European studies blog

13 posts from June 2014

30 June 2014

Early Photography in Spain

The Spanish National Library in Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional de España; BNE) has mounted a small, but representative exhibition drawn from its photographic collections, entitled ‘Fotografía en España (1850-1870)’. In that period, demand for photography grew rapidly as a means of documenting events and of capturing images of landscape, famous buildings, city landmarks, and art works. Photography also became a new medium for portraits of leading contemporary figures and of the family. It was also important for recording infrastructure projects.

Several of the photographers who worked in Spain were foreign. One of them was a Welshman, Charles Clifford (1819-1863), who set up business in Madrid in late 1850. He produced a considerable body of material over a short period of time, including the album Voyages en Espagne (1856), consisting of some 400 images of famous civil and ecclesiastical buildings and monuments.

Photograph of the Palacio de la Reina in Barcelona Charles Clifford. Palacio de la Reina, Barcelona (1860).  BNE.

Clifford’s success brought him the patronage of the Queen Isabel II. He recorded some of the construction projects being undertaken in her reign, notably that of the canal which brought a secure supply of fresh water to Madrid and which bears her name.  In fact ‘Canal de Isabel II’ is still the name of the water utility of the Madrid region. He also accompanied the Queen on her royal journeys around Spain.

Another leading photographer, the Frenchman Jean Laurent (1816-1886), began his career in Madrid before Clifford. He too specialised in city views, buildings and monuments, and also in photographing works of art. The BNE exhibition includes his photograph of the Congreso de los Diputados  and also of Velázquez’s Las Meninas.  

Photograph of the frontage and portico entrance of the Congreso de los Diputados Jean Laurent. Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid (1855-60). BNE.

Both Laurent and Clifford produced images of the Alhambra, considered probably the most picturesque (in the literal sense) site in Spain and an undoubted draw for the growing number of travellers in the second half of the 19th century. Another favourite destination was Santiago de Compostela, and the exhibition includes a photograph of the Pórtico de la Gloria by another British photographer, Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868).

The exhibition includes a number of other subjects. There are portraits, e.g. of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (author of The Three-Cornered Hat), the actress Adelaida Fernández Zapatero and the painter José María Castellanos; a female nude; and various ethnographic scenes.

The British Library does not systematically collect photographs. However, a number of special collections are held. Among these is a relatively little-known collection of photographs of Spain by British photographers. There are 230 photographs by Clifford, gathered in three albums, two of topographical and architectural views and the other of images of armour from the Real Armería  in the Royal Palace in Madrid. It is probable however that some of the photographs contained in this last album were the work of his wife, Jane, although they are generally attributed to Charles Clifford. Jane Clifford was an accomplished photographer in her own right and maintained the studio after Charles’s death. One of the albums of views (1785.c.1) was part of the bequest to the British Museum in 1900 of Henry Spencer Ashbee, the noted collector of works both of Miguel de Cervantes and of erotica.

Photograph of the Calle de Alcalá, Madrid , with the Cibeles fountain in the right-hand foregroundCharles Clifford. Calle de Alcalá, Madrid , with the Cibeles fountain (ca. 1857) 1785.c.1, no. 57.

Photograph of the carved stone front of Salamanca CathedralCharles Clifford. West door of Salamanca Cathedral (ca. 1858). 1704.d.9, no. 65.

The Library also holds 39 photographs by Charles Thurston Thompson, some of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the rest of the monastery church of Santa Maria da Vitória, Batalha, in Portugal. These are held in two albums. Thompson held a post as photographer of art works at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). In 1866 he travelled to France, Spain and Portugal on a photographic expedition on behalf of the Department of Science and Art.

Photograph of carved saints from the Portico de la Gloria, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela Charles Thurston Thompson. Pórtico de la Gloria, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with the statue of the Saint (1866).  1811.a.18, no. 4.

Geoff West, Lead Curator Hispanic Studies


Lee Fontanella, La historia de la fotografía en España (Madrid, 1981). LB.31.b.6876

Lee Fontanella, Clifford en España. Un fotógrafo en la Corte de Isabel II (Madrid, 1999). LF.31.b.5746

See also the British Library’s historic photographs feature: and the  online catalogue of photographs:

27 June 2014

How Jane Austen saved August von Kotzebue

While Germans were taking Shakespeare to their hearts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was hoping to similarly promote Schiller’s plays in England. But the German dramatist who briefly conquered the British stage of the day was a far lesser literary figure.

