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Picturing a World

Pompeii—dog or lion?

When I saw the animal in last week's press coverage of Breathtaking new paintings found at Pompeii, my first thought was, "It's a dog." My second was, "No, it's a lion." And lion it is. Not only that, but the mural solves a scholarly question.

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Lilias Trotter

Although Lilias Trotter studied informally with John Ruskin, she probably thought of herself primarily as a missionary, not as an artist. Yet no one can paint with her flair without its meaning a lot to her. In other words, like many multi-talented people with strong callings, Trotter was complex. Personally, I dislike fictionalized biographies. Secondary and walk-on parts for real people in historical fiction? Of course. But it takes chutzpah to pretend to "bring them to life" as central characters. Still, if discovering someone like Lilias Trotter prompts a wholly fictional character to emerge in my imagination and demand that her story to be told, won't I be grateful!

Image via James Gurney. For a website devoted to her, click here.

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Camp followers

 
Blog post alert: This 1777 eye-witness sketch of camp followers is a reminder that women participate in wars whether military commanders want them to or not. Wives, cooks, laundresses, and prostitutes—for writers of historical fiction, they can provide more than local color. A story could be told from their point of view. Also, of course, consider the artists and photographers who record wars. In this case, what would it have been like to be Swiss-born artist and coin collector, Pierre Eugène du Simitiére, during the Revolutionary War?
 

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Time portal

Blog post alert: This brilliant Faroe Island sweater was knitted 217 years ago, dispatched from Copenhagen, seized in 1807 by the British Royal Navy, stored in the UK, and recently brought to light when the package it was in was finally opened. You can read about it in the blog post Pristine 200-year-old sweater found in impounded parcel.

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Paris crêches

Aren't they cute, itty-bitties holding onto each other's skirts in the Tuileries Garden! And yet so many for only four adults to care for. This isn't your typical picture of a nanny and her charge. What's going on?

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