1700 years ago, someone knocked this up…
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Sometimes it’s only when something is closing that you actually prick your ears up to them a bit. I’ve known about the Predators & Prey exhibition at Waddesdon Manor for ever, but I have to admit I coudn’t quite get the enthusiasm up to see a floor mosaic, even if it was one from Roman times.
Now I feel like daft, because not only do I find that my daughter has been studying the Romans since the beginning of term (oops) and my son is making mosaics in art (thus allowing me the opportunity to tick a whole load of smug parenting boxes in one go) – but also it’s a really cool, and it’s shown really well down in the Stables, with a viewing platform and lots of light.
Basically the mosaic was accidentally discovered in 1996 during road works in the Israeli city of Lod. It lay only a metre below the ground and was over 1700 years old. Yes, even older than Mr Muddy. Apparently it was part of the floor of a villa, probably the atrium, the walls of which had collapsed, covering and preserving the floor.
Aside from the mosaic itself there’s a small but interesting exhibition on some Rothschild-owned Syrian and Palestinian antiquities, plus quite a few bits on loan from the British Museum and friends. The beauty of the jewellery, below, is particularly astonishing.
It turns out that quite a few exhibitions are coming to an end at Waddesdon in the next few weeks, so that the house can be decorated for Christmas and take a breath before the festive onslaught. So I also managed to pop in on Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust, being shown in the manor house (so you’ll have to buy a timed ticket for entry into the building).
Waddeson Manor rooms tend to be quite dark and romantic – all those cascading curtains protecting the antiquities inside, but the White Drawing Room (below) was just that, white, bright, and really striking. You won’t be held in the room for very long, unless you’re a fan of Pope, a sculptor or a history of art fanatic, but it’s interesting to see how the bust of Pope, the most famous literary figure in the 18th century, was replicated by Roubillac, the era’s most famous sculptor of busts. A kind of 18th century pop star photo in effect. Pope looks a bit intense, like Charles Dance with a wasp in his mouth.
The Lod mosaic leaves on 2 November and Pope spits out his wasp on 26 October. Also worth mentioning that there are a further two exhibitions going on in the house until 26 Oct, a rather beautiful lace exhibition (those humorous birds, above, are part of it), and a contemporary photography exhibition by Jan Dunning that culminates in a camera obscura in one of the turrets.
So there you go, you can go and see four exhibitions at the same time and feel smug for the rest of the year. I know I do!
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