Reborn for the Renaissance; ART

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Reborn for the Renaissance; ART


Byline: Philip Hensher

The new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries Victoria & Albert Museum, London .....

The Victoria & Albert Museum, in recent years, has undertaken a series of revampings of its galleries, all successful and often innovative. The beautiful new British galleries, for instance, and the wonderful Jameel Gallery of Islamic art, with its show-stopping illumination of the great Ardabil carpet at its centre. Then there is the small but overwhelming gallery of jewellery, and, earlier this year, the reopening of the new Ceramics Galleries.

The new Medieval & Renaissance Galleries bring the first phase of the museum's renovation to a pause, and they are almost exemplary in quality and attractiveness.

There are only two caveats. Some of the objects are placed too low for proper appreciation, including a line of figurines of the Virgin Mary, where you virtually have to get down on the floor to look at her as she was intended to be looked at, with reverence from underneath. And there is a very odd little corner where all sorts of things are tucked away behind an Italian Renaissance chapel, rather easy to miss. That said, everything else looks beautiful. There is no doubt that quite a lot of medieval art can be heavy and detailed, but such treasures as the Gloucester candlestick, or the magical and extraordinary Merode cup, a triumph of transparent unsupported enamelling, are presented in lucid isolation. These are densely occupied galleries, but they never feel crowded.

The curators have chosen to present the collections in an international context. …

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