The new Europe 1600-1815 gallery at the V&A

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The V&A have just reopened their Europe 1600-1815 gallery and it’s lovely. They’ve arranged a lot of the exhibits so that it looks like a snapshot of the interior of someone’s house, so it’s like stepping back into time. You could imagine everything having a story attached to it, the things those pieces must have seen.

The bottom photo is of my favourite room, a bedroom from north-west France built sometime between 1682-1694 but was already out of date, as it echoed styles from the 1630s. You can actually go and sit in this room, it is dark and very atmospheric.

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As well as lots of nice, dark and atmospheric stuff, there were some absolutely gorgeous, colourful, intricately designed pieces.

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There was also lots of great art, I love portraits sometimes, you’re literally looking into the face of someone from the past. This bust though was funny, it was part of a series from the sculptor Messerschmidt, illustrating different states of mind and sensory reactions, although apparently his interest in extreme expressions may have been due to the psychiatric and digestive disorders he suffered from, so not that funny then. This one is called ‘Strong smell’.

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And an elephant, as I have a fondness for them due to work reasons.

I also saw two photography exhibitions at the V&A today as well; Richard Learoyd, which was brilliant, giant photos made with a camera obscura and developed using a technique that meant each photo was only one of a kind, no means of reproducing it. The photos were mainly models and I loved how Learoyd often focused on the hands, shown in glorious painterly detail, whereas everything else was in increasing soft focus. I also saw the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition, the photos from that were nice, again it was nice to see the faces of people from the past and Cameron often photographed her subjects in much more natural poses than what you would normally associate with photographs from that era but what was really interesting was the story behind the photos, how her career developed from relatively late in life and how she broke all these stuffy photography ‘rules’.

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