Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Browsing at the V&A.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I had a rather slow start this morning though I did wake up at 6 am. Between responding to email (I received some letters from friends in the States that required long and thoughtful responses), looking for cheap airfares between Rome and Istanbul (a most frustrating experience as I could find none), chatting to my parents in Bombay, to Llew who is currently at a conference in Washington DC, etc. the morning flew past.

I started to watch a film called 28 Days Later which is set in London; but it was so gory a piece of science fiction that I had to give up on it less than half way through. While watching it, I began the Contrast Bathing Therapy that Jane Hampson told me about and it was not half as intolerable as I expected (but perhaps I do not have the hot water hot enough or the cold water cold enough). However it might be best to start with milder temperatures and work my way up to more intense contrasts. At any rate, it seemed right away as if it worked. But then while I was at the V&A, later in the afternoon, my right foot started to trouble much more than it has in weeks--so I started to panic and wondered if I should continue this therapy!

I ate a light lunch (salad and quiche), showered and took the bus to the V&A with the idea of seeing the rest of the Highlights on the museum's recommended list. But alas, there was a massive traffic jam on High Holborn and after sitting in the bus for 15 minutes and not moving an inch, I asked the driver if he would allow me to alight. He did and off I went down the stairwell to take the Tube instead.

I actually began my perusal of the Highlights at 3. 30 pm but by 4. 30 pm itself, my feet started to feel very uncomfortable and I decided to leave and return home. These are the items that I saw today--they were scattered through the vast environs on four levels! No wonder my feet protested so loudly!

1. The Bhairava Mask (from Nepal, copper with studded stones)
2. A Helmet made in Greenwich for King Henry VIII
3. A Silver Basin and Ewer
4. Dante Gabriel Rosetti's portrait of Jane Morris, William Morris' wife, for his own poetic work--the poem and the painting are entitled, The Daydream.
5. A small crucifix meant to be worn as a pendant entitled The Real Thing by David Poston (made of crushed Coca-Cola caps).
6. An exquisite hair ornament in enamel, diamonds and rubies (looked like blown glass) in the Jewelry Galleries.
7. A medieval Tapestry entitled Falconry in the Tapestry Room.
8. A cabinet by Henri-Auguste Fourdinois
9. Negative Bowl by Ane Christensen--a totally unique item that is hard to describe.
10. The Burgess Decanter (a very ornate decanter made of multiple materials)

The search for these objects took me through some of the most amazing corners of the museum and left me gasping at the size and the quality of the collection. The Silver Galleries, for instance, are so extensive that just looking at all the works carefully would take a whole afternoon. In particular, I was seized by a sterling wine cooler (reportedly the largest in the world) on loan from Russia at the moment. This gigantic object was awarded as the prize in a lottery that was initiated to raise funds to build Westminster Bridge across the River Thames. The winner sold it to the Russian Tzarina and it has remained in the possession of the Russians ever since.

I also saw the Jewelry galleries which are so stunning that they beggar description. There were tiaras and necklaces and belts and all sorts of ornaments featuring precious gem stones that were as huge as walnuts! I was struck dumb by the many items on display--sapphires, emeralds, rubies, peridots, amethysts, all surrounded by diamonds that winked and blinked and quite dazzled the viewer. No wonder the lady viewers could not tear themselves from the glass cases!

I walked close by the Cast Courts (that Jane Hampson had taken us into yesterday) and saw a plaster copy of Michaelangelo's David up close and personal--but, of course, it is not a patch on the real thing that is in Florence's Academia. Still, if one hasn't seen the oroginal, this is a good likeness and I am going to recommend that Llew take a look at it when he comes here at the end of next month. The same room had a replica of Raphael's famous painting The School of Athens. I do not recall seeing this painting though it is in the Vatican and I must have seen it when I was last in Rome 22 years ago. At any rate, I am looking forward very much to seeing it next month when Llew and I visit Rome together.

The next time I go to the V&A, I will spend more time in the paintings galleries studying the work of Turner and Constable as there are a large number of their canvasses here--as well as the Ionides Collection that was bequeathed to the museum intact (The Daydream is a part of this collection). I have a feeling it will be a really long time before I finish seeing everything I want to at the V&A. Meanwhile, my right leg was really bothering perhaps it is time for me to get some foot rest again!

On my way back home, I did some grocery shopping and look forward to cooking myself some pasta tonight with prawns, cheese and basil. I am amazed to find that the basil on my kitchen counter has taken root superbly and is flourishing in a glass of water! I am simply stunned as I have never ever seen anything like this happen in the States.

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