This autumn, a fine collection of Medieval Art can be seen at the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris telling the artistic story of the period “When the English Spoke French…”
The exhibition, Medieval Treasures from the Victoria & Albert Museum, shown in Paris this autumn is a welcome possibility for French people to discover some of the absolute treasures of medieval art cared for in London at the V & R. Over 70 exceptional pieces of art are on loan, showing sculptures, ceramics, jewellery, enamelled glass, ivories, illuminated manuscripts, textiles and goldsmiths’ and silversmiths’ work. All pieces have been carefully selected to reveal the skills of medieval artists and craftsmen working in the European artistic milieu of the time of the 100 years war. Thus, the exhibition showcases the complex relationship between England and France during this period and the artistic interplay across the channel. To some extent, the exhibition demonstrates the pointless endeavour to characterises the art of the period as belonging to a certain national sphere. However, the exhibition does show examples of the distinct pieces of artistic production, which the European connoisseurs recognised as specific English products: the refined embroideries and the alabaster sculptures.
The exhibition is organised around the following themes: Monastic networks, dynastic unions and aristocratic tastes, the distinct English contribution to the European market for art: alabaster and embroidery, the Parisian influence and finally the importance of far-flung networks of trade drawing the Scandinavian and Eeaster European peripheries into its orbit.
The exhibition is mounted at the Hôtel de la Marine, the 18th century palace at the Place de la Concorde. Since 1765, it has housed the Garde-Meuble royal, the administration of the collection of “furniture” and artefacts belonging to first the Royal family, later the Napoleonic Empires and the different republics. Today, the palace is still home to the “Mobilier National”.
One of the more prominent pieces on loan, the Becket Casket, demonstrates this cultural interplay to perfection. Telling the story of the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett on a casket made in Limoges, it illuminates the role of the French church and king in shielding the Archbishop from the royal wrath of Henry II.
Another prominent object on show, the 12th-century Gloucester Candlestick, is described as a “masterpiece of English goldsmith work”, while the Syon Cope (1300-20), a cloak worn by a priest covered in red and green silks, is considered a masterpiece of Anglican embroidery. Finally, visitors will be able to study a recent acquisition of the V &A, the Northamptonshire Brooch. Believed to date to c. 1400-1450, the brooch with diamonds, cabochon spinel and enamel decoration may have been ripped off a cloak during the hunt. Likely, it was made in either France or Germany and is one of only seven the Medieval cluster brooches in the world.
The exhibition is sponsored by the Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani and The Al Thani Collection.
Collection Al-Thani à l’Hôtel de la Marine
30.06.2023 – 07.01.2024
2, place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris