Wotta stunna!

John Everett Millais. Ophelia. circa 1851

What a very modern expression!  No, actually, this dates to the 1860s when pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) coined the now horribly non-PC expression ‘stunner’ to describe a beautiful,  enchanting woman.  In 1848, he was one of the founder members of the artistic movement, the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Being a somewhat naughty chap, Rossetti usually persuaded these stunners to pose for his paintings and several became his mistress.  Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862), an artist in her own right, became his wife.  She’s most famously depicted as Ophelia and one suggestion for her early death is due to the time spent immersed in cold water whilst Millais painted her.  Like many of Rossetti’s muses, Siddal was a redhead.

La Ghirlandata. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Displayed at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London

Redheads have always had a raft of pejorative nicknames thrown at them. L M Montgomery’s eponymous heroine, Anne Shirley of Green Gables, famously verbally attacked anyone commenting on her red tresses and even smashed a slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head when he called her carrots.  Rossetti is amongst the few who celebrated auburn locks focussing on their  ‘cult of beauty.’  Another of his famous red headed models was Alexa Wilding (1847-1884) depicted in one of his most famous paintings La Ghirlandata (circa 1873).    This wonderful picture can be viewed at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London.

For Rossetti’s biography and some online examples of his work see the Tate website.

Foteballe and Amphitheatres…

Guildhall Art Gallery

Yesterday was not a good day for English football; 2-1 to Croatia.  However, English football has had worse days.  Like 1314 when the then Mayor of London, Nicholas de Farndone, banned football entirely!  Why do I know this?  Because I’ve just had a fabulous time in the Guildhall Art Gallery which, as a bred Londoner, I really should have visited before…   I have a genuine excuse; this building was completed in 1999 replacing the one destroyed in the Blitz in 1941.  It’s fabulous!

I initially went to see John Whitehead Walton’s 1873 painting of The First London School Board where, amidst a sea of male faces, are those of two of my favourite ladies,  Mrs Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Miss Emily Davies both in the forefront of female emancipation; one for medicine and the other education.

Alongside this important painting is a plethora of pre-Raphaelites and other paintings depicting old London etc and, of course, the story of banning foteballe. There is even a copy of the Magna Carta!

Emily Davies is bottom left. Elizabeth Garret Anderson behind her. Courtesy Guildhall Art Gallery.

The Art Gallery is built above the London Roman Amphitheatre.  Head  to the basement to see it in all its theatricality.   Experts and archaeologists had all agreed London must have had a Roman amphitheatre – but it was only discovered in 1985.  It is now, of course, a protected monument and, like the rest of the exhibits at this Art Gallery, free to visit.

I was not the only woman walking around the art gallery with a smile on my face (remember, this is before England lost the match…)   Another was beaming ear to ear about its largesse. She, too, had never been and she was a London tour guide.  That made me feel better.

If you are in this fascinating area of London, pop next door to the rebuilt Wren church, St Lawrence Jewry, destroyed in the Great First of London 1666 and again during the London Blitz.

on tenterhooks; textile mill jobs lecture at Society of Genealogists

Hand carders for wool

You aren’t too late to book a seat at my lecture on Wednesday 11th July at 2pm – that is unless you are reading this on the 12th and have missed it.

The lecture is about deciphering those provocatively named cotton and wool textile mill jobs; scutcher, feckler, tackler, tenter, doubler and carder plus all those other weird and wonderful ways our ancestors earned a mill crust in the censuses.   My grandmother, by the way, was a reacher in the 1911 census. She was  13.

My father designed spindles for spinning machines until the bottom fell out of the textile industry (pun intended).  He travelled to Lancashire, Cheshire, India, Switzerland and possibly even North Korea (don’t ask – I’m still trying to prove it was North not South because he said the plane was hush hush, nobody had passports with them and the coach in Korea had boarded up windows… ).  But he never went to Yorkshire.  Why not?  Because Yorkshire was a wool county and his spinning machines were for cotton.

So I look forward to joining you next week to learn what this has in common with this.

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire