Loot

19/9/16 13:56
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Benin Loot

This weighty (576 page) tome arrived in the post today from Sweden. It's a gift from the author as thanks for use of this photograph I picked up in a flea market for £1 two years ago, which turned out to be a unique record of these treasures in private hands in England before museums acquired them. I'm amazed at the stories that grow out of this 'junk' I find, all made possible by the internet. 
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Splendid, large, mostly 14th century.

Must be really, really annoying to have worked your way up to the position of Admiral, sailed all over the Med and the Caribbean, supported both sides in the Civil War and somehow got away with it, fought the Dutch and even killed the commander of their fleet, become a member of parliament, been knighted, featured in Pepys's diary, and then after all that tourists only come and photograph your grave because you have the same name as your kid who got famous in America.
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Fireplace with antique Benin bronze leopards and ivory.

I found this photo, with the stamp of photographer J.Cecil Gould (of Weybridge) on the back, in the flea market in Brighton and, Googling around, found the same pair of Benin bronze leopards in a Royal Academy exhibition two years ago. They are now back in the national museum in Nigera. The altar piece in the centre is in The Fowler Museum in L.A. and the central plaque is in the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. They are Benin artefacts originally looted during the 1897 Benin expedition. This is almost certainly the house of George W. Neville, who lived at Wey Lea, Weybridge (see recent photo below). Photographer J. Cecil Gould was also situated in Weybridge, so that provides a tantalising link. Neville's collection was sold off in 1930 after his death and a specialist at the British Museum believes that the leopards, the two plaques and masks on the fire hood are described in the catalogue of this sale. George Neville accompanied the Benin expedition and later a Captain Shelford wrote about him returning with a remarkable collection of curiosities; ‘They are in his house to this day, and include ivory tusks, carved and plain, two magnificent bronze leopards’. I can see this photo is going to be entertaining me for months....

Thanks to Susan Kloman, Hermione Waterfield, Tim Teuten, David Noden and Bruno Claessens for taking an interest in this.
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Object

4/9/13 20:59
benicek: (sunset)
Axe head

I love accidental archeology like this. My colleague at work, Marianne, knowing of my academic background, had been talking to me all week of this mystery object she found lying in a path while walking her dog near her village. She struggled to describe it. It was sort of brass/bronze/coppery, heavy and hollow, she explained unhelpfully. So, finally she brought it into work for me to look at properly. It is half of a broken 'looped and socketed' axe head from the Bronze Age. See a similar one here.
benicek: (sunset)
These days my old university friend, Dave, has his very own Roman fort to dig up, plus a team of willing slaves (students) to help him. He's been finding some cool stuff recently. 
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Object

22/5/13 10:06
benicek: (sunset)
bottle bottom

I like it when my wife and daughter bring me interesting 'stones' they've found in the countryside and they turn out to be archaeology instead. They thought this was a flint nodule but it is actually a piece of the base of a glass bottle. 18th century, I reckon.
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DSC_0579

Seville's cathedral is one of the largest in Europe. Parts of the 12th century mosque that previously stood on the site were recycled and incorporated, including the large minaret which is now the cathedral's iconic tower (the 'Giralda'), and the mosque's courtyard with its inlaid geometric water channels. Although I knew all this it was still a little surprising to see Islamic and Christian gothic pressed up against each other. It felt like being given a tour of Canterbury cathedral and then being shown the older, Hindu part of the building. Culturally, subconsciously, I am the product of an inward-looking Christian bubble.

The interior is vast. I expected vast but was still surprised by the size of the solid silver altar, a team of men crawling all over it with polishing cloths. Christopher Columbus is there too. He travelled almost as much after his death as he did in life, his bones being transferred from Spain to Dominica, then Cuba, then back to Spain again, spending a while in a convent in Seville and then ending up in this heroic, 20th century pre-Raphaelite-looking monument in the cathedral. I quite fancy something like this for myself, please.

In contrast to Britain's Occupy protesters, who are being evicted by St Paul's cathedral, some young unemployed Spanish school teachers had set up a permanent protest inside their cathedral, seemingly with full consent.
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Buxted

A 15th century ancestor of the Pac Man.

