W. Blanchard Jerrold.

How to See the British Museum in Four Visits online

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utensils; and a variety of tripods variously ornamented with sphinxes,
Boreas carrying away Orithyia; and leaden vases from Delos, holding
the ashes of the dead. An interesting collection of candelabra, from
the Etruscan sepulchres, is arranged in the next cases (52, 53). These
candelabra were highly esteemed throughout ancient Greece. They are
decorated chiefly with mythological subjects, and have, attached to
them, vessels for dipping into larger vessels. Those in the next case
(54) are of the Roman period. Having glanced at the censers and bronze
lamps in the next cases (56-57) the visitor may pass on to the case
numbered 58-64, in which is a large collection of bronze vessels,
including unguent vases, which are the most highly decorated,
braziers, cauldrons, and jugs. The two next cases contain a great
number of bronze figures of various heathen deities, representations
of mythological events. Here are, a winged Victory holding an egg;
figures of Juno Sospita; figures for mirrors; Apollos; a giant hurling
a rock; one of the Gorgons; figures of Mars, in the old grotesque
style; a reclining Dionysus, drinking; satyrs; Aphrodite; Aurora
bearing off Tithonus or Cephalus; Hercules; Ariadne playing on the
lyre; Hercules killing the Maenalian stag; Minerva; and other figures,
all drawn from Grecian mythology. These cases present, at a glance,
more than any other in the collection, the various excellences of
ancient bronzes. The ancient mirrors are arranged in the next two
cases (68, 69) - one polished to show their old effect; and in the 70th
case are Etruscan and Roman fibulae or clasps in general use in the
olden time, in lieu of buttons or hooks. The drainings of the lake of
Monte Falterona brought to light the most attractive objects of the
next three cases (71-73), including the fine Etruscan statue of Mars,
the large statue of a youth; and here also are a group of Aurora
bearing off Memnon; and a satyr and a bacchante for the top of a
candelabrum. Finely ornamented mirrors, with figures chased,
bas-relief, representing, among other subjects, Minerva before Paris;
Achilles arming before Thetis; a winged Hercules killing the Lernean
Hydra; Juno and her rivals preparing for the judgment of Paris;
Hercules bearing off a female figure; Venus holding a dove, as a
mirror handle; the Dioscuri, Clytemnestra and Helen; Aphrodite nursing
Eros; and Dolon, Ulysses, and Diomed. Bronze figures of Greek and
Roman divinities fill the next case, including a silver group of
Saturn devouring his children; no less than nineteen Jupiters, one in
silver with a goat at his side. These are continued in the following
case (78), including Isis; Ganymede and the eagle; Terpsichore;
Apollos; Junos; a fine Apollo from Paramythia; a Triton, with crab's
claws, and a face turning into sea weed; Dianas, one, in silver,
holding a crescent; and Neptune, distinguishable by his trident. Three
cases, next in order of number (80-82), are devoted to ancient Roman
horse-trappings. Busts of Minerva occupy the most prominent positions
in the 83rd case; and in the next case (84) are no less than
twenty-one figures of Mercury, one of which, distinguishable by the
gold collar about the neck, is reputed the most beautiful bronze in
Europe. These figures of Mercury are in various attitudes. Here the
cocks, emblematic of the athletic games, are before him - there he is
flying on Jupiter's eagle; and near these figures are arranged
twenty-eight figures of Venus; in one place the goddess is rising from
the sea, in another she is arranging her sandal, or riding her swan.
Playful Cupids, thirty-five in number, and gambolling variously,
occupy the position next in order to the figures of Venus. Here the
little god is running, there he bears the anointing-box of
Venus - there he is laughing, in another corner his laughter is turned
to tears, and in another he is ingloriously intoxicated. In another
direction he is exhibited in his amiable moods, feeding a hare with
grapes, or toying with a swan. The next case (86) contains an
assortment of ancient glazed articles including glass studs, buttons,
&c., from the sepulchres of Etruria; bronze sandals from Armentum; and
glazed ware of various shapes. In the 87th case are deposited four
curious fragments from Perugia, of chariot chasings, representing
various warlike emblems and doings; and an ancient scabbard engraved
with an outline of Briseis led by Achilles. Deities fill the next case
(89), including fourteen figures of Harpocrates; a Pan; and figures of
Bacchus. Silenus, with silver eyes and a crown set with garnets, will
be found in the next case (90) where Hercules is strangling the Nemean
lion; and another Silenus kneeling on a wine-skin. Cupid is seizing
the weapons of the strong Hercules while the latter sleeps; in the
next case (91), here also he is grappling with the Maenalian stag, and
Pan shows his goat's legs. The 92nd, 93rd and 94th cases are filled
with various mirrors from Athens; the anciently prized knuckle bones
of a small animal; bronze earrings from a tomb in Cephalonia; sling
bullets found at Saguntum; part of a lyre, and wooden flutes
discovered near Athens; a gilt myrtle crown; glass mosaics from the
Parthenon; iron knives and fetters from Athens; a jar that once held
the famed Lycian eye ointment; one of the bronze tickets of a judge;
and leaden weights. Hercules is vigorously at work in the groups of
the next case (95), and herein are figures of Victory and Fortune; two
sphinxes, and other groups. The head of Polyphemus appears prominently
in the 96th case; and in the remaining cases miscellaneously grouped,
are ancient dice, some of which have been loaded, suggesting the
antiquity of roguery; ivory hair pins; bronze needles; glass beads;
fragments of cornelian and other cups, and glass; bronze figures of
animals; inlaid and enamel work; styli for writing upon wax; ancient
medical instruments; and old Roman finger-rings.

