Mona Lisa smiles, but was she happy?

Mona Lisa

One of the most famous paintings, if not the most famous painting is the Mona Lisa,painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1503 or 1504 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint Lisa del Giocondo (nee Gherardini), the painting became known as the Mona Lisa. Aged 15, real-life Lisa Gherardini married Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. a modestly successful cloth and silk merchant, becoming his third wife. Lisa’s dowry( the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband or his family in marriage)was 170 florins and the San Silvestro farm near her family’s country home.

Francesco del Giocondo,regularly bought girls from North Africa and converted them to Christianity with many working as maids at the del Giocondo household. However there would have been too many to work in the household, it is therefor very likely he sold some of the girls as slaves.

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Lisa’s sister Camilla,  who was a nun, caused a scandal when she and some other nuns were accused of allowing four men to touch them indecently.

I wonder how much reasons did Lisa have to smile.

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Sources

Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti: Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Suitcase

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A suitcase has a significant meaning , it indicates a change, often temporary and sometimes for an extended time, but no one ever expects the symbol of the end of a life.

Many songs have the word suitcase in their lyrics and it is often in a sad context like in the Beatles son Lady Madonna the line says “Friday night arrives without a suitcase” indicating yet another weekend has come still trying to make ends meet, without getting a break.

But a suitcase can also bring excitement for there is an imminent journey, heading to perhaps exotic places. A break from the daily grind, time to refresh yourself.Or it can signify a new start beginning.

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The Nazi’s had one plan for the Jews and one plan only they referred to it as ‘die Endlösung” or “Final Solution”, the eradication of all Jews.But just killing them wasn’t good enough they also had to be humiliated. They were also given false hope. They were told they were going to be resettled to the east, where they would have a ‘new beginning’.

All they could take though was one suitcase, they were instructed to mark their suitcases for later identification..

I have thought about this , what would I take if I was told I could take only 1 suitcase?. I would pack some clothes but above everything else I would pack things which were dear to me, photographs, keepsakes of family members,heirlooms and in my case also music.

I am sure that most people would pack similar things.Many Jews also believed they would return to their homes after the nightmare which was World War 2 was over, they didn’t know they would end up in an even worse nightmare . the holocaust, and they would never see their belongings or loved ones again for they were murdered often in the most brutal way possible. And even for those who survived their belongings would have been spread all over the world, the Nazis made sure of that.

They had special units who were tasked and specialized in stealing all belongings of the Jews and emptying the homes of Jews. Units like the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce.

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The stolen art would end up in places like Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, which was used by the likes of Hermann Göring as an art Supermarket where he could go in and take whatever he fancied, without paying anything for it. He didn’t even mind taking the so called Degenerate art.

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His henchman ,the art dealer Bruno Lohse, would ensure to get a good price for the stolen goods making himself and Göring wealthy men. Unlike Göring who committed suicide before he could be sentenced, Lohse would live a long and comfortable life, he died in 2007 aged 95. A few weeks after his death in May 2007, the seizure of a secret Zurich bank vault registered to Schönart Anstalt ( which had been under Lohse’s control since 1978) turned up a valuable Camille Pissarro painting stolen by the Gestapo from the Fischer family in 1938 when they fled the Nazis and left Vienna, as well as paintings of uncertain provenance by Monet and Renoir.

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Still to this day stolen jewelry,art and furniture is showing up and sold on antique markets all over Germany and other European countries.

Even the possibility to pass family belongings to future generations was denied to those who were murdered in the concentration camps and the death camps, often all that remains to remind us that they even existed is a suitcase with a name written on it.

Leon

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In the end Hitler and his mates were pathetic hypocrites.

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One of the things I can’t comprehend is the fact that no one appear to be seeing through the lies and hypocrisy of the Nazi regime.

They saw they Jews as vermin and filth. And everything Jewish was forbidden, Jewish books were burned, Jewish music was banned. Basically in the eyes of Hitler and his cronies the Jews were a contaminated and tainted race.

Here is the thing if I find something tainted and contaminated I want nothing to do with it, and want to stay as far away from it and everything it came in contact with.

That is also the message the Nazi spread. However they were not afraid the steal art and valuables belonging to Jews. They even would go as far as taking the gold teeth or gold dental caps of those they had murdered in the gas chambers, to remelt the gold and use it again.

