HANDEL DID well to be feted in Rome when he was a Protestant and to be accepted by Queen Anne while he still held office at the banned Hanoverian Court.
Hallelujah! A Celebration of the Life and Times of Handel at the National Portrait Gallery (daily until February 23; admission £2) marks the 300th anniversary of George Frederic Handel's birth in Saxony and tells the story behind the creation of his music with the help of paintings, sculptures and engravings.
At the entrance visitors are confronted by a huge portrait of one of Handel's greatest admirers, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who had received the red hat at the age of 22 because his uncle was Alexander VIII.
There are etchings of Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, Handel's first patron (and a member of the Sacred College at 28), and Cardinal Colonna, who commissioned music for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The 25-year-old composer left Rome after four years for London by way of a brief appointment with the Electoral Family in Hanover. Handel's first setting for an English text — the Te Deum celebrating the Peace of Utrecht — was sung in St Paul's Cathedral in 1713.
A print shows massed peers seated respectfully facing Queen Anne but with their backs to both altar and preacher.
A small picture of the Princess Royal's wedding at St James's Palace is the only authentic view of a Handel performance in his day. He can just be discerned high up in the gallery waiting to hear his special anthem 'Now is the Day'.
A painting by Bernard Baron of the Duke of Cumberland reminds us that the Oratorio Judas Maccabaeus was intended as a compliment to the victor of Culloden.
Handel seemed as capable of capturing evangelical Anglican hearts as he was of winning Roman patronage. The Messiah so moved the Rev Dr Delany that he rose to his feet exclaiming to the singer "Woman, for this, be all thy sins forgiven".
There are plenty of prints of 18th-century London, where Handel lived and died, and an attempt to illustrate how, after death, the music acquired classic status. The final exhibit is of costume designs for the 1937 London Co-operative Society production of Belshazzar.
By the 1930s London had expanded enough to justify having the finest transport system in Europe. Underground Women at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden (daily until May; admission £2.20) is a display of over forty posters by women.
While the reputations of many male graphic artists have been made by their Underground posters, the contribution of female colleagues has received less recognition. There is, for example, work by the late Mary Kessell whose husband, Tom Eckersley, was honoured with his own LT staged show last year.
Dame Laura Knight, the first woman Royal Academician, is recalled not with the expected circus life or ballet scene but her 'Rugby at Twickenham by Tram' featuring two large players locked together.
In 1919 Jessie M King produced a fairy story book in art nouveau style for the London General buses and later the Green Line country walks promotion gave Frances Halstead the chance to fill the capital's billboards with rural scenes.
New ideas were constantly needed as all the seasons were marked including May and Harvest.
The oldest poster advertises what was, in 1913, still considered to be a new season the January Sales.
Everil Bonnett's 'Winter Sales' helped drum up support for the idea introduced by American Gordon Selfridge. Apart from a disappearing top hat, there is not a man in sight in the street view and the ladies are so occupied with their muffs that one must conclude that the bargains travelled by van rather than tube.
, Dublin and Edinburgh have their own New Year tradition in their National Galleries where the Vaughan Bequest Turner watercolours have their annual showing in the weak winter light.
Henry Vaughan was a customer of Turner's agent and the 38 pictures in Scotland, rich in Venetian views, are noted for retaining the freshness of their original colours.
This is the 85th occasion that the Edinburgh collection has been on show and in recent years the Gallery has begun to experience January Sale behaviour as Turner devotees form weekend queues on the steps.
Best to take to Old LT advice and go off peak or try Dublin where there is still decorum.