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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Valuing art

Thursday, May 19th., "Flying Cloud", Spalato.

We arrived at Spalato about 8 a.m. Lunch on the yacht.

Spalato (Split) is a city situated in the Mediterranean Basin on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, centred around the ancient Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian and its bay and port. Split is by far the largest Dalmatian city and the second-largest city of Croatia. Split is also one of the oldest cities in the area. While it is traditionally considered just over 1,700 years old counting from the construction of Diocletian's Palace in AD 305, archaeological research relating to the original founding of the city as the Greek colony of Aspálathos (Aσπάλαθος) in the 6th century BC, establishes the urban tradition of the area as being several centuries older.

Then off in three cars to see Trani (Trogir), 17 or 18 miles. A rotten, dusty, noisy drive. First we saw the remains of a large Roman town, once the capital of Dalmatia, then a series of horrid cement works in clouds of smoke, and then suddenly we were in Trani, a perfectly preserved medieval town, with a marvellous church, with marvellous sculptures (especially an Adam and Eve on the porch) in a marvellous state of preservation.

Cathedral porch by Radovan
Trogir has 2300 years of continuous urban tradition. Its culture was created under the influence of the ancient Greeks, and then the Romans, and Venetians. Trogir has a high concentration of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island, and in 1997 was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. "The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period", says UNESCO report. Trogir is the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. Trogir's medieval core, surrounded by walls, comprises a preserved castle and tower and a series of dwellings and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Trogir's grandest building is the church of St. Lawrence, whose main west portal is a masterpiece by Radovan, and the most significant work of the Romanesque-Gothic style in Croatia.

In my Evening Standard article today I asked the question: "Are picture galleries really of value to the public?" They are certainly of real value to me. The Tate, for instance, is a godsend, because I can walk thither by the river's brink. I am continually walking thither. The Tate has some of the worst, and a few of the best, pictures publicly exhibited in London. According to my observation the worst draw rather more attention than the best. This disturbs me and has a tendency to undermine my faith in mankind.

At any rate, I feel sure of one thing: namely, that the picture galleries are of more value to the public now than they used to be. The change is due to the introduction into them of literature. The literature is spoken and takes the form of lectures. These lectures are excellent. I sympathise with the lecturers on account of the apparently quite unresponsive stolidity of the listeners. I wonder why the young women who listen so closely to the expository young men nearly always have thick ankles and clumsy shoes. Surely the sweet influence of art ought to reduce ankles and refine footgear? Nevertheless I am optimistic about the results of the lectures - they must do good because they couldn't not do good.

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