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Feodor Chaliapin


The trompe l’œil niche
John Julius Norwich Writer
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The drawing room my mother got frescoed by Rex Whistler and it was absolutely lovely. I remember there was a huge, great niche, a false, trompe l’œil niche, it was an absolutely flat wall in fact but it looked exactly like a deep niche with an enormous urn, very carved, rather baroque sort of urn. I suppose it must have been about four feet high, all painted. And at some stage, obviously, the urn had been broken. There was a little crack running down it with a couple of rivets and a fly... a big, black fly on the front which the maid tried to sweep off every morning, but it would always remain there.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Rex Whistler

Duration: 50 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018