All posts by Andrew Shorthouse

A Palace by a River — Mike Ogden — 24th June 2019

This was a detailed and fas­cin­at­ing talk about the his­tory of Westminster Palace. A mem­or­ised (rather than read) deliv­ery using the beau­ti­fully pre­pared slides as prompts would have been for me the icing on the cake. I par­tic­u­larly liked the Dennis Skinner quotes; there are a few extra ones slot­ted in at the end.

Thorn Island at the con­flu­ence of the Tyburn with the Thames was marsh­land where the Saxon St Peter’s Monastery was built, then demol­ished later in the 11th cen­tury by Edward the Confessor, repla­cing it with the larger Benedictine West Minster abbey and its adja­cent palace. William the Conqueror was crowned there in 1066. William II added Westminster Hall, the largest cere­mo­nial centre in Europe. Henry III replaced the abbey in the 13th cen­tury with today’s much altered build­ing, adding the adja­cent St Stephen’s Chapel (which had a vital role in the his­tory and devel­op­ment of Parliament as we now know it), the Lesser Hall, King’s (“Painted Chamber”) and Queen’s Chambers and Queen’s chapel. This was a tur­bu­lent time in our his­tory. Henry III attemp­ted to regain lost Magna Carta powers from the barons, led by Simon de Montfort who called a series of Parliaments to sup­press the king and estab­lish the need for Parliament’s approval to col­lect taxes, thus extend­ing Magna Carta’s powers. A Parliament of barons, the clergy together with untitled cit­izens and bur­gers met in the Queen’s Chamber. After 1341 they met sep­ar­ately in the fore­run­ners of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

It was still a royal palace. In the reign of Henry VIII a fire in 1512 caused sub­stan­tial damage, Henry moved to Whitehall Palace and gran­ted Westminster to the gov­ern­ment. The Commons then moved into St Stephen’s Chapel next to Great Hall (with its mag­ni­fi­cent hammer beamed roof) and stayed there for the next 300 years. The prayer stalls each side of the aisle were the ori­gins of the two-party system of gov­ern­ment and oppos­i­tion. The screen’s right and left doors became the sym­bolic portals for the present day “ayes” and the “no’s”.

During Henry VIII’s moment­ous reign, laws affect­ing every aspect of national life, espe­cially reli­gion, were intro­duced. Parliamentary author­ity was every­where.

Guy Fawkes was a Catholic con­vert after the reform­a­tion. At the state open­ing of Parliament his plan to des­troy the prot­est­ant Parliament was uncovered and he was tor­tured before reveal­ing this fellow con­spir­at­ors. On his way to behead­ing Fawkes jumped from the ladder to the scaf­fold and broke his neck – a much better way to go?

When Charles 1 tried unsuc­cess­fully to impose his author­ity, Cromwell assumed power and Charles was executed for treason and since that time no sub­sequent mon­arch has entered the House of Commons apart from state occa­sions.

Your blog­ger was aston­ished to hear that a mere single Prime Minister has ever been assas­sin­ated (Spencer Perceval in 1812).

In 1801, the Union with Ireland cre­ated 100 more MPs. More space was needed. James Wyatt removed the medi­eval fur­nish­ings in St Stephen’s Chapel. The Queen’s Chamber proved too small for the Lords after 500 years and they moved to the much grander Lesser Hall.

An unat­tract­ive hotch-potch of medi­aeval timber-framed build­ings was a real fire risk. Storage of huge num­bers of tally sticks (ancient memory device for those who don’t remem­ber) proved incen­di­ary in 1834. Fire des­troyed most of the palace. Only Westminster hall, the Jewel Tower and chapel under the House of Commons sur­vived.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament JMW Turner (Tate)

Britain was then the most power­ful nation on earth and a new Parliament build­ing was built in the neogothic style. Anston was chosen to quarry 35,000 tonnes of mag­nesium lime­stone quar­ried for its warm appear­ance. Half a mil­lion tons were taken along the Chesterfield canal via the Trent, Humber and Thames to London. Charles Berry enlis­ted Pugin’s help, whose river­side design adja­cent to the old medi­eval build­ings was part of London’s massive embank­ment scheme. An estim­ated cost was £725000. The actual cost was >£2 mil­lion and took over 30 years to build.

Vertical instead of hori­zontal vents were used res­ult­ing in ongo­ing erosion and decay from the ele­ments. Rutland stone was used for res­tor­a­tion in the 1930s.

In 1941 an unex­plored bomb fell into the Lords. A new cham­ber was built in1950. They elec­ted to keep the adversarial cross bench arrange­ment of seat­ing instead of adopt­ing the more modern semi-circular system. Churchill quipped “We shape our par­lia­ment and par­lia­ment shapes us”

Mike Ogden gave a detailed illus­trated account of the cur­rent layout and fur­nish­ings of Parliament. Currently there is a £4 bil­lion plan for res­tor­a­tion and tem­por­ary relo­ca­tion.

Here are some par­lia­ment­ary anec­dotes and quotes to finish off:

Labour MP Emrys Hughes nick­named Sir Hartley Shawcross, “Sir Shortly Floorcross” for his con­ser­vat­ive sym­path­ies during the Cold War.

The hon­our­able Member is living proof that a pig’s blad­der on a stick can be elec­ted to Parliament.” —Tony Banks (Labour) on Terry Dicks (Tory)

She prob­ably thinks ‘Sinai’ is the plural of ‘sinus.’” —Jonathan Aitken on Margaret Thatcher 

The house has noticed the Prime Minister’s remark­able trans­form­a­tion in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean.” —Vince Cable on Gordon Brown.

The right hon­our­able and learned gen­tle­man has twice crossed the floor of this House, each time leav­ing behind a trail of slime.” —David Lloyd George.

He occa­sion­ally stumbled over the truth, but hast­ily picked him­self up and hur­ried on as if noth­ing had happened.” —Winston Churchill.

Our local hero Dennis Skinner has the sharpest wit of all, best attend­ance, lowest expenses, never accepts drinks from journ­al­ists and has often been thrown out of Parliament for pro­tocol breaches. His Black Rod quips are famous and per­en­nial:

”Half the Tory mem­bers oppos­ite are crooks”. The Speaker told him to with­draw. “OK, half the Tory mem­bers aren’t crooks”.

Tell her to sell up” – a ref­er­ence to how the Queen could help the reces­sion.

Hey up, here comes Puss-in-Boots!”

I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.”

Tell her to pay her taxes!”

Tell her to read the Guardian!” (run­ning a repub­lican cam­paign at the time).

Has she brought Camilla with her?”

Is Helen Mirren on standby?”

Any Tory moles at the Palace?”

Royal Expenses are on the way.” – after the expenses scan­dal

Royal Mail for sale. Queen’s head privat­ised.”

To Roy Jenkins  (mixing up his Rs and Ws): I leave this party without ran­cour – to which Dennis replied: I thought you were taking Marquand with you “Every now and then you see the arrog­ance of Cameron, and that comes through every so often. It is the Bullingdon Club. When they were sat down, him and Gideon, and he says: ‘You know what we really want, Gideon? Every week­end, after we’ve roughed up one of those hotels, we need an army of volun­teers to come in and clean it all up.’ And Gideon says: ‘Yeah, we could call it the Big Society’” Dennis to Dodgy Dave

Tell the House of Lords to go to hell.”

He’s lining his pock­ets” — an import­ant quote, Skinner said what nobody else would but what they many thought about Tebbit in a non-exec pos­i­tion at privat­ised BT.

Finally per­haps the best of the lot, Skinner call­ing an MP a pom­pous sod:

Speaker: “You’d better with­draw that”

Skinner: “I with­draw the word pom­pous”

Speaker: “That’s not the word I’m look­ing for”

Skinner: “I can’t with­draw both”

 

Andrew Shorthouse 24 June 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Suburbs of Sheffield — David Templeman — 8th April 2019

David Templeman’s excel­lent talk was about the his­tory of a hand­ful of the mul­tiple ancient sub­urbs of Sheffield which, prior to the indus­trial revolu­tion, had remained tran­quil agri­cul­tural set­tle­ments, and of some of sig­ni­fic­ant beauty – dif­fi­cult to ima­gine today.

John Speed’s map of Sheffield

Speed’s map of Sheffield 1645 shows some of these places already estab­lished cen­tur­ies before. Place names were recor­ded phon­et­ic­ally, with dif­fer­ent spellings, and some had Viking (e.g. –thorpe is an addi­tional set­tle­ment in a vil­lage) and Saxon ori­gins. For instance –ley is a forest clear­ing, -ton an enclosed farm. Examples are Hackenthorpe, Owlerton and Tinsley.

Curiosities on the map led to debate over the unknown Westbury. According to Joseph Hunter (Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield), the Don was bridged at Washford at the Sheffield end of Attercliffe, where Speed rein­ven­ted it as Westbury vil­lage. Attercliffe was men­tioned in the Domesday Book as Ateclive, Attercliffe grew on an escarp­ment on the Don. Christ Church, des­troyed in World War II, was at the top of it and the escarp­ment is no longer vis­ible. The first church there was Attercliffe Chapel 1629

Christ Church, Attercliffe

Even in 1860, apart from small artisan work­shops (e.g. pen and pocket knife makers), there were farms, small shops, and the canal. It was an isol­ated rural com­munity with some large houses (Old Hall, New Hall, Carlton House and a wind­mill, and “no pret­tier place for miles around”. New Hall was con­ver­ted into pleas­ure gar­dens in the 19th cen­tury with a cricket ground, race­course, maze and lake, and was well known for its fire­works and con­certs. Carbrook Hall has under­gone extens­ive renov­a­tion recently and Starbucks have moved in. There was a bear bait­ing pit from Tudor times and cock fight­ing.

A turn­pike through Attercliffe provided access between Sheffield and the Don ter­minus at Tinsley. The Sheffield canal skir­ted the south side; a pity that pro­pos­als to widen it to form the Sheffield Ship Canal failed (Manchester’s gain!). Benjamin Huntsman, inventor of cru­cible steel, had a cot­tage, now demol­ished, along the Handsworth Road. In recent times another lack of city coun­cil foresight was fail­ure to con­vert the Don Valley into a massively impress­ive aes­thetic cor­ridor into the city. If anyone’s been to Stuttgart recently (a city of sim­ilar size with seven hills as Sheffield but with a lot more cash – Bosch, Mercedes, Porsche) they’ll under­stand.

The Don was a rich food source before indus­trial times. But good news! Salmon are back after a major river clean-up. This fish was caught recently at Salmon Pastures in Attercliffe (just behind the City Sauna).

Attercliffe had mixed memor­ies for David Templeman: he grew up there with the daily din of steel­works ham­mers but after his father won the treble chance the family moved up in the world to Woodhouse.

Your non-Yorkshire blogger’s only long term memory of Attercliffe was the Attercliffe Palace where his father once played alto sax in the Bobbie Gray orches­tra in the 50s. A bit later, the band audi­tioned Gerry Dorsey aka Englebert Humperdinck and turned him down!

Richmond was a small set­tle­ment with a few cot­tages together with Hall Farm, built in 1668 and demol­ished in the Sheffield bru­tal­ist period. The farm gate­posts, pre­vi­ously mark­ing the entrance to Sheffield Deer Park (hence the name Richmond?), sur­vive within a hous­ing estate.

Hackenthorpe craf­ted 30,000 sickles a year in the mid-19th cen­tury. Thomas Staniforth was its largest employer. Birley Spa was the site of a min­eral water spring, built by Earl Manvers in 1843. The dilap­id­ated Grade II listed bath house and grounds are cur­rently up for sale by the city coun­cil. Full res­tor­a­tion is planned once again if (ever) funds become avail­able.

