Sunday, February 11, 2007

Snowy Thursday in Antwerp

We woke up Thursday morning, got ready for school as usual, and walked out onto the cobblestones with light dusty snow falling. The girls were so excited at the prospect of a snowy day, they forgot their usual whine-all-the-way-to-the-tram-stop fussing and instead focused on catching snowflakes on tongues.

By the time the tram arrived at the school stop, big fat flakes were flying and there was that wonderful clean fresh feeling in the air. The girls' teachers had plans to cancel morning lessons and give in to the children's need to get out there in the courtyard and play in the snow, hoping that they could attempt some lessons later in the morning. JieJie told me later that indeed they did all go out into the courtyard, playing in the snow and throwing snowballs at a designated wall (which was more than I was allowed to do at school lest you think this sounds strict!).

The snow got in the way of a planned trip with our unversity students to Antwerp's main art museum, famous for its collection of over-altar paintings by Rubens (a famous Antwerper), also a few original works by Memling, van Eyck, Titiaan, Modigliani, Magritte, the Brueghels and others. We waited by the main U. of Antwerp entrance and I snapped some photos of the campus in the snow (see above--John and the one student who showed for the tour are in the doorway).
JieJie's teacher had assured me the beautiful white stuff would all be gone by the end of the day, and she was right. As we got to the Museum Voor Schone Kunsten the temperature was rising and the sidewalks were getting shiny.
The museum is just wonderful. It's big enough to satisfy several visits, but small enough to feel that I could find the works that might appeal to my mood on that particular visit. I got an audio guide. The narrations are very well done, though the works that are narrated seemed to be barely a quarter of the collection. I found myself wanting to know much more about certain works after being reminded how many stories there are in each painting and sculpture.
My favorite work was Jean Fouquet's Madonna with Seraphims and Cherubims because of the vivid colors and an unsettling oddness. Mary in this painting seems somewhat cold, the baby old beyond his years, but something about the whole composition really grabbed me.
I will definitely wander back to this museum when I have some time to spend. If you visit Antwerp, be sure to allow some time to stop in and meditate on the amazing treasures within.
On that note, one of the children's books we checked out of the library is Degas and the Little Dancer which gives the background of the famous sculpture. When I told JieJie tonight that the statue is in the Louvre in Paris and that we can see it in person, she seemed really excited. Gotta do my homework for these trips so they feel like scavenger hunts, eh?
We picked the girls up from school Thursday and they had so much to tell us about a fun day in the snow with their teachers and classmates. We are looking forward to another good week this week, and hoping that JieJie's little friend Sarah will return from her trip with her family.

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