Roman ruin at Schönbrunn Palace

This artificial ruin, built in the Gardens of Schönbrunn Palace in 1778, is an example of a sub-genre that is having a strong effect on my imagination of late, that of the anticipated ruin. Parisian painter, Hubert Robert, probably invented it as a way of reflecting on the rise and fall of civilizations and empires. Modelled on the ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the Viennese ruin features in the pool two figures representing the gods of the Rivers Danube and Enns.

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, Vienna, Austria

Candid photos in art galleries

Although I do spend a lot of time in art galleries and museums looking at works of art and people looking at works of art, I am fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of taking photos of people who are not aware of being photographed. Having said that, here is a couple of recent candid shots.

A unique view at close range

If you find yourself around Karlsplatz in Vienna and don't suffer from heights, it is well worth entering St Charles Church and taking the lift to reach the top of a 32-metres-high scaffolding tower that was erected in 2002 for the renovation of the church's interior but is still there and open to the public. You will be asked to pay a ticket  - revenue from tickets sold is used to finance other renovation projects - but the close-ups you will get of the dome paintings are certainly unique. If you then feel adventurous and climb up just an extra few flights of steps, you will be rewarded with a view of the city as well.

As the church is dedicated to Saint Carlo Borromeo the huge frescos represent the glories of the Italian saint. They were painted by Johann Michael Rottmayr during the second half of the 1720s.

The church's interior, with its use of all the different lighting conditions, is a most spectacular example of the Baroque style. In one of the two large chapels on the sides of the central aisle it is possible to admire 'The Assumption of Mary' by Sebastiano Ricci. It is a pity I didn't manage to capture the brilliance of its blues and reds!

Film: Fujicolor Natura 1600

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: St Charles Church, Vienna, Austria

Winter sun streaming in

Winter sun streaming in like a notable guest and lighting up the Shaw Room's elegant staircase.

Film: Fuji Provia 100F

Camera: Canon EOS 300

Location: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

Photo opportunity

Every now and then, a notification that invites me to take photos and add them to Google Map, appears in the upper left-hand corner of my mobile. I haven't turn it off yet because it amuses me when it says things such as 'SuperValu Greystones' photos are popular on Google Maps'. Now, for those who don't live in this neck of the woods, SuperValu is a grocery supermarket chain. Some stores are undeniably more attractive than others, but I still can't comprehend their allegedly popularity. Every time I see the message I look around and wonder, is there something I am missing here? What are people taking photos of? A salmon fillet?

Conversely, as I work in one of Ireland's most photographed landmark, I do often wonder how tourists would cope (how I would cope for that matter) with a camera that would retract the shutter and block the viewfinder if too many photos of the same subject have already been taken. Camera Restricta is the brainchild of designer Philipp Schmitt and the kind of camera I would buy tomorrow if it wasn't only a speculative design.

The photo below was taken last year in charming Mount Stewart House, a Neo-classical residence which was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century. I have no recollection of a message appearing on my mobile but I am positive Mount Stewart photos are popular on Google Map.

A "trop athlétique" Napoleon

Last year, in the space of just a couple of months, I came across a statue of a naked Napoleon twice. The first time it greeted me as I entered Brera Art Gallery's inner courtyard in Milan, the second as I was about to leave the ground floor of the 'Iron Duke' residence in London.

The colossal figure, made between 1802 and 1806 by artist Antonio Canova, depicts the French General as Mars the Peacemaker in an effort to make the subject universal, yet the business proved to be a tricky one for the Italian sculptor as, alas, the bronze copy - which is barely visible in the below photo I took in Milan - ended up having more success than the original marble.

The Empereur loathed the statue so much he banished it into storage, where it remained until in 1816 the British Government purchased and presented it to the Duke of Wellington in recognition of his victory over Napoleonic France at the Battle of Waterloo. The statue has remained in Apsley House in London ever since.

It appears that Napoleon didn't object to being represented like the Roman god of war, but complained of looking "trop athlétique". Is it possible that, in spite of his renowned arrogance, he knew he was not a Greek Adonis? As for the Duke of Wellington, the story goes that he didn’t mind his guests using it as an umbrella stand.

Looking back at 2016 - My year in art

As the year draws to a close, I am taking the opportunity to look back at what has been a really exhilarating and at times challenging year. I don't have that many photos to share, partly because I have found myself reaching for my camera less and less and partly because most of the photos I took can not be shared here - I got permission for research purpose only. As for using my analogues cameras, well I shot only four rolls of films. And to think that, in 2012, I managed to shoot one roll of film each week for a year!

Are you ready to re-live with me the highlights of the exhibitions and places I visited in 2016? Let's start.

  • Wicked Wit: Darly's Comic Prints, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
  • Turner: The Vaughan Bequest, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
  • David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive, Natural History Museum, London
  • Jean-Etienne Liotard, Royal Academy of Arts, London
  • Sir John Soane's Museum, London
  • Apsley House, London
  • Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London
  • Tintin: Herge's Masterpiece, Somerset House, London
  • Europe 1600-1815 Galleries, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Mount Stewart, County Down, Northern Ireland
  • Avondale House, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow
  • High Treason: Roger Casement, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
  • Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
  • Beaulieu House and Gardens, Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Titanic Exhibition Centre - Titanic's Dock and Pump House, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Trim Castle, Trim, Co Meath
  • Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
  • Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Glengariff, Bantry, Co. Cork - Gallery here
  • Bantry House, Co. Cork
  • The Crawford at the Castle, Dublin Castle, Dublin
  • Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
  • Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
  • Stowe House, Buckingham, England
  • Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England
  • Audley End House, Saffron Walden, Essex, England
  • The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, London
  • Spencer House, London
  • Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
  • Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016, Peter Harrison Planetarium, Greenwich, London
  • Queen's House, Greenwich, London
  • The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London
  • The Wallace Collection, London
  • Rossborough House, Blessington, Co. Wicklow
  • Hong Ling: A Retrospective, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
  • Creating History: Stories of Ireland in Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

I hope this year which is coming to an end in just a couple of days was as memorable for you as it was for me!