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ART / Posture and imposture: Andrew Graham-Dixon finds fantasy, pastiche and a hint of the boardroom in 'The Swagger Portrait' at the Tate

A lot of the paintings in 'The Swagger Portrait', at the Tate Gallery, have the character of dim and distant relics, the products of a world almost inconceivably alien to our own. Take Van Dyck's Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, as Prudence, whose iconography is so complex that the sitter seems to be juggling with her attributes like some kind of 17th-century plate-spinner: she consents to be crowned by three fluttering putti while simultaneously fondling a pair of doves with one hand, holding a serpent in the other, trampling a torch-bearing Cupid underfoot and studiously ignoring the figure of Janus who skulks behind her.

BOOK REVIEW / Old horrors in Oliver's new army: Going to the wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651 by Charles Carlton, Routledge pounds 25

THE civil wars of the 17th century were for a long time treated as the central event in the history of the British Isles. The realm of England in particular had supposedly been moving for some centuries towards that crisis, and the modern democratic structure was discerned as steadily developing from the victory of Parliament.

OFF THE SHELF / Spiders round the neck: Kenneth Baxter on the Diary of Elias Ashmole, aged 16-70

JOHN AUBREY, the author of Brief Lives, was a gregarious man whose acquaintance included Elias Ashmole, 'the greatest virtuoso and curioso that ever was known or heard of in England'. Ashmole, like Dr Johnson, was a shopkeeper's son of Lichfield. Less lethargic than Johnson, he became a solicitor, cavalry officer and excise official until marriage to a rich widow enabled him to devote himself to astrology, alchemy and antiquarian research. 'It pleased God to put me in mind that I was now placed in the condition I had always desired, which was that I might be enabled to live to myself without being forced to take pains for a livelihood.'

Press gets the hard sell from frantic Fringe performers : Artistes join the scrum to beg or persuade reporters to review their shows in Edinburgh. David Lister reports

SOME ARE in costume, some are virtually naked. Some leer, some look like frightened rabbits. They brace themselves for two hours of hard sell, several hundred in one large room, sweating, cajoling, begging, hustling.

Divers find royalist warship off Scots coast

A SUNKEN 17th century warship - believed to have been part of a royalist invasion fleet during the English Civil War - has been discovered by divers off the west coast of Scotland, writes David Keys.
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