Monday, 6 March 2017

Collecting stuff and sorting things out.

When I think about works of art being sold, I imagine paintings, sculpture and other portable stuff. However, a castle in Wales, Gwydir castle, is trying to locate a missing parlour, complete with ornate panelling and fireplace, which was bought by Willian Randolph Hearst in the 1920s. Or rather, the owners or custodians of the castle are trying to locate the missing parlour, which used to be part of the castle. They have already found another missing interior, also bought by Hearst and subsequently sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. They stored it for decades and then the castle bought it back off them in the 1990s. It dates back to the 1640s. Amazing!

I've heard of buildings being bought, dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic to be rebuilt. Until now, however, I had not heard of individual parts of buildings being sold off like that. But apparently it's not uncommon. All sorts of bits and pieces, works of art of various kinds have been sold and transported away, often never to be seen again. An expert said, "A large proportion of Britain's art history from the 16th to 18th centuries may be missing.

It's always gone on in one form or another. Think of the stuff that was pillaged during wars in ancient times. Think of the Elgin marbles. Think of the contents of poor old Tutankhamun's tomb, for goodness sake. Except that he was neither poor nor old, but that is by the by. If you go back in history it was marauding hoards who stole the art work. In more recent times it's governments and rich folk. 

People buy and sell things. People like to collect stuff. It seems rather a shame though for works of art to be bought and then put in storage. Not seen by the public and not even seen by the purchaser. It all seems like such a waste. It's rather like compulsive shoppers who buy clothes and put them in the wardrobe, not even removing the labels and certainly never wearing them. Compulsive shoppers, however, usually don't sell on their clothes collections at a profit.

A different kind of work of art is "The Prince" by Machiavelli. Yesterday's newspaper has an article which asked "Have we got Machiavelli all wrong?" The main idea of the article was to ask us "What if the Italian civil servant whose name became shorthand for devious politics was trying to warn us about the despots, not advise them?" 

Here's an excerpt that sounds remarkably true to modern times:

"If you’re a political outsider who wants to move fast to the top job in a democracy, how to do it? You could start by dipping into a book written 500 years ago by an out-of-pocket Italian civil servant. The quickest way, it says, is to have fortune on your side from the outset, with plenty of inherited money and a leg up through family connections. If lying and breaking your oaths help you crush the opposition, so be it. Make the people your best friend. Promise to protect their interests against predatory elites and foreigners. Fan partisan hatreds so that you alone seem to rise above them, saviour of the fatherland."

Hmmm! Add to that a theory I heard about the latest scandal regarding possible wiretapping of a certain Mr Trump. He reckons President Obama is responsible. President Obama's people deny all knowledge. The head of the FBI says no such thing happened. Last night's TV news featured someone who believes that this is all smoke and mirrors. You (or Mr Trump) say something has happened and make a fuss. It goes in all the papers and other news media. Lots of people believe it. Even if/when it all proves to be untrue, you have taken attention away from other matters for which you might be criticised. Thus are things undermined!

The Ancient Roman democracy came to a sad end. Will modern democracies go the same way?

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