Oxford - Day 1 - The Ashmolean Museum - "The world belongs to those who know how to wait" Arthur Evans (1894)

JUN 16,2016 - JUN 16,2016 (1 DAYS)

United Kingdom

- DAYS

Museums

Oxford Ashmolean Museum:

Main Attractions: Levels: Ground, 1, 2. For Level 3m (see: Ashmolean Museum Part 2).

Duration: 1/2 day. You can, easily, combine this 1/2 day visit with another route of 1/2 day - as described in our "Oxford Centre - Day 1" blog. Please allow, at least 3-4 hours for the Ashmolean Museum. I recommend at least half a day to fully enjoy it.

Weather: The best solution in Oxford for a rainy half-a-day.

Dining: There is a restaurant on the rooftop (third floor). NOT recommended. Pricey and small, innovative (but, not filling) portions. Nice views and excellent setting. DO NOT BELIEVE THE TRIPADVISOR REVIEWS ! Crayfish salad, Fennel, orange, white cabbage, chervil: £14.90. Pricey, nice to look at, not filling, cooked and served very nicely with a twist. I' had waited 20 minutes for my portion - though I was the only diner there (quite late at 15.30).

General: A fantastic museum with incredible collections and exceptional, temporary exhibitions. A wonderful way to spend a few hour. No charge to enter (but donations expected). A busy place with vastness of space - so, you'll never feel packed or noisy. Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s first public museum. The collections range from archaeology to the fine and decorative arts. Bears the comparison with the British Museum, but has the advantage of being less crowded: that makes the visit more pleasant.

Location: The Ashmolean Museum is located in the centre of Oxford. It is easily accessible by public transport. The bus station is approximately 5 minutes walk from the Museum. The train station is approximately 10 minutes walk from the Museum.

Access: There is disabled access throughout the Museum, with ramps into the building, lifts to all floors and wheelchairs are available.

Open: 10.00 – 17.00, TUE – SUN. FREE.

Photography: Allowed. No flash. Several displayed items are with restricted permission.

Toilets: There are public toilets (including wheelchair accessible) throughout the Museum.

Warning: Museum's staff members don't like you carrying rucksacks on your back. You have to carry them by your side or on your front. Better to use the cloakroom.

The Ashmolean Museum entrance - sculptures of Henry Moore. Three Piece Reclining Figure (1963) which is on temporary loan from the Henry Moore Foundation. The entrance is on Beaumont Street:

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Reclining Figure by Henry Moore:

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Ground Level - list of rooms/galleries: Aegean World - 20, Ancient Cyprus - 18, Ancient Egypt and Nubia - 22–27, Ancient Near East - 19, Cast Gallery - 14, China to AD 800 - 10, Chinese Paintings - 11, European Prehistory - 17, Greek and Roman Sculpture - 21, The Greek World - 16, Italy before Rome - 15, Rome - 13, India 2500 BC – AD 600 - Gallery 12.

The Ashmolean’s collection from ancient Egypt is among the most extensive in Britain, with objects from the Nile Valley from prehistory to the 7th century AD. Six galleries comprise the ancient Egyptian culture exhibition: 22 - Egypt at its Origins, 23 - Dynastic Egypt and Nubia, 24 -
Life After Death in Ancient Egypt, 25 - The Amarna Revolution, 26 - Egypt in the Age of Empires, 27 - Egypt Meets Greece and Rome.

Ancient Egypt - a limestone statue of King Khasekhem (2nd Dynasty, about 2700–2686 BC):

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East wall of Shrine of King Taharqa (a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (between 712 and 770 BC) and king of the Kingdom of Kush), Kawa, Sudan, Late Period/Napatan, 25th Dynasty (about 690–664 BC):

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This statue of Sobek was found at Amenemhat III's mortuary temple ( connected to this king's pyramid at Hawara in Faiyum), symbolizing this king's devotion to Sobek, which was an ancient Egyptian deity associated with Pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess. Sobek is associated also with the Nile crocodile and is either represented in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek also served, additionally, as a protective deity against the dangers presented by the Nile river:

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Granite statue of Amun in the form of a ram protecting King Taharqa,  from the western wall of shrine of King Tharaqa. Several temples dedicated to Amun (a major Egyptian deity and Berber deity), including the one at Karnak were adorned with ram or ram-headed sphinx statues. The ram was one of the animals sacred to Amun:

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Coffin of the 25th dynasty Theban Priest Djeddjehutyiuefankh, Deir el-Bahri, Western Thebes, 25 th Dynasty, 770-712 BC:

