Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bologna for Breakfast

Guaranteed to get Perfect Results Every Time*

In a world filled with bologna for breakfast, no one succeeds like the bologna manufacturer. I mean the person whose very existence is constituted from making bologna. Consider the bologna exec whose entire function is to craft and then endorse the bologna mission statement for his company. Whatever the company does, it does. But then some very clever pro-bologna employee adds the imprimatur of The Mission, which says of what was done that it was done so that the company will be "world class." The pro-bologna union applauds the association, which serves as the locus of value of the acts of the company. Absent the pro-bologna association, this employee would not have a job. Fortunately the association of the company to bologna replaced what would have otherwise been measured against genuine value. The pseudo-value that the association inheres gives value simply for having been done. Going forward whatever the company does is simply that which the ritual claim denotes is done for the mission. 

Let us consider another meal ... 

Each morning, if we are lucky, we each wake up. Greeting the day with rays of sunshine, torrential rains, or intermittent weather changes, each of these conditions in turn affect the underlining mood, which gives rise to targeted thoughts associated with the Life Mission. The committee in charge of generating sentiment and their corresponding thoughts submits input to the Evaluation Committee each day. In turn the Evaluation Committee, who monitors sentiments and thoughts, and evaluates them according to the Life Mission, assigns a weighted value to each sentiment and thought. Once the Evaluation Committee has determined the hierarchy of the sentiments and their corresponding thoughts, directions are then conveyed to the Execution Team, those agents tasked with executing commands. 

Our problem is not that a world filled with bologna for breakfast is unfit for consumption, but precisely that it is inherently consumable. If every employee-customer, thought-sentiment, Evaluation Committee-Execution Team interaction was an instance of good relations because the bologna pledge of satisfaction proclaims it so, then disrupting this situation is very difficult. Evaluation Committee Members, who began only by asking for something more from the team executing the decisions, come to be seen as subject to "dissatisfaction," which conflicts with the Very Little Incentive Program the Execution Team receives for their efforts. 

Suppose, however, that you do not care for bologna. Are there any other breakfast choices? If, for example, you have just embraced a Vegan lifestyle, you may be simultaneously wondering how you're going to live without your comforting bologna breakfast. Imagine, if you will, that your delicious, vegetarian quiche is far tastier and more satisfying than bologna, but that you still secretly crave bologna. This is the bologna gambit: We will offer a breakfast alternative that is bologna-free and does a better job than your vegetarian quiche of presenting a bologna-free lifestyle. Here bologna comes full circle: By self-consciously flouting the conventions of bologna and making it clear that bologna-free bologna is not bologna - and yet doing a better job at revealing that bologna, the Pro-bologna advocates remind us what those conventions were for and reveals something about how they've been altered for consumption. Bologna advocates in creating faux bologna are notable for their lack of good for you nutrients. In a world where many people serve themselves bologna for breakfast (and sometimes again for lunch and dinner), good for you nutrients become the sincerest form of sustenance, the only form of sustenance that can cut right through bologna. 

But, what if bologna or good for you nutrients are for you an insufficiently inspiring pair of breakfast choices. Suppose you would like more granola or croissants than the bologna-free committee and the pro-bologna union offer. I can only think of one option. Consider the company mission statement and imagine writing one that you actually like. Imagine that you genuinely believe that in light of your current breakfast choices higher nutrition needs to be reconsidered. You might have questions such as these in mind: Is it possible to export bologna to parts of the world in which croissants are generally preferred for breakfast, in the words of the Declaration of Bologna, "bologna is created by our Citizens, deriving its flavor from the consent of the consumers"? Or, given that the principles of higher nutrition have derived, since the eighteenth century, from Sustenance ideals, can we either recover Sustenance ideals we endorse or reorient higher nutrition in a post-Sustenance world? 

Crafted with such questions in mind, a Life Mission statement would not look like an Evaluation Committee pledge to serve the ideal breakfast. It would seriously have to enunciate a new cultural mission for higher nutrition and seek to make that mission both palatable and possible for our citizens. If we cannot sincerely endorse currently culturally available breakfast choices, then we must fundamentally rethink those choices. If we lack the courage or the ability to do that, then all we are left with, and all we deserve, is bologna.  

My bologna has a first name, 
My bologna has a second name, 
Oh I love to eat it every day and if you ask me why I'll say...
Cause those who do not think have a way with BULLOGNA.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Depth Immense of Endless Gratitude

Devoted to that which manifests a warm and friendly 
feeling toward a benefactor...

