Friday, 18 April 2014

Cirque d'hiver

 The 'Winter Circus' in Paris's 11eme arrondissement is a large 20 sided oval building designed as a theatre in the round for the performance of circus, dressage, wrestling and concerts. It opened in 1852 and was a favourite hang-out of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. For more information about its history and pictures of the interior, see Paris Connected.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Some of my favouritest dogs in the world, the hounds at Cheverny, on a warm spring day.
Tuesday's Quiz: The winner is chm, who guessed correctly that the tapestry is in Cheverny. No one got the name of the room or the artist.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Irish Elk

These Irish Elk antlers hang above the landing on the central staircase in the Chateau of Cheverny. They are the remains of an animal that lived at least 7 000 years ago, in Siberia, and were given to Paul, Marquis de Vibraye in the 19th century. He was one of that generation of collectors with time and money enough on their hands to dabble in all sorts of curiosities. The antlers are positioned at the height they are because that is where the beast's head would have been if where me and my client are standing was the ground.

Irish Elk and other megafauna were climate change losers back in the Late Pleistocene. With the retreat of the ice and the warming of the global climate, the elk was too bulky to survive when its habitat changed. Their main predators were ferocious packs of wolves, so they couldn't afford to evolve into smaller animals. Over time their scrubby woodland habitat disappeared and they couldn't find enough to eat to sustain their huge bodies. It is commonly believed that the big males with their investment in those vast antlers were the reason for the decline and eventual extinction, but the latest theory is that it was the problems does had in nourishing big calves that actually caused the extinction. Malnutrition probably caused very high rates of mortality amongst the calves, until the population declined beyond recovery.

Irish Elk is so named because most of the specimens have come from Irish bogs, but it was present all over Eurasia and actually more like an enormous Fallow Deer, not strictly speaking an elk at all. At over 2m at the shoulder, with 4m wide antlers weighing up to 45kg, they must have been a formidable animal.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bad Dog!

This is a detail of a Gobelins tapestry which we love. Tapestry weavers must have enjoyed dogs, as it is rare to find a 16th or 17th century tapestry without a lifelike dog somewhere, doing something doggy.

5 points if you can tell me which chateau this tapestry hangs in (and a bonus point if you can name the room).
2 points if you can tell me the name of the artist who designed the tapestry.
Farming News:  Yesterday we noticed that a farmer on the outskirts of Preuilly had mowed a large field and was busy making silage.
Quiz Answers: chm is the winner with 5 points for correctly guessing that the tapestry hangs in the chateau of Cheverny. The artist was Simon Viou and it hangs in the King's Chamber.