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Roman Sexuality: Images, Myths and Meanings

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Warren CupBuilding work to create a new exhibition space at Brading Roman Villa is now complete.

The new gallery will be the only exhibition space of its kind on the Isle of Wight and will allow the Villa to host major touring exhibitions from national museums. It will officially open in February 2014 with an exhibition from the British Museum on the theme of Roman sexuality.

The work to create the high-tech, secure space, undertaken by Island firm Stoneham Construction, began in November after the Villa was awarded over £100,000 in grant funding from bodies including Arts Council England, The Herapath Shenton Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation and the Friends of Brading Roman Villa. The project involved complex engineering as the walls were built on a suspended floor and include modular sections which can be turned or removed to accommodate different types of exhibitions. All the work had to meet the rigorous security standards specified by the British Museum.

Roman Sexuality: Images, Myths & Meanings features over fifty objects from the British Museum collection, including the world famous Warren Cup which featured recently on the BBCs ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’. In fact, this will be only the second occasion that the Warren Cup has left the British Museum. The exhibition brings together a wide variety of artefacts and images from Roman art and archaeology and investigates what they meant to those who made and used them.

The Warren Cup is a luxurious silver cup that would have been used at dinner parties. As a work of art it’s a masterpiece – its fine decoration achieved by beating the silver into shape from the inside using fine hammers and chisels. Luxuriant fabrics and musical instruments indicate a world heavily influenced by Greek culture, which the Romans admired and adopted.

So what is so special about the decoration that made it one of the British Museum’s highest profile and most controversial acquisitions? What kept the piece out of permanent museum collections until 1999 and ensured that its purchase earned it a place in all the British media? Sex.

This little cup embraces the Romans’ love of banqueting, their passion for conspicuous shows of wealth, their love of beautiful things and their skill in creating them. It also allows a glimpse into the private life of Romans, challenging our traditional view of how they lived and loved. Explicit sexual imagery is widely found in Roman art in both public and private buildings. It was an accepted feature of ancient Roman culture and was seen by all sections of society. The exhibition will run from 14th February to 4th May 2014 and will be open daily 10am-4pm.

Brading Roman Villa, Morton Old Road, Brading, Isle of Wight, PO36 0PH (For sat nav use PO36 0EN)

t: 01983 406223