Our newly announced tells a story about how Persian, Greek and Hellenistic luxuries shaped the political landscape of Europe and Asia in the first millennium BC – leaving a legacy that persists in our attitudes to luxury today.
The show will explore how the royal Achaemenid court of Persia used precious objects as markers of authority, and how these eastern luxuries were received in early democratic Athens, self-styled as Persia’s arch-enemy.
Finally, the exhibition will examine how Alexander the Great swept aside the Persian empire to usher in a new Hellenistic age in which eastern and western styles of luxury were fused as part of an increasingly interconnected world.
Whether coveted as objects of prestige or disparaged as signs of decadence, the show features star loans as well as objects from the collection, bringing together exquisitely crafted objects in gold, silver and glass ✨
‘Luxury and power: Persia to Greece’ opens 4 May 2023.
Book now and take advantage of our early bird offer to save at least 20% on your tickets – no code needed: http://ow.ly/pz7N50LS7cx
Supported by American Friends of the British Museum
With additional support from Julie and Stephen Fitzgerald
🔎 Gilt silver rhyton with winged griffin, Turkey, 5th century BC. Read more: http://ow.ly/wIRK50LQ9eG
This we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported the Museum this year.
Your generous support is invaluable in helping us care for, research and share the collection.
Donations have an immediate impact by making the inspirational work of our curators, conservators, scientists and educators possible.
Members’ contributions and donations have been a lifeline that will continue to have a major impact in the years ahead – we’re so grateful for your support.
And of course, thank you to our wonderful volunteers who support the Museum in almost every area of activity, both behind the scenes and front of house.
Find out more about ways in which you can support the Museum below 👇
Support us: http://ow.ly/JWgG50LQg5j
Become a Member: http://ow.ly/72jH50LQge0
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 🐯
William Blake was born in 1757.
A poet, printmaker and painter, some of Blake’s best-known artistic work combines his poetry with beautiful illustrations. This page is from his work ‘Songs of Experience’ and contains his famous poem 'The Tyger'.
🔍 William Blake (1757–1827). ‘The Tyger’. Hand coloured relief etching, 1794. Read more: http://ow.ly/ZfIM50LOIwJ
These intricate rings offer just as much substance as style ✨
Thumb rings have been used by archers for thousands of years to take the strain of the cords and bows as they drew them. They were originally designed both to release the arrow with accuracy, and to prevent injuries 🏹
These examples are made from bronze, gold, jade and bone – some of which are inlaid with precious stones such as rubies and emeralds, engraved with inscriptions and intricate designs. They range from 960 AD to the 18th century, and span Italy, India and China.
Thumb rings also served as status symbols when offered by the ruler as tokens of appreciation in Islamic courts. Featured in numerous miniature paintings both in use and worn dangling from a belt, such rings suggested the wearer’s close ties to the throne.
🔎 Gold signet ring in the form of a bow ring. Engraved with inscription and pearled border. Venice, Italy, 14th century. Read more: http://ow.ly/jFns50LNagV
🔎 Finger ring made of jade, inlaid with gold and inset with rubies and emeralds. India, 18th century. Read more: http://ow.ly/oFfR50LNacb
🔎 Archer’s thumb ring made of jade. China, around 960–1368. Read more: http://ow.ly/Crtc50LNaIv
🔎 Finger ring made of bone, thickly set with small rods of wire. India, 18th century. Read more: http://ow.ly/45bz50LNa6Y
The story of olive oil starts around 6000 BC, when people in the eastern Mediterranean learned how to extract oil from the bitter fruit growing on wild olive trees.
By 5000 BC, people were cultivating domestic trees in orchards. Olive oil quickly transformed the way people lived: it was burned as fuel in lamps, it helped preserve food longer, especially dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese, and it enabled a broad cuisine to flourish, providing the foundations of what we know today as the 'Mediterranean diet'.
Read more about the origins of olive oil here: http://ow.ly/nNMP50LNAfF
This amphora depicts the olive harvest in Greece. Sat among the branches, a man shakes the olives loose from the tree, while two bearded figures beat the tree with sticks. Between them, a young man places the fallen olives into a basket.
🔍 Scene depicting the olive harvest in Greece by the Antimenes Painter. Attic black-figure amphora, Greece, about 520 BC. Read more: http://ow.ly/mZr450LNA6M
The ancient Egyptian animal kingdom 🦉
Inspired by vibrant glazed figures in the collection, these miniature mementos are all available in our online shop 🛍
🦛 Hippos were identified with the Goddess Taweret, who was believed to bring luck and protection in childbirth, and with Seth, the god of storms.
🐈 In ancient Egypt the cat was the sacred animal of the goddess Bastet, who was associated with fertility and the life-giving properties of the sun.
