Celebrating Hadrian in Athens

IMG_1087-Edit

Colossal portrait of the Emperor Hadrian, found in Athens, 1933. Athens, National Archaeological Museum inv. 3729. © David Gill

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is celebrating the reign of the emperor Hadrian in an exhibition, “Hadrian and Athens: Conversing with an Ideal World“.

Sicily: Culture and Conquest

Sicily

British Museum © David Gill

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:

  1. Peoples of Sicily
  2. The Rise of the Tyrants
  3. Age of Conquest
  4. The Normans
  5. An Enlightened Kingdom

The lavish catalogue goes well beyond the exhibition.

Celts: Art and Identity

© David Gill

© David Gill

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.

Iona and the public display of early Christian art

© David Gill

Replica of St John’s Cross, Iona © David Gill

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.

2001 [rev. ed. 2011]

2001 [rev. ed. 2011]

2011 [rev. 2014]

2011 [rev. 2014]

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’.

Die Hallstattkultur

1980

1980

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.

Hallstatt_ticket

Entry was slightly less than the ‘Celts’ at 10 Austrian Schillings.

Exhibiting the Celts

1980

1980

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?

Kelten_ticket

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.

UCS – Heyerdahl Institute Lecture & Exhibition 5th Feb 2014: Erling Storm

Erling_Storm

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.

Heyerdahl 100

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:julie.barber@ucs.ac.uk to register.