The Venus Fixers

The following two books
describe the remarkable story of the Allied soldiers who saved Italy's art during World War II.

Botticelli's "Primavera" c. 1482 - saved!

During the darkest days of World War II, a ragtag band of British and American art scholars braved the battlefields of Europe to rescue thousands of cultural treasures.

These soldiers saved some of the most important art and architecture from Nazi pillage and the collateral damage of armed conflict.

Thank heavens for these men!

Taking inventory.

Above: Repaiting a statue at the church of Casa Professa in Palermo, damaged in an Allied bombing raid in 1943.

by Robert M. Edsel


by Ilaria Dagnini Brey

Maybe It's Time for Civil Disobedience

Hey, we voted to change those insurance company death panels that allow 120 people a day to die because they can't get the medical care they need.

It's really so simple:
Change the rules and allow anyone who wants to buy into Medicare before the age of 65.

Medicare is already in place. It is a single player plan that cuts out the profit and puts patients first.

And better still. "the real public option" i.e., "Medicare For All" is a wonderful single payer plan that works just fine . . . just ask any Senior if they like their Medicare.

Luis Mélendez, Still Life Painter

Luis Meléndez, "Still Life with Attichokes and Peas in a Landscape" c. 1771

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents "Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life."

It is the first U.S. exhibition in twenty-five years of eighteenth-century Spanish painter Luis Meléndez (1715-1780).

It is sometimes said that Meléndez is one of the most accomplished still life painters of the time. Who could argue with that?

This exhibition will showcase nearly thirty paintings by Meléndez — many of which have never been exhibited before.

In addition, a selection of eighteenth century Spanish kitchenware, similar to those used by the artist as studio props, will be featured.

This show runs from September 27, 2009 through January 3, 2010.

Billionaires for Wealthcare Join the Debate

Finally, a good laugh and a group worth joining...and not a moment too soon.

"Billionaires for Wealthcare" is a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, industry lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system.

Above, Ms. Z Roe Compassion protests at the Teabagger's 9-12 Rally in DC

Spokesman Phil T. Rich speaks for Billionaires for Wealthcare: "We are not a political, religious or even a particularly well-organized group. We're simple folk, thrilled profiteers pouring out of our corner offices to dance on the grave of "Change."

Healthcare Attys. Bill M. Moore & Frida Market take time out of their lunch hour to lobby for the status quo.

"We'll do whatever it takes to ensure another decade where your pain is our gain. After all, when it comes to healthcare, if we ain't broke, why fix it?"

Billionaires nationwide are experimenting with the rabble rousing typically reserved for America’s lower castes, and rising to the defense of health care profits.

Some of their signs and slogans are very catchy and can be downloaded directly from their website along with directions for starting your own chapter of Billionaires for Wealthcare.

The Billionaires encourage a little creative gold embossment around the edges to provide a tasteful je ne sais quoi.

At long last, mocking the anti-reform forces wherever Teabaggers gather can not only be fun - it can save your sanity.

Above, Billionaire Atty Lou Pole takes time out from screeching "survival of the richest" - to enjoy a bottle of Montrachet 1978 from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Appearances are everything. It has occasionally been reported that some Billionaires have tried to gather in casual garb, and to those deviant individualists, the group has only this to say: "Formal is Normal."

Casual (but cashmere) Yachting attire might be the exception.

Here's a quote from the Billionaire website:

"We know that there is a great wealth of diversity among the extremely rich — and therefore among our fashion choices as well. Billionaires come in all colors, shapes and sizes. We have old money and oil money and dot-com money and money at work and money on vacation and daytime money and evening money.

But as important as it is to honor the diversity of our ranks, it is even more important to preserve the traditional image of the Billionaire in America.

Visual unity is very important to us. Remember, it takes conformity, not individuality, to become a Billionaire for Wealthcare.

So don your black suits and evening gowns, and hit the streets!"

Billie O'Nair is thinking ahead to the 2012 election.

The Billionaires have their chants. And the first one is a real crowd pleaser:

Bring Back Bush!
Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Keep the Profits with the CEOs
You say health gap, I say wealth gap.
Stock options, yes! Public Option, no!
Your pain, our gain.
Walk. It. Off.
Wealthcare, Not Healthcare!
Fear, Lies, Sedition! Pre-Existing-Condition!

And The Billionaires have their songs - Lyrics by Felonius Ax
Minister of Musical Manipulation (

“Let’s Save the Status Quo”
(to the tune of “Battle Hymn Of The Republic”)

Rejoice and let us glory in the profits we attain
By rationing the remedies for suffering and pain.
And no one's gonna mess with all our monetary gain.
Let's save the status quo!

If our healthcare corporation
Never faces regulation,
We'll be brimming with elation!
Let's save the status quo!

We bought a bunch of senators and congresspeople too.
They serve our corporate interests and we tell them what to do.
This gravy train will stop the day a healthcare bill gets through.
Let's save the status quo!

Chorus: If our healthcare corporation (etc.)

Our PR team is crackerjack. We’re framing the debate!
We’re spreading lots of lies and we’re unleashing lots of hate.
We’ll drive a stake into the bill the day it leaves the gate.
Let's save the status quo!

Chorus: If our healthcare corporation (etc.)

A decent public option is an option we won’t bear.
And Medicare for Everyone would kill our market share.
We’ll never win the game if all the rules are just and fair.
Let's save the status quo!

Chorus: If our healthcare corporation (etc.)

In every other wealthy nation healthcare is a right.
But not here in America, no not without a fight!
We’re fighting for the right to monstrous profits day and night.
Let's save the status quo!

Chorus: If our healthcare corporation (etc.)

“Your Healthcare Company”
(To the tune of “America The Beautiful”)

Insurance for the uninsured
we've got just what you need:
A really high deductible
You never can exceed.

Our customers, we're there for you
Your healthcare company.
You're just the folks we love to screw
From sea to shining sea!

That swelling in your abdomen,
That throbbing in your wrist,
We treat none of your symptoms 'cause
They clearly preexist!

Our customers, we're there for you
Your healthcare company.
You're just the folks we love to screw
From sea to shining sea!

You're filing your claim and you hope
We're paying for your cure.
We're canceling your policy.
You're too sick to insure!

Our customers, we're there for you
Your healthcare company.
You're just the folks we love to screw
From sea to shining sea!

“We Are On Your Side”
(to the tune of “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”)

Raising your premiums
Raking in ghastly sums
Coverage denied!
Canceling policies
Causing your bankruptcies
Leaving you on your knees
We are on your side!

And last but not least, The Billionaires for Wealthcare's

Talking Points:

You Deserve the Healthcare you can Afford:

Healthcare is a service and those who can pay more deserve better service. For instance, if a school is burning down and my cat is stuck in a tree, the fire department should get my cat out of the tree first because I can pay a higher premium for their time and effort.

Don’t give the government your money! We are happy to keep gouging you instead.

Government efficiency. Where’s the profit in that?

The current system works… FOR US!:

We like the current system: we get to insure the healthy and offload the sick to taxpayers.

How so? When any one of the 47 million uninsured Americans need care they go to the emergency room – at 5 times the cost of a doctor’s visit! – Taxpayers are already footing that bill nice and quietly everyday. And hospitals get to charge full market rates while we only insure wealthy, healthy customers. It’s a win-win! Well, maybe not for taxpayers…

Sick people are bad for good profits.

We’re a business. We have to cut the weak links in the chain. Sick
people are those weak links.

Some people say the healthcare system is broken. But it works for us.
Just like Congress.

Just imagine all of the new businesses or creative energy people would invest their time and true talents in if they weren’t chained to a job they hated just for “healthcare benefits”. My gawd, ask anyone at the country club – there are way too many nouveau-riche already!

