When H said ‘yes’ to my idea of a day trip to London while he attends to his business in the Southeast, the first thing that came to mind was a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum.
We have been going backwards and forwards to England (as normal for someone with an English husband) but never have I set foot in this museum that I have heard so much about. It has been, for ages, in my “list-of-London-places-to-visit” and it’s about time I see it!
The publicity poster at the South Kensington station
So off to the museum we went on that grey Thursday morning. H (yes, he insisted that he must go, too!), SIL (sister in law) and myself arrived at the tunnel gate at about 11am. A bit peckish after a train ride and 3 tube connections, we proceeded to the V&A café for some coffee and biscuit fix before starting the museum tour.
I must say that sitting in the elegant V&A café was the most pleasant moment of the entire visit! Imagine sitting there like the nobility, enjoying your coffee and mouthwatering tea biscuits ….
…while getting mesmerized at the stunning rooms, ornate decors, museum-like artworks from ceiling to floor! And it doesn’t need digging deep into your pocket! For the three of us, the 3 GBP per person is a give-away.
While ambling between sculptures, I can’t help but notice through the windows the impressive Renaissance style facade of the building that surrounds a vast square courtyard.
It is called the Terrcota facade because it was constructed in modern, industrially produced materials: red brick and terracotta.
When I saw this spot (center of the photo) with the steel tables and chairs, I immediately recognized it as the location of a scene in “Last Chance Harvey” (2008), a light romantic film featuring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. That was where the “still-getting-to-know-each-other-romantically” pair talked until dawn, exchanged a gentle kiss then agreed to meet at the same place that noon but Harvey (Dustin) failed to show up because he was suddenly rushed to the hospital after a bout of heart palpitations and Kate (Emma) exasperatedly thought he jilted her.
One of the lavishly tiled staircases.
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Let’s start a quick museum tour from the Medieval Galleries. The descriptive captions for each artwork shown here were taken from the museum’s online records.
The Virgin and Child with Angels, About 1510 – 15
Lower Austria, painted and glided limewood
This group was probably part of an altarpiece. The flowing drapery and the dynamic flying poses of the two small angels and the infant Jesus all contribute to its vitality. Christ holds a pomegranate, a symbol of the resurrection.
The Adoration of the Magi, About 1510 – 20
Austria, Tyrol, painted and gilded pine
The three wise men offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrhh to the infant Christ, who sits on the lap of the Virgin while St Joseph watches intently from behind her.
The Entombment, About 1500, Northern France
Painted and gilded oak
The relief consists of nine pieces of wood joined together with several small wooden dowels and it shows Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea placing the body of Our Lord in the tomb, around which are gathered the Virgin, St. John the Evangelist and the three Maries.
The Virgin with the Dead Christ, About 1370 – 1400, Probably England
“…. The wound of Christ show traces of colour, the lower part of the figure is slightly worm-eaten.”
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, About 1510 – 15
Glazed and painted terracotta, Florence, Italy
Sunna by John Michael Rysbrack, About 1728-1730
Sunna is from a unique series of Saxon gods that Lord Cobham commissioned for his gardens at Stowe. Each Saxon god is traditionally associated with a day of the week, and Sunna represents Sunday.
Neptune and Triton by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, About 1622-1623
This work by the great Italian sculptor Bernini was one of the most celebrated sights in Rome. It shows Neptune, god of the seas, with his son Triton who was a merman. It was sold in 1786 and taken to England.
Turban Ornament, enamelled gold, Jaipur, 1st half of the 19th century
This turban ornament from the Royal Treasury depicting a peacock shows how Jaipur was considered to be the supreme center of enamelling in India. In Jaipur, the court remained the largest and most important purchaser of enamels in traditional form.
Wish-Fulfilling cow (Kamadhenu), About 1900-50
Painted wood, Tamil Nadu
In Hindu mythology, a Kamadhenu is a miraculous cow who can give her owner whatever he desires. This example is a hybrid creature, with the body of a cow and the head of a woman, the wings of an eagle and the tail of a peacock. It is used in the great street processions performed during south Indian temple festivals
The Hindu God Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, 1100-1200, Chola Period
Copper alloy, South India (Tamil Nadu)
Holes in the base show that this image was carried in procession. It depicts the great Hindu god Shiva performing a wild dance of creation and destruction. In his hands are a drum as symbol of creation and a flame as the element by which the universe will be destroyed. An aureole of flames represent the life of the universe. Underfoot lies the dwarf of ignorance.
Part of a relief of the Buddha’s death (Parinirvana), 100-200, Kushan Period
Schist, Gandhara, Northwest Pakistan
By the Buddha”s bedside four disciples are grieving. One disciple comforts the Buddha’s companion and protector, Vajrapani, whose thunderbolt has fallen to the ground. A fifth disciple, possibly the last convert, Subhadra, meditates. A water bottle hangs on a tripod next to the bed. Such overt expressions of emotions derive from the late Hellenistic tradition, which strongly influence Gandharan art
Mantua or court dress, 1740 – 1745
Silk embroidered with coloured silk and silver thread
This mantua and petticoat represent the grandest style of court dress. The skirt made it necessary for the wearer to go sideways through the door but had the advantage of displaying a large area of lavish decoration. Botanically accurate flowers were a feature of Rococo embroidery patterned silks and printed textiles of the 1740s and 1750s in England
George III, Prince of Wales in a Rococo frame, about 1751
This is one of the most elaborate English carved Rococo frames to survive. The exceptionally bold carving features animals, scrolls and foliage typical of the Rococo style as well as military trophies.
The 11-metre high, blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly at the V&A’s grand entrance.
….each separate glass element of the V&A Rotunda Chandelier was either free-blown, or was mould-blown into ribbed moulds. Each element is coated inside with polyurethane adhesive and was tied on individually with stainless steel wire to an armature welded from steel rod. A team of six started wiring on from bottom to top and took over five days to complete the work.
Netsuke, Octopus, between 1700 – 1870
(about 1 inch in height)
Traditional Japanese costume had no pockets so everyday objects such as seals, tobacco and medicine were carried in pouches or boxes. These were hung from a cord which passed behind the wide belt (obi). The netsuke was tied to the other end to prevent it from slipping down and allowing the pouch or box to fall. Netsuke were often worn with the miniature medicine containers called inro.
Eve listening to the voice, 1842
Marble, by Baily, Edward Hodges, born 1788 – died 1867 (sculptor)
This figure depicts Eve listening to the voice of Satan in the Garden of Eden, a subject probably inspired by John Milton’s religious epic poem Paradise Lost (1667 )
Peasant woman nursing a baby, Aimé Jules-Dalou, 1873
The Prodigal Son, Auguste Rodin, About 1885 – 1887
Two plaques located on a wall in the garden commemorating Henry Cole’s* dog Jim and another ‘faithful dog’ Tycho.
* Sir Henry Cole (1808–82) was the first Director of the South Kensington Museum, renamed the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1899.
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Above are just few of the tens of thousand pieces displayed over four floors, in 11 kilometres of galleries, which include paintings, photography, furniture, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, glass, silverware and architecture. A day tour is simply not enough and I shall return and spend an entire day to see more of it…and another entire day for some more…
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Some facts about the V&A:
– entrance is free except for the special exhibits
– photography is allowed except in the Jewellery Galleries and those rooms that specifically prohibits it
-cloakroom facility is free
– there’s a canteen especially reserved for eating your home-prepared food, free access
Next in “A Pinay in Europe”: The Natural History Museum