Yesterday I decided to take in some fall foliage, so I headed to the Düsseldorf Nordfriedhof (g)(North Cemetery), a large and nicely-landscaped idyll. It's the resting place of Arno Breker, among other minor celebrities. The cemetery is very easy on the eyes this time of year:
I also dropped by the "Israelite Cemetery", located in a fenced-off area in the northeast. I was anticipating mouldering, antique graves, as is usually the case in Jewish cemeteries in Germany. Imagine my surprise when I see this modern chapel at the entrance:
There is an old section of the Jewish cemetery, of course:
I was surprised to find out, however, that the Jewish cemetery is actually dominated by modern, well-maintained graves of people who died from the 1960s to 2011:
There were at least 10 people there on this warm Fall day wandering around or depositing flowers. Many of the graves were of Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union or Russia — the advisory near the entrance telling men to wear head coverings on the grounds of the cemeteries was printed in both German and Russian. But most of the graves seemed to be from German Jews who either survived the Holocaust or returned to Germany at some point. Apparently Düsseldorf has the third-largest Jewish community in Germany, with some 7,500 members (g).
So, listening to BBC Radio 4 on my new Logitech Squeezebox Internet Radio, which I am really enjoying, I hear an promo for an upcoming series entitled The Invention of Germany. The promos denounce the pig-headed stereotypes about Germany held by many Britons, who see Germany distorted by the 'fog of Nazism.' To broaden the focus, the show deals exclusively with Germany before the two world wars. Should be interesting!
The Squeezebox, by the way, is very nice. It hooks up to your home wireless Internet connection, and lets you connect to thousands of radio stations from across the globe. The setup is pretty simple, and the design is great — the sound quality is surprisingly good for such a small, portable package, and the buttons are well-made and responsive. You can also stream your own music collection over the radio. Perhaps the one drawback is that you have to pay extra for a battery, which is essential if you want to carry the radio around with you.
Gerhard Richter on the winner-take-all art market:
Gerhard Richter is one of the world's most prized living artists, and one of his famous "Candle" series is expected to fetch 6-9 million pounds ($9-14 million) at auction in London next week.
That is the highest price expected for a single work at the upcoming series of contemporary art sales, yet the man behind the image said he found such figures bewildering.
"It's just as absurd as the banking crisis," said the 79-year-old German, speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the press launch of a major retrospective of his work opening at London's Tate Modern.
"It's impossible to understand and it's daft," he added, speaking through an interpreter.
Asked how he thought the art market had changed in the last few years, he replied in English: "It became worse."
Nobody correctly guessed the answer to the trivia contest, which was to explain what this dragon was: The correct answer is that the dragon was a watermark used by a printer in Ulm, Germany in 1449.
The image comes from the Piccard Database, an online collection of watermarks. Paper was first created in Europe in Moorish Spain toward the end of the 11th century, the first paper mills in Italy date to the 12th century. Watermarks like the one above were created by twisting wire in to the shape of the watermark, then placing it on the sieve where the paper was pressed into sheets. The wire made the paper slightly thinner, tracing the shape of the watermark as faint lines. The exact purpose of late-medieval watermarks is disputed; one theory was that they signified the class of paper.
Watermarks are particularly important for dating manuscripts. Generally, the run of paper bearing a particular watermarks would be used up completely within two years, permitting researchers to date various works and sections of works by finding exact matches of watermarks. The problem is, there were thousands of similar marks being used. Therefore, scholars, including Charles-Moise Briquet and Gerhard Piccard (g) set about collecting databases of them. Upon his death in 1989, Piccard had a collection of 95,000 watermark tracings, most of which are now online in the Piccard Database of the State Archive of Baden-Württemberg. Most of this information, by the way, comes from an article by Sven Limbeck on pp. 46-47 of this fascinating publication (g) which I picked up at Wiblingen Monastery.
Perhaps this contest was a bit too hard; I decided to cut out only the shape of the dragon, thinking that its 'wiry' form might be clue enough. Anyway, thanks to everyone for throwing their hat in the ring.