Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Medieval & Renaissance Galleries at the V & A

A week or two ago I went to see the new medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V & A.   These were opened last December, after a major refurbishment, and they are stunning.   The V & A has a fantastic collection and much of it is world famous.   The objects on display in the early galleries are unbelievable for their beauty and the skill of the craftsmen who made them: delicate carvings of ivory, enamel so fine that it is translucent (the Mérode Cup), embroideries of silk and silver, bronzes, marbles, superb carvings of wood and stone, illuminated manuscrips - it is hard to know where to look first, and indeed one needs much more than one visit to see everything.

One of the most amazing and beautiful creations is the above miracle of the mediaeval goldsmith's art, the Cologne Tabernacle, decorated with enamel and ivory figures and one of only two such objects in the world.   An enamelled casket, showing the murder of Thomas a' Becket, was made to hold his relics only 20 years after he was murdered.   Then there is the Gloucester Candlestick, made for Gloucester Cathedral at the beginning of the 12th century, covered with tiny gilt metal figures of men and monsters, and again virtually unique.
The galleries themselves are excellently restored and a pleasure to wander round in.   My only minor criticism would be that the captions are very small, rather hard to read and in some cases almost impossible to find.

Upstairs there are world-renowned Renaissance statues by such artists as Donatello and Giambologna.   I didn't have time to explore properly, but I will definitely be going back.

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