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Mary Shelley

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This showed up on Wikimedia Commons today. Will add to my Beatrice Gallery.

490px-Study_of_Beatrice_Cenci,_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron.jpg
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Study_of_Beatrice_Cenci,_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron.jpg

Study of Beatrice Cenci, 1866.
Model is May Prinsep.

What I did over the Christmas holidays... It started out with Mr. Kallisti downloading "The Devil's Whore" for me "cuz it sounded like your type of thing. Y'know, whores..." It snowballed from there as I watched Charles I beheaded three times over the two week slowdown! It has taken me 2 more weeks just to finish this post, oy!

Here's the line-up, all highly recommended, in rough chrono-order.


1638 to 1660: The Devil's Whore [IMDB]

By and large, there are two categories of period drama. The first is White Petticoat Drama, where people do a bit of frisky fan-work, have a picnic that involves a huge ham, and then live happily ever after. The second is Dirty Period Drama - where everyone is covered in boils, wees out of the window, and palpably suffers from the lack of antibiotics and/or mobile telecommunications. The Devil's Whore is definitely in the second category. John Simm's fleas should make the credit list. Oliver Cromwell clearly pongs. It makes a dirty war a very dirty war. But one that, against all the Civil War odds, makes great telly.

-Caitlin Moran, The Times

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1640 to 1660: "By the Sword Divided" (1983) [IMDB] [WIKI]

A bit obvious to say, but if you liked Poldark you'll really enjoy "By the Sword Divided." Classic low budget, yet brilliantly written and performed eighteen hour series from the BBC. It also aired on Masterpiece Theater in the late 80's. One of the few period dramas to deal with the English Civil War, before and aftermath.

by-the-sword-divided.jpg

1660 to 1685: Charles II - The Power & The Passion (The Last King in the U.S.): [BBC] [IMDB] 2003, covers the life and adventures of Charles II of England, played by the ever roguish Rufus Sewell. Mwrowr.

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1673 to 1722: The First Churchills [IMDB]

The First Churchills: 1969! Covers the period 1673 through 1722, based on the biography by Winston Churchill of his illustrious ancestors, the first Duke & Duchess of Marlborough. Susan Hampshire & John Neville are sublime.

firstchurchills1.jpg

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Portrait of Beatrice Cenci
possibly by Elisabetta Sirani c. 1662
previously thought to be by Guido Reni

The best known image of Beatrice is a popular portrait supposed to have been by Guido Reni. Not quite up to par with the master, it is now thought to be by an artist of his circle, the daughter of his long time assistant, Elisabetta Sirani.

Poignantly serene in the face of calamity, this portrait of a young woman has been reproduced ad infinitim in oil, on porcelain, in print, and other media for centuries. There is some speculation that the painting may have influenced Vermeer and his three-quarter view of "Girl with a Pearl Earring," but it wasn't til over one hundred years after Vermeer that the portrait appeared out of a Baroque fog in the eighteenth century, mentioned in a catalogue of paintings owned by the Barberini family in 1783 and attributed thusly: 'Picture of a head. Portrait, believed to be of the Cenci girl. Artist unknown.' A few years later a copy of the catalogue attributes the painting to Guido Reni. (source: Beatrice's Spell by Belinda Jack) While most art historians currently dispute both attributions, that of being Beatrice and painted by Reni, the portrait fills a vacuum and remains our most tangible link to an enduring legend.

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Beatrice Cenci, Executed 1599

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cenci-reni.jpg
Portrait of Beatrice Cenci
Formerly attributed to Guido Reni
(Read more)
In Rome, a sixteen-year-old Beatrice Cenci—with the help of her stepmother, Lucrezia, and her brother Giacomo—arranged the murder of her father, the cruel and sadistic Count Cenci, who had persecuted Beatrice and probably raped her. The tragic story of the beautiful patricide has been popular with artists across Europe for the past couple centuries, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Stendhal, and Antonin Artaud.

September 11, 1599. All night long workmen on the Piazza prepared the scene of the tragedy, setting up a huge scaffold with a block and a mannaia (meaning "an axe", and possibly a mechanism resembling the guillotine). At eight o'clock the prisoners left the prison, accompanied by the Company of Misericordia bearing a great crucifix, and Comforters from the Brotherhood of St. John the Beheaded, who accompanied those about to be decapitated, robed in black, and baskets to bear away the head. Each of the women wore a black taffeta veil. Lucrezia was the first to step up to the scaffold, and after several crowd shuddering strokes, the executioner brandished her head to the people, then wrapped it in black taffeta.

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