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Archive for October, 2012

The French point out – rightly, I think – that we had our Revolution in the 1640s. One has to wonder how things might have turned out differently but for the premature death of Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales, exactly 400 years ago, in 1612. He was the first-born of James I and VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, hence elder brother to the tragic Charles I.

Henry was born in 1594 in Scotland when Queen Elizabeth’s reign had yet nine years to run. When his father acceded to the throne, the young prince and his household were set up in Henry the VIII’s legendary Nonsuch Palace in Surrey. There, the Henry IX-to-be continued his education in kingly matters.

The Lost Prince, the new show at the National Portrait Gallery, covers this period until the young man’s untimely death. We find out how the boy was chided both by his father and tutor for poor handwriting – the examples here are beautiful, though not without ink blots – perhaps that was the problem. His classical education included astronomy and to my brain very hard maths puzzles, examples on show. Europe being a dangerous place for a Protestant Prince to tour, he learned his geography from travel books. He did military exercises – there are a pair of gorgeous suits of armour on show.

The Lost Prince, National Portrait Gallery

Prince Henry’s copy book, 1604-6.The Master and Fellows, Trinity College, CambridgePhoto: © Master and Fellows of Trinity College CambridgeThe Lost Prince, National Portrait Gallery  

Prince Henry’s armour, 1608.Royal Armouries Photo: © Board of Trustees of the Armouries 

Henry was coached in discernment and – like young Charles after him – he became an avid collector. He was advised by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundell – the Anthony Blunt of his day. The show has some objects from the prince’s collection. The young man officially became Prince of Wales at a lavish ceremony in June 1610. We see the illuminated manuscript of the letters patent for this appointment with James’s enormous seal hanging off the bottom. A particularly pleasant feature is a collection of sketches by Inigo Jones of celebratory masques and pageants.

The Lost Prince, National Portrait Gallery

Costume design for Oberon, the faery prince, by Inigo Jones, 1610.The Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement Photo: © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

Henry and Charles’s sister Elizabeth was betrothed to  Frederic V, Elector Palatine Henry, by this time 17 years old was asked to help organise affairs for the wedding including the flotilla taking the princess across the sea, using the flagship he himself had commissioned some years previous.

It was at this time he contracted typhoid fever, declined quickly, and died. He was a popular young prince (a good friend of Sir Walter Ralegh, among many) and the nation went into deep mourning. His funeral was more lavish than Elizabeth’s nine years previously. The final room of the exhibition is dedicated to Henry Stuart’s death. It is black and there is a soundtrack of mourning plainsong written specially for the occasion. Pride of place her, though, has to be the original wooden mannequin used for Henry’s funeral courtège.

The Lost Prince, National Portrait Gallery

Funeral Effigy of Henry Prince of Wales, 1612.Westminster Abbey Photo: © Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey

So all sorts of objects have been assembled to give the visitor a clear sense of young Henry’s life as he was prepared for kingship. But best of all – lush, lavish, luxurious and joyously over-the-top – are the quite stunning Royal portraits. They range from miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard to a wonderful equestrian depiction by Robert Peake the Elder. Most of the others of Prince Henry are full length and also by Peake as are those of the other Royals. There are also works by Serjeant-Painter to the King, John de Critz the Elder and Isaac Oliver. The ruffs! The collars! The shoes! And most amazing of all, the hats!

The Lost Prince, National Portrait Gallery

Prince Henry on Horseback by Robert Peake, 1606-8. From The Collection at Parham House, Pulborough, West Sussex Photo: © Michael Donne

The Lost Prince National Portrait Gallery London

Prince Henry and Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex by Robert Peake, c 1605. The Royal Collection Photo: Supplied by Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012

A lady near me, remarked: “So exquisite! The detail!” And so it is. As is the whole exhibition. I think this show surpasses the Thomas Lawrence from a few years ago, and that’s going some. For best of year, I’d have difficulty separating it from National Maritime Museum’s superb Royal River. So congratulations, National Portrait Gallery. This is most definitely a Do-Not-Miss job.

