Rebuilding the Renaissance City

Stuart Frost

Object installation in Gallery 50 at the V&AOn any project there are significant milestones, key dates by which critical stages on the road to completion have been reached. For the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries project one of these was reached on Friday 26th September. Regular visitors to the V&A will have become used to the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries hoarding in the Grand Entrance. The colourful facade, adorned with photographic details taken for some of the V&A’s greatest artworks, has masked the gradual transformation of one of the Museum’s grandest and largest exhibition spaces.

Behind this screen over a period of many months the objects that formed the old displays were painstakingly removed from the walls and the floor. The objects included several vast tomb monuments built into the Museum walls as well as numerous heavy freestanding sculptures.

Once all of the objects had been removed the site was then handed over to the contractors so that work could begin on preparing the space for the new displays. The original mosaic floor was revealed once again and carefully restored. A vast framework of scaffolding was erected which filled the volume of the room, facilitating essential work on the ceiling. Construction work has created several new vistas that will significantly enhance visitors’ understanding of the V&A’s architecture, establishing new connections between gallery spaces that are located on different levels and floors.

Stemma by Luca della Robbia and workshop. Museum no.6740-1860By the end of September 2008 the contractors had finished their work on the site and were able to hand Gallery 50a back to the V&A. This meant that the Museum’s technical services team were able to begin the installation of objects for the new displays. 

The pictures that I’ve provided here show two vast objects that are currently being installed. The one at the top of this page shows the installation of the Stemma of King René of Anjou in progress.  If you look carefully you can that the team have just begun to add the border that surrounds the central roundel. The stemma has a diameter of over three meters. The picture to the right shows what the object looks like when complete. Click on the image to find out more about the stemma.

The photograph below and to the right shows work in progress on the installation of a window frame which originally faced into the courtyard of the Château de Montal. Again click on the picture for more information about the objectObject installation in Gallery 50 at the V&A..

In November 2009 Gallery 50 will reopen to the public in its new guise as The Renaissance City 1350-1600. By the time the galleries open over two hundred objects will have been installed in Gallery 50 and almost one thousand eight hundred objects throughout the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries as a whole. Fortunately the majority of them will not have been quite as involved as the two examples I’ve provided here.

I’ll post a series of photographs that highlight the transformation of Gallery 50 to the Medieval and Renaissance Flickr site over the next week or so.