Mary Wellesley

Mary Wellesley’s Hidden Hands was published in 2021.

Hayward of the Dale: Gurle Talk

Mary Wellesley, 4 April 2024

When​ my daughter began to talk about her body and the bodies of others, I wondered what word we should use for female genitals. I had been taught the term ‘front-bottom’ as a child. Very little needs to be said here about how stupid this is. My husband and I opted instead for ‘vulva’. It’s functional, but it does sound strange in certain contexts. My daughter...

Detail of Botticelli’s ‘St Francis with Angels’

While travelling​ between Cannara and Bevagna, around the year 1200, St Francis saw a ‘great multitude’ of birds in the trees at the side of the road. He told his companions to wait while he went to ‘preach the good news to my little sisters, the birds, over there’. On hearing his sermon, the birds...

At the British Museum: ‘Feminine Power’

Mary Wellesley, 22 September 2022

The poster image​ for the British Museum’s Feminine Power exhibition (until 25 September) is a bronze sculpture, Lilith (1994), by the American artist Kiki Smith. Cast from the body of a real woman, this Lilith is a rich, dark bronze, with disarming, pale blue glass eyes. She is crouched on all fours, her head turned to one side, and positioned high up on the gallery wall. Her anatomy...

In Hereford: The Mappa Mundi

Mary Wellesley, 21 April 2022

Sevencenturies ago, an artist made a perforation with a compass on a large piece of parchment. The pinprick formed the centre of his universe. Around it he drew the circular shape of a city, with crenellated towers – Jerusalem. Radiating outwards from this point, the artist and perhaps six others portrayed the world as they knew it. It was a circular world, hemmed by a great ocean....

‘St Jerome in His Study’ (1521)

AlbrechtDürer arrived in Antwerp in August 1520. The journey from his home in Nuremberg had taken just under a month and he had recorded it in his journal. His main concern was to itemise his expenses. No expenditure was too small to note: ‘Ten pence for a roast chicken … I paid one stuiver for a pair of short...

Saint Boniface used a manuscript to shield himself when attacked by robbers; the slashes it suffered make it a relic of his martyrdom. Pages of many books are marred by dirty fingerprints, wine stains...

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