The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a Treasure House

I was in Birmingham for the day so revisited the City Museum and Art Gallery.  I wanted to see again the Sultanganj Buddha housed there.


The statue of the Buddha is made of copper and is 2.3m high.  The museum dates it between 500- 700 AD.  It has been displayed here since 1867.  In 1862 a railway was being built in Sultanganj, a town in northern India.  The engineers decided a nearby brick mound would be useful in their construction work but, on removing bricks, they unearthed a Buddhist monastery.  Apparently, the statue could have been melted down had it not been for the interest shown by a Birmingham manufacturer, Samuel Thornton, who paid for it to be brought to Britain.  Now, it is the centre piece of a gallery dedicated to sculpture of Buddhism.

On my way to the Buddha, I passed another favourite of this gallery, ‘The Archangel Lucifer’ by Jacob Epstein.  As this is the centre piece of the first room, it is hard to miss!  It dates from 1945, is made of bronze and looks down on passing art lovers.  Epstein used a female model for the head but a male model for the rest.  This gives it an ambiguous appearance.


I noticed that no postcard was available of this sculpture.  This surely cannot be because ‘his’ penis is on show!  In any case, it is another of Epstein’s fine works and I was glad to see it again.

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?



One thought on “The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a Treasure House

  1. Regarding Epstein’s “Lucifer” statue: I love it, have seen it, and will note that adults with children passed by, with no one batting an eyelash over it. In the U.S. a couple of years ago, a grammar school teacher took some of her students to an art museum in a neighboring city. They had to pass through a gallery of Greek and Roman statues to get to their destination in the museum, and some of the children later told their parents about “nude” statues. Because of the conservative “values” held by parents and the school board, this teacher lost actually her job! A sad comment on “types” in the world, who would cheerfully destroy art (if they could get away with it) in the name of religion or other beliefs.

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