Monday, December 28, 2015


The Napoleon Museum at Île-d'Aix

Île d'Aix is a small island in the Atlantic between the Ile d'Oléron and the coast of mainland France (population in 2012: 241).

Map of Île-d'Aix

In July 1815 Napoleon spent his last days in France at Ile d'Aix, after the defeat at Waterloo. His plan was to slip past the Royal Navy blockade and escape to the United States.

Napoleon's room (photo by Gérard Blot) 

After realizing how impossible this plan was he wrote a letter to the British ruler, the Prince Regent, begging for mercy, and then surrendered to captain Frederick Maitland, commander of HMS Bellerophon, who took him to Plymouth before transferring him to Saint Helena. Nowadays the house where he spent these few days is a museum.

Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon (by William Quiller Orchardson, 1880).

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Xmas!

publicity photo from Remember the Night, 1940

On behalf of Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck we wish you a happy Christmas!

next episode: il

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Julia Gardiner Tyler

Julia Tyler, The first First Lady to be photographed (1845)

Julia Gardiner Tyler (1820 – 1889) was the second wife of president John Tyler, and served as First Lady of the United States from June 26, 1844, to March 4, 1845. She was born on Gardiner's Island off the eastern tip of Long Island, one of the largest privately owned islands in the US.

In early 1842, at a White House reception, Julia was introduced to President Tyler, who was thirty years her senior. Julia enjoyed the President's gallant and flattering public attentions but laughingly replied "no, no, no" to his first marriage proposal. On February 1844, Julia, her sister Margaret, and her father David joined a presidential excursion on the new steam frigate Princeton. David Gardiner, along with a number of others, lost his life in the explosion of a huge naval gun. Tyler comforted Julia in her grief and they were married 4 months later.

In 1839, Julia secretly posed for an engraving which was used as an advertisement. "I'll purchase at Bogert and Mecamly's, No. 86 Ninth Avenue. Their Goods are Beautiful and Astonishingly Cheap." This caused a scandal since this was an age in which no well-bred lady allowed her name to be printed in a newspaper.

After leaving the White House they retired to Sherwood Forest Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. The couple had seven children in total. After her husband's death in 1862, Julia moved to Staten Island, where she resided at the Gardiner-Tyler House from 1868 to 1874.

In 2012, two of president Taylor & Julia's grandsons were still alive.

next episode: xmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Île d'Oléron

The Island of Oléron is the second largest French island (after Corsica) in Europe. It is situated off the Atlantic coast of Poitou-Charentes.

Since 1966 the island has been connected to the mainland by a 2,8 km road bridge (toll-free since 1991).

Le Château d’Oléron, located at the south, is the historical capital of the island. There is a 17th-century citadel, and you can eat some delicious oysters if you're into that (I'm not).

next episode: Julia

Saturday, December 12, 2015

17th Century UK Road Maps

The Road From London to the Lands End commencing at the Standard in Cornhill and Extending to Senan in Cornwall. It was made in 1675 by John Ogilby and covers almost 500 km.

Already in the 17th century strip road maps were being fabricated, for instance by John Ogilby (1600-1676), which proved popular in planning journeys throughout the United Kingdom. 

The first strip on the left-hand side from this map takes in much of contemporary London, showing (bottom to top, i.e. east to west) part of the City of London, Southwark, Westminster, Hide Park, Kensington, Hammersmith, Turnham Green and Smallheer Green. The next strips are labelled A through E (at the bottom) and B through F (at the top), showing the orientation and order in which they should be viewed.

 The continuation of the road from London to Holyhead, by John Ogilby.

The rivers and hills encountered are noted, as are the forks in the road, and the directions in which these lead. Andover, the last town on this map, is in Hampshire, and is still a long way away from Land’s End, the end point of this road map; indicating that this page is still a few scrolls short of being a complete map.

 The road from London to Harwich, by John Ogilby.

next episode: ile

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Caspar David Friedrich - The Stages of Life

Caspar David Friedrich - The Stages of Life (Die Lebensstufen, 1835)

Both Friedrich's life and art are marked with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Caspar Friedrich (1774 – 1840) suffered many depressive episodes which see the emergence of such motifs and death symbols as vultures, owls, graveyards and ruins in his art. From 1826 these motifs became a permanent feature of his output, while his use of color became more dark and muted. In 2004 the psychiatrist Carsten Spitzer wrote that he believed during his life, Friedrich suffered prolonged inertia, a suicide attempt and what the artist himself described as a "dreadful weariness.”

The aged man is the artist himself, the small boy is his young son Gustav Adolf, the young girl is his daughter Agnes Adelheid, the older girl is his daughter Emma, and the man in the top hat is his nephew Johann Heinrich. The figures are echoed by five ships shown in the harbour, each at a different distance from the shore, an allegorical reference to the different stages of human life, to the end of a journey, to the closeness of death.

