Exhibition of the week
Unearthed: Photography’s Roots
This unusual exhibition tells the history of photography entirely through botanical and landscape images, from Henry Fox Talbot’s beautiful experiments with what he called “the pencil of nature” to Robert Mapplethorpe’s fleurs du mal.
• Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, until 9 May.
A monstrous lemon depicted by Vincenzo Leonardi and Hans Holbein’s spooky miniature of Anne of Cleves, contained in an ivory Tudor rose, are among the little masterpieces in this free exhibition.
• V&A, London, until 18 April.
Sensing the Unseen
Jan Gossaert’s The Adoration of the Kings is enhanced with state-of-the-art tech wizardry in the National Gallery’s Christmas special.
• National Gallery, London, until 28 February.
An extra blast of Emin’s expressive paintings and sculptures to coincide with her acclaimed show at the nearby Royal Academy.
• White Cube Mason’s Yard, London, until 30 January.
Portraits of Merseyside’s frontline health workers in the pandemic year.
• Tate Liverpool, from 15 December to 27 June.
Image of the week
Victorian scientist Richard Owen was nicknamed the Sea Serpent Killer, but he didn’t actually sail the oceans massacring monsters. He did set out to prove such creatures were tall tales told by sailors, collecting reports such as this story of a sea monster sighting, as explored in Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at the Natural History Museum.
What we learned
Masterpiece of the week
Still Life with Lobster, 1643, by Jan Davidsz de Heem
Here’s a fantasy feast for festive gluttons. Roast meats, russet lobster, shiny fruits and translucent oysters are arrayed for the eye in this 17th-century Dutch answer to food porn. Some still life paintings are profoundly spiritual, isolating a single cup or vase in space to make us meditate. This one just wants to tempt the tastebuds – and show off the sheer observational skill of the artist to depict real things miraculously. The basket of fruit at the right resembles Caravaggio’s equally lifelike pictures of grapes and pomegranates. His eye for the material world inspired Dutch artists. But then again Jan van Eyck was painting accurate oranges in the early 1400s. Above all, this painting comes from the era of early science. The microscope was invented in the Netherlands in this period. This painting has a scientific appetite for natural facts.
• At the Wallace Collection, London.
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