This Week in London – Beacons to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th; 4,000 years of Sicilian history; underwear’s history exposed; a Shakespearean banknote remembered…

April 21, 2016

• Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday is being marked in various ways across the capital today. Along with street parties, gun salutes in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London, beacons will be lit in numerous locations across the city (as well as around the country and even internationally) tonight. Further celebrations will be held across May and June.

Sicily

More than 4,000 years of Sicily’s history is being explored in a new exhibition opening at the British Museum in Bloomsbury today. Sicily: culture and conquest features more than 200 objects and focuses on two major eras: the arrival of the Greeks in the latter half of the 7th century BC and their subsequent encounters with earlier settlers and the Phoenicians; and, the period under Norman rule between 1100 and 1250 AD. Highlights include a spectacularly well preserved terracotta altar from about 500 BC, a terracotta sculpture of a Greek Gorgon, an iconic marble sculpture of a warrior from ancient Akragas, a bronze battering ram used by the Romans to sink enemy ships, a 12th century Byzantine-style mosaic and marble, and wooden Islamic-influenced architectural decorations along with ceremonial glassware and ivory, gold pendants and intricate enamel mosaics and cameos from the Norman period. The exhibition, being run in conjunction with Regione Siciliana, Assessorato dei Beni Culturati e dell’Identita Siciliana, runs in Room 35 until 14th August. Admission charges apply and a programme of events accompanies the exhibition. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/sicily.

• The largest ever museum exhibition of underwear has opened at the V&A in South Kensington. Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear charts the history of underwear from the 18th century to today and features some of the more than 60 individual pieces of mostly contemporary underwear the museum recently acquired for its permanent collection as well as loaned objects. Among the objects on display are an “austerity corset” dating from 1917-18 which has been made from woven paper twine, a man’s waist belt used on the wearer’s wedding day which dates from 1842, a late 19th century corset designed for cycling as well as a rare surviving example of a 1978 panty thong designed by Rudi Gernreich (credited with giving the thong its name) and numerous contemporary pieces – everything from a butt lifter and waist trainer for women to a pair of EnlargetIt briefs designed by aussieBum to add volume to a man’s crotch and a mastectomy bra and prosthesis. The exhibition can be seen until 12th March next year. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/undressed.

Banknote designer Harry Norman Eccleston’s Shakespearean-related design for the now out of circulation £20 banknote is the subject of an exhibition at the Bank of England Museum in the City. Held as part of commemorations marking 400 years since the Bard’s death, Eccleston’s Shakespeare explores the design elements used in the note, first issued in July, 1970, from his rendering of William Kent’s statue of Shakespeare to his drawing of the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet. Entry is free. For more, see www.bankofengland.co.uk.

Send all items for inclusion t0 exploringlondon@gmail.com.

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