thinking about archaeology

Archive for July, 2016

Pigeon post

patient pigeon.jpg

Two years ago a pair of pigeons made a nest and brought up two squabs in the rose outside my study window. I didn’t see them last year, but this year, about a month late, they returned (I assume it’s them), and built a new nest in the same place. I call the bird on the nest patient pigeon: she just sits there without moving, one eye on me and one on the garden. She seems happy with my taste in music.

The other day she made an uncharacteristic loud, happy cooing noise and when I went to look I saw her with an egg. Later it rained, and she hunkered down. A couple of days later I saw the second egg, as she worked at refining her nest.

wet pigeon

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Two years ago we were fascinated by the nest building, and I posted several photos. The last post consisted of daily shots. I’d planned to continue this as the squabs grew up and left the nest – which they did, hanging around the garden like pets for longer than seemed healthy. I took the photos, but work intervened and I didn’t get around to editing and posting them. I’ll do so if anyone’s interested. This was 2014:

June 27: Pigeon culture
They start to build a nest

June 29: Pigeon news 2
Nest construction continues

July 1: And now we have an egg
The first of two

July 26 2014 Growing squabs
Photo a day from July 3 to 26, showing appearance of two squabs

Boris Anrep National Gallery mosaics

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I posted photos in my earlier blog about Boris Anrep’s National Gallery mosaics, but I didn’t know much about them. I now have a copy of the gallery’s out-of-print guide. Here are some better-informed details that visitors might find interesting pending a new guide, and at the end a few words about a portrait Mary Beard acquired in 2008. I bought the guide online from Anytime Books, and was pleased to find the kind seller had included a separate fold-out leaflet, published in 1993. The plans here come from that.

The floor mosaics, writes Lois Oliver in the guide (2004), were created between 1926 and 1952. They were not his first works in Britain: Augustus John had promoted his talents, and his first commission came in 1914 for a mosaic floor at a house in Chelsea – Anrep so pleased the society hostess whose home it was, she later asked him to decorate her walls too. A 1919 mosaic in John’s Chelsea house showed him perched on a pyramid of wives and children. In 1923 he completed a floor in the Blake room at the Tate Gallery.

Anrep’s National Gallery work was all done in his Paris studio. He set out in 1926 to make The Labours of Life (west vestibule) and The Pleasures of Life (east vestibule), featuring respectively subjects such as commerce, engineering and science, and swimming, dancing, cricket and hunting (some of his choices, says Oliver, were “idiosyncratic”: he put music and theatre with labours).

The Awakening of the Muses followed, on the half-way landing, a larger work with an arrangement of scenes. Finally, on the floor of the north vestibule, Anrep completed the set with The Modern Virtues, which he began after the war in 1945.

He continued to work well into his 70s, says Oliver, his “last great work” being “an important cycle” for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Westminster Cathedral (1962).

Beard Anrep.jpg

Now for Mary Beard’s portrait (above), about which she blogged after she and her husband bought it at auction. Said to be an oil of Anrep, it was signed L Inglesis but otherwise came without information. No one was quite sure who the painter was (there are several good comments on the blog). The pose bears an interesting comparison to one that Henry Lamb caught of Anrep in a portrait of 1919 (below, from the NG guide), which sold at Christie’s in 1995 for £2,300 (Beard and Cormack paid £50 for theirs), and is now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There are separate pencil sketches of Boris and Helen Anrep.

Lamb Anrep.jpg


From Artnet

floor plan.jpg

life east-west.jpg



Beatrice de Cardi

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My obituary for Beatrice de Cardi has just gone live on the Guardian website, and I guess will be in the paper tomorrow. I have written a longer version for the Society of Antiquaries’ newsletter (Salon), which fellows will receive next week.

She was an astute and discrete lady. I suspect we will start to find out all sorts of things about her that few knew, and collectively that very likely no one person fully understood. She kept her work in the UK and the Middle East quite separate, but there’s a third area that may turn out to be at least as interesting: Corsica.

Through her father Count Edwin de Cardi (1875–1935) she was, it is said, the last in line of an aristocratic Corsican family; she was herself a Countess, though she never used the term. In the past few days I’ve not seen anything in which she mentions Corsica, and it didn’t come up when I interviewed her in 2004. So I was intrigued when I heard that one of her requests for her funeral was a Corsican liberation song.

So here, for Beatrice de Cardi, are two images of Corsica I took in 1978: the megalithic alignments in the maquis at I Stantari; and protest graffiti.

I Stantari 1978.jpg

And then there was her mother, a would-be opera singer from Pennsylvania. The Museum of London has some of Christine’s clothes, including this evening gown (left), and (right) an “opera cloak, satin, velvet, lace, ostrich feather, Jacques Doucet, early 20th century”, too delicate to unpack.



Photos: Museum of London






Beatrice de Cardi 1914–2016

Beatrice de Cardi in 1966

Beatrice de Cardi, distinguished and honoured archaeologist, founding secretary of the Council for British Archaeology, with a career that ranged from Mortimer Wheeler’s personal secretary to significant fieldwork in the pre-Islamic cultures of the Arabian Gulf and Baluchistan, died this morning, aged 102. A dear and dignified lady. Expect many tributes.

Below is an interview from British Archaeology in 2004.

Beatrice de Cardi 2004