Strolling through the V&A
congratulations to your advanced digital photography mastership and the fantastic images it produced. The place seems redecorated and the carpets displayed much to their advantage in comparison to the time of my last visit.
Did you find time to visit the café? This is the real attraction, not the museum as many would think - according