Renaissance Art (at the NSW Gallery), The Shakespeare Room & Shakespeare Resources at Sydney’s State Library

The high point of our “outing” yesterday was seeing “in the flesh” the original first folio edition of Shakespeare’s works. There was a stillness and expectancy in the room as this $5,000,000 treasure was unveiled and positioned on a pillow. With gloves the first pages were turned until we arrived at the wonderful celebratory poem by friend and arrival Ben Jonson to “William Shakespeare”:



Here is the intro from our wonderful library staff (Helen, Jane and Bronwyn) for the library resources:

Here we are gathered in this wonderful historical environment with a stained glass representation ofAll the world’s a stage and we are merely players...” and the stained glass image and wooden carving of Shakespeare’s coat of arms:


Here are some of us agog with all the surrounding wonders of the age that were put out for our delectation: First editions of Ben Jonson, late 16th and 17th editions of individual Shakespeare plays, images of the construction of the Shakespeare statue in Shakespeare place… on and on ….IMG_8511

Here is our wonderful Helen introducing us to the delights of the Shakespeare Room:

And here our wonderful 2017 group (or part thereof) assembled at the foot of the Great Master himself, in Shakespeare Place in sunny Autumnal Sydney: IMG_8486

And then to amplify our understanding of the Great Bard we headed off to the NSW Art Gallery across the Domain (actually we did this in the reverse order: but let’s put first things first!) where we inspected for nearly two hours the wonderful Renaissance holdings of this Gallery: so much fabulous “stuff” to catch up on in Sydney-town! Here gathered on the steps before our entry:


Here is the intro to our Gallery visit for those who could not make it:

And here is the piece de resistance of the Renaissance gallery collection, this amazing, intact Italian majolica plate depicting the Sack of Rome in 1527. This was the 16th Century equivalent of 9/11 in our own times:


And who are those two Papal soldiers guarding the plate in the rear?

Here finally are a couple of the most momentous art works in the NSW Renaissance collection.

First there is Jacques Blanchard’s Mars and the Vestal Virgin 1600.  Blanchard was a French artist living in Shakespeare’s time.  “The subject is a key episode in the story of the founding of Rome. The vestal virgin Rhea Silvia lay down to sleep next to a stream in a wood, loosened the front of her clothing and “opened her bosom to catch the breeze”. The God Mars encountered her in this state and ravished her in her sleep. This encounter resulted in the birth of the twins Romulus and Remus who founded the city of Rome.” This painting mirrors episodes in Shakespeare’s sonnets and also in his comedies. While it reflects the Renaissance fascination with the Classics, with the stories of ancient Rome and Greece, it also shows the way in which Renaissance artists (and writers) saw the ancient world as if it were there own times- in the clothing, the attitudes etc.

Second there is Jan Van Bijlert’s Girl with a Flute 1630.   This could be an image from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night? How is the artist linking music making with love making? Have a close look at the opening pages of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Lastly it looks like this painting by Nicolo Abate, the “Portrait of a Gentleman with a Falconer” 1548 has come alive. I see behind me the bearded Gentleman has stepped out of the canvas, taken off his mysterious hat and is determined to shock the life out of me when I turn round!

And here are your trusty Blog Topics for Week 6:


Chose any one of the paintings that you fell in love with yesterday and write the back story behind the painting. In other words imagine the artist, the sitter, the event that produced this painting and describe the painting itself with as much rich detail as you possibly can.


Chose any two of the paintings you fell in love with yesterday and give a critical appraisal of their importance to your understanding of the world of the Renaissance and/or Shakespeare. You can of course explore the artist and provide links etc to make your blog a useful scholarly resource.


You are in love with the First Edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Tell the story, in your own words, of how this wonderful work came into the hands of the State Library of NSW. You are of course allowed to make up the event, or draw on the details given by Helen in the talk in the Shakespeare Room.


Tell the history of the Shakespeare Room and the Shakespeare Statue so that we all can know in a little more detail how these amazing resources were made available to the people of Sydney.



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