I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 21 December 2013

London: (8) At The British Museum

Inside the British Museum. The circular construction on the right is the restored British Museum Reading Room, which stands in the centre of the Great Court. It's now a temporary space for major exhibitions. The Reading Room and its library were famously used by Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Mahatma Gandhi, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Rimbaud, Lenin and Karl Marx.

Lely's Venus, named after the baroque portrait painter Sir Peter Lely (1618-80), who used to own it.  It's a Roman copy (from the 1st or 2nd century AD) of a Greek original (perhaps from the 2nd century BC). This is an absolutely beautiful statue of a naked Venus or Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She's been surprised while bathing, and crouches down, attempting to cover herself. You can't see it in this shot, but a water jar rests under her left thigh. Prior to this, only male statues were nude.

The Nereid Monument, a tomb in the form of a Greek temple from Xanthos in present-day Turkey. This façade was reconstructed from ruins discovered in the 19th century and shipped over to England.

Greek sculptures of female figures from the Parthenon in Athens. The figure on the right may be Aphrodite, reclining on the lap of her mother, Dione. Note the wonderfully-sculpted folds of the garments. These figures form part of the collection known as the Elgin Marbles, so-called because the Earl of Elgin brought them from Greece to England in 1816. This remains a controversial issue.

Part of the frieze from the Temple of Apollo in Bassae, Greece. This block shows part of a battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, who were all-female warriors.

I'm not exactly sure what this object is: perhaps a totemic wooden shield from the Pacific region? Or some kind of talismanic effigy?

Turquoise mosaic of a double-headed serpent from Mexico, carved in wood. This is an iconic piece of Aztec art.

 Serpent imagery occurs throughout the religious iconography of Mesoamerica. The serpent is associated with several Mexica deities including Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent) and Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) or Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt), the mother of the Mexica god Huitzilopochtli. The habit of snakes to shed their skin each year probably led to them being used to convey ideas concerning renewal and transformation. Likewise the ability of many species to move freely between water, earth and the forest canopy helped underline their symbolic role as intermediaries between the different layers of the cosmos (underworld, earth and sky).

The British Museum

10 comments:

Sabine said...

Thank for these fantastic pictures. The British Museum is one of my most favourite places on earth. On my first visit in 1979 I had gone just to get out of the cold - little did I know...

George said...

Interesting post, and the photos, especially the top one in black and white, are terrific!

Vagabonde said...

The British Museum is the type of place (with the Louvre and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia) where I wish they had a bed and breakfast attached. You could then get up, after a quick cup of tea, go in one part of the museum, and stay until time to go to bed and like this for a week… dreams …. When we were in St Petersburg we stayed close to the Hermitage (a bus ride away) and spent 2 full days there, but it was not enough, for sure.

am said...

Today is catch-up day. It is good to see London
through your eyes. When I think of traveling, I don't usually think of visiting cities, but now I wish I could travel to London. So many wonderful things to see. Your city photos are engaging. Would have loved to see the Paul Klee exhibit and, of course, Bob Dylan's art work.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, everyone, for commenting. Yes, the British Museum is amazing, and I want to go back there when I've more time, and got to specific rooms to see specific objects, instead of aimlessly wandering for an hour or two before catching a train, as I did on this occasion.

Ruth said...

Every photo makes me extraordinarily happy.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm so pleased you liked them, Ruth.

Arija said...

Wonderful photos of the art works but, well before this Venus, there was the Venus of Willendorf and, although the sculptor disregarded her arms, she was otherwise most amply endowed and certainly unclad.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, yes, Arija, thanks for this correction. That ancient statuette certainly does predate Lely's Venus — by many thousands of years!

Lee said...

I think the British Museum is my favourite place to visit in London: I'm not a big fan of London though.