The wandering museum: El Prado in Geneva
There is a certain capriciousness to most things and the success or failure of art exhibitions is one of them. The Nazis experienced this first hand when they simultaneously organized the Degenerate Art Exhibition and The Great German Art Exhibition. Germany may have been great in Goebbels’ mind, but the art of his exhibition certainly wasn’t. Except for the most ardent party card carrying member, the Great German was a difficult dish to savour; not many visited the one dedicated to the eternal genius of the Aryan race, whilst more than 20.000 people per day queued to see why Weimar artists were attempting an “Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist Rule”. If the Degenerate Art Exhibition was the success story, albeit unintended, of 1936, the Masterpieces of the Prado Exhibition in Geneva was the art event of 1939. Because of the actions of another war mongering, power hungry dictator, the hastily put together exhibition was effectively the transposition of one of the best art collections in the word to what was effectively a minor museum in a Swiss city, a free city.
On November 16 1936, Francisco Franco’s planes bombed Madrid. Nine of the incendiary bombs dropped on the centre of capital of Spain by the rebel general hit the Museo del Prado, which caught fire. This prompted the Republican Government to try to save the collection, the most important in the country and one of the most valuables in the world. The decision was made to move them further away from the frontline and the push for Madrid that the Nationalist were attempting. The paintings were loaded in 71 trucks and carried to Valencia, where in less than a month a propaganda exhibition was organized “as a testimony to the civilized world of the culture saved by the anti-fascist people”.
La carga de los mamelucos, Francisco de Goya, 1814
But, alas, neither propaganda nor bravery could stop the slow but unrelenting advance of the Nationalists. Although Valencia, the city where almost 1000 years earlier El Cid had died withstanding another invader, would go on uncaptured until the very last day of the war, the government decided that it would be prudent and safer to move the Prado once again, this time to Cataluña. Trucks were loaded and the long and dangerous convoy started to move north. Bombs fell, as they usually do in wars. Paintings were damaged. One of Goya’s, La Carga de los Mamelucos, severely so. Crossing the Ebro with such voluminous paintings, like Las Meninas, proved difficult, but the collection finally arrived, relatively unscathed, to its new destination: two castles and a talc mine where they were hidden for a while.
But the enemies continued their advance until the imminent fall of Cataluña made the evacuation out of Spain necessary. The French gave the paintings the same safe passage that were giving at that point to the sea of people crossing the Pyrenees, the one that they refused to the last remnants of the Republican army, trapped in Valencia and Alicante and that chose suicide rather than falling in the hands of the enemy. The paintings left Spain at the beginning of February 1939 and arrived in Geneva one week later. At that point the war was practically over and the Republic had fallen. By the time the exhibition opened, in June, there was a new government in Madrid, one that would stay in power for almost 35 years. The exhibition was a success: Van der Weyden, Velazquez, Goya were exhibited for the first time in Swiss soil but the government that had protected the national treasures was no more.
By then it was Franco who ripped the benefits: the exhibition, following Hitler’s example, but with the advantage of Art on his side, became a celebration of Spanish nationalism. The main gallery was named the Imperial Room. He managed with the help of the Gestapo to throw in jail some of those who for years had risked their lives to save the national patrimony. There is also a lack of justice to most things, but at least the paintings were not destroyed by the bombs of a war that should have never started. On September 2 1939, one day after another, longer deadlier war began in Europe, the exhibition closed and the paintings made their way back to Madrid, after three wandering years.
Rossetti, Dante and the exhumed wife
In 1848, a group of painters, which included a very young and promising Dante Gabriel Rossetti, formed the seven member’s Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood., whose credo, penned down in an unusually latitudinarian manifesto for such a dogmatic group, was properly issued. The main tenets of the Brotherhood was the rejection of all painting that came after Raphael, and the promotion of the Quattrocento, with its bright colours, florentine predilection for the line and pre-mannerist style of composition. They also had, especially Rossetti, who would later bequeath it to William Morris, an avid interest in all things Medieval.
Exhibitions were held; magazines published; each painting was signed with the name of the painter and the initials PRB. Critics and academics hated them as much as the Pre-Raphaelites hated the critics and established painters. Effervescent, the Brotherhood split after 5 years, consumed by its own intensity. Rossetti continued its style and subjects, producing a stream of well-delined medieval femme fatales from his numerous models and muses. Fanny Cornforth, Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, Alexa Wilding, Marie Stillman. Some of them, besides the more chaste role of muses, were his lovers, not always sequentially.
Elizabeth Siddal, who became Rossetti’s wife, died of a drug overdose of laudanum in 1862, at just 32 and only 2 years after marrying Rossetti. Her husband had painted hundreds of portraits, in different mediums, of her future wife. He wrote poems to her. They gave each other nicknames and lived in isolation, basking in their mutual love. When she died, the grieving husband, ridden with guilt, buried her with the unpublish collection of poems he had written for her, the meticulous manuscript deposited by the head of the muse that he had painted so often, her long Hayworth hair carefully wrapped around the book.
Dante Alighieri had been a source of inspiration for Rossetti from the beginning of his career, his Medieval sensitivities attuned to the works of the Florentine poet. He had altered the order of his names, so Dante would come first. He had translated La Vita Nuova into English. After Siddal’s dead, using some of the drawings he had made of her as a model, Rossetti painted her as Beata Beatrix, Dante’s undying chivalric love, his cult object, the woman who had conquered death and guided him through Paradise. Beatrice had also died young, at 25, in the Republic of Florence.
But neither pain nor mourning last forever and soon Rossetti found comfort on Cornforth’s embrace again, his ideals of courtly love unable to check his natural propensities. He also started an affair with another of his muses, Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris, with whom he lived in a more or less public menage a trois. Contradicting not only his Medievals notions, but John Keats, the poet he tried to emulate, Rosetti went to Lethe and allowed himself to be persuaded by Jane and others to publish the poems that he had carefully put down by his dead wife’s brow. He had a friend unbury the coffin, open it, and recover the impure manuscript which he published the following year, in 1870.
But the poems were not well received, he had a mental breakdown, and in order to sleep, took chloral hydrate, with whisky chasers to remove the bad taste of the drug or of his conscience, and spent the last 10 years of his life in a state of sopor, now himself a drug addict. In an appropriate Dantean contrapasso, Rossetti was condemned by failing to keep his ideals with the same punishment that Elizabeth had suffered, the wife whose love and body he had desecrated.
Almost 200 hundred years ago, in a day like today, May 12, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born in London. He died in Kent at 53.
Different Vessels of Ancient Greek Pottery
Here are some of the main Ancient Greek Pottery Vessels that were most prominent.
Oinochoe: A wine pitcher that has only one handle
Chytrai: These were very large and designed for cooking purposes. Chytrai were made of rough clay as they didn’t need to look pretty and polished when they were only used in the kitchen behind the scenes.
Hydria: A hydria is used as a water jar. It has three handles on it, used for carrying and pouring out water.
Amphora: Mainly used for the storage of grains or sometimes wine, the amphora is a large vessel with a lid and two handles.
Kylix: This is a drinking cup that has a few different designs.
Kraters: There are multiple styles of Kraters, including the calyx, column, bell, and volute styles. Kraters are used for mixing wine and water.
Lekythos: A narrow-necked flask that is used for both pouring oils and fragrances.
Some of the most iconic Greek Pottery pieces
The First Signed Ancient Greek Vessels:
The artist Sophilos’ Dinos (cauldron):
This Dinos depicts the scene of Peleus and Thetis’ wedding, present with multiple different orientalizing motifs, dating this piece back to the Orientalizing Period and is from about 580 BC. Overall, this piece is incredibly unique as it is one of the first to be signed by its artist, “Sophilos painted me” was painted by Sopilos between the columns at Peleus’ house. This was unseen and unheard of before this.
