The other day I was searching the web for another purpose and came upon a shopping list by Michelangelo, which was part of an exhibition “Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Master Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Spring of 2013. The exhibit included 26 drawings preserved in the artist's family home, the Casa Buonarroti, in Florence. “Because the servant he was sending to market was illiterate”, writes the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin in a review of a Seattle Art Museum show, “Michelangelo illustrated the shopping lists – a herring, tortelli, two fennel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quarter of a rough wine’ – with rushed (and all the more exquisite for it) caricatures in pen and ink.” As we can see, the true Renaissance Man didn’t just pursue a variety of interests, but applied his mastery equally to tasks exceptional and mundane. Which, of course, renders the mundane exceptional. This scrap of ephemeral paper from the past fascinates me, the detail of the little drawings is astounding. We compose ephemera every day in the form of disposable to-do lists, directions to unvisited destinations, notes to people we know or have never met, and shopping lists of this kind. This kind of writing powers our ordered experiences, as ephemeral texts chart encounters before being rendered useless. Collected, disposable shopping lists create an archive of everyday artifacts that we can peruse for traces of the everyday both past and present. I thought I would present a few more examples and explore the origins of writing such lists.
The Petit Palais was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, like its neighbour the Grand Palais, on avenue Winston Churchill. It became a museum in 1902, housing the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris). Designed by Charles Girault, it is based on a trapezium shape and is made up of four wings around a semi-circular garden bordered by a richly decorated peristyle. The tympanum depicting the city of Paris surrounded by muses is the work of sculptor Jean Antoine Injalbert. The main entrance gate, designed by Girault himself, was immediately praised for its elegance and the virtuosity of its craftsmanship.