Books of Hours

Books of Hours

Book of hours are a kind of medieval prayer book, known for their dazzling illuminations that burst with colour and charisma. They  have been described as the ‘late medieval bestseller’: more books of hours were produced and read than any other book in the period 1300-1500 -  including the Bible. There are so many surviving [...]

Maiolica at the Ashmolean

Maiolica at the Ashmolean

Oxford is shivering in the mid-November chill when I visit the maiolica room. Everything outside is tinted bluey-grey by the dingy afternoon light, and the trees are stripped of their autumn colours, their branches naked against the cold sky. But inside, in the maiolica room, the air is filled with Italian sunshine. It is a [...]

A Worldly Art

A Worldly Art

Mariët Westermann’s book A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic 1585-1718 paints a picture of a society that is in many ways similar to our own. The Dutch Republic in this period, like our own modern society, was a cosmopolitan nation with a global outlook, well-educated citizens, elected representatives and a tolerance of different religions. It [...]

Richard II

Richard II

I have been fascinated by the king from the Wilton Diptych since I saw the BBC’s 2012 production of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Ben Whishaw played the hubristic monarch doomed by the turning wheel of fortune with mesmerising pathos. I was only 12 when I saw it, so much of the language went over my head, [...]

Monet and Architecture

Monet and Architecture

The rooms of this exhibition were dark and crowded and hushed, and the paintings on the walls seemed to radiate light, like glowing lanterns. I'm sure I wasn't the only person drawn to see it by the painting on the poster - Venice painted so beguilingly in hazy, shimmering blue and violet. Monet is the [...]