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In Focus

The following objects represents a selection of topical, unusual or interesting records from our collection. These records have been selected by our team of curators.

ID number:  BIRBI-2013.1
Title / Object name:  Maria Marow Gideon (1767-1834) and her Brother, William (1775-1805)
Category:  Visual art
Object type:  Painting
Artist / Maker:  Reynolds, Joshua (1723-1792)
Place made:  London
Date made:  1786/7

Maria Marow Gideon was born in November 1767, married Gregory, 14th Lord Saye and Sele in 1794, and died in September 1834. Her brother, William, born in May 1775, rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army but died aged just 30 and unmarried in September 1805. Maria was the eldest daughter, and William the second son, of Sir Sampson Gideon, Bt, and his wife, Maria Marow Wilmot. Sir Sampson was the sole heir of his father, the immensely wealthy Jewish financier Samson Gideon, who assembled an important collection of paintings.

Maria sat four times for Reynolds in September 1786, and again in May 1787 and February 1788. William's name appears three or four times in Reynolds' pocket-books between September and December 1786, while his father visited the artist in April 1787, and paid Reynolds £300 for the portrait in June that year.

This splendid portrait marks a high watermark in Reynolds’s late style. It is as much about high fashion as personality. As the costume historian Aileen Ribeiro has observed: ‘Maria Gideon is extremely up-to-date in her black and white ensemble, white muslin dress with long, tight sleeves, matching fichu over the breast, black silk stole, black beaver hat with white ostrich feathers – even her hair, with its elaborately dishevelled curls, is powdered white. The only touch of colour [in] her dress is her sash of blue watered silk. Her brother is dressed in what…would have [been] called “the highest ton” with his cutaway coat, short double-breasted waistcoat, buff-coloured breeches and jockey boots.'   [More Info]

ID number:  BIRRC-H0014
Title / Object name:  Shrapnel and various parts of an incendiary bomb
Category:  Weapons and ammunition
Object type:  Miscellaneous
Artist / Maker:  Unknown
Date made:  c. 1940

These various pieces of shrapnel and incendiary bomb were picked up in the garden of University House after air-raids during the Autumn Term of 1940. Shrapnel is so named after Lieutenant Henry Shrapnel who developed the shrapnel bomb in 1803. This piece of artillery is composed of a metal shell containing much smaller shells and is designed to break on impact to release the smaller shells at the same velocity at which the larger shell was travelling. The incendiary is an example of a bomb designed to start fires using elements such as napalm or white phosphorous. These particular remnants may relate to incidents described in the logbook kept at University House, also in the University Heritage Collection (see H0015).   [More Info]

ID number:  ECM 165
Title / Object name:  Clay female figurine
Object type:  Figurine
Date made:  Late Period (664-332 BC) or Graeco-Roman Period (332 BC-395 AD)

The female figure holds a round-bodied vessel in her right arm and an image of Bes in her left. She is clothed in a long garment with folds/pleats, which appears to fasten along the length of the front. The woman's right knee seems to be raised and bent, pointing forward; her breasts are clearly defined.

The figurine is quite crudely modelled; of the facial features, only the nose is clearly defined. The wig is distinctive, with layers of ringlets or similar styled segments. The subject is non-Egyptian, perhaps Carian. The back is undecorated. The figurine is hollow.   [More Info]

BIRUG 186.jpg
ID number:  BIRUG 186
Title / Object name:  Beryl
Category:  Mineralogy
Object type:  Silicate

   [More Info]

ID number:  BIRBI-B4432
Title / Object name:  20 nummi
Category:  Numismatics
Object type:  Coin
Artist / Maker:  Leontios; Constantinople
Place made:  Istanbul
Date made:  695-696

Obverse: bust of Leontios facing, bearded, wearing loros and crown, holding globus cruciger in r. hand and cross in r of field. Reverse: K denomination mark with cross above.   [More Info]