This Week in London – Nero at the British Museum; Stephen Hawking’s office to be recreated at the Science Museum; and, Blue Plaque for Indian engineer Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia…

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Head from a bronze statue of the emperor Nero. Found in England, AD 54– 61. PICTURE: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A bronze head of the Roman Emperor Nero found in the River Alde in Suffolk – long wrongly identified as being that of the Emperor Claudius – and the Fenwick Hoard – which includes Roman coins, military armlets and jewellery – are among the star sights at a new exhibition on Nero at the British Museum. Nero: the man behind the myth is the first major exhibition in the UK which takes Rome’s fifth emperor as its subject. The display features more than 200 objects charting Nero’s rise to power and his actions during a period of profound social change and range from graffiti and sculptures to manuscripts and slave chains. Other highlights include gladiatorial weapons from Pompeii, a warped iron window grating burnt during the Great Fire of Rome of 64 AD, and frescoes and wall decorations which give some insight into the opulent palace he built after the fire. The exhibition, which opens today, runs until 24th October in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/nero/events.aspx.

The office of late theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking will be recreated at the Science Museum, it was announced this week. The contents of the office, which Hawking, the author of the best-selling A Brief History of Time, occupied at Cambridge’s department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics from 2002 until shortly before his death in 2018, includes reference books, blackboards, medals, a coffee maker and Star Trek mementoes as well as six of his wheelchairs and the innovative equipment he used to communicate. The museum, which reportedly initially plans to put the objects on display in 2022 and later recreate the office itself, has acquired the contents through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which allows families to offset tax (his archive will go to the Cambridge University Library under the same scheme).

Nineteenth century civil engineer Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia – the first Indian Fellow of the Royal Society – has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at his former Richmond home. The plaque, which can be found on 55 Sheen Road – the villa Cursetjee and his British family moved to upon his retirement in 1868, was installed to mark the 180th anniversary of his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Cursetjee is considered the first modern engineer of India and was the first Indian at the East India Company to be placed in charge of Europeans. He was at the forefront of introducing technological innovations to Mumbai including gaslight, photography, electro-plating and the sewing machine. Cursetjee first visited London in 1839 and travelled regularly been Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and London until his retirement. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques.

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Treasures of London – Sutton Hoo helmet…

This spectacular Anglo-Saxon helmet – perhaps the most famous Anglo-Saxon object in a museum today – was among the finds made at the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk in the late 1930s, the story of which is told in the current Netflix film, The Dig.

The Sutton Hoo helmet in the British Museum in 2016. PICTURE: Geni (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

The ornately decorated helmet, the manufacture of which is dated to the late 6th or early 7th century, was found buried in the grave mound of an important figure whom some believe was an East Anglian king named Rædwald. The grave mound had been constructed over a ship containing the body and artefacts including the helmet. The ship itself had disintegrated but its imprint was uncovered during the excavation.

Excavated in hundreds of corroded fragments, the iron and bronze helmet, which is believed to have weighed about 2.5 kilograms, was painstakingly reassembled in the mid-1940s to reveal a helmet featuring cheek and neck guards and a mask with sculpted facial features including a nose, eyebrows and moustache as well as holes for the eyes. It features a number of other decorative elements including representations of dragons and warriors as well as geometric patterns. Gold and silver were used in the decorations.

The helmet underwent a second reconstruction in the early 1970s after issues were identified with the first.

The helmet, along with other artefacts found at the site, were deemed to be the property of Suffolk landowner Edith Pretty who subsequently donated it to the British Museum. It is on permanent display in Room 41 of the museum.

This Week in London – City statues to be removed; 800-year-old window at centre of upcoming Becket exhibition; and, weavers give £100,000 for new museum…

Statues of two prominent men with links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade will be removed from Guildhall, the City of London has said. The City of London Corporation’s policy and resources committee voted to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass following a recommendation from the corporation’s Tackling Racism Taskforce. The statue of Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be replaced with a new artwork while the likeness of Sir John Cass, a merchant, MP and philanthropist in the 17th and 18th centuries who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation. The corporation will now set up a working group to oversee the removal of the statues and replacement works and will also consider commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade in the City.

A detail from the healing of Ralph de Longeville in the Miracle window, Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.

An 800-year-old stained glass window from Canterbury Cathedral will form the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition on Thomas Becket. Now scheduled for April after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint will feature more than 100 objects as it tells the story of Becket’s life, death and enduring legacy. The ‘Miracle Window’ – one of seven surviving from an original series of 12 – will be shown in its original arrangement of the first time in more than 350 years. The fifth in the series, it depicts miracles which took place in the three year after Becket’s death including the healing of eyesight and the replacement of lost genitals. The exhibition will represent the first time a complete stained glass window has been lent by the cathedral. Details of tickets will be announced soon. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/becket.

The Worshipful Company of Weavers this week announced the donation of £100,000 towards the creation of the new Museum of London in former market buildings at West Smithfield. The donation is one of the largest ever awarded by the livery company which, having a Royal charter dating from 1155, is the oldest surviving. The masterplan for the new museum received planning permission in June last year.

