Reconstruction of the c.540 BC funerary sculpture of Phrasikleia. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. Courtesy of the Met

On Show - the best exhibitions from around the world

Exhibitions from around the world

The dates listed below may have changed since we went to print. Check the websites of the museums for the most up-to-date information and bookings.


Roman Rubbish

For the latest contemporary exhibition in the gallery space above London’s Mithraeum, artist Mariana Castillo Deball is presenting a site-specific installation that draws inspiration from the many seemingly discarded Roman objects that were uncovered during the excavations there. Castillo Deball has created ceramic versions of the finds and assembled these into huge columns in the gallery, which also incorporates a wax feature wall, an element influenced by the important wax writing tablets from the site.

London Mithraeum Bloomberg Space
Until 14 January 2023


Spanning seven centuries from 1196 to 1868, this exhibition investigates one of the darker aspects of British history – public executions in the capital. London hosted more public executions than any other city in the country, and, as the centre of power, some of these were very high profile indeed. One of the most momentous executions was that of King Charles I in 1649; the vest he is said to have worn is on view.

Bedsheet belonging to James Radclyffe, Earl of Derwentwater, embroidered with human hair by his widow c.1716. (Image: © Museum of London)

Other items include the grim devices used – such as an axe made specifically for the execution of the leaders of the 1820 Cato Street conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister and other members of government, or the gibbet cages that were set up along the river and in which dead bodies (particularly of pirates) would hang, visible to all. Contrasting with these are objects associated with prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845).

A smoothed coin gifted by a convict to a loved one, engraved with the message ‘If E’en I gain my liberty my earliest flight shall be to thee.’ (Image: © Museum of London)

As well as exploring the economic and cultural impact of executions, the displays highlight the very moving human side of these events. Poignant items of a personal nature include the final letters of those who were executed, and a remarkable, delicate bed sheet that is on display for the very first time since its acquisition by the Museum of London in 1934. Embroidered on it – in human hair – is the inscription: ‘The sheet OFF MY dear Lord’s Bed in the wretched Tower of London February 1716 x Ann C of Darwent=Waters+’. The ‘dear Lord’ whose bed it came from was James Radclyffe (a grandson of Charles II), who was beheaded in 1716 for treason for his involvement in the first Jacobite rebellion. His widow, Anna Maria Radclyffe, was permitted to care for his body after execution, and she embroidered this touching memento on the bedsheet, possibly with her own hair, her husband’s, or a combination of the two.

Museum of London Docklands, London
Until 16 April 2023

Japan: Courts and Culture

Iwai Yozaemon, Armour, c.1610. Sent to James I by Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada in 1613. (Image: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022)

Lacquer, porcelain, fans, embroidered screens, and armour are among the wide array of Japanese works from the UK’s Royal Collection going on display in this exhibition. Some of the pieces featured are diplomatic gifts and so tell the story of relations between the royal families of both countries. It was under James I in 1613 that this relationship and English trade in Japan began. Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada presented the king with a stunning suit of samurai armour in exchange for the letters and gifts James had sent with the first English ship to reach Japanese shores. Another highlight is a pair of folding-screen paintings depicting the changing seasons sent to Queen Victoria by Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi in 1860, recently rediscovered in the Royal Collection. Conservation work has revealed details such as the use of Victorian railway timetables to patch up wear and tear.

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
Until 26 February 2023

The Lost King: Imagining Richard III

As The Lost King, a film portraying the discovery, identification, and reburial of King Richard III (1452-1485) is released in the UK, the Wallace Collection (whose curator Tobias Capwell served as a historical advisor on the film) takes a look at items in its collection that have shaped our image of the king. One key work is Paul Delaroche’s dark and tender painting Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, depicting the two princes in the Tower of London before their alleged murder at the hands of Richard III. The Wallace Collection, home to an extensive collection of historic weapons and armour, has been involved with imagining the king on film before, when Laurence Olivier wore a copy of one of the museum’s 15th-century suits of armour in the 1955 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Continuing the relationship with cinema, the exhibition includes armour from the new film The Lost King.

Paul Delaroche, Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower, 1831. (Image: © Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London)

Wallace Collection, London
Until 8 January 2023

Sensational Books

There is more to a book than words on the pages, as this exhibition showcasing the sensory appeal of the physical book sets out to demonstrate. Many devourers of old books will be familiar with the distinct smell and the texture and rustling of pages in the simple act of reading, but as this fascinating range of books highlights, some books play with our senses in special ways. A 14th-century psalter on display was actively used in devotions; on one illumination, marks are visible revealing how a reader touched the page to guide a soul towards heaven in the image. Other interesting books include a 1518 missal printed partly on silk, with bookmarks poking out from its pages emphasising its tactile qualities, Andy Warhol’s 1967 Index, which came with a record of a Velvet Underground and Nico song and a sheet of LSD stamps, and Ben Denzer’s 20 Slices of American Cheese (2018), made, as the name suggests, from plastic-wrapped slices of American cheese.

Missal printed partly on silk, with bookmarks, Germany, 1518. (Photo © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Mason D 137)

The exhibition also features an audio-guide produced in partnership with people who are visually impaired, to explore reading when a sense is changed.

Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
Until 4 December 2022

Gathering Light: A Bronze Age Golden Sun

With ray-like decoration evoking the sun, the glittering gold pendant that was discovered in Shropshire in 2018 highlights the importance of the solar body in the Bronze Age. The sun pendant is continuing its tour of the UK in this British Museum Spotlight Loan exhibition, joined by other artefacts that together showcase the skill of prehistoric goldworkers. Among them are: a gold lunula, a thin collar with a triangle pattern reminiscent of sun-rays; a gold plated ring found in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, decorated with a proliferation of impressed dots and incised lines (below); and the Towednack hoard discovered in 1931 in Cornwall, a major source of metal in the Bronze Age. The exhibition is the first time the hoard, which includes two torcs, four arm rings, and two unfinished gold bars, has been lent.

(Image: © The Trustees of the British Museum)

After its run at the Royal Cornwall Museum, the exhibition will travel on to The Collection, Lincoln (11 November 2022 to 20 February 2023); Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (25 February to 3 June 2023); and Museum of the Isles, Stornoway (13 June to 16 September 2023).

Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
Until 5 November 2022

Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival

The year AD 122 is traditionally taken as the starting point for the construction of Hadrian’s Wall. To celebrate the 1,900th anniversary of this date, a programme of events has been planned all along the famous Roman monument. Among them is an exhibition at the Roman Army Museum in Greenhead that has been extended until 1 October especially for the festival. This focuses on Roman military artefacts that range from a legionary helmet discovered at a site in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim, Germany, to a military diploma that grants citizenship to a member of a unit of Syrian archers who were stationed at Magna, the fort next to the museum.

At Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort, a small exhibition (until 2 October) offers a look at the evidence for a ‘lost’ Hadrianic frontier fort that pre-dates the Antonine Arbeia, while at Corbridge (until 31 October), the focus is on modern excavators in an exhibition that tells the story of the local labourers who worked to uncover the well-preserved remains of this Roman town between 1906 and 1914.

There are, of course, many other exhibitions and events taking place; visit the website for the full programme.

Various locations
Until 23 December 2022


Mediterranean Marketplaces: Connecting the Ancient World

Purple glass grape vase, 2nd-3rd century AD. (Image: © President and Fellows of Harvard College,
Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East. 1936.2.119)

The recently renamed Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East opened a new permanent exhibition at the end of last year in the midst of various COVID-19 precautions. Highlighting the complexity of the trade networks that supplied marketplaces around the ancient Mediterranean, the exhibition brings together artefacts (some on display for the very first time or for the first time since the 1950s) and new digital displays that allow visitors to look even closer at the objects. (3D models of over 60 objects have also been made available at Examples of ceramic, glass, and metalwork exchanged across the Mediterranean are on view, as are coins and tablets that provide an insight into the administrative aspect of commerce.

Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Códice Maya de México

In the mid 1960s, a Maya codex appeared in a private collection in Mexico. Since it came to light in somewhat mysterious circumstances and was an unusual item, there were questions about whether or not it was a forgery. Through art historical and scientific analysis, scholars authenticated the book in 2018, concluding that it is the oldest of just four surviving books from the Maya world before the arrival of European conquistadores.

Page 8 of the Códice Maya de México. (Image: Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Secretaría de Cultura-INAH-México. All rights reserved)

This exhibition – the first time the rarely displayed Códice Maya de México has been on view in the US in 50 years, on special loan from Mexico – tells the story of this research into the oldest surviving book in the Americas. The codex (page 8 of which is pictured left) records the movements of the planet Venus, calculated across 104 years, and would have been used as a guide for a spiritual leader. It opens a window onto Maya astronomy around AD 1100, when the book was painted on bark paper prepared with gesso by a single artist.

Getty Center, Los Angeles, California
Until 15 January 2023

Cy Twombly: Making Past Present

American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) spent much of his life in Rome. Choosing to avoid well-known hubs of modern art like New York, he moved to Italy in 1959, where he immersed himself in ancient sculpture and monuments. This exhibition, organised with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reveals how Twombly’s lifelong interest in the ancient Mediterranean played a critical part in his work, with lively, explosive large-scale paintings that brought the ancient world into late 20th-century modernism. Joining the paintings are drawings, prints, sculptures, photography, and ancient marbles and bronzes from the artist’s collection. It was not just the art of ancient Greece and Rome that inspired Twombly; he read Greek and Latin poetry, and from the 1960s started to include the names of poets and snippets of verses in his work, with varying degrees of legibility.

Getty Center, Los Angeles, California
Until 15 January 2023

Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond

(Image: © Field Museum, photographer Ádám Vágó)

With more than 200 archaeological finds from across the Balkan region, this exhibition (organised in partnership with the Field Museum’s First Kings of Europe project) investigates the role of ritual in prehistoric societies from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Gold and amber jewellery, weapons, miniature architectural models, drinking vessels and more are used to reveal the worldview of the societies these items belonged to, and the connections between different communities. One fascinating find is a set of stylised ceramic female figurines (above). Discovered in Romania at what is thought to be the site of a sanctuary, these 21 small figurines were placed inside a vessel along with 13 model chairs nearly 7,000 years ago. Though similar in shape, there are clear differences between the figurines, suggesting they are different entities. Some researchers have posited they make up a council of goddesses, while others that they convey aspects of identity relating to a living community.

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York
Until 19 February 2023

Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color

Reconstruction of the c.540 BC funerary sculpture of Phrasikleia. (Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen. Courtesy of the Met)

Visitors to the Met’s Greek and Roman galleries will be able to see ancient sculpture in a new light as colourful reconstructions by Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann of the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection go on view alongside comparable artefacts in the permanent displays. As well as showcasing the reconstructions, which draw attention to the full vibrant colour and rich, detailed ornamentation that would have covered sculptures like the c.540 BC marble funerary statue of Phrasikleia and the Met’s own Archaic sphinx finial, the exhibition explores research into polychromy, presenting new findings from the museum’s collections. In the Greek and Roman special exhibition gallery, the subject is investigated further through works including ancient vases decorated with images of polychrome sculpture and artists painting their sculptures, and an early reconstruction in watercolour of the colour on architectural sculpture from the Athenian acropolis.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 26 March 2023

The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England

The Tudor period was a tumultuous one in English history. Their reign began with Henry VII in 1485 after his victory in the Wars of the Roses, ended with the childless Elizabeth I in 1603, and, along the way, saw religious shifts and a break from the Catholic church, the threat of invasion from the Spanish Armada, beheaded queens, and treasonous plots. Amidst all this turmoil, arts flourished in Tudor England, and in its cosmopolitan royal courts a distinct English Renaissance style emerged, as the riches of paintings, sculpture, manuscripts, and armour in this exhibition show. As well as portraits enhancing the image of a glorious (and legitimate) reign, the displays include objects that build a picture of royal life in the Tudor palaces set against the backdrop of sumptuous tapestries and ornate plasterwork.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 8 January 2023

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs

Upper part of colossal limestone statue of Ramses II from
Ashmunein. (Image: photograph by Sandro Vannini / image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

More than 180 objects from Egypt are stopping off at San Francisco on their international tour. The exhibition, produced by World Heritage Exhibitions in partnership with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, examines the life and times of Ramses II. Known as Ramses the Great, this famous figure of the New Kingdom was a prolific military commander and the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ruling over a wealthy and powerful empire for an impressive 67 years. Artefacts on display include colossal statues of Ramses, who set up large numbers of towering likenesses of himself,  and jewellery, gold funerary masks, and other objects from royal tombs in Egypt that offer a glimpse of the riches Ramses himself (whose tomb was looted in antiquity) must have been buried with.

