Wellington Arch (English Heritage)


Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, W1J 7JZ


0370 333 1181



Opening times:

Daily Apr-Sep 10:00-18:00, Oct-Nov 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00

How to get there:

Tube: Hyde Park Corner

Entry fee:

Admission charge (joint tickets with Apsley House available)

Additional information:


On an island surrounded by the traffic of Hyde Park Corner, approached via an array of confusing pedestrian subways, is the triumphal Wellington Arch, formerly erected opposite the main entrance to Hyde Park but moved in 1883 to align with Constitution Hill. It now forms part of a processional route from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace (the massive gates are occasionally opened to allow horses and ceremonial cars through). Designed by Decimus Burton in 1828, in conjunction with the Hyde Park Corner Screen, it was at first topped with M. Cotes Wyatt’s much derided over-sized equestrian statue of Wellington (1838). Described as ‘a gigantic triumph of bad taste’ (Punch) and ‘a perfect disgrace’ (Queen Victoria), it was in fact liked by Wellington, who was upset at plans to remove it. In 1883 it was finally taken down and replaced with Adrian Jones’ magnificently animated Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War (1912). The arch has recently been restored and its rooms and viewing platforms are open to the public.


Wallace Collection


Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN


020-7563 9500



Opening times:

Daily 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Bond Street

Entry fee:


Additional information:

Restaurant and shop

Built in 1776 for the 4th Duke of Manchester, Hertford House lies on the north side of handsome Manchester Square and is home to a remarkable collection of works of art. The collection was formed by successive members of the Seymour-Conway family, Marquesses of Hertford, and Sir Richard Wallace, natural son of the fourth marquess. Sir Richard Wallace’s widow bequeathed the collection to the nation in 1897, on condition that nothing was added or removed from it, and so the Wallace Collection remains today, its mix of paintings, furniture and decorative arts retaining much of the atmosphere of a grand aristocratic town mansion, as Hertford House was in its heyday.

The collection comprises important 18th- and 19th-century British portraits, mainly collected by the first and second marquesses, and a large collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish pictures, collected by the third marquess. Its chief importance and glory, however, is the exceptional collection of 18th-century French painting, sculpture, furniture, porcelain and objets d’art, amassed by the fourth marquess and unparalleled in this country. In this area the Wallace collection outdoes both the National Gallery and the V&A. It was the fourth marquess who purchased two of the museum’s greatest treasures: Fragonard’s The Swing, and Frans Hals’s Laughing Cavalier. Sir Richard Wallace added an extensive collection of medieval and Renaissance works as well as the important collection of arms and armour, the latter second only to the Royal Armouries.

Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–70) spent much of his life in France, in Paris in an apartment on rue Lafitte, and at the Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. Collecting was an obsession, made possible through the extraordinary works of art on the market following the French Revolution. He purchased works by the leading 18th-century painters Boucher, Watteau, Fragonard, Lancret and Greuze, as well as items by the finest French cabinet makers such as Boulle and Riesener. On his death in 1870 Hertford House was bought by his natural son, Sir Richard Wallace, from his cousin, the fifth marquess. To contain the collection, Sir Richard and his French wife altered and extended the house, most importantly adding to the rear the Great Gallery, designed by Thomas Ambler. The collection was open to a select public, via a separate entrance on Spanish Place. Following Lady Hertford’s bequest to the nation, much was done to retain the house’s palatial character, which opened to the public in 1900.

Recent redevelopment (Rick Mather) has provided the museum with its first dedicated exhibition space, a watercolour gallery and a lecture theatre. The new rooms are in the basement, accessed by steps from the central courtyard, which has been glazed and is now the museum’s restaurant, Bagatelle, named after the family’s French house. With its fountain and potted palms, it has the air of a late Victorian or Edwardian conservatory, and is a pleasant and sedate place to eat.



The Wallace Fountain

On the front lawn of Hertford House stands a Wallace Fountain, one of the type of 50 donated by Sir Richard Wallace in 1872 to the city of Paris, where they have become known simply as ‘wallaces’. Designed by Charles-August Labourg, the fountains provided a free supply of clean water, and were enthusiastically received by pedestrian Parisians. The ornamental dome of the fountain is supported by four caryatids representing the gowned goddesses of Simplicity, Temperance, Charity and Kindness, distinguishable by their knees, whether left or right, covered or bare. Eighty-two Wallace Fountains can now be found in different parts of Paris, with at least six in other French cities and towns, and others in more than 20 cities worldwide, with one most recently installed in Macao (the second in Asia after Tokyo).

Sir Richard Wallace (1818–90) was born Richard Jackson, son of the twenty-eight-year-old Agnes Jackson, née Wallace, with whom the eighteen-year-old fourth marquess of Hertford had an affair. Richard was brought up in Paris by his grandmother Maria Fagnani, Lady Hertford, known as Mie-Mie. In 1935 his increasingly reclusive father purchased the Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne, where from 1842 he employed Richard, unacknowledged as his son but having adopted his mother’s maiden name, as his secretary, managing the growing collection of Hertford paintings and rare objets d’art.

In the year of his father’s death in 1870, Richard Wallace inherited the estate and was caught up in the Siege of Paris and the painful birth of the Second Republic. Staying on in the city, he paid for an ambulance and a hospital bearing the Hertford name. Beleaguered by the Prussians and forced to accept a humiliating peace, the city’s violent suppression of the Paris Commune in the following year persuaded Wallace to remove his art collection to London for safe-keeping, offering the 50 fountains as a farewell gift.



Tour of the House

Through the glass-fronted porte-cochère and to the right of the handsome Entrance Hall, is the Front State Room with displays of royal and family portraits, including George II by Allan Ramsay, presented by the king to the first marquess, and Hoppner’s George IV as Prince of Wales, presented to the third marquess when Lord Yarmouth. The Back State Room displays objects relating to Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour: a French marble-topped commode (1739) by Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus and Jean-Jacques Caffieri, with applied gilt bronze mounts, extending over the front in exuberant Rococo scrolls, made for Louis XV’s bedchamber at Versailles; a gilt bronze chandelier by Caffieri, the leading French metal founder and chaser, given by Louis XV to his daughter Louise-Elisabeth; several important pieces of Sèvres porcelain, including bright green, gilded and floral decorated elephant vases and a porcelain inkstand with terrestrial and celestial globes, designed by Jean-Claude Duplessis and given by Louis XV to his daughter Marie-Adelaide; and an elaborate musical clock (c. 1762), also by Duplessis, its dial surrounded by lavish flowers and surmounted by a spaniel with a game bird.

The Dining Room has aristocratic French portraiture, including an image by Nattier of the Marquise de Belestrat, lady-in-waiting to Louis XV’s daughters; and marble busts by Houdon of Madame Victoire, one of the daughters, and Madame de Sérilly, maid of honour to Marie Antoinette. The Billiard Room takes a step back to the reign of Louis XIV. He appears, posthumously, in a portrait of his children with their governess. Other items include a terracotta bust (1676) of Charles Le Brun, the king’s painter, by Antoine Coyzevox, the king’s sculptor; a bronze bust (c. 1699) of the king, also by Coyzevox; and an exceptional example of Boulle, the great French cabinet maker, a wardrobe (c. 1715), veneered with contre-partie Boulle marquetry (sheets of turtleshell and brass glued together and a design cut out) with elaborate gilt bronze mounts.

Through the glass doors in the bow of the Dining Room, steps on the left lead down to the new galleries in the basement, an exhibition gallery and a Watercolour Gallery. On show is the exceptional group of works by Richard Parkes Bonington including his Venice: the Piazzetta, (1826); Sunset in the Pays de Caux (1828); and A Lady dressing her Hair (1827), in van Dyck costume of a vibrant emerald green.

The Housekeeper’s Room contains 19th-century French pictures, principally Delacroix’s The Execution of the Doge Marino Faliero (1825–26), which was inspired, like Donizetti’s opera, by Byron’s poem about the 14th-century execution.


Renaissance and Medieval Galleries and Armouries

The 16th-century Gallery contains the remarkable collection of medieval and Renaissance treasures collected by Sir Richard Wallace, which includes Pieter Pourbus’s An Allegory of Love; an Elizabethan standing salt and cover (1578) with elaborate Renaissance form chasing; Limoges painted enamels; Venetian 16th-century glass; and a marble bust of Christ by Pietro Torrigiano, from Westminster Abbey.

Wallace decorated his Smoking Room with Turkish-design Minton tiles and a mosaic floor. Further treasures can be found here: a late 16th-century German hare pendant, its body a great baroque pearl; bronze firedogs after sculptural designs by Algardi, Jupiter Victorious over the Titans and Juno Controlling the Winds, owned by Louis XV; and an important collection of Italian majolica. Of particular note is the large wine cooler (1574), from the collection of Cosimo de’ Medici; and an important dish signed by Giorgio Andreoli of Gubbio, 6th April 1525, whose workshop was famous for its lustrewares, decorated with a scene of bathing maidens taken from an engraving after Raphael. The Horn of St Hubert, said to have been given by the Bishop of Liège to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1468, is encrusted with gesso, painted, gilded and decorated with champlevé enamel, while the 7th-century ‘Bell of St Mura’, a bell-cover of bronze adorned with Celtic tracery, crystal and semi-precious stones, is from the Abbey of Donegal.

The remaining rooms on the ground floor contain the astonishing collection of arms and armour built up by Sir Richard Wallace, mainly through the wholesale purchase of the collection of the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Napoleon III’s Minister of Fine Arts and Director of the Louvre, and the opportunity of the pick of Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick’s collection, the great scholar of arms and armour in England. The Oriental Armoury contains objects from India, Persia and the territories of the Ottoman Empire, many of them in fact collected by the fourth marquess and of outstanding quality: the exceptionally fine 17th-century Indian dagger (arguably one of the finest in the world), made at the Mughal court for either Jahangir or Shah Jahan, with a solid gold hilt set with diamonds and a floral design of rubies, with leaves of emeralds; a late 15th-century Persian dagger, the hilt carved jade, the blade decorated with jackals and hares amid floral arabesques; silver-gilt tiger-headed 18th-century Indian ceremonial maces; Tipu Sultan’s tulwar, a type of scimitar; and the gold and ivory sword of Ranjit Singh.

The European Armoury I displays 10th- to early 16th-century items, including a 10th-century sword; swords used by Crusader knights; an early 15th-century German mail shirt; a visored basinet helmet, light and close-fitting, made in Milan c. 1390; an ornate short-sword made for Cosimo de’ Medici; an early 15th-century English or Flemish jousting helmet; and a late 15th-century German tournament shield, decorated with painted and gilded foliage.

The European Armoury II contains the most important pieces in the collection: the equestrian armour, for horse and rider, made c. 1475–85 at Landshut in southern Germany with characteristic shell-like flutings, one of the few examples known to retain its original horse-armour; and the 1555 German close helmet, made by Conrad Richter of Augsburg as part of the Golden Garniture ordered by the future Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand I. Alongside these items is Lord Buckhurst’s suit of armour, made c. 1587 at the royal workshops established by Henry VIII at Greenwich; and a French dagger (c. 1600) presented by the City of Paris to Henri IV on his marriage to Marie de’ Medici. The European Armoury III contains sporting guns, rifles and pistols, including an important collection of Napoleonic era flint-locks, illustrative of the rise of the firearm from the 16th-–19th centuries.


First Floor

The white marble Staircase, rising grandly to the first floor, has a magnificent balustrade (1719–20) of cast and wrought iron and gilt brass, originally from the stairs leading to Louis XV’s Cabinet de Médailles in the Palais Mazarin, Paris. One of the finest examples of French metalwork of the period, it was sold as scrap in the mid-19th century, bought by the fourth marquess, and, in 1847, altered to fit Hertford House and installed by Sir Richard Wallace. Hanging on the stairs and Landing are important paintings by François Boucher: A Summer Pastoral and An Autumn Pastoral (1745), with characters from Favart’s popular pantomimes. In the first appear the cousins Babette and Lisette, the latter being serenaded by the Little Shepherd who, in the second, feeds her grapes. The more important, superb pair, The Rising of the Sun and The Setting of the Sun, exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1753, show the sun god Apollo rising from the river Oceana to make his journey across the heavens. In the latter he sinks back below the waves. Madame de Pompadour ordered tapestries from these paintings, made by the Gobelins Manufactory, and displayed them, along with the pictures, at her château at Bellevue.

The Small Drawing Room contains fine Canaletto views of Venice, purchased by the third marquess: Venice: The Bacino di San Marco from the Canale della Giudecca and Venice: The Bacino di San Marco from San Giorgio Maggiore (both c. 1735–44), as well as views by Guardi purchased by the fourth marquess. The Large and Oval Drawing Rooms were, at the time of the second marquess, magnificent ballrooms where, in 1814, a grand ball was held to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. Among the objects in the former is a selection of important Sèvres porcelain, including a cup with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, who had visited Paris in 1776 to gain French support for American independence from Britain. In the Oval Drawing Room, the chimneypiece (c. 1785) is the only one original to the house to survive; the French mantle clock (1775) has bronze figures of night and day reclining either side of the dial; a delicate reading and writing table by Martin Carlin from c. 1783–84, veneered with tulipwood and mounted with plaques of Sèvres porcelain; chairs (1786) by Jean-Baptiste Boulard, which were made for Louis XVI’s card room at Fontainebleau; and a roll-top desk (c. 1770) by Jean-Henri Riesener, the leading cabinet maker under Louis XVI and appointed the King’s Cabinet Maker in 1774, decorated with marquetry still life panels with books, a globe and papers, one with the seal of the Duc d’Orsay. From this room, bow windows overlook the former courtyard, now the restaurant.

Sir Richard Wallace’s Study displays more Sèvres, including an ice-cream cooler, part of a service made for Catherine the Great of Russia. Also here is an impressive Boulle wardrobe (c. 1700), with elaborate marquetry and gilt bronze decorations, illustrating scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Lady Wallace’s Boudoir has a number of important pieces: ‘fancy’ pictures by Greuze (The Broken Mirror; 1763) and Innocence (a young girl holding a lamb), and by Reynolds (The Strawberry Girl); an elaborate writing table and cabinet (c. 1765) for paper files, in imitation oriental lacquer, or green French vernis, with gilded decoration, the cabinet topped by Cupid and Psyche; several small 18th-century French luxury trinkets, such as gold snuff boxes with mother of pearl, enamel and porcelain decoration, some set with diamonds and other precious and semi-precious stones; a magnificent gold 55-piece toilet service, including breakfast implements, made in Augsburg in 1757–73; and Antoine-Nicolas Martinière’s perpetual calendar, made in 1741-–42 for Louis XV, consisting of four gilt-bronze frames containing enamelled copper plaques featuring the months, phases of the moon, days of the week, zodiac signs and Church feast days.

The West Room was Lady Wallace’s bedroom. Today it displays some of the fourth marquess’s exceptional collection of 18th-century French paintings and Louis XVI furniture. Boucher’s portrait of Madame de Pompadour shows her in her garden at Bellevue, the statuary group in the background, Friendship Consoling Love, a reflection of her now platonic relationship with the king. Also here are Boucher’s three canvases Venus and Vulcan, Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan and The Judgement of Paris; an elaborate perfume burner (1774–75) by Pierre Gouthière, which was formerly owned by Marie Antoinette; and a delicate worktable (1786–90) by Adam Weisweiler, which belonged to the Empress Josephine. The display continues in the West Gallery, where the full extent of the French 18th-century collection becomes apparent. Miniatures are also shown here, including Lucas Horenbout’s portrait of Holbein, but the chief exhibits are works by the leading French painters: works by Lancret and Pater; Watteau’s well-known Music Party (c. 1718), with music-making on a palatial terrace, a countryside vista in the background; his Harlequin and Columbine (c. 1716–18), with commedia dell’arte characters, including Pierrot and Crispin in the background; and Gilles and his Family, the central figure dressed as Harlequin’s rival, Mezzetin. One of the Wallace’s most famous paintings is Fragonard’s The Swing (1767), a picture full of artful abandon, flirtation and innuendo, the graceful, provocative girl poised in the air, the action of the swing tossing her delicate slipper in the direction of her lover. The secretaire (1783) by Jean-Henri Riesener was supplied for Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon, Versailles.

