Treasures of the British Museum

Treasures of the British Museum

'Tara', 8th Century

Our new release of the week is on the 8th Century statue of the Buddhist goddess Tara who is brought to life by teacher Helen Oakden. This statue is one of the most beautiful objects on display in the British Museum and represents Tara, who was the consort (like a wife) to Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva. Find out what the job of a bodhisattva was and how this statue of Tara was seen to symbolise compassion by watching our short film here. 

British Museum's secret museum

When Tara was first brought to the British Museum in the 1830s, the sculpture was kept in storage for 30 years, because it was seen to be too daring for public view. From 1865 onwards, Tara was placed in a secret part of the museum, (known as the Secretum), along with 200 other objects deemed offensive. This secret part of the museum was strictly for "gentlemen only", who needed to demonstrate ‘mature years and sound morals’ in order to gain entry. Tara wasn’t placed on full display until the 1960s. 


British Museum engraving from 19th Century. Learn more about the Secretum - a secret part of the museum where objects such as the bronze statue Tara were kept.

Don't Miss

Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic at the British Museum traces the subject of female spiritual beings across global faiths and cultures. Not surprisingly, Tara plays a key role in this exhibition, alongside other less welcoming representations of female power. A figure you would not want to cross is the gorgon Medusa, who would turn onlookers to stone. This terracotta face from 500BC was placed on buildings to ward off evil forces. 

Terracotta gorgon featured in British Museum exhibition Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic.

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