Friday 12th of August 2022

from a ceiling by rubens to dad's army and everything in between...

As we’re prisoners in our own homes under Scottus Morrisonus decreetation — himself preempting the world-wide White House dictum of Trumpus Donaldus the first, Emperor of the new coronavirulencis on this stupid planetoid, home of Homo imbecilicus — we have but a few privileges left — an not a toilet roll in sight. 

China is of course to be condemned — because the Imperial domain needs a culprit for whatever — by both houses of Congress, maned by monkeys sitting on their raw butts in the Useless Shittus of AmericANUS — colonoscopy in progress.

After social distancing was felt to be a bit too antisocial, by the authorities in charge of the Measuring Tape, they replaced the vernacularum with “personal distancing to 1.5 metres", while social interaction was reintroduced as a branch of virtual reality, in which everyone is allowed to get into someone else’s pants. Lovely.

Virtual reality was invented by filmmaker Morton Heilig. in 1957, he had created the Sensorama. A 3D video machine that let you experience riding a motorbike via vibrating seats and wind machines — or watch a belly dancer perform with benzoic perfume pumped into the auditorium. Nobody, including Henry Ford who was dead by then, wanted to buy into it. The Sensorama machine ended under a tarpaulin in Heilig's garden. 

Three years later, Heilig patented the Telesphere Mask, a 3D video headset. From Heilig's mask to the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality industry is now expected to be worth $170 billion by the year of grace 2022— or more! Possibly $3.5 trillion with the illusionarovirus holding us to ransom.  

Meanwhile, we old netizens are cheap grumpy bastards. Prisoners of the Empire, we’re happy to plunder the WWW for treasures of historical significance, until the Empire's machines, themselves under attacks from CHINESE (them again!) cyber-viruses decide to shut all of us down. Machines do not tolerate satire and/or people moving out of the taxation loop, unless you have an exemption note from your bank because you are RICH. 

We've seen the machines, such as the Robot-debt forcing people into tears. Cry? sure. Laugh? We’ll prong you with hot irons — you modern satirical Voltaire fomenting a revolution!… Should you wish a “republican” dictatorship alla Cromwell, haven’t you realised yet, that’s where you are? Trumpus Donaldus One's approval ratings are going through the roof, possibly making Vladimir Putin jealous… Should you wish a socialist revolution, vote for Bernie Sanders… Ahahahahah…. We’re screwed. But really we’ve been screwed forever… but more so now...

So, we have have to be discreet in (re)reading our (old) art books. The libraries being shut, we need to rely on our own collections that fortunately so far, the authorities haven’t confiscated yet… But be alert… We might be only left with our dicks and vaginas to play with.

Perusing nonchalantly an “ouvrage" about Rubens, Gus’ eyes stopped in front of an amazing painting… In there, acts of debauchery take place. There is “hidden copulation” at the bottom, lesbianism from the three graces, tits and bums galore and cherubinis everywhere — probably plonked there to suggest some kind of pedophilia… But the centrepiece is that of fully clothed man’s ecstasy as another man dressed like a Roman warrior, use a short sword to fiddle with the man's dick… Actually I am wrong... My delirious imagination, affected by virusomania, makes me see things that aren't there... The whole painting is tasteful and the two men hold each other's arms in a brotherly embrace — the warrior dragging away the other guy. The painting is but a sketch for a much bigger work in which the details would have been worked in, like the fat of the Rubens’ nude ladies, the rolls of whom are famous like baker’s bread… 

One wonders… Rubens was a businessman and an official diplomat — as well as being a great painter. What pushed him to compose such a unique work, even for him? The only nude that does not show too much superfluous flesh is all his nudism is that of his second wife “in fur", which he married when he was 53 and she was 16. Being the niece of his first wife who had died, he probably would have groomed the kid… Who knows. I’m going to hell under critics' stones and scholars’ bullets alike, for suggesting such a thing… but so be it. 

So, who was this bawdy painting for?

In 1625, on a diplomatic visit to France, in order to get Louis XIII, the French king's assistance to fight the Spanish, the Duke of Buckingham met Peter Paul Rubens... The soup thickens...

George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham, was the brilliant and arrogant court favourite of James I (he was his homosexual lover — please read their letters), then a favourite of Charles I. During the first years of Charles I, the Duke was the virtual ruler of England. 

The Duke loved Ruben's work. He commissioned a portrait (that vanished for about 400 years, recently “found”) and a ceiling for Rubens to paint. By the time he was assassinated three years later, the Duke of Buckingham owned more than 30 paintings by Rubens. 

