Full disclosure: there are quite a few of us here at the museum who are big fans of (or mildly obsessed with) the HBO series Game of Thrones, which premiered its fourth season last night. And while you might think that it's a bit of a stretch to discuss the show here, there are actually quiteafewconnections we could make between aspects of Westeros and the museum's collection.
But we decided to start with the titular throne. The Iron Throne that Joffrey Baratheon currently sits on does not look very cozy. Made from the blades of one thousand swords, it is the seat of ultimate power, but also the seat that makes you the biggest target in Westeros. In fact, in the words of Ned Stark, "it is a monstrous uncomfortable chair. In more ways than one."
And while all thrones do indicate some kind of power, not all thrones are quite so forbidding. We took a closer look at the museum's holdings to find some examples:
This 15th-century Netherlandish print illustrates a story from the life of King Solomon, who was renowned for his wisdom. He's seated on a throne at the top of this dramatic print and judges a case case of two children, one of whom had recently died, and two women claiming to be the mother of the survivor. He threatened to divide the child between them (using the sword held by a servant at left) in order to determine the truth. With this clever ruse, he easily identified the child’s mother, who would rather her child live with another woman than be killed.
In this composition of four figures, the king is not the largest, but as the only person who is seated and crowned, he is seen as the most powerful. His senior wife stands prominently behind him, her imposing height conveying the powerful role she plays in maintaining his power. But her position behind him indicates her support for and loyalty to him. The two smaller figures represent a junior spouse and another attendant. This vertical piece would have served as an architectural embellishment in a palace and would have projected the authority, prosperity, and power of royalty.
This statuette is thought to depict Concordia, the Roman personification of harmony, one of the four principal virtues of the Roman Empire. Concordia sits on a high-backed throne and wears an ornamental headband, a long tunic tied above her waist, and a cloak, which drapes over her left shoulder and lap. The figure likely held a libation dish in her extended right hand and a cornucopia (horn of plenty) in her missing left hand.
The materials that make up this throne are a bit more atypical. The crowned Buddha is seated in the pose of meditation on a throne formed by the coils of the serpent king Muchalinda, whose own seven heads form a sheltering canopy around the figure.
If this hasn't dissuaded you from coveting the Iron Throne, you can purchase your very own replica for a mere $30,000. But a final warning from Cersei Lannister: "when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."
The Judgment of Solomon, c. 1475–1500. Netherlands. Clarence Buckingham Collection.
Olowe of Ise. Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga), 1910/14. Major Acquisitions Centennial Fund.
Statuette of an Enthroned Figure. 1st century A.D. Roman. Wirt D. Walker Endowment.
Buddha Shelttered by Muchalinda, 11th-12th century. Cambodian. Samuel M. Nickerson Endowment.
6 hours 36 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
1 day 1 hour ago The Art Institute of Chicago OCTOBER 28–29: Join us for a live performance with artist Kemang Wa Lehulere, marking the opening of his first American museum exhibition, In All My Wildest Dreams.
Six performances to choose from; free with museum admission.