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The Ashmolean’s collection of ancient Cyprus is among the most significant Cypriot collections worldwide outside Cyprus - a cultural crossroad between Orient and Occident. There are artifacts,  displayed, from the earliest settlements of the island in about 10.000 BC until the Roman period, from the villages of the first farming communities of the Neolithic period to post-Medieval times. The vast majority of the objects are from about. 2000 – 300 BC. The Ashmolean's collection of ancient Greek pottery vessels is one of the finest in the world. In its range, size and scholarly importance it ranks in the United Kingdom behind only that of the British Museum. Ancient Cyprus is in Gallery 18. List of galleries of Ancient Greece: Gallery 6: Reading and Writing, Gallery 7: Money, Gallery 14: Cast gallery, Gallery 16 - The Greek World, Gallery 20: Aegean World, Gallery 21: Greek and Roman Sculpture.

Head of Man, Salamis:

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Grave monument of deceased Archippus accompanied by two servants. This is probably from Smyrna from the 3rd to 2nd century BC:

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The Ashmolean’s cast gallery is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved collections of casts of Greek and Roman sculpture in the UK. It contains some 900 plaster casts of statues, reliefs, and architectural sculptures.

Plaster cast slab of tomb enclosure showing detail of siege from  Trysta, Lycia, 370 BC. It is decorated with friezes showing a wide variety of Greek myth. It is characteristic of Lycian architectural sculpture that, beside the myth, included scenes of near-contemporary military action (city-sieges) and of the monarch in his court (type of subject not seen in Greece proper):

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Marble head of Homer, 1-100 AD, Gallery 16. Homer is thought to have been a travelling poet, following a long tradition of storytelling. All portraits of Homer were created long after his death. Artists typically
portray him as blind, so his opened eyes are quite unusual in this sculpture:

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Head of Demostenes, 250 - 150 BC, Gallery 16. Found at Eski-Shehir, East Turkey (Anatolia):

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In the second half of the nineteenth century, archaeologists began to focus on understanding prehistoric Greece and its extraordinary flowering during the Greek Bronze Age (about 3000–1050 B.C.). Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of wealthy tombs at Mycenae in 1876 brought to life the Heroic Age immortalized in the epic poetry of Homer, in which King Agamemnon’s palace was described as "rich in gold." Twenty-four years after Schliemann's find, the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans began excavations at Knossos, on the island of Crete, that would yield a vast complex of buildings belonging to a sophisticated prehistoric culture, which he dubbed Minoan after the legendary King Minos.

The Aegean prehistoric collections of the Ashmolean Museum are the largest outside Greece and come primarily from archaeological excavations. The Minoan collection,  brought to Oxford by Sir Arthur Evans from his excavations of the “Palace of Minos” at Knossos on Crete - are the biggest outside Crete. When Arthur Evans was appointed Keeper of the Ashmolean in 1884, the Museum had a handful of Aegean objects: only one gem, which was not yet recognized as coming from the Aegean Bronze Age and a few obsidian blades from Melos. Following Evans’s purchases, donations and gifts to the Museum from his travels and researches, including his 1941 bequest, the Ashmolean today houses the largest and finest Aegean collection outside Greece, comprising more than 10,000 objects. There are three main areas in Gallery no. 20: the Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. Each area is color-coded in an attempt to facilitate the visitor’s orientation: light blue is used as the background in the Early Cyclades, red is used for Minoan Crete, orange for Mycenaean Greece. The personality that dominates the Aegean gallery is that of Arthur Evans. The story of Evans is broken down into three major periods. The first period focuses on his work at the Ashmolean (1884-1908) and the Chester seal: a gem on which Evans first identified signs of a pre-alphabetic writing system. The second section of the Evans display is appropriately dedicated to his travels and explorations on Crete (1894-1899). The third part of this tablecase focuses on his Knossos excavations (1900-1935).

The Minoan displays in the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean:

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The Mycenaean Greece section of the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean (on the right the Schliemann story and at the back the Mycenaean pottery and figurines display):

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Evans was also acquainted with the famous German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated Hisarlik in modern Turkey, thought to be the site of the mythical Troy. Schliemann also excavated shaft graves at Mycenae, Greece in 1876. There he uncovered a gold death mask dubbed the Mask of Agamemnon. The original mask is exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. What you see in the Asmolean is a reproduction...

