THATMuse

Look who’s thumbing their nose at the British (Empire)

The Tipu Tiger (aka Tippoo’s Tiger) was made between 1782-1799

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.

Automatons are the forerunner of modern robotics. Ideas for building them dated back to the Ancient Greeks with mathematician and inventor extraordinaire Archimedes. Automatons resurfaced in popularity in 18th Century Europe, which makes it no surprise that one of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s highlights is a semi-automaton; semi because the ‘Tipu Tiger’ operates on a hand crank.

Carved from wood and nearly life size, the Tipu Tiger depicts a tiger mauling a European (hmmm British Empire, anyone?) soldier. As the crank rotates, gadgets inside the tiger trigger the unlucky White Man’s hand raised in self-defense as he gasps in horror, moaning in his agonizing and violent death!

Who was the Tiger?

Meanwhile the ferocious tiger – symbolising Tipu’s Southern Indian Dynasty – growls from an 18-note (yes, the tiger hits eighteen notes) pipe organ roaring from within the tiger’s throat. A flap on its side allows someone to open the tiger up and play the organ. Tipu’s Tiger was clearly built by the most talented tinkerer in the land. The Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India, even had his soldiers dress in Tiger-clad uniforms, he took the ferocious emblem so seriously.

Emulating the Mughals, the British hunted tigers. This was a symbolic defeat of Tipu Sultan and all those who dared to stand up to British Empire domination! Possibly not the smartest move: In 1792 a Briton named Hugh Munro savagely met his death in a tiger attack in the Bay of Bengal; his father, Sir Hector Munro was a division commander during the Second Anglo-Mysore Battle (1780-1784). It was this battle which had defeated Tipu Sultan’s father. Understandably, by the time Tipu came around, he had a major chip on his shoulder about the British.

Sultan Tipu of Mysore, 1790-1800, V&A Collection

For Sultan Tipu the tiger striking down the European represented his symbolic triumph over the British – until, of course, the East India Company soldiers stormed and pillaged Mysore in 1799, pillaging their treasures — and killing Sultan Tipu. The British soldiers pocketed many of the sumptuous tiger treasures (From plates and tea sets to gilded door knobs, crowns and the Sultan’s throne) for themselves, as well. That the Tipu Tiger was only made of wood and served no real purpose, was its saving grace.

The Tiger’s arrival to London

Upon arrival to England, the Tipu Tiger was wildly popular & displayed at the East India House on Leadenhall Street from 1808. The public was even able to play the soldier’s wailing and tiger’s grunting with the crank-handle turns. Flaubert, bored on his visit to London for the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, wrote of his visit taking a turn for the better when he ventured up to Leadenhall Street to see the Tipu Tiger! 

East India House, by Thomas Malton the Younger (1748-1804), watercolour over etched outline. Courtesy of the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (which has a great collection)

We’re looking at converting a treasure hunt so you can play at home. We’d greatly appreciate any and all suggestions for how you could picture playing with our treasures, such as the Tipu Tiger! To rack up bonus points, our in-person V&A treasure hunters were requested to imitate the attack, the videos of which were a great hit with corporate team building, especially!

What automaton would you design to chronicle our times? Perhaps a bunch of humans chatting in front of their computer screens on zoom?

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
Italian Flag

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.  

Greek Art and Mythology: one of the earliest representations of the Trojan Horse, 750-650 BC 
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

THATKid Tuesday is a dose of Art History terms for kids, simplified and illustrated. These terms are culled from the glossary found in our Kid Packs, booklets you receive on Luxe Hunts that offer travelling families exercises that I, as a mother, have found useful giving to Storsh and Balthazar at restaurants when travelling. The Kid Packs have art fun such as a Botticelli spot-the-difference, Michelangelo connect-the-dots or some da Vinci Decoding (do you know he kept his journal in a secret language?!!)

Today’s THATKid Tuesday is … perspective. This is the 1st of 2 posts on perspective as it’s unreasonably complicated and can confuse plenty of adults, too.

Perspective is a word for various techniques that artists use to show a 3D world on a 2D surface (like a canvas or page).

It can be broken into two areas: Linear Perspective (such as Single-point perspective, which uses a typ of Linear Perspective) and Atmospheric Perspective.

painting of an empty city by Piero della Francesca
See the Vanishing Point in Piero della Francesca’s View of an Ideal City?

One point perspective is a system to assist in realistically rendering a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional surface by using lines which radiate from one point (known as a vanishing point) on the horizon line. One point perspective differs from two point and three point perspectives in that there is only one vanishing point. See the Renaissance painting above, by Piero della Francesca?