The Lost Prince: The Life & Death of Henry Stuart runs until 13 January. Entrance is £9, free to Friends, half price to Art Fund Members, other concessions apply.

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The Dandy Comic: 75 Years of Biff, Bangs and Banana Skins
24 October – 24 December, The Cartoon Museum.

the dandy cartoon museum londonThe 4th December is the 75th Anniversary of DC Thomson of Dundee’s famous comic, The Dandy. The publishers have chosen this moment to bring the curtain down on the print edition and attempt to soldier on manfully online. Once enjoying a circulation in excess of two million, in the early 21st Century sales of this giant of a comic have of late reduced to a trickle. From its earliest days, The Dandy was an almost immediate success. It was considered so important to the public morale, that even in World War 2, the government encouraged continuity as DC Thomson delivered Desperate Dan and colleagues into our homes, albeit in a 12 page fortnightly edition.

I don’t think there’s anything the publishers could have done to halt the decline. There’s nothing much wrong with today’s Dandy. But Just as it and The Beano eclipsed earlier Victorian and Edwardian forms of comic, so too are they are now out of their time when children have a plethora of other compelling diversions to occupy them. Most are electronic and don’t involve reading at all.

So this exhibition is timely. If Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Winker Watson were your weekly companions, you’ll love it. And even – as in my case – if they weren’t (I took Wham!, Smash! and occasionally Pow!), you’ll appreciate the talent of the comic artists and writers who produced this stuff week in and week out. In particular, I love the work of Desperate Dan himself’s creator, Dudley D Watkins (1909 – 1969). He also drew Our Gang and for the newspapers, the wonderful The Broons and Oor Wullie. There are many illustrators here represented, including the crew still working today. But the guiding spirit of the comic was the legendary Albert Barnes, who ran the comic for 45 years – from its inception until his death in 1982. One might suggest that with his passing, the comic’s end was simply a matter of time.

the dandy cartoon museum london

1960s: Korky the Cat does Beatlemania © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

the dandy cartoon museum london

Wartime: Desperate Dan makes short work of the Nazis…

the dandy cartoon museum london

… and the following decade watches the Queen’s coronation perched on the hands of Big Ben. © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

the dandy cartoon museum london

Even the best efforts of Harry Hill can’t turn the tide in the 21st Century. © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

The Dandy harks back to an age when – apart from the long shorts – boys wore the exact same clothes as their dads, right down to the patterned sleeveless pullovers. Post war, pre-Beatles. So, all a bit sad and very nostalgic. This is a lovely show which features artwork of about a hundred cartoon strips dating from the earliest days in the 1930s right through to this century.

Do go.

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Next: trog, aka the wonderful Wally Fawkes 7 January – 10 March 2013

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Short of using your own boat or swimming, there are three ways: the DLR, the Woolwich Free Ferry, or the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. To commemorate the 100th birthday of the latter, a small group of London Historians walked the tunnel yesterday. An unhappy birthday as it happens, because this and its counterpart in Greenwich are mired in controversy.  Since 2010 they have had £11 million from Greenwich council fire-hosed on refurbishments that should have been completed last year. Instead, in the case of Woolwich, the ground level buildings on both banks are both shrouded in scaffolding, surrounded by blue hoarding, and the lifts don’t work. The fiasco has been covered over the period by this angry blogger.

Despite all of this, we enjoyed ourselves, underground and over water. I shall stay brief because the wonderful Caroline’s Miscellany has already posted and so has The Londoneer. Here are some pictures.

woolwich foot tunnel

This smart sign has very recently replaced one written in felt-tip pen, possibly as a result of mockery from local blogger 853.

woolwich foot tunnel

Folorn: North side entry building, 1912, scaffolded, hoarded-up, broken.

woolwich foot tunnel

woolwich foot tunnel

The James Newman, one of three vessels on the Woolwich Free Ferry, introduced in 1889 by Joseph Bazalgette; taken from the Ernest Bevin. The crew simply call them One, Two and Three.

woolwich foot tunnel

Happy Historians

woolwich foot tunnel

North Woolwich mainline station (1858). Lovely station architecture, unfortunately long-closed, boarded up, abandoned.