August von Kotzebue (1761-1819) was an immensely prolific writer, who produced over 200 plays as well as autobiographical and historical works, fiction and essays. He spent his life between his native Germany, Russia (including a brief period as a prisoner in Siberia) and Estonia. He was a somewhat controversial figure in the world of letters, and once wrote an essay with the telling title ‘Woher kommt es, daß ich so viele Feinde habe?’ (‘Why do I have so many enemies?’). His death was as melodramatic as anything in his plays: in 1819 he was fatally stabbed in his own home by a liberal student who detested Kotzebue as an embodiment of conservatism.

For a short period Kotzebue enjoyed great popularity in Britain. The English Short-Title Catalogue  lists a staggering 178 individual editions of his plays published between 1796 and 1800 in Britain and Ireland, with a further 48 in America, and there were many performances on both London and provincial stages, although these statistics are rather tempered by the fact that many are translations or adaptations of the same titles which were repeatedly reprinted and performed. Chief among these were Menschenhaß und Reue, Das Kind der Liebe, Die Versöhnung and Die Spanier in Peru, under various English titles. Translators and adaptors included Sheridan and the gothic author Matthew Lewis, as well as Maria Geisweiler whom we met in an earlier post  and who, of course, was both translator and publisher of her Kotzebue editions.

Although the Kotzebue publishing boom could not be sustained at such a level for long, his works remained popular on the British stage at least into the 1820s. Despite this public success, they were not well received by critics, and later literary historians have sometimes blamed Kotzebue’s popularity for damaging the wider reputation of German drama and keeping better-quality German works off the British stage. 

However, if Kotzebue is known at all to the British public today it is indirectly, through the work of a literary contemporary who could not have been more different: Jane Austen. We know that Austen saw a performance of at least one of Kotzebue’s plays, Die Versöhnung (as The Birthday) in Bath in 1799. Sadly, her opinion of it is not recorded, but it has been argued that the play may have had some small influence on the characters and plot of Emma.

However, it is not in Emma but in Mansfield Park that a work by Kotzebue plays a crucial role. When the young Bertrams and Crawfords decide to pass the time with some amateur dramatics, they settle on Lovers’ Vows, Elizabeth Inchbald’s adaptation of Das Kind der Liebe, for their performance. Austen’s heroine Fanny Price, unhappy at the very idea of putting on a play, is doubly horrified to learn that it is to be this tale of illegitimacy and attempted seduction. As she fears, it offers opportunities for open flirtation in the guise of acting, which for some of the cast – and indeed for Austen as author – is of course the whole idea!

Title-page of 'Lovers Vows' with a frontispiece illustration of a kneeling man addressing a seated womanLovers’ Vows from vol. 23 of The British Theatre (London, 1808) British Library 1345.a.23.

Austen never names the play’s author or translator, but the way in which she refers to the characters and action, and the significance of the roles in the play for her own characters, suggests that in the second decade of the 19th century Lovers’ Vows would have been recognisable and familiar to her audience. Her use of the play as a plot device has given it a tenuous modern afterlife, with synopses and discussions on the many Austen websites and even occasional performances. The cult of Kotzebue in Britain may have been short-lived, but on the back of the thriving cult of Jane Austen, he still has a tiny claim to literary immortality in this country.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies


Douglas Milburn, Jr., “The Popular Reaction to German Drama in England at the End of the Eighteenth Century,” Rice University Studies 55.3 (Summer 1969) 149–62. Ac.1720/2.

25 June 2014

Through a glass darkly: the poetry of Francisco de Quevedo

Francisco de Quevedo appears twice on the engraved title page of his poetic works:

El Parnasso Español, y Musas Castellanas de D. Francisco de Quevedo Villegas ... Corregidas, i enmendadas de nuevo en esta impression por el Doctor Amuso Cultifragio, Academico ocioso de Lobaina. (Madrid, 1650). British Library 1077.k.7

Engraving of Quevedo crowned by the Muses in a mountain landscape, with a separate portrait of Quevedo below being held up by a satyr
In the main picture he’s being crowned with the laurels on Mt Helicon and delighting the Muses.  Pegasus is kicking the mount to release the Hippocrene spring. The book is an edition of Quevedo’s poetry put together by the author, arranged by him under the names of the Muses and taken up after his death in 1645 by his friend José Antonio González de Salas.

But underground he’s keeping some distinctly dodgy company: his portrait is being admired (up close and personal) by a satyr.  One implication is that Don Francisco was one of those “satyrs that write satyres” (Sir Thomas Browne). Although he wrote in most genres, satire was closest to his own atrabilious nature. Perhaps the idea is that because there was no muse of satire (the nearest was Thalia, muse of comedy) some other figure had to be recruited.

But take a look (I use the word advisedly) at those trendy shades.