Buxted church stands oddly alone in a deer park. It's alone because the surrounding village was moved by the owner of Busted Park House (now a hotel) in order to make way for the deer park. Seems a little harsh but, as my neo-con economist friend keeps telling me, property is the foundation of liberty!

It's a nice early-English, mostly 13th century pile, with a plaster ceiling from 1600. There's an ancient yew outside which the guide leaflet enthusiastically explains is around 1300 years older than the church. Rather puts us ephemeral human beings into perspective, doesn't it? May flies; that's all we are.

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River Thames at Newbridge, Oxfordshire.

It hadn't occurred to me that we'd be encountering the River Thames so many times on our trip to Oxfordshire. I always associate it with my early childhood in west London. I want to be scattered in it after I'm dead, just like the pieces of bread I used to throw to the swans. Doesn't it look serene here at Newbridge? But the camera is a liar. The traffic noise was deafening and I had to scuttle across during a traffic-light change in order to get this photo. Ironically, nobody in any of the vehicles thundering over the 13th century bridge ever sees it. In our terribly self-important, motorised society it is reduced to nothing more than an inconvenient bottleneck and hump in the road.

The river further downsteam, in Buckinghamshire. )
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[livejournal.com profile] ptitza often brings my attention to photographs from Russian archives featuring unidentified locations. They are great fun to ponder over and we've managed to solve many of them. This set appears to feature the same group of turn-of-the-century tourists at Italian locations. So far we've identified a couple of them as buildings in Pompeii. It is interesting to see Pompeii freshly exposed to the weather and weeds.
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Another one I found in an antique market in Brighton. Barely legible pencil scrawled on the back in French. Champagne, jollity and movement.  I wonder what they were celebrating.
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This made me laugh when I found it in the antique market in Brighton yesterday. I love his flamboyant neck-tie and the upbeat birthday message on the back.

I've been Googling his name and found out quite a lot about him. His firm issued metal tokens which could be exchanged for surgical trusses. Some of these have cropped up on ebay and in a 1955 edition of the British Medical Journal. I think he may have been connected with the still well-known Sheffield silverware firm Mappin & Webb. Even more pleasing, it seems some of descendants emigrated to the US and Canada, and he is described on a family history website compiled by one of them from a tape recorded oral history related by their grandfather. It includes this nice little family anecdote:

"In Manchester [John Reynolds] didn't find anything interesting so he walked south to Birmingham. There he called on a man named John Mappin who dealt in surgical instruments hoping that he could get a job. He was told that there was no work for him. As he stood interviewing on the front porch, the gentleman's daughter, age eighteen, was standing in the hall. She overheard the conversation and was able to get a look at the young man, my grandfather. John Mappin had thirteen children in all. His daughter in the hallway was rather frustrated at the time since she and her sister had arranged to have a double wedding with two young doctors. Her young doctor, however, had recently left this world due to an attack of small pox. She thought John Reynolds did not look too bad so as he was walking away, she climbed out of a window and ran after him. She caught up with him and they both walked back to Liverpool and had eighteen children."


Coincidentally, one of my own great-grandfathers was a silversmith at a firm on the same street.
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From a Lewes antique market. Does anybody recognise that fort in the background?

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It was only when I scanned and enlarged these two photographs, and examined the clocks in each one, that I realised the people in them were engaged in the same ritual, though in different decades and settings.
See the second one here... )
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I just liked the hat on this one.
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A slightly fed-up looking family at the beach one sweltering late 19th century summer. They might be at Brighton. That looks like Brighton gravel behind them.
 
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I'm pleased when I find sequences of photographs like these in junk shops. I found these in Brighton.
Two more here..... )
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I found these in Brighton. I can't quite make out the place name. Linchfield? The lower photo is taken in a hops field, which leads me to guess at a south eastern English location.
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I went to Lewes today and blew £14 on old photographs. Yes, reckless, I know, but I'm an addict. I was quite pleased with these two (above), showing the same beautiful woman in two poses (or are they two different sisters wearing the same dress?)
Eight more here..... )

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