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Museum carefully cleans painting

February 08, 2009|Christopher Knight, Melissa Healy and Deborah Bonello

In December, my colleague Suzanne Muchnic reported on the cleaning and conservation of Francisco de Zurbaran's 1633 "Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose." It's been among the greatest European still lifes in an American collection since 1972, when the Norton Simon Foundation acquired it. By chance, I happened to be at the Getty Museum's conservation labs shortly after the cleaning was completed, and the picture is even more astounding than before: Surface textures emerged from beneath varnish, slight compositional alterations made the display of fruits and vessels more weighty, newly revealed details directed the eye in surprising ways, spatial relations were brought into a new light.

If you didn't manage to get over to Pasadena's Simon Museum to see the Zurbaran during the brief window of opportunity after the cleaning and before it got shipped off to New York for a three-month exhibition at the Frick Museum, here's the next best thing: The Frick has launched a page on its website about the cleaning, with a terrific interactive feature that lets you examine the work in detail -- before conservation, during varnish removal and after the cleaning was complete. You can find it here:

-- Christopher Knight

From Culture Monster: All the arts, all the time

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Green tea, drug don't mix

Green tea may seem an elixir of good health, what with its vaunted antioxidants and polyphenols and whatnot.

But if you're taking a relatively new cancer drug called bortezomib -- marketed commercially as Velcade -- for multiple myeloma, mantle cell lymphoma or the brain cancer glioblastoma, drinking green tea could be a very bad idea.

A new study by pharmacologists and physicians at the University of Southern California found that, in animals as well as in the test tube, certain constituents of green tea blocked the effects of bortezomib -- notably, the drug's ability to induce tumor cells to die off.

Bortezomib, or Velcade, is a boronic acid proteasome inhibitor.

It was first approved by the FDA in 2003 as a last-ditch drug for myeloma patients, but is now recognized as a first-line drug against mantle cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

The USC study found that green tea appears to interfere only with boronic-acid proteasome inhibitors such as Velcade, but not with non-boronic proteasome inhibitors, including the still-experimental drug nelfinavir, a medicine being tested for use in HIV/AIDS patients.

-- Melissa Healy

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and some news from the world of health

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Youth protest bullfighting

Young animal rights activists took to the streets in central Mexico City on Feb. 1, chanting "Corridas de toros -- verguenza nacional (Bullfights -- a national shame)." They were protesting the hundreds of bullfights that take place here in Mexico.

The march was attended by about 800 people, most of them in their late teens or early 20s. It began at the Hundido Park on Avenida Insurgentes at midday, a few blocks from the Plaza de Toros Mexico, the biggest bullfighting venue in the country and one of the largest in the world with capacity to seat 48,000 people.

The protesters walked just a few blocks north, taking up a lane of traffic. Many of the motorists driving by honked in support.

Mariana Hernandez, a 20-year-old biology student clutching a sign that said "Ya Basta! (Enough, already!)," said, "The bulls that they kill are living things. They shouldn't kill them for fun."

"The more of us that are here, the better," said Manual Hernandez, 19, another protester. "This is the second year that I've come here and there are more of us every time."

Many of the activists that we spoke to mentioned 11-year-old apprentice matador Michel "Michelito" Lagravere, who in January killed six calves in the bullring in Merida, southern Mexico.

"It's such a cruel act and that a child of this age is promoting this type of activity and being treated like a hero is really bad. He killed six calves -- in reality, that's six children," said 28-year-old Israel Arriola, another activist taking part in the march.

The protest was organized to coincide with the 63rd anniversary of the Plaza. Bullfighting was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s and nowhere is it more popular outside of Spain than in Mexico.

Claudia Ortega, 25, a coordinator at, one of the organizations behind the march, said a survey conducted by the nonprofit group found that 75% of Mexicans are against bullfighting, but that very few act on their views.

"Each year, 250,000 bulls or horses die in bullfighting or related activities" worldwide, she said. Ortega expressed hope that protests such as Sunday's might encourage more Mexicans to speak out.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

From La Plaza: News, links & observations about Latin America from Times correspondents

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