Over the Egyptian cases are deposited fac-similes of paintings of a
tomb at Vulci, discovered in the year 1832. These represent various
ancient games of racing and leaping. Over the cases 38-58 are other
fac-similes from a tomb, also at Vulci, in a mutilated condition; and
against the southern wall are the ceilings of the tomb. Having
examined these things the visitor should proceed on his southward
course, and, passing through the southern entrance of the bronze room,
enter the fine apartment, known as the Etruscan room, in which the


are arranged. These are a series of earthen vases discovered in Italy.
These painted vases are the spoil from the tombs of the ancient
Etruscans. The Etruscans inhabited the northern parts of Italy, and
flourished there in a state of comparative civilisation, when the rest
of the Peninsula, save where the Greeks were busy on its southern
shore, was in a barbarous state. The Etruscan tombs present various
degrees of ornament according to the wealth of their occupant, but in
all of them painted vases of some description are found. It is
maintained by many learned men that these beautiful vases were not a
native manufacture, but were bought by the Etruscans of the Greeks of
Southern Italy, who imported them from the famous potteries of Athens.
The Greek inscriptions on some of these vases, and the Greek subjects
from which the decorations are taken, tend strongly to confirm this
hypothesis. It is, however, altogether a mystery why the Etruscans
surrounded their dead with these vases. They were not used to hold
human bones, nor to contain food for the deceased; but that the
Etruscans held them in high estimation as sepulchral ornaments is
certain from the fact that they are found universally in their tombs,
the finer and more elaborate in the sepulchres of the rich, and the
coarser and plainer kinds in the graves of the poor. The visitor will
do well to walk carefully round this room in which the Etruscan vases
belonging to the Museum are deposited. They are arranged in the
supposed chronological order in which they were manufactured; the
clumsy and coarse ware being placed in the first case, as exhibiting
the dawn of the potter's art, and the more elaborate and
highly-wrought specimens being arranged in regular order of
improvement in the succeeding cases.

