Greek Tragedy and Gladiators at The Guildhall Art Gallery

First opening its doors in 1886  to display the City of London’s ever expanding collection of art, the Guildhall Art Gallery made a massive discovery just over a century later (102 years later to be precise) when London’s Roman Amphitheatre was *finally* uncovered below the Guildhall Yard.

I say “*finally*” because people – and by “people” I mean archaeologists and suchlike – had been looking for it for a very long time. How could an entire amphitheatre just disappear? I’ve heard a rumour they spent a lot of time looking in the wrong places (adding ‘circus’ to the areas where they thought it could have been, so sources say) so when it finally popped up, it was a bit of a surprise for everyone.

But back to the Art…

The Gallery’s first Director, Alfred Temple described the paintings as “A collection of Art Treasures worthy of the capital city”. I found this quote very interesting because at this time, there were quite a few decent art galleries knocking around London. It became all the more interesting when one reads in the leaflet that the Guildhall’s gallery was inspired by similar galleries in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

It seems that London’s art superiority complex has been around for a while. I wonder if that will ever go away?

Greek Tragedy

Clytemnestra by John Collier
Clytemnestra by John Collier

I came to the Guildhall looking for a portrait of a specific Killer Queen. Tragically, I had got my London Galleries mixed up and the murderous monarch I was after is actually hanging in Tate Britain. However, unlike Agamemnon as he was taking his bath,  I was pleasantly surprised to find an axe-wielding Clytemnestra .

Clytemnestra is one of my favourite characters in Greek Mythology (beaten only by Medea because DRAGONS make all your arguments null and void) but I seem to remember her using a sword rather than an axe…

Although I liked the picture, I don’t agree with the rather “mad and vacant” expression Collier has given Clytemnestra. She had her reasons and managed to explain them all to the Chorus. If anything, she was slightly turned on by the killing…


Having looked at Drama, I now draw your attention to that other Ancient form of entertainment; Gladiators.

The Guildhall, as I mentioned above, discovered it was the home of London’s Amphitheatre back in 1988 and created a way for you to visualise the scale of the structure without having to dig up and possibly damage what remained of it.

The results look a little bit like the film Tron, which makes it kind of amazing.

London Roman Amphitheatre
London Roman Amphitheatre
London's Roman Amphitheatre
London’s Roman Amphitheatre



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