We really knackered ourselves today -- somehow we did three London exhibitions. But it was worth it. In order we saw:
Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design at the V+A.
We got there at opening time (10 AM); good move because by the time we left there were long queues. I love Leonardo’s work, but this exhibition left me disappointed. It is just one room and consists entirely of Leonardo drawings and notebook pages – not surprising as it sets out to look at how Leonardo thought on paper. The drawings are stunning – and tiny! Many sheets are no bigger than A5/8vo. But the level of detail is amazing, as is Leonardo’s minute, but clear writing. I’m glad to have seen the Leonardo drawings “in the flesh”, but as I say I did come away somewhat disappointed.
At Home in Renaissance Italy, also at the V+A.
This exhibition is next door to the Leonardo – and what a contrast. Two large exhibition rooms which leave you with a sense of dazzling colour. To quote the V+A’s website “[The exhibition] reveals for the first time the Renaissance interior’s central role in the flourishing of Italian art and culture. The exhibition provides an innovative three-dimensional view of the Italian Renaissance home, presented as object-filled spaces that bring the period to life … [it] places outstanding art and domestic objects within their original contexts. Together they highlight the rhythms and rituals of Renaissance living.” And what objects! Magnificent paintings, furniture, textiles, pottery. You can just sit and admire them all day and still come away stunned. Brilliant. See it!
After lunch at the V+A (excellent café, by the way) it was on to Tate Britain.
Holbein in England at Tate Britain.
“Hans Holbein … effectively brought the Renaissance in painting from continental Europe to Britain. Through an outstanding collection of paintings [and drawings] brought together from around the world, this exhibition documents the thrill of the court and life in Tudor England, reflecting the unsettled history and politics of the time.” And what stupendous paintings! Many old favourites, known from reference works, but also some new ones. All interleaved with Holbein’s drawings which show how he worked a sketch into the finished portrait – the Tudor court’s equivalent of a portrait photograph. This is a huge exhibition – at 9 rooms it dwarfs the two V+A exhibitions combined. And each is filled with just the most stunning art. Another must see. But be prepared to queue; it is very popular. Tickets are timed; buy them in advance if you can.
Sadly all three exhibitions are on only until 7 January, so you’ll need to move quickly to get to them!