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British Museum  A museum of the world, for the world. Discover over two million years of human history and culture.


This is a study of eleven heads by Peter Paul Rubens, completed around 1619. Here the Flemish artist has used pen, washes and black chalk to render his subjects. They are fairly small studies – this piece of paper is about 40cm wide – yet they retain Rubens’ animated style. Preliminary drawings like these were used by the artist to help develop larger, painted compositions. Clothing styles and materials or poses and hairstyles could be refined and colours noted down for later use. #Rubens #PeterPaulRubens #drawing #study #art #artist #Baroque #Flemish #FlemishBaroque #painting #artist #history

Rubens was born #onthisday in 1577. The Flemish Baroque artist was one of the most influential figures in European art in the early 17th century. His energetic style emphasised movement and drama, as shown in this drawing from 1631. This was made as a preparation for an engraving – Rubens worked with printers so that his artwork could be circulated widely in Europe. #Rubens #PeterPaulRubens #drawing #study #art #artist #Baroque #Flemish #FlemishBaroque #painting #artist #history #Europe

Painted scrolls have been used to tell stories in India since at least the 2nd century BC. They were used as a visual aid to spoken stories and legends. This example dates from around 1800 and features typical styles of the era – brilliant colours, detailed patterns and flat backgrounds. This example has 54 individual scenes, and illustrates the legend of Gazi, a local Bengali Muslim saint. His many epic activities included fighting with demons, overpowering dangerous animals and performing miracles. Swipe to see more scenes! #painting #colours #scroll #colour #art #legend #🐅 #🐊 #🐘 #⛵️

This incredible frontispiece is drawn in gold, and shows a paradise scene over two pages. It is part of the Buddist illuminated manuscript Amitābha Sūtra, made in Korea in 1341. It shows the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, flanked by bodhisattvas and monks preaching to deities and other Buddhas. During the Goryeo dynasty in Korea (AD 918–1392), the copying of Buddhist sutras was considered to have great spiritual benefit. They were handwritten with great skill, usually by monk-scribes. #Buddhism #Buddhist #Korea #Korean #manuscript #art #writing #gold

This is the Flood Tablet, so called because this fragment is very similar to the story of Noah’s Ark. The tablet was made around 2,600 years ago, and discovered in the north of what is now modern Iraq. It’s written in cuneiform script – one of the earliest forms of writing, composed of wedge-shaped marks. An assistant at the Museum, George Smith, first translated the tablet in 1872. On realising the link with Noah’s Ark he apparently ‘jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself.'
The tablet was part of the Library of Ashurbanipal – an attempt by the Neo-Assyrian King Ashurbanipal to collect all the knowledge in the world. #cuneiform #Ashurbanipal #history #library #writing

A gamelan is an orchestra that traditionally accompanies shadow puppet shows, dance dramas, feasts and ceremonies in Indonesia. In shadow puppet performances, the orchestra highlights moments of drama and provides music that fits with the personalities of characters on stage. This ornate instrument is carved in the shape of a dragon-like animal. It has seven bronze keys – musicians would choose how to order the keys in the scale to fit the music they would play. #gamelan #orchestra #Indonesia #music #performance

This drum is one of the earliest surviving African-American objects. It was made by the Akan people of Ghana in West Africa and constructed from wood, vegetable fibre and deer skin. It would have been played at religious ceremonies or social occasions as part of an ensemble, and hit with an open hand. It was probably brought to America on a slave ship in the early 18th century, arriving in Virginia. Despite the oppression of slavery, drumming and other African musical traditions continued in colonial America, giving rise to many different kinds of music. #drum #drumming #music #ensemble #history #musicMW #museumweek

Trumpets like this beautifully ornate example were used to call Buddhist monks to services in Tibet and China. This one is over 100 years old and was made in Tibet. The gilt copper decoration is completed in high relief, and the scales of the dragon are inlaid with semi-precious stones. The trumpet itself is made from conch shell. #trumpet #gold #copper #dragon #Buddhism #history #musicMW #museumweek

Here is the final part of Kunisada’s three-panel print that illustrates the traditional Japanese woodblock printing process. Woodblock printing is strongly associated with pictures of the ‘floating world’ (ukiyo-e) – full-colour depictions of courtesans, actors and famous places. During the Edo period (1615–1868), Japanese society enjoyed a rich supply of books and pamphlets, pictures and artworks thanks to the refining of this technique.
Our free display revealing the little-known processes behind this beautiful craft is a perfect companion to our special #Hokusai exhibition – find out more by following the link in our bio.

This is the centre print in a triptych by Japanese artist Utagawa Kunisada. In the traditional printing process, an artist would create a final drawing that would then be made into a print by transferring the image onto a block of mountain cherry wood. This wood is known as yamazakura, and is used because its grain is dense and durable. The master block cutter pastes the artist’s drawing on the wood and traces the lines onto the block with a chisel. They cut along either side of the lines, and then remove the surrounding wood to leave a network of raised ridges – the outlines of the final print.
See this work and discover the fine craftsmanship that goes into woodblock prints in our free display – a great accompaniment to our major #Hokusai exhibition! Follow the link in our bio for more information.

This is the first print in a three-panel artwork by Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864). The three panels come together to show a rare depiction of the traditional Japanese woodblock printing process. Here we can see the range of colours used in this style of artwork – from muted autumnal oranges to bright electric blues. The pigments in traditional Japanese prints came from numerous different sources, including plants and minerals. In the late 1820s a new synthetic pigment, Prussian blue, caused a sensation as it was a stable colour that resisted fading over time.
You can see this print and learn more about traditional printing processes in our free display – follow the link in our bio to find out more.

The upturned toes on these Indian slippers are purely decorative. Intricately embroidered with gold and silver thread, this style of footwear was developed in the Mughal royal courts (1526–1857) and eventually adopted by the rich. They signified wealth, status and high fashion – if they had been made for royalty, the green studs would have been emeralds rather than the glass seen here.
Discover footwear from the Islamic world as part of the @googleartsculture #WeWearCulture campaign – follow the link in our bio to see the online gallery.

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