Salvator Rosa’s painting, Witches at their incantations, is one of the strangest paintings in London’s National Gallery. Tucked away in the gallery’s room 32, its darkness and complexity are perplexing to viewers and its meaning is unclear. A grotesque array of people, monsters and skeletons, emerging from the dark in various degrees of light and shade, it differs from the other works for which he is better known, such as Landscape with Tobias and the Angel and the beguiling portrait, Philosophy. Whilst it is not Rosa’s only painting in the National, it is probably his weirdest.
It is only during the last thirty years that visitors have found their way to this small walled, rose-brick town lying in the flat agricultural landscape of Emilia, a short way to the south-west of the ducal city of Mantua. Yet it is a near perfect example of an ‘ideal city’ of the Italian Renaissance and, unless any evidence is discovered to the contrary, the sole driving force behind its planning and creation was the trusted Habsburg general, Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna, of the side branch of the main Gonzaga family of Mantua.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Not just any old massacre – a masterpiece to rival any movie with a mystery of its own
The Massacre of the Innocents is a biblical story of such horrific content that many people find it difficult to reconcile with art and aesthetics. And yet, it is one of the most important and prevalent subjects in the canon. For those unfamiliar with the New Testament, it is the story of the mass infanticide, ordered by Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew, he ordered the execution of all young male children in the area of Bethlehem who may have been a threat to his throne, shortly after the birth of Christ.
Charles Barber was born in Trinidad and went on to live in Iran, Malta, Singapore and Australia before settling in the UK. Charles Barber founded Sapienza Travel in 2016 to marry up his passion for travel and for telling the stories of the people and places who coloured European history. Prior to setting up Sapienza Travel, Charles worked for a number of companies in the media and publishing sectors.
Perhaps like me, you were lucky enough to view the powerful statue of the Mercers’ Christ during the London exhibition, ‘Art under attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm’ held at Tate Britain in 2013. It was a unique occasion to see this life-size sculpture in a public space as it can only be viewed by appointment in the private collection of the Worshipful Mercers’ Company in Ironmonger Lane off Cheapside. Heavily bombed during the war, the Company was rebuilt in 1958 where the Mercers’ Christ is displayed today. The statue is the only relic that survived the Henrician Reformation, the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Against so much adversity, how could it possibly survive? The story is both extraordinary and complex.
Victoria Tate is the founder of Arterial, a company which brings the art of rising artists into the workplace. In this interview, Victoria told us what got her interested in art and where in the world she has enjoyed living.
The unlikely setting of the library at Windsor Castle was the scene of discovery of one of the most important collections of illustrations in the entire histories of art and science. Working on a project to explore Rome’s seventeenth Century Academia de Lincei (founded by prince Frederico Cesi in the early 1600s), academic David Freedberg tells of how in 1986 he found hundreds of drawings ‘in a cupboard.’ He describes ‘a spellbinding variety of zoological, botanical, ornithological, mycological and geological specimens’ in a style that were mostly ‘masterfully precise and detailed. They seemed to come from the nineteenth century, but these were from the seventeenth…’
Veronique Biddell grew up in Paris, graduated from the Ecole du Louvre where she specialised in Greek archaeology. In London, Veronique joined Sotheby's via their Graduate Trainee Programme. Recently, Veronique graduated from Birkbeck, University of London with an MA in the History of Art. Read on to find out which cities and artists are dear to Veronique.
Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne is a fantasy in marble which combines drama and classical narrative with a meticulous replication of natural textures and human form. It shows the moment when Daphne, a nymph and the daughter of the river god Peneus, is chased by the warrior god, Apollo. The statue is in the Galleria Borghese in Rome which is a "must-see" during holidays to Rome.