PrincessaPetra x Manchester Tiara by Cartier @ The V&A Museum, London
Hello, my Imperial Unicorns!!! 💜👑💜
Welcome to my fabulous Royal Endeavors episode dedicated to one of the greatest museums I have ever visited – The Victoria and Albert Museum – which happens to be the world largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing an impressive permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects – it is absolutely free, perfectly outstanding and moreover, located in my new favorite city in the world, London – my darling!
The V&A was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as “Albertopolis” because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, which will be the subject of yet another fascinating Royal Endeavors, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Like other national British museums, entrance to the museum has been free since 2001.
Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewelry, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
The museum owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include Art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western World. Overall, it is one of the largest museums in the world.
Prince Albert’s wish was to create a museum that would improve British industry by displaying works of art and design to educate and inspire designers, manufacturers and the public. Today, many of the UK’s national collections are housed at the V&A, alongside some of the most outstanding examples of architecture, fashion, painting, textiles and theatre and performance works.
London SW7 2RL
Daily: 10.00 – 17.45
Friday: 10.00 – 22.00
Admission to the V&A is free
+44 (0)20 7942 2000
As the duration of our presence at V&A was extremely limited for that particular day, during which we have visited not less than 3 museums, I have decided to visit the Renaissance, Jewelry and Silverware collections, which were astonishing. There is so much beauty to be admired in the vast art repertoire of V&A that I would like to take my time someday to enjoy and digest plentifully all of its amazing grace. I do believe my pictures speak louder than words, therefore I feel confident in exposing 20 treasures to be observed in the collection as featured in one of the museum’s brochures available for visitors, treasures which represent some of its most precious, famous and intriguing highlights, providing a taste of the exceptional and diverse collection of the V&A. Although I didn’t have the chance to enjoy any of them this time around, I will not reveal their beauty with photographs I did not take but enchant you with nothing but the real Magic seen through my own eyes. However, I do find it useful to provide all information I have gathered in case you would prefer to have a less spontaneous visit, and I am linking each of the treasures to the official picture available on the V&A site. I am looking forward to visiting London again to fulfill my strong desire of absorbing the Splendor of these wonderful masterpieces and enhancing my vision with so much Beauty. Enjoy with Joy!
The Raphael Cartoons, about 1515-16
Room 48a, Level 1
On loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
When Leo X became pope in 1513, he commissioned a set of tapestry designs to contribute to the ornate decoration of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He chose Raphael as the designer, who was already considered a great artist of the time and was working on the decoration of the Vatican Palace. The cartoons show episodes from the Acts of the Apostles – the lives of St Peter and St Paul, founders of the Christian Church.
The tapestries made from Raphael’s designs vary slightly: the images are reversed and some of the colours are different. They were woven over 1000 miles from Rome, in Brussels between 1516 and 1521. The Low Countries had been an important Centre for cloth-weaving since the early 14th century. The cartoons were sent there and sliced into large strips to make templates for the weavers to use. Although they were reassembled in the 17th century, today the joins are still faintly visible.
Betel Nut Container, 1780-1885
Room 47a, Level 1
Given by the Government of Burma, pp H.E.U. HIa Manly,
Ambassador of Burma, London
The bird-shaped box is designed to hold betel, a mild drug like tobacco used throughout Asia. Traditionally made from Areca nuts and lime wrapped in a leaf from the betel tree, betel was offered as a mark of Respect during ceremonies. For centuries, most households kept equipment for its preparation.
The box represents a sacred bird or hintha. It is special because it formed part of the Royal regalia of Burma (now Myanmar). These richly decorated and valuable ceremonial objects, symbolizing the power of the Burmese monarchy, belonged to King Thibaw, the last King of Burma. When the British overthrew King Thibaw, the regalia was seized and brought to England. It was displayed in the Museum from 1890 until 1964, when it was returned to Myanmar. As a gesture of friendship and thanks, the Myanmar government gave the container back to Britain. It has remained at the V&A ever since.
Evening Coat, 1937
Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973)
Room 40, Level 1
Given by the American Friends of the V&A
Witty and elegant, this evening coat is typical of the designs of Italian-born Elsa Schiaparelli, who ran a highly successful Couture house in Paris in the 1920s and ‘30s. In 1931 she opened a branch in London which was patronized by flamboyant clients like Viscountess Doris Castlerosse. A prominent socialite of the time, the Viscountess ordered the coat from Schiaparelli’s autumn 1937 Collection.
The design was embroidered by the leading Parisian workshop Lesage, following a drawing by the French artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. He was one of many key Surrealist artists with whom Schiaparelli collaborated. The vase holding the roses that adorn the shoulders is made up of two faces in profile, their lips puckered are ready to kiss. The double image was a recurring motif for Cocteau and other Surrealist artists, including Salvador Dali. Schiaparelli herself once wrote: ‘Dress designing… is to me not a profession but an art.’
Tipu’s Tiger, about 1793
Room 41, Level 1
Tipu’s Tiger is seen as symbol of the strength of its owner, Tipu Sultan. Tipu was ruler of Mysore in south India from 1782 to 1799. A powerful leader, he fought back against attacks on his kingdom from the British East India Company. The Tiger was Tipu’s personal emblem – he had many of his possessions decorated with tiger designs, including his throne. This almost life-sized model shows a Tiger devouring an European enemy. A handle on the side of its body can be turned to work a mechanical organ hidden inside, which makes the sound of the growling animal and cries of its victim.
Tipu was defeated by the British in 1799, and this tiger was taken from his palace and brought to London. It was exhibited in the East India Company’s museum where it became a favorite with visitors. Moved to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1879, it continues to intrigue.
The Ardabil Carpet, 1539-40
Islamic Middle East, The Jameel Gallery
Room 42, Level 1
The Ardabil Carpet is one of the world’s most significant carpets, important for the quality of its design and craftsmanship, as well as its history. It was woven over 400 years ago for a shrine in north-west Iran. The carpet was then sold in the late 19th century, possibly to fund urgent building repairs to the shrine. It can be dated exactly thanks to an inscription in Persian woven at one end, which contains the date ‘946’ from the Muslim calendar, equivalent to 1539 to 1540.
The dramatic medallion design at the center of the carpet forms part of a repeated pattern, with quarter medallions in each of the four corners.
Two hanging lamps in the middle recall the original Sacred context of the carpet – the Ardabil shrine. The designer William Morris recommended the Museum purchase the carpet in 1893, describing it as ‘by far the finest Eastern carpet which I have seen.’
The Mazarin Chest, about 1640
Japan, The Toshiba Gallery
Room 45, Level 1
The Mazarin Chest is made from black lacquered wood with lavish gold and silver lacquer decoration. Some of Japan’s most highly skilled craftsmen worked on chests like these, which were made specifically for export to the West. During the 17th century wealthy Europeans developed a taste for these exotic luxury goods and displayed them as symbols of status and power.
The chest is named after the Mazarin family. One of its first owners was Jules Mazarin, a famous French Statesman and Catholic Cardinal. After his death it was handed down through his family. In 1800 William Beckford, an eccentric English novelist and avid collector of Japanese lacquer, bought the chest. Beckford later fell into debt and had to sell large parts of his collection. Eventually the V&A was able to buy the chest in 1882 for the then enormous sum of £772.
Samson Slaying a Philistine, 1560-62
Medieval & Renaissance, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery
Room 50a, Level 1
Purchased with Art Fund Support
The artist Giovanni Bologna, known as Giambologna, was admired for the sense of action and movement in his sculptures. Here Samson wields a jawbone to strike a Philistine, in a scene from the Bible’s Old Testament. His muscles are tautly drawn and he looks down over his shoulder at his victim, raising his right arm for the deadly blow. The dramatic pose was based on a composition by Michelangelo.
The sculpture was commissioned in Florence by Prince Francesco de’ Medici, a member of the ruling Medici dynasty known for their patronage of the arts in Italy. It came to London in 1623 and rapidly became the most famous Italian sculpture in England. It is considered to be the most important group sculpture by Giambologna outside Italy. The sculpture’s spiraling, interconnected bodies mean it has no single viewpoint. It’s visual appeal and technical skill have challenged and inspired artists for centuries.
The Gloucester Candlestick, commissioned between 1107 and 1113
Medieval & Renaissance, The William & Eileen Ruddock Gallery
Room 8, Level 0
The candlestick is a unique example of the skill of Medieval English goldsmiths. No other example of English metalwork as technically and artistically complex survives from this time. Analysis has shown that it was cast from a mixture of precious metals, possibly from a hoard of coins melted down and recycled.
The candlestick was probably used to light an altar. Unusually, it bears inscriptions in Latin that refer to its history and religious symbolism. Once states that ‘Abbot Peter’ presented it to the church of St Peter in Gloucester. Another reads:
‘This floor is light, this work of virtue, bright with holy doctrine instructs us, so that Man shall not be benighted in vice.’
The figures decorating the intricate candlestick climb up towards symbols of the four Evangelists around the middle of the stem, and the candle-holder at the top. They embody those who strive to follow the light of Christ’s teachings, represented by the burning candle.
The Forster Codices, about 1487-97, 1505
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Medieval & Renaissance, The Wolfson Gallery
Room 64, Level 2
Bequeathed by John Forster
An artist, draftsman, inventor and philosopher, Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions to society were numerous and can still be felt today. Throughout his lifetime he kept dozens of notebooks which he used to record his thoughts and ideas on a huge variety of subjects, raging from architecture to anatomy and philosophy. Five of these notebooks are now in the V&A Collection, bound in three volumes or ‘codices’.
The notebooks are written in Leonardo’s famous ‘mirror writing’. There has been much speculation over the years about why he used this method of writing. Was he trying to make sure that only he could read his notes? Or was it that he was left-handed and found it easier to write from right to left? Writing masters of the period taught mirror writing, so it might not have seemed as strange during Leonardo’s time as it does today.
Winged Head I, 1962
Stanislav Libensky (1921-2002) and Jaroslava Brychtova (born 1924)
Room 131, Level 4
The harmony between shape, color and light in Winged Head I is typical of sculptural works by the husband and wife team Libensky and Brychtova. They were among the first to explore the sculptural potential of glass, previously seen as a predominantly decorative material. The couple worked in post-war Czechoslovakia where glass art developed strong traditions. The death of Stalin in 1953 heralded a period of relative freedom and tolerance, allowing their new kind of glass sculpture to flourish. Winged Head I represents the couple’s journey towards abstraction.
The more painterly Libensky would draw the designs which Brychtova would translate into clay models. She made plaster moulds from these models and filled them with crushed glass to be fused in a hot kiln. By varying the thickness of the form, the couple could control the intensity of the color and translucency of the glass. The pair are widely considered the greatest innovators of 20th century art glass.
The Heneage Jewel, about 1595
Jewelry, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery
Room 93, Level 3
Given by the Rt. Hon. Viscount Wakefield CBE, through Art Fund
The Heneage Jewel is decorated with a detailed profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) in gold. It is one of the finest jewels to have survived from her reign. On the reverse is an image of a boat sailing peacefully on stormy seas – intended to represent the Church of England weathering religious turmoil, steered by Elizabeth.
The ‘jewel’ is actually a locket. The inside is set with a miniature of Elizabeth painted by Nicholas Hilliard (1537-1619), an eminent artist of the Elizabethan era. The Queen’s favorites among her courtiers included Sir Thomas Heneage, who was a Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.
They exchanged gifts throughout their friendship, probably including this miniature. Heneage may have had the surrounding locket made later to show his devotion to the Queen. An inscription inside praises Elizabeth’s virtue and beauty.
An interactive in the gallery called ‘Hidden Treasures’ shows the inside of the locket.
The First Folio, 1623
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Theatre & Performance
Room 106, Level 3
The Theatre & Performance galleries display a copy of the first collected edition of the works of William Shakespeare. Published in 16/3, seven years after his death, the First Folio contains 36 of the 37 plays Shakespeare wrote. Without this book, 18 of his plays – including Julius Caesar and Macbeth – would never have been known, as none of Shakespeare’s original manuscripts have survived.
