tchaikovette  asked:

Hi Olivia! My friend and I are going to London next week and I would like to know if you have any recommendations for books, museums, tea places, shopping and outdoor theatres and markets? What do you like to do in London in general? Many thanks!

I’ll list a few of my personal favorites, but I’d suggest checking out @amyvnorris‘s London tag. She’s our resident Londoner, knows best, and has given quite a few recommendations in the past. Also check her London coffee guide


  • Persephone Books
  • Daunt Books
  • Hatchards 
  • Foyle’s


  • The V&A
  • The Courtauld Gallery
  • The Wallace Collection 
  • Tate Britain
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • The National Gallery

Theater depends on what’s on, but you can never go wrong with the Globe!

Enjoy London! 

French Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, born today in 1732, was famous for depicting the exuberance and hedonism of his day. In this famous work from the Wallace Collection (London), the gentleman in the bushes has quite a view. Hope the lady’s husband doesn’t notice!

Celebrate Fragonard’s birthday by viewing other titillating works in our collection.

“The Swing,” 1767, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Wallace Collection, London)

Could an armoured knight dress themselves?
Q: Was it possible for someone to dress in plate armour entirely on their own? Or was it impossible without assistance?

That’s a really good question. I’ve dressed and undressed myself in sections of plate, and although it’s not impossible to do alone, it isn’t easy or fast. Since people wearing plate generally had status and money, and medieval European society was largely based on using servants to support upper classes, it would simply be more efficient to use someone lower down the food chain to help you get in and out of your kit.

Commonly throughout history, good armour or weapons that are for use in combat were designed to be practical and for the ease of the person using them. Based on this I would say that armourers aren’t going to make a steel suit that the wearer can’t get out of alone.

An exception to the arms-efficiency concept is when you have sports events, such as the large elaborate jousting tourneys of the high to late middle ages and early renaissance. Tournament armour became very elaborate and was designed specifically for the different forms of the sport, and not for the rigorous, extended campaign-style combat of battlefield warfare which was largely undertaken with at least one army walking and camping out in the elements for weeks at a time.

If you’ve ever been hiking without a vehicle, you’ll appreciate that everything you bring needs to really earn its weight in usefulness! On the other hand, when you attend a sports event, you can set up permanent stations for repairs, have extras of everything and surround yourself with well-rested, energised people to help you get in and out of your gear.

With sports armour, the knights could afford to have lots of assistance gearing up since there are gaps and down-time between them being out in front of the crowd- much at like modern sports matches. I’d speculate that armourers took advantage of this and were able to make their armour more complicated, because the people buying it would still be able to use it practically even if it was much harder to get in and out of alone.

Some elements of jousting armour were riveted or bolted to the person, and although it might be possible to prise your way out yourself with a strong pair of pliers, you wouldn’t want to deck yourself up in this kind of armour for a real front-lines confrontation. From personal experience I can confirm that when you’re boiling your brains from being encased in metal for a fight, getting fresh air can become your only priority, and you don’t want to wait for anyone to help you. I’m sure this is what drove the invention of ye olde medieval wingnut. A wingnut is a type of large nut with flanges coming off to the sides so it can be easily tightened or loosened by hand, without tools.

Below: An example of three wingnuts on a late medieval armour harness that I saw in person at the Met museum in NYC. followed by the image of a modern wingnut, extremely similar to that used 400+ years before.

As tournaments became more popular, wealthy fighters could afford armour harnesses that were interchangeable and could be adapted to suit heavy or light use, which is why sometimes you see mysterious holes on the side of knightly breastplates, so as to attach a lance rest (clearly visible in the first image above).

A lot of the armour that we see displayed in museums is the shiny, impressive stuff that was used for show in competition or parades. It was utilised a fraction of the time compared to the equipment for field combat, and looks a lot better since it was often made by the top designers of the day. If you were a museum curator choosing how to fill your limited exhibit space, it’s much more attractive to display the top-end armour than the beaten up, everyday stuff (which ironically is what tells us much more about the life of the non-uber wealthy people).

Unfortunately a lot misconceptions about armour and weapons can come from this.

