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Room 26: Sculpture 1300–1600

Sculpture 1300-1600, rooms 26 & 27

Rooms 26 and 27 feature a selection of religious sculpture from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain and England, dating from around 1300 to 1600. The V&A’s collection is particularly rich in religious sculpture from this period; further examples can be seen in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries.

Religious imagery was found everywhere in medieval Europe, in cathedrals, parish churches and monasteries, but also at home and in the street. Sculptures were designed specifically to have a three-dimensional, life-like appearance to evoke the presence of Christ, the Virgin and the saints in everyday life.

Most of the pieces shown are of painted wood, with many retaining their original dramatic colour. Larger-scale pieces, several outside display cases for the first time, make a strong visual statement. They include the brilliantly-coloured and enigmatic Lamentation group in terracotta by Luca della Robbia and an unusual lifesize wooden figure of the Virgin standing on a crescent moon, originally displayed suspended from the ceiling in a church in Germany to dazzling visual effect. Display cases contain smaller pieces, many intended for use in the home, and still retaining their vibrant colour and intricate detail.

The sculptures are accompanied by vivid German stained glass panels of the early 16th century showing scenes from the life of Christ as well as charming donor portraits. Stained glass often had a complementary role to sculpture in ecclesiastical settings. It offered a wider canvas for the familiar biblical stories, with extended narratives, bright colours and carefully observed contemporary detail.

Rooms 26 and 27 are on Level 1 of the V&A South Kensington.

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