March 4, 2018 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | TRAVEL |

By David Astin [Our thanks to David for this comprehensive article.  He is an ‘old Cuba hand’ and knows more about that fascinating island than any travel agent (or ‘Smart Traveller.’).  The Varnished Culture has had its reservations about Castro and his legacy, although there’s no denying that he had genuine passion and guts, but we still mean to go to Cuba, and David’s piece is an invaluable source for those who do.]   I am not going to go into the Cuban political situation, much as I disagree with it. That is not what this article is about. This…

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Venetian Voices

Photo by Jörg Bittner (Unna)

(by Christine V. Courtney) (2017) Venice is of a set, in that it is a Great City, but it is also sui generis, a brilliant bauble set amid a swamp, a rococo castle in the air, an ornate pagoda floating on water. Venice and its inhabitants, whether citizens or arrivistes, spell romance on a myriad levels, and pose a historical jigsaw of massive scope and complexity, so it makes sense to wander its narrow streets and sail its intricate waterways clutching some sort of evocative Baedeker.  Our favourite Venetian history is the massive Folio tome (merging two volumes) by John Julius Norwich…

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The Guggenheim

October 21, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, TRAVEL, Ulalume |

(photo of the Guggenheim exterior by Vermonster)

21 October, 1959: The Guggenheim Museum opened to the public. Frank Lloyd Wright’s rather cramped exhibit spaces, commissioned by Solomon R. Guggenheim, certainly had ‘monumental dignity and great beauty,’ but were also as confining as the orchestra pit at the Sydney Opera House. In other words, a wonderful piece of art in itself, but of less than perfect utility. The art on the curving walls takes third or fourth place to the zany spaces created by the architect, thus breaking a principle canon of architecture: a public structure should be a servant, not a master. But it is still an inspiration that…

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Italy – The Grand Tour

October 20, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, HISTORY, TRAVEL, Ulalume |

Oil painting on canvas, A Grand Tour Group of Five Gentlemen in Rome, attributed to John Brown (Edinburgh 1752 - Leith 1787), inscribed: on the plinth of sculpture: CAVILLA / TOREM / LEONI ('mocker of the lion), circa 1773. Four travellers stand or sit under a tunnel-vaulted structure with a niche (in which one of them sits), with a view to a valley with two cypresses and some buildings, bounded by mountains behind; a cicerone indicates the Antique group of A Lion devouring a Horse on a plinth, closing the picture on the right, to another of them. The five men are: The Rt. Hon. John Staples MP (1736-1820), James Byres (1734-1817), Sir William Young, 2nd Bt, MP, FRS, FSA (1749-1815), Thomas Orde-Powlett, 1st Baron Bolton of Bolton Castle, PC, FSA (1746-1807), and Richard Griffin, 2nd Lord Braybrooke, Baron of Braybrooke MP, FSA (1751-1825).Another example is at Audley End (EH), Essex which is recorded as having been there since at lest 1836 and descended with the house's owners, the barons Braybrooks.

Lecture by Robert Reason, Curator, Roche Museum, 19 October 2017 The Varnished Culture having among its burgeoning numbers a life member of the Dante Alighieri Society, we attended this lecture by Mr Reason, who had attended Rome and Naples under the auspices of the prestigious Attingham Trust Italian Art History Programme. It was an interesting, wide-ranging affair that provided a taste of the kind of Italianate antiquity that appealed to David Roche, presented in a manner akin to a whirlwind Women’s Weekly world discovery tour. Even the serene visage of the Capitoline Venus would be deranged: From Palazzos Nuovo of…

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The Travelling Egyptologists

September 22, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, TRAVEL |

1717 map of White Nile and environs by Claude Sicard

Lecture at Adelaide, 21 September 2017 Think Egyptology and the enthusiastic amateur thinks Champollion, Sir Henry Rawlinson, David Roberts, James Breasted, Flinders Petrie, or Howard Carter; possibly Boris Karloff, Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest. But The Varnished Culture was ignorant of the seminal work of Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884). Drawing on the work of Champollion, Lepsius virtually established the discipline of Egyptology, paving the way for the more vaunted discoveries of the early 20th century. The Lepsius expeditions to Egypt and Nubia (Sudan) 1842 – 1845 (sponsored by the King of Prussia, to catalogue, and in some instances loot, the ancient monuments),…

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