The Stages of Life is recognizably located at Utkiek, near Friedrich's birthplace of Greifswald in today's northeastern Germany. This area used to be part of Swedish Pomerania from 1613 until 1815.

Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig

found on: gandalfsgallery

next episode: London roads

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sir Henry John William Graf Bentinck, K.C.B.

Lieutenant General H.J.W. Bentinck (Roger Fenton, 1855)

Sir Henry John William Graf Bentinck (8 September 1796,Varel - 29 September, 1878 London), K.C.B., member of the Bentinck Family. In the Crimean War he led the Guards Brigade in the Battle of Balaklava. 

next episode: stages of life

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Marilyn Monroe & Turkey

next episode: Minneapolis

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Republic of Hatay (Hatay State)

When you look at the map of Turkey you see a little protrusion in the southern corner near the Mediterranean Sea. During the Ottoman Empire this was the Sanjak (governorate) of Alexandretta. After WW1 it became part of Syria.

The population of the Sanjak included: Turks, Arabs of various religious denominations (Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Greek Orthodox), Greek Catholics, Syriac-Maronites, Jews, Syriacs, Kurds, and Armenians.

Atatürk, founder of the state of Turkey, had his eye on this strategically located county. After a bit of ethnic clansing the sanjak declared its independence under the name Hatay State in 1938. One year later, after a more or less framed referendum, Hatay became a Turkish province.

The capital city is Alexandretta, it was founded by Alexander the Great around 330 BC. Thousand years later the Arabs conquered it and translated its name into Iskenderun (Iskender means Alexander in Arabic).

Another famous city in Hatay is Antakya, the present name for the ancient city of Antioch.

At the southeastern border of Hatay the Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey.

next episode: another turkey

Monday, November 23, 2015

Berlin - Führerbunker

The location of the Führerbunker, the last hideout of Hitler in May 1945 

The site remained unmarked until 2006, when an information bord was installed

(photos by RfA, 2008)

next episode: Marilyn

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gene Tierney Day !

Gene Tierney, March 11, 1946

Gene Tierney (1920–1991) was born in Brooklyn, NY on November 19, 1920. Her best known role is the enigmatic murder victim in Laura (1944).

Her first daughter, Daria, was born mentally retarded because Gene had contracted measles when pregnant during a USO. show. A woman told her later that she was so eager to see Tierney at the show that she broke quarantine).

During her first film she discovered that her voice was too high and it was suggested that she take up smoking to lower her voice. It worked, but she eventually died of emphysema.

She had her share of love affairs during her Hollywood reign, including a notorious one with John F. Kennedy before his marriage, whom she met while filming Dragonwyck (1946).

Tierney was in the throes of suicidal depression and was admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, on Christmas Day in 1957, after police talked her down from a building ledge. There she underwent the first of several lengthy treatments for chronic depression, from which she never fully recovered.

next episode: fuhrer

Saturday, November 14, 2015


African Guinea - J.B. Homann, Nuernberg (1743)

The name Guinea has always been confusing for me. Several countries are named Guinea.

South-America: Guyana
Africa: Guinée, Equatorial Guinea (2000 km apart from each other)
Oceania: Papua New Guinea

The origin of the term is uncertain. It entered English and other European languages by way of the Portuguese word Guiné, applied by fifteenth-century mariners to the African coast south of the Senegal River. How the term entered Portuguese is unknown. Some have linked it to various Berber words for dark-skinned people, others to the major commercial city of Djenné, located far inland on the Niger River. A third theory holds that 'Guinea' comes from the medieval kingdom (or empire) of Ghana, located in modern Mali and Mauritania.
A guinea (British coin)

In the eighteenth century, European geographers applied the term 'Guinea' very broadly to the West African coasts. As this area had long been the main source of gold for Europe and the Mediterranean region, British gold coins minted between 1663 and 1813 were called 'guineas', eventually valued at one pound plus one shilling.

New Guinea north of Australia (ca. 1600)

The designation of 'New Guinea' for the massive island north of Australia dates to 1545, when it was bestowed by the Spanish mariner Yñigo Ortiz de Retez on the basis of the indigenous inhabitants’ physical resemblance to the people of Africa’s Guinea coast.

Guyana in South America - Jan Janssonius (1636)

Guinea is occasionally confused with Guyana (Guiana), a term referencing the northeastern coast of South America. Both refer to coastal strips that were formerly divided among European powers:  The two terms are not etymologically related, as 'Guyana' probably stems from a local word meaning “land of many waters.”

source: GeoCurrents

next episode: Gene day

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Handsome president Franklin Pierce

Daguerreotype of President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), holding a top hat and cane.

