Monday, 29 December 2008
Office Party faux PAS?
Readers of this blog will hardly be surprised to learn that the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme is not on my Christmas card list this year. I was therefore surprised to find on opening my mail this morning that I was on theirs.
I received a card posted in Cambridge on 20th Dec. Inside in Michael Lewis' handwriting it says "Dear Paul, merry christmas and many thanks for all your support for PAS in 2008!" and underneath are signatures of 23 members of PAS staff. It is not unlikely that this originated as some huge sarcastic joke at a December get-together of FLOs and PAS staff, presumably the office Christmas party and perhaps at this stage they were very very merry. As perhaps were the post office workers who delivered it to Poland with only a first class stamp on it (overseas mail costs more).
I found the picture on the card appropriate. Its a fragment of a fresco in the Milan Pinacoteca di Brera (I think) by the Lombard artist Bernardino Luini (c. 1475-1531) showing angelic musicians. The irony of this is that works by Luini were extremely popular among private collectors from 1790 to about 1900, as a result of which many of his frescoes were detached from their original settings as an integral part of the interior decoration of Renaissance buildings in northern Italy and scattered to the four winds. Rather like the portable antiquity collectors with whom the PAS is now in "partnership" are doing to archaeological sites (ripping out their integral parts to form part of scattered personal collections). Many of Luini's works in private hands have suffered through inappropriate handling and many have lost their provenance, which is a shame given the scarcity of documentation on the painter's life and work.
Thank you Sam, Wendy, Ciorstaidh, Anne B, Laura, Kate, Adam, Julian, David, Anja, Rob, Michael, Illegible 1, Illegible 2, Anni, Katie H, Kevin Leahy, Roger, Frances, Illegible3, Jennifer, Liz and Geoff for the Christmas wishes, I hope you all had a good Christmas break and return to work refreshed and ready for the fray.
Photo: Luini's angels