Mariya Dykalo » Blog » The Beginnings of Aspinal of London

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Where the story of Aspinal of London began, National Gallery of Art.

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Here I am enjoying the exhibition “Beyond Caravaggio”

Objets d´art and art have always been sources of inspiration for Aspinal of  London. When the company was founded, it was already working with major museums all over the world, like the Louvre, the Vatican and the National History Museum. In fact, all the beautifully handcrafted stationery, journals and books for example, was first seen in the National Museum’s souvenir shop. Therefore when I arrive at the exhibition “Beyond Caravaggio” at the National Gallery in London, I have the feeling of being where Aspinal of  London’s story began.

The logo that Aspinal created for its stationery reflects the spirit and values of an English Heritage Home. The company was established 15 years ago by Iain Burton, currently chairman and owner of the brand. Originally he invented and provided audio-guides to museums around the world, later selling the company to the Discovery Channel. However, the success of the beautiful stationery and excellent relationships with high- profile clients heralded the start of his new company – Aspinal of London.

In the exhibition “Beyond Caravaggio”, I am thinking about the origins of Aspinal, and the light, darkness, drama and the revolutionary influence of Caravaggio in the history of art.  This is the first major exhibition in the UK to explore the impact of Caravaggio’s work, both on the art of his contemporaries and followers. With their eye-catching, dramatic lighting and intense naturalism, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s paintings inspired a multitude of artists during his lifetime and in the decades immediately after his untimely death.

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Judith Beheading Holofernes painted by Caravaggio, 1598-1599

One of the paintings that makes a huge impact on me is Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-1599). The painting shows the biblical scene of Judith beheading Holofernes, and it stuns me with its beautiful play of light and dark hues and its incredible attention to details. As usual in his paintings, Caravaggio chose the moment of greatest dramatic impact for his work, in this case the moment of the decapitation of Holofernes. The three figures are seen theatrically lit, isolated against the inky background. Judith and her maid are on the right, and Holofernes is lying vulnerably on the left. The faces of the three characters demonstrate Caravaggio´s mastery of emotion, Judith in particular showing a remarkable mix of determination and repulsion on her face. A lot of painters were deeply influenced by this work and some even surpassed Caravaggio’s physical realism, but it has been argued that none ever matched Judith’s expression of psychological ambivalence.

Caravaggio’s work was imitated by many artists from across Europe who flocked to Rome to see his work after his first public commission in 1600. Many painters went on to imitate Caravaggio’s naturalism and dramatic lighting effects along with the pictorial and narrative power of his paintings. As a result, his works have always been highly sought after. The exhibition has gathered exceptional works both by Caravaggio and also by the international artists he inspired. ‘Beyond Caravaggio’ examines the artistic phenomenon known as Caravaggism. The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Gallery, London, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the National Galleries of Scotland.

After the private viewing of the exhibition, kindly hosted by Credit Suisse, we are invited to dinner, organized by the Elton John Aids Foundation, in the gorgeous Yves Saint Laurent Room. As you can see, the Yves Saint Laurent Room is both stunning and elegant. We dine surrounded by originals masterpieces and my Aspinal Red Embrossed Croc Manhattan Clutch looks entirely at home.

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For this occasion I am wearing a red Valentino dress, red velvet stilettos by Jimmy Choo, accessorised by a Cartier watch and my Aspinal Red Embrossed Croc Manhattan Clutch.

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