In the fifty-fourth edition of The People's Common Sense MEDICAL ADVISER In Plain English or, MEDICINE SIMPLIFIED by R.V. Pierce, M.D., one of the staff of consulting physicians and surgeons at the Invalid's Hotel and Surgical Institute, and President of the World's Dispensary Medical Association, states in Chapter XIV: CEREBRAL PHYSIOLOGY: 

By means of the nervous system, an intimate relation is maintained between mind and body, for nervous energy superintends the functions of both. 

Exciting stuff! 

He goes on to say, 

A higher grade of organization requires a more complete arrangement of nervous substance. Stimulus applied to one organ is readily communicated to, and excites activity in another."  

To recognize the distinctions between reason and instinct, to the acute level, to have the ability to discern the nuances in what constitutes "keenly penetrative" and have respect for each individual aspect, is to have a "double endowment" ... "intimately connected by nervous matter" Pierce might add.

The intimate relation of instinct to intelligence is admirably illustrated in the working honey-bee. With forethought it selects a habitation, constructs comb, collects honey, provides a cell for the ova, covers the chrysalis, for which it deposits special nourishment, and is disposed to defend its possessions. It is a social insect, lives in colonies, chastises trespassers, fights its enemies, and defends its home. It manifests a degree of intelligence, but its sagacity is instinctive. Reason, though not so acute as instinct, becomes, by education, discerning and keenly penetrative, and reveals the very secrets of profound thought. 

An Unlikely Example of Nervous Matter, manifest

What happens when philosophers, prone to profound thought, label "examples of nervous matter"...?

They think about jokes. Well, this philosopher thinks about jokes. One of my favorites is emotive conjugation, a humorous verbal conjugation, designed to expose and mock first-person bias, in which ostensibly the same action is described in successively more pejorative terms through the first, second, and third persons, e.g.,

"I am firm, 
You are stubborn, 
He is a pig-headed fool." 
~Katharine Whitehorn. 

A Monstrous Shape, or a Shapelesse Monster, 1640
Tannakin Skinker
The first recorded reference in England to the legend of 
the pig-faced woman is the fable of Tannakin Skinker.

Russell, in a 1948 BBC Radio "Brains' Trust" discussion used this discussion. It was later popularized when The New Statesman ran a competition for other examples. An "unprecedented response" brought in 2,000 entries, including: 

"I am well informed, You listen to gossip, He believes what he reads in the paper"; and 

"I went to Oxford, 
You went to Cambridge, 
He went to the London School of Economics". 



What does any of this have to do with gratitude? Moving forward in this charming publication, Pierce states that 

The Emotive Faculties—the organs of spiritual perceptions—are impersonal, outflowing, bestowing. The function represented by Benevolence, is willing, giving. Devotion expresses dedication, consecration; Gratitude manifests a warm and friendly feeling toward a benefactor.

Laughing at life-humor 

The connection to gratitude is personal. It touches upon my gratitude for the recognitions that occur as a consequence of my own contemplation of Milton's immense of endless gratitude, and for for my brain's ability to recognize the notion of gratitude, even in the most unlikely places, such as in a biology publication. 

This intimate relation between instinct and intellect provokes what one might call laughing at life-humor. The intense vital expenditure for which one must allow when engaged in intellectual activity results in unlikely connections that irrespective of the validity of that connection, make me laugh, igniting the Socrates within, who endlessly delights and celebrates among the gods (but who can still arise and be among the first to greet daybreak), among the Olympians and among the those who come to listen to his discourses on those many things upon which few speak because few consider. 

What would make Socrates laugh, you ask? At his own foolishness, he would reply. This we have in common. In each of these blog posts, even the most unlikely of candidates, there has been an element that made me laugh. The trick in getting the joke is knowing what the author consider's funny. Not sharing the punchline or gist of the joke is what is referred to as a Private Joke

Private jokes occur because we are "too easily persuaded" by our own reason. What is funny to one person is not always perceived by the other. Private jokes are thus employed by those who actively engage in the activity of holding their thoughts, of keeping secrets. 

With Socrates by one's side, proud as Demeter, anticipating the annual return of her daughter Persephone from Hades, one simply follows the path wherever it leads, refraining, this time, from making moral judgments (or the propositions that they express) in favor of those delightful petit fours of imaginative projection into another's person's situation, especially for vicarious capture of its emotional and motivational qualities. 

