Day 5 – Fitzrovia – North of Oxford Street East

Today’s route covers the area to the west of Tottenham Court Road and North of Oxford Street and takes in most of the rest of Fitzrovia. Back in the 90’s some genius tried to re-brand this area as “NoHo” but there was NoHope of that succeeding despite the prevalence of media businesses. Most well-known thoroughfare is probably Charlotte Street; once renowned for its many Greek restaurants. It appears sadly that those have all gone now (I guess plate-smashing and austerity aren’t a good mix), replaced by clutch of high-end eating establishments – all doing great business on a Friday lunchtime.

A lot of this post will focus on the compact but fascinating Pollock’s Toy Museum in Whitfield Street – more than worth £6 of your hard-earned if you’re ever in the vicinity.

Day 5 Route

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We begin at Goodge Street tube station just adjacent to which in Whitfield Gardens can be found the Fitzrovia Mural depicting life in the area at the start of the 1980s.

Head north up Tottenham Court Road then turn left into Grafton Way and again into Whitfield Street. At no.108 is Marie Stopes House, former home of the lady herself.  Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880 – 1958) led a very colourful and varied life and although her fame today rests on her pioneering work in the field of birth control she was also (and first) a renowned palaeontologist.

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The address of the aforementioned Pollocks Toy Museum is actually 1 Scala Street but it does front onto Whitfield Street.

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The museum’s collection mainly focuses on Victorian toys with a particular interest in model theatres and dolls but as you can see below there is plenty of nostalgia prompts for us kids of the sixties and seventies.

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The following two items greatly intrigued me. I wasn’t previously aware that Snakes and Ladders originated as a game used for Hindu religious instruction. Apparently it represents the journey of a soul towards heaven with the ladders rewarding good deeds and the snakes punishing evil ones. The unfortunately named Plopitin looks like some weird 1930s forerunner of swingball. If you’ve got a £150 spare there’s one currently going on ebay

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Just about my favourite things though were these two prints which are facsimiles from 1883 editions of the Victorian publications, the Girl’s Own Paper and the Boy’s Own Paper. At the end of each paper was as section which printed replies to correspondence received from readers – the letters themselves were never published. I’d urge you to take a closer look at these because they are supremely amusing.

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I can’t believe I’m alone in finding dolls like these incredibly creepy. As for the Russian Matryoshkas I’m ok on the smaller ones at the front but having trouble identifying the three at the back. Looks to me like there are two alternative Gorbachevs.

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Anyway moving on…At the end of the street is Lewis Leathers, proclaimed as Britain’s oldest purveyors of motorcycle clothing. I thought it was the motorcyclists that wore the clothing but that may be just me being pedantic. Inadvertent crap selfie of the day. 

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Above right is the charmingly out-of-context Colville Place which cuts between Whitfield Street and Charlotte Street. This is home to the Movie Poster Art Gallery which also features original artwork for LP sleeves such as this one for the brilliant A Certain Ratio’s Sextet album from 1982. If you’re unfamiliar with ACR then I strongly suggest that you Spotify them.

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I’ve already mentioned Charlotte Street and its culinary delights. It’s also home to Saatchi & Saatchi of which the less said the better probably. Quick mention of the Darren Baker gallery which currently has an interesting selection of work on display and where the assistant was atypically friendly.

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On to Goodge Street and then in succession, Tottenham Street , Goodge Place, Charlotte Place and Newman Passage.

No 15. Percy Street was for a time the residence of actor Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962). No matinee idol, Laughton is probably best known for his portrayal of the Hunchback of Notre Dame though he also starred in Mutiny on the Bounty and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (see previous post). Nowadays his acclaim, as far as film buffs are concerned, rests on his solitary directorial effort, the startling Night of the Hunter.

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Next door at No.14 lived (though not contemporaneously) the poet, Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore (1823 – 1896) about which nothing was quite as interesting as his name.

On the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street is the famous Fitzroy Tavern which is unfortunately closed for major refurbishment until 2016 which means that the pub of the day is the nearby Rising Sun, quite possibly the last unreconstructed boozer in the vicinity. Which means that there are free tables and who can argue with just over a tenner for a pint of Czech lager and a plate of ham, egg & chips.

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Had I hung on till I got round the corner into Rathbone Place I could have drunk in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas and George Orwell in the Wheatsheaf,

Stephen Street is home to the British Film Institute and in Gresse Sreet is the grandly named Fashion Retail Academy (where you can learn how to flog frocks in Next).

Duck back down onto Oxford Street and up Hanway Street leading to Hanway Place. On the former lies Bradleys Spanish Bar which is for my money the best drinking place within coughing distance of Oxford Street and one of the few bars that still has a working jukebox.

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North again on Newman Street and into Mortimer Street. The architecturally striking Radiant House occupies nos. 34-38 though there seems to be a dearth of information about its origins.

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At No. 10 Berners Street is the 5 star Edition Hotel (part of the Marriott Group). The building dates from 1835 and the site has been a hotel since 1904, simply the Berners Hotel in its previous incarnation.

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IMG_20150828_144007 IMG_20150828_151100Back up Wells Street and veering off down Marylebone Passage (above right) takes us on to Margaret Street where on opposite sides you have the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple (south side) and All Saints Church (north side). The former (Grade II listed) was originally the parish school attached to the latter and dates from the mid 19th century.

All Saints was completed in 1950 and, designed by the architect William Butterfield, is one of the landmark buildings of the Gothic revival.

IMG_20150828_150806IMG_20150828_150712The church has recently undergone renovation work which shows off the impressive decorative tiling and paintwork to fantastic effect.

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Next up is Riding House Street home to the College of Naturapathic Medicine where presumably one student has the same effect as several thousand.

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This leads on to Nassau Street, Foley Street, Candover Street, Hanson Street and Eastcastle Street.

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Eventually arriving back on Oxford Street via the already familiar Great Titchfield Street we emerge opposite Marks & Spencer which opened here in 1938 occupying the former site of the London Pantheon which in its various incarnations since 1772 served as a theatre, opera house, bazaar and wine merchants. The present building, in iconic art deco style, was designed by by Robert Lutyens (son of Sir Edwin Lutyens) and was granted Grade II listed status in 2009.

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Day 4 – North of Oxford Street West

Today’s route covers the area north of the Marble Arch to Bond Street stretch of Oxford Street. It’s a part of London dominated by soulless chain hotels and the knock-on effect of proximity to the mecca of consumerism but with some surprises.

Day 4 Route

First of those surprises is Stratford Place which almost has more of interest in its short span than the rest of this area put together. Immediately adjacent to Bond Street tube it’s only about 100 yards long but by the end of it you would never know that the inferno that is Oxford Street is within spitting distance. The Tanzanian and Botswanan high commissions are next door to each other at numbers 3 and 5 and at no. 7 is the one-time residence of Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the USA.

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Colloquially known as the “Little Magician” he was unfortunately unable to conjure up a solution to the financial crisis of 1837 (which if you read about it sounds rather familiar – plus ca change).

At no.10 is the Royal Society of Musicians and at no. 11 (though it doesn’t advertise itself) is the Oriental Club, originally established in 1824 by and for officials and officers who had served in India and elsewhere in the “East”. Nowadays you just need to have the right background and a £1,000 a year to spare.

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Finally at no.12 is the Kabbalah Centre. “Kabbalah is an ancient wisdom that provides practical tools for creating joy and lasting fulfilment.” As you can see from these handy aphorisms (if you enlarge the picture).

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Next street down is James Street which has gone for al-fresco dining in a big way.

IMG_20150817_142836I notice that the branch of Nando’s here does a Quinoa salad. And thoughtfully displays a poster advising on the ridiculous pronunciation (Keen-wah). Can’t be long before people in Ireland start naming their children after it. Come back cous-cous all is forgiven.

IMG_20150817_114045Running parallel is St Christopher’s Place, home of high-end brunching and shops aimed at people who might get French puns, as in the name “Les 100cials”, and appreciate a bush shaped into a giant platform shoe.

