The Bronze Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Friends in Wimbledon are both members of the RA so we went with them on 6th October to see the new Bronzes exhibition, happy in the knowledge that there would be no queuing and we could simply walk out if it was too crowded.  Turned out well – not too busy – perhaps everyone else feared crowds.  And some stunning stuff, but no photography allowed.  I apologise for my sketches now.

First gallery after entrance hall there is a small Modigliani (18 inches tall perhaps) that drew my attention.  But it isn’t – its around 4000 years old.

Etruscan Votive Figure

And in the same case there is Noggin the Nog, except he turns out to be a Sardinian Tribal Chief from somewhere between 8th and 4th centuries BCE (this is politically correct speak for BC, having replaced one particular religion with ‘Before Common Era’).

Sardinian Tribal Chief

Standing maybe 8 feet high is John the Baptist preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee.  Huge hands and feet that I wanted to touch, but years of gallery experience told me to resist that temptation.

In a room full of animals standing firmly on all four paws was a cartoon-like open faced lion with beautiful chased design on his body and a startled look on his face.  Perhaps in the 11th century Islamic law permitted animal art.  It came from Southern Italy or Sicily, presumably part of the Islamic empire of that time.

Diagonally across the room was a two feet high barrel chested elephant from China, made to be filled with wine.  You’d need to drink it in a hurry to avoid ingesting too much copper, perhaps it was for big events.

Nearby were two Satyrs having very athletic sex.  Surprising how folk moving slowly round the exhibition cases suddenly speeded up at that case, often with what looked to me like a glance round to see who had seen them.  I decided it was ART and went for a closer look – very well endowed fellow, and beautiful hooves too.

A 6000 year old vulture just 5 inches long from bald head and bald, short neck to broad tail etched with many zig-zag feathers, depicted in wing-spread horizontal flight, eyes peering down.  Its body was spoilt by a tubular projection so that it could be stuck on the end of a pole for some ill-defined celemonial purpose.  It came from the Chalcolithic period in what is now Israel, but reminded me strongly of the alien beings which brought to Earth the device in the Pyramids that the Fifth Element and Bruce Willis saved the planet with (“Multipass” being my favourite word from that movie).  Meanwhile back at the culture – Chalcolithic must be copper-bearing stone, in other words an early bronze-based society.

In the middle of another room there was a big box held aloft by 4 bearded guys, one kneeling at each corner.  The label said it was 11th or 12th Century Ottonian.  I hope this is the same as Ottoman, and explains why those blanket storage boxes my Nan had were called ottomans.  They are in a direct line of descent from an ancient culture that venerated big boxes.  I hope so.

Elsewhere I enjoyed a 1580 statue of Jupiter on a small plinth, but probably taller than me without it.  His right hand was resting towards the back of his right hip, pushing it forward slightly, whilst his left hand was clutching a bunch of lightning bolts to his left breast.  His expression was one of distain, barely willing to glance down his strong nose towards us, and clearly thinking, “Who’s the best man here and why am I?”.

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