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HYDERABAD: Wound Up, Ground Down or Stressed Out with Everyday Life? Then visit the local art gallery or a nearby museum, where you will find artworks that will help you unwind. Nothing like gazing at a painting or a sculpture: it is meditative and soothing. Every painting/sculpture will tell a tale: if it doesn’t, you can weave your own story (this happens mostly in interpreting modern/abstract art). But if you are looking at classics, it helps to understand and appreciate art if you know the story behind.
Situated in the heart of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery is home to one of the best collections of fine art in the world. The gallery houses Scotland’s national collection of fine art, spanning Scottish international art from the beginning of the Renaissance up to the start of the 20th century. I saw some of the finest artworks there.
Canaletto in The Queen’s Gallery
When I visited the Queen’s Gallery after a tour of Holyrood Palace (Edinburgh), there was a special exhibition of Canaletto going on. We have one original Canaletto in The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and I featured it in my documentary film on this museum. I was thrilled to bits during the shoot! The same excitement surged to see so many of Canaletto’s paintings in one gallery. Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto (1697-1768) was born in Venice, the son of Bernardo Canal, a painter of stage sets. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps, but soon abandoned this low-status work and began producing view paintings, taking the city of Venice as his principal subject. Canaletto painted grand scenes of the canals of Venice and the Doge’s Palace. His large-scale landscapes portrayed the city’s pageantry and waning traditions, making innovative use of atmospheric effects and strong local colours.
Pieter De Hooch (1629-1684) Dutch
‘The Disputed Reckoning’ 1658(Oil on canvas)
The man in the foreground is confronted by the hostess with a coin obviously too small to cover his bill, hence the traditional title of the picture. The floor and the ceiling beams, as well as the walls and curtains, create a view similar to a perspective box or a doll’s house, which were popular with collectors in Holland. De Hooch was a leading artist of the ‘Delft School’, whose most famous painter was Vermeer. What an interesting subject!!
William Calder Marshall (1813-1894) Scottish
“Hebe Rejected” 1837, (Marble)
In Greek mythology Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera, was goddess of youth and cupbearer to gods. When she fell and spilled the cup of nectar, she was disgraced and replaced as cupbearer by Zeus’s lover Ganymede. Throughout his career Calder Marshall was drawn to ideal sculpture illustrating classical, Biblical or other literary subjects. This group was executed in Rome while he was studying there.
Francois, Baron Gerard (1770-1836) French
Marie-Laetitia Bonaparte, Madame Mere c.1800-3 (Oil on canvas)
This neo-classical portrait of Laetitia Ramolino (1750-1836), mother of Napoleon Bonaparte, celebrates her status as mother of the First Consul. Both the sculpted bust of Napoleon, and the view in the background of the Tuileries Palace, where he resided as Consul, allude to this. Laetitia had thirteen children of whom eight survived (Napoleon was the second eldest). She could barely write and spoke French with a strong Corsican accent. Isn’t it interesting to know about the mother who produced one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history?
Sir peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Flemish
A Study of a Head (St Ambrose) about 1616-17 (Oil on canvas)
Probably painted from a live model, this study was used for the head of the saint in Rubens’s St Ambrose barring Emperor Theodosius from Milan Cathedral, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Ambrose, fourth-century archbishop of Milan, banned Theodosius from the cathedral after the massacre of his subjects in Thessalonica. Studies such as this were kept in Reubens’s studio and re-used for other paintings. I found this, the most striking of all the paintings: it could be because of the play of the light. Rubens is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens’s highly charged compositions refer to erudite aspects of classical and Christian history. Rubens specialized in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects.
(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at