"tired nature's sweet restorers

As the nervous forces transform petit fours into restorative spiritual products, the encephalic temperament with its analogical powers, vividness of conception, and intensity of emotion relates refined feelings, imagination, and ideality by the connection to their gratitude for nature's manifest possibility to invent petit fours in the first place. 

In turn, the philanthropist gives away his/her delights at his/her dinner parties. "Sharing everything, in moderation," one might say.

Happy Blogging

Happily blended, harmony keeps one from dwelling on any one subject to the exclusion of all others, a condition Pierce refers to as "monomania." Notably I do not consider blogging as seriously as I do the publication of books, novels, or professional abstracts. Herein I freely give myself the latitude to make a myriad of interrelated but potentially non-sensical connections for the sheer fun of it. 

From this activity arises an hour's worth of morning writing recess prior to the demands the day inspires. The nonsensically entertaining - no doubt in protest of the sensical onslaught of seemingly boring demands of daily life - encourages me to make light of all information (as well as the nature of information) and see how I might twist it around to create a new shape for my brain to contemplate. 

In my mind it would be a tragedy to deprive my intellect of the thoughts that summon the forces that inspire the recuperative channels that help me maintain a beautiful, ruddy glow of health while simultaneously cultivating my mind in what for me is a natural and essential culture of my being, its training and consequent development, which I deem necessary for soulful improvement, which consequently, and ever so nicely is one of the many effects of gratitude. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What is Romantic Love?

Pélerinage à l'île de Cythère, dit L'Embarquement pour Cythère, 1717
Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Louvre, Paris

The Elegy

The elegy is one of the oldest continuous literary genres. Dating back to the Hellenistic period, possibly earlier, Northrop Fry describes the elegy as such: 

In romance the suspension of natural law and the individualizing of the hero's exploits reduce nature largely to the animal and vegetable world. Much of the hero's life is spent with animals, or at any rate the animals that are incurable romantics, such as horses, dogs, and falcons, and the typical setting of romance is the forest. [In romantic tragedy the] hero's death or isolation thus has the effect of a spirit passing out of nature, and evokes a mood best described as elegiac. The elegiac presents a heroism unspoiled by irony. The inevitability in the death of Beowulf, the treachery in the death of Roland, the malignancy that compasses the death of the martyred saint, are of much greater emotional importance than any ironic complications of hybris and hamartia that may be involved. Hence the elegiac is often accompanied by a diffused, resigned, melancholy sense of the passing of time, of the older changing and yielding to a new one […].

It makes you think, doesn't it? About that which we consider natural, genuine, true, honest, good ... eastern vs western ideals .. religious vs secular views ... even differences among purportedly like-minded beings ... age differences ... socio-economic differences ... hopes ... dreams ... preferences ... pet peeves ... with so many factors combined the odds of being compatible with any human being on the planet is incomprehensible ... even our clones would be different from ourselves.

If romantic love is not compatibility, then what is it? 


What is it that attracts us to others? 

Their eyes... ? 
Their smile ... ? 
Their attributes ... ? 

What is it that inspires us to desire another's presence in our lives? For the myriad of answers, there are a dozen more questions that arise. 

Psyché et l'Amour (Cupid and Psyche), exhibited at the 1798 Salon
François Gérard (1770 - 1837)
The Louvre

One of the most difficult dynamics to consider between individuals is the dance between Eros and Thanatos. Eros is the son of Aphrodite, shining goddess of love and beauty, while Thanatos, born of the goddess Night, thrives on the darkness of our lack of consciousness. 

If we consider first beauty, attraction is that innate love of beauty to which we find ourselves naturally drawn. It is the joy found in the presence of another that compels us to return time and time again for more of that which fills our senses with joy. It is all the alluring images of intimacy that bounce back and forth in our minds as we project our thoughts onto another. 

It is also that which we do not know. Thanatos inclining us toward that which is mysterious or foreign or new, which in turn ignites our curiosity. 

Romantic love is an attraction toward our perception of beauty as expressed in novelty. 

Relationships vs Romantic Love

Transitioning from Romantic love to a relationship is not within the scope of this article. Thus I have reached a stopping point, satisfied, at least for now, with my interpretation on Romantic Love as being something that touches our innate attraction toward that which we do not know combined with that which naturally attracts. If we combine the two together, we could say that we are naturally attracted to the unknown, which might be the underlining cause of attraction as a force. 

