Ella Ravilious

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Alfred Percival Maudslay and the V&A


Albumen print from a gelatin dry plate negative

These striking photographs caught my eye recently, as I don’t normally come across material relating to the Maya in the Photographs Collection. Research showed me they were taken by Alfred Percival Maudslay (1850-1931), a British colonial diplomat, explorer and archaeologist who was one of the first modern archeologists to study the Mayan civilization. He began his career working for the […]

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Gertrude Bell and Hatra, Iraq


Photograph depicting a detail of a lintel in room 10 of the summer palace at Hatra, Iraq.

Here at the V&A we have recently found a small number of photographs taken by the writer, archaeologist, and political administrator Gertrude Bell. These came to light when the recent destruction of Iraqi cultural sites prompted us to look through our collection to discover if we had any images of the places which have been damaged or destroyed. These photographs show […]

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Impractical shoes


To mark the opening of our wonderful ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ exhibition, I’d like to share with you these photographs, which came to light as part of my ongoing research into the historic reference photographs we have here at the V&A. These images show shoes in the collection of the Musée de Cluny in Paris. […]

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Views of Norway

V&A: 685-1918 (detail)Photograph of a view of Gejrangerfjord, Søndmør (Norway), taken by  Axel Lindahl

Around a year ago I received some visitors from the Norsk Folkemuseum near Oslo. Ahead of their visit I searched through our photographs collection to see what images we had which related to Norway, ready to show our guests. I was pleased to find we had some very beautiful 19th century photographs of Norwegian landscapes and […]

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“Faithful not fawning”, the woodcarving of Harry Hems

The motto outside Harry Hems' workshop

While moving a store of photographs recently here at the V&A, I came across rather an intriguing character. What led me to him was a box of 19th century photographs of ecclesiastical carvings; we have many hundreds of photographs of woodwork and stonework from religious buildings from around the world in the collection, but what caught my […]

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The Natural History Museum, our neighbours across the road, have opened their Sensational Butterflies exhibition – an outdoor attraction packed with live butterflies. As I sit here at my desk, I see the NHM flag flying above the roof, fluttering in a brisk wind, and it struck me that we have our own sensational butterflies here, too, captured in drawings and paintings and prints. They may not be live, breathing specimens, but I think they're none the less fascinating for that.

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Neither printed, painted, nor drawn…

Not everything in the Prints, Drawings and Paintings collection is printed, drawn, or painted. This post showcases a few of the exceptions to the rule. One of the most popular alternative image-making techniques was cut-paper work. In the eighteenth century, cut-paper pictures were called “shades”, or “profiles” if they were portraits. Although neither term has endured in common usage, cut-paper portraits are now usually called ‘silhouettes’.

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A Little Series of Horses

Print by unknown artist27879:8

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Introduction to the Factory

One of the real privileges of working at a place like the Victoria and Albert Museum is being able to see behind the scenes and come across fascinating things by chance.

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