Perspective can be quite complicated (besides linear perspective there’s aerial/atmospheric perspective (just think of the Mona Lisa‘s landscape in the back), single-point and multi-point perspective). The nitty gritty of perspective in art is the way that objects appear smaller when they are further away and that objects are foreshortened. Foreshortening is when an object appears shorter than it would be, in order to give depth to the painting. We’ll be writing another THATKid post with some examples of foreshortening soon, so don’t worry if you don’t know what it means!

In Renaissance Italy, artists were rediscovering the rules of perspective and paying special attention to how they were depicting volumes and spatial relationships on flat surfaces. The word “perspective” comes from the Latin perspicere, meaning to see through. When perspective is used, it’s as if we’re looking through a window (2D) into the world of the painting (3D).

The first type of perspective we’ll be covering, though, is one-point perspective. This is a type of linear perspective, which is used for paintings or photos where the subject, which could be a building, a room, or something else, is directly facing the viewer. With one-point perspective, there’s a horizon line, which is the viewer’s eye level in the painting. Often, it’s the point where the sky meets the land or water in the painting.

Another important element is the way parallel lines appear to meet each other at the point in the distance, which is somewhere on the horizon line, and is called the vanishing point.

Sound complicated? Let’s see some examples!

Look at this photo of a railway track below. The horizon is pretty obvious – it’s where the sky meets everything else in the picture. But can you see how the railway lines seem to get closer together the further away they get? And, in the distance, they appear to meet – this is the vanishing point (where the lines meet the horizon and “vanish”). Of course, the tracks aren’t really getting closer together, it just looks that way, which is something that artists can use when trying to imply perspective and distance.

Sometimes, as in the photo above, the vanishing point – where the parallel lines meet – is visible in the painting, but not always. It can be imagined, and well outside of the plane of the painting.

For example, in this painting above, the Oath of Horatii by Jacques-Louis David, the straight lines which make up the building and the floor tiles meet up at a central point, as seen below. The point where all the lines meet is the focal point of the painting.  For David’s painting, which is in the Louvre, the father’s hands, holding the son’s three swords is where our eye is drawn. This is also highlighted by the muted colors in the background against the sharp light telling us where to look.

A focal point is the element in a scene or painting that pulls in the viewer’s eye and is the centre of attention. There are many different ways the artist can achieve this.

Next THATKid perspective will attack other elements of perspective, such as Atmospheric/Aerial Perspective, a whole ‘nother monster!

Any questions about perspective in art? Leave us a comment with any questions!

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, running the 1st Tuesday of each month. In this series we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

This time we’re going to look at Quattrocento.

Quattrocento means the 15th Century. Literally, “Quattro” means 4 in Italian and “Cento” means 100 –there’s your dose of new Italian words for the day! Its pronounced kwatro-chento, give it a go!  

This period marked the early Italian Renaissance in art, sculpture and architecture.  Before this, artists had tried to give their works a spiritual quality but in the Quattrocento, Renaissance artists focused on portraying these spiritual characters as real people. At times this new way of art caused problems as some people felt that the art lacked holiness. Here’s an example of art from this period (above), which you can find at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Look at how the Virgin Mary is portrayed in the first painting as compared to this painting from the 13th Century (below). What do you notice is different about the two paintings? Does the first one look more realistic?

Any questions about the Quattrocento? Please leave any comments or queries below.

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples.Tune in the first Tuesday of the month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid.

THATKid Tuesday is a dose of Art History terms for kids, simplified and illustrated. These terms are culled from the glossary found in our Kid Packs, booklets you receive on Luxe Hunts that offer travelling families exercises. I made one for families visiting London and Paris, b/c as a mother, I’ve really just wanted to have a glass of wine at the end of a lovely day touristing and have found it useful to give Storsh and Balthazar these exercises at restaurants when travelling. The Kid Packs have art fun such as a Botticelli spot-the-difference, Michelangelo connect-the-dots, some da Vinci Decoding (do you know he kept his journal in a secret language?!!) or even some color-in exercises for smaller siblings.

This time we’re going to look at Tempera!

If this has got you thinking of dinner, you’re probably thinking of tempura…

st francis feeding the birds
a detail from Giotto’s Stigmatization of St Francis (1300), using Egg Tempera, au Louvre (did you know our Christmas Nativity dates to St Francis and his love of animals?


