Wednesday, 29 May 2013


PART ONE  ~  Bicci di Lorenzo ~ St Nicholas of Bari Banishing a Storm
~  Early Italian Art Gallery 42

St Nicholas of Bari banishing the Storm

I’ve got the silver- finned blues
I’ve been painted by a muse
They’ve labelled me as pagan
I might as well be Satan
For every time I sing sublimely
I get accused

Of stirring up a storm
When all I want to do is warn

When I see waves a-lashing
Masts come down a-crashing

I could make a sailor cosy
Take him to my shell abode-y
Down, deep under the sea
But how can I lose
My silver-finned blues..?


Here comes Father Nicholas
Saviour of the day
He is kind and generous
He wants me out the way…?

If… I offer him oysters
In the cloisters
Sing to the wind
After we’ve... ‘sinned’

Pray for his soul

St Nick, St Nick, St Nicholas, St Nicholas
Grant this fish
This human fish
A wish
Splish! Splish!

For, how am I to form a bond..?
One sprinkle from your starry wand….

What! No?
He says go!

Well that’s not very generous
St Nicholas

Help me!

I am gone
I must swim on… on… on….

And I feel

Bicci di Lorenzo
We are no longer friends so
I think I’ll find a different ship
I’m on my way, I’ve had a tip

I must say ‘bye-bye’
No tear in my eye

But that’s why
I’ve got the silver-flnned blues

Parcel -Gilt Silver Ship  ~  Michael Wellby Collection (Item 14)

Here I am with Wellby
Do you think he’ll want to sell me?
Are you hiring
A siren?

I won’t let slip
I’ll hide on the side of the ship

Cruise along a table in an elegant castle
In my silver, salver of a silver-gilt parcel
And stopping close to the cream
A prince, I beam
His eyes, they gleam

©Diana Moore

Poetry and pictures at the museum ~  notes from Diana Moore

Diana says:  I love this painting, the magical quality; the dark and the light; the Saint arriving in a blaze of stars to save the mariners;  the mermaid craning her neck upwards and swimming  out of the picture… I decided to write about it from the mermaid’s point of view as she is almost incidental in the painting… (some people don’t notice she is there) and to experiment .. give her a voice… and I found my poem turning into a lyric (in line with the fictional singing mermaids) which, I feel, suited the take I had of a ‘misunderstood mermaid’.  My second performance worked well with the introductory lines sung in blues style – and the farewell to Bicci in tango style...  A large swell of people gathered in the gallery and I really appreciated the applause…!

I also appreciated the help I received from the Ashmolean research team:

Dr Catherine Wheeler, Senior Assistant Keeper, Department of Western Art
  for answering my questions on the Bicci di Lorenzo painting, and
Professor Timothy Wilson for his help with the parcel-gilt silver ship in the Michael Wellby collection.

For information:

The Bicci di Lorenzo painting: St Nicholas of Bari Banishing a Storm was object of the month back in 2001.  Here is a link to the painting with further information

And a note I received from Professor Timothy Wilson

 The silver-gilt ship is a late example of a type of object that was much loved on Medieval tables as a centrepiece and conversation piece, known as a nef. Some larger examples (there is one in the British Museum) have guns that fire and clockwork parts.

This one is only the most token representation of a sea-going sailing ship, but of course European sailing ships were increasingly dominating the world’s sea routes at the time the nef was made.

The charming sea-equines embossed and chased on the sides are a sort of sea-creature associated with Neptune and other sea deities of the ancient world; they ultimately derive from classical sculpture but were much taken up by Renaissance artists in many media. It is of course here conceived as in the water round the ship rather than as part of the ship itself.

The inventorying of the Wellby collection is at an early stage and I fear that is all the information, beyond what is on the label, I can give you.

Best wishes
Professor Timothy Wilson
Barrie and Deedee Wigmore Keeper of Western Art

No comments:

Post a Comment