Automaton Ship from the British Museum

An automaton ship from 1585 that was used to announce the beginning of banquets

An automaton ship from 1585 that was used to announce the beginning of banquets

This fabulous little machine was is an automaton that was used to announce the beginning of banquets. It has 3 different mechanisms inside, one to run the clock, one to move the people and play the music, and one to propel it forward on wheels. Sadly none of these work anymore. When it works, first music would start to pour from the ship, drumming on deck and a procession across the deck. Then the ship would push itself across the table and finally fire the front cannon, triggering the other guns. Presumably the fuse the front cannon used needed to be replaced each time it was used. Here are some more close-ups of parts of the ship!

*drumroll please*

The deck of the ship

I love the detail on this ship! The workmanship is simply beautiful…it is definitely one of those objects that my fingers want to touch! Thank goodness for the glass.

British Museum Ship Automaton 3Anyone recognize the crest there?


Parthenon/Elgin Marbles- South Frieze

Do I belong to the British Museum?

One of the North Frieze of the Parthenon, presently in the British Museum

Sometimes I took more artsy pictures of pieces in museums, particularly when I really liked them. This is one of the friezes on the north side of the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos on the Acropolis in Athens. This piece is in the British Museum, along with the vast majority of the decorative elements of the Parthenon. It is an ongoing dispute between Greece and the UK about whether the Elgin Marbles, as the portion in Britain are called, should stay in Britain. In any case, the Parthenon itself is fascinating because it was a)truly massive and lavish b)a mix of Ionic decoration and Doric styles c)a temple, a victory monument, and the capstone of a building scheme. The temple served as the endpoint for the great Athenian festival and Panathenaic Way in honor of Athena as the protector of Athens. The frieze depicts that procession, with the focal point being the presentation of the peplos or robe that would clothe the statue of Athena. It is, however, highly unlikely that that statue actually lived in the Parthenon and far more likely to have been housed in the nearby Erechtheion. This portion of the frieze shows a soldier looking back at the procession.

British Museum Rubber Duckies!


The rubber ducks sold by the British Museum.

Rubber ducks of all kinda are rather fabulous and I was so pleased to find these four at the British Museum. I am particularly pleased with the Shakespeare duck on the left. From left to right, the ducks are, Shakespeare, Pharaoh, Viking, and Roman Soldier. This picture was taken in honor of my friend Ducky!

A Hall at Hampton Court

A Hall at Hampton Court

This picture was taken in a very big hall at Hampton Court in England. I was with my marvelous friend Beth who took this picture so I could demonstrate just how massive the hall was. Imagine this room full of courtiers!

Mannekin Pis

Mannekin Pis

This statue of a little boy peeing into the fountain is one of the most visited places in Brussels. He is often dressed up, as you see in my picture. The legends surrounding him are varied from a boy who foiled an attack by enemy soldiers by peeing on the fuse of their dynamite to a baby lord who was hanging in the trees about his troops and peed on the enemy (He won the battle). Either way, he is a symbol of Brussels and the winding historic bit of Belgium is littered with signs guiding you to him. He has also been stolen 7 times and what you see here in the picture is a replica.

Gilt-brass watch from the British Museum

Gilt-brass watch from the British Museum

This gorgeous watch was made in 1589 by Ghylis van Gheele in London. The style of this watch’s decoration is very Flemish, which is to be expected as the artisan was Flemish. The arms on the inside of the cover are those of the Giffard family of St. Andrews Abbey. This was in a case of a whole bunch of watches. They had the lights set to only be on when people were nearby…but didn’t stay on for long. I had to keep twitching…

The Tidal Abbey of Mont St Michel

This is the tide when it is in, but not all the way. This was taken almost immediately upon my arrival in the morning.

Today (actually a few days ago, as this didn’t go through properly the first time) I went to the Mont St Michel, a small mountain/island that is famous for its beauty and the fact that it sits a point where the tides can completely block it from the mainland. Now there is a causeway to prevent this. From a distance, the Mont is breathtaking, the abbey sitting atop it all, surrounded by constantly changing waters of the bay. I took the bus there just as the sun was really getting above the horizon properly and it was just so beautiful. However, besides the beauty of the Mont, it was also very important strategically, as it is naturally very hard to attack successfully given its location. It often ended up right on the border of two territories as well. Over time the Abbot of this monastery became progressively more and more invested in secular power rather than sacred. Over time, this abbey became one of the most influential abbeys in all of what would become France.

Now, an important thing to note about the Mont today is that it is almost entirely a tourist attraction, except for some parts of the abbey which are in use again since the 60s by a group of Benedictine monks. However, the Mont has carefully preserved the medieval feel and, despite the very touristy museums, is still a very enjoyable day trip.

I got there before anything really opened, so I walked the entire ramparts. The tide was mostly in and the causeway was surrounded by water. Then I went up to the abbey to wait for it to open. The abbey was really beautiful, though much of the rich decorations have disappeared due to the period of time it served as a prison. It is sculpted to the shape of the top of the Mont and meanders to get anywhere. The cloister was my favorite part, a bright, beautiful space that looked out onto the sea. After the abbey I just walked into all the nooks and crannies I could find. I walked down to the entrance that had been covered by water when I arrived and walked a bit on the silt. In my wanderings I found two pretty churches, a graveyard and some really narrow alleys.

After a snack of a crepe, I headed out to catch my train to Bayeux.

I stayed in nearby Pontorson, at a very comfy hotel. The night before I watched a gorgeous sunset. The town is pretty small and I suspect it survives on the tourism from nearby Mont St Michel.

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The Sacre-Coeur Basilica

On Sunday I went to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, located on the butt Montmartre, the hightest point in Paris. This gorgeous white building has a view of a good chunk of Paris, which you really deserve after the climb. However, contrary to my guidebook, the climb really wasn’t that bad. There is a funicular you can take up if you want. I may be hardened by my recent travels to Greek monuments. The beautiful triple domes are quite different from the other churches you see in Paris with a distinct Byzantine/Roman style. The church was built over the course of about 40 years and is built of a white stone that actually exudes calcite constantly, which is how it keeps its pretty white color even among the pollution of a large city. In theory, the church is a penance for the crazy spending etc of the Second Empire, but over the years the church has acquired a wide range of symbolism for France, the Catholic Church in France  and Paris in general. The church is one that practices the perpetual adoration of Eucharist, so you are supposed to be quiet and not take pictures inside…I was a bad person who just had to take a picture of the gorgeous mosaic above the altar. The perpetual adoration is a very important part of Catholicism, but one that is often very very important in French Catholicism. (this is what I learned from a pamphlet…)

This church was so beautiful inside, tastefully decorated with mosaics in brilliant colors that looked perfect against the white stone. It is my favorite of the churches I went to in Paris.

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Familiar Urania

As I was walking through the Louvre on Friday, I walked by a painting that looked really familiar, really really familiar. Anyone who has been in my room, look familiar? It is part of a series of paintings of the muses, of which 1/3 is on display at the Louvre.

I was so startled to see this! This painting of Urania is something Dad should recognize as he bought me a copy of it as a graduation present!

Musee de Rodin

What is a post about Rodin without a picture of the Thinker?

As my trip goes on, I am very aware of how little I know about art. For example, the name Rodin just made the image of the Thinker come to mind and nothing else. Not nationality or time period, just the statue of the Thinker. But I was curious about him and so I made sure I got to this museum today. At present the primary indoor exhibition space is partially under construction, but they have a very nice temporary exhibition set up that takes you chronologically through his career, complete with a paper in English to help you through. But the real centerpiece is the gardens that exhibit many of his larger works and which inspired him when he was alive. He began working in 1870s or so, but discovered this abandoned hotel, a former school run by nuns, around 1900. He loved  to work with a view of the gardens and when he donated his work to the state, he specified that his museum would be at this site. Even in the rain, thank you Paris, the gardens were great fun to wander around, though I would have like a bit more marking. The large version of the Thinker is quite impressive. They also had the work of a Croatian artist who worked with and was inspired by Rodin on display in the front bit of the garden. A really enjoyable and beautiful place.

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