The picture above is that of the sketch for the ceiling for Osterley Park, Middlesex, which at the time might have been the Duke’s residence when he was not frolicking in the king’s chamber. Little is mentioned about it, nothing actually, possibly due to the scandals surrounding the Duke and the King… It’s most likely that the ceiling was therefore finished by Rubens, but after 200 years of history blank, Osterley Park was “rebuilt" and the original work is nowhere to be seen. 

The painting (c.1625) was called The Apotheosis of the Duke of Buckingham. The sketch is small, about 64 x 64 cm. The central figure is of course Villiers, the Duke himself, while the Roman Soldier is obviously a representation of King James I having fun...

Osterley Park itself is another long-long story... During WW2, it eventually ended it up as a training camp for the Home Guards — Dad’s Army… When reading about this place, one can see where the plots for the series came from...


Monday 25 September 2017 
A previously-lost portrait of one of the "most famous gay men in history" by Peter Paul Rubens has been re-discovered in Glasgow. 
The portrait of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham - thought to have been the lover of James I - was found hanging in a National Trust for Scotland property,

It was believed to be a copy of the lost original, which was missing for almost 400 years, but an expert now thinks it's the real deal after spotting it in the gallery of Pollok House. 

The restored portrait was authenticated as a Rubens by Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp. 

He said the painting by the influential Flemish painter  was a "rare addition to Ruben's portrait oeuvre, showing how he approached the genre”. 

Dr Grosvenor said: "The chance to discover a portrait of such a pivotal figure in British history by one of the greatest artists who ever lived has been thrillingly exciting. 

The portrait of the duke, dressed in a doublet with an elaborate lace collar and sash, dates from around 1625. 

George Villiers was a controversial figure who rose from minor nobility to become one of the favourites of James I (James VI in Scotland).

Many experts claim they were lovers, while others believe they enjoyed a close platonic friendship. 

He was assassinated in 1628 aged 35 - three years after James I died. 

The painting has undergone conservation work by restorter Simon Gillespie to return it to its original splendour. 

It will be displayed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on Thursday 28 September, and feature in the first programme of the new series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces, which airs at 9pm on BBC Four on 27 September. 

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was an artist and diplomat. He is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens's highly charged compositions reference erudite aspects of classical and Christian history. His immensely popular Baroque style emphasised movement, colour, and fleshy sensuality, which greatly inspired the dramatic artistic style of the Counter-Reformation. Rubens specialised in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His women were soft-bodied, passive, and highly sexualised beings, nude who emphasise the concepts of fertility, desire, physical beauty, temptation — and virtue. His nude women were created to appeal to his mostly male patrons...

The 16-year-old Hélène Fourment, Rubens' new wife, inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s, including The Feast of Venus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), The Three Graces and The Judgment of Paris (both Prado, Madrid). 

We need to know more, don’t we? History is full of little shits and grandstanding bastards like the Duke…

Thus there will be more cream to come. In the meantime, peruse the painting at top and admire the fleetness of the brush, the boldness of the work’s subject which is unique, even for the bottom painter  — I mean painter of bottoms — such as Rubens...


from the duke, to surrealism, via the 3 musketeers...

the duke of buckingham by rubens

The Duke of Buckingham, the lost portrait, painted by Rubens...


George Villiers — First duke of Buckingham, also called Sir George Villiers (1614–16), Baron Whaddon (1616–17), Viscount Villiers,  Earl of Buckingham (1617–18), Marquess of Buckingham (1618–23) — born in 1592, became royal favourite and statesman who virtually ruled England during the last years of King James I and in the first years of the reign of Charles I. 
Buckingham was extremely unpopular, and the failure of his aggressive, erratic foreign policy increased the tensions that exploded in the Civil War between the royalists and the parliamentarians later on.

Introduced by his father, a knight, to James I in August 1614, the charming, handsome Villiers soon replaced the Scottish favourite Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, in the king’s chamber. His relationship with James became sexual, and he retained his passionate support to the end of the king's life. Villiers became master of the horse in 1616 and lord high admiral in 1619. By using his power both to elevate and to enrich his relatives, he also alienated the upper classes of the realm.

Buckingham played his first major part in politics in 1623, when he and James’s son, Prince Charles (later King Charles I), visited Madrid to arrange a marriage between Charles and the daughter of the Spanish king. Buckingham hoped to use Spanish influence to recover the Palatinate, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, for James’s son-in-law, Frederick V. But His arrogance contributed to the collapse of the marriage negotiations. He returned to London and, with parliamentary backing, pressured James to go to war against Spain.

After Charles became king in March 1625, Buckingham arranged a marriage between Charles and the French Roman Catholic princess Henrietta Maria that failed to bring a hoped Anglo-French alliance, and it angered Parliament by raising the threat of a Catholic succession to the English throne. The Duke was not popular...

His grand naval and land expedition against the Spanish port of Cádiz in October 1625 was so poorly organised and equipped that it disintegrated before it could storm the city. A bill to impeach the duke was introduced in Parliament in May 1626, but Charles dissolved Parliament. Buckingham’s case went before the royal Court of Star Chamber, where the charges were dismissed forthwith.

In June 1627 Buckingham personally took command of an 8,000-man force sent to relieve the port of La Rochelle, a Huguenot stronghold under attack by French troops. After a four-month campaign in which Buckingham showed bravery — and a complete ignorance of the art of war, especially against the “Eminence Rouge", Cardinal de Richelieu — the Duke's shattered army had to withdraw. 

Richelieu, depicted as the lead villain in Alexandre Dumas's novel The Three Musketeers, was actually a very clever, deviously powerful operator in wars, politics and intrigues…   

Richelieu's mojo advanced by faithfully serving Concino Concini — the Queen-Mother’s favourite. Concino Concini was the most powerful minister in the French kingdom. In 1616, Richelieu was made Secretary of State — responsible for foreign affairs. Like Concini, the then only "Bishop" Richelieu was one of the closest advisors of Louis XIII's mother, Marie de Médicis. 
The Queen was already the Regent of France when the nine-year-old Louis ascended the throne. When her son reached the legal age to be in charge by 1614, she still remained the effective ruler of the realm. Her policies and those of Concini were highly unpopular. Both Marie and Concini became the targets of intrigues. Charles de Luynes convinced the young Louis XIII to order that Concini be arrested, and killed should he resist... Concini was thus assassinated, and Marie de Médicis overthrown. Richelieu thus lost traction, was dismissed as Secretary of State, removed from the court and the King banished him to Avignon. There, Richelieu spent his time writing a catechism entitled L'Instruction du chrétien (Educating Christians).

In 1619, Marie de Médicis escaped from her confinement, to lead an aristocratic rebellion. The King and the duc de Luynes recalled Richelieu, trusting that he would reason with the Queen. Richelieu was smartly successful. After complex negotiations, the Treaty of Angoulême was ratified. Marie de Médicis was given complete freedom, but would remain at peace with the King. She was also restored to the royal council. Richelieu's marbles were winning...

After the death of the duc de Luynes, in 1621, Richelieu rose to power quickly. in 1622, the King nominated Richelieu to become Cardinal, which Pope Gregory XV granted in September 1622. Crises in France, including a rebellion of the Huguenots, rendered Richelieu an indispensable advisor to the King. After he was appointed to the royal council of ministers on 29 April 1624, he went against the chief minister, Charles, duc de La Vieuville. On 12 August of the same year, La Vieuville was arrested on charges of corruption, and Cardinal Richelieu took his place as the King's principal minister the following day. Although the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld nominally remained president of the council, Richelieu was running the show, and was officially appointed president in November 1629.

A major obstacle to the centralisation of power was religious division in France. The Huguenots, one of the largest political and religious factions, still controlled a significant military force, and were rebelling. As mentioned, the King of England, Charles I, advised by the Duke of Buckingham, declared war on France in an attempt to help the Huguenot. In 1627, Richelieu ordered the King’s army to besiege the fortified Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle, which operated like a Freeport. The Cardinal personally commanded the besieging troops. The siege was a massive operation...

The Roman Catholic government of France even rented ships from the Protestant city of Amsterdam to conquer the Protestant city of La Rochelle. This resulted in a fierce debate in the city council of Amsterdam as to whether the French soldiers should be allowed to have a Roman Catholic sermon on board of the Protestant Dutch ships. The result of the debate was that it was not allowed but money was powerful. The Dutch ships nonetheless transported the French soldiers to La Rochelle, as France was also a Dutch ally in the war against the Habsburg's.

The English troops under the Duke of Buckingham failed abysmally in attempts to free the city.

