National Museums Scotland Announce Major Exhibitions for 2013

National Museums Scotland has announced two major exhibition for 2013, Vikings, from the Historiska Museet in Stockholm on view 1 February – 26 May 2013 and Mary Queen of Scots, a new exhibition curated by National Museums Scotland and drawn from the Scottish collections supported by international loans for Summer 2013.

Vikings will explore the Viking Age and challenge our conceptions of what has become a mythical period in Scandinavia. In recent years archaeological discoveries have shed new light on the period and this exhibition will tell the Viking story through unique objects which have been rarely viewed outside Scandinavia.

Mary Queen of Scots is arguably one of the most enigmatic figures in Scottish history. Her story arouses strong emotions: was she betrayed by those she trusted, condemned to die a Catholic martyr or was she a murdering adulteress with her husband’s blood on her hands?

The exhibition will provide an opportunity to re-visit much that has been written and speculated about Mary, one of the most charismatic monarchs of all time. Taking a fresh, innovative approach, using jewels, textiles, furniture, documents and portraits, Mary’s dramatic story and this fascinating period in Scottish history will be explored in detail.

Vikings explores the perceptions of the Vikings as warriors, explorers, pirates and merchants. The exhibition gives fascinating insights into death rituals, the power of mythology and the symbolism of the Viking ships, their crafts and workmanship and also their domestic lives. Among the objects on display will be spectacular jewellery and metalwork, textiles, glass, bone, amber and religious artefacts.

Craft, especially metal craft had metaphysical and mythological significance in the Viking Age and the treasures in the exhibition will showcase their astonishing workmanship. The displays will include a silver pendant crucifix, a stunning silver necklace in the form of the fertility goddess, Freyja and a brooch of gold, bronze and garnet.

Mary Queen of Scots was one of a number of female rulers in Renaissance Europe and she will be considered in this context, examining her power and influence, making comparisons with her peers. She was an important figure dynastically and key in the religious struggles provoked by the Reformation. Through her son she is the direct ancestor of the present royal family.

Mary brought many splendid pieces of jewellery from France when she returned to Scotland in 1561. She continued to patronise Scottish goldsmiths and jewellers throughout her reign in Scotland. However, few examples survive, but the remarkable pieces which will be displayed include the Penicuik jewels incorporating two portrait lockets believed to be of herself and her son James, a heart jewel and a cameo ring. An intriguing item is the silver ryal or 30 shillings coin which commemorated the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry, Lord Darnley. This was struck in Scotland in 1565 and then quickly withdrawn from circulation. It was then redesigned in 1566 with Mary’s image and name appearing before that of her husband.

This fascinating exhibition, exploring the life and times of Mary, will bring together an array of treasures never before seen together. – www.nms.ac.uk

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