Secrets of the Museum – episode 2 expanded

Digital Media and Publishing
February 14, 2020

Episode 2 of Secrets of the Museum covered an incredible variety of objects from the V&A, from the spectacular masterpieces of the Renaissance by Raphael to smaller – but equally dazzling – jewellery

As with last week, I wanted to share some of the other ways you can find out more about the objects featured. Starting with jewellery, you might like our online history of jewellery, which begins in the ancient world, but includes the remarkable trembling spray ornament. For some, the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery needs no introduction, but if you’ve not visited the space before, then hopefully this short film will give you and idea of what to look out for:

Two of the highlights of the collection were made as gifts. Queen Victoria’s coronet was made by Joseph Kitching, partner at Kitching and Abud, but commissioned by Prince Albert. There is more on the coronet here. The other piece featured in the BBC Two film was a ring designed in 2014 by London-based jeweller G (Glenn Spiro) for Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. The ring is shaped like a butterfly, and sits on the back of the finger as if ready to take flight; as the wearer moves their hand, the wings gently flutter. You can see the movement and find out more about the ring below:

For even more on the collection, the book Jewels and Jewellery by curator Clare Phillips, covers pretty much every aspect you might need.

While the Papillon ring is designed to move, it was clear from the film that Meleager presented certain difficulties in that regard. Made by one of the finest masters of bronze sculpture of the later 15th century, Antico Pier Jacopo di Antonio Alari-Bonacolsi (known as Antico), the statuette has to be kept in an environment with a low relative humidity – below 30%. For more detail, it’s worth taking a look at this article from the Conservation team. Bronze sculpture in the Italian Renaissance was intended to embody power and authority, and to emulate the classical past. For an overview described as ‘Everything you need to know about Renaissance bronzes’ (Charles Avery, The Burlington Magazine), see Peta Motture’s recent book The Culture of Bronze.

The new scans made of the Raphael Cartoons are truly exciting for the Digital Media team. We’re busy working on ideas for the transformation of the Raphael Court, and everything we are planning revolves around the new images made possible by the photography shown being made in the Secrets film. The space itself will reopen in late 2020 after refurbishment, but the story of the commission is told here. Moving them has always been a bit of an undertaking.

Side view of packing case and horse-drawn ‘van’ for transport of Raphael Cartoons from Hampton Court to South Kensington Museum, Charles Thurston Thompson, 1865. Museum no. 44413. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Ana Debenedetti, who featured last night, has written a detailed history of how (and why) the Cartoons came to be at the V&A in The Lives of the Objects.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that it is possible to tour the Clothworkers’ Centre in Olympia on the second Wednesday and last Friday of the month (there are details here). Places are limited, and you need to book in advance…

Catchup with the programme on iPlayer.

About the author

Digital Media and Publishing
February 14, 2020

I am Head of Content at the V&A, working across publishing, the website and video.

More from Tom Windross
2 comments so far, view or add yours


Thanks Tom for those helpful notes and links. I’m really enjoying the series so far, which I hope will also showcase the Museum’s work with schools, families and volunteers; and work on contemporary design such as Fashion in Motion or Rapid Response Collecting. Otherwise, it risks strenghthening the stereotype of museums as buyers and conservators – important as those aspects are, of course.

Hello Russell – just to reassure you, Rapid Response and Fashion in Motion both feature in the series. The documentary focuses on how objects pass through the museum, so other parts of our work, though very important, aren’t the primary focus – this time…

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