Search

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

Category

17th century

The Paintings at Upton House

… so which painting would you like to steal?

Rembrandt lievens magus

 

Upton House is another one of those gorgeous country houses with spectacular gardens and glamorous rooms; what sets it apart from a host of other National Trust properties is the quality and range of its astounding art collection.

I visited with a friend at the weekend and we played: “which would you steal for your house?” So it’s all about personal cravings, not money nor technical ability, and we spent a happy couple of hours debating and chatting to the knowledgeable guides.

My very favourite was A Magus at an Altar which is now attributed to Jan Lievens, a contemporary of Rembrandt. To my eye, the detail of the light playing on his silk robes are as exquisite as anything by his more famous contemporary.  In fact, the painting had previously been judged good enough to be a Rembrandt. Then it was relegated to “Rembrandt and his circle” and finally thought to be a just copy of some lost Lievens.

More recent analysis has revealed lots of re-worked passages proving that the work is not a copy but an original work. In fact the examination showed up so many alterations that it suggests, on balance, a Lievens’ approach working rather than a Rembrandt. There is a brief article and further links from the National Trust’s website here.

I was so pleased to be introduced to this Lievens and, after a quick internet search, I find this wonderful still life (in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) … which is a lovely combination of my two main interests: books and art.
lievens rijksmuseum

The man behind the extraordinary collection at Upton House was Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted. He was the chairman of Shell and owned M Samuel & Co. Bank. He was also chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery and the Whitechapel Art Gallery; and also on the board of trustees for the Tate. With his love of paintings and his huge fortune, he amassed one of the finest art collections in private hands during the 20th century. Walter donated the house, gardens and art collection to the National Trust in 1948.

For further information about Upton House, please follow this link to the National Trust’s page on the property.

A Skinful of Shadows (Extract) : Frances Hardinge

… deliciously atmospheric …

frances hardinge costa lie tree

Frances Hardinge‘s next novel is a thrillingly dark tale of witchcraft and possession set during the turbulent Civil War of the C17th. I have been given a First Five Chapters promotional extract by my indie bookseller, Emily, at Emily’s Bookshop. Thanks, Em!

The fierce Makepeace feels friendless and awkward. She is no more than a servant in her Uncle’s house. Her distant mother frequently locks the girl in a disused chapel at night.  “You need to stay here and sharpen your stick.” For the woman knows there are ghosts that will try to invade Makepeace’s mind. Out on the marshes one day, she tries to rescue a dying animal, and the creature’s spirit becomes part of her. As a “by-blow”, she is sent to live at Grizehayes, her grandfather’s house, and this is where the adventure really begins …

… and I can’t wait to read the rest of it!

Frances has conjured up another passionate, caring outsider in Makepeace. Her character alone would make me read on. But this girl combined with the C17th and witchcraft is my idea of heaven. As always, her turn of phrase is sparkling: the terrifying minister whose preaching contains “love like a cold white comet”; and her pacing of the exposition is spot on, trailing just enough clues for the reader to guess at what’s to come.

Highly recommended.

Cover design moment: The gorgeous cover, reminiscent of mille fleur tapestry patterns, is by the very talented Romanian illustrator, Aitch. More of her work can be found here. And a blogpost about the ideas behind the design can be found at MyKindaBook here.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge will be published by Pan Macmillan on 21st September 2017.

Vasa Museet, Stockholm

vasa museum

… brilliant museum built around a C17th war ship …

Well, I could have spent the whole day in the Vasa Museet. This Swedish museum houses the only almost fully intact c17th century ship that has ever been salvaged and it’s an extremely well laid out and thoughtful museum with plenty to see for the casual and more historically minded visitor. There are the finds cases describing life on board and a film detailing history of the modern salvage operation; and there are recreations of the colourful (even gaudy) wooden carvings decorating this Royal ship and contextual models and displays explaining the history surrounding the disaster.

The 64-gun warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. It was simply too tall and too unstable to withstand a powerful gust of wind. It capsized after only 1,300 metres. In a letter to King Gustavus II Adolphus, the Council of the Realm wrote …“she heeled right over and water gushed in through the gun ports until she slowly went to the bottom …”

I particularly liked the c17th salvage display showing the technique used to bring up the valuable guns. “The diver was entirely clad in leather and had double leather boots. He stood on a platform of lead hanging under the diving bell,” reported a fascinated Italian priest in 1663.

vasa museum diving bell

The recreations of the extraordinary sculptures decorating this royal ship were also fascinating.

seventeenth century sculpture

So, if you are considering a Nordic trip, pick Stockholm! It has a lovely old city centre with lots of Viking gold in the National Museum, great Swedish design, very friendly people – and the finest c17th century warship in the world.

For further information, here’s the link to the Vasa Museet website.

The Hypocrite : The Swan RSC

… fabulous cod C17th comedy …

mark addy

After the success of his One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean has returned to his native Hull, reprising the dilemma of a man serving two masters.  This time he has adapted the true story of Sir John Hotham charged with holding the city’s arsenal during the Civil War. Which side should he declare for: Parliament or the King? He is doing his best to be seen supporting both.

With frenetic slapstick and volleys of wit, it’s a great vehicle for a very likeable Mark Addy. He and Caroline Quentin battle and scheme their way around each other and his impossible situation. There’s a strong Hull accent and many affectionate local and Shakespearean references. The supporting cast had some brilliant scenes including the almost show-stopping, Ben Goffe, as both King Charles, a child ghost and an executioner; also, Jordan Metcalfe and Rowan Polonski, as the Prince of York and Prince Rupert respectively.

rsc

It was such a pleasurable evening: a fabulous cod C17th comedy – and you really can’t have too many of those.

Highly recommended.

As part of the UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations, this is a RSC co-production with Hull Truck Theatre. Its first performance was on 24 February and it transferred to Stratford on 31 March.  Limited ticket availability can be found here.

Why I Love Old Science

I write in an alternative c17th world, researching into the history of inventions and occasionally pulling technology back into that space from later centuries.  Why?

It is fun.  It is accessible.

It recreates a sense of wonder and creativity – the sheer exhilarating Romance of scientific discovery and invention.

I grew up with a very scientific older brother who seemed to grasp instantly the detail of incomprehensible particle physics and who revelled in all the  logical-Mr Spock- shiny white sterile laboratories it seemed to entail.

Whereas I have always wanted simple, mechanical explanations that I could visualise.  I want dirt and grime and the smell of grease on hot metal. It is more tangible and emphasises the work-in-progress feeling.   It makes me remember that scientific theory is a collection of ideas about how to explain the world.  It may not be right but it fits.

And to celebrate that fact here is Solomon’s House, a fictional institution in Sir Francis Bacon’s utopian work, New Atlantis, published in 1627.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