Is that which hides in the closet or under the bed frightening or exciting? Perhaps it is a little of both. Is it possible to have Eros without Thanatos? Do we wish for our partners to share our consciousness, to be compatible on all our neurotic levels, or do we merely wish to discover, learning about their and our own needs in the process? 

Those who are more idealistic about Romantic Love sometimes find the greatest pain. Wide-eyed they fall, giving their utmost to the beloved. Great is their dismay, when, giving all they can and value, they perceive their lover as casually mistreating that which they regard as sacred. Again, this is the realm of relationships rather than Romantic Love as a consequence of attraction. 

It is not that idealism is a less than ideal aspect of interacting with others, but that when idealism transcends Romantic Love into Relationshipal Love we encounter difficulty. In relationships, Thanatos is always lurking in the shadows. 

Sometimes we build an altar to our troublesome thoughts in the image of another. To build an altar is to remind ourselves of an existence that we would otherwise ignore, perhaps at our own peril. We avoid the painful side of Thanatos by holding ourselves and others accountable to an ideal few can maintain.

Romantic Love is not about idealism, not about denial, not about our need for compatibility and companionship, it is that innate attraction to that which is separate in order to balance that which is not present within.

How Romantic is that? 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Joueuse de Tympanon


Automatons reached their Golden Age during the eighteenth century, though they date back to the Renaissance when engineers created hydraulic fountains for royal gardens, as well as singing birds and musicians as background decors for banquets, and as moveable, musical centerpieces for tables.

The Joueuse de Tympanon, or "The Dulcimer Player"as it is known in English, was constructed in 1784 by Kintzing and David Roentgen, the king's cabinetmaker (as well as a hundred craftsman from 26 trades), for presentation to Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles. It is said that the hair and dress of the figurine were those of the Queen.

In 1785, the Queen bought it and had it placed in the Academy of Science because she believed that an object of this quality and refinement combined with technology belonged in the Academy of Science.

The tunes played by the dulcimer were written by Marie-Antoinette's music teacher, German Christoph Willibald Gluck (see Gluck and Marie-Antoinette).

© Musée des arts et métiers-CNAM
Photo P. Faligot-Seventh Square

The Musée des artes et métiers, 60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris, France, is custodian to the Joueuse of Tympanon, as well as to an extensive diversity of works which combine automatons, mechanical musical instruments and clockwork.

© Musée des arts et métiers-CNAM
Photo P. Faligot-Seventh Square

Having had the privilege of viewing this piece during restoration at the Musée's archives located slightly out of Paris, I quickly found myself fascinated by is grace and charm and could only imagine how intrigued Marie-Antoinette might have been when she saw the finished piece.

The musician can play eight tunes on the 46-string dulcimer. The mechanism, which is placed under the stool on which the female figurine sits, consists primarily of a mainspring and a brass cylinder that has sixteen sections of cams and sixteen rows of wedges.

Through a system of levers, the cams actuate the movement of the figurine's forearms, while the wedges control the movement of the hammers.

According to the Musée des arts et métiers, in their English version magazine on the opening of a new permanent exhibition in the renovated former Saint-Martin-des-Champs Abbey, "The aesthetic sophistication of this piece, in addition to the complexity of this mechanism and reproduction of human movement, makes this a true work of art."

Joueuse de tympanon, automate de Rœntgen et Kintzig, 
donné par l'Académie des Sciences en 1835, 
réparé par Robert-Houdin...

This video begins at the Arts et Métiers, its imprint of genius being seen hanging from the ceiling (video 0:21 - 0:30) and continues at the museum's archives (0:35 - 0:37), where I first saw this magnificent piece.

The dulcimer, well known in Hungry in its modern form, the cymbalo, was designed in the shape of a harpsichord to suit the android's movements. The 23 pairs of chords stretch out perpendicular to the figurine, with the bass notes to the left and the treble notes to the right. The playing style has two movements: a sweeping horizontal movement of the arms and a vertical movement of the hammer.

The motor, made up of a hand-wound spiral spring, supplies the energy, while the gestual memory of the Player is contained in a cylinder equipped with cams and wedges. When red, the cams supply the melody and the sequence of wedges create the rhythm.

During the musical restoration of the Tympanon Player, an analysis involving noting down the eight partitions and subsequently correcting and validating them through static and dynamic readings of the cylinder, provided a statistical analysis that was carried out on all of the notes played. This enabled the errors and approximations to be quantified as well as providing an initial explanation as to certain errors that were being detected (after two centuries of play). An audio-simulation of the corrected partitions, with the pieces played back automatically via synthetic sounds, was conducted.

After recording each pair of chords separately and then, having removed the dulcimer, a further recording of the mechanical noises made by the figurine (rhythmical noises of the arms), each recording was processed and stored digitally. The pieces played by the dulcimer could be heard, error-free, for the very first time. However, it is said that the quality turned out to be "too perfect, no longer sounding like the player."

In order to correct this, the percussion sounds of each arm were recorded separately while keeping them synchronized. Piezoelectric sensors were placed under the hammers, without interfering with playing, to measure the rhythmical playing afforded to each arm. The data transmitted by the sensors was converted to "MIDI" digital data. The real sound of the Joueuse de Tympanon could now be heard by filtering out double striking, one of the main causes of the bad quality of its playing, and by the "faithful reproduction of rhythmical inequalities (the left-hand percussion is slightly ahead of the right-hand).

© Musée des arts et métiers-CNAM
Photo P. Faligot-Seventh Square

The automaton received a "genuine musical restoration" with the addition of mechanical noises (the sequencer, containing the real rhythmic playing, controlled the computer, which contained the right pitch of the corrected partition, which in turn commanded the synthetic dulcimer in the memory of the sampler).

This analysis, conducted by the Musée des arts et métiers, resulted in a thorough mechanical and musical diagnosis, which has greatly contributed to a better understanding of the piece. These well-considered actions on behalf of the museum should ensure the dulcimer will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Source: Le cnam, La Revue #03 - May 1993
Jean Haury, Jean-Marie Broussard, Denis Mercier

Marie-Antoinette's mother was interested in science and engineering and was reportedly amazed by The Turk, which was built in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen, a Hungarian inventor who was hoping to impress Maria Theresa, the Queen of Hungary and Croatia, as well as Queen of Bohemia, and Archduchess of Austria. 

The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous 
Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine.

The Turk took the form of a large box with a Turkish figure sitting behind it. The chessboard is on top.  Von Kempelen would set up the chessboard, open the doors to show the clockwork gear inside, close then again, invite someone to sit down, and then wind up the automaton. It then proceeded to play an impressive game of chess. 

This feat of engineering made von Kempelen a celebrity. He soon became an influential engineer in Hungary. Von Kempelen took his machine on tours of Europe, playing against Benjamin Franklin in one occasion. Still, von Kempelen died poor in 1804, and his son sold The Turk to Johann Malzel, a musician and showman who made The Turk world-famous. Even Napoleon Bonapart played against The Turk (The Turk supposedly won). 

Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay of The Turk: "Malzel's Chess Player," in which he theorized how it worked. Published in The Southern Literary Messenger in April, 1836, Poe was closest to anyone in discovering its truths, despite his making a few "detective" mistakes. 

Leroy L. Panek, in American Literature, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Nov., 1976), pp. 370-372, Published by Duke University Press, goes into extensive detail on what he calls "Poe's First Detective Mistake."

The Turk traveled the globe, ending up in a museum in Philadelphia after Malzel died. Sadly, The Turk was consumed by the fire that stuck the museum. 

Naturally, The Turk was a hoax with a human operator, but it was believed to be an automaton for many years. This is largely due in part to the 18th century mindset whereby society was wowed with the possibilities of technology, believing that anything was achievable. Of course, today, with advances in artificial intelligence, we can now create software to run chess programs, but we know that it is a program. 

When Marie-Antoinette would have received her automaton, she would have no doubt been delighted and intrigued by its science. Further supporting that belief is a piece by Robert Arnould Drais (possible, maker) ca. 1780 in France of The Five Orders of Architecture (pictured below). 
Château de VERSAILLES, France
Lapis lazuli columns, mounted in gold; on a base of red porphyry mounted in ormolu
Bequeathed by John Jones
Museum number: 853-1882
Gallery location: Architecture, room 128, case 5, shelf 1
Height 27.8 cm, Length 36 cm base, Depth 15.5 cm

A Grand Design - The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A 14/10/1999-16/01/2000) 
A Grand Design (The Baltimore Museum of Art 01/01/1997-31/12/1999)

This miniature representation of the orders of architecture as defined by Vitruvius - Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian - was in William Maskell's, 1883, Jones collection handbook, listed as a court object that was "designed and made for Marie-Antoinette, in order to teach her something of the science." 

