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Archive for the 'Metalwork' Category

The Listening Gallery Part 3: A Notation Knife

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

By Stuart Frost

I’ve written about The Listening Gallery project before. It  is a two-year collaboration between the Royal College of Music and the V&A. The project draws on recent research in music, art & design and technology. One of the aims of the project is to connect key objects in the V&A’s collections with recordings of music that help visitors understand both the objects, and the cultural contexts to which they belonged, more fully.Notation Knife, Museum no. 310-1903.

New and existing recordings of music were integrated into the V&A’s major Spring 2009 exhibition, Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence (4 April to 19 July 2009) as part of the first phase of the Listening Gallery. A series of over thirty new recordings have been made for the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries (opening 2 December 2009). The music will be available in the galleries and online via the V&A’s website. My colleagues, Peter Kelleher and Maike Zimmerman, very kindly agreed to film some of the work involved in producing the recordings. A series of short films are now complete and will be added to the website over the coming weeks. 

The first film focuses on a knife made around 1550, the blade of which is etched on both sides with musical notation. The flat blade indicates that the knife was probably used to serve or present slices of meat. The object has been the focus of a great deal of thorough research undertaken by Flora Denis who has investigated a number of key questions. Why was musical notation engraved on the blade? Was this music actually meant to be sung? How many other knives like this one survive and was the V&A’s knife part of a larger set? The notation on the knife was recently transcribed, rehearsed and recorded at the Royal College of Music. To watch the film and find out more about the knife, the research, the music and the Listening Gallery project please click on the link provided below.  

If there are any questions that you’d to ask, or comments that you’d like to make, please do post them below. 

Click here to see the film about the notation knife on Vimeo.

Click here to find out more about the Listening Gallery project. 

The Listening Gallery project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Saint Sebastian

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

By Stuart Frost

a. Reliquary of St Sebastian before conservation, M.27-2001. Photograph by Gates Sofer.Some objects, like the V&A’s vast tapestry woven with scenes of the Trojan War, have required extensive conservation work to prepare them for display. Conservation of the tapestry, which began in October 2004, was completed recently after approximately 4000 hours of work by specialist conservators. Other objects have required far less time, but the attention to detail has been the same.

The reliquary of Saint Sebastian, the focus of this blog entry, is a case in point. This superb example of the art of the metalworker was made in Augsburg in 1497, probably to a design by Hans Holbein. St Sebastian was believed to have been martyred on the orders of the Emperor Diocletian for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. Sebastian was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. He miraculously survived the agonising ordeal, only to be clubbed to death subsequently. Sebastian was a popular saint and was represented frequently in medieval and Renaissance art.d. Three stages in using cuttle fish bones to create moulds.Photograph by Gates Sofer.

The photograph that heads this page depicts the reliquary before conservation treatment. If you look carefully you will see that there are only two silver-gilt arrows still in-situ. However there are holes for a further six and it was recently decided to make replacement arrows for five of these so that when the object is redisplayed visitors will have a better sense of it’s original appearance. Click on the image for a larger picture and a better view.

Metals Conservator Gates Sofer devised an ingenious method for casting the replacement arrows using moulds made from cuttlefish bone. A brass copy of one of the arrows was made and then pressed into cuttlefish bones that had been flattened and paired. This created a mould into which molten metal could be poured. Three stages are shown in the photograph reproduced here, above and to the left. On the left are two cuttlefish bones, in the centre the bones have been flattened and prepared for casting, and finally to the right a mould that has been opened after the casting process. Click on any of the pictures for more information about what is shown. I’ve posted some additional pictures on the Medieval & Renaissance site on Flickr if you’d like to find out a little more about the work.e. Forge and cuttlefish moulds. Photograph by Gates Sofer.

The casting took place at the V&A. The picture to the right shows a forge in one of the Museum’s workshops, with the ladle used to pour the molten metal to the left, and five cuttlefish moulds standing upright in a pan filled with sand. The cast arrows required additional work once they’d been removed from the mould. The surface of the arrows required working to remove the pattern created by the texture of the cuttlefish bone. In addition the arrows were gilded with eighteen carat gold. 

