Nefertiti (1998): Joyce Tyldesley


Unlocking the Mystery surrounding Egypt’s Most Famous and Beautiful Queen

Writing about icons is a difficult business. Even biographers of modern stars like Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley must wade through a morass of secrets, theories and fantasies. How much more difficult to choose a subject who lived 3,500 years ago, who emerged from nowhere, disappeared back into obscurity, and whose brief, glittering existence has been the subject of fierce iconoclasm! Thanks to the glorious portrait bust in Berlin (see below), Nefertiti is one of the most recognisable figures from Ancient Egypt, but the facts of her life remain tantalisingly elusive. As Joyce Tyldesley teases out the meaning of symbols, inscriptions and sculpted reliefs, Nefertiti’s lost world blossoms into life, in an archaeological story that reads like a detective novel. This is a tale of religious revolution, intrigue, iconoclasm, romance, and mysterious, powerful women. What’s not to like?

Continue reading

Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia

Scythian Rider

(British Museum, London, until 14 January 2018)

Since I began the year with a tale of adventure in the Caucasus, I thought I’d follow that up by (finally) sharing some thoughts on the Scythians show at the British Museum. I hasten to add that the exhibition is nothing to do with me: I’m simply a visitor, and an enthusiastic one at that. I’ve been round five times now and the exhibits never cease to amaze me. Excavated from the Siberian permafrost, they offer a compelling picture of a people largely overlooked by the modern world, but who were admired and feared in equal measure by their ancient contemporaries. The Scythians were lethal horse-archers, notorious drinkers, proud warriors and superb craftsmen in gold, wood and leather. And yet so little of their culture survives. These treasures from frozen tombs help to bring that scintillating world back into focus.

Continue reading

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (2016)

Canopus: Sunken Cities

(British Museum, 19 May – 27 November 2016)

It’s rather shameful that I haven’t written anything about this exhibition yet, because it’s been open for more than a month and really is worth seeing. My excuse is that I have to squeeze in sightseeing during my lunch breaks and things haven’t been as quiet as they could have been. However, with deadlines out of the way and notebook in hand, I pottered off yesterday lunchtime to explore the underwater delights of ancient Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.

Continue reading

Art in Frankfurt

The Frankfurt skyline

I’ve had quite a few business trips over the last few months, but this week’s expedition to Frankfurt came together in a particularly satisfying way. I was only there for one full day, but thanks to cunning planning of my flights and a relatively brief business meeting, I had plenty of time free to explore the city’s museums and to take two very exciting trips to nearby towns. In a blissful stroke of luck my trip coincided with the Karlsruhe Handel Festival, so I even managed to squeeze in a performance: you can read about Arminio in another post. All in all, I had a wonderful time and here are a few recommendations if you should ever find yourself in that part of the world.

Continue reading

Three Days in Berlin

Museumsinsel Berlin

Last week I was sent to Berlin for a few days on business, which meant that I was finally able to knock several major museums off my ‘to do’ list. I’d only been to Berlin once before, as part of a sixth form trip, during which our programme took us to the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and Wansee but signally failed to consider anything pre-1933. In desperation, during a couple of hours’ free time when all the other girls went shopping, I begged my teacher and a hapless friend to come with me to the Gemäldegalerie, and my abiding memory of the entire school trip is standing in front of Caravaggio’s Amor Victorious, uncertain whether to be scandalised or delighted.

Continue reading

The Land of the Rising Sun (Tokyo)


In other news, I’ve just got back from my first visit to Japan: a week in Tokyo, on business, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and brilliant trips I’ve ever been on. I had the good fortune to travel with some really lovely colleagues from other companies, and our hosts could not have been kinder or more eager to help: Japanese hospitality truly is remarkable and I’ve certainly now been spoiled for life as far as business trips are concerned.

Continue reading

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (2013)

Roman fresco of a couple: Terentius Neo and his wife

(British Museum, London, until 29 September 2013)

If last year’s blockbuster exhibition was Leonardo at the National Gallery, this year’s is Pompeii at the British Museum. Both names have the kind of pulling-power that make it virtually impossible to get tickets, although I’m happy to say that there is still availability for some of the less appealing slots (we visited at 9am on a Sunday morning). Besides, 300 tickets are released by the British Museum every day, so you can always queue before opening time in the hope of getting one. Do try to see it. You won’t be disappointed.

Continue reading

Bronze (2012)

Chimera of Arezzo

(Royal Academy, London, until 9 December 2012)

Fate has a sense of humour. One of the things I would have loved to see in Sicily was the Dancing Satyr in Mazara del Vallo: the beautiful bronze which was pulled out of the Mediterranean by a fishing boat in 1998. Of course, with only five days on hand, we couldn’t trek across country simply for the sake of seeing one bronze statue, so I quietly added it to my list for my next visit. So imagine my surprise and delight this afternoon, when I stepped into the first room of the Royal Academy’s new exhibition, Bronze.

Continue reading

The Land of the Leopard (Sicily)

 Trinacria, Sicily

This is going to be a long one, because I’m bubbling over with enthusiasm. I’ve just returned from a marvellous week in Sicily with my parents, who had very kindly taken pity on me and invited me to join them on Voyages Jules Verne’s ‘Treasures of Sicily’ tour. This post therefore has two parts: the first focuses on Sicily itself and the places we visited, while the second part focuses on my experience of travelling with an organised group.

Continue reading