It Makes The Knees Go Weak
April 27, 2007
I believe you know of my affection for the Frick Collection. You walk in, and no matter how many times you’ve seen Mr. Frick’s pictures, the amazement washes over you anew.
There is a numbered plaque beside most of the paintings. You walk up to the painting, you punch the number into your Acoustiguide, and you get a short description in a charming foreign accent (sometimes Brit, sometimes French, and sometimes a lady who sounds like Sophia Loren). They say just the right amount into your ear, and you move on, feeling smarter. It’s a small enough collection, and I have visited enough times, that I walk smugly up to a portrait of an elegant lady and say to myself, “Now isn’t this just the nicest Reynolds?” Then I punch in the number and learn that it’s Whistler. Right. I knew that. I totally meant Whistler.
My favorite painting is the portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein, the Younger. (Not so younger anymore. Long dead in fact.) It’s simply arresting. You KNOW Thomas More from looking at this picture. You have met the man, and no one can convince you otherwise. The British accent in your ear is male, plummy and posh (think Alan Rickman meets Dr. Niles Crane). He’s gushing, unashamed of how much he adores this painting. He mentions Holbein’s rendering of the velvet sleeves and says, ‘It makes the knees go WEAK.’ I’ve listened to him on each visit, but I forget that this bit is coming, and it makes me laugh, in an audible way that is not appropriate to the setting. But I can’t help it; it’s funny, because it’s so true. You feel a little lightheaded after seeing this picture.
That’s what your post “what makes hard hard?”got me thinking about. Starmore’s Katherine Howard jacket is not just an infernally laborious piece of knitting; it gives you the vapors. I don’t even LIKE that sort of thing, but I bow before it. And I would knit it, just to make something so beautiful, take a picture of it, and hang it with my bleached and shredded Raspy (the Ick Collection) and my Gallery of Very Loud Blankets.
(Historical note: Sir Thomas More was beheaded because he refused to subscribe to the Act of Supremacy making King Henry VIII head of the Church of England, which cleared the path for the King to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Young Kathryn Howard, the fifth of Henry VIII’s fifth of six wives, was executed also. This is the closest I will ever come to a Seinfeldesque dovetailing of story lines.)
Here’s another knee-weakener. These gave me a bad repeat case of the rockin’ pneumonia and the miter-knitting flu. Cara was in the city. It is a sign of our mutual problem that (1) she volunteered to pack up 100 pieces of knitting to show me and (2) I really wanted to see all 100. So we sat around, feeling a little giddy, and then we went out and bought some Tahki Cotton Classic. It seemed like the thing to do. I need to get mitering.
This project will get me warmed up. Four shades of Cascade 220, doubled, on US 11 needles. You cast on 120 and proceed to miter. This is a blanket that Amber and I are going halfsies on for Afghans for Afghans’ Mother’s Day baby blanket initiative. Amber is knitting one big fat mitery half and I’m knitting the other. We are not meeting up until the sew-up, but we are blithe and bonny about the ultimate result. It’s going to be good, if not knee-weakening. How could it NOT be good?