Famous women


In some countries, 8 May is women’s day, so here’s a bunch more of the Vanessa Bell & Duncan Grant set that will hopefully be bought be Charleston soon and remain on public display.


The collection covered dancers (Pavlova, Taglioni), political movers and shakers (Sarah Churchill and several queens), writers (Georges Sand and Eliot), artists and muses (“La Bella Simonetta” was a subject for Bottecelli) and royal mistresses.


I recognised most of the women in set, including Dorothy Osborne, whose letters I studied at uni, but Agnes Sorel had me stumped…


Photos from my visit to the Piano Nobile gallery.



I was considering posting “Flaming June”, given the heat last week, but we’ve got a whole month to get there, and this is equally outrageous. In fact, it’s as unabashedly out there – and for similar reasons – to this blog’s second-favourite Gertrude:

NPG 1630; Gertrude Elizabeth (nÈe Blood), Lady Colin Campbell by Giovanni Boldini

Seeing this you can see why critics of the Baroque complained that the style shamelessly set out to manipulate an audience’s emotions, focusing on effect and appeal to the senses above all else. It rather pleases me therefore that this image came from a site dedicated to the cool-headed goddess of wisdom, Gifted Minerva. Check out the whole tumblr feed for some new art discoveries, especially if you enjoyed Still Life Quick Heart, when I posted that.

Nicholas Regnier, St Sebastien & St Irene



This belongs with Leonie and the green dress, and possibly also this for added wickedness.

Miu Miu are actually doing a ballet pump version with studded black leather straps, and chiffon ties that go up the leg, but I can’t find a picture of that, so you’re just going to have to imagine it in all its lusciousness.

Sunny rebellion


The Sussex Modernism exhibition at 2 Temple Place has just closed, and although the (rather gorgeous) mock-Jacobean setting was exactly what this generation rebelled against, the works themselves remained defiantly sunny.

Love’s Labours

Some people think that Much Ado About Nothing is the second half of a pair of Shakespeare plays called Love Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour Won, others that Love’s Labour Won was another play now lost, or that it was never ever written but only advertised on a playbill.


One of the problems for those who prefer the Much Ado theory is that it features completely different characters, but the RSC has found a clever gloss on this, which is to cast them as before and after the First World War. This adds a poignancy to Love’s Labour Lost, which is  usually a play that like The Taming of the Shrew can feel irredeemably anachronistic, and an extra note of tragedy to Much Ado, adding a ground bass to the delightful sparring of Beatrice and Benedict above.


I’ve booked tickets for both and I can’t wait. Photos from the RSC website here and here.

Nothing on but a pair of shoes and ivy


The thing that drives me wild about bad historical fiction and biopics is how static everything is. Every character is well-behaved and understandable in modern terms, but with a carefully dropped coating of period detail to “place” them.

A bright young secretary in a 1930s pastiche novel will of course have a tortoiseshell hair clip and yearn for cocktails like Garbo and a flat with curved white walls, whilst the scientist is always a tortured genius who was just unlucky enough to be born before Silicon Valley taught us to appreciate him. In reality, the secretary probably lived in an Edwardian maisonette with hopelessly outdated Victorian furniture in it, and ate cabbage and tripe more often than she drank cocktails, and the scientist would have political, social and racial views that would shock us today.

This fizzy and witty book, full of the most fantastic anecdotes about Bath life, is a great reminder not to assume the past was as dully homogenous as we like to think:


Ankle frills



Don’t you love this portrait of Gloria Vanderbilt Whitney from 1916? How chic! Her outraged husband wouldn’t let the painting be hung in their house once it was finished, it was so shocking. I just love those trousers and the colour combinations.

artist, Robert Henri. Image via Pinterest.