The François Vase:
This large Attic style krater has classic black-figure motifs and is dated back to 570 BC. Erigotimos was the potter while Kleitias was the painter. Both of the had signed the vessel, showing us many different clues into Ancient Greek life. For example, the fact that there is both a potter and a painter, we can deduce that there was a specialization of work even back then. The krater was found in Etruria which shows that trade of various vessels were still carried out in Athens at this time.
Other Unique Works:
Yet another Archaic period potter, Exekias used an increase in the of black on his black-figure pottery, allowing for only the middle section to be the classic orange color. In general, his pottery was quite unique not only because of this but with how he portrayed quite serious scenes with high emotions. For example, with the use of emotions in his depiction of the suicide of Ajax. Normally, it would be quite the somber event, but Exakias added emotion to it.
The Andokides painter painted six different “bilingual” vases. Bilingual vases are when both red-figure and black-figure paintings are used on the same vessel, which was very unique and needed to be done by a highly skilled artisan. The one pictured below depicts Hoplites with Athena and Hermes.
These are a few of the different Ancient Greek Pottery shapes and some of the most iconic pieces on display today!
Did you enjoy this blog post on different Ancient Greek pottery vessels? Then, check out others like it here. You can join us on Treasure Hunts at Museums to learn even more about these fascinating works of art. Sign up for hunts at the British Museum, the Louvre, the Orsay, and the Natural History Museum!
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 in London. 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 news to 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!
If you liked this THATMuse blog post, check out our others, such as 5 Fun Things about London’s Convent Garden! and Street Treasure Hunts.
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?
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!
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.
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!
Look who’s thumbing their nose at the British (Empire)
Who doesn’t like a bit of under-dog irreverence? One of the V&A’s highlights, the Tipu Tiger, taunted the British Empire in the most hilarious way.Read More
Anyone who has studied Greek mythology will have come face-to-face with the centaurs at some point. If you’ve never heard of these half-human, half-horse creatures of Ancient Greek mythology, or would like to know more about them, read on…Read More
Avviso veloce: alcune delle informazioni in grassetto potrebbero essere risposte a domande bonus nella tua caccia Divertimento e Giochi, la cui Prima Verisione in Italiano, sarà Venerdì 3 Aprile alle 17.30.
I Greci rispettavano le regole del buon costume in modo molto diligente: le donne dovevano essere delle bravi madri, bimbi e ragazzi frequentavano la scuola, la palestra e si preparavano per diventare forti guerrieri, i più anziani consigliavano, con la loro saggezza, le nuove generazioni, e tutti pregavano gli dei durante le festività religiose. C’era un’occasione, però, in cui quasi tutto era concesso e in cui le regole del buon costume potevano essere dimenticate: il simposio. I nostri musei sono pieni di vasi che mostrano simposiasti che si divertono e giocano; il motivo della loro popularità è semplice: i Greci, come gli Egizi, i Cinesi, gli Anglo-Sassoni e le genti della Mesopotamia, spesso seppellivano i propri morti con dei giochi (o scene di giochi), per permettergli di divertirsi durante la loro vita ultraterrena.Read More
Just a heads up: things in bold might be answers to bonus questions on your Fun & Games hunt!
The First ever Version in Italian will be on Friday April 3rd at 5.30 pm.
You can also read this blog in Italian here!
From sculptures to pottery, from paintings to temples, mythology is a broad topic in ancient Greek art and architecture. The Parthenon architecture, one of the most famous ancient complexes of all times, is a striking example of how the ancient Greeks took inspiration from their classical mythology to make sense of the real world.Read More
Love Hunt: The Ain Sakhri Lovers
Today for our third Love Hunt blog we have a very special object. The oldest and most mysterious object on our Love Hunt: The Ain Sakhri Lovers. Possibly the oldest porn in the world!
This statue is the oldest known representation in the world of two people making love. Discovered in the Ain Sakhri caves near Bethlehem, it dates back around 11,000 years. At this time, humans were only just learning how to move from hunter-gathering to farming. The Natufian people of the Middle East who made this sculpture we’re some of the first to begin to domesticate sheep and goats, alongside their hunting dogs for catching deer.Read More