Virtually explore the British Museum with Smarthistory as your guide
videos + essays
Link to the British Museum's website
Standard of Ur and other objects from the Royal Graves
Intentionally buried as part of an elaborate ritual, this ornate object tells us so much, but also too little.
Albrecht Dürer, The Triumphal Arch or Arch of Honor
The Arch of Honor praises Maximilian I as the ideal emperor, a paragon of modern rulership, guided by traditional chivalric values but also aggressively modern in both diplomacy and warfare.
Lacquer pen-case, signed by the artist Ashraf ibn Riza
This luxury pen-case is made from papier mâché with lacquer painting, a tradition inspired by Chinese lacquer.
Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak embroidery
This embroidery, discovered at Dunhuang, dates from China’s Tang dynasty (618–907) and depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favorite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples.
A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang
A fragmentary silk painting tells us about Buddhist art along the Silk Roads, numerous Buddhist sacred icons, and the complex life of an object after its creation.
Head of the Buddha, Gandhara
Positioned at the crossroads of Asia, Gandhara has always been an ancient transit zone—as we see in this sculpture of the Buddha
Dhratarastra, Guardian King of the East
The huge size of the canvas, the dynamic and decorative lines, and the combination of mineral colors are typical of Buddhist paintings from Korea.
Yun Baek-ha, a calligraphic handscroll
This handscroll is an extremely valuable example of Korean calligraphy
Yi Che-gwan, Portrait of a Confucian scholar
Earlier Korean portraits were more interested in capturing a sense of the sitter's 'spirit' rather than in portraying an actual physical likeness such as this one from the 18th century
Coffin in the shape of an eagle
This wooden coffin in the form of eagle with painted gold feather markings was made in the village of Teshie in Ghana.
Maebyong vases, an introduction
In medieval Korea, wine bottles were known as maebyong, which comes from the Chinese mei-ping ('vase for plum blossoms'), a misnomer dubbed by Chinese scholars of the Qing dynasty.
Kabuki actor prints
Kabuki theatre's leading actors influenced fashion and taste and quickly became the subject of popular woodblock prints in Japan