The First Folio was compiled by John Heminges and Henry Condell. They were two members of The King’s Men, the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged. The pair divided the plays into comedies, tragedies and histories. This was an editorial decision that has shaped the world’s understanding of Shakespeare’s work ever since.
The folio also contains an engraved portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout (1601-50), one of the few authentic images of the writer to exist. It is thought that 750 First Folios were printed, but so far only about 235 copies are known to survive today.
Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, 1430-50
Tapestries, Room 94, Level 3 and
Medieval & Renaissance, the Francoise and Georges Selz Gallery, Room 10a, Level 0
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax payable on the estate of the 10th Dule of Devonshire and allocated to the V&A
The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries are four intricately designed large wall hangings. Tapestries were expensive and highly sought after during the medieval and Renaissance periods, but very few of this scale and quality survive. The examples in the V&A were owned and preserved by the Dukes of Devonshire for centuries at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.
These tapestries were probably made in Arras in modern-day France. The town was known for supplying the courts of France and Burgundy with magnificent wall hangings to decorate and insulate palaces and castles. Their imagery also provided entertainment and interest, depicting well-known stories from the Bible and mythology, as well as universal themes like love and war. The Devonshire Tapestries show the popular courtly pastime of hunting. The scenes in Room 94 depict falconry and hunts of deer, swans and otters. Ferocious boar and bear are hunted in Room 10a.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Ground, 1823
John Constable (1776-1837)
Paintings, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery
Room 87, Level 3
Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857
Dr John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury, was Constable’s friend and patron.
He commissioned this painting and is shown in its bottom-left corner with his wife, admiring Salisbury Cathedral.
Constable found the cathedral difficult to paint, laboring over its architectural detail, but he enjoyed the play of light and shadow in the scene. Fisher however complained of the ‘dark cloud’, preferring ‘a clear blue sky.’
Today Constable is one of the nation’s best-loved artists. This painting embodies his fresh, naturalistic view of the British landscape. But two years before he painted it, he wrote to Fisher: ‘I shall never be a popular artist.’ It was only after Constable’s death that he became widely appreciated. This work was part of a collection of paintings given to the Museum in 1857 by John Sheepshanks to found a ‘National Gallery of British Art’. The gift formed the basis of the V&A paintings collection.
Club Armchair, designed 1925-26
Marcel Breuer (1902-81)
Furniture, The Dr. Susan Weber Gallery
Room 133, Level 6
Supported by Friend of the V&A
The Club Armchair in tubular steel is one of the most important and popular designs of the 20th century. It was created by the Hungarian designer Marcel Breuer when he started to teach at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany. The armchair is the first example of steel tubing used for indoor domestic furniture. Its radical design has become a symbol of the Modernist movement.
The inspiration for the chair came from the lightness and strength of Breuer’s bicycle. He worked with a plumber to bend lengths of tubular steel into a chair frame. Club armchairs were traditionally very heavy and upholstered. Breuer’s design was lightweight in comparison and the components of the chair seem to float in space.
Breuer’s fellow Bauhaus teachers, including the artist Wassily Kandinsky, were some of the chair’s earliest admirers. When it was manufactured again in the 1960s, the model was dubbed the ‘Wassily’.
‘Cavalier sur sa Monture’ (Mounted Cavalier), 1950-51
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Studio Ceramics, The Lydia And Manfred Gorvy Gallery
Room 142, Level 6
One of the most influential artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso’s work spans artistic media. At the age of 65 he turned his attention to ceramics. Around this time, Picasso moved from Paris to the south of France where he visited the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris and met its owners, Suzanne and Georges Ramie. They welcomed him into their workshop and he began to produce ceramics on a prolific scale. He decorated hundreds of plates with unique painted or incised designs, sometimes adding decoration in relief. He also had ceramic forms specially made for him by the potter Jules Agard, which he decorated in a similar way.
