A New Look

One hour lectures fully supported by Powerpoint slideshows and video. Fact filled and superbly illustrated they are informative and entertaining.
Titles below LINK to lecture details - - link selected will appear immediately below this type block.

- Man's Best Friends in Art & History: Cats & Dogs - 2 lectures
- Man's Strength for 35,000 years: The Horse in Art & History - 1 lecture
- Art between the Covers: Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts - 2 lectures
- The Power of Flowers in Life, Art and History - 1 lecture
- Poetry & Readings, or Made to Order

Friday, May 22, 2015

Art between the Covers: Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts

2 Lectures

How to contain a thousand years of art in one hour?   
* Video - a unique LizPresents video (ca 18 mins + voice over) with a broad selection of manuscript illuminations and styles with explanations of context and content.  
* Slideshow - for lecture 1, an overview of the manuscript/codex era, their creation, and curious facts;  for lecture 2, additional information on manuscripts.  For both lectures,   an in-depth study of one manuscript - its contents, its context (who commissioned, created and why) and its history as a physical entity.  


The Medieval Manuscript is in a format known as a codex, put simply a fully handmade, hand written and illustrated book with covers and pages to turn whose origins date back to 2-400 AD.   They were replaced by printed books beginning in 1450 and their wild originality faded away over the next 150 years, although they continued, and continue, to be made as works of art.  

The codex or book format's success was due to (obviously) its convenience, portability and easily displayed pages and it became the norm when large volumes of text needed to be recorded.  Into the codex was written - copied from scrolls - the knowledge and beliefs of the world. It was they who introduced the lettered page and ultimately literacy into the dark corners of the western world.  [Scrolls of course continued to be the major format for bureaucratic and legal records.]  One wonders:  if the codex had not been so portable, so easy to display, so magically illuminated and enticing, then how much longer would the spread of literacy have taken?

Whether religious in content or not, the illuminations range from beautiful (as in the image at the top of this post) to extraordinary rampant displays of dragons, people, animals and strange beings in a topsy turvy world that threatens man with the devil, apocalypse and disorder.   It seems like a very upsetting world!

Not to worry!  Everywhere there are also images of the routines of life, work and entertainment;  a reminder that people lived, loved, played music, danced and enjoyed a good joke - just like us.

High quality digitised copies on line are now available from nearly all major libraries and museums.   An extraordinary gift that has made these presentations possible.

In closing:  the illuminations are often hard to comprehend, so its a relief to know even scholars find them puzzling because, of course, we cannot conceive of the medieval mind and although the rationale for some is fairly clear - and often the images are sharp commentaries on the absurdity or immorality of those in high stations - many of the drolleries seem just that: droll as in to amuse.   Conjecture or guesswork about their meaning is of course what makes them so fascinating, and fun.  However there is also a reminder that the truly incomprehensible illuminations in religious folios were often MEANT to be so, reflecting as they do the mystery of God, in fact encouraging reflection...and that is true of texts from all beliefs.


Man's Best Friends in Life, Art & History: Cats & Dogs

Assyrian - a dog is featured on the handle

 Van Dyck

2 lectures 

A virtual history of art with a focus on cats and dogs - plus the story of two extraordinary four legged heroes.


For thousands of years cats and dogs have been at our side...or lying on the bed...or in front of the fire...and here at last is an opportunity to appreciate them even better - as they have been depicted in art. 

Focussing on our best beloved critters the lecture is visually stunning with works that display our fondness for them in life as well as their symbolism in art.   Our relationship with cats and dogs began, of course, for purely practical purposes - dogs helped in hunting for food and cats preserved our food from mice...and our appreciation of them rapidly turned into affection and admiration - as is shown in artwork dating back to ancient times.

And there are the heroes:   those critters who aided man in times of great danger, showing extraordinary loyalty and bravery - dogs often starred in this role, and somewhat surprisingly cats too were amongst those heroes.  

Dog-lover or cat-lover will learn something special about our best friends who have so faithfully been at our side for such a very long time...


Poetry & Readings, Made to Order


Poetry and readings designed to entertain!   

Presentations are lively, the poems range from wildly humorous to the softly serious.   Some by published poets or authors...and some my own.   

If there is a special day or event in the near future, my selection will focus on that topic, such as Christmas, New Year, Valentine's or Mother or Father's Day.  

Made to Order events (not the same as the poetry/readings) are uniquely created for a special occasion, containing a variety of music and video clips, selected and edited to amuse and entertain - in the past these have been created for Christmas, New Year and Valentine's Day.  For these dates I create a bit of a party atmosphere and will often hand out 'party favours'.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Man's Strength for 35,000 years: The Horse in Art & History

Caves at Lascaux

1 lecture

An appreciation of the horse in art and history from 35,000 years ago to the present.


Man's shared existence with the horse extends over 35,000 years and one cannot help but wonder what we would have achieved without having his strength to pull our ploughs, carry us to the four corners of the world and (regretfully) into battle.

From the Ice Age to the present he has captivated man by his physical presence, speed and strength...and he has carried man or been with him at almost every significant event since his taming.   Most awe-inspiring is how the horse figured so superbly in prehistoric cave paintings and also in carvings of exquisite anatomical accuracy and elegance:  no matter the reason, it is as if the horse helped make of us an artist and an appreciator of the beauty in the world around us.