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This Week in London – The ‘Fight for Women’s Rights’ at the British Library; ghosts at Hampton Court Palace; and, Arctic culture at the British Museum…

Banners loaned from Southall Black Sisters, Bishopsgate Institute, People’s History Museum, Sisters Uncut, Feminist Archive South (Courtesy of the British Library)

The history of the women’s rights movement and the work of contemporary feminist activists is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the British Library tomorrow. Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, the opening of which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, features everything from personal diaries and banners to subversive literature, film, music and art. Highlights include protest poems written by Sylvia Pankhurst on toilet paper in Holloway Prison following her imprisonment for seditious activity in January 1921, a first edition of Jane Austen’s debut novel, Sense and Sensibility, published anonymously ‘By a Lady’ in 1811, and, football boots belonging to Hope Powell, a veteran player who became the first woman to manage England Women in 1998. There’s also records of surveillance carried out on Sophia Duleep Singh, one of Queen Victoria’s god-daughters and a supporter of campaigns for women’s suffrage, and a piece of fence wire cut by writer Angela Carter’s friends and sent to her as a present from RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire where they were protesting against nuclear missiles. Runs until 21st February next year. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.bl.uk.

Like a good ghost story? Hampton Court Palace is launched a new self-guided ‘Creepy Stories and Ghostly Encounters’ trail on Saturday. The trail takes in sites including those where the ‘Grey Lady’ – said to be the ghost of Tudor nursemaid – has appeared since Victorian times, the locations said to be haunted by two of King Henry VIII’s queens – Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, and the site where a spectral figure was captured on film slamming shut a door in 2003. The palace is also unveiling a new display of carved pumpkins in the Royal Kitchen Garden. Entry charge applies. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.

The first major exhibition on the history of the Arctic and its Indigenous people, through the lens of climate change and weather, has opened at the British Museum. The Citi exhibition, Arctic: culture and climate, reveals how Arctic people have adapted to climate variability in the past and are facing today’s weather challenges. It features everything from rare archaeological finds, unique tools and clothing as well as artworks and contemporary photography with highlights including an eight-piece Igloolik winter costume made of caribou fur and an Inughuit (Greenlandic) sled made from narwhal and caribou bone and pieces of driftwood which was traded to Sir John Ross on his 1818 expedition as well as artworks commissioned specifically for the exhibition. These include an Arctic monument of stacked stones, known as an Inuksuk – used to mark productive harvesting locations or to assist in navigation – which was built by Piita Irniq, from the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, Canada. Can be seen in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery until 21st February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – Rare Hebrew manuscripts at British Library; British Museum to reopen; and art at the Old Royal Naval College…

The launch of a new exhibition looking at Hebrew manuscripts marks the next phase of the British Library reopening. Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word explores the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish people around the world and features rarely seen treasures including a letter to King Henry VIII written by an Italian rabbi in 1530 regarding Biblical laws that could support Henry VIII’s claim to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon as well as the earliest dated copy – 1380 – of Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, a rare uncensored copy of the Babylonian Talmud dating from the 13th century, and a 15th century illustrated copy of Abraham bar Hiyya’s Shape of the Earth, one of the first Jewish scientific works written in the Hebrew language. Also reopening is the library’s free permanent gallery – the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library – with a new one-way route taking in treasures including Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks and handwritten manuscripts by the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. For more on the exhibition and the library’s reopening, see www.bl.uk. PICTURE: David Jensen.

The British Museum reopens to visitors from today after the longest closure in its 261 year history. Tickets must be pre-booked online or over the phone and visitors will be able to access the ground floor galleries through a new one-way route. The museum has also announced that Grayson Perry’s work, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman – an elaborate, cast-iron coffin-ship originally created for his British Museum exhibition of the same name in 2011 – is returning to the museum. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

A “celestial choir of spinning sound machines” can be seen at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich this weekend. Positioned in Lower Grand Square, Chorus is the monumental work of award-winning artist and British Composer of the Year Ray Lee. It features a series of giant metal tripods supporting rotating arms, at the end of which are loudspeakers which emit finely turned musical pitches. It can be viewed from Friday through to Monday. Meanwhile, the Painted Hall is hosting Luke Jerram’s artwork Gaia which features NASA imagery in creating a virtual, 3D small scale Earth. Gaia can be seen from tomorrow until 6th September (admission charge applies).  For more, see www.ornc.org.

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Treasures of London – The Gayer-Anderson Cat…

This stunning hollow bronze figure from ancient Egypt depicts the goddess Bastet in the form of a seated (domestic-sized) cat and dates from around 600 BC.

Its name comes from Irish-born military man Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, who was a keen collector of Egyptian sculpture, jewellery and pottery which he showcased as his Cairo home, now known as the Gayer-Anderson Museum. Gayer-Anderson donated the cat to the British Museum in 1939 (there’s a copy in the Gayer-Anderson Museum).

The 14 centimetre tall figure, which wears a silver protective pectoral and golden earrings and nose ring, was probably housed in a temple. The scarab beetle on the cat’s head and chest symbolises rebirth and the silver wedjat-eye on the pectoral was supposed to invoke protection and healing.

The cat, which a particularly fine example of a cat sculpture from the period, can usually be seen in the Egyptian sculpture gallery in Room 4 of the British Museum but given its closure because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may like to take a look at a 3D model of the cat which is on the museum’s website here.

PICTURE:  © the Trustees of the British Museum

This Week in London – UK treasure finds, and V&A acquires medieval brooch…

While the closure of institutions due to the COVID-19 crisis has changed our coverage temporarily, we’ll still be using this space to report news as it comes to hand..

A 1,100-year-old brooch, a coin from Roman Britain, an Iron Age drinking set and a solid gold Bronze Age arm ring were among finds unearthed by the general public in England, Wales and Ireland last year. The British Museum has revealed that preliminary figures show more than 1,300 treasure finds – generally defined as gold and silver objects that are over 300 years old, or groups of coins and prehistoric metalwork – were reported across the three countries in 2019. In total, some 81,602 archaeological finds were recorded with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme last year with the most finds found in Norfolk, followed by Suffolk and Hampshire. PICTURE: Copper alloy fitting from bucket, in the shape of a human face, from Lenham, Kent. Iron Age c50BC (© Mat Honeysett 2019).

Meanwhile, the V&A has announced it has acquired a rare jewelled late medieval cluster brooch which was uncovered in 2017 by a metal detectorist in a former royal hunting ground near Brigstock, Northamptonshire. The brooch, which dates from c. 1400- 1450, is believed to have been made in either France or Germany. It’s the only one of its kind to be found in the UK and one of only seven known examples in the world. The brooch is on display in V&A’s William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery (when the museum reopens).

 

This Week in London – The British Museum gets arty; music festivals in Georgian Britain; the story of Tangerine Dream; and, migration at Dulwich…

• Artworks by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Visa Celmins are on show in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Reflecting artistic developments in the past 100 years of modern art, Living with art: Picasso to Celmins features 30 prints and drawings. It showcases highlights from the wide-ranging collection of Alexander Walker (1930–2003), a longstanding film critic for London’s Evening Standard newspaper, which was bequeathed to the British Museum in 2004. The exhibition can be seen at the museum until 5th March before heading off on tour. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: David Hockney (b. 1937), ‘Jungle Boy’ (1964) Etching and aquatint in black and red on mould-made paper © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt.

Music festivals in Georgian Britain – from the Handel Commemoration of 1784 to the Crystal Palace concerts of the late 19th century – are explored in a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. Music Festivals in Georgian Britain looks at the logistics behind the organisation of the concerts which followed on in the tradition of benefit concerts for charities as well as the expectations of audiences. Runs until 14th September. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

The “extraordinary story” of German band Tangerine Dream is told in a new exhibition opening at the City of London’s Barbican Music Library today. Tangerine Dream: Zeitraffer features photographs, previously unpublished articles, video clips, and original synthesizers as it tells the story of the band – credited with laying the foundation for the Ambient and Trance music styles – from its founding in 1967 and the release of its first album, Electronic Meditation, in 1970 through to the latest album, Recurring Dreams, last year. The band, which has released more than 160 albums, has also composed the scores for more than 60 Hollywood films including Michael Mann’s Risky Business and Ridley Scott’s Legend as well as Firestarter, based on the Stephen King novel. In 2013, they also wrote the score for the record-breaking video game, Grand Theft Auto V, and their music has appeared in recent Netflix series, Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Mr Robot. Runs until 2nd May. Admission is free.

The stories of six “community curators” – each of whom has personal experience of migration – are at the centre of a new display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Journeys, which explores themes of identity, belonging, migration and London’s multiculturalism, examines the contemporary relevance of works by the likes of Poussin, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck against the backdrop of the life stories of the curators who, aged between 29 and 69, have a combined heritage spanning eight countries including Yemen, Sri Lanka, Italy, Pakistan and Ireland. Opens next Tuesday (21st January) and runs until 24th June with a special free late opening on 19th June during the final week which coincides with Refugee Week. For more, see www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

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This (Year) in London – Five exhibitions you won’t want to miss in 2020…

It’s our first ‘This Week in London’ for 2020 so instead of our usual programming, we thought we’d briefly look at five key exhibitions that you won’t want to miss this year…

1. Thomas Becket at the British Museum. Marking the 850th anniversary of the murder of the medieval Archbishop of Canterbury on 29th December, 1170, the museum will host the first ever major exhibition on the life, death and legacy of the archbishop as part of a year-long programme of events which also includes performances, pageants, talks, film screenings and religious services. The exhibition will run from 15th October to 14th February, 2021. PICTURE: Alabaster sculpture, c 1450–1550, England. Here, Becket is shown kneeling at an altar, his eyes closed and his hands clasped in prayer, all the while four knights draw their swords behind him. To Becket’s right is the monk Edward Grim, whose arm was injured by one of the knight’s swords. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

2. Elizabeth and Mary at the British Library. This exhibition draws on original historic documents to  take a fresh look at what’s described as the “extraordinary and fascinating story of two powerful queens, both with a right to the English throne: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots”. Letters and other 16th century documents will show how their struggle for supremacy in the isles played out. Runs from 23rd October to 21st February, 2021.

3. Tudors to Windsors at the National Maritime Museum. This major exhibition promises to give visitors “the opportunity to come face-to-face with the kings, queens and their heirs who have shaped British history and were so central to Greenwich”.  Including more than 150 works covering five royal dynasties, it will consider the development of royal portraiture over a period spanning 500 years and how they were impacted by the personalities of individual monarchs as well as wider historical changes. Will be held from April.

4. Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King at Hampton Court Palace. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold – King Henry VIII’s landmark meeting with his great rival, the French King François I, the exhibition will feature a treasure trove of precious objects from the English and French courts as well as a never-before-seen tapestry, manufactured in the 1520s, which depicts a bout of wrestling at the meeting presided over by François and which also shows a black trumpeter among the many musicians depicted. Opens on 10th April. The palace will also play host this year to Henry VIII vs François I: The Rematch, a nine day festival of jousting, wrestling and foot combat complete with feasting, drinking and courtly entertainment. Runs from 23rd to 31st May.

5. Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This display brings together, for the first time, the three surviving versions of the iconic ‘Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I. The portrait commemorates the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England and the display will include the Royal Museums Greenwich’s own version of the painting along with that from the National Portrait Gallery and that which normally hangs in Woburn Abbey. Runs from 13th February to 31st August.

We’ll feature more details in stories throughout the coming year. But, of course, this is just a sample of what’s coming up this year – keep an eye on Exploring London for more…

This Week in London – Troy explored at British Museum; Georgian theatre in London; and, Green Plaque for Europe’s first recording studio…

A major exhibition on the legendary city of Troy has opened at the British Museum. Troy: myth and reality showcases works of art inspired by the “tales of war, love and loss” connected to the Trojan cycle of myths and follows in the footsteps of archaeologists and adventurers who have sought to find evidence of the ancient city. Among the almost 300 objects on show are original finds – such as pottery, silver vessels, bronze weapons and stone sculptures – found by Heinrich Schliemann’s work at the site between 1870 and 1890, a Roman sarcophagus lid picturing a wheeled – and armed – wooden horse (on loan from Oxford’s Ashmolean), Filippo Albacini’s (1777–1858) marble sculpture, The Wounded Achilles, and a Roman silver cup from the National Museum of Denmark depicting the meeting of Priam and Achilles as described in Homer’s The Iliad (pictured). Admission charges applies. Runs until 8th March. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org/Troy. PICTURE: Priam and Achilles, Roman silver cup, 1st century AD, National Museum of Denmark Photograph: Roberta Fortuna and Kira Ursem © National Museet Denmark.

Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, unveiled a Westminster City Council Green Plaque commemorating the site of Europe’s earliest recording studio in Covent Garden earlier this month. The studio was opened on Maiden Lane, one street north of the Strand, in 1898 by audio pioneer Fred Gaisberg and The Gramophone Company, a precursor to EMI – the same company which opened the world-famous Abbey Road Studios 33 years later. The campaign for the plaque – located on a building now housing a pizza restaurant – was led by music journalist and author James Hall with support from the EMI Archive Trust. For more, see www.westminster.gov.uk/green-plaques.

• On Now: Two Last Nights! Show Business in Georgian Britain. This interactive display throughout the entire Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury features more than 100 objects which highlight the similarities and differences between theatre going in the Georgian era and now. It explores key venues in London and beyond and is divided into four sections focusing on Georgian theatres like Drury Lane and Covent Garden, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, the importance of the Foundling Hospital Chapel as a music venue, and the provincial music festivals held in other major cities in Britain. Runs until 5th January. Free with museum admission. For more, see www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Saint Agatha returns to Osterley; Lucian Freud’s self-portraits; and, the collection of Sir Stamford Raffles…

A painting of early Christian martyr Saint Agatha by 17th century Italian artist Carlo Dolci is the highlight of a new exhibition opening at Osterley House in London’s west on Monday. The painting, which has been acquired by the National Trust for the house thanks to an Art Fund grant and other donations, is at the heart of Treasures of Osterley –  Rise of a Banking Family which explores the rise to fame and fortune of the Child family. Sir Robert Child had originally purchased the picture at the start of the 18th century but it was later sold with other family heirlooms in the 1930s. The painting depicts the miraculous moment with St Peter appeared to St Agatha in a vision and healed her wounds. The exhibition can be seen until 23rd February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/osterley-park-and-house.

The first exhibition to focus on the “visceral and unflinching” self-portraits of artist Lucian Freud (1922-2011) has opened at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits features about 50 works that chart his artistic development from early graphic works to the fleshy, painterly style of his later work. The display is organised into six sections, starting with first major self-portrait, Man with a Feather (1943), which is juxtaposed with his late work, Self-portrait, Reflection (2000). It ends with two self-portraits he painted in 2002 and 2003. The exhibition can be seen in The Jillian and Arthur M Sackler Wing of Galleries until 26th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk. PICTURE: Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985 Oil on canvas, 55.9 x 55.3 cm Private collection, on loan to the Irish Museum of Modern Art © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

• On Now: Sir Stamford Raffles: collecting in Southeast Asia 1811-1824. Controversial figure Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles spent most of his career as an official with the East India Company in South-East Asia during which he was an avid collector of objects from the region. His collection, one of the first large collections from the region, was eventually donated to the British Museum. This display at the museum showcases an important selection of 130 objects from that collection including Hindu-Buddhist antiquities, different types of theatrical puppets, masks, musical instruments and stone and metal sculpture. A collaboration with Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, the exhibition can be seen until 12th January in Room 91. It’s free to enter. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – A rare surviving piece of Queen Elizabeth’s dress on show?; Inside Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and, Islamic influences on art…

An altar cloth which may have once been part of a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth I goes on show at Hampton Court Palace (pictured) this Saturday. The Bacton Altar Cloth, which was discovered in a church in Bacton in rural Hertfordshire, has undergone two years of conservation work and will be displayed alongside a portrait of the “Virgin Queen” featuring a dress of similar design. The altar cloth has long been associated with Bacton-born Blanche Parry, one of Queen Elizabeth’s servants who became her Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber. Records show the Queen regularly gave her discarded clothing to Parry and for years there has been speculation that the altar cloth was part of one such discarded item. Historic Royal Palaces curator Eleri Lynn, an expert in Tudor court dress, was able to identify previously unseen features and studied the seams of the fabric to show it had once been part of a skirt. Further research – including an examination of the dyes used in the item – have added weight to the theory it was once part of a dress. The altar cloth, on loan from St Faith’s Church in Bacton, can be seen until 23rd February. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.hrp.org.uk. PICTURE: David Adams.

