Gilbert Gems to look forward to: 2016

Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass
January 7, 2016

A very happy 2016 from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection

Snuffbox, gold with mounted hardstones, probably Dresden, ca.1765 l. 8.9cm, w. 7cm, h. 4.6cm
Snuffbox, gold with mounted hardstones, probably Dresden, ca.1765
l. 8.9cm, w. 7cm, h. 4.6cm; museum no Loan:Gilbert.418-2008

This chimney sweep box was probably made in Dresden, Germany. Chimney sweeps have long been considered a symbol of luck in German culture and therefore popular around New Year’s. The tradition pays tribute to the vital service chimney sweeps offered through the centuries. After all, a well-swept chimney kept fire at bay.  Therefore this box is a good omen for the Gilbert Collection in 2016. Here are five ‘Gilbert Gems’ to look forward to this year:


Most importantly, in late 2016 the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries at the V&A will reopen: all-time favourites will be once more on display at the V&A, including the chimney sweep. In addition, you will be able to see some masterpieces from the collection that have not been on display in recent years.  Until late February you can still catch some Personal Favourites in our temporary highlights display in room 66 before they take a break until the Gilbert Galleries reopen.


While the galleries are still closed, do come and see the V&A’s new Europe 1600-1815 galleries, including several exquisite neoclassical micromosaics from the Gilbert Collection. Among them, this table which was made for Empress Josephine’s Malmaison palace.  In sunny California, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, some sixty Gilbert masterpieces are also on display as long-term loans from here.


We are already planning the next events around the collection , dates and locations will be confirmed on the blog. Among the subjects we will explore are Time (in cooperation with the Science Museum) and the History of Collecting.


My new book Gold Boxes celebrates some fifty of the miniature masterpieces in the collection, and the cultures in which they were produced. All boxes are illustrated in their real size. The volume allows you to see the hidden sides of these small-scale wonders.


From May, students on the RCA History of Design course are joining us to showcase more of the riches and sophistication of the collection online, inspired by Louis Sebastien Mercier’s comment  that “There are those who carry […] refinement to the extent of changing boxes every day, it is by this distinctive touch that one may recognize a man of taste.” With this initiative  we want to give you a chance to enjoy the Gilbert Collection in bite-sized portions, no matter where you are and no matter what life has in store for you in 2016.

Happy New Year!

Chimney sweep on the box shown above
Chimney sweep on the box shown above

(Images: The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

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