Tag Archives: Jan Gossaert

Ducks and Details

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I have been noticing lots of tiny detail lately. Perhaps it’s the light and colour of the world at the moment, shocking after so much muted winter. Or maybe it’s that old adage: “Once an editor…”

This kicked off with Jan Gossaert’s Adoration of the Kings, caught on Saturday at the National Gallery in a breathless moment sandwiched between my train and my Mozart rehearsal. Wow. The heavy gold embroidery and wafty ermine trim on Melchior’s spectacular cloak, offset by the wrinkles in his bright red tights. The hairy wart on the kneeling king Caspar’s face. Balthasar’s crown. Oh my wombats, as Taya would say: that CROWN. And the red hoo-dad clothy whatnot with the artist’s name scrolled in gold! When I’m in the mood for absurd perfection, Gossaert hits every single duck in the firing range – much as I somehow did while legless at a college ball many years ago. Perhaps I should have had a stab at painting an ermine trim that night too.

The other detailed marvel of Saturday was Grinling Gibbons’ reredos at St James’s Piccadilly, venue for Surrey Voices and Mozart’s Requiem. It’s incredible that a human being with fingers and thumbs whittled this perfect thing, full of petals and knobbly seedpods and lots and lots of space in between the fine thread-like stems, all from a once-solid lump of lime wood. Unlike the ermine trim, I feel this would have been an irresponsible thing to have attempted on my duck-jackpot evening.

I concentrated on my own kind of details on Saturday night. Not singing “Rex!” at full volume on the first beat of the bar while everyone else sang it a beat later. Pelting through fantastically frilly runs of “Dona Eis Requiem” and “Christe Eleison” and ending on the same note as everyone else. Negotiating sneaky F-sharps looming at speed like oil spills halfway round Mario Kart’s Mushroom Cup.

It doesn’t make me a genius, but it’ll have to do.

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