A Grand Day Out At The British Museum

Hark and I went to the British Museum earlier this week. Here are some things I saw; they are all things in which I am aesthetically or culturally interested, and many of them are also things which I see as plunder or booty to be used as influences upon gaming, some less directly than others.

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The works of Durer demonstrate both allegorical density and immense complexity; in particular, the physically-impossible-to-build-on-the-budget triumphal arch of Maximilian I, shown below. Imagine a realm where every ruler commissions something like this and, by magical means and agency, it’s actually possible to build them; a realm where the monument dwarfs, and is the principle product of, all other forms of residence or industry. Many of Maximilian’s conquests were outright fabrication; possible future events used as demonstrations of his informed prowess; again, imagine that as the norm. You don’t do things, you just lie and say you did, in grand architectural form.

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Gold coins, in the pre-industrial sense, are actually wafer thin. I never realised, and it’s something I haven’t always considered in terms of encumbrance. I’m sure they still weigh a fair bit but not, being not so chunky as the modern oncer (shown above), as much as I’d envisaged. The weighty coin seems more a late medieval thing, especially commissioned as ornate artefact commemorating or honouring an individual.

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Verdigris’d bronze tablet and crocodile-cult parade armour. The former was used to convey the metal from foundry to forge (or is it the other way around?), the latter to display membership in the cult (presumably they wore dead crocodiles rather than butchering live ones). Shown here for… reference. Reference of course having nothing to do with impending Nurgle releases for WFB, nor for the Gatormen who I confess are one of the more compelling Hordes factions. I’m also quite inspired by the crocodile cult; the forsaking of human kinship and the embracing of a totem animal chimes in with some of the ideas about ancestry and religion that are knocking around at the moment. It’s cool because of the kind of implied shapeshifting, or soulshifting; you are (or were) what you wear (or were).

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An archaic Chinese (I think) banknote, of value equivalent to one thousand strung-together coins. The size of the thing’s what gets me; it’s about an A4 page and densely populated with information. Imagine them bespoke, like banker’s drafts; detailing not merely the amount for which they’re good, but the status of the originator, aspects of their biography and wherewithal – not merely a promissory note, but a guarantor grounded in reputation.

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A couple of depictions of ritual magic at work, the latter especially interesting to me since it depicts a raising of the dead. I love this crowded, monochromatic style; it has a certain stark quality, a statement that Here are the Things and you’d better like them ’cause they’re going nowhere.

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Mentally captioned ‘The Adventuring Witch’ – and isn’t the spaniel-Cerberus on the right the most adorable thing you’ve seen all day?

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Satan, Sin and Death, after Milton; the powers that wrestle over men’s downfall. Interesting to me less because of what it depicts than how; the anthropomorphic personification and its allegorical reflection. Eternal life in damnation vs. the final release of oblivion, with temptation as arbiter and uniting factor between them. That’s the sort of thing I expect to see in religious art.

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The greatest of the Temptations of St. Anthony. Mentally captioned: Bad Day, Worse Day, Actually Quite Alright Day, and then this one: the Worst Day Ever. St. Anthony becomes less and less relevant to his own story after a while, eventually becoming a tiny detail in this vision of apocalypse. With all due respect to Ian Miller et al, sometimes one just has to go back to one’s sources.

Despite recent lamenting and trailing off in content I am very much alive, actually quite interested in the prospect of the new Nurgle releases for Warhammer (though I can’t in all good conscience afford them) and currently soaking up inspiration and impression in readiness for next month’s writing odyssey. Tempting a colleague and a close friend into joining me will be crucial in the venture’s success, I feel. I’ve also been playing one of those despicable modern RPGs, as will be discussed on Sunday or thereabouts.

You may now commence belching

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