Display | Visions of Rome: Lusieri and Labruzzi

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 30, 2014


Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Panoramic View of Rome: Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill, ca. 1778–1779, watercolour, 55.2 x 97.8 cm. (22 x 39 inches) (London: The British Museum).

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Press release from The British Museum:

Recent Acquisitions | Visions of Rome: Lusieri and Labruzzi
The British Museum, London, 12 December 2014 — 15 February 2015

The British Museum has acquired a rare early surviving work by one of the eighteenth century’s most innovative and technically gifted landscape artists, with the support of the Art Fund, the Ottley Group, the Oppenheimer Fund, Jean-Luc Baroni, the Society of Dilettanti Charitable Trust, and individual contributions.

Giovanni Battista Lusieri’s watercolour Panoramic View of Rome: Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill (ca. 1778–79) shows a panoramic view of his native city Rome from Piazza San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum, stretching from the Capitoline Hill on the left to the Aventine Hill on the right. It is one of three surviving views from a four-sheet 180 degree watercolour panorama of Rome from the Janiculum at different times of day from morning to evening. These were bought or commissioned by Philip Yorke (1757–1834), who became 3rd Earl of Hardwicke in 1790, during his time in the city in 1778–79. Panoramic View of Rome: Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill shows the panorama in the late afternoon with shadows lengthening in the now built over garden of the convent of San Callisto and San Michele in Trastevere in the foreground. (more…)

Display | Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 30, 2014


Front and back of a pendant from Yemen made from a 1780 silver Maria Theresa thaler, 1950s. These coins were originally minted in the Hapsburg Empire but from the late 18th century onwards were used across the Indian Ocean (London: The British Museum). Click here for a high-resolution image.

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Press release from The British Museum

Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange
The British Museum, London, 27 November 2014 — 31 May 2015

Objects connected to the long history of trade in the Indian Ocean can be found throughout the British Museum. The new exhibition, Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange, is the first time a selection of these have been exhibited together to tell the story of how this vast oceanic space has connected people and cultures from Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and beyond. This intimate yet far-reaching exhibition features objects dating from around 4500 years ago to the present.

Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange explores trade from several perspectives. The exhibition features the commodities traded, such as textiles, precious stones and ceramics, which might have been found thousands of miles from their point of origin or production. Other objects on display indicate the use of foreign commodities, such as Roman jewellery made of South Asian sapphires and garnets. The exhibition also demonstrates how objects and their meanings change through these journeys. Coins, for example, were used in many ways—as money, bullion or incorporated into jewellery.


Model Boat Made of Threaded Cloves. Probably from Indonesia, 18th–20th century (London: The British Museum). Click here for a high-resolution image.

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A model boat, made entirely of dried cloves threaded together and displayed for the first time, is the centrepiece that embodies many of the themes in the exhibition. The clove tree is indigenous to Indonesia, from where this boat is likely to originate. The maker used this intricate technique to create a model of a traditional trading ship. These types of model were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries with Europeans, many of whom worked in the East India companies involved in the highly lucrative spice trade. Cloves, as well as cinnamon, pepper, ginger and other spices, have been central to Indian Ocean commerce for millennia. This single object, only half a metre long, illustrates the significance of spices within the Indian Ocean commercial world, the ships used to transport them and how this trade led to the interaction of different cultures.

The written records of merchants and travellers offer further insights into the nature of this trading system. The 14th-century Muslim pilgrim, Ibn Battuta, travelled to East Africa as well as to the Far East, describing in detail the commercial world and the cosmopolitan towns he encountered. Objects found in places Ibn Battuta visited form one section of this display.

The long duration of trade in the Indian Ocean is also demonstrated with beautiful jewellery incorporating carnelian beads from the Indus valley dating from around 2500BC found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur in Mesopotamia.

Pottery from India and East Africa from the 7th to 10th centuries AD found in Siraf on the Gulf coastline of southern Iran illustrates the global movement of people. At this time Siraf was one of the major trading posts on the Ocean rim and these everyday items were likely to have been used for cooking by foreign merchants who sailed long distances to engage in trade.

By thinking about history from the perspective of the ocean, areas which appear small on the map such as the Maldives, become highly significant when we realise they were vital points of refreshment for ocean-going vessels and acted as trading posts. Islands such as these, which are often only associated today with luxury tourism, were central to this early globalised economic system.

The compelling object histories in this display represent a huge geographical spread and tell this long and significant history. Every object in this small space contains myriad stories of interaction, movement, exchange and connection which has characterised the Indian Ocean for thousands of years.

Phase II of the Conservation of Thornhill’s Painted Hall Announced

Posted in on site by Editor on November 30, 2014


Restoration of the West Wall of the Painted Hall at Greenwich, included in Phase I of the conservation project, was completed in the spring of 2013. Phase II is expected to begin in the summer of 2016.

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Press release, via Art Daily (29 November 2014). . .

The Heritage Lottery Fund today announced that it has earmarked funding of £2.77 million, including a development grant of £98,800, to The Greenwich Foundation towards its £7m scheme to complete the conservation of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC). This first round pass will enable the Foundation to proceed with it plans for the conservation of the remaining 3,700 square metres of paintings: one of the most ambitious painting conservation projects ever undertaken within a historic interior. It will also support improved interpretation and accessibility, the delivery of conservation skills training, and a programme of associated community, learning and public events including scaffolding tours which proved immensely popular during Phase I of the conservation.

