailed Christ. Opinion differs greatly as to who they are. Is what we can see what those three can actually see or, are they conjuring up the scene? Marilyn Lanvin suggests the specific identities above (Lanvin, Marilyn, 1972. Piero della Francesca: the Flagellation. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46958-1) because two key figures of the period had recently lost sons (Ottaviano in 1458 and Ludovico’s adopted son between 1456-60).

A Visionary Scene

The conjuring up of visions, or visions within visions is also reasonably familiar within paintings, eg The Visions of St Jerome. According to this reading the figure in the centre is either an angel, or an image of the risen Christ, note the halo, or wreath of laurel leaves behind him (symbol of victory/ glory) and the similarity of the pose of Christ and the youth.

Or, the figures are representations of Oddantonio da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino and his advisors, Manfredo dei Pio and Tommaso di Guido dell’Agnello murdered just before Federigo took over. Or they are, including Oddantonio, Federigo’s predecessors. Or, the seated figure is the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos, and this is a painting about the re-unification of the two wings of the Eastern and Western Christian church, or it might be about the siege of Constantinople (1453) and the figure is Sultan Murad II, the Ottoman leader, or…

Signorelli Gets to the Bottom of the Story

By the way, we know that these figures are a crucial part of the composition by comparing them to similar compositions on the same theme. Luca Signorelli is generally thought to be Piero della Francesca’s pupil. Signorelli’s take on the subject was shown in the same room as ‘The Flagellation’.

Luca Signorelli: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, c.1480, Tempera on Panel, 84 x 60 cm. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

The later work is splendidly dissolute with, as one of my companions put it, ‘lots of cheeky buttock work’. No evidence of the careful, measured relationship between the three and the whole space. Take them away and the entire meaning changes. Fill it full of sinuous curves and the muscular male behind and it changes even further. We had a long time to look at this whilst we waited for the teaching to finish.

So, You are a German Historian of Art

You have a linen suit creased just so, your horn rimmed spectacles sit, academically you think, on your aquiline nose, your hair is lovingly placed over your head, so. You have the words of your illustrious predecessors: Wolfflin; Wittkower; Panofsky running through your veins like blood, yet still your students do not listen. You are surrounded by communication, of one sort or another, so you say, let us think about the communication of one painted space to another or, how does one space talk to the other; who is texting whom? Actually he didn’t say anything of the sort, just kept chuntering on to a point some two feet above the painting, for a very, very long time.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino.

The three figures stand on a straightforward red and white tiled floor receding into the distance. In the praetorium the tiling is more complex, As Martin Kemp points out in ‘The Science of Art’, that tile pattern is based on Pythaogorus and the length of the diagonal in his famous triangle; an irrational number, in this case deriving from the external proportions of the panel. The tile pattern outside the praetorium is made from simple divisions into eight, no square roots here. This is the language of mathematics, Piero della Francesca was one of the most successful mathematicians of his period, a copy of his ‘De Prospectiva Pingendi’ was on display in the next room. In the relationship between these two spaces we have the ratio of the mundane, the everyday to the glorious and the geometric; the secular to the sacred.

The Viewer Within

In the performative role of the Internal Spectator, often the painted figures closest to the viewer, we see the painted world through their eyes. The closest of the three figures to us is in profile; the man in the glorious robe. Lanvin identifies him as Ludovico Gonzaga. If anyone is conjuring up this scene it is him, looking into this world from the edges, not perhaps the putative Ottaviano who looks out of the space

Back with the Train Gang

In my train carriage, there is no aural communication between us second class folk and the lone first class passenger. He can be in no doubt how the rest of us feel through other means: body language; disposition of space; the visibility of his floor as opposed to the rows of dark suited legs and shiny black shoes and walking trainers that obscure ours. Perhaps that is why he stares so intently at his I-pad. Is there an internal viewer in this composition? Next to the door surrounds, a short round woman with short blond hair is asleep. Her red T shirt matches her complexion as she snores. Her laptop computer, open on the table ledge by the window, bleeps. On her wrist is a very large gold watch. Her congested breathing gets louder. No other passenger pays any attention, perhaps they are used to it. Is she our guide to the true meaning of this composition?

