Posts Tagged ‘temple’

The Soane’s Museum and the Royal Opera House in London

July 25, 2022

Following on from our visit to the Edward Munch exhibition (last blog post), we visited the Soane’s Museum (good photos) in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields. This is the house and museum of Sir John Soane who “was one of the foremost architects of the Regency era, a Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, and a dedicated collector of paintings, sculpture, architectural fragments and models, books, drawings and furniture” according to the site above. Once you walk inside the museum, you see that it is absolutely packed with beautiful art, sculpture, furniture and pottery. An example of the latter is seen in the photo below, taken in the first room that we visited. This is a stunning display, encompassing many elements – the elegant and graceful urns, the decorated window panels and the view into the next room, which appears to be a garden but is an interior lit by a glass dome above. The second photo shows what this site calls “An Apulian (Greek) Mascaroon krater known as the ‘Cawdor Vase” and is from 4th century Greece. A description of the object here states that “On one side is an enigmatic version of the preparations for the chariot race of Oinomaos and Pelops, and on the other a familiar type of naiskos scene”. If you enlarge the photo, you will see the chariot in the top section. I had to look up naiskos and it means temple. The “Cawdor Vase” is a fascinating and beautiful piece of art.

Urns in the Soane’s Museum (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)
The Cawdor Vase in the Soane’s Museum

The Soane’s Museum also houses examples of Sir John Soane’s art collection. The most famous example and one only revealed for a short time each day is The Election ( engraving) by William Hogarth (biography and examples of his work) and you can see this painting in my photo below. The painting was inspired by the election in Oxfordshire in 1754 and depicts the Whig party’s attempts to gather support from local voters by plying them with alcohol and entertaining them with music in a local inn. The painting is full of drunken revelry and merriment, although there appears to be the opposition party outside the window and the Whigs are pouring liquid on them and one man is ready to launch a stool. There are many different faces here and, as the painting was designed by Hogarth to be a political satire, many of the faces have a grotesque element to them. There is also much colour here, as well as light and shade and a class element also, with the be-wigged men looking much better dressed than the others. This kind of political gerrymandering – to use a more modern phrase – was common in the 18th century.

The election by William Hogarth

One outstanding feature for me was not a painting or sculptured busts (of which there were numerous) or the famous Sarcophagus of Seti (good photos), but the magnificent iron range (photo below) in the kitchen. The lettering on the left reads “EAGLE RANGE AND GAS STOVE C.L., EAGLE PATENT, VENTILATING CANOPY, DRAUGHT REGULATOR, & HOT CLOSET”. On the right, it reads “REGENT St LONDON, EAGLE PATENT” with the bottom 2 lines repeated. This range was, however, a replacement for the original and dates to 1902. It is still an impressive piece of ironmongery and you can imagine that this kitchen must have been a very hot and uncomfortable place for staff. It has beautiful tiles below the canopy and intricate ironwork e.g. in the demon-shaped handles on the oven doors. On the canopy, I admired the doorknob shaped handles. This is a work of art in itself.

Kitchen range in the Soane’s Museum

I had never visited the Royal Opera House (good photos) while the other three in our party all had for ballet and opera. We went at lunchtime to see the interior of the building i.e. not a performance and it is an excellent visual experience in terms of interior design. The present building has most of the same façade as the one built in 1858. Some of the interior is of lush design, an example being this beautifully ornate staircase (photo below) leading up to the Crush Room (good photos) which is described by the ROH as “Dating back to 1858, the glorious Crush Room has been fully and carefully restored to its original gilded splendour. The room is adorned with 17th century Flemish artwork as well as two crystal chandeliers crafted from the original chandelier that once hung in the centre of the main auditorium”. The staircase, with its combination of gilded metal, smooth wood banisters and highly decorated carpet, provided an impressive entrance to the Crush Room, now used for private dining.

