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  • Was Leonardo’s Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)? December 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Was Leonardo's Mother a Slave (Chinese or Otherwise)?

    Madness on the internet in the last few days with the announcement that Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was a Chinese slave and that she is the Mona Lisa. Many readers will have stumbled upon this theory and enjoyed its improbability, but they may not know that there has been almost ten years of similar theories […]

    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History November 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Three Forgotten Democratic Tools from History

    Western democracies run on a fairly limited model with relatively little variety from country to country. There follow three features that have disappeared from our contemporary democracies but that worked (and worked well) in the three most significant strands of historical democracies: ancient Greece, the medieval Italian communes and Viking ‘controlled anarchy’. Ostracisim Ancient Athens […]

    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs November 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs

    The Misericordia Polyptych is a talismanic work of art by Piero della Francesca, today, and for most of its history, kept at Sanselpolcro in eastern Tuscany near the border with Umbria (Italy). It took PF seventeen years to complete the polyptych, yet it would have only taken a second for an Allied bomb to blow […]

    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence October 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence

    Civil Wars are generally – the American Civil War is a fascinating exception – confusing with there almost inevitably being more than two factions. However, it is arguable whether, with apologies to Syria and Bosnia, the world has ever experienced civil wars quite as confusing as those reported in Florence, Italy in the fourteenth century. […]

    Preferring Hell to Heaven: Machiavelli August 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Preferring Hell to Heaven: Machiavelli

    We all dream every night – a simple physiological fact – and yet most of these dreams are forgotten by the individual and even those that are remembered rarely enter history. However, on occasion a dream slips through into record, either because it changes the world or because it represents a life. ‘Machiavelli’s dream’ is […]

    Hidden Flags August 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Hidden Flags

    There’s a scene in that very good Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where downed British pilots in occupied Holland establish the loyalty of their hosts through a trick commode. A line of orange flowers (the Dutch colour) leads to a swing picture that reveals a disguised portrait of the […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci March 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Love Goddess #8: Simonetta Vespucci

    Our latest in the love goddess series (for a full list see below) is Simonetta Vespucci (obit 1476), a woman that had the reputation for being the most outstanding beauty of Florence at the apogee of that city’s golden age. We know that she came from Genova (her maiden name was Cattaneo de Candia), we […]

    The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora February 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora

    One of the least bloody periods in the history of warfare came in early fifteenth-century Italy. The Italian city states had become a good deal less violent than a century before, and warfare was farmed out to mercenary captains, who proved themselves both greedy and all too often endearingly effete. These mercenary captains were in […]

    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

    There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

    A Pregnant Christ?! January 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Pregnant Christ?!

    This beautiful mosaic is an eleventh-century work in the church of San Miniato in Florence, one of the most extraordinary religious buildings in the world. The mosaic is unusual as, though put together in central Italy, it shows, as does an accompanying mosaic outside the church, clear eastern influences. Are we to think of itinerant […]

    Arty Monarchs November 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Arty Monarchs

    How many rulers can you think of who show a gift for the arts? By this we don’t mean a Charles I or a Cosimo de Medici who could talent spot. Rather Beach is looking for blood-line rulers who were actually good with the paint-brush or with chisel or (taking the broader sense of ‘the […]

    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance November 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    How Islam Created the Italian Renaissance

    The Renaissance! What’s not to like: Leo flying; Micky chipping at marble; men in tights and women in bodices; the pop, snap, crackle of Kultur; and cherubs falling from the sky like hailstone. According to the textbooks fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italians, more particularly the urban Italians of northern Italy rediscovered the Greek and Romans and […]

    Cycling and Florence: To Whom Do Cities Belong? September 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Cycling and Florence: To Whom Do Cities Belong?

    Beach has associations with several cities in central Italy. However, his favourite city, unfortunately at the very outer limits of his migration route, is Florence: once a term, oh happy day, he goes to the ‘Flowering Place’ to give a lesson for a course. There is a lot to like about Florence, but its local […]

    Magonia #6: Leland Sings Magonia June 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Magonia #6: Leland Sings Magonia

    Elizabeth Pennell writes in her memoirs of Charles Leland, the nineteenth-century folklorist and alleged bullshitter: He got well over the gout in the spring and summer of 1891, as he travelled by easy stages several weeks at Via Reggio, Geneva, Homburg to London for his last visit there. He went on with his Heine [the […]

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