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Medieval and Renaissance: Past, Present and Future

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Putting it in Perspective

By Stuart Frost

As I walked back to Charing Cross via Trafalgar Square at the weekend, I decided to briefly escape the cacophony of the city by seeking sanctuary in the National Gallery. I hadn’t intended to. I happened to be passing and thought that I’d spend thirty minutes or so looking at one or two paintings, then have a coffee and quickly look around the bookshop. Whilst I was there I reacquainted myself with one or two sculptures from the V&A’s Renaissance collections which are temporarily displayed in the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing.

Virgin and Child

In the case of the della Robbia Virgin and Child for example, it’s presence in the National Gallery is used to highlight the fact Italian painters from the 13th century onwards sometimes used sculptures as sources for ideas for their works.  Anyone with a baby or young child will know that they usually don’t stay in the same position for very long. Sometimes sculptures provided models that were easier to draw, like the figure of the infant Christ in this sculpture.

Paintings could also influence sculpture. For example, some relief sculptures are quite similar to paintings in the way the figures are arranged. When relief sculptures were painted they could look even closer to paintings.

The redevelopment of the Medieval and Renaissance galleries has provided many similar opportunities for objects to be loaned to other museums and galleries. The sculpture highlighted here travelled (with many others) to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. It was on display there between 23 September 2004 and 27 March 2005 as part of an exhibition, Depth of Field: The place of relief in the time of the Donatello.  The show was a joint collaboration between curators at the V&A and the Henry Moore Institute (HMI). We found the process of developing the exhibition with the HMI a valuable learning experience that has informed our plans for the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. The exhibition also made some of the V&A’s most signficant objects easier to see for people who lived in the counties surrounding Leeds.

I’ll use future entries here to highlight forthcoming important loans and exhibitions.

Find out more about Renaissance sculpture from the V&A at the National Gallery

Find out more about Depth of Field: The place of relief in the time of Donatello

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