Monday, October 31, 2011

The Witching Hour

For the last few months my personal research has consisted of witches, witches, and more witches.  Now it is Halloween and what better way to celebrate than to display the 18th century's view of witches in art.  Gone were the days of witch hunt hysteria and come were the days of the theatrical witch.  Goya and Fuseli are perhaps the most famous for their witches but there were a handful more artists who experimented with the theme.

Francisco Goya, Witches in the Air, 1797-98
Francisco Goya, The Witches Sabbath, 1797-98
Henry Fuseli, The Witch and the Mandrake, 1812
Henry Fuseli, Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head 1793-1794
John Runciman, The Three Witches, 1767-68
Francesco Zuccarelli, Macbeth Banquo and the Witches, circa 1760s
John Martin, Macbeth, 1820
James Gillray, A Phantasmagoria, 1803
Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783
Daniel Gardner, The Three Witches from Macbeth, 1775
Francisco Goya, Linda Maestra, 1798
Francisco Goya, The Witches Sabbath, 1823

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Show Stoppers

Sometimes a night at the opera theatre was not as relaxing as one would have hoped.  Just ask Joseph Addison.  He was trying to get some culture one night at a showing of Macbeth when the worst thing that could happen, happened.  He discovered he had chosen a seat near an annoying audience member.
Some Years ago, I was at the Tragedy of Mackbeth, and unfortunately placed my self under a Woman of Quality that is since Dead; who, as I found by the Noise she made, was newly returned from France.  A little before the rising of the Curtain, she broke out into a loud Soliloquy.  When will the dear Witches enter? and immediately upon their first Appearance. asked a Lady that sate three Boxes from her, on her Right hand, if those Witches were not charming Creatures.  A little after, as Betteron was in one of the finest Speeches of the Play, she shook her Fan at another Lady, who sate as far on her Left Hand, and told her with a Whisper, that might be heard all over the Pit, We must not expect to see a Balloon to night.  Not long after, calling out to a young Baronet by his Name, who sate thtree Seats before me, she asked him whether Mackbeth's Wife was still alive; and before he could give an Answer, fell a talking of the Ghost of Banquo.  She had by this time formed a little Audience to her self, and fixed the Attention of all about her.  But as I had a mind to hear the Play, I got out of the Sphere of her Impertinence, and planted my self in one of the remotest Corners of the Pit."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Exhibition: The First Actresses

Words cannot express how excited I am about an exhibition opening at London's National Portrait Gallery tomorrow.  The First Actresses is a celebration of the fascinating women (many written about on this blog) who took London by storm, when they ascended to the stage, a short while after it was even allowed for women to do so. According to the NPG's website,
"The First Actresses presents a vivid spectacle of femininity, fashion and theatricality in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Britain.

Taking centre stage are the intriguing and notorious female performers of the period whose lives outside of the theatre ranged from royal mistresses to admired writers and businesswomen. The exhibition reveals the many ways in which these early celebrities used portraiture to enhance their reputations, deflect scandal and create their professional identities."
The exhibition is not only monumental for the oeuvre but has acquired some amazing pieces that have been hidden away in private collections.  An erotically-charged portrait of a topless Nell Gwyn, the self-proclaimed "Protestant Whore," has been restored to its original state of toplessness.  Also on public display for the first time is the NPG's new acquisition, The Three Witches from Macbeth, which is quite special because now the museum finally has a adult depiction of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire in its collection.

The First Actresses opens tomorrow but I personally will have to patiently bide my time to see the exhibition since I am planning on attending its corresponding conference on 11 November.  Juicy details to follow!  Who else is planning on going?

Amanda Vickery's Review
Laura Barnett's Review

Monday, October 17, 2011


"Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength."
-Edmund Burke

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mrs James Fordyce, Really?

While sitting in a presentation by my most excellent colleague yesterday, I nearly fell over when he informed everyone that this beauty strewing flowers about the grave of Fingle was none other than the wife of our favorite opinionated fuddy-duddy, Dr James Fordyce.

What is even more gossip-worthy is the fact that Dr Fordyce wouldn't have approved of his wife's act of honoring the Celtic hero so it is quite interesting that she is depicted as such.  Looks like it's another woman ignoring your well-meant advice, Dr Fordyce!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cheese that Stimulates the Coversation

Thanks to an anonymous tip from a lovely reader I was introduced to this fantastic commercial.  Did you go to your fridge looking for a bit of cheese? I know I did!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daniel Gardner

I've become obsessed, as of late, with the lesser-known artist Daniel Gardner.  Gardner is an interesting individual; anal-retentive by nature, his artwork, by contrast, is characterized by a freedom of brushstrokes and a dismissal of proportion rules.  Gardner had some training with Joshua Reynolds and may have even worked on some of the leafy backgrounds of some of Reynolds' work.  However his technique is all his own and a bit mysterious since he only allowed the sitter in the room with him while he painted and wouldn't allow them to see the work in progress.  He also is said to have been pretty experimental with his painting, even going through the woods picking up odds and to make shades of paint. The results of his short-lived career (he retired comfortably during the peak of it) are stunningly beautiful.  He can be characterized by his unique shades and creative group portraits.

Sir William Heathcote, Rev William Heathcote, and Major Gilbert out Hunting
Mary Unthoff
Albinia Countess of Buckinghamshire
The Taylor Family
Mrs A Clarke
Miss Elliott as Circe
Lord Halifax and his Secretaries
Emma Countess Tankerville with her Daughters
Mrs. Paul Prickett
Portrait of an Actress, 1775
Lady Auckland and her Daughter
Elizabeth Elstone
Elizabeth Farren later Countess of Derby
Lady Rushout with her Three Elder Children, c 1773-5
Lady Melbourne the Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer as the Witches from Macbeth, 1775
Self-Portrait, c 1770