The Queen’s Speech

queens speech

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales at the State Opening of Parliament on Monday. Credit Pool photo by Victoria Jones.

(Megan Specia and Allison McCann, “A Guide to the Queen’s Speech: Crown Jewels, Black Rod and a Mace,” 10-14-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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I Feel It 100% in My Bones

salvator mundi

Questions over its authenticity have raged over Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi for more than a decade. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP.

The story that keeps swirling around this mediocre painting whose whereabouts is now unknown is a punch line that keeps on giving. New York art historian and dealer Robert B. Simon bought the “Salvator Mundi” from a New Orleans auction house for $1,175 in 2005. It was attributed to Leonardo in 2011. It sold at auction in 2017 for $450 million. Mr. Simon’s appeal to profound spirituality conveyed across time as the most compelling evidence for attribution to Leonardo is droll. But I also understand it.

“There are a host of reasons why I believe 100% in Leonardo’s authorship of the Salvator Mundi – most of all the inimitable style, unique iconography and phenomenal quality of the painting,” Simon told the Observer. “To these one could add the peculiarities of Leonardo’s technique, the relationship of the painting to autograph drawings, and the evidence of the work’s history. However, for me the most compelling reason to believe in the painting is neither scholarly nor scientific: it comes from its sense of profound spirituality that is conveyed from artist to viewer across 500 years.”

(Jamie Doward, “The mystery of the missing Leonardo: where is Da Vinci’s $450m Jesus?”, 10-13-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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Clearing Up His Confusion


The following are LeBron James’s words. They show why some professional athletes may not be the best role models for young people.

“I believe [Daryl Morey] wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

“Yes, we do all have freedom of speech. But at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re thinking about yourself.”

[Asked why he felt Morey had been ill-informed on the Hong Kong demonstrations] “That’s just my belief. I don’t know. That’s my belief. That’s all I can say. I believe he was misinformed or not really educated on the situation. And if he was, then so be it.”

“For me personally, I’ve always been welcomed [in China] with open arms. I’ve been to China probably over 15 to 20 times, and the main reason I’ve always wanted to go back to China is because of the game of basketball. The game of basketball has brought people together in so many different facets, in so many different countries — people you would never, ever expect.”

“Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.”

Scott Cacciola, “After Daryl Morey Tweet Backlash, LeBron James Says Executive Was Misinformed on China,” NYTimes, 10-14-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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ed clark

‘Elevation,’ painted in acrylic on canvas, was also among the works in the 2018 exhibit at the Mnuchin Gallery. Credit Agaton Strom for The New York Times.

Ed Clark, dead at 93, included brooms among his brushes, and was among the first artists to use a shaped canvas.

Mr. Clark sometimes stains but mostly he wields wide brushes and even brooms, magnifying impasto and brushwork in piled-up strokes that seem to squirm on the surface,” the art critic Roberta Smith of The New York Times wrote in a 2018 review of a survey of his work. “More characteristic are broad bands and curves of color that zoom across or out of corners, achieving an almost sculptural force, as in the pale, propulsive streams of ‘Elevation’ (1992), a tumult of sound, water and paint all in one.”

(Neil Vigdor, “Ed Clark, Pioneering Abstract Expressionist Painter, Dies at 93,” NYTimes, 10-19-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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The Poetry Mandate


Gabriele d’Annunzio after the occupation of Fiume. Credit Luigi Betti/Alinari Archives, via Getty Images.

The Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio declared himself ruler of the city of the Hapsburg city of Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia) on Sept. 12, 1919. His “rule” lasted 15 months. “He mandated daily poetry readings, regular concerts and constant fireworks.”

But it was d’Annunzio’s canny ability to transform politics into an aesthetic — even religious — experience that proved most prescient. His narratives of bygone eras of glory, of virility expressed through violence, whipped an alienated and fractious populace into frenzy. His blithe disregard for truth allowed him to create — unfettered — his own reality.

(Tara Isabella Burton, “The Sex-Crazed Poet Strongman Who (Briefly) Built an Empire,” 10-18-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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Doubts Allowed

egan pilgrimage

A church in San Gimignano along the Via Francigena in Italy. Credit DeAgostini/Getty Images.

As a bicycle enthusiast I relish Father John’s simile.

At Great St. Bernard Pass, the high point of the Via Francigena, at 8,114 feet, I was fascinated by a priest of 40 years who still struggled with his faith. “Doubts are allowed by God,” said this man who introduced himself as Father John of Flavigny, a onetime medical student. “It’s a bit like training for sports. If you only ride a bicycle with the wind at your back, that’s not going to help you. You need to ride your bike against the wind.”

(Timothy Egan, “One Cure for Malnutrition of the Soul,” NYTimes, 10-19-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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Exactingly Delighted

blooms library

Harold Bloom’s home library, photographed in June. Credit Tanya Marcuse.

Scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom has died at the age of 89. Dwight Garner hits memorable notes in his tribute to Bloom, who in one of over 40 books launched an attack “from a crenelated embankment” on critics and scholars whom Bloom termed “a rabblement of lemmings.”

It was impossible to read deeply in Bloom without him flooring you with feeling. “Walt Whitman,” he wrote, “overwhelms me, possesses me, as only a few others — Dante, Shakespeare, Milton — consistently flood my entire being.” In today’s world, there is competition to be more concerned than anyone else. In Bloom’s, there was competition to be the most exactingly delighted.

(Dwight Garner, “Harold Bloom, A Prolific Giant and Perhaps the Last of a Kind,” NYTimes, 10-15-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

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