Being a standard-issue all American patriot, the name “Hesse” is synonymous with “mercenary” so I dragged my tail going to see the Buchanan’s last farewell at the PAM. Ah well. No great loss. But I went.

BTW if you want to see the 4th floor NW section ALONE, go when tourists flock to the big big show. That’s nice – but who said Tom Holce knows how to pick art?

The big Holbein is nice and I am glad it gets to travel once a century or so, but one display stole the show for me – the Faberge jewelry.

Here’s a link to see these items up close. You want to see this stuff up close. And the photo is great but doesn’t do it justice. And better than seeing it is holding it and better than holding it is owning one of those cigarette cases and pulling it out at the right sort of party, something at Diane and Barry’s loft in NYC, I’d bet. Nice.

But it takes a certain sort of character to wear a top hat. On just anyone, it doesn’t work. The effect is not the one you want. The same for a Faberge cigarette case.

The guy who could pull it out with aplomb was Ernst Ludwig Karl Albrecht Wilhelm, Großherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein or Ernest Louis Charles Albert William, Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt and By Rhine, one of the great weirdos of German royalty (and you historians scanning this will know what I mean!)

Seeing a show like this takes stamina and some strategy. First – there are always too many people. They talk, shuffle, gawk, tip over, chew gum, just about anything. Thank goodness for security guards (besides clearly being a big part of the Art School employment plan!) Avoid them by avoiding weekends or evenings. Eschew eye contact. If necessary, have a handkerchief with cologne in it.

Second, it’s a motley bunch of stuff, treasure trove from 400 hundred years of plunder and sack. Things from all over. Excess and sanctimony. What’s the point? To bring royalty to the provinces? How does this provide “public education”? How does this show “improve our community”? It’s easy to get frustrated with overwhelming questions which don’t have a straightforward answer. Just make sure you have a long walk home for pondering. While you’re in the galleries – absorb. Gulp it down like an owl.

Ernst Ludwig is the star of the show, clearly the aesthete cultivated from generations of warlords and landlords. His portrait – not shown here, sans armor, is as John B narrates, clearly shows captivation with art, with beauty. And having everything chose to surround himself and his family with beauty. What a nice choice.

Like the question, “why go to Pluto?” asking “why don’t the poor eat the rich?” somewhat misses the point. The purpose of Ernst Ludwig’s goofy life was to buy Faberge and give his five year old child a diamond tiara. There is no reason to go to Pluto, though it costs billions in cash and brain power. There’s no reason to make a diamond encrusted cigarette case, less to glom all over in 100 years later.

Except that they’re both – Pluto and Faberge, and Ernst Ludwig – fantastic and far out. And Ludwig could pick art.

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