Emma Hamilton: Seduction & Celebrity (2016-17)

Romney: Emma as Circle

(National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 17 April 2017)

If you aspired to be anyone in the 1790s, one of the mandatory stops on your Grand Tour would be the villa of Sir William Hamilton, British envoy in Naples. You would enjoy Hamilton’s learned conversation, admire his remarkable collection of antiquities and, perhaps, take a trip up Vesuvius to admire the steaming crater. And, if you were especially fortunate, you might have the chance to see Lady Hamilton perform her famous Attitudes, a series of tableaux vivants representing famous women from the Classical world. Yet the appeal was as much due to Lady Hamilton’s notoriety as her talents.

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Turner and the Sea (2013-14)

Turner: The Fighting Temeraire

(National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 21 April 2014)

J.M.W. Turner grew up with water always close to hand: his childhood was divided between London, on the banks of the Thames, and Margate, on the Kentish coast. In the last quarter of the 18th century, this was a world of sail power, where fishing, travel or warfare depended on a good wind. By the time he died in the mid-19th century, however, that world had vanished, replaced by steamships, ironclads and roaring coal furnaces. The sea remained central to British life, though, and it found a similarly enduring place at the centre of Turner’s art.

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