As a general rule conservators like to ensure that any modern additions, like these arrows, can be easily identified and not mistaken for original work. Each of the new arrows bears a tiny V&A logo that was added with a small punch. This mark would be difficult to spot with the naked eye but not a magnifying glass. The addition of the arrows, and the replacement of a missing silver rope used to bind Sebastian to the tree, has subtly transformed the appearance of the object. The reliquary was also carefully cleaned revealing previously obscured details such as a pattern on the border of Sebastian’s garment. j. New cast silver arrows before gilding, Museum no.27-2001. Photograph by Gates Sofer.

The reliquary was made by a master craftsmen and is of superb quality. The picture to the left shows the reliquary after the recent conservation work. The object will be looking at its best when it is displayed in Room 10: Devotion & Display. Here St Sebastian will form part of a display about reliquaries. The pedestal of the figure still contains two relics, one is wrapped in silk. The other is thought to be made of wood and was perhaps believed to have been fragments of one of the actual arrow shafts that pierced Sebastian’s body.

I’d like to that Gates for allowing me to use her photographs and for taking the time to talk to me about her work. If you have any questions please post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

A Romanesque Candlestick - Conservation & Research

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

 By Stuart Frost & Catia Viegas Wesolowska

Detail of the Gloucester Candlestick, Museum no. 7649-1861. One of the most extraordinary surviving pieces of Romanesque metalwork is without doubt the Gloucester Candlestick. There will be an opportunity to admire this remarkable piece in the forthcoming Medieval & Renaissance galleries at the V&A when they open in November 2009.

The detail to the right highlights the candlestick’s wonderful interlaced ornament. Entwined within the foliage lurk one-eyed beasts, half humans and birds.The photograph also highlights a join between two of the the three seperate sections that make the candlestick. It also shows areas where the gilding has been worn away revealing the base metal beneath.

The candlestick has been the focus of some recent and exciting research by Stephanie Seavers and Catia Viegas Wesolowska at the V&A. All of the information that follows in this blog entry was provided and written by Catia, Senior Metals Conservator at the Museum. To find out more read on.

The candlestick stands at about 55 cm high, is cast in three sections and made of a peculiar copper alloy. Past analysis and our own recent research have shown it to be a brass with an unusually high silver content. This is very unusual. Silver is expensive today, but back in the early 1100’s silver was even more precious so it was unusual to mix it with other less precious metals.

The Gloucester Candlestick, Museum no. 7649-1861.The Gloucester candlestick was commissioned for the church that is now Gloucester Cathedral during the reign of Abbot Peter (1104-1113). We know this because there is an inscription that runs along the stem of the candlestick. It was later given to Le Mans Cathedral, France where it remained until the nineteenth century when it was sold to a private collector. In 1861 the candlestick was acquired by the V&A.

The candlestick has been studied by historians, scientists and others interested in its history and the technology used to make it. It has been mentioned in various publications with different theories about its origins but many questions have remained. How was the candlestick made? Who made it? And why was alloy with such a high content of silver used?

The candlestick was disassembled allowing its construction to be studied, and its stability and conservation needs to be assessed. Lacquer which had previously been added to the surface was removed and at the same time the surface studied. Marks were found in the form of little crosses to indicate the join between two of the cast sections, where one beast craftily whispers in the ear of another. Taking the candlestick apart meant its original construction and each section could be studied individually.

Copper tubing from inside the Gloucester Candlestick, Museum no. 7649-1861.The inside of the candlestick contains copper tubing which holds the candlestick sections together. It is possible that this tubing might represent an early repair after the initial method of fixing the sections together broke. To attempt to answer this question, the composition of the copper tube will be analysed and the results compared to a database at the British Museum. This will allow the tubing to be dated accurately.

A sculptor was commissioned to cast a section based on the candlestick. The aim was to discover more about how the candlestick was made and to explore why so much silver was used in the alloy. You can see the small section based on the candlestick that was cast in the photograph below to the right. The casting of this section demonstrated that silver made the metal flow much easier when it was poured into the complex mould. The final surface was also easier to carve and for such an intricate design this was certainly a bonus.The finished surface of the replica section was a silvery yellow, a very light tone of gold.

Cast of a section based on the Gloucester Candlestick. These results lead to yet another question. The Gloucester candlestick was gilded after it was cast and carved. However if the surface already appeared gold after it had been cast, why did gilding need to applied at all? Might the gilding have been applied at a later date? Another unanswered question,for now at least!

