Historiana blog: history, art, culture, nature, science

Welcome to the Historiana blog. Here I share a selection of treasures from books, museums, the world at large, & the wonderful online librairies and collections of the internet. To quote Howard Carter: ‘I see wonderful things!’

 RSS Feed

  1. Some pretty illustrations from ‘Floral Emblems’ by Henry Phillips, 1825. This was one of the principal ‘floral dictionaries’ used by enthusiasts for Victorian ‘floriography’, or ‘the language of flowers’. It appears that this Victorian craze developed partly from Ottoman customs, which were initially imported to Britain by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who lived in Turkey as wife of the British Ambassador. British culture also had a history of floral symbolism, as referred to by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet; but the idea of sending coded messages using a more complex system of flower-meanings, came from the Ottoman custom. To quote from Henry Phillips: “It is observed by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, that in Turkey, you may through the assistance of these emblems, either quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even news, without ever inking your fingers, for she says, there is no colour, no weed, no flower, no fruit, herb, nor feather, that has not a verse belonging to it.” 

    The entire book is available online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/30410#page/11/mode/1up

    Lady Montagu was a fascinating character, and I’ll be returning to her in my next post…

    Robin & leaves, Floral Emblems


    Floral Emblems bouquet Historiana Designs


    Ewer, Floral Emblems


    Poetry & Painting - Floral Emblems

  2. I photographed this beautiful head at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples - which I very highly recommend. Top tip: go early, go often. Due to staff shortages, some rooms may be closed at any given time. I visited 3 times in one week and never did get to see one room of the garden frescoes from Pompeii, though if I were more of a morning person, I might have succeeded. The earlier you go, the better your chances. But even if you can't see everything, it is a phenomenal museum which is worth as many visits as you can give it. 
    This head of the Omphalos Apollo came from Baia, a Roman seaside resort on the north side of the Gulf of Naples, and is a Roman copy of a Greek original dating to about 470 BCE. The original Omphalos Apollo may have been mis-named; it was associated with an ‘omphalos stone’ base which was found nearby, but is not now considered to have belonged to the statue. 


  3. santorini_lady

    I've been posting interesting images and snippets to Instagram for some time; it's a format that works well for concise content. I post the same content on my Facebook feed, although I also intend to share some more personal material on Facebook as I go along, telling more of the story of how I research & create my pieces, and sharing news about markets and outlets. If you'd like to follow Historiana on either of those platforms, please click on the icons on the site footer. I also share the posts in truncated form on Twitter (likewise, access via the icon).
    However - I realise that not everyone wants to mess with social media, and they are necessarily quite brief posts. So, I'm going to be replicating some of that content here on my blog, generally in longer form and with more images - feel free to follow me for some colourful, intriguing content! I spend a lot of my time digging around in interesting corners of the internet, reading, visiting museums, and generally following my own magpie tendencies - that's how Historiana came about in the first place - and many of the gems I find are shared here. Paintings and prints, scientific nuggets, natural history, museum highlights, people from history, quirky illustrations, photographs, and plenty more - variety is definitely the spice of life, in Historiana's view. I'd also be delighted to read your comments, so if you have any queries or observations, please do add them. If you prefer to contact me directly, please use the contact page. 

    Best wishes,

    Helen Historiana.

    p.s. The image I use as my avatar is from a reproduction of a Minoan fresco depicting saffron gatherers, from the ‘Xeste 3’ house at Akrotiri, on the island of Santorini, dating to about 1600 BCE. I do love the Minoans.