a) Dodge raindrops and potholes.
b) Run into your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend (not while driving, mind you).
c) Look at a bunch of old paintings.
d) All of the above.
Needless to say, the paintings were the best part. It’s not every day you get to stand in a room with a Rembrandt, a Rubens, an El Greco, and nine other impressive Baroque pictures. My favourite was the only anonymous work, The Penitent Saint Jerome in his Study by a painter known as the Pensionante del Saraceni. (The name, “Saraceni’s lodger,” indicates that he painted after the style of Saraceni.) Perhaps I liked it because it is so close to Lent, but I also think it was the most dramatic picture in the room. You can see that Jerome has dropped his work suddenly and flung himself onto his knees, knocking over his stool and allowing half his robe to slip off. In front of him are his crucifix, scourge, stone (to beat his breast with), and a skull. It’s a wonder how the painter could make such strong symbols look so natural. There’s certainly a touch of the medieval—the perspective isn’t perfect and the lion seems just a little out of place—but I think the picture makes up for it in passion.
Sadly, the lighting in the gallery was not great; the ceilings are too low for large paintings and the tops of the taller paintings were obscured by glare from the lights. But it’s a small inconvence compared to the convenience having great European works of art come to your town!
For the record, here’s what I saw:
The Penitent Saint Jerome in his Study by the Pensionante del Saraceni
The Fortune-teller by Simon Vouet
St. Francis and Brother Leo Meditating on Death by El Greco
The Entombment by Peter Paul Rubens
The Annunciation of the Virgin’s Death by Paulus (called Orlando) Bor
Job by Jan Lievens
A Woman at her Toiletby Rembrandt van Rijn
The Vision of St. Dominic by Bernardo Cavallino
A Young Cavalier Executing a Levade in the Presence of Mars and Mercury by Jacob Jordaens
Landscape with a Woman Washing her Feet by Nicolas Poussin
The Rape of Europa by Caesar Boetius van Everdingen
An Allegory of the Arts by Guiseppe Maria Crespi