Light in My Darkness

The spirituality of light is well known in art, particularly in Northern Renaissance paintings. Often the light indicates the presence of God, or the holiness of the Virgin Mary.

van Eyck: ‘The Ghent Altarpiece (closed)’ tempera and oil on panel, 3.5 x 4.6 m (closed panels), Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent, Belgium,

In the piazza, outside the praetorium the light is from the upper left; a traditional placing. As Lanvin and Kemp show, the light in the praetorium has a different source. One of those analyses that Art Historians come out with after hours of reading not looking, I thought.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: the praetorium.

But, actually in front of the work, yes that light is very obvious, especially the shadow cast by the roof beam. That central coffered area above Christ is lit up as though rows of fluorescent tubes sit around the cornice. It is light that only Christ can see, coming from somewhere just above his eye level between the second and third column.

There’s a Sign on the Wall, But She Wants to be Sure

But, what about the furthest space, the space within the space within the space? The one with the stairs.

Piero della Francesca: ‘Flagellation of Christ’, 1458-60, Tempera on Panel, 58 x 81 cm. Galleria Nazional delle Marche, Urbino. Detail: seated figure.

There are eight stairs, octagons occur throughout the construction of the praetorium tiled floor and the tile pattern in the piazza is divided into eight parts. Didn’t Christ rise from the tomb eight days after entering Jerusalem? What about that other key factor for the major inner space, light? Where is the light in that furthest stair filled space coming from? From the right, possibly the same source of light that Christ looks toward, the different source of light within the loggia, to that, from the left, that lights up the three standing figures. There is no other way to put this; this is the stairway to heaven. No doubt Rolf will be at the top to serenade the three figures when they climb it, “Convenerunt in Unum” (“They came together”) as it originally said on the frame.

On the Railway Platform, Afternoon

Opposite me, on the up platform, a man in blue overalls drinks a can of diet coke and eats a giant Mars bar. There are three fluorescent stripes on each of his trouser legs; a man of equivalent importance to his (substantial) poundage. Is it logical to assume that stripes, placed on clothing in certain positions in certain ways, denote importance?

Yellow and Orange Fluorescent Tabards

The Fluorescent Tabard: the New Cloak of Invisibility.

The number of fluorescent stripes on orange or yellow tabards, on sleeves or trouser legs of workmen/ firemen etc. should tell us their rank. In fact the opposite seems to be true, the yellow tabard is the new cloak of invisibility, and the poor souls you see working at night (repairing roads perhaps) despite entire officer classes of stripes, seem to be at the bottom of any class structure.

Reversal.

Where else does this reversal work? The scruffier the schoolchild, the greater their importance in their peer hierarchy? I once went to a History of Art conference at the incredibly grand Westminster School, next to Westminster Abbey. As I walked through the porters gate, a vast black car deposited the filthiest school boy I have seen for a very long time. In other contexts he would have been of great interest to the social services, yet he was a boy of some importance, greeted by the porter no less, as his chauffeur drove the enormous black conveyance away.

Princes as Beggars?

We are not talking about disguise here, the Shakespearian complexities of the beggar revealed as the prince. All concerned in this reversal know who they are. Neither is it a form and function debate, the dissonance between occupation (function) and formally considered outward appearance (form) is clearly deliberate. Are the abundance of fluorescent stripes merely someone, as it were, using existing cultural signifiers to ‘talk up’ their status.

“Good Morning. This is the Guard speaking, would any passengers requiring the purchasing of tickets for their onward journey this morning please make themselves known to myself as I pass back down through the train this morning”

Uniform Response.