IMG_20150817_113916Turn right into Wigmore Street and then north up Welbeck Street. IMG_20150817_115231This was home to the scientist Thomas Young (1773 -1829) at no.49 and the poet and sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825 – 1892) at No.29. Woolner was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (though not quite colourful enough to make it into the TV series).

Left into Bulstrode Street and on to Marylebone Lane. Here you can find Paul Rothe & Sons delicatessen (est.1900). As you can see, actor Tim McInnerny (of Black Adder fame) worked behind the counter back in the day.

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Bentinck Street houses the former residences of historian Edward Gibbon (1737 – 1794) and chemist James Smithson (1765 – 1829) at nos. 7 & 9 respectively. The former is of course best known for the Decline and Fall of the Roman Emperor (the book not the actual event). The latter was the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. despite having never visited the United States.

North again on Mandeville Place. At no.11-13 is the School of Economic Science, a registered charity which has the somewhat esoteric mission of finding the common ground between Philosophy and Economics and the spiritual dimension to that link.

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Mandeville Place is bisected by Hinde Street, home to quite an imposing Methodist Church which dates from 1887, before turning into Thayer Street. A nod to the AtTheMovies film poster store at no. 18.

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Right onto George Street where we find St James’ Spanish Place RC Church with a lunchtime service in full swing. Out of respect I decide I have no choice but to sit down and wait for this to finish before taking a look around. Quite a fan of the current Pope but judging by the literature on display some of his more liberal notions have yet to filter down to the grassroots.

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On Spanish Place proper no.4 is the former of home of the novelist Captain Frederick Marryat (1792 – 1848) and actor-manager George Grossmith (1847 – 1912).

IMG_20150817_130356A quick tour round Manchester Square home of the Wallace Collection (see previous post). At no. 14 lived Lord Alfred Milner (1854 – 1925) the sort of chap who wouldn’t have had any trouble getting into the Oriental Club.

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The route then takes us along Robert Adam Street, Blandford Street, Portman Close and Upper Berkeley Street. The beginning of the last of these is sandwiched between the massive and unlovely Radisson and Hyatt Regency hotels.

Montagu Street then on to Great Cumberland Place which goes all the way back down to Marble Arch. Part way down is Wallenberg Place which features this memorial to the great Raoul Wallenberg (1912 – 1945?). The Swedish diplomat responsible for savings tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazi holocaust who was taken captive by the Red Army at the end of WW2 and never heard of again. If you’re not familiar with him this is one of the essential bios to look up.

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On Bryanston Street can be found the Church of the Annunciation Marble Arch then down to Marble Arch itself (which more another day). Don’t know when this ferris wheel was put up.

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Finally brave the hell that is Oxford Street to briefly marvel at the hordes outside Primark. Since this is everywhere these days God alone knows why anyone would want to trek into town just to patronise a slightly larger branch. I will also note in passing the very sizeable presence of middle-easterners in this corner of the capital – the Marble Arch to Bond Street stretch of Oxford Street could just as well be part of downtown Riyadh.

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 Take in Old Quebec Street, Seymour Street and New Quebec Street before reaching Portman Square which has one of those private gardens that always strike a discordant note. Off the north-west corner of the square is Fitzhardinge Street which is only notable for being the former home of B.T Batsford the publisher for whose softball team, the Batsford Bats, I turned out as a regular ringer during the late eighties and early nineties.

Back to Oxford Street via Seymour Mews and Orchard Street. No pub of the day today as this part of town is something of desert as far as hostelries are concerned. Duke Street has both the Devonshire Arms and the Henry Holland but the former doesn’t do food and the latter is asking £8 for a baguette. It also boasts the fact that Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) the hero of South American liberation took lodgings at no.4 in 1810.

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Picton Place and Barrett Street then finish off at Selfridges the world-renowned emporium and TV series inspiration founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909.

