Yes, it’s St George – the so-called ‘Black’ George because he’s riding a black horse. You can see it on display in the British Museum, free, gratis, at no charge (other than what we all pay in general taxation). I did, last week. In fact, I saw several things as I glided round in my customary ‘let’s see what takes my eye’ way. I’ve found it’s the only strategy when dealing with a museum or an exhibition of such gargantuan size. Either that, or just concentrate on a small area and look at everything in detail. I don’t do guide books either, or those talking headsets. But then, I’m fortunate in that I know the British Museum pretty well having spent just about every Saturday there as a student teacher desperate to find some inspiration for the following week’s history lessons.
Anyway, the most interesting thing about this object – other than it’s obvious beauty and historical value – is the story of its discovery. You see, it was found being used as a window-shutter in a small village in northern Russia in 1959. Where it has been for the previous 500 years is unknown, but I love the idea of some historian stumbling across a valuable Byzantine icon and trying desperately to offer the owner all kinds of replacement window-shutters. ‘But we don’t vant uPVC… we like St George!’
In fact, I love the tales behind the acquisition of some of these objects almost as much as the objects themselves. There are some crackers – like the bishop’s crozier in the broom cupboard – and I’ll share a few more with you in another post. I also love the fact that the British Museum lets you photograph the objects. Or maybe even handle them, as I did this Neolithic stone axe-head, which is probably ceremonial, just so you know.