The Europe 1600-1800 Galleries are a series of seven galleries running between the Museum’s two main entrances in Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road. Their renovation is a part of FuturePlan, a Museum-wide project to create beautiful and contemporary new settings for the V&A’s outstanding collections, while restoring much of the building’s original architecture and improving visitor experiences.
Map showing location of the Europe 1600-1800 Galleries
The galleries will become home to around 1,000 objects from the V&A’s collections; with spectacular examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture, ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books. This will include the redisplay of some of the most magnificent and elaborate works of art and design in the V&A collections, made by Europe’s finest artists and craftsmen for the period’s most important figures, including Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great. The opportunity to display new acquisitions and objects that have not previously been on public display has also been enthusiastically welcomed.
Portrait of Madame de Pompadour by François Boucher, 1758. Museum no. 487-1882 Bequeathed by John Jones. Acquired by the V&A in 1882
A European man’s banyan, made of Chinese blue silk damask, c.1720s. Museum no. T.31-2012 Acquired by the V&A in 2012
The seven galleries will create a chronologically organised story of design and art in Europe throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Objects will be presented in thematic displays exploring key styles, fashions, lifestyles and ideas of the period. Some displays will provide instructive presentations of themes; others will suggest the grandeur of court interiors for which the larger and more elaborate pieces were made; and some will recreate rooms, evoking more intimate interiors. Amongst the galleries there will also be three designated Activity Areas, to allow visitors to explore themes in a more interactive and ‘hands-on’ manner. These areas currently have the working titles of: The Cabinet, The Salon and The Masquerade.
Views of the Galleries in their previous incarnation
Europe has changed dramatically since these galleries were last renovated in the 1970s. The fluidity of modern Europe replicates that of the continent for much of the period 1600-1800. Our new displays will aim to illustrate the constant movement of designers or their ideas and of skilled work-forces during that time, and their interaction with those who wielded political power or formed the market for their creations.
Our project will reopen (and re-discover) the galleries: revealing the architectural features of the original Aston Webb interior, returning the grand rooms to their original height; using space more efficiently and improving disabled access. A reversal of the previous chronological arrangement of displays will relocate the start of the new galleries to the main entrance, allowing visitors to move on from the impressive Medieval and Renaissance Galleries in a logical progression.
Recent visitors may have spotted the hoardings now covering both entrances to the galleries, enlivened with a depiction of one of the V&A’s panels of early 18th century Portuguese painted tiles. A lot has been happening behind these hoardings … as will be revealed in future blog entries.
The Galleries in their current state