William Newton

Title: Assistant Curator
Department: Furniture, Textiles and Fashion

I like things with saints on, things made of plastic, puns, video games, bits, pieces and cake.

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Detail of St. Louis of Toulouse © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Louis of Toulouse

What do discarded crowns, Barcelona and Zac Efron all have in common? The answer is St. Louis of Toulouse (1274-1297). This former bishop was a holy man of impeccable saintly lineage, who could count King St. Louis IX of France, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Margaret of Hungary among his hallowed family tree. He […]

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706-1890, gilt leather altar frontal showing SS. Roch (L) and Sebastian (R), © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Roch

Many saints’ lives are dull affairs full of praying and fasting, proselytising and general do-gooding. St. Roch’s vita has all of these elements plus a good amount of gruesomeness, mysticism, and a faithful animal friend. Born near Montpellier around 1295, his chest was miraculously marked from birth with the sign of the cross. The infant […]

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1198-1893, medal showing Pope St. Sixtus II, Italy, 16th century (C) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pope St. Sixtus II

Here we have another medal with another pope on it. This familiar line continues when I tell you that Sixtus II was also the immediate successor to Pope Stephen, who we covered in the previous post, and that he was probably martyred in the same way, and as part of the very same crackdown by […]

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T.361:17-1998; T.361:18-1998; T.361:19-1998; T.361:20-1998 Four accessories for paper dolls; from The History of Miss Wildfire; British; 1832. Card & watercolour.

The History of Miss Wildfire

I have spent part of the morning looking at a very interesting object in the Textiles and Fashion collection. It is a manuscript, written in rhyme, by a girl named Anne Sanders Wilson. She wrote it for her sister, Mary Wilson, in October 1832. It is ten pages long and is inscribed in a precise, […]

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Pope St. Stephen I

Early Christian history can be a minefield of hyperbole and mysticism, of which the life of Pope St. Stephen I (reigned 254 – 257) is a very good example. Having your head cut off would be, in most cases, a fairly conclusive act. It has, however, never been clear whether or not Stephen was violently […]

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E.3853-1960, print showing St. Ignatius of Loyola, Wierix, (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is an important figure in world Catholicism, but appears little-known in Britain, probably due to the break of the English church from papal authority under Henry VIII. His life was not exactly a classic saint’s tale; he started out as a proud and vainglorious man but he later, when living in […]

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Detail of 303-1887, showing a horseman (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

ZAXAPIOY, where are you?

This morning I oversaw an appointment for a PhD student studying some of our archaeological textiles. The glitzy, fabulous V&A might not seem the most obvious residence for objects of this type. In fact a visitor might even be inclined to think that the venerable British Museum, who have recently audited and rehoused their Egyptian […]

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Detail of crozier showing St. Olaf, A.1-2002 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

St. Olaf

Saint Olaf (Eng: Olave; b.995, d.1030), or to give him is full name, King Saint Olaf II Haraldsson, was King of Norway, 1015-1028. Unusually for a saint (but not necessarily for a medieval king, or a Viking for that matter) he was an extremely violent man. Missionary attempts that he conducted in remote parts of […]

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Skull-and-crossbones toxicity warning sign on V&A hats which are thought to have unacceptable levels of mercury in them

How to Avoid Becoming As Mad as a Hatter, or The Pirate’s Curse!

Some visitors might find being presented with a hat kept inside a strong plastic bag, emblazoned with a skull-and-crossbones and the word ‘TOXIC‘ in big authoritative letters, a little alarming. Perhaps they would be led to think that we had turned buccaneer, or perhaps that Captain Kidd‘s most cherished secret, the one that he took to […]

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Pair of shoes, Roger Vivier for Balenciaga, ca. 1967, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Vivier Party Plastic

These shoes were acquired by the Museum in 1974 as part of an evening outfit, and had been displayed in 1972 with that ensemble in Cecil Beaton‘s groundbreaking V&A exhibition ‘Fashion: An Anthology‘.     What’s interesting about them is the innovative use of materials and the co-ordination, materially and stylistically, with the rest of […]

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