de Young Museum, San Francisco, California
Until 12 February 2023


The Renaissance in the North: New Prints and Perspectives

Some 30 recent acquisitions by the National Gallery of Art are on display in this exhibition that puts northern European printmaking of the late 15th and 16th centuries in the spotlight. The portability and relative low costs of prints meant that, whether they were creating portraits of powerful figures like Emperor Maximilian I or influential thinkers like Martin Luther, allegorical compositions, or religious scenes, artists could exploit multiplied images to spread their works to a growing international audience and secure their fame. The works on view show different aspects of printmaking, including enhancing images with hand colouring, the use of monograms to make a name for oneself, and the collaborative aspect of the work. Among the highlights are Erhard Schön’s vast woodcut Army Train and Death (c.1532), depicting a procession of mercenary soldiers, Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness (c.1496), and the 1592 engraving The Triumph of Galatea by Hendrick Goltzius, who travelled to Italy and adroitly capture Raphael’s fresco in Rome.

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Until 27 November 2022

Sargent and Spain

Over a period of some 30 years, artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) visited Spain on seven extended trips, and as his vast and varied visual output from these travels shows, the country offered much to engage his interests – from the work of Spanish painters at the Museo del Prado in Madrid to the dancers and musicians of Andalucía. Oil paintings filled with colour and light, watercolours, and drawings record Sargent’s time in Spain, where he depicted the natural landscape all around the country, as well as the built landscape, including royal palaces like the Alhambra and the Generalife. The exhibition also features some never-before-published photographs that may be by the artist himself, including a stereoscopic glass transparency of the Alhambra’s Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions), probably taken in 1912. Later, the exhibition will go on view at the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (11 February to 14 May 2023).

Running alongside Sargent and Spain is In the Library: photography and travel in Sargent’s Spain, an archival exhibition expanding on the subject of photography in 19th- and early-20th-century Spain.

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Until 2 January 2023


Kingdoms of the Iron Age

In the 8th century BC, major changes were under way in central Europe as iron-working technology developed and became the predominant material in making tools, weapons, jewellery, and more. This exhibition, organised by MAMUZ with the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien and Museumspartner, charts the transformations of the Early Iron Age in religion, artistry, economy, and society, paying special attention to the Hallstatt culture and the prosperous elite – who amassed wealth from trade – that emerged.

A bronze chariot (with iron axles) featuring a bird-shaped vessel with a bird-shaped lid from Glasinac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 800-600 BC. (Image: Alice Schumacher, © Naturhistorisches Museum Wien)

At the Austrian site of Hallstatt, excavations uncovered material pointing to a new culture, the eponymous Hallstatt. The funerary evidence there attested to a distinct social hierarchy, with those at the top buried in large mounds containing a lavish assortment of weapons, jewellery, ritual vessels, dining ware that would serve in the afterlife, and even goods imported from the Mediterranean. Yet beyond their grave goods that show off a level of wealth and connections, and references written in texts from ancient Mediterranean civilisations, little is known about these apparent leaders and the extent of their power.

A bronze mask and pair of hands from the Hallstatt period burial mound of Kröllkogel in Kleinklein, Austria, 6th century BC. (Image: Archäologie & Münzkabinett/Universalmuseum Joanneum GmbH)

Still, the finds from across central Europe featured in this exhibition, including recently unearthed artefacts like a pot with a face on it from Schöngrabern (Austria) that is on display for the first time, fascinate and impress. Among the highlights from Hallstatt period graves are a bronze mask and hands from Kleinklein in Austria, a figurine of a person playing the aulos from Százhalombatta in Hungary, a bronze bull from Býcí skála Cave in Czechia, and, from Glasinac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small votive chariot with two birds (likely ducks), cast in bronze but with iron axles.

MAMUZ Museum Mistelbach
Until 27 November 2022



Tales from the Underground – Bruges in the year 1000

Finds from archaeological excavations in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges are on display in this exhibition, which offers a snapshot of the metropolis and its inhabitants around AD 1000, a vital period in its development into the flourishing trading hub of the late medieval period. By the year 1000, the city already occupied an important location with access to waterways, was inhabited by traders and a range of craftspeople, and was protected by a count – factors that all contributed to its later successes. Whale bones, reflecting the importance of the sea and the river to medieval Bruges, ice skates, jewellery, pottery, and even the skull of a bear all help to bring the city back to life. Also on view, returning to the city from Denmark (where it was found), is the high-quality seal of Boudewijn IV, Count of Flanders from 988 to 1035, who ruled from Bruges.

Gruuthusemuseum, Bruges
Until 27 October 2023

Alexandria: Past Futures

(Image: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, mission orientale arabe 2168)

Archaeology and contemporary art combine in this exhibition that puts the spotlight on Alexandria as both an ancient and a modern city. Organised by Bozar, the Royal Museum of Mariemont, and Mucem as part of the international project Alexandria: (Re)activating Common Urban Imaginaries, the exhibition traces the long history of the Egyptian port city. Artefacts from the ancient city – from its founding by Alexander the Great in 331 BC to the rise of Christianity in the late 4th century AD – shed light on its role as a thriving centre of commerce where people of different cultures mingled, but also as a destination of learning with a famous library and scholars who influenced scientific knowledge and philosophy in the ancient world. The legacy of the ancient city is seen, for example, in a 16th-century manuscript by Muhammad ibn’Abdal-Rahim Al-Qaysi that illustrates the famous lighthouse of Alexandria (below).

The Byzantine and Arab-Islamic city is also represented, and contemporary works by 17 artists respond to the city today, expanding our view of Alexandria in the past and the present, as a place marked by its colonial history and under threat from ecological erosion.

After Bozar, the exhibition will travel on to Mucem, the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, in Marseilles (8 February to 8 May 2023).

Bozar, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels
Until 8 January 2023


Power and Gold – Vikings in the East

Gold medallion from the Vindelev hoard. (Image: Conservation Center Vejle)

A recently unearthed hoard of large gold medallions from Vindelev in Denmark is going on display in a new exhibition that examines the period preceding the Viking Age, when power was gradually being centralised, and how cultural encounters and alliances helped secure the positions of Viking kings. The hoard at Vindelev was buried in the 6th century AD, during a turbulent time with dramatic societal changes and a series of natural disasters. It has been suggested that a wealthy and powerful chieftain at Vindelev, just a few kilometres from the later royal seat of Harald Bluetooth at Jelling, perhaps committed his treasure to the earth, giving it up to higher powers in the hope of reconciliation. As well as discoveries from Denmark, finds from Poland are on view in the exhibition, organised by Vejle Museums and Moesgaard Museum, and draw on the latest research to shed light on Harald Bluetooth’s eastern connections. It was from close alliances with rulers in what is now Poland that this 10th-century king drew great strength.

Utzon Hall, Vejle Art Museum, Vejle
Until 18 December 2022


Champollion: On the trail of hieroglyphics

Commemorating the bicentenary of the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, this exhibition explores the life and work of their decoder, Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), in the wider context of politics and European research and interactions with Egypt. As well as his work on the language, Champollion studied collections and monuments in Turin, Bologna, Rome, and Naples, and became the first director of the new Egyptian museum opened by King Charles X at the Palais du Louvre, acquiring more artefacts for the collection. Ancient objects and documents shed light on his work (which, by dating Egyptian monuments, had the potential to throw the Christian church’s biblical chronology into disarray), while paintings reflect artists’ enduring interests in Egypt, as knowledge about the ancient subjects they depicted sharpened into focus.

Louvre-Lens, lens
Until 16 January 2023


Ivory engraved with images of gods and spiritual protectors, Middle Kingdom Egypt (2100-1760 BC). (Image: © Musées de Marsaille - Jean Luc Maby)

Stretching back some 4,000 years, this exhibition (the second in a two-part programme with Toulouse’s natural history museum) examines the long and continuing history of magical beliefs, practices, and objects in cultures around the world. Varying attitudes towards different aspects of magic – for instance, magic as a way to get to grips with invisible forces and natural phenomena, to attempt to see into the future, and to acquire amuletic protection – are presented through some 400 objects, including an ancient Greek red-figure amphora (450-425 BC), illustrating the oracular power of the head of the mythical musician Orpheus, and a piece of ivory engraved with images of gods and spiritual protectors from Middle Kingdom Egypt (2100-1760 BC).

