Home > Pictures, Travel > Last London Pics –The V & A

Last London Pics –The V & A

March 1, 2014

Albert at the V&A

Here’s the last pics of our London trip (and warning, there are a LOT of pics) from the Victoria & Albert where we spent a good 5 hours.  Like the British Museum there are many antiquities here, but the emphasis on the V & A is more the decorative than the historical or archeological.  (NOTE: If you are interested, I have made as many of these pictures as I can links to the V & A or other reference on the work.)

An interesting example is one of the first works you see at the museum:

Peach Blossom Spring

This work, Peach Blossom Spring, appears as a large example of Eastern calligraphy but on closer examination, the characters are Roman; the work presents an English translation of the famous Chinese fable, the Peach Blossom Spring.  (In the inset I think you can see ‘All Of A’…) This same theme is the subject of a wonderful outside garden:

Peach Blossom reflecting poolMore reflections

Tiny Buddha with blossomsTiny whales on the move

There were a great many old Asian works, such as these from Japan (a favorite place and era of Kim and myself):

Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton SpectreTanto & wakizashi


Tomb guardianMing dynasty head in serpentineEarthenware horse

And India, Nepal & Pakistan:

Shiva NatarajNepalese ritual helmetThe throne of Ranjit Singh

Very dramatic is the Sculpture Hall, with examples from many times and places, but mostly from the great days of the British Empire:

Oliver CromwellMonument to Emily Georgiana, Lady Winchilsea Neptune & Triton

From our SCA days and still today, Kim and I are much interested in Medieval Europe.  The V&A is a treasure trove – no, treasure hoard – of such articles:

The Boppard Altarpiece, 1510St. George & the Dragon, 1480Missal from the Abbey of Saint-Denis, 1350

Lastly, the V & A has an unmatched collection of fabric arts of all kinds, a particular passion of Kim’s.  These articles are challenging to capture in photos, especially encased in glass as they all are.  I’ll start with some medieval examples, all priestly wear:

Chasuble, 1450The Clare Chasuble, 1294The Clare Chasuble, 1294

Three later period examples; the piece on the right was done by Mary, Queen of Scots:

Shepheard Buss, 1570Embroidered jacket, 1620Mary, Queen of Scots embroidery

Now, Kim’s great favorite of all needlework is blackwork, of which there were some tantalizing exhibits:

Blackwork smock, 1585Blackwork pillowcasePillow from the Great Bed of Ware

I know that’s a great many pictures … I hope if nothing else this conveys the immense breadth of what’s to be seen at the V & A.  I took over 250 shots there, and daughter Alex took many more as well.  Things we could show you include: Richard Burton’s costume from his Stratford-on-Avon  Henry V (1951);  The Valkyrie costume from The Producers (2004); the amazing “castings gallery”, where architectural works, some stories high, have been re-created in plaster; the ironworks collection; the 20th century design hall, including the Garden Egg chair; the Montefiore Centerpiece, 37 kg of sterling silver with as baroque a rendition of Moses, Ezra and David as you could imagine; plus paintings, jewelry, fabrics and every-day items beyond counting.

This last image I’ll share is a painting we stayed and pondered a while before wandering onwards, The Day Dream, painted by Daniel Gabriel Rossetti in 1880:

The Day Dream

Pre-Raphaelite that he was, Rossetti was also a poet. For this painting he composed a verse of 14 lines, which ends:

Lo! Toward deep skies, not deeper than her look,
She dreams; till now on her forgotten book
Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.

The thing museums make me wonder more than anything else is: Are we – people, humanity, all of us – different now than we were before?  Does the sentiment of Rossetti, or the  devotion of the embroiderers or chasuble makers, or the vision of the sculptors who chose gods as their subjects, does any of that still exist?  Or have we become over-fond of the “realistic”, the cynical, the clever, the – frankly – small?  If you tell me Rossetti’s painting is puerile, contrived, and shallow, I know what you mean.  But I still like it, and I wonder what Rossetti really thought when he painted it.

Thus, finally, ends the chronicle of our London trip.  I hope to get back to more India postings soon, such as the planning for our end of month trip to KeralaNamastē.

Categories: Pictures, Travel
  1. roy
    March 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for this post and for all the great images. I especially liked the tiny Buddha with blossoms.

    Your questions:

    “The thing museums make me wonder more than anything else is: Are we – people, humanity, all of us – different now than we were before? Does the sentiment of Rossetti, or the devotion of the embroiderers or chasuble makers, or the vision of the sculptors who chose gods as their subjects, does any of that still exist? Or have we become over-fond of the “realistic”, the cynical, the clever, the – frankly – small? ” are echoed by several other voices on page 61 of “For the Time Being” by Annie Dillard:


    “Almost sixteen centuries ago, Augustine looked back three centuries at the apostles and their millennialism: “Those were last days then: how much more so now!”

    “Nowadays,” an eleventh century Chinese Buddhist master complained, “we see students who sit diligently but do not awaken.”

    In the twelfth century, Rabbi Judah Halevy mourned the loss of decent music: Music declined because it became the work of inferior people. It degenerated from its former greatness because people, too, had degenerated.

    In the twelfth century in Korea, Buddhist master Chinul referred sadly to “people in this age of derelict religion.”

    “There is so much worldliness nowadays,” Saint Teresa of Avila wrote to her brother in 1570, “that I simply hate having possessions.”

    “Nowadays,” a Hasidic rabbi said in the late 1700s, “men’s souls are orphaned and their times decayed.” This was only one generation after the great Hasidic masters — after the Baal Shem Tov and the Great Maggid. “Every day, miracles dwindle and marvels go away,” said another. Rabbi Nachman mourned “widespread atheism and immorality in the world today.”

    In our time, writes a twentieth century Hasidic rabbi, we are in a coma..”


    Of course – later on in the book she rebuts all this “it was better in the olden days” with this passage (which I find quite comforting) on page 89:


    “There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly heroic generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware: a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer: who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time — or even knew selflessness or courage or literature — but that it is too late for us. In fact the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There was never a more holy age than ours, and never a less……

    Purity’s time is always now. Purity is no social phenomenon, a cultural thing whose time we have missed, whose generations are dead, so we can only buy Shaker furniture. “Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai.” says the Talmud.”

  2. March 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Well Roy, you and Annie are right, of course. I still can’t help thinking of it, though. We look for exemplars, for guideposts, and I guess its my nature that I look to the past for that. And the whole Peach Blossom thing, the calligraphy and the garden, that is a modern conception, both charming and with a hopeful message. So long as we have some such things the present age can’t be all bad.

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