The Troy: Myth and Reality exhibition at the British Museum has just opened in Gallery 30. The beautifully designed exhibition takes the visitor from the Skaian Gate at Troy through to the installation of the Shield of Achilles.
The narrative of the Trojan War was supported by a range of objects, underpinned with figure-decorated pottery from the museum’s extensive collection. One of the first pieces on display is the Geometric ‘Nestor’s cup’ from Pithekoussai (‘I am the cup of Nestor, good to drink from’).
There is a section on the excavations at Troy, and another one on the documentary evidence. The final section is on the reception of Troy, and includes a poem written by a British officer at Gallipoli in his copy of The Shropshire Lad.
The exhibition contained two late 15th century Italian panels by Biagio d’Antonio (on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum) showing the Death of Hector and the Wooden Horse entering the city.
Schliemann’s part in the uncovering of Troy was explored a space that displayed some of the finds from the excavations against a backdrop of the great trench.
What were the personal highlights in the exhibition? The Roman silver kantharoi from Hoby in Denmark were stunning pieces of luxury art. The representation of Priam seeking the return of Hektor’s body before Achilles on one of them was moving.
The real surprise was the Roman sarcophagus from Ephesus that now forms part of the collection at Woburn Abbey. This scene shows the weighing of Hektor’s body.
This is one of the best temporary exhibitions to be mounted in Room 30. The design and installation of the exhibition was inspired, especially the graphics explaining the iconography on Attic figure-decorated pottery.
Heading from Beijing to Shanghai the night before last meant an inevitable hike through the giant terminal at Capital Airport. Our small group was delighted however to pause at the photo exhibition of Edinburgh flanking either side of the main walkway heading to the departure gates transit area.
Forming part of a joint photography project between Beijing and Edinburgh airport authorities, the Chinese presentation of Edinburgh’s heritage, culture, streetscape and landscape is done on a typically large scale, with great visual impact. Heritage sells well here, and remains a key motivation and enjoyment factor in Chinese visitation to the UK, and Scotland in particular.
I can remember my first visit to Sicily as an undergraduate to see the temples at Agrigento. The experience was overwhelming as I viewed some of the best preserved Greek colonial temples.
The British Museum’s latest temporary exhibition, Sicily: Culture and Conquest, captures some of history using items from the permanent collections as well as loan materials. Some of the photograph is stunning, placing the objects back in their Sicilian landscapes. I have been to the exhibition twice in the last few weeks, and on the second time was able to observe fresh details.
There are five main themes:
Peoples of Sicily
The Rise of the Tyrants
Age of Conquest
An Enlightened Kingdom
The lavish catalogue goes well beyond the exhibition.
The ‘Celts’ exhibition is now showing at the British Museum. It contains some outstanding pieces of ‘Celtic’ art ranging from prehistory to the 21st century. Some of the pieces featured in the major Austrian exhibition on the ‘Celts’ of 1980. Perhaps one of the themes behind the exhibition is to express the ‘Celtic’ roots behind the modern ‘Celtic’ nations: Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, Ireland. Neil MacGregor explains in the Foreword, ‘this is not so much a show about a people as a show about a label, exploring how the name ‘Celts’ has been used and appropriated over the last 2,500 years’.
I have long considered some of the objects in the exhibition to be Iron Age rather than ‘Celtic’. The reference to the ‘Dying Gaul’ perhaps needed to include the discussion of the victory monuments at Pergamon (in north-west Anatolia) and a discussion of why Galatia is so named. It was good to see the Etruscan and Athenian objects from the Kleinaspergle burial [Figs. 45-47]. The catalogue links the Gundestrup Bowl to the area now in Bulgaria or Romania [Figs. 252-260].
The dedication and relief of Dea Brigantia from Birrens in Dumfries and Galloway [Fig. 131] is a particularly striking piece. J.M.C. Toynbee (Art in Roman Britain) linked the imagery to Eboracum (York) and the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. (There was also a clever reference to the orb in the left hand, ‘proudly proclaiming the world-wide rule of the Brigantian region!’)