Musée des Confluences, Lyon
Until 5 March 2023

Things: A History of Still Life

(Image: © Su concessione del Ministero della Cultura, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, foto di Giorgio Albano)

Historically featuring items like abundant displays of flowers, a variety of fleshy fruit, and even skulls that serve as a reminder of mortality, still life is a long-lived genre of art, and one that has often been considered somewhat minor. Following on from a 1952 Paris exhibition on still life, the Louvre offers a broad, updated look at the genre across time and space, from the food depicted on ancient Egyptian stelae and the variety of subjects rendered in Roman mosaics (for example, the memento mori with a skull, right) to the vase of flowers captured in one of Nan Goldin’s Covid-19 quarantine photographs in Brooklyn in 2020.

Musée du Louvre, Paris
Until 23 January 2023

Facing the Sun: The Celestial Body in the Arts

The influential late-19th-century art movement Impressionism owes its name to a painting of the sunrise by Claude Monet (Impression, soleil levant), by way of the critic Louis Leroy. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of this significant 1872 painting, the Musée Marmottan Monet is investigating how different artists over the centuries have represented the sun.

The power of the sun has been evoked in ancient Egyptian amulets, 16th-century alchemical treatises, and dazzling jewellery, and light effects have fascinated many painters. Myths and stories associated with this celestial body have also been depicted in the arts, such as the fatal fall of Icarus in Graeco-Roman mythology. One interesting example of mythological painting is Le lever du Soleil by Charles de La Fosse, depicting the god Apollo and his chariot bringing in the sunrise. This was painted for the apartments of the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV at Versailles, the king who established the Observatoire Astronomique de Paris in 1667.

Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Until 29 January 2023



Iroungou: From Shadow to Light

In 2018, excavations at the Iroungou Cave in Gabon uncovered a range of material pointing to what has been described as a hitherto unknown central African civilisation some 800 years ago. The work led by National Agency for National Parks (ANPN) archaeologist Richard Oslisly found human remains of at least 28 individuals that have been dated to the 14th century AD, animal teeth and bones, cowrie shells, leather, and 512 metal objects. A selection of the finds is going on display for the first time at the National Museum of Arts, Rites and Traditions of Gabon in an exhibition that introduces the Iroungou civilisation.

National Museum of Arts, Rites and Traditions of Gabon, Libreville
Until January 2023



The Worlds of Schliemann: His Life, His Discoveries, His Legacy

In 1870, the self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann travelled to Turkey to excavate the famous city of Troy that features in Homer’s Iliad. Though he was not the first to link this site with ill-fated Troy, he uncovered remains of the city and around 10,000 objects, including ceramic vessels, metal tools, and small finds like spindle whorls, as well as a glittering cache of jewellery he dubbed ‘Priam’s Treasure’ after the Trojan king.

Sheet gold floral ornament from Grave III, Grave Circle A, at Mycenae (Greece). Early Mycenaean, 16th century BC. (Image: National Archaeological Museum, Athens © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Hellenic Cultural Resources Managing and Development Organisation)

To carry out this work, the impatient Schliemann, a businessman who turned to archaeology in his early 40s, dug a large area (now known as the ‘Schliemann Trench’) to a depth of 17 metres to reveal more swiftly what he thought would be the important layers of the city’s occupation, and destroyed a significant portion of the archaeological remains in the process. This is one part of the legacy explored in this two-venue exhibition, organised by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte to mark the bicentenary of Schliemann’s birth in 1822. The James-Simon-Galerie looks at the first half of Schliemann’s life, while the Neues Museum assesses his archaeological work and its legacy.

Sophia Schliemann wearing gold jewellery from Priam’s Treasure, 1873. (Image: © American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Archives, Carl Blegen Papers)

Homeric heroes captured Schliemann’s imagination, and he also excavated royal tombs at Mycenae, where he believed he found the burial of Agamemnon. As well as rich archival documents, archaeological finds on view include ceramic vessels from Troy, Mycenaean goldwork on loan from the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, and fragments of paintings from the Mycenaean palace at Tiryns, also travelling from Athens. Some of the displays, such as a Bronze Age faience bead from the ‘Treasury of Minyas’ at Orchomenos bearing an object label written by Sophia Schliemann, draw attention to her role in her husband’s work.