Picasso’s ceramics are often playful, depicting animals, myths or human figures, like this pitcher in the form of a mounted cavalier. When these vibrant pieces, influenced by the Mediterranean sources, were first shown in Britain in the 1950s, they inspired a new generation of potters.
The Three Graces, 1814-17
Antonio Canova (1757-1822)
Room 119, Level 9
Purchased jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, John Paul Getty II, Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Art Fund and numerous donations from members of the public
The Three Graces were the daughters of the Greek God Zeus. Thalia represents Youth and Beauty, Euphrosyne Mirth and Aglaia, Was Elegance. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, sculpture depicting subjects from Greek and Roman mythology was considered the finest form of European art. Antonio Canova was the leading artist of his day in Europe. Like others, he was inspired by antique art, and he used it to create and perfect his own style – today often referred to as Neo-classical.
The 6th Duke of Bedford commissioned this marble group sculpture after seeing another version in Canova’s studio in Rome. The earlier piece was made for Napoleon’s estranged wife Josephine and is now in the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Canova created this second version for the Duke to house in a specially-built Temple of the Graces at his home, Woburn Abbey.
The Great Bed of Ware, about 1590
Room 57, Level 2
Purchased with Art Fund Support
The Great Bed of Ware has been famous from the time it was made in the 1590s. Shakespeare knew of it and mentioned it in his play Twelfth Night in 1601. Since then, it has become the subject of many humorous tales about the potential goings-on inside such an enormous bed. A visitor to Ware once described the bed as so big that ‘four couples might comfortably lie side by side’.
Although it is not an outstanding example of design, and has bern damaged and repaired over the years, the V&A bought the bed in 1931 as a cultural icon. Its style is typical of flamboyantly carved beds of the late Elizabethan period, and the figures in the headboard would originally have been brightly painted. It is thought the bed was made for a coaching inn at Ware. The town was one day’s journey north from London and the extraordinary bed could have been used to attract customers.
Europe 1600-1815, The Friends of the V&A Gallery
Room 5, Level 0
By the 17th century, European men wore loose-fitting gowns instead of formal close-fitting suits when at home or while entertaining friends or business associates. These banyans were made of different fabrics according to the needs and taste of the wearer. Wool provided warmth while patterned linens, cottons and silks were colorful fashion statements. The silk of the banyan was one of the most expensive and luxurious choices. Merchants’ records listed such patterned silks as ‘bed damasks’, suggesting that they may originally have been intended for furnishings.
The style and naming of banyans were the result of increasing trade links between Europe and Asia. The cut is based on the Japanese kimono, its silk is from China and the term ‘banyan’ – in use by the 1720s – comes from the Gujarati word for a merchant or trader. The wearer of the striking and rare example is not know, but many artists and aspiring intellectuals favored being shown in these exotic garments in their portraits.
The Serilly Cabinet, 1778
Europe 1600-1815, The Wolfson Gallery
Room 2, Level 0
The Museum purchased the cabinet, or garden room, as an exceptional example of the Neo-Classical style of decoration fashionable in 1770s Paris. It was designed for Madame de Serilly, the 16-years-old bride of the Paymaster General to the French army. His family owned the Hotel Serilly in the Marais district of Paris.
The tiny room was attached to the main house of the hotel, but could only be accessed from the garden. Whether or not this allowed Madame de Serilly to escape her in-laws and older husband, the garden room was intended as a private retreat for the young woman.
Sadly, financial difficulties forced the family to give up their townhouse only four years after the cabinet was completed. When it was dismantled and sold to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1869, it became the first of several ‘period rooms’ the Museum acquired.
These being said, please accommodate yourself with my Royal Appearance at the V&A and have a delightful taste of my vision speaking words of wisdom through the ‘lense’ of my iPhone. I will soon return with fabulous insights from the British Museum and Natural History Museum – one spectacular building which both impressed and fascinated me with its outstanding exhibits, from dinosaurs to meteorites. I promise the upcoming journeys to be rather short as I am encouraging you to pursue the road to knowledge by yourselves and experience everything London has to offer through your own six senses.
Your Majestic Highness,
The Spiritual Goddess,
Queen P Supreme