Tinsley was ori­gin­ally “Tingas-Leah”, mean­ing Field of Council. The Domesday Book refers to it as “Tirneslawe and Tinelawe”, at the time owned by Roger de Busli but even­tu­ally part of the Wentworth Estate. The church, built in 1125 and rebuilt in 1878, houses Arthur Dyson’s remains after his murder by Sheffield’s Charles Peace, who was then executed in Leeds. After the Don became nav­ig­able in the 1730s with a turn­pike con­nec­ted to Lady’s Bridge in 1764, mines, steel and wire took over and its rural charm was gone forever. When the river was linked to the canal in 1819, the event was cel­eb­rated “with unbridled feast­ing” at the Tontine Inn in the city centre. All the ship­ping hype soon faded as rail took over.

Darnall Hall

Darnall, ori­gin­ally a hamlet, was ori­gin­ally “Derne Halh” (a secluded nook). Landowners were the De Darnall family in the reign of Henry III. William Walker, a res­id­ent, is reputed to have been Charles I’s exe­cu­tioner. Darnall Hall, built by the Staniforth family in 1723, became a lun­atic asylum. Staniforth and Chappell were the main local employ­ers involved in coal mining.

A cricket ground was ini­tially owned by a Mr Steer from 1821 and the fol­low­ing year the stand col­lapsed killing two spec­tat­ors. A larger ground was ready by 1824, and con­sidered to be the “second finest after Lords”, with ter­ra­cing for 8000 spec­tat­ors. Its claim to fame is that over­arm bowl­ing was intro­duced here.

Map of Heeley

Heeley, ori­gin­ally “Heah Leah” (wood­land clear­ing), was first doc­u­mented in 1343 and developed from three vil­lages: Top, Middle and Lower.

Heeley Tilt Mill, ini­tially known as Holm Wheels in 1747, was a cutler’s wheel and wire mill. It was then con­ver­ted into a tilt forge. A rolling mill was installed in 1875. The dam and build­ings, shown towards bottom right on the map, were even­tu­ally demol­ished and built over. The A61 was the turn­pike (foot of map) to Derby in 1757. A Toll Bar was built over the Meers brook at the bottom of Albert Road on the Yorkshire/Derbyshire bound­ary. The 15th cen­tury Heeley Hall, behind Ye Olde Shakespeare Inn, was demol­ished years ago.

Heeley Toll House

Crookes was a Viking set­tle­ment “Krkur”, foun­ded 980AD, and recor­ded in the Domesday book as “Crokkiss”. It lies near the Roman Templeborough-Brough course. There were medi­eval fields “in remark­able state” until the 1790s, when a turn­pike was opened. It was a day out in clean air for city centre res­id­ents. In 1887 a bronze age Cinerary urn with human bones and a knife were found at the Rivelin end of Crookes. In the 1700s Sheffield was sup­plied with fresh(ish) water chan­nelled through wooden, and later iron pipes, from reser­voirs at Crookesmoor down to Division Street. From there it was wheeled around town in 50 gallon casks and sold by the pail. From 1830 the new 5.5 acre Hadfield Service reser­voir kept pace with pop­u­la­tion expan­sion.

Route of the old race­course

The best view of Sheffield Races (1711–1781), with cups and prize money, was from a 34 x 54ft grand­stand at Lawson Road. The races were an attempt to divert interest from cock fight­ing and bear bait­ing. The course ran between Crookes and Endcliffe, and almost through our back garden, as shown on the map.

 

Bennet Grange

Fulwood was an Anglo-Saxon set­tle­ment “Ful Wuda” (wet marsh­land), part of the massive estate of Earl Waltheof. After the Norman inva­sion it passed to Roger de Busli. In 1297 Thomas de Furnival estab­lished the Burgery of Sheffield; the inhab­it­ants of “Folewood” to be gran­ted herb­age and foliage through­out Rivelin Chase. There was a pop­u­lar min­eral spa near Whiteley Lane in the 17th cen­tury. 15th cen­tury Fulwood hall was built by the Fox family. The first Stumperlowe Hall was built by the Mitchells in 1397, then rebuilt in 1854 by Henry Isaac Dixon. Whiteley Wood Hall in Common Lane was built in 1662 and bought by Thomas Boulsover, inventor of Sheffield plate. The hall was demol­ished in 1959 and the out­build­ings remain as an out­ward bound centre. Bennet Grange, in Harrison Lane from 1580, ini­tially belonged to Helen Hall, passed to the Hinds and then to Mary Bennet. It’s now under­go­ing extens­ive and expens­ive renov­a­tion.

Sir Nathaniel Creswick (1831–1917) was a Sheffield soli­citor who, as a member of Sheffield Cricket Club, joined other crick­eters in informal foot­ball matches from 1855. He co-founded Sheffield FC in 1857 and estab­lished the Sheffield Rules. Sheffield FC is recog­nised by FIFA as the oldest foot­ball club in the world

David Templeman’s talk was a feast of local interest and beau­ti­fully seasoned with spicy blood-curdling anec­dotes. The past was not a good time to live unless of course you were very rich and disease-free.

 

Dissection of Rembrandt Andrew Shorthouse February 25th 2019

The talk began with a brief resumé of how the prot­est­ant Dutch revolt against Spanish rule lead to inde­pend­ence and the Golden Age. The Dutch accrued enorm­ous wealth from trade and became Europe’s store­house for grain and timber, the staples of food, hous­ing and ship­ping. Amsterdam was the hub. It was a time of great soph­ist­ic­a­tion with huge interest in the arts and sci­ences. The expand­ing mer­chant class gen­er­ated vast wealth and stoked a thriv­ing art trade. Rembrandt was there at the right time. He was born in Leiden in 1606, the son of a pros­per­ous malt miller and his mother belonged to a wealthy family of bakers. Although they were Calvinists, Rembrandt him­self was never par­tic­u­larly reli­gious. He was at the Latin school from 14 fol­lowed by Leiden University, but his pas­sion was art and he dropped out from a clas­sical edu­ca­tion at 16. His first appren­tice­ship was 3 years with Jacob van Swanenburgh in Leiden. He then moved to Amsterdam for a year with the influ­en­tial Pieter Lastman, an emin­ent artist who had returned from Italy having met Caravaggio and Titian.

