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Archive newsletter, 17 February 2014

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

Stories of the weather have dominated the UK news for the past few weeks, but this is nothing new. On November 27, 1703, huge storms swept across the country apparently killing more than 8,000 people and causing huge damage - including to a church at Leamington Hastings, not far from the University of Warwick, where it was reported the winds stripped the church of lead, sheets of which were found laying on the ground nearby "roll'd up like a piece of Cloth".

Appropriately, the Guardian also looked at the ten most apocalyptic floods in art, including The Deluge Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci from 1517-18, Michelangelo's The Flood of 1508-12, and The St Elizabeth's Day Flood 1421, by The Master of the St Elizabeth Panels.

Returning to Michelangelo, the Independent said art historian Thierry Lenain revealed his ability as a skilled forger who made copies of major works then aged them with smoke, in a talk at VIEW festival of art history at the Institut Français in London. He said the Renaissance great forged artworks to get the originals from their owners, and then gave them the copies. But he said writers on art from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century saw this not as a crime but praised the construction of the trap.

The Guardian revealed that more than 250 years after he made his name with his views of Windsor, a rare portrait miniature of watercolourist Paul Sandby has gone on show in a new exhibition at Windsor Castle. Sandby and his older brother Thomas were founding members of the Royal Academy, but there are few images of the landscape painter who lived 1731-1809. This miniature, painted by Jersey-born Philip Jean, has been acquired by the Royal Collection Trust, which holds 550 works by the two Sandbys, and shows him against a landscape with Windsor Castle in the background. It will be an exhibition with some of his best-known views in the exhibition Capturing the Castle: Watercolours of Windsor by Paul and Thomas Sandby, which has oepned and runs until 5 May at Windsor Castle.

In the Telegraph, Alastair Sooke reviewed A Dialogue with Nature, a new display of 26 drawings, watercolours and oil sketches showcasing developments in Romantic landscape work in Britain and Germany between the 1760s and the 1840s at the Courtauld Gallery. He said it is not in the same league as their other recent exhibitions, but it still should not be overlooked, telling the story of artists overthrowing academic convention to learn to draw and paint spontaneously from nature in the outdoors. The exhibition is on until April 27.

The National Portrait Gallery reported at the end of January it had raised more than a quarter of the money it needs in its campaign to acquire a Van Dyck self-portrait and stop it leaving the UK for California. The gallery and Art Fund said £3.2m of the required £12.5m had been secured, including £1 nillion from the Monument Trust, one of the Sainsbury family charitable trusts, and £1m from the public with more than 5,600 individual contributions. An export bar was placed on the painting in November. However, most export bars fail to result in works being saved for the nation, and Labour has called for a reform of the system. The Van Dyck, painted in 1641, has rarely been seen in public as it was part of the Earl of Jersey’s family collection for 400 years.

The Infant Moses trampling Pharaoh’s Crown by Nicolas Poussain, dated from around 1645, may also go to a collector abroad unless a British buyer willing to spend £14 million to keep it in the UK can be found, culture minister Ed Vaizey said. It has been in this country for more than 200 years, but now sold by the Duke of Bedford’s trustees to an overseas art lover to help fund restoration projects at Woburn Abbey, the stately home housing a large fine art collection. A temporary export ban has now been placed on the sale, with a deadline of April 22, which could be extended until October 22 if a serious fundraising effort is made to keep it in the country.


Susannah Clapp in the Observer reviewed King Lear, and said it would be worth it for the storm scene alone, or the scene where Lear wakes in a hospital bed and recognises the daughter he’d rejected. She said Simon Russell Beale is magnetic as Lear in Sam Mendes’s production, at the National Theatre, London, until May 28.

The Independent also said this production of King Lear, which had long been in the pipeline, was worth the wait, and was a “powerfully searching account of the tragedy that fuses the familial and the cosmic, the epic and the intimate, and ponders every detail of the play with a fresh, imaginative rigour”. The review said there were a couple of misjudgements though, including a hydraulic ramp that hoists Lear and the Fool into the air for the storm sequence, and looked like a special effect in a West End musical, but it was for the most part “thrillingly well played”.


Rousseau’s Hand: The Crafting of a Writer, by Angelica Goodden was reviewed in the Times Higher by Biancamaria Fontana, who says the book explores a contrast at the heart of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work, his success as a writer and his diffidence towards intellectuals and to publically appear as an author. She says “while at times the analogies set forth in the book seem a bit too contrived, the book offers an original and accessible insight into this very personal aspect of the writer’s work”.

The Drama of Reform: Theology and Theatricality, 1461-1553, by Tamara Atkin, was reviewed in the TES by Helen Smith. She wrote that the book follows the lead of recent scholarship in embracing the complexities of reformist drama, concentrating on four plays and identifying telling and sometimes precise links between their “contents and the proponents of reform”. She says though there is less of a sense of how representative the plays are, and how they fit alongside more traditional, orthodox drama, but there are intriguing glimpses of how different authors took on and transformed theatrical tradition. It does less well, she said, on capturing the often baffling humour which made these plays comedies, or assessing how popular or influential they were.

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