First of all, although, as we learned at last year’s exhibition ‘Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm’  at Tate Britain, when iconoclasts attack works of art they first aim at the eyes, these are original and not the work of a doodler.

Secondly, the glasses with which Quevedo was most closely associated – and to which he gave his name – were pince-nez, in Spanish, quevedos.

Thirdly, nomen est omen. His very name referred to vision. He told the story, ‘Wherever I go, people know me. I was in Rome once, and an Italian man came up to me and exclaimed, “Che vedo?” [What do I see?]’

Last – and most importantly? – whatever glasses the great man may have worn in real life, in the emblem-fixated culture of the seventeenth century these lenses symbolised acuity of vision as much mental as physical, and acuity of vision was equivalent to acuity of wit: in Spanish, agudeza.

Alciati’s emblem of a hand with an eye embedded in the palm teaches a lesson close to our man’s heart: Believe only what you can see:

Woodcut of a hand with an eye hovering over a landscape

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


María José Alonso Veloso, La poesía de Quevedo no incluida en las ediciones de 1648 y 1670: una propuesta acerca de la ordenación y el contenido de la "Musa décima’, La Perinola: Revista de investigación quevediana,  12 (2008), pp. 269-334. ZA.9.a.10331 

José López Rueda, González de Salas : humanista barroco y editor de Quevedo (Madrid : Fundación Universitaria Española, 2003).  YF.2004.a.19232


23 June 2014

Napoleon III meets his nemesis: caricatures from the Franco-Prussian War

The ten months from early July 1870 to the end of May 1871 were among the most significant in French and German history. In a little less than a year France lost its hegemonic position in Europe to its rival Prussia and became a Republic, while a united Germany was created. The British Library holds a world-class collection of (mostly) French and (some) German caricatures in three separate collections bound in 55 volumes. The two larger collections (14001.g.41 and Cup.648.b.2) have recently been conserved, and are now accessible to researchers.  We now need to conserve the last much smaller collection bound in four volumes (Cup. 648.b.8) to ensure that it too is fit for use. In many ways, these volumes act as a taster for the collection as a whole, and in this first of two blogs, we will look at the Franco-Prussian war as seen through the eyes of French and German caricaturists.

France declared war on Prussia on 19 July 1870. The French Army of the Rhine, under the personal leadership of Emperor Napoleon III, invaded Germany on 2 August. After an initial ‘victory’ in an insignificant skirmish, the French army suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the superior Prussian forces and their South German allies. On 2 September Napoleon was captured with his army at Sedan  and imprisoned. 100,000 French troops became prisoners of war.

This factual German lithograph shows the arrival of French prisoners at Ingolstadt in Bavaria prior to being interned. Note the ethnographic interest in the colonial troops from Africa.

Captive French soldiers being marched into the city of IngolstadtArrival of French prisoners at Ingolstadt, 10 August 1870

This crushing and humiliating defeat led to the immediate collapse of the Empire. Republican deputies proclaimed a Provisional Government of National Defence on 4 September.

The French and German caricaturists exhibit a common contempt for the defeated Napoleon and a desire to humiliate him.

This dramatic German caricature depicts Napoleon III speared by the German eagle and consigned to Hell, while his family flees to England crying ‘We are lost’!

A German eagle stabs Napoleon III and he falls into hell surrounded by a chorus of vengeance while his family fleeBilder -Cyklus. Schrapnels No. 1. (Düsseldorf, Selbstverlag. Fr. F. Reis)

This image and text is a witty riff on Goethe’s poem Der Erlkönig. Here the horseman is Napoleon and his young son the Prince Imperial. The Emperor rides on, soon to be engulfed by the flames, reassuring his son that the looming devil is but the ‘gatekeeper of his kingdom’.
Caricature of Napoleon III and his son riding through a wood on a skeletal horse, with verses beneathEines alten Komödianten letzte Gastrolle – Erlkönig!

This striking French colour lithograph printed in Belgium shows a statue of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as the winner of the war in the macabre guise of a skeleton in uniform standing atop a mound of skulls.

Wilhelm I of Germany depicted as a skeleton standing on a heap of skullsStatue à élever à la mémoire du vainqueur et à l’ambitieux destructeur du genre humain. (1870. J. Dosseray, Editeur, rue de Prusse, 10, Cureghem)

On 18 January 1871, the German chancellor Bismarck proclaimed Wilhelm as the Emperor of a united Germany in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.  Adolphe Thiers and Jules Favre, the head and foreign minister of the new government elected in February, negotiated with Bismarck, but had to agree harsh terms finally ratified in the Treaty of Frankfurt (10 May 1871). France lost Alsace and a considerable part of Lorraine to Germany, and an army of occupation was to remain in North-Eastern France until the payment of a large indemnity of 5 billion francs.

