Magdalene Odundo DBE is one of the greatest ceramic artists working today. Her distinctive, burnished vessels are informed by a range of art and craft traditions from around the world. The Fitzwilliam Museum’s display (on show 5 October 2021 - 24 July 2022) marks 50 years since Odundo moved from Kenya to Cambridge to take an Art Foundation Course at Cambridge School of Art, and brings together a selection of the global ceramics from Cambridge collections and examples of her own unmistakable work.
John-James Laidlow's Museum Remix video is inspired by a 16th-century iron prosthetic hand in the Fitzwilliam Museum's Armoury.
Meet 1924 (bertha no. 2), a painting by Ben Nicholson of a woman known to us only as "Bertha", now displayed at Kettle's Yard.
Stepanka Facerova's Museum Remix video gives voice to the painting, imagining life in the Kettle's Yard House from its point of view...
Asteriornis maastrichtensis, affectionately known as the Wonderchicken, is among the most exciting bird fossils ever found. It has one of the best-preserved fossil bird skulls in the world, and gives us important insights into the evolutionary origins of modern birds.
See Dr Field talking about his discovery in the video below.
These are syadei, made by members of the Nenets people, an Indigenous community in North Siberia.
It's difficult to describe what a syadei is accurately in English, because they are part of a very different way of viewing the world. For Nenets people, syadei were and are alive. They see, feel, communicate and act, and are part of the way Nenets people communicate with their landscape, reindeer, game and ancestors. They might be considered the material version of a god, spirit guardian or ancestor.
How can we give voice to an anonymous slave who died two thousand years ago?
It is notoriously difficult to view the ancient world through enslaved eyes. Our classical Greek sources are written by elite men, largely for elite male audiences; no enslaved person’s personal account has been discovered. This stele, or tombstone - of which a plaster cast is now in the Museum of Classical Archaeology - shows two female figures. One of the women is seated and bigger, with a name – Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos, of Melite – carved above her head.
This is a watercolour portrait of Kanguagiu, an Inuit woman who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Kanguagiu was 60 years old when Royal Navy officer John Ross painted her portrait in the 1830s. We know a surprising amount about her and her family, thanks to Ross's paintings and book, Narrative of a Second Voyage to the Arctic.
Who was Bertha? And how did she know Ben?
Ben Nicholson's painting 1924 (bertha no. 2) is displayed prominently at Kettle's Yard. It depicts the head and shoulders of a young woman, Bertha. She is painted larger than life-size with an emphasis on strong sculptural forms and planes that give her sense of solidity and monumentality.
While we know a lot about Ben Nicholson, we know nothing about Bertha. Who was she? How can we tell her story? And what happened to Bertha No. 1?
Eliza Spindel, Curatorial Assistant at Kettle's Yard, tells us more.
In the Fitzwilliam Museum's grand Gallery 3, two portraits, of John Finch and Thomas Baines, hang facing each other. They were painted as a pair in the 17th century by Carlo Dolci.
Finch and Baines, both trained physicians, met while studying at Cambridge in the 1640s. They were inseparable throughout a relationship that lasted 36 years, and were buried together in a joint monument in Christ's College.
The two men were consistently referred to as the "greatest of friends", while they themselves thought of their relationship as a kind of marriage.