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What better place to visit for cool ancient objects and their stories than a museum!? But, wow, can they be overwhelming! Don’t panic…we want you and your kids to enjoy your museum visit so we have complied some great tips for visiting museums with kids!  

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You’ve probably heard the saying Love conquers all. This timeless saying goes all the way back to the Roman poet Virgil in his “Eclogues”. In Latin, he writes, 

“Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori”

Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love

-Virgil

Not even War can beat Love! Sandro Botticelli celebrates Love’s triumph through depictions of Venus, the goddess of love! There’s his famous work The Birth of Venus (which you can see at the Uffizi). But, today, we’ll take about his painting, Venus and Mars.  

This spectacular piece contains some humor, cool myths, classical references, and marriage themes! What’s not to love!? 

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A young woman with nonhuman countenance, is carried on a conch shell, wafted to shore by playful zephyrs; and it seems that heaven rejoices in her birth.”

-Poliziano

Who is this young woman Poliziano is speaking of? It’s none other than Venus, the beautiful goddess of love! Venus, and other gods and goddesses, are central icons in some Renaissance works especially as scholars and artists alike looked towards the classics. Remember Bronzino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupid or even Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne? Those are just a few paintings we’ve touched on that focus on the myths!  

I’d like to introduce you to another great painting featuring Venus: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus! This painting reimagines the very beginning of our favorite love goddess. For inspiration, Botticelli most likely looked towards his friend Poliziano and classical writers Homer and Virgil.  

Why don’t we see what Botticelli’s painting has to say about Venus!?  

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Italian painter, Tiziano Vecellio, better known as Titian, knew how to tell a story in a single frame. In one painted scene, Titian weaves together a story of abandonment and the thrill of love at first sight alongside the immortalizing and captivating powers of classical gods and playfully rowdy mythical creatures. This is the pictured story of Bacchus and Ariadne.  

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Leicester Square (say it like Lester) is a cultural hub and entertainment center in London. From great dining, shopping, theatres and casinos, Leicester Square has something for everyone! Read on to discover just what you can do during your visit.  

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Gods, goddesses, and creatures, oh my! Bronzino took advantage of such mystical figures to create an intellectually pleasing (and eye-catching!) allegorical painting. Let’s decode the many interlocking secrets hidden throughout An Allegory with Venus and Cupid (1545).  

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Hans Holbein the Younger, Self Portrait at the Uffizi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re ever curious about 16th century portraitists, look no further than our German friend, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)! He’s one of the most accomplished painters out there with his versatility and technical ability. Like our good friend, Jan van Eyck, Holbein used oil painting to achieve realistic textures in his works. Many 16th century celebrities – from King Henry VIII, Erasmus, to Anne of Cleves – vied for Holbein to capture their looks.  

But wait! When discussing Holbein, we have to mention his double portrait (it’s practically full-length and life-sized), The Ambassadors (1533). At first glance, this eye-catcher commemorates two friends, showing off their wealth and status. But, if you look closer, you’ll notice references to the English Reformation and Holbein’s own message about life and mortality. Since it’s Halloween season (BOO! 👻), it seems fitting to take a closer look at such spooky themes! 

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Oil, light, marriage, wealth, religion, and a mystery man in a mirror. What can we make of this? Who is Jan van Eyck? Read on to find out!

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Who is Paolo Uccello? What is he known for? What can we learn from his work? Let’s find out! Read on to find out who Paolo is while taking a closer look at one of his masterpieces: The Battle of San Romano.

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Trafalgar Square is a central gathering place you might have been to many times, but do you know everything about it? Read on to discover tidbits about its present, past, and some quirks (surveillance lamp attachment, anyone?).

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Upon first glance, you might expect this alleyway to be filled with witches and wizards shopping for wands at Ollivander’s, school robes at Madame Malkin’s, or buying new spell books at Flourish and Botts. Unfortunately, this charming street is not Diagon Alley, the center of London’s Wizarding World in Harry Potter series, it is actually Goodwin’s Court!

Goodwin’s Court! Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Davric, CC BY-SA 4.0.  

Located a short walk away from the Leicester Square tube station, Goodwin’s Court was clearly a key inspiration for the wizarding world! If Diagon Alley isn’t designed to look like Goodwin’s Court, then Knockturn Alley (the dark wizard’s Diagon) was definitely inspired by this London alleyway. It is believed that the Harry Potter film team could not use Goodwin’s Court as a filming location, due to the fact that it was too narrow, but they took major inspiration from the alleyway still. 

Can you imagine waving your magic want in Goodwin’s Court? Photo from E2 Architecture.  

Take a look at these clips from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in America) and from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Can you see where Goodwin’s Court provided inspiration?

Diagon Alley Scene – Harry Potter

Diagon Alley – Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets 

The Harry Potter movies aren’t the only ones to use Goodwin’s Court in some film capacity – the movie Mary Poppins Returns actually used the alleyway in a scene (click here if you’re interested in more iconic London film locations)! As Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda traipse through London with grand musical numbers, they dip into an alleyway looking for a hidden door. This alleyway, you guessed it, is Goodwin’s Court! The charming street looks just as perfect within the Great Depression era of London, as it does in a magical wizarding world! 

Check out this video: London Film Locations 2 – Covent Garden: Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, Superman and more! to get a sneak peak into the different films shot at Goodwin’s Court!

The plaque on Goodwin’s Court dates its origin back to 1690. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, John Levin, CC BY-SA 2.0. 

This charming piece of London offers a window into the past with gaslit lamps, ornate window fronts, and exclusive foot traffic fit for Charles Dickens and eras past. According to a plaque at the entrance of the alleyway tells us that Goodwin’s Court was built in 1690 (Wow!) and was previously known as Fishers Alley. The buildings are believed to be over 300 years old – older than the United States of America even!  

Goodwin’s Court is a great photo location — duel your friend as if you were Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, or click your heels in the air like Mary Poppins, Jack, and the Banks kids (you’ll get the chance to pose for a pic on our London Street Fun hunt!). This slice of history is not only a window into the past but a window into some of our favorite movies! Explore Goodwin’s Court and make a little magic of your own by adventuring out on our new London Street Fun treasure hunt! 

If you liked this blog post, you may also like our other THATMuse post Four Iconic London Film Locations as well!

“A half-blood of the eldest gods, Shall reach sixteen against all odds, And see the world in endless sleep, The hero’s soul, cursed blade shall reap, A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze.”

This epic prophecy guides the events of Rick Riordan’s beloved Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, fantasy adventure novels based in Greek mythology. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll remember how important prophecies are and they are central to classic Greek mythology. If you’ll let me play oracle for a moment, here is a prophecy for you as you read this THATMuse blog post:  

A reader shall delve into the spirals of endless learning,  

From one post a thirst for knowledge you are affirming, 

Stories woven together from mouth, to paint, to text, to screen,  

Heroes of centuries and years, in museums and novels beg to be seen, 

Raise a glass to wedding guests and parents one in the same,  

A beginning to a treasure hunt we do proclaim.  

To begin your endless learning (after all, we learn something new every day, right?) I will be introducing you to the Sophilos Dinos, which illustrates a result of (yet another) prophecy about Zeus and Poseidon.

The depiction of Sophilos Dinos starts out as a wedding, and actually has a direct tie to the Percy Jackson series! Believed to have been created between the years 580BC and 570BC in the Attica region of Greece, this black-figured wine bowl was acquired by the British Museum in 1971. The dinos were painted by Sophilos, who specialized in the black-figure painting of complex, continuous narratives

The story of Sophilos Dinos is essentially a wedding between two individuals known as Peleus and Thetis, which is also a Greek myth. The sea-nymph Thetis was adored by the king of the Gods, Zeus, and his brother, Poseidon, the God of the sea. However, their love turned sour when they learned of the prophecy that Thetis’ son was destined to be more powerful than his father. In order to prevent this from happening, Thetis was betrothed to the mortal hero Peleus and promised a wedding of grandeur. 

The wine bowl, which provides a closer look at the wedding scene. On the far right, you can see Peleus, holding up a glass to welcome the wedding guests. Photo courtesy of the British Museum.
The Sophilos Dinos, pictured in full, from the front. The wedding scene is on the top register. Photo courtesy of the British Museum. 

In the top register of the dinos, Sophilos depicts the arrival of the gods at said magnificent event. The first arrivals include the God of wine Dionysos, who is followed by Hebe and the centaur Chiron. Then enter the chariot procession of the gods, led by Zeus and Hera, followed by Poseidon and Amphitrite, then Hermes and Apollo, Ares and Aphrodite, and Athena and Artemis. Between the chariots are Fates, Graces, and Muses. What a grand affair! And how nice of Sophilos to create a family portrait – as siblings, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, and in-laws make up the entirety of the wedding guests. This wedding began a string of events that triggered the Trojan War, but that is a story for another day! 

How do Thetis and Peleus’ nuptials – and their prestigious guests – relate to our favorite demi-god Percy and his five-book (or two-movie, if that is more your thing) journey? Well, many of the guests captured in Sophilos’ detailed vase painting appear in Rick Riordan’s story

The hero, Percy Jackson, is the son of Poseidon, Thetis’ at-one-time admirer and wedding guest. Annabeth, Percy’s best friend (and — spoiler alert — girlfriend!) is the daughter of another wedding guest, Athena, the Goddess of wisdom.  

Remember Camp Half-Blood (and the epic game of capture the flag?) well, the ever-eccentric director of camp, Mr. D, is the God Dionysus, who, in the Percy Jackson tales, was sentenced to one hundred years of “rehab” as camp director with an endless supply of Diet Coke replacing wine. In the Sophilos dinos, the centaur Chiron enters after Dionysus, and at Camp Half-Blood he is the beloved activities director (you might also remember him as Mr. Brunner when he posed as a teacher at Percy’s school in The Lightening Thief!).  

