Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Clothes

Captain William Pechell and men of the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment of Foot in winter dress during the Crimean War. 1855, Roger Fenton.

Following the public outcry at the condition of the troops in the Crimea during the winter of 1854, the British Government had sent out fresh supplies of warm clothing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Water Lilies

A photo of water lilies in the Okavango Delta in Botswana by Frans Lanting, 1989. 

Water lilies mottle the surface of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. They represent one of the oldest evolutionary branches of flowering plants. The Okavango Delta  is the world's second largest inland wetland region. The delta is maintained by annual pulse flooding of the Okavango River.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas !

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center, 1961.

"As the anti-submarine warfare carrier USS Essex (CVS-9) steamed toward a nine-day visit to Rotterdam, Holland, for the Christmas Holidays, crewmen formed the traditional Dutch equivalent of America's 'Merry Christmas' on the flight deck."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Movie poster: Pandora's Box

Silent film star Louise Brooks playing LouLou in the classic 1929 German movie 'Pandora's Box'.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wife & Man

 6th plate daguerreotype

The daguerreotype is named after the French artist and chemist Louis Daguerre, who announced its perfection in 1839 after years of research and collaboration with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. Instead of Daguerre obtaining a French patent, the French government provided a pension for him and announced on August 19, 1839 the invention as a gift "Free to the World."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Captain Francis Baring

Crimean War: Captain Francis Baring, Fusilier Guards, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General, attached to the Light Division. Photo by Roger Fenton, 1855.

Francis Baring (1833-1895) gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of the Scots Guards. He died unmarried at age 61.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ina Claire

Ina Claire performed on Broadway in several musicals in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. She was an sophisticated comedienne, and “she never missed a nuance”.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fall Blau (Case Blue)

A friendly local talking to German soldiers (Bundesarchiv)

Fall Blau (Case Blue) was the German codename used by the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) for its 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia that lasted between 28 June and 19 August 1942. The offensive was so named because German military plans were "cases", or solutions to problems. The operation was a continuation of Unternehmen Barbarossa (Operation Barbarossa).

The German offensive faced two problems: the continued resistance of the Red Army which now occupied a defensive position west of the Volga river,  and the demand by Adolf Hitler for securing the Caucasus oil fields, which had to be reached by crossing the Caucasus mountains.

Initially the German offensive met with spectacular gains. However, the Red Army defeated the German Army at Stalingrad. This defeat forced the Germans to retreat from the Caucasus for fear of being trapped themselves

Crossing a river (Bundesarchiv)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter in Amersfoort!

Wall Houses, near the Thief's Tower (photo by RfA)

(Way) earlier than expected winter has arrived in Amersfoort.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Alfred Stevens - A Doll (Une Poupée)

The Lady In Pink

Lady with a Japanese Doll (Femme à la Poupee Japonaise), also known as The Lady In Pink, by Alfred Stevens (1867, private collection).

Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) was born in Brussels as the son of an officer in the service of King William I of the Netherlands. He was a friend of Manet and was influenced by Japanese prints, as were so many French artists of the time. He seems to have had a collection of Japanese dolls which he used to add an exotic or colorful touch to his paintings of elegant society women.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lieutenant Yates

Lieutenant John 'Joey' Yates of the 11th Hussars during the Crimean War. At the left the groom, a person responsible for the feeding and care of horses. Notice the dog.

In the immediate aftermath of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade (25 October 1854) Yates was one of the first to meet Lord Cardigan on his return from the 'Valley of Death', joining him at about the time he made his famously remark to General Cathcart: ''I have lost my Brigade''. Yates, then, hanging back at the respectful distance of a pace or two, trotted away with Cardigan to the northern edge of the Causeway Heights (the hill forming the left side of the valley) where they met other returning survivors

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mucha - Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile

Mucha: Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile (LU), 1896.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Couple?

