Sunday, 21 May 2017

In Bruges

Bruges - Brugge - The Bridge






As I enter Bruges, whose name prosaically means Bridge, I meet myself coming out, riding toward me in a carriage drawn by a horse with a noseband that says Do not touch!


I was unprepared to meet my Doppelgänger - perhaps he was as startled as I was - but as soon as I recognised myself, I was gone, the heautoscopic moment was over..... 

But this unsettled me.  Bruges is a city of art. Both a work of art in itself and filled with art. And somehow I found myself confusing the now with the then, there seeming to be a time bridge between the one and the other. People seem to be walking in and out of paintings....






I am attracted to the Hospital of St John, where in about 1477 a wounded German, by the name of Hans Memling, took refuge.  








In gratitude he gifted a number of delicate works to the sisters, including a gothic shrine to St Ursula, which shows her demurely declining to be shot at point blank range.....







Memling may, perhaps, be a bit part player in the world of art, but I found his work entrancing.  This Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1479, otherwise known as the Triptych of Jan Floreins after its patron, would not look out of place in my sitting room, 




And this picture of a woman, painted in 1480, has a dreamy delicacy that went perfectly with the tranquillity of the place.....







And then, when she served us later, in the Cafe Vlissinghe, the oldest inn in Bruges, where Antoon Van Dyck is said to have held court, I was not surprised by her shyness....






There are artists all over Bruges, and it was natural that I bump into Jan Van Eyck on a bridge over a canal.  It is not known where nor exactly when he was born, but he lived, and died, in July 1441, in Bruges, and he was absolutely in the premier league....






I find myself in the Groeningsmuseum, a treasure-trove of painting, guarded by fierce gremlins who may just be left over from the reformation.  Amongst works by Van Eyck and Memling, here is Hieronymous Bosch's appalling (that's a descriptor not a judgement) Last Judgement




and the gruesome Judgment of Cambyses by Gerard David, which shows the surgical flaying of a corrupt judge.....





And then, just as shocking, there is the twentieth century, where I find that two people seem to have stepped out of Edgard Tytgat's 1952 painting of The Tony Herbert Family.....






Get back in the frame!

Outside, another of Memling's models strums a plastic ukulele,  






And, if it wasn't for the sunglasses, I could have sworn these two were somewhere in the crowd on the St Ursula Shrine.....






Slightly overfull of art, I go looking for my Doppelgänger in the Burg, by the great Stadhuis.  But the horses are resting, and a cluster of taxi-men stand waiting for fares.






There's nothing for it, but to melt back into the picture, and believe I was never there. The treachery of images!

Ceci n'est pas une photo.....

Merci, M Magritte!







For know there are two worlds of life and death: 

One that which thou beholdest; but the other 
Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit 
The shadows of all forms that think and live 
Till death unite them and they part no more..

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Prometheus Unbound
(1820)



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