Death Mask of Agamemnon, Troy, 1400 -1090 BC, excavated by Heinrich Schlimann (1822 - 1890):

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In 1900 Evans started excavating in Knossos. Within a few months they had uncovered a substantial portion of what he called the Palace of Minos. The term "palace" may be misleading; Knossos was an intricate collection of over 1000 interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans' workrooms and food processing centres (e.g. wine presses). It served as a central storage point, and a religious and administrative centre. Evans found two palaces in fact, dated c.2000 and 1400BC. Each belonged to the Cretan Bronze Age which Evans called the Minoan style, after King Minos. Evans himself employed skilled artists who used their artistic imagination in recreating the vivid scenes (*). They were influenced by Evans' particular ideas concerning the symbolic significance of scenes and figures. Subsequent scholars have disputed these reconstructions and proposed quite different theories.

Relief figure "Priest-King", 1700 -1450 BC, most recognizable of Knossos frescoes, Palace of Minos at Knossos, excavated by Arthur Evans. Watercolour restoration probably by E. Gillieron (*). This fresco was located in the southern portion of the complex with the remains of the “procession” fresco. First, the “Priest-King” fresco (also called “Prince of the Lilies”) was interpreted by Evans as being a depiction of king Minos (Castleden 1990). Evans found this to be completely logical because it agreed with the ancient sources and his own preconceptions about the site (Castleden 1990). However, there are several problems with his conclusion.

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Nimrud is the Aramaic name for the ancient Assyrian city originally known as Kalhu, located 30 kilometres south of the city of Mosul, and 5 kilometres south of the village of Selamiyah in the Nineveh plains in northern Mesopotamia. It was a major Assyrian city between approximately 1250 BC and 610 BC. The city is located in a strategic position 10 kilometres north of the point that the river Tigris meets its tributary the Great Zab. Archaeological excavations at the site began in 1845, and were conducted at intervals between then and 1879, and then from 1949 onwards. Many important pieces were discovered, with most being moved to museums in Iraq and abroad. Oxford's Ashmolean Museum has the second largest collection of Nimrud (Gallery 19), the Assyrian capital, objects in the UK, with roughly 330 artefacts. Among the collection are three relief panels from king Assurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace: an eagle-headed genie from Room B and a human-headed genie from Room I came to the museum in 1850 as a gift from Austen Henry Layard's excavation. A further fragment of a sacred tree from Room I was purchased in 1950 from Peterborough's City Museum and Art Gallery, which had acquired it from Lady Layard in 1900.

Assyrian relief, Nimrud, Iraq, Northwest Palace, 883-859 BC:

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Assyrian winged genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal (883-859 BC) at Nimrud. Acquired through excavation by A.H. Layard in the early 19th Century. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford:

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China 3000 BC-AD 800 - Room /gallery 10 :  Up to about 3000 years ago  objects found in graves were made mostly of hard stone and low-fired ceramic. For the next 1500 years the most important burial objects were made of bronze and later, of ceramics. The earliest examples of writing in China were recorded on animal bones and bronze vessels. Later, texts were written on stone, bamboo, silk and paper. Writing had become an art form.

Wine vessel with masks:

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Chinese Painting - room/gallery 11:

Qi Baishi, Landscape with Blue Mountain (1953). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper:

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India to 600 AD - room/gallery 12:

Nandi, the bull of Shiva; basalt, Deccan or South India, 1500-1700:

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Level 1: Asian Crossroads - 28, Eastern Art Paintings - 29, India from AD 600 - 32, Islamic Middle East - 31, Medieval Cyprus - 34, Mediterranean World - 30, Mughal India - 33.

India from AD 600 - room/gallery  32: Many of Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images in this gallery were once installed in temple or household shrines as objects of daily pray and meditation. They convey the serenity, compassion and supreme power or insight of deities and enlightened beings. Images like these remain in worship today throughout India. From AD 600 the form of the temple was developing, within India and beyond. Spectacular towers and giant walls teem are decorated with images of gods, men, animals and plants. Very diverse regional styles of sculpture soon developed throughout the Indian subcontinent. As in earlier times, professional artisans worked for landlords or rulers of different faiths, so that Hindu, Buddhist or Jain images may share a similar regional style.


Southeast Asia: As Indian merchants settled in many parts of southeast Asia, they brought with them the Buddhism and Hinduism. Local ruling dynasties both adopted these religions and their styles of temple architecture and sculpture. Astonishing temple complexes such as Borobudur in Java (AD 800) and Angkor in Cambodia (1150) were established.

Lintel with Kala face, Central Java, 800 - 900 AD:

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From AD 600 onwards, many regional dynastie flourished across north and central India. They were patrons temples, gardens, estates and sculptural creations. The dominated religions were Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. This period of creativity lasted until around 1200 when Muslim invaders from Central Asia began to occupy northern India.

Vishnu Head - Khajurau, 950-1050 AD:

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Ceiling boss with 8 flying warriors, South Rajastan, 750-850 AD:

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Vishnu with 4 arms, Sagar Island, WEst Bengal, 1050 AD:

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Portable shrine of Vishnu as Venkateshwara, painted and lacquered wood, Tirupati, Tamil-Nadu, 1800 AD:

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Shiva and Parvati, Madya Pradesh, 1000-1050 AD:

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Hanuman bearing Rama (in blue) and Lakshmana on his shoulder, Bombay, early 1900s:

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Angada delievers Rama's to Ravana, Bombay, early 1900s. Note that Hanuman extended his tail - thus, seating higher than the king...:

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Hinduism and Buddhism became established in Nepal from 300-850 AD. The Newar artists of the Kathmandu Valley showed outstanding skills in stone and bronze sculpture, reinterpreting Indian models in new styles which also influenced the art of Tibet.

Stone slab with yaksha, or nature spirit, in relief, Nepal, 700-800 AD:

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Buddhism first reached Tibet, isolated by its high mountain ranges, around AD 650. In later periods it transformed Tibetan society, with large sections of the population living in monasteries. After 1200 AD, the art and teachings of Indian Buddhism were preserved and further developed in the monasteries of Tibet. This unbroken cultural tradition survived intact until and beyond the the 1950s - when Chinese rule was imposed on this famous, isolated region.

Photo of Martine Franck (wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson), 1996, Tibetan Geh and his tutor Tulku Tenzin Tosam Rinpoche, Dratsang Monastery, Karnataka, India:

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Bodhgaya, Bihar, India is the holiest of Buddhist destinations and a World Heritage site. It is the most revered of all Buddhist sacred sites. It was here, under a pipal tree, that Siddhartha Gotama arrived there around 531 BC and attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. A simple shrine was built by the emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC) to mark the spot, later enclosed by a stone railing (1st century BC), part of which still remains. This shrine was replaced in the Kushan period (2nd cent. AD) by the present Mahabodhi temple, which was refurbished in the Pala-Sena period (750-1200 AD), heavily restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the second half of the 19th century, and finally restored by Myanmar (Burmese) Buddhists in 1882. The Bodhi tree behind the temple is believed to be a descendant of the original. At Bodhgaya, seated in deepest meditation ben

eath a fig tree, Buddha reached final Enlightenment or Buddhahood. Attaining perfect insight into the causes of universal suffering and rebirth, he conceived the way by which all beings may attain Nirvana or peace.

Votive Stupa, Bodhgaya, Bihar, 1000-1200 AD:

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Buddha beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodhgaya, Bihar, 850-950 AD:

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Islamic Middle East, Room/Gallery 31:

Part of Tile, Iran, 1800 - 1900, the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. Based on the twelfth sura (chapter) of the Qur’an. In the Qur’anic version, Yusuf is a handsome slave in the service of an Egyptian man. His master’s wife, named Zulaikha in later literature, attempts to seduce him unsuccessfully. It, originally, derives from the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in the Old Testament. The left tile depicts Yusuf appearing before the women of Memphis. Overcome by his beauty, the women are faint or cut themselves with the knives they hold in their hands. Both pieces are from Iran, 1850-1900 and are Fritware, moulded, with under-glaze painting:

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Tile with Qur'anic inscription:

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The Byzantine Church, room/gallery 30:

Icon: Embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul, painted by Angelos Akotantos of Crete (active: 1436 - 1450), oil on wood. Icon-painter and hagiographer who lived and worked at Heraklion, Crete, then part of the Republic of Venice. He was the first hagiographer to sign his name on his icons by writing in Greek: "Χειρ Αγγέλου" which, translated in English, means "By hand of Angelos":

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The Mogul India, room/gallery 33: breath-taking Lady Impey’s Indian Bird Paintings ! This outstanding collection of paintings formed part of a great collection of natural history studies commissioned at Calcutta by Mary, Lady Impey, wife of the Chief Justice Sir Elijah Impey, between 1777 and 1782. The Impeys assembled an extensive aviary and menagerie at their Calcutta home. Lady Impey commissioned meticulous, life-sized pictures of Indian birds and animals from three Mughal-trained artists: Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, and Ram Das. By the time the Impeys left India in 1783, these artists had produced over two hundred works on large sheets of imported English paper, mainly of birds though also of animals, fish and reptiles. The most prolific of these painters was Shaikh Zain ud-Din, and all but one of the works shown here are by him. The local Indian artists emulate, on a greatly enlarged scale, the refinement of 17th century Mughal natural history paintings. DO NOT MISS THIS COLLECTION OF MASTERPIECES !!!

