101 in 1001 {III}: 018 visit the ashmolean [completed 09.18.12]

feuchere's satan
{satan, jean-jacques feuchère, c. 1836}

a unicorn kicking the shit out of a gryphon
{unicorn violence}

sobek the crocodile god
{head of sobek the crocodile god}

guess what this is, win a prize!
{mummy wrapping detail}

emily nussbaum observed in the new yorker a few weeks ago that television networks, like people, have personalities. museums are people, i think; oxford's ashmolean could be my college roommate's casually fantastic mother, cece, who remarked at said roommate's rehearsal dinner last friday that she had spent part of the previous evening playing the hawaiian wedding song on a ukelele she'd built herself and inlaid with flames. elias ashmole, a seventeenth-century maximalist after my own heart, gave the university a magnificent shitload of curiosities and antiquities along with his financial support, and the institution that grew up around that collection is as byzantine as the collection itself. profusion of that kind is a mixed blessing: i spent half an hour pinballing angrily between recast statuary (c'mon, ashmole: your bag of tricks is that deep and you're giving me bootlegs?) and more pottery than i'll ever need to appreciate (sorry, pottery), convincing myself that my guidebook's insistence that guy fawkes's lantern was in room 27 or 29 was some sort of ultra-dry british humor. i then wandered into the egypt hall and spent another half hour lidless as a fish with the best mummy collection i've ever seen. that was the ashmolean's cece moment: respectable gallery, respectable gallery, p.s. let me just ninja in here with my mind-blowing awesome.

it remains a bit pathetic that in six months of living within a stroll of the ashmolean's statuary-and-pottery-and-lantern-and-mummies i managed not a single visit. in my defense, i spent half of those months with joe, and he's diverting (sometimes annoyingly so: when we were out in california for that wedding last weekend, my mother gave him her stanford class ring. my mother!). sloth had a way of working out for me, as it sometimes does; the museum underwent a massive rebuild in 2009, and the egypt hall reopened to great fanfare with its all-new (old) mummy army just last year. the 101 in 1001 list's lesson this time around, perhaps, is that armies of mummies arrive when one is best disposed to confront them. thank goodness, really, for that.

No comments: