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Archive newsletter, 15 July 2013

Welcome to the Forum newsletter for our latest round-up of news and cultural events from the Early Modern period.

We start with information from reader Taylor DeCelles, who wanted to share the latest edition of digital multi-media magazine The Ideas Roadshow, featuring The Passionate Historian, an interview with Sir John Elliott, Professor of Early Modern Spanish history. It can be viewed here .


In the Guardian, Laura Cumming reviews Vermeer and Music : The Art of Love and Leisure at the National Gallery and describes it as captivating. Seventeenth century painters of the Netherlands were exceptionally interested in music, and often depicted instruments. Throughout the exhibition on some days the Academy of Ancient Music will be accompanying the paintings live in the gallery.

In the Independent , Mark Hudson found the exhibition “small and imperfectly formed”, with just four Vermeers, hung closely together and looking sublime, but he says charging £7 entrance for an exhibition of a small number of paintings which can usually be seen for free seems steep. The exhibition is on until September 8.

By contrast, The Discovery of Paris , which is at the Wallace Collection until September 15, got a four-star review from Richard Dorment in the Telegraph, who described it as “one of those gems that the Wallace Collection does to perfection - compact, beautifully installed and filled with ravishing works of art”. There are nearly 70 drawings and watercolours by some of the best-known British artists, including JMW Turner and Thomas Girtin, with works from the start of the nineteenth century, when British artists crossed the Channel during the Truce of Amiens, partly to see the looted works Naploean had put on show in the Louvre.

Another exhibition now opened features intimate sketches by Queen Victoria of her children. The sketchbooks are on show at Windsor Castle , along with other works by British royals includes paintings by Prince Charles, drawings by George III, and works by Charles I’s nephew, the military leader Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who depicted the execution of St John the Baptist in the 1658 print The Great Executioner. The exhibition is on until January 26.

As for forthcoming exhibitions, at the launch of its annual review the British Museum director announced it would be holding an exhibition in the autumn on sex in eighteenth century Japanese art. The museum has been carrying out a project on what were called ‘shunga’, or ‘spring pictures’.

The late works of Rembrandt are to go on show at the National Gallery in London, with about 40 paintings and 30 prints being brought together for the
first in-depth exploration of his works from this period. The show will run from October 2014-January 2015. Other exhibitions announced by the gallery for
2014 include the first monographic show on Veronese, a Masters of the German Renaissance exhibition, and the first British show to explore architecture in
Italian Renaissance painting.


Michael Billington in the Guardian reviewed The Winter’s Tale, which is the only Shakespeare on at the Open Air theatre in Regent’s Park this summer (until July 20) and said the show, described as being reimagined for everyone aged six and over, is “an utterly beguiling two-hour mix of good storytelling, rich language and panto-style audience participation that kept an old purist like me perfectly happy”.

In the Independent , Holly Williams examined the creation of the Jacobean-style Sam Wanamaker Playhouse which is due to open its doors in January 2014. Wanamaker had founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1970 with the intention of rebuilding the Globe on the banks of the Thames, but it didn’t open until 1997, after his death. But he had also wanted to bring back to life Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, next door to the Globe, and this feature looks at all the work that has gone into creating the building, based on drawings found in the 1960s.

There are a number of reviews of two productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In the Independent , Paul Taylor reviewed it at Shakespeare’s Globe, and described the directorial debut of actress Eve Best as the “most spiritedly rib-tickling version of this blackest of tragedies that one has ever seen”, and gave it three out of five stars. He wriote that the banquet scene was reduced to “genially frantic farce”.

Macbeth as performed by Kenneth Branagh at the Manchester International Festival has had a lot of attention, being performed in a deconsecrated church. It is being relayed to cinemas nationwide on July 20. Kate Bassett in the Independent wrote that director Rob Ashford and Branagh seem to think that acting out as much slaughter as possible added oomph. She found the production had dramatic thrills, but the overall effect was “curiously dull”, with Alex Kingston’s Lady Macbeth being vampish with no conviction.

Bassett also reviewed the Globe production and found Macbeth and his wife unusually innocent at first, but the production mildly refreshing in shunning the Gothic. However she also found the comic aspects odd, “giving Macbeth a touch of Basil Fawlty at the banquet”.

