Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dutch Costumes

One of the books in my collection is entitled Representations of Dresses, Morals and Customs in The Kingdom Of Holland at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. It was published by Evert Maaskamp in Amsterdam in 1808. It is a collection of large, hand coloured engravings showing the national costumes of Holland. The text explains some of the customs of the people depicted, thus proving that “The different quarters of the Kingdom seem to be inhabited by different nations.” The image below is a good example. Not only do the the people wear the dress of the region, they even speak a different language: Frisian. It is still widely spoken in Friesland today and it is a compulsory subject in most in primary schools there.

Dutch Costumes

The caption below the engraving is in three different languages: Frisian, Dutch and French. The woman calls the man “Heit”, which is Frisian for father and tells him that it was very cold in church. The man is carrying a finely carved wooden box . It has a metal tray inside containing some glowing coals that they took from home when they went to church. Women would keep this box under their flowing skirts to keep nice and warm.

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Lancashire Artists Network Open Exhibition 2013

I am happy to announce that three of my pictures have been accepted to be included in the Lancashire Artists Network Open Exhibition 2013. The exhibition is held in two venues in Preston:

Oxheys Mill Studio

Korova Arts Cafe & Bar





The opening is on Thursday 22nd August from 6pm – 8pm at the Oxheys Mill Studios. Unfortunately I cannot be there as I will be in Amsterdam, but there will be some good art on show. I think there is also a ‘performance event’ in the Korova Arts Café & Bar on Saturday 24 August from 14:00 till 18:00, but I don’t know any further details. The exhibition runs at both venues until Saturday 21 September. All works are ready to hang/install and for sale.


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Society Of Sound

I was made aware of the Society Of Sound  recently. For an annual subscription fee of £33.95 you can download their complete catalog of CDs. There are about 30 albums in the catalog at any one tim. Two new albums are added every month and two albums are deleted. The catalog is ‘curated by Peter Gabriel and the London Symphony Orchestra. There is a mix of classical by the LSO and modern pop/rock/folk/world/jazz. The bands and singers are mostly not quite mainstream (yet), but that enabled me to discover some great musicians that were not known to me before (see below.)

The sound quality is absolutely outstanding. The recordings made with great attention to detail and quality, using state of the art recording equipment and techniques. The files that you can download are available in lossless 24 bit flac format (or Apple lossless if you are so inclined.) Listening to these files could convert you to invest in a HiFi streaming solution. On other sites where you can download albums in these hi-res format you have to pay between £12 and £25 for each one. I am not in any way affiliated with this outfit, but I thought it was such a good deal that I should tell you about it. You can try it out for free by downloading tracks from the albums in the catalog and upgrade to full membership if you like what you hear. Have a listen to the Society Of Sound.


Jesca Hoop - The House That Jack Built

Jesca Hoop – The House That Jack Built

One of the albums I downloaded is The House That Jack Built by Jesca Hoop. I know there is a surfeit of female vocalists and some sound dreadful and others are poor imitations of Amy Winehouse, or Katie Melua, or Adele. This woman has got something besides an unusual name, which always helps. The lyrics are worth listening to as well. She’s from California, but lives in Manchester.








Here is one of the tracks (in medium quality mp3 format, to keep the size down):



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Sir William Temple About The Dutch

Title Page of the First Edition

Title Page of the First Edition

In 1673 Sir William Temple published his Observations Upon The United Provinces of The Netherlands. He was in a good position to write about what is now The Netherlands as he had lived in The Hague as the English ambassador between 1668 and 1671 and before that worked as a diplomat in Brussel. He became very friendly with the Dutch statesman Johan de Witt and this friendship is probably partly responsible for Temple’s pro-Dutch attitude, which, as described in his Memoirs, put him in a difficult position when anti-Dutch sentiments started to prevail in England. One of his achievements was to help arrange the marriage of Mary (daughter of the English king James II) and William of Orange, who became the English King William III after the Glorious Revolution.


In His Observations Temple describes the history, government, trade, religion, etc. of The Netherland. The most interesting and amusing chapter, however, is ‘Of their People and Dispositions.



