In its prominent position next to the V&A’s grand entrance, Europe 1600-1800 will continue the story of art and design that begins in the award-winning Medieval & Renaissance Galleries (opened 2009).
Four large galleries will introduce the story in chronological sequence, alternating with three smaller galleries that focus on specific activities: collecting in the Cabinet, enlightened thought in the Salon and entertainment and glamour in the Masquerade. In addition, three period rooms will invite visitors to imagine life in the personal spaces of the time including a 17th-century French bedroom, Madame de Sérilly’s cabinet and a mirrored room from 18th-century Italy.
The collection comprises some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A, including spectacular examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture, ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books. Many objects were made in Europe by its finest artists and craftsmen for the period’s most discerning leaders of taste such as Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.
Martin Roth, V&A Director, said: “These new galleries are a major development in our ambitious programme to renew the architecture of the V&A for the 21st century and, at the same time, re-examine and re-present our collection for our visitors. At a time when roles and relationships within Europe and the world are under scrutiny, it is interesting to explore the objects, makers and patrons of a period that was so influential upon the habits and lifestyle of Europe today.”
A large, highly ornate Rococo writing cabinet made for Augustus III and acquired in 1977 from the celebrated sale of Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire will be exhibited for the first time since its recent conservation. Another newly conserved highlight on display will be a grand 18th-century bed from the Parisian workshop of George Jacob. A supplier to royal courts across Europe, Jacob survived the French Revolution and later made furniture for Napoleon.
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