One of the hanging bowls from the Sutton Hoo ship burial appears [Fig. 28] on the assumption that it was made in ‘Celtic’ lands.
Early Christian cross (or rather casts) from the Hebrides [see Iona] brought the narrative into the post-Roman period.
The final section was on ‘The Celtic Revival in Britain and Ireland’. There were several references to Ossian.
The objects within the exhibition were stunning although the over-arching ‘story’ of the exhibition perhaps failed to connect with me. I still have strong memories of the Austrian ‘Die Kelten‘ exhibition that brought together many of the same objects in a more coherent fashion.
The great replica of St John’s Cross dominates the western end of the Abbey on Iona. It has a span of some 2.2 m. (The original is in the site museum.) It appears to date from the 700s or 800s. The original cross was made from stone brought from Loch Sween in Argyll.
A cast of St John’s Cross features in the newly opened The ‘Celts: Art and Identity’ exhibition that has opened at The British Museum.
How far are these early Christian images ‘Celtic’? I find it interesting that the Historic Scotland guidebooks to Iona Abbey and Nunnery by Anna Ritchie and Ian Fisher (2001, rev. ed. 2011) and by Peter Yeoman and Nicki Scott (2011) appear to avoid the use of the word ‘Celtic’.
I have commented on the 1980 international exhibition on ‘The Celts‘. A companion exhibition, ‘Die Hallstattkultur’, was at Steyr from April to October 1980. Some 32 public collections and private individuals loaned material. One of my most vivid memories was the dramatic display of the Vix krater.
Entry was slightly less than the ‘Celts’ at 10 Austrian Schillings.
I received my exhibition listing from the British Museum yesterday with details about ‘Celts: art and identity‘. The text informed me that ‘this is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity’. The exhibition opens on 24 September 2015.
This claim rather overlooks the stunning major international exhibition ‘Die Kelten in Mitteleuropa’ at the Keltenmuseum in Hallein, Austria in 1980. Some 67 museums from 10 different countries were represented. The catalogue has a substantial section on ‘Kultur der Kelten’ with a chapter on ‘Die keltische Kunst’ by Otto-Herman Frey. The catalogue has the Vorwort in four languages: German, English, French and Welsh (‘Mae’r Celtiaid yn dod!’).
The highlights in London will include the Holzgerlingen double-horned statue (Kelten no. 17), the Gundestrup cauldron (Kelten no. 188), and a gold torc from Snettisham.
I sometimes wonder if these major ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions fail to acknowledge earlier explorations. But then would ‘this is a further major exhibition to examine …’ bring in the visitors?
Incidentally I paid 15 Austrian Schillings to see the exhibition (at a student rate). The British Museum will be charging £16.50 (but free to Friends). Notice the Hallein ticket is in four languages.
As part of our partnership with Heyerdahl Institute in Norway, we are delighted to host the 2014 Heyerdahl Lecture and Touring Exhibition on 5th Feb 2014 at 4.30pm at the Waterfront Building, Ipswich.
Erling Storm is the president of the Norwegian Rowing Association, and an active board member of The Thor Heyerdahl Institute. He has studied at Oslo Ingeniørhøyskole (engineering college) and lives in Oslo, Norway. He will be talking about Heyerdahl & Maritime Connections.
The lecture is accompanied by a touring exhibition which forms part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of of the birth of Thor Heyerdahl. It has been jointly organised by the The Thor Heyerdahl Institute and the Kon-Tiki Museum, Norway.
The Director of the Heyerdahl Institute, Beate Bjorge will also give a brief introduction to the work of the Institute which endeavours to promote and continue to develop Thor Heyerdahl’s ideas and principles within the following areas:
– Interdisciplinary research
– International dialogue / multi-cultural co-operation
– Protection of the global environment
We have long-standing connections with the Heyerdahl Institute along with colleagues from Glasgow Caledonian University, and will be developing research and course links over the next year as part of the Heritage Futures developments at UCS.
We’d be delighted for you to join us for the talks, exhibition viewing and a wine reception to welcome our international guests. Please contact Julie Barber email:email@example.com to register.