On Show - the best exhibitions from around the world

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

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.


Colour: Art, Science, and Power

The world is full of colour, something that humans have harnessed and replicated in art and crafts for millennia, whether by painting with certain mineral-based pigments or using birds’ feathers for prestigious garments. The ways we perceive colour, its powerful influence on well-being, the associations of certain colours with political elites, and the lengths people have gone to in order to source colours are all explored in this exhibition, which draws on the collections of institutions across the University of Cambridge. Reflecting the diversity of hues, the range of items on display includes scientific instruments, ancient Egyptian figures, medieval manuscripts, shells, and a dazzling 19th-century kingfisher feather headdress from China.

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge
Until 9 April 2023


Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets

In 2004-2005, excavations just outside York discovered some 80 Roman skeletons. Many had been decapitated and had signs of injuries suffered during life, such as an animal bite to the pelvis. This exhibition investigates the stories of the skeletons, considering whether the men buried at the site were gladiators, soldiers, criminals, or slaves. Facial reconstructions and CT scans help visitors assess the evidence, while replica helmets and weapons, and Roman artefacts found by York Archaeological Trust illustrate aspects of the world the deceased lived in.

Corinium Museum, Cirencester
Until 23 April 2023

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 touring 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)

The exhibition will travel on to Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (25 February to 3 June 2023); and Museum of the Isles, Stornoway (13 June to 16 September 2023).

The Collection, Lincoln
Until 20 February 2023


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




Making Sense of Marbles: Roman Sculpture at the OI

(Image: The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)
While Roman sculpture may not be a type of artefact commonly associated with the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, it is held in the collection thanks to its sixth director, Carl H Kraeling, who wanted to establish a ‘representative collection’ for the city. Not only did the OI excavate at the ancient city of Ptolemais in modern Libya for three seasons between 1956 and 1958, during which they found a range of marbles – among them a woman’s head (above) – reflecting the different roles of sculpture in life in the city, but Kraeling also purchased Roman objects on the antiquities market. This exhibition presents Roman sculpture from the OI’s collection as a group for the first time, investigating the differences in research approaches and questions for artefacts with different object histories, highlighting the importance of archaeological context.

Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, Illinois
Until 12 March 2023

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

Nubia: Jewels of Ancient Sudan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gold amulet of a vulture, reign of Atlanersa, 653–643 BC. (Image: Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Between 1913 and 1932, Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, excavated in Sudan, revealing large numbers of exquisitely worked objects from royal and aristocratic burials of ancient Nubia. Some of these artefacts have now travelled to the Getty Villa for an exhibition that covers a broad span of Nubian history from the Kerma period of the Kingdom of Kush, which began around 2400 BC. With rich resources including gold and ivory, and access to trade routes connecting Egypt, Greece, Rome, and central Africa, the Nubian elite had a range of precious materials and cultural influences to draw on. At Meroë, a later administrative centre and royal burial place of the Kushite kingdom, local artisans excelled in enamelling and filigree and granulation goldwork techniques. Glass, faience, and different stones were also popular.

Four contemporary works of art are on view as well, as part of the Adornment | Artifact project (www.adornmentartifact.org), which responds to the exhibition and explores images and ideas that have spread beyond Africa.

Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles, California
Until 3 April 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

Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art

n 2021, two striking Maya stelae arrived at the Met’s Great Hall on long-term loan from Guatemala. These monuments, carved by Maya court artists, depict two rulers, the king K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II (c. AD 664-729) and queen Ix Wak Jalam Chan (Lady Six Sky) (c. AD 670s-741). Both works incorporate aspects of the divine: Ix Wak Jalam Chan impersonates a goddess as she tramples a captive, while gods emerge from a mountain by the enthroned K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II.

Codex-style vessel showing the rebirth of the Maize God, from Structure II, Tomb 1, at Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico. Ceramic and pigment, AD 650-800. (Image: Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, Secretaría de Cultura-INAH-MEX. Reproducción Autorizada por el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia)

The Met is continuing its exploration of Maya art of the Classic period (AD 250-900) with this new exhibition focused on divinity. It features more loans from Guatemala (including recent discoveries from the site of El Zotz) as well as Mexico (with new material from Palenque), and from other museums across Europe, the United States, and Latin America.

Some objects – like the stelae – demonstrate the link between religion and political authority. Other artefacts chart the lives of the gods (who are depicted as infants, as mature adults, and as more elderly figures), their transformations, and in some cases their rebirths. Among the gods encountered are the aged Itzamnaaj, who played an important part in creation myths; the nocturnal, warlike Jaguar God; Chahk, god of rain; K’awiil, god of lightning, fertility, and abundance; and the Maize God. The youthful Maize God was reborn after death, and is associated not just with the vital crop, but also with prized jade and cacao.