Sometimes we genuinely mistake a person’s status, function, rank through their clothing, Veronese’s ‘The Family of Darius’ plays on this. Although I first came across it as an example of an artist exploiting the power of the colour red, and that perhaps is the clue.

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’, 1565-7. oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London

Can one ever take the violent artificial virulence of fluorescent orange or worse, yellow, as indicator of gravitas? If you want power from that end of the colour spectrum, look at the red of the central standing figure who waves his left hand.

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ 1565-7, oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Alexander and Hephaestion?

He is painted in red lake (derived from crushed cochineal beetles) his companion in yellow and orange is painted in orpiment and realgar. Realgar is a relatively rare, and powerfully poisonous, arsenic containing mineral, you can also see it in fellow Venetian, Titian’s, painting of the Bachante’s drapery.

Titian: ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’, 1520-3, oil on canvas, 177 x 191 cm. National Gallery, London

The yellow leg of Veronese’s figure is painted in orpiment, a similar mineral to realgar, This characteristic Venetian use of these two pigments, doesn’t spread to the rest of Europe till later centuries. In the same period the English apparently used realgar to kill rats.

The same system (strong, expensive pigments for important figures) works in the rest of the painting,

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ 1565-7, oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Sisigambis

for example the deep ultramarine blue of Sisigambis the kneeling queen, plumb centre, topped by ermine the fur of rulers. Ultramarine, the most expensive colour, deepest blue, painted in thick sweeping strokes. Unlike, for example, the blue of the lesser princess (daughter) behind her where the ultramarine is far less and the under-painting of azurite (cheaper pigment) more visible. The sky by the way is painted in smalt (a mix of powdered glass and cobalt, much cheaper than the ultramarine pigment made from Lapis Lazuli, a mineral taken all the way from mines in Afghanistan).

So, how does this tell the story?

Alexander, the Macedonian/ Greek had beaten the Persian King Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 330 BC; the clash between West and East we are still familiar with. After the victory, Alexander visited the defeated family. Darius’ mother, Sisigambis, pleads for her life and that of her family, grandson, two granddaughters and Darius’ sister, also his queen. Traditionally they, the girls especially, would have been raped, slaughtered or enslaved. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong man to plead to, directing herself to Hephaestion, Alexander’s close friend and companion, not the man himself.

Who is Who?

This brings us to the central debate about the painting, and one that Veronese himself set up by his manipulation of our ideas about colour: which figure is Alexander and which Hephaestion?

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’, 1565-7. oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London

The figure in red with the hand gesture is the most powerful Sisgambis directs herself to him, but he gestures to his companion who is, notice, closer to attributes that represent Alexander, ie the great horse Bucephalus and shield.

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ 1565-7, oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Bucephalus

Opinion is varied on this point, Goethe by the way was insistent that Hephaestion was the figure in the rose cloak, whereas Nicholas Penny in the National Gallery Catalogue to the Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings is insistent that it is the other way round. That gesturing figure wears armour based on antique sculpture and has a page holding up his long red cloak, you can just see the boys head between the two men.

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ 1565-7, oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: page boy

Whereas the darker figure wears armour contemporary to the period in which the painting was made. Does this help us? Not much. What gives the clue I think, is the small boy clinging to Sisigambis, he is painted in red, but in the shadow.

Paolo Veronese: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ 1565-7, oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm. National Gallery, London. Detail: Sisigambis and Grandson?

Traditionally shadows would have been much darker, to create depth. The red boy is described either as a page boy, or more credibly as the younger son of Darius, hence his proximity to the Queen. Veronese uses red to denote a key player in the story, but hides him behind his grandmother who pleads for his life. Now you can either say that Veronese will paint all his kings in red, or that Sisgambis expects all kings to be dressed in red and behaves accordingly. But Alexander, who does things differently, e.g. not mistreating his captives, wears orange and red and stands close to his horse; which is it?

