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Mariya's Diary: Back To The Beginning

Art has always been a source of inspiration for Aspinal of London. The company's roots began in major museums all over the world, including the Louvre, the Vatican and London's National Gallery. This strong relationship led to the National Gallery stocking Aspinal's beautifully handcrafted stationery and journals in their souvenir shop. Whenever I visit the gallery, I am reminded how far the company has grown, and what a special place it began. I recently returned for the "Beyond Caravaggio" exhibition which closed earlier this month.

This was the first major exhibition exploring the impact of Carravaggio's work in the UK, looking at both the art of his contemporaries and his followers. With their eye-catching, dramatic lighting and intense naturalism, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's paintings inspired a multitude of artists during his lifetime and in the decades immediately after his untimely death.

One of the paintings that makes a huge impact on me is 'Judith Beheading Holofernes' (1598-1599). The painting shows the biblical scene of Judith beheading Holofernes, and it stuns me with its beautiful chiaroscuro (the play of light and dark) and its intense attention to detail. Caravaggio usually chose the moment of greatest dramatic impact for his work - in this case the moment of the decapitation of Holofernes by the biblical figure Judith, accompanied by her maid. The faces of the three characters demonstrate Caravaggio´s incredible ability to portray emotion, Judith in particular showing both purpose and disgust on her face. Although many painters have attempted to outshine Carravaggio (and arguable succeeded), none have managed to recreate Judith's sense of psychological uncertainty.

Caravaggio's work was known for his incredible ability to create shadows - back in the day, his paintings were viewed by candlelight and the realism is unimaginable to us in the 21st century. As a result, artists across the years have attempted to imitate the naturalism and dramatic chiaroscuro, along with his wonderful storytelling. Consequently, his works are extremely valuable and sought after - some worth over £100m. The exhibition has brought together extraordinary works both by Caravaggio and by the international artists he inspired. 'Beyond Caravaggio' examines the artistic phenomenon known as Caravaggism. I began my career as an artist and I often visit art exhibitions for inspiration. Carravaggio has always had a place in my heart - along with his unparalleled ability to create an emotive scene, I love the way he renders fabric and leather, giving us a snapshot into the lives of those in the 16th Century.

After the private viewing of the exhibition, kindly hosted by Credit Suisse, we were invited to a dinner organised by the Elton John Aids Foundation, in the gorgeous Yves Saint Laurent Room at the gallery. We dined surrounded by the original masterpieces and my Aspinal Red Embossed Croc Manhattan Clutch was the perfect accompaniment to this wonderful and exclusive event.

The Dress Code

I wore a red Valentino dress, red velvet stilettos by Jimmy Choo, accessorised by a Cartier watch and my Aspinal Red Embossed Croc Manhattan Clutch.

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