On the east side of the house, the East Drawing Room was used in the early 19th-century by Isabella, wife of the 3rd Marquess of Hertford. It was here that she would entertain the Prince Regent on his daily visits between 1807 and 1820. The East Galleries I is the first of two galleries containing 17th-century Dutch and Flemish pictures, collected mainly by the third marquess, but also by the fourth. The gallery was built in 1871-–75 to give much needed extra space. Here are ‘low life’ genre scenes by Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers the Younger; Rubens’ modelli (1628) for two of his proposed series of 24 paintings illustrating the life of Henri IV; Aert van der Neer’s A Skating Scene; and Jacob van Ruisdael’s Rocky Landscape. The East Galleries II continues the display, with genre scenes, townscapes and Dutch-Italianate landscapes, including Jan Steen’s Celebrating the Birth, Pieter de Hooch’s A Boy Bringing Bread, Gerard ter Borch’s A Lady Reading a Letter, Gabriel Metsu’s The Sleeping Sportsman, and Jan van der Heyden’s View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam. The East Galleries III contains mainly landscapes, by Adam Pynacker, Jan Both and Albert Cuyp.

The main showpiece gallery was the Great Gallery, added by Sir Richard Wallace. Extending the full length of the back of the house, it was purpose-built for the display of pictures, with top-lighting, as well as for glamorous entertaining. A water-powered lift provided additional access. Important works include Rubens’ The Rainbow Landscape (c. 1636), a late summer afternoon scene on the artist’s country estate. It is the pendant to Het Steen in the National Gallery, which had wanted to acquire the painting when it came on the market in 1858 but was outbid by the fourth marquess. Two full-lengths by van Dyck, Marie de Raet (1631) and Philippe de Roy (1630), were painted shortly before the artist settled in London in 1632. Van Dyck owned Titian’s Perseus and Andromeda, painted originally for Philip II of Spain, purchased by the third marquess in 1815. Also in the room is a bronze equestrian statuette of Louis XIV, a reduced version of the full-scale work by Desjardins erected in Lyons in 1713 but destroyed at the French Revolution; Poussin’s exceptional Dance to the Music of Time; Philippe de Champaigne’s Annunciation, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, with rays of divine light illuminating Mary; and Rembrandt’s portrait of his teenage son Titus. Probably the best known item in the Wallace Collection is Frans Hals’s famous Laughing Cavalier. Painted in 1624, the identity of the man, neither a cavalier nor laughing, is unknown. The fourth marquess outbid Baron de Rothschild for the picture, paying six times its auction estimate, which at the time added to the picture’s celebrity. The 18th-century portraits were in the collections of the first and second marquesses: Gainsborough’s Mrs Robinson as Perdita (1781) was commissioned by the Prince of Wales after he had seen the actress perform the role from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at Drury Lane; she holds the miniature of him he sent to her. Reynolds’s Nelly O’Brien shows the well-known beauty and courtesan seated with a pet dog in her lap, her face shaded by the brim of her hat. Lawrence’s slick portrait George IV (1822) was thought by the artist to be his best likeness of the king, and is mentioned in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.


Victoria & Albert Museum


Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL


020-7942 2000



Opening times:

Daily 10:00–17:45. Also Fri 10:00–22:00

How to get there:

Tube: South Kensington

Entry fee:


Additional information:

Cafés and shops

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is one of the world’s outstanding museums of applied arts. Its collection spans several centuries and encompasses sculpture, furniture, ceramics, glass, silver and metalwork, dress, textiles and jewellery. In addition, the V&A houses the National Art Library; an architectural collection which has recently been joined by that of the Royal Institute of British Architects; a collection of paintings which has, as its core, what in the 19th-century was intended as the embryonic National Gallery of British Art; and a vast prints, drawings and photography collection. The museum also has a distinguished collection of British portrait miniatures, and is home to the national collection of British watercolours.

The museum and its collections are enormous. Stretched over a 12-acre site, the building itself is often said to be a work of art, competing with the exhibits. Neither can possibly be seen in one visit; below is a brief outline of the V&A’s history, its remarkable interiors and its collection highlights.


History of the Museum

The museum’s origins lie in the School of Design, which opened in 1837 at Somerset House, established for the instruction of the application of art to industry. Works of ornamental art were collected by the School as instructional aids: plaster casts, electrotypes, modern pieces from Minton’s; and medieval and Renaissance porcelain, majolica, glass and metalwork from the important Bernal collection, which came up for sale in 1855. In 1852 the School and its collection (now the Museum of Manufactures) had moved to Marlborough House and was under the control of the government Department of Science and Art, headed by the mighty figure of Henry Cole (1808–82). Cole, with the Prince Consort, had masterminded the Great Exhibition of 1851, a phenomenally popular success: almost 100 thousand visitors mobbed it on one of the days, flocking to view the raw and manufactured products of the nations of the world, many of the chief exhibits being purchased for the Museum. With the Exhibition’s profits a plot of land was purchased in South Kensington (then known as Brompton) for the establishment of a cultural complex, crossed and bordered by four new roads (Cromwell Road, Exhibition Road, Kensington Gore and Queen’s Gate). The Royal Albert Hall (begun 1868) and the Natural History Museum were to become part of this development but first, on the site of what is now the V&A, the South Kensington Museum was established, an accumulation of collections, schools and departments housed in an assortment of buildings. The School of Design and the Museum of Manufactures (which in 1853 had been renamed the Museum of Ornamental Art) moved to the site in 1857, accommodated in hastily built wooden huts and the supposedly temporary Iron Building. The latter, constructed by Charles Young and Company, specialists in ‘iron structures for Home and Abroad’, was quickly nicknamed the ‘Brompton Boilers’. Clad in corrugated iron, striped green and white and given a portico with iron pillars to improve its appearance, the three-span iron frame structure leaked, caused condensation and wild temperature fluctuations. It was not until 1866 that it was partially dismantled (parts were re-erected for the Bethnal Green Museum), and in 1899 the remainder was demolished. Thus were displayed the V&A’s first objects, a miscellaneous collection of sculpture, architecture, ‘animal products’ (fur, feathers, bristles, human hair etc), ‘patented inventions’ and construction and building materials, jostling for space alongside items of Ornamental Art, brought together to encourage excellence in contemporary British design and its application to industry, through a knowledge of the best examples.


The Building

The museum’s earliest permanent buildings were those that surround the central garden quadrangle, at the heart of the V&A. Built between 1857 and the early 1880s, they demonstrate what was to become known as the ‘South Kensington style’, its trademark being the use of ornamental terracotta. The South Kensington Museum’s Construction and Building Materials section contained samples of building stones and bricks, ceramic tiles and terracotta, and the museum itself was a demonstration of how these materials could be put to effective and skilled use. The museum’s architect, Captain Fowke, and Godfrey Sykes, who was responsible for much of the early interior embellishment, were assisted by a band of pupils from the museum’s Art Schools (now the Royal College of Art). The first building was the 1857 Sheepshanks gallery, half of the east range of the central quadrangle, built to house the Sheepshanks collection of pictures, intended as the core of a National Gallery of British Art. Abutting the north end of the Boilers, externally it had terracotta ornamentation with sgraffito medallion portraits of famous British artists. Internally it had gas illumination (South Kensington was the first museum in the world to be lit) which made evening opening possible. The latter, more convenient for working men and women, was a cherished wish of Cole’s who saw museums as ‘antidotes to brutality and vice’. The Sheepshanks gallery was soon joined by the Turner and Vernon gallery, which completed the east range, built to house National Gallery pictures for which there was no space at Trafalgar Square. In 1861–63 the North and South Courts were built behind the east range. The North Court (1861–62) was spanned by a great iron and glass roof designed by Fowke (which can be seen from Galleries 103–106, level 4). In 1863 it staged an exhibition of the wedding presents given to the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra, the first of the South Kensington loan exhibitions.


The South Court

The South Court (opened 1862) was a great deal more lavish, again of iron and glass but with highly decorated walls and elaborate cast and wrought ironwork designed by Sykes. Around the side walls, in niches, was the ‘Kensington Valhalla’: full-length mosaic portraits of famous artists such as Apelles, Giorgione, Raphael, Inigo Jones and Sir Joshua Reynolds, each holding items from the museum’s collection. Designed by well known artists—G.F. Watts, Sir Edward Poynter, Frederic, Lord Leighton—they were executed in ceramic or glass mosaic by students of the Art Schools. An arcaded corridor, with the Prince Consort’s Gallery above it, divided the South Court into two. On either side, below the roof, were balconies with large lunettes filled by frescoes by Leighton: Industrial Arts as Applied to War (1878–80; northeast) and Industrial Arts as Applied to Peace, completed in 1886 (southeast). Today, the former magnificence of the South Court is hidden from view behind false walls but the Leighton frescoes, and the highly decorated soffits above them, can be viewed on level 3, between Galleries 102 and 99 and Gallery 107 (marked on the plan on p. 323). Openings cut in the false walls give views onto the roof’s iron structure and the decaying magnificence of the decorations. The original designs for the Valhalla figures are distributed throughout the museum, on the upper levels of the staircase leading to the British Galleries, the staircase leading to the National Art Library, and in the Lecture Theatre. Leighton’s Cimabue and Pisano are displayed next to the southeast fresco. The complete restoration of the South Court is planned.


The Lecture Theatre Range

The museum’s ornamentation reached a peak of elaboration in Fowke’s Lecture Theatre range, the north side of the central quadrangle, completed after Fowke’s death (1865) in 1868. Internally and externally it is a showpiece of complex decoration. Its façade includes terracotta columns with figurative ornament, designed by Sykes and completed after his death by his former pupils and successors, James Gamble and Reuben Townroe. A mosaic representation of the Great Exhibition (different countries presenting exhibits to a central Victoria) fills the pediment. Inside, the Ceramic Staircase is an ornamental masterpiece. Entirely encased in majolica and ceramic mosaic, it led up to what was then the Ceramics gallery. Designed and modelled by Frank Moody, with students from the Art Schools, in Italian Renaissance style, and executed by Minton in the new process of vitrified ceramic painting, its theme was the Arts, with stained glass windows representing Art and Science. The mosaic portrait of Cole, in a majolica frame, marks Cole’s retirement from South Kensington in 1873. The Ceramics Gallery (now the Silver Galleries, Galleries 65–69), a long vista flanked by majolica-clad columns with elaborate ceilings designed by Moody, was equally lavish but between 1914 and the 1950s was stripped of its columns and stained glass windows and was whitewashed. The space was restored to its former magnificence as far as possible in 1995–96. The staircase off the gallery leads up to the Lecture Theatre.

On the ground floor of the wing are the old Refreshment Rooms (the museum was the first to have such a facility). The Morris Room (originally the Green Dining Room) was entirely decorated by Morris, Marshall and Faulkner, the firm established by William Morris in 1861, with painted panels by Burne-Jones, and stained glass designed by Burne-Jones and Philip Webb. The Gamble Room (the Centre Refreshment Room) has walls of ceramic tiles and mirrors, stained glass windows designed by Gamble, and paired ceramic-clad columns divide the room from its apse. The upper ceramic frieze reads: ‘There is nothing better for a man that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labour’ (Ecclesiasticus 2:24). The chimneypiece, from Dorchester House, Park Lane, is by Alfred Stevens. The Poynter Room (Grill Room, or Dutch Kitchen), with its blue and white tiles, retains its original grill, designed by Poynter, who also designed the stained glass window (made by Crace & Co.) and the panels of the Months and Seasons.


The Cast Courts and Art Library Range

Also dating from this period of the museum’s development are the Cast Courts (Galleries 46a and b), or Architectural Courts, built in 1870–73 on part of the site of the Boilers. Intended for the collection of large-scale casts of the most famous examples of sculpture in the world, these vast spaces were then and still are one of the museum’s most extraordinary sites. Gallery 46a, decorated in the original scheme of olive green and red, is a jungle of sculpture, dominated by Trajan’s Column towering towards the ceiling. Along the north wall is the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The dramatic spectacle is continued in Gallery 46b. On the north wall is the vast central doorway of San Petronio, Bologna, with an electrotype after one of the gilt bronze Baptistery doors of San Giovanni, Florence, Ghiberti’s ‘Porta del Paradiso’. The cast of Michaelangelo’s David, a gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was presented by Queen Victoria in 1857. A plaster fig leaf was made to hide his shocking nudity from visiting royal ladies; it can be seen in a case on the back of the plinth.

The Art Library range (early 1880s), which still houses the handsome National Art Library on the third floor (ticket holders only, though it can be viewed through the glass doors), closed the south side of the central quadrangle. Its ground floor (Galleries 22–24) has recently been restored and its black and white mosaic floor revealed. Tall windows overlook the quadrangle Garden. At the time of writing the latter was being relandscaped (Kim Wilkie Associates), but eventually it will have a pool of water, bordered by bands of light in the evenings, with fountain jets.


Foundation of the Victoria & Albert Museum

In 1890 Aston Webb won an architectural competition to bring sense and order to the museum’s odd complex. Regular, grand façades along Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road would be the new public face of the museum, with additional gallery space behind, joined to the existing buildings. After years of delays, on 17th May 1899, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone, at the same time announcing that henceforth the museum would be known as the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her last official public ceremony, the occasion was captured on a moving picture device, the Mutocsope (in the photography collection). By 1906 the works were largely complete. The Cromwell Road central tower, in the shape of an Imperial crown, is topped by a statue of Fame. Queen Victoria stands above the great arched entrance, flanked by St George and St Michael. Prince Albert stands directly above the doors with representations of Inspiration and Imagination to either side. In a procession of niches along the façade, between the windows, are sculpture figures of great British artists. The grand, airy, domed Entrance Hall (with a modern chandelier by the Seattle artist Dale Chihuly, a 5m drop of massed blue and green glass balls and spiralling tendrils) has to either side of its vestibule two noble staircases, with walls of pavonazzo marble, columns of violet breccia, and piastraccia steps. The new museum was officially opened by Edward VII in 1909.


The Collection

Before the 1909 opening, in order to fill, in an orderly fashion, the vast new acres of space, a Committee of Rearrangement was formed, a situation which half echoes the situation at the museum today, which is undergoing a 10-year programme of reorganisation and refurbishment. Already completed, up the stairs to the left of the Hall, are the flagship British Galleries. The stairs on the right will lead to the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, due for completion in 2009 (for the time being the collection occupies the ground floor galleries surrounding the west, north and east sides of the central quadrangle). Other projects are underway throughout the museum; for the duration of works visitors should expect gallery closures and disruption to or displacement of displays.

The collection is displayed through two gallery types: the Period Galleries (e.g. Asia; British Galleries), which bring prime objects from different departments together to explore the development of art and design in different geographical and cultural contexts; and the Materials and Techniques Galleries (e.g. Sculpture; Ceramics), which show the V&A’s extraordinary depth and breadth of holdings in specific departments.


Materials & Techniques Galleries


NB: Works executed in the materials and techniques covered below are also exhibited throughout the Period Galleries. Gallery numbers given refer to specific collections of a particular material or technique.


Sculpture (Gallery 50a; Gallery 111)

The excellent and comprehensive post-classical sculpture collection includes outstanding masterpieces, from highly important medieval ivory carvings to large-scale monuments. The Italian Renaissance collection is especially rich, being the best outside Italy, from which star exhibits are shown in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. Many of the items came to the museum under the important curatorship of Sir J.C. Robinson (1824–1913), the first Curator of the Museum of Ornamental Art.

The Gherardini collection of terracotta models (purchased 1854) included a wax model by Michelangelo, and the Gigli-Campana collection (purchased 1861) included key works by Donatello and Luca della Robbia. Major examples of German and Netherlandish wood carving include the 14th-century carved oak figures from the altarpiece in the Johanneskirche, Lüneberg.

There are pre-eminent examples of British sculpture, from medieval alabaster altarpiece panels, mainly scenes of the Passion and the Life of the Virgin, to excellent works of the 18th and 19th centuries by Rysbrack, Roubiliac, Flaxman, Wilton and Banks. As well as portrait busts there are terracotta sketch models, such as Rysbrack’s for Newton’s monument in Westminster Abbey, and Flaxman’s youthful Self-Portrait roundel (1778). Many of the principal items are shown in the British Galleries.

As well as in the Cast Courts, where reproductions of monumental European masterpieces are shown, large-scale items from the collection are shown in Gallery 50a, Webb’s top-lit East Court. In the centre, spanning its width, is the massive roodloft from the Cathedral of St John, ’s-Hertogenbosch, acquired in 1871, the removal of which sparked outcry in the Netherlands and the establishment of a nat-ional policy for the protection of ancient monuments. The recumbent effigies of Sir Moyle and Lady Finch (c. 1630) are by Nicholas Stone, removed from St Mary, Eastwell, Kent. The massive Cappella Maggiore from Santa Chiara, Florence (c. 1493–1500), 1,110cm high, was acquired following the church’s deconsecration in 1842.

Gallery 111, level 3, an open corridor with magnificent vistas over both the Cast Courts, has smaller pieces, the displays emphasising the various materials and techniques of craftsmanship.


Silver & Metalwork (Galleries 65–69; Galleries 114 a–e)

The museum’s fine collection of silver and gold objects is spread throughout the museum, but also in the sumptuous Silver Galleries (Galleries 65–69, level 3), one of the most lavish interiors of the 19th-century museum. As well as contemporary tour-de-force works, exhibited at the 19th-century International Exhibitions, 19th-century interest concentrated on heavily decorated 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century European pieces. It was not until the 20th century that the museum started collecting English silver with any seriousness, but its collection is now unrivalled.

The displays include important items (although some key works are shown in the British Galleries) but emphasise the history of silversmithing and the ceremonial and domestic use of objects. Ceremonial salts are on show; examples of lavish post-Restoration goldsmith’s work; the c. 1680 ‘Sizergh Toilet Service’; and a vast wine cistern by Thomas Jenkins (1677–78). Eighteenth-century works include elaborate candelabra; presentation cups and works by celebrated masters such as Paul de Lamerie, Charles Kandler and Matthew Boulton. The Ashburnham Centrepiece, or epergne, by Nicolas Sprimont (1747) is a major example of English Rococo silver. In the centre of the gallery is an electrotype copy of the celebrated and enormous 1737 Jerningham Wine Cooler, made by Kandler over four years, with Bacchanalian scenes modelled by Rysbrack (the original is in the Hermitage).

European silver 1400–1800 is also on show, with items from France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia, and an outstanding collection from Southern Germany, one of the greatest centres of European silversmithing. At the end of the gallery are three electrotype lions by Elkington & Co, copies of the 17th-century silver lions which protect the Throne Room at Rosenborg Castle, Denmark. The gallery includes displays of contemporary silver commissioned by the museum.

As well as silver, the museum has a large collection of flatware, brass, pewter and cast and wrought iron (the museum’s first recorded purchase was a pair of 17th-century German hinges). The long Metalwork Gallery is on level 3, Galleries 114a–e, famously described by H.G. Wells in his 1900 novel Love and Mrs Lewisham: ‘As one goes into the South Kensington Art Museum from the Brompton Road, the Gallery of Old Iron is overhead to the right. But the way thither is exceedingly devious and not to be revealed to anybody … the gallery is long and narrow … and set with iron gates, iron-bound chests, locks, bolts and bars, fantastic great keys, lamps and the like’. One of the major works is the ‘Hereford Screen’. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, it was hailed as ‘the grandest, most triumphant achievement of modern architectural art’ at the International Exhibition of 1862. It has recently undergone an £800,000 restoration.


Ceramics (Level 6, Galleries 132–145)

NB: At the time of writing, the Ceramics Galleries were closed until further notice.

Ceramics have been an important component of the museum since its foundation. The Ceramics Galleries occupy the entire top floor, making immediately apparent the astonishing range, depth and sheer magnitude of the collection. Key examples are shown in the various period galleries, but it is here that the history of pottery and porcelain manufacture can be studied uninterrupted. The collection is truly international, ranging from the Far East and Imperial China to the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Among the outstanding examples are nine pieces of Medici porcelain, the first European attempts at copying Chinese blue and white porcelain, which reached Europe in the 16th century. Made in the Grand Duke of Tuscany’s workshops in the Boboli Gardens, Florence, only 60 of these rare and precious pieces are known.

As well as grand Exhibition pieces, the 19th-century collections concentrated on Italian majolica, French Renaissance pieces and Limoges, important examples of which came from the collection of Ralph Bernal (sold through Christie’s over 32 days); the Soulages collection; and that of George Salting, whose astonishing collection, covering several areas, came to the museum in 1910.

Much 18th-century European porcelain came with the Jones collection in the 19th century, and excellent British pieces from the collection of Lady Charlotte Schreiber. The British collection includes medieval pottery, English delft and comprehensive collections of the great potteries and porcelain manufacturers, well known names such as Lowestoft, Coalport, Wedgwood, Chelsea, Worcester and Bow.

Twentieth-century pieces include British studio pottery, works by Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie, and European works such as Picasso’s c. 1954 vase, An Artist at his Easel.


Glass (Level 4, Galleries 129 & 131)

The excellent glass collection ranges from ancient Egyptian items to contemporary pieces, including commercial glass as well as works of art. Fifteenth- and 16th-century Venetian goblets, decorated with coloured enamels; 17th-century engraved glass, German goblets, early English glass, including pieces by Jacopo Verzelini, who taught the art of glassmaking in Elizabethan England; 18th-century drinking glasses, high Victorian pieces and 20th-century and contemporary items are shown in the split-level Glass Gallery (level 4), with a staircase and balcony balustrade in rippling green glass by the glass artist Danny Lane. Of particular significance is the Luck of Edenhall, an exceptionally fine and pristinely preserved 13th-century Syrian beaker.


Jewellery (Galleries 91–93 & 109)

The V&A’s splendid and large collection of jewellery is especially rich in Renaissance pieces. It includes precious masterpieces such as the Canning Jewel, an exceptional item of gold, enamelled and set with large Indian rubies, in the form of a triton, his body a great baroque pearl; and the Heneage Jewel, an enamelled gold locket set with diamonds and rubies with a gold medallion portrait of the Elizabeth I, with inside a portrait miniature of the Queen by Nicholas Hilliard. Important 15th–18th-century pieces came from the collection of Dame Joan Evans (d. 1977), who gave her exceptional collection to the museum, while 19th-century items include the head-band, brooch and necklace designed by Pugin, in medieval style, for Helen Lumsden, but given to his eventual wife Jane Mill.


Textiles & Dress (Gallery 94; Galleries 95–101; Gallery 40)

The South Kensington Museum’s collection of textiles was administered by the Department of Animal Products. Samples of silk and wool woven textiles, 18th-century Spitalfields silks, Genoese velvets and embroideries, upholstery fabrics etc, were purely a learning resource. William Morris appears to have studied the collection, elements of his designs being traceable to the specimens exhibited in the museum’s early days. The serious collection of textiles began in the 1860s, but the department also encompasses costume, tapestry and carpets.

Silks and brocades from the Middle Ages include ecclesiastical vestments, for example an early 14th-century cope which belonged to the Bridgettine Convent of Syon. There are excellent examples of Indian and Persian carpets and textiles; an excellent lace collection, the largest in the world; and tapestries, including the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries (Gallery 94, level 3), a group of four magnificent and enormous mid-15th-century Flemish pieces formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire.

Items from the Dress Collection are displayed throughout the period galleries, as well as in the Fashion Gallery (Gallery 40, level 1). Historic costumes span all periods and include examples of royal and noble dress, as well as that of ordinary people, as well as shoes, boots, hats and gloves. The European collection from Stuart times to the present day is particularly strong and includes Elizabethan gloves; an unusual 17th-century Venetian jacket, of knitted silk with silver-gilt thread; 18th-century English court dress; 19th-century wedding dresses and ball gowns with elaborate silver-gilt lace; elegant designs by famous 20th-century names such as Givenchy evening wear and ‘New Look’ Dior; and more modern pieces such as Mary Quant yellow plastic ankle boots, and Vivienne Westwood’s blue ‘mock-croc’ platform shoes (1993–94).


Paintings, Prints & Drawings (Gallery 48a; Galleries 81–82 & 87–88a; Galleries 90 & 90a)

Among the V&A’s most celebrated possessions are the Raphael Cartoons (Gallery 48a), seven of the ten executed by Raphael in 1515–16 for Pope Leo X as designs for tapestries, woven in Brussels, for the decoration of the Sistine Chapel. Among the most important surviving examples of High Renaissance art, they mark a highpoint in the traditional canon of artistic excellence. Distemper on paper, they were originally cut into strips to enable the weavers to use them as guides. Purchased by Charles I in 1623, tapestries woven after them were produced by the Mortlake Tapestry Works. In 1699 the cartoons were put back together, restored and displayed in the Cartoon Gallery at Hampton Court. Still in royal ownership, they have been on loan to the museum since 1865. The subjects, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, are: Christ’s Charge to Peter: ‘Feed my Sheep’; The Miraculous Draught of Fishes; Elymas the Sorcerer Struck with Blindness; Paul and Barnabas at Lystra; Paul Preaching at Athens; The Death of Ananias; and Peter and John healing the Blind Man. The twisted Solomonic columns in the latter were much imitated by later artists.

The V&A’s Paintings Collection has at its core the Sheepshanks pictures, presented to the South Kensington Museum in 1857. Intended as the nucleus of a National Gallery of British Art, the gift stimulated the erection of the museum’s first permanent building, the Sheepshanks gallery. It was joined by the Turner and Vernon gallery, immediately adjacent, where the pictures are displayed today, in recently refurbished rooms (Galleries 81–82, 87–88a, level 3). John Sheepshanks (1787–1863), a Leeds clothing manufacturer long settled in London, was acquainted with a wide circle of contemporary artists. His collection included fine works by Turner and Constable, including the latter’s famous Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds (1823), but his particular fondness was for early 19th-century genre pictures by Wilkie, Mulready, Landseer, C.R. Leslie, William Collins and others, of which the collection has rich holdings. Chief among them is Landseer’s The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner, a dog grieving at its master’s coffin, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 and considered by Ruskin ‘one of the most perfect poems or pictures which modern times have seen’. The V&A possesses a remarkable collection of oil sketches and works on paper by Constable, the contents of the artist’s studio given to the museum in 1888 by his daughter, Isobel Constable. The 95 oil sketches and 297 drawings and watercolours include plein-air oil sketches, cloud studies and sketches made in and around Flatford and his native Suffolk. In addition, the museum has sketches for two of Constable’s iconic works, The Haywain (National Gallery) and the Leaping Horse.

In 1908 the Tate Gallery was officially recognised as the National Gallery of British Art, but the V&A still retains the national collection of portrait miniatures (shown in the British Galleries and, with Continental examples, in Gallery 90a, level 3). ‘Limning’ was a refined, high-status genre which flourished in England from the reign of Henry VIII. Among the many outstanding highlights by leading artists are Holbein’s Anne of Cleves, with its carved ivory lid in the form of a rose; pre-eminent works by Hilliard, including portraits of Elizabeth I, in enamelled and jewelled lockets, or works with layered symbolism such as Young Man Clasping a Hand from a Cloud, and the terribly famous Young Man Among Roses; and key works by Isaac Oliver, such as Unknown Woman, known as Frances Howard. Post-Restoration miniatures include examples by the excellent Samuel Cooper, for example his exceptional Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, the sister of Charles II, an intimate view with sparkling eyes and bouncing ringlets.

Gallery 90, level 3, shows changing displays from the V&A’s Prints, Drawings and Watercolours Collection, an enormous and important resource. The principal collections are of Italian Old Master drawings; Dutch and Flemish works; and the national collection of British watercolours. The latter extends to the present day, but the bulk of the collection is of 18th- and 19th-century works, the ‘golden age’ of British watercolour. All major watercolourists are represented, including Sandby, J.R. Cozens (famous views of the Roman campagna), Towne (his supremely well known Source of the Arveiron), Girtin and Cotman. In addition there is a vast archive of prints, drawings and illustrations, including decorative arts designs, which can be viewed by appointment in the Study Room in the Henry Cole wing.


Photography (Gallery 38a)

The large and important photography collection has its origins in the 19th century. There are over 250 images by Julia Margaret Cameron, over 80 of them having been acquired for the museum in 1865 by Henry Cole, a friend and important patron who made rooms available at South Kensington for her to use as a studio. Portraits of important Victorians include images by Frederick Hollyer of H.G. Wells and William Morris. Annual displays from the collection are shown in Gallery 38a, including works by Man Ray, Bill Brandt, David Bailey and contemporary photographers.


Architecture (Level 4, Gallery 128a)

The Architecture Gallery opened in 2004 as the new display space for the museum’s own architecture collection, but also for that of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), a collection of great importance which includes drawings by great names such as Andrea Palladio, Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren and Mies van der Rohe. As well as preliminary designs there are original models for buildings, for example Sydney Smirke’s Domed Reading Room at the British Museum; Gatwick Airport’s ‘beehive’ terminal of 1936; Ernô Goldfinger’s 1963 cinema; and roof shapes for the Sydney Opera House.


Period Galleries


Medieval & Renaissance Galleries (Galleries 11–20; 21–27; 43, 46, Cast Courts)

With new galleries due to open in 2009, for the moment the museum’s key items from the period c. 300–1600 are on display on level 1, in the galleries on the west, north and east sides of the central quadrangle, to the south of it, and in Gallery 46. The latter contains a selection of pre-eminent objects, including a collection of highly important ivory carvings: the small ‘Symmachi’ carved relief panel (Rome, ad 400), with a priestess sprinkling holy water before an altar; the ‘Basilewsky Situla’, or Holy Water Bucket (c. 980), probably presented to the Emperor Otto II on his visit to Milan in that year, an object of great rarity; and the Byzantine ‘Veroli Casket’ (c. 1000), carved with scenes of classical mythology. The Gloucester Candlestick is an amazing survival of early 12th-century English medieval metalwork, a great masterpiece with men and monkeys clambering through foliage, symbolic of the struggle between good and evil. Alongside Byzantine jasper and bloodstone cameos is an Egyptian rock crystal ewer (late 10th–early 11th-century) carved with foliage and birds of prey. A major treasure is the Becket Casket (c. 1180), made to contain relics of St Thomas à Becket, the earliest, largest and best example in Limoges enamel showing Becket’s martyrdom. The 12th-century Rhenish ‘Eltenburg Reliquary’ is of gilt copper enriched with enamel and set with walrus ivory carvings, in the form of a church.

The Northern Renaissance 1500–1700 fills Galleries 25–27. Of great importance is the silver gilt Burghley Nef, a tour de force of Parisian goldsmiths’ art of 1527. In the form of a ship, its body a nautilus shell balanced on the back of a mermaid, the tiny figures of Tristram and Iseult play chess at the foot of the main mast. Cases contain intricate goldsmiths’ work; shells and hardstones mounted in precious metals; and finely carved German and Southern German religious reliefs. The charming German (Swabian) limewood sculpture Christ Riding on an Ass (c. 1510–20) would have been drawn through the streets on Palm Sunday.

The galleries on the north side of the central quadrangle contain highly important Italian Renaissance items, 1400–1600. Chief among them are works by Donatello, the most important and influential Italian sculptor of the 15th century. His Ascension with Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter (c. 1428–30), from the Palazzo Medici, Florence, is one of the finest surviving examples of rilievo schiacciato (very low relief carving). His mid-15th-century Chellini Madonna is another prized possession. The bronze roundel, the reverse of which can be used for a mould for glass castings, was given to his doctor, Giovanni Chellini, in 1456 but until the museum purchased it in 1976 it had gone unrecognised and had been used as an ashtray. A bust of Chellini, by Rossellino, is nearby as is Rossellino’s The Virgin with the Laughing Child (c. 1465). Of terracotta, probably a sketch model for a larger marble, it is one of the V&A’s most celebrated pieces. Among carved and painted cassone are important medals by Pisanello; Il Riccio’s ‘Shouting Horseman’ (c. 1510–15); the late 15th-century Mantuan small-scale bronze and parcel gilt Meleager, based on an antique original; and enamelled terracottas of the della Robbia workshop: Luca della Robbia’s Labours of the Months (c. 1450–56), a series of 12 roundels, each with the sun in the appropriate House of the Zodiac, commissioned for the ceiling of Piero de’ Medici’s study in the Palazzo Medici, Florence; and Andrea della Robbia’s large Adoration of the Magi (early 16th century) in bold polychrome enamel.

Among the Renaissance 1200–1650 displays are beautiful plaquettes with scenes from the life of Hercules, by Moderno, a plaquette designer and gem engraver active at the courts of Ferrara and Mantua; objects in the manner of Giovanni Bologna (Giambologna), such as small bronzes by the Netherlandish sculptor Hendrick de Keyser, and the impressive gilt bronze Resurrection relief, and statuettes (1581–84) from the memorial altar of Christoph Fugger by Hubert Gerhard, formerly in the Dominican church of St Magdalen, Augsburg. Giambologna’s well-known Samson Slaying the Philistine, another V&A treasure, entered Charles I’s collection in 1623.


British Galleries (Galleries 52–58 & Level 4, Galleries 118–125)

The relatively recently refurbished British Galleries house some of the museum’s most prized objects produced in Britain between 1500 and 1900. Their vast chronological scope covers over 400 years of Britain’s visual culture, bringing together the finest, most fashionable and most technically accomplished examples of sculpture, furniture, ceramics, silver, textiles and dress from the court of Henry VIII to the death of Queen Victoria. The incorporation of period interiors salvaged from important historic buildings lends the galleries particular authority and atmosphere. The entrance is via the marble stairs to the left of the entrance hall.