Male Nukta or Comb Duck, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din, Calcuta, 1779, Gouache on paper:

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Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) on a custard apple branch, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din, Calcuta, 1777, Gouache on paper:

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Black-necked Stork, Shaikh Zain-ud-Din:

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A lady seeks shelter from the rains, India, Punjab Hills, C. 1820, Gouache on paper:

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Krsna in the guise of Indra, advises Raja Mandhatr (from the Mahabharata), 1598, By Sadiq and manohar - Mughal, North India:

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Krsna and Radha in two pavilions, India, 19th century:

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Elegant Brass ewer with Dragon heads, 16th or 17th century, height 51 cm. A refined product of the Indo-Islamic style, with the spiral fluting of its body and its tall, tapering neck. It is also known as the Butler ewer. It was previously in the collection of Dr A.J. Butler, Bursar of Brasenose College:

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Planetary deities, painted on soapatone (alabaster), Jaipur, Rajashan, 1880-1885. Maharaja of Jaipur craftsmen produced brightly painted soapstone (alabaster) images of Hindu and Jain deities in great numbers in the late nineteenth century:

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China from 800 AD, room/gallery 38:

Visiting Stonehenge, Fang Zhaoling (1914–2006), Ink and Color on paper, 1994, a female painter with expressive calligraphic strokes. She lived and travelled in Europe and America, and attended both Hong Kong and Oxford Universities:

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Seated Bodhisattva, fig tree wood, 1200-1300:

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Ming and Qing Porcelain, figures from the novel Shuihu Zhuan (The Water margin), 1680-1720. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) China began to engage in world trade. This included exporting porcelain to Portugal and Spain in exchange for silver. As the dynasty neared its end, imperial patronage of porcelain production ceased and Japan and The Netherlands were the biggest overseas markets, but after 1700 England became the greatest importer:

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Blue-and-white porcelain tile with a landscape, Jingdezhen kilns, c. 1690:

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Suit of Armour of a Samurai, 1700s, Gift of Prince Chichibu to Magdalen College in Oxford:

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Bodhisattva Jizo, protector of children, travelers and women. Jizō is a Bodhisattva – enlightened being who devote his life to freeing others from suffering. Bodhisattvas are not worshipped, but inspire others to reach enlightenment. Jizō is shown as a monk with a shaven head and pilgrim’s robes. Jizō also carries the bright jewel of Buddhist truth, a symbol of the endless power of Buddhism. He has a third eye on his forehead and elongated ears, both symbols of enlightenment:

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Vase with winter landscape, around 1910:

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Second Level :

Room/gallery 35, West meets East:

Two Chairs, Japan, 1600s. Made for the Dutch settlement in Nagushki harbor:

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Ottoman embroidered hanging, Turkey, 1550-1650, Cotton + silk. Tulips, pomegranates and elongated, serrated leaves are part of the Ottoman decorative repertoire and are found in ceramics as well as works on paper. Ottoman interiors were comfortably furnished with carpets and cushions. Woven and embroidered textiles of different kinds were used for bedding, fireplace covers, cushion covers and wall hangings. This large embroidered textile is made of three panels of white cotton embroidered with coloured silk threads. Embroidery enabled the craftsmen to create complex, multi-coloured patterns without having to weave them into the fabric:

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Oxford - Ashmolean Museum - Second Floor - room/gallery 35 - Tapestry, The Battle of the Animals, 1723, France, Sold to Emperor Chien Lung, 1769, looted and returned to Europe in 1861:

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Room/gallery 40 - European Ceramics:

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Ornamental tile William de Morgan (1839-1917), most known pottery maker in England:

Room/gallery 41 - England 400-1600 AD.:

Statue of Henry VIII:

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The Cuddesdon Bowl - of brilliant blue glass with fine trailed decoration, the bowl is probably Kentish, and was made about 600 AD. The bowl came to light during the building of a palace for the Bishop of Oxford, then William Wilberforce; it passed into his possession and was eventually sold with the contents of his house and lost from view. It was  recognized by Miss Jocelyn Morris, curator at the Warwick Museum:

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Room/gallery 39 - Music and Tapestry:

Violins and Violas, 16th and 17th centuries:

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Violin, Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737), Cremona, Italy, with the original label 'Antonius Stradivarius Cremoensis/Faciebat Anno 1716'. Known as the Messiah, this is one of the most famous violins in the world.

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Musical Party, tapestry, Spain, 1650:

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From here we continue to Level 3M (free) and Level 3 (Special Exhibitions - with separate fee) in the Ashmolean Museum - turn to the "Oxford - Ashmolean Museum - Part 2" blog.

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