Here are some nuggets:



  • [They] are a race of People diligent rather than laborious; dull and slow of Understanding, and so not dealt with by hasty Words, but manag’d easily by soft and fair; and yielding to plain Reason, if you give them time to understand it.
  • There are some customs, or Dispositions, that seem to run generally through all these Degrees of Men among them; as great Frugality, and Order, in their Expenses.
  • Among the many and various Hospitals … I was affected with none more than that of the aged Sea-Men at Enchusyen [=Enkhuizen] … And here I met with the only rich Man, that I ever saw in my Life: For one of these old Sea-Men entertaining me a good while with the plain Stories of his Fifty Years Voyages and Adventures, while I was viewing their Hospital; I gave him at parting a Piece of their Coin about the value of a Crown: he took it smiling, and offer’d it me again; but when I refus’d it, he askt me, What he should do with Mony? for all that ever they wanted, was provided for them at their House. I left him to overcome his Modesty as he could; but a Servant coming after me, saw him give it to a little Girl that open’d the Church-door, as he pass’d by him: Which made me reflect upon the fantastic Calculation of Riches and Poverty that is current in the World, by which a man that wants a Million, is a Prince; He that wants but a Groat, is a Beggar; and this was a poor Man, that wanted nothing at all.
  • Their Tempers are not airy enough for Joy, or any unusual strains of Pleasant Humour; nor warm enough for Love. This is talkt of sometimes among the younger Men, but as a thing they have heard of, rather than felt.
  • The Two Characters that are left by the old Roman Writers [Tacitus], of the ancient Batavi or Hollanders, are, That they were both bravest among the German Nations, and the most obstinate Lovers and Defenders of their Liberty; which made them exempted from all Tribute by the Romans.

There are plenty more interesting quotes, but I’ll save them for another post.


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Groenburgwal Then And Now

One of the most painted, drawn, photographed and filmed canal locations in Amsterdam must be the view from the small wooden bridge along the Groenburgwal towards the Zuiderkerk. Claude Monet visited Amsterdam in 1871 and 1874 and painted this view on the latter of those occasions:


Groenburgwal by Claude Monet in 1874


The view from standing on the wooden bridge in Monet’s painting features in many guides and books about Holland and Amsterdam. Below is an engraving from the book  Nordland Fahrten – Malerische Wanderungen durch Holland und Dänemark – Land und Leute mit besonderer Berüchsichtigung von Sage und Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst. I admit to not having read it yet, as the gothic font makes it hard to read. It was published in 1886.

Groenburgwal circa 1880

Groenburgwal circa 1880


The next one is from 2010, made during one of my trips to Holland. It shows how the use of the Amsterdam canals has changed. It has gone from being an important route for transporting goods and people to being place to moor your boat used for leisure purposes. Now the roads along the canals are choked with cars. Views like this make you think how much more beautiful Amsterdam could be if cars were banned. I know, not practical and if I lived there I might think differently. I also wonder which of the trees, if any, are the same as in the previous view. I think I shall go back to that spot in winter when the leaves are gone and we will be able to see more of the facades. That should not be too difficult to organise as our Amsterdam apartment is just to the right of the bridge in this view.



Groenburgwal by Ruud van Ruitenbeek in July 2010


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Spot The Difference

Mozart's Requiem - London Symphony Orchestra

Mozart’s Requiem – London Symphony Orchestra

I am not impressed by Daniel Barenboim’s version of Mozart’s Requiem that I have on CD, so I was browsing the internet, looking for another version. Suddenly, a small thumbnail caught my eye: they had used one of my photographs! One click further and I quickly realised that although it looked like mine, was certainly of the same subject and was also in sepia monochrome, it certainly was not mine. Mine was in fact much better 😉





That’s one of the problems with copyright of images: if someone appears to have placed his tripod legs in exactly the same spot, takes a picture that is to all intents and purposes the same as your original is that stealing or just a coincidence, great minds thinking alike and all that?

The Facade Of The Doge's Palace, Venice

The Facade Of The Doge’s Palace, Venice


This is one of the rare instances where I applied a little bit of digital manipulation to improve the image. When I talk about ‘digital manipulation’ I do not mean things like sharpening, setting the colour balance, making it monochrome, enhancing the contrast, etc. I mean I actually changed the pixels, added something to the picture to improve it. See if you can spot what it is and tomorrow I’ll tell you.

