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It was 19th century Greece during King Otto of Bavaria’s reign. An elusive thief named Christos Davelis was ravaging the area of Mount Pentecliicus around north Athens. Word also had it that he was very handsome: so much so that he may well have seduced the Duchess of Plaisance. Sophie de Marbois was Lebrun’s widow,…


Fifteen years ago, I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. I happened upon the section devoted to 19th century painting where there was a rather small painting, remarkably well painted, of a man who looked young and yet whose diabolical energy – horridness, cruelty, meanness – struck me so, that it overwhelmed me….

Germany, Beyond Prussia

King Ludwig II of Bavaria was briefly engaged. He was handsome and young, the Bavarians idolized him. He fell in love with his cousin, Duchess Sophie, or at least he claimed to have. However, over the course of their engagement, poor Sophie found her fiancé’s attitude increasingly outrageous. Finally, they called the marriage off. Later,…

The Antique Dealer from Munich

For many years, during my annual visit to the Festival of Music in Salzburg, I noticed an older woman in attendance. Unmistakably rich and disagreeable, everyone seemed to avoid her. I didn’t pay much attention until one summer when she was absent. I inquired about her. She had died. It was then that I learned…