Pills

An appurtenance of any self-respecting apothecary’s shop was, it seems, a pill-tile. Made of pottery, and sometime lavishly decorated like that other essential, the pharmacy jar, it provided a flat, smooth surface on which to roll pills. The Fitzwilliam Museum has several specimens, two of which are currently on display in the Glaisher Gallery – which is how, of course, I became aware that a pill-tile is a Thing.

Continue reading

Posted in Art, Biography, Botany, History, Museums and Galleries, Natural history | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Painting Women

I’m guessing that if you were to ask 100 random people to name an historical (as opposed to contemporary) female painter, some at least would answer ‘Artemisia Gentileschi’ (1593–?1654), who has been in the public eye (in the UK at any rate) recently because of the purchase by the National Gallery of her self-portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria, its subsequent road-trip, and the upcoming exhibition of her works. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Biography, History, Italy, Museums and Galleries, Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1687 and All That

If Francesco Morosini is remembered worldwide today, it is probably for the collateral damage caused when a stray Venetian cannon ball hit the gunpowder store which the Turks had so thoughtfully placed in the Parthenon during the siege of Athens. In Venice, however, he is up there with Sebastiano Venier, the victor of Lepanto, and the tragic Marcantonio Bragadin as one of the great military heroes. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Biography, History, Italy, Museums and Galleries, Printing and Publishing, Venice | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Immortal Peacock

I first saw a real live peacock when I was quite young, in Victoria Park in the city where I was brought up. An area of grass and trees very close to the railway station, and therefore – in the early 1950s –very sooty, it contained, as well as swings and a slide, some small cages containing various ducks and other fowl. In one of them was a solitary and miserable-looking peacock, who, on one never-to-be forgotten day, had his tail open (there was barely enough room in the cage). After that, I would rush to the cage as soon as I arrived to see if he was doing it again, but no luck – and alas, quite soon, the cage was mysteriously empty. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Art, Classics, History, Italy, Museums and Galleries, Natural history | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Snaps

Our recent jaunt to Venice and Ravenna provided more than the usual amount of food for thought, so while I ponder further on Titian and Rubens, peacocks, camels, women painters, Francesco Morosini and silence, here are some pictures which I took just because the subjects were so fascinating, and not because I was pursuing a theme. Continue reading

Posted in Art, History, Italy, Museums and Galleries, Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Secret Garden

Of course, a great many gardens in Venice are secret – that is, invisible to the normal passer-by in the calle. But the garden of Palazzo Soranzo Cappello is probably the most famous secret garden in the city (with the ‘Garden of Eden’ on Giudecca in second place). We had been trying to get into the gardens for some years, especially as my book, The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto (2013) says that all you have to do is go into the portego and ask the porter for permission. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Botany, Gardens, History, Italy, Literature, Natural history, Printing and Publishing, Venice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Anon.

I just made it to ‘Artist: Unknown: Art and Artefacts from the University of Cambridge Museums and Collections’, the current exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. (It continues until 22 September, but the Hedgehog ménage will be away – Venice, since you ask, followed by a quick stop in Ravenna.) One theme of this small and lovely exhibition is the effect on the viewer of not knowing who the artist is, and this is something that has always intrigued me. Continue reading

Posted in Archaeology, Art, Botany, Cambridge, Gardens, History, Museums and Galleries, Natural history, Venice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment