Ylva111's Blog

All that glitters is gold at the Scythians

December 19, 2017
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scythian_highlightobject_304Gold objects dominate the British Museum exhibition about the Scythians. Many of us had never heard of these Nomadic people who roamed the steppes of Russia and what is now Ukraine in 500 to 300 BC.  Beautifully displayed in the new exhibition centre at the BM the gold glitters and seduces.

How did they do it and where did the gold come from? It seems that most of this was river gold, found in the streams and rivers of the Ural Mountains.  And although some credited Greek craftsmen with the delicate work, it’s clear from more recent finds that the Scythians themselves didn’t just ride horses, plunder and drink – apparently copiously – but they also had time, the skill and patience to create these wonderful objects.  Many were decorations for the bridle of their horses, others for the belts worn by men.  Tiny little replica objects were also made for their graves.

So you have till the 14th January to see this amazing exhibition with its selection of gold mostly from St Petersburg’s Hermitage collected during the time of Peter the Great.

And of course your blogger knows all about him after her visit to St Petersburg last year and the story of his immense memorial. The Tsar is sculpted on his horse which is raised on a monumental rock.  It was Catherine the Great who commissioned this work, and it took hundreds of men and several years to bring the large boulder to St Petersburg, basically dragging it along the frozen ground on metal tracks.   www.bm.ac

Museum of Cadiz

Your blogger was already on a pre-historic search after visiting the Museum of Cadiz in Southern Spain, particularly the archaeological exhibition on the ground floor. From this emerges a history going back to the Phoenicians who roamed the Mediterranean not by horse, of course, but by boat.  Cadiz had an excellent harbour and became one of the first cities along the coast, linking the inland sea with the coast of Africa, and northwards the Atlantic coast.  Columbus started his second exploration from here to what he still thought was India but in fact was the Caribbean islands and America beyond.

Cadiz Museum Phoenician sarcophaguses 5th century BC

The Phoenicians pre-dated the Greeks and were active from 1200 to 800 BC. In the Museum there are two imposing sarcophaguses discovered during building work in Cadiz.  The first was discovered as early 1887 during works on the city’s shipyard, the second more recently featuring a female ruler.  The finely carved sarcophaguses have been restored and objects found are displayed nearby include a set of false eyelashes in copper for the queen. Most of the text is only in Spanish – so take a Spanish-speaking friend to this museum.

Moomins at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery is always a pleasure and the current special exhibition took your blogger back to her childhood in Sweden. Tove Jansson’s famous Moomins – a family of mainly benevolent creatures – allowed Tove Jansson to explore her talents as an illustrator as well as story teller – with the added bonus of a dry sense of humour.  The exhibition shows how she started as a painter before she concentrated on her drawing skills.  She also wrote novels based on her life, particularly in the Finnish archipMoomin.jpgelago.

This year Finland celebrates 100 years as an independent state, previously ruled by Sweden and also Russia. Tove was herself part of the Swedish-speaking minority and wrote her books, and cartoon strips in Swedish.  There is still time to see the exhibition which finishes on 28 January.  http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

And now for Christmas and New Year…..best wishes to all my followers and look out for my blog in 2018.

More from me at my website to ylvafrench.co.uk



Fashion, terror and the Gods – London in November

November 11, 2017
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For those of us who were here or anywhere in the world at the time, the images of Nine Eleven will stay with us forever.  At the Age of Terror exhibition dozens of newspaper front pages from around the world make a vivid impact at the start and reverse images of the two towers on the floor creates a sense of the height of the blocks.  And for those who need reminding or were too young at the time (or not even born) there is a film showing news broadcasts of  the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York as it happened on 11 September 2001.

This new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London occupies most of Level 3 and is sparsely and elegantly displayed to maximise the impact of each statement and art work. The exhibition is about what happened afterwards – the global response to the Age of Terror through art works and videos.  It is not a comfortable exhibition as we come face to face with increased state control, rendition, new weapons, drone attacks, as well as increased security, the loss of personal freedom and detentions.  Age of Terror continues until 28 May www.iwm.org.uk


Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace

At Kensington Palace I caught the last few days of the Enlightened Princesses exhibition, covering the 18th century royals, Augusta, Caroline and Charlotte, spurred by the stimulating two-day conferences on “enlightened royal” women across Europe, organised by Historic Royal Palaces.

Does Princess Diana fall into this category? We will never know her full potential but she certainly did a lot for fashion as the exhibition now at Kensington Palace shows.  More than 20 of her most iconic outfits are on display, many designed by British designers such as Caroline Walker. It illustrates how her taste changed and fashion evolved from the ruffles of her younger years to the elegance and sleekness of her later evening gowns.  They are here, individually displayed on  fashion dummies but also in photographs of Diana and the occasions when she wore a particular dress, each contributing to the story of her public achievements and private sorrows.

This is another trip down memory lane, tinged with sadness because of her premature death. For the fashionistas it’s a treat – and there are fans here from all over the world to see these beautiful dresses.  Unfortunately the exhibition is crammed into some not very large spaces, so there is queuing at busy times.  It continues until the end of the year.  www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace


What next – well it’s the British Museum again…

Listening to the beguiling voice of Neil MacGregor (former director of the British Museum) each morning on BBC Radio 4, describing one of a hundred objects linked to religion, took me to the museum for the Living with Gods exhibition.  Here you can see each of the artefacts described on the radio and many more.  This exhibition is in the small display area above the old Reading Room so not big, but just right for this interpretation of mainly small and sometimes very personal objects used in religious worship.

If you haven’t listened to the radio broadcasts, I recommend the audio guide to get the full benefit of the stories behind these sometimes humble objects.  You will leave convinced (as though we needed it) that all religions have more in common than some of the faithful believe.  Here you can share stories, objects, images, prayers, meditation and rituals with others from different faiths.  The power of prayer, the importance of festivals and pilgrimage and the marking of key life experiences can be found in all religions, and even those who have given up religion altogether will enjoy exploring the cultural experiences we share with others.

The exhibition touches on religious differences but on the whole you will leave this exhibition uplifted with a feeling of communion.  And there is a gift shop!  http://www.britishmuseum.org

 More from me at my website to ylvafrench.co.uk