Press Releases

Free Lunchtime Talk — The Emperor's Terrapin

National Museum Cardiff, 28 June 2006

Sheila Canby, Curator of the Islamic Collection at the British Museum will be giving a fascinating insight to the Emperor's Terrapin, a unique piece of sculpture currently on show at National Museum Cardiff as part of a British Museum UK Partnership Project, on Wednesday 28 June at 1.05 pm.

The terrapin was brought to the UK from Allahabad in northern India, after it was found at the bottom of a water cistern during engineering works, and now takes pride of place as part of the British Museum's collection.

Thought to date from the time of the crown prince Selim, who later became the emperor Jahangir, reigning from 1605-27, the carved jade terrapin could have been created as an ornament for the garden pools at the royal palaces. The prince is known to have been interested in natural phenomena and also patronised jade carvers.

The terrapin itself is one of the world's largest carvings from a single piece of jade, and measures 48.5 cm long and 20 cm high. It is extremely lifelike in appearance, with its head slightly off-centre giving it the appearance of slowly moving forward. Identified as Kachuga dhongaka, this species is native to the river Yamuna, which meets the river Ganges at Allahabad.

Today, the Emperor Terrapin is celebrated as an intricate piece of Indian fine-carving, which has survived for four hundred years, but when first brought to Britain, the terrapin was exhibited within the British Museum's Mineral Gallery, and was more valued as a large piece of jade.

The Terrapin is currently on tour around major UK venues and can be seen at National Museum Cardiff until 6 August.

Family activities take place from 22 July until 6 August. The Emperor's Terrapin workshops are a chance to learn more about the terrapin's journey from northern India to the British Museum, and then to make your own artwork to take home. Galleries at National Museum Cardiff are currently being redeveloped and renovated. Some galleries will be shut to the public temporarily while building work is taking place. The museum remains open to the public throughout the refurbishment, with a diverse public programme of exhibitions, displays and events during 2006 and throughout our Centenary in 2007.

For more details on our centenary, go to our 07 pages. For day–to–day enquiries regarding the galleries, please call (029) 2039 7951. The refurbishment programme is supported with additional funding by the Welsh Assembly Government Free entry to all the national museums is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government. Spaces to all lunchtime talks are limited. Please book on arrival.