Catia is currently waiting for the result of the analysis at The British Museum. Updates will follow here in due course. Many thanks to Catia for providing the content for this blog entry. Click on a picture to find out more about what it shows. Other pictures have been posted on the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance site on Flickr. If you have an questions or comments please post them below.

King Alfred the Great?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

By Stuart Frost

Reliquary Cross, about 1000. Museum no. 7943-1862.It is the nature of history that only the names of a comparatively few people are remembered after their deaths. For the medieval period the people we know most about tend to be the most powerful, exceptional or notorious figures. 

Medieval chroniclers were fond of adding an adjective after an individual’s name. Some rulers were more fortunate than others in the label posterity gave them. Charles the Great, William the Conqueror and Richard the Lion Heart are all at the acceptable end of the spectrum, but who would want to be known as Louis the Fat, Charles the Bald or John Soft-sword?

The word great is arguably over-used today. Such and such is a great singer, footballer or actor. It is difficult to really assess someone’s merits without the perspective that the passage of time brings. However if there is one English figure who truly deserves the epithet great then it is Alfred of Wessex (849-899), ruler of the only Anglo-Saxon kingdom to survive the Viking onslaught in the ninth century. 

If you need convincing about Alfred’s credentials then I’d recommend visiting Winchester to see the exhibition: Alfred the Great: Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom. The exhibition closes on 27 April 2008. The display is small but it includes some beautiful objects which are also of immense historical importance. The V&A has loaned the remarkable Anglo-Saxon reliquary illustrated above to Winchester for the duration of the display. Click on the object to find out more about the object and its link with Alfred’s achievements.

The legacy Alfred left his sucessors allowed them to consolidate the Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually bring all of England under the control of one monarch. The origins of modern England can arguably be traced back to Alfred’s reign. Winchester became Alfred’s main city and throughout the middle ages the city was extremely important. There is enough evidence around the modern town to give a sense of just how impressive medieval Winchester was.

Alfred’s achievements ensured that he would never be forgotten. The photograph illustrated below shows 19th century remodelling at Arundel Castle. The relief sculpture is difficult to see but it shows ‘King Alfred instituting Trial by Jury on Salisbury Plain’, evidence of Alfred’s enduring reputation as a model monarch.North Side of Quadrangle, Arundel Castle, 1852-54, Benjamin Brecknell Turner. Museum no. PH 44 1982

Click here to find out more about Alfred the Great: Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom.

Conservation and Research

Friday, April 4th, 2008

By Stuart Frost

Kuppelreliquiar V&A, Dach nach Abnahme der Beschläge mit GrubenschmelzA remarkable amount of work has been going behind the hoardings in the Museum and away from the public gaze elsewhere. In fact there is so much activity taking place that its impossible to mention it all here.

There is an increasing amount of effort going into the creation of new content for the website with a large number of colleagues across the V&A contributing. Much of this will only go online when the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries open in 2009.

However we have just added three subjects to the website highlighting recently completed work on a trio of very different objects. These online-only subjects provide short summaries of projects that were extremely complex and which involved wide-ranging specialist expertise.

The deinstallation of the facade of Sir Paul Pindar's House, Museum no. 846-1890Stephanie Seavers, part of the curatorial team in the Metalwork department, has produced a summary of a collaborative research project that focussed on a beautiful twelfth-century enamelled container previously thought to be a reliquary from Cologne. The image I’ve used here, above and to the right, gives a wonderful impression of just how  rigorously and carefully the object was examined. Enamelled panels have been removed exposing the wooden core.

Nick Humphrey, a curator in the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion department focussed on the recent deinstallation of the vast timber façade of a town house built around 1600 for the wealthy merchant Sir Paul Pindar. Visitors to the V&A may remember the façade in its previous location in the old Museum shop. However I suspect that many people failed to notice its considerable presence due to the distraction of all the colourful merchandise at eye level. The façade will be reinstalled in a new daylit gallery which in itself will represent another significant technical achievement.

Zoe Allen, a specialist frames conservator in the Conservation section has written about work she undertook on a frame associated with a magnificent panel painting of the Virgin and Child by an artist known as Peregrinus (or Pellegrino di Giovanni). Here there were questions about whether the frame associated with the panel painting really belonged with it. There was also a significant amount of work needed on the frame which had become very fragile and warped over time. You can see the painting minus the frame in the image below.

