‘Converted to a cat’

Petrarch's mummified cat

The most famous apocyrphal cat of the Renaissance?**
Petrarch’s mummified cat at Casa del Petrarca.

In honour of World Cat Day, I did a quick search on the fabulous Early English Books Online to see if cats were ever described as agents of conversion, in the same way as were their enemies (or at least their sometime prey) fish. Continue reading

An Interview with Jan Garside

Jan Garside, with one of her collaborators, John Angus, and the woven book

Jan Garside, with one of her collaborators, John Angus, and the woven book

Jan Garside, a textile artist, recently completed a set of three responses to our research and to the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition at Hardwick Hall. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Jan to talk through her inspiration and the challenges of her work, and to learn more about the ‘Drawing Room’ installation. Continue reading

Weaving histories: contemporary textiles at Hardwick Hall

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Yesterday, I made another trip to Hardwick Hall to help (well, mainly watch) textile artist Jan Garside and her collaborators install a set of three responses to our research, and to the themes of the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition.

Continue reading

‘Go your ways for an Apostata': the converting Courtesan

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van Honthorst, Smiling Girl, a Courtesan, Holding an Obscene Image, 1625

I’m really delighted to have been given the chance to contribute to the Dutch Courtesan project, an all-singing, all-dancing (and all-acting) web resource that has accompanied and informed a brilliant recent production of the play here at the University of York.

My interest in the play was piqued by one peculiar phrase, in which the title character declares: ‘Mine body must turn Turk for twopence’. Intrigued by this glimpse of an Islamic conversion, I began to explore the connections between religion and inconstancy that underpin this difficult, but intensely rewarding, drama. To find out more about my conclusions, read my article on the Dutch Courtesan project website.

Picture of a reading table?

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A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about Bess of Hardwick’s reading. What I didn’t mention there was the description of the table on which Bess kept her books. According to the 1601 inventory of Hardwick, Bess’s books sat in her bedchamber, next to an hourglass and a mirror. Whilst it’s tempting to imagine these as the early modern version of an alarm clock and a looking-glass, for Bess they almost certainly had a more serious purpose. Continue reading

A book that converted…

Robert_Parsons_(1546-1610)

As part of the work of putting together the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition, I got to return to a question that has fascinated me for a long time: women’s reading in the early modern period. Though moralists fulminated against the perils of women’s reading, and warned that it was likely to lead to all sorts of venereal vices, there is good evidence to show that women read widely, and that they enjoyed devotional and religious literature alongside a wide range of fictions, poetry, and other writings. Continue reading

An inlaid table, as you’ve never heard it before…

On 13th April 2013, visitors to the High Great Chamber at Hardwick Hall were in for a surpise…

‘Les Canards Chantants’, a talented quartet currently based in York, delighted visitors by singing ‘live’ from the Eglantine table, which is delicately inlaid with wooden sheet music. Visitors were amazed to ‘hear’ the table – some demanded an encore, and others wanted to know if the Canards could get a regular gig!

For me, it was a revelatory experience. Continue reading