Legs, Ladies, and the Law

I continue to take advantage of my talented friends by getting them to write blog posts. In advance of the free lecture on the da Vinci exhibit tomorrow at the Muscarelle Art Museum (6pm), Jennifer Morris has written a preview of the current exhibits (prepare for the most eloquent post ever on this blog):

While everyone else in town is busy watching frilly films about sex and domination (ahem, 50 Shades of Dubiousness), why not spend your time contemplating more complex ideas of beauty and power in art?  Feast your eyes on pre-modern visualizations of long limbs, delicate visages, and female empowerment at William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art, where joint exhibitions showcase the accomplishments of two Italian luminaries – Leonardo da Vinci, who needs no introduction, and Matilda of Canossa, a progressive 11th-century Tuscan countess who, among other things, revived ancient Roman law in medieval Europe and laid the groundwork for later women’s rights.  If history lessons lull you to sleep, the pictures themselves will do all the talking – and they’re sexy enough to keep you interested, I promise.


Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty (which opens this Saturday, February 21st, and runs until April 5th before reopening for six weeks at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston) revolves around Leonardo’s philosophy of beauty and features more than 25 drawings by the Renaissance master.  These delicate works on paper rarely leave Italy and are even less often shown together under a single theme; in fact, some of the objects make their first appearance in the U.S. here.  Fascinated by nature and art and their relationship to the divine, Leonardo sought to capture in his works the transition from potent youthfulness to worn agedness – his chubby babies, ripe maidens, and studies of impossibly muscular legs stand in stark contrast, for instance, to the wrinkled old men with vacant eyes we find in several of the drawings.

It’s especially interesting to see Leonardo’s drawings side-by-side with the eight Michelangelo pieces included in the show.  Dramatically lit and focusing on the contours of the human body, these works demonstrate the two rivals’ divergent approaches to nature and beauty.  While Michelangelo tried to capture beauty more abstractly (look at one of his female nudes, and you’ll quickly see that he was not working directly from observation of women’s bodies!), Leonardo took a more scientifically-driven approach to beauty.  He found it in many places, from the delicate curls of women’s hair and the roundness of a baby’s soft tummy to the bulging haunches of a rearing horse and the intricate, paper-thin wings of a firefly.  Even the furry bat sketched in his Codex on the Flight of Birds bears witness to Leonardo’s unusually advanced understanding of form and motion.

Downstairs, check out Matilda of Canossa and the Origins of the Renaissance (which opened on February 7th and runs through April 19th, when it travels to the Casa Buonarotti in Florence), an exhibition that tells the story of one of the most influential women in pre-modern history. Indeed, buried in the Vatican and depicted posthumously as holding the keys to heaven – the only historical figure besides the popes, and thus the only female, to be shown this way – Matilda is one of the unsung heroes of the proto-Renaissance in Europe.  Besides leading revolts against feudal overlords, she built hospices throughout northern Italy; also a patron of the arts, she restored many important landmarks in the region, including the Tower of Pisa.  Just as impressively, Matilda founded Europe’s first law school in 1088 in Bologna, simultaneously promoting the study of Justinian’s code of Roman law, which gave women property rights.

Matilda: Total Boss.

Matilda: Total Boss.

The exhibition ties Matilda’s life into the history of William & Mary by showcasing letters written by Thomas Jefferson and George Wythe, two alumni of the College’s school of law.  In these letters, Jefferson and Wythe describe the ideal framework for our then-nascent country’s new legal code, basing their discussion on the very same Justinian concepts revived by Matilda in European law and transposed into a modern legal system.  Bibliophiles will appreciate the selection of early modern law books known to have been in Wythe’s personal library, and art lovers will swoon over Bernini’s statuette of Matilda – the only known bronze of its kind by the Baroque master.  It’s evident in this sculpture alone:  Matilda was a total boss.

So come by the Muscarelle and learn about these two protean figures whose influence continues to be felt in important, if sometimes invisible, ways.  For $15 – only a few dollars more than your weekly trip to the movies – enjoy some historical fabulousness and support the arts.

Don’t miss the FREE lecture Friday night, February 20 at 6pm by the man who put this exhibition together, Curator John Spike. The exhibition opens officially this Saturday.  Buy your tickets at the door, or avoid the lines and get them here.

Morris, Jennifer

Jennifer Morris is a law student at William & Mary and has a Ph.D. in art history. When she’s not studying or giving presentations at conferences, she’s probably riding and taking care of her horse- that, or investigating new pastries and tempting beverages.

