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

‘Cultural Encounters’ lectures available online

Between January and March, we ran a series of public lectures at the York Medical Society Rooms in York, disseminating the results of our research, and the questions raised by the project. We were delighted to welcome a more-than-capacity audience, despite the snow (in March as well as January!). Those lectures are now available to watch online. We hope that you enjoy watching them, and welcome your questions and feedback.

Happy Birthday to the Bard

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday. To celebrate as Shakespeare would have liked, make sure you contemplate your own inevitable decline by listening to Izzy Isgate reading Sonnet 73. Simply click on the link below to listen.

Empty boughs at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire. (c) NTPL.

Empty boughs at Studley Royal, North Yorkshire. (c) NTPL.

Izzy’s recording is included on our ‘Virtue and Vice’ mobile app as part of our thematic exploration of the dissolution of the monasteries. We invited Izzy, a postgraduate student at York, and a talented singer/songwriter, to do the reading in order to reflect the northern roots of our exhibition and its protagonists.

You can read a transcript of the sonnet, along with my explanation, after the jump. Continue reading

How do you solve a problem like Hardwick?

ImageIt’s been a privilege to work with National Trust staff and volunteers for the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition, and a real thrill to get the occasional peek into areas of the Hall that are usually closed to visitors – including the attics! But working in an Elizabethan house poses some unusual challenges, to put it mildly… Continue reading

What’s in a Name? Curating ‘Virtue and Vice’

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The first of the four rare painted hangings in the Hardwick Chapel which inspired our exhibition. ©NTPL/John Hammond.

On a visit to Hardwick in the summer of 2011, I encountered two striking textiles. One was a magnificent appliqué hanging depicting ‘Faith and his contrary, in the person of Mahomet’: something I had read about in the inventories Bess made of her three properties in 1601, but never seen. The other was a rare and important painted cloth which illustrates the conversion of St Paul: a theme beloved of artists across Europe during the Renaissance, but which I was surprised to find painted onto fabric in a household chapel. Between them, these two luxurious objects encapsulate many of the obsessions and events of the Elizabethan age. The connections and conversations they make possible inspired the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition. Continue reading

Holiday Tattoos: Wearing the Mark of Jerusalem

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While it was traditional for medieval and early modern pilgrims to acquire pilgrim badges commemorating their journeys — individuals who completed the journey to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, for example, would wear the mark of St. James in the form of a clam shell — travellers to Jerusalem occasionally acquired more permanent mementos of their journey to the Holy Land.

Edward Terry, Chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, Lord Ambassadour to the great Moghul, describes a traveler getting a tattoo in Jerusalem in ‘A Voyage to East-India’, published in 1655:

At Jerusalem this our Traveller had made upon the Wrists of his left Arm the Arms of Jerusalem, a Cross Crossed, or Crosslets; and on the Wrist of his right, a single Cross made like that our Blessed Saviour suffered on; and on the sides of the stem or tree of that Cross these words written, Via, Veritas, Vita· some of the letters being put on the one side of that stem or tree, and some of them on the other; and at the foot of that Cross three Nails, to signifie those which fastned our Saviour unto it: All these impressions were made by sharp Needles bound together, that pierced onely the skin, and then a black Powder put into the Places so pierced, which became presently indelible Characters, to continue with him so long as his flesh should be covered with skin: And they were done upon his Arms so artificially, as if they had been drawn by some accurate Pencil upon Parchment. This poor man would pride himself very much in the beholding of those Characters, and seeing them would often speak those words of St. Paul written to the Galatians, Gal. 6. 17. (though far besides the Apostles meaning) I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Continue reading