DISCOVER THE FINEST TREASURES OF THE WORLD AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
Lewis Chess Piece, found on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland,
Made about AD 1150–1200 © 2015 the Trustees of the British Museum
5 December 2015 to 29 May 2016
Exhibition Galleries, Basement, National Museum of Singapore
Admission fees apply
Get up close and personal with some of the world’s finest artefacts from now until the end of May! For the next six months, 239 exceptional objects and treasures will be on display in the Treasures of the World from the British Museum exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.
This highly-anticipated exhibition from the British Museum in London encompasses more than two million years of abundant culture and history, and features relics from ancient civilisations and treasures spanning Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania. The blockbuster exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive show from the British Museum’s collection in Singapore to date, and is a collaboration between the National Museum of Singapore and the British Museum, the oldest public national museum in the world.
The oldest object in the exhibition is a stone handaxe from Tanzania made around 800,000 years ago, while the most recent artefact dates to 2013. Other iconic artefacts from the collection include two 11th-century chess pieces discovered on the Hebridean Island of Lewis, skilfully crafted brass plaques from the West African state of Benin, ancient jewellery from the Royal Cemetery at Ur in southern Iraq, and an exquisitely painted mummy board from ancient Egypt. Each object represents the cultural and artistic achievements of the civilisation it comes from, and collectively, the collection explores the enduring themes of life that connect people across the world, regardless of when or where they live.
Closer to home, the exhibition also includes items collected by Sir Stamford Raffles when he was in Southeast Asia, such as a Javanese mask and a kris and scabbard dating back to the early 19th century. Two artworks from Singapore’s national collection, Anthony Poon’s W – White on 2P Waves and Iskandar Jalil’s Blue Vessel have also been included to juxtapose the nation’s artistic development against global art movements in the 1980s.
Director of the National Museum of Singapore, Ms Angelita Teo, said, “The British Museum’s aim of curating a collection of objects that showcases the entire world, both in the past and present, is very much aligned with what the National Museum endeavours to do for our audience. This exhibition is both a timely reminder of the importance of the object in preserving Singapore’s history, as well as a step towards the appreciation of the common values, aspirations and themes that connect us all. In today’s integrated world, it is important that we learn not just about our own heritage and culture, but also to be exposed to and to appreciate that of the world around us.”
Keeper of the Department of Asia, British Museum, Ms Jane Portal, added, “Singapore and the United Kingdom have a strong and deep-rooted relationship, which began with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles to the island-state in 1819 and endures till today. Although the British Museum and the National Museum of Singapore have collaborated in the past, this present partnership is unprecedented in its scale and ambition and marks another milestone in our mutually-beneficial friendship. This is the first time that our collection has been presented as a comprehensive exhibition in Southeast Asia, and it has been specially designed for audiences in the region. We are delighted to work with the National Museum and look forward to many more collaborations to come.”
Treasures of the World from the British Museum also includes two Young Explorers’ Zones designed for children aged 7 to 12. Featuring activity sheets and learning stations, these zones enable children and their parents to embark on a learning journey across the different regions of the world. In conjunction with the exhibition, visitors can also enjoy public programmes such as workshops, curated tours, lectures by representatives from the British Museum and other historians, as well as theatre performances in the gallery. Merchandise inspired by the exhibition and from the British Museum, as well as the exhibition catalogue, will be on sale at the National Museum’s Museum Label shop.
From the British Museum
Book of the Dead papyrus, Egypt,
© 2015 the Trustees of the British Museum
Book of the Dead papyrus
21st Dynasty, 1069–945 BC
Ink on papyrus
H: 47 cm, W: 35 cm
This sheet of papyrus comes from one of the longest illustrated manuscripts of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead to have survived. Originally over 37 metres long, it is now cut into 96 separate sheets. The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells, typically written on papyrus and placed in the tomb. These spells ensured that the deceased had access to the knowledge required to be successfully reborn into an eternal life. This sheet records part of spell 17, a long and complex discussion of the nature of the creatorgod. The illustration depicts the falcon headed sun-god Ra-Horakhty wearing a headdress composed of the solar disc.
The manuscript was made for a woman named Nestanebisheru, the daughter of the High Priest of Amun Pinedjem II. In this particular illustration, she is seen kneeling in front of Ra-Horakhty, raising her hands in adoration. She is accompanied by her spirit (ba) in the form of a bird with a human head.
Mummy of an adolescent boy,
from Hawara, Egypt,
© 2015 the Trustees of the British Museum
Mummy of an adolescent boy
Roman period, AD 100–120
Human tissue, linen, gold, wax
L: 133 cm, W: 40 cm
Gift of H. Martyn Kennard
This mummy is wrapped in many layers of carefully arranged linen. Inserted over the head is a fine portrait panel of a boy, painted on wood in pigments mixed with beeswax (encaustic). He wears a tunic with a purple stripe, or clavus, and a white mantle positioned high up around the neck. His cropped hairstyle, the clothing depicted and the technique of painting allow us to date the image to the early 2nd century AD.
Paintings of this type, known as “mummy portraits”, represent a fusion of Greco-Roman and Egyptian traditions. They derive from the Roman world in terms of style and technique, but their function as funerary portraits to adorn embalmed bodies is firmly Egyptian. Created from the middle of the 1st century AD and continued over the following two centuries, these strikingly naturalistic images are among the finest works of art to survive from classical antiquity. The apparent realism of the portraits has been disputed by some scholars. However, modern research suggests that many were indeed painted from life, though modified so as to flatter their aristocratic subjects.
Mummy-board, probably from
© 2015 the Trustees of the British Museum
Probably from Thebes, Egypt
Late 21st or early 22nd Dynasty, 950–900 BC
Wood, painted detail on plaster
H: 168 cm, W: 38cm
Donated by Arthur F. Wheeler
This exquisitely painted mummy-board formed the innermost covering of the mummy of an unidentified woman of high rank. During the first centuries of the first millennium BC, such sculpted and painted covers had come to replace the masks which were placed over the heads of mummies in earlier periods. The owner of this board, whose name is not preserved, is depicted with a large floral collar, through which her open hands protrude. Below this is a complex arrangement of scenes that include images of baboons worshipping the sun, figures of Osiris and many protective deities, including the name of Amenhotep I (ruled 1525−1504 BC), the dead king worshipped as a local god in Thebes.
The mummy-board is sometimes known as the Unlucky Mummy due to a series of misfortunes falsely attributed to it. As well as allegedly being responsible for the deaths of various individuals who have come into contact with it, it has also been suggested that the object was placed on board the ill-fated SS Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912. While none of these stories have any basis in fact, they attest to the longstanding fascination with Egyptian religion and mythology in Western popular culture.
Treasures of the World from the British Museum will be held at the National Museum of Singapore from 5 December 2015 to 29 May 2016. Admission fees apply.
For more information, visit http://nationalmuseum.sg/ today!