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Medieval and Renaissance: Past, Present and Future

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Archive for May, 2008

The Listening Gallery

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

By Stuart Frost

I recently had some good news about a collaborative project that I’ve been working on with colleagues at the V&A and the Royal College of Music. In November 2007 the Royal College of Music applied to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a grant that would allow the V&A to integrate high-quality recordings of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music with the forthcoming permanent Medieval and Renaissance Galleries and the temporary Baroque exhibition.Detail from St Denis Missal

The application to the AHRC has been successful which is fantastic news. The project will last for two years and will enable us to connect objects in the V&A’s collections with recordings of music with which they have a strong relationship. The grant from the AHRC will enable us to provide visitors with a rich multi-sensory experience and to help us bring remote periods of European history to life.

There will be fourteen audio-points in the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. Visitors will be able to sit down, pick up a pair of headphones and to listen to a number of recordings. There are countless objects in the collection which have a strong connection with music.

The Museum has an important collection of musical instruments that includes Renaissance lutes and harpsichords.  Many objects feature representations of musical instruments that no longer survive. Others like the St Denis Missal feature musical notation that hasn’t been recorded before.  As part of the project a signficant number of new recordings will be made. In other cases existing recordings will be utilised. The music will also be made available via the V&A’s website for downloading.

Music was a central part of life in medieval and Renaissance Europe and this project will highlight to visitors just how significant music was. I find it incredibly exciting to think that visitors will be able to sit in a new gallery looking at a display of Gothic stained-glass whilst listening to recordings of the music which once filled the cathedrals where the glass was placed.  Rather than looking at the Baffo harpsicord which I’ve illustrated here, visitors will be able to hear recordings of the music which it would have been used to play. Click on the image to find out more about the object.

Harpsichord by Giovanni Baffo, 1574, Venice. Museum no. 6007-1859The idea for the project to integrate music with the displays was first raised late in 2006 by Flora Dennis and Giulia Nuti. I’m delighted that thanks to the efforts of a large number of people the application was submitted successfully. Giulia will play a central role in delivering the project. She is a very talented musician and if you click on the link below you’ll be able to hear some recordings that she made for the recent At Home in Renaissance Italy exhibition. I’ll use the blog to post updates as things progress.

Click here to listen to extracts of music recorded for At Home in Renaissance Italy

Click here to find out more about the Royal College of Music / V&A Listening Gallery project.

The Da Vinci Code

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

By Stuart Frost

Plaster cast of an effigy of William Marshal. Museum no.  REPRO.A.1938-7I’ll confess immediately. This blog entry has very little to do with Dan Brown or the Da Vinci Code.  I simply thought that if I mentioned the Da Vinci Code in the title I might increase my chances of picking up a few more hits. The real subject here is Temple Church. Dan Brown aficionados will know the church does feature in both his book and the film based upon it.

From time to time I’ve been using this blog to highlight temporary exhibitions elsewhere to which the V&A has loaned objects from its medieval and Renaissance collections. I suspect that people might be surprised by the number of loans the V&A makes to other museums around the country and globally. Some objects travel vast distances. Others travel only a few miles.

Plaster cast of an effigy of Robert de Roos. Museum no. REPRO.A.1938-10The photographs here are of two nineteenth century plaster copies of tomb effigies taken from originals in Temple Church, London. Click on the pictures to find out more about them. In total there are four plaster casts effigies from originals in Temple Church in the V&A’s collections. The two photographs used here were taken in the V&A’s spectacular Cast Courts, one of the most striking museum spaces anywhere in the world. At the moment only one of the four plaster cast effigies is in its usual home. The other three can be found alongside the originals in Temple Church in a temporary exhibition, The Temple Church 1185-2008: History, Architecture and Effigies.

I’d imagine that some of you may be wondering what is to be gained by placing the plaster casts alongside the stone effigies? However the originals were damaged in 1941, long after the casts had been taken.

The casts of the effigies are not the only connection between the V&A and Temple Church. The picture below shows the wonderful west doorway of the church. This was restored during the nineteenth century. Several carved blocks were removed and replaced during the work, and four original weathered blocks came to the V&A via the collections of the Architectural Association. These architectural elements from the doorway will be displayed in the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, three in a new day-lit gallery space and one in a display about the Romanesque style.Temple Church, London.

Although you’ll have to wait until November 2009 before you can see the blocks, the three plaster cast effigies are on display at Temple Church until Sunday 15 June. After the exhibition closes they will return to the Cast Courts to be reunited with Robert de Roos. Temple Church is renowned for its circular knave and, like the Cast Courts at the V&A, is well worth a visit.

Click here to find out more about the Temple Church and the exhibition there.

Click here to find out more about the Cast Collection at the V&A.