We journeyed south some 60 miles to visit the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. Through this portal we crossed into a wonderful collection of Things Made Long Ago by People All Over the Place (aka “Culture”).
You may know Santa Ana primarily as the source of the famous fire-causing “Santa Ana” winds that emit seasonally from the deep vortex in the center of the city. It’s a nuisance, that vortex, but since nothing can be done about it — the effort to plug it with concrete only resulted in the terrible “big hunk of concrete on downtown Pasadena” incident — we may as well enjoy it as a “natural wonder.” But it was the “unnatural wonders” strewn about the Bowers Museum that spurred our trip.
I don’t really know you all that well, but I’ll bet when I whisper “Bowers Museum” in your ear, the first picture that comes to your mind is of its famous collection of terra cotta laughing horses that were found some time ago in the tomb of one of the more amicable Yuan emperors.
We lucked out. The recording of whinnies intermixed with giggles was blessedly not functioning the day of our visit. We supplied our own laughtrack in plenty.
The famous clay figurine of “Dancing Lil” dating back to the Zing Dynasty may also be the thing that shows up in your dreams when your subliminal speakers mention the Bowers Museum during your refreshing slumbers. But how would I know what bizarre ideas you might freely associate with the words “Bowers Museum?” Your mind is a shut book to me, thank God.
Though we did pause briefly at each of these attractions — to show our respects and beg favors — our trip was motivated primarily by the ongoing exhibition of rare etchings by Rembrandt, a magnificent once-in-a-lifer show and worth travelling many more than 60 miles through shrieking super-heated Santa Ana gales.
On the other side of this glass door, however, no photography was countenanced. Nor would it have availed, etchings being notoriously resistant to graphic reproduction (other than by the original copper plates, I mean). But I would not leave my wide-eyed, trusting NiceWork readers without some eyeballable example of Mr. van Rijn’s work. Below is a sketch, drawn from memory, of the 1630 etching, Begger Holding Panicked Chicken.