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Here are just a handful of the many and varied wonderful objects that caught my eye on a recent visit to the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology in Oxford. I was particularly drawn to the beautiful, fragile remnants of cloth in the museum’s textile displays and (as you no doubt might’ve already guessed if you’ve visited here before) am always a sucker for anything incorporating creature-inspired representations.

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

of the water
(top) Makara, Mathura region (northern India), AD 350-450, terracotta plaque (The makara is an auspicious aquatic monster, symbolising water and fertility)
(bottom) Pottery rhyta (vessel for drinking or pouring offerings) in the form of a fish, Sasanian, AD 225-650, Iran

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

vessels
(top) Rounded clear glass flask, eastern Mediterranean?, AD 200-300 (?)
(middle) Tang dynasty (AD 618-906) ceramic containers
(bottom) A pewter dinner service from Appleford, c. AD 300-400 (This large service is made of pewter, an alloy of tin and lead [both metals mined by the Romans in south-west Britain]. Inscriptions on two of the plates and a written record suggest that this service was owned by people of Celtic origin who used Latin and enjoyed a Roman lifestyle. The tableware was hidden in a well when the Thames Valley became unstable in the last years of Roman occupation, about AD 400. Some of the plates were over 100 years old at the time of burial)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

this (modern) fabric was part of a display describing Japanese textile weaving and dyeing techniques that, surprisingly in a museum, was accompanied by a sign inviting the viewer to “Please Touch”. On turning the fabric over I was delighted to find this thickly layered web of threads on its reverse side – such order from such (apparent) chaos!

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

strikingly similar colour palettes, across time and place
(top) Portrait of a woman in a dress worked with flowers (detail), Cornelius Jonson (English, 1593-1661), after 1618, oil on panel
(bottom) Fragment of a large cloth, perhaps intended as a hanging, Roman, c.AD 300-400 (Woven in undyed linen, the cloth is decorated with tapestry wool bands of brightly coloured flowers and foliage)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

enigmatic gazes
(top) The Buddha, Gandhāra (now parts of Northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan), c.AD 200
(bottom) Statue of a bearded man, Wadi Bayhan, Yemen (ancient Kingdom of Qataban), calcite-alabaster, possibly 300 BC – AD 200
(Funerary statue. The large holes in the eyes contain traces of bitumen that once held shell inlays in place)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

spiritual discipline
(top) Head of an ascetic, Gandhāra, AD 300-400, unfired clay
(bottom) Hand and forearm of the Buddha (detail), Mathura, AD 100-200, sandstone

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

(gorgeous!) Ikat cloth, Central Asia (present-day Uzbekistan), 1800s – 1900s, silk (Derived from the Malay word mengikat [“to tie”], the term ikat defines a textile-patterning technique in which parts of the warp and/or weft are knotted to protect them from dye penetration. The careful planning of the dyeing process is the key to the realisation of the vibrant decorative patterns that characterise ikats)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

lacework
(top) The lacemaker (detail), Bernhard Keilhau (1624-1687), oil on canvas
(bottom) Sampler, 1660, England, silk on linen (whitework including cut work and pulled work, with needlepoint and needle-woven fillings, signed by the maker “Mary Parker 1660”)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

blooming
(top) Gentle Spring (detail), Frederick Sandys (1829-1904), oil on canvas
(bottom) Plate with carnations, roses and leaves imitating Iznik ceramics, Venice or Padua, c.1600-1650

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

more unexpected colour harmonies
(top) The Burn, November – the Cucullen Hills (detail), John William Inchbold (1830-1888), oil on canvas (The view from Sligachan, looking southwards over the Sligachan Burn towards the Cuillin Hills… in the autumn of 1855)
(bottom) Samurai helmet (ceremonial), Japan, 1560,
iron, lacquer, silk, gilt metal (?)

ashmolean museum artefacts, oxford

feathered, antlered
(top)
zoomorphic brooches, bronze inlaid with coloured enamel,
Roman Period (Britain), AD 43 – 410 (?)
(bottom) Assyrian ‘winged genie’ relief; carved from ‘Mosul marble’ (gypsum), Nimrud, Iraq, Reign of Ashurnasirpal II, 883-859 BC

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Information about each piece has been derived from the captions that accompany them in the museum. A ‘(?)’ indicates that I’m unsure of the details… having failed to take a proper note of them at the time of viewing!

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