On Her Majesty’s Secret Art Service

This year marks 60 years since the publication of Casino Royale by British author, Ian Fleming, and with it the first appearance in print of everyone’s favourite spy – Bond, James Bond.

Bond’s exotic world of suggestively-named femme fatales and inexplicable gadgets appeared to be a world away from the stuffy academia of art history. Until 1979. When Sir Anthony Blunt – Professor of History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in London and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures – was publicly exposed as a Soviet spy.

Anthony BluntBlunt was recruited by the Soviet Union in the 1930s, as part of the infamous Cambridge Five spy ring. Then during World War II he became a double agent when he joined MI5, the British Secret Service, carrying out several operations which would have passed muster with Bond himself.

Given that the story has ‘movie script’ written all over it, it’s no surprise that a number of films and TV series have dramatised these events. The most thrilling written account of Blunt’s many incarnations is Miranda Carter’s biography, Anthony Blunt: His Lives.

Image: Anthony Blunt with Queen Elizabeth II as Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures

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