Staircase in the Royal Opera House

One of the most impressive areas in the Royal Opera House is the Paul Hamlyn Hall (range of photos) which is like a vast auditorium on its own. The first photo below shows the hall from ground level and you can see the central bar/champagne bar in the middle. The rest of the floor is often filled with dining tables, but for special dining, I’m sure you might want to sit at one of the tables on the balcony, with their sparkling white table cloths. There is a viewing area above and the second photo below shows the view from there. This really is a sight to behold, as you are looking into the magnificent glass frontage and panelled glass roof. These reminded me of the huge railway stations build in the Victorian age and the glass let the floor area be flooded with shadows on this early summer’s day when we visited. Paul Hamlyn was a very successful publisher and later became a philanthropist, with his foundation providing the funds for this hall. The large arch in the centre is complemented by the four smaller arches below – an impressive sight.

Paul Hamlyn Hall at the Royal Opera House
View of the Paul Hamlyn Hall from above

You can also go up an escalator to a terrace bar with an elegant seating area (first photo below) which is lined with attractive shrubs in pots and covered with a diamond-like roof. The terrace is on the 5th floor of the building and is light and airy in the summer and heated in the winter. Each shrub pot has a tall, green plant and a rounded, hedge-type plant at the bottom. From the side of the terrace, you can look over Covent Garden’s ( second photo below) outdoor and indoor restaurants and bars. The open area is surrounded by some of London’s best architecture. Covent Garden (good photos) is a major tourist attraction in London. You can read about some of the buildings in the photo here.

Terrace bar area at Royal Opera House
View down to Covent Garden

If you are visiting London, these two venues are something you should put on your must-visit list, as there is much more to see and appreciate than I have covered here. Enlarging the photos above will provide you with a better appreciation of what you can see on your visit.

Trip to Tokyo (1): Imperial Gardens and Asakusa Temple

September 2, 2016

All last week, I was in Tokyo, having been invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the International Association of School Librarianship conference, following the translation (and updating) of my last academic book into Japanese. One of the most pleasing, and I guess rather strange, things I saw was when I went into the large lecture room where my talk was to take place. Up on the big screen was my picture and my profile – in Japanese – and it looked like this.




The conference was very good and very well organised and I went to some interesting papers e.g. on school libraries as learning spaces. I was the last cab off the rank, speaking on Friday morning just before the closing ceremony. There was a packed house and several questions about my talk, which was rewarding.

I did have some time to see some of the sights of Tokyo and my first venture was to the Imperial Palace Gardens (good photos) which was the site of the original Edo Castle, originally built in the 15th century. Part of the castle walls and the moat survive and they are an impressive site as you enter the gardens.


Walls and moat at the entrance to the Imperial Palace Gardens, Tokyo

The gardens are extensive and it is a very pleasant quiet area in the hugely busy city of Tokyo. It was 32 degrees and 70+% humidity on the day I went so I did not cover the whole gardens but there are some interesting buildings in the gardens such as the one below with the extensive mosaics.


Mosaics I the Imperial Palace Gardens, Tokyo

My second visit was to the famous Asakusa Temple (good photos) and it has a very colourful entrance, with a huge balloon like structure in between two Buddhist statues.


Entrance to the Buddhist Temple at Asakusa, Tokyo

This is a very popular visiting spot for both Japanese and for tourists and there is a 200m long market area, which sells food, clothing and various Japanese artefacts such as fans and kimonos. The pagoda which houses the temple is very imposing and impressive and is honoured as a holy place by Japanese Buddhists. In the photo below, you see the pagoda but also get an impression of how busy this site was.


Temple at Asakusa, Tokyo

As you walk towards the temple, there is a metal orb which contains a fire with incense in it and people fan the flames on to their bodies, to ward off evil and bring them luck.


Fanning the smoke at Asakusa Temple, Tokyo

The temple itself is inside the building and while you can go in, after taking off your shoes, no photographs are allowed. The temple itself is very ornate with many statues which appear to be made of gold. There were clearly devout people in the temple praying and Buddhist monks welcomed them.