Saturday, 25 September 2010

Hanging and branding (or tapestries and a Dansette)

In the past, hanging and branding were judicial punishments. But that is not the subject of this post.

Zero and I went visiting museums in London yesterday, starting with the "hanging" part of the title of this post. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the exhibition which places four tapestries from the Vatican Museums alongside the cartoons used as their design template, cartoons which are displayed permanently in the Victoria and Albert Museum. We went from not expecting to spend long visiting four tapestries to finding it rather an exciting experience, spending nearly an hour in the gallery.

The V&A have an extensive web presence devoted to the exhibition, which can be accessed here. The video about the tapestries, here, is well worth watching. It shows some footage of the tapestries shown hanging in their originally intended locations in the Sistine Chapel, which provides an interesting "historic moment" to balance the "historic moment" of the first-time-ever display of the tapestries alongside their corresponding cartoons which is the essential point of the V&A exhibition. There is also an interesting section of film showing how the tapestries would be made from the cartoons. This page allows you to see images of the cartoons and more details about them.

What makes a visit to this exhibition exciting?

The way in which the tapestries have been displayed so that you can stand before them, look to one side to see the Raphael cartoon, and then look forward to see the tapestry. You can readily move your regard from cartoon to tapestry and back again.

The differences between the cartoons and the tapestries, which are indicated briefly in the booklet that you can pick up as you enter the exhibition. The tapestries transpose left with right compared to the cartoons, which also contributes to the fascination of moving your glance from one to the other.

These two points add to the third point, which is the sense of a "historic moment" in being able to see together cartoons and tapestries that are now together for the first time in 500 years. The occasion prompting the organisation of the exhibition is also a historic one - the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK.

To go with this last, I have chosen to include the cartoon entitled "Christ's Charge to Peter". This shows the three-fold interrogation and command recorded in John 21:15-17, about Peter's love of Christ and directing that Peter should feed Christ's sheep.

Admission to the exhibition is free, but by timed ticket only. You can pre-book on the V&A website, and the exhibition runs until 17th October 2010. When we were there, on a Friday morning, it was quite busy, so advance booking is advised.

At this point, there was a short adjournment to the Brompton Oratory for Mass and a visit to the newly established altar in honour of Blessed John Henry Newman (though I am not convinced by the complete accuracy of the statement on this page that "Beatification means that the Church confirms that the Servant of God is in heaven, among the ranks of the Blessed, that he has attained the Beatific Vision of God, and his intercession may be invoked by the faithful on earth".)

In the afternoon, we visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. This is in a slightly obscure corner, perhaps five minutes walk away from Portobello Road and its famous market. A huge amount of material is packed into the display cabinets of this museum. Again, we spent much longer there than we had expected - some two hours. It is rather amusing looking at the website for the museum to see that it has a range of sponsors. Not only is it a museum of brands, packaging and advertising but it is also a living expression of a very modern manifestation of branding, packaging and advertising! It is quite interesting to see brands still existing today that reach back quite a long way; and to recognise when a brand "disappears" because it has been commercially taken over by another. The later part of the displays, where you can trace the packaging and branding of some products over time - with changes in packaging materials from tins with screw tops through to modern plastic bottles, and changes in shapes of packaging (but often a maintenance of brand colour throughout) - is quite interesting.

Zero's main interest as we walked from the Victorian age to the modern day seemed to be the changing fashions packaging of chocolates. One of the things that caught my eye were the examples of early crystal radio sets, with the crystals and "cats whiskers" visible. One of these had been designed with a freestanding wooden figure of a cat, perhaps six inches high, with a dozen wires from its face as whiskers; and the crystal to which these wires needed to be touched to allow the set to operate mounted on a movable front paw that could be positioned next to each of the wires. The stand on which this figure stood had terminals to make the required connections to the rest of the radio set. The other thing that caught my eye was an example of a Dansette Tempo (at least I think this was the particular Dansette model on display) record player.

Now, I am not old enough to remember either of these things directly ... they are just things I have heard about .... I do, though, have memories of my mother using a single tub, top loading washing machine fitted with a ringer, that needed to be filled and emptied by pipes from the kitchen sink rather than being plumbed in. This museum is like that. Every now and again you come across something that you do remember, and it takes you back ....


Francis said...

Hi, Joe. Thanks for posting the cartoon. I may be a bit dim, but I don't get the joke.

Anonymous said...

Did you keep the leflet we got at the exhibition which explains what a "cartoon"is? If so, maybe you could explain it to Francis !

Anonymous said...

Zero says
Maybe it was a hint about the chocolates...
It is a museum I think everyone would enjoy.You'll be reminded of all the chocs that are no longer on the market like "Weekend" and those bars of chocs where each chunk was a different choc -like those in a box. Remember "Reward" chocolates and the handsome dare-devil of the "Milk Tray" adverts-they're all there! Also, has anyone seen boxes of chocs with pictures such as kittens or beautiful flowers on recently? admit it you've all forgotten!!!

Francis said...

I saw cartoon by Rembrandt (or was it Da Vinci?) in the National Gallery. Same problem: can't do punchlines.. He was a great painter but I think Steve Bell gets the edge as a cartoonist.