Pre-existing conditions:

We’re happy to accept people with pre-existing conditions: health,
wealth, and youth.

Healthcare is a commodity, not a right.

You want insurance AND a house?! And you call ME greedy?

You think YOU’RE spending a lot on healthcare? Heck, we employ 6
lobbyists for every member of Congress.

Denying Claims:

We deny more claims before 8am than Medicare does all day.

Because nothing says “freedom” like denying claims.

We believe in a free market. We should be free to deny coverage at will.


We’re here to stand up for Freedom of Recision.

Some people might call these the real death panels, but its merely good business: we dump customers from our rolls when they become too sick to cover. Just last year three of our health care insurance companies saved $300 million by kicking out a mere 20,000 customers! And about that woman with breast cancer that President Obama mentioned? Are you trying to tell me that acne isn’t a preexisting condition to cancer? But make no mistake, people don’t want the gov’t deciding who should get care. They are happy to leave it up to us and our legions of anonymous temps using strict cost-to-profit ratios.

Why Opposition to Health Care Got So Ugly

I don't like what is going on in my country right now and it is a big distraction from painting for sure.

This past week the "teabaggers" and hate talkers like Beck and Limbaugh stepped even further over the line.

I've been completely stumped worrying about what is wrong with these people and how can we reach out and reason with them. But then I heard Tim Wise.

In a mere 6 minutes and 56 seconds, he makes the cause of this dissent very clear.

Thanks Tim.

How a Good Silhouette Can Transform the Ordinary

Being aware of silhouettes can help turn an ordinary subject into a grand painting.

The silhouette can say a lot with a little. It instantly establishes gesture and defines a nice balance of interesting positive and negative spaces.

"Silhouettes" have been known to painters for a very long time so I have used paintings from the Italian Renaissance to help illustrate my point.

Alessandro Bonvicino Moretto (1526) used an interesting silhouette to establish gesture in his painting above.

"Venus and Cupid" by Palma the Elder (Jacopo Negretti) c. 1520.

Per usual I am exagerating my illustrations a bit to make the point. One painting can contain many little silhouettes; i.e., sleeve, belt, hair patterns within the figure.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1510-11

This figure is interesting and descriptive without detail - save the silhouette.

Some silhouettes encourage lost and found edges with the massing of dark and light.

Clothing details used by Ercole De' Roberti (1475) makes for a more interesting portrait.

Little details of clothing and hair can make a big difference.

Piero Della Francesca (1474).

Paolo Uccello (1460-65).

Don't make this all-too-common (and boring) mistake (above)!

No matter how beautiful the person, nor how well the face is painted, this will never ever be a good painting.

Instead, fuss with the clothing and hair. Consider the use of props. Use your creative imagination and you could transform this unimaginative pose into something extraordinary.

I am sure that in the early 16th Century women did not walk down the street like this - but Bartolommeo Da Veneto still figured out how to make a beautiful portrait.

Here's an ordinary sitter - nothing special.

But here is the same figure with the silhouette suggesting clothing, collar detail, hair and ornaments. This would make a much better portrait.

In 1501, Piero Di Cosimo used his imagination and painted this stunning portrait.

Here's another boring silhouette above. Hanging hair, no clothing details - ho hum.

With a little imagination, it can be jazzed up and become a better portrait way before the face is even defined.

What a difference a hat makes - by Cosimo Tura.

Portrait of a young man c. 1425 by Tommaso Masaccio.

Don't overlook props. They can serve to make portraits interesting.

The lace at the sleeve in a delicious detail in this picture.

Clothing and props provide interesting details in this painting by Fra Filippo Lippi (c.1455).

The kerchief, broom and bow are exaggerated to make this figure into something better.

Here's a complicated picture that explains itself with the clever use of silhouette.

Can you see the similarity in Pietro Di Cristoforo Vannucci's "The Combat of Love and Chastity?" (1505)

Interesting shapes work with paintings of horses...

...and even dragons and flying drapery as painted by Raphael, c. 1505