Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7
AddressVictoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Comments byRachel Phillips
Why wouldn’t you visit the V&A? It’s a treasure trove of art and culture. In terms of stained glass you can see a chronological display of glass from the 12th to 21st Century in the ‘Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Gallery’, or view examples in context in the British, Medieval and Renaissance and other galleries – not to mention the contemporary glass gallery or the many in-situ works dotted throughout the building including work by Alexander Beleschenko and Graham Jones.
As someone who has had the privilege to take many students here to study and re-create examples of glass painting over the past 15 years I cannot overstate how much I love this museum and its ability to facilitate both contextual and practical understanding of stained glass. I would quite happily camp there if they would allow it.
Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass at the Victoria & Albert Museum by Paul Williamson (V&A Publications, 2003)
The Museum also houses the National Art library, which has myriad other books, designs, sketches, cartoons and studies of existing glass, that can be examined by prior appointment.
Also Christopher Whall small-scale glass maquettes, fragment panels and other delights are held in storage and can be seen via prior arrangement when possible.
HighlightMusical Angel Roundel, Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Gallery, Level 2, Room 84
Artist, maker and dateEnglish, Unknown. c.1420-40
Reason for highlighting
It is difficult to highlight a specific example – you really have to visit the stained glass corridor. I have chosen a beautiful 15th century roundel on display there containing a depiction of a musical angel – simple materials and deceptively simple technique, and utterly charming in style and execution. It served as a painting exercise to explore the combination of painting techniques on a single piece of glass and is an utterly lovely example of English glass painting
Angels, celestial creatures, figure prominently in many of the world’s religions. Christianity inherited its devotion to angels from the Jewish faith from which it emerged.
All the orders of angels were considered to be attendant on God and continually sang his praises and it became common in medieval art to show angels singing or playing musical instruments in adoration of God.
The angel in this roundel is playing a rebec, an early form of the violin. The instrument was known in England as early as the 11th century. The musician would rest it on the shoulder or across the chest, as depicted here.
The more you look, the more you see; true of this piece, the V&A and stained glass in general!
Full details at V&A Collections Unknown Roundel ca.1420-40