The first five cases are filled with clumsy black ware, ornamented in
some cases with figures in relief, and extracted from tombs discovered
on the site of the oldest Etruscan towns, which circumstance has led
antiquaries to allow the Etruscans the honour of having fashioned
these rude specimens of pottery; but as the samples display a higher
degree of skill they refuse to allow the Etruscans the merit of having
improved the clumsiness of their early handiwork. In the sixth and
seventh cases are pale vases with deep red figures, chiefly of animals
upon them, chiefly from Canino and Vulci. The exertions of the Prince
of Canino in excavating on his estate in search of Etruscan tombs and
their treasures are well known; and the enthusiasm with which Sir
William Hamilton, while on his embassy at Naples, bought the
curiosities of Etruscan tombs, should be remembered. Few Englishmen,
however, can think pleasantly of those times when the Hamiltons were
at Naples, when Lady Hamilton did her country great services; then
recall the picture of the poor woman fed by a charitable neighbour at
Calais, think of Horatio's last words, and then of the country that
forgets the woman's service, and the hero's dying words. Well, the
visitor may pass on his way amidst these spoils from Etruscan tombs,
and forgetting the family to whom we owe many of them, serenely watch
the gradual improvement in the manufacture. The best have black
figures upon a dark ground. The glass cases in the centre of the room
contain those vases which are painted on both sides. On the walls of
the room above the cases are fac-similes of paintings from some of the
Etruscan tombs. Some of them represent dances and games; but one
represents a female in the act of covering the head of a man who has
just expired, while a male figure is drawing a covering over the feet,
and two spectators are in attitudes of grief in the neighbourhood.
Having roamed amid the spoils of Etruscan tombs, the search after
which is now a settled business in parts of Italy, the visitor may
take a southerly direction through two empty rooms into that at the
southern extremity of the western wing. Here a few miscellaneous
objects are deposited, amongst which in the eastern cases he should
notice some curious old enamels, and the frescoes from St. Stephen's
Chapel, Westminster, and on the floor, a model of the Victory. He
should then turn in an easternly direction into the Ethnographical
room, which, to the visitor without a guide has very much the
appearance of a confined curiosity shop; but on inspection proves to
be an interesting compartment of the Museum, in which curiosities
illustrative of the civilisation of various countries and continents
are arranged. Before applying himself to the wall cases, however, the
visitor would do well to advance to the eastern extremity of the room,
noticing the objects deposited in the central space by the way. These
consist of Flaxman's cast of the shield of Achilles; a model of the
Thugs fashioned at Madras by a native artist; a model of a moveable
temple; her Majesty's present to the museum of a great Chinese bell,
surmounted by the Chinese national dragon, and decorated with figures
of Buddh, from a temple near Ningpo; and various cromlechs or
sepulchres of the ancient Britons, ruder in their construction than
those with which the visitor has lately busied himself. Having arrived
at the eastern end of the room, the visitor should advance to the
northern wall cases, and begin his inspection. He will at once remark
that the first five cases (1-5) are devoted to


These are distributed with particular regard to the economy of space,
and accordingly the visitor may see at a glance objects huddled
together, the uses of which are of the most opposite nature. On the
first shelf of cases 1, 2, are distributed the tally of a Chinese
soldier describing his age and place of residence; ladies' gloves;
military boots; bows and arrows; and the mock spears shown above the
walls of Woosang in 1842 to intimidate the British forces. The second
shelf exhibits the grotesque varieties of Chinese deities and leaders
of sects; and in other parts of the cases are endless Chinese
curiosities, including Chinese scales and weights; padlocks; mirrors;
a pair of Chinese spectacles in a leather case; shoe brushes from
Shanghai; chopsticks; a brass pipe; Chinese mariners' compasses; a
Chinese bank-note, value one dollar; Chinese needles; agricultural
implements; joss sticks; the sea-weed eaten by the Chinese; ancient
bronze bell; vase in shape of a lotus leaf; and an advertisement for
quack pills. The visitor should remark the great royal wicker shield
that is on the top of the case, ornamented with the head of a tiger;
and the model of a junk. The third case contains Chinese divinities,
of which the goddess of Mercy, Kwan-yin, on the first shelf, is the
most noticeable figure. The two last cases 4 and 5 given up to
Chinese, are filled chiefly with Chinese musical instruments,
including the pair of sticks used by Chinese beggars as castanets to
attract attention to their petitions; Chinese shuttlecocks, made of
feathers and lead, the Chinese battledores being the soles of their
feet, suggestive of vigorous exercise; fly-flaps; surgical
instruments; paints; boxes; and Japanese shoes. Over these cases is a
circular stand, in twenty-two parts, representing, in relief, the
chief deities of the Hindoo mythology. The four next cases (6-9) are
given up to


