Lots Of Gold As The British Museum's Permanent Collection Is Now Even Better

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 37 months ago
Lots Of Gold As The British Museum's Permanent Collection Is Now Even Better ★★★★☆ 4
This room actually glistens with all the gold on display.
This room actually glistens with all the gold on display.
This silver plated and gold damascened shield is stunning. Figures on the border symbolise Glory, Prudence, Fame and Strength. © The Trustees of the BritishMuseum
This silver plated and gold damascened shield is stunning. Figures on the border symbolise Glory, Prudence, Fame and Strength. © The Trustees of the BritishMuseum
This reliquary supposedly holds one of the thorns from Christ's crown of thorns. © The Trustees of the British Museum
This reliquary supposedly holds one of the thorns from Christ's crown of thorns. © The Trustees of the British Museum
This intricately carved boxwood piece was designed as a prayer aid. © The Trustees of the British Museum
This intricately carved boxwood piece was designed as a prayer aid. © The Trustees of the British Museum
The locket contains a portrait by Nicholas Hilliard of James VI and I of Scotland and England. © The Trustees of the British Museum
The locket contains a portrait by Nicholas Hilliard of James VI and I of Scotland and England. © The Trustees of the British Museum
An installation view of some of the impressive ceramics that are part of this display.
An installation view of some of the impressive ceramics that are part of this display.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

When we have a spare few hours, or even an entire day, one of our favourite things to do is spend it wandering the British Museum's permanent collection — after all, it is vast and spectacular. But one issue with navigating a collection this size is that visitors may never have come across the impressive Waddesdon bequest, a collection of Renaissance artefacts that include both genuine articles and some superb fakes. It was given to the museum in 1898 by the Rothschild family, who made their fortune in banking.

This superb collection is no longer hidden away as it's been moved down to room 2a, close to the main entrance of the museum, and it's a truly breathtaking display. There's so much gold on show that after a while our eyes hurt from the glare. But it's not all gold; there are also ceramics, wooden sculpture, swords, rifles and rock crystal tableware — we challenge anyone not to be impressed by the sheer diversity of opulence on show.

Some of the more leftfield gems include an ostrich egg cup and the drunken god Bacchus sat atop a barrel, a reminder of the perils of drunkenness.

We've always loved the permanent collection at the British Musuem and, with this re-display, it's now even better.

A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon bequest is on display in Room 2a at The British Museum. Admission is free. Also still on at The British Museum is a superb exhibition of Greek sculpture, an insightful look at mummies, some great Napoleonic propaganda and an exhibition of indigenous Australian art. Also see our guide to London objects in The British Museum.

For more openings this month, check out our top picks for June.

Last Updated 15 June 2015