Rembrandt was tem­por­ar­ily in Leiden as an inde­pend­ent artist but quickly fol­lowed the money to Amsterdam in 1631 and took lodgings with Hendrik Uylenburgh, an influ­en­tial art dealer. His repu­ta­tion grew rap­idly with por­trait and his­tor­ical scene com­mis­sions.

He quickly made import­ant con­tact with roy­alty and the Amsterdam elite. Within a year, he was given a pivotal “make or break” com­mis­sion to paint the fourth Guild of Surgeons’ group por­trait as a record of the Praelector’s (Professor’s) Annual Public Anatomy. These por­traits date from 1603 and most can be found in the Museum of Amsterdam together with those of the other guilds.

Philip II had gran­ted a priv­ilege in 1555 to dis­sect an executed crim­inal once a year not only for the pur­pose of teach­ing and learn­ing ana­tomy, but also for con­tem­plat­ing life and death; reli­gious fear gov­erned the des­tiny of the soul. The dynamic teach­ing and ges­tures of Dr Tulp and the other guild mem­bers con­trast with the static corpse and provide the ana­logy. The Dutch had a huge stom­ach for this sort of public enter­tain­ment. Public dis­sec­tions lasted about 3 days and held in January for obvi­ous reas­ons.

Rembrandt was just 25 and had rel­at­ively few por­traits under the belt, so no sweat. But he was brave enough to depart from the stiff form­al­ised group por­trait to create the dynamic The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp 1632”, now per­man­ently housed in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague.

Detailed archival records of the Golden age are avail­able in the Netherlands. Dr Tulp was born Claes Pietersz but changed his name to Tulp, hanging a swinging board with a painted tulip over his con­sult­ing room front door so his patients could find him easily – many were illit­er­ate – a good move! It was the time of tulip­mania.

Tulp qual­i­fied in medi­cine in Leiden and was the first to estab­lish the link between lung dis­ease and tobacco.

His staple treat­ment was “pur­ging simples, in degrees from gentle to viol­ent, upwards or down­wards”. Melancholy was very fash­ion­able at the time.

He also signed off fit­ness reports on the first Manhatten set­tlers. In 1641 his “Observationes Medicae” brought him inter­na­tional fame and became a stand­ard text­book for many years. As an accom­plished artist, he illus­trated it him­self. He was incid­ent­ally the first to record the exist­ence of the chim­pan­zee!

He became Praelector of the Surgeons’ Guild in 1628, was the offi­cial city ana­tom­ist, foun­ded the Collegium Medicum (fore­run­ner of the Amsterdam University Medical School), elec­ted mayor and was a cent­ral player in Amsterdam soci­ety.

 The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp shows him teach­ing the rela­tion­ship between the ana­tomy of the flexor digitorum super­fi­cialis muscle of the fore­arm and its func­tion, rep­lic­ated and demon­strated by Tulp with his left hand. This muscle bends the fin­gers for­wards (e.g. in waving).

Seven guild mem­bers and an unseen audi­ence of up to 300, packed and stacked in steep tiers of the sur­round­ing ana­tomy theatre, are being taught by Tulp, whose dom­in­ance is marked by a dynamic pos­ture, a large brimmed hat, flat white collar and black finery, in direct con­trast with the naked static white corpse. This was Aris ‘t Kint who was executed on Jan 31st 1631 as a serial thief. Prior to exe­cu­tion he was branded and his right hand was ampu­tated as extra pun­ish­ment.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp was almost cer­tainly not painted “live”. Dissection nor­mally star­ted with abdo­men and chest, clear­ing the con­tents before the stench set in (too badly). The guild mem­bers were dressed in their best. Individual studio por­traits were prob­ably pre­pared before the dis­sec­tion. There is no record of Rembrandt’s pres­ence at the dis­sec­tion and he left no pre­lim­in­ary draw­ings, although he undoubtedly had atten­ded others, if not this par­tic­u­lar one. The dis­sec­ted left arm was prob­ably studio painted, either Aris ‘t Kint’s own after the dis­sec­tion or some other corpse’s arm. Rembrandt might just have copied from an ana­tom­ical illus­tra­tion. Who knows?

Dissection of the arm and hand is sig­ni­fic­ant. Dr Tulp wanted to be seen as the new Vesalius, who’d rub­bished Galen’s 1300 year old the­or­ies of ana­tomy based upon animal dis­sec­tion. Vesalius was the first to relate human ana­tomy to func­tion.

17th cen­tury intel­lec­tu­als felt that ana­tomy was the path to God and that the hand was vis­ible proof of God’s pres­ence.

Rembrandt relied on Lastman’s teach­ing in achiev­ing a dynamic com­pos­i­tion, with a clear nar­rat­ive; a snap-shot “record” of Tulp’s lesson, the dis­sec­tion climax relat­ing ana­tomy to func­tion emu­lat­ing Vesalius, and a pleth­ora of sym­bolic ges­tures and demean­ors. It was a stroke of genius on Rembrandt’s part to paint de Wit lean­ing hori­zont­ally for­ward (above the corpse’ head) to create such dra­matic ten­sion.

Although the guild mem­bers are all closely linked to one another, there is a clear sense of hier­archy and sub­or­din­a­tion, espe­cially with Tulp’s dom­in­ance and in his own space on the right of the paint­ing.

3-D illu­sion is bril­liantly achieved by a com­bin­a­tion of tech­niques. Rembrandt’s pri­or­ity was dark­ness for drama and con­trast. He was a master of chiaroscuro (light to shade trans­ition), already refined by Caravaggio. Tonal change is prom­in­ent; opaque impasto of the corpse (neat thick white paint with vis­ible brush strokes) attracts the eye and brings the corpse for­ward. There is pro­gress­ive trans­par­ency and fuzzi­ness towards the rear, giving the illu­sion of dis­tance, as does over­lap of guild mem­bers, fore­short­en­ing of the corpse, and subtle diminu­tion in size of the guild mem­bers towards the rear. Rembrandt used a simple palette of earth col­ours with greater emphasis on tonal and light manip­u­la­tion, but 3-D mod­el­ling of faces was also achieved by juxta pos­i­tion of cold (e.g. green/blue) and warm (e.g. red/orange) col­ours.