Among the miscellaneous collection of objects crowded into these four
cases are many figures of Buddha in earthenware, wood, alabaster and
ivory; bronze divinities of the Hindoo Pantheon; Hindoo playing cards;
copper-plates containing grants of land; a Hindoo mathematical
instrument; a powder-horn from Burtpoor; Affghan cloak and pistol;
bows and arrows; baggage and accommodation boats; and early Arabian
bronze water ewers inlaid with silver. Over the Indian cases are
figures of Hindoo deities, including a bronze figure of Siva with four
arms, and Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu. The four following cases
(10-13) are chiefly filled with


of a miscellaneous description, and from various parts of the
continent. These include, in cases 10, 11, Nubian and Abyssinian
baskets; Arabic quadrants; Egyptian water-bottles; sandals, and a
variety of other manufactures from Ashantee, including a shuttle, and
specimens of native cotton cloth; an iron bar used as a medium of
exchange, and worth about one shilling on the African coast; gourd
boxes and calabashes; cloths and other curiosities collected on the
Niger Expedition; specimens of native silk from Egga; a skin bottle
for holding galena to colour the eyelids; opaque glass beads from
Abyssinia; all kinds of arms from French Guiana, Fernando Po,
Abyssinia, and Nubia, including a Nubian spear, enveloped with a
snake's skin from Thebes. Over the cases an Ashantee loom for weaving
narrow cloth, and Abyssinian baskets, and at the side an Indian inlaid
cabinet. Passing from these cases, the visitor at once reaches those
devoted to


The cases numbered from 14-21 are filled with articles illustrative of
the life and climate of the Esquimaux, and the extreme northern
regions of America, including the native fishing-hooks and lines;
models of canoes; skin dresses, men's boots from Kotzebue's Sound;
Lapland trousers; utensils made of the horn of the musk ox; Esquimaux
woman's hair ornaments; over the cases hereabouts the sledge which Sir
E. Parry brought from Baffin's Bay, and a canoe from Behring's
Straits; waterproof fishing jackets, made from the intestines of the
whale; harpoons of bone tipped with meteoric iron; specimens of rude
sculpture from these northern regions; clubs; hatchets; the magic dome
of an Iceland witch; baskets and mats; calumets of peace; scalps; a
model of a cradle, showing the method adopted by the Indians of the
Columbia River to flatten their children's heads. The cases 23, 24,
are filled with curiosities from more southernly parts of the North
American continent; and chiefly with various objects from the most
interesting of the old inhabitants of America - the Mexicans. The
collection from Mexico, including their divinities, specimens of their
arts, &c., are arranged in seven cases (24-30). The objects from
Guiana occupy the greater part of cases 31-34; and the remarkable
objects in the 35th case are the dried body of a female, from New
Granada; a mummy from New Granada wrapped in cotton cloths; a curious
Peruvian mummy of a child, the legs curiously bound up; and silver and
gold Peruvian sepulchral ornaments. The cases marked 36, 37, are
devoted to objects from South America, including black earthern
vessels from cemeteries in Peru; bows and poisoned arrows; and a
sacrificial bason, ornamented with serpents, supposed to be one from
the temple of the Sun at Cuzco. The rest of the cases contain
miscellaneous objects from groups of islands. The contributions from
the Marquesas and Sandwich Islands are in cases 53-56; the war
dresses, of feathers, &c., from Tahiti, in case 57; and the nets and
baskets, clubs and tatooing instruments from the Friendly Islands will
be found arranged in cases 65, 66. On the second shelf of cases 66,
67, is deposited a tortoise-shell bonnet, made in imitation of an
European bonnet from Navigator's Island. Cases 68, 69, are devoted to
objects from New Zealand; and those marked 70, 71, were collected
during an exploring expedition into Central Australia. The last cases
are devoted to miscellaneous objects from the Fiji Islands, Borneo,
and other localities; and with these the visitor should close his
second visit to the Museum; regaining the ante-room to the Southern
Zoological gallery, by passing out of the Ethnographical room through
its eastern opening. He has now completed the examination of the
galleries of the Museum with the exception of the print and medal
rooms, which are not open to the public generally, but are reserved
for the use of artists and antiquarians. He has dipped into many
sciences on his two journeys; made some acquaintance with the history
of the animals that frequent the different parts of the world; dwelt
amid the fossil fragments of long ages past; examined the elementary
substances of which the earth's crust is composed; been with the dust
of men that lived before Jerusalem was made for ever memorable;
surveyed the spoils of Etruscan tombs; and lingered amid the varieties
of household things from the barbarous nations of the present hour;
and not wholly profitless have the journeys been, even if the
scientific mysticism be not mastered, so that there remains in the
mind a general impression of the time that has gone by, the great laws
that govern the universe, and the humility that becomes man, when he
sees his individuality, in relation with the mighty past, and the
great progresses of Nature.