1500–1760 (Level 2): One of the earliest objects is on show is Pietro Torrigiano’s famous painted terracotta bust of Henry VII, probably based on a death mask. A writing box of c. 1525, with painted and gilded decoration on leather, bears the arms and devices of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. The important 1525–26 Howard Grace Cup has an ivory bowl in silver-gilt mounts, with bands of Renaissance ornament, but also with Gothic cresting on the foot, set with gemstones and pearls. Objects from the court of Elizabeth I include images of the Queen herself, powerful, carefully contrived images of monarchy, including the Heneage (‘Armada’) Jewel (c. 1600), a profile medallic image of gold and enamel, set with diamonds and rubies. Hilliard’s famous image, A Young Man among Roses, the quintessential image of the Elizabethan court, with its emphasis on complex emblems and symbolism, shows him hand on heart, in devotion to the monarch, surrounded by eglantine roses (sweetbriar), the queen’s symbol. The elaborate ceremonial Mostyn Salt, (1586–87) is of unusual size and weight.

Examples of tapestry—an expensive, luxury item—include one commissioned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from the Sheldon workshops, his arms in the centre. Chivalry and heraldry can be further explored in an interactive gallery: visitors can try on a gauntlet, or design coats of arms. The celebrated Great Bed of Ware, from an inn in Ware, Hertfordshire, mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, is twice the size of any bed of the period known and was famous for the numbers it could hold. A complete panelled interior of 1606 is from a house in Bromley-by-Bow, with elaborately carved Royal Arms above the chimneypiece and a strapwork plasterwork ceiling. A rare duo is the Jacobean portrait of Margaret Laton (c. 1620) and, displayed alongside it, the very jacket she wears in the painting, with elaborate floral embroidery.

Among items from the time of Charles I is a large Mortlake tapestry (1619) designed by Francis Cleyn, one of a set of nine illustrating the story of Mars and Venus, the first tapestries to be woven at Mortlake, based on hangings which had belonged to Henry VIII. Also by Cleyn, probably, is the nearby chair, its back in the form of a scallop shell. A highly important item is the fish dish by the celebrated and innovative Dutch silversmith Christian van Vianen, produced in 1635 when he was in England in the service of Charles I. Another outstanding item is the bust of Thomas Baker by the great Baroque sculptor Bernini. Baker was commissioned to deliver to Bernini in Rome van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I in three positions, from which Bernini would sculpt a bust, but took the opportunity to commission a sculpture of himself. The famous diarist John Evelyn’s cabinet (1644–45), for his rare curiosities, with bronze plaques by Fanelli, stands near Honore Pelle’s flamboyantly Baroque marble bust of Charles II.

An extraordinary survival is the wedding suit of James II, worn at his 1673 marriage to Mary of Modena, heavily embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread, now slightly tarnished. Excellent examples of marquetry furniture are on display, as well as furniture, upholstery, wall hangings, fabrics and painted mirrors produced in the new French taste imported to Britain by immigrant French Huguenot craftsmen. Most important was the French interior designer, who had settled in Holland, Daniel Marot. A settle, probably commissioned by Lord Coningsby for Hampton Court, Herefordshire, retains its 1690s upholstery; a magnificent japanned cabinet (c. 1690–1700) has a highly elaborate carved and silvered stand in the style of Marot; a blue and white Delft tile (c. 1694), after a Marot design, is from Queen Mary’s Water Gallery at Hampton Court; and behind glass, in its own room, is the exceptional c. 1700 Melville State Bed, from the State Apartments of Melville House, Fife. Its magnificent, theatrical hangings, of crimson Genoa velvet and ivory Chinese damask, are inspired by the work of Marot and attributed to the upholsterer Francis Lapiere. The parlour from 11 Henrietta Street (1727–32), built for the architect James Gibbs, has a plasterwork ceiling by the stuccoists Artari and Bagutti, and paintings by Damini. Nearby is Rysbrack’s excellent bust of Gibbs; and the superb model of Gibbs’ church, St Mary-le-Strand.

Palladianism, the new ‘national’ style from 1715–60, is represented by a table designed by William Kent for Chiswick House, the showpiece of Palladianism built by the style’s champion, Lord Burlington. Examples of Rococo, the light, asymmetric and ornamental style fashionable from the 1740s, include porcelain and silver, Spitalfields silks, and Roubiliac’s extraordinarily famous sculpture of Handel (1738), commissioned by Jonathan Tyers for his pleasure gardens at Vauxhall, with Handel in the guise of Orpheus with Apollo’s lyre. Roubiliac’s important sketch model for the Duke of Argyll’s monument in Westminster Abbey (1745) shows the Duke reclining against an allegorical figure of Fame. Porcelain and silver relating to the polite pastime of tea drinking is on show, as well as the entire white and gold Music Room from Norfolk House, designed by Matthew Brettingham in 1748–56. Furnished and lit, Horace Walpole found it a scene ‘of magnificence and taste’. The c. 1745 Badminton Bed is a supreme example of English Chinoiserie, with its delicate pagoda-shaped canopy and gilded dragons.


1760–1900 (level 4): If visitors approach the galleries by lift from 1500–1760 below, directly ahead are items relating to Horace Walpole, the 18th-century art historian and connoisseur, including the Walpole Cabinet (1745) designed by him, possibly with the assistance of Kent, for his collection of medals and miniatures. Three ivory figures, designed by Rysbrack, surmount it: Duquesnoy, flanked by the architects Palladio and Inigo Jones, the two giants of the Palladian style. Nearby is the limewood cravat (c. 1690) carved by the great 17th-century Grinling Gibbons, which Walpole owned and famously wore on one occasion when entertaining guests.

A section devoted to the great furniture designer Thomas Chippendale, and his influence, follows. The 18th-century passion for Neoclassicism was stimulated by Grand Tourists, young aristocrats, artists and connoisseurs who made pilgrimages to Italy to see classical remains. Joseph Wilton’s marble bust of Lord Hastings (1761) shows him in classical garb. A glass case is filled with vases, including Wedgwood, inspired by the antique. A section from the extraordinary Glass Drawing Room, Northumberland House, designed by the great Neoclassical architect and designer Robert Adam, has panels entirely of glass, based on richly ornamented Roman interiors. Sections are backed by coloured pigments and metal shavings to give an illusion of shimmering porphyry, and some have applied decoration in gilt metal. A model of the glittering spectacle in its entirety is nearby, the furniture, ceiling and carpet also designed by Adam. Also by Adam is the complicated plaster ceiling and chimneypiece from 5 Royal Terrace, part of the Adams’ Adelphi development, the home of the great 18th-century actor David Garrick. The sumptuous Kimbolton cabinet, commissioned by the Duchess of Manchester, was designed by Adam, with ormolu mounts by the famous goldsmith Matthew Boulton, and made by Ince & Mayhew.

When not in Edinburgh, Canova’s magnificent Three Graces is on show, the famous marble sculpture commissioned by the Duke of Bedford for Woburn Abbey. It was purchased jointly with the National Museums and Galleries of Scotland after a national appeal in 1994. Examples of the new Regency taste for rich luxuriance, and for Greek, rather than Roman, sources, as well as Egyptian, include an 1804 armchair, after a design by George Smith, a blend of Greek, Roman and Egyptian forms; furniture by the famous firm Gillows; expensive, massy items of silver-gilt sold through the Royal Goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, whose most important customer was the Prince Regent, e.g. an 1809–10 wine cooler by Paul Storr, based on the ‘Medici Krater’; and an 1806 bookcase from the Prince Regent’s luxurious Carlton House, in the Greek style, possibly designed by C.H. Tatham. The famous Rhinoceros Vase (c. 1826) was made to advertise the skill of the Rockingham factory. A classical form, it is painted and encrusted with elaborate naturalistic ornament.

Prominent in the displays is Bashaw (1832–34), a large sculpture by Matthew Cotes Wyatt of the Earl of Dudley’s pet Newfoundland dog. Hugely popular in its day, the ‘Faithful Friend of Man’, shown trampling a poisonous snake, was criticised by Ruskin. Post-1830 Gothic Revival pieces include works by the medievalist Wiliam Burges: the splendid painted, stencilled and gilded ‘Yatman Cabinet’ (1858), based on French medieval armoires, commissioned by one of Burges’ early and important patrons; his 1865–66 decanter, richly ornamented and stylistically eclectic, its glass body encased in silver set with genuine antique coins, intaglios, glass and gemstones. Important items by A.W.N. Pugin, the seminal figure in the history of the Gothic Revival, include a candelabrum made for the House of Lords; and a chalice, silver and parcel-gilt set with enamels and garnets. It was made for the 1851 Great Exhibition, the world’s first large-scale temporary international exhibition. A large (modern) model of Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, where the exhibition was held, is on show. The exhibition attracted over 6 million visitors and the profits went towards the establishment of the V&A. Many exhibits, by firms which used the exhibition to display their most innovative techniques, were purchased for the museum. An 1851 table has a stand surrounded by herons in bulrushes, the former of cast plaster, the latter of moulded, gilded leather. Pugin’s excellent cabinet was one of the most important pieces in the Medieval Court.

Purchases from the International Exhibitions which followed the 1851 exhibition include the magnificent cabinet by Alexandre Eugène Prignot, made for the Paris Exposition of 1855. Over 40 craftsmen worked on it, including Minton’s and Elkington’s. The enormous Minton vase was purchased from the 1862 International Exhibition in London. A great technical challenge, its floral body, with handles of gilded coiling snakes, is shouldered by three crouching bone-china cherubs. A Graeco-Roman armchair (1884–86) was designed by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema for an American collector’s Madison Avenue residence. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s large design for the Albert Memorial (1863) is on show, as well as Alfred Stevens’ plaster and wax model for the Duke of Wellington’s memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral (1857), one of his most celebrated works. E.W. Godwin’s sideboard is an important example of Victorian ‘Japonisme’.

Items by the hugely influential interior designer and manufacturer William Morris include wallpaper designs, furniture, tiles and textiles produced by Morris, Marshall and Faulkner, and later Morris & Co: ‘Trellis’, Willow Bough’ and ‘Acanthus’ wallpapers; stained glass panels including Chaucer Asleep, after designs by Burne-Jones; and an 1861–62 cabinet, designed by Paul Webb and painted by Morris. Arts and Crafts objects include a Charles Rennie Mackintosh high-backed armchair; his fireplace from the Willow Tea Room, Glasgow; wallpaper designs by Walter Crane; furniture by the innovative designer C.F.A. Voysey, for example a simple 1896 desk, with applied copper hinges; and silver by Christopher Dresser and Liberty & Co.


Europe 1500–1800 (Basement)

Below the British Galleries, at basement level, are excellent examples of European furniture, silver, porcelain and sculpture from 1500–1800, including Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Adriaen de Vries’ bronze portrait bust of the Emperor Rudolf II, 1609, was once in Rudolf’s Cabinet of Curiosities in Prague, before entering the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden as war booty, captured during the Thirty Years War. Small, expensive, finely crafted treasures appropriate for a collector’s cabinet of this date include boxwood carvings, objects of rock crystal, Venetian glass, inlaid silver boxes, enamels and ivories. Also displayed is Dieussart’s bust of Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia (1641).

The early 16th-century Portuguese silver parcel gilt dish is a masterpiece of early Renaissance silver, with embossed scenes of the Siege of Troy. Other items include a lavish 1577 spinet by Annibale Rossi, decorated with nearly 2,000 precious stones; the magnificent Lomellini Ewer and Basin (1621–22), decorated with episodes in the life of Giovanni Grimaldi of Genoa and the Lomellini arms; and the Medici Casket (1609–21), a jewel casket of steel, with chiselled steel figures of Mars and Minerva, made for Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, an excellent example of High Renaissance Florentine architectural decoration.

Fine portrait busts include the terracotta of Cardinal Paolo Emilio Zacchia (c. 1650) by Algardi. Among the terracotta busts, bronze sculptures, embossed and engraved armour, rapiers and pistols and Spanish silver perfume burners are exceptional German ivory carvings, including a tankard by Bernhard Straus, made in Augsburg (1651), an outstanding example of Baroque ivory carving, with Hercules slaying a centaur on the lid, and mythological scenes on its body.

Part of the Meissen service ordered by Frederick II of Prussia for his general, von Möllendorf, as a reward for his services in the Seven Years War, is on show. Designed c. 1762 by the Meissen factory, with some of the figures modelled by Kändler, there were once over 960 pieces, now distributed over various private and public collections. The elaborate writing cabinet (c. 1750–55) was made for Frederick Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, by one of the leading Dresden workshops. It is a celebrated example of German Rococo cabinet making, with wood, mother of pearl, ivory and brass marquetry, and elaborate gilt mounts. It was purchased from the Rothschild collection, Mentmore Towers, in 1977.

In the 19th century there was a taste for objects with an historical or romantic connection. The glittering boudoir of the Marquise de Sérilly was in 1874 displayed with a harp in it, said to have belonged to Marie Antoinette, Sérilly having been her Lady of Honour. A display of items from the Jones Collection includes several other pieces with romantic provenances. John Jones (d. 1882), who established a military tailoring firm in London, was an amateur collector of great distinction who bequeathed his entire collection to South Kensington. His great passion was for French 18th-century furniture and porcelain. He owned 89 pieces of Sèvres, including important pieces such as the ‘Tippoo Vase’, painted with scenes after Boucher, supposedly part of the collection sent by Louis XIV to Tipu Sultan in 1788; the bleu de roi vase, made for Gustav III of Sweden; and a pair of vases in brilliant ‘bleu nouveau’ with elaborate ormolu mounts, in the form of snakes, based on a vase in the collection of the Duc de Choiseul. Other Jones items included The Five Orders of Architecture, possibly by Robert Arnould Drais (c. 1780), a precious, elegant object with columns of lapis lazuli set in gold; and distinguished pieces of French furniture by the best names, including Riesener and Boulle. Later 18th-century furniture includes a reading stand by M. Carlin (c. 1785) with a Sèvres porcelain plaque and ormolu mounts, given by Marie Antoinette to Mrs Eden.


Europe & America 1800–1900 (Basement, Galleries 8–9)

Of all the galleries in the museum these give the best sense of how the 19th-century museum would have been displayed. Highly decorated and gilded furniture, porcelain and silver from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Russia and Scandinavia is crowded together in a scene of suffocating opulence. The showcases lined down the centre, with their massed displays, are copies of 1877 originals; the lights imitate those used in this part of the museum in 1909; and the security barriers at the sides are derived from those used at the museum in the 1860s.

The rich and dense displays include objects acquired from the great 19th-century International Exhibitions (1851 and beyond), but also earlier pieces. Exhibits include a c. 1800 elaborate cabinet by the great Parisian maker Jacob Frères, who supplied furniture to Napoleon and Josephine; an 1813 Sèvres vase, a copy of the ‘Medici Krater’ in the Uffizi; a great, Gothic oak bookcase, ‘a cathedral in wood’, presented by the Emperor Franz Joseph to Queen Victoria, exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition; a sofa (c. 1856) by John Henry Belter, originally of Hanover but who emigrated to New York, of laminated rosewood with dense, floral carving, one of the most elaborate examples of his work; an amber vase and pedestal by J. & L. Lobmeyr, Vienna (c. 1878), shown at the Paris Exposition of that year; a cabinet by Henri-Auguste Fourdinois, of ebony with inlay of various woods including box, lime, holly and pear, with mahogany and marble plaques, purchased from the Paris Exposition of 1867, where it was awarded the Exhibition Grand Prix; and Henri Fantin-Latour’s gentle paintings of nasturtiums, a rare work of a single plant, as opposed to his usual vases of flowers.

Art Nouveau objects include a Carlo Bugatti armchair (Milan c. 1900); a Richard Riemerschmid dressing table (German, 1899); a firescreen by Emile Gallé, decorated with vine leaves with tendrils wrapping around its legs; and a cabinet by Louis Majorelle, with wrought iron mounts of stylised lotus blossoms. The latter two, along with other Art Nouveau objects, were purchased for the museum from the 1900 Paris Exposition by George Donaldson, a great supporter of the ‘New Movement’, who correctly forecast their hostile reception in London.


Twentieth Century (Galleries 70–74; Galleries 103–106)

Twentieth-century art and design is shown in Galleries 70–74, level 3 (the period galleries) and galleries 103–106, the latter rather forlorn and in need of refurbishment. Among early 20th-century items is a Gerrit Rietveld armchair (1918), a design classic by a leading figure of the Dutch De Stijl group; examples from the Omega Workshops, founded in 1913 by Roger Fry with Vanessa Bell; a 1924 table lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, MT8, from the Bauhaus School set up in Weimar in 1919, displaying the influence of Moholy-Nagy and his ethos of beautiful but functional industrial design; and examples of artist books, such as Klänge by Kandinsky (1913).

