Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Victoria & Albert Museum, and a quick stroll to Vauxhall

September 20, 2010 · No Comments

The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is unique in that instead of focusing on one style or type of art, the exhibits at the Victoria and Albert include diverse forms of decoration. I use the term decoration broadly because the museum is essentially a collection of decorative items and artifacts, including porcelain, tapestry, and other furnishings, mostly from the 16th century onward. Also featured are exhibits on sculpture, but that is for another blog.

The museum bills itself as “the greatest museum of art and design”, and in that respect it fulfills its mission. It would be overly simplistic to say that the Victoria and Albert is simply a collection of the conspicuous consumption of the well heeled before the 20th century, but not completely off the mark. The luxurious possessions which comprised the museum included silver and gold gilded tea sets, large tapestries, and detailed porcelain. For example, there was an exhibit on Chinoiserie, which despite its name, was not specifically a Chinese craft. In fact, Chinoserie was a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian motifs designed and produced in Britain in the mid 18th century.

A section which interested me in particular was the exhibit containing artwork and artifacts involving Johnathan Tyers, an ambitious entreprenuer from the 18th century.  Tyers really loved George Friedrich Handel, so much that he commissioned a statue of him for placement in Spring Gardens near Vauxhall.

Taken from (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O34256/statue-handel/), by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

This statue features the composer playing the lyre of Orpheus, a mythical figure whose music calmed even the most savage beast. Tyers wanted this statue to be placed in the heart of the Gardens, possibly as symbolism of his campaign to convert the gardens from its earlier seediness. Today, I stopped by the gardens, a five minute walk from the Vauxhaul station on the Victoria line, hoping to see the product of Tyers’ toils. But unfortunately the previous gardens had been razed in order to build housing, and when that housing had been demolished the gardens were not restored to their previous glory. The park had clearly reverted to its seedier nature, judging by the sight of a homeless man passed out on a park bench holding a bottle of whisky…

Categories: 2010 Tyler · Museums · Uncategorized

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