The V&A unveiled details of the new Europe 1600-1800 galleries, opening to the public in December 2014. The £12.5m (USD20.5m) project will see seven galleries transformed for the redisplay of more than 1,100 objects from the Museum’s unrivaled collection of 17th- and 18th-century European art and design. A major part of the V&A’s ongoing redevelopment program known as FuturePlan, the galleries will complete the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.
In its prominent position next to the V&A’s grand entrance, Europe 1600-1800 will continue the story of art and design that begins in the award-winning Medieval & Renaissance Galleries (opened 2009). Four large galleries will introduce the story in chronological sequence, alternating with three smaller galleries that focus on specific activities: collecting in the Cabinet, enlightened thought in the Salon and entertainment and glamour in the Masquerade. In addition, three period rooms will invite visitors to imagine life in the personal spaces of the time including a 17th-century French bedroom, Madame de Sérilly’s cabinet and a mirrored room from 18th-century Italy.
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The collection comprises some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A, including spectacular examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture,
ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books. Many objects were made in Europe by its finest artists and craftsmen for the period’s most discerning leaders of taste such as Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.
Martin Roth, V&A Director, said: “These new galleries are a major development in our ambitious program to renew the architecture of the V&A for the 21st century and, at the same time, re-examine and re-present our collection for our visitors. At a time when roles and relationships within Europe and the world are under scrutiny, it is interesting to explore the objects, makers and patrons of a period that was so influential upon the habits and lifestyle of Europe today.”
A large, highly ornate Rococo writing cabinet made for Augustus III and acquired in 1977 from the celebrated sale of Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire will be exhibited for the first time since its recent conservation. Another newly conserved highlight on display will be a grand 18th-century bed from the Parisian workshop of George Jacob. A supplier to royal courts across Europe, Jacob survived the French Revolution and later made furniture for Napoleon.
The displays will demonstrate how France succeeded Italy as the undisputed leader of fashionable art and design in Europe in the second half of the 17th century. They will also show how – for the first time ever – Europeans systematically explored, exploited and collected resources from Africa, Asia and the Americas as part of an increasingly global cultural market.
The collection includes several outstanding bequests, notably from John Jones, a military tailor who left his exceptional collection of French decorative arts to the Museum in 1882 and who is the subject of a special display within the galleries. A number of significant new acquisitions will be exhibited for the first time at the Museum including a 17th-century Venetian table by Lucio de Lucci, acquired after a temporary export ban in 2012. The most recent acquisition will be the magnificent oil painting The Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin. The painting is a rare, accurate depiction of the architecture and bustling life of a château near Paris in the 17th century and will be a centerpiece of the gallery exploring the rise of French cultural
dominance during the period. Fundraising to secure the work for the nation is almost complete thanks to a major public appeal and donations from the Friends of the V&A and the Art Fund.
Preparation for the reopening is underway with a full reinterpretation of the collection and important objects undergoing conservation: several large tapestries are being cleaned at De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestries in Mechelen, Belgium, including the Gobelins tapestry after the Poussin painting The infant Moses tramples on Pharoah's crown manufactured in Paris in the 1680s. Fashion garments and textiles are being conserved in the V&A’s world-renowned studios and a Meissen table fountain is being meticulously researched and rebuilt for the first time since its acquisition in 1870.
The V&A is working with architectural practice ZMMA on the redesign of the galleries. The project will see the complete removal of the interior cladding added in the 1970s and will reclaim back of house storage space. The combined effect will enlarge the galleries by almost a third to 1,550 square meters. Natural light will be returned to the spaces by uncovering windows previously obscured. Environmental controls will be upgraded to provide sustainable and stable conditions for the collection and new state-of-the-art cases that meet modern environmental and security requirements will be installed.
The Europe 1600-1800 galleries are being made possible thanks to a generous £4.75m (USD7.7m)lead grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with further support from many other Trusts, Foundations and individuals.
Source: V&A Museum
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