Starting May 14, 2021, the Alte Pinakothek and several other Munich museums are re-opening after a long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tickets are available only online and in limited numbers, with an admission time slot. FFP2 masks are required, and other hygiene measures are in force.
The Alte Pinakothek in Munich is an important collection of over 800 European paintings from the 14th to 18th centuries. German, Flemish, Dutch, Italian, French and Spanish paintings are all well represented.
The extensive collection of 17th century Flemish paintings includes two rooms devoted to the works of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). The large painting in this photo (above) is his Martyrdom of St. Laurentius.
Also by Rubens is this painting of condemned people descending into hell: The Fall of the Damned from 1620/21. This is his interpretation of the words of the Judge of the World according to St. Matthew’s Gospel (25, 41): “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
I once used a copy of this painting by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1618-1682) in one of my English classes to illustrate the origin of the expression nit-picking, meaning the annoying habit of paying too much attention to small and unimportant details.
A nit is the egg of an insect, usually a louse, that is sometimes found in people’s hair, and the woman in the painting is doing what most parents or grandparents have done at one time or another, even if they don’t admit it, namely searching a child’s hair for these tiny white dots.
(Famous last words: “It could never happen to my children.”)
The painting in the center is the Death of Cleopatra by the German Baroque painter Johann Liss (1597-1631). By coincidence, Liss began this painting in 1624, just a hundred years before the composer Georg Friedrich Händel came out with his opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt), about Caesar and Cleopatra.
The painter Johann Liss was quite a traveler, by the way. Between 1614 and 1619 he was in Haarlem, Amsterdam and Antwerp, and after that he traveled via Paris to Venice. From 1622 he was in Rome, and at the end of the 1620s he returned to Venice, where he died of the plague in 1631 at age 34.
My photos in this post are from 2006. I revised the text in 2021.