Showing posts from 2014

Window shopping on Grafton Street, Dublin in 1930

A gentleman browses the cameras on Dublin's famous Grafton Street in 1930.
Photo credit: Photos of Dublin - @PhotosOfDublin

Brutus - the Death of an Assassin - 23 October 42 B.C.

In the year 42 B.C., on 23 October, Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger ended his life less than two years after participating in the assassination of his mother's lover and civil partner Julius Caesar.
Some said that Brutus was Caesar's son as his mother Servilia had been one of Ceasar's multitude of mistresses.

Orphaned at an early age, Brutus was raised in Greece where he was initiated in the arts of Platonic philosophy and stoicism. He becomes convinced that man's affairs could only be governed by reason and not by force of arms. But back in Rome he found himself falsely implicated in a plot against Pompey, and was forced to flee.

His political career finally took off when he was sent to Cyprus to assist Cato during his governorship of the isle. While there he amassed a tidy fortune and returned to Rome a rich man and married Clodia Pulchra. 

More riches flowed Brutus's way when his 'father-in-law', Julius Caesar, appointed him as questor in the province of Ci…

Jakob Fugger the Rich

Jakob Fugger (1459-1525), known as Jakob Fugger 'the Rich', was one of the richest people that ever lived. He made his fortune in banking, trading, and occasionally contraband, in particular saffron, pepper and other spices. He also had a lucrative sideline in the sale of indulgences with his business partners in the Vatican, which gave impetus to Martin Luther's Reformation in Germany.

An Easter celebration for Vlad the Impaler of the House of Dracula

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, son of Vlad II Dracul of the Order of the Dragon, was not a forgiving man.
"I have not the forgiving vein," said he to himself, when he succeeded to the princely throne ten years after his father's assassination.
"Now that I have my throne, my father's aristocratic killers will feel the full force of my wrath and vengeance. But in what devilish way shall I kill them? I know, I will skewer them alive on stakes like I saw in Turkey during my long exile there."

He slated his revenge for Easter Sunday 1457, as on that holy day the whole of the nobility would be gathering at the royal palace to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

The day duly arrived, and with the religious ceremony over, the 200 guests made their way to the banqueting hall to glut their appetites on the food and wine graciously provided by their host.
"I like the chicken on sticks," remarked one of the guests, unconscious of the dramatic irony in his choice…

Tintoretto and the St. Mark paintings

'Beautiful colours can be bought in the shops on the Riato, but good drawings can only be bought from the casket of the artist's talent with patient study and nights without sleep.'  Tintoretto.
Born Jacopo Robusti in Venice in 1518, and called Il Tintoretto because his father was a dyer by trade, Tintoretto was part of the triad of great 16th century Venetian artists, along with Titian and Veronese. 

Tintoretto trained in the workshop of Titian and was first mentioned as a master in 1539.

Between 1548 and 1563, he painted several large-scale pictures of the Miracle of St. Mark. According to the painter and engraver Marco Boschini, he would use small wax figures to create the scene that he envisaged in his mind, and then experiment with light sources.

This picture was one offour St. Mark subjects that Tintoretto was commissioned to paint in the Scuola de S. Marco, the others being St. Mark's Body Brought to Venice; Finding of the Body of St. Mark; St. Mark Rescuing a Sarac…

Charles Gallo : Anarchist !

"Long live the Republic! Long live anarchy! Death to the bourgeois magistrature! Long live dynamite!"
Such was the defiant cry of Charles Gallo at his arraignment before the Court of Assizes in Paris on 26 June 1886 following his failed bomb attack on the Paris Stock Exchange almost four months earlier.

"I refuse to be judged by a tribunal of bourgeois!" he hurled at the court after being told he would stand trial three weeks later.

Gallo's life had an austere beginning. His young mother abandoned him at birth, and he spent his first ten years with a family of poor peasants. 
As a young man, though studious, he was not academically gifted, and turned to forging counterfeit money to make an income. But all he got for his pains was five years imprisonment.
Upon his release from prison he searched out the haunts frequented by anarchists, and began to formulate in his head a daring act in one of the shines of the hated bourgeoisie. "What shall …

Harold Pinter : One Man's Land

'There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened. There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them so they take place.'
Harold Pinter - Old Times.

When you look back upon your past
it will not be the words you wrote
you shall remember,
the words your chose yourself,
so carefully,
and with such purpose.

Rather it will be the voice 
behind the words
you shall recall,
the tone of the voice,
and the way in which you sat
as you were writing.

The past has no morals,
it is an alien country
huge and vast,
and things which occurred then,
though we knew them not,
will manifest today,
as though they happened today,
as we recall them today
from our past.

Chess with Aleister Crowley and Savielly Tartakower

'The wickedest man in the world'
Around 1930, the English magician, occultist and self-proclaimed Beast with the number 666, Aleister Crowley, was living in Paris, following his expulsion from Italy by Benito Mussolini.

Labelling by the British press 'The wickedest man in the world'because of the activities involving sexual-magic and drugs at his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily, Crowley was now spending his time in the calmer atmosphere of the Paris British Chess Club, a circle of chess players from the British community that met once or twice a week at the Café du Grand Palais. It was here that he was befriended by the young English writer George Langelaan, later to find fame for his cult short story The Fly.

'Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.'
Despite Crowley's notorious reputation as author of The Book of the Law, the 'sacred text' which he claimed had been dictated to him by an entity named Aiwass, and whose central tenet was to 'Do as t…

Pedro de Mendoza - the syphilitic Conquistador

After several tumultuous weeks on the high seas, the flotilla of thirteen vessels, under the command of Pedro de Mendoza, made its slow progress up the Rio de la Plata in South America. It was early February 1536, and the conquistador made land on the west side of the great river and constructed a fort, which he baptised Nuestra Señora Santa Maria del Buen Ayre, the future Buenos Aires. 

The good-natured natives, called Querandies, came to greet the new arrivals. But who were they, these strangers with their pale and hairy faces? Could they be gods come down from the firmament? Whoever they were, they were hungry, and the Indians graciously provisioned them with tasty game birds.   

Gods, however, the intruders most certainly were not. Pedro de Mendoza was a desperate mortal from the Spanish city of Guadix, Granada. He had lots of pride but very little money, but had heard of the profit-making exploits of Cortes and of Pizarro, and wanted to get in on the action himself.

So in 1529, at t…

Assam Tea: the day the English got their first taste of India tea

10 January 1839 is an important day in the history of England. For on that monumental day the first shipment of Indian tea was being sold by auction at East India House, Leadenhall Street, London.

Ever since an embargo on trade with Europe had been decreed by the Chinese emperor, in retaliation at the European powers saturating his country with opium, the English had been deprived of their daily libation of tea. Could they survive any longer? More importantly: could the Empire survive? They would need to find a solution to the grave crisis facing the nation!

Enter Robert Bruce, a Scotsman like his illustrious namesake Robert the Bruce. Part-time explorer and part-time trader, in 1823 he discovered a place in India called Assam, where the natives consumed a decoction that closely resembled tea. A local chief gave him his first taste of the brew. Indeed, it was just like tea! He was ecstatic! All he needed now was to convince the sour-faced English and his fortune would be made.

Then a cat…