Donna Williams, head of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hosted a very interesting evening out for those stuck in the city in the summertime with the presentation of “In Focus: Lucus Cranach’s Saint Maurice and Its Context.” Lucus Cranach, the artist, painted the picture of Saint Maurice sometime around 1525, using a technique known as oil on wood.
The last known owner of the painting was Eva Knolsman, who donated the piece to the museum. Knolsman, being her husband’s second wife, didn’t have an idea of how the painting came into their possession, as it had been prominently hanging in the living room before her arrival. The figure of Saint Maurice is so striking it compelled Knolsman to begin the arduous task of conducting research to learn the history of Saint Maurice and the painting’s origins. She discovered that the painting was originally owned by the Catholic Church in the early 1500s.
As the evening’s discussion—led by Dr. Lisa E. Farrington, art historian and founding chair of John Jay’s Art and Music Department, and Met curator Dr. MaryAnn Ainsworth—continued, the story unfolded. There was a time in the world during the early 1400s when western Europeans were known as barbarians and the African Moors were highly revered, especially in Germany, after having conquered much of Europe. Black men and women were honored as heroes.
Before becoming a saint, Maurice was a mighty African commander in the war before the Reformation. Legend has it that he fought with the same holy lance that pierced the side of Jesus. Whether that is truth or fable, Maurice became a martyr during the 4th century for refusing to kill Christians in Gaul. Hence, he later became the first Black saint, the patron saint of soldiers.
Fast-forward to the reign of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, who was the most powerful cardinal in the Holy Roman Empire. Albrecht established a showplace for his art collection, which consisted of more than 8,000 relics gathered from the soldiers’ armor. There was one relic in particular that was made of silver, trimmed in gold. Albrecht commissioned Cranach to paint the mid-sized portrait of Saint Maurice wearing the full regalia. And so there stands the mighty Saint Maurice, adorned in all of his glory. The painting is displayed in gallery 624 of the museum until July 27. It is a fascinating piece both for the sake of art and history.
Moving up to the 21st century, my daughter Julia is off to sleep-away camp. Last year, I felt she really needed an oversized, good-quality poncho to take with her. I searched high and low until I found just what I was looking for. For this year’s must-have addition, I wanted her to have a hooded terry cloth robe. You see, when I went to camp, the bathroom and showers with cold water only were half way across the field, so we wore our clothes there and back to our little camp huts. In today’s camps, the children stay in dorms, with the showers across the hall. I’m surprised they are not in the room, but anyway, my search for the robe began.
Granted, I waited until the last minute, and with time being of the essence, I went directly online, where everyone can find anything. That is, for a price, and the price of $40 on Amazon was a tad bit more than I wanted to spend. I was thinking more like $14.99. Hearty shopper that I am, I hit the pavement and began my search for a hooded terry cloth robe. Well, my dear readers, I might as well have been searching for a lower interest rate on my credit cards. I traveled in and out of more stores than I ever wanted to, only to have searched in vain. Don’t children wear any kind of robes anymore?
What I did learn is that we are a society of clothes. There is no reason why anyone can’t find something to wear. I was blinded by the racks of clothes, yet no robes. Needless to say, the whole escapade became a challenge. I knew there had to be a hooded terry cloth robe out there, and I was determined to find it. Ah-ha, at last, I found it, a hooded terry cloth robe, with a price tag of $149 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. After I peeled myself off of the ceiling, I settled for a one size fits all, terry cloth sorange for $19.99 and a terry cloth turban for $4.99. Still more than I had wanted to spend, but I bought it and ran.
Now that we are finally at the peak of the beach season where it is hot, hot, hot, and the water has finally warmed up enough that after the initial dunk, it is delightful, I encourage one and all to head to the beach—that is, if you’re a beach person, and I am. My city beach of choice is Jones Beach. Accessible by car via the Meadowbrook Parkway South, there is also direct bus service leaving every 30 minutes from the LIRR Freeport station.
Whichever way you chose to go, remember to take the following to get the most enjoyment out of the day. First, your outfit. You can never go wrong with a hat. Either a cap for the men or a big brim hat for the ladies, which are on sale everywhere. I passed a vendor on 96th Street near Broadway who had a pretty selection from which I would have bought but I have enough. Of course, don’t forget your sunglasses.
If you are in a bikini mood, then by all means go for it. After all, it’s the beach. If the bikini is not your thing, then consider a tank-tini or at the very least wear some comfy shorts and a tank top—something you won’t mind getting wet because, I can assure you, at some point you will want to get in the water.
A waterproof bag, towel to dry off with, big sheet to spread out in case you want to stretch out, a folding chair that you can easily carry on your shoulder, a cooler with something to drink and something to snack on are also recommeneded. Although the refreshment stands have loads of food, it is still a great idea to have something to nibble on, such as fruit or, please help me, potato chips. Umbrellas come in an array of sizes, which are easy to maneuver, or you can rent one at the beach.
Flip-flops are always great, but if you want to be cute or go for a more sophisticated look, wear those flat-as-a-pancake sandals—the ones that are too flat for walking on the hot city pavement. Last but not least, by no stretch of the imagination, don’t forget your suntan lotion. I use Australian Gold SPF 30. For people of color, no matter what your skin tone, you need sun screen to protect your skin. Repeat after me: “I need sun screen to protect my skin!” After you have repeated that 10 times, go out and enjoy yourself.
Until next week … kisses