EXHIBITION – Celts – National Museum of Scotland

Go on a quest through the ages in search of the identity of the Celts, at the latest blockbuster exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

The first major exhibition on the subject for over 40 years, Celts is produced in collaboration with the British Museum and features over 350 objects from both museums’ collections, as well as other important pieces from across Europe.

Foremost amongst these is the spectacular Gundestrup Cauldron, a richly-decorated vessel made from silver and found in a peat bog in Denmark. Now reconstructed, its surfaces are alive with wonderful detail, providing us with a glimpse of the gods, rituals and lives of the people who made it.

Other objects serve a similar purpose: ranging from reconstructed chariots and carnyx war trumpets to opulent gold torcs and decorative objects. Each piece resonates with a beguiling sense of intrigue, allowing visitors to this well laid-out exhibition to draw their own conclusions about the true nature of the identity of the Celtic people.

This identity is shown across the centuries, from Iron Age roots through Roman and early Christian influences, culminating in the revival of interest in the myths and romance of the period in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The exhibition closes with a display centred around Anima Celtica, a painting from around 1920 by Scottish artist John Duncan. Depicting a woman surrounded by Celtic objects, researchers discovered that Duncan painted these from illustrations in a National Museum of Scotland exhibition catalogue from the time.

The curators have managed to find the items – ranging from Iron Age objects to later-dated items inspired by the Celtic Revival – and they are displayed in a case beneath the painting. This serves as a perfect encapsulation of the wider exhibition itself: demonstrating the wonder, magic and wide-reaching influence of the Celts.

Celts is at the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street until 25 September. Further information is available on the exhibition website.

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