Painting by Peregrinus (without frame), dated 1428. Museum no. 6559 and A-1860I’m very grateful for all the work that colleagues have contributed to the website. We’re hoping to add more online subjects to the website as the project develops. I’ll also continue to use this blog for more updates on object-based work taking place in the Conservation Studios and elsewhere.

Click here to see the recently added content about a Medieval Tabernacle from Cologne.

Click here to see the recently added content about the façade of Sir Paul Pindar’s House.

Click here to see the recently added content about a painting by Peregrinus of the Virgin and Child with Angels.

Anglo-French Relations: Old and New

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

By Stuart Frost

The detail you can see here is a heraldic device that adorns a vast bronze jug, destined for the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. The coat-of-arms is that of King Richard II. If you look closely you can see that the shield is quartered, and decorated with the fleur-di-lis of France and the lions of England. The coat-of-arms reflects the English claim to the French crown. Click on the image to find out more about the coat-of-arms and the object it adorns.

Jug cast with the royal arms of England, Museum no. 217-1879.The French, of course, no longer have a monarchy. President Sarkozy is making a state visit to Britain this week and it appears that a closer relationship between Britain and France is developing. In recent years there has occasionally been friction between the French and English governments but fortunately nothing to compare with the hostility that existed during the later Middle Ages when the French and English kingdoms were almost constantly fighting in a period now known as the Hundred Years War.

Today we have the media to keep us informed about diplomatic relations, and a great deal of less essential information about the private lives of the great, the good and the d-list celebrity. For the Hundred Years War the greatest chronicler was Jean Froissart, perhaps the closest parallel for a modern journalist in the fourteenth century. I have to admit that the journalist parallel isn’t a very good one.

Froissart was born in 1337 into a Europe very different to our own. His home town was Valenciennes, Hainault (now on the French-Belgian border) but he travelled widely. Around 1361-62 he crossed the Channel to England to join the court of Philippa of Hainault, King Edward III of England’s queen. Here he wrote a rhymed history of the recent wars between England and France, but continued to rewrite and expand his work throughout his life, turning from poetry to prose. His Chronicles cover the period between 1325 and 1400 including evocative accounts of the great English victories at the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356).

The reason I mention this is that I’ve been reading his Chronicles in search of quotes that we might be able to use on subject panels to help try and give a personalised view of the period covered by the Medieval and Renaissance displays. I also visited an exhibition, The Chronicles of Froissart, at the Royal Armouries in Leeds at the weekend. 

The temporary display at the Armouries is based around a single illuminated manuscript of Froissart’s text known as the Stonyhurst Chronicles. This manuscript was brought back to England after the Agincourt campaign by Sir John Arundell in 1415. In 1837 James Arundell gave the manuscript to Stonyhurst College, and the College have loaned the manuscript to the Royal Armouries for the exhibition. I’m always interested to see how other museums go about developing displays around manuscripts as books aren’t the easiest things to display and we’re integrating a significant number throughout the new galleries.
The Chronicles of Froissart exhibition runs until 6 April 2008 so you haven’t got much time if you want to see it. However you can find out more via the exhibition microsite on the Royal Armouries website. For the most vivid insights into the events of the fourteenth century, and the life of a man who lived through remarkable times, I’d recommend reading the Chronicles themselves. Froissart’s book is in print, is easy to track down and it is also great read for anyone with an interest in history.

Click here to find out more about The Chronicles of Froissart exhibition.

Heralding in 2008!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Stuart Frost

The Valence Casket, around 1290-1324. Museum no. 4-1865I apologise for the pun at the head of this page! I also apologise for the lateness of this first posting of 2008. However if we were following the old Florentine calendar I’d actually be rather early. I have been reliably informed that in Renaissance Florence the New Year was celebrated on the 25th of March. 

Hopefully those of you who have read several of these blog postings will need no convincing that traces of our medieval and Renaissance heritage are all around us. I’m sure everyone has there own rituals over the Christmas and New Year period. Mine include going to see the Boxing Day football match if the fixture list has been kind enough to produce a home game. This year I shared this rite with over 40,000 other Sunderland supporters. Sunderland Association Football Club has a history that stretches back a little over a hundred years, a longer history than many clubs, but of course not long enough to have a direct connection with the north-east’s medieval past. However there is a link to the art of the Middle Ages through the heraldic device that the club has adopted.  The example illustrated here is displayed above the ticket office. It is also embroidered onto the shirts worn by the players and the supporters. It is even printed onto the plastic cups.Heraldic badge of Sunderland AFC.

