Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery

Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery, V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, until 5th February 2017

Opus Anglicanum Installation View (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Opus Anglicanum
Installation View
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A’s world-class collections combined with works returning to these shores for the first time since they were made in the Middle Ages make this a truly spectacular exhibition and one that captures the imagination.  Many of the objects have associations with notable figures such as the murdered Saint Thomas Becket, the Black Prince and Edward I and his consort Eleanor of Castile.

The Chichester Constable Chasuble ca. 1335-45 Image copyright: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Art Resource Scala Florence

The Chichester Constable Chasuble ca. 1335-45
Image copyright: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art Resource Scala Florence

England was the leading producer of luxury embroideries from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth centuries and counted Popes, Cardinals, Kings and Queens among its patrons. The Latin phrase ‘opus anglicanum’ means ‘English work’ and was first used in the 13th century to describe the ravishing and desirable silk embroideries which were hand-made, using gold and silver threads, in London, usually by women.

The Dunstable Swan Jewel, ca. 1400 c The Trustees of the British Museum

The Dunstable Swan Jewel, ca. 1400
c The Trustees of the British Museum

The hundred plus objects in this show includes examples of both ecclesiastical and secular pieces. Some of the earlier ecclesiastical have survived because they were interred during the burials of the bishops or abbots who wore them. Secular examples did not fare so well as they were either discarded as fashions changed or wore out but records show that there was a demand for them.  This exhibition has some rare survivals of secular work, including some with links to the Plantagenet English Kings.

Part of a horse trapper 1330-40. Photo c_RMN-Grand_Palais Paris, musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen Âge.

Part of a horse trapper 1330-40.
Photo c_RMN-Grand_Palais Paris, musée de Cluny – musée national du Moyen Âge.

Alongside the embroideries you will find other period works in varying media such as manuscripts, sculpture, metalwork and panel paintings which emphasise the connection in the artistic output of the times. The exhibition also considers the impact of the English Reformation on these textiles and the revival of interest in the 19th century.

The Steeple Aston Cope (detail) Date: 1310-40 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The Steeple Aston Cope (detail)
Date: 1310-40
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The exhibition’s co-curator Glyn Davies sums it up saying: “As a historian, the opportunity to see all these objects, normally scattered across museums and cathedral treasuries in Europe and North America, together in one place is thrilling. We are grateful to all lenders that have generously agreed to loan works for this exhibition. England enjoyed an international reputation for the quality of its embroidery. This exhibition shows English art on a European stage.”

His co-curator and textiles specialist Clare Browne adds: “The exquisite attention to detail in these embroidered works makes them not just impressive examples of craftsmanship and luxury materials, but vivid glimpses of life both in reality and in the medieval imagination. From the grim torture of martyred saints to a mother’s tender swaddling of her new-born baby, scenes are depicted with a meticulous precision that the sophisticated embroidery techniques made possible.”

As I said at the beginning this is an exhibition that stirs the imagination and the sight of these embroideries stirs the mind and soul as much today as it must have in medieval times.

 

The Syon Cope Date: 1310-1320 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

The Syon Cope
Date: 1310-1320
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Support generously provided by The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts

 

vam.ac.uk/opus | #OpusAnglicanum

‘The Great Salisbury’

Constable in Context: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows in perspective, The Salisbury Museum, The King’s House, 65 The Close, Salisbury SP1 2EN, until 25th March 2017

 

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831 John Constable (1776 - 1837) © Tate, London 2013 Purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831
John Constable (1776 – 1837) © Tate, London 2013 Purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members

John Constable called this painting ‘The Great Salisbury’ and also wrote ‘I am told I got it to look better than anything I have yet done.’ Well, I certainly am not going to disagree with him there. It was secured for the Nation by the Tate through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members and will tour the UK as part of ‘Aspire’.

The City & Cathedral of Salisbury from Harnham Hill, 1955 Lord Methuen © The Salisbury Museum

The City & Cathedral of Salisbury from Harnham Hill, 1955
Lord Methuen © The Salisbury Museum

One of his ‘six footer’ canvases it is a tour-de-force and its radical style was a turning point for many artists who copied Constable’s “expressive” style for architectural subjects. The Museum in this fascinating exhibition has made the painting the centrepiece of a show which focuses on images of the Cathedral from the 17th century up to this century, including works by Henrick de Cort, Frederick Nash, Frederick MacKenzie and JMW Turner.

West Front of Salisbury Cathedral, 1900 Albert Goodwin © The Salisbury Museum

West Front of Salisbury Cathedral, 1900
Albert Goodwin © The Salisbury Museum

The Museum’s Marketing Officer, Louise Tunnard, sums it up well saying: “Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most significant and memorable buildings in England – so many of us have direct memories of this building that will always be treasured. Just in the same way that you never forget your first view of the sea, people do not tend to forget their first view of the Cathedral. The impact this building has had on artists and their subsequent urge to record it for posterity, has provided us with an amazing record of the building over time.

The irony is that as human beings, having seen something we then tend to stop looking closely at it, but I hope this exhibition will encourage residents of Salisbury and visitors alike, to really look at the Cathedral building and see how lucky we are to live and work alongside such a wonderful structure.”

Salisbury Cathedral from the West, 1671 Wesceslaus Hollar © The Salisbury Museum

Salisbury Cathedral from the West, 1671
Wesceslaus Hollar © The Salisbury Museum

I couldn’t agree more. The Cathedral is such a special place and whenever I go to Salisbury it is the first place I visit to wonder and marvel anew.  Constable obviously felt the same way too – thank goodness!

Kate Giles and her painting after John Constable. Courtesy of Salisbury Museum

Kate Giles and her painting after John Constable.
Courtesy of Salisbury Museum

http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/

http://www.tate.org.uk

Bowie – Tintoretto – Rubens

David Bowie loved museums throughout his life and would lend works from his own collection to them so it is quite appropriate that the European collector who purchased this Tintoretto announced that he was going to place it on a long-term loan to a Belgian museum.

Jacopo Robusti, called Jacopo Tintoretto and Studio Venice 1518 - 1594 The Angel foretelling Saint Catherine of Alexandria of her martyrdom oil on canvas with an arched top, relined as a rectangle 177.1 by 99.3cm.; 69¾ by 39¼in. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim Whitby/ Getty Images for Sotheby's)

Jacopo Robusti, called Jacopo Tintoretto and Studio
Venice 1518 – 1594
The Angel foretelling Saint Catherine of Alexandria of her martyrdom
oil on canvas with an arched top, relined as a rectangle
177.1 by 99.3cm.; 69¾ by 39¼in.
(Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim Whitby/ Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

This striking work by Tintoretto and his Studio had belonged to Bowie for nearly thirty years and soon St Catherine of Alexandria being warned by an angel of her martyrdom will be on display in the Rubenshuis in Antwerp from Spring 2017. As many of you know Rubens was greatly influenced by Tintoretto and Venetian art and so the painting will have a good home.

http://www.sothebys.com

http://www.rubenshuis.be

BOOK REVIEW: CECIL BEATON AT HOME: AN INTERIOR LIFE

CECIL BEATON AT HOME: AN INTERIOR LIFE

By Andrew Ginger, Foreword by Hugo Vickers

Rizzoli New York
PRICE: £50.00
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4877-5
: © Cecil Beaton at Home: An Interior Life by Andrew Ginger, Rizzoli New York, 2016

: © Cecil Beaton at Home: An Interior Life by Andrew Ginger, Rizzoli New York, 2016

 

I was fortunate enough to meet the author Andrew Ginger at the two exhibitions he curated around the theme of ‘Cecil Beaton At Home’ at Salisbury Museum and Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler in 2014. They were excellent shows and it was remarkable to see objects and paintings from Beaton’s homes.

