April eNewsletter

April 18, 2018

The last few weeks have been very busy for all of us here at CICERONI: tours to Florence, Rome and Galicia all departed in March with recent departures also to Berlin, Malta and Jordan, and I have just arrived in Tehran, which is the first of our three tours to Iran this year. Add to this that I was in Portugal a few weeks ago on a recce, Stephen was in Malta with a group and James Hill was in France looking at hotels for future visits to Normandy and Versailles, and you will gather that while Spring may be slow in arriving here in England, we are not letting the grass grow under our feet!


My recce to the Douro Valley and Minho areas of Portugal, shown above, was a most exciting week. This overview of the hotels, restaurants and the historic sites we shall visit has led to a number of changes to the published itinerary. I have decided to change our hotel in Porto and in place of the original 4* hotel chosen, we shall now use the recently reopened and refurbished 5* Hotel Pestana Porto - A Brasileira. It sits right in the historic centre and is much better located given the itinerary we shall follow over the two full days spent exploring the delights of Porto. The other two hotels remain unchanged and I have found some excellent restaurants – the fish is superb!

1 Portugal Bom Jesus Do Monte

It was also a great pleasure to spend time with Francisco Marques who will be our local guide for this visit. I do not think I have ever met a local colleague with such a combination of knowledge, charm and quiet efficiency – he is a native of the Minho and we shall all benefit from his contribution to this and future Portuguese tours. We have a few places left on this tour so please see The Douro Valley & the Minho: Exploring Northern Portugal, 20 – 28 September for a revised tour description and detailed itinerary.

3 Tintoretto Paradise detail Doge Palace 1000x500


As a result of our STOP PRESS announcement last month of a special visit to Venice next November in conjunction with the TINTORETTO exhibitions, I am delighted to announce that full details are now available on our website: Turning Darkness into Light: The Life & Times of Tintoretto, 3 – 7 December.

One of the greatest of all Venetian sixteenth century painters, Jacopo Robusti, known as ‘Tintoretto’, was born in Venice in 1518. To mark this date, later this year Venice will host three related exhibitions on the artist and his milieu. Divided between the Doge’s Palace, the Accademia Art Gallery and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, this will be an ideal opportunity to explore the life and work of this amazing late renaissance master: ‘I never was so utterly crushed to earth before any human intellect as I was today before Tintoret’ - John Ruskin’s response after visiting the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, its interiors full of magnificent paintings by this exceptional artist.

3 Tintoretto The Last Supper HERO

Too exciting an event to miss, we have decided to offer our clients the opportunity to join us in Venice as we explore not only all three exhibitions, but many other sites where he worked, especially the peerless Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Of course we shall also place him within the broader context of artistic developments in mid to late sixteenth century Venice, not least the work of Titian and Veronese. This five-day tour will be based in our favourite Grand Canal hotel, the 4* Palazzo Sant’ Angelo, ideally placed for all our visits. After last month’s preliminary announcement we have had a great deal of interest in this tour, so do please get in touch to reserve a place if you are interested.

Anyone reading this who is interested in the history of English furniture and the decorative arts would be well advised to plan a visit to Leeds between now and early June as the Leeds City Museum is hosting an exhibition on Thomas Chippendale, the local man from nearby Otley, who was born in 1718. Given that the V&A is amazingly NOT putting on an exhibition on surely the most renowned name in English furniture history (one has to ask what the V&A thinks its role is these days?!) well done Leeds City Council and The Chippendale Society for all they have done to mount this remarkable display of stellar pieces. The exhibition will close June 9th.

Panshanger frontal original 5000 x 1000

Calling in to see the exhibition two weeks ago, I was deeply impressed by the range and quality of pieces on display. From humble everyday ‘brown’ furniture made for family use to grand display commodes and cabinets, the variety of styles, range of materials used and of course, the quality of the workmanship, it was wondrous to behold. Chippendale was able to see his clients from cradle to grave as some of the more unusual pieces on display demonstrated.

His clients were mostly drawn from the aristocracy and landed gentry, many of whom were from Yorkshire. So it will not surprise you that a majority of the pieces on display come from Yorkshire houses (most still in situ, others sold on) not least Nostell Priory, Newby Hall and above all Harewood House, so well done all three collections and other private owners for loaning so many important pieces. That said, the south of England is not unrepresented, and it is thrilling to see on display one of the two magnificent ‘Panshanger Cabinets’, lent by the Gage family of Firle Place in Sussex, to which lovely spot it has come via inheritance. Originally made for the 1st Viscount Melbourne and his wife, Elizabeth, they have been much studied in recent years revealing a great deal both about Chippendale’s workshop practices but also about the taste of his wealthy patrons.


Indeed, as our contribution to the Chippendale Tri-centenary celebrations we shall present a Study Day, And None Shall Compare: Thomas Chippendale’s Genius, Friday 7 September at Firle Place in Sussex. Lecturers will include James Lomax, our foremost expert on Chippendale, Deborah Gage, Curator of the Firle Collection, Joseph Friedman, the well-known historian of English historic design and Peter Holmes who has overseen the recent conservation of the Panshanger Cabinets. Morning Coffee, Lunch and Afternoon Tea are included and the cost is £149 per person.

51 One of a pair of marquetry commodes attributed to Pierre Langlois. From the Woburn Abbey Collection


Finally, continuing our furniture history theme, the third of our series of Study Days mounted in association with Woburn Abbey and the Trustees of the Bedford Estates will take place in October. Woburn Abbey: Treasures from the Furniture Collection, 30 October. Led by the Abbey’s Curator, Matthew Hirst, we shall look at the amazing collection of furniture and decorative pieces collected by members of the Russell family over the last several centuries. Our day at Woburn will allow us to see many pieces at close quarters with ‘behind the ropes’ access for participants.

Do keep in touch and I hope to bring you details of our inaugural tour of Iran next month.

All best wishes,


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