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Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provid…

Neues Museum, Berlin

Wow, what a museum! We came here to see the famed Nefertiti head (housed in her own room where photographs are prohibited) and indeed she is magnificent. However,  it was the beauty and functionality of the redesigned building, combined with the variety and depth of the collection took me by surprise. Yes, here is a magnificent Egyptian collection but there are also collections from Europe and the Near East.

There is some magnificent Egyptian art including a number of decorative panels from tomb walls. The images were very reminiscent of our trip to Egypt
The collection includes quite a number of pieces from Akhenaten's reign. Akhenaten was of course the father of Tutankhamun and the husband of Nefertiti. His reign is significant for his establishment of a new religious order focused on the worship of a single god, Aten. The Aten was the sun disk and giver of life, see below. This small panel depicts the Pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti being blessed by the Aten, along with their children. This new religious order upended the established priestly hierarchy which was devoted to a multiplicity of gods in Thebes and elsewhere and Akhenaten established a new the capital in the city of Amarna.
The new city, and new monotheistic religion, also  fostered emerging forms of artistic expression and in this period you see more naturalistic paintings of the natural world (including ducks and papyrus plants) as well as strangely elongated faces in sculpture as you can see below.
This piece reminded me of a work we saw at the Nubian Museum in Aswan. 
The display includes a reconstructed tomb walls with decorations depicting everyday life which were  similar to those we saw in  the nobles' tombs
In addition to the Egyptian collection I was particularly struck by these large stone guardian figures from the central Caucasus. I was entirely unfamiliar with these kinds of statues which were beautifully displayed in a glass roofed central hall.
You can see how lovely the space is. David Chipperfield's renovation is interesting because it opens up the space but still preserved the historic character of both the building and the displays.
Here you can see some of the more traditional display cases which evoke the original museum.
In other parts of the museum they have retained the original decorative details without restoring them completely. It's extremely evocative as you can see...
In another room, the domed brick roof was completely rebuilt.
In another room Schliemann's treasures from Troy are displayed as they would have been originally, see above.
I was particularly taken by the small statues above and the Cycliadic figures below.
Berlin is filled with incredible museums and the "Museum island" is overwhelming in its depth and breadth. After our Egyptian trip the Neues Musem was a must visit for us, but this is somewhere I would happily revisit on any future trip to Berlin.
Tips: As with many of the Berlin Museums there is an excellent audio guide included in the entrance price. We used the very economical three day museum pass to get into the Neues Museum, I highly recommend this pass if you plan to see lots of museums while you are in Berlin.
There are often temporary exhibitions at the Alte Nationalgalerie  next door

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