Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum delivers the world for free
January 14, 2009
CAMBRIDGE — There’s a reason that dish set you bought at the Bxtra was $11, and why one plate broke two weeks after you bought it. It’s just not built to last.
Contrast that dishware experience with a centuries-old Chinese teapot on display at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum. Impossibly intricate, still vivaciously colorful and filled with the kind of detail that showcases the heart of its creator. And tough, or lucky, enough to survive the centuries.
The Fitz is full of all kinds of stuff like that. Set in a grandly pillared building in the city center, it’s a free look into the history of many peoples over the centuries.
The museum nicely blends that solemn museum vibe with airy modernity. There’s a newer cafe and gift shop, but also plenty of marbled staircases to take you from gallery to gallery.
Aside from said intricate Asian cookware, the museum has a ton of 16th-century figurines that looked like they could easily blend in with those Hummel figurines your grandma keeps in the hutch.
Indeed, so many of the artifacts here look like they were just made, a true salute to the craftsmanship of old and the bit of luck that kept such items in one piece.
My personal favorite had to be a 12th-century Iranian bird sculpture simply labeled "Hawk." It’s made from molded stone paste and has a turquoise glaze. It was really cool to look at.
The weapons section was also very good, with one case featuring a monstrous two-handed sword from 16th-century Germany alongside flanged maces, the kind of weapon Ron Burgundy pulled from his coat during the rumble in the "Anchorman" movie.
There was also some early firearms from the 16th century. A wheel-lock rifle required a spark to fire, but its stock is still intricately carved and designed.
The museum first opened in 1816, basing its initial collection on the donations of Richard, VII Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, who donated the initial collection to the University of Cambridge, according to the museum’s Web site. It’s grown ever since.
Beauty and history come together here, so take some time and check out this free bit of visual stimulation.
Location: Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RBDetails: 01223-332-900 or log on to www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk.