The Victoria and Albert Museum's permanent collection numbers over 4.5 million objects, which should tell you something about what you'll find here. It is officially called a museum of decorative arts and design, which, if you read between the lines, means that it's the world's greatest hoard of stuff.
|Rear elevation seen from the garden|
|A bust of the young Victoria|
Its library houses over 750,000 books, including volumes that belonged to Leonardo da Vinci. The ceramics and porcelain collection is said to be the largest in the world.
All told, it makes a great place to browse.
|The Wrought Iron Work Gallery|
Some things are exquisite, like the collection of furnishings by the 19th Century Aesthetics like William Morris. Here is a swatch of printed cotton fabric in the "Strawberry Thief" pattern, from 1883.
|"Bashaw, the Faithful Friend of Man"|
The placid dog stands atop a black marble base on a beige marble tasseled cushion. He rather mildly tramples a bronze snake with ruby eyes beneath one white marble paw. His eyes are topaz; He makes you want to give him a doggie treat. That exquisite arbiter of taste, John Ruskin, after seeing 'Bashaw' in a loan exhibition at the South Kensington Museum in 1870, called it
"the most perfectly and roundly ill-done thing I ever saw produced in art...the persons who produced it had seen everything, and practised everything; and misunderstood everything they saw, and misapplied everything they did...and misunderstanding of everything had passed through them as mud does through earthworms, and here at last was their worm-cast of a Production."
Then there's this - the decorative carving over a door, made in the Italian style for the Great Drawing Room of Norfolk House, in 1758 by the French carver Cuenot. Its decor features the flora and fauna of Southeast Asia - hence the little monkey figures.
This is brocade silk dress fabric dating from 1725 or so. It was made by French Huegenot weavers who emigrated to Spitalfields with their craft, establishing that London neighborhood as a thriving garment district.
|Mahogany chair by Macmurdo, 1883|
And this side chair with a delicately carved seat-back.
|Bergere, circa 1823|
|Altar screen from Hereford Cathedral|
You can view the collection, or you can view the beautifully curated special exhibitions - and the museum helps pull the theme of the exhibits through the entire environment. A solo exhibition on the British Heatherwicke Studios included these fantastic Studio Spun chairs - but instead of confining them to the gallery, they were placed in the lobby and even in the outdoor garden.
Kids loved them.
It was a rare dry and sunny day, and the fine weather brought the school kids out into the central garden to splash in the pond. If your feet are feeling tired, you could splash about, too, or relax among the hydrangeas.
|The Gamble Room interior|
We split a lunch of shredded duck and hoisin wrap, served with faro salad, in the stunning Gamble Room. Designed by Godfrey Sykes, James Gamble, and Reuben Townrow, the entire room was intended to be washable, with ceramic tile walls and enameled steel ceilings, in an ornate Italian Renaissance style with ornate stained glass windows.
To one side of the Gamble Room is the Poynter Room, originally intended to be a grill room, where one could get chops and steaks. It's decor features blue-and-white Dutch-style tiles and wooden panelling.
The room on the other side was designed by William Morris, with dado rail paintings by Edward Burne-Jones. What an amazing way to end a day of museum-viewing!
I've always like poking about in piled up hoards of stored away stuff, but crazy old Aunt Vicky's attic is the best in the world!