The Stuarts

British Baroque: Power and Illusion explores British Art between the restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

A lot went on during this period- the restoration of the monarchy, the accidental beginnings of a free press, the reaction against religious toleration, the introduction of a constitutional monarchy, the stock exchange and the national debt, the Royal Society and the rule of reason, the development of Empire and the slave trade, and the rise of tea and coffee to popularity, to name a few.

This is very much a show about the Stuarts and their Court. The first room is full of images of Charles II, the cavalier king, the merry monarch who sold out the loyal supporters who had followed him into exile or lost office and who signed a secret treaty with his country’s enemy to circumvent parliament. Here he looks majestic and splendid with his long curly locks and flowing robes. …

A man dies two times. The first time is when he dies and the second time is when the last person who speaks his name dies.

Tutankhamun will not die the second death for quite a while.

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Tutankhamun was a short lived and minor king who reigned nine years during Egypt’s most expansive period. He was a puppet ruler controlled by his grandfather-in-law Ay. Tutankhamun’s father, Akhenaten, had overseen a period of religious change as official worship was transferred from Amun and several gods, to Aten the solar disk.

Akenaten moved the capital from Thebes to Akhenaten or Amarna (to give it the anglicised form of its modern day Arabic name). One of the most notable changes introduced by Akhenaten was artistic. The royal family was portrayed in an intimate and naturalist style. The most famous piece of art from this period is the plaster bust of Nefertiti, held in Berlin. Nefertiti was Akhenaten’s wife and Tutankhamen’s mother-in-law. Several images show the royal family receiving the life giving rays of the Aten, symbolised with hands holding ankhs (the symbol of life). One moving image shows the Pharaoh and Nefertiti mourning the death of his daughter. …

Alan Sorrell is revered as one of the greatest archaeological reconstruction illustrators but his oeuvrereveals a more creative artist.

Alan Sorrell

Born in Tooting Bec in 1904 to a relatively prosperous family, his early life was marked with love and tragedy. The family moved to Southend and Alan was part of a close knit family. His Uncle William was a Royal photographer and claimed that the Sorrell family descended from Norman Sorrell, a conqueror who came over with William I. His family was a creative one. His father (who had wanted to be a painter as a young man) had taken Alan on painting trips with him. …

Western artists in the nineteenth century were enthralled with the land and the artefacts of Ancient Egypt. Egypt was an exotic land completely different from Europe. The colours, the heat and the people all exerted a strange fascination.

The boom in Ancient Egypt style art of the Nineteenth Century was an indirect result of Napoleon’s foray at the start of the century. The publication of the Description of Egypt and the display of ancient artefacts in Western Europe enticed a public eager for more.

This is sometimes called the Year Zero of Egyptology, yet Egypt exerted a fascination before this. The Bible was a main source of inspiration. The tale of Joseph was a mine of all sorts of details: oriental luxury, sexuality and despotism. Before the Eighteenth Century however, many paintings portrayed Egypt with classical overtones. Tiepolo’s Joseph receiving Pharaoh’s Ring shows elements of contemporary Venetian dress and classical architecture. Classical themes were common in art history and ancient Egyptian themes merely broadened this repertoire. …

A mighty empire felled by wild barbarians from beyond the hills or a once powerful civilisation destroyed by avarice and greed. These are not just the fantasies of today.

Thomas Cole: Course of Life

Thomas Cole was born in Lancashire in 1801. His father lost his fortune when Cole was young and he began working as an engraver at 13. At 17 his family emigrated to America. His period working in newly industrialised Lancashire may have influenced his life view and later work. The north of England was rocked by the industrial uprising known as Ludditism. These groups of workers sought to defend their rights and conditions of life by destroying and burning machinery and factories. Industrialisation brought great progress to humanity, but the immediate costs were immense and Cole would have witnessed this at an early age. …

One of the most beguiling museums in London is 18 Stafford Terrace. Once home to the Sambourne family, it has kept its cluttered period charm.

The Sambourne family

Edward Linely Sambourne, the Punch Ilustrator, decorated his family house in Kensington in the popular Aesthetical style. The basic tenets of Aestheticism were a celebration of art for arts sake. That is all items must be beautiful. Other trends include a taste for orientalist art (especially Japanese).

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Cartoon by Linley (from wikipedia)

Following Linley’s death, the house was inherited first by their son and then their daughter. The contents of the house remain unchanged until 1960, by a fortunate combination of chance and inclination. …

I have not been asked to rewrite the new Bill and Ted film but if I was it would go something like this.


Bill (played by Ilana Glazer) and “Ted” Theodora Logan (played by Zazie Beetz) are two perpetual community college students who are flunking history. If they don’t pass Ted will be sent to an Alaskan military accademy etc. (Is this a thing in the American education system?)

One day, outside the circle K, they met Rufie (played by Susie Essman). She shouts at them for not applying themselves to their studies. Then she shows them a telephone box which can travel through time. …

In October 1517 Martin Luther published his 95 Theses which set in motion the Reformation. The romantic version of the story states that he pinned them on the door of the church in Wurtenberg. Trends and movements had sprung up before 1517 which were aimed at reforming or moving outside of the Catholic Church’s control. For various reasons, the reformation started by Martin Luther was successful. One of the reasons for this is the introduction of print which allowed materials to be quickly reprodcued for a relatively mass consumption.

The British Museum recently exhibited their collection of prints from this period in the Prints and Drawing Room. …

Winter Quarters by Alfred Duggan follows the adventures of two Celtic warrior nobles during the last days of the Roman Republic. Acco and Camul travel across the Roman World, from Gaul to Parthia and beyond.


At the beginning of the novel, Acco brings a curse upon himself and must flee from the “nymph goddess” he has offended. This goddess takes the forms of several goddesses from the Mediterranean world: the Celtic three mothers, the Roman Bona Dea, the Syrian Mother goddess, Astarte or Ashtaroth.

At Rome, a false Druid explains to Acco “So the Goddess is Bona Dea, and Vesta, and of course Hecate of the three shapes and perhaps Diana as well. I don’t know about Isis, but Juno and Minerva are just satellites of Skyfather”. …

Oxford is a very English town. Home to one of the country’s best universities it is also the training ground of the future elite. It also has one of the best museums for ancient Egypt. Although the narrow streets are busy, it’s worth risking the crowds and having a look.

Here are some highlights.


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King Khasekhem (2nd Dynasty)



Online magazine investigating Greco-Roman Egypt and beyond.

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