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Was going to have something to eat on the 4th floor but £11 for a Halloumi wrap (as an example) is taking the proverbial somewhat. Still, the toilets are splendid enough to make the trip worthwhile even if it does involve passing the jaw-dropping apparition that is the Christmas Shop. Now either they’re jumping the gun by several months or this is here all year round – and I don’t know which is worse. All the more surprising since quite a fair proportion of their clientele definitely doesn’t do Christmas.

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Day 3 – Marylebone – East of Baker Street

 Today’s Route

 Day 3 Route


York Terrace East

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Sir Charles Wyndham (1837 – 1919) – actor-manager.

Born Charles Culverwell in Liverpool. Shortly after the start of his stage career he went to America where he ended up volunteering as a military surgeon on the Union side (he had qualified as a doctor in England). After resigning his contract with the army he returned to the stage in the US with some success. On one occasion he appeared in New York with John Wilkes-Booth. Returning to England his career flourished and in 1899 he opened the Wyndhams Theatre, which still bears his name, in London.

The Doric Villa is something of a fancy gaff as you can see here.


Marylebone Road

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The Royal Academy of Music – was founded in 1822 and is Britain’s oldest degree-granting music school. In 1911 moved to this location (which includes the 450-seat Duke’s Hall) and was built at a cost of £51,000 on the site of an orphanage.

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St Marylebone Parish Church – built to the designs of Thomas Hardwick in 1813-17.  The Marylebone area takes its name from the church. A bomb fell in the churchyard close by during WWII, blowing out all the windows, piercing the ceiling over the reredos in two places with pieces of iron railing from the school playground and necessitating the church’s closure for repairs until 1949, when fragments of the original coloured glass were incorporated into the new windows (as you can see above). Personally I prefer the aesthetic effect of this to many intact stained-glass windows.

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Charles Dickens was a local resident (1812–1870), in Devonshire Terrace. His son was baptised in the church (a ceremony fictionalised in “Dombey and Son”). I think I can work out 4 or 5 of these but have no idea about the one with the bird.

Madame Tussaud’s, on the other side of the street, is a charming palace of entertainment much beloved of tourists to the city which creates a vibrant and sophisticated ambience.


Luxborough Street

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Luxborough Tower – built at the tail end of the sixties contemporaneously with its neighbour, the Polytechnic (now University) of Westminster, on the site of the Marylebone workhouse. The LCC architects responsible cited Le Corbusier as an influence.


Marylebone High Street

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This is the site of the third incarnation of Marylebone Parish Church which was demolished in 1949 and is now a public garden. As you can see  quite an impressive roll call of people were buried here and in addition the church that stood here witnessed the baptism of Lord Byron and welcomed Lord Nelson as a worshipper.

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Oxfam bookshop in Marylebone High Street has a very extensive inventory – including this full set of Transvision Vamp picture cover singles – yours for a fiver.


Paddington Street

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Paddington Street Gardens – were built in the 18th century as additional burial grounds for the church though all that remains of its original purpose is the mausoleum you can see here which was built by the Hon. Richard Fitzpatrick in memory of his wife Susanna. The gardens also possess some very handy, free and well-maintained public conveniences (something of a rarity these days.)

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The Hellenic Centre – began life in the 1900s as a Swedish gymnastics college and served as a Swedish War Hospital for the British wounded during WW1. In 1992 the Hellenic Community trust acquired the building and  the Hellenic Centre opened as a cultural centre in 1994.

The Swedish Gymnastics college was founded by Martina Sofia Helena Bergman-Österberg (1849 – 1915), a Swedish PE instructor and women’s suffrage advocate. After studying in Stockholm she moved to London, where she founded the first physical education instructor’s college in England, to which she admitted women only. Bergman-Österberg pioneered teaching physical education as a full subject within the English school curriculum, with Swedish-style gymnastics at its core. She also advocated the use of gymslips by women playing sports, and played a pivotal role in the early development of netball.


Ashland Street

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Has to be one of the narrowest thoroughfares in the capital. Good luck getting your sodding Range Rover down there.


