20 Years From Now...

"20 YEARS FROM NOW," Mark Twain said, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.”THIS online journal is dedicated to our next 20 years!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Oxford Revisited

January 2016 we spent a week in Oxford and enjoyed it so much we hoped one day to return. Seeing as we had a few free days between our Marlow and Winchester housesits and Oxford was within an hour's train ride we made good on that goal and stayed three nights last week in the Malmaison - a former prison turned hotel.

Our room was actually in a separate building - the Corrections House (left below) on the south side of the exercise yard. 

Our room is on the upper floor, top left next to large window.

The room was luxurious and more importantly, tomb like. We didn't hear a soul - and hopefully no one heard me coughing throughout the night. 😷

We'd briefly explored the Ashmolean Museum in 2016, but as it has so to offer we returned for a second viewing. The Ashmolean, founded in 1683, is the University of Oxford's museum of art and archaeology. 

I was immediately drawn to a special exhibit of 26 drawings by Michelangelo. (By the way, both the entrance fee to the museum and the special exhibit were free of charge.)

What amazed me about Michelangelo's drawings was not only how up close and personal one was allowed to view them, but the size of his renderings.

Unlike today's drawings that are often larger than life size the majority of his were miniscule. Some like those below were little more than 1-inch in height by a 1/2-inch in width, yet the detail and mastery of the subjects was phenomenal.

My next stop was the textile section. Did you know weaving dates back to 7000 BC while other fibre arts such a twining and netting was practiced much earlier?

Kashmir shawl, early 19th century and English lady's coat made of Kashmir shawl late 19th century

This rare chatelaine (below) would have hung from a well-to-do woman's skirt. It includes a pin cushion, small purse and knife sheath and would also have included keys to various cupboards, trunks and possibly rooms in her home for safekeeping. This woven tapestry is made of silk and metal threads in the Mortlake Tapestry Works founded by Sir Francis Crane in 1619 using the skills of Flemish weavers. 

 On to the Pre-Raphaelite art period...

Even the chairs were designed and constructed during the Pre-Raphaelite period. 

The spectacular Prioress's Tale Wardrobe (shown above and below) was designed by Philip Webb (1831-1915) and painted in oil by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1899). Burne-Jones gave it to his friend and business partner William Morris and Jane Burden as a wedding gift in 1859.

The wardrobe is painted with scenes from a medieval poem found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  Jane Burden met both Morris and Burne-Jones when she modelled for them and here she served as model for the Virgin as well as her escort of angels.

The Great Bookcase, below, was designed by William Burges, (1827-1881) and painted by 14 of his friends.  Most were affiliated with the Pre-Raphael Movement. including Edward Burns-Jones who also painted portions of the bookcase.

I was not familiar with this next painting, nor the artist, William Holman Hunt, but the subject matter and its unmistakable air of electricity caught my attention and admiration. Entitled London Bridge by Night it captures the celebratory mood of the night of March 10, 1863 when Londoners gathered on the bridge to celebrate the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to the future Edward VII. Hunt joined the crowd that evening and completed his painting by mid May of the same year. 

On our way out we walked past so many other incredible finds and the intricacy of this pot made me stop in my tracks.

On our final full day in Oxford we returned to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History where John reconnected with all things Darwin and his theory of evolution.

Last, but certainly not least, we wandered around town, savouring the architecture and feel-good vibes of this amazing place. 

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

University Church of St. Mary the Virgin


Magdalen College

Bridge of Sighs

We also had some lovely meals during our stay in Oxford. John's favourite was the Slug and Lettuce a few short steps from our room at the Malmaison Hotel.

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