A photographic exhibition of the first ‘golden’ decade of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club – featuring images of legendary British and American jazz singers – opens at the Barbican Music Library on Saturday. Ronnie Scott’s 1959-1969: Photographs by Freddy Warren, which marks the club’s 60th anniversary, features Warren’s photographs of the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Zoot Sims, Cleo Laine and Tony Bennett. Warren was the in-house photographer at the Soho club from the opening night in 1959, when it was based in Gerrard Street, and documented the construction of the new site in Frith Street in the mid-1960s along with the arrival in London of big American stars. The exhibition includes rare vintage prints – some which were salvaged from the walls when the club was renovated in 2006, Freddy Warren’s original contact sheets, and previously unseen prints specially produced from the original negatives. The exhibition is free. Runs until 4th January. For more, see www.barbican.org.uk/your-visit/during-your-visit/library.

An exhibition exploring how western artists have been inspired by the Islamic world opens at the British Museum today. Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art features paintings by leading ‘Orientalists’ including Eugène Delacroix, John Frederick Lewis and Frederick Arthur Bridgman as well as less well-known pieces like British artist Edmund Dulac’s original illustrations for a 1907 edition of the Arabian Nights, and ceramics by Frenchman Théodore Deck, who in the late 19th century created a range of pieces directly inspired by Islamic originals. The display also includes contemporary reactions to the imagery of Orientalism by Middle Eastern and North African female artists such as Lalla Essaydi’s Women of Morocco triptych and Inci Eviner’s 2009 video work Harem. The display can be seen in The Sir Joseph Hotung Exhibition Gallery until 26th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – Celebrating Rembrandt’s relationship with light; Paul Gauguin’s portraits; and, sacred Japanese images…

Rembrandt’s mastery of light is the subject of a new exhibition opening at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Friday to mark 350 years since the Dutch artist’s death. Rembrandt’s Light includes 35 of his greatest paintings, etchings and drawings including international loans The Pilgrims at Emmaus (1648) and – shown for the first time in the UK – Philemon and Baucis, (1658), Tobit and Anna with the Kid (1645) and The Dream of Joseph (1645). The works have been arranged thematically and show how he used light and shadow for dramatic effect, focusing on his work during the middle period of his career – 1639-1658 – while he was living in his “dream house” on Breestraat in Amsterdam where the large windows provided ideal access to light. The display will employ a new LED Bluetooth lighting system installed at the gallery while cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, famed for his work on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Mars Attacks!, has worked with the curators to create what the gallery promises will be an “atmospheric visitor experience”. Admission charge applies. Runs to 2nd February. PICTURE: Rembrandt van Reign, Philemon and Baucis (1658), oil on panel transferred to panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The first ever exhibition devoted to the portraits of Paul Gauguin opens at the National Gallery on Monday. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Gauguin Portraits shows how the French artist, who was famed for his paintings of French Polynesia, revolutionised the portrait to express himself and his ideas about art. It features more than 50 works including paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings – many of which have rarely been seen together. They include Madame Mette Gauguin in Evening Dress (1884), Young Breton Girl (1889), Tehura (Teha’amana) (1891-93), Young Christian Girl (1894), Père Paillard (1902) and the last self-portrait he ever completed, made in 1903, probably shortly before the end of his life at the age of 55. Runs until 26th January in the Sainsbury Wing. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

Fifteen Buddhist and Shinto sacred images from the Nara Prefecture have gone on show at the British Museum. The works, which include five Japanese National Treasures, date from between 600 and 1300 AD and are displayed with related important Japanese and Chinese paintings from the museum’s collection. The objects include a gilt bronze sculpture, Bodhisattva of Compassion, a gilt-bronze libation dish featuring the birth of the Buddha and a pair of imposing wooden sculptures, Heavenly Kings, all of which date from the 700s. Nara: sacred images from early Japan can be seen in Room 3 (the Asahi Shimbun Displays) and the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries (Room 93). Runs until 24th November. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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This Week in London – Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace; royal etchings; and, Ed Ruscha at Tate Modern…

The impact of Queen Victoria on Buckingham Palace, transforming what was empty residence into “the most glittering court in Europe”, is a special focus of this year’s summer opening of Buckingham Palace. Marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Queen, the exhibition Queen Victoria’s Palace recreates the music, dancing and entertaining that characterised the early part of the Queen’s reign using special effects and displays. Highlights include the Queen’s costume (pictured) for the Stuart Ball of 13th July, 1851, where attendees dressed in the style of King Charles II’s court. There’s also a recreation of a ball held in the palace’s newly completed Ballroom and Ball Supper Room on 17th June, 1856, to mark the end of the Crimean War and honour returning soldiers which uses a Victorian illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost to bring to life Louis Haghe’s watercolour, The Ball of 1856. The table in the State Dining Room, meanwhile, has been dressed with items from the ‘Victoria’ pattern dessert service, purchased by the Queen at the 1851 Great Exhibition, and the room also features the Alhambra table fountain, a silver-gilt and enamel centrepiece commissioned by Victoria and Albert in the same year, and silver-gilt pieces from the Grand Service, commissioned by the Queen’s uncle, King George IV, on which sit replica desserts based on a design by Queen Victoria’s chief cook, Charles Elme Francatelli. The summer opening runs until 29th September. Admission charges apply. For more, see www.rct.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace. PICTURE: Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 The Victorian reign is also the subject of a new exhibition at the British Museum where rare etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert have gone on display. At home: Royal etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert features 20 artworks that they created during the early years of their marriage and depict scenes of their domestic lives at Windsor Castle and Claremont including images of their children and pets. The display includes three works donated to the museum by King George V, Queen Victoria’s grandson, in 1926, and it’s the first time they’ve gone on public display. Prince Albert introduced the Queen to the practice of etching soon after their wedding and under the guidance of Sir George Hayter they made their first works on 28th August, 1840. They would go on to collaborate on numerous works together. The display can be seen in Room 90a until mid-September. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: The Princess Royal and Prince of Wales, 1843, by Albert, Prince Consort (after Queen Victoria) © The Trustees of the British Museum.

