Visit to British Museum

By PhD student Sara Ringsborg and PhD student Julia Steding.

2017.05.11 | Christina Levisen

Photo: Sara Ringsborg

Photo: Sara Ringsborg

Photo: Sara Ringsborg

Written by PhD student Sara Ringsborg and PhD student Julia Steding

Members of the Palmyra Portrait Project, Julia Steding and Sara Ringsborg and visiting MA student Nino Praisler, had the opportunity to visit The British Museum in London and their collection of Palmyrene portraits Tuesday the 9th of May. We were accompanied by Will Wootton, Senior Lecturer in Roman art at King’s College, London. We were fortunate to be given access to the exhibition before the opening in the morning. The British Museum has 38 Palmyrene funerary objects in their collection as well as one religious relief and a small female statue. One loculus relief is displayed in the so-called Enlightenment Gallery, 13 further loculus reliefs are on display in a gallery of Roman art. Here, the discussions focused especially on the production of the portraits, which we do not know much about. The portraits were closely examined for traces of tool marks and the visual effects they created. We focused on the proceed, how to study the left remains of tool traces to reconstruct the process of making. Furthermore, Dr. Wootton offered insight in the use of the different tools and the outcome of the usage of those. After a few hours, we continued to one of the museum’s storage areas where the rest of the portraits are stored, except from two reliefs, which were loaned out to Newcastle and the Victoria and Albert Museum, respectively. The close examination of each portrait continued, and we undertook measurements of some of the portraits. This will help us to complete the database of all known Palmyrene portraits that will hopefully be available by 2019. Many photos were taken through the day for further research.

Julia, Nino and Sara are very grateful to Nathan Harris, Assistant Collections Manager of the Middle East Collection, for showing us around, and the project thanks The British Museum for giving us access and the opportunity to examine their beautiful collection at close hand. Moreover, we thank Will Wootton for accompanying us this day, contributing with his great knowledge on production and techniques.

History and achaeology