On This Side of the Picture Plane…

Meanwhile, on my train into work, we pass through a small town station. A bearded man stands, confidently on the platform. He wears a red top hat, his suit is lime green and close fitting, his tie matches this virulence, as does a lemon yellow shirt. His shoes though are brown, long red clown shoes would have made the get up and its function clear.  This mismatch is unsettling.

The Three Stripe Fluorescent Trouser

The Paradox of Apparent Movement

Stuck, unable to go anywhere, waiting for a train, I was thinking about our acceptance that a painted image contains movement. Why, when looking at that static image do we: happily predict what will happen next; what has happened before and what, from analysis of that movement, is the mental state, ideological position and historical context of all involved? Do we like looking at paintings because there is a comforting pleasure in knowing, or working out, what will happen next? Or perhaps when looking at a landscape painting, knowing that nothing will happen next, that we are in a comforting world of ‘not going anywhere’?  

“My cousin right, she wants to go to Tenerife to swim with Dolphins”

“Oh, I don’t fancy that, they’re big fish. No, I couldn’t do that. I want to go to Australia”

“What, and swim with Aboriginals?”

The Story in the Object

Viewers in the National Gallery, London, seem more interested in the story of the object, than the story in the object; is that because these stories have been lost? Look, for example at Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’, 1601, the earlier one in the National.

Caravaggio: ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, 1601. 141 x 196 cm, oil on canvas. National Gallery, London

At the centre of a shallow rectangular pictorial space, a young man gestures meaningfully with his right hand and waves his left over a loaf of bread. To his left an older man symmetrically stretches out his arms. Above the young man to his right, another man stands, casting a circular shadow over that younger seated one. Nearest to us, in the left foreground, a man with a hole in the elbow of his jacket pushes his arms down onto the arms of his chair, as if to lift his body upwards.

Good Lord, it’s You!

The original sixteenth century viewers of this painting would have recognised the story, and known that it is about sudden recognition. It is in the bringing together of the gestures: with the immediate story; with the past that led these figures up to this point; with the subsequent future affecting us all, that this painting extends the movement beyond what we immediately see. That bringing together, or conjunction, leads us back to the dusty road en route to Emmaus and the inn where the painted action happens. On that road the older, seated men had met the younger, discussed the recent crucifixion of Christ in Jerusalem, and the disappearance of his body from the tomb and the appearance of angels saying that he was alive. They persuade the, as yet unknown, younger man to eat with them.

“30. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

31. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him….

35. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in the breaking of bread.

36. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you”

Luke 24. 30-36.

The Significant Gesture

They (Cleopas and possibly Peter, possibly James) recognize the resurrected leader of their group (Christ) through one of the last gestures that they saw him make (breaking bread at the Last Supper).

Caravaggio: ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, 1601, 141 x 196 cm, oil on canvas. National Gallery, London. Detail: Christ’s gesture.

The actual last gesture, as it were, that they saw him make is reflected in the outstretched arms of the right hand disciple: the crucifixion.

Caravaggio: ‘The Supper at Emmaus’; 1601, 141 x 196 cm, oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. Detail: Disciple with arms outstretched.

I suppose you could call this conjunction; potentialities. There is a range of those potentialities, the striding movement of walking for example, and don’t these worn, sunburnt and slightly battered figures look like they have done a lot of walking in their lives. Notice by the way the cockleshell on the leather jerkin, the symbol of the pilgrim, the walker. The significant, human movements that pinpoint or focus, key points of the story. Notice also that those gestures scoop in the viewer, draw us into the heart of the story.

“I’m not going nowhere because I literally can’t walk no more than, like, one mile an hour”

“Like, I can’t even do that”

Viewpoint

Viewpoint is always crucial in a painting, where are we the viewer situated by the artist’s construction of the pictorial space? In this case, we are below the head of Christ, at roughly the same level of the two disciples. Although we are not close up to the table, that viewpoint is certainly from someone seated in front of Christ, drawn into his circle. The vigour of the painted gestures demands that the viewer makes equivalent movement this side of the picture plane, in our own recognition of the story and its importance.

I have just remembered, thinking back to earlier posts about what we as viewers bring to our viewing position. A boy once told me that this painting was all about telling lies and fishing:

‘You see that bloke on the right Sir, well he’s telling the others that he caught a fish and it was thiiiiis big (boy stretches out his arms in imitation) and the others Sir, well you can tell they don’t believe him”

Hurry Up and Wait

I wrote part of this waiting for my train, in the ticket area of the station. A rectangular area, parallel to the tracks. At one end: ticket sales, here the endless complexities of ticket types are negotiated. At the other: a newsagent, usually shut. Doors on each long side exactly bisect the space. These doors are automatic, over sensitive sensors open them unexpectedly and violently with an uncontrolled shake at their full extent. The track faces due north, the prevailing wind is westerly. Each time the doors suddenly fling themselves open, the wind charges through as though it is late for the fast train to London Bridge.

On each of the four benches, like points of the compass, are static middle aged men:

  • To the North West, one in brown cords and shoes, green socks and light blue striped shirt, blue jacket and bright orange Apple laptop.

  • To the North East, another, in grey suit, white shirt, pale grey tie, permanently speaking on a black shiny mobile.
  • South East, in a charcoal suit, cream shirt, black bag on lap, reading white A4 documents.
  • And me at South West, all in black with a black A5 notebook.

We are all waiting, our gestures are subdued, our composition is precise, and appropriately measured for the subject.

The Composition of Pictorial Space

Figures in pictorial space are often symmetrically arranged, usually about a central axis, ie placing the viewer directly in front of them. Think of Egg’s Travellers, that I have mentioned before,

Augustus Leopold Egg: ‘The Travelling Companions’, 1862 oil on panel. 65 x 79 cm. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

that overt symmetricality has meaning, as does the lack of precise composition in Veronese’s: ‘Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood’ .

Paolo Veronese: ‘Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood?’, 1548, oil on canvas 117 x 163 cm National Gallery, London

In Supper at Emmaus the viewing point would seem to be directly in front and significantly below the normal eye level so that the vanitas bowl of fruit on the lip of the table appears to be falling on top of you.

Caravaggio: ‘Supper at Emmaus’; 1601, 141 x 196 cm, oil on canvas. National Gallery, London. Detail: Fruit Bowl.

The light in my waiting room is even and clear as fits the scene, but in Caravaggio’s inn, some three days walk from Jerusalem, the light is stark: bright highlights; pools of meaningful darkness; the shadow/ halo around Christ’s head; the darkness of the tomb from which he has risen.

A well dressed couple pass through from west to east, I just catch the end of their conversation:

 “We’ve got enough for the moment, we’ve got the six nuns in Peterborough”

Unlike the vigorous painted gestures, our bodily movements in the ticket area remain subdued, slow and undemonstrative. We are not going anywhere, no dramatic revelations of redemption here.

“South Eastern Trains would like to apologise for the delay to your service this morning, this is due to the late running of the train”

On the Platform

An empty station, Friday afternoon. I am on the platform alone. A man walks purposefully down the long empty space, it is hot, the sun very bright. He stops less than one pace in front of me. He is middle aged and red faced with a shiny suitcase on wheels, resting over the handle is a vividly crimson, highly decorated Chinese silk suit. He does not acknowledge me, although I could probably breathe down his neck if I wanted to, I do not, so I don’t.

Art about Waiting

Paintings are busy spaces, and the people depicted are busier still. They are always doing something, about to do something, having something done to them.

Conversely, travelling on public transport is all about waiting, long periods not going anywhere, not having anything done to you etc. There are few works of art that fit this state.

A Large Ferry

There is a painting in the National Gallery, London that shows stasis: Jan van der Capelle’s: ‘A River Scene with a Large Ferry and Numerous Dutch Vessels at Anchor’, 1665.

Jan van de Cappelle: ‘A River Scene with a Large Ferry and Numerous Dutch Vessels at Anchor’, 1665. Oil on canvas. 122 x 154.5 cm. National Gallery, London.

It is calm, still, waiting for the tide, or a wind; the ferry by the way is the boat in front, lying diagonally. Apart from the gentle tonality, I have always been fascinated by van der Capelle’s treatment of the ground plane.

“This is the guard speaking with a message for the customer who just got on with a large plain (plane?) cross; you left half of it behind on the platform. I’ve got it here with me now. I’m in the fourth carriage from the front waiting for you”

Albertian Space

Leon Battista Alberti: ‘De Pictura and Elementa’ 1518, from 1435

Traditionally in Albertian space, the ground plane, the Renaissance pavement, is an opaque, unyielding surface, where figures can stand, buildings can be constructed with no fear of falling through that solid ground. Even in marine paintings, the sea is usually fairly solid and boats sit/ float on top of it like a ruffled carpet on a hard floor. The power of a painted storm is the obvious departure from the comforting horizontal format.

For Albertian space to be convincing, we must feel we can traverse it, usually on foot. In this van der Capelle image the ‘pavement’, the skin of the world is the thickness and transparency of a soap bubble; we would fall through. But fall through to where? The reflected world is equally real, as though, in fact, it is us that is upside down and the reflection is reality. The boundaries between one world and the next are confused. In a very calm world there is unease. To some extent this is the familiar artist game with mirrors, playing with spaces within pictorial spaces (think of The Arnolfini portrait, or Manet’s ‘Bar at the Folies Bergeres). These mirror reflections are in planes parallel to the picture plane, parallel to us looking at them. The game relates to the role of pictorial space in the first place; the function of illusion. Can we say the same with a horizontal plane?

Outside the British Car Auctions, in front of an enormous queue of waiting cars, two young men are playing football with a very white ping pong ball.

The Reflective Ground Plane

To get closer to what is happening in ‘Large Ferry’ try comparing it with another familiar image of reflections in calm water, Poussin’s ‘Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake’,

Poussin: 'Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake', 1648. oil on canvas. 118 x 198 cm. National Gallery, London

look at the lake in the mid ground, the reflections of the buildings do not, surprisingly perhaps, destroy the flatness of the surface, the watery ground plane still happily continues on its journey to the infinite horizon. Or, any of Turner’s reflections in calm waters:

J M W Turner: 'The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up', 1839. oil on canvas. 91 x 122 cm. National Gallery, London

‘The Fighting Temeraire’, or

J M W Turner: 'Norham Castle Sunrise', 1845. oil on canvas, 90 x 121 cm. Tate Britain.

‘Norham Castle Sunrise’, you could traverse these flat, reflective ground planes without once thinking of falling through. Their function is to create space, to reflect the sky, to promote the narrative; but they are always an unyielding surface. Depth in these paintings goes horizontally, into the space not, as it were, down through it, as we can see in ‘Large Ferry’. Down into another world? Where does that other world lead to, do they do things differently there? This is the familiar trope from children’s fiction: the land behind the wardrobe; the rabbit hole; the looking glass. As Auden wrote in ‘As I walked out one evening’

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,

The desert sighs in the bed,

And the crack in the tea-cup opens

A lane to the land of the dead’

 

The Viewing Experience

Maybe this sense of unease is why this room of unassuming Dutch landscape paintings is always empty. Or, it might reflect my thesis that our behaviour this side of the picture plane is, to some extent, governed by the organisation of the space on the far side of the picture plane. This painting is hung in one of the quietest and calmest areas of the National Gallery, I have rarely seen anyone in this room, the few viewers rarely stay for more than a minute or two. Numberless hordes pass nearby, yet, like this painting, all in Room Twenty Two is still: waiting.

Morning Train

As we pull into a station two large herring gulls are slowly tearing apart a McDonalds bag, the train leaves and the birds walk with a proprietorial air down the platform.

In the seat across the aisle a youngish woman makes noises, reminiscent of a dog about to be sick. She (the youngish woman) has a transparent plastic cup and a can of Red Bull in front of her. From a carrier bag she opens a rectangular golden cardboard box and takes out a bottle of brandy. She tops up the cup and places a ham roll beside it. Her hair is red, as is her phone and all of her accessories – earrings, bracelets, flashes on trainers etc. It is 7.30 on a Saturday morning. As the train pulls away from the station she rushes towards the toilets.

“Of course, I won’t buy a new one, a perfectly ordinary biro, Why should I?”

“In the old days…”

“Of course, In the old days you could repair things, but now, I don’t see that I should.”

“In the old days…”

“Of course, in the old days, you would have signed it out wouldn’t you?”

“It would have lasted you for ever”

“Of course, you’d have looked after a thing like that, wouldn’t you?”

Both together: “in the old days…”

At the coffee shop

A well-dressed couple order extra-large and complex arrangements of what is really, sweetened milk with added cream, caramel, chocolate and finally coffee flavourings. They add a thick pink creamy looking drink each, and a couple of pain au raisins to their order. It takes them a while to organise carrying out this feast as they are both carrying large sporting bags.

“Ignorant of misfortune/ Living without worry”

Witnessing these searches for gratification makes me think of paintings of Silenus. There are different approaches to this god, Titian’s ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’,

Titian: 'Bacchus and Ariadne', 1520-3, oil on canvas, 177 x 191 cm. National Gallery, London

and Van Dyck/ Rubens’ Studio’s ‘Drunken Silenus Supported by Satyrs’,

Attributed to Anthony van Dyck/ Studio of Rubens: 'Drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs'. 1620. Oil on canvas. 134 x 197 cm. National Gallery, London.

(both in the National Gallery, London) show the usual iconography: the hugely fat figure; the surrounding Bachante; riding on a donkey in the Titian. This is the Falstaffian Lord of the Revels, clearly, but happily showing the effects of that indulgence. The teacher and companion of Bacchus/ Dionysius, the god of wine and good times; someone I’ve always felt close to. The Van Dyck figure, in particular, seems a joyful image, the brushstrokes, the palette, the smiling red face, the white hair, everybody’s favourite uncle, even if he is blind drunk and cannot walk.

Whereas the darker delineation around the stumbling Silenus in Rubens painting,

Peter Paul Rubens: 'The Drunken Silenus'. 1618. oil on canvas, 212 x 213 cm. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

although delicately held up by the pair on the left, is an altogether different and lonely character. To add to this theme, the woman (the face anyway) on the lower left looks surprisingly like the young person on the train. Rubens’ driven, but falling demi god, is closer to the Greek mythology later revisited by Nietzsche (The Birth of Tragedy). The melancholic, pessimistic and wise Silenus pursued by King Midas. For example when the golden king asked what is best thing for man, Silenus replies:

‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’

( from Aristotle: ‘Eudemus’)

 Afternoon Train.

 Man to my right eating Salt and Vinegar Monster Munch, drinking Carling Black Label, bellowing into his mobile about borrowing requirements and bank lending rates. Behind, a baby screams. In front a woman eats a very ripe banana from a yellow storage box, it is shaped like an ideal banana. Two seats down, earnest young Asian men are talking about mathematical formulae and what happens when you substitute P for X – I think. Schoolchildren are everywhere, talking about ‘Games’ and teachers and work not done, and ‘then my dad did this’ and ‘my mum did that’. And ‘she said’ and ‘I was like’ and ‘I texted her’ and on and on in a continuous stream of high-pitched jollity.

It is a relatively new train, the announcements are up as loud as they will go, the sibilance could take off the top of your head and fill it full of strong smelling, potato based, snack opportunities.

“Look, look, look what I’ve bought”

“What?”

“I got ten sets of eyelashes, all sorts”

“Like, wow”

We all partake of nature’s excellence, each of us be-ing in our own particular way.