The Merovingians in Paris

Saint-Germain-en-Laye, musÈe d'ArchÈologie nationale et Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. MAN87424;MAN87425;MAN87429;MAN87430;MAN87431;MAN87432.

The Merovingian kingdoms were arguably the most important polities to emerge after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, blending Gallo-Roman art and culture with Germanic Frankish customs. In a new landmark exhibition at the Musée de Cluny in Paris, France — Merovingian Times: Three Centuries of Art and Culture — the grandeur, power, and artistic… Continue reading The Merovingians in Paris

Artistic Creativity in Six Dynasties China

The Six Dynasties period from the third to sixth centuries CE was one of the most dynamic periods in Chinese art history, akin to the European Renaissance in the impact it had on artistic creativity and the celebration of individual expression. Art in a Time of Chaos: Masterworks from Six Dynasties China, 3rd-6th Centuries, now… Continue reading Artistic Creativity in Six Dynasties China

The Egyptian Tomb-Chapel Scenes of Nebamun at the British Museum

A tawny cat catches birds in among the papyrus stems. Cats were family pets, but he is shown here because a cat could also represent the Sun-god hunting the enemies of the light and order. His unusual gildeed eye hints at the religious meanings of this scene. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

In 1821 ten paintings were purchased from Mr. Henry Salt (1780-1827) and arrived at the British Museum. The eleventh painting was acquired in 1823. Each painting appeared to have been mounted with a slightly different support material. Finger marks and hand prints on the backs of many of the paintings suggest that the paintings were laid face… Continue reading The Egyptian Tomb-Chapel Scenes of Nebamun at the British Museum

Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Lansdowne Relief

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a dark grey limestone relief decorated with mythological scenes. The Lansdowne Relief was unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertaken by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton, who sold it to Lord Lansdowne. The latter was an avid collector of antiquities who owned a fine collection of classical sculptures… Continue reading Art and Sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Lansdowne Relief

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III at the British Museum

Side B: There are 4 tribute-bearers from Suhu carrying "silver, gold... byssus, garments with multi-colored trim and linen". Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

I was attending an event at the Royal College of Physicians of London in early March 2016, and I had a plenty of time to spare. One of my targets was, of course, the British Museum. Two years ago, Jan van der Crabben (founder and CEO of the Ancient History Encyclopedia) asked me to draft… Continue reading The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III at the British Museum

The Hellenistic World at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stretching from the beaches of the Adriatic Sea to the banks of the Indus River, Alexander the Great’s empire was the largest the world had ever seen when he died in 323 BCE. His empire broke into several smaller kingdoms soon after, but his enduring legacy can be found in signs of Hellenistic cultural diffusion in ancient artifacts that survive… Continue reading The Hellenistic World at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Grandeur of Roman Mosaics

Roman mosaic floor from Villelaure, France with Diana and Callisto Surrounded by Hunt Scenes, A.D. 3rd century. Gallo-Roman mosaic, colored marble, limestone, and glass tesserae. D: 296.6 × 271.8 × 6.4 cm (116 3/4 × 107 × 2 1/2 in.) Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Phil Berg Collection. Image courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Phil Berg Collection.

Roman mosaics decorated luxurious domestic and public buildings across the empire. Intricate patterns and figural compositions were created by setting tesserae — small pieces of stone or glass — into floors and walls. Scenes from mythology, daily life, nature, and spectacles in the arena enlivened interior spaces and reflected the cultural ambitions of wealthy patrons.… Continue reading The Grandeur of Roman Mosaics

Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World

​Head of a Man, mid-5th century BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cesnola Collection Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2826). Gods and goddesses in art wear leafy wreaths as hair accessories, as do mortals engaged in sacred rituals or events. Wreaths were worn at festivals, initiations, weddings, and funerals. They were awarded to winners of athletic competitions, which took place in religious sanctuaries. For important occasions or for royalty, they were crafted in gold and silver. Later, in the Roman Empire, military victors wore them and wreaths became symbols of government authority.

From the dawn of civilization to the present day, human hair has seldom been worn in its natural state. Whether cut, shorn, curled, straightened, braided, beaded, worn in an upsweep or down to the knees, adorned with pins, combs, bows, garlands, extensions, and other accoutrements, hairstyles had the power to reflect societal norms. In antiquity,… Continue reading Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World

The Nerva-Antonines in Florence

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. In addition to Renaissance masterpieces including works from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the Uffizi houses one of the world’s most important collections of ancient Roman and Greek statues. The Medicis’ interest in ancient art started… Continue reading The Nerva-Antonines in Florence

Beyond Dubai: The Ancient UAE

“Dubai tries so hard to promote this image of an ultra-modern city that they almost seem to suppress its past.” Dubai is a city that elicits sharp opinions. While its shopping malls, glittering lights, luxury hotels and villas, and iconic futuristic architecture continue to attract large numbers of tourists and business investors, many others simply… Continue reading Beyond Dubai: The Ancient UAE