Wednesday, 16 October 2013

More Fun - With Museums and Romans and Squid

After lunching at the Savoy*, I decided to go to see London's Roman Amphitheatre, which is underneath the Guildhall in the City. As an added bonus, they are currently having a  exhibition of |Victorian Inspired modern Art - Victoriana.

The museum is in a newer part of the building - and when they were putting in the foundations, back in the 80s, they discovered the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre (as one does). And so they kept it there, in the basement, and built the rest of the new gallery over the top.

I have to admit that, as Roman Amphitheatres go, it's not hugely impressive, as the pieces which are left are only about 12 inches tall, (although there are some wooden drains, which is quite impressive) but i love the idea of it being there, under the Guildhall. and they have made an effort with the presentation, with lots of wireframe impressions of what the structure would likely have been like, to give you a sense of scale.

The Victoriana exhibition was a completely different kettle of fish. Sadly they would not allow photographs, so I can't show you - but there were pieces by Grayson Perry and Jake and Donos Chapman, there was a wedding cake made entirely from hair, a modified Victorian engraving of a woman with tentacles instead of legs) and  my favourite piece, one by Tessa Farmer, which features her trademark skeletal fairies, riding bees and butterflies, and armed with hedgehog spines, attacking a Victorian marble statue. It was beautifully disturbing.

Contrast: New and Old
Then there was the portrait of the lady with a squid instead of a face, a wonderful set of Alphabet prints and some original art from Alan Moore's 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'.

Great stuff.
The following morning I decided to go back into the City, to visit the Museum of London, and in particular their exhibition of the Cheapside Hoard.

Before going to the museum I wandered around a little, enjoying the contrast of modern and not-so-modern London. And just near to the Museum I found a little garden called Postman's Park, which is the site of "G.F.Watts' Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice".

Apparently, Watts was a successful Victorian artist, who painted portraits of many of the great and the good (or at least the successful) and came to believe that ordinary people who behaved in heroic ways should also be remembered, and set up the memorial to do so. The memorials are all tiled plaques - the earliest ones designed by de Morgan, the later ones by Royal Doulton - and although the project stopped after Watts' wife dies in the 1930s, there is one much more recent memorial, to a gentleman who died in 2007, saving a child from drowning.  Despite the sometimes florid wording of some of the plaques, it's a moving place. I had it almost to myself.

The museum visit was interesting - the Hoard itself was discovered by workmen in 1912, and is believed to have been buried in the late 17th Century - it consists of hundreds of uncut jewels and pieces of jewellery from the 16th and 17th Cs, and may have been the stock in trade of a local goldsmith. There are some amazing pieces - long, intricate gold and enamel necklaces, carved jewels, a tiny pocket watch set in a single emerald, numerous brooches and pins - there was high security and one could not take photographs, but the museum has some here.

I also made a whistle-stop tour of the rest of the museum, which has exhibits ranging from the remains of prehistoric beasts, to remnants of Roman Londinium, Viking artefacts, through to medieval pilgrim badges, medieval tiles still stained with soot from the Great Fire of London, right through to  some of the costumes from the Olympic opening ceremony.

Oh, and the Lord Mayor's Coach.

And a Dalek.

I would have liked to stay longer, but I had a party to get to.Which is pretty good, as reasons to leave go!

(*Please note the oh-so-casual name drop)

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