Daguerréotype, 6th plate. The picture dates from around 1850.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Camp of the 4th Light Dragoons

Soldiers quarters of the 4th Light Dragoons during the Crimean War. Photo made by Roger Fenton in 1855. The 4th Light Dragoons fought in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Matthias Withoos - Vanity of Vanities

Matthias Withoos (Amersfoort, 1627 – Hoorn, 1703): Vanity of Vanities. A lot of his paintings have a vanitas motif. Vanitas is the Latin word for ‘emptiness’. It corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life. Common symbolic motives in vanitas paintings are among others skulls and flowers; they show the passage of time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gene Tierney Day !

Gene Tierney (Brooklyn, 19 November 1920 - Houston, 6 November 1991)

more fotos

A blog about Gene: Gene Tierney Movie Page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Königsberg in Preußen

before the war

at present

Monday, November 15, 2010

Princess Olga Day !

Today is the birthday of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova. She was the eldest daughter of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and tsaritsa Alexandra. Her middle name Nikolaevna means daughter of Nicholas. In the julian calender then used in Russia, she was born November 3rd. Her name day was July 11th.

She grew up in a tender family. In striking contrast to many other royal couples, Nicholas and Alexandra were devoted spouses and affectionate parents. Olga was especially close to her sister Tatiana. Like the rest of the family, Olga also doted on her little brother, Alexis, tragically afflicted with hemophilia. Olga was an intelligent, thoughtful, strong-willed and forthright girl. From her early childhood, she was known for her kindness, but also for her hot temper. She enjoyed reading about politics and read newspapers. Olga adored her father. Her relationship with her mother was more difficult., Olga blossomed into a gentle, generous young woman. She took her religious faith very seriously and put it into practice through charity work. Despite the fact that her mother and at least two of her three sisters were celebrated beauties, she considered her own looks modest. There were rumors of several possible matches, but her parents did not want to force her into marriage, since they were married out of love themselves.

Olga & Tatiana

During the first world war, Alexandra, Olga and Tatiana worked as nurses, caring for wounded and dying soldiers. Olga was very dedicated and caring, but the tragedy took a heavy toll on her mental state. Suffering nervous strain and emotional exhaustion, she was obliged to give up nursing. Meanwhile, Olga seems to have realized Russia was heading towards disaster. "She was by nature a thinker," Gleb Botkin, the son of the family's physician, Yevgeny Botkin, later recalled, "and as it... seemed to me, understood the general situation better than any member of her family, including even her parents. At least I had the impression that she had little illusions in regard to what the future held in store for them, and in consequence was often sad and worried." She was only 22 when she was murdered, along with her family, by the Bolsheviks, following the Russian revolution in Juli 1918.

Letters from Olga

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alfons Mucha

Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha (1860-1939): 'The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia', 1914. Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jérôme Bonaparte

Jerome Bonaparte (1784-1860) was the youngest brother of Napoleon. First he married the beautiful Elizabeth Patterson, but this marriage was annulled by Napoleon. Their descendants still live under the name Bonaparte in the US.

He was made king of Westphalia and married Catharina of Württemberg, the daughter of the king of Württemberg, in a marriage arranged by Napoleon. Jérôme's expensive habits earned him the contempt of Napoleon. After Napoleons resignation Catharina and Jérôme stayed together. They had two sons and one daughter.

When his nephew, Prince Louis Napoleon, became President of the French Republic in 1848, Jérôme served in several official roles, amongst others president of the Senate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Valley of Death

Roger Fenton, The valley of the shadow of death (1855). Dirt road in ravine scattered with cannonballs. 

This is one of the most famous photos of the Crimean War. During the Battle of Balaclava, The Charge of the Light Brigade was fought here. Across a desolate and featureless landscape, not a single figure can be found. The landscape is inhabited only by cannonballs, so plentiful that they first appear to be rocks, that stand in for the human casualties on the battlefield.

Roger Fenton wrote: 'in coming to a ravine called the valley of death, the sight passed all imagination: round shot and shell lay like a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down, you could not walk without treading upon them'.

Borrowing from the Twenty-third Psalm of the Bible, the Valley of Death was named by British soldiers who came under constant shelling there. Fenton traveled to the dangerous ravine twice, and on his second visit he made two exposures. Fenton wrote that he had intended to move in closer at the site. But danger forced him to retreat back up the road, where he created this image.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Edward Hopper - Nighthawks

Edward Hopper - 'Nighthawks',  1942 (The Art Institute of Chicago).

'Study for Nighthawks' by Edward Hopper, 1941 or 1942 (Whitney Museum of American Art).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Husband & Wife

Quarterplate daguerreotype from around 1850 (3.25 x 4.25 inch)

Characteristics of a daguerreotype are:
  • The pictures can not be reproduced and are therefore unique.
  • The surfaces are extremely delicate, which is why they are housed under glass in a case.
  • The image is reversed, the object seeing himself as he did when looking at a mirror.
  • The images are difficult to view from certain angles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


City walls of Brussels, Belgium.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Battle of Balaclava

Today the famous battle of Balaclava took place in 1854. It was part of the Crimean War 1853-1856 between Russia and the Allies (France, England, Turkey). This war is consider4d to be the first modern war. Railways and telegraph were used, Florence Nightingale nursed, and a lot of photographs were taken (for the first time in a war).

The Allies wanted to capture the city of Sevastopol, the most important Russian naval base, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea. They decided to attack from the South, leaving a weak spot near the harbour of Balaclava, a small town guarded by the British.

The Russians decided to take advance and attacked the defences around Balaclava. After conquering tactical positions on the surrounding hilltops the Russian cavalry moved to engage the British defensive line. This line, the famous Thin Red Line, held, and then the Heavy Brigade charged and forced the Russians onto the defence.

Instead of waiting for the reinforcements (who were expected to arrive in short while), the British commander Lord Raglan ordered the cavalry to expel the Russians from the hilltops.  Raglan was known to formulate his orders in an incoherent and vague manner. When the order arrived the commander of the cavalry, the Earl of Lucan, decided to wait. 

Raglan, Lucan, Cardigan, Nolan.

Raglan, impatient, then ordered the cavalry to "advance rapidly to the front. Immediate". The hot-tempered aide-de-camp Louis Nolan delivered the order to Lucan. Again Lucan didn’t understand the order, since there was no mention of the hilltops. Then the irritated Nolan told him to attack immediately.

"Attack, sir!"
"Attack what?
"There, my Lord, is your enemy!" said Nolan indignantly, vaguely waving his arm eastwards.

Nolan seemed to wave his arm the direction of the main body of the Russian Army, a large battery at the end of the valley strongly held on three sides by the Russians. Irritated by Nolan’s behaviour Lucan refused further discussion and rode to the commander of the Light Brigade, the Earl of Cardigan, standing in front of his brigade. The two men were barely on speaking terms as Lucan was married to one of Cardigan's sisters and, as Cardigan believed, did not treat her well. Cardigan questioned the sanity of the order.

"Allow me to point out to you that there is a battery in front, battery on each flank, and the ground is covered with Russian riflemen."
"I know it" said Lucan. "But Lord Raglan will have it. We have no choice but to obey."

At 11:13 the Light Brigade, consisting of 673 men, started their advance to the battery at the end of the vally, a mile away. When Nolan realised they went in the wrong direction he rode to Cardigan who was leading the brigade, but he was killed by an artillery shell. Lucan, thinking the Light Brigade would be wiped out, decide not to send the Heavy Brigade after them so the preserve at least half of his cavalry division. At distance of 250 yards from the battery Cardigan ordered to "Gallop", and then to "Charge".

At 11:17, despite withering fire from three sides that devastated their force on the ride, half of the men reached the battery. They became engaged in heavy fighting. Cardigan though, satisfied he had reached the battery, decided to go away, leaving his men behind. He afterwards said all he could think about was his rage against Nolan, who he thought had tried to take over the leadership of the charge from him. After suffering heavy casualties the remaining soldiers were soon forced to retire. About 250 men were killed or wounded, and 400 horses lost, destroying some of the finest light cavalry in the world to no military purposes. At 12:00 most of the survivors were back at the British lines.

"And who I ask is answerable for all this?" asked Sergeant Major George Smith of the 11th Hussars.