🐻 The Egyptian god of fertility, Bes, was believed to drive away evil. Ornaments of the god were often placed around the home to protect the inhabitants and bring happiness.
🐞 In ancient Egypt, scarabs (dung beetles) represented the rising sun and eternal existence. This is because the insect is often seen pushing balls of dung up hills, and Egyptians believed the sun was propelled around the earth in the same way – driven by a giant beetle.
Enjoy 20% off your entire purchase when you spend over £30 in our online shop. Enter the code BMBF22 at checkout – valid until midnight on Monday 28 November: http://ow.ly/lPUG50LNyub
Within this beautiful drawing lies an uncomfortable truth.
Made by Vietnamese-American artist Tiffany Chung, this work is taken from a series of 40 hand-drawn maps.
They trace the humanitarian crisis in Syria from 2011 – made using statistical data, they show the mass movement of people toward Europe.
Their beauty completely at odds with the shocking realities they represent, Chung has described her maps as ‘traps’: attracting viewers with their delicacy and then confronting them with difficult subjects and uncomfortable truths.
You can see Chung’s work in our latest free display – ‘Art on paper since 1960: the Hamish Parker collection’.
In 2020 the Museum received a generous gift of about 150 works of art on paper from the private collection of Hamish Parker, a long-term supporter of the Museum – this exhibition presents a selection of these works.
From Lucian Freud to Kiki Smith, life drawing to minimalism, and etching to collage, the display spans an intriguing range of styles and techniques used in art on paper from 1960 to today.
🏛 ‘Art on paper since 1960: the Hamish Parker collection’ is on display in Room 90 until 25 March 2023. Find out more and plan your visit: http://ow.ly/g5qf50LwErf
🔍 Tiffany Chung (b.1969) ‘UNHCR Red Dot Series – tracking the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis: April – December 2012, 2014–2015’. Nine drawings in oil and ink on vellum and paper. Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art. Read more: http://ow.ly/HAAu50LwExF
Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558.
This incredibly rare silver medal shows an elaborate portrait of Elizabeth as Queen 👑
She’s shown in Tudor dress – wearing a lace ruff, a tight bodice, and fantastic jewels. On her head sits the Tudor Crown, which breaks into the Latin inscription ‘No circle in the world is richer’.
The reverse of the medal shows a lone island with a single tree growing on it – a bay tree – amidst a thundering storm. Bay trees were thought to be unaffected by lightning, as depicted here.
Underneath the tree is a message, ‘Not even danger affects it’, mirroring the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This medal was made when the greatest dangers to Elizabeth’s rule had ceased. It was created shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada and when Mary, Queen of Scots had been killed.
The medal was designed by Nicholas Hilliard who was the great court artist during Elizabeth’s reign.
🔎 Silver medal showing the bust of Queen Elizabeth I. British Isles, 1589. Read more: http://ow.ly/B1Sp50LwBKg
How to accessorise in the late 4th century ✨
This spectacular body chain made of gold and adorned with precious stones is part of the Hoxne Hoard which was found in Suffolk, eastern England, 30 years ago in 1992.
🖼 Body chains like this can often be seen in Hellenistic and Roman art, but actual examples are extremely rare.
👧 The size of the chain indicates that it was worn by a slender woman or adolescent girl.
⛓ It’s formed of four joined chains – passing over the shoulders and under the arms of the wearer, and crossing at the front and back.
💰The mounted gold coin shows Gratian, emperor of the Western Roman Empire from AD 367–383.
The Hoxne Hoard is one of the richest finds of treasure from Roman Britain, and consists of over 15,000 gold and silver coins, gold jewellery – like this example – and numerous small items of silver tableware.
🏛 See the hoard on display in Room 49 – The Weston Gallery of Roman Britain – on your next visit: http://ow.ly/vaI850LwuA3
🔎 Gold body-chain with coin-set clasp and jewelled mount. Romano-British, Hoxne, Suffolk. Read more: http://ow.ly/ZHj450Lwuuj
Can you solve ancient Egyptian arithmetic?
In each of seven houses there are seven cats 🐱
Each cat catches seven mice 🐭
Each mouse eats seven ears of corn 🌽
Each ear of corn, if sown, produces seven gallons of grain 🌾
How many things are mentioned in total?
We’ll be revealing the answer in 5 hours ⏱
The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is an ancient textbook with 88 mathematical problems.
Each starts with a ‘method of calculating’, written in red, with the steps and solution following in black, used by scribes to learn and solve particular mathematical problems.
You can see the papyrus on display in our , unlocking one of the world’s oldest civilisations through hieroglyphic inscriptions and ancient handwriting. Book your tickets here: http://ow.ly/fXHf50LCnYg
🔍 The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Thebes, Upper Egypt, 1550 BC. Read more: http://ow.ly/InXr50LCoru