Moxon Street

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Marylebone Village (as it likes to style itself !!) is pretty swanky these days. Moxon Street is also home to the renowned upmarket butcher’s – the Ginger Pig. I remember back in the seventies you’d have been lucky to find a Wimpy round here.


Weymouth Mews

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Pub of the day – The Dover Castle.

A bit tucked out of the way so I had the place to myself to start with. Part of the estimable Sam Smith’s chain so very reasonably priced. Pint of best and a pulled pork roll for less than nine quid.


Mansfield Street

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John Loughborough Pearson, 1817 – 1897, and later, Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, 1869 – 1944, architects.

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Lutyens is the much more celebrated (and interesting of the pair)  Designer of the Cenotaph and consulting architect for Hampstead Garden Suburb, he also spent many years designing a large chunk of New Delhi to serve as the seat of British government. Had a close but difficult marriage, losing his wife to Krishnamurti and his Theosophical teachings, for a time at least.

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Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope (1753 – 1816) – British statesman and scientist. He was the father of the great traveller and Arabist Lady Hester Stanhope and brother-in-law of William Pitt the Younger. He was the chairman of the “Revolution Society,” founded in honour of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In 1790 the members of the society expressed their sympathy with the aims of the French Revolution and in 1795 he introduced into the Lords a motion deprecating any interference with the internal affairs of France. This put him in a “minority of one”—a sobriquet which stuck to him throughout life. Prior to acceding the peerage he was member of parliament for my home town of High Wycombe – it is doubtful that any of the subsequent representatives of this constituency have ever expressed any sympathy with any kind of revolution.


Weymouth Street

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Wimpole Street

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Renowned for The Barretts of Wimpole Street, a play written by Rudolf Besier in 1930, based on the romance between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, and her father’s unwillingness to allow them to marry. She was six years older than him and semi-invalided, though the much better known poet of the two at the time. But marry they did, in 1846 in (where else) St Marylebone Parish Church. The play was filmed in 1934 and 1957, directed both times by Sidney Franklin.


De Walden Street

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In this and the parallel Wheatley Street all the front doors are painted different colours (purely for the sake of affectation I can only presume.


Chiltern Street

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Home of that nouveau-riche mecca, the Chiltern Firehouse. Not sure if the celebrity clientele has moved on yet but the menu doesn’t inspire me to fork out the eye-watering prices required.

The Marylebone Fire Station was built in 1889, by the London County Council’s Architect’s Department (them again), “in the Vulliamy manner”. “Red brick with stone dressings; tiled roof, Tudor-Gothic style”. The Fire Station was decommissioned in June 2005 and the hotel/restaurant opened eight years later.


Montagu Street

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The year of the White Album and also John and Yoko’s solo effort – “Unfinished Music No.1 – Two Virgins” (to slightly less critical acclaim). This was actually Ringo Starr’s flat and it was here that John and Yoko were arrested for drug possession on 18 October.


Gloucester Place

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Wilkie Collins (1824 – 1889) – Author of “The Moonstone” and “The Woman in White” (not to be confused with the much inferior Woman in Black) and possessor of a beard to make hipsters weep . If you’ve never read it I can also recommend the exceptionally ripe melodrama that is “Armadale”.


Manchester Square

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The Wallace Collection – was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), who left it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890), whose widow bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The museum opened to the public in 1900 in Hertford House, Manchester Square, and remains there, housed in its entirety, to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions. Admission is free.

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Crap selfie of the day

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Rembrandt self portrait

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Hals’ “Laughing Cavalier”

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Velasquez’s “Small child dressed as Dalek”

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Possibly my favourite picture in the collection, Domenico Zampieri’s “The Persian Sibyl” (Part of his “Persian Fawlty Towers” series

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A couple of wonky Canalettos depicting pre-massive cruise-liner Venice.

One general observation – it appears from certain of the work on display that either “wardrobe malfunctions” were a lot more prevalent in those days and tit-grabbing not quite the social kiss-of-death it is today or else your 16th century male painter was a bit of a perv.