Islamic Art

Islamic decorative arts

Tuesday 18th June at 10.45am

Lecturer: Chris Bradley

Exploring the Decorative Arts of the Islamic World This lecture covers aspects of Islamic art in some of the most important cities, sites and museums in the world especially Cordoba, Cairo, Damascus, Isfahan and Samarkand. From its Arabian heartland comes a wealth of decorated ceramics, carved wood, metalwork, glass, tiles, mosaics, carpets, architecture and gardens. Islamic art encompasses the great wealth of artistic treasures inspired by the Islamic religion, but there is also non-religious art such as the colourful dancing figures from the pleasure palaces of Persia; the simple mud brick decorations of a merchant caravanserai; or the delicate carved marble of arguably the world’s most beautiful building – the Taj Mahal. We tend to think of all Islamic art in a religious context, but within these regions are many non-Muslim communities of Copts, Jews and Zoroastrians whose own art is inextricably linked. Despite unifying themes of mosques, minarets, madrassas and mausoleums to be found between Morocco and China, each region has its own history that influences the decorative art we see today.

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Tantrums and Tiaras: The Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House

Tuesday 16th July at 10.45am

Lecturer: Nigel Bates

This lecture takes a look at life backstage at London's Royal Opera House and the tribulations and triumphs of working with The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet companies. We look at the way artistic inspirations, the people involved and the very special Victorian building all function together to create world-class opera and ballet in a unique environment.  Includes several performance video clips.

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The Rebuilding of Ypres

Ruins of Ypres

Tuesday 17th September at 10.45am

Lecturer: Christopher Chanter

The Rebuilding of the Town after Its Total Destruction in the Great War Wonderful before-WWI old photographs. Then the same buildings after destructon and the same now taken very recently. No library shots used, only original material including my own photographs used.

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The Shakers of North America

Shaker Water Tower and Men's Bathhouse By Tom Allen - Photograph taken by Tom Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=168633

Tuesday 15th October at 10.45am

Lecturer: John Ericson

Their Belief, Architecture and Artefacts In this popular talk John tells the extraordinary story of the Shakers of North America, exploring their beginnings, what they believed and how they lived their lives before examining examples of their wonderful buildings and furniture. For it is only with such an understanding of their devout faith and way of life that we can begin to appreciate their intriguing legacy.

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Character and Story in Renaissance Art

Renaissance Art. By Sandro Botticelli - Adjusted levels from File:Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project.jpg, originally from Google Art Project. Compression Photoshop level 9., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22507491

Tuesday 19th November at 10.30am prompt

Annual General Meeting followed by:

The Mary Glen Memorial Lecture

Lecturer: Sarah Dunant

In this illustrated lecture, Sarah Dunant, international bestselling novelist of the Italian renaissance, shares the secrets of her trade. To recreate the past as a living, breathing place, Sarah has visited churches, archives, museums and art galleries all over Italy. This is the story of her discoveries; how the decoding of old paintings alongside the work of the most modern historians helped her to penetrate hidden worlds inside the Renaissance, finding wonder and drama in ordinary lives and exploring the complexities of politics and religion along with emotion, the senses, and the heady appetites of body and soul.



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The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Field of the Cloth of Gold

Tuesday 21st January at 10.45am

Lecturer: Joanna Mabbutt

In June 1520 Henry VIII and Francis 1 meet to ratify an Anglo-French alliance and celebrate the betrothal of Henry’s daughter Mary to the Dauphin. The two handsome ‘Renaissance Princes’ are in their 20’s with similar reputations in military prowess, sport and patrons of the arts.  Both have imperial ambitions and are eager to display themselves as magnificent nobleman and warrior kings.  Each brings an entourage of 6,000 to a field south of Calais for 18 days of various events and entertainments staged to display the skill and splendour of each King and country.  The logistics of transporting, accommodating, ordering, feeding and watering, protecting and entertaining the English contingent for this spectacular event is staggering and the supply chain, often through the City of London Guilds, is equally fascinating. 3,217 horses shipped across the ‘Narrow Sea’ to Calais; a vast quantity of wood sourced from Flanders and floated along the coast; a huge temporary palace is built on stone foundations with brick and timber-framed walls reaching to 40 feet.  Royal palaces were virtually emptied of their silver, gold, tapestries and furniture to decorate the temporary palace, other principal tents and a chapel (with an organ); gold and silver cloth, velvet and sables, jewels and pearls were imported to ‘dress and impress’.

How was it all achieved?



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From Desktop to Bureau

17th century desk

Tuesday 18th February at 10.45am

Lecturer: Janusz Karczewski-Slowikowsk

The rise in importance of writing furniture from the 16th to 18th centuries reflected the economic as well as social need for  greater literacy and numeracy as mercantile trade developed across the globe.  This lecture traces the development of the bureau-bookcase and other writing furniture from the humble “writing slope “ or “Bible- box” through to magnificent symbols of status and power. Computers may have “hidden files” but lack the intrigue.



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Caravaggio : Murderer or Genius

Caravaggio Bacchus

Tuesday 17th March at 10.45am

Lecturer: Julia Musgrave

Caravaggio’s paintings inspired many artists during his lifetime and would go on to influence many more, from Orazio Gentileschi to Peter Paul Rubens, Gerard van Honthorst and Rembrandt. Each absorbed a different aspect of his work. His style spread across Europe and gave rise to the international movement known as ‘Caravaggism’. Yet for many, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is famed as much for his art as for his criminal record. Was it the violence of his times or his own violent spirit that inspired the dramatic lighting and intense naturalism of his work? This lecture follows the dramatic incidents of the artist’s life and looks at why and how his influence spread so far.



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Sunken Treasure from the East

Chinese Export Porcelain

Tuesday 21st April at 10.45am

Lecturer: Marie Conte-Helm

The story of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain speaks of the important trade between East and West along both the overland and maritime Silk Roads. The cobalt blue mineral, or ‘Mohammedan Blue’, that provided the distinctive under-glaze colour of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain owed its origins to China’s early trade with Persia. During the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial kilns at Jingdezhen perfected the production of blue-and-white wares and thus extended the scope of China’s trade with the West. Oriental export porcelain has its own rich history, enhanced by tales of shipwrecks and lost cargoes, that hints of the fascination for these products from the East, that came to be adapted for Western markets. This lecture will trace the history of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain and the trade in export porcelain. It will also recount tales of salvaging operations that have resulted in the recovery of sunken treasures from the East. The ‘Nanking Cargo’ and the ‘Hoi An Hoard’ are but two examples of early shipwrecks in Eastern waters, the recovery of which have enhanced our understanding of blue-and-white porcelain and its wider commercial impact.



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