Secrets of the V&A Museum

The V&A Museum (Victoria and Albert) is part of Prince Albert’s legacy. His, and the museum’s, aim was to educate working class people, to make art available to one and all, and to provide inspiration to British designers and manufacturers. The museum was founded in 1852 and was moved to the present site in 1857. Buildings were added as the collections grew in size. It was then called South Kensington Museum. In 1899, Queen Victoria laid the cornerstone of a new grand building. On that occasion, the museum was renamed the Victoria and Albert in memory of Albert.

The V&A Museum in Kensington has amazing collections that span many centuries and cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. You could spend hours, days even, enjoying all this museum has to offer. And the great thing is that you can come back as often as you want because the entrance is free of charge. All these treasures at your fingertips at no charge!

I visited the V&A Museum recently and learnt a few “secrets,” which I’m going to share with you now.

 

If you go in through the main entrance on Cromwell Road, make sure you look up at the Dale Chihuly‘s blown glass chandelier under the dome. It is beautiful, like the rest of his work.

V&A Museum, London

I really do like this chandelier but what I found interesting is the cleaning process (probably because I dislike all manner of housework!) The chandelier has to be dusted by hand, piece by piece, in situ. The cleaner mounts a rising platform, which he has to move around the chandelier and do a section at a time from the top. Since it is done before opening hours, this can take a few mornings to finish.  I think I’ll pass on this job, thank you very much.

 

If you enter the museum through the Exhibition Road entrance, like I did, first you see the pockmarked outside walls. This is bomb damage sustained during the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other British cities during World War II. It is a sobering sight indeed. Once inside, you go down a set of steps into a sculpture gallery. This gallery has mainly work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

 

V&A Museum, London

On 8th November,1914, Auguste Rodin gifted 18 of his sculptures to the V&A in honour of the French and British soldiers fighting in War World I. The story goes that the sculptures were on loan to the museum. When war broke out, it was impossible to return them to the Continent and Rodin decided they should stay here as a tribute to those soldiers.

 

Prepare to be amazed by the monumental Cast Courts opened in 1873. The collections consist of casts of monuments like the Trajan column, buildings like the Portico de la Gloria from Santiago de Compostela cathedral, or sculptures like Michelangelo’s David. In Victorian times, these casts were considered great educational tools for those who couldn’t afford to travel. Nowadays, these plaster artifacts are a valuable record of damaged or even destroyed originals.

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The Grand Duke of Tuscany presented Queen Victoria with a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s David in 1857. Apparently, the queen had  no use for it in her residences and donated the sculpture to the museum. Queen Victoria is said to have remarked upon David’s nudity, how shocking she found it, so a plaster fig leaf was made for the sake of propriety. The fig leaf was kept at the ready for royal visits. Nowadays, David struts his stuff unhindered. The fig leaf is on display separately.

 

One of the Museum’s attractions is the collection of Raphael’s cartoons. I did a double take when I heard that. Cartoons as in Peanuts or Tom & Jerry? Not quite. Cartoon derives from the Italian word cartone, which means a large sheet of paper or a preparatory design. These cartoons are full-scale designs for tapestries commissioned for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons depict the acts of St. Peter and St. Paul and were designed by Raphael and painted by him and his assistants.

V&A Museum, London

These cartoons were designed in 1515-15 and made of sheets of paper pasted together. They are about 3 yards (metres) tall and between 3 and 5 yards (metres) wide. They are quite spectacular.

Practical information

The V&A Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5.45 pm. It closes at 10 pm on Fridays (some galleries have an earlier closing time.)

Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL.

Admission is free although some exhibitions carry a charge.

Photography and sketching are permitted (yay!) except in the temporary exhibitions (probably due to copyright.)

The closest underground station is South Kensington.

London United Kingdom

Ana View All →

Hi, I’m Ana. I’m originally from Argentina but I’m currently living in Dallas (USA) with my British husband. I’d like to share my experiences as an expat and as a traveller.

7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Mil, mil , mil gracias por mostrarnos este museo y explicar tan bien su historia…
    Hay detalles importantes que uno olvida o no conoce para nada, así que tu blog nos sirve como basis cultural..!!

    Like

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