Saturday, October 12, 2013

All That Glitters

The gold and jewels were shining at the Museum of London yesterday, but not the skies outside. I met Maggie right when the museum opened, and we were among the first people to see the Cheapside Hoard for 100 years. It's a treasure trove of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery, thought to have been buried in the cellar of a jeweller's shop in Cheapside some time between 1640 and 1666. Who buried the hoard, for what reason, and why it was never retrieved is not known. The hoard didn't see the light of day until 1912, when some workmen were digging through an old floor to prepare for a new building on the site. They stuffed their pockets with the jewels and headed to Wandsworth, where they sold nearly everything to an antique dealer known to buy whatever builders dug up. Fortunately, almost all of the pieces ended up in the Museum of London's collection, though a few went to the V&A. This exhibition is the first time in 100 years that the hoard has been on display in its entirety. I particularly liked that the first part of the exhibition set the context, with maps and displays about the trade in gemstones and the making of jewellery in the 16th and 17th centuries. Then you move into the room with the bling -- cases and cases of necklaces, rings, and pendants. Happily, they provide magnifying glasses so that you can really see the exquisite detail of the work. The last part of the exhibition tells a bit about what was going on in London at the time the hoard was hidden. The plague was winding down, Charles I had had his head lobbed off by the Parliamentarians, Charles II was in exile in France, Royalists were fighting Cromwell's forces on various fronts, and the Great Fire raged across the City of London in 1666.  So, there's much room for speculation on what may have compelled that unknown jeweler to stash the hoard. For more info, check out what Londonist has to say here

Maggie and I then hustled down Gresham Street in the rain to the Guildhall Gallery to see Victoriana: The Art of Revival. Simon had told me it was bonkers, and he was right. Steampunk, funereal art, taxidermy, ghosts, fluttery things, and lots of dead bees strung on monofiliment with tiny winged skeletons glued to their backs. It was a lot of fun, but they didn't allow photographs, so you'll have to see some here. And here's a review

After a quick look at the Roman amphitheatre below the Guildhall, Maggie and dashed across the street to Pret for lunch and more good conversation. We parted company around 2 pm, knowing that we'll pick up the conversation where we left off when we see each other again next year.

My plan had been to meander down through the city to the Millennium Bridge and over to Tate Modern, but the rain put a damper on that. I was walking to Bank Station to get the tube to somewhere, when the number 21 bus came by, so I hopped that and rode across London Bridge. I nibbled my way through Borough Market for a while (many of the cheese and bakery vendors have samples), hoping that the rain would let up, but it didn't. So, I changed my plan and took the RV1 to the Southbank Centre. At the Hayward Gallery, I saw photography exhibitions by Dayanita Singh and Ana Mendieta. I really enjoyed the Singh exhibition; the Mendieta not so much.  

From there, it was the Bakerloo to Queen's Park, where the rain had kindly let up for my walk back to the flat. 

£4.50 Cheapside Hoard (half price on Art Pass)
£2.75 prezzie for Molly
£2.59 egg and cress sandwich and ginger beer
£1.60 cookie
£5.00 Hayward Gallery (half price on Art Pass)
10,950 steps (4.14 miles)

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