The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Field of the Cloth of Gold

Tuesday 21st January 2020 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?



Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

From Desktop to Bureau

17th century desk

Tuesday 18th February 2020 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.



Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Caravaggio : Murderer or Genius

Caravaggio Bacchus

Tuesday 17th March 2020 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.



Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Sunken Treasure from the East

Chinese Export Porcelain

Tuesday 21st April 2020 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.



Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Mind the Gap – Designs for the Underground

London Underground Art

Tuesday 19th May 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Charles Harris

“Mind the Gap” examines the world-beating graphics, designs, maps and posters created for the London Underground. From early days through the inventive inter-war years, this lecture is rammed with well-known artists and great stories. Modern London was shaped by the Underground. Tunnel Vision has never been so celebrated.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

The Life and Art of Charles Mackie

Charles H Mackie

Tuesday 16th June 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Pat Clark

The Scottish artist Charles H. Mackie (1862-1920) was a founder member of the Staithes Art Club. During his time in the area he gave painting lessons to the young Laura Johnson who, as Dame Laura Knight, acknowledged her debt to him. His own art encompassed oil, watercolour, woodblock prints, tooled leatherwork and sculpture. His travels ranged over Great Britain, France and Italy culminating in magnificent works painted in Venice. This exploration of his contribution to British art reveals his many facets as man, artist and teacher.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Portmeirion: Italianate Fantasy Village


Tuesday 21st July 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Matthew Williams

Portmeirion is an extraordinary surprise; a colourful and delightful fantasy village on the coast of north Wales.   Created from the 1920s by the remarkable architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was his personal defiance against the advance of modernism and what he saw as the despoilment of Britain. By the 1950s it had become the playground of artists, intellectuals, aristocrats and the merely rich. Regular visitors included H G Wells, Bertand Russell and Noel Coward (who wrote Blithe Spirit at Portmeirion).

Sir Clough’s daughter Susan created Portmeirion Pottery, which during the 1960s and 70s, was synonymous with cutting-edge ceramic style. This lecture looks at the place, its architecture and associations.

Matthew also draws on some personal memories, as his uncle was Resident Director of Portmeirion for 30 years.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Art and Culture in Budapest


Tuesday 15th September 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Gavin Plumley

Budapest was formed in 1873 by the unification of Buda and Pest, situated on either side of the River Danube. The new capital was the focus of resurgent Hungarian nationalism, which found expression through lavish new buildings, the continent’s first underground railway system and myriad paintings featuring specifically Hungarian subjects and locales. Meanwhile, in the countryside, composers Bartók and Kodály began to collect the music of their compatriots. Placing these endeavours in a historical context, this talk explores how the Hungarians came to understand national identity through cultural means.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

Restoration Theatre – Rakes, Fops and Wenches

Restoration Theatre

Tuesday 20th October 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Malcolm Jones

The return of Charles II led to the re-opening of theatres after the 18 year closure of public playhouses under the Commonwealth Government. The new theatres saw the first actress on the stage replacing the cross-dressing males.  Great actors and lively audiences in  Restoration Theatre brought the morals of the court onto the stage in its comedies of city life and an era of great playwriting was unleashed.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures

The Ghent Altarpiece

Ghent Altarpiece

Tuesday 17th November 2020 at 10.45am

Lecturer: Caroline Rayman

Painted between 1430 and 1432 by Jan van Eyck, and possibly his brother Hubert, for St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent; also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, this altarpiece was, over the ensuing seven centuries, stolen no less than thirteen times.

This lecture tells the extraordinary story of these thefts, culminating with the final one which took place during the Second World War, when it was stolen, along with many other treasures from all over Europe, by Adolf Hitler for the magnificent museum he intended to build in his name in his home town of Linz.

Posted by vivalogue in Lectures