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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

A Year of Art Discoveries

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Two Allegory of Justice figures in the Vatican, once attributed to Raphael’s followers, were identified in 2017 as being by the master himself.

This Artsy report on 2017 art discoveries was pretty cool. Curiously, I had already written about one of the finds — here. It was the Rodin sculpture discovered in a New Jersey town hall.

Abigail Cain writes, “Art history is, by definition, primarily a thing of the past — but each year, some small portion of it is rewritten by those in the present.

“In 2017, we gained new insight on the early years of Leonardo da Vinci and the final ones of Andy Warhol; amateur archaeologists were rewarded with major finds; and several masterpieces were discovered, simply hiding in plain sight. From newly mapped Venezuelan petroglyphs to a long-lost Magritte, these are 10 of the most notable art-historical discoveries of the year.”

I especially loved that volunteers made the find that occurred in England. “A team of amateur archaeologists,” writes Cain, “dug up one of the most significant Roman mosaics ever discovered in Britain.

“The discovery was made in a field outside of Boxford, in southern England, by a group of local volunteers supervised by professional archaeologists. Although the project began in 2011, it wasn’t until August of this year — during the final two weeks of the scheduled dig — that organizers realized they’d found something extraordinary.

“As it turned out, they’d uncovered a remarkably well-preserved mosaic, built as part of a Roman villa that dates to roughly 380 A.D. Not only is it a rare find for the country — experts have labeled it the most exciting of its kind unearthed in 50 years — the subject and style of the artwork is highly unusual for the area. The work illustrates the story of Bellerophon, a Greek mythological hero tasked with killing the Chimera.”

Check out Artsy, here, to read about: the discovery that two figures in the Vatican were painted by Raphael and not his assistants; two ancient tombs in Egypt; the likely identity of Leonardo’s mother; a portrait by Peter Paul Rubens found hanging in a historic Glasgow house; a miniscule carving recovered from a Bronze Age tomb with “detailed handiwork centuries ahead of its time”; the last piece of a lost René Magritte painting found in Belgium; and drone technology that helped researchers map “massive, 2,000-year-old petroglyphs in Venezuela for the first time.”

Doesn’t it make you want to go out and discover some long-lost treasure?

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Weather like this is a reminder that simple pleasures are often the best.

A great blue heron flying over Thoreau Street. Buying three Vietnamese fresh rolls and chai tea after tai chi class. Listening to the smart Hillbilly at Harvard program in the car. Sitting on the porch dipping crackers into the famous guacamole from the shop around the corner. Reading in the bath the first Martin Beck mystery by the Swedish partners Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

The pictures show flowers from the yard in a pitcher made by our engineer/potter friend, a bird painted on a utility box, and the garden maintained by the tai chi teacher and his youth classes. He says the care taken with the flowers is the kind of care the school devotes to students.

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My friend Ronnie is a former broadcaster, a poet, and a food maven, who lived in France for years and later wrote a book called Eat Smart in France. Recently Ronnie interviewed the mystery writer Cara Black for a blog called My French Life. Black writes about Paris. Her latest novel is Murder in Pigalle.

Ronnie asks, “What drew you to this part of town?

Black: “There are two worlds in Pigalle. The world of the day with families and people who work in the shops, and the world of the night, where people work in the clubs. …

“I really like Pigalle. I discovered so much I didn’t know. [But] I get intrigued by different districts, their flavor and feeling. If I ever figure them out, I’ll probably stop writing about them.” More of the interview here, including a observations on the German occupation of Paris during WW II.

For a wonderful, unusual book with the occupation of Paris as a setting, I recommend Léon and Louise. It’s an odd love story taking place over many decades in France, written by a Swiss and translated into English. I haven’t read many books by Cara Black, but if you like novels that teach you something about a different part of the world in a rather fanciful way, I recommend Léon and Louise, by Alex Capus.

Photo of Ronnie Hess

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Something fun from Studio 360: the mystery of the Toynbee tiles.

“For more than two decades, an unknown artist has been leaving a message in the streets of Philadelphia. The message is has been cut by hand into a linoleum tile, and pressed into the asphalt by the weight of passing cars. There are dozens of these around the city; old ones wear away, and new ones appear. The message is the same:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN Kubrick’s 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER

“The Toynbee tiles, as they’re called, have become a thing in Philly — you can even buy a t-shirt (the tiler isn’t getting royalties). For artists, the cryptic message inspires far-out forms of creativity, but perhaps nothing as ambitious as the ten-minute work by the rapper and ‘bedroom composer’ Raj Haldar, who performs as Lushlife.

“The work is in four parts, one for each line of the tiles’ message. By the end, the ‘Toynbee Suite’ has left behind anything resembling hip-hop, going out on a two-minute clarinet solo.

“But what exactly is the Toynbee message? Alfred Toynbee was a historian and philosopher of the 20th century, known for the 12-volume A Study of History. …

“A documentary film speculated that the tiler remained unseen by dropping the tiles from a car with cut-out floorboards.”

More on the mystery here, where you also can listen to the rapper’s tile-inspired music and check out a map showing where Toynbee tiles are located around Philadelphia.

Photo: Kimberly Blessing/flickr
A Toynbee Tile at 9th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pa.

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We had a great time at the Concord Festival of Authors Friday night. The brainchild of book maven Rob Mitchell, the festival has been going strong for about 20 years and lasts a month. The authors and topics are always amazing.

The event we most wanted to see this year featured a panel of mystery writers: Archer Mayor,  Spencer Quinn, and one whose books I know well, S.J. Rozan. The fans of these three novelists — and of Concord-based moderator and author Mark De Binder — filled the lobby of the Concord Library to overflowing.

I already knew from the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mysteries that S.J. had a wacky sense of humor, but Mayor and Quinn also were hilarious in talking about their work and their lives. My husband said, “Who knew mystery writers were funny?”

Read about S.J. at the festival here and at her own site here.

“In her new novel, Ghost Hero, American-born Chinese P.I. Lydia Chin is called in on what appears to be a simple case. An art world insider wants her to track down a rumor. Contemporary Chinese painting is sizzling hot on the art scene and no one is hotter than Chau Chun, known as the Ghost Hero. A talented and celebrated ink painter, Chau’s highly prized work mixes classical forms and modern political commentary. The rumor of new paintings by Chau is shaking up the art world. There’s only one problem—Ghost Hero Chau has been dead for twenty years, killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising.” We enjoyed hearing S.J. read a passage from Ghost Hero, in which she had Bill Smith adopt her grandfather’s Russian accent and locution.

Quinn made me envious of his blog’s success. It attracts hordes of people who love his canine protagonist so much that they upload photos of their  pets to be the dog detective’s friend. Perhaps if I weren’t such an eclectic blogger …

If I had one reliable focus, though, I’d get bored.

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