Friday, 12 August 2011

Masterly Inspiration in Vogue UK's September Issue

Freja Beha Erichsen, by Mario Testino for Vogue UK, September 2011.
Mario Testino's shots of models Freja Beha Erichsen and Arizona Muse for Vogue UK's September issue invoke the spirit of Old Masters like Johannes Vermeer.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Weighing Pearls, c.1662-4.
Starched, severe white caps, prim collars and brilliant white cuffs are seemingly lifted from the canvas of paintings like Woman Weighing Pearls and given a modern, high fashion twist.

Freja Beha Erichsen on the streets of Antwerp, by Mario Testino.
It would also seem that the iconic work, Girl With a Pearl Earring, has its part to play in this autumnal fashion story.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665.
Beautiful and intelligent use of light, striking jewellery and an unusual head-dress...

Freja Beha Erichsen, by Mario Testino.
All are in evidence here, translated for a twenty-first century audience. Perhaps the only thing missing is that enigmatic look from the unknown girl in Vermeer's painting.

Johannes Vermeer, Woman With a Water Jug, 1665.
Testino and his team have done a marvellous job of paying tribute to the harmony of light and composition of the Old Masters; carefully observing key elements, from the shape and form of clothing to blushing cheeks...

I blogged about the historical connotations of this McQueen gown back in April.
This is a great example of fashion meeting art...and getting along famously.

Vermeer images courtesy of Olga's Gallery. Testino/Vogue UK images courtesy of

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Georgian Ice-cream

Georgian ice-creams created by Historic Food - Left to Right - Royal Cream, Chocolate, Burnt Filbert Cream & Parmesan Cream.
Out on the street on a hot summer's day, you might stop at an ice-cream parlour or gelateria for a sundae or a cone. It might even be just a quick stop off at the supermarket or corner shop for a tub of your favourite flavour or an ice-lolly or two. However you get your icy kicks, it would be fair to say that it's easy to get hold of in one form or another. 

So how would our eighteenth century counterparts have done so? 

Flavoured ices had been around for thousands of years before the 1700s, but it is widely accepted amongst food historians that the first real "iced-cream" recipes were created in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, originating in Italy and then spreading throughout Europe.

The first recipe to be written in English came courtesy of Mrs. Mary Eales' Receipts in 1718; a book of dessert recipes (later published as The Compleat Confectioner) containing directions for the making of ice-cream,

"Take Tin Ice-Pots, fill them with any Sort of Cream you like, either plain or sweeten'd, or Fruit in it; shut your Pots very close; to six Pots you must allow eighteen or twenty Pound of Ice, breaking the Ice very small; there will be some great Pieces, which lay at the Bottom and Top: You must have a Pail, and lay some Straw at the Bottom; then lay in your Ice, and put in amongst it a Pound of Bay-Salt; set in your Pots of Cream, and lay Ice and Salt between every Pot, that they may not touch; but the Ice must lie round them on every Side; lay a good deal of Ice on the Top, cover the Pail with Straw, set it in a Cellar where no Sun or Light comes, it will be froze in four Hours, but it may stand longer; than take it out just as you use it; hold it in your Hand and it will slip out..."

Food writer Hannah Glasse also included a recipe for ice-cream in her book The Art of Cookery, in 1747.

These recipes provide us with the basics of a Georgian ice-cream; sweetened cream or milk poured into a covered mould, which is then plunged into a bath of ice crystals and salt and left to set in a cool, dark place. 

This leads us to the important question of where the ice itself came from. Where possible, ice and snow would be transported from mountain regions to use for culinary (and medical) purposes. If you were not surrounded by mountains, the simple solution was to make the ice yourself by leaving containers of water outside on a freezing night. Of course, this method wouldn't work during warmer months, therefore various methods were used to store and preserve ice; purpose built ice-houses for the wealthy, and caves and cellars for the not-so-wealthy.

As the century progressed, so too did the very industry of ice-cream itself. By the 1760s, a number of confectionery establishments had sprung up in European cities, selling ice-cream in a variety of exotic and downright extraordinary flavours. In 1789, the fantastically named Frederick Nutt published a book called The Complete Confectioner, in which he detailed recipes for flavours including Bergamot Water Ice and Parmesan cheese. Nutt was an apprentice to Italian confectionery expert Domenico Negri, who owned and ran The Pot and Pine Apple on Berkeley Square, London. 

The Pot and Pine Apple would later become Gunter's Tea Shop, a fashionable Regency destination and ever-popular purveyor of ice-cream.

Anyone for a Parmesan sundae...? 

Image courtesy of Historic Food.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Things to See: The Staffordshire Hoard On Tour

Scabbard Boss
In May last year, I blogged about an amazing stash of Anglo-Saxon gold; discovered by one man and his metal detector in a field near Lichfield, Staffordshire. The treasure quickly became known as The Staffordshire Hoard, capturing the imagination of academics, archaeologists and the public alike, and setting off a chain of events which find the hoard where it is today.

So, where is it now - two years since its unearthing? Parts of the hoard are currently on tour, while other artefacts are undergoing painstaking conservation. Funding has been secured to keep it in the area of its discovery; the ancient kingdom of Mercia (largely the West Midlands and Staffordshire in its modern form), and fundraising is underway to create a permanent home for the entire, 1,500 piece-strong collection at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Sword Hilts
If you would like to see the hoard's glittering objects for yourself, then head to Lichfield Cathedral where artefacts will be on display from now until the 21st August. Following the exhibition at Lichfield, the Staffordshire tour continues onwards to Tamworth Castle from the 27th August to the 18th September. Both Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle are historically important and beautiful venues in their own right, and the addition of pieces from the hoard will only serve to make things even more interesting!

After September, the hoard will journey over the Atlantic for an exhibition at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. Called Anglo-Saxon Hoard: Gold From England's Dark Ages, the exhibition will run from the 29th October until the 4th March 2012.

For more information on the Staffordshire Hoard, visit the website, here.

For further details on the Staffordshire tour, click here, and for information on the National Geographic Museum in Washington, click here.

Images courtesy of Portable Antiquities on Flickr.