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Het Zwigt

In 1758 Jan Wagenaar was appointed as the official historian of Amsterdam, giving him access to the city’s archives and records. He spent the next decade writing a great history of Amsterdam. The first of three volumes was published in 1760 and the last in 1767. They are wonderful books with many large plates like the one below. They also contain dozens of detailed street maps and plans of buildings. They show Amsterdam’s growth, from it’s humble beginnings as a fishing village to the magnificence of one of the most important cities in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, when this book was published.


Het Zwigt


This print, in the second volume, shows one of the entry roads into Amsterdam, from the direction of Utrecht. ‘Zwigt’ or ‘zwygt’ actually means ‘be silent’ and was the name given to the tower in the picture, as an insult or command to the neighbouring city of Utrecht. In 1522 the ‘Kloveniers Schutterij’ was established. They were a group of men charged with the defense of the city. They used a primitive type of musket called a ‘klover,’ hence the name. They were given the tower as a base and from it grew a complex of buildings that they used for meetings and target practice. By the time Wagenaar wrote his history, the military significance of the Kloveniers had all but disappeared and it had changed into a sort of society for the great and good of the city. The complex of buildings was now being used for social gatherings and to accommodate important visitors to Amsterdam. On the walls could be admired many group portraits of the different ‘compagieën,’ one of which was the famous Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. The name of the street is the ‘Nieuwe Doelenstraat’ (new targets street) and the tower was located on the site of the current Hotel Doelen, which was built in 1883 after the demolition of the Kloveniers building complex.

The etching shows the tower and the guarded entrance to the city, with some soldiers having a chinwag in the front. To the right of the tower we can see the busy river Amstel. On of the quirky things is the crapping dog in the bottom right. In fact this dog, or one of his relatives, appears in many paintings and etchings from this time. Some are even depicted inside churches. The problem of dog poo on the street apparently started a long time ago.


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The World’s First Rollercoaster

I have been cataloging my collection of books about Holland and have been enjoying reading bits of them as I go along. One of the really interesting ones is A Cruise or, three months on the Continent. It was written by ‘a Naval Officer’ and published in London by Law and Whitaker in 1818. It  describes a journey that takes the writer from Ostend to Amsterdam and through Belgium to northern France. In Paris the writer visits an amusement park ‘like our Vauxhall’ and describes the world’s first rollercoaster. It was based on the earlier Russian version where the carts slid down on hills of ice. In Paris though, the carts rode on tracks, which makes them more like the modern version. They were drawn up to the place from where they were launched by means of an intricate horse powered system of cables and pulleys.

The World's First Rollercoaster

The World’s First Rollercoaster

Unfortunately, a short time before the author’s visit an accident occurred which he describes in the book:


“… there has lately been a misfortune, wherein two people lost their lives, from the only chance of casualty that could possibly occur. The wheel having having slipped from its axis, the chariot, abruptly checked in the rapid revolution of its decent, violently precipitated the unfortunate sufferers on the bar that was locked in front to secure their safety, and by the shock bereft them of an existence in which they had exultingly leaped to experience the exited feelings of danger over the ground of hitherto undisputed security.”


I love the language he used to describe what apparently was the early 19th century equivalent of bungee jumping.

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Aysgarth Falls

Eddying FoamWe had a trip out to the dales and went to the Aysgarth Falls. The falls there are difficult to photograph, especially into the harsh afternoon light. So I looked down and saw some interesting details, like these little round pools in the slabs of rock along the river Ure.










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Grotesque Or Gargoyle?

Last weekend we were in Winchcombe, a pretty little town near Cheltenham. On the church gutter I saw some pretty impressive statues that I had always thought were called gargoyles. In fact these are grotesques. The word gargoyle comes from the French ‘gargouiller’ which mean ‘gurgle’ and refers only to water spout, often in the shape of a grotesque person, animal or mythical beast. The water usually comes from their mouth. As these statues have separate water spouts next to them they are not gargoyles, but grotesques.

Grotesque, Winchcombe Church #1

Grotesque, Winchcombe Church #1

Grotesque, Winchcombe Church #2

Grotesque, Winchcombe Church #2



















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