Product design, and technology as an aesthetic, is further explored in later works: a c. 1934 sleek-lined electric bar heater by Christian Barman produced by HMV; Italian kettles; a 1964 Roberts radio with leopard-skin cover; an Ambrose Heal dressing table (c. 1943); a c. 1949 storage unit by the American team Eames and Eames, designers of modern furniture for mass production; and Ron Arad chairs. British studio pottery includes works by Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie, the latter dating from early works of the 1920s and 30s, produced in her native Vienna, to later works executed in England.


Asia (Galleries 41–47g)

On level 1 are the Asia Period Galleries, containing the museum’s best examples of Southeast Asian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean art. Southeast Asia includes 11th–13th-century Cambodian bronzes; an early 15th-century double-sided Indonesian altar relief; 7th–13th-century sculptures from Thailand, including the remarkable late 15th–early 16th-century Standing Buddha from the workshops of Ayutthaya, then the Thai capital. A figure of great refinement, with much of its original gilding intact, it represents a high point of Thai art, reflecting the prosperity of the kingdom of Siam.

The Indian Collection has its origins in the 18th-century Asiatic Society of Bengal (established 1784) and the museum of the East India Company, housed at the Company’s headquarters in the City. By 1808 the latter included elephant heads, Persian manuscripts, brass Hindu sculptures and one of the V&A’s most famous works, ‘Tippoo’s Musical Tiger’ (c. 1790). A wooden organ made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, in the form of a tiger mauling a British officer (shrieking sounds emanate from it when played), it has been popular since the early 19th century. On the demise of the East India Company in 1858, its museum was transferred first to the new government India Office in Whitehall and then, in the 1870s, to South Kensington.



Tipu Sultan (1750–99)

The ‘Tiger of Mysore’, scourge of the British in southern central India during the late 18th century, died fighting at the Battle of Seringapatam (modern Srirangapatna) that concluded the last of the four Mysore Wars. The son of Haider Ali, who had successfully contested the first Mysore War against the forces of the East India Company and its allies, Tipu Sultan helped his father and French forces inflict another heavy defeat on the British at the Battle of Pollilur (1780).

Often quoted as saying that he would ‘rather live two days as a tiger than two hundred years as a sheep’, Tipu Sultan ruled Mysore from 1782, with an administrative skill admired, almost 150 years later, by Mahatma Ghandi in Young India, as a model of religious tolerance. Tipu also continued his father’s early experiments in rocket science, equipping specially trained troops with iron-cased rocket launchers deployed to devastating effect. Even so, at the end of the Third Mysore War (1790–92), when Seringapatam had been surrounded by forces under the command of Lord Cornwallis, Tipu Sultan was forced to hand over his second and third eldest sons, Abdul Khaliq and Maiz-Uddin, aged ten and eight, as hostages against full payment of the indemnity. Received with great courtesy and ceremony by Cornwallis, the young princes were often entertained with music and dance during their captivity, and were returned to their father two years later.

Tipu Sultan’s subsequent attempts to ally himself with Napoleon resulted in a final British assault on Seringapatam, where he was shot as he lay wounded after falling from the ramparts.



Important examples of Buddhist and Hindu sculpture include the monumental 11th–12th-century black basalt Buddha Sakyamuri, from Bihar; the c. 900 ad sandstone Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, called the ‘Sanchi Torso’, beautifully carved and exceptionally elegant, from the ruined temple of Sanchi, central India; and the c. 11th-century Chola-period, small gilt copper figure of Buddha offering reassurance, excellently modelled, cast and finished, possibly the finest Buddhist metal sculpture to survive from southern India. The temple sculpture of Nandi, Shiva’s sacred bull, late 16th–17th century, is carved in attractive serpentine.

Sixteenth–18th-century Mughal art contains early Indian painting; gold ornamental jewellery (armlets, necklaces, hair ornaments); and Mughal textile designs, including elaborate tent hangings. Intricately illuminated books illustrate the histories of the dynasty.

The European presence in India, and the export trade, is explored. Furniture includes the ivory table (c. 1785) given to Warren Hastings by Mani Begum. Expensive and finely crafted objects in the centre of the gallery include Shah Jahan’s white jade thumb ring; his exquisite white jade wine cup (1657) in the form of a ram’s head flaring to a wide bowl, perhaps the finest known example of Mughal hardstone carving; and turban ornaments and daggers ornamented with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. The agate cameo portrait of Shah Jahan (c. 1630–40) was carved by a European lapidary at the Mughal court. The golden throne of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, which was shown with other Indian Empire treasures at the 1851 Great Exhibition, was part of the state property taken by the British in 1849 on the annexation of the Punjab.

The Islamic Near East, covering the art of Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, was closed at the time of writing (due to open August 2006), but will contain famous items such as the Ardabil carpet (1539–40), one of the largest and most magnificent Persian carpets in the world, from the shrine of the same name in northwest Iran. Purchased in 1893, to William Morris it was ‘of singular perfection’.

The earliest objects in the China Gallery date from the Han and Tang dynasties. Costly burial goods include the 206 bcad 220 large head and partial torso of a horse, the largest animal carving in jade known; a large and rare tomb model of a standing Arabian horse, 1st–2nd centuries; and a 1st–2nd-century Tang camel and rider, of lead glazed earthenware, elaborately groomed and saddled. A bronze incense burner in the shape of an angry goose, its neck outstretched, dates from the Song-Yuan dynasty (1200–1300). Domestic items include highly decorated and embroidered silk robes, table utensils such as jade cups and ewers, and Ming dynasty furniture such as the important early lacquer table (1426–35), one of the only surviving pieces from the ‘Orchard Workshop’, the Imperial lacquer workshop set up to the northwest of the Forbidden City. The collection is rich in pieces with an Imperial provenance, an association which early collectors particularly sought. The ornate carved polychrome lacquer throne of the Emperor Qianlong was probably commissioned in the 1780s for the Tuanhe Travelling Palace in the Nan Haizi hunting park south of Beijing.

The gallery of Chinese export art (more items are shown in their European setting in the British Galleries) includes a magnificent 9-ft, 17-tier porcelain pagoda (1800–15) of the type that was ordered for the decoration of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. It is one of only ten known to exist.

The Korean Collection includes beautiful examples of pale green celadon ware of the Koryo dynasty (935–1392), and fine examples of porcelain, furniture and decorative objects from the Choson dynasty (1392–1910), when Seoul became the capital.

The acquisition of items from Japan was sporadic until the second half of the 19th century. The emphasis was on contemporary items purchased from the International Exhibitions, demonstrating extreme technical skill. The dramatic hammered iron incense burner in the form of an eagle, for example, was bought in 1875, and the ornamental bronze vase, executed by the noted bronze caster Suzuki Chokichi, was acquired at the Universal Exhibition in Amsterdam in 1883, directly from Kiritsu Koshu Kaisha of Tokyo, a company founded to promote Japanese craft industries. As well as ornamental swords and knife mounts; an excellent collection of Japanese lacquerware; and a collection of over 20,000 woodblock prints, the overwhelming bulk of the collection comprises ceramics. Historic and contemporary examples were purchased for the museum in Japan by Sano Tsunetami in the 1870s, including important late 16th-century tea ceramics.


Tower Bridge Exhibition


Tower Bridge, SE1 2UP


020-7403 3761



Opening times:

April–Sept daily 10:00–18:30 (last admission 17:30)
October–March daily 9:30-18:00 (last admission 17:00)

How to get there:

Tower Hill station can be accessed from the District and Circle lines to the north side of the Bridge.
London Bridge station crosses the Northern and Jubilee lines and brings you to the south bank of the River Thames with Tower Bridge just a short walk away.

Entry fee:

Admission charge – Family & Groups discounted tickets available.

Additional information:

Fully accessible. Gift shop

Designed by Sir John Wolfe Barry, son of the architect of the Houses of Parliament, and Sir Horace Jones, Tower Bridge opened amid much fanfare in 1894, and remained the only bridge downriver of London Bridge for the next century. The towers of the bridge support suspension cables and contain lifts to reach the high-level footbridge, originally intended for use when the bascules—or mechanical arms—of the lower bridge are raised. Each weighs around 1,000 tons. This is an impressive sight when it happens, usually a few times each day. The exhibition takes visitors up the four storeys of the north tower, to the enclosed east walkway between the towers, which has magnificent views over Docklands. Returning along the west walkway, with more superb views of the Tower of London, St Paul’s, the London Eye and Big Ben, visitors descend again and cross the bridge to the basement of the south tower. Here can be seen the cast-iron boilers, flywheels and accumulator tanks of the lifting mechanism, a triumphant feat of Victorian engineering made sadly redundant by electrification in 1976.


Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)


HM Tower of London, EC3N 4AB


0844 482 7777



Opening times:

Mar–Oct Tues–Sat 9:00–17:30, Sun–Mon 10:00–17:30; Nov–Feb Tues–Sat 9:00–16:30, Sun–Mon 10:00–16:00

How to get there:

Tube: Tower Hill

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Cafés and shops

The Tower of London, the most important and complete secular medieval edifice to survive in the city, is a place intimately and continuously involved in British history since the Norman Conquest. As the foremost royal fortress, palace, prison and place of execution, it played a central role in the defence of crown and state until the mid-19th century. In the Victorian period the Tower became the tourist attraction that it remains to this day, grimly associated with the use, abuse, or pursuit of royal power, as well as with the notable people who have suffered death or imprisonment within its walls. Remarkably well-preserved, it contains not only the Crown Jewels, but also part of the Royal Armouries, a series of reconstructed medieval rooms and restored medieval towers, a Norman keep and chapel, a Tudor church, the Regimental Museum of the Royal Fusiliers, several ancient ravens and an army garrison. Quite distinct from the latter are the famous Yeoman Warders, a body of about 40 men chosen from retired warrant and non-commissioned officers of the army. They live in the Tower of London, wear uniforms said to date from the time of Henry VII or Edward VI, and are better known as ‘Beefeaters’, probably because of the rations that they once received. Guided tours led by Yeoman Warders leave the Lanthorn Tower at regular intervals and remain the best possible introduction to the castle.


History of the Tower

The White Tower is the oldest part of the fortress that takes its name. It was constructed on the orders of William the Conqueror in the late 11th century as the most important of a series of keeps designed to secure London for the crown and protect the new capital from Danish invasion. A Roman wall, part of which can still be seen outside Tower Hill underground station, protected the eastern boundary of the tower’s precincts. Not until the reign of Henry III (1216–72) was the White Tower fully fortified, with the addition of the Wakefield and Lanthorn towers on the waterfront, a new wall protecting the western approach, and finally, at enormous expense and more than doubling the acreage of the castle, a curtain wall complete with nine new towers and a moat. Around this time the Tower began to be used as a prison: the Welsh Prince Gruffydd died in an escape attempt here in 1244. Many of Henry III’s new towers, Constable, Martin, Brick, Bowyer, Flint and Devereux, still survive much as built. Edward I (1272–1307) continued his father’s work, building the Beauchamp Tower and then enclosing the whole castle on all sides with another great curtain wall and moat, providing a landward entry from the west through the Middle and Byward towers and a river entry through St Thomas’s Tower, later known as Traitors’ Gate, the shape substantially assumed by the Tower today. The Scottish rebel Sir William Wallace was executed here in 1305, while David II of Scotland (1346–57) and John of France (1356–60) were both held prisoner in the Tower, as was James I of Scotland for part of his long imprisonment in England from 1406–26. Until the reign of Henry VIII (1509–1547) the Tower was also used by monarchs as a safe haven in times of civil unrest, notably by the 14-year-old Richard II (1377–99) who took refuge here for two days during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Over the course of the next century, and especially during the Wars of the Roses, other royal residents were less safe: Henry VI (1422–61, 1470–71) was secretly murdered here, as later were Edward IV’s brother, George Duke of Clarence, ‘drowned in a butt of a malmsey’ in 1478, and the young Edward V and his brother, ‘the Princes in the Tower’, dispatched here five years later.

Official executions characterise the continuation under the Tudors of the Tower’s gloomy history, beginning with the beheading of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher in 1535, canonized as Catholic martyrs for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Henry had married Katherine of Aragon here, and also Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded on Tower Green in 1536. Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, suffered the same fate in 1542. Among the many prisoners of Henry’s daughter ‘Bloody’ Mary (1553–58) were Lady Jane Grey, proclaimed Queen on the death of Edward VI (1553), and beheaded nine days later, along with her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley. Mary’s half-sister, daughter of Anne Boleyn, the future Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) was held in close confinement here for two months. Thomas Cranmer and Sir Thomas Wyatt, by whose followers the Tower had been attacked, for the last time in its history, were imprisoned here and beheaded in 1554.

During Elizabeth’s reign, the Duke of Norfolk was executed here for intriguing in favour of Mary Queen of Scots. The Earl of Essex, Elizabeth’s favourite, was beheaded on Tower Green in 1601. Sir Walter Raleigh was confined here three times. The monarch that signed the order for his execution, James I (1603–25), was the last to use the Tower as a residence. In 1605–06 Guy Fawkes was tortured here. During the Civil War (1642–49), the castle was seized by the Parliamentarians and garrisoned with regular troops by Oliver Cromwell, later Lord Protector. Charles II (1660–85), the last King to sleep at the Tower, passed the night here before his Coronation in 1661. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, was one of the many noble prisoners brought here after the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745, and was the last person beheaded in England, on Tower Hill in 1747. Later prisoners in the Tower included John Wilkes (1763) and the Cato Street conspirators (1820). During the Second World War, Rudolph Hess and several U-boat crews were held here, and spies were executed by firing squad within its walls.


Traitors’ Gate and the Royal Palace

The main entrance to the Tower is near the southwest corner of the castle, through Edward I’s Middle Tower, rebuilt in the 18th century, over the dry moat and through the Byward Tower (1280). This main gatehouse to the Outer Ward and entrance through the outer circuit of walls is usually closed to the public, but it is well worth asking a Warder to see inside. Along with the Tower’s original portcullis, now the symbol of Her Majesty’s Government, one room reveals a remarkable painted chimney breast dating from around 1400. On the left, the figures of the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist can be clearly seen, while on the right stand St John the Evangelist and the Angel of Judgement. The wall painting once had a background pattern of fleur-de-lis, lions, and birds on a green and gold ground, which can still be seen decorating the main beam of the room. The central figure of Christ was destroyed during rebuilding of the chimney piece in the early 1600s and the other figures, which formed part of a continuous composition around the walls, were covered in limewash. The Byward Tower was once the home of the First Gentleman Porter, known as John of London, and much later the prison of the Jacobite rebel Lord Lovat.

Opposite the Byward Tower is the Bell Tower (1190; closed to the public), the prison of Fisher, More, Princess Elizabeth and Monmouth, where curfew continues to be rung at twilight. Running north between the two towers is Mint Street, named after the Royal Mint established here in the late 13th century, lined with casemates constructed against the walls in the early 18th century. Isaac Newton lived in the first of them while Master of the Mint, and they currently house the 34 Yeoman Warders. Water Lane runs east from here, parallel to the river, beneath the windows of the Queen’s House (home to the Governor of the Tower and closed to the public), where Guy Fawkes was interrogated in the Council Chamber. Beneath St Thomas’s Tower is Traitors’ Gate , its great stone arch constructed between 1275 and 1279. Many illustrious prisoners hardly deserving the name of traitor have passed beneath it, among them Sir Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Catherine Howard, Essex and Monmouth.

St Thomas’s Tower is now the entrance to the reconstructed Medieval Palace . A small turret off the first room contains an oratory, originally overlooking the river and dedicated to St Thomas à Becket. The Wakefield Tower, traditionally the site of Henry VI’s murder, was built in the 1220s as Henry III’s bedchamber and later became Edward’s audience chamber. It was restored in 1993 to something like its appearance at that time, featuring a reproduction of an 11th-century candelabra or corona. Lastly on the tour of the Medieval Palace is the Lanthorn Tower, built for the queen around the same time as the Wakefield Tower, but demolished in 1776 and only rebuilt in 1883. It contains a small exhibition on daily life in the palace of Edward I.

The White Tower and Royal Armouries

Leaving the Lanthorn Tower, visitors are standing close to the line of the Roman city wall, with a good view of the White Tower . Probably built by Bishop Gundulf, also the builder of Rochester Cathedral, with walls up to 15ft thick and rising to a height of 90ft, it was whitewashed in the reign of Henry III. The exterior has been much restored since then, notably by Wren, who altered all the windows but four on the south side. The tower is entered via an external staircase to the first floor, where in many ways the most evocative room comes first: the Chapel of St John the Evangelist (1087). It rises through the height of two floors, the massive round columns and arches of the nave supporting an unusual continuous tribune gallery above, daylight filtering through heavy round-arched windows. It is the earliest piece of Norman ecclesiastical architecture in London and also one of the most important in England. The squared stonework, austere and bare, was quarried at Caen in Normandy, but was probably once brightly decorated with colourful paintings. In 1399 Henry IV created 46 knights in the chapel, which remains closely connected with the Order of the Bath; Henry VI lay in state here after being murdered; Lady Jane Grey used it during her nine days reign in 1553, and a year later it saw Mary I betrothed by proxy to Philip of Spain. In the rooms beyond, new exhibitions recount the building of the White Tower, and take visitors past a Norman garderobe or lavatory.

Exhibitions from the Royal Armouries occupy the rest of the rooms, recently redesigned to explore the idea of the Tower as the first museum in England. One highlight is the armour of the Tudor and Stuart kings and princes: King Henry VIII’s armour comes first, a suit from 1515 with a skirt highly ornamented with the gilt brass initials H and K (for his first wife Katherine of Aragon), entwined with true lovers’ knots. It was probably made for the Greenwich tournament in 1516. Some of the king’s fearsome horse armour (Flanders, c. 1514) can also be seen here. Another suit of armour, engraved with designs by Hans Holbein, was made for Henry when he was forty-nine and had become seriously overweight. By contrast, the Presentation Armour of King James I shows him to have been a slight man, as does the short armour (1612) of Charles I, probably first made for his elder brother Henry, Prince of Wales, and superbly decorated in gold leaf. The ‘Line of Kings’ claims to be one of the earliest museum displays in Britain, dating from around 1690. Following the restoration of Charles II, the general public was allowed to visit the armouries here for the first time. The ‘Line of Kings’, a rank of mounted armoured figures representing English monarchs since William the Conqueror, was one of the most popular attractions. The wooden horses and heads of the kings were carved by, among others, Grinling Gibbons (third from the left), and John Nost (fifth from left). Nearby, also side by side, are the suits of armour of John of Gaunt (6ft 9in) and Richard, Duke of York (3ft 1.5in), one of the princes supposedly murdered in the Bloody Tower. Equally popular in the 17th century was the Spanish Armoury, also recreated here, which once claimed to display booty captured from the Spanish Armada: among the harnesses, thumbscrews, bilbos and shackles, a pollaxe can be seen, along with the execution block of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat.


The Crown Jewels

Facing the White Tower from the north are the Waterloo Barracks (1845) , built on the orders of the Duke of Wellington, then Constable of the Tower. Once home to almost 1,000 soldiers, they now contain the strong-room where the Crown Jewels have been kept since 1994. Crowds are channelled slowly through a procession of rooms where videos of royal ceremonies are shown, notably the live televisation of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the last time the regalia were used. The ancient regalia were dispersed or destroyed during the Commonwealth. Only three swords and the silver gilt Coronation Spoon, probably made for Henry II or Richard I some time in the 12th century, survive from before that time. Some of the items, most prominently the Orb and Sceptre, have been used at every coronation since that of Charles II, by whom they were commissioned. St Edward’s Crown (1661), used for the actual crowning of the sovereign, may have been made from the gold of the Saxon diadem. The Ampulla and Spoon, the oldest items on display, are used at the most solemn moment of the ceremony, when oil is poured from the Ampulla eagle’s beak into the Spoon, for the Archbishop to anoint the sovereign’s head, breast and palms. The Ampulla was redecorated in the 17th century but may in essence be the golden eagle used at the coronation of Henry IV (1399). As well as their historical and symbolic interest, the regalia incorporate some spectacular gemstones. The Sceptre contains the largest top-quality cut diamond in the world, Cullinan I or the ‘Star of Africa’. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, or ‘Mountain of Light’, which sits in the platinum crown made for the Queen Mother at the coronation of George VI (1937), was given to Queen Victoria by the Maharajah of Lahore as part of the treaty annexing the Punjab in 1849. Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown is the lightest and smallest in the collection, only 3.7 inches in height, designed to be worn on her widow’s cap. The Imperial State Crown (1937), carried by the monarch after the coronation and subsequently for the state openings of Parliament, contains sapphires associated with Edward the Confessor and Alexander II of Scotland, pearls once in the possession of Catherine de’ Medici and Mary Queen of Scots, a ruby possibly worn by Henry V at Agincourt, and the second largest top-quality cut diamond in the world, Cullinan II or the ‘Second Star of Africa’.

Close to the Jewel House shop is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Fusiliers, the City of London regiment once stationed at the Tower. It contains relics relating to the history of the regiment from 1685 to the present day. Among a variety of special displays is one on the terrible Battle of Albuera in 1811. Though nominally a victory, only some 1,500 men survived out of a total of 4,000.


Tower Green and the Bloody Tower

Described by Macaulay as the ‘most melancholy spot on earth’, Tower Green is the site of the scaffold reserved for politically sensitive executions where the following were beheaded: Queen Anne Boleyn, accused of adultery (1536); Margaret Plantagenet Pole, Countess of Salisbury, with some difficulty, having been implicated in ‘The Pilgrimage of Grace’ (1541); Queen Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, accused of adultery, along with her lady-in-waiting Jane, Viscountess Rochford (1542); the 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine days queen’ (1554); and the Earl of Essex (1601). All are buried nearby within the altar rails of the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, consecrated in the early 12th century, rebuilt at the end of the 13th, burnt and then rebuilt in 1512. Finally fully restored in 1971, the church also contains the tombs of Fisher, More and the Jacobite lords executed in 1746–47, along with more recent memorials to distinguished soldiers. In the north aisle is the impressive monument to the Duke of Exeter (1447), formerly in St Katherine’s, Regent’s Park.

Across Tower Green is the semicircular Beauchamp Tower (1280). The walls of the upper chamber are covered with inscriptions and carvings made for or by former prisoners down the ages, including Lady Jane Grey and the Dudley family. On the way back onto Water Lane is the Bloody Tower (1225) , traditionally the site of the murder of the Princes in the Tower. It was the prison of Cranmer, Raleigh, Laud and Judge Jeffreys, who died here in 1689. One room has been furnished as it might have been during Raleigh’s imprisonment. Sir Walter Raleigh was first imprisoned in 1591 for secretly marrying Elizabeth Throckmorton, Elizabeth I’s Maid of Honour, but released after five weeks. In 1603, King James I placed him in the Tower for conspiring to crown Lady Arabella Stuart. Condemned to life imprisonment, he resided here, conducting experiments in the hen house, growing tobacco and writing his History of the World. ‘Only my father,’ remarked Henry, Prince of Wales, ‘would keep such a bird in such a cage.’ In 1616 Raleigh was released to search for El Dorado. His expedition failed and involved the sacking of the Spanish settlement of Santo Tomé. To placate the outraged Spanish, Raleigh was beheaded in Old Palace Yard, Westminster in 1618.


Tate Modern


Bankside, SE1 9TG


020-7887 8888



Opening times:

Daily 10:00-18:00

How to get there:

Tube: Southwark. Tube/Station: Blackfriars and London Bridge

Entry fee:

Free (admission charge for special exhibitions)

Additional information:

Restaurants, cafés and shops

Tate is a family of galleries whose large collection is displayed over four sites: the two major London galleries, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, in Cornwall. For many, the name Tate is synonymous with modern art and the controversies that surround it: the infamous ‘Bricks’ and the annual Turner Prize. Tate in fact has two roles: it houses the national collection of British art, from 1500 to the present day (displayed at Tate Britain); and the national collection of post- 1900 international art (displayed at Tate Modern and outside London). This dual purpose dates back to the early years of the gallery’s foundation, in 1897, by the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate. An annexe of the National Gallery, the Tate displayed Sir Henry Tate’s personal collection of British art, which he had presented to the nation, as well as other British works transferred from Trafalgar Square. The gallery’s role soon expanded to incorporate modern foreign art for which, at the time, the National Gallery’s administration had little enthusiasm. It was not until 1955 that the Tate gained full independence. The gallery’s site on Millbank became increasingly inadequate to display these two collections and in the late 20th century decisive action was taken, resulting in the opening in 2000 of Tate Modern, in the dramatically transformed Bankside power station. The old Millbank site, rebranded Tate Britain, has reverted to its founding concept, as a gallery dedicated to British art.

Both galleries command imposing positions on the river: on Millbank, just beyond the Palace of Westminster; and at Bankside, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral. The two are linked by the Tate riverboat service (every 40mins during gallery opening hours). Tate Britain’s angular steel pier is designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield (designers of the London Eye), and its evening light effects by the artist Angela Bulloch. The exterior of the sleek catamaran (coloured spots) was designed by Damien Hirst.

Below is an outline of each gallery, their buildings and the major collection highlights. It should be noted that displays at both change annually, and by no means the entire collection is on show at one time. Modern and contemporary British art is shown at both sites.


Tate Modern is one of the most popular museums of modern art in the world. Opened in 2000, in its first five years over 22 million visitors passed through its doors. Converted from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station, built after the Second World War to provide the City with electricity, it looms heavy and massive on the south bank of the Thames. An international architectural competition for the conversion of the site was won by the Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron, who retained the stark industrial character of the building. Externally it has been little altered. A powerful horizontal mass of red brick, alleviated by immense vertical windows, is bisected by a tall central chimney. A two-storey light box has been added to the roofline, a gleaming white beam at night, housing a restaurant with spectacular views over the river to the City and St Paul’s Cathedral. The new pedestrian Millennium Bridge links Tate Modern to the north side of the river. Designed by Sir Norman Foster with Anthony Caro, an architect-sculptor partnership, it was quickly nicknamed ‘the wobbly bridge’ when it was found to sway alarmingly underfoot, a problem since rectified at considerable expense.

The entrance is either from the riverfront or through the great west entrance, down a vast concrete ramp straight into the Turbine Hall. Five hundred feet long and 150ft high, this is the heart of the building, the mighty nave of an industrial cathedral. Stripped of its turbine engines, the cavernous space is now a dramatic arena for the display of sculpture and installations of enormous scale. Specially commissioned pieces have included Louise Bourgois’s giant, crouching spider; Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas, a massive Triffid-like organic form suspended in the air and coloured the dark maroon of flayed flesh; and, most spectacularly, Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project, with the vast space of the Hall bathed in the golden light of a huge setting sun positioned at the east end. Crowds were drawn to it, sitting silent and transfixed beneath the mirrored ceiling.

In the riverfront block new floor divisions have been created, with galleries for the display of the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Of varying heights, many have dramatic side-lighting from the original vertical strip windows, stretching from floor to ceiling with unexpected views of St Paul’s. Although the power station was decommissioned in 1981, an operational switch station remained in part of the south building, but a multi-million-pound redevelopment of this area of the gallery is planned, providing further display space for installations, film and video.


The Collection

Tate Modern is devoted to the Tate’s collection of post-1900 international art. In the early decades of the 20th century the gallery’s administration viewed modern art with conservative caution, resulting in the collection’s weaknesses in this area, weaknesses which are still apparent today. In the post-war era, however, modern art was acquired with enthusiasm, particularly from the 60s and 70s, and Tate has many major works, spanning painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and conceptual art, photography, film, video and artists’ books. The collection of Surrealist works, for example, is particularly strong, as is the modern and contemporary collection of British art, which Tate represents comprehensively and in depth. Although Tate Britain is officially the home of British art, 20th-century British works are shown at both sites: the rich collection of works by Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and David Hockney, for example, allows for major works by these artists to be shown at both buildings. The collection covers mainly Western art, Latin America and Asia are also included.

The permanent collection displays have discarded the traditional chronological progression through the modern art movements, or ‘isms’, in favour of a thematic approach, by some regarded as a brave, fresh move, by others as a recipe for confusion. At time of writing the themes are divided into four broad sections based on the main painting genres: history painting; portraiture and figurative art; landscape; and still life. Change is due in 2006, when, for the next six years, themes will focus on the collection’s strengths, on artistic movements, and also on international cultural exchange.



The Tate’s history is inextricably linked to to that of the National Gallery, and many of the latter’s fine Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works were originally displayed at the Tate on Millbank. The dividing line between Tate Modern and the National Gallery is now accepted as 1900, although there are some exceptions. Tate’s collection of Post-Impressionists, and stylistically associated younger generation artists, contains fine works, the most exceptional and well known probably being Monet’s large Water-Lilies (after 1916), the focus of the large canvas the evanescent play of light on the pond and its flowers. Also in the collection is Manet’s Nude on a Couch (1915); Camille Pissarro’s Self-Portrait (1903); Cézanne’s The Grounds of the Château Noir (1900–06), and The Gardener Vallier (c. 1906); Seurat’s Le Bec du Hoc, Grandchamp (1885); van Gogh’s Farms near Auvers (1890); and Gauguin’s Faa Iheihe (1898), painted in Tahiti. Degas’ famous Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1880–81, cast c. 1922), of bronze, with a muslin skirt and satin hair ribbon, the largest and most important of his sculptures, was purchased in 1952 for £8,000, a sum which caused controversy at the time. Rodin’s The Kiss (1901–04) shows the lovers Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s ‘Inferno’, naked and locked in their first embrace, their polished bodies contrasting with the hewn rock they sit on. Bonnard’s The Table (1925) was bought a year after it was painted, and The Bath (1925) is one of the many paintings Bonnard made of his wife, Berthe, bathing. Ever popular are Raoul Dufy’s brightly coloured Open Window at Saint-Jeannet (c. 1926–27) and The Wheatfield (1929).


Early to mid-20th century

Matisse’s The Snail (1953), the greatest of his late ‘cut gouaches’, composed of vividly coloured rectangles of cut paper arranged roughly in the spiral of a snail, was one of the gallery’s major acquisitions, though it also caused controversy when bought, in 1962. Cubist works include still lifes by Braque, including Clarinet and Bottle of Rum (1911), and a large collection of works by Picasso. An early work is the melancholic Jeune Femme en Chemise (c. 1905). Even earlier is his Flowers (1901), the first Picasso to enter the collection. Purchased in 1933, its conservatism is evidence of the gallery’s resistance at the time to the more radical elements of modernism. The Three Dancers (1925) is a major work and Weeping Woman (1937), an allegory of republican Spain, is one of several painted following the bombardment of Guernica. Other works include Juan Gris’s The Sunblind (1914); Fernand Léger’s The Acrobat and his Partner (1948); and several sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz.

Early 20th-century sculpture includes works by the influential Romanian artist Brancusi, including his bronze, metal and wood Fish (1926), and Maiastra (1911), a bronze bird standing on a stone base; Jean Arp’s bronze Pagoda Fruit (1949); Modigliani’s elongated Head (c. 1911–12); and the Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s bronze Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913, cast 1972). Of great importance is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, a urinal offered for exhibition in 1917. The most famous of his ‘ready-mades’, ordinary objects designated works of art by the artist, it is an important precursor to Surrealist works, as well as to conceptual art.



Tate has a large and important collection of Surrealist works, the movement launched in Paris in 1924 by French poet André Breton. Salvador Dalí’s dream-like works, windows onto the mind, include his important Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937), while Lobster Telephone (1936) confronts the rational with its impossible combination of objects. Other works include Joan Miró’s Head of a Catalan Peasant (1925); Magritte’s The Reckless Sleeper (1928) and Man with a Newspaper (1928); and Max Ernst’s Celebes (1921), Men Shall Know Nothing of This (1923), and Forest and Dove (1927). Georgio de Chirico’s The Uncertainty of the Poet (1913) shows a classical antique torso in a piazza with a bunch of bananas. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943) is one of Dorothea Tanning’s best known works, showing a girl on a wide landing coming upon a giant sunflower. The sculptor Alberto Giacometti, better known for his skeletal figures—Man Pointing (1947)—was a former Surrealist, and Tate has his Hour of the Traces (1930).



