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The Story in Paintings: who killed John the Baptist? 3 Salome
By the middle of the nineteenth century, some ambiguity had been developing in the traditional biblical story of Herod’s party, Salome’s dance, and the execution of Saint John the Baptist. Although the underlying story still put Herodias as the driver behind John’s beheading, attention had been steadily transferred to... Read more
Sarah Bernhardt: Portraits of a superstar
The most famous motif of Georges Clairin (1843–1919) was his friend of fifty years, the superstar Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). She was one of the first such superstars in the era in which international celebrities started to appear. Born to an unmarried courtesan in Paris, she was brought up by... Read more
Pigment: A white less toxic, Chinese white
The Greeks and Romans knew well how poisonous lead is to humans. The symptoms and signs of lead poisoning were first detailed in the second century BCE, and when the Romans built aqueducts they recognised that water supplied through lead pipes was not as ‘wholesome’ as that from earthenware.... Read more
Pigment: What used to be Naples Yellow
Many of the more traditional pigments have changed through the ages. Buy some Ultramarine Blue today, and it will have been made in a chemical plant rather than crushed from lapis lazuli won from a mine in Afghanistan. Buy some Naples Yellow, though, and you will get a colour... Read more
The Alhambra: 2 Landscapes 1767-1883
Given the very pleasant climate of Granada and the Alhambra, by rights it should have been painted as much as the Roman Campagna, which in the eighteenth century was the cradle of plein air oil painting, and the high school for landscape art in Europe. Yet the great pioneer... Read more