This atmospheric watercolour depicts Lanercost Priory in Cumbria, northwest England, and was painted by Thomas Girtin, born #onthisday in 1775. Girtin went on painting tours of the north of the country, recording the landscapes and rural scenes he encountered, including many ruins of priories and abbeys. This picture was made when Girtin was just 18, perhaps copied from an illustration. Lanercost priory was destroyed during King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, along with hundreds of other ecclesiastic buildings in England.
While we’re still embracing #ValentinesDay, this detail of two lovers kissing is from a woodblock print by Japanese artist Torii Kiyonaga made about 1785. The print is part of a set perhaps originally intended to be mounted together as a handscroll. An example of shunga – Japanese erotic art – the set describes the full gamut of sexual intercourse: from the anticipation, to the moments of high passion, right through to the slumber that follows. Discover 14 #ValentinesDay objects on our blog – link in bio! #Valentines#Shunga#Japan#love#kiss#print#JapaneseArt#💋
Ancient Greek and Roman attitudes to sex and sexuality were in many ways very different to the modern era. People were sexually active – and girls married – at an earlier age. Sexual relationships between males were accepted within certain boundaries, but the modern term homosexual had no Greek or Latin equivalent. This scene is from a fresco in an ancient Etruscan tomb known as the Tomb of the Chariots, located in Tarquinia, Italy. The scene was copied in this 19th-century drawing, and was once part of a larger work. The Etruscans were greatly influenced by the contemporary Greeks but they had their own distinctive character, which in turn influenced the neighbouring Italian peoples, including the Romans. Our new #ValentinesDay blog post brings together 14 symbols of love from history – link in bio! #Valentines#AncientGreece#AncientRome#Etruscan#love#kiss#💋#LGBTHM18
Here’s a kiss for #ValentinesDay! 💋💞
Rodin’s famous sculpture shows lovers Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s poem ‘Divine Comedy’, lost in reckless passion. Although the sculpture is often thought of as romantic, the story has a darker side... Paolo and Francesca had been murdered by Francesca’s husband (Paolo’s brother) after he discovered them together – Dante meets the lovers in his travels around hell.
Our new blog post brings together a selection of smooches and other symbols of love from across history – link in bio!
Slaying the Nemean Lion was the first of the twelve labours of mythical hero Herakles. The labours were a series of tasks completed by Herakles for King Eurystheus. They were performed by the hero to atone for killing his wife and children after Hera sent a fit of madness upon him. The Nemean Lion’s golden fur was said to be impenetrable to mortal weapons – here Herakles has discarded his usual bow and club to wrestle the lion. After he defeated the lion, Herakles wore its skin as his armour, taking the guise of one of the monsters he had slayed. This ancient Greek amphora was made between 520 and 510 BC.
This 2,500-year-old amphora shows mythical Greek hero Herakles wrestling with the giant Antaios. In the myth Antaios was the son of Gaia, the earth, and was invincible as long as he remained in contact with the ground. Herakles had to use his wits to defeat Antaios. Realising he could not be defeated using conventional wrestling techniques, the hero lifts his adversary from the floor, killing him. Here Herakles is depicted on the left, and is accompanied by Athena (the goddess of wisdom) and Hermes (messenger of the gods). #Herakles#Hercules#myth#mythology#GreekMyths#Athena#Hermes#Antaios
Herakles was a hero in ancient Greek mythology, later Romanised as Hercules. He was son of Zeus (the king of the gods) and Alkmene (a mortal woman). Zeus’s wife Hera was jealous of Alkmene and disliked Herakles as soon as he was born. Hera sent a pair of snakes to attack Herakles and his half-brother Eurytion while they lay in their cradle. Herakles revealed his heroic potential at this young age by strangling one snake in each hand, as shown on this wine bowl made around 400 BC by the Faliscans in the west of Italy. #Herakles#Hercules#Heracles#AncientGreece#Zeus#Hera#snakes#pottery
The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism is symbolised in the wheel at the base of this 7th-century sculpture from Bihar in north India. In his First Sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath, the Buddha (meaning 'enlightened one’) set out the Middle Way – the Eightfold Path – between the extremes of severe self-discipline and indulgence of the senses. The eight elements of the path include correct view, intention and speech.
Learn more about beliefs from across the world in our wide-ranging #LivingWithTheGods exhibition – find out more and book tickets via the link in our bio. #India#Indian#Buddhism#sculpture#statue#exhibition#London
This early-14th-century glass mosque lamp was made for a mausoleum in Syria. It’s sumptuously decorated with gilding and enamel, and the calligraphy relates a verse from the Qur’an that describes God as the Light of the world and a guiding light.
See amazing objects that reveal more about human belief in our #LivingWithTheGods exhibition – find out more via the link in our bio.
This articulated dragon is made from iron and can be moved into different positions! It was made in the 19th century in Japan. Helmet and armour manufacturers used their skills in curving and riveting metal to produce detailed models of all kinds of creatures – stunning examples of the craftsmanship. All the scales are faithfully reproduced in iron plates. Dragons are among the spirits of nature honoured in Japanese Shinto traditions. They control water, fire and earth – their energy rules the sea tides and the fertility of the land, bringing wellbeing and prosperity. Dragons are also believed to have a dangerous side, able to cause earthquakes or tsunami.
