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Archive newsletter, 17 October 2013

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

We start this edition with news from Early Modern Forum member Gary Watts, a Professor of Law at the University of Warwick. He got in touch to tell us about his new book, Dress, Law and Naked Truth: A Cultural Study Fashion and Form (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) which traces modern legal anxiety with public nudity and veils (and legal interest in the "evident") to historical cultural sources, including early modern concern with outward show. It includes a chapter entitled Shakespeare on proof and Fabricated Truth. You can read more about it here .

Dr. Águeda García-Garrido of l’Université de Caen Basse-Normandie has also been in touch to ask us to share the 2013-14 seminar programme at the University of Caen, which can be viewed here .

In other news, a ruined Warwickshire castle which has been turned into a holiday home available to rent through the Landmark Trust has won the RIBA Stirling prize for its restoration, with judges praising the ‘beauty and rigour’ of the work. Astley Castle near Nuneaton was home to three queens of England and served as a parliamentary garrison during the civil war before becoming a hotel and bar and being wrecked by a fire in 1978.

The Telegraph reported how Simon Thurley, who has written two books about the heritage industry, said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that old legislation was a real problem and a threat to Britain’s historic buildings, which failed to take into account the impact of windfarms and bypasses on their aesthetics.

Jasper Copping in the Telegraph reported on new research by military experts which showed how a tiny British unit played a crucial role in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, which has been described as the most important battle of the nineteenth century, helping to shape modern Europe, but is barely known about in the UK. The role of the unit from the Royal Horse Artillery has been researched by the Battlefields Trust which is going to present its findings at the Tower of London this month.

There seems to be lots of news about found or identified artworks from the early modern period. The National Portrait Gallery has bought a lost William Larkin portrait of a seventeenth century woman, Lady Anne Clifford which was identified with help from her own words. The portrait was painted in 1616 and given to her cousin, but lost for centuries and recently traced to a European private collection, and was identified partly to Clifford’s own description of herself in a diary and other documents. Clifford was left money by her father, but contested his estate and properties going to his brother, and eventually inherited, going on to become one of the richest women in England and a patron of the arts.

The Guardian also reported researchers in Italy think they have unearthed a portait of a noblewoman by Leonardo da Vinci which has been lost for 500 years, and features the same enigmatic smile as his Mona Lisa. The portrait of Isabella d’Este which is believed to have been painted around the start of the sixteenth century was found in a vault of a private collection in Switzerland and has been verified by experts as Leonardo’s work.

A painting of the Risen Christ once owned by a German chancellor has been identified as a work of the sixteenth century Venetian artist Titian. Art historian Artur Rosenauer, a professor at the University of Vienna, wrote about his discovery in the October issue of the Burlington Magazine, the Guardian said. It is currently in a European private collection.

In Dorset , what was thought to be a copy of Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas has been identified as being by the Spanish master himself. Las Meninas was painted in 1695 and hangs in the Prado in Madrid, showing members of the Spanish court with the Infanta Margaret Theresa. Art historian Matias Diáz Pardrón has claimed that a portrait in the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy House is a first draft or sketch of it. The Prado thinks the Dorset painting was done by Velázquez’s pupil Juan Mazo, but the work is still to feature in an exhibition of Velázquez’s paintings at the Prado this month.

A landscape by Turner, painted during his first visit to the Highlands of Scotland in 1801, and incorrectly labelled as a Welsh Mountain Landscape by the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge University in the 1970s has now been identified by Professor Murdo MacDonald of Dundee University as depicting the Loch Lomond area.


The Guardian has written about how for the first time since it was found more than a century ago the entire Cheapside Hoard has gone on display at the Museum of London. Containing almost 500 pieces, it is the largest hoard of Tudor and Jacobean jewellery ever found, and it was unearthed in 1912 by London workmen demolishing an old jewellery’s premises on Cheapside in the City of London. It went into storage during the first world war, and the whole collection has not been out of the bank vault until now. It is believed the hoard was owned by a gem dealer called Gerrard Pulman who was murdered and robbed in 1637 on a voyage from the Orient to London, but who buried the treasure has not been discovered. The exhibition is on until April 27.