Works by one of the pioneers of abstraction, Kandinsky, include Cossacks (1910–11) and the highly geometric Swinging (1925). Other important early abstract pieces are Malevich’s Dynamic Suprematism (1915/16) and works by the Dutch De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian: Sun, Church in Zeeland (1910) and Composition with Grey, Red, Yellow and Blue (1920–c. 1926). Tate has an important collection of works by the Russian constructivist Naum Gabo, a pioneer of abstract sculpture, including Head No. 2 (enlarged version 1964), Model for ‘Column’ (1920–21) and Construction in Space with Crystalline Centre (1938–40), all of them sculptural explorations of form and space. American Abstract Expressionist pieces include de Kooning’s The Visit (1966–67) and several works by Jackson Pollock. His major early drip painting is Summertime: Number 9A (1948), the paint splashed in a rhythmic pattern. Vast-scale colour-field Abstract Expressionist pieces include Mark Rothko’s famous ‘Seagram Murals’, commissioned in 1958 for a restaurant in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building on Park Avenue, New York. Rothko changed his mind about their destination and they came to Tate instead, which had begun negotiations with the artist about a possible donation of a work in the mid-1960s. It is said that as the works arrived at the gallery, news came of Rothko’s suicide. The large, magnificent, luminous works, combinations of maroon and black, are among the gallery’s major holdings.


Later 20th century

American Pop Art, inspired by consumer culture, Hollywood and celebrity, advertising and commercial mass production, includes Jasper Johns’ Dancers on a Plane; Roy Lichtenstein’s well-known Whaam! (1963); Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych (1962); and the sculptor Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Drainpipe: Blue (Cool) Version (1967). The Continental European equivalent to Pop was Nouveau Réalisme. Tate has works by, among others, Tinguely, Yves Klein and Arman, one of its leading exponents, including Condition of Woman I (1960).

The large collection of conceptual art includes works by the American Bruce Nauman and the hugely influential pioneer of performance art, the German Joseph Beuys, whose installations use organic materials such as fat, wax and rock. Works include Fat Transformation Piece (1972), and The End of the Twentieth Century (1983–85), 40 basalt columns lying on the ground, each with an ‘eye’—a polished cone of stone fixed with clay and felt. Works incorporating real objects as the stuff of art include Marcel Broodthaers’s Casserole and Closed Mussels (1964), and Rebecca Horn’s Concert for Anarchy (1990), a grand piano suspended upside down with its keys spilling out. American minimalist pieces include Carl Andre’s infamous ‘Bricks’ (Equivalent VIII; 1966), plain bricks arranged in a neat rectangle, which caused a storm of indignation and hilarity when acquired in 1972, and have ever since been taken as evidence of the meaninglessness of modern art. Other works include Frank Stella’s Six Mile Bottom (1960); Sol LeWitt’s Two Open Modular Cubes/Half-Off (1975); Donald Judd’s Untitled (1980), units of steel, aluminium and perspex marching up the wall in a vertical stack; and Robert Morris’s Untitled (1965/71), four large reflective cubes of mirror-plate glass on board. In 1971 Morris famously constructed a minimal gymnasium at the Tate which invited the active involvement of exhibition visitors. Eventually it had to close due to injury of members of the public as well as to the exhibit. Other sculpture includes works by Richard Serra, and David Smith’s Cubi XIX (1964), brushed stainless steel geometric forms, balanced on top of each other.


Tate Britain


Millbank, SW1P 4RG


020-7887 8888



Opening times:

Daily 10:00–18:00

How to get there:

Tube: Pimlico

Entry fee:

Free (except for special exhibitions)

Additional information:

Restaurant, café and shop

Tate is a family of galleries whose large collection is displayed over four sites: the two major London galleries, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, in Cornwall. For many, the name Tate is synonymous with modern art and the controversies that surround it: the infamous ‘Bricks’ and the annual Turner Prize. Tate in fact has two roles: it houses the national collection of British art, from 1500 to the present day (displayed at Tate Britain); and the national collection of post- 1900 international art (displayed at Tate Modern and outside London). This dual purpose dates back to the early years of the gallery’s foundation, in 1897, by the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate. An annexe of the National Gallery, the Tate displayed Sir Henry Tate’s personal collection of British art, which he had presented to the nation, as well as other British works transferred from Trafalgar Square. The gallery’s role soon expanded to incorporate modern foreign art for which, at the time, the National Gallery’s administration had little enthusiasm. It was not until 1955 that the Tate gained full independence. The gallery’s site on Millbank became increasingly inadequate to display these two collections and in the late 20th century decisive action was taken, resulting in the opening in 2000 of Tate Modern, in the dramatically transformed Bankside power station. The old Millbank site, rebranded Tate Britain, has reverted to its founding concept, as a gallery dedicated to British art.

Both galleries command imposing positions on the river: on Millbank, just beyond the Palace of Westminster; and at Bankside, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral. The two are linked by the Tate riverboat service (every 40mins during gallery opening hours). Tate Britain’s angular steel pier is designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield (designers of the London Eye), and its evening light effects by the artist Angela Bulloch. The exterior of the sleek catamaran (coloured spots) was designed by Damien Hirst.

Below is an outline of each gallery, their buildings and the major collection highlights. It should be noted that displays at both change annually, and by no means the entire collection is on show at one time. Modern and contemporary British art is shown at both sites.

Foundation and Building

Sir Henry Tate (1819–98), originally in the Liverpool grocery trade, began refining sugar in 1862 and was the pioneer producer, at his second refinery in London, of the new, patented commodity, cubed sugar. With the wealth this brought he began collecting modern British art, which he displayed in his picture gallery at his mansion, Park Hill, Streatham Common. In 1889, the offer of his collection to the National Gallery having been refused for lack of space, he donated £80,000 for the erection of a new gallery. Work began in 1894 on the site of the old Millbank Penitentiary, formerly the largest prison in Europe, from where felons were dispatched to Australia. Sidney Smith’s design, the first having attracted criticism for its excessive ornamentation and ‘pretentious’ air, still retains much decorative elaboration. Domed and temple-like, it overlooks the river, its central pedimented Corinthian portico—surmounted by Britannia flanked by the lion and the unicorn—jutting forward, the entrance up an imposing flight of steps. Sphinxes and griffins perch on top of pilasters above a heavy rusticated basement and to either side of the entrance are two bronze sculptural compositions: to the right The Rescue of Andromeda by H.C. Fehr (1893) and to the left The Death of Dirce by Sir Charles Lawes-Wittewronge (1908).

The river front block is Smith’s original gallery, which over the decades has been added to six times to provide extra space for the ever-expanding collection. To the right is the 1980s Clore Gallery, housing the Turner collection, and on Atterbury Street, to the left, is the new basement entrance, created as part of the gallery’s Centenary Development (John Miller + Partners 1997–2001), reached by long ramps behind a wall of glass. At the corner of Atterbury Street and John Islip Street, greeting visitors as they approach from Pimlico tube, is the statue of the great Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais, holding his palette and brushes. Intensely interested in Tate’s new temple to British art, he died in 1896, a year before its completion.


History of Tate Britain

The gallery opened in 1897 with displays of Tate’s collection, rich in Victorian sentimental narrative pictures (Luke Fildes’s The Doctor; Stanhope Forbes’s The Health of the Bride) as well as Pre-Raphaelite works (Millais’ The Vale of Rest, and Ophelia). A gallery was dedicated to the pictures of one of the leading artists of the day, G.F. Watts, which he had presented, as well as a selection of modern British works transferred from the National Gallery. From its foundation the Tate was an annexe of the National Gallery. Works purchased through the Chantrey Bequest, the fund established by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey (d. 1840) for the purchase of works of art produced in Britain, which he hoped would constitute the core of a future National Gallery of British Art and which came into effect on the death of his widow in 1875, were also displayed here, as were an increasing number of modern Continental works. In 1917 the Tate became the official home of modern foreign art as well as British, the latter role now extending to historic works as well as modern. It was at the Tate that the great French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pictures presented through the Hugh Lane Bequest and the Courtauld Fund were first shown, necessitating the building of new galleries to accommodate them. Funded by Lord Duveen and designed by Romaine-Walker, the tall, grand galleries with marble doorcases and dados along Atterbury Street, which today display historic British works, opened in 1926. The gallery’s conservative approach to modern art was, however, a defining feature of the Tate’s early years. It was slow to acquire works by Cézanne; in the 1930s there was no German Expressionism, no Surrealism, and in the post-war years no Cubist works were purchased. This reluctance to engage with the avant-garde hampered the formation of a modern art collection of weight and distinction.

Following a disastrous flood in 1928 which engulfed the lower galleries, damaged 18 works beyond repair and submerged J.M.W. Turner’s portfolios and watercolours, which had to be spread out to dry on the upper floors, Duveen funded the building of new galleries for the display of sculpture. Built in 1935–37 by the New York architect J. Russell Pope with Romaine-Walker and Jenkins, the imperious, monumental Duveens stretch like a great cathedral nave, vast and echoing, down the spine of the building. The Tate was badly damaged by bombing in 1940–41, sustaining almost nightly damage, including two bombs through the main dome (shrapnel wounds are clearly visible on the Atterbury Street façade) and renovations took until 1949. Post-war additions to the gallery include the large 1979 extension; the 1987 Clore Gallery; and the 2001 redevelopment by John Miller + Partners which created, as well as the new Atterbury Street entrance, new temporary exhibition galleries and remodelled display galleries on the main floor, accessed via the new grand staircase.

The old river front entrance is still the most impressive. From here the view down the Duveens is immediately visible, with galleries to either side. To the left are stairs, with a large stained glass window (1947) designed by the Hungarian emigré artist Ervin Bossányi, which, although branded ‘abhorrent’ when it arrived, was nevertheless installed, as it had been paid for through public subscription. (Other windows by Bossányi adorn Canterbury Cathedral.) The stairs lead to the inviting Restaurant (crisp white tablecloths and an excellent wine list), the original Refreshment Room, with lighthearted murals by Rex Whistler, The Expedition to Pursue Rare Meats (1925).

The Tate gained official independence from the National Gallery in 1955. It seems always to have attracted controversy. In the first half of the 20th century the mediocre, sentimental Chantrey pictures were criticised, as was the gallery’s failure fully to embrace developments in modern art. In 1952 Zsa Zsa Gabor caused a minor stir, photographed at the gallery with a leg indecorously draped over a sculpture plinth. In the 1960s and 70s the Tate became closely identified with contemporary art, staging live performance art and a succession of enthusiastically received contemporary exhibitions. On 25 October 1971, 90 white pigeons were released on the gallery’s steps to celebrate Picasso’s 90th birthday. Acquisitions such as Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII, the famous ‘Bricks’ (held by Tate Modern) have caused public protest and bafflement, as does the Turner Prize exhibition, held at Tate Britain every autumn.


The Collection


NB: Because of Tate Britain’s many thematic hangs, it is not always possible to give room numbers for chronological collections. Room numbers when given indicate where a large proportion of the works mentioned may be found.


Tudor & Stuart Collection (Rooms 1–2 & 3)

Tate Britain’s displays are shown in a broadly chronological sequence, beginning with the Tudor and Stuart collection, shown in two new galleries, part of the 2001 redevelopment, at the top of and to the left of the Manton staircase. The earliest picture is the collection is Man in a Black Cap (1545) by John Bettes, who possibly trained in Holbein’s studio. Other portraits include wealthy ladies in elaborate costumes, denoting rank and status, by Hans Eworth, who worked for Mary Tudor. The love of surface ornament and decoration is particularly apparent in Hilliard’s Elizabeth I, the ‘Phoenix Portrait’ (c. 1575–56), the only large-scale (as opposed to miniature) work known by the artist. Rich in symbolism, the picture shows the queen holding a Tudor rose, while the Phoenix Jewel at her breast alludes to her youthfulness, celibacy and the continuation of her dynasty. The Queen’s Painter, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, is represented through a number of works, the most extraordinary being the full-length Captain Thomas Lee, 1594, shown as an Irish footsoldier with open shirt and bare legs. Lee was a kinsman of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, and this portrait of him is similar to Gheeraerts’s ‘Ditchley Portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth in its use of elaborate symbolism. One of the most popular works is The Cholmondeley Ladies, a regional portrait of two women born, married and brought to bed on the same day: they sit in bed, stiffly painted in large starched ruffs, holding their tightly swaddled babies. The full-length James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, standing in a deeply shadowed interior in fine red stockings, was painted by Daniel Mytens, who brought to England a new realism.

Anthony van Dyck, who settled in England in 1632 and became Charles I’s Principal Painter, revolutionised portrait painting in Britain with his sophisticated handling of paint and the courtly swagger of his poses. The gallery has a good collection of works by Sir Peter Lely, Charles II’s Principal Painter, including his beautiful Ladies of the Lake Family; and an excellent collection of works by Sir Godfrey Kneller, the official painter of William and Mary, Anne and George I. His style influenced generations of British painters. His portrait of John Banckes, a London merchant (1676), was the first work he painted in England, and the imposing Philip, Lord Wharton (1684), shown seated in Parliament robes, is among his finest. The second half of the 17th century witnessed a proliferation of new genres. The Tate has paintings, drawings and etchings by Francis Barlow, the first native-born landscape and animal artist; landscapes by Jan Siberechts, including his beautiful Landscape with Rainbow, Henley on Thames; and still life pieces by Edward Collier, collecting together objects symbolic of the transience of life.


Early 18th Century (Room 4)

This collection is rich in works by one of Britain’s great painters, William Hogarth, as well as his contemporaries. By Hogarth is his famous self-portrait, Portrait of the Painter and his Pug, the palette in the foreground bearing the ‘Line of Beauty’, central to Hogarth’s ideas on harmony and beauty in art. Further works include Heads of Six of the Artist’s Servants; The Beggar’s Opera VI; O The Roast Beef of Old England, full of anti-Gallic patriotic feeling; his genteel conversation piece The Strode Family, the small-scale figures elegantly taking tea; and one of his finest portraits, Benjamin Hoadly, seated in his Bishop’s robes. By Highmore are scenes illustrating Samuel Richardson’s best-selling moral novel, Pamela; and by Francis Hayman the large See-Saw, one of numerous pictures produced to decorate the supper boxes at the fashionable Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Urban and landscape views include Balthasar Nebot’s Covent Garden Market; Samuel Scott’s views of the Thames, including his large An Arch of Westminster Bridge; and George Lambert’s A View of Box Hill, Surrey, a favourite picnic spot.


Later 18th Century (Rooms 5–7)

Grand Manner works include portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Royal Academy’s first President. His ennobling portraits, elevated to the status of history painting, include Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen (‘The Montgomery Sisters’; 1773), showing the sisters paying homage to the Greek god of marriage, and Admiral Viscount Keppel.

Tate has a large collection of works by Thomas Gainsborough, the other great portrait painter of the age, including an image of the vivacious Italian dancer Giovanna Baccelli, and the dignified full-length Benjamin Truman. Gainsborough’s preferred inclination was landscape painting of which the gallery has several important examples, ranging from early views of his native Suffolk to grander, more idealised scenes such as Sunset: Carthorses Drinking at a Stream. Further portraits include key pieces by Cotes; Zoffany (including Col. Mordaunt’s Cock Match, an early view of the British in India); Romney (The Beaumont Family; Lady Hamilton as Circe) and Wright of Derby, the latter’s Sir Brooke Boothby (1781) shown relaxing and contemplative in a shady wood.

The lofty ideals of Neoclassical history painting are demonstrated in well-known images such as Benjamin West’s Cleombrotus Ordered into Banishment by Leonidas II, King of Sparta (1768) and works by Gavin Hamilton; dramatic pieces such as James Barry’s King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cleopatra (1786–88); and John Singleton Copley’s large and famous The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781, in which the majesty of antiquity is applied to contemporary history.

Of the later 18th-century landscape painters Tate has a good selection of works by the leading master Richard Wilson: landscapes of Italy, such as Rome: St Peter’s and the Vatican from the Janiculum, inspired by the classical landscapes of Claude, as well as native views such as Llyn-y-Cau, Cader Idris; and major works by the famous painter of horses, George Stubbs: Mares and Foals in a River Landscape; the idealised vision of country toil, Haymakers and Reapers; and A Horse Frightened by a Lion, and A Horse Devoured by a Lion, more elevated pieces, the horse’s pose based on an antique sculpture. Eighteenth-century romantic landscape is nobly represented by Wright of Derby’s An Iron Forge and Vesuvius in Eruption, and the terror of the sublime in de Loutherbourg’s Avalanche in the Alps.


The Blake Collection (Room 8)

The Tate is well known for its collection of works by the visionary genius, artist and poet William Blake (1757–1827). Blake’s works have been an important component of the collection from its earliest years. In 1913 the gallery staged a Blake exhibition, by which time it already owned some important tempera works, and Blake’s work provided the subjects for Boris Anrep’s mosaic pavement (1923) commissioned for the octagonal gallery which terminates the west wing of Sidney Smith’s 1897 gallery. The collection is of international importance and includes Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and other works which demonstrate Blake’s very personal philosophy and iconography. Highlights include the large colour-print Newton; Elohim Creating Adam (1795); the Frontispiece to the ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’; and The Ghost of a Flea.


