Friday, June 22, 2012

Handel's House Museum and British Museum

Once again, I found myself wandering around and exploring some museums after class today.  I mean, I'm in London, what else am I supposed to do?  My first stop of the day after class was Handel's House Museum.

As the name implies, this is a museum made in the house of George Frideric Handel, composer of famous pieces such as Messiah, which has the "Hallelujah Chorus," amongst other beautiful pieces.  The house itself was pretty cool, although I felt it was a little over priced for what it was.  I paid five pounds, or around $8 to go in.  I know it's not a lot of money, but I spent just over an hour there.  There's not a whole lot to see.  In all honesty, there's a sign outside.  Just take a picture of the sign and move on, and you'll be fine.

I did get to see the room where Handel practiced and composed Messiah, which was pretty cool, at least in my opinion.  The chorale at my school did Messiah last year, and my roommate was in it, so that was pretty interesting to see.  If you can live without seeing that though, seeing this very small museum isn't exactly necessary.  I did learn that Jimi Hendrix lived in the flat above where Handel used to live, so they had some stuff of Hendrix's as well.  I'm not a Jimi Hendrix fan, but it was still kind of cool to see that kind of stuff.

It was raining today, which meant I just headed over to the British Museum for a little bit more exploring, because that place is absolutely huge!  Today, I found the Enlightenment Room.

This was designed by Robert Smirke to house George III's library.  Now, it has a massive exhibit about the Age of Enlightenment and all the artifacts they collected at that time.  These artifacts include (but aren't limited to): Roman and Greek statues, Buddhist and Hindu statues, viking helmets, Egyptian burial materials, gems and other precious stones, medieval manuscripts, etc, etc.  The list goes on and on.  I didn't even have a chance to look at everything, there was stuff everywhere!  I would love nothing more than to have a library like this, if only I had the money.

I found myself wandering around the European section of the museum, primarily the modern European history, which is what I love to study the most.  Let me tell you, I was thoroughly impressed with the collection.  The museum appeared to have a little bit of everything, and I was definitely excited to see some of the artifacts.

Above are the More Jewels.  These beautiful pieces of jewelry belonged to Sir Thomas More.  He was beheaded by his close friend and companion, Henry VIII, for refusing to sign a document acknowledging Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn.  Being the Henry VIII nut that I am, it was amazing to see these.

They also had a relief of Henry VIII.  I'm assuming this was used for decorative purposes.  It was fairly small though, only a few inches tall, so I have no idea what it's actual function was, but it was still pretty cool looking.

Another unique addition to their collection were the icons from Crete.  These reminded me a lot of some of the icons we have at church at home, and that's why I thought they were so interesting looking.  The top one is St. John the Baptist.  Next to it is the Virgin Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist.  On the bottom row is the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, then St. Jerome and finally Jesus and Mary Magdalene when she saw him after the Resurrection.  They were all gorgeous, they had something about them that made them stand out as different than most icons, perhaps it was that they looked almost "rustic" and a little rough around the edges, but still beautiful.

Perhaps two of the more...special artifacts I saw were the death masks.  Now, I'm used to death masks from Ancient Egypt after the class I took last semester.  These were completely different in every sense of the word.

Above is a wax death mask of Oliver Cromwell.  Yeah, the Oliver Cromwell that beheaded King Charles I.  It's really creepy looking, but, at the same time, almost cool.  The detail is amazing, it's like you're looking at a real person.  For a history buff, this is perfect, you get a sense of realism, like a jolt of reality that yes, this person did in fact exist at one point and did many things in his life.  The other death mask I saw was just as interesting in my mind.

This one is harder to see, but this is the death mask of the one, the only, Napoleon Bonaparte.  It doesn't look as creepy, but that could just be the angle I took the photo from.  Once again, you really got a sense of realism about Napoleon and all his exploits as emperor across Europe in the 1800s.

Now, there's a little event going on in London soon, perhaps you've heard of it, the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Well, the British Museum has an incredibly small exhibit on the games, showing off that this is the third time the city has hosted the games (no city has ever hosted the games three times before).

They had the molds used to make some of the Olympic medals (I don't remember if they are gold, silver or bronze though), one set above is for the regular Olympics and one set is for the Paralympics.

The highlight of the exhibit, however, were the gold medals pictured above.  Two of them are for the Olympics and two are for the Paralympics.  I have no idea how much longer they'll be on display, obviously for only a few more weeks.  The games start in five weeks.  It's hard to believe, because in five weeks I also come home.  I've only been here for a week, but it seems like so much longer.

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