The history of our shared existence is illustrated with art and stories telling of horses that have starred both in fact and fiction and of the humans who cared for and loved them.   The beginning of the end of the horse's use to man came a bare 100-150 years ago with the industrial revolution - and suddenly the art of impressionists falters in its admiration of his beauty and revels in the steamy thunderous vision of an 'iron horse'.  One of his last mysteries, his galloping movement, was only revealed in 1878 by another invention, photography:  at last the true action was captured and paintings of galloping horses (a popular subject) finally showed the true glory of his strides.

A footnote:  "horsepower", a word that was coined when machines (specifically the steam engine developed by James Watt) began to replace their power is a word we still use today - but without a moment's thought as to its significance.   So next time you see or read the word - pause - and remember how this honors the strength and mobility horse gave to man from the dawn of time.

The Jockey ca 150 BC

"Skittles" a woman famous for her style on a horse...and elsewhere!

The Power of Flowers in Life, Art and History

Manuscript illumination, Romance of the Rose

1 Lecture

An appreciation of flowering plants from botanical fact to greek myths to flowers as symbols of power... and sometimes the star in dramatic events.


The power of flowering plants in botanical fact is awesome:  think of how their power to 'be' and 'recreate' can push sidewalks apart - and at the same time the mesmerizing beauty of their flowers.   It does you well to have respect for flowers!

Their origins lie in a time when the world's continents were one - that's fact!  However the convoluted fictional Greek origin myths deserve a look, as does the power that flowers achieved as symbols for monarchy and royalty.  

And the language of flowers:  in Medieval times both in manuscripts and art, its references were often religious or highlighted chivalric values;  in Victorian times that language became more extensive and much more suggestive - especially in one portrait of a famous courtesan! 

What is it about flowers and sex?  The Linnaean system of naming plants (the basis of today's nominal system) was what Linnaeus called his "sexual ordering" of plants, creating a sensation when first published since he revelled in suggestive language to describe his thesis. But not everyone was impressed: the British Encyclopedia got quite huffy: "Tsk! Tsk! No sex please, we're British!"

The final half - "The Tulip, a Story of Conquest" - tells of the Ottoman reverence for the tulip, how the beauty of the tulip beauty ravished Europe during the Age of Discovery, and then during Holland's glorious Golden Age a freak virus created the blooms that resulted in an economic debacle. A great story of fact and folly.

Jacob Marrell

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nov 12th At West One

are summaries of actual
presentations and
audience response

Fabulous showing, great audience - thank you everyone!

The program included

*  Video introducing illumination styles

*  an in depth look at Les Tres Riche Heures de Jean, Duc de Berri - one of the most extraordinary manuscripts of the high Middle Ages created between 1410 and 1415.   

The manuscript is first introduced in the video showing the illumination below which is for the month of April.   As was one of the traditional April scenes, it shows young lovers and references the betrothal of Charles, Duc d'Orleans. and Bonne, grand-daughter of the Duc de Berri.

As told in the video, they were betrothed in 1410 when Bonne was but 11*, and married a few years later - shortly before the catastrophe of Agincourt on 25th October 1415 when Charles was captured and then held prisoner by the English for 24 years.   A poet, he is said to have written the first known Valentine poem** for his wife Bonne, who died before his return.   A copy of the poem is below.

*The illumination is a stylised 'memory' or 'reference' to the event, thus both Charles and Bonne appear older.  Betrothal at a young age was the norm, especially for those of noble blood.   Charles was only 16 at the time and yet this was already his second betrothal/marriage.   The legal age for marriage at this time was 14 for boys and 12 for girls.

**Valentine poem to Bonne
written whilst he was a captive of the English
      with apologies, my own adaption from the French so as to encompass
what I believe was his true intent.

                                               I am worn and ache with love,
                                               My very gentle Valentine,
                                               Since for me you were born too soon,
                                               And I for you was born too late.
                                               God forgive he who has parted
                                               Me from you for this whole year.

                                               I am worn and ache with love,
                                               My very gentle Valentine,
                                               For if then I had foreseen,
                                               Having this my destiny, my sweet,
                                               O, then how much greater love

                                               Wouldst thou have drawn from me.

Elsewhere he wrote of her "Ah! qu'il fait bon regarder, la gracieuse, bonne et belle!" - - "Ah! how good it is to watch her, graceful, kind, and beautiful!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oct 23rd at Kensington Place

The Mad & Marvellous World of Medieval Manuscripts

Thank you to Kensington Place for such a fantastic and welcoming audience whose enthusiasm and interest was both inspiring and heartwarming.

The Program included

* a video on Medieval Manuscripts

* slide show presentation

      * a detailed look at both large and very, very small illuminations plus a variety 
        of the outrageous, the fascinating and the exotic.

      * in depth review of one of the earliest European Manuscripts, The Lindisfarne
        Gospels, an extraordinary example of Celtic insular art in a document 
        created ca 700.

Below the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the carpet page from St John's gospel, a superb example of the complex, intertwining designs typical of insular art - a spectacular, swirling mass of 87 birds - within which a small segment is highlighted; enlarged in the 2nd image;  and in the third two birds have been 'extracted' from the mesh of design...and their size compared to...what else?!...a loony.   And small as they are, the fine details of the feet and claws are perfectly displayed.