Showing posts from April, 2019

Jousting Armour

< Table of Contents I’ve written previously about some rather fine 17th century English jousting armour at the V&A. To provide contrast, the jousting armour in this post is about a century earlier (1520-40) and German. Although all of the pieces that make up this display are from different sets, bequeathed to and bought by the museum at different times, they are unified in their use of decorative fluting. This technique was particularly popular during the reign of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor . As a decorative device, fluting was intended to imitate contemporary pleated doublets, but it also, essentially produces a corrugating effect, strengthening the metal and providing greater protection. This style of helmet (M.2705-1931), known as an armet, first became popular at the end of the 15th century. The hinged visor reduced much of a nobleman’s vision to reduce the risk of facial injury. This was not seen as a particular impediment as, unlike actual bat

The Three Graces

< Table of Contents The Graces are, by tradition, the three daughters of Jupiter/Zeus: Thalia (youth and beauty), Euphrosyne (mirth), and Aglaia (elegance). This group was commissioned by John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford , when he visited the studios of Antonio Canova in Rome in 1814. There Russell saw and was, justifiably, taken with a version of The Three Graces (now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg) commissioned for Empress Josephine , the former wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. As she had died earlier that year, the Duke made an offer on the piece, but was thwarted by her son, who claimed ownership. Not to be done out of a sculpture, Russell commissioned Canova to produce a second version which was completed in 1817 and installed at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire in 1819. One of the reasons I love this piece is the sheer skill demonstrated by Canova. His working technique was to dictate the design and then allow his workers to carve out the broad shapes, saving th

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ

< Table of Contents I’ve spoken before of my love of the work of Andrea della Robbia and his mindbendingly garish colour choices. This terracotta group, entitled The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, dates to about 1510-1515 and comes from his workshop, if not from the hand of the master himself. As the work incorporates the Virgin Mary cradling the figure of the dead Christ, it may be classed as a Pietà. In this arrangement, Mary is at the centre, with St John the Evangelist to the left and Mary Magdalene on the right. Such a piece would have been intended as a focus for religious devotion in a church, and terracotta was a particularly popular medium at this period in Tuscany and the area around Bologna. The V&A’s information card notes that groups like this were particularly difficult to make and it seems that Mary Magdalene shattered during the first (biscuit) firing. This meant that the figure was unsuitable for further firing to add the glaze and inste