Michelangelo drawings at the BM

The British Museum has an exhibition of Michelangelo drawings at the moment. According to them:

Drawing on the outstanding collections of the British Museum, the Ashmolean and the Teyler Museum in Haarlem, Michelangelo Drawings is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow the evolution of some of the world’s most celebrated artworks

Which is probably fair. Being Michelangelo, it basically consists of lots and lots of drawings of contorted male nudes. There are occasional other things – a drapery study, a few architectural sketches, even a picture of a woman – but basically it’s figure studies. If he ever filled in a spare minute by sketching the cat, or a bunch of flowers, those pictures didn’t make it into the exhibition.

Apparently he was very reluctant to show people unfinished works and burnt most of his sketches before his death, so conceivably the ones he burnt included lots of pictures of bunnies and trees, but somehow I doubt it.

Despite being a tad repetitive (ooh look, another muscular torso), it’s an enjoyable exhibition. There’s a certain simple thrill in seeing the preliminary drawings for the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the dome of St Peters, and it’s interesting to get a sense of his working methods, but to be honest I have a limited tolerance for the really sketchy drawings. Fortunately there were enough more highly finished things to keep me engaged.

Mind you, drawings are never quite the real thing. The second-hand magic of photos of the Sistine Chapel and the Pietà was almost more powerful than having even the best drawings right in front of you.

One note: it’s very crowded. Despite having to wait nearly two hours to use my timed ticket, I still spent a lot of the time waiting to look at things to looking over people’s shoulders. But the wait did give me an opportunity to go to Bi Won, a Korean restaurant in Coptic Street that I’d recommend for lunch if you go to the BM. The lunch-time sets for about £6.50 are superb value.

Don’t mention the war

Because the World Cup is in Germany, yesterday the Guardian decided to theme a whole section of the newspaper around the subject of “our peculiar relationship with Deutschland”.

It’s certainly true that the British have a generally negative idea of Germany. But these days I don’t think it’s particularly deeply felt or deeply held. And the common suggestion that it’s all about the war is, I think, only marginally true. All those films with humourless Nazi commandants certainly can’t help, but I don’t think many people really equate modern Germany with the Nazis. The humourless stereotype is almost worse for their image than the actual war.

The real problem for Germany’s image in the UK is that there’s nothing positive to balance against the bad stuff. We have plenty of negative stereotypes of the French, but we like their food, fashion, films, and their actresses. We are often anti-American, but we enjoy their music, movies, and novels. Germany has absolutely nothing that has captured the British imagination. You’d think the blondes, beer and fast cars would give the country a certain laddish appeal, but somehow even they don’t manage to make Germany seem any more fun.

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve got it completely backwards, and the existing prejudice is the reason the British never find anything to like about Germany.