What I saw at the V&A museum

Altar piece, Florence, 1500-1510

My second favorite museum in London, after the British museum, is the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is the world's largest (more than 4 million items) and greatest museum of applied arts and design. Everyone can find something to his/her liking in this museum: pottery, clothing, jewelry, furniture, paintings, sculpture.

The history of the museum started in 1852 as the Museum of Manufactures. Nowadays the museum is huge, it has six levels and 145 galleries. To view all of that you will need several days. And if your time is short, what rooms is it better to visit first of all?

My advice would be to go to the Cast Courts. These rooms are filled with plaster casts of famous works of art and architecture. In one place you will see the famous Trajan's column from the forum in Rome, and Raphael's "School of Athens" (the original is in the Vatican), altar decorations, chairs and other furniture of some famous cathedrals, including works by Giovanni Pisano, the sculpture "Moses and Slaves" by Michelangelo, as well as his famous six-meter high David.

The Trajan column (and tiny me near it)

In 1857 this replica of David was presented to Queen Victoria. The queen was so shocked by some masculine details of this unexpected gift, that she immediately gave it to the museum.

But poor David shocked not only her but the museum's visitors as well. Many ladies fainted, while their husbands wrote complaints to the director of the museum. Therefore, in order to spare the blushes of wives of senior officials a large fig leaf was made, which had to cover David's "embarassing" part of body during any high officials visits. The leaf was attached with two special hooks.
The next rooms, which you should certainly visit are Jewelry galleries. There are some 3500 jewelry pieces from the very old ones - like Bronze Age gold collar from Ireland, to the modern ones made from recycled materials.

Empress Josephine's jewelry, 19c

Necklace: diamonds, pearls, saphire. France, 1670

The necklace given by Napoleon to his adopted daughter, 1806г

I was particularly impressed with gold papal rings (one is so huge, 5-6 cm); the emeralds and diamonds given by Napoleon to his adopted daughter in 1806; the emeralds and rubies from Seringapatam captured by the British in 1799; the rare Siberian amethysts given by Tsar Alexander I to the wife of the Third Marqueess of Londonderry. There is also the Elizabeth's I pendants, her maids's of honor jewelry, Catherine's the Great diamonds, and the jewelry from Tiffany and Cartier.
One of the most beautiful rooms of the museum are the halls of the Asian art: Indian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic. Each of them is decorated in the style of a particular culture. Works of art, brought from the British colonies - everyday and ritual objects, clothing, games, furniture, carpets, weapons, ornaments, books - are now on display in these rooms.

Tippoo's tiger, India, 18c

Chess set, India, 19c

A goddess, India, 1150-1200

The most famous exhibit of the Indian galleries is Tippoo's Tiger. This life-size mechanical wooden toy was made for the fun of Tipu Sultan. It depicts a tiger mauling a British soldier, and a miniature keyboard inside the tiger simulates the groans of the dying man. Some other objects in the Indian collection are jewelry, miniatures, chests and chess.

Ceramics, Тurkey, 1550-1575

The number one exhibit of the Islamic collection is the world's oldest Persian carpet, the silk-and-wool Ardabit Carpet dating from the 1540. There are many examples of Islamic ceramics, clothing and several oil paintings in this room as well.

Sitting Buddha, Tibet, 1700-1800

Samurai armour, Japan, 1741

Ivory ship model, China, 1800

In the hall of Japan I was impressed with samurai armour and jade and marble netsuke collection. You can also see some pieces of the medieval Japanese household.
Another interesting rooms are those devoted to Europe. Clothing, guns, knives, figurines, fans, dishes, mantel clocks, sculpted busts, altars, stained glass, paintings and drawings are here on display.

Madonna with a child, Austria, 1480

Stained glass window, Germany, 1520-30

St.Margueritte altar, Germany, 1520

The main part of the museum is devoted to the art of Britain. Highlights include bust of Henry VIII, Holbein's miniature of Anne of Cleves, the Great Bed of Ware, a king-sized Elizabethan oak bed in which 26 buthcers and their wives are said to have once spent the night, the tapestries embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots.

Clock, Britain, 1824

Snuff-box, Germany, 1765

You can see a few period interiors there like the music room, transported to the museum from the mansion of the XVIII century; the Strawberry room; the Venetian-red Glass Drawing room.
For those who is interested in fashion, a collection of the European clothing from the early 19th century to the present day will be interesting . There is a wedding dress of the 1830, the dresses of Grace Kelly and Princess Diana, and stunning evening gowns by famous designers.

Wedding dress, 1830

Grace Kelly's dress, 1959

The Theatre and Performance galleries are also interesting to see, especially the rooms displaying costumes. You can see there the most interesting costumes from theatrical productions of different years (such as "The Lion King" musical's costumes), some of Elton John's clothes, as well as Kylie Minogue's dressing room's replica.

Many rooms in the museum display collections of silver, ceramics, glass and metal. Porcelain figurines, glass vases, iron keys and locks, silver bowls - the rooms are stuffed with high-quality artefacts.

Silver wine cooler, Britain, 1884г

The admission to the museum is free. You can take photos everywhere except the Jewelry Gallery. This is one of the few museums that is open seven days a week, except Christmas (24, 25 and 26 December).

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