In England , the Parliament of 1628 tried AGAIN to force Charles to dismiss the Duke of Buckingham, but the king was unflinchingly loyal to his friend. On August 17, Buckingham arrived at Portsmouth to organise another expedition to La Rochelle. Five days later he was stabbed to death by John Felton, a naval lieutenant who had served in his campaigns and who believed that he was acting in defense of principles asserted in the House of Commons. 

The plebs in London rejoiced...

Although the Huguenots suffered this major defeat, they continued to fight. Led by Henri, duc de Rohan, protestant forces were also defeated in 1629. Rohan submitted to the terms of the Peace of Alais. Toleration of Protestants, which had first been granted by the Edict of Nantes in 1598, was permitted to continue, but the Cardinal, having ordered the destruction of the fortification of La Rochelle, abolished the protestant's political rights and protections. Rohan was not executed like the leaders of other rebellions under Richelieu's tenure. Rohan became a commanding officer in the French army. Richelieu recognised talent when he saw it... 

Meanwhile, Habsburg Spain axis had exploited the French conflict with the Huguenots to extend its influence in northern Italy. 

Habsburg Spain was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg (associated with the history of Central and Eastern Europe). The Habsburg/Spanish rulers Charles I and Philip II reached the top of their influence and power. They controlled territory that included the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries and territories now in France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. This period of Spanish history has been referred to as the "Age of Expansion”.

Habsburg Spain had funded the Huguenot rebels in order to keep the French army occupied, while expanding its Italian dominions. Richelieu responded aggressively. After La Rochelle capitulated, he led the French army to northern Italy to fight Spain, successfully. On 26 November 1629, he was made duc de Richelieu and a Peer of France.

The following year, his position was threatened by his former boss, Marie de Médicis, who like all good Medicis was excellent at intrigues. She demanded that her son dismiss Richelieu, who by now was unofficially ruling France... 

Louis XIII was not averse to this proposal, as he personally disliked Richelieu. On 11 November 1630, Marie de Médicis and the King's brother, Gaston, duc d'Orléans, secured the King's agreement for the dismissal. Richelieu, a  CARDINAL, however, aware of the plan through his network of spies, quickly convinced the King to repent (in the name of god?). This, known as the Day of the Dupes, was the only time during which Louis XIII thought about dismissing Richelieu who was a very persuasive "man of the cloth", a statesman and a salesman. He secured the king against the king's mother. Thereafter, the King was unwavering in his support for him.
Marie de Médicis was exiled to Compiègne. Both Marie and the duc d'Orléans continued to conspire against Richelieu, but their schemes came to nothing. The nobility also remained powerless. The only major uprising was that of the duc de Montmorency in 1632. Richelieu, ruthless in suppressing opposition, ordered the duke's execution. In 1634, the Cardinal had one of his outspoken critics, Urbain Grandier, burned at the stake. These harsh measures were orchestrated by Richelieu to intimidate his enemies. His political security was due to a large network of professional spies in France as well as in other European countries. He invented the trade. Before him, spies were amateurs, even Aphra Behn later on... Richelieu died on 4 December 1642, aged 57... His legacy, in art, religion and politics is formidable...


The History books tend to ignore the ownership of Osterley Park estate between 1572 and 1761. That's about 190 years of obscured history... We can guess from the sketch at top that, at some stage, the estate was owned by the Duke of Buckingham. Having fallen in disrepair, the grandsons of Sir Francis Child, founder of the Child Bank, Francis and Robert, employed Scottish architect Robert Adam, as one of the most fashionable emerging architects in Britain, to remodel the house. When Francis died in 1763, the project was carried on by his brother Robert, for whom the interiors were created.
The house is of red brick with white stone details and is approximately square, with turrets in the four corners. Adam's design, which incorporates some of the earlier structure, is unusual, and differs in style from the original construction. One side is left almost open and is spanned by an Ionic pedimented screen which is approached by a broad flight of steps and leads to a central courtyard, which is level with the main living quarters.

Horace Walpole described the drawing room as "worthy of Eve before the fall.” Gone is the famous ceiling which we never saw, as the rooms have elegant delicate plasterwork, varied colour schemes, and some coordination between decor and furnishings, unusual in English neoclassical interiors. The entrance hall has large semi-circular alcoves at each end, and an Etruscan dressing room, which Adam said was inspired by the vases in Sir William Hamilton's collection. Adam designed some of the furniture, including the opulent domed bed, still in the house.

Robert Child's only daughter, Sarah Anne Child, married John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland in 1782. When Robert died two months later, his will placed his vast holdings, including Osterley, in trust for his eldest granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, who was born in 1785 — to avoid John Fane placing his mittens on the inheritance. 

