British Museum blog

Description of the Arches

Shakespeare’s Restless World is currently being broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Today’s episode London Becomes Rome looks at the grand and theatrical coronation of King James I.


Ruth Levis, British Museum

The illustrations of the triumphal arches featured in today’s programme were published in a book, The Arches of Triumph, ‘invented and published’ by Stephen Harrison, the man behind the arches’ creation. Here is his description that accompanied The Temple of Janus (the Roman god of beginnings and transitions), the final arch in the procession.

The Temple of Janus. © Trustees of the British Museum

The seventh and last Pegme (within the Citie) was erected at Temple-barre [Temple Bar], beeing adioyned close to the Gate: The Building was in all points like a Temple, and dedicated to Janus Quadrifrons.

Beneath that Foure-fac’d head of Janus was advancd the Armes of the Kingdome, with the Supporters cut out to the life: from whence being remoude they now are placed in the Guild Hall.

The wals and gates of this Temple were brasse; the Pillars silver, their Capitals and Bases gold: All the Frontispice (downeward from those Armes) was beutified and supported by twelve rich Columnes, of which the foure lowermost, being great Corinthian pillers, stood upon two large Pedestals, with a faire Vaux over them in stead of Architriue, Frieze and Cornice.

Above them, eight Columnes more, were likewise set, two and two upon a large Pedestall; for as our worke began (for his Maiesties entrance) with Rusticke, so did wee thinke it fit, that this out Temple, should end with the most famous Columne, whose beauty and goodlinesse is derived both from the Tuscane, Doricke, Ionicke and Corinthian, and received his full perfection from Titus Vespasin, who advanced it to the highest place of dignitie his Arch Triumphall, and (by reason that the beauties of it were a mixture taken from the rest) he gave it the name of Composita or Italica: within the Temple stood an Altar, with burning Incese upon it, before which a Flamin appears, and to the Flamin comes the Genius of the City.

The principall person in this Temple, was Peace. At her feete lay Warre groueling. At her right hand stood Wealth. On the same hand likewise, but somewhat remote, and in a Cant by her selfe, Quiet was seated, the first hand maide of Peace, whose feete stood vpon Tumult. On the left hand (at the former distance) Liberty the second hand-maide of Peace had her place, at whose feete Seruitude lay subiected. Beneath these (on distinct degrees) sate two other hand maides of Peace, Safey and Felicity, Safety trampling upon Danger and Felcity upon Unhappinesse. Genius and Flamin spake thus much.

Shakespeare’s Restless World is on BBC Radio 4
from 16 April to 11 May, at 13.45 and 19.45 weekdays.

Listen to today’s programme London Becomes Rome

Filed under: Shakespeare's Restless World, What's on

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#August is named after the Roman emperor Augustus. Before 8 BC the Romans called it Sextilis! 
This head once formed part of a statue of the emperor Augustus (ruled 27 BC – AD 14). In 31 BC he defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium and took possession of Egypt, which became a Roman province. The writer Strabo tells us that statues of Augustus were erected in Egyptian towns near the first cataract of the Nile at Aswan and that an invading Kushite army looted many of them in 25 BC.
Although Roman counter-attackers reclaimed many of the statues, they did not reach Meroë, where this head was buried beneath the steps of a native temple dedicated to Victory. It seems likely that the head, having been cut from its statue, was placed there deliberately so as to be permanently below the feet of its Meroitic captors.
The head of Augustus appears larger than life, with perfect proportions based upon Classical Greek notions of ideal human form. His calm distant gaze, emphasised with inset eyes of glass and stone, give him an air of quiet, assured strength. Coins and statues were the main media for propagating the image of the Roman emperor. This statue, like many others throughout the Empire, was made as a continuous reminder of the all-embracing power of Rome and its emperor. English sculptor Henry Moore was born #onthisday in 1898.
Drawing played a major role in Henry Moore's work throughout his career. He used it to generate and develop ideas for sculpture, and to create independent works in their own right.
During the 1930s the range and variety of his drawing expanded considerably, starting with the 'Transformation Drawings' in which he explored the metamorphosis of natural, organic shapes into human forms. At the end of the decade he began to focus on the relationship between internal and external forms, his first sculpture of this nature being 'Helmet' (Tate Collections) of 1939.
This drawing titled ‘Two Women: Drawing for sculpture combining wood and metal’ was based on a pencil study entitled ‘Ideas for Lead Sculpture’. It reflects his awareness of surrealism and psychoanalytical theory as well his abiding interest in ethnographic material and non-European sculpture; the particular reference in this context is to a malangan figure (malangan is a funeral ritual cycle) from New Ireland province in Papua New Guinea, which had attracted his interest in the British Museum. 
Henry Moore, Two Women: Drawing for sculpture combining wood and metal. England, 1939. Here's another fabulous view of the Great Court captured by @whatinasees at our instagramer event #regram #repost
Check out all of the photos at #emptyBM Vincent van Gogh died #onthisday in 1890. Here's a print of his only known etching. It depicts his doctor, Dr Paul Gachet, seated in the garden of his house.
#vanGogh #etching Beatrix Potter was born #onthisday in 1866. Here are some of her flopsy bunnies! 🐰
#BeatrixPotter Made in AD 700, the exquisite Hunterston brooch was found at Hunterston, Ayrshire during the 1830s. It is a highly accomplished casting of silver, richly mounted with gold, silver and amber decoration. It is sumptuously decorated with animals executed in gold wire and granules, called filigree. In the centre of the brooch is a cross flanking a golden ‘Glory’ representing the risen Christ #MedievalMonday
The Hunterston brooch will feature in our forthcoming #Celts exhibition, on loan from @nationalmuseumsscotland.
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