Saturday, December 24, 2016
National Gallery, London
One of my most popular posts of 2016 has been the one I did back in August on the floor mosaics by Boris Anrep at the National Gallery in London. These lovely floors in the old gallery foyer, hardly noticed by many gallery-goers who are, not unnaturally, keen to look at what's on the walls, are a project of the 1920s by an artist (a Russian who had settled in England) making his name in the medium of mosaic. My earlier post concentrated on their wealth of contemporary portraits – Anrep's friends and acquaintances pose as personifications of virtues or pleasures, or as the nine Muses, and they're mostly a cross-section of cultural London, from Bertrand Russell to Margot Fonteyn. They contain more than a hint of the exotic, but many of their subjects are quintessentially English, as if Anrep is paying homage to the qualities of his adopted country. The pleasures of life include universals such as Dance (this being the 1920s, it's the Charleston) or Speed (an invigorating ride on a motorcycle), but also very traditional British activities such as hunting, football, and cricket. One of the most British of all is the seasonal delicacy shown above.
Christmas pudding, for my non-British readers, is a very rich concoction containing a lot of dried fruit, sweet spices, and alcohol. It is traditionally decorated with a sprig of holly and when served it is doused in spirits which are set alight, hence the flames in the mosaic. I am one of those who think Christmas is pudding is very much one of the pleasures of life, and I'm rather touched that the Russian Anrep thought fit to include this British dish in one of his mosaics. I offer it with all my best wishes to my readers everywhere. Thank you for reading the blog this year, and may you have an enjoyable festive season, wherever you are.