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Showing posts from May, 2012

Bartholomew Fair

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Thou whoreson little tidy Bartholomew boar-pig..... [2 Henry IV - Doll Tearsheet to Falstaff]

Bartholomew Fair was a medieval fair held each year in the grounds of the priory of St Bartholomew the Great in the London parish of West Smithfield. A charter for the fair was first granted in 1133 and the last proclamation was in 1855, though by this time the fair was a shadow of its glory days of the past.


The fair had three branches to it. Firstly, it was a Cloth Fair, an important meeting place for the buying and selling of cloth from throughout the country. Secondly, it was a Horse Fair, bringing together horse-dealers and horse-coursers. And lastly, it was a pleasure fair, offering traders and Londoners a tasty selection of food and drink, of sex, of ballads and freak shows, of sex, of performing actors and puppet shows, of sex, of tightrope walkers, and of sex. A pamphlet of 1641 aptly described the attraction for all comers:


Hither resort people of all sorts, high and low, rich and poor…

Et in Arcadia ego & Honorificabilitudinitatibus

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This canvas from French artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) has the alternative titles Les Bergers d’Arcadie (The Shepherds of Arcadia) and Et in Arcadia ego, a Latin phrase meaning ‘Even in Arcadia I’, where Arcadia is a place of untroubled quiet and peace, and I the pronoun for Death.

A graceful poetic image, you might think, reminding us, in the words of an Elizabethan proverb, that we all owe God a death. But there is something about the simple Latin phrase that troubles some people, and that is that it lacks a verb, and whilst this is perfectly standard grammar in that ancient language, to these malcontents it suggests that the phrase is incomplete, giving rise to speculation that it holds some deep hid meaning for the world and Mankind.


One suggestion is that it is an anagram for I! Tego Arcadia ego, which translates to English as Begone! I Keep God’s Secrets, thus implying that the tomb in the picture is that of Jesus Christ. [The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, …

Pioneers of Photography #3 - Félix Nadar

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Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known the world as Nadar, was a French aeronaut, caricaturist and photographer, who was born in Paris in 1910.


From 1850 he commenced a series of photographic portraits of prominent contemporary personalities, among them Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Sarah Bernhardt, George Sand, Guy de Maupassant, Edouard Manet, Ernest Shackleton and Georges Clemenceau. And around 1865 he created his startling and innovative Revolving Self-Portait.


He experimented in the creation of artificial light by means of the burning of powder of magnesium, and in 1861 used the technique to produce photographic images deep below ground in the Paris catacombs. The long exposure of 20 minutes necessitated the use of dummies rather than living people.


Always curious about the latest technical advances of his time, he developed a lively curiosity in balloons, and in 1858 he took the first ever aerial photograph from an altitude of 80 metres. His airborne exploit was caricatured in this ima…

Johan Jongkind: the 'true master'

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'The father of the modern landscape' [Manet]

He was born Johan Barthold Jongking in 1819 in the Dutch town of Lattrop and lived most of his adult life in France.
He was known as 'the painter of Harfleur and Paris streets' and played an important part in the development of Impressionism.  Monet called him his 'true master'.
Jongkind died at Grenoble in the French Alps in 1891 where he buried in the local cemetery.




Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)

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Henri Julien Félix Rousseau, known as le douanier Rousseau (the Customs officer Rousseau) was a French post-impressionist artist of the Primitive school, who painted many jungle pictures though he never visited a jungle in his life, getting his inspiration from the menagerie of animals at the jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. 


Criticised at first for their lack of realism, the laughter was dissipated when Le Rêve was exhibited for the first time. In the words of poet Guillaume Apollinaire: "This year no-one laughs, all are unanimous: they admire".