Monthly Talks

All talks £10 inc refreshments (not changed since 2007) Places are limited so book early.

Fridays  11 a.m. & 7.30 p.m.  Tel 01372 272235 or email to book

Programme for 2018


8th : Link Group, Ashtead: Books of Hours Fit for a Queen.

AAL 23rd: Orazio & Artemisia Ghentileschi. 

This 17th century father and daughter team of artists hailed from Rome, were contemporaries of Caravaggio. 

Orazio (1563-1639) came to England at the invitation of Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I in 1626. He had been in Paris since 1624, so Henrietta Maria knew his work. Here he painted canvasses for the Queen's House, Greenwich which are now in Marlborough House. He had moved from Rome to Genoa, then to Paris and finally London, but it was his relationship with Caravaggio in the first years of the 17th century when Orazio was in his 40s, that would inform his work and make him a better artist. This painting of the princess finding Moses is in the Royal Collection and dates from the 1630s. Despite van Dyck being in post, Orazio is more favoured by the queen. He introduces the European concept of allegory to the English court.

His daughter, Artemisia (born in Rome in 1593) is the only Carravagista and despite having two brothers, she becomes a much sought after artist. She is best known for her paintings of strong biblical women, and the feminists will argue that it was her rape by Agostino Tassi that informs these paintings.

This image (below)is of Corsica and the satyr.  The story is that  the satyr attempts to capture the nymph Corisca in order to seduce her. However,  he grasps her by the hair not realising it is a wig, and he is left holding a useless lump of hair. The moral of the story is that the woman eludes a lustful man by stripping off surface decoration and fleeing thus surviving with her honor intact.    

Whatever the feminists say regarding the more violent images of Judith & Holofernes, Jael & Sithera and Tarquin & Lucretzia, Artemisia's paintings of mother and child are tender observations of a mother and baby, and seem to carry more greater emotional weight than similar paintings by male artists. 

I agree that her experiences and exploitation by Tassi has informed her work and very certainly we see the emotional conflict in her 1622 rendering of Susannah & the Elders that now hangs in Burghley House.  When this was shown in the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition I spent an hour sitting in front of it mesmerised by the pathos flowing off the canvas. 

What is not obvious in the on screen version of the Burghley House Susannah is that her eyes are filled with tears as she realises the desperate situation she is in. A tear is trembling on the edge of her lashes, threatening to spill down her cheek and it was this that had me transfixed as I expected it to fall at any minute.

For centuries Artemisia's work was credited to her father often despite there being a signature that was ignored.  Today, the reverse is happening making it difficult to say who is the greater artist - father or daughter?  Come and join in the discussion and judge for yourself.

Fridays  11 a.m. & 7.30 p.m.  Tel 01372 272235 or email to book. Numbers limited.

March Events

3rd: Study Day   - West House, Pinner: Illuminated Manuscripts Fit for a King

10th: Study Day  at St. Andrew's Church, Denton Way, Woking, GU21 3LG  Telephone 01483 766175 to book

The Rise of the Venetian Republic to the 16th century . 
Exploring how Venice came to be the trading powerhouse of the eastern Mediterranean.

From the fall of the Roman empire until the fall of Byzantine Constantinople to the Seljuk Turks in 1453, Venice dominated trade between the rest of Europe and imports from the various Arab nations.  

We will explore how the republic came about, how ancient families survived by hiding in the marshes of the lagoon and went on to create the amazing city we know as Venice.  These families become wealthy beyond the dreams of most, but not without much investment in time and effort in developing trust with Arab merchants and middle men in Palestine, various ports in the Black Sea and in Constantinople. 

The imports  were not only goods brought from the land and maritime silk routes, but also cultural exchanges.  The art and architecture of Venice reflects the power and status of the dominant families and their links with their trading partners.  The dazzling mosaics of St Mark's Basilica and the design of the basilica itself is more eastern than European.  We see similar mosaics of a similar high standard in the Hagia St Sophia in Constantinople (today's Istanbul). The bronze horses brought by Enrico Dandolo from the sack of Constantinople that stand on the top of the portico of the basilica were made by the lost wax method (below).
Today the debate is whether these came from Greece, or possibly the technology was from farther afield.

The making of the Venetian ships was the first production line in the Western world.  Instead of the ship moving down the line, groups of craftsmen moved along the line from ship to ship.  During the fourth crusade, it was this method of building that ensured the crusaders were able to get to Palestine to continue their war against the Saracens, but it nearly bankrupted Venice. In 1204 the crusaders laid siege to Constantinople and in July of that year sacked the city over a period of three days during which the crusaders defiled, despoiled and stole huge amounts, and murdered and raped many of the citizens.  Few of the crusaders made it to the Holy Land and this even marks an important point in history.

The Byzantine emperor is deposed and the empire is divided along these lines.  

Trade was the lifeblood of the Republic and its most famous son is Marco Polo, who spent 25 years in the Far East. On his return, he was not recognised nor his stories believed.  Even on his deathbed his confessor asked if he wanted to admit that his stories were all fantasies and so save his soul from thousands of years in purgatory.  Polo's answer was that he had not described even a tenth of the wonders he had seen! But were the Polo family the only explorers?  There were also the Zen brothers. Whether they made it to Iceland is hotly disputed, but it is possible.

During our day we will explore how the original Venetians came to live in the lagoon, how they established buildings on the high points of the marsh, developed into a vast trading empire that extended all the way to the court of the Great Khan in Peking and how and why the republic eventually fell from influence and had to turn its focus in order to survive .   

£25 including coffee and tea breaks, and a light lunch. To book email Address St. Andrew's Church, Denton Way, Woking, GU21 3LG  Telephone 01483 766175 to book 
AAL 23rd: Symbolism - an examination of how our perception of the content of paintings has changed over the centuries.

Before 1500 most art was devotional. The audiences then would have recognised many symbols that today we look at and wonder why they have been included.  Other meanings have become changed over the centuries and some have even been attributed to having been used in medieval documents despite them coming from the New World.  Since Senor Columbus did not cross the Atlantic until 1492, the sunflower was never a medieval symbol - eat your heart out Burne-Jones! However, the humble European marigold was long known for its heliotropic properties and therefore because it followed the sun (i.e. the light) became associated with the divine.  

Colours, gems, flowers, birds and beasts all had meanings. We will look at images and artefacts from medieval times to the 20th century to see how meanings have become changed, remained the same or even lost completely.  Finally we will attempt to decode a painting as to the allegorical meaning it carried.

Fridays  11 a.m. & 7.30 p.m.  Tel 01372 272235 or email to book. Numbers limited.