The futility of the action and its reckless bravery prompted the Russian commanders to have initially believed that the British soldiers must have been drunk. The French Marshal  Bosquet stated:

Still it is considered a battle honour for all the British regiments that took part. It is usually a pre-condition for a battle honour that the battle is a victory, but these three episodes in the battle are such icons of courage and achievement for the British Army that the military authorities awarded Balaclava as a battle honour to all the regiments involved.

Cardigan was always impeccably dressed and the knitted vest he wore to protect himself from the severe Russian winter was named after him, although the collarless V-neck we know as the cardigan today bears little resemblance to the original. The raglan, an overcoat in which the sleeves go directly to the neck without shoulder seams, was named for Lord Raglan.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cabinet Card

Cabinet card made in Binghamton NY. A cabinet card consists of a thin photograph mounted on a card measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches. They replaced the smaller carte-de-visites in the 1870s. They reached peak popularity in the 1880s. In the 1890s they were replaced by a.o. Kodak snapshots.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Long-nosed Monkey

The Long-nosed monkey (AKA Proboscis monkey) lives in Borneo. Only 5000 are left. An Indonesian nickname is Dutch Monkey since the Dutch colonisers often also had a large belly and nose. They can swim very well.

wildfact (source: BBC):
Proboscis monkeys have the longest noses of all primates. In elderly animals, it can reach 17.5cm (a quarter of the body length). Although its function is not known for sure, it is likely to be a visual signal used in mate choice. The male vocalises through the nose with a kee honk sound.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Charge of the Light Brigade

Officers and men of the 13th Light Dragoons who were the survivors of the charge, photographed by Roger Fenton in 1855.

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. It continues to be studied by modern military historians and students as an example of what can go wrong when accurate military intelligence is lacking and orders are unclear.

So now we have seen the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, The Thin Red Line, and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Tune in at October 25th to see how they are related to each other.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Victoria Princess Royal

Victoria Princess Royal

Portrait of Victoria Princess Royal (the future Queen Victoria). Painted photograph, taken on 20 March 1856, the day of her confirmation, by William Bambridge (Huis Doorn Photo Collection).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maude Fealy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Thin Red Line

Lieutenant General Sir Colin Campbell (1792-1863), commander of the 'Thin Red Line' (Roger Fenton, 1855).

The Thin Red Line is a term for a thinly spread military unit holding firm against attack. The phrase later took on the metaphorical meaning of the barrier which the relatively limited armed forces of a country present to potential attackers. The first use of the expression referred to the resistance by the red-coated 93rd Highland Regiment of the UK in the Crimean War.

The Thin Red Line, painted by Robert Gibb.

The Thin Red Line was a famous military action by the British Army's red-coated Highland Brigade, at the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854. The brigade and its leader distinguished themselves very greatly: with his 'thin red line of Highlanders' he repulsed the Russian attack, and prevented the Russions from occupying Balaklava.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Paulus Bor - 12 Year old Jesus in the Temple

The 12 year old Jesus in the Temple, by Paulus Bor (Amersfoort, ± 1601 - Amersfoort, 1669). Painted between between 1630-1635. Location: the Central Museum in Utrecht (Netherlands).

His father, also named Paulus Bor, was a wealthy textile merchant. Coming from a wealthy family he probably did not need to paint for an income. This might explain his preference for subjects rarely painted by other artists.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Napoleon II François / Franz

Cradle especially made for the son of Napoleon by the city of Paris
(Imperial Treasury Vienna) (photo by RfA)

Napoleon’s first marriage didn’t produce an heir. When his Polish mistress became pregnant he decided to divorce and remarry. Only the Russian and the Austrian imperial families were considered suitable to marry the French emperor. He tried to marry the young sister of the Tsar, Anna Paulowna, but this proposal was refused.

Image of Napoleon II on a glass (Wien Museum)

He then succeeded in marrying Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor. In 1811 their son Napoleon François Bonaparte was born. In 1814, when Napoleon was exiled, Marie Louise and her son fled to Vienna. In 1816 Marie Louise went to live in Parma, leaving her son (renamed Franz) in the hands of his grandfather in Vienna.

He grew up lonely at the Schönbrunn palace, one of his few friends was a crested lark. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 21 in 1832 (obituary). He is laid to rest near his father in Paris.


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