The piece was listed in the Jones collection inventory, 15 May 1882, alongside furniture supposedly linked to Marie-Antoinette. Though there is no firm documentary evidence, the connections indicate a potential importance attached to it by both the collector and by the Museum. 

Whether this information was offered by Jones or his manservant, Arthur Habgood, who inherited Jones's house and who might have assisted curators in compiling the inventory, is not known. However, Versailles curator, Christian Baulez, stated that a reference to a payment made by the goldsmith R.-A. Drais in 1790 for a set of seven lapis columns might have been related to this object. 

Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party

Living in Paris, for a culture-enthusiast, is like moving into Cinderella's Castle at Disneyland for a 10-year old girl. While researching objects belonging to Marie-Antoinette, I recall a lovely day strolling along the Quai de Nymphee, crossing over the river Seine to the Mali des Impressionistes to the terrace of the Auberge du Père at the Mainson Fournaise. Renoir's, "You won't regret the trip, I assure you. There isn't a lovelier place in all Paris surroundings," echoing in my brain. 

Not only were the kids and I delighted by the menus, but the atmosphere is ripe for allowing one's feelings and mood to express themselves with a nicely prepared Citrus Marinated Salmon or goat cheese. 

While I'm not the first to comment on the characters in Renoir's famous Luncheon of the Boating Party, I did take the time to research each person, trying to imagine their thoughts as well as their agendas in respect to their relationship to Renoir as well as each other. 

"I can't leave Chatou, because my painting is not yet finished. It would be nice of you to come down here and have lunch with me." 

So, just who was it Renoir invited to lunch in the affluent suburbs of western Paris? Let's take a look, shall we. 

The 'awakener of minds' behind Ellen Andrée (the actress who drinks from a glass in the center of the composition) is Charles Ephrussi, the wealthy art historian, collector, and editor of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, the world reference on art history for nearly 100 years. A member of Princess Mathilde's [inner] circle, and the man who launched the Impressionists, naturally made him an ideal person to invite to lunch with collectors and artists alike, see Auguste Marguillier, 'Charles Ephrussi', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1905, vol. II, pp. 353-60, and Philippe Kolb and Jean Adhémar, 'Charles Ephrussi (1849-1905). He is wearing the top hat in the background. While it is not shown, he is probably resting his stance with his ebony walking stick. 

Charles Ephrussi introduced Count Moïse de Camondo into the world of collectors and artists, but regrettably, it would appear that the Count couldn't make lunch that day as he was probably too busy celebrating the silver medal prize for 'private architecture' that his architect, Denis-Louis Destors, won him on the design of his mansion at 61 rue de Monceau. The plans of which drew an admiring crowd at the Universal Exhibition. It is quite possible that Ephrussi and the young man with which he's speaking, possibly his personal secretary, Jules Laforgue (1860-1887), were conversing over this very subject. 

Jules, a part-symbolist, part-impressionist poet, was a self-taught artist who essentially tried to produce a literary equivalent of Impressionism. He was also a first-class orator, having served as a French reader, a sort of cultural counselor, for the Empress Augusta. 

Ellen Andrée (1857-1925), a student of Landro who debuted at the Palais-Royal, made for delightful company at Renoir's luncheon, although I might have invited actress Réjane (Gabrielle-Charlotte Reju, 1856 - 1920) to this timeless classic. 

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) made an engraving/etching of Ellen Andrée in 1875, in which, I'm pleased to say; she was still wearing her hat. You can see the original print at the Library of the National Institute of Art History, collections Jacques Doucet. 

Still, the Baron Raoul Barbier, in the brown bowler hat, doesn't seem to mind. A former cavalry officer and war hero, as well as former mayor of Saigon; this yachtsman, lover of race horses and women, was no doubt in good spirits that afternoon due to the ambience of this lively setting. 

Alphonse Fournaise, Jr. (1823-1905) is leisurely leaning on the railing, and why not, he took over the business from his father in 1857. As a matter of fact, he had the railing, upon which he and his sister,Louis-Alphonsine Fournais , are leaning, built in 1877. It makes sense that he and his sister would want to test its durability. 

In another painting by Renoir, ("Monsieur Fournaise, dit l'Homme à la pipe"; 1875; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.) Fournaise is the man with the pipe, which he might have inherited from his père, "the Admiral of Chatou". 