In the Telegraph Dominic Cavendish gave the Manchester production a maximum five stars and found it a triumph for Branagh, and a thrilling and cinematically fluid production. Michael Billington in the Guardian found that after a lightweight Macbeth at the Globe the Branagh version was more like it, with the star reminding the audience what an “intemperately exciting Shakespearean actor he is”.However he felt the production had a couple of dubious elements. He praised Alex Kingston’s Lady Macbeth. In the Telegraph however, Charles Spencer found the Globe play cast its spell, the main reason being the “superb fresh-minted performances of Joseph Millson and Samantha Spiro as the Macbeths”, and said it was a cracking directorial debut by Eve Best. The play is on until October 10.

Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy is being staged at the sites of the battles of the Wars of the Roses. In the Telegraph Dominic Cavendish reviewed the first open air production, and said he felt privileged to have been there, though felt like the walking wounded by the end.

Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy is being staged at the sites of the battles of the Wars of the Roses. In the Telegraph Dominic Cavendish reviewed the first open air production, and said he felt privileged to have been there, though felt like the walking wounded by the end.


Bosworth : the Birth of the Tudors, by Chris Skidmore is reviewed by Dan Jones in the Telegraph, who found the bloody birth of the Tudor dynasty recorded in a fine, scholarly and elegantly written book. It looks at the story of the Battle of Bosworth, and the histories of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor family. The author finished the draft before the finding of a skeleton believed to be Richard’s under a car park in Leicester, and includes a short epilogue about the find and its implications for the history of Bosworth.

Iron, Steam & Money : The Making of the Industrial Revolution By Roger Osborne was reviewed by Peter Forbes in the Independent. He found it an inspirational history of the industrial revolution and its vanishing legacy.

Eating the Enlightenment : Food and the Sciences in Paris, 1670-1760 by Emma Spary, was reviewed by Professor Jennifer Davis of the University of Oklahoma. Prof Davis wrote that the book looks at how the ideals of Enlightenment materialised in the sciences and commerce dedicated to food production, preparation and digestion, and the author investigates who became food experts in Paris in the eighteenth century, and what were their claims to authority. She says Spary assumes a high degree of familiary with key figures and institutions, which may put off many interested amateurs, but concludes “Spary has charted a powerful methodology for reexamining the history of food and foodways that will have long lasting consequences throughout the field”.

Comedy, Caricature and the Social Order , 1820-50 by Brian Maidment was reviewed by Dr James Baker of the University of Kent. He wrote that the comic art that makes up the core of the volume comes from unfamiliar names and “unstable and protean formats, from work of indifferent quality”. Dr Barker wrote that it is a book of “few missteps and plentiful insight”, including showing how “illustration and graphic satire played a role in making the novel reading habits of working people less threatening to the middle and upper classes”.

Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World by Giorgio Riello was reviewed by Professor Ian Donnachie of the Open University. Prof Donnachie wrote that the author, from the University of Warwick, does not see this as a history of a commodity but as a book that covers everything from the raw material to manufacturing and finishing processes, products, and trade and consumption worldwide. He tells this in a narrative that describes how cotton became global and a key element in many societies around the world, including India by the fourteenth century developing many regions specialising in production. Cotton textiles were then probably the most traded commodity in the medieval and early modern world. The reviewer praised the inclusion of sources previously unexplored by English speaking scholars, countless figures, tables, illustrations and colour plates, plus the author’s “amazing industry”, including nearly 100 pages of notes and bibliography, to create a “remarkable volume full of insight and originality, particularly in its highly ambitious but generally successful inter-disciplinary approaches”.

The Medieval Kitchen : A Social History with Recipes by Hannele Klemettilä is reviewed by Dr Umberto Albarella of the University of Sheffield, who was initially disappointed to discover it meant kitchen not as in room, but as in cuisine, as it looks at diet and consumption. He felt there was already a rich literature on medieval food consumption. The book ends with 60 recipes, and focuses on the years 1300-1550. He concluded “if one is looking for a book on medieval diet that has nice pictures, many interesting anecdotes and a fluent and readable prose, this volume is ideal. For an in-depth and authoritative analysis of food consumption in the Middle Ages it is, however, necessary to look elsewhere”.

Historic houses

Allan Massie reported inthe Telegraph on the re-opening by the Queen of Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott’s home in the Borders of Scotland. It had closed after the death of his great-great-great granddaughters who had lived there, but eventually a trust was formed to raise £10 million to reopen it, build a visitor centre and £3 million for an endowment, and the building has now reopened.

*We would also welcome news of your recently-published journal articles or books, and forthcoming conferences. You can email Newsletter Author Julie Chamberlain at with details.