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You can’t beat a good crypt, I say, so yesterday I did something I’ve been meaning to do for ages and popped down St Martin-in-the-Fields‘s enormous cellar. I understand for many years it was a night refuge-cum-soup-kitchen for the homeless; HV Morton wrote a moving article about his visit in the dead of night during the inter-war years. Today most of the space is a trendy cafe and large shop: it is overtly very commercial. But James Gibbs’s building is lovely, no doubt expensive to maintain and perhaps one shouldn’t begrudge them their opportunity to catch so much tourist krill.

But what makes the diversion most worthwhile is to see the collection of old monuments stored there, mostly set into the wall. I’m guessing they are from a pre-Trafalgar Square burial ground nearby or from an earlier incarnation of the church. Or both. The inscriptions would suggest so. I love reading English from the days before Spelling. Look out for the the expensive masonry memorial of a woman who died at 70 and was once the servant of a Royalist General from the Battle of Edge Hill. Most egalitarian!

There is also a rather crude but enjoyable stone (marble?) statue of Henry Croft, “the Original Pearly King”. He was acknowledged with an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography earlier this year.

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

St Martin in the Fields

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edward learThe bicentenary of Charles Dickens has caused the eclipse of two other Victorian worthies: Henry Mayhew (1812 – 1887) and Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). But the Royal Society, at least, has mounted a small exhibition in remembrance of the maestro of nonsense. But not for his daft poetry and cartoons, rather his illustrations of animals and birds. Lear was a highly talented illustrator and the images shown here are still in books, where they belong. Most were written by Fellows of the Royal Society. The illustrations feature tortoises, hedgehogs and other quadrupeds but the most spectacular pictures are of birds. The bulk of this work was done by Lear when he was in the 1830s when he was very much still a young man. But his very poor eyesight deteriorated, helped along no doubt by having to do this highly intricate work.

edward lear toucan

edward lear crane

edward lear

The Royal Society is based at 7 – 9 Carlton House Terrace, near Pall Mall. This has only been its homes  since 1967, however. It kicked off in 1660s at Gresham College. Then, when William Chambers’s Somerset House was built the society moved there and later – like the Royal Academy – de-camped to Burlington House. But what they always lacked was space. After World War 2, the old German Embassy in St James’s came up for grabs and this is where the institution has been based to this day. As you would expect, the place is festooned with busts and portraits of very brainy men, most of them famous for their braininess. But I was particularly pleased to find a model for the British Library’s monumental Newton statue by Paolozzi. I love a good maquette, I do.

Royal Society

The President’s Staircase. Marble abounds.

royal society

Brainy Roster

royal society

Newton, by Sir Edward Paolozzi after Blake.

Officially Edward Lear and the Scientists finishes tomorrow. But I’m advised that the Royal Society doesn’t plan to disassemble the display for a week or two, so you can still see it and it’s free. Just call them up first to let them know when you’d like to come. 020 7451 2606 or email library@royalsociety.org.

I had a discussion about a LH guided tour there early part of next year. Very much look forward to that.

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Today we enjoyed a special treat. As part of a guided walk of the St Paul’s to Guildhall area plus Wren churches in these environs, we focused strongly on Temple Bar. The reason for this was to celebrate Sir Christopher Wren’s 380th birthday, which was yesterday. By now I know this area quite well and furthermore, the weather today was filthy. The temptation to snuggle down on the sofa under a duvet with a good book was strong indeed. But who could resist the opportunity to penetrate Temple Bar itself? We popped up there for tea and coffee before the walk.

I have written about Temple Bar before. And also the remarkable Lady Valerie Meux, who was responsible for it being located in Hertfordshire from the late 19th century right up until 2004.

Many thanks to London Historians member Tina Baxter for making this happen.

Temple Bar

Upstairs in the Temple Bar with guide David Thompson.

Upstairs at the Temple Bar

Upstairs at the Temple Bar

Upstairs at the Temple Bar

Upstairs at the Temple Bar: a happy historian.