Sadly for these artists, tempera is not a food but a method of painting. Artists would grind powdered pigments (colours) into a binding agent such as egg and use this to paint with. Pieces painted in this way, also known as Tempera paintings, were very long-lasting.

Madonna and baby christ
Duccio’s Madonna & Child, 1290-1300, Met (NYC)

This example of a Tempera painting, Duccio’s Madonna and Child, was painted on wood around 1300. This was the main medium used in Classical and Medieval art until it was replaced in Europe by oil painting around 1500. When used for paintings in churches, extra material was sometimes added to give the paint a nice smell. Without this the egg tempera could smell quite bad for some time! At times during the 19th and 20th Centuries some artists began to use Tempera again and it continued to be the required method for Orthodox Icon painting.

Questions or thoughts about Tempera? Just post below!

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, running the 1st Tuesday of each month. In this series we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

This time we’re going to look at Sfumato!

This is a technique where the painter avoids using sharp lines. Instead, colours shade gradually into each other to give soft blurred outlines. Leonard da Vinci used this to great effect. Take a look at the Mona Lisa, one of the Louvre’s most famous pieces:

Take a look at her face in the image below. You can see how sharp lines were avoided and shading was used to make the image more believable.

The word itself comes from the Italian verb Sfumare which means to evaporate, like smoke!

Any questions about Sfumato? Feel free to leave any comments or queries below!

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples.

Tune in the first Tuesday of the month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid.

The THATMuse blog has content pieces about the actual museums where you’re hunting, but we’ve also amassed plenty of recommendations of what to do in Paris and London apart from your museum time. Check out our Travelling in Paris & London category on the blog for pieces from kid-friendly parks, cafes and toyshops to romantic cocktail lounges near our museums.

Here’s a 3-part series on parks by Daisy de Plume, expat mother of two boys growing up in both cities (and THATMuse founder). 

London: Coram’s Fields

Families picnicking in Coram fields

Cornering the Kid Market, Coram’s Fields is hands-down the best Bloomsbury park for kids. Perfectly placed for a post THATMuse treasure hunt at the British Museum. With a prohibitive sign announcing that all adults must be accompanied by a child, this 18th Century park is on the site of the former Foundling Hospital (to which Handel donated his organ, and Hogarth designed the orphans’ uniforms for). With only one entrance to the park, it’s a cornucopia of fun for the kiddies. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: The farm animals, of course! Goats, bunnies, parrots and chickens can all be found out of the way, within the western colonnade. There’s something for all ages, from a sandpit for tots, to a 2-storey tunnel slide. Storsh makes a bee-line for the challenging sling line or zip-wire, though he never gets very far. Heavier teens speed past on this “Death Slide”, but under-10s still have fun mounting the sling-seat for a go. For quick rain showers there’s a somewhat worn but elegant gazebo as well as a café within the open colonnade serving toasties, hot chocolate and treats. In warmer months, a sunken fountain offers a good splash for some frolicking. 8 am – 8 pm

Paris: Jardin des Plantes

colourful flowers in Jardin des plantes
Gorgeous Jardin des Plantes in Summer


Designed in 1635 by Louis XIII’s Doctor, the Jardin des Plants is Paris’s Botanical Gardens, located on the Left Bank. 23.5 hectares (69 acres), it also has an 18th century zoo with animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles, and four main Natural History galleries comprising the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, Paleontology, Entomology and Mineralogy Museums. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: A special treat for Parisian tots is a labyrinth where they can climb in the hallowed-out bushes and secretly make their way up to the next level while parents toddle up the spiraling dirt path. The conical maze is hidden behind the Art Deco Winter Garden (serre in French; the hot house is also worth dipping into). With terraced levels being crowned by a looking-point gazebo, the labyrinth looks a bit like a massive green ziggurat. It’s a delightful treat for kids, but perhaps agree to a special whistle prior to letting your kids run free, as it’s easy for them to get lost in the maze! Or agree ahead of time that they’ll find you at the apex, sitting in the gazebo, so they know to climb up. (Can you tell my 6-year old has scared himself getting lost there aplenty?) METRO: Gare d’Austerlitz (lines 5, 10, RER C), Jussieu (lines 7, 10)

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, running the 1st Tuesday of each month. In this series we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

This time we’re going to look at Friars!

Take Fra Angelico, for example. He was the artist who used continuous narrative to tell the story of St Dominic’s life in the pradella. The ‘Fra’ in his name is an Italian word. It and the French word Frère (brother) come from the Latin word for brother Frater. The English word Friar is derived from Frère.

The next time you’re in a museum try and see if you can spot the different orders that these Friars belonged to by looking at their clothes and cloaks or habits.