The art of heraldry originated in medieval Europe and has endured ever since. You don’t have to look hard to find numerous examples of contemporary usage. Just check the coins in your pocket in you don’t believe me. There are of course countless examples of heraldic devices on objects in the V&A’s collections and I’ve illustrated this blog entry with one of my favourites.  Sometimes a coat-of-arms may indicate the identity of the owner of the object, on other occasions it may represent a display of allegiance. The Valence casket, for example, features the royal arms of England but it wasn’t made for or owned by a member of the royal family. Click on the image to find out more about the object. Heraldry was, and still is, intimately linked to personal identity, belonging and status.

Now that I’ve justified the terrible title for this blog posting I can move on to consider the next twelve months for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries Project. This year promises to be a very busy and productive one for the project team. The gallery spaces are ready for construction work to begin. It is incredibly exciting, and a little daunting, to think of how much progress will have been made by the time we’re celebrating the next New Year on the 1 January 2009.


Monday, November 12th, 2007

By Stuart Frost

Brooch (fibula), Anglo-Saxon, 7th century. Museum no. M 110 1939 FavershamI saw a production of Faustus in Richmond two weeks ago. The play was loosely based on the text of the Tudor playwright Christopher Marlowe. However contemporary British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman were as central to the story as Dr Faustus himself. I’ve been enjoying watching the Tudors on BBC2 on Friday evenings and I’m looking forward to watching Elizabeth: The Golden Age at the cinema at some point during the next week or two. The public’s fascination with the Tudor history has been remarkably enduring. It seems as though the public appetite for Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Shakespeare’s work is undiminished despite an endless stream of documentaries, dramas and plays. Ray Winstone’s Henry VIII is one of my favourite recent interpretations of England’s most famous king.

The medieval period, by contrast, maintains a lower and more erratic public profile. Recent highpoints have included The National Theatre’s excellent production of St Joan (Joan of Arc). The Globe Theatre company also staged a fantastic production, In Extremis, which was unsual in focussing on the twelfth-century characters of Peter Abelard, Heloise and St Bernard of Clairvaux. The earlier middle ages appear to have been even more under-utilised even though it is an age as rich in drama, stories and epic struggles as any other. Perhaps the forthcoming film-version of Beowulf will encourage other filmmakers and writers to look back to the so-called Dark Ages with new enthusiasm?

Brooch (Fibula), Anglo-Saxon, 7th century. Museum no. M 109 1939 MiltonThe film version of Beowulf is based on an epic Anglo-Saxon poem, a masterpiece of literature that vividly reflects the values of the culture from which it emerged. I’ve heard the poem skillfully recited in the original language which was a remarkable experience. Even though I couldn’t understand a word if felt as through the distance between the past and present had collapsed. The first part of the poem is the most well known. The young Beowulf comes to the aid of King Hrothgar whose people are terrorised by the monster Grendel. Whilst Angelina Jolie is ‘box office’ she certainly isn’t the most obvious choice to play the mother of the hideous Grendel. I hope that the film does the spirit of the poem justice.

I‘ve illustrated this blog-entry with a selection of objects which belong to the same era as the poem. Whilst the Museum doesn’t hold many Anglo-Saxon artefacts you can see from these pieces of jewellery that what material there is is incredibly beautiful. The people who were buried with these brooches may well have been familiar with the heroic deeds of Beowulf. Hopefully after the film version has completed its run a whole new generation will also be able to recount the outline of the story, and will have been inspired to go back to the orginal text.

In Touch with Our Past

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Stuart Frost

Bronze Door Knocker, 1550-1600, Venice. Museum No.  M.30-1951Over the last week or so I’ve been focussed on writing draft labels for a series of touch objects for the new Medieval and Renaissance displays.  If you’d like to read one or two examples click on the images reproduced here to see the text. We’ve tried to ensure that in each of the ten galleries there will be at least one original object that visitors can handle. We want the experience of visiting the displays to be a multi-sensory one where people can actively explore. 

