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Newsletter, 18 March 2013 (archive)

Newsletter, 18 March 2013

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

The Telegraph was among papers that previewed a forthcoming exhibition taking place as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in the summer, where Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings are compared with medical scans, which found them ‘startling’ in their accuracy.

On August 19, Peter Abrahams, Professor of Clinical Anatomy at the University of Warwick will be giving a talk in Edinburgh, exploring the value of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings as a tool for understanding the human body, and how closely he anticipated the range of imagery used by the medical profession today.

It also seems Edinburgh and its car parks do not want to be outdone by Leicester, which found the body of Richard III under a parking spot. Archaeologists excavating a building site in Edinburgh’s Old Town near the 18th century Old High School, 16th century Royal High School and 13th century Blackfriars Monastery found the grave of a medieval knight and the foundations of a monastery built by a former king of Scotland. The monastery was thought to have been founded in 1230 by King Alexander II of Scotland, but destroyed during the Protestant Reformation in 1558. Its exact location was unknown before this dig.

The 250th anniversary of the birth of William Cobbett, author of the millions-selling Rural Rides, was earlier this month, and the Telegraph marked it with an article about the man AJP Taylor apparently once called the second greatest Englishman ever to have lived (after Samuel Johnson).


Charles Darwent in the Independent reviewed Barocci, Brilliance and Grace, an exhibition of works by the neglected Italian painter at the National Gallery in London, and wrote that it justifiably claimed to have rediscovered a forgotten genius. The exhibition is on until May 19. Laura Cumming in the Observer seemed to agree, saying it was hard to believe there were any old masters left waiting to be rediscovered, but it seemed so, and she called his work radiant, radical and amazingly joyous.

Jonathan Jones’s On Art blog in the Guardian, written before the new Pope was revealed, looked at the history of Papal portraits from Raphael to Bacon, and asked what qualities Popes should have.

What was thought to be a low value 17th century painting which was left to the National Trust has now been identified by Dutch art historian Ernst van de Wetering as a self-portrait by Rembrandt, worth up to £20 million. It was signed by Rembrandt but was thought to be a later copy, and now becomes the only Rembrandt among the Trust’s 13,500 paintings.

Another painting has also been ‘found’, as a portrait believed to have been painted by a pupil of Van Dyck has now been re-identified by Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology as a work by the master himself. The work had been kept in a storeroom at the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle in County Durham.

The new Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition, Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars has opened, and runs until July 14. Reviewing it for the Telegraph, Florence Waters finds the title vague, but the show revelatory. She writes that the show is really about the ceremony of diplomatic gift giving during the first century of trade between England and Russia, and is scholarly and illuminates a neglected piece of material and political history.

The National Portrait Gallery is showing an exhibition of American Indian portraits by George Catlin from the early 19th century. Florence Waters, writing in the Telegraph, finds they rescue his more humanist side. When he had visited London in the 1840s he brought with him native Ojibwas to dance in the gallery alongside his works, and Queen Victoria called for a private performance. This time the paintings speak for themselves. Padraig Kirwan, lecturer in literature of the Americas at Goldsmiths, University of London, also writes about the exhibition in the Times Higher and finds it timely and necessary, looking at the work of Catlin who saw himself as a self-appointed historian of a ‘dying nation’. He finds the exhibition well contextualises Catlin’s art and project in its times.

The British Museum is showing, until April 28, In Search of Classical Greece, travel drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi from 1805-6, 70 watercolour views which have never been on display before, showing buildings that have disappeared or changed and landscapes now under modern cities.

Until 5 May, the Barber Institute of Fine Art at the University of Birmingham is showing 17th-19th century British miniatures from UK private collections. The exhibition includes examples by leading names in the field including Nicholas Hilliard.

Compton Verney art gallery near Wellesbourne re-opens on Saturday for its first show of 2013, and it is Bellini, Botticelli, Titian …500 Years of Italian Art, which comprises 40 of the City of Glasgow’s greatest Italian paintings, dating from 1400-1900, showing the gradual move from religious to secular subjects.

Book reviews

In the Guardian, Ian Pindar reviewed Cullen Murphy’s God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy, which studies the history of the “inquisitional impulse”, but doesn’t quite joint he dots, Pindar finds.

Dr Jasper Trautsch of the German Historical Institute in Washington, reviews five books on a related theme, what he sees as one of America’s most neglected wars : 1812: A Nation Emerges by Sidney Hart and Rachel Penman, 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism by Nicole Eustace, Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War: America’s First Couple and the Second War of Independence by Hugh Howard, The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent by J C A Stagg, and The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 by Troy Bickham.

Theatre and music news

In the Telegraph, Ivan Hewett’s 50-part series on short works by the world’s greatest composers focused on Bach’s Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke, which was first performed in 1735.

Charles Spencer in the Telegraph is disappointed in what he sees as a ‘misguided and self-indulgen’t production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from Tom Morris, the director of the stage show of War Horse, currently showing at Bristol Old Vic. He finds the puppets a ‘tiresome distraction’ which diminishes from the piece.