Yax Ahk’ as a captive impersonating the Jaguar God, from Monument 155, at Toniná, Chiapas, Mexico. Sandstone, c.AD 700. (Image: Museo de Sitio de Toniná, Secretaría de Cultura-INAH-MEX. Reproducción Autorizada por el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia)

As well as individual gods and rulers, the exhibition draws attention to Maya sculptors and painters who signed their works, and whose names have been steadily identified as advances are made in the study of Maya hieroglyphs.

The exhibition is organised with the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas, where it will be on view between 7 May and 3 September 2023.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 2 April 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


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

Feathered Ink

Sesshū Tōyō, Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Spring and Summer, screen (six-panel). Ink and colour on paper, Muromachi period, late 15th to early 16th century. (Image:  Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC: Purchase – Charles Lang Freer Endowment, F1953.94)

In the Heian period (AD 794-1185), birds grew in prominence in Japanese painting. Together with flowers, these feathered friends could be used to symbolise seasons or auspicious omens. This exhibition surveys the art of the bird in Japan, and how painters have, for centuries, experimented with different brush techniques to capture in ink the details of different species, such as varieties of feather-type and the foliage they frequent, and employed colour to add layers of symbolic meaning. As well as hanging scroll paintings and screens, the exhibition includes early modern Japanese ceramics decorated with birds which show the ways in which potters tried to recreate the sense of ink on their clay vessels.

National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC
Until 29 January 2023


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


The softness of European alabaster meant that it quickly spread across Europe in the late medieval period as a material for sculpture. This exhibition draws on some of the latest research surrounding alabaster, such as tracing the most significant deposits in France, England, Spain, Italy, and Germany, as well as analysis that can distinguish between alabaster and the visually similar white marble. It charts the use of the material in sculpture from the 14th to the 17th century. A prestigious and costly material, alabaster – with its skin-like shine – was popular in funerary sculpture for those who could afford to show off their taste after their death. It was a popular material for altarpieces too, a trend developed in the French royal court of the 14th century. The area around Nottingham in England was an especially fruitful source of alabaster, which was turned into standardised altarpieces for the local market, and also exported to Italy and Spain.

M Leuven
Until 26 February 2023


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

Dream of Egypt

Ancient Egypt has had a powerful influence on many artists since antiquity. Among them is the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), who collected various antiquities and fragments of sculpture, including Egyptian material, and described his 1898 Monument to Balzac as the ‘Sphinx of France’. Some of these artefacts from the artist’s collection are on display in this exhibition of more than 400 pieces that reveal aspects of his working relationship with ancient Egypt. Rodin’s drawings and sculptures are on view, along with archival material and photography that shed light on 19th-century visions of Egypt, the art market at the time, and the role of other artists, writers, antiquarians, and Egyptologists in fuelling Rodin’s interest. The exhibition explores, too, the affinity between Egyptian art and Rodin’s work with fragmentation, monumentality, and simplification of forms.

Musée Rodin, Paris
Until 5 March 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



Adventures on the Nile: Prussia and Egyptology 1842-45

 Johann Jakob Frey and Max Weidenbach, The members of the expedition on the Cheops pyramid, watercolour, October 1842. (Image: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett)

Two decades after Jean-François Champollion first deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, sent a team to Alexandria to travel south down the Nile and study sites along the river. The Royal Prussian Expedition spent three years investigating Egyptian sites, even journeying as far as present-day Sudan, at a time when Egyptology was in its infancy and inscriptions were newly legible once more thanks to Champollion’s work. Their work was published in 12 large, illustrated volumes, which were funded by the king. This exhibition examines the impact the expedition had on early Egyptology, the working practices of the team, and the objects they brought back, which were displayed at Berlin’s Neues Museum from 1850. Watercolours and drawings record the sites the expedition visited and detail the monuments they surveyed.

Neues Museum, Berlin
Until 7 March 2023

Guido Reni: The Divine

Guido Reni, Bacchus and Ariadne, oil on canvas, c.1616-1617. (Image: Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

During his lifetime, the Italian artist Guido Reni (1575-1642) earned the epithet Il divino (‘The Divine’), partly owing to his celebrity and success – attracting Pope Paul V, the Duke of Mantua, and English royalty as patrons – and his sometimes tempestuous and demanding behaviour. He was, according to a contemporary biography, addicted to gambling as well as being deeply religious and superstitious. He also strove to convey the beauty and grace of the divine on the canvas, as demonstrated by this exhibition of more than 130 of his paintings, drawings, and prints – including new discoveries and works on view for the first time. This might be Christian divinity – as in the recently restored Christ at the Column, and depictions of the heads of Christ and Mary looking towards heaven that influenced religious imagery elsewhere in Europe – or the gods of ancient Greece and Rome, as in the vibrant oil painting Bacchus and Ariadne.

Städel Museum, Frankfurt
Until 5 March 2023

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

New Light from Pompeii

Bronze oil lamp with three spouts, a statuette of a dancer, and a reflector, from Pompeii, 1st-century AD (Image: Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples © Johannes Eber)

Small oil lamps have been found across the Roman Empire, but how did the world look when illuminated by these devices? Drawing on research from an interdisciplinary project, this exhibition presents beautiful bronze oil lamps, candelabras, lamp stands, and figurative lamp- and torch-holding sculptures from Pompeii and the cities around Vesuvius (a number of which have been restored for this display). These invite visitors to reflect on not just how these objects appear today, but the ‘light art’ they created through their shapes and surfaces, and the play of artificial light and shadow. New bronze casts and digital lighting simulations provide an experience of different light effects, while a virtual-reality display allows visitors to light lamps for themselves.

Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich
Until 2 April 2023


Recycling Beauty

Images and stories from antiquity have been reused countless times in art, literature, and design, among many other contexts. When it comes to ancient objects themselves, how do different post-antique settings starting from the moment of their rediscovery change the meaning of these artefacts?

This exhibition at the Fondazione Prada in Milan examines the new lives Greek and Roman antiquities experienced from the medieval to the Baroque periods. Some of these artefacts, having been forgotten and untouched for centuries, found themselves turned into artworks desired by collectors; often, they were cut up and dispersed. This was the case for a 5th-century BC Greek funerary stele of an athlete, which had already been brought to ancient Rome as a collector’s object. It was later in the collection of a 16th-century cardinal, then split in two in 1701, and eventually reunited at the Vatican Museums in 1957.

Some examples of reuse are decorative, for instance when ancient carvings are repurposed in buildings like churches, where their original meaning and religious context is lost but the artefacts are preserved. In such cases, the pagan iconography often didn’t matter, or the original meaning of the object was not understood. Sometimes a later carver offered a reinterpretation of ancient motifs. Inscriptions added in the 15th century to a 1st-century AD funerary relief re-identify the figures of the deceased as Honor (Honour), Amor (Love), and Veritas (Truth).

Fondazione Prada, Milan
Until 27 February 2023

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

Emperor Domitian: Hate and Love

The marble Dama Fonseca. (Image: © Roma Capitale, Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali (photo Zeno Colantoni))

Rome’s Villa Caffarelli, part of the Capitoline Museums, was built on the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, a temple that was restored by Emperor Domitian after the fire of AD 80. Following on from an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, the Villa Caffarelli is now examining the life and legacy of Domitian, the last Flavian emperor. New artefacts are included in this iteration of the exhibition, which considers the army and administration, the imperial family’s dynastic propaganda, the palace on the Palatine, numerous public building projects in Rome, and the practice of damnatio memoriae or the obliteration of the memory of a figure who has fallen out of favour (which seems to have been limited in Domitian’s case). Fragments of architectural decoration and portraits in bronze and marble are among the objects on view, such as the elegant Dama Fonseca (above).

Musei Capitolini, Villa Caffarelli, Rome
Until 29 January 2023


Treasures from the Chishakuin Temple in Kyoto

The beauty of the four seasons is a common theme in Japanese art, and the paintings on gold grounds for walls and sliding doors preserved by the Chishakuin Temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto, the headquarters of the Chisan School of the Shingon Buddhism, are splendid examples. Painted by the Momoyama-period master Hasegawa Tōhaku (1539-1610) and his followers for the Shōunji mortuary temple for the feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s son Tsurumatsu, they were later moved to Chishakuin Temple. Cherry Blossoms (in spring), Maple Tree (in autumn), and Pine Tree with Autumn Plants are on view together outside the temple for the first time.

Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo
Until 22 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


The ‘Invention of Many Works’: Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) and his building sites

Visitors to the Vatican today find themselves in the presence not just of a grand basilica, but, in the middle of St Peter’s Square, an ancient Egyptian obelisk. Roman emperors transported such monuments from Egypt to Rome, but the final step in this one’s journey, from the Circus of Caligula and Nero to St Peter’s Square in 1584, was the feat of architect Domenico Fontana, working for Pope Sixtus V. The exhibition traces Fontana’s career, including work in Rome for Sixtus, and for Spanish viceroys in Naples, where he moved in 1592 after being accused of embezzlement. He raised three more obelisks in Rome: the Lateran, Esquiline, and Flaminio obelisks. His work was depicted in various images, such as Giovanni Guerra’s 1586 Raising and Lowering of the Obelisk with the Coat of Arms of Sixtus V (below).

Giovanni Guerra, Raising and Lowering of the Obelisk with the Coat of Arms of Sixtus V, 1586. (Image: Beaux-Arts de Paris)

Giovanni Züst Cantonal Art Gallery, Rancate (Mendrisio)
Until 19 February 2023

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