Breeze Barrington is a writer and historian, specialising in 17th-century artistic culture.

Blue sky thinking with Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

The artist is better known for painting Ancien Régime aristocrats than for verdant hills and melancholy skies. That may change after an auction at Sotheby’s

30 Jan 2024

Command performance – what a lost Artemisia tells us about an English queen

The Royal Collection has found a work from the artist’s London years reveals as much about its patron as about the painter

27 Sep 2023

Compton Verney’s new painted ladies are more about vice than virtue

A portrait saved for the nation has been praised for representing racial equality in 17th-century Britain, but it’s mainly a warning to women everywhere

10 Jul 2023
Robert Dudley (detail; c. 1575), unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist. Photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London

A full house of Tudors at the Holburne Museum

Seeing the National Portrait Gallery’s treasures in a new setting allows us to appreciate the larger-life-than personalities behind the paintings in new ways

17 Mar 2022
Saint Mary Magdalene (detail; c. 1491–94), Carlo Crivelli. Photo: © National Gallery, London

In Carlo Crivelli’s tricksy paintings, nothing is as it seems

The painter employed trompe l’oeil like no artist before or since – and his box of tricks makes for a real treat at Ikon in Birmingham

11 Mar 2022
James VI & I (detail; c. 1620), Paul Van Somer.

At home with the Stuarts – Palaces of Revolution by Simon Thurley, reviewed

A new study reminds us that royal palaces were places to live in as well as impressive displays of power

13 Oct 2021
An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen in the Early Morning

The late, great landscapes of Rubens, reunited at last

A pair of monumental landscapes painted in his later years offer an unusually personal glimpse of the artist himself

16 Jul 2021
Leonardo, leading man: Adrian Turner as Leonardo da Vinci (centre), with Matilda De Angelis as Caterina da Cremona (left) and Freddie Highmore as Stefano Giraldi (right)

‘Leonardo’ is clunky and condescending – so it’s bingeable Renaissance schlock, basically

The Amazon series limps through its art history but is just about salvaged by its endearingly goofy hero

4 May 2021
Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) (detail; c. 1638–39), Artemisia Gentileschi.

The trials and triumphs of Artemisia Gentileschi

The artist knew exactly how to cultivate her own image, ensuring her great success – both then and now

25 Apr 2020
(1638–40), Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Musei Capitolini, Rome.

Baroque stars – the birth of a style in 17th-century Rome

Caravaggio and Bernini are the headliners – but the Rijksmuseum’s show reveals the range of artists who adopted the baroque style

2 Mar 2020
The Finding of Moses (early 1630s), Orazio Gentileschi

London calling – Orazio Gentileschi’s The Finding of Moses at the court of Charles I

The National Gallery is raising funds to purchase Orazio Gentileschi’s biblical scene – once a prized possession of Queen Henrietta Maria

21 Nov 2019
Stefan Adegbola as Poggio di Chiusi, Hiran Abeysekera as Leonardo da Vinci, and Dickie Beau as Sandro Botticelli in Botticelli in the Fire at Hampstead Theatre, London, 2019.

Friars and bonfires in Renaissance Florence – Botticelli in the Fire, reviewed

What prompted Botticelli to become a follower of Savonarola? Jordan Tannahill’s arresting play casts historical accuracy aside in the quest for answers

6 Nov 2019
Self-portrait (detail; c. 1666), Mary Beale.

In praise of Mary Beale – one of Britain’s first women artists

A biography of one of the country’s earliest professional woman painters is a fitting if belated tribute

28 Oct 2019
The Carlile Family with Sir Justinian Isham in Richmond Park ('The Stag Hunt’) (detail; 1650s), Joan Carlile. Lamport Hall

A studio of one’s own – Britain’s first women artists

How to succeed as a woman painter in 17th-century England? A supportive husband, royal patronage and mentorship from Van Dyck certainly helped

2 Jul 2019
Richard Sackville (1589–1624), 3rd Earl of Dorset (detail; 1613), William Larkin. English Heritage, Kenwood.

Behind the curtain – it’s time William Larkin finally got his due

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the great English court painter, long known only as the ‘Curtain Master’

9 May 2019
Battle of the Nudes (1470s), Antonio Pollaiuolo. The Albertina Museum, Vienna

Voluptuous Venuses and sexy Sebastians – the Renaissance nude at the RA

The rediscovery of classical art in Europe transformed depictions of the naked body

7 Mar 2019
Double portrait of George Villiers, Marquess and later 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628) and his wife, Katherine Manners (1603–1649), as Venus and Adonis (detail; 1620–21), Anthony van Dyck. Estimate £2.5m–£3.5m

A rare chance to see Van Dyck’s racy portrait of a radical courtier

The marital portrait of George Villiers and Katherine Manners has no parallel in English or Flemish painting

3 Dec 2018