View of the dining room, Ashcombe 1935. The curtains were of an orange-and-yellow striped silk © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

View of the dining room, Ashcombe 1935. The curtains were of an orange-and-yellow striped silk
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Now thanks to Andrew’s continued enthusiasm and dedication to the fascinating subject of Cecil Beaton in his own homes we have this hugely enjoyable and well-researched book which is copiously illustrated bringing the houses, Beaton, his friends and loves to life.

The drawing room at 8 Pelham Place, 1962. Combining two rooms into one created a single salon of 31’ 1” by 15’ 2” © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The drawing room at 8 Pelham Place, 1962. Combining two rooms into one created a single salon of 31’ 1” by 15’ 2”
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The name Cecil Beaton is well-known to many for he was multi-talented – a celebrated photographer, costume and set designer, playwright and designer of fabrics – but he was also as this book amply proves a good interior decorator creating beautiful, striking rooms, whether in his homes or the New York hotel suites he decorated and was allowed to stay in at a discounted rate.

 

The and Winter Garden at Reddish House, painted left-handed by Cecil after his stroke, 1979 photograph by James McMillan, (copyright for CB artwork to National Portrait Gallery, London)

The and Winter Garden at Reddish House, painted left-handed by Cecil after his stroke, 1979
photograph by James McMillan, (copyright for CB artwork to National Portrait Gallery, London)

The book rightly focuses on Beaton’s two Wiltshire homes – Ashcombe House and Reddish House – with their remarkable and sometimes eccentric interiors which I would so loved to have seen but thanks to this book I at least can enjoy them, especially that beautiful Edwardian-influenced drawing room at Reddish.

The drawing room at Reddish House, painted by Cecil Beaton, Christmas 1955 photograph by James McMillan, collection of Stiles Tuttle Colwill

The drawing room at Reddish House, painted by Cecil Beaton, Christmas 1955
photograph by James McMillan, collection of Stiles Tuttle Colwill

There have been many marvellous books on Cecil Beaton but to me this book is the best as I believe people’s homes reveal them and Beaton certainly comes to life through the pages of this book. Wonderful!

The last portrait of Cecil, looking through his last fashion spread for Vogue in the library at Reddish House, September 4, 1979 copyright Lee Higham, Assistant, 1979

The last portrait of Cecil, looking through his last fashion spread for Vogue in the library at Reddish House, September 4, 1979
copyright Lee Higham, Assistant, 1979

www.rizzoliusa.com

Qizilbash Treasures

Treasures from the Prestigious Qizilbash Collection, Sotheby’s France, 76 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, 28th November 2016 

A gilt-bronze mounted Chinese bleu céleste porcelain garniture composed of three pots-pourris, the porcelain Kangxi (1662-1722), the gilt-bronze Louis XV, circa 1765 -1770 Estimate: 1.000.000 – 2.000.000 € Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

A gilt-bronze mounted Chinese bleu céleste porcelain garniture composed of three pots-pourris, the porcelain Kangxi (1662-1722), the gilt-bronze Louis XV,
circa 1765 -1770
Estimate: 1.000.000 – 2.000.000 €
Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

There really is only one word to describe the collection of European works of art put together over the years by Hossein and Mariam Qizilbash and that is “prestigious”. The objects in this sale are undoubtedly of museum quality and reflect the exquisite taste of the Qizilbash’s.

These nine stars of 17th and 18th century European decorative arts were “created” by remarkable craftsmen in France, Britain, Italy, Germany and Holland.  Here is a selection for your delectation:

An enamelled gold book cover, Dutch circa 1640 Estimate: 40.000 – 60.00 € Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

An enamelled gold book cover, Dutch circa 1640
Estimate: 40.000 – 60.00 €
Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

 

A pair of silver and parcel-gilt figures of Apollo and Vulcan, Abraham Drentwett II, Augsburg Estimate: 60.000 – 80.000 € Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

A pair of silver and parcel-gilt figures of Apollo and Vulcan, Abraham Drentwett II, Augsburg
Estimate: 60.000 – 80.000 €
Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

 

A tortoiseshell, mother of pearl and gold piqué spinning wheel and distaff with gilt-bronze mounts, probably Naples, mid 18th century Estimate: 40.000 – 60.000 € Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

A tortoiseshell, mother of pearl and gold piqué spinning wheel and distaff with gilt-bronze mounts, probably Naples,
mid 18th century
Estimate: 40.000 – 60.000 €
Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auction: Tuesday, 28th November, 2016 at 7.00 p.m.