The visitor, on entering the British Museum for the third time, will
commence his examination of the massive Antiquities, which are
scattered throughout the noble galleries that stretch along the
western basement of the building. His spirit must again wander to the
remote past. Again must he recur to the ancient civilisation of
southern Europe, and the busy people that covered the valley of the
Nile before Alexander breathed. He has already examined the household
utensils, the bodies, the ornaments, and the food of the ancient
Egyptians, and has had more than a glimpse of the artistic excellence
to which they attained long before our Christian era. Of the
sepulchral caves of Thebes, of the massive pyramids sacred to the
ancient Pharaohs, of the strange images of beasts and men, of the
sacred beetles, and the universal Ibis, he has already examined minute
specimens arranged in the cases of the Egyptian Room; but he has yet
to witness those evidences of power, and scorn of difficulties,
exhibited in the colossal works of the Egyptian people.

On entering the Museum for the third time, the visitor should turn to
the left, and passing under the staircase, enter the galleries devoted
to Ancient Sculpture. He will at once be struck with the strange
allegorical figures clustered on all sides, the broken bodies, the
fragments of arms and legs, the corners of slabs, and other
dilapidations. Here a fine figure is without a nose, there Theseus
holds aloft two handless arms, and legs without feet. The visitor who
has not the least insight into the heart of all these collections of
fragments from tombs, and temples, and neglected ruins, is perhaps
inclined to laugh at the enthusiasm with which they are generally
examined, and the rapturous strains in which the greatest critics have
written of them. Not to all people is the enthusiasm of Lord Elgin
comprehensible. Why not allow the fragments of the Parthenon to be
ground into fine white mortar, and the busts of ancient heroes to be
targets for the weapons of Turkish youths? are questions which a few
utilitarians may be inclined to ask; and it would certainly be
difficult to show, for instance in figures, the gain the country has
made by expending 35,000£. on the Elgin marbles: in the same way that
it is difficult to appraise the beneficial influence of beauty, or to
test the developments of the universe by double entry.

But let the visitor pace these noble galleries of his national museum
with a reverent heart, let him learn from these beautiful labours of
long ago, that not only to him and his fellows of the proud nineteenth
century, when fiery words are flashing through the seas, and steam
fights like a demon with time, were the living years pregnant with the
glories of art; but that the Egyptian, with his rude bronze chisel,
cut his native rocks with no unskilful hand, before the Son of God lay
cradled in a manger.

Past the bewildering fragments of art in the south-western gallery to
the south-western corner of the building, then south like an arrow to
the northern end of the sculpture rooms, should the visitor at once
proceed. He will pass by fragments of Assyrian, Greek, and Roman art,
but to these he should now pay little heed, as his immediate business
is with the fine gallery of


which is the most northernly apartment or gallery of the western wing.
Here he will at once notice the rows of Sarcophagi, which are ranged
on either side of the central passage of the gallery. These colossal
outer-coffins contained the mummies of distinguished Egyptians. Along
the walls of the room are ranged the sepulchral tablets, or tombstones
of ancient Egyptians, and the inscriptions generally record the name
and age of a deceased person; and in some cases, points of domestic
history and pious sentences. Their dates range over a space of time
amounting to more than twenty centuries. Interspersed with these are
other sculptures, chiefly of Egyptian deities; but the attention of
the visitor will be probably attracted first to the


The visitor, having reached the northern end of the Egyptian Saloon,
should turn to the south, and begin a minute examination of its
contents. The sarcophagi, or outer coffins of stone, in which the rich
ancient Egyptians deposited the embalmed bodies of their relations,
occupy the greater part of the ground space of the saloon. They are
massive shells, hewn from the solid rock, polished and engraved
skilfully with hieroglyphics, which, so far as the learned have been
able to decipher, record the exploits of the great men they contained.
Some of them are in the shape of common boxes with raised lids; while
in others, attempts to represent the features of the deceased, and a
rough outline of a mummy are apparent. These massive coffins, which
are upwards of three thousand years old, and are eloquent with the
mystic written language of that remote antiquity, deserve more than a
transient notice even from the unscientific visitor. Mummies were
found in most of these, proving their use. Some were discovered placed
in an erect, and others in a recumbent posture, in the tombs of
Thebes, or on the sites of ancient cities.

Of the sarcophagi or coffins, fashioned in the shape of a mummy, the
visitor should notice that in calcareous stone, numbered 47, which was

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Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 9 of 17)