American artist Ed Ruscha is the subject of the latest “Artist Rooms” annual free display in the Tate Modern’s Blavatnik building on South Bank. The display features works spanning Ruscha’s six-decade career, including large, text-based paintings and his iconic photographic series. There is also a display of Ruscha’s artist’s books – including Various Small Fires 1964 and Every Building on the Sunset Strip 1966 – as well as some 40 works on paper gifted to Tate by the artist. Highlights include his series of photographs of LA’s swimming pools and parking lots, paintings inspired by classic Hollywood cinema, and works such as DANCE? (1973), Pay Nothing Until April (2003) and Our Flag (2017). Runs until spring 2020. Admission is free. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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This Week in London – City of London’s biggest rooftop viewing platform opens; Rembrandt at the British Museum; and, Franz West at the Tate…

The City of London’s largest rooftop viewing space – The Garden at 120 – has opened atop the newly opened Fen Court office building in Fenchurch Street. The viewing platform – located 15 storeys above the street – offers 360 degree views of the City and features a pergola planted with fruit trees and Italian wisteria, a water feature and coffee hut. Entry is free and access is between 10am and 6.30pm weekdays until 31st March (5pm on weekends) and between 10am and 9pm from 1st April to 30th September. For more, see www.thegardenat120.com. PICTURE: diamond geezer (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rembrandt’s drawing and prints are the subject of a new free exhibition at the British Museum. Marking 350 years since the death of Rembrandt van Rijn in 1669, Rembrandt: thinking on paper features more than 60 of the Dutch artist’s works ranging from quick sketches to fully realised compositions with subject matter including self-portraits, landscapes and Biblical scenes. Works include Young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels?) (c1654), his printing plate for Reclining female nude (1658), the pen-and-ink Sketches of an old man and child (c1639-40), Self-portrait, bareheaded, bust in frontal view (1629), Self-portrait drawing at a window (1648), the Raising of Lazarus (c1632) and his late, large drypoints the Three Crosses (1653) and Ecce Homo (1655). Runs until 4th August in Room 90. Entry is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

The first posthumous retrospective of the work of Franz West (1947-2012) ever staged in the UK has opened at the Tate Modern. Franz West spans the artist’s career over four decades and includes examples from his series of early abstract small sculptures like Passstücke (Adaptives), furniture work first displayed in the artist’s pivotal 1989 exhibition at the Haus Lange Museum, as well as later, large-scale installations such as Auditorium (1992) and Epiphany on Chairs (2011). The artist’s works in papier-mâché – Legitimate Sculptures – are also featured and there’s a room devoted to Redundanz (1986), a three-part ensemble accompanied by text that stresses “the difference between language and art as ways of understanding the world”. The display finishes with an array of West’s dramatic aluminum works and a collection of maquettes for the artist’s outdoor sculptures, five of which are installed in the South Landscape. Runs until 2nd June. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.tate.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Good grief, Charlie Brown!; Captain Cook and the Pacific; and the Kindertransport remembered…

Eighty original comic strips hand-drawn by Charles M Schulz, of Peanuts fame, are on show at Somerset House on the Strand along with many of his personal effects and interactive installations in an exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of iconic character Charlie Brown. Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Snoopy and the Enduring Power of Peanuts looks at the impact of the comics on the cultural landscape, from 1950 to now, and, alongside works by Schultz, features responses to them by 20 figures from the worlds of art, fashion and music. The comic strips are showcased in their original state and size – complete with inky thumbprints and correction marks – and sit alongside vintage Peanuts products and publications as well as correspondence between Schultz and people such as Billie Jean King and Hillary Rodham (now Clinton). Along with interactive displays including a real-life re-imagination of Lucy’s Psychiatric Help booth, light boxes where people can learn to draw the Peanuts characters and a Snoopy Cinema, here are also three large-scale lights installations illuminating the entrance to the exhibition. This landmark exhibition can be seen until 3rd March. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.somerset.org.uk.

Newly acquired contemporary artworks by Pacific Island artists are at the centre of an exhibition re-examining the relationship between Captain James Cook and the peoples of the Pacific Ocean which is running at the British Museum. Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives also features historic artefacts including Cook’s personal possessions and the British Museum’s oldest example of a Hawaiian shirt (pictured). Among the 14 contemporary artworks are eight specially acquired for the exhibition and all are in some way a response to Cook’s voyages to places including Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Tahiti. They include Maori artist Steve Gibbs’ Name Changer – an attempt to restore awareness of the traditional Maori names for the region around Gisborne in New Zealand, and a work by the Aboriginal photographer and artist Michael Cook, Civilised #12, which reflects on the legacy of William Dampier, the first Briton to visit Australia (before Cook). The display can be seen in Room 91 until 4th August. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: ‘Hawaiian’ style vintage cotton shirt, decorated with designs from drawings done on Captain Cook’s voyages, Hawaii, 1970-1980. © Image The Trustees of the British Museum.

An exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport is running at the Jewish Museum London in Camden. Remembering the Kindertransport: 80 Years On tells the story of how in 1938-39, the British Government allowed 10,000 Jewish and other ‘non-Aryan’ children from Nazi-occupied Europe to come to Britain in a rescue operation which became known as the ‘Kindertransport’. It features the children, now in their 80s and 90s, telling their stories on film as well as personal objects and artefacts they brought with them from their homelands. Also on show is a photographic exhibition – Still in Our Hands: Kinder Life Portraits – featuring archival photographs and portraits of former Kindertransportees and another – My Home and Me – which, held in partnership with the British Red Cross, explores the journey of young refugees arriving in Britain today. The exhibition, which is being accompanied by a series of events, runs until 10th February. Admission is free. For more, see www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/kindertransport.

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This Week in London – Lorenzo Lotto portraits; Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in depth; and, Klimt/Schiele drawings…

The portraits of Italian Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto, known for their rich symbolism, have gone on show at The National Gallery. Highlights of Lorenzo Lotto Portraits include masterpieces as the Bishop Bernardo de‘ Rossi (1505) and the monumental altarpiece of The Alms of Saint Antoninus of Florence (1540–2) brought to the UK from Venice for the first time as well as the Assumption of the Virgin with Saints Anthony Abbot and Louis of Toulouse (1506), The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with Niccolò Bonghi (1523 – pictured), the Portrait of a Young Man with a Lizard (1528–30), and the Portrait of a Man with a Felt Hat (1541?). The display, which is arranged over four rooms, also includes objects relating to the portraits including a carpet, sculpture, jewellery, clothing and books. Runs until 10th February. Admission is free. For more, see www.nationalgallery.org.ukPICTURE: Lorenzo Lotto, ‘Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine with Donor Niccolò Bonghi’, 1523, Oil on canvas, 172 x 143cm, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, © Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.

The first exhibition to take a detailed look at the life of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal has opened at the British Museum. I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria focuses on the 7th century BC when Ashurbanipal was the most powerful person on earth, ruling a vast and diverse empire from his capital of Babylon. More than 200 objects from the museum’s collection and other collections across the world feature in the display including massive stone sculptures, carved reliefs, carved ivories and metalwork, and ornate chariot fittings and weaponry. And in a contemporary twist, the final section of the exhibition looks at the challenges faced in protecting Iraqi cultural heritage in recent times. Runs until 24th February in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

A joint exhibition of works by Austrian artists Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918) has opened at the Royal Academy to mark the centenary of their deaths. Klimt / Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna is the first UK exhibition to focus on the fundamental importance of drawing to both artists and traces their use of the technique from their academic training days through to their later unconventional explorations of the human figure. About 100 works on paper feature in the display including studies for allegorical paintings, portraits and self-portraits, landscapes, erotic nudes and a sketchbook as well as carefully selected examples of lithographs, photographs and original publications. Runs in The Sackler Wing of Galleries until 3rd February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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This Week in London – Edward Burne-Jones at Tate Britain; Fictional pirates at V&A Museum of Childhood; and, British Museum’s new Islamic gallery…

Two celebrated series of paintings by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones have been brought together for the first time in their entirety in a new exhibition at Tate Britain. The large scale works known as The Briar Rose (c1890) and the unfinished Perseus series (started in 1875) – the artist’s most famous narrative cycles – are at the centre of a new exhibition, Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary, which opened at the gallery yesterday. The Briar Rose features four canvasses – shown in a museum setting together for the first time – which illustrate the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty while the Perseus cycle, commissioned by then-MP and future PM Arthur Balfour, was intended to be 10 large scale oil paintings retelling the ancient myth of Perseus but was only partly realised (the display includes four finished paintings and six full scale preparatory drawings). The other 150 works on show in this display – the first major Burne-Jones retrospective to be held in London in more than 40 years – include paintings, tapestries and stained glass panels. Among other highlights are the large scale paintings Love among the Ruins (1870-73) and The Wheel of Fortune (1883), the stained glass work, The Good Shepherd (1857-61), and altar piece The Adoration of the Magi (1861), drawings including Desiderium (1873), portraits such as those of Amy Gaskell (1893) and Lady Windsor (1893-95) and embroideries, illustrated books and large scale tapestries including The Arming and Departure of the Knights of the Round Table on the Quest for the Holy Grail (1890-1894) and the Adoration of the Magi (1894). Runs until 24th February. Admission charge applies. The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of talks and events. For more, see www.tate.org.uk. PICTURE: The Briar Wood 1874-84, oil paint on canvas, The Faringdon Collection Trust.

