Athens’ Acropolis Museum is, naturally, best known for its display of sculptures from the Parthenon (in a mixture of originals and casts, many of the originals being, controversially, in the British Museum). Stunning though this top-floor display is, with views straight across to the Parthenon from the galley (see photo, unfortunately taken on a rather cloudy day), it’s not actually my favourite part of the museum – that prize goes to the first-floor display of the older archaic sculptures, dating from the 7th century to the early 5th century BCE (the Parthenon was built in the mid-5th century). Some of these sculptures are from the pediments of earlier temples on the Acropolis, destroyed during the Persian invasion of 480/479 BCE; others are freestanding statues set up on the Acropolis as dedications to the goddess Athena. (I can’t post photos here as you’re not allowed to take photos of the collections, but there is a nice selection of pictures available on the museum’s website). Continue reading “Archaic statues and Eleusinian mysteries at the Acropolis Museum”
I mentioned this upcoming exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in my last post – I’m very pleased to say that ‘Codebreakers and Groundbreakers‘ is now open (and on until February 2018)! The exhibition brings together two apparently quite different stories – the discovery and decipherment of the Linear B tablets and the breaking of the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park during World War II – to emphasize the two main threads which connect them. Most obviously, both of them are about decipherment and making unreadable texts readable – whether that’s three-thousand-year-old clay tablets written in an undeciphered script and an unknown language, or messages that have been deliberately encrypted to (try to) stop them being read by a wartime enemy.
I recently went to see the British Museum’s current blockbuster exhibition, ‘Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds’ (on until November 27th), which showcases recent finds from the cities of Thonis-Herakleion and Canopus, port cities on the edge of the Nile Delta which are now largely underwater; the exhibition also includes material from the BM’s excavations at Naukratis (a Greek trading settlement upriver from the two ports) as well a large number of loans from Egyptian museums. It’s a pretty stunning collection, particularly the sculptures – a giant statue of Hapy, god of the Nile’s flood, opens the exhibition, and later on there’s another pair of giant (i.e over 5m tall) statues, representing a Ptolemaic king and queen; some of the smaller statues are equally impressive, like the beautiful one of Queen Arsinoe II wearing an essentially transparent piece of drapery that shows incredible skill in carving.
Continue reading “Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (review)”
The British Museum’s first blockbuster exhibition in their new temporary exhibition gallery has been getting plenty of publicity, mostly about the arrival of the longest Viking longship ever discovered – or at least, the 20% of its wooden frame that survives, plus a reconstruction of the rest – from Denmark. A new gallery, a giant longship, and Vikings! How could a group of Classicists resist…?
The Royal Academy’s current exhibition is, unusually, devoted not to a particular artist, period, or culture, but to a single material: bronze. Choosing to display works from so many different cultures in a thematic arrangement was certainly a bold move on the part of the RA, but it has produced a spectacular exhibition, incorporating works from ancient Egypt, classical antiquity, the Etruscans, Bronze Age Europe, the medieval and Renaissance periods, the Middle East, China, South-East Asia, and Western Africa, alongside 19th-and 20th-century and contemporary art; the sheer visual impact of so many bronzes collected in a single place is quite stunning. Continue reading “Bronze at the Royal Academy”
The Fitzwilliam Museum’s current exhibition showcases the treasures found in the royal tombs of the Han Dynasty, rulers of a vast empire encompassing much of what is now modern China, from the 2nd-1st century B.C. (i.e. contemporary with the late Roman Republic).* The Han emperors and kings were buried in tomb complexes containing everything they might need in the afterlife, from food supplies and cooking facilities to tomb guardians and vast quantities of jade, believed to offer protection from evil spirits after death. Continue reading “The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China”