In this image, standing astride sacks of money labelled ‘5 milliards’ (5 billion), Bismarck crowns Wilhelm who in turn grabs two women personifying Alsace and Lorraine, while a weeping France and a tearful Thiers and Favre look on impotently.

Actualité, La livraisonL’Actualité. Par G. Gaillard fils. Ce qui les attend!... No. 2 Mars 1871. Signed G. Gaillard fils. (Grognet lithographe. Madre, éditeur)

Teresa Vernon, Lead Curator French Studies

References/Further Reading

Jean Berleux, La caricature politique en France pendant la Guerre, le siège de Paris et la Commune (1870-1871). (Paris, 1890). 7858.g.31

Morna Daniels, ‘Caricatures from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the Paris Commune’ Electronic British Library Journal, art 5 , pp. 1-19

W. Jack Rhoden, ‘French caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and Commune at the British Library’, FSLG Annual Review issue 6 (2009-2010), pp.22-24

Bettina Müller, ‘The Collections of French caricatures in Heidelberg: The English connection’, FSLG Annual Review issue 8 (2011-2012), pp.39-42

Help us raise funds to conserve this collection of Franco-Prussian War caricatures. By making a contribution, you support our conservators’ efforts to clean, repair, and reback these precious volumes, making them accessible to users both now and in the future. Please make a donation at today; every amount makes a difference.  

20 June 2014

Švejk in the First World War – and beyond

Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923) was a Bohemian in every sense of the word. Before turning to literature, he had a chequered career as a chemist’s assistant, bank clerk and journalist, rising to become the editor of a magazine entitled Animal World.  Here, however, his overactive imagination proved his downfall; instead of writing informative articles about real animals he concocted highly plausible ones about imaginary creatures, and was sacked after advertising genuine werewolf puppies for sale – a notice which attracted interested enquirers. He pawned the office bicycle to buy drink, and was rescued from an apparent suicide attempt on Prague’s Charles Bridge by a theatrical hairdresser. His marriage in 1910 to Jarmila Mayerová was predictably short-lived, and after a year she returned to live with her parents. The union produced one child, a son named Richard, but Hašek’s immortality was assured far more successfully by the offspring of his imagination – Josef Švejk.

Postage stamp with a portrait of  Hašek
Soviet stamp from 1963 commemorating 40th anniversary of Hašek's death (from Wikimedia Commons)

Hašek had originally intended Švejk’s adventures to fill six volumes, but when he died, aged 39, of heart failure caused by alcoholism and morbid obesity, he was just over halfway through, expiring at the beginning of volume four. His publisher Adolf Synek asked the journalist Karel Vaňek to complete the story with an account of Švejk’s adventures in Russia during the Revolution.

The novel begins with the news of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which reaches Švejk in his local pub, the Chalice (U Kalicha). On hearing that ‘they’ve shot our Ferdinand’, he announces that he knows two Ferdinands and neither is any loss – the first of a series of comic misapprehensions which marks his progress through captivity and military service, which he attempts to evade only to end up in a hospital for malingerers, his certification as an `official idiot’, being lost at a game of cards by a bibulous chaplain to whom he serves as batman, and his ‘anabasis’ to join his regiment on foot after missing his train and wandering halfway across Austria-Hungary.

Švejk is at once a very Czech figure and a universal one – so much so that he has even given his name to a psychological syndrome. In his combination of ingenuous slyness and blithe disregard for authority, his appeal transcends all national borders; the book has been translated into 60 languages including Esperanto (BL shelfmark YF.2010.a.700), dramatized for stage, screen and television, and turned into an opera. Visitors to Prague can not only visit Švejk’s favourite hostelry and enjoy the beer which he relished, but buy puppets whose features faithfully replicate the famous illustrations by Josef Lada which, for many readers, embody the character in classic form.

Front of the Svejk restaurant in Prague decirated with copies of Josef Lada's illustrations

Švejk restaurant in Prague (Photograph by Silar from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

After his creator’s premature death, Švejk lived on – and on. Inevitably such a colourful individual inspired sequels to his adventures – most notably, perhaps, Bertolt Brecht’s Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg, with settings of the songs by Hanns Eisler. The British Library also holds a little volume published in 1940 by an unknown author, Švejk in the Protectorate, (X.907/12094), issued by the exile publishing house ‘The Czechoslovak’. Here the narrative begins with an account of the Munich beer-hall bombing: ‘So they’ve nearly killed our Adolf…’, and the familiar characters from Hašek’s original novel appear in the sinister circumstances of what the preface describes as ‘a cruel and bitter satire where laughter is mingled with the fighting spirit of revenge and hatred’.