Fictional pirates in popular culture are the subject of a new exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. A Pirate’s Life For Me explores the origins and characters of fictional pirates through more than 80 objects including David Munrow’s unpublished play Barnacle Bill, toys designed by Playmobil (exhibition sponsor) and Lego, the first ever painting of Captain Pugwash (pictured), six 18th century Spanish doubloons and the original illustration of the costume design for Captain Hook for the first ever theatrical production of Peter Pan in 1904. Young visitors to the exhibition are invited to take a journey starting at a seaside tavern where they will find a mysterious map which leads on to a pirate boutique, large scale pirate ship and tropical “treasure island”. The exhibition runs until 22nd April. Admission is free. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/moc/whats-on. PICTURE: Framed painting of Captain Pugwash, painted by John Ryan, 1950, oil on board, © John Ryan Estate.

The British Museum’s new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World opened to the public last week with a display featuring a “comprehensive presentation of the Islamic world through art and material culture” including everything from architectural fragments of a Persian port city and courtly treasures of intricate craftsmanship to rich textiles from the Ottoman Empire and contemporary art. Among the objects on show, which cover the period from the 7th century to the present day, are the 14th century illustrated Persian epic, Shahnama (Book of Kings), and the 16th-century Indian Mughal emperor Akbar’s Hamzanama (Adventures of Hamza), elaborate 19th-century mother-of-pearl inlaid wooden Turkish bath clogs, a brightly decorated Uzbek woman’s robe with Russian lining and 21 stones, an installation of 21 paintings by Idris Khan created in response to the new gallery. A series of free public events is being held to mark the opening. Located in Rooms 42-43. The opening follows the reopening late last month of the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries showing off some 430 artworks and artefacts from the museum’s Japanese collection. They included several newly acquired objects, such as a Edo period complete set of Samurai armour bearing the crest of the More clan and Time Waterfall – panel #8 (Blue), a contemporary digital artwork by Miyajima Tatsuo which will greet people as they enter. Found in Rooms 92-94. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
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This Week in London – The Sun explored; Darwin’s story on stage; Freud meets Dali; and, medallic art in Britain…

• The biggest ever exhibition exploring the Sun opens at the Science Museum in South Kensington this Saturday. The Sun: Living With Our Star features everything from Nordic Bronze Age artefacts revealing ancient beliefs about how the Sun was transported across the sky to details of upcoming NASA and European Space Agency solar missions. Highlights include the original ‘orrery’ (pictured), an instrument made for the Earl of Orrery in 1712 to demonstrate the motions of the Earth and Moon around the Sun, a rare concave mirror known as a yang-sui which was used for lighting fires in China and dates to between 202 BCE and 9 CE, and a Tokomak ST25-HTS, a prototype nuclear fusion reactor which successfully created and sustained plasma for a record-breaking 29 hours in 2015. There’s also an astronomical spectroscope made for Norman Lockyer, founder of the Science Museum, who used it to identify the element helium in 1868 – the exhibition actually coincides with the 150th anniversary of Lockyer’s discovery, the first of an “extra-terrestrial” element. The exhibition also includes interactive experiences including a huge illuminated wall display allowing visitors to see the Sun rise in different seasons and locations and another in which visitors are able to bask in the sun while sitting in deck chairs under palm trees with sand at their feet. Runs until 6th May next year. Admission charge applies. The exhibition is being accompanied by a programme of events including “family festivals” in early November and early March. For more, see www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/the-sun-living-with-our-star. PICTURE: Science Museum Group Collection/© © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

The story of Charles Darwin is told in a new two hour stage play featuring a cast of seven people and 30 hand-made puppets which opened at The Natural History Museum this week. The Wider Earth, which follows Darwin as he sets out on a daring five year journey aboard the HMS Beagle through uncharted landscapes, is being staged in the museum’s Jerwood Gallery following sold-out seasons in Australia and represents the first time a performance-based theatre has been constructed in the museum. Presented by Trish Wadley Productions and Dead Puppet Society in association with Glass Half Full Productions, the show runs until 30th December. To book tickets, head to www.thewiderearth.com.

This year marks 80 years since Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dalí famously met in London on 19th July, 1938 – a meeting at which Dalí revealed to Freud his recently completed painting The Metamorphosis of NarcissusThe Freud Museum has launched a new exhibition – Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus – which explores the extensive influence of Freud on Dalí and on Surrealism as well as Freud’s own reaction to the painting. The painting forms the centrepiece of the exhibition which also includes drawings, photographs and prints as well as documents including letters, manuscripts, books and Freud’s appointment diary. The display is accompanied by a programme of events. Runs until 24th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.freud.org.uk.

The “invaluable” role artists from abroad played in the development of British medallic art is the focus of a new display at the British Museum. Witnesses: émigré medallists in Britain features medals from six centuries documenting significant historical moments and commemorating famous British figures. The earliest objects date from Elizabethan England when Dutch artist Steven van Herwijck introduced the art of the medal to Britain’s cultural elite while ‘stars’ in the display include a spectacular Waterloo medal conceived by 19th century Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci which took 30 years to complete and bears the image of the four allied sovereigns – George, Prince Regent, Francis II of Austria, Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. The free display can be seen in Room 69a until 7th April next year. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org. PICTURE: Benedetto Pistrucci: Coronation of George IV, 1821, gold, 35mm. © the Trustees of the British Museum M5716. B, 1070. CME6436.

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LondonLife – A different perspective on the British Museum…

Looking across the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court of the British Museum, off Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury. Designed by Foster and Partners, the two acre court opened in 2000 and was at the time the largest covered public square in Europe. It’s glass and steel roof features more than 3,300 panes of glass, no two of which are the same. The court features a Reading Room at its centre.

PICTURE: Viktor Forgacs/Unsplash