Starkey makes history with art treasures
Extraordinary collection of hidden art unearthed by TV historian
Sunday 26 August 2007
A 12th-century copper casket that once contained the relics of Thomas Becket, the "troublesome priest" who was murdered on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, is just one of hundreds of priceless treasures – some never seen before by the public – unearthed by a team led by TV historian Dr David Starkey for a ground-breaking exhibition which opens next month.
The treasures, including an early Turner painting, a jousting score sheet and a rare celebratory banner from the 14th century as well as the first drawings of Stonehenge, all belong to the Society of Antiquaries, which was founded in 1707.
Starkey's Making History exhibition marks the 300th anniversary of the society, which began the serious study of British history. Prior to the collecting of objects and study by the society's fellows British history was mired in myth and biblical stories.
"In default of any other art galleries or museums, it became a sort of collector of last resort," said Dr Starkey. "It bought or was given early royal portraits, like Hans Eworth's splendid painting of Mary I that would later be the preserve of the National Portrait Gallery.
"It built up collections of medieval and prehistoric artefacts that the British Museum, then snobbishly focused on the classical world, rejected as uninteresting for the first century of its existence.
"What is striking is the correlation between the original antiquarian agenda and the leading fields of popular history now: family history and local history; collecting and collectibles; antiques and 'how people lived'. We are more interested in the family of the dustman than the duke, in downstairs rather than upstairs. But although the focus has changed, the underlying spirit remains the same."
Because the society has no exhibition space, however, much of its collection remains in storage in London. Next month's exhibition, which begins 11 September, is at the neighbouring Royal Academy of Arts.
- 1 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 E.L James's #AskELJames Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Kim Jong-un shows off airport designed by architect he likely had executed
Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional 'basic income'
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
from £35,000 pa: Kinapse: You will take leadership for discrete workstreams an...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time position for Nottingh...
£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Simulation Tec...