The novel was translated into English by Paul Selver in 1930, but in 1973 a second translation appeared by a figure who was closely associated with Czech studies in Britain, the diplomat Sir Cecil Parrott, who also wrote a biography of Hašek, The Bad Bohemian (X.989/52235). Having served in Czechoslovakia, he maintained a great affection for the country and amassed a considerable collection of Czech and Slovak books which he took with him on his retirement to Lancaster and, on his death, bequeathed to the university there. As Czech and Slovak were not taught at Lancaster, the collection was offered to an institution better able to make use of it, and in the early 1980s it travelled to Oxford. The ultimate result was the establishment of a fellowship by special election, held for over 30 years by the late James Naughton (1950-2014), and the growth of a flourishing tradition of Czech and Slovak studies there. Of all the unlikely twists and turns of Švejk’s picaresque progress, this is one of the most surprising, and would no doubt have bemused both the irreverent ‘good soldier’ and his creator – but needless to say, his adventures still hold a central place in the curriculum, as well as in the hearts of readers throughout the world.

Susan Halstead, Curator Czech and Slovak

18 June 2014

Baroque death or the Death of the baroque?

Nobody knows the etymology of ‘baroque’: a strangely shaped pearl, a syllogism?  Nobody wants to say when the Baroque ended: presumably some time in the long seventeenth century, though the 2009 Baroque exhibition at the V&A ran up to 1800.  Most people agree it soldiered on in the periphery when it had sputtered out in the metropole.  And most people know it when they see it – or read it.

This book is a case in point:

Aclamacion posthuma. Inmortal fama. Panegyrico clarin de virtudes. Trompa funebre de egemplos, y de desengaños, con que el Illustrissimo Cabildo de la Santa Iglesia Cathedral de la ciudad de Orense publicò al mundo averle faltado el heroe mas famoso ... D.D. Diego Ros de Medrano ... Pronunciose el lugubre panegyrico de tanta pèrdida el año passado de 94. por el señor doctor D. Jacinto Andres Phelipes .. (Granada, 1715). British Library RB.23.a.19103

It is a description of the obsequies of Bishop Diego Ros de Medrano in Ourense Cathedral in 1694. One of the Bishop’s achievements was to build a spendid new chapel to house a figure of the Crucifixion (see ‘La Imagen de Cristo en Ourense’).  Although the Bishop seems not to have been honoured with an elaborate catafalque, the orations, in true baroque style, constantly draw verbal  imagery from the visual arts, at least partly in recognition of Ros’s contribution to the fabric of the cathedral.  

The cultural context of the exequies was surely the elaborate multimedia ephemeral funerary art of the time, with its towering catafalques, decorated with mottoes and emblems, and accompanied by music and poetry.

Sometimes these gave rise to splendid memorial books, such as Rodríguez de Monforte, Descripcion de las honras que se hicieron a la catholica magestad de D. Felipe Quarto … en el Real Convento de la Encarnacion (Madrid, 1666; 605.e.30(2); 605.e.31(1)); studied by Orso.

In other cases the books were less lavish than the occasion they recorded.  In Spanish literature by far the most famous example of the genre is the Neptuno alegórico. This is an account of a trimphal arch devised by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, nun of Mexico, dubbed  the Tenth Muse, to mark a viceregal entry in Mexico City in 1680 (see Alatorre).  

Sor Juana’s book was published without pictures, doubtless on account of the expense of making the plates (see Infantes). Our book is also text only (with the exception of a portrait and a sprightly Grim Reaper).

Woodcut of a skeleton with a scythe
When Margaret of Austria, consort of Philip III, died in 1611 catafalques were raised across the Empire (see Morata Pérez).

In Cordoba, the exequies were recorded  in a book,  Relacion de las honras que se hizieron en la Ciudad de Cordoba a la muerte de la serenissima reyna Señora nuestra, which included poems of praise by the most eminent Andalusian poets, including Luis de Góngora, who was an ecclesiastic of the cathedral. To it he contributed three serious sonnets. But in manuscript Góngora was less flattering about rival constructions in other Andalusian cathedrals:

Oh, bien haya Jaén, que en lienzo prieto
De luces mil de sebo salpicado
Su túmulo paró, y de pie quebrado
En dos antiguas trovas sin conceto.

Écija se ha esmerado, yo os prometo,
Que en bultos de papel y pan mascado
Gastó gran suma, aunque no han acabado
Entre catorce abades un soneto.

Todo es obras de araña con Baeza,
Donde el fiel vasallo el regimiento
Pinos corta, bayetas solicita:

Hallaron dos, y toman una pieza
Para el tumbo real o monimento
¡Nunca muriera doña Margarita!