Lady Sarah Sophia Fane married George Child-Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey, and thus Osterley passed into the Jersey family.

By this time the ceiling painted by Rubens had vanished… Only the sketch (64 x 64 cm) remains but was the estate back in the hands of the Villiers?… Who knows… The Duke of Buckingham line had ceased to exist but he had had descendants and relatives despite being a homosexual — possibly the most famous one of all…

His son, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was a notable advisor during the reign of Charles II, and, along with Lord Ashley made up the Protestant axis of the Cabal Ministry. The 2nd Duke of Buckingham started fox hunting in England. The Bilsdale Hunt in 1668 was the first and later he started the Sinnington Hunt in 1680. After digging for a fox above Kirkbymoorside, and being too far from his home in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, he died from a chill in the house of a tenant. With his death in 1687, the title became extinct.

But several other members of the Villiers family have been elevated to the peerage. Christopher Villiers, 1st Earl of Anglesey, and John Villiers, 1st Viscount Purbeck, were brothers of the first Duke of Buckingham. Also, Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey, was the great-nephew of the first Duke of Buckingham while Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon, was the second son of the second Earl of Jersey. etc… Ah, here we are. Yes, Osterley Park estate had come back in the hands of the “Buckingham/Villiers" by default...

By 1940, Osterley Park grounds were used for the training of the early members of the Local Defence Volunteers (forerunners of the Home Guard —see Dad’s Army) when the 9th Earl, a friend of publisher Lord Hulton, allowed writer and military journalist Captain Tom Wintringham to establish a Home Guard training school which Hulton sponsored. There, the home guards were taught the theory and practice of modern mechanical warfare, the guerrilla techniques and using the estate workers' homes, scheduled for demolition, they learned street fighting. 

Major Wilfred Vernon taught the art of making home-made explosives, and his store can still be seen at the rear of the house. Canadian Bert "Yank" Levy, who had served under Wintringham in the Spanish Civil War taught knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Despite winning world fame in newsreels and newspaper articles around the world (particularly in the US), the school was disapproved of by the War Office and by Winston Churchill. Closed in 1941, the staff and courses were reallocated to other newly opened War Office-approved Home Guard schools.

Yes one can see the scripts and plots for dad’s army in this venture...


"Osterley Park goes surrealist”

The painter Roland Penrose taught camouflage techniques at Osterley Park, attempting to disguise the amazing charms of a naked Lee Miller — an American photographer and photojournalist...  

When she was seven years old, Lee was raped while staying with a family friend in Brooklyn and was infected with gonorrhoea. Miller experienced many issues in her formal education, being expelled from almost every school she attended whilst living in the Poughkeepsie area. In 1925, at the age of eighteen, Miller moved to Paris to study lighting, costume and design at the Ladislas Medgyes' School of Stagecraft. She returned to New York in 1926 and joined an experimental drama programme at Vassar College, taught by Hallie Flannigan. Soon after, Miller enrolled in the Art Students League of New York to study life drawing and painting.
Rescued from a near hit-and-run, by Condé Nash himself, Miller's stunning looks were what Vogue editor-in-chief Edna Woolman Chase was after, to represent the emerging "modern girl.” For the next two years, Miller became one of the most sought-after models in New York, photographed by leading fashion photographers including Edward Steichen, Arnold Genthe, Nickolas Muray and George Hoyningen-Huene...
A photograph of Miller by Steichen used to advertise Kotex menstrual pads without her consent, ended her career. 

In 1929, Miller traveled to Paris with the intention of becoming apprentice to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his model and collaborator, as well as his lover and muse. She began her own studio, often taking over Ray's fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting. Photographs taken by Miller during this period are credited to Ray. Together with Ray, she rediscovered and perfected the photographic technique of solarisation, through an accident, according to her, when a mouse ran over her foot, causing her to switch on the light in mid-development... 

Man and Lee made the technique a visual signature, with examples being Ray's solarised portrait of Miller taken in Paris (1930), and Miller's portraits of fellow Surrealist Meret Oppenheim (1930), Miller's friend Dorothy Hill (1933), and the silent film star Lilian Harvey (1933).

Solarisation fits the Surrealist principle of unconscious accident being integral to this art, and it also uses the irrational and paradoxical, by combining positive and negative as if in a dream.  Gus was an expert at this technique during the early 1960s.

Amongst Miller's circle of friends were Pablo Picasso and fellow Surrealists Paul Éluard and Jean Cocteau, the latter of whom was so mesmerised by Miller's beauty that he coated her in butter and transformed her into a plaster cast of a statue for his film, The Blood of a Poet (1930). 

In 1934, Miller left her studio to marry Egyptian businessman and engineer Aziz Eloui Bey, who had come to New York City to buy stuff for the Egyptian National Railways. The photographs she took while living in Egypt with Eloui, including Portrait of Space, are regarded as some of her most striking surrealist images. In Cairo, Miller took a photograph of the desert near Siwa that Magritte saw and used as inspiration for his 1938 painting "Le Baiser." Miller also contributed an object to the Surrealist Objects and Poems exhibition at the London Gallery in 1934.

During the Second World War, after her camouflage stint at Osterley Park, she became a war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. Being one of the first to arrive at Hitler's secret apartments, Miller admitted "I had his address in my pocket for years." After taking her famous bathtub picture, Miller took a bath in the tub and slept in Hitler's bed...

Miller also photographed dying children in a Vienna hospital, peasant life in post-war Hungary, corpses of Nazi officers and their families, and finally, the execution of Prime Minister László Bárdossy. After the war, she continued to work for Vogue for a further two years, covering fashion and celebrities — as if one could go back to the frivolous...

Miller started to suffer from severe episodes of clinical depression and what later became known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She began to drink heavily, and was uncertain about her future. In 1946, she traveled with Penrose to the United States, where she visited Man Ray in California. After she discovered she was pregnant by Penrose, she divorced Bey and, on May 3, 1947, married Penrose. Their son, Antony, was born in September 1947.

In 1949, Penrose and Miller bought Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, East Sussex. During the 1950s and 1960s, the farm became a Mecca for visiting artists such as Picasso, Ray, Henry Moore, Eileen Agar, Jean Dubuffet, Dorothea Tanning, and Max Ernst. While Miller continued to do the occasional photo shoot for Vogue, she became a "gourmet cook". 

According to her housekeeper Patsy, she specialised in "historical food" like roast suckling pig, as well as treats such as marshmallows in a cola sauce. She also provided photographs for Penrose's biographies on Picasso and Antoni Tàpies. However, images from the war, especially the concentration camps, continued to haunt her and she started on a "downward spiral". Her depression possibly also accelerated by her husband's affair with the trapeze artist Diane Deriaz.

Penrose also spent much time away, curating exhibitions by his friends Max Ernst, Miró and Man Ray, as well as Picasso. He owned some great paintings by these artists. He was however accused of being a "ready-made collector" by purchasing his friend Paul Eluard’s collection. A rumour told that he was homo-erotically involved with Picasso, despite his manifest love of women.

As so often, sex is used here to butter up the text: an early homosexual relationship at Cambridge between Penrose and Dadie Rylands; Valentine’s lesbianism; Surrealist orgies; various affairs, and finally the slim evidence for Roland’s supposed sexual desire for Picasso. (Two poetic texts written by Roland are adduced, quoted very selectively, before King states categorically: ‘It is clear RP was sexually attracted to Picasso.’ Not proven, my Lord.)

Boy, OH BOY!!!! Gus Leonisky quoting The Spectator, that ultra-right wing rag, worse than the Murdoch media? The world is really in trouble…

Another portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, probably a copy of the Rubens (unless it's the reverse):


the arts go potty in these weird times...

The Getty Museum is challenging people to recreate masterpieces during self-isolation. Could my wife and I become a Piero della Francesca painting using tinfoil and headphones?

Like most great ideas, it came from my wife. She had discovered the Getty Museum Challenge while scrolling through Twitter and concluded it would be a good idea if we were to join in and recreate a work of art using household objects. It sounded like a lot of hard work – not to mention an impossibly high bar, as one genius had recreated Dalí’s The Persitance of Memory using a cardboard box and a laptop – so my first, and indeed second, instinct was to refuse.

But Jill was insistent and said she had found the ideal painting: a portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca, of which she had postcards on her study wall. Ideal because the duke looked every bit as gloomy and miserable as me. So she set to work. For her own likeness, she found some old lace she had bought in a French market years ago and turned it into a sleeve and a choker round her neck. For her headdress, she adapted a pair of headphones with tinfoil and paper. She contemplated going to Budgens to buy some Smarties to finish off the jewellery round her ears, but decided it was neither within the spirit of the challenge or the quarantine.


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Leave the caper to the experts....