Did Rembrandt use geo­metry in his pre­lim­in­ary arrange­ment of fig­ures? This is con­ten­tious. He was famil­iar with clas­sical teach­ing but received opin­ion is that he used tri­angles. Bouleau (1963) stated that any attempt to ana­lyse com­pos­i­tion tech­nique is pre­sump­tu­ous. Various geo­met­rical ideas were out­lined in the talk (par­al­lel­o­grams, tri­angles, rabat­ments, arcs and circles). It is more than tempt­ing to think Rembrandt might have resor­ted to geo­metry in his plan­ning of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Many of today’s artists rub­bish this idea, con­victed to the idea of nouse and intu­ition through nat­ural talent.

Rabatment (squares within a rect­angle), arc and circle within the two rabat­ments

Guild archives show that the paint­ing was housed in a servant’s kit­chen and got into a dread­ful state with smoke, damp and, in 1723, fire. The City Council decided to sell. King Willem I ordered its pur­chase in 1828 for the Mauritshuis Museum, where it stays to this day.

There have been 20 restorations/repairs from 1700. A major res­tor­a­tion was car­ried out in1996-8 with hard evid­ence emer­ging for its ori­ginal com­pos­i­tion and addi­tions by others, using stereo-microscopy, UV, X-rays, IR pho­to­graphy, and reflec­to­graphy.

Rembrandt’s sig­na­ture is genu­ine and he painted all the Guild mem­bers, making vari­ous adjust­ments him­self. He metic­u­lously painted a new hand onto the corpse’s stump. A later 18th cen­tury over­paint­ing of a guild mem­bers’ roll call (just to the left of Tulp) by others was partly removed to reveal a dam­aged but largely intact and ori­ginal under­ly­ing ana­tom­ical illus­tra­tion by Rembrandt

For over a cen­tury there has been fierce debate about whether Rembrandt got the ana­tomy of the dis­sec­ted fore­arm wrong. A recent com­par­at­ive Dutch ana­tom­ical study proved he was right.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp was enorm­ously suc­cess­ful. Fame and for­tune quickly fol­lowed. In 1634 he mar­ried Saskia Uylenburgh, the niece of the art dealer. Of four chil­dren, only Titus sur­vived.

The turn­ing point was 1642 when Saskia died. The Night Watch was com­pleted to great acclaim at the same time, but it marked the start of a long decline. In 1643 he co-habited with Geertja Dirkes, a wid­owed bar­maid, his house-keeper and Titus’ nanny. Then there was an acri­mo­ni­ous sep­ar­a­tion and Rembrandt was sued. Somehow he engin­eered her deten­tion in a lun­atic asylum but his repu­ta­tion was dam­aged. By 1649 the 24 year old Hendrijke Stoffels was living with Rembrandt.

Financial arrange­ments in Saskia’s will pre­ven­ted mar­riage but an ille­git­im­ate daugh­ter fol­lowed. Hendrickje was ex-communicated and charged with pros­ti­tu­tion on the grounds she was unmar­ried and had “stained her­self by for­nic­at­ing with Rembrandt”.

Problems moun­ted. The Anglo Dutch wars from 1652 lead to col­lapse of the eco­nomy and art trade. Uylenburgh’s son had inher­ited his father’s gal­lery and was declared bank­rupt. The Prince of Orange, a major patron, died. Rembrandt, an extra­vag­ant spender, had ser­i­ously over­stretched him­self buying master paint­ings and taking out prop­erty loans. He was declared bank­rupt in 1656. His pos­ses­sions and prop­erty were sold but the return was poor due to the fail­ing eco­nomy.

Creditors were left short. A neat trick; Hendrickje and Titus set up in busi­ness with Rembrandt as an employee but without a salary, just board and lodging. He car­ried on paint­ing but des­pite his dam­aged repu­ta­tion he was still in demand, lead­ing to his greatest period. Examples are Jan Six, The Jewish Bride, The Syndics of the Cloth Workers’ Guild, St Peter deny­ing Christ, The Slaughter House. Many of these can be seen in the cur­rent extra­vag­anza in Amsterdam at the Rijk’s Museum “All the Rembrandts” (15 Feb-10 June).

Rembrandt’s health was poorly doc­u­mented. Medical records from 1632 showed “fever­ish industry, lack of leis­ure, sedent­ary life…but oth­er­wise in good health” (like most of us long before retire­ment). In 1641 Tulp, most prob­ably refer­ring to Rembrandt, recor­ded “a dis­tin­guished painter…harassed with black bile … delu­sional that all his bones were softening…bed ridden for months with mel­an­choly and hypochondriasis…cured with “cath­artic med­ic­a­tions” (a pan­acea of the times). Depression had set in around the time of Saskias’s death. But many paint­ers had chronic lead pois­on­ing, with depres­sion one of many symp­toms, due to lead based pig­ment on skin, cloth­ing and from inhal­a­tion.

Rembrandt even­tu­ally died aged 63, a very good age at the time, given life expect­ancy then was only 44.

Rembrandt’s last self-portrait

I was asked at the talk why Rembrandt did so many self-portraits, some­thing approach­ing 100 paint­ings, prints and draw­ings. No-one knows for cer­tain. There was cer­tainly a com­mer­cial demand for this sort of paint­ing. He might have wanted to create a visual record of him­self over a span of 40 years; his stu­dents made copies as part of their train­ing; was he pos­sibly nar­ciss­istic?

They were painted using a mirror, so his fea­tures were in reverse. Only his etch­ings show him as he really was, because print­ing res­ults in a reversed image.

Finally, this his­tor­ical novel by Nina Siegal is fac­tu­ally pretty accur­ate and a very good bed­time read – sleep well!

 

Deadlier than the Male” Chris Dorries OBE 3rd Dec 2018

 Chris Dorries has been Senior Sheffield Coroner since 1991. Sheffield has a high national pro­file with approx­im­ately 3500 cases (40% of all South Yorkshire deaths) repor­ted to the Coroners jur­is­dic­tion annu­ally. Half are referred for con­ven­tional in-house CT autopsy. Sheffield is only one of three UK mor­tu­ar­ies with its own high dose CT scan­ner (a corpse is far more radi­ation tol­er­ant than a patient). Inquests are required in 600 cases on the basis of the autopsy find­ings. A huge reduc­tion in con­ven­tional autopsy fol­lowed the intro­duc­tion of CT. A sur­prise to me was that doc­tors are no longer allowed to be Coroners.