But it was his lovely sister, Alphonsine (1846-1937) who was considered the lure of the house. Famous for her beauty, her charm and the warmth of her welcome, her presence is what turned visitors into guests. Without her genuine hospitality, the flickering light of this painting, the great pleasure and happiness that inspired even more pleasures of scholarly curiosity, might have never existed. 

As we all know, lunch just wouldn't be the same without our real friends, you know the ones I'm talking about, the friends on our short-list, the ones who drop everything and come down, despite the crowd of boat enthusiasts, to help us out in a pinch - the pinch here being painting a famous portrait. So naturally, Renoir invited his close friends, Eugène Pierre Lestringèz (in a bowler hat looking at Jeanne Samary , her black-gloved hands to her ears) and Paul Lhôte (in a straw hat leaning toward Jeanne). 

Jeanne, "The image of the Parisienne" (Cezanne) wanted more than anything to be immortalized by the public. This actress, who had previously captured the attentions of Renoir, was placed, like she was at the Exhibition of 1878, very high, surrounded by other works (or in this case Renoir's flirty friends) in a small setting, where viewers were unable to see her properly. Still, despite her almost disguised presence in this setting, it is thanks to Renoir that finally received the acclaim and immortality she longed for. 

Lestringèz, an Official at the Ministry of the Interior, and dabbler in the occult, might have been gossiping about how "thirteen figures around a dining table makes reference to the Last Supper," it would be "impossible for a painter not to know that." 

A superstitious man, who would have fretted about the omens associated with painting thirteen people in a portrait, the number dating back to ancient times. Judas would no doubt bring ill to one of the persons depicted here. 

In 1887, Jules Laforgue died of tuberculosis the year after his wedding to Englishwoman, Leah Lee. It's a wonder that Paul Lhôte didn't write about it, linking it back to this portrait, but he was probably too busy trying to convince Jeanne to dance with him ("Dance at Bougival - Suzanne Valadon and Paul Lhôte -1883, Renoir, Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA). Jeanne had also previously shared Renoir's (and Puvis de Chavennes') affections. Her son, Maurice Valadon (Utrillo), who specialized in cityscapes, one of the few famous painters of Montmartre who was born there, is speculated to have been offspring from she and Renoir's liaison. 

There sits Gustave Caillebotte, casually soaking in the scene in his white boater's shirt and flat-topped straw boater's hat. His lighthearted demeanor is a far cry from his more serious self-portrait in c. 1892 (Portrait de l'artiste, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Though a member and patron of the Impressionist artists, he painted much more realistically than the others in the group. He might have portrayed the day as rainy (Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877, Art Institute of Chicago, who in 1964 spurred American interest in the painter). Given his sizable allowance, he was probably the one to foot the bill for the luncheon. 

Angèle Legault, who sold flowers in Paris' outdoor market, was a singer and another of Renoir's models. Legault seems to have momentarily lost interest in whatever Caillebotte is saying. She's tilted her head upward, captivated perchance by the highly accented witticisms of Antonio Maggiolo, the Italian journalist leaning over her. 

In 1888, Legault, along side the famous tenor Victor Capoul, played the young mountain girl in Benjamin Godard's Jocelyn. 

And last but not least, Aline Charigot, the seamstress, who at the time had captured Renoir's affections. Renoir later married her. 

Perhaps the painting is so beloved because the persons depicted here were so beloved by the artist, some a little more so than others. Renoir's sunnily celebratory masterpiece with its blossomy colors and relaxed atmosphere is timeless as it is classic. Renoir's painting invites us into his intimate world of art collectors and artists, where this circle of friends - and lovers - radical in their views, independent in their exhibitions, captured the freshness and originality of 19th century Paris, leaving behind for us quite the impression. 

Delightfully enough, Paris has, in large part, an American to thank for funding the restoration of the Maison Fournaise in 1990. Together with the town of Chatou who voted to acquire it in 1979, as well as benefactors such as the Friends of La Maison Fournaise, have in the same Rothschildian philanthropic spirit that defined 19th century France, offered future generations an opportunity to taste a little bit of The Four Seasons of Life, where we can immerse ourselves in Renoir's painting, imagining what it might have felt like to be part of the inner circle of France's Third Republic. 

The Trianon Curse

Graveyards of the world
beds of brush and bone
Live in the sound of darkness
while a ghostly king rules their throne 

Beyond the rising smoke
mother death is buried deep
Faces dissolve in nameless headstones
in a prison of eternal sleep 

Forever condemned by an imaginary master
poisoned by a forgotten scorn
Submitting to the laws of empty hours
feeding from the fruit of blackened thorns 

The ghostly king decides to rescue his eternal guests
he dissolves the tombs of stone
Thieves of centuries lost take to flight
leaving him to eternally dine alone.

