New York City, no matter how gloomy the weather, wears a special holiday season glow. During Thanksgiving week, warm temperatures switched to snow, rain and cold, although not too bad.
With airline points, we stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, still a luxurious place although living on past glory. The bars were fine, and the young hostess at the Peacock Alley made an extraordinary effort to seat our family party on Thanksgiving Eve, although we hadn't made a reservation.
We saw the sights: Union Square, where the Ferguson protesters swirled even before the grand jury decision's announcement; the Fifth Avenue Library; the Plaza; the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; and shoppers packing Fifth Avenue.
A highlight for me was visiting the Frick. For years, I've wanted to go to the art museum housed in Henry Clay Frick's old mansion on East 70th Street across from Central Park. The old industrialist's collection celebrates traditional pictorial art before the cubists changed artistic perceptions. Not even any impressionists are included, quite a relief. I've seen enough Monets, Cezannes and Van Goghs.
A special exhibition from the Scottish Museum showed John Singer Sargent's wonderful Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, and Botticelli's Virgin Adoring Her Child. I lost myself in Sargent's swirl of colors that somehow coalesce into independent images. The beautiful young woman emerges from the elegant chair upon which she sits. The delicate fabric of her dress sleeve reveals her arm - hypnotic in its sensuality. Her sash, hair, flawless skin - yes, falling in love again.
Botticelli's rich, vivid colors and flat perspective offered an earlier, more primary aesthetic experience. It's a wonderful work, but I didn't find it as mesmerizing as the Sargent.
I also loved Hoblein's portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, of "Wolf Hall" renown. The details of their clothing, their haughty, cunning faces, told more than words about Henry VIII's era.
The best discovery was Claude Lorrain's astonishing "The Sermon on the Mount." I'd never heard of the artist, or the work. The conception of Jesus on a rocky plateau, talking to his audience spread out on lawns below, is astounding. The faces of the listeners show complex psychological depths. It's truly one of the great paintings.