British Museum blog

Perspectives on the world

Jonathan Williams, Keeper of Prehistory and Europe

The Museum’s latest exhibition exploring spiritual journeys closes in the next couple of weeks. Treasures of Heaven is all about what it was like to be human in medieval Europe, and an inherent part of medieval European life was religion. Whether you were a woman or a man, young or old, rich or poor, Christianity was part of everyday life and the exhibition explores the role of worship and the objects associated with it – and how these objects were thought to provide a bridge between heaven and Earth.

The way that Christianity permeated all elements of medieval European life is one of the big things that make medieval Europeans different from us, and that’s why we need to know about it. For better or worse, medieval people lavished their money and time, their art and their passion on their religion above all else, and made some extraordinarily beautiful and moving things along the way, many of which feature in the show.

It’s been an amazing opportunity to gain a new insight not just into the craftsmanship and sophistication of the middle ages but, more importantly, into the minds and hearts of people in a particular moment in time.

You can say something similar about the Museum’s next big show, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, about the great annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which will also give all of us a way into understanding a phenomenon that is central to the lives and imaginations of millions of people around the world, and millions of Britons too. The exhibition will explore the history of this famous pilgrimage through rarely-seen objects from across the world and will shed light on how the pilgrimage continues to be experienced today.

To explore human history is to explore human beliefs and experiences. This is what the British Museum is for – to enable us to see the world from different perspectives.

Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe is open until 9 October 2011.
Book tickets now.
Sponsored by John Studzinski

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam is open from 26 January to 15 April 2012. Find out more

In partnership with King Abdulaziz Public Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

HSBC Amanah has supported the exhibition’s international reach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Filed under: Exhibitions, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, Treasures of Heaven

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. I was just wondering if there were any Jewish ritual objects or a reference to Jewish medieval Europe in the collection? It would make an interesting contrast and comparison – especially the contrast.
    Joan Stuchner
    Vancouver, Canada

    Like

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 13,145 other followers

Categories

Follow @britishmuseum on Twitter

British Museum on Instagram

Machiavelli was born on #onthisday in 1469. Here’s a portrait of the notorious writer.
#art #portrait #history #BritishMuseum Born #onthisday in 1360: the Yongle emperor of China. This beautiful blue-and-white moon flask was made during his reign
#China #art #porcelain #history Leonardo da Vinci died #onthisday in 1519. Here's his drawing of the Virgin and Child (& cat!) This drawing shows the seated Virgin holding the Christ Child on her right knee. The Child in turn grasps a cat which struggles to escape. The forms twist and turn within the space defined by the thin line of an arch. The moving figures form a triangle or pyramid, in a geometrical composition that is typical of Leonardo. At the top left of the sheet, the outline of a clock suggests that the sketch was a study for the Virgin and Child in a domestic setting.

This sheet shows how Leonardo rapidly developed his compositional ideas. First he drew the Virgin's head in the centre, tracing through the thin paper from a similar composition on the reverse of the sheet. Leonardo then placed the Virgin's head looking out to the left. Finally, he settled on the Virgin looking down to the right, to balance the heads of the Christ Child and the cat who face left. He then painted a thin brown wash over the final composition and strengthened his figures with thicker lines.

Leonardo made a number of drawings of this theme, but no painting of the Virgin and Child with Cat survives. Instead, the geometry and balance of the composition and sense of movement became characteristic of his High Renaissance style.
#art #history #drawing #Leonardo Born #onthisday in 1769: Duke of #Wellington Arthur Wellesley. He defeated #Napoleon at #Waterloo. In this satirical print from 1815 Wellington, with drawn sword, drives Napoleon before him, pointing out with extended forefinger the route his captive is to take.
Discover prints from the age of Napoleon and Wellington in our free exhibition #BonaparteAndTheBritish in Room 90.
#exhibition #free #BritishMuseum #propaganda #art May is named after the Greek goddess Maia. Here’s an allegorical print of the month by German artist Christian Bernhard Rode.
#May #months #art #history #print Happy #MayDay! Here’s Walter Crane’s 1874 design for a greeting card.
#May #art #drawing #history
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,145 other followers

%d bloggers like this: