Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Five awesome holiday gifts at steep discounts: because they (or you!) are worth it

With books, music, and dvds, here's something for every taste and budget.

1. The Art and Spirit of Paris: Two-Volume Boxed Set.
For less than $100 you can bask ad infinitum in the City of Light, a capital stupendously endowed with culture and art. 1500 photos!!
2. The Louvre: All the Paintings
Yep, all 3,022 of them—along with a CD-ROM. For less then 50 bucks you can scope out your own highlights tour before descending in person on one of the world's greatest collections, begun by Francois I, a supreme connoisseur who scooped up Leonardo da Vinci for his court (left: portrait of the king by Titian; below, "The Lacemaker" by Vermeer). 
3. The Vatican—All the Paintings: The Complete Collection of Old Masters plus more than 300 Sculptures, Maps, Tapestries, and Other Artifacts (book & dvd; the Introduction is by Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling.)
Holy Papal Blessing Batman!! Those popes collected some serious swag! And they pretty much left no surface undecorated in the entire complex (including the Sistine Chapel). The fresco of the Annunciation by Pinturicchio comes from the Borgia Apartments. The "Madonna and Child with Saints" is by Pietro Perugino, whose name you can see under the Virgin's foot. I love its sumptuous colors. The book is crammed with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities as well.
4. The Cary Grant Box Set: Holiday; Only Angels Have Wings; The Talk of the Town; His Girl Friday; The Awful Truth
Every film in this collection is a winner (His Girl Friday has been my favorite comedy for eons). The dapper leading man had great comic chops, both physically and verbally, and these five films repay many repeated viewings.
5. Paul Simon: The Complete Albums Collection
This boxed set is made to last, just like Simon's music. Here's what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has to say about him:
Paul Simon is among the most erudite and daring songsmiths in popular music. After the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel in 1970, Simon embarked on a fruitful solo career that’s been notable for lyrical acuity, impeccable musicianship and stylistic daring. While Simon and Garfunkel worked largely (but not exclusively) in the folk idiom, Simon the solo artist has roamed wherever his muse has taken him - and that has literally meant around the world. His is not so much a conventional career in music as an odyssey of discovery.

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