05 December 2009

From the gardens of kings and merchant princes


Sculpture: The Rape of Prosperino by Vincenzo de Rossi, c.1565.

It took me a while, but I’m back in London.  After a year mostly occupied with bureaucratic wrangling with the benighted UKBA, I’ve now been back in the capital for nearly two weeks.  A work permit is lodged firmly in my ageing passport, and now I’m searching for a place to live and a job to keep me busy. 

In the meantime, while those endeavours do occupy the majority of my time, I’ve also been able to delve back into some of the fondly-remembered habits of London life.  Perhaps my diet will suffer somewhat from the reintroduction of the evil but very tasty Greggs’ cheese and onion pasties and the woefully anti-nutritious but highly addictive raspberry-iced doughnuts from Tesco, which bear a strong but no doubt not legally actionable similarity to the one in the logo for The Simpsons Movie.  And while there’s been a spot of bother for book chain-stores, with Borders and their subsidiary Books Etc closing down recently, I was glad to see that music retailers HMV and Fopp are still going strong.

Another major drawcard of London life is the fantastic range of museums and galleries on offer, and naturally I’ve touched on that subject before.  One opportunity that came to my attention this week was the reopening of the medieval and Renaissance galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington: a ‘£31.7m suite of 10 new galleries occupying an entire wing’ with ‘more than 1,800 ravishing objects’, according to the Guardian.  Perhaps too many literal interpretations of Monty Python and the Holy Grail have convinced the world that the Middle Ages were uniformly drowned in waist-deep mud, so the V&A was keen to rebrand the period as a time that boasted lavish ornamentation and luxurious artworks, albeit only for the wealthy and privileged minority.       

In keeping with an expensive project that took seven years to complete, the end results achieve the same sort of quality as can be seen in the groundbreaking Great Court redevelopment of the British Museum.  And the treasures on display are, predictably, rather stunning - a fitting contribution to commemorate the artistic endeavours of a misremembered age.



L & R: Sculpture gallery


L: “Mine’s a lager!” - The Angel Gabriel from the Annunciation, c.1415-50; R: The Brixen Altarpiece, Rupert Potsch & Philipp Diemer, c.1500-10



Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, c.1490-3



L: Bust of Giovanni Chellini by Antonio Rossellino, 1456; R: Two Angels by Tilman Riemenschneider, c.1505



L: ‘The Burghley Nef’ salt cellar (silver-gilded nautilus shell), c.1527-8; R: Bust of Niccolo Sirigatti, 1576



L: Virgin & child, by Carlo Crivelli, c.1480; R: 19th century cast of a Renaissance sculpture, in front of the facade of Sir Paul Pindar’s London house, c.1600

Stitched Panorama


Further reading:

V&A - New medieval and Renaissance galleries

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