THATMuse
Roman Coins © The Trustees of the British 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. 

Picture of statues of Faustina and Marcus Aurelius.
Faustina & Marcus Aurelius, Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Carole Raddato, License CC BY-SA 2.0

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.  

Family Affairs

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.

The Admiralty Arch nose. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, David Liff, License CC BY-SA 3.0. 

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! 

The St. Pancras Nose. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Colonel Warden, License CC BY-SA 3.0.

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.  

The Quo Vadis Nose. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Colonel Warden, License CC BY-SA 3.0.

 “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!

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!  

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.

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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…

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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.

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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 
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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.  

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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!