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A Tale of Two Tassels - Raphael and Holbein in The National Gallery, London

March 3, 2017

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Visiting The V&A Museum, London

The V&A - or Victoria & Albert - is centrally located in London's equivalent of NYC's "museum mile." Right across the street is the Natural History Museum, and next door is the Science Museum. I think this is by far the best of them but of course as an artist I'm biased.

 

My favorite piece there is this marble of Neptune by Bernini.  

 

 

But there's lots to see. The've got a renaissance sculpture garden I really enjoyed visiting and a strong collection of Old Master paintings. Their special exhibits are generally stellar and the permanent collection is chock full of gems; any single one of which would be crown jewel of any American collection.

 

The great museums of England and Europe on the whole far exceed the holdings of our institutions because most of the great work throughout the centuries simply isn't allowed to leave. In the modern era almost every country has mechanisms in place to either ban the export of, or guarantee the patriation of, works of great value and historical significance. Which is a long-winded way of saying to see the good stuff, you've gotta' go to London. 

They've got a large collection of *all kinds of stuff* - ephemera; furniture; jewelry; great art, to be sure... including an airplane-hangar-sized room, kept very dimly lit, containing all the full color and full-sized cartoons (preparatory drawings) by Raphael for the papal tapestries adorning the Sistine Chapel. They're HUGE.

 

But the museum also delights in exhibiting *stuff* - jewels and gems, silver and gold, fashion exhibits and rare manuscript exhibits... not just art, but all kinds of museum-quality collectables are on display here all the time.

 

 

When I lived in London I made it here several times over the course of a couple of years and each time the permanent exhibits seemed to be refreshed.

 

Regretfully I didn't take pictures every time and can't say for sure - maybe I'm imagining it - but I think they genuinely go out of their way to rotate their holdings (which is more than can be said for many museums).  

 

I got lucky the first time I visited and saw this pen drawing by Anthony Van Dyck:

 

Prior to this I'd never seen a Van Dyck drawing (I've since seen entire exhibits dedicated to his drawings but what can I say, I was a neophyte). I recall thinking it was marvelous that drawings by him still exist. 

 

It looks like the first cousin of similar sheets of draftsmanship by hands as diverse as Rembrandt and Leonardo, I think; and is exactly the sort of unexpected "find" that makes the drudgery of getting to a museum so worthwhile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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