Saturday, January 31, 2009


#31, UPM, Prague

Those in the know call it UPM, those in English-speaking parts of the world call it the Museum of Decorative Arts, and those undeterred by syllables call it Uměleckoprůmyslové museum. My sole association with this Prague museum, regretfully, is this single photograph as the UPM was closing its doors upon my arrival. Yes, that is a picture of the door.

My time spent in cities is so often spent on the streets (this sounds much more destitute than it really is) that it's only after I get home and click on Ye Olde Internette that I smack my forehead in disbelief at all the indoor treasures I missed whilst trawling for architecture. Not that I'd have it any other way. But my mind runs in circles when I learn that the UPM is home to some 300,000 objects. Breaking it down, that's 35,000 posters, 70,000 photographs, and some 30,000 books.some 100,000 folios of drawings and graphic art, the compelling-sounding Ex Libris collection (about 15,000 objects) and 15,000 small devotional objects. There's more, I'm sure, than is dreamt of in my philosophy (calendars! playing cards! labels! postcards!), otherwise I'd be waxing rhapsodic on the quality rather than the quantity.

Update to #31: People are often asking me why I'm always carrying around notebooks, writing things down. The answer is because I have to and I love to. But another reason might be that I have the short-term memory of a hummingbird. Further investigation into the matter yielded much forgotten fruit. Here is a page from my sketchbook from the UPM that I apparently didn't visit. It's a sketch of a Walter Crane illustration for George C. Warra's book Echoes of Hellas. Note the running catalog of numbers 81-100 on the opposite page. This was the trip that started it all.

The author of this blog would like to point out that she on occasion suffers from Stendhal Syndrome, a severe nervous condition and state of confusion often brought about by overexposure to large collections of particularly beautiful works of art. Do not, under any circumstances, let her write an art history manual.


Jackie said...

This door looks like the sacred entrance to Alice's Wonderland... I think that I would find more pleasure in lingering outside of it, guessing at its treasures, than ever really knowing what was on the other side.

PS: This blog is beautifully written. I have to admit, I have a real affinity with some of your more "snarky" phrases...!

Therese Cox said...

Girlfriend, I'm writing the manual on snarkitecture. Glad to have you on board.

Pierre said...

I had never hear of the Stendhal Syndrome until I read your post "31". I had an experience once in which I wandered in to a poster shop and found myself overwhelmed by all the images. It was like drinking in a long deep cool drink of water on a hot day. It suprised me.
I just gulped in each image no matter what it was. I came away very puzzled because it had never happened before. Perhaps at that time my soul was art deprived.

Therese Cox said...

I often wonder if there's such thing as anticipatory Stendhal Syndrome. That thing you get standing in an art supply store, overwhelmed by the multitude of canvases, colors, and sketchbooks, thinking of all the things of beauty that might be created. As much I love going, if I'm not careful, I get trapped for hours at a time and leave feeling very confused, often empty-handed.

Julie said...

Snarky is good, as is the notebook. A blog in its own write.