Today’s talk described 4 murder cases illus­trat­ing a recur­ring theme of his­toric cases of women accused of murder and he opened with a verse from a song recor­ded by an obscure Liverpool pop group called Space “The female of the spe­cies is more deadly than the male”, aping a much earlier Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name. Each case was fully repor­ted in news­pa­pers of the times because of huge public interest in female mur­der­ers.

Arsenic, a mining by-product and already known to the Egyptians in 1500BC, was used as a rather subtle murder weapon in the 17–1800s although more com­monly for this pur­pose on the con­tin­ent. It was favoured by females as no viol­ence was required to per­pet­rate, and it was feared by the para­noid. It was largely sold as rat poison, but also employed as a tonic in small doses. Ladies also liked it as an early form of wet wipes for skin and hand cleans­ing. Pharmacies had to record details of sales in the event of foul play. Industrially it was used in the pro­duc­tion of green wall paper. There was ready domestic con­tam­in­a­tion from touch­ing damp walls lined with said paper laden with arsenic.

Acute arsenic pois­on­ing induces vomit­ing, abdom­inal pain, brain prob­lems (enceph­alo­pathy) and bloody diarrhoea, but longer expos­ure gives other nasty things such as skin change, heart dis­ease, pain and diarrhoea and even numb­ness and cancer, most fre­quently from drink­ing water con­tam­in­a­tion, but also expos­ure in mining, agri­cul­tural and toxic waste sites, and wait for it, tra­di­tional medi­cines! No wor­ries then; over­dose gives a slow death likened to “rats gnaw­ing at the insides and insuf­fer­able thirst”.

The case of Mary Blandy

This famous case illus­trated the role of the early cor­oner. She was hanged aged 31 in 1752 for the murder of her father. Disfigured from small­pox, suit­ors were few, but her father advert­ised a dowry equi­val­ent to £10000 today. Enter Captain William Cranstoun, a Scottish aris­to­crat, also rendered ugly from small­pox. It tran­spired that he was already mar­ried with a child in Scotland aiming to annul the mar­riage (or so he said). Mary’s father dis­be­lieved him and ten­sions rose between them. What happened next is unclear. Mary claimed that Cranstoun sent her a love potion (in fact arsenic) asking her to add the powders to father’s tea and gruel and gradu­ally he became symp­to­matic, as did the ser­vants who helped them­selves to the leftovers. All was revealed when the gritty remains in the teacup were iden­ti­fied as arsenic. Mary pan­icked and tried to des­troy the evid­ence (arsenic powder and love let­ters) but a house­maid res­cued some of the powder from the fire­place. Blandy, her father, then died, Mary absconded on the day of the coroner’s inquiry, was chased and caught by a mob. She was sent for trial at Oxford Assizes in 1752 and kept in irons. Although this was the first use of detailed med­ical evid­ence in a trial prov­ing arsenic as the cause of death, the trial lasted just a day and she was hanged 6 weeks later from a low slung beam sup­por­ted between two trees out­side Oxford castle prison (nowadays the Malmaison Hotel and very nice too). Her last request was not to hang her high for the sake of decency. Although it was a public exe­cu­tion, she escaped ana­tomic dis­sec­tion by the skin of her teeth after a par­lia­ment­ary decision to change the Julien to the Gregorian cal­en­dar. Thus eleven days were instantly deleted from the cal­en­dar in September 1752 and the Murder Act was brought for­ward, to pre­cede her exe­cu­tion.

The case of Madeleine Hamilton-Smith

She was a beau­ti­ful but wild woman just 20 years old whose father was a famous Edinburgh archi­tect. She was charged with the murder in 1857 of a former boy­friend, Pierre L’Angelier, who came from Jersey. They met cov­ertly as lovers but the ulterior motive was his wish to marry into money. She then met another suitor and tried to break off the rela­tion­ship. He tried to black­mail her with the threat of show­ing her father the con­tents of love let­ters which expli­citly described their sexual exploits, an abso­lute poten­tial dis­aster in the 1850s.

He threatened sui­cide so for a while she “two timed him” before fatally pois­on­ing him with arsenic-laced cocoa. Cocoa very nicely dis­guises the gritty tex­ture of arsenic in the bottom of the cup. Probus mem­bers were advised to be very wary if ever offered cocoa.

The let­ters were dis­covered and massive amounts of arsenic were found in his body

There was a sen­sa­tional trial in the Edinburgh High Court and she was pub­licly executed at the Royal Mile gal­lows in 1857 in front of 50–100000 people.

There were flaws in the prosecution’s case: she was not allowed to give a sworn state­ment her­self, L’Angelier’s first ill­ness may have pre­ceded the time she pur­chased arsenic, she bought green arsenic but it was white in the body, there was less arsenic than could have been in the “fatal” cocoa com­pared with the amount in his stom­ach, L’Angelier never accused her in front of his land­lady after inges­tion, she would have known the let­ters would be revealed after his death, and sui­cide had already been threatened by him. As a psy­cho­path, intent on sui­cide, he might have been fram­ing her. The case was covered widely and inter­na­tion­ally. A ver­dict of “not proven” was returned and she was dis­charged. She even­tu­ally died in New York in 1928.

The case of Mary Ann Ansell

Mary Ann Ansel (22) was a maid in Bloomsbury. She had a men­tally ill sister in an asylum. She was engaged but there was no money for a mar­riage licence. She took out an insur­ance policy on her sister’s life; for 3d a week she’d get £11 on death. She baked a cake laced with phosphorus-based rat poison and sent it by post to the asylum. Her sister and asylum friends became ill but there was a delay in their assess­ment and treat­ment due to a con­cur­rent typhoid out­break at the asylum. Although the friends recovered, her sister inges­ted a lethal dose.