Many of the rest of Thetis and Peleus’ wedding guests are important pieces of the Percy Jackson stories. All of the major gods and goddesses – such as Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Ares, and Aphrodite – all make appearances in the series, and many are the parents of the demigods (half-god, half-human) attend camp Half-Blood with Percy! One notable example is Hermes, who arrived on a chariot with Apollo to the wedding, was the estranged father of Luke Castellan, sometimes friend and oftentimes foe of Percy.  

To Conclude on this epic adventure of comparison and history…

The crazy cast of characters that appears in both the Sophilos Dinos and the Percy Jackson books make for some interesting stories! If you’re interested in learning more about ancient Greek mythology, you can check out our other blog posts here or you can do a book hunt where you’ll have the opportunity to see important artifacts like the Sophilos Dinos up close! With that, your prophecy has come true! Book your THATMuse treasure hunt now as to not disobey the fates!  

Henry VIII, His Wives (and their demise!)

King Henry's Six Wives
Henry VIII’s Six Wives (taken from Fanpop)

Henry VIII was an all-around shocking, certainly groundbreaking (breaking being the operative word!), and thoroughly unforgettable king. Particularly notorious is his marital life—going through six wives. This month we’re launching our first ever London Street Fun Treasure Hunt. The Hunt is for about 50 kids (hailing from 40 nationalities, speaking 30 languages collectively!) from the upper school of EIFA International School in London’s Marylebone. One of the threads that ties our London Street Fun treasure hunt together is the story of Henry VIII, his wives – and their demise! So dig in and get ready for a regular Hello! Magazine, scandalous article that will answer some bonus questions for the street hunt.

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If you’re visiting London, there’s so much to see (and do)! But where can you find great photo spots in London that will look amazing on Instagram and be a cool memory to look back on? I’ve chosen some unique places for you to visit so get your cameras ready! 

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Today we’ll focus on the marvelous Hans Memling. This Netherlandish fellow became active in 1465 in Bruges where he was an artistic sensation! He created many altarpieces and portraits for wealthy patrons. Memling’s Portinari portrait is one such notable work. Alongside discussing wealth, status, and religion, I’ll unveil the paintings missing piece, illusions, and oil-aging phenomenon! 

Are you intrigued?

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Bronzino, a mannerist artist, delighted in creating witty paintings with hidden, complex meanings. Bronzino’s Portrait of a Young Man contains many clues alluding to the young man’s identity, you just have to look closely! So, hone your inner Sherlock Holmes and let’s unmask the youth! 

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Warning! The reign of Roman Emperor Caligula involves a descent into murder and madness! I don’t know about you but I think it’s time to put Caligula on trial and uncover his many transgressions.

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Do you know how the Ancient Greeks dealt with death? Start by looking back to the Geometric period where there’s Hades’ Underworld, elaborate burial rituals, and detailed ancient Greek funerary vases like the terracotta krater! 

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Two forms becoming one is Hermaphrodite. With roots in ancient Greek mythology, the tale of Hermaphrodite relates to modern discussions of gender identity and, through sculptural depictions, this figure becomes a beautiful ambiguity everyone can experience.   

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Brrrrr, winter sure is in full swing! At the very least, Jean Antoine Houdon’s Winter sculpture definitely sets the winter-esque mood. It’s an all in one allegorical and sensual piece that just makes you want to get away from the cold. So, curl up next to a fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate and settle in for a discussion about Houdon’s Winter

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Every building has a story especially the Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian structure. The temple started as a place of ritual and a colorful home to deities. It went from almost drowning to being disassembled and moved across an ocean. Now, it is admired as a piece of art with the occasional movie feature! 

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Visiting heavenly angels always have important messages to deliver! The question is, are you ready to receive it?  

I may not be an angel, but I’ve got an interesting story to tell you about Botticelli’s Annunciation. Ready? Okay, let’s begin. 

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Does your home have a cool passageway connecting you across town? Probably not, but the Medici family had the Vasari Corridor built across Florence making for a quick, private trip between their home and work. Cool right?!  

Okay, I admit, it’s not like you’re pulling a special book and a secret door opens, but the Vasari Corridor has gone through quite an adventure! And, luckily for us, the corridor is not so secretly exclusive anymore so let’s check it out. 

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Rembrandt is the equivalent of a modern-day selfie connoisseur! As a great 17th century self-portrait artist, Rembrandt’s many artistic ‘selfies’ explore his identity throughout his lifetime. Let’s look behind the camera (or painting for that matter) to find out just why Rembrandt earned the prestigious title of a Selfie King and, while we’re at it, see what his selfie’s can teach us!  

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What’s not interesting about a statue depicting a Greek hero triumphantly holding the severed head of a creature that turns people into stone statues!? (My how the tables have turned….)  

 Antonio Canova had the right idea when he did exactly that! Let’s look at this daring sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa and see what details we can uncover!  

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