Philip Dedrick said it was love at first sight when he set eyes on the most famous piece of Egyptian statuary, the 3,300 year old bust of Queen Nefertiti; exalting the beauty of 'maidens' with long, swan like necks and then lowered his voice in sympathy to those cursed with short stubby ones. This was quite an unexpected start of a fusty art history class, but P.D.'s classes were always anything but that. He said he reluctantly took on the task. "It began against my better judgement... too concerned with dates and dull facts... but once started it made me examine and verbalize my convictions."
With knowledge of religion, history and a proclivity for visiting nearly every museum in the world (and restaurants in their vicinity) he enthralled us with stories of art & artists that went beyond just memorizing dates. He would wax poetical over Giotto's Mary on her way to deliver the 'jewel' from her body that would become the Christ. Tell us how many nuns Fra Philipo Lipi was living with at the time he painted (3). How a baroque painting of the "rather corpulent" Sabine women hoisted on top of the horses would have been an easier task if the positions were reversed. How abstract artist Franz Marc's pacifist nature and love of animals ended as he stood still on the battlefield of Verdun and was killed. Refusing comment on Michelangelo's sexuality since he frowned on psychoanalyzing someone dead for over 400 years. Relating the story of unrequitted love that Botticelli felt for the beautiful Simonetta Vespucci who was betrothed to Giuliano De Medici... she eventually succumbing to a fever as the handsome Giuliano was murdered at the bronze doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
I don't recall what brought up the topic, but P.D. reflected to a time in his childhood when he drew and colored mermaids & mermen. Then cut them free of the paper and placed them in a hole filled with water. Innocently watching in horror as these paper creations dissolved. My mouth widened in astonishment because I had done exactly the same thing!
John Walter Waterhouse
John Walter Waterhouse
Anecdotes for these classes are endless. The noon hour class meant everyone missed out on lunch, and P.D. would go on & on about a Dutch still life with its succulent fruits that glittered with moisture until someone in class screamed, "STOP IT!" How many times did an image appear on the wall that he studied for a few seconds then said, "Next slide please. One must not speak ill of the dead." His formal pronunciation of Van Gogh (does ANYONE really know this man's name?) caused soft grumbles of outrage when it finally dawned who he was talking about- followed by the loud swell of angry erasers. He had planned to skip Bernini but I liked the artist so volunteered to do the lecture. Thus I waxed poetic while he sat in the front. "Take me to a vomitorium," I heard mumbled loudly. When discussing Pluto's fingers pressed into the stone flesh of Persephone there came another loud and snide, "Yes, count each and every finger!"
The perfidious Gian Lorenzo Bernini~
Then came the time when he rushed late into class, the lights already out, hurrying down the steps to the front and his head collided with one of the wooden student projects on the wall. As he spoke the blood cascaded down his face. The class was petrified. With no hesitation I jumped from behind the carrel, grabbed his arm, and lead him out and into the mens room where I washed away the blood. "I don't even have a headache," he said indignantly, confirming his strong Christian Scientist faith. "Fine," I shot back, "But you're grossing everyone out!" Class continued.
~Venus & Mars~
(aka: Simonetta & Giuliano)