Postcards from Britain - Blenheim Palace, Part 3

As I mentioned in a previous post, in centuries past the English were great for pounding their chests in the face of their French rivals, and Blenheim Palace is all about that. The image below shows an example - a sculptural detail on top of a double column in the main courtyard at Blenheim. A close look shows that the Lion, (symbol of England) is mauling and about to devour a bird (symbol of France).

Take THAT French!
From this position, if you turn to your right, you see the main body of Blenheim Palace. It is similar to standing in front of the Vatican in that the main structure sits in front of you, and you are enclosed (hugged if you will) by two wings on each side. The setting is awesome.

Blenheim is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Blenheim is used as a backdrop for many films and television episodes. My favorite being Lewis (Multi award-winning Kevin Whately and the accomplished Laurence Fox, solving crimes against the stunning backdrop of Oxford!). The day I shot the image above, the palace was being used as a backdrop for a show called The Royals which airs in the U.S. on the E channel - which explains all the clutter in my shot.

Lastly for now, here are some links I probably should have posted earlier in this series on Blenheim Palace:

Blenheim Palace official page
A good read about Blenheim
Blenheim Palace facts and figures
More beautiful English country houses


Postcards from Britain - Blenheim Palace, Part 2

When you enter the Blenheim Palace grounds from the main streets of Woodstock you go through a triumphal arch gateway that was commissioned by the first Duchess, Sarah Churchill. The gateway is a memorial to her husband John Churchill, the first Duke, and was built about 20 or so years after his all too early death.

The inscription on the top (of the other side) of the arch reads: This gate was built the year after the death of the most illustrious John, Duke of Marlborough, by order of Sarah his most beloved wife, to whom he left the sole direction of the many things that remained unfinished of this fabric. The services of this great man to his country the pillar will tell you which the Duchess has erected for a lasting monument of his glory and her affection to him. 1723

We will get to the "pillar" she references in a second, but the image below is the quintessential view of Blenheim Palace and Park that you see upon entering through the gate and looking to your right. Pretty sweet.

The "pillar" Sarah referenced in the gate inscription is a large triumphal column she had built a good distance away from, but directly in front of the main entrance to Blenheim Palace itself. It resembles Nelsons column in Trafalgar Square, only its much larger. It too serves notice of the great service to England done by the first Duke, John Churchill. He stands on top, clad of course in Roman style gear. Here are a few of my shots of the pillar...

Blenheim Palace is behind us and way off in the distance is the pillar.

A long, lovely walk awaits those who take the time to go right up to the pillar.

John Churchill: Victor of the Battle of Blenheim and the war of Spanish succession.


Postcards from Britain - Blenheim Palace, Part 1

There is only one thing better than spending time in an art museum, and that is visiting a great country house in England. Blenheim is one of the greatest of the great country houses and a visit there is an extraordinary experience on many levels. Natural beauty, history, architectural delights and fine art abound! To me places like this are paradise - not some boring old island in the tropics.

Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire - home to the Dukes of Marlborough since 1704 and birthplace of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

Blenheim was built in the Early 1700s as a gift from Queen Anne and a grateful nation to John Churchill, after he lead his British troops to victory against the hated French in the battle of Blenheim (on German soil).

By the way, "Blenheim" - as in the battle of - is pronounced just how it looks "Blen-HIME”. While the great country house named after it “Blenheim Palace" is pronounced "Blen-NIM". Why? I am not certain, but below are two more shots, (one exterior, one interior) to whet your appetite for the next few posts. Cheers!


Postcards from Britain - National Gallery Part 2

I took loads of photos inside the National Gallery, London - All without flash of course and only where allowed.

There is something thrilling about being surrounded by original masterpieces some of which I have been studying in books for years. Yes you can see some of this stuff on the web, but that experience only goes so far.

Below are a few of my shots from inside the National Gallery.

The Toilet of Venus by Diego Velazquez
The Immaculate Conception by Diego Velazquez
A wall of Velazquez paintings
Detail of Philip IV hunting Wild Boar by Diego Velazquez
I rather like Diego Velazquez!

A wall of Rembrandt paintings
The National Gallery is open late on Friday nights, but gets too crowded and a bit too dark to see properly in places.

The National Gallery London on a Friday evening.

Of course you cannot go to the National Gallery London without marveling at (for the better part of an hour) some of the quintessentially British paintings in the collection:

The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner
Detail of The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner
Dido building Carthage by JMW Turner
The Hay Wain by John Constable
I have been to my share of art museums both large and small. Of what I consider to be the "big three" that I have visited, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery London is my favorite.

Whenever I am in one of these places I always fantasize about living in there for a week straight. I would have all the basic necessities of life - superior fine art, food, clothing, shelter and wash rooms. What could be better?


Postcards from Britain - National Gallery Part 1

On a recent, first time holiday to Britain I went to the National Gallery London. Twice. For multiple hours. And it was not long enough!

As you could see we had fantastic weather, which surprised me no end. The National Gallery sprawls across one end of Trafalgar Square. In fact the main collection is housed on one floor, so it kind of has to sprawl I suppose. Sure makes it easy to get around without climbing stairs.

You may want (or need) to go down stairs in the main part of the building for lunch and the water closets. On your way down, do not miss the great view of Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the background seen out the front window.

Photography tip - When shooting through glass, put your lens right up against the window pane and cup your hand around the lens if need be, to cut way down on unwanted reflections.

By the way, look closely at the base of Nelson’s column highlighted below. Those relief sculptures at the base were created using melted down French cannon balls. The British love to celebrate their historic victories over the French - a theme I will illustrate in future posts.

Lastly for now, here is a sculpture out in front of the National Gallery that was unveiled earlier the same day I shot this image. It is a representation of thumb I suppose. But it reminds some people of something else apparently. Cannot imagine what…