09 July 2013

Favourite sculptures at the V&A

You know how it is at a museum you visit frequently - there are things you love to see each time, or at least frequently. These two sculptures are among my favourites at the V&A.
First, "Saint - about 1500". He can be found outside the bookshop, behind a pillar at the bottom of the stairs. He suffers a little from reflection - and perhaps from compression, as sideways-on, he's rather flat. But the carving and gilding of the folds make him totally three-dimensional. I also love the proportions of the colours used ... and the way he's definitely in "another world", perhaps thinking about what he's just been reading in that book that he (furtively?) clutches to his chest.

"The low relief indicates that this figure was attached to the inner wing of a large altarpiece. In Nuremberg, altarpieces often had three figures in the round in the centre and a relief on each wing. The saint was possibly a member of the Dominican or Carmelite order." 

Painted and gilded limewood, made in Nuremberg about 1500. German woodcarving of that era is amazing - finding out more about it is "on my list". 

The next piece was once located ... where ... in the sculpture court, perhaps (which has now become part of the medieval display). I got to know it very well while doing a drawing course, many years ago. 
In my drawing, the leg on the left never did look quite right. You'd think drawing from a sculpture, which doesn't move, would be easier than from a life model, which does tend to shift a little during the pose. Look as hard and carefully, and flexibly, as ever you can, neither is particularly easy to draw - there are joints and angles and foreshortening and all sorts of other shenanigans going on, due simply to the intricacies of the body and its many possible positions.

"Two putti supporting an architrave" may have been sculpted by John Michael Rysbrach about 1730. The museum also has a terracotta model, sketch for the marble version. The new sculpture court is between the shop and the central garden, and these "caryatids" are on the wall above the ramp up to the shop.

When you spend time drawing an object in a museum, you come to possess it in a way that is much more powerful than ownership in the physical sense. Yet another good reason for drawing in museums - we should all do more of it!

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