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Medieval and Renaissance: Past, Present and Future

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Archive for April, 2010

New Year, New Author

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that Stuart Frost, its regular author since 2006, has not been adding many posts recently. This is because he is now working at the British Museum as Head of Interpretation. For a few months after the opening of the V&A’s new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries, Stuart has graciously kept up his work on this blog, but is now bowing out - leaving me with some pretty big shoes to fill.

My name is Glyn, and I’m a curator of medieval art here at the V&A. I was in charge of the area of the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries on the lower ground floor. In a shameless piece of self-promotion, I should also mention that I was the co-author of the book to accompany the galleries, Medieval and Renaissance Art: People and Possessions (for details, see http://www.vandashop.com/product.php?xProd=4356&xSec=30&navlock=1). Over the next few months, I’m hoping to post on aspects of medieval and renaissance art and history that are relevant to the V&A’s collections, that give you an insight into the work we do behind the scenes, or which I simply find interesting and think worth pointing out. It’s more fun when there’s a discussion, so I’d like to begin by asking for recommendations from you for things to do or upcoming events in London that reflect the medieval and renaissance periods. Please post any good ideas or suggestions in the comments area below.

Doubting Thomas on the Syon Cope

The image attached to this entry is a detail of a large embroidered cope (a sort of ceremonial cloak), which features in the new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries. This detail, depicting Doubting Thomas thrusting his hand into Christ’s side wound, because this is the only way in which he will believe that Christ has been resurrected from the dead, recently featured in the Easter editorial of one of the big national newspapers. The cope was made in London, probably not far from Saint Paul’s cathedral, in the early fourteenth century. It’s often surprising where images of V&A objects will show up. Usually, as in this case, it’s as a result of us re-presenting or publishing the object in some way. As well appearing prominently in the new galleries, the cope was also the subject of a talk I gave at a three day conference looking at Medieval and Renaissance Art that we held at the museum in February, so it’s certainly been receiving more attention. On the other hand, I’m sometimes surprised by the contexts in which I find our objects. One of my guilty pleasures is reading comic books. A couple of years ago, I bought an expensive hardback edition of one of Neil Gaiman’s series of Sandman comics (’The Wake’, for those who are interested). In it, the graphic artist Dave McKean had taken photos of a number of V&A objects, including a lamp by the Renaissance artist Riccio, and an ivory crucifix figure by the thirteenth-century sculptor Giovanni Pisano, and had manipulated the images to create the spooky atmosphere needed to set the scene for the comic’s stories. I’d be interested to hear about any surprising uses of V&A object images that you’ve come across…