Raphael, affirmed Sir Joshua Reynolds, ‘stands in general foremost of the first painters’. In other words, he was the best artist who ever lived. When Reynolds wrote this — in the second half of the 18th century — Raphael’s reputation had remained on that peak for centuries. He was the ideal, the model for students to imitate.
He certainly isn’t that any more. The forthcoming exhibition of early Raphael at the National Gallery may cause his popular stock to rise again, but surely not to that extent.
Under communism, the ‘open letter’ was a device by which political hacks publicly advocated certain policies. The party hierarchy was then usually only too happy to comply, as happened when the 1968 ‘Letter to Brezhnev’ from a group of Czechoslovak commies begged Soviet tanks to crush the counter-revolution in Prague. The historical resonance was therefore piquant, although presumably unintended, when last week a hundred Western politicians and ‘intellectuals’ published just such a missive, addressed to the heads of state and government of the EU and Nato.
Rachel Johnson meets Ukip’s pin-up boy and finds to her horror that she likes himIn order to interview Robert Kilroy-Silk, the orthodontically perfect public face of Ukip, it is first necessary to talk to his people. But his people, it turns out, are his wife Jan. ‘So,’ Jan growls in what the BBC calls a lovely regional accent (though I am not good on accents, I know the Kilroy clan hails from Birmingham, where his grandfather was a roadsweeper, and his grandmother cleaned pub floors).
Since his sudden emergence in the 1990s Tony Blair has easily eclipsed three successive Conservative leaders: John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith. No prime minister for a century has dominated his opponents in such an emphatic way and for so long.
The 2004 party conference season has changed this landscape. It is now possible to assert something which it has not been possible to claim without risk of ridicule since 1992.