Mariana Starke

Miss Starke (sometimes given the ‘courtesy’ title of Mrs) had the great good fortune to have relatives who needed nursing in a benign climate abroad. (Less good luck for the relatives, obviously.) As a consequence, instead of staying in the genteel family circle at home and writing somewhat unsuccessful plays, she more or less invented the genre of travel guides which her publisher, John Murray, developed as the rising middle classes – whether out of curiosity or dire financial need – started travelling en famille to Europe after 1815. Continue reading

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Object of the Month: May 2018

How many bear jugs does one person need in his or her life? The answer, in the case of Dr J.W.L. Glaisher (about whom I have written before), appears to be at least twelve. This is the number bequeathed by him to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1928, and at the moment a fine clutch (the collective noun is given variously as pack, sloth or sleuth …) is on display in Gallery 27. Continue reading

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More Cats in Art …

Just a quick couple of additions to the genre after a visit to the Prinsenhof in Delft. In addition to the legendary bullet holes in the wall (embedded after they had passed through the body of William the Silent (alas!) in 1584, and which I’d wanted to see ever since A-level history 50 years ago), it contains many fascinating paintings, maps and artefacts illustrating the gradual emergence of the Dutch Republic.

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The Good Intentions of Lady Mico

Fate, in the form of a house move, has brought the grand-daughter (and her parents, naturally) to another neck of the London woods, which I look forward to exploring on those occasions when grandmotherly duties take me down. My first discovery, in the course of the move (which resulted in a terrifying tower of flattened-out cardboard boxes and even more terrifying sackfuls of bubblewrap irretrievably stuck down to packing tape) was on the way to the Stepney City Farm, a place already appreciated by me and my Lovely Companion, but now much closer. Continue reading

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The Bells, the Bells …

As the website of Save Venice, Inc. tells us: ‘Venetian noble Pietro Gradenigo (1695–1776) commissioned Giovanni Grevembroch, a Venetian artist of German descent, to record Venetian clothing, artworks, occupations, collections, buidlings and daily life through a series of watercolor drawings bound into volumes. In 1879 the Gradenigo family donated the Grevembroch volumes to the Correr Museum, where they continue to be studied. They continue to be a valuable source for scholars today, as well as of great interest to the general public for the glimpse into Venetian life that they provide.’ Continue reading

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The Chelsea Physic Garden

Well, I made it to the one-day exhibition on Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and it rained only at the end of our stroll around, and then not much. We were greeted at the entrance by welcoming staff, and the Miller Stuff in the Education Room was being guarded by genial and hugely knowledgeable people both from the Physic Garden archives and from the Natural History Museum. Continue reading

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Fool’s Gold

The other day, I came across the name of Giambattista Angello, described as a Venetian alchemist in London. Always keen to follow the path of the legendary all-purpose cure, theriaca, around Europe, I pursued him, though I was slightly puzzled by the spelling of his surname, with two ells. But then I found him as John Baptista Lambye, and the light dawned: Angello is a mis- (or alternate) spelling of ‘agnello’, ‘lamb’. And he appears not to have been a treacle-pedlar, but more on the inorganic side of alchemy – and, by accident or design, the instigator of what must have been one of the most expensive wild-goose-chases of all time. Continue reading

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