It’s through the combined research of history enthusiasts, scholars, fighters and craftspeople that we can reconstruct the conditions of medieval combat, and start to identify what was common for the middle classes, as opposed to having a limited perspective of a culture viewed only through the eyes of those at the top of the pecking order.


Below are four late medieval Germanic helmets, for comparison.

1) A frogmouth helm or Stechhelm used from 1400-1600 for jousting. This is not at all a practical combat helmet. It was literally bolted to your chest and designed for the very specific purpose of hitting some part of your upper body against all the mass of a charging horse and rider who’s wearing 40+ pounds of armour- all of which is focused into the tiny surface of a shattering wooden lance tip. This provides great protection against that, but forget about turning your head, or seeing the ground once you dismount!

2) A foot combat helmet of Maximilian I, circa 1485. Note the extra ventilation, the increased visibility and the smoothness of the dome, which would cause any but the most direct strikes to glide off. Since there is no articulation at the neck, this would have been very unhelpful for a mounted combatant and like the frogmouth helm, would be less than suitable for war.

3) A practical salade, or salet, with bevor, which became almost universally used in Germany around the 15th century on. The half-visor could be lifted or removed for improved visibility, or lowered for increased protection. There is a large gap between the helmet and the neck guard, allowing lots of airflow. The bevor is articulated and allows freedom of motion. This salet had many regional forms and evolved into being near identical to the closed helm, which eventually replaced it for field battle and some tournaments.

4) Southern Germanic close helm, from around 1600. This is the iconic ‘knight’s helm’ that was romanticised in artwork by the Victorians and later, us. This item was made in Nuremberg and auctioned in 2009 for £12,500!

Top image: This armor is engraved all over with a design based on an M, signifying the duchy of Medina Sidonia. It was made for Don Alonso Perez de Guzman el Bueno, duke of Medina Sidonia (1550-1615). Extremely rich, he was also commander of the Spanish fleet (the Armada) under King Philip II and is on display at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Second image: Tobias Capwell demonstrates how a knight shall be armed. Tobias is the curator of arms and armor at the prestigious Wallace Collection and accompanied the coffin of Richard III on his reburial.

Third image: The Battle of Orsza shows the kind of punishment a good suit of military armour was expected to endure in 1514. The artwork is on display at the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland.

UPDATE: You can now watch the video of this article here.


Partizan of the Royal Bodyguard of Louis XIV

  • Maker: probably designed by Georges Berain
  • Dated: circa 1662 - 1715
  • Culture: French
  • Measurements: length 204 cm.

In 1662 Louis XIV chose the image of the sun in splendour as his emblem, an act which sparked his transformation into the Sun King. The sun image was prominently featured on countless works during Louis’ reign, and this partizan for the royal bodyguards is no exception. Above the sun, the partizan also carries Louis’ motto “nec pluribus impar”, which translates as “not equalled by many”, or less literally but perhaps more comprehensibly, “equalled by no one”.

Source: Copyright © 2015 The Wallace Collection

My Favorite Paintings at the Wallace Collection, London

This flamboyant portrait by Hals was remarkable for its candid depiction of a not wholly flattering character and the amazing ways the painter depicted the endless varieties of fabrics and laces this cavalier carried in his bulk.  It was in-your-face direct and you could not avoid his presence.  You could hear his roaring laughter, you could smell the tobacco in his finery, and the smell of beer in his breath.  You could not avoid a minor confrontation from him, if after his assessing of you as a worthy adversary or someone he could trample upon without repercussion.  His humorous mustache could not disguise his hot temper and his readiness to pounce.  A cavalier through and through.  A roguish and less-than-refined kind.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767-68, oil on canvas, 81 × 64 cm, Wallace Collection, London. Source

The epitome of aristocratic naughtiness! A girl sits on an outdoor swing pushed by an elderly gentleman, whilst a younger man lies hidden in the foreground foliage. As the girl swings forward, she lifts her leg and tosses her shoe towards a marble statue, a movement that also grants her hiding lover a rather racy view. The Swing is one of the most famous works of the French Rococo period.