Delays in med­ical treat­ment were no mit­ig­a­tion for Mary Ann when she was con­victed.  The cake, wrap­per and post mark led back to her. She claimed she had bought rat poison but the mis­tress of the house denied there were rats. The insur­ance policy sealed her guilt and she was executed at St Alban’s prison in 1899

The case of Bloody Babs

Barbara Graham was executed in 1955 at California’s San Quentin gaol. She was per­haps wrongly accused of beat­ing and fatally suf­foc­at­ing an eld­erly woman in a house rob­bery

She was strapped into a chair in the gas cham­ber. A guard patted her knee and asked her to

take a deep breath and it won’t bother you”. She retor­ted “How in the hell would you know?”

 

Chris Dorries is a very enter­tain­ing speaker and reminded us that the right hand rail on the main stairs at the Cutlers Hall was his doing after a diner, worse for wear, fell down the stairs on the way to the lav­at­ory and was fatally injured. At the time there was only a left hand rail and our victim chose the wrong side to come down.

Andrew Shorthouse

3rd December 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picasso and Revenge — Sally Darley — 8th October  2018

Sally was subtly intro­duced by Jacko, who pro­fessed not to know one end of a paint­brush from the other, yet some­how seemed fully aware of Picasso during his “Blazer Period”. No-one else knew this until he rolled up his trouser legs to expose Picasso’s “Sock Period”!

Sally is an art gradu­ate who act­ively avoided and hated Picasso until recently, when her curi­os­ity was aroused by read­ing on the sub­ject.

Sally gave her talk without slides, so your blog­ger had to resort to cun­ning, snap­ping the pages of her Picasso book each time it came round the room to enable him to define exactly what cubism was all about.

Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, the son of Don José Ruiz Blasco (a rather good artist) and Maria Picasso. He was con­sidered a prodigy at art school, train­ing clas­sic­ally, and exhib­it­ing The First Communion (Fig 1) in Barcelona in1896 aged 15. How things changed for him from then on.

Fig 1 The First Communion 1896

As a young pro­fes­sional artist, his style was rad­ic­ally influ­enced by mod­ern­ist and impres­sion­ist con­tem­por­ar­ies gath­er­ing in the Els Quatre Gats tavern in Barcelona. He moved to Paris with his friend Casagemas whose sui­cide led to Picasso’s “Blue Period” (1901–4). His first solo exhib­i­tion was not a com­mer­cial suc­cess but the crit­ics were enthu­si­astic. A fla­vour of the time can be found in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” which fea­tures Picasso. He settled per­man­ently in Paris in his “Pink Period” in 1904, living a Bohemian life­style, and in the com­pany of many of the French Impressionists. He was par­tic­u­larly attrac­ted to Cezanne’s style. By 1907 he shocked the estab­lish­ment with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a 2-D por­trayal of pros­ti­tutes, and influ­enced by his interest in African art (Fig 2, top right).

Fig 2 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907

This paint­ing was the sem­inal fore­run­ner of Cubism and Modern Art. His Pink Period is dom­in­ated by sexual over­tones, circus and theatre. Form was cru­cial; sub­jects were depic­ted geo­met­ric­ally in cones, tubes or cubes, and from chan­ging angles, thereby allow­ing, for instance, a face to be shown sim­ul­tan­eously in pro­file and face-on. Other artists e.g. George Braque, who teamed up with him, fol­lowed suit and Picasso’s repu­ta­tion grew.

He had a good busi­ness brain and was a fast worker, some­times pro­du­cing up to three paint­ings a day, and was more than fin­an­cially stable by the start of WW1. Sally’s view was that his fame allowed him to trade more and more on his sig­na­ture and that, like some other suc­cess­ful latter-day artists, “sold his life to the god of art”.

In WW1, Picasso wasn’t called up to fight as he was Spanish. He designed sets and cos­tumes for Cocteau’s exper­i­mental “Parade” per­formed by the Ballet Russe, com­bin­ing his cubism with vibrant real­ism. Here he met the dancer Olga Kockhelova and mar­ried her in 1918. He painted her more in a clas­sical style, but leav­ing the back­ground unfin­ished.

Fig 3 Olga in an Armchair 1918

Living in high-society Paris, they had a son in 1921. The male line remains intact today. Not abandon­ing cubism com­pletely, he varied his style accord­ing to the sub­ject often drift­ing to more roun­ded but exag­ger­ated pro­por­tions, in a neo-classical style (Fig 4)

Fig 4 Mother and Child 1921

In 1935, Olga and he sep­ar­ated. There were affairs with young beau­ti­ful women and some ille­git­im­ate chil­dren. His sur­real­ist “Monster Period” fol­low­ing the sep­ar­a­tion, was a form of art “express­ing the sub­con­scious, dreams and hidden memor­ies”. Everyday objects and scenes with hidden mean­ing were his trade­mark (we all saw the bit of wood remind­ing us of a cro­codile fig 5)

Fig 5 A random piece of wood found at Fountains Abbey

He painted bulls and bull­fight­ers, and por­trayed humans as dis­tor­ted and viol­ent, pos­sibly reflect­ing his chaotic private life (Fig 6). Imagery from the bull­ring fea­tured in Guernica, which was badly bombed in the Spanish civil war (Fig 7),

 

Fig 6 Figures at the sea­side 1931

Fig 7 Guernica 1937

The Weeping Woman (1937) was his last Guernica paint­ing of the griev­ing Dora Maar, a close friend, in the cubist style and highly col­oured to rep­res­ent her out­ward per­son­al­ity. The con­trast­ing white areas of tears reflect death and destruc­tion in Guernica (fig 8)

Fig 8 The Weeping Woman 1937

In WW2 he was labelled by the Nazis as a “degen­er­ate Bolshevik” but was oth­er­wise left alone. After the war, he and Françoise Gilot moved to Provence and had two chil­dren. Here he dis­covered ceram­ics and sculp­ture, line draw­ing, pho­to­graphy, litho­graphs, lino cuts and etch­ing, but never stick­ing to any par­tic­u­lar medium, and always exper­i­ment­ing. In 1953 they sep­ar­ated and he mar­ried Jacqueline Roque in 1961. He con­tin­ued to exhibit until 1971 and died in 1973.

