2020 September eNewsletter

September 15, 2020

Welcome to our September Newsletter

There is indeed some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’! I am delighted to be able to tell you that our first tour since March will operate later this month, Lakeside Idyll: Villas & Gardens on Como & Lugano, Friday 25 September - Thursday 1 October 2020. This will be subject to travel to Italy remaining unaffected by the requirement to quarantine on return to the UK.

Image 2 Balbianello

As you may have heard, visitors who have stayed in Switzerland are now required to quarantine on return home. As our original itinerary included a half day in Lugano, just inside the Swiss border, we have now made alternative arrangements for that morning. The majority of the visits on this tour are to private villas and gardens either on the Italian side of Lake Lugano, or on and around Lake Como, which is in Italy. We will be welcomed by the owners and enjoy some splendid hospitality and as I led this tour last year with James Hill, I know it will be a memorable few days. Sadly, Rachel Lamb, who should have led this tour, has had to withdraw and I will now lead this tour myself, once again with James as our regular local tour manager.

Image 3 Berlin

As I mentioned last month, we also hope that our tour to Berlin in October (which I will lead), and two Italian tours in November, to Bergamo for the Donizetti Festival (which I also hope to lead), and to Bologna (with Paula and Geoffrey Nuttall) will operate. For information on Lake Como, Berlin and Bologna please visit our website. We continue to wait for a definite ‘yes or no’ from the Donizetti Festival organisers as to whether or not this year’s Festival in Bergamo will go ahead, and hope to confirm this tour in our next newsletter.

A very warm and genuine ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has been in touch with positive comments about our two recent webinar series, mine on the Papal Dynasties and Gillian’s on The Ancient Mediterranean. We both enjoyed preparing our respective topics and it is heartening to know that you found them stimulating.

Image 4 Rembrant

I have been to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum twice in recent weeks to see the Young Rembrandt exhibition, which reopened a few weeks ago and which will continue until 1 November. It is truly outstanding and if you plan to be in Oxford in the next few weeks, do set aside time to see it. But, you must book a combined general entry to the museum to include a timed entry slot to the exhibition in advance via the museum’s website (https://www.ashmolean.org/youngrembrandt).

Many of you will remember I led two tours to Amsterdam last January to see the Rijksmuseum’s ‘Rembrandt and Velazquez’ exhibition? Sadly, I cannot do something similar for the Oxford show, so I have decided that my next webinar Ambition & Innovation – Forming Rembrandt, Wednesday, 23 September at 11.00 BST, will focus on this exhibition.

Image 5 2nd Rembrant

Our webinar will look at Rembrandt’s early career as this young and unpromising artist from Leiden became the most interesting artist in seventeenth century Amsterdam. As the published short guide to the exhibition puts it with typical Oxford understatement “…there was nothing remarkable about his work when he qualified as a painter in 1624”, but the next ten years saw a transformation as he worked at a phenomenal rate to master not only painting but also the related skills of drawing and printmaking. The joy of the works to be examined is that we can see this happen before our eyes, such is the quality of the loans secured - I hope you can join me on 23 September?

It is always a great pleasure when a friend and colleague publishes a new book and I am delighted to be able to alert you to Charles Freemans’ The Awakening: A History of the Western Mind AD 500 – 1700, just published by Head of Zeus at £40 in hardback, ISBN 978 1789 54562 3. Charles has led tours for us exploring various aspects of the Mediterranean and its culture through the ages. His concern has always been to bring alive not only the sites we visit (as I vividly recall from past experience!), but also those figures who animate the past, be they a great intellect like Plato or the humble pilgrim negotiating a safe passage to the Holy Land.

He has already published several books which look at the intellectual background to the past, the most influential of which is, to me at least, The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, published by Heinemann in 2002. His new book continues this important account and I am sure will be seen as a worthy successor to the earlier work. It focusses not on the great ‘doers’ of history, the kings and generals, but on the intellectual and cultural currents (and those who created them) which form the warp and weft of our past. The narrative never falters and it carries one along, brought to life by the author’s sly humour and remarkable grasp of the many threads of this rich tapestry.

Image 8

Finally, pictured above is the detail chosen for our last photo competition. Many entrants correctly identified the vase as a piece of Sèvres, but there was a sting in the detail of my question! There are ten surviving versions of this Pot-pourri vase and cover (pot-pourri à vaisseau or pot-pourri en navire), five each of two different sizes and Rosalind Savill has identified three different variants within these groups. This particular version is the example in the Royal Collection, acquired by George IV and first recorded in 1826 in the Bow Room, Basement Floor, Carlton House. Today it is usually on display in the Green Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace, though a few perspicacious entrants mentioned that it had recently been included in the exhibition on George IV at The Queen’s Gallery. Full details of this, and the other vases, can be found in Geoffrey de Bellaigue’s magisterial catalogue, French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Volume 1 (of 3), No 12, pp 122 – 127, Royal Collection Trust, 2009.

Image 8 Full pic

While I agree that the Royal Collection vase, pictured in full above, is similar to others such as those in the Wallace Collection and at Waddesdon, I did ask for its “usual location” and I was happy to accept any entry that mentioned the Royal Collection. So, out of my hat has just popped this month’s winner who is Geoffrey Westergaard. Geoffrey lives in Dallas so we hope he will soon be able to return to the UK and join us on one of our London Study Days, once ‘up and running’ next year, fingers crossed.

 Image 10

This month’s competition is a detail taken from a landscape painting. Please identify the artist, its approximate date and its usual location. Entries should be submitted to tomduncan@ciceroni.co.uk or by post to 2 The Square, Aynho, Banbury, OX17 3BL by 5.00 pm on Friday, 2 October. Good luck!

With all best wishes from everyone at ‘Team CICERONI’.


Tom Duncan


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