James-Simon-Galerie and the Neues Museum, Berlin
Until 6 November 2022

New Images in the Age of Augustus: Power and Media in Ancient Rome

Head of Augustus of Prima Porta with civic crown (c.AD 40). (Image: © Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek)

Augustus, Rome’s first emperor (r. 27 BC – AD 14), spread his image far and wide as a way to communicate his power. One example of the carefully cultivated imperial image is the head of Augustus of Prima Porta with civic crown (c.AD 40). Augustus used images to show the illustrious history of Rome, his role in transforming the city (by publicising important building projects like the Forum of Augustus), and the divine origins of his family. As this exhibition sets out to explore through coins, statues, frescoes, and ornate furniture, his reign saw a general boom in imagery. There were new marble quarries supplying copyists and new approaches to wall painting, architecture, and the decoration of everyday objects like tableware that reached a wide span of society.

Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg
Until 15 January 2023


The Fall Of The Roman Empire

Established in the 1st century BC, the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum was an important economic and administrative centre for the empire, even becoming Constantius’ capital during the tetrarchy at the end of the 3rd century AD. Today, Trier’s Roman remains include an amphitheatre, a bridge across the River Moselle, a monumental city gate (the Porta Nigra), and a basilica built by Constantine. Against this rich backdrop, Trier is now playing host to a three-part exhibition investigating the fall of the Roman Empire, its legacy, and the rise of Christianity.

The exhibition at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (The Fall of the Roman Empire) tells the story of the empire in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, as the power of the central imperial authority waned and regional rulers became formidable rivals. With a range of archaeological material, it considers the different factors that contributed to the fall of the once mighty empire, encompassing politics, economics, and migration, and also explores how certain Roman traditions either dwindled or continued into the medieval period.

Ivory relief showing a procession with relics, 4th century AD. (Image: Trier Cathedral Treasury)

Breaks and continuities in Roman ways of life are examined at the Museum am Dom, too, in an exhibition looking at the rise of Christianity and its part in this transformative period of history. Under the Sign of the Cross: a world reorders itself shows how the church exploited a power vacuum to become more active in the secular sphere and more influential politically. It pays special attention to Christianity up until the 7th century in the Moselle and Rhine region, with a number of artefacts from Trier on display. Among them are finds from early Christian burials below the former abbey church of St Maximin, including gold-embroidered garments, that shed light on the customs of the deceased.

Finally, Stadtmuseum Simeonstift (The Legacy of Rome: visions and myths in art) turns to the image of Rome in art and writing over time, and how the fall of the empire has been interpreted, from Christian authors of late antiquity to the present.

Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Museum Am Dom, and Stadtmuseum Simeonstift, Trier
Until 27 November 2022



Stone Age Connections: Mobility in Ötzi's Time

In 1991, the natural mummy of a man who lived sometime between c.3350 and 3105 BC was discovered frozen in the Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. Now known as Ötzi the Iceman, this man was found with parts of his clothing still surviving, and objects including an axe, a knife, and a quiver of arrows. Analysis of some of these objects reveals where they come from: for example, the copper for the axes came from Tuscany, and the flint for some of the tools from around Lake Garda. Also using DNA analyses and study of pottery, this exhibition explores mobility of materials, knowledge, and people in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC.

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Bolzano
Until 7 November 2022

Art and Sensuality in the Houses of Pompeii

Objects from the storerooms of the archaeological park of Pompeii are going on display to illustrate the place of images of erotic and sensual subjects throughout the Roman city. Such imagery was not just confined to brothels or bawdy taverns, but adorned private homes. A villa in the Carmiano area between Pompeii and Stabiae, for instance, has a cubiculum (bedroom) furnished with a cycle of explicit scenes, while in some houses the more public-facing atrium was the place to show off one’s taste in art, including depictions of the god Priapus or of beautiful figures of myth like Narcissus. Recent discoveries feature in the exhibition, including two bronze medallions decorated with erotic images of satyrs and maenads or nymphs from the elaborate ceremonial chariot found at Civita Giuliana. A special route around Pompeii is available that highlights buildings which bring the subject of the exhibition into the wider archaeological park.

