Lucerne Dusk

First full day of the ILAB Congress.  I’ll skip our Monday morning guided tour of the Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek and our lunch at the Zunftrestaurant Pfistern, except to say that the first was a delicious and smallish feast of early books, including the extant stage directions for an early Lucerne mystery play, and the second a delicious and largish feast in a riverside guildhouse, strong on good company and good cheer.

Outside the RosengartThus fortified, we moved on to the Sammlung Rosengart, a bank converted to a museum of modern art by the Swiss art-dealer Angela Rosengart.  The ground-floor a feast of (mainly) late Picassos – no diminution of power here, the questing genius burning hard and bright into old age, the works still modern, still genuinely of their time, not merely rehearsals of an earlier mode.  The act of creation itself fused into the fabric of Le Peintre (1963).Picasso  About to move on to the Paul Klee galleries downstairs – but, wait a minute, here in the room is Angela Rosengart herself, come just to talk to us.  Up in years now, still beautiful, still elegant, still charming – Picasso’s dealer, Picasso’s friend, a woman painted some five times by the master himself – right here, right now.  She offers us some mesmeric words on the real secret of successful dealing – Buy only with your heart, buy only as if you were buying for your own collection, deal only in pieces of your soul.  Angela RosengartSo it is.  Alain Moirandat, Swiss president and our host, whispers to me, “Isn’t she a gem”?  No denying it – indeed she is.  A presentation of flowers from Brigitta Laube (Switzerland)Angela and Birgitta – a heartfelt thank-you for a moment of pure magic.

I resolve to drop out of the coach-trip to a country church and stay on and thoroughly explore the remainder of this extraordinary museum.  A quiet word to that effect to the splendid Christina Maurer, our organiser-in-chief.  But, wait, here is Alain

Alain Moirandat

Alain Moirandat

again with another quiet aside – another surprise ahead, another moment of magic in store.  Do come.  A quick mental rearrangement of my plans and I realise I can readily come back to the Rosengart before I fly home on Thursday, which I do.  And what a feast it was – Klee prismatic, Klee chromatic, Klee mosaic, Klee unshowy, Klee subtle, Klee with fish, Klee early and scratchyKlee –and beyond that, some fine Georges Braque and Henri Matisse, a delicious Modigliani Cariatide, Joan Miró with the exquisite tissue-of-the-universe Danseuse II,  a marvellous Kandinsky (Formes Multiples, 1936), Fernand Léger, Maurice Utrillo, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, a wonderful Edouard Vuillard (Jardin des Tuileries, 1894), Camille Pissarro, an adorable Georges Seurat (Étude pour une Baignade, 1883-4), only perhaps a slightly insipid Raoul Dufy that I did not covet – and so many more that I did.  This not to mention the other Picassos upstairs, the Rosengart portraits and lithographs, photographs of the Kandinskygreat man, photographs of Angela Rosengart sitting for Picasso, etc.  And beyond all that, the Chagalls – Le Peintre au Travail (1949) inscribed as a souvenir for Angela Rosengart, others inscribed to her, an original Chagall birthday card for her – and here framed up on the wall is Chagall’s palette from 1958.  Extraordinary.  It couldn’t conceivably belong to any other painter – colour, texture, intensity, it’s pure Chagall.

Baroque RestoredMeanwhile, the coach-trip to a country church.  Of course, not just any church, but the seventeenth-century pilgrimage church of Hergiswald, high in the hills above Lucerne.  Plainish in exterior, rich in interior, highest of baroque.  Freshly restored, all gilt and lustrous.  A ceiling of emblems and Latin tags.  Magnificent – and still the surprise to come.  Aloft in the gallery, Alain has secretly assembled an international group of top-notch musicians based in Basel – organ, violas da gamba, and a sweet and illustrious soprano.  BaroqueThey treat us to three pieces of virtually unknown and long-lost baroque music – and here, in this place, it’s quite, quite, perfect.  Audience rapt.  Encore.  Encore.  We feast once more.


Tom & Heidi Congalton. Myself. Rapt.

Thank you, Alain – both for laying on a superlative day and for persuading me not to miss this final magic.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice introduced in 1997, served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute and at Gresham College. He teaches annually at the London Rare Books School and also organises the monthly Book Collecting Seminars at Senate House, University of London. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. A major essay on the same subject also appeared in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011”. More recently, he contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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