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).
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!
Why would anyone want to bury a ship? This question is asked in the Netflix original movie “The Dig” which explores the 1939 Great Ship Burial excavation at Sutton Hoo. Read on to find out about the true story behind the movie!
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?).
The British Museum holds a coin collection bearing the faces of Roman emperors and empresses, including Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger. While not all these coins are currently on display, the stories behind them are filled with politics and drama. They tell a dramatic tale about those who ruled one of the largest empires in history.
One particularly interesting empress was Faustina the Younger (130-175 AD), the daughter of Roman Emperor Antonius Pius (ruled 138-161) and empress Annia Galeria Faustina (more well-known as Faustina the Elder). In fact, a coin of Faustina the Elder is displayed at the British Museum and is part of a future British Museum THATMuse digital hunt! Stay tuned and follow us on Instagram for updates! She was married off to her cousin, Emperor Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161-180), by her father. Together they had twelve to fourteen children, only six of which survived to adulthood, five daughters and one son. Their son, Commodus, became the Roman Emperor after his father.
Rumor Has It
Rumors flew around the Roman Empire that Faustina the Younger had committed adultery multiple times – the most memorably with a gladiator. Though probably false and created by Faustina’s biggest enemies, the rumors are a lasting piece of Faustina’s legacy.
According to the legends, Faustina fell head over heels in love with a gladiator – despite her marriage to the emperor Marcus Aurelius. In the Roman times, gladiators were seen as sex symbols and as an aphrodisiac. Rich women in the Roman Empire would swoon over the gladiators. Some hired them as body guards to protect them, as well as have affairs with them. The story goes that when Marcus Aurelius found out about the affair, he was advised to take an unusual approach!
As told in the Historia Augusta, Marcus Aurelius had the gladiator executed and forced Faustina to “bathe in his blood” — ick! A gladiator’s blood was a way to renew passion between the adulterer (Faustina) and their spouse (Marcus Aurelius). Therefore, afterwards, Faustina and Marcus Aurelius slept together.
Alongside gladiators, Faustina is believed to have slept with sailors and soldiers. One lasting legacy of these affairs were the rumors about her son,Commodus, as people said he was the son of Faustina’s gladiator lover or another lover making him an ‘illegal’ child. Though never confirmed, many believe it true based on descriptions of Commodus acting like a gladiator during his ruling. There were also rumors about Faustina ordering deaths, including poisoning and executions, which made many believe she was an evil.
Despite the turmoil which surrounded her reputation, upon her death, Marcus Aurelius buried Faustina the Younger at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome, and claimed her a deified mortal. In a life of scandalous love affairs, executions, and rumors, Faustina’s story would be at home on reality TV today. Would you turn on “Keeping up with the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty”?
Sniffer, schnozz, snoot, honker, snout, beak, nariz, nez. Whatever you call your nose, don’t turn it up at guerilla street art! One intriguing display, which has been surrounded by tales and legends is the Seven Noses of Soho.
In 1997, 35 plaster noses appeared inLondon. This guerrilla art installation appeared in popular areas and important public buildings. The National Gallery sprouted a nose, as did Tate Britain, Piccadilly Circus, South Bank Centre, and St Pancras Station. Many of the 35 noses were discovered and removed, but seven remain today (hence the name, Seven Noses of SoHo!). The Endell Street nose, while not in SoHo but in Covent Garden, is one of the remaining sniffers. You can find this white plaster cast affixed to the side of Service Graphics (Hmmm…could that help you on our new London Street Fun treasure hunt?)
The best-known legend of these seven noses states that if you find all seven noses, you will become fabulously wealthy and live a life of grandeur. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Our London Street Fun hunt doesn’t take you to all of the noses, but we’ll introduce you to one of them, which is a great start on your journey to gain fabulous wealth when you find the rest!
One nose, in particular, is surrounded by many an urban legend. Attached to the Admiralty Arch, a landmark building connecting the Mall to Trafalgar Square, this small nose cannot be removed without damaging the building (if you follow us on social media @That_muse_ on Twitter and Instagram this will be old newsto you, and if you don’t follow us, you should for more fun facts!)
One legend says that this nose was installed to mock Napoleon, and cavalry troops tweaked the schnozz as they passed under the arch. Others say that the nose honors the Duke of Wellington, who was particularly well known for his honker of a nose. The Admiralty Arch nose has even been rumored to be a spare for the memorial statue of Admiral Lord Nelson which adorns the top of the Trafalgar Square column in case the original fell off!
These are fun tales, but alas the histories of the noses have an explanation. While the noses debuted in 1997, it wasn’t until 2011 that artist Rick Buckley came forward to reveal the truth about the mysterious sniffers around London. Buckley was responding to an increase in CCTV cameras in London. He explained that he was inspired by the Situationists, a group of artists from the mid-nineteenth century who used sporadic performance art as a form of social critique and protest.
“I wanted to see if I could get away with it without being detected,” Buckley told the Evening Standard, “The afterthought was that it would be great if these protrusions would become part of the structure themselves.” The noses were produced with a mold of Buckley’s own and made with plaster of Paris and polymer. They were then affixed to the walls with glue and painted to match the color of the wall to which they were attached.
Next time you’re in London, keep an eye out for these nosey pieces of public, guerilla art! Here in bold is an answer to your THATMuse challenges on the London Street Fun treasure hunt: the Endell Street Nose can be found on the Service Graphics building in Covent Garden!
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!
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.
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?
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!
This charming piece of London offers a window into the past with gaslit lamps, ornate window fronts, and exclusive foot traffic fit for Charles Dickensand 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!
“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.
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 inRick 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 postshere 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!
You might have been to Covent Garden —the bustling tourist market sprawling in London—but do you know everything about it? From wild punk groups to fascinating shops to a sometimes-salacious history, read on to find our 5 fun facts!
London boasts many iconic designs that are immediately recognizable, even if you’ve never been. The upper school of EIFA InternationalSchool in London’s Marylebone are launching our London Street Treasure Hunt. The teams will pass the following Icons of Design. Some exchange with one of the below may even grant treasure hunters extra points! After EIFA students are sent scouring the streets from Bloomsbury to Covent Garden, we’ll release the hunt to the general public.
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.