[Oh, congrats Jaén, you’ve raised a tumulus on black canvas sprinkled with tallow in a thousand colours, with two old hobbling and tuneless songs.
Ecija, I assure you, has pushed the boat out: she spent a lot of money on statues made of papier mâché and chewed-up bread, but fourteen abbots couldn’t produce a proper sonnet between them […]
If only Doña Margarita hadn’t died!]

Góngora,  like so many of his contemporaries coprophilous when satire demanded it, neatly points out the consituent parts of a catafalque – paintings, statues and verses – while exposing the poor quality of materials.

Big tomb, little man? Although Bishop Diego Ros de Medrano figures in the Diccionario de historia  eclesiastica de España, his achievements seem to have been outscaled by his monument.  Nor can I explain the time delay between the event in 1694 and the publication in 1715.

As these texts constantly remind us, all must perish, and these elaborate, intentionally ephemeral ceremonies eventually ran their course: the latest Spanish example in the BL is, I believe, that for Philip V from 1747 (9930.d.26).

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


Antonio Alatorre, ‘En torno al Neptuno alegórico de sor Juana’, Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 58 (2010), 269-78. Ac.2693.ce

James Stevens Curl, A Celebration of Death (London, 1980) X.421/11168

Diccionario de historia  eclesiastica de España, 5 vols (Madrid, 1972-87)  HLR 274.6

La Imagen de Cristo en Ourense

Víctor Infantes, ‘La presencia de una ausencia. La emblemática sin emblemas’

Jesús M. Morata Pérez, ‘ Honras granadinas en la muerte de la reina Margarita de Austria (1611). Edición y notas’.

Steven N. Orso,  Art and Death at the Spanish Habsburg Court (Columbia, 1989) YV.1990.b.1269

Renaissance Festival Books

16 June 2014

Italian Studies Library Group Annual Lecture, 30 June 2014

On Monday 30 June the distinguished writer and broadcaster Gaia Servadio will give this year’s ISLG lecture,  ‘Luchino Visconti, Theatre and Opera: a Legacy’ at the British Library. Gaia Servadio’s writings are wide ranging: as well as works of fiction she has published many books, on subjects including archaeology, history, politics and social studies, literature, music and the theatre, and she is also well-known as a journalist. Her 28th book, the autobiographical Raccogliamo le vele, was published earlier this year by Feltrinelli in Milan.

Gaia Servadio’s biography of Luchino Visconti (London, 1981; X.950/13855) is one of her best-known works. Visconti, a famous film director was also an innovative and, at times, controversial theatre and opera director. It is this aspect of his career that this lecture, which will be richly illustrated, will examine.

 Visconti rehearsingLuchino Visconti rehearsing La Vestale, La Scala, 1954. Photo: Erio Piccagliani. ©Teatro alla Scala

Wine and light refreshments will be served after the lecture, which is generously supported by Casalini Libri.

Attendance is free but registration is required If you plan to come please email and type ‘ISLG Lecture’ in the subject line

Information Date: Monday, June 30, 2014

Opening time: 6pm

Venue:  Brontë Room, The British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road

Chris Michaelides, Curator Italian & Modern Greek


13 June 2014

St Anthony of Padua, alias Fernando of Lisbon

13 June is the feast day of St Anthony of Padua.

This charismatic saint, born circa 1195 in Lisbon, where you can still see his house, first joined the Canons Regular of St Augustine at the age of 15; in 1220 he took a level transfer to the newish Ordo Fratrum Minorum (Franciscans to you and me), taking his name from the house of St Anthony Abbot.

The Franciscans, like the Dominicans, were primarily preachers, and although Anthony performed a portfolio of healing miracles – he re-attached the foot of a man who had cut off it off in remorse at kicking his mother – perhaps his most memorable act was to preach to the fishes.

Anthony’s attempt to preach in Rimini to two-legged heathens having resulted in rejection, he addressed a school of fishes. Many traditions merge here. We all know that St Francis, founder of the Order, preached to the birds, and Anthony was doubtless inspired to follow his lead. The Portuguese are a maritime people, and perhaps Anthony was recalling his childhood on the strand at Lisbon. Perhaps too he was invoking Christ’s recruitment of Peter and his fishermen to be fishers of men. Another element is the idea that when a mixed audience hears a charismatic preacher each person is convinced that he spoke to them in their own language: Anthony’s sermons are preserved in Latin; he might not have spoken fish, but that was surely what the fishes heard.

St Anthony surrounded by a crowd, preaching to a sea full of fish St Anthony preaching to the fish.

Some four hundred years later, Portugal’s most famous preacher of the early modern period paid homage to the Saint. Father Antonio Vieira, SJ (1608-97) divided his long life between metropole and periphery, as missionary to the Indians (with the formidable linguistic skills instilled by the Society, he learned Tupi for the purpose of preaching) and as counsellor to King John IV. As much a courtier as a voice in the wilderness, he preached to Queen Christina of Sweden in her Roman retirement.

On the saint’s day in June 1654, three days before he left Maranhão for Portugal, he spoke to the people of Brazil. Addressing his human audience as ‘fishes’, his is partly a political message: the big fishes eat up the little ones. By praising the virtues of fishes (they were spared by the Lord from the ravages of the Flood), he castigates the vices of men. And in true baroque style he draws some somewhat whimsical analogies between land- and sealife. A splendid new edition of his works is in preparation.

Most of St Anthony’s life was spent in Padua, and in the Basilica del Santo  (which outshines the cathedral there) you can view from a respectful distance his chin, his larynx and – what could be more medieval and simultaneously baroque? – the charismatic preacher’s tongue.

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


António Vieira, Obra completa; direção, José Eduardo Franco, Pedro Calafate ([Lisbon, 2013- ]) YF.2014.a.2754 (and passim)

Michel Zink, La prédication en langue romane avant 1300 (Paris, 1982). X.200/42780

Anthony, of Padua, Saint, Obras completas: sermões dominicais e festivos; introduçao, traduçao e notas por Henrique Pinto Rema; prefácio de Jorge Borges de Macedo. (Porto, 1987)

11 June 2014

Charles Bairnes, accused: a German on trial in 18th-century London

On 26th February 1783 a German servant named in the records as ‘Charles Bairnes’ (Benz?) was indicted at the Old Bailey for ‘feloniously stealing […] one gold watch chain, one gold watch key, one gold mourning ring and one small silver key, the goods of Charles Western, Esq.’. Bairnes was just one of the many thousands of young Germans in every walk of life who came to London during the eighteenth century to seek their fortunes. He had evidently not been in the country long enough to learn sufficient English in order to follow the court proceedings, let alone to argue his own case. The reaction of the Court to this clear disadvantage, was perhaps a little unexpected: ‘The prisoner being a German, was asked by the Court, whether he chose to have one half of the jury composed of his own countrymen, to which he replied in the affirmative, and the jury were sworn in’. It was apparently no trouble finding six German-speaking jurors and also an interpreter, one ‘John Bessel’. The court proceedings were apparently conducted in both languages so that the accused, judge, the whole jury and witnesses could follow them easily.

Bairnes was first given a character reference by his current employer, a ‘Mr. Villiers’. Further character references were supplied by Villiers’s brother and his servant, another German named ‘Christian Water’ (Walter?), who had known Bairnes as a child in Germany. A final character reference was supplied (in German) by a ‘commissioner of the King of Prussia’s mines’ named ‘John Fisher’.

The English lack of interest in Germany and its language became a topos in German accounts during the 18th century. Among the numerous complaints by German-speaking residents and travellers, that of the writer Johann Christian Hüttner (d. 1847) is not untypical:

Among a hundred Englishmen, or even seventy Londoners, you will hardly find one that has the faintest idea about Germany. Just last August I met a surgeon in London from a well-known port city who asked me if it might be possible to sell a certain medicine on the other side of the Channel. I said I would ask a friend in Hamburg. ‘Hamburg?’, answered the surgeon, ‘I’ve often heard about that place  - tell me, what language do they speak there?’.  (Englische Miscellen. Vol. 1 Tübingen, 1800, p. 95-96. British Library P.P.3438.b. [My translation].)

The Bairnes case suggests, of course, a rather more complex situation. Not just that there was an extraordinarily large, German-speaking population in eighteenth-century London but acceptance of Germans and familiarity with the German language might have been greater than is often supposed – or is represented by contemporaries. Certainly Bairnes was treated fairly enough: not only was the trial largely conducted in his own language, as Mr. Western could supply no supporting evidence to support his accusations, Bairnes was found “not guilty”.

Graham Jefcoate


Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674 to 1913, 26 February 1783. URL:

  Illustration of a trial in progress at the Old BaileyAn Old Bailey trial in the early 19th century. From Rudolph Ackermann, The Microcosm of London (London, [1808-1810]) C.194.b.305-307. 


09 June 2014

Feasting, not fasting: Marie-Antoine Carême and the pleasures of the palate

For a man who would earn the sobriquet of ‘the king of chefs and the chef of kings’, Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême did not have an auspicious start in life on 8 June 1784. Not only did he bear a surname which in French means ‘Lent’, the season of forty days of fasting, but ten years later, when the French Revolution was in full swing, he was abandoned by his parents. However, the need to earn his living at such a tender age set him on the path which would lead him to preside over the tables of kings, emperors and the highest-ranking politicians of Europe.

The young Carême began humbly enough as a kitchen-boy in a lowly Parisian chop-house, but four years later embarked on an apprenticeship in a shop near the Palais-Royal belonging to the celebrated pâtissier Sylvain Bailly. The sound knowledge of techniques of working with sugar, marzipan and pastry which he gained there laid the foundations not only of his own business, the Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, but also of the spectacular pièces montées which he confected as window displays and to adorn the tables of wealthy clients. Bailly encouraged him to take the art of sugarcraft seriously and to frequent the Bibliothèque Nationale, where he pored over books on the history of architecture to gather inspiration from pictures and plans of temples, pyramids and ruins.

  Design for a model of a rustic hermitage on a rock to be made out of biscuitsarême Hermitage ‘Hermitage on a rock’: one of Carême’s pièces montées, made of coloured biscuits to produce ‘un effet vraiment pittoresque’. From his Le Pâtissier royal parisien.

In keeping with the Revolutionary and early Empire vogue for the ideals of classical antiquity, these masterpieces won him commissions from members of Parisian high society, including Napoleon himself. Despite his pronouncement that ‘an army marches on its stomach’, the Emperor had little interest in food, but appreciated Carême’s talents, and when in 1804 his generosity enabled his chief diplomatic aide Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord to purchase the estate of Château de Valençay near Paris as a meeting-place for diplomats, the latter enlisted Carême’s services as his personal chef. After having satisfied Talleyrand that he could present a different menu for every day of the year without repetition or the use of out-of-season produce, Carême completed his training in his new post. The dishes which he prepared according to Talleyrand’s tastes and specifications show a surprisingly modern emphasis on simple, high-quality ingredients, fresh herbs and vegetables and local seasonal foods; some of these, such as asparagus with hollandaise sauce, are still popular today.

The fall of Napoleon might have proved disastrous for Carême, but in fact demonstrated the truth of the old adage that a good cook, at whatever level, is never out of work. In subsequent years he travelled to London as chef de cuisine to that well-known bon viveur, the Prince Regent, then to St. Petersburg (although his stay was so brief that Tsar Alexander I never tasted a single dish which he had prepared), and finally back to Paris as chef to James Meyer Rothschild of the famous banking dynasty. As a travelling celebrity chef he also worked in Vienna to provide banquets for Talleyrand’s guests during the Congress, and in Brighton, where visitors to the Pavilion can still buy tea-towels and tableware embellished with his menu for a gala dinner in honour of the future Tsar Nicholas I.

  A boar's head and a suckling pig on decorative stands and embellished with skewersFit for royalty: boar's head and suckling pig, embellished with skewers. From Le Cuisinier parisien

Carême’s inventiveness was not confined to the creation of succulent surprises. He is believed to be the originator of the classic chef’s toque, and was also the author of treatises not only on the culinary arts but on architectural projects to improve both Paris and St. Petersburg. The British Library holds several first editions of works on cookery by Carême, including Le Maître d’hotel français (2 vols., Paris, 1822; 1406.e.21), Le Cuisinier parisien, ou l’art de la cuisine française (1828; 1037.i.28), and  Le Pâtissier royal parisien, ou Traité élémentaire en pratique de la patisserie ancienne et moderne (1815; 1406.f.2), besides English translations of his works made as early as the 1830s for British chefs eager to imitate his success.

Title-page of 'Le patissier royal parisien' with a decorative border of fruit, fish, game animals, farming and hunting implements and the names of famous chefsTitle page of Le Pâtissier royal parisien

It has been suspected that, like Emile Zola, Carême was a casualty of the toxic effects of French stoves, or more precisely of the harmful fumes rising from the charcoal over which he cooked. He died at his Paris home on 12 January 1833, aged only 48, and was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre, having accomplished a French revolution of his own in European cuisine. His remarks on the deficiencies of Viennese butchers and the pre-refrigeration trials of procuring fresh produce in Brighton in April (‘the lack of game is making itself felt, the poultry has grown old, vegetables become scarcer every day’) are as sharp as when they were first written, and while few readers would have the audacity to attempt to recreate his edifices in nougat and marzipan, his instructions for simpler delights such as pommes meringuées  à l’hérisson, bristling with delicate hedgehog-like spikes of flaked almonds, put the pleasures of the imperial table within the reach of all those with a love of dishes to please the eye as well as the most refined palate.

Susan Halstead, Curator Czech & Slovak  

Six different elaborate dessert dishesSome of Carême's confections