23 December 2015

New gallery at V&A

Europe 1600-1815 suddenly appeared near the "tunnel" exit from the V&A - or rather, I vaguely knew this refurbished gallery was now open, and on leaving via the tunnel the other day, decided to have a quick look, at least at the nearest room, late 18th century.

Textiles are plentiful in Room 1, both in cases on the walls and as costumes in glass cases -
The costumes aren't on plinths, and standing beside them, you realise that people were not as tall in the 18th century. And the tiny waists, of the women at least!

This wonderful cover/quilt ("inlaid, applique and embroidered with raised work"; made in Prague, 1790) is tucked away in a corner -
(sorry about the wobbly photo; light levels are low)
and this suit is half size, too small even for a child; it was probably a tailor's sample, made in England or France in 1765 -
 In the section on Comedia dell'Arte is an interactive Masquerade film. Harlequin demonstrates and you emulate his movements - the camera above the screen compares your movements and an indicator appears at the bottom of the screen to tell you how well you did (this little lad was a star) -
 What really excited me was this cabinet, "the Roentgen commode", made 1776-1779 -
Wonderful marquetry, using the natural colours of different woods - and wonderful mechanisms that, with a single key, opened a series of secret drawers, as shown in the short video -
"It was chiefly made as an object to inspire admiration and envy," says the museum's information, and also: "In 1817, the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) published a fairy story, The New Melusina, that had been written some years earlier. In it he described the fairy palace, comparing it to Roentgen's work: 'Whoever may have seen a trick writing desk made by Roentgen, with springs and secret drawers that can be set in motion, whereupon writing space, paper, letters, pigeonholes and money compartments are all revealed all at once or one at a time, will have some idea of how this palace unfolded before our eyes....'"

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