The Constable Collection (Rooms 10–11)

Also of outstanding importance is the collection of works by John Constable (1776–1837), one of Britain’s most famous and internationally admired landscape artists. The collection ranges from early works painted in and around his native Suffolk, at East Bergholt, Flatford and Dedham, to grander works, painted in London but based on previous sketches. Constable placed enormous emphasis on observation from nature, and on show are numerous rapidly executed and evocative sketches, of entire scenes or details such as scudding clouds. Highlights include Flatford Mill; Fenn Lane, East Bergholt; Hampstead Heath with the House called ‘The Salt Box’; Chain Pier, Brighton; The Valley Farm; and the Sketch for ‘Hadleigh Castle’, a full-size sketch for a work exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829, a working method Constable used when creating his famous ‘six-footers’.


Early to Mid-19th Century

Landscape painting includes the Norwich School artists (John Crome’s The Poringland Oak and John Sell Cotman’s The Drop Gate); John Linnell (Kensington Gravel Pits) as well as more monumental works, such as John Ward’s mighty Gordale Scar, a work of breathtaking proportions. Nightmarish apocalyptic scenes include Francis Danby’s The Deluge, and John Martin’s trio, The Plains of Heaven, The Last Judgement and The Great Day of His Wrath (all in Room 14). At the same time small-scale domestic genre pictures were popular, animal pictures ‘inspiring delicate sympathies’, and historical scenes from national history and literature. It was precisely this type of picture that was enjoyed by Robert Vernon, a London horse dealer who had bequeathed his collection of modern British pictures to the National Gallery. Displayed at the V&A, and later transferred to the Tate, they include William Mulready’s The Last In; Sir Edwin Landseer’s The Hunted Stag and Dignity and Impudence (two dogs); J.F. Herring’s The Frugal Meal (horses); C.R. Leslie’s Sancho Panza in the Apartments of the Duchess; and E.M. Ward’s The South Sea Bubble. David Wilkie’s Blind Fiddler was part of Sir George Beaumont’s founding gift to the National Gallery.


The Victorian Collection (Rooms 9 & 15)

Tate’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite and later Victorian works is outstanding. Among the many well known major masterpieces are Ford Madox Brown’s The Hayfield and The Last of England; William Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience and On England’s Coasts, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’); Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini!, Beata Beatrix, The Beloved (‘The Bride’) and Monna Vanna; and Sir John Everett Millais’ Christ in the House of His Parents, The Vale of Rest, The Order of Release and Ophelia, one of the stars of Sir Henry Tate’s collection and one of the gallery’s most popular pictures. There is also a relatively recent Millais purchase, Mariana, an illustration to Tennyson’s poem of the same name. Other familiar works are Arthur Hughes’s April Love and Henry Wallis’s Chatterton, a highly romanticised view of the poet shortly after his suicide. Later works include Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones’s King Cophetua and the Beggarmaid and Love and the Pilgrim, and Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott.

As well as the works presented to the Tate by G.F. Watts on its foundation in 1897, the Tate’s collection of late Victorian works includes Frederic, Lord Leighton’s heroic sculpture An Athlete Wrestling with a Python and his monumental And the Sea Gave up the Dead Which Were in It. William Powell Frith’s Derby Day, described by Ruskin as ‘of the entirely popular manner of painting’, created a sensation when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858, and was taken on a world tour. Sentimental narratives, ever popular pictures at Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, include Sir William Quiller Orchardson’s The First Cloud (a married couple’s first argument), as well as more substantial pieces such as Sir Luke Fildes’s The Doctor, his most famous painting, the light of the sombre interior falling on the dying child. Stanhope Forbes’s The Health of the Bride and Sir Frank Bramley’s A Hopeless Dawn, key works of the Newlyn School, show the drama of ordinary lives.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler abandoned the Academy-led insistence on the importance of narrative and focused instead on the effects of light and atmosphere. His ‘art for art’s sake’ aesthetic was fiercely attacked by Ruskin: Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge was painted during the famous trial for libel after Ruskin had accused him of throwing a pot of paint in the face of the public—which Whistler won, but received damages of just one farthing. The Tate has an important collection of portraits by John Singer Sargent. As well as the slick society Wertheimer portraits, the most famous picture is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885–86), showing the pink glow of Chinese lanterns in the evening dusk.


Early 20th Century (Rooms 19 & 21)

The response to Continental Post-Impressionism saw the emergence in England of a vigorous, innovative avant-garde. The Camden Town Group, established in 1911 by Walter Sickert and others, was influenced by Post-Impressionism’s emphasis on realism and the effects of light. The sombre, realist, mainly urban, scenes include Sickert’s La Hollandaise (c. 1906) and Ennui (c. 1914); Spencer Gore’s The Cinder Path (1912); Harold Gilman’s Café Royal; Charles Ginner’s Piccadilly Circus (1912); and works by Robert Bevan. Bloomsbury Group works, influenced by Cézanne, include works by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Henry Lamb’s Lytton Strachey (1914). Mark Gertler’s highly original Merry-go-Round (1916) is a strident anti-war statement while Matthew Smith’s Nude, Fitzroy Street (1916), in its vivid use of colour, displays the influence of Matisse. Wyndham Lewis’s Workshop (c .1914–15), David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath (1914) and In the Hold, and works by Christopher Nevinson and other Vorticists, with their diagonals, fragmented geometry and emphasis on urban industrialism, display the influence of Cubism and Futurism.

The great pioneers of modern sculpture in Britain were Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (Red Stone Dancer, c. 1913). One of the most important and popular works is Epstein’s massive Jacob and the Angel (1940–41), the angel’s wings a great slab of alabaster. Torso in Metal from ‘The Rock Drill’ (1913–14) is Epstein’s major work of the pre-First World War period, a former 10-ft looming robotic figure which he dismantled in 1916, casting the head and torso only in bronze.

The years following the First World War saw a return to more traditional, figurative painting. The dominant figure was Stanley Spencer, whose greatest work, The Resurrection, Cookham (1924–27), is a personal, religious vision of modern life. Completed in 1927, it was exhibited and immediately purchased for the national collection, hailed by The Times as ‘the most important picture painted by any English artist in the present century’. Also in the collection is his popular Swan Upping (1914–19); John Nash’s sleepy views of rural England, including The Cornfield; and works by Sir Alfred Munnings, Augustus John, Meredith Frampton; and Cedric Morris’s portrait of his sister’s bull terrier, Belle of Bloomsbury (1948).


Mid-20th Century

Tate has an excellent collection of works by the outstanding figures of English abstraction, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Paul Nash. In touch with abstract artists in Paris, through the Seven and Five Society and Unit One, they promoted ‘the expression of a truly contemporary spirit’. Works include Nicholson’s Guitar (1933) and White Relief (1935); Paul Nash’s Equivalents for the Megaliths (1935); Edward Wadsworth’s The Beached Margin (1937), with its hint of Surrealism; and Victor Pasmore’s Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea (1950). Hepworth’s Three Forms (1935), three white polished marble shapes of the utmost purity and simplicity, and Pelagos (1946) reflect her preoccupation with form. Henry Moore was the leading British sculptor of the mid-20th century and one of the leaders in the revival of direct carving. Tate has a large collection of important works including Recumbent Figure (1938), of Hornton stone; Reclining Figure (1951); and King and Queen (1952–53). By 1939 Nicholson and Hepworth had moved to Cornwall, near St Ives, where the ‘naïve primitive’ amateur artist Alfred Wallis was discovered and to where a younger generation of artists was attracted. The St Ives School included Terry Frost (Green, Black and White Movement, 1957, showing boats bobbing on the water in St Ives harbour), Patrick Heron (Horizontal Stripe Painting: November 1957–January 1958), Roger Hilton and Peter Lanyon.

The leading British Pop artists of the late 1950s and 60s were Richard Hamilton (She, 1958) and Peter Blake (Self Portrait with Badges, 1961). A second phase of Pop was taken up by a group of artists trained at the Royal College of Art, including David Hockney (his Typhoo tea painting, Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style) and works by Patrick Caulfield. The ‘New Generation’ of British sculptors, who moved from carved work to abstract constructions in industrial metals, brightly painted steel or modern materials such as fibreglass and plastics, is represented by Anthony Caro’s Early One Morning (1962) and Night Movements (1987–90), four large, dark crouching shapes of steel; Phillip King’s Tra-La-La (1963) and works by Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull.


Later 20th Century

Twentieth-century works continuing the Realist or Figurative tradition include Graham Sutherland’s landscapes and his portrait of Somerset Maugham; Lucien Freud’s Girl with a White Dog (1950–51) and Standing by the Rags (1988–89); Michael Andrews’ The Deer Park (1962), as well as works by Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj and Leon Kossoff. The Tate has important works by David Hockney, such as his enduringly popular Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (showing the fashion designer Ossie Clark, a white cat on his lap, his toes buried in a hairy shagpile carpet, with his wife, the textile designer Celia Birtwell), and his witty Californian work The Bigger Splash. The large collection of works by one of the most important 20th-century British artists, Francis Bacon, includes Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (c. 1944), and another grand triptych, Triptych: August 1972, its blurred and fused images of contemporary man based on the work of the pioneer stop-action photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

Since the 1970s conceptual art and installations have been an important component of British modern art, such as Gilbert and George’s ‘action’ works, Richard Long’s sculptural interventions in the natural environment and indoor installations (Slate Circle, 1979), and Tony Cragg’s On the Savannah (1988). Anish Kapoor’s As if to Celebrate, I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers (1981), peaked shapes covered in a vibrant red, loose, pure pigment, refers to the birth of the goddess Devi out of a fiery mountain composed of the bodies of male gods, while Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) fills a gallery with suspended charcoal fragments, the remains of an exploded solid form, lighting casting dramatic shadows.


The Turner Prize

The annual Turner Prize takes place at Tate Britain every autumn, with an exhibition of the work of the four shortlisted artists. The televised announcement of the winner usually takes place in October. Past winners include Howard Hodgkin and Gilbert and George, and exhibitions have showcased the work of the Young British Artists, or YBAs, such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, now household names. ‘YBA’ works in the collection include Hirst’s Pharmacy (1992), a room-sized installation of a pharmacy interior, its shelves and cabinets stacked with drugs, those for the head at the top, those for the stomach in the middle, and so on; Gillian Wearing’s Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say … (1992–93); Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (‘Stairs’; 2001), the cast of the stairs and the space between the landings of a house in Bethnal Green; as well as works by Emin and the photography, film and video artist Sam Taylor-Wood.


The Clore Gallery and Turner Collection (Rooms 35–43 & Rooms 44–45 on Level 3)

Arguably the most famous of all British artists is J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). His subjects were classical mythology and history, contemporary events and natural disaster, painted with a concern for the changing atmospheric effects of light: golden sunsets, raging storms, tossing waves and enveloping mists. Even in his own lifetime Turner was recognised as one of the greatest of all landscape painters. His early inspirations were Claude and Willem van de Velde the Younger. As his style developed, it became increasingly romantic and original, culminating in the great proto-Impressionist works for which he is so celebrated today. His brilliant image of the shadowy dome of the Salute looming out of the mist of the Venetian lagoon seems ‘reminiscent’ of Monet, even though it pre-dates Monet by almost half a century. Some of his work, where concrete forms are dissolved and diffused by the effects of light and colour, are almost abstract in feel. Turner had bequeathed his unsold pictures, watercolours, sketchbooks and other paraphernalia to the nation, but for lack of space at the National Gallery they were shown first at Marlborough House, then at the V&A. In 1910 new Turner galleries opened at the Tate, but following the 1928 flood the works on paper and archive material were removed to the British Museum. In 1987 the Clore Gallery, designed by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates and funded by the Clore Foundation, reunited the Turner Bequest. It is a brash Post-Modern building linked to the 1897 river block, in red brick, cream and bright green, with its own entrance through a large glass void in the shape of a classical pediment. Inside, the walls are dark peach with purple and pink details. A tall staircase leads up to the main gallery level. The vast collection incorporates all periods and aspects of Turner’s art, as well as personal items such as his paint boxes. Highlights include his early The Shipwreck, exhibited in 1805; Crossing the Brook; Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps; Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth; Peace: Burial at Sea; Norham Castle, Sunrise, as well as a wealth of watercolours and sketches demonstrating his evolution as an artist, his working methods and his sketching tours around Britain and the Continent.


Sutton House (National Trust)


2 & 4 Homerton High Street, Hackney, E9 6JQ


020-8986 2264



Opening times:

Wen-Mon 12:00-17:00

How to get there:

Station: Hackney Central (Silverlink from Highbury & Islington)

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Café, shop and art gallery

Sutton House is the oldest domestic house surviving in the East End of London. Built in 1534–35 by Ralph Sadleir, a wealthy soldier and diplomat, secretary to Thomas Cromwell and later knighted as King Henry VIII’s Principal Secretary of State, the house was first known as ‘the bryk place’, being one of the very few brick-built residences near the villages of Hackney and Homerton. The ragstone tower of St Augustine’s church nearby is the only other building to remain from the period. Constructed on the familiar Tudor ‘H’ plan, the building has been altered several times since—notably around 1620, in 1741–43 and in the early 19th century—but the original form remains remarkably intact. As such it represents an important London example of the development of the medieval hall house, with cross-wings and servants’ quarters. In 1550 the house was purchased by John Machell, made Sheriff of London five years later. The property passed to his son John on his wife Jane’s death in 1565, and later in part to Thomas Sutton, who according to the diarist John Aubrey was the type for Ben Jonson’s Volpone. Made wealthy by investments in Durham coal mines, Sutton founded the Charterhouse Hospital and School in 1611. Under different names the house passed through several hands, becoming a girls’ school until the mid-18th century, a boys’ school in the early 19th century, and from 1890–1930 the St John’s Institute, a recreational church club for ‘men of all classes’, known as the ‘Tute’. In 1938, thanks to a bequest from the Robertson family in memory of two brothers killed in the First World War, the National Trust was able to purchase the property and it was let out to a variety of tenants, including the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs trade union. When the union moved out, the house was squatted for a period in the early 80s, when it was known as the ‘Blue House’. After the eviction of the squatters, period fixtures began to be stolen, although some were later recovered. A local pressure group, the Sutton House Society, formed in 1987, helped devise a scheme that would forestall the National Trust’s plans to divide the house into flats. In 1993, after a three-year restoration project, the property was opened to the public and local community as a focal point for the exploration of the heritage of Hackney.


Tour of the House

The exterior of the west (right-hand) wing retains its Tudor diaper brickwork. The first room of great historical interest is the Linenfold Parlour, at the front of this wing. The small room is lined with very fine mid-16th-century carved-oak linenfold panelling. Originally the wood was painted pale yellow with green in the folds, a colour scheme that can still be seen behind hinged panels in one wall. Other panels reveal what may have been tradesmen’s sketches for the room’s interior decoration. Quite possibly it was in this room that Sir Ralph Sadleir held negotiations during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which carved up the wealth of the Church. The fireplace is original, with a modern reproduction fireback. In the cellar beneath is a small exhibition on the different types of brick used in the house. To the south of the west wing is the Dining Room and a modern entrance to the Courtyard, where the two wings and general plan of the house can best be appreciated. On the opposite side of the courtyard are the Old Kitchen, with a display on Tudor cuisine and several original surviving features; and the Georgian Parlour, panelled in 1740 and restored to represent a simple mid-18th century parlour. At the back of the house, the Wenlock Barn is a performance and conference venue also housing a display of ephemera on the St John’s Institute.

Crossing the courtyard again, and ascending to the first floor in the west wing, the Painted Staircase has elaborate patterned and trompe l’oeil wall paintings dating from around 1620. Turning right at the top leads into the Gallery, a space for temporary exhibitions that also contains a particularly well-preserved fireplace from around 1630 and fragments of late 18th-century wallpaper. Turning left at the top is the Little Chamber, above the linenfold parlour in the west wing, with more oak panelling, but dating from slightly later in the 16th century. Above the shop and former Great Hall is the Great Chamber, the most important room in the house when built, where the 16th- and 17th-century panelling has been hung with portraits from the period, including one of Sir Ralph’s grandson. The replica fleur-de-lis panels replace those stolen in the 1980s. On the opposite side of the Great Chamber, in the east wing, is the Victorian Study, restored to its mid-19th-century appearance and also containing a Tudor garderobe. Further up the stairs on this side of the house is an exhibition room displaying preserved examples of the squatters’ artwork around the fireplace and providing information on the various architectural changes to the house over the centuries. Throughout the restoration of the building, the aim has been to reveal these changes wherever possible, rather than opting for a mock-up of a single historical period.


Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum




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