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December 29, 2019

"Extreme connoisseurship" — Up close and personal with a few square inches of Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party"

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Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik wrote , "Starting on a Tuesday [at Washington, D.C.'s Phillips Collection]...  and continuing through Saturday, I chose a single detail, from a single picture, to dwell on each day. I've rarely had a more exhilarating time."

His first picture was Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party"; his article follows.

Blake Gopnik Reflects on Glassware in Renoir's 'Luncheon'

There was only one logical place to begin a close encounter with the Phillips.

So, for the umpteenth time, I dragged myself in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party." I've always found this famous picture coy and stagy, almost saccharine. If impressionism billed itself as the "painting of modern life," I've found the "Luncheon" more like the "faking of modern life." There's a pretense that we're getting a snapshot view of a bunch of friends out for a good time on the Seine in 1881. But it doesn't take long to figure out that each of these friends has been separately costumed and staged, then composited -- Photoshopped, almost -- into a single scene. Maybe that's why the painting's bonhomie between the rich and working classes feels more like conceit than reality.

Try as I may to walk resolutely by, however, one detail in the "Luncheon" always stops me cold: the few gorgeously painted glasses at the front edge of its table.

That glassware has a palpable, material presence like almost nothing else in the picture. Renoir reserved his thickest, fleshiest paint for these glasses, and it functions as a kind of antidote for the staginess of the rest of the painting. The artist is working like a Las Vegas magician, grabbing our attention with something small and striking, distracting us from the trickery behind the larger illusion. The thick paint makes us believe in the presence of that glassware, almost right there for the touching, and that belief rubs off across the canvas. Still lifes have always stood for truth to appearances, and Renoir's does, too.

But another look shows that things aren't that simple. That tactile paint may represent the touchable things in the world, but it also points to the absolutely artificial, painterly means the artist uses to portray them. Early on, a standard insult was that impressionist pictures were like paint-blotched palettes presented as art. Coming close to Renoir's still life, you can almost take that insult as fact: His grapes could be dabs of color waiting to be picked up by a brush; the inside of his red-wine glass looks like a patch of palette where the artist wiped his tools. Renoir's still life is poised on the knife edge -- the palette-knife edge -- between obvious artifice and successful illusion.

Even in purely optical terms, Renoir's still life plays games that come close to deceit. From a distance, and at first glance, I had an easy read of what the wide-mouth glass in front [below]

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is all about: It's full of red-wine dregs, as it should be at the end of a big meal after boating. The burgundy-colored paint Renoir uses in the bottom of the glass is barely found elsewhere in the picture.

Then, coming closer for a second look, I realized that the bottom of the glass is actually built from dabs of that burgundy that come mixed with tiny flecks of brilliant orange, precisely the two pigments that are blended in the bodice of the dog-kissing beauty nearby, whom Renoir went on to marry. Those duplicated pigments must be meant to convey a sense of her reflection in the bottom of the glass -- even though an empty glass wouldn't really reflect such distant colors so purely. Rather than being an actual depiction of an actual reflection, Renoir's doubling of these colors is more like a symbolic act: It stands for the way reflective surfaces can trap objects that are far away from them. It's as though Renoir's girlfriend has been poured bodily into the bottom of the glass, then drunk up along with the wine.

That girlfriend-tinged glass must be the painter's own. Renoir, as the observer of this scene, is of course the one person we don't get to see in it. But his empty place at the table is there in front of us, at its head. All the glassware is painted from Renoir's point of view. It's seen from nearby and right in front and from slightly above, as though the painter has just stood up to take in the party he's hosting.

Except that Renoir's own painting won't let him do such standing up and looking. The glassware may be painted from nearby and in front, but the perspective of the table it sits on, and more or less of this whole scene, is in fact calculated from the point of view of someone standing improbably far off to the right. The observer of that table -- the painter of this scene -- has to be standing toward or past the right edge of the picture, strangely withdrawn from the revelry. (If this table were being viewed from the middle of its near end, its two sides would converge away from us like railway tracks, whereas in fact its sides are painted almost parallel and pointing off to the right.) The kind of lopsided construction used in the "Luncheon" has nothing to do with the snapshot views of impressionism. It has everything to do with the calculations of Old Master art.