We selected the objects quite some time ago. My curatorial colleagues suggested objects that they thought would be suitable. We visited each one in the relevant store to establish a list of the strongest contenders. Then the Collection was asked to approve the use of the object, and the Conservation Department made an assessment of its suitability. I’ve illustrated this blog entry with a selection of those that have made it on the final list.

Given that the collections cover the period 300-1600 I’m sure you’ll appreciate that it hasn’t always been easy to identify appropriate objects, particularly for the earlier centuries. The ideal touch object has to be durable enough to withstand daily contact without suffering any damage. At the same time the object has to offer an interesting tactile experience otherwise there is little point in including it.Glass replica of the 'Chellini Madonna, glass, made around 1976.

We have made things a little more difficult for ourselves by picking objects that help illustrate characteristics of the major period styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Mannerism. The touch object for the Romanesque style needed to fall within a date range of approximately 1000-1200 and proved particularly challenging. Nevertheless we’ve managed to identify a fantastic architectural detail from a church doorway. I’m very pleased with the selection of objects that we’ve made. Some of the objects are wonderfully large and hopefully will encourage social use and discussion.

Each object will have a standard label and a descriptive text in Braille. I have written draft descriptions and later in November we’ll be testing them with visitors to help us further refine them. A number of visually-impaired visitors have kindly agreed to give up some of their time to help. They will come to the V&A, test the touch-objects and evaluate the Braille descriptions so that we can finalise them.Linenfold Panel, 1500-1600. Museum No. Circ.156-1928

There is still plenty of work to be done. The mounting of some of the objects, because of their scale or weight, will test the ingenuity of the design team. The touch objects needed to be fully integrated with the relevant subject display but without disrupting the overall aesthetic. They need to be at a height that’s suitable for all visitors. The graphic designers will have to find an elegant way of communicating to visitors that they can touch these objects. In short, there is still plenty of work to be done!

Please use the comment facility below to let us know what you think of our touch objects and draft texts. The texts are in the process of being reviewed by curatorial specialists so they represent work in progress. They will be edited by our internal editor, Lucy Trench, in due course.

Polishing Up the Past

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

By Stuart Frost

I think most visitors would be staggered by the amount of work that is involved in pulling together museum displays. When visitors walk around a successful new exhibition or display I’d hope that they’re completely absorbed with looking at the objects within them, rather than thinking about what has gone on behind the scenes. It is probably only when displays don’t work that visitors begin to contemplate the processes that the exhibition team have gone through to get to that point! Conservator cleaning a candlestick from a choirscreen from 's-Hertogenbosch.

I wrote about the choir screen (or roodloft) from ’s-Hertogenbosch earlier this year. If you go back to the blog entries posted in February and March you’ll find pictures that give a good impression of the scale and complexity of this vast architectural piece. Room 50 has been closed to the public for sometime now. The large number of objects that were once in Room 50 have now been removed altogether. A few, like the choir screen, remain where they have always been but are now fully enclosed in protective hoarding.

Candlesticks from 's-Hertogenbosch before conservation treatment.The choir screen originally had ten candlesticks placed on its balustrade. These haven’t been displayed with the object for sometime but we’re keen to ensure that they are returned to their original position when the choir screen goes back on display in November 2009. In preparation for this they have been assessed by a conservator, and as a result they’ve now undergone treatment. The image to the right shows two of the candlesticks before conservation work began. Can you guess what they’re made of? There is little in this picture to indicate that they’re made of brass.

The image below shows that the candlesticks have been transformed but there is still work to be done before the choir screen is ready for the public. Inevitably polished metal tarnishes over time. In order to minimise this natural process each candlestick will be treated with a protective coating. The candlesticks originally had plinths which were then attached to the balustrade.Candlestick after conservation treatment The original plinths weren’t acquired by the V&A and the solution used previously, shaped plaster-blocks painted black, isn’t ideal. The blocks are heavy and there is no easy way to firmly fix them to the balustrade. There is also some doubt as to whether the colour of the original marble blocks (red or black). In addition one of my colleagues, Melissa, has been sourcing black and white marble flags for a new area of flooring beneath the choir screen. The current surface comprises of modern grey concrete slabs. I’ll write more about the floor surface later.

If I mention that the choirscreen is only one object of approximately 1,800 destined for the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries I’m sure that will give you a good indication of why a gallery project on this scale takes what might seem like such a long time to develop.