In the Guardian , Jonathan Jones was disappointed with a show of Albrecht Dürer’s works at the Courtauld Gallery in London, which he described as ‘one of the worst shows about a great artist I’ve ever seen’. He says the general public doesn’t seem to be the audience the curator had in mind, but the gallery’s associated academic centre for study, with ‘snobbish connoisseurship’ smothering the works. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s four years as a young journeyman touring the art cities of Germany, and it explores in depth the artists he learned from in those years.

There have been several reviews of the Japanese shunga art exhibition at the British Museum . The Guardian said it was the museum’s most explicit exhibition ever, depicting people engaged in a wide range of sex acts. Shunga art flourished from the seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries. Head curator Tim Clark said it was suppressed in the twentieth century when Japan opened up to the west. The exhibition is on until January 5. Jonathan Jones wrote that the exhibition is a word away from pornography, and celebrates sex. He says early modern Japan was no feminist paradise and the show does stress the harsh realities of the sex industry, but in shunga prints looked at by married couples everyone has a good time.

In the Independent , Adrian Hamilton said the exhibition may be hardcore, but it is the humour and humanity that really thrill. He says the oddity to the western eye is that very few couples in the works are fully naked, which may be down to the desire of artists to show their skill in portraying textures and fabrics. There is also a display of works, The Night of Longing: Love and Desire in Japanese prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge until February 12. Mark Hudson in the Telegraph said it was a mixture of artistic sensibility and imagery that leaves nothing to the imagination. He says it is the first exhibition to set the genre in its historical context, to ask what function these images served, whose pleasure we are supposed to be watching, and why the sexual organs are always so oversized. There is also a lot of bawdy humour.

Elizabeth I and her People at the National Portrait Gallery was reviewed in the Telegraph by Alastair Smart, who found it to be art which ‘favours flaunting wealth over probing the psyche of its subject’. He finds one problem being that art remained stuck in the Middle Ages, while everything else advanced, with Elizabeth looking like an ‘over-decorated Christmas tree’ in one Nicholas Hilliard portrait. Smart finds the stories of the new merchant class providing the show’s real interest. The show is on until January 5.

At Compton Verney in Warwickshire, the exhibition on until December 15 is Curious Beasts: Animal Prints from the British Museum, which includes images of animals as allegorical subjects, creatures in religious scenes, as objects of wonder, and in daily life. There are works byartists including Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya and George Stubbs, alongside lesser known and rarely seen treasures.


The First Bohemians by Vic Gatrell is reviewed in the Telegraph by Noel Malcolm, who says Gattrell says pre-Victorian England had enjoyed its own variety of Bohemianism long before the French took up the idea. He lists 146 artists in the west end of London in the eighteenth century, when the area was already teeming with playwrights, actors and actresses, making it a Bohemian world already. Malcolm says drinking heavily features in both the nineteenth century and early Bohemian worlds, but in the end it was about an unconventional way of looking at the world, but it got into the heart of our culture and made it richer.

Georgian London : Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis is reviewed in the Independent, which finds her debut book packed with unusual insights and facts, but with a humanity thanks to the individuals she writes about.


In the Guardian , Michael Billington reviewed A Lady of Little Sense by Lope de Vega at the Ustinov Studio in Bath until December 21. He says the 1613 play, one of Lope’s 400 surviving, is a romantic comedy but while it celebrates love and marriage it leaves a ‘faintly acrid aftertaste’, and he was reminded of The Taming of the Shrew by the characters.

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is being performed at the Crucible , Sheffield, until November 2, and was reviewed by the Guardian which found it had been given a ‘vivid and superbly acted’ update, with a very strong cast.

In the Independent , David Tennant and Greg Doran, the RSC’s Artistic Director, discuss their latest Shakespeare collaboration with Fiona Mountford, as they plan to work on Richard II. It will be on at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until November 16, and the Barbican in London from December 9 – January 25.

*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.