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At the National Gallery

Mary Wellesley: Dürer’s Journeys, 6 January 2022

... St Jerome in His Study’ (1521) Albrecht​ Dürer 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 socks ...

In Hereford

Mary Wellesley: The Mappa Mundi, 21 April 2022

... Seven​ centuries 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 ...

At the British Museum

Mary Wellesley: ‘Feminine Power’, 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 ...

Short Cuts

Mary Wellesley: Making Parchment, 30 August 2018

... The work​ of making parchment is unglamorous, and sometimes it smells like the inside of a boxing glove: like cheese and sweat and hard work. There is only one firm of parchment makers left in the UK. There are places elsewhere in the world where parchment is produced, but the process is partly mechanised. At William Cowley’s – located somewhat improbably near Milton Keynes – everything is still done by hand ...

At the British Library

Mary Wellesley: Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, 22 November 2018

... The earliest fragments​ of the English language are likely to be a group of runic inscriptions on three fifth-century cremation urns from Spong Hill in Norfolk. The inscriptions simply read alu, which probably means ‘ale’. Perhaps the early speakers of Old English longed for ale in death as well as life. But, as the British Library’s exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms (until 19 February) displays, the inhabitants of early medieval Britain did more than yearn for ale ...

Naked Hermit

Mary Wellesley: Blessed Isles, 5 March 2020

Islands in the West: Classical Myth and the Medieval Norse and Irish Geographical Imagination 
by Matthias Egeler.
Brepols, 357 pp., £100, October 2018, 978 2 503 56938 3
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... Medieval​ stories of paradisal islands had common tropes: the temptations of delicious food and delicious women; magical flora, like golden fruit trees; improbable constructions – ships made of crystal or bridges made of glass. A persistent theme is the unheeded warning. Characters are told not to kill cattle, not to eat the food offered by the host, not to come ashore, not to steal, not to cross the bridge of glass ...


Mary Wellesley: The Wyldrenesse of Wyrale, 26 April 2018

... hardeBi contray caryes þis knyȝt tyl Krystmasse Euen      AloneÞe knyȝt wel þat tydeTo Mary made his mone,Þat ho hym red to rydeAnd wysse hym to sum woneNear slain with the sleet, he slept in his ironsNights enough, amid naked rocksFrom the crests of which, cold streams clatteredOr hung in icicles, high overheadThus, in peril and pain, he suffered ...

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