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Washington DC museums exhibits


#1

Hello All,

I just returned from a weekend viewing of three museums in
Washington DC The Sackler and Freer Galleries are no doubt well known
to many on this list and the current Iranian silver exhibit (Sackler)
is interesting in both is display of wonderful old work, but also of
one piece in particular…the Shapur Plate with hunting scene. There
is a missing haunches on one of the boar which illustrates the inlay
technique used better than I have seen on any other old work.

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1pm

The National Geographic Museum has a limited display (in time and
pieces) of the Anglo Saxon Hoard recently found in Staffordshire,
UK. If you have an interest in old work of the “Dark Ages” then I
would say this is a not to be missed…unless you are in the UK and
wish to see it when it returns.

The work is fascinating in its complexity and fineness. The wire
filigree, inlayed garnet and texture are on a scale much smaller than
current work I have seen.

You must bring a magnifying glass to the exhibit (very sad indeed
that the display does not offer such for rent/purchase/set up for
each piece). As most of the pieces are for weaponry it is quite
interesting “Guy stuff” in fine jewelry…“warrior bling” of you
will.

Ric Furrer


#2

Hi folks,

Let me second Richard’s recommendation about the Staffordshire Hoard
exhibit at the National Geographic HQ. I was there before Christmas,
and it was well worth the trip. (From California… ) (Not the real
reason for the trip, but it did influence the timing.) I think it
closes in early March.

You must bring a magnifying glass to the exhibit (very sad indeed
that the display does not offer such for rent/purchase/set up for
each piece). As most of the pieces are for weaponry it is quite
interesting "Guy stuff" in fine jewelry..."warrior bling" of you
will. 

They do actually have flashlights and at least one long-range loupe
that you can borrow. My wife mugged one of the docents for her
flashlight, and then it turned out that they do have a funny sort of
monocular magnifying thing with enough depth of field to let you get
a pretty good view through the cases. (ask at the entrance station.) A
conservator friend of mine and I spent 3 hours happily crawling
around the exhibit on our knees, looking at all the pieces from
every angle we could.

(We were the docent’s floorshow for the afternoon. If you plan on
doing that, I’d suggest a Monday afternoon. NOT a weekend.)

Amazing stuff. While it sucks for the pieces themselves that they’re
smashed to bits, it’s really good from a "how’d they do that?"
standpoint, as it lets us see the mechanics of how the pieces were
constructed. There’s also a pretty good interpretive information
program with zoomable photographs running on hard-mounted ipads. I
forgot to find out if that was available for purchase. It’d be worth
picking up if available. Great photos.

Many of the ‘big name’ pieces are there, as those got cleaned first.
The thing that looks like a bent disk brooch is there, as is the
rest of it, whatever it may eventually turn out to be. (it isn’t
a disk brooch.) The other parts of it make it look like some sort of
giant mushroom button, or wrapping post. Near as we could figure,
it’s probably a wrapping post for a leather thong, used to hold a
large bible closed. A good chunk of the garnet ‘train track’ edging
is there, and the quantity of that, combined with the wrapping post
make me think that much of the hoard that isn’t obviously sword
fittings is trim stripped off one incredibly fancy bible. (Oh, and
the snakes are there. Even looking at them in person, I still have
no idea what they were for.)

The only real letdown is the exhibit design: it was designed by
textile conservators, apparently. It’s lit only slightly less well
than the inside of your average coalmine, at midnight. Really, it’s
lit about the level you’d light a show of ancient textiles or
papers. Which would be just right, for textiles or paper. But these
pieces are metal, rock and glass that’s been in the dirt for 1400
years. Properly lighting the pieces would have absolutely no effect
on them, so there’s no real excuse for having them so poorly lit. If
you want to go, for ghu’s sake, take a flashlight. You’ll kick
yourself if you don’t. (yes, they did have one available, but that
may have been more a function of us doing an impromptu guided tour of
Anglo-Saxon metalworking techniques for the docents than anything
normal.)

If you’re anywhere on the American east coast, and you’re at all
into historical metalwork, you must see this show. Period.

FWIW,
Brian Meek