Old Friends & New Places

By Stuart Frost

Temptation of Christ C .237-1928The amount of progress that has been made in preparing the gallery spaces for installation of the new displays is incredible. I had a glimpse behind the Gallery 50 hoardings recently and was staggered to see how the space has been transformed. All of the objects that were once there have either been removed or protected in-situ with hoarding. The room is now a vast empty hall waiting for construction work to begin in 2008.

The preparation necessary for the installation of a sequence of displays as large as the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries means, of course, that there will be some disruption. It is inevitable that the number of objects on display at the V&A has to be reduced for a time.

However there are some significant benefits too as a number of the most important objects can be displayed in a new context, whether in a new gallery at the V&A or as part of a temporary exhibition elsewhere. I’ve mentioned the touring exhibition previously. Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the V&A is currently at the Norton Museum of Art in the USA.

I visited the National Gallery at the weekend. I enjoyed their current major temporary exhibition, Renaissance Siena: Art for a Cit, very much. The vast majority of the objects were ones that I hadn’t seen before, but I did also recognise a number of old friends from the V&A. One on these was the bronze Lamentation over the Dead Christ relief by Donatello which you can see in the image below. It was fascinating to see it a new context, juxtaposed with different objects and displayed in a manner which drew fresh nuances out of the work.Lamentation over the dead Christ, by Donatello. Museum no. 8552-1863

Also at the National Gallery currently is a more focussed display, Art of Light: German Renaissance Stained Glass (7 November 2007-17 February 2008) which also draws upon the V&A’s collections. I’d already been to the Renaissance Siena exhibition so on this weekend’s visit I spent most of my time looking at this display. It was fascinating to see superb drawings, paintings and glass panels side-by-side. I’ve included an image of one the glass panels at the top of this page to give a sense of how refined painting on glass can be. The exhibition includes a display of a complete programme of glass from one of the windows of the cloister of Mariawald Abbey. The glass from Mariawald will be a major feature of the new Gallery 50, The Renaissance City 1350-1600, when it opens at the V&A late in 2009.

The links below will provide with more information about the displays described above. I’ll continue to use the blog to highlight other temporary exhibitions featuring medieval and Renaissance objects from the V&A as they arise.

Find out about Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the V&A at the Norton Museum of Art.

Find out about Art of Light at the National Gallery.

Find out more about Renaissance Siena: Art for a City.