Large Palaestra, Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Pompeii
Until 15 January 2023



Byblos: The World’s Most Ancient Port

Located on the coast of what is today Lebanon, the city of Byblos has a long history as a prosperous seaport that attracted traders from across the ancient Mediterranean and the Middle East. It began as a fishing village around 6500 BC, but by around 3000 BC trade of the much-valued wood of the tall, straight cedar tree from the mountains near Byblos had helped it grow into an international port.

Silver and gold mirror from the tomb of Ipu-Shemu-Abi, king of Byblos, 1800-1700 BC. (Image: © Trustees of the British Museum)

Egypt and Byblos had particularly close ties. As well as cedar wood and oil, silver and wine were traded to Egypt, while Byblos obtained gold, precious stones, linen, and ivory from Egypt, which they then sold on to Mesopotamian cities. A goddess known as the ‘Lady of Byblos’ (Baalat Gebal in Phoenician) may have held some affinity with Egyptians too, as she has been equated with Hathor or Isis. (Isis, incidentally, brought Osiris back to life at Byblos.)

Bronze figurine of Herakles from Byblos, 250-230 BC. (Image: © Trustees of the British Museum)

Not just Egyptians, but Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans all left their mark on Byblos, as this exhibition, the fourth in a series at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden devoted to prominent cities of antiquity, shows. Around 500 artefacts (including loans from the National Museum in Beirut) demonstrate the cultural richness of Byblos, which is still being excavated. Recently unearthed finds from an elite burial complex investigated by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture/Directorate General of Antiquities and the Louvre will be on view, as well as artefacts from the city’s royal tombs. Some objects buried with the kings of Byblos bear the names of older Egyptian pharaohs.

Fishhooks and anchors bear witness to life by the water, while a writing tablet in the undeciphered ‘Byblos script’ evokes the administrative side of the port. Other finds showcase the wealth of many of Byblos’ residents and merchants, and the well-appointed surroundings they spent their time in. Golden weapons, fine jewellery, Roman mosaics, and some of the around 1,700 bronze figurines of warriors, gods, and animals found at Byblos paint a picture of a wealthy, cosmopolitan city.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Until 12 March 2023

5,000 Years of Beads

Mainly using beads excavated in the Netherlands, this exhibition delves into the lives of beads from 5,000 years ago to the present. Though small and often simple in shape, beads come in a rich range of colours and materials, from wood to gold, and are found all around the world. How beads were used, who they were worn by, and what they symbolised are all considered. As well as examples of beads – including from prehistoric megalithic tombs and Merovingian graves – images illustrating the use of beads helps set these decorative objects in further context. A statue shows a Mesopotamian prince wearing beads, while an illuminated manuscript with images of coral rosaries (below) emphasises the important role played by the late medieval prayer beads on view.

Prayerbook by Van Hooff. Parchment, Flanders, 1520. (Image: © UBVU)

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Until 7 May 2023


Piranesi and the Modern

Inspired by the grandeur of ruins of ancient Rome, the Italian architect and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) has in turn inspired and influenced literature, architecture, painting, cinema and photography in the 20th and 21st centuries. For the inaugural show in two exhibition rooms at the new National Museum in Oslo (which opened earlier this year), Piranesi and the Modern traces these influences; for instance, in the play with light and shadow of modernist photography. Piranesi’s intricate and often fantastical images, including the highly inventive ‘Imaginary Prisons’ series (depicting fictitious, complex prisons), are paired with works by Pablo Picasso, models and collages by architect Rem Koolhaas, and the films of Sergei Eisenstein.

National Museum, Oslo
Until 8 January 2023


Giorgio Vasari’s Drawings: A Mythical Collection

Giulio Romano, The Fall of Icarus, 1536. (Image: RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre)/Michel Urtado)

Living and working in 16th-century Italy, Giorgio Vasari wrote an important work of art history, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. He was also an artist and a collector, acquiring a significant collection of drawings by Italian artists from the 14th to the late 16th century. Vasari kept these drawings in an album and described them in detail in the second edition of his Lives, published in 1568. After he died in 1574, his descendants gifted the album to Francesco I de’ Medici. The drawings are today scattered in numerous collections. This exhibition, organised with the Louvre (where it was previously on view), presents the research into Vasari’s collection and that of Niccolò Gaddi, who was also collecting art in Florence at the time. Many of the mounts traditionally linked to Vasari may in fact be Gaddi’s.

National Museum, Stockholm
Until 8 January 2023

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