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They had an organisation dedicated to steeling art and valuables. The ‘Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg’ or Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce, were tasked to to confiscate:

  • precious manuscripts and books from national libraries and archives;
  • important artifacts of ecclesiastical authorities and Masonic lodges;
  • all valuable cultural property belonging to Jews.ERR_Seal

They must have been one of the busiest Nazi task force  by their own estimates until 17 October 1944, they transitioned, 1,418,000 railway wagons containing books and works of art as well as 427,000 tonnes by ship.Neuschwanstein Castle was the ERR’s principal storage facility, but they also used salt mines and other places.

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Some of the art was only found decades after the war and some was never found. Below are and valuables  just some impressions of the are recovered by the allied troops. The first picture is a famous picture and although it is not graphic it is nonetheless harrowing for it is a picture of gold rings, of victims of concentration camps.

Rings

Loot 2

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The effects of Operation Market Garden are still being felt today.

Garden

Operation Market Garden started on September 17 1944. It was supposed to end the war in the Netherlands.But the operation failed, as a result the war was prolonged for several months,compounded with one of the severest winters on record it resulted in a famine for the northern provinces.

POW

But there was more,as a form of reprisal the Germans started stealing everything valuable they could find. although Market Garden failed the Germans knew the war was coming to an end and they would be on the losing side.

Dr J.H. Smidt van Gelder, the director of the children’s hospital in Arnhem, stored 6 works of art in a bank vault for safekeeping during the Second World War.

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One of the pieces was a painting called The Oyster Meal by Jacob Ochtervelt The paintings were looted in January 1945, when the Nazis plundered the town.Although the instructions were given not to loot the banks a German officer called Temmler paid no attention to those instructions.

Even Himmler had warned about Temmler, he said he would bring disrespect to the Nazi party, killing millions was okay, but stealing art was disrespectful.

The painting then made a bit of a mysterious journey. In 1971 was acquired by the property  Harold Samuel,  it had  painting reappeared on the Swiss art market ,a few decades after the war, where Harold Samuel bought it

Harold Samuel  bequeathed the painting to the City of London Corporation in 1987, on condition that they be shown permanently in Mansion House.

The Commission for Looted Art in Europe uncovered the history of the painting and discovered the rightful owners. Samuel’s daughters agreed to waive the condition so that The Oyster Meal could be returned to Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck, the daughter of Dr van Gelder,she is now aged 97.

It was returned to her in November 2017.

The painting will go on auction at Sotheby’s in July 2018, estimated value 2.5 Million Pounds Sterling.

oyster meal

 

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Sources

BBC

Sotheby’s

Rembrandt’s tragedies

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There is this funny riddle, it goes like “What’s Rembrandt’s first name?” Rembrandt of course is his first name, his last name is van Rijn.

But unlike the riddle his life wasn’t funny. He suffered many tragedies in his life.He got married on June 22 1634 to Saskia van Uylenburgh.

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Saskia was the cousin of a friend of Rembrandt,Hendrick van Uylenburgh, Hendrick was also an art dealer. and when Rembrandt first moved to Amsterdam he stayed with  van Uylenburgh.

Rembrandt and Saskia got married in the local church of St. Annaparochie without the any of Rembrandt’s family being present.

Their first born, a son by the name Rumbartus died in 1635, only 2 months after birth.Their first daughter Cornelia died in 1638, she was only 3 weeks old. Their second daughter also called Cornelia died in 1640 who barely lived for a month.

In 1941 their 4th child, a son called Titis was born.Saskia died in 1642 most likely from tuberculosis. Titus survived into adulthood and became a monk for a while.

Monk Titus

Rembrandt never remarried but he did have a long term relationship with Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been his maid. They had a daughter together in 1654, and to no surprise she was called Cornelia, who died in 1684 in Batavia, Java, Indonesia.

His son Titus did marry Magdalena van Loo, the daughter of a Silversmith.

Rembrandt outlived both Hendrickje, who died in 1663, and Titus, who died in 1668, leaving a baby daughter,Titia. He died within a year of his son, on 4 October 1669 in Amsterdam. His son’s wife and mother-in-law also died in 1669.

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Art of the Holocaust

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This will be a blog with vert few words but mostly pictures. Pictures drawn by victims of the Holocaust. The artists are unknown, or at least unknown to me. but the art tells a bleak story of daily life in the concentration camps.

The above picture is of a clergy man holding some sort of church service, in the right bottom corner a bible verse is mentioned. Matthew 24:24

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Gas chamber

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These speak for themselves

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The following pictures are all from the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

 

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Nazi Thievery

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There are so many analysis done about the Nazis and their psyche etc. But if you strip it down to basics all they were was a bunch of vile criminals with a warped ideology and sense of self importance, led by a delusional failed artist.

Even at the end they still worshiped this little man who actually wasn’t even born in Germany.

With torn picture of his feuhrer beside his clenched fist, a dead general of the Volkssturm lies on the floor of city hall, Leipzig, Germany. He committed suicide rather than face U.S. Army troops who captured the city on April 19. 1945.

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Aside from being thugs and murderers they were also thieves. Unfortunately a lot of their stolen goods was never recovered, but below are pictures of stolen goods which the Nazis weren’t able to keep hidden.

Manet s Wintergarden A painting by the french impressionist Edouard Manet, titled Wintergarden , discovered in the vault at Merkers

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Generals Eisenhower and Bradley General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, and General Omar N. Bradley, CG, 12th Army Group, examine a suitcase of silverware, part of German loot stored in a salt mine at Merkers.

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Looted Art Treasures General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Allied commander, inspects art treasures looted by the Germans and stored away in the Merkers salt mine. Behind GEN Eisenhower are General Omar N. Bradley (left), CG of the 12th Army Group, and (right) LT Gen George S. Patton, Jr

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Troops find loot hidden in church German loot stored in church at Ellingen, Germany found by troops of the U.S. Third Army

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Durer Engraving M. SGT Harold Maus of Scranton, PA is pictured with the Durer engraving, found among other art treasures at Merker

Durer Collection
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Rembrant Painting An unknown Rembrant recovered safe in Munich

ERR Rembrandt
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The Graces in the Gardens of the Hesperides A Rubens painting The Graces in the Gardens of the Hesperides taken by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg

ERR Looted painting
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Saphor Torahs Chaplain Samuel Blinder examines one of the hundreds of Saphor Torahs (sacred scrolls) part of a cache of Hebrew and Jewish books that were stolen and collected from every occupied country in Europe.

Saphor Torahs
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Van Gogh playing it by ear

 

100104_r19185_p646Pardon the pun in the title but I couldn’t resist.

On December 23  1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cut off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France.He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

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Van Gogh and Gauguin visited Montpellier in December 1888, where they saw works by Courbet and Delacroix in the Musée Fabre.Their relationship began to deteriorate; Van Gogh admired Gauguin and wanted to be treated as his equal, but Gauguin was arrogant and domineering, which frustrated Van Gogh. They often quarrelled; Van Gogh increasingly feared that Gauguin was going to desert him, and the situation, which Van Gogh described as one of “excessive tension”, rapidly headed towards crisis point.

The official version about van Gogh’s legendary act of self-harm usually goes that the disturbed Dutch painter severed his left ear lobe with a razor blade in a fit of lunacy after he had a row with Gauguin one evening shortly before Christmas 1888.

Bleeding heavily, van Gogh then wrapped it in cloth, walked to a nearby bordello and presented the severed ear to a prostitute, who fainted when he handed it to her.

He then went home to sleep in a blood-drenched bed, where he almost bled to death, before police, alerted by the prostitute, found him the next morning.

He was unconscious and immediately taken to the local hospital, where he asked to see his friend Gauguin when he woke up, but Gauguin refused to see him.

Le_Forum_Républicain_(Arles)_-_30_December_1888_-_Vincent_van_Gogh_ear_incident

However rumours have it the  Vincent van Gogh may have made up the whole story to protect his friend Gauguin, a keen fencer, who actually lopped it off with a sword during a heated argument.

Some historians say that the real version of events has never surfaced because the two men both kept a “pact of silence” – Gauguin to avoid prosecution.

vincent-van-gogh

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Death Camp Diary

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We might have been able to get out of it, but we didn’t want to. Since we’re in it, we’re going. In this case it’s best to leave things as you find them. We’ve been allowed to take all our luggage—a good sign. Maybe they were right and we’re following the men. I’m looking forward to it; perhaps I’ll see Dad by the end of the day.

The above words were from Helga Weiss, (born 1929) is a Czech artist, and a Holocaust survivor. Raised in Prague, on December 4, 1941 she and her parents were interned in the Terezin ghetto.

In October 1944, aged 15, she and her mother were moved to Auschwitz. As new victims arrived, they were sorted… sent to the left for the ovens, right to live longer. The person sorting that day may have been the infamous Josef Mengele.Whoever it was, Helga convinced him she was old enough to live longer, claiming to be 18, and was told to go to the rightShe also successfully claimed that her mother was younger than she really was.

