Mirror case, France, 1370-1400. Ivory. It depicts a love scene in a
garden where the happy couple hold a heart as cupids hover
overhead holding a shield and a hooded figure looks on.
One of Madrid’s leading private galleries is hosting a major exhibition on medieval art. The Pillars of Europe: Middle Ages in the British Museum brings together more than a hundred objects ranging from 400 to 1500 at CaixaForum’s Madrid branch.
The exhibition aims to show through objects and images how Europe transformed from the fragmentation after the fall of the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages and into the emerging nation states at the beginning of the Renaissance. An excellent map shows how borders shifted over the century, and a slideshow gives period depictions of Europe’s cities as they grew and became more prominent. The objects are grouped into four themes: Royal Power, Heavenly Treasures, Courtly Life, and Urban Life.
For many of us, the Celts are an enduring fascination. Their art, their mysterious culture, and the perception that so many of us are descended from them makes the Celts one of the most popular ancient societies. So it’s surprising that the British Museum hasn’t had a major Celtic exhibition for forty years.
That’s changed with Celts: Art and Identity, a huge collection of artifacts from across the Celtic world and many works of art from the modern Celtic Revival. The exhibition is at pains to make clear that the name ‘Celts’ doesn’t refer to a single people who can be traced through time, and it has been appropriated over the last 300 years to reflect modern identities in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. “Celtic” is an artistic and cultural term, not a racial one.
The first thing visitors see is a quote by some guy named J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in 1963, “To many, perhaps most people. . .’Celtic’ of any sort is. . .a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. . .anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.”
A remarkable exhibition at the British Museum is revealing the secrets hidden inside mummy wrappings.
Ancient Lives, New Discoveries showcases eight mummies from the Nile valley, Africa’s greatest center of ancient civilization. Seven were found in Egypt and an eighth was uncovered in Sudan. They have all been analyzed with the latest model CT scanner at a London hospital to reveal information about the people without their having to go through damaging analysis.
The British have been pretty lucky these past few years. According to the British Museum, numerous treasures have been uncovered by metal detectorists and accidentally by workmen.
One of the most impressive is the Anglo-Saxon coin hoard from Lenborough, Buckinghamshire, found in December of last year, and which the British Museum has just announced it has acquired. Around 5,200 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, and two cut half pennies, of kings Æthelred II (r.978-1016) and Cnut (r.1016-35), were found wrapped within a lead sheet. The hoard was discovered on a metal-detecting rally, and recovered under the guidance of the local Finds Liaison Officer. The hoard contains coins from more than forty different mints around England, and provides a rare source of information on the circulation of coinage at the time the hoard was buried.