London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is one of my favourite places in London. Locally known as the V&A, it’s one of this city’s free museums, so you can just wander in whenever you feel and take a look around. The building itself is incredible, and houses a huge collection of objects, with a focus on art and design, it has an incredible collection of fashion through the ages.
The grand entrance to the V&A has a statue of Albert over the door. He was the much beloved consort of Queen Victoria, from which two the museum gets it’s name. I have a bit of a soft spot for these two, as they were a couple very much in love, and Queen Victoria was heart broken when he was taken from her at far too young an age. It’s a beautiful story, and he seemed like a very kind man. His statue is just one of the many that adorn the building, which is rife with all kinds of decorations, from statues of famous painters, architects and designers, to beautiful frescoes and carved marble and plasterwork. The works inside are vast, and take in about 5000 years of history. The museum was invented in 1852 as a place that would contain different kinds of art and design, as a kind of school for manufacturers to find inspiration. As such, it contains art and design from all over the world, from ceramics to sculptures, ironwork to armor, books, and as mentioned above, an incredible fashion archive.
To walk through the museum is to walk through history, and watch people’s beliefs and passions change and grow over time, and the style and approach to art changing too. The medieval obsession with religion gives way to the fascination with Greece and Rome of later years, and then the 1920’s gives us Art Deco lines.
The range of items here is vast, but one thing that I love is that whole rooms have been moved here from other places, and many everyday artifacts are here. Things that people used everyday, from clocks and hangings to beds and carpets, as well as things that we no longer use anymore, like gold prayer books on chains. It’s such a wonderful insight into the everyday lives of people through the ages, and I love that. You feel like you can relate, and put yourself in the shoes of another time and place.
The room above is a delight. You might recognise that huge statue of David! It’s a room of plaster copies made during the Victorian era, when travel was expensive. Plaster casts were very popular in this time, as a means of experiencing important artworks from other parts of the world. There are some amazing peices in here, and all of them look like they’re really marble or bronze, which is quite mindblowing. It’s also one of the quieter galleries, so it’s a nice place to stop and sit.
close up of a silver plated lion, about the size of a real one, which are copies of those that guard the Danish throne. Beautiful detail.
An original book case from the 1500’s and a sculpture made for a garden in the Art Deco style, called the Princess and the Frog, from the fairytale.
One thing you MUST do when you’re here is visit the incredible tea rooms, pictured above. They’re beautifully calm and absolutely exquisite. The prices here are about the same as Starbucks, but you get to be in this incredible environment. And sometimes there’s even a piano player who drops down.