Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Troy: myth and reality at the British Museum from 21 November 2019 to 8 March 2020

Exhibition Review – Troy: myth and reality at the British Museum from 21 November 2019 to 8 March 2020

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The British Museum presents a major exhibition entitled Troy: myth and reality which is the first major Troy exhibition in the UK. The exhibition explores the lasting legacy of stories from the Trojan War, from early poets such as Homer and Virgil and retold and reinterpreted right up to the present day.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The exhibition is the first to feature finds from Schliemann’s excavations at the site of Troy, since they were displayed in London in the 1870s. Schliemann’s rediscovery of Troy and his work at the site between 1870 and 1890 made him famous and a large number of his original finds, including pottery and silver vessels, bronze weapons and stone sculptures, have been loaned by the Berlin Museums to the UK for the first time in nearly 150 years.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The exhibition features nearly 300 objects that explore the story of Troy and its enduring legacy including a rare Roman sarcophagus lid with a wheeled wooden horse.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A ‘Portrait’ of Homer, Roman, AD 100–200 sets the scene in the exhibition for an overview of the ancient story, Achilles is the greatest of all the Greek fighters but dies after an arrow from the Trojan prince Paris shoots through his heel, the only part of his body not protected by his divine mother.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Filippo Albacini’s (1777–1858) marble sculpture The Wounded Achilles captures the fateful moment.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Central to the legend of Troy are a number of characters from Helen, Odysseus, Priam and Achilles and the exhibition features a number of objects that portray scenes from the legend like Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), ‘The Judgement of Paris’ 1530–35, Ceramic amphora showing Achilles killing the Amazon queen Penthesilea, Athens, c. 530 BC and Trojan King Priam kisses the hand of Achilles on  a Roman silver cup found in a chieftain’s grave in Denmark.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the section about the archaeologists and adventurers who sought to prove the reality of ancient Troy, this exhibition showcases the discoveries made by Heinrich Schliemann in Turkey in the 1870s that provided evidence that the legend has some basis in reality. Towards the end of the exhibition is the famous photograph of Schliemann’s wife bedecked in jewellery.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

However, the enduring popularity of the legend is illustrated by the large number of books, films and art that have retold the story of Troy. The exhibition features a small selection of works that have been inspired by aspects of the story.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the causes of the Trojan war was the kidnapping of Helen by Paris, This exhibition examines how Helen has been portrayed from beautiful victim to femme fatale and how the role of women in the legend has been constantly changed over the centuries.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This fascinating exhibition provide plenty of evidence of the enduring appeal of Trojan cycle of myths over the last 3,000 years, the myths provide universal messages of war, love and loss that each generation is able to relate too. The exhibition attempts to provide some understanding of the myth and reality of Troy and how archaeology has provided some evidence of the historical truth behind the ancient myth.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Troy has inspired many artists and writers from antiquity into the 21st century and the way the exhibition has been designed allows the many objects in the exhibition to retell the stories on a variety of media and provide a coherent narrative for visitors to follow.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 
For more information and tickets, visit the British Museum website here

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