Discover more about the significance of religion and belief around the world and across time in our #LivingWithTheGods exhibition – find out more via the link in our bio.
This astrolabe was made in 1236 in Cairo and is signed by Abd al-Karim al-Asturlabi (‘the Astrolabist’!) It’s finely decorated with inlays and engravings – the different colours of the metals help bring the scenes to life. The designs on the reverse represent the constellations. Although some astrolabes could be used in the palm of your hand, this one is quite large – 33cm in diameter. It also bears the names of three royal patrons, marking the significance of astrolabes during the medieval period. Astrolabes were the smartphones of their day, able to help tell the time, navigate and cast horoscopes – find out how they work via the link in our bio!
Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects and phenomena, including the moon, stars, planets, comets and eclipses. Until the invention of telescopes in the 17th century, there were three main instruments for making sense of the stars: astrolabes, quadrants and celestial globes. This large and lavishly decorated astrolabe was made in 1712 for the last ruler of the Iranian Safavid dynasty, Shah Sultan Husayn. It’s 53cm tall and very heavy, so it was probably more ornamental than practical – astrolabes designed to be used were much more handily sized. This object was part of the original collection of the British Museum in 1753, collected by our founder Hans Sloane. Find out how to use an astrolabe via the link in our bio!
An astrolabe – Greek for ‘star taker’ – is an instrument with over 2,000 years of history💫
They could be incredibly intricate, and were used to help keep time, navigate and cast horoscopes. This example was made in Spain between 1200 and 1400, and was designed for use within the latitude ranges of Ibiza and Zaragoza. It features both Arabic and Latin script – the Latin was added at a later date, showing the Islamic influence on scientific knowledge in Europe around this time. Knowledge of the stars (astronomy) and how they affected life on earth (astrology) were important elements of Islamic culture. From the 8th century, scientists and thinkers built on pre-Islamic sources translated into Arabic to make significant advances in the study of the heavens. They used scientific instruments like this to gather information relating to timekeeping and the positions of the sun, stars and planets. #astrolabe#astrology#astronomy#stars#horoscopes#💫#⭐️#🌚#🌙
An entire wall of accountant Nebamun’s tomb-chapel was devoted to scenes of feasting in his honour. Here married couples are shown being waited on by servants in the top half, while young women talk to each other on the bottom. Food appropriate for a feast of this size is shown on the left, including meat and fruit. The artists have depicted the guests in fine linen clothing – so fine that some parts appear almost transparent. The team of artists who created these tomb paintings first sketched out the figures in red, sometimes using grids to help plan the scenes. They used paint brushes made from palm fibre, and paint palettes to mix colours. The technology hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years – swipe to see some ancient examples!
Nebamun was a wealthy accountant who lived around 3,350 years ago in ancient Egypt. This painting from his tomb shows how he wanted his garden to be in the afterlife. The painting is similar to the real gardens of wealthy Egyptians at this time – it has a pool full of birds and fish, borders of flowers and rows of fruit trees. The dates on the trees are even shown with different degrees of ripeness! On the right a goddess is leaning out of a tree to offer fruit and drinks to Nebamun (who is now lost from this fragment). Nebamun’s tomb would have been filled with idealised images like this, reflecting how the affluent from this time wanted to be remembered.
Learn more about the life of Nebamun in Room 61.
Here is a scene from the tomb-chapel of Nebamun, a rich accountant who lived in ancient Egypt around 1350 BC. He worked at the Temple of Amun in Thebes, and the paintings in his tomb show how the wealthy of the time wanted to be remembered for eternity. This panel shows Nebamun hunting in the marshes of the Nile with his wife Hatshepsut and young daughter – the hieroglyphs say he is ‘enjoying himself and seeing beauty’. The painters have captured the rich and varied life of the reed marsh, depicting the scales of the fish and the feathers of the birds with fine detail. The cat seen catching birds may represent the sun god hunting enemies of light and order, but cats were also common as family pets in ancient Egypt.
You can explore more scenes from Nebamun’s tomb in Room 61!
We’re celebrating 1 million @Instagram followers by regramming some of our favourite photos taken by our visitors! This super picture of the Great Court was taken by @marinatmbrn. Did you know the Great Court is the largest covered square in Europe? It covers 2 acres – that’s larger than a football pitch!
We really enjoy seeing your photos – share them with us by tagging the location.
What would you like us to post more about in 2018? We'd love to hear your comments and suggestions.
Thanks to all our followers – we’ve reached 1 million on @Instagram! 🎉
We’re celebrating by regramming some of our favourite shots of the Museum taken by visitors – this interesting angle was taken by @gydraitee. The main façade of the Museum was designed by architect Sir Robert Smirke in 1823, its columns, pediment and colonnade inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece.
You can share your photos with us by tagging the location – we love seeing them!
Made between 645 and 635 BC, this carved wall panel once stood in King Ashurbanipal’s North Palace in the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, in modern-day Iraq. It shows two protective spirits known as Ugallu, or ‘Great Lion’. They’re not fighting one another – they’re guarding against evil forces which may come from any direction. The spirits are armed with daggers and maces. You can see more reliefs like this in Room 10a.