‘Beyond Frosty: A History of Famous Snowmen’ by Amanda Foreman – The Wall Street Journal

ILLUSTRATION: THOMAS FUCHS

Americans have their raucous Frosty; the British, their beloved children’s book about a flying snowman; and Disney, its goofy Olaf from “Frozen.”

Like Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip, these friendly mass-market snowmen only vaguely resemble their many more subtle predecessors. It’s lovely to bring winter cheer to children, of course, but snowmen have often served more serious aims.

Some of the world’s most famous people have built notable snowmen—from Prince Albert, who built a 12-foot snowman for his wife, Queen Victoria, to Michelangelo, who made one for the Medicis. In 1494, the artist’s patron was Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as Piero the Unfortunate. This Medici prince was a pale imitation of his famous father—weak where Lorenzo was strong, spoiled where he was generous. Having invited his father’s former protégé to live and work at the palace, Piero gave Michelangelo only one commission: to build a snowman in the courtyard. Continue reading…

‘When Works of Art Come Apart’ – The Wall Street Journal

When Works of Art Come Apart

‘Spy Booth,‘ a mural by graffiti artist Banksy, in April 2014 . PHOTO: NEIL MUNNS/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Amid repairs last week to a home in the English town of Cheltenham, one of the most famous murals by the graffiti artist known as Banksy ended up accidentally reduced to rubble. The artist had painted “Spy Booth,” depicting spies holding up listening devices, on an exterior wall of the house, around an actual public telephone booth. This fiasco followed the discovery in July that Australian construction workers had inadvertently destroyed three Banksy stencils in Melbourne, bringing to five the number of the artist’s works that had vanished on one stretch of road.

Banksy’s street art, by its nature, is especially vulnerable to such losses, but his work isn’t alone in suffering such a fate. Many of the world’s most famous artworks require constant vigilance and upkeep. Michelangelo’s magnificent David in Florence, for example, is checked every two months or so for fractures. Continue reading…