Created in the early 18th century by Sir James Thornhill for Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital for Seamen, the spectacular, Grade 1 Listed, Painted Hall is one of Europe’s most important architectural interiors and is considered to be the greatest achievement of English Baroque art. Phase I of the conservation, which was also supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Foundation, saw the west wall and upper hall ceiling restored to their former glory [opened in May 2013]. Phase II will see the lower hall, with its spectacular ceiling, the entrance vestibule and cupola similarly restored.

Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London, said, “This Baroque masterpiece is one of the lesser-known treasures at the heart of the Greenwich World Heritage Site. HLF funded the first stage of restoration works and we are now delighted to support plans to complete the project.”

“This is absolutely wonderful news,” adds Brendan McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Greenwich Foundation. “Ever since the first phase of conservation was completed, we’ve been looking forward to restoring the rest of the Painted Hall and the HLF stage 1 pass has taken us a long way towards that—although much fundraising remains to be done. The next few months will be very interesting and great fun. There will be changing exhibitions, information, exciting talks and hands-on workshops as part of our overall approach to involving the public as the project develops. Phase II of the Painted Hall conservation will transform the experience of visiting and viewing this remarkable painted interior, and people can also be part of the exciting project by helping us to reach our £7m target.”

The Foundation will submit detailed project proposals, based on a feasibility study by Martin Ashley Architects, to HLF at the end of 2015 with a view to starting work on the project in the summer of 2016. The Painted Hall will be under scaffolding for around two years after the start of works, however the public will have access to the Hall, including on the scaffolding itself. Visitors—including wheelchair users—will be able to get close up to the painted surfaces and watch conservators at work—an exciting element of project.

Key elements of the Phase II programme include
• Cleaning and conservation of the remaining 3,700 square metres of painted wall surface, including the great ceiling in the Lower Hall, executed by James Thornhill between 1708 and 1712. This will remove layers of dirt and varnish, unlocking the colour and vibrancy of these great paintings. The work will be undertaken by Paine & Stewart, leading specialists in the conservation of historic wall paintings who also undertook the conservation work in Phase I.
• Re-presentation of the interior with improved lighting, new seating and interpretation.
• Introduction of environmental improvements to ensure the best possible conditions for the painted surfaces.
• Creation of a new, fully accessible visitor reception in the King William Undercroft with improved facilities, innovative interpretation, dedicated retail, and a new café.
• Improved visibility of the Painted Hall within the Discover Greenwich visitor centre, including a new audio-visual exhibit.

The conservation work is expected to be completed by the summer 2018 with the overall project completed the following year.

A masterpiece that was almost 20 years in the making
With over 4,250 square metres of painted surfaces, the Painted Hall was Thornhill’s most extensive commission, taking the artist almost 20 years to complete. In the dining hall proposed for the Royal Hospital for Seamen the artist was asked to create an homage to Britain’s maritime power and royal family. The astonishing ceiling of the lower hall shows the contribution the British navy made to the prosperity of the nation at the time of William III and Mary II, under during whose reign the Hospital was commissioned, and the Upper Hall ceiling features the last of the Stuart monarchs, Queen Anne, during whose reign the Lower Hall paintings were made. The allegorical theme of the huge and exuberant Lower Hall ceiling is the Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny, and pays due tribute to Stuart monarchs William and Mary and British maritime power. Within the oval frame are the four seasons and other references to the passing of time including the signs of the zodiac. Beyond the arch in the Upper Hall Queen Anne surveys the continents of the world, while on the west wall her Hanoverian successors, George I and his family, are shown in sober glory. Elsewhere much use is made of trompe l’oeil painting, on the columns, windowsills and in the vestibule. During the period when he working on the painting Thornhill became court Painter to the new King, George I, and was subsequently knighted. After completion in 1727, the Greenwich pensioners moved their dining room to the undercrofts below, and the Hall became a popular visitor attraction with an admission price of 6d. In the early 19th century the Painted Hall became the home of the National Gallery of Naval Art—one of Britain’s first public art galleries. It was not used again as a dining room until 1936, when the paintings were moved to the newly-established National Maritime Museum.

Sir James Thornhill (1675–1734)
Born in Dorset in 1675, artist James Thornhill was to rise to become a court painter and sergeant painter to George I and George II, a master of the Painters’ Company and a fellow of the Royal Society. He was the first English painter to be knighted for his work, in 1720, and sat as a Member of Parliament for 12 years from 1722 until his death in 1734. The eight scenes in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral (1715–19) and the allegories in the Painted Hall, Royal Hospital for Seamen (1708–27), are his two most considerable commissions with the majority of his paintings largely executed on the ceilings and stairs of country houses and palaces such as Hampton Court, Blenheim, and Chatsworth. Among Thornhill’s few canvases are the altarpiece for St. Mary’s Parish Church, Weymouth, and a group portrait of the members of the House of Commons in which he was assisted by William Hogarth (who eloped with Thornhill’s daughter in 1729). Thornhill also made a number of portraits (his sitters including Sir Isaac Newton and co-founder of The Spectator Magazine, Richard Steele), book illustrations, theatre scenery, and the rose window of the north transept of Westminster Abbey. Thornhill’s works can be seen in collections across the globe including The Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum, New York; and National Portrait Gallery, Tate, Royal Academy and Courtauld Institute, London.

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