Among the things I love about wandering around castles and old houses is seeing the beautiful bathing rooms. This was the bathing room of one of the queens. Notice the sink in the wall for acquiring water. I don’t know if you could get hot water from it, so it is entirely possible that there was still the step of “heat up the water” in preparing the queen’s bath. This room itself is separated from a hallway space by a wall with two doors in it. Palaces generally didn’t have hallways, but rooms connecting into each other and that extra wall was to make a truly private space without making it impossible for anyone pass between rooms while the queen was bathing. I really love the way the fireplace is tiered and want that feature in my own house for decorative purposes.
Beth shared with me that this is one of her favorite things at Hampton Court Palace and I completely agree. This clock is from the 1500s, although it has been repaired and altered multiple times. This clock gives a whole bunch of information including the month, the hour, and the astrological sign. None of the original paint survives and some of the decorative plan has changed since it was put up. For example, the outer ring used to be carved in the stone, but is now on metal plates on the outside affixed to the stone. Here’s a link to a bit of information about it’s restoration five years ago. Secondly, here is a link to a pdf of factoids about the clock. Finally, here is a link to a video about the clock!
This was one side of the entryway into Hampton Court. For those of you who don’t know, Hampton Court was Henry VII’s favorite residence and many of the dramatic moments chronicled in recent popular novels by Phillipa Gregory take place here, as well good chunks of the Tudors. (or at least I assume…haven’t watched it…it should…) This royal residence is kept up very carefully and there are lots of things for visitors to do. While we were there, there was a living history scene that took us through several parts of the castle. That was a lot of fun! The banqueting hall in particular is set up to be interactive and informative.
My first day in Europe(so the end of August), before I had even slept, Beth picked me up at the airport and took me to Hampton Court. The next few snapshot posts are going to be from Hampton Court, primarily the gorgeous gardens as my prior post on this focused on the fabulous fabulous fabrics and furniture inside. This pretty garden you could not walk into, but had such a beautiful array of colors I took a gazillion pictures. Beth and I really liked the little bushes trimmed into the shape of birds. We thought they were turkeys. I am actually impressed with how good some of my Hampton Court photographs are, given the lack of sleep and jetlag I had at the time.
Today we sometimes see celebrities wearing jewelery a bit like this, a decorative centerpiece kept in place by chains running under the armpits to a back center piece with chains also running over the shoulders. They have quite a history, but few examples of historical body chains have survived. This example is from the Hoxne horde, which was buried in the 5th century AD in Suffolk, England. This is a Roman body chain, likely meant for a young, slender bride. It is very small and would only have fit a small, slender person. The back of the chain is centered on a coin representing Emperor Gratian, who reigned from AD 367-383. I am contemplating making one of these…though not out of precious jewels…
Here is a link to the British Museum’s site about it!
When this crystal skull was bought by the British Museum, they thought that it was of Aztec origin, carved before the conquest. Skulls of this type were a fairly popular topic of myth and speculation on the part of Europeans. Sadly for the museum, this skull is definitively a fake because it has the marks of tools the Aztecs did not have access to. This was discovered by using special silicon wax on the tool marks and examining them under a high-powered microscope. It is likely to have been made in the 19th century by Germany or Brazilian craftsmen.
This photograph is a close-up of the textures of an Assyrian Winged Lion that is one of a pair at the British Museum. Every time I have been to the British Museum, these guys have been one of my favorite pieces. They are so impressive and expressive. In particular the parts of their body that are textured, either with feathers or hair or hieroglyphs, are my focus. I took this picture to show the contrasts between textures that these lions have. I think it turned out really well…just looking at it I want to pet them…as noted last post…petting museum artifacts is bad behavior. In any case, these lions were the supernatural guardians for the palace of Ashurnasirpal II who reigned from 883-859 BC. The lions themselves were carved between 865 and 860 BC. Below I have posted a picture of what the Assyrian lions look like a teensy bit further away. A fun fact is that they were carved with 5 legs, implying that you were meant to see them from the front or the side, not really from an angle.
This is a Roman vase from the 2nd century AD that is presently on display at the British Museum. I’ll be honest and say I don’t really know that much more about it, except that it is beautiful. I love the lines of the birds’ necks (as unreal as the twisting is) and the reality of the birds’ faces. The gentle line of the bird’s neck touching down on the edge is what sells me on this one. This vase is a gorgeous piece and another thing I just wanted to touch…some kid did touch it and didn’t get in trouble…but I am a well-trained museum person. Don’t put the oil of your skin on delicate objects. I can’t say there were never moments on my trip where I touched something I wasn’t supposed to, but I did my best. In general, dear readers, remember that unless there is a sign or a museum staff member telling you something is okay to touch, don’t touch. Save the item that is so interesting you are itching to touch it for future generations.
I always love seals and this one is really pretty. This seal belongs to Inchaffrey Abbey, which was founded in 1200. This seal makes a double-sided impression. The front of the seal depicts their patron saint, St. John, with a book and a pen or palm leaf. He is standing in a Gothic building I assume is the church of the abbey, but the label didn’t share that with me. The back shows an eagle, the symbol of St. John. The seal is made of bronze and made between 1260 and 1300. Seals were important then, as they are today, as a way of assuring that the correspondence, order, etc. was actually from the person or authority it said it was. The idea was to make them detailed enough and distinct enough that people would be able to recognize it, without making it too complicated for your medium, in this case wax.
I am still not quite sure where I stand personally on whether Greece should have all the parts of the Parthenon. I can see both sides and I am going to leave at that for now. I do, however, want to emphasize that the British Museum has really tried to make information about the Elgin Marbles and Parthenon accessible. The space they are displayed is wheelchair accessible, including the two side rooms with plaster casts and more information. The model you see above is there to be touched for the visually impaired or just people who need that sensory input. A good chunk of the panels of information in these two rooms also have braile on them, as well as examples of the decorative aspects of the Parthenon where relevant to touch.
This is the best example for taking a picture. Here you can see how the visually impaired can touch the designed described. I don’t read Braille, so any description in Braille, I can’t really vouch for how descriptive they are, but in general, this was one of the more accessible exhibits I saw on my travels. Museums in the US! Get on this! I should note however, that like most English institutions, there were no obvious ways to get information in other languages without getting a guide.