Today I threw up all of the things I should have been doing for a chance to enjoy London – choosing the V&A for the Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book exhibition, which I’ve reviewed over on My London Your London.
But it is hard always to stick at one thing, and with the medieval and Renaissance galleries now closed for refurbishment (reopening scheduled for November 2009), I kept falling across them everywhere. Up on the fourth floor is a small display on Makers and markets, looking at the development of one period into the other. There are spectacular Giambologna bronzes and Limoges enamels, but as so often I find the more humble pieces much more interesting, including the German stoneware from the Rhineland, which was exported all over northwest Europe.
There’s this pitcher c 1573 by Jan Emens Mennicken (who is also represented at the British Museum, including this spectacular wine vessel for a wealthy household
Simpler still is a goblet decorated with lions’ heads, attributed to Jan Baldems Mennicken (c 1590). Stylish, but also practical for greasy fingers, the caption notes, at a time when most eating was still done without implements.
Down in Room 20, I stumbled across more; some of one of my favourite arts – majolica (maiolica).
There’s this 1540ish dish with a hound holding a heart in its mouth a love token, faithful dog is begging beloved’s heart . . .
.. .and a lion holding a cross inscribed flag, that of the first republic, 1450-70, in a typical “green style” of the Florentine countryside
Jumping forward a few centuries, I learnt that from the late medieval period the Jewel House at Tower of London was responsible for supplying silver for royal, court and government needs. In 1686 each member of privy council given an inkstand, a pair of snuffers, a tray and a pair of candlesticks to help them sign documents. All were government issue, so bore arms of reigning monarch.
This is a candlesticks of William Bromley, a Tory elected speaker in 1710.
The weight might have been right, but perhaps not a lot of artistic thought…