Unlofty Thoughts on the Lofty Art at the Staedel Museum


Sandro Botticelli, Idealized Portrait of a Lady

Idealized or not, I want to try that hairstyle.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Luca Giordano, Youth Tempted by the Vices

I like how one of the tempters in this temptation scene is cockblocking the lady in blue, who is so desperately trying to get her temptation through to the temptee lad in red that she is squirting breast milk at him. Which, to be fair, it looks like he wants some of that.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Simon George of Cornwall

Oh hey, it’s my new bae. So hot, so stylish, with a particularly suggestive broach (it’s Leda and the Swan). Yeah, okay, so he’s bringing me a carnation as a symbol of his love, but that’s just the flower of choice from his time, okay? He doesn’t know how unfashionable they are now.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Rhenish Master, Altenberg Altarpiece

I just like that Mary and Elizabeth get a panel to themselves. They get to have a breath here and exclaim over the news they’ve just received before it’s all about angels and holy sons again.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Aert de Gelder, Self-Portrait as Zeuxis Portraying an Ugly Old Woman

THIS dickweed. Here we have a self-portrait of the artist painting a middle-aged, ‘ugly’ lady so that she appears younger and more conventionally attractive. The smirk on his face says it all: ‘Delusional bitches, huh? But ya gotta pay the rent.’


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes

I really admire the way she’s working hard to keep blood splatter off their dresses.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Allegory of the Arts

Architecture and Music in the background all, ‘No it’s fine, we like it back here in the dark, we prefer it actually, we’re pretty sensitive to light, we know you didn’t mean to imply that we’re unimportant or anything, yeah we understand, it’s just for the layout of the painting, sure, sure.’


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Middle Rhenish master, Crucifixion Altarpiece allegedly from St Peter’s in Frankfurt

Poor woman, she’s clinging to the crucifix and mourning the death of Jesus, and then along comes this horse that clearly wants a piece of her.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Strasbourg master, The Preparation of the Cross

Wardrobe & makeup doing some fix-up work on Jesus between takes on set.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Adriaen Brouwer, The Bitter Potion

Ordered ale. Got lager.


Staedel Museum, Frankfurt

Northern Netherlandish master, Triptych with the Crucifixion, Saints and Donors

‘We’re definitely in the wrong triptych.’
‘I told you we went to the wrong one.’
‘I know, I’m sorry! I just got nervous and jumped in. What are we going to do now?’
‘Smile. Look like you’re praying. Maybe they won’t notice.’

The Staedel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany is a wonderful place. I spent three hours on the Old Masters’ floor alone. Many beautiful pieces to discover–if you’re ever in Frankfurt, be sure to visit!

Funny Money

I’ve handled lots of currencies by now, and by far the most baffling set of coins I’ve encountered is the British. Not so much how they add up—it’s all on the decimal system—but the sizes and shapes. Look: you’ve got one penny, two pence, five pence, ten pence, twenty pence, fifty pence, one pound, and two pounds. Most of them make little sense as physical things.

The coins of the United Kingdom

What genius decided to make the two pence coin only slightly larger than the ten pence? When you’re feeling around for change in your purse, and you triumphantly emerge with just the coin you need to make that purchase, how crushing to realize you’re still 8p short because all you have is a couple pennies with an inflated sense of importance.

Then there’s the five pence piece, bane of my grandmother’s existence when she’s counting up the change in charity boxes and forever losing sight of them because they’re so tiny. Fiddly little coins, she calls them, and she’s not wrong. They’re so small and light (smaller and lighter than the penny, which is only one-fifth the value, because that makes sense), it’s a wonder anyone can find them in their coin purse at all. I’m pretty sure there’s an alternate universe populated solely by missing socks and millions of 5p pieces.

Why are the twenty pence piece and the fifty pence piece heptagons? Is this another Masonic conspiracy of some sort? Seven’s a significant number, right? Seven deadly sins, seven days in the week, seven wonders of the world, seven dwarves, seven shopping days til Christmas… At least there’s no worry of mixing up these coins with any others; the 50p piece is so large, chipmunks could use it as a dinner plate, and the 20p piece neatly fits within the circumference of the 10p piece, proving that we hold within us the ability to be twice as much as we are.

But there’s one coin you won’t find me puzzling over: the pound. The pound is a perfect coin, slightly smaller than the 10p but thicker than all the other coins, with a heft to it that lets you know immediately you’re holding a coin worth something. It’s thick enough to have writing around the edge; usually it’s the Latin for ‘an ornament and a safeguard,’ but there’s also a Welsh slogan (‘true am I to my country’) and a Scottish one (‘no one provokes me with impunity’—of course that’s the Scottish slogan).

At least it’s better than the former set-up, which worked according to the ancient Roman system, wherein 240 silver pennies equalled one pound of silver. This resulted in things like the half-crown, worth two shillings and a sixpence, which is less than a guinea but more than a tanner, and a few bob was much more than a few farthings, but not always equal to a florin. What? Yes. That foreign language you’re reading in a Dickens novel is the language of a money system standardized in medieval times. Spare a ha’penny, guvnor?

Of course, there are real reasons for these sizes and shapes, mostly related to when the switch from old money to the decimal system was made in 1971. But this is funnier. Final fun fact: since the switch to decimalization was made partway through Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, all the coins in the decimal system have only ever worn the face of one monarch.


Too Old for Hostels

Matador has a great post up about how you know you’re too old to stay at hostels. Just about every one of those applies to me, except I don’t think about telling people to shut the hell up after 1:30am, I actually say that to them.

Most cities have non-party hostels, so those are the ones I usually stay at, thus bypassing many of the problems mentioned in the Matador post (party boats, etc.). And in Southeast Asia, a private hotel room with attached bathroom was so cheap, I usually went with those.

But some of the things they mention–rolling your eyes any time someone talks about “just living,” stereotyping Australians–well, those apply anywhere.

Helpful Advice When Someone You Know Is Robbed

Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Just Been the Victim of a Nonviolent Robbery (all true things I heard within hours of having my purse snatched in Peru)

“You really have to be careful with your things.”

“So you were just sitting there writing? He didn’t hold a knife to you or anything? How did you not notice?”

“You know the police aren’t going to do anything, right?”

“They’re only material items.”

“Oh, you’ll be upset for a couple days, but after that you’ll feel so free and unburdened by the things of this world.”
Note that it is particularly vile to pontificate thusly while holding an iPhone 5.


The One Truly Helpful Thing to Say to Someone Who Has Just Been the Victim of a Nonviolent Robbery

“That’s terrible. I’m so sorry! Can I buy you a drink?”

Mid-Michigan Humor

My friends and I didn’t drink in high school, but we found plenty of other ways to amuse ourselves. If we could annoy some adults while we were at it, all the better. So for a little while we liked playing Liberation Lettuce, named after a head of iceberg lettuce we found in the socks section of our local superstore one day. We decided someone had liberated that lettuce from captivity in the produce section, and we wanted to free other grocery store items too. Move socks next to the cheese. Shift some Sharpies over to the contact lens section. It was silly, and hopefully we never moved enough stuff to make the employees’ jobs harder. But a couple weeks ago, I saw an inspired example of Liberation Lettuce, which brought the game to new heights. Whoever you are, chocolate sauce aficionado, I salute you.

And it's on sale!

And it’s on sale!