Thursday, 20 December 2007

Another Drawer of Curiosities

I had to go into town early today, so I took the opportunity to go back to the British Museum. [Edit: here's a picture of the Great Court, which I took a couple of summers ago].

I started with the Colossal statue of a winged human-headed bull from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, and its companion. Walk between them, and there is a corridor of bas-reliefs glorifying the king and showing other guardian spirits, including eagle-headed ones which remind me strongly of C. S. Lewis's Tash. It's interesting to compare these with the angels generally depicted in Christian art. I suspect the colossal statues are what seraphs ought to look like.

I walked around a few corners, and spent some time in the Early Greek rooms, taking a route I hadn't taken before. I saw some Geometric Period vases, which were new to me. A lot of the things in that room would be very interesting to any artist; I particularly noticed the horses on a very early vase, and what they had in common, in different directions, with cave-paintings (the awareness of musculature), the Parthenon sculptures (the arrangement of legs) and Picasso (the way the heads and eyes were represented). I can't find a picture of that specific vase, but this one is displayed nearby and is in the same style.

Then I wandered upstairs to the Egyptian mummies. The Burial Group of the Priest Hornedjitef and his rather alarming sarcophagus asked to be remembered to Tangobaby, as did Soter and family.

The gallery of mummies was more or less impassable with French schoolchildren, so I went back a bit and encountered the Royal Graves of Ur, including the Great Death Pit, which I hadn't known about before.

Then as I usually do, I ended up in the room where the Nereid Monument is. Most of it is at one end of the room but I think the best bit is at the other - three statues of astonishing workmanship, with benches thoughtfully placed so you can just sit and stare.

I draw your attention to the Nereid on the right. This picture is not from my favourite angle - I would have moved to the left and had the lighting more from above.

What no photo can tell you is this: you can see the bottom of her ribcage, and the fat of her belly. You can see the aureolas of her breasts, and the way the wet fabric clings to everything. Sit on the bench in front of this for ten minutes, look at it properly, and see if you can convince yourself it's stone.

Here's a picture of all three of the Nereids together.


Jo A said...

It makes me wonder why art collectors buy all these flimsy paintings when they could have an amazing (and sturdy) statue.

tangobaby said...

Ms. Hedgehog, I love you. You have totally made my day. I am having museum fulfillment bliss right now.

I so fondly remember the Nereids. The sculptures are so beautifully carved and striking to look at. And that winged bull, so huge and commanding. It seriously looks like another trip to London is in order for me.

Did you get to see the Lindow Man, too? Poor guy. He didn't get the mummy treatment, did he?

msHedgehog said...

I didn't see him on this visit - I've seen him before though. I was more in an art mood.