Wednesday, 30 May 2018


by Marilynne Robinson, from the Preface to her book of essays, 'What Are We Doing Here?'

Monday, 21 May 2018


231 years ago, the great Jewish boxer Daniel Mendoza married his cousin Esther (22 May, 1787).  Sadly there is no picture of Esther, but here's Daniel.


Monday, 14 May 2018

Elizabeth Jerichau Baumann

I was very much taken with this painting by the Danish artist Elizabeth Jerichau Baumann, at the SMK in Copenhagen. It is called 'An Egyptian Pottery Seller Near Gizeh' and dates from 1876-1878. Baumann was born in Warsaw, met her husband in Rome and lived in Copenhagen from 1849 onwards. She received something of a cold shoulder from the Danish art establishment but was much appreciated in France. Queen Victoria expressed an interest and was rewarded with a painting of Hans Christian Anderson reading to the artist's children. In the 1860s and 70s Baumann travelled in the Ottoman empire, and managed to get access to many harems. The paintings that resulted were considered rather risque for the time. And there is certainly an erotic power to this picture: the pose, the marvellous suggestion of flesh beneath the cool, light texture of the woman's frock, the ruggyness of the carpet on the right (beneath her left elbow), the shadowed imperious yet inviting stare, the heat. It is interesting to find that the other emphatically erotic work in this collection of Danish art is a sculpture by Baumann's husband Jens, of two female bathers.