He was the 14th President of the United States (1853–1857) and is the only president from New Hampshire. Pierce was the only President to affirm the oath rather than swear it (instead of a bible a law book was used), and he gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes. Future Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a close friend and his Secretary of War. Pierce was a Democrat and a 'doughface' (a Northerner with Southern sympathies) who also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

next episode: guinea

Friday, November 6, 2015


Capri Harbor (source)

Capri is an island on the south side of the Gulf of Naples, Italy. The main town Capri on the island shares the name. It has been a resort since the time of the Roman Republic.

next episode: handsome man

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adrienne Dore

Adrienne Dore, 1932 (photo by Elmer Fryer)

next episode: Capri

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Moon, 1971

From the Project Apollo Archive at Flickr. This photo was made during the Apollo 15 mission (Google Moon map) with a Hasselblad camera.

next episode: handsome woman

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Misses Binney and Miss Monro

 The Misses Binney (or Binny) and Miss Monro (or Munro)

Seated portrait of Justine Monro (later Gallie) (left) and miss Binney (right)

The Misses Binney

George Monro (died 1882, advocate) and Mrs. Justine Gallie

All photos by David Octavius Hill and Robert AdamsonEdinburgh, ca. 1843-47From a volume of calotype images and portraits (an early photographic technique also called Talbotype), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

More portraits can be found here.

next episode: space

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Young Woman Reading

Alfred Stevens - Jeune Femme Lisant (Young Woman Reading), 1856.

next episode: misses

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

183 year old Tortoise


Jonathan the tortoise, who lives on the British-controlled island of St. Helena, is thought to be the world’s oldest living land creature. He has been kept in the paddock at Plantation House, the British governor’s residence. Jonathan, who is nearly blind and relies heavily on his sense of hearing, loves having his neck stroked.

Jonathan, a Boer War prisoner, and a guard, around 1900

next episode: reading

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gene Tierney - 'Sundown'

Gene Tierney - 'Sundown' (1941)

Her motion picture debut was in a supporting role as Eleanor Stone in Fritz Lang's western The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda. She was the top billing in Ernst Lubitsch's classic 1943 comedy Heaven Can Wait as Martha.

In 1944, she starred in what became her most famous role - the intended murder victim, Laura Hunt, in Otto Preminger's mystery film Laura, opposite Dana Andrews.

next episode: reading

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Daguerreotype Photographer at Work

Jabez Hogg making a portrait in Richard Beard's Studio, 1843 (Daguerreotype, Collection Bokelberg, Hamburg).

This is one of the earliest representation of the interior of a portrait studio showing a photographer at work. Notice the stiffly upright sitter clamped into a head-brace, which universally was used to insure steadiness. He clutches the arm of the chair with one hand and makes a fist with the other so that his fingers will not flutter.

next episode: sundown

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Routefinder

The Routefinder, 1920's navigation system (The British Library).

The ‘Routefinder’ showed 1920s drivers in the UK the roads they were travelling down, gave them the mileage covered and told them to stop when they came at journey’s end. The technology consisted of a little map scroll inside a watch, to be ‘scrolled’ (hence the word) as the driver moved along on the map. A multitude of scrolls could be fitted in the watch to suit the particular trip the driver fancied taking (source).

next episode: studio

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lady Selina Meade

Lady Selina Meade (April 1819, private collection)

Portrait of Lady Selina Meade, later Countess Clam-Martinic by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). Selina Meade (1797-1872) was the second daughter of Richard Meade, 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam. She  married the Austrian General Karl Graf von Clam-Martinic in 1821.

Self-portrait by Thomas Lawrence, 1790s.

Sir Thomas Lawrence painted this portrait of her when he was in Vienna painting portraits of allied leaders (known as the Waterloo Portraits) for the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. Lawrence described her as "in beauty and interesting character, one of the most distinguished persons in Vienna". She holds a posy in her left hand. In the background at lower right is the Stephansdom in Vienna.

next episode: routefinder

Friday, September 25, 2015

Meindert Hobbema - The Avenue at Middelharnis (1689)

Meindert Hobbema - The Avenue at Middelharnis (1689, National Gallery, London)

Same location today (approximately)
next episode: Pittsburgh

Monday, September 21, 2015

moon family portrait

Charles Duke family photo on the moon, April 1972. Duke's footprint and the tire tracks of the Lunar Rover are also visible.

Charles Duke was the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 16 (April 16 – 27, 1972), the fifth manned lunar landing mission. He left a photograph of his family on the moon, depicting him together with his wife and two sons in their Houston backyard,

next episode: Middelharnis

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sir W.J. Codrington, K.C.B.

Lieutenant General Sir William John Codrington, K.C.B., (Roger Fenton, 1855, National Gallery of Canada)

next episode: the moon

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Istanbul Behind The Wall

At the other side of the Byzantine City Walls of Constantinople (present day Istanbul)

Istanbul's old Roman City Walls

(photos by RfA, 2004)

next episode: William John


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