Friday, September 23, 2011

The Antonine Wall sculptures at the Hunterian Museum: no gimmicks, just the living stone

I really enjoyed examining the sculptures from the Roman empire's most northerly frontier last week, for a news piece published earlier this week. These remnants of the Antonine Wall have been given a beautiful new gallery in the Hunterian, Glasgow, an apse-like niche in Gilbert Scott's soaring, cathedral-like museum building, which is now open to the public again after two years' refurbishment.

And what was so great about it was that it was entirely unapologetic. There were no interactive displays imagining entirely spurious lives for the men and women (OK, woman) commemorated on these stones; no film projections depicting legionaries marching through the Scottish lowlands. Instead, the sculptures, most of which are elaborately carved "distance slabs" (recording such-and-such a number of feet of wall built by such-and-such a chunk of the army) are simply allowed to be themselves: objects of great age and gravity; things of beauty and importance. They are uplit rather handsomely and, as the lovely natural light fades, they look more and more dramatic; they are intensely evocative.

More at The Guardian

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