Tessa Murdoch’s most recent book is ‘Europe Divided: Huguenot Refugee Art and Culture’ (V&A Publishing).

Not so much a doll’s house, more a practical guide to running a great house

Far from being a toy, the Uppark doll’s house was designed as an instruction manual in three-dimensional form

15 Dec 2023

French silver shines at the Getty

An open access publication celebrates glittering works from the 17th and 18th centuries

28 Nov 2023

Rococo pops as a Rosalba pastel is fittingly framed

Murals by the pastellist Nicolas Party provide a temporary backdrop for a Venetian portrait

14 Jun 2023

The royal christening gift that did sterling service

George II gave his god-daughter a decorative silver bowl that was later put to surprisingly practical use

3 Jan 2023
Madame C d’Madame C d’A (detail; 1932), Glyn Philpot.

Putting a name to one of Glyn Philpot’s most mysterious faces

Who is the subject of the painter’s cryptically titled ‘Madame C d’A’? Tessa Murdoch looks for clues among his most progressive patrons

24 Jul 2022
Shortgrove Hall

The historic estate that’s next on the demolition list

The grounds of the Shortgrove estate in Newport, Essex, have long been lovingly preserved, but a new development now threatens its future

26 May 2022

The fantastic beast that took Alice to meet the Mock Turtle

When John Tenniel drew the grumpy Gryphon in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, he may have had a real heraldic monster in mind

1 Jan 2022
Captive audience: a close-up of the musical elephant automaton at Waddesdon Manor.

An elephant in the room, at Waddesdon Manor

Toys aren’t just for children, at least if a 250-year-old musical elephant at the grandest house in Buckinghamshire is anything to go by

14 May 2021
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (detail; 1515–16), Raphael. Photo: © V&A; courtesy Royal Collection Trust/HM Queen Elizabeth II 2021

The fantastically fishy business of the Raphael Cartoons

Did Raphael know a bream from a sardine? Tessa Murdoch consults her fishmonger

11 Feb 2021
View of the gatehouse and west front of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.

Rats’ nests and recusant history at Oxburgh Hall

Restoration work at the Norfolk house has uncovered fascinating evidence of its past as a Catholic stronghold – in part preserved by nesting rodents

13 Nov 2020
Barnard Castle (c. 1825), J.M.W. Turner

Flights of fancy – the artists who captured Barnard Castle

The 12th-century castle and surrounding town, located some 250 miles from London, have long attracted visually attentive visitors

28 May 2020
Dr Matthew Maty (1754), Barthelemy Dupan.

The Huguenot doctor who helped to fight smallpox – and worked at the British Museum

Matthew Maty, a leading advocate for inoculation, was also a librarian at the British Museum – and one of its early donors

11 May 2020
Visitation (c. 1520), Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo. Parish of San Michele Arcangelo in Carmignano.

Pontormo pays a visit to the Getty

The Florentine painter’s Visitation is at the centre of this small but spellbinding display

19 Feb 2019
The Chocolate Girl (c. 1744), Jean-Étienne Liotard

How Liotard’s Chocolate Girl charmed the city of Dresden

The Venetian pastellist Rosalba Carriera once described the work as ‘the most beautiful pastel ever seen’

20 Nov 2018
Detail of the Glaubensschild (Shield of Faith), (1842–47), designed by Friedrich August Stüler, Peter von Cornelius and Alexis-Étienne Julienne, Royal Collection Trust, Photo: Royal Collection Trust/© HM Queen Elizabeth II 2018

European silver is the ideal gift for the British monarch who has everything

The work of the Continent’s finest silversmiths can be found in the Royal Collection

24 May 2018
Our Lady of Sorrows, view of the interior looking towards the main altar, with the painting of Christ taken down from the Cross now attributed to Pietra Testa above, Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College

The Catholic chapel that cost Eton one pound

An early 20th-century copy of a baroque chapel has been restored to its former glory

28 Feb 2018
A Harlot’s Progress, (1732), William Hogarth, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Fallen women and philanthropic reformers

Charitable efforts to end prostitution in 18th-century London took many forms, and left behind some remarkable objects

26 Sep 2017

The world of mosaics, from Tivoli to Tottenham Court Road

Durable, versatile and colourful, mosaics have a long history and a bright future, as the V&A will explore this weekend

20 Jun 2017

A shining example of silver scholarship

One of the most important collections of 18th-century silver in Europe gets the attention it deserves in a new book

30 May 2017
Figure representing the river Rhône (detail). Wallace Collection, London

The Avignon Clock is as good as any sculpture

This spectacular French clock, designed by the best craftsman of the day, is the star of a show at the Wallace Collection

22 May 2017
Mrs. Carl Meyer and her Children (1896), John Singer Sargent. Courtesy of Tate Britain

The glamorous family behind one of Sargent’s best-loved paintings

A personal history of a great painting currently on show in New York

12 Jan 2017

Time regained: a lost rococo clock is found

An outstanding 18th-century clock made for a Hanoverian prince has resurfaced

31 May 2016

12 Days

The opening of the Liang Yi Museum in Hong Kong, and key new publications and gallery displays at the V&A, will shine a spotlight on the decorative arts

31 Dec 2013

Rich Tea

‘Taste and Essence: Chinese and Western Historical Tea Pieces’ at the Macao Museum of Art looks at the rich history of tea-drinking in the East and West

24 Dec 2013