Hello and welcome. I'm Marjorie Trusted. I'm Senior Curator of Sculpture here at the V&A. We're here to look at one of the most important sculpture galleries in the world. Here in the heart of the V&A is the gallery of sculpture in Britain. Sculpture made in Britain between the early 17th century and the mid 20th century. This gallery is peopled with sculpture and indeed it's about people. It's about the people who made the sculpture, it's about the subjects of the sculpture - the portraits, and and it's about the people who commissioned and collected the sculpture.
The space we're in here is memorial sculpture. It includes church monuments and portraits above all. And later on we'll look at some garden sculpture, and some subject sculpture - allegorical and mythological subjects. Let' s look at some of the highlights of the collection now. This is a monument to Sir Moyle and Lady Finch that was made by Nicholas Stone, an English sculptor in the early 17th century, about 1615-18. This is a wonderful example of portraiture and Nicholas Stone was actually trained in the Netherlands and you can almost feel this is in the same world as Rembrandt's portraits it was about the same date as Rembrandt was starting out as a painter.
This remarkable marble figure is a portrait of a quack doctor called Doctor Joshua Ward. It was sculpted in the 1760's by an Italian sculptor who came to Britain and ended up settling here and working here for the rest of his life. He was called Agostino Carlini. It's an amazing sculpture. It was actually originally intended for a monument in Westminster Abbey but in fact the monument was never built and so we have the figure of Doctor Ward here at the V&A.
People were commemorated on church monuments but they were also, of course, commemorated in portrait busts and we've got a really splendid variety of portrait busts here. This is one to Sir George Savile. It was made by a sculptor called Joseph Nollekens and it's dated 1784. It's a portrait of a politician. He was a statesman he never became a minister but he was a terribly important figure in 18th century British politics. It was actually made just after he died. The sculptor took a death mask from his face and then used that as a model to carve this very realistic portrait bust. You can see his facial expression, his features, even a sort of half-smile on his mouth.
Well, we've looked at commemorative sculpture, now we're going to look at another different kind of sculpture - garden sculpture. Garden sculptures were especially important in Britain in the 18th century and there were many landscaped gardens that were peopled with figures and even small buildings, or follies and temples. This garden sculpture comes from Stowe in Buckinghamshire. It represents a Saxon god, Thuner. It was made for Viscount Cobham who owned Stowe and who was a Whig politician. Viscount Cobham very much wanted his garden to represent a certain kind of philosophy of politics and history. And one of the commissions he gave Rysbrack was for seven Saxon gods because he and other Whig politicians like him looked back on ancient British history, the Saxon part of British history, as a golden era. Thuner, the god represented here, was the god of thunder. the equivalent of Zeus or Jupiter in classical mythology. Thuner represented 'Thursday' - all the Saxon gods represented a day of the week - so he was one of seven gods and all of these figures made by Rysbrack were set in a circle to represent the whole week.
So, we've seen garden sculpture and we're now going to look at another kind of sculpture that became even more popular during the 19th century in Britain. This is an example of gallery sculpture or ideal sculpture. Perhaps this is the kind of sculpture we think of as the norm today we think of sculpture in museums and galleries. This really virtually started in the 19th century when private individuals constructed special sculpture galleries in their own houses, often country houses.
This is of Theseus and the Minotaur and it's by the celebrated Italian sculptor, Antonio Canova, who worked in Rome in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Canova was especially popular with British patrons.
We've seen just few of the sculptures here in the National Collections of Sculpture at the V&A. If you visit the museum you can see many more. You can walk round them and see them at close range. But I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse of our collection.
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