Magna Carta coming to LACMA for a fortnight during BritWeek


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Four years ahead of its 800th anniversary, the Magna Carta is coming to Los Angeles.

From April 26 to May 11, this aged piece of parchment will reside in the European galleries of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in conjunction with the annual BritWeek celebration of the cultural connections between Great Britain and L.A.

When it comes to Magna Cartas, one needs to look at the fine print, so to speak -- and we’re not talking about the page full of Latin that delineates limits on royal power that King John agreed to at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.


There are Magna Cartas from 1215, 1217, 1225 and 1297; in all, 17 copies are known to exist. Each edition reflected changes in the political equation in England, leading to revisions. The one coming to LACMA is a 1217 Magna Carta that belongs to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

For more on the twists and travels of the Magna Carta, click here to read the Calendar story.

There’s a bit of irony in the Magna Carta as an attraction at a Los Angeles art museum.

It calls to mind another L.A. art museum’s much-decried abandonment of another monumental written document. That was the Leicester Codex, Leonardo Da Vinci’s treatise on the properties of water. The Hammer Museum auctioned it in 1994, and Bill Gates bought it for $30.8 million. One of the excuses given for that questionable use of traditions of economic freedom traceable to the Magna Carta was that the Hammer is an art museum, and the Codex -– stocked with illustrations by its author, an artist of some repute – was, after all, merely a work of science rather than a work of art.

-- Mike Boehm


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Treasures in Full (British Library Magna Carta site)

Oxford’s Bodleian library holds a quarter of the world’s Magna Cartas

Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta

The Da Vinci codex versus the museum code

Photos from top: Magna Carta of 1217; Leonardo Da Vinci’s Leicester Codex. Credits: Bodleian Library; Christie’s.