Skip to main content
Asiel Timor Dei, ca. 1728 by a master of Calamarca

European painters always enjoyed a good deal of latitude in the representation of angels, those asexual, bodiless, celestial regiments of God, so long as they were young and beautiful. But who can fail to be startled by an oil painting in which, over his canonical pair of feathery wings, a particular, named angel wears the attire of a swashbuckling, early seventeenth-century Flemish militiaman—a broad-brimmed hat, slashed sleeves, lace collar and cuffs, a sword, black stockings, crimson garters and matching bows on his shoes—and cheerfully takes aim with a big, spluttering harquebus, the ignited match cord carefully slung from his left hand? Why is he opening fire on the heavens? And, apart from the specialist, who at first glance would place this delightfully batty Baroque picture in the vicinity of Cuzco in the Viceroyalty of Peru, or indeed date it to the third decade of the eighteenth century?

Luke and Nacoya, 2016 by Daniel Sponiar

It is now a little more than 178 years since the French Academy of Sciences was made aware of the invention of the daguerreotype process. That announcement was made in Paris on 7 January 1839 (a Monday). Accurate news of the invention was published in the Australasian Chronicle in Sydney in August of the same year. This was only forty years before the birth of Einstein. Notwithstanding earlier and, indeed, other concurrent mechanical fixed-image light-exposure experiments taking place on both sides of the English Channel, the date of January 1839 has long been regarded as the birthday of photography. Set against the broad horizon of history the period that has elapsed since then is relatively brief, yet it is almost impossible for us to imagine a world without photographs.


In the earliest stages of the Great War, before British casualties began to assume their calamitous scale, measures were taken to meet the needs of imperial troops, above all ordinary soldiers of the Indian army who were wounded in France. For this purpose the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was turned into a military hospital, and arrangements made there to accommodate the different dietary and other requirements of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, 1824 by James Thomson

I have just finished reading Victoria Glendinning’s excellent recent biography, Raffles and the Golden Opportunity (2012). By a strange coincidence, having lately read James Pope-Hennessy’s Verandah (1964), I was struck by how very alike the two subjects were: Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir John Pope-Hennessy were both self-made and limitlessly ambitious...


Reflections on portraiture

'Postcards' are reflections on portraiture by Portrait Gallery Director, Angus Trumble, and others.