Picasso was pro­lific, pro­du­cing over 20000 works of art. He was the father of Modern Art

 

Andrew Shorthouse

International Data Transfer — Rob Peasegood — 6th August 2018

We had a fant­astic talk about inter­na­tional com­mu­nic­a­tions from the speaker’s own per­spect­ive as a tech­nical pro­gramme man­ager for a major mul­tina­tional com­pany which is respons­ible for large pro­por­tion of global inter­net traffic. Rob heads the company’s data centre inter­na­tion­ally. After Tapton school and a degree from Salford University, he worked for BT Global Services, Bovis (as part of the team devel­op­ing Meadowhall and the Manchester Arena) and, more recently, as IT Director for phar­ma­ceut­ical com­pany Wyeth before moving to California.  A real Sheffield suc­cess story!

The first transat­lantic sub­mar­ine tele­phone cable was laid in 1858 but it was a cen­tury later before a con­nec­tion was estab­lished across the Pacific. The world’s first tele­gram was sent by Queen Victoria to the USA pres­id­ent in 1868. The dif­fer­ence now is a fibre optic cable repla­cing the 19th cen­tury copper core insu­lated by a fat seal­ant, rein­forced and made water­tight at great depth by steel, hes­sian and tar.

The Reliance: tansoceanic cable ship. The web­site www.vesselfinder.com gives real-time pos­i­tion­ing of any ship­ping. Try find­ing where Reliance is at this moment.

Submarine cables are pre­ferred to satel­lite for tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions because of far greater trans­mis­sion speeds (100ms latency) and the need for two-way traffic. Sky, on the other hand, needs just one-way traffic for global TV trans­mis­sion, and satel­lite is ideal. The 600ms latency for TV doesn’t matter. Light travels very fast through glass (100ms across the Atlantic through fibre optic cable) and is ten times quicker than by satel­lite, where much greater dis­tances through space are involved. Bandwidth denotes capa­city (think of the impact the number of motor­way lanes has on traffic flow).

Internet traffic is grow­ing by 2 per cent per annum and will have doubled by 2021. At present 4.3 mil­lion YouTube videos, and nearly 4m WhatsApp mes­sages shoot round the globe every minute of the day! Extra capa­city is needed (and being planned) for 50 per cent of the rest of the world not yet con­nec­ted to the inter­net (per­haps wor­ry­ing when you think how ancient cul­tures were changed for ever once “civil­isa­tion” intruded … Tahitians, Sub-Saharan Africans, Aborigines, Indigenous Americans etc, etc).

There are numer­ous con­straints to laying under­wa­ter cables; hos­tile weather, deep salt water up to 9,000 metres, fish­ing, wild­life, moun­tain­ous sea beds, tec­tonic plate shift and shark bites (even attack­ing cables). High tech survey ships gauge the depth, topo­graphy, slope, angles, sea bed type and then cable routes are estab­lished. The need for occa­sional retrieval for repair adds to the level of engin­eer­ing expert­ise required. There are 45 cable-laying ships glob­ally and owned by Tyco (who incid­ent­ally in my time were also man­u­fac­tur­ers of sur­gical stap­ling devices very famil­iar to your blog­ger, and which will have fired mul­tiple staples into at least one or two of our Probus mem­bers’ innards). Some 100 pans of cables are in the hold of the cable ship, taking about a month to load, but suf­fi­cient to allow com­plete laying over a single voyage. At $80,000 a day (mil­len­nium prices) the expense of run­ning cable ships is enorm­ous. Ploughs dragged behind the ship cut trenches into the sea bed into which cables are pro­tec­ted in places where they would be vul­ner­able if left exposed, par­tic­u­larly close to shore.

Ships carry a remote vehicle which can des­cend to 2,500 metres either to repair cable on the sea bed or retrieve the affected seg­ment for repair while elev­ated and sus­pen­ded by a series of buoys. Ships are very man­oeuv­rable so they can cope with pre­ci­sion cable lift­ing and laying, par­tic­u­larly in adverse con­di­tions. Nearby ships are warned to stay a mile clear to avoid col­li­sion with the cables as they are lifted.

Some 10 or 11 cable sta­tions (BMHs) are dotted around the UK coast­line where beaches are gently slop­ing, and under con­stant sur­veil­lance. At 50-metres inter­vals along the cable are amp­li­fi­ers. These are powered with sev­eral thou­sand Kv run­ning through insu­lated copper cables incor­por­ated into the fibre optic assembly. The joints are vul­ner­able to damage. We saw a cross-sectional example of a typ­ical fibre optic cable and watched sev­eral excel­lent videos of its man­u­fac­ture Cable is ‘armoured’ where it is exposed to heavy ship­ping, such as in the Suez Canal. Cable pos­i­tion­ing is intric­ate, par­tic­u­larly near the shore, where the ship needs to anchor while the cable is lowered. Laying speeds are vari­able: 0.2km/hr (expens­ive) for armoured seg­ments when divers are in the water and up to 8km/hr (cheaper) when auto­mated in open water.

A key stake­holder is the fish­ing industry. Mutual co-operation is advant­age­ous to both. Fishing boats are used for sur­veys in their own loc­al­ity, which is luc­rat­ive for the fish­er­men, and cables can be sited away from their fish­ing grounds, thereby lower­ing the risk of snag­ging by aban­doned fish­ing gear and anchors cut free in bad weather or from dredging. Most of the risks are close to shore from fish­ing (75 per cent), dredging, and anchors. Seismic activ­ity accounts for five per cent. A dam­aged cable drift­ing away can be loc­ated by voltage shift and its pos­i­tion is con­stantly sur­veyed. Cables get bitten by sharks, and we had an amaz­ing video demon­stra­tion of this. The latest gen­er­a­tion of cables are privately and often jointly owned, due to enorm­ous cap­ital costs involved. Cables fail after 20 or 25 years due to obsol­es­cence, repairs or the hos­til­ity of the envir­on­ment.