Francis Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
Everything but the sink: 1646 kitchen scene by the Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger, now restored to Robert Walpole’s former Norfolk home

Charles Darwent on visual Houghton Revisited: There's much to learn by taking a dim view of art

As it did 250 years ago, Velázquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X peers into the gloom at Houghton Hall. It is an extraordinary image in an extraordinary space.

Peter O'Toole tending the bar

Soho's bohemian past remembered

The Colony Room Club in Dean Street closed its doors in 2008, but Sophie Parkin's engrossing, 300-page portrait of it brings that small, smelly, green upstairs bar-room into vivid life again. Opened in 1948, and presided over by Muriel Belcher, a bisexual Brummie, it was “far away from the maddeningly normal crowds outside.”

Invisible Ink: No 164 - Andrew Sinclair

There is such a thing as too clever.

An auctioneer receives bids for Gerhard Richter's work 'Abstraktes Bild' during the Sotheby's London Evening Sale of Contemporary Art held at Sotheby's, New Bond Street, London.

Sotheby's raises a 'healthy' £74 million at contemporary art auction

It was a "healthy" night of sales at Sotheby's yesterday evening as a contemporary art auction brought in more than £74 million - the auction house's second-highest total for a February sale of contemporary art in London.

Arise, Sir Danny
Formerly known as the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle is now a national hero who gave us cycling doves, dancing suffragettes, five golden rings, the Queen's acting debut and Tory MPs frothing at the mouth about multi-culturalism. We smell a New Year's Honour.

If we really want to show Danny Boyle our appreciation for the Olympics opening ceremony, a knighthood isn't the way

The Oscar-winning director has turned down a knighthood, and publicly. Good on him

Tamara Beckwith turns wheeler dealer for Channel 4's Four Rooms

She will join a panel of 'experts' helping the public sell antiques

The best Christmas gifts for the art lover

Main image: Arctic hare, £120, The Shop Floor Project; frames, from £5, John Lewis

My Edinburgh: Alan Davies, Comedian

The first time I went to Edinburgh was in 1986 when I was at The University of Kent and we did a musical version of Aristotle’s 'Lysistrata'. 

Ravel's 'L'heure espagnole'

L'heure espagnole/ L'enfant et les sortilèges, Glyndebourne, East Sussex
Tête à Tête Opera Festival, Riverside Studios, London
The Francis Bacon Opera, Camden Arts Centre, London

Glyndeborne's double bill of Ravel operas captures the composer's delicate touch and ability to combine laughter and pain

Christie's to showcase £200m of Constable, Renoir and Bacon masterpieces

Masterpieces by the likes of Constable, Renoir and Bacon, together valued at more than £200 million, were assembled today for a free temporary exhibition.

Pablo Picasso - La Lecture: £25.2m

Art world's big spenders help Sotheby's to a billion-pound year

It might seem that everything is crashing down around us in Austerity Britain, but judging by the bumper sales figures disclosed by one London auction house, now could be the perfect time to cash in on those artistic masterpieces gathering dust in your attic.

Culture to comfort us: When did we become so culturally conservative?

We are taking refuge in the past, whether it's 'Call the Midwife' and 'Downton' on TV, Coward and Rattigan at the theatre, or neo-Romantics in the galleries. Where's the sensation? By Philip Hoare
Jenny Agutter, Jessica Raine and Judy Parfitt in 'Call the Midwife'

The shock of the old: When did we become so culturally conservative?

We are taking refuge in the past, whether it's 'Call the Midwife' and 'Downton' on TV, Coward and Rattigan at the theatre, or neo-Romantics in the galleries. Where's the sensation, asks Philip Hoare?

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there