Upstairs at the Temple Bar

Upstairs at the Temple Bar: City dragon on the Paternoster Square side.

Upstairs at the Temple Bar: City dragon on the Paternoster Square side.

London Historians: Tina Baxter and Fiona Pretorius.

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Museum of London archaeologists spent much of 2006 recovering human and animal remains discovered at the Royal London Hospital from 262 burials. All were processed and – because of markings and cuts – discovered to be the objects of study by 18th Century anatomists. They form the basis and inspiration for this new exhibition at the museum: Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men.

The London Hospital 1760 C The Royal London Hospital Archives

The London Hospital 1760 © The Royal London Hospital Archives

In the early 1830s the government wished to solve a problem which had been a long time festering: the illegal trade in cadavers. Demand by hospitals was huge and legal supply (a restricted number of executed criminals) was tiny. The result of this was surgeons purchasing bodies from grave-robbers and in some cases, murderers. So in 1832 it passed the Anatomy Act which allowed unclaimed corpses – typically from workhouses – to be passed to the anatomists. This is the pivotal event around which the exhibition is based.

The consequences were many, but mainly the disappearance of the resurrection men and the professionalisation of surgery and the rise of teaching hospitals replacing private anatomy schools from the previous century. Less than 10 years before the Act saw the launch of The Lancet, which insisted on peer-reviewed research and campaigned against ingrained bad practice – such as nepotism – in the profession. And in the decade following we see the introduction of basic anaesthesia with the use of ether. So surgery was transformed on many fronts in these decades that are the focus of the exhibition. Hence the show has many strands and layers which are masterfully managed.

Central to the whole exhibition – but by no means dominating – are skeletons and wax models. These are what trainee surgeons used to learn their trade. To minimise atrophy, corpses were used mainly in the cooler months. In the height of summer, learning aids tended to be restricted to  the use of wax anatomy models. These are extraordinary sophisticated, detailed and yes, beautiful in their own way. The master of  this particular craft was Joseph Towne.

Joseph Towne wax model, created for 1851 Great Exhibition C Gordon Museum, King's College London 1

Joseph Towne wax model, created for 1851 Great Exhibition © Gordon Museum, King’s College London

Self portrait of Joseph Towne (1808-79) c1825  C Gordon Museum, King's C...

Self portrait of Joseph Towne (1808-79) c1825 © Gordon Museum, King’s College London.

The public were terrified of resurrection men and even more of “London Burkers” – after Burke and Hare – men who actually murdered to supply fresh bodies to the surgeons. The most notorious case was the so-called Italian Boy. The story is here represented by post-execution portraits of the murderers. We have an example from St Bride’s crypt (worth a visit) of a metal coffin, the resort of paranoid wealthy who wished to prevent their bodies from being snatched. The whole business of anatomists and body snatchers (the public and satirists seemed to tar them all with the same brush) were lampooned by cartoonists, no surprises we have Hogarth and Rowlandson, but I rather like the one by William Austin.

Clift drawing of Bishop C Royal College of Surgeons

Clift drawing of Italian Boy murderer John Bishop © Royal College of Surgeons

The Anatomist Overtaken by the Watch, by William Austin, 1773 C Museum o...

The Anatomist Overtaken by the Watch, by William Austin, 1773 © Museum of London.

There is so much to see and learn here, objects lent from our leading medical museums, colleges and institutions. In addition to the above described we have portraits of the leading surgeons of the day; medical toolkits (amputation, trepanning etc.); specimens in jars (compulsory!); anatomical drawings and illustrations; tattoo’d skin samples. And it goes on.

The word “macabre” gets bandied about. Not from me. This show is thoughtful, inciteful, beautifully arranged, displayed, lit. The curators are to be congratulated for their selection and how they contextualised all the objects, the whole display. I can’t remember learning so much in such a short time. This mesmerising show has to be one of the exhibitions of this year, and quite possibly next  as well. Don’t miss. 

Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men runs at the Museum of London until 14th April 2013. Entry is £9.00, free to Friends, £4.50 to Art Fund members. Other concessions apply. More information.

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