She kept a diary, in words and pictures, and when she and her mother were sent on to Auschwitz in 1944, her uncle hid the diary in a brick wall for safekeeping.Her pictures tell the compelling story of life in the death camps.

Snowman, December 1941: ‘The first picture I made in Terezin. I smuggled it to my father in the men’s barracks and he wrote back: ‘Draw what you see!’

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The Transport of Polish Children, 29 August 1943. Helga Weiss recalls: ‘These children arrived in deplorable condition and were quarantined the whole time in Terezin. They were supposed to be sent to Switzerland but ended up in Auschwitz.

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Waiting Room of the Emergency Clinic, 26 July 1943. ‘Due to the poor living conditions, the waiting room was always full.’

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The Dormitory in the Barracks at Terezin, 1942. ‘There are 21 of us in quite a small room. Mum and I have 1.20 square metres.

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No explanation needed.

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For Her 14th Birthday, November 1943. ‘A picture for my friend Francka. We were born in the same maternity home, shared a bunk and became best friends in Terezin. We imagined what it would be like in 14 years – in 1957 – when we were both mothers and could go for walks in Prague. Francka died in Auschwitz before her 15th birthday.’

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ART IN THE FACE OF THE HOLOCAUST-Part 2

degenerate-art-munich-exhibition-1937-620

Degenerate art was a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe Modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German, Jewish, or Communist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art.

Degenerate Art also was the title of an exhibition, held by the Nazis in Munich in 1937, consisting of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

Degenerate-Hitler-Ziegler

Of course this also highlighted the stupidity of the Nazi ideology because some of these pieces of art were priceless. The only real degenerate artist was Adolf Hitler himself.

The painting at the top of this blog is ‘The Beach’ by Max Beckmann .Below are some further examples of “degenerate art” and also other art pieces created during the Holocaust.

A painting of Journalist Sylvia von Harden, by Otto Dix. Dated 1926

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Portrait of the Writer Max Hermann-Neisse” by George Grosz (1925).

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Bathers With A Turtle Henri Matisse

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Vincent van Gogh’s work found itself under Nazi scrutiny due to his Expressionist influences. The distorted swirls and cascading colors were too modern, thus making them too degenerate.

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Following are some drawings by Leo Yeni.

In fall 1943, Leo and his family fled north to the mountains near Varese, close to the Swiss border. His family decided that Leo should escape into Switzerland. He was apprehended and interrogated by the Swiss Police at the border and denied entry. With the aid of smugglers, he tried again. He was arrested and detained in a military cell in Lugano as an illegal alien. After reviewing his papers, a Swiss Captain told Leo that he was accepted as a refugee and he was interned in a detention camp. Leo was held in Unterwalden (Bellinzona), Plenterplatz in Zurich, and Lajoux in the Jura Bernoise. Through HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and the Red Cross, Leo was able to contact a maternal relative, Rene Della Torre in the United States. Leo’s parents had been arrested by Italian Fascist police on December 6, 1943. They were jailed in Varese and then taken to Milan where they were deported by the Germans to Auschwitz concentration camp on January 30, 1944, and killed on February 6.

The war ended in May 1945. Leo resumed his education at L’Ecole d’Art in Switzerland. In July 1946, Leo emigrated from Le Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel, Switzerland, to America aboard the Marine Flasher. He settled in New York and his relatives helped him find a job as a designer. Leo had a successful career as a textile designer. He was active in local artists’ organizations and his artwork was frequently exhibited. He later taught painting. He married Rose Baumoel (1917-1992) on January 20, 1947. Rose was a school teacher. The couple had two children. Leo became a naturalized citizen in 1949. Leo, 91, passed away on February 7, 2011.

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Ervin Abadi, a Hungarian Jew from Budapest, was an aspiring young artist when WWII began. He was drafted into the Hungarian labor service in the early 1940s. Abadi managed to escape, but was recaptured and immediately deported to Bergen-Belsen. When the camp was liberated, his condition was such that he required extended hospitalization. During his convalescence, he created dozens of works of holocaust art, including ink drawings, pencil and ink sketches and watercolors.
After recuperating Abadi returned to Budapest, where he published a collection of his watercolors in 1946. After becoming disillusioned with the communist regime in Hungary, he moved to Israel, where he continued to publish in Hungarian and Hebrew. He died in Israel in 1980. Below pictures are dated 1945.

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