It's always fascinating when you come across the past intimately - when you find one of those little things that we overlook, that are completely everyday, that suddenly allow us to step out of our own world and across the boundaries of time into another.
For instance there's a painting in Mechelen cathedral that shows a dockside scene - and on a sack, the merchant's mark. It's not a great painting but that single detail gave me a shock of intimacy - connected me with that merchant.
Or like the time I found a photo of my grandfather as a young man of seventeen. He looked so exactly like my brother - yet his clothes were clearly not contemporary. Again, there was a real shock that the past was so vivid - as well as so far away.
So I really enjoyed this posting by Gawain about old Venetian playing cards. It's not an "easy reading" blog, but it's a good one. I came across it when I started researching Punch and Judy (Tiepolo sketched a number of Pulcinellos, some in quite surreal positions) and I've been reading ever since.