© 1993 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Savonnerie carpet
King's coat of arms destroyed during the Revolution 
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

The Trianon Curse

Like the tragedy that befell the Royal family, so too did one man's passion for the 18th century again deal destiny's cruel hand of fate. 

Inspired by Marie-Antoinette's Petit Trianon, the Count de Camodo's greatest wish was to recreate 18th century refinement for he and his family. 

Genealogy of Camodo Family
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Immigrating from Istanbul in 1869, the Camondo family were a notable family of Ottoman bankers and philanthropists - 'the Rothschilds of the East' - whose presence in Paris soon had all of society talking. 

Moïse de Camodo's magnificent Bell Époque mansion built to contain his collection of 18th century French art became a memorial to his son, his shattered dreams, and oddly enough to the solitude and heartache that marked the French Revolution. 

Intended for a son that did not live to inherit it, Count Camodo's mansion was bequeathed to the French state after the deaths of his remaining family members at Auschwitz in 1933-44. Astonishingly, the house survived the war and Nazi occupation in tact. 

Musée Nissim de Camodo
Nissim de Camodo's apartment
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

One of Moïse de Camodo's earliest purchases, the commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer, inspired his love of collecting. Remarkably, it was close to his death before he finally acquired the matching piece. 

Commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Commode by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

Much like the Royal family spent part of their imprisonment during the French Revolution in the lavish gardens of the Tuilerries, so too would Camodo spend his final days gazing out onto the placid Parc Monceau from a sharp mind held hostage by the grandeur of opulence.

The Gentlemen of the Duke of Orléans in the livery of the Chäteau de Saint-Cloud
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 B.E. Gustav Hollsten

'The Gentlemen of the Duke of Orléans in the livery of the Château de Saint-Cloud' turning away from the Count's gaze is allegorical of the loss of his family. Count Camodo's mansion of mixed genre stirs in the heart of its visitors mixed feelings of passion for life and respect for cultural heritage stained by a woeful sadness that only the death of a child can mark upon the soul of a human being. 

Just as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette buried their eldest son and infant daughter, so too did Camodo bury his only son. 

Bad News, (La Mauvaise Nouvelle) Jean-Baptise Marie Pierre, 1740
Musée Nissim de Camodo

As tribulation did for Marie-Antoinette, pain turned passion for life into a reflection on living.  The melancholy overtone of Camodo's dream home is struck by Bad News (Jean-Baptise Marie Pierre), while time ticks to the theme of the 'A la Douleur' clock sitting atop the mantlepiece in Moïse de Camodo's private apartment.

Count Moïse de Camodo's, The Blue Room
Musée Nissim de Camodo
©2012 B.E. Gustav Hollsten

Amid the façade of 18th century aristocratic mastery dwells an authentic 18th century aristocratic crux, profoundly poignant loss and despair - captured and held hostage in the name of posterity.  

The rarity of the Count's collection and link to the Petit Trianon is embodied in 'Bacchante', a female nude by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun. Ariadne was deserted by her lover Theseus on the island of Naxos. Thanks to the god Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of epiphany, she is discovered. Like the painting that adorns the Count's home, the theme of this mansion, echoed in the memory of Marie-Antoinette, is one of epiphany from loss.

Geneviève-Sophie Le Couteulx du Molay, 1788
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun
Oil on canvas
Musée Nissim de Camodo

Most graciously, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun's portraits soften the presence of tragedy. Lebrun stayed at Malmaison many times and considered her mistress, Sophie Le Couteulx de la Noray, one of the most elegant ladies in Paris - just as she had previously held Marie-Antoinette before her in the highest esteem.  Appropriately, her "Geneviève-Sophie Le Couteulx du Molay' (1788) sits with unassuming aristocratic presence that perhaps best defines the life, rather than the tragedy, that defined the Camodo Family. 

Isaac de Camondo's comic programme cover for Le Clown (1908) disturbingly reminds one of the comics that slandered Marie-Antoinette's previously angelic image. 

While neither Marie-Antoinette nor Moïse de Camodo would die laughing, one cannot help feel that their legacy, through the preservation of cultural heritage, dissolves the tombs of stone and barriers of time and space to bestow upon their regal and dignified spirits - the last laugh.