Dominicans, like in this painting, wear black over white. The Franciscans wear brown. The Capuchins wear grey and the Carmelites wear a white cloak over a brown habbit. The Augustinians, like the one on the far right, like to keep it simple in all black.

Left: A Franciscan Friar, by Rembrandt. Center: Fra Angelico, The Dominican Blessed, from the pradella of Fiesole Alterpiece.  Right: An Augustininan Friar, by Gerard David.

All of these pieces are in the National Gallery in London.

Any questions about friars in art? Please leave any comments or queries below!

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples.

Tune in the first Tuesday of the month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid.

Part of the reason the Julio-Claudian family is tricky to follow is because of all of the interconnected (read: incest!) relationships. Roman Empress Valeria Messalina, known as just Messalina (12 – 48 AD), was the third wife to Emperor Claudius; a cripple with a stutter. 10 years his junior, she was cousin to her husband Claudius, as well as cousin to his predecessor, Emperor Caligula, as well as paternal cousin to Emperor Nero (to follow Claudius, and to be his step-son — as well as… you guessed it, cousin!). Lastly (to be listed, as the connections go on and on!) she was the great-grand-niece of First Emperor Augustus. All of them (Messalina, Claudius, Caligula and Nero) were descendants of Livia, 1st Empress of Rome. Incest aside, she was what one would consider a powerful woman – as well as being a lady of, let’s say ‘compromising morals’, and a conspiring lady at that (for which she would eventually be beheaded)

Marble statue of Messalina holding baby Brittanicus, Louvre
Messalina and Brittanicus at the Louvre, taken from Flickr, Dipity

Robert Graves depicts Emperor Claudius as adoring Messalina for her beauty and youth. Whether this is true or not, we don’t know, but she did bare him two children directly after they were married in 38 AD, Claudia Octavia (who would be the future empress when she married her stepbrother, Emperor Nero) and Brittanicus, who Messalina vied to be the emperor (but she wasn’t so clever as Livia getting her own son, Tiberius, to the throne).  But before Robert Graves, who was writing in the 1930s, we have Roman sources to turn to for the juicy stuff.

bust of Nero (equestrian statue fragment) at the Louvre,
Nero (equestrian statue fragment) at the Louvre, Taken from Louvre.fr

Both Tacitus and Suetonius portrayed Messalina as lustful, insulting, disgraceful, cruel, avaricious, etc. They attributed this to her inbreeding. Pliny the Elder tells of Messalina’s 24-hour sex competition with a prostitute in Book X of his Natural History. And guess who won? Messalina, having bedded 25 more partners than the whore Scylla (you may want to take note of this tidbit in case it appears as a bonus point in one of the hunts).

Juvenal was shockingly graphic in his critical description of her brothel, when he described her in Satire VI. He said the minute Claudius was snoring Messalina would put on a blonde wig and go to work at her brothel for the pleasure of it (for PG status I can’t requote Juvenal’s graphic bits), nor can I post the 1527 engraving that Augostino Carracci did for the famous Renaissance erotic book, I Modi (“The Ways”), which depicts various sexual positions. The engraving depicts her in her brothel, entitled Messalina Lisisca, after Juvenal’s poem.

After she convinced her lover, Roman Senator Gaius Silius, to leave his wife Messalina and Gaius plotted to assassinate Claudius and have Gaius adopt Brittanicus (Messalina’s son by Claudius and the presumed future emperor). Claudius caught word of this, and had them both executed for treason. Messalina was offered a knife to commit suicide honourably, but as she was too cowardly for that, she was beheaded on the spot (in the Gardens of Lucullus, which are now a part of the Villa Borghese in Rome, right above the Spanish Steps).

Fountain in front of spanish steps, lit at night, eading to villa borghese

With such a juicy story under her belt, there are many references to her in popular culture – from Charlotte Bronte (in Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester refers to his first wife as an Indian Messalina) to Gabriel Garcia Marquez (in Love in the Time of Cholera, a dog with many pups bears her name). In Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and the Margarita, Messalina is a guest at Satan’s ball.

Bust of Claudius at the Louvre
Cuckolded Claudius took necessary measures with his beloved wife; photo taken at the Louvre, from histoire-fr.com

Flexible morals aside, the lady was venally powerful. That is, until she lost her head! Messalina fits perfectly for a Kings + Leaders THATLou, or of course a Ladies at the Louvre THATLou… Perhaps even the Love Hunt might include her – in the carnal sense… Is this hint obvious enough???