Don’t Let Typos Ruin Your Weekend

Last Saturday night I was really disappointed. I had gone out to Daddyo’s to see Blue Ribbon, a local band that’s getting a lot of good reviews. They had a Friday night gig at Daddyo’s listed on Facebook, which I had in the calendar, but they also had accidentally listed a gig on Saturday at Daddyo’s on Reverb Nation- which I thought I was going to. I guess I should have known that they wouldn’t play at the same place two nights in a row, but I thought, maybe it’s a special deal. Turns out, it was just a silly little mistake.

So, we got there, on Saturday, and of course another band started playing instead. I was really disappointed. Not by the band that was there- Soul Patch– they played some covers by Stone Temple Pilots and other bands I used to listen to in high school- and they were actually pretty good once I let myself get out of my bad mood and enjoy myself. But it wasn’t what I was looking forward to, and on top of that, it meant my calendar was wrong.

FirstyThe calendar isn’t perfect all the time- and it kills me. This site is my baby and I hate to see it fail. I wish I had the time to call everyone and confirm the events beforehand for you. I wish it was always perfectly updated. But the reality is, my information is only as good as the sources I use, and sometimes they’re not reliable- even when, in this case, it was the band itself. (Hey- they’re musicians! Not secretaries.) Sometimes typos happen. It’s nobody’s fault- but I hate that it means that the calendar may lead you astray.

The upside to this is that you can usually find an alternate activity with the help of the calendar. That Saturday night, we went to Cogan’s after we left Daddyo’s and found the place packed and a pretty good blues band playing (Blues on Fire)- and then of all people, Bobby Blackhat comes out of the audience and played an epic harmonica duet with the lead singer. It was really awesome (for videos, go to the Cogan’s facebook page and scroll down to January 31). So, if you bomb out at one place, keep your chin up, don’t let the disappointment monster win, and try something else.

Blues on Fire

Artsy photo of Blues on Fire at Cogan’s

I’ll try to remember to put phone numbers for the venues in the descriptions of the events so you can call them from a smartphone while you’re out and about. And if you ever come across something that’s wrong- please, please email me or contact me and let me know so I can correct it. Also, if you’d like to help me out updating the calendar and adding events and/or writing reviews, please let me know! Ultimately, this site can’t be the work of one person- it’s got to be for and by the community to be a success. I welcome collaborators!

It’s Cold. Stay Inside and Read.

As much as I love to encourage people to get out and explore the area, and as many things as there are to do here even in the winter . . . . I get it. It’s cold, and you want to stay inside. Fair enough. As long as you’re staying inside, though, why not read a book? And as long as you’re going to read a book, why not meet with people to talk about it?


My friend Janelle is a member of The New Williamsburg Book Club and she was kind enough to write up a description of the group and the kind of books they read. Here you go!

If you’re anything like me, you love to read. If you’re also like me, you lack motivation. Why spend your time slogging through that classic you’ve been meaning to read for years, or that 400-page new release that you preordered from Amazon when there’s a perfectly good, tried-and-true romance novel hanging out on your bedside table? It’s not that I don’t want to read books with more substance; it’s just easier. It’s kind of like eating McDonald’s when you should be on a diet. You know you should make some chicken and vegetables, but…french fries. Thankfully, in an effort to get out of my apartment and meet new people, I stumbled across The New Williamsburg Book Club. The club meets one Saturday a month at Bob and Lisa’s house here in Williamsburg and has provided the motivation I need to read about more than sexy vampires.

The evening begins with light conversation and snacks in the kitchen. Club members tend to bring goodies, but it’s not required, and eventually everyone moves into the living room to begin the discussion. There are usually about fifteen to twenty people present, and the ages range from mid-twenties to retirees. The conversations are never boring, and topics range from personal opinions to deep analysis, but not that deep. You don’t need to have a degree in English to enjoy the meetings. Before the meeting concludes, the next book is acknowledged, and the following book is voted on. The genres are rotated, and an attempt is made to not repeat authors, making the book selections wide and varied. The evening ends with some more snacks and socialization. Overall, it’s a great group of people, and everyone does their best to make newcomers feel welcome.

I have been attending The New Williamsburg Book club since May 2014, and I look forward to it every month. I finally read (and loved) Jane Eyre, and discovered that sci-fi is not my thing. I admit that I don’t always finish the book-of-the-month (sometimes the sexy vampires win out), but I still enjoy going to hear other opinions and to see who share mine. So, if you enjoy discussing books with a fun group of people, then check out the club on meetup.com. Happy reading!

Janelle is a Williamsburg resident who is a lover of ancient artifacts, Disney movies, and sexy vampire books.

Janelle is a Williamsburg resident who is a lover of ancient artifacts, Disney movies, and sexy vampire books.