Saturday, January 9th 2016
In my post on New Year’s Day (see Caledonian Road to Camberwell to Shoreditch), I mentioned that we had tried to have breakfast in a cafe in Caledonian Road but had found it closed. So we tried again today.
Today we found it open. It was missing an ‘a’ but everything else seemed to be in place and we obtained our breakfast. Would we go there again? Probably, if we happened to be in the area.
After breakfast, we caught a bus in the direct of Bloomsbury and that wonderful institution, the British Museum. (I don’t care what the song says: the British Museum never loses its charm!)
As the bus sped along Southampton Row in Holborn, we spied an artist at work on a telephone box. Tigger suggested we had a word with her. I demurred, not wishing to interrupt her but Tigger persuaded me and I am glad she did.
The artist turned out to be Andrea Tyrimos, who was very welcoming and with whom we had a good chat about art, both art in general and her own art in particular, and learned the purpose and plan of her current work.
This particular telephone kiosk has been made redundant by BT and will be removed. In the meantime, it is being used as the basis for an art project with an environmental theme. (Note how Andrea has taped over the crown to keep it free of paint splashes etc.)
The rear of the kiosk has been boarded up and it is intended to install here a living wall or vertical garden. Andrea graciously agreed to us taking photos and we exchanged cards. Andrea is in a minority among street artists in that she prefers to use a brush rather than spray cans. In the above photos, you can see the recycled aluminium food container that she was using as a painter’s palette!
Update: As I am not sure when or whether we shall have an opportunity to see Andrea’s completed work, I refer you to this post on London Calling Blog.
Leaving Andrea at work, we continued on foot to Montague Street where, on the corner with Great Russell Street, is to be found the British Museum. Above is a stitched photo of the building from a less than usual viewpoint. It was our intention to go in by a side entrance to avoid the crowds.
Before entering the museum, however, we made a discovery halfway along Montage Street. Dividing the stand of terrace houses is a passageway closed by an ornamental gate. This was obviously worth a closer look.
One of the inscriptions is an elaborate ‘B’, suggesting (correctly, as it turns out), that the gate was made for the Bedford Estate. I at first thought the above inscription was a monogram but Tigger correctly interpreted it as the date – 1899. The gate comprises both cast and wrought elements.
The gateposts are decorated with exotic flowers and foliage in skilfully wrought iron. The present owners have done exactly the right thing in picking them out by gilding them. There are four similar ones, also gilded, across the top of the gate.
The gate is further decorated with eight flower motifs, one of which is shown above. They are stylized and I don’t know what plant they represent. Perhaps someone with better botanical knowledge can recognize what it is.
It seems not to be known who the maker of this elegant and stylish gate was but the work is considered important enough to merit a Grade II listing.
We walked around to the entrance that serves the King Edward VII Galleries. It is guarded by a pair of larger than life-size lions sculpted by Sir George Frampton for the then newly installed entrance. Quite different in conception from the typical imperial lions of the previous age, they are nonetheless regal and proud. The style is early Art Deco but I also think to see something of the poise and energetic stillness of Egyptian monumental sculpture in them.
This elaborate screen bearing the coat of arms of Edward VII stands over a staircase and encloses the lift shaft.
We had no fixed plan in visiting the museum, though I always like to at least walk through the Ancient Egyptian section. A civilization that placed such value on cats gains my admiration and sympathy! What follows is a random selection of objects seen and, of course, photographed.
My attention was caught by this statue with its confident, somewhat self-satisfied expression. It dates from the 5th century BC and was found in Idalion (now Dali) in Cyprus, at the shrine of Apollo-Reshef. His clothes and hair suggest a mixture of Greek and Persian styles and this was clearly an important and rich individual, possibly a member of the royal family. He had perhaps placed his statue in the god’s shrine in the hope of obtaining the latter’s approval and beneficence.
Isis was a member of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon and represented many things including fertility and motherhood. She was a very popular goddess and her cult spread through the Roman world as well. This statue was carved in Italy in the 2nd century AD. It was believed that the annual flooding of the Nile was caused by Isis shedding tears for her dead husband Osiris, murdered by Set, and in her left hand she is shown carrying a bucket of sacred Nile water.
This mosaic is Roman though made in Carthage. It represents the Titan Oceanus who was considered to be in charge of water and the oceans. The Titans were early Greek divinities and were later supplanted by the Olympian gods. When the two groups fought one another, Oceanus remained at peace with the Olympians and after their victory was therefore allowed to remain free and to continue in his aquatic stewardship.
Compared with the symbolic and stylized funerary art of Ancient Egypt, Roman memorials of the dead are often strikingly naturalistic. This panel was carved in Italy in the late BC or early AD periods. The women’s names are given as Fonteia Eleusis and Fonteia Helena and they were freed slaves once belonging to Fonteia Gaia. (It was usual for freedmen and freedwomen to take the name of their once owner and now sponsor.) The clasped hands indicate closeness and affection, leading some to think that they may be sisters, mother and daughter or close friends, even lovers. We shall never know for sure.
Despite the damage, this bust give me the strange feeling that she was someone I knew. Perhaps it is the realism and natural pose that creates that impression. I clearly couldn’t know the young person in question as this Roman marble bust was carved in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. The feeling persists, however…
Companions of Apollo and nine in number, the Muses were devoted to the arts and sciences. This 2nd century sculpture represents Thalia, Muse of Comedy. Although the shepherd’s crook and ivy wreath indicate Thalia’s connection with the countryside – thought to be the source of comedy – there is nothing of the bumpkin about her. She is as svelte and graceful as we expect Muses to be.
The museum’s Great Court is a sight worth beholding in its own right. It is the largest covered square in Europe. As far as I know, there is just one vantage point from which to obtain this view, an opening in the wall on an upper level. It is a popular spot in which to stand and you may have to insist in order to get to the front. Is the view worth the trouble? I think so.
My last photo shows a favourite of mine. He looks a little worn and probably once cut a more gallant figure but he’s obviously a survivor. His age is disputed – he may date from either the 2nd or the 4th century BC – but it is known that he was placed at the apex of a roof on a tall tomb on a cliff overlooking the harbour of Knidos. From guarding the noble dead he has moved to supervising the crowds milling about in the Great Court. Although he has lost his eyes, he still seems to gaze down benevolently as I take his photo.