Exhibition: 24th to 27th November 2016

A tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and gold piqué rosewater ewer and basin, Naples, first half 18th century Estimate: 400.000 – 600.000 € Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

A tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and gold piqué rosewater ewer and basin, Naples,
first half 18th century
Estimate: 400.000 – 600.000 €
Photo credit: Sotheby’s / Art digital studio

 

http://www.sothebys.com

Beyond Caravaggio

Beyond Caravaggio, Sainsbury Wing, The National Gallery, London, until 15th January 2017

As I was unable to attend I asked John Kirkwood to go on my behalf – here are his thoughts:

Mattia Preti, called II Calabrese Draughts Players, about 1635 Oil on canvas 107.9 × 142.2 cm © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Mattia Preti, called II Calabrese
Draughts Players, about 1635
Oil on canvas
107.9 × 142.2 cm
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

This is a very powerful exhibition displaying as it does the amazing influence of the unveiling in Rome of Caravaggio’s first public commission in 1600.  Many artists were so taken with his naturalism and his treatment of light and shade that they went on to imitate him in a style that became known as Caravaggesque and here you will find many examples of this trend.  Some may find the effect of all the gloom of this Caravaggism a little repetitive but there is no denying the artistry on display.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Boy peeling fruit, about 1592-3 Oil on canvas 63 × 53 cm Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Boy peeling fruit, about 1592-3
Oil on canvas
63 × 53 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk

Cecco del Caravaggio A Musician, about 1615 Oil on canvas 125 × 100 cm The Wellington Collection, Apsely House, London © Historic England

Cecco del Caravaggio
A Musician, about 1615
Oil on canvas
125 × 100 cm
The Wellington Collection, Apsely House, London
© Historic England

 

Guido Reni Lot and his Daughters leaving Sodom About 1615-16 Oil on canvas 111.2 x 149.2 cm The National Gallery, London © The National Gallery, London

Guido Reni
Lot and his Daughters leaving Sodom
About 1615-16
Oil on canvas
111.2 x 149.2 cm
The National Gallery, London
© The National Gallery, London

 

Dirck van Baburen Cimon and Pero (Roman Charity), 1622-3 Oil on canvas 127 x 151 cm York Art Gallery, York Museums Trust © Image courtesy of York Museums Trust

Dirck van Baburen
Cimon and Pero (Roman Charity), 1622-3
Oil on canvas
127 x 151 cm
York Art Gallery, York Museums Trust
© Image courtesy of York Museums Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artemisia Gentileschi Susannah and the Elders, 1622 Oil on canvas 161.5 × 123 cm © The Burghley House Collection

Artemisia Gentileschi
Susannah and the Elders, 1622
Oil on canvas
161.5 × 123 cm
© The Burghley House Collection

BOOK REVIEW: Around That Time: Horst at Home in Vogue

Around That Time:  Horst at Home in Vogue 

by Valentine Lawford and Ivan Shaw, photography by Horst P. Horst.
Foreword by Hamish Bowles
Publisher: Abrams.
ISBN 978-1-4197-2224-0
UK £45.00

 aroundthattime-cover

I have to admit that the idea of this book was on my wish list as I was entranced by the 1968 Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People, which has now become a much sought after book.  Now it has been updated in this glorious volume which features the masterful photography of Horst P Horst and the absorbing essays on the homes and their residents by Horst’s partner the writer Valentine Lawford.  It is the perfect combination and gives us fascinating insights into society, the arts and politics between 1938 and 1985. A huge thank you to all for this great, delightful book which will become a classic!

 

http://abramsandchronicle.co.uk/books/architecture-and-interiors/9781419722240-around-that-time