The "Luncheon," that is, comes closer to the dramatic artifice of a classic Last Supper than to a real slice of mealtime fun. Which brings us back to the painting's still life. An empty glass on a pure white cloth, with some biscuits and grapes nearby -- in the tradition of Christian art Renoir was trained in, this kind of subject has to evoke an altar cloth set with Eucharistic chalice, wine and bread, all ready for a transubstantiation to occur. According to that reading, looking closely at a few empty glasses has let us in on something crucial about this entire painting: If it doesn't represent things as they are, that's because it isn't trying to. It represents a kind of almost-sacred allegory in which, in a single moment of mystery that's been captured by the painter, the world has been transformed and purified and shaped into a better image of itself. It's a world where sex and class and income barely matter, so long as there's wine to be drunk.

December 29, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Periodic Table of Videos

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Finally, you're in your element.

More?

Check out their YouTube channel which, when I visited earlier this week, had 1.29 million subscribers.

December 29, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jabberwocky — Lewis Carroll (1872)

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December 29, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

BehindTheMedspeak: Behind Blue Eyes

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Long story short: Professor Hans Eiberg of the University of Copenhagen discovered that every blue-eyed person on Earth descends from one individual whose genes mutated 6,000 to 10,000 years ago — a blink of an eye in the history of man.

Prior to that individual's emergence, every human on the planet had brown eyes.

I wonder if the individual was instantly made queen (or king).

Below, a January 30, 2008 press release from the University of Copenhagen about the discovery.

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor

New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.


What is the genetic mutation?

"Originally, we all had brown eyes", said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. "But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a "switch", which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes". The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The "switch", which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris – effectively "diluting" brown eyes to blue. The switch's effect on OCA2 is very specific therefore. If the OCA2 gene had been completely destroyed or turned off, human beings would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour — a condition known as albinism.


Limited genetic variation

Variation in the colour of the eyes from brown to green can all be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. "From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor," says Professor Eiberg. "They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA." Brown-eyed individuals, by contrast, have considerable individual variation in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production.

Professor Eiberg and his team examined mitochondrial DNA and compared the eye colour of blue-eyed individuals in countries as diverse as Jordan, Denmark and Turkey. His findings are the latest in a decade of genetic research, which began in 1996, when Professor Eiberg first implicated the OCA2 gene as being responsible for eye colour.


Nature shuffles our genes

The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles, and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human's chance of survival. As Professor Eiberg says, "It simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so."

Below, the abstract of the paper, published in the January 3, 2008 issue of Human Genetics.

Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression

The human eye color is a quantitative trait displaying multifactorial inheritance. Several studies have shown that the OCA2 locus is the major contributor to the human eye color variation. By linkage analysis of a large Danish family, we finemapped the blue eye color locus to a 166 Kbp region within the HERC2 gene. By association analyses, we identified two SNPs within this region that were perfectly associated with the blue and brown eye colors: rs12913832 and rs1129038. Of these, rs12913832 is located 21.152 bp upstream from the OCA2 promoter in a highly conserved sequence in intron 86 of HERC2. The brown eye color allele of rs12913832 is highly conserved throughout a number of species. As shown by a Luciferase assays in cell cultures, the element significantly reduces the activity of the OCA2 promoter and electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrate that the two alleles bind different subsets of nuclear extracts. One single haplotype, represented by six polymorphic SNPs covering half of the 3' end of the HERC2 gene, was found in 155 blue-eyed individuals from Denmark, and in 5 and 2 blue-eyed individuals from Turkey and Jordan, respectively. Hence, our data suggest a common founder mutation in an OCA2 inhibiting regulatory element as the cause of blue eye color in humans. In addition, an LOD score of Z = 4.21 between hair color and D14S72 was obtained in the large family, indicating that RABGGTA is a candidate gene for hair color.

You know what music I'm hearing....

December 29, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Puma Active Gaming Footwear

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What took so long?

From the website:

Created with console gamers in mind, the gaming sock is the first edition Active Gaming Footwear.

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Designed for indoor and in-arena use, it delivers seamless comfort, support, and grip so gamers can adapt to different active gaming modes and game their best.

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Features and Benefits:

  • Medial wrap-up grip in SEEK mode
  • Lateral wrap-up support in ATTACK mode
  • Heel wrap-up stability in CRUISE and DEFENSE mode

Too trickee 4u

Details:

  • TPU skin added support
  • Engineered knitted upper for comfort and breathability
  • Custom last sock-like fit
  • Outsole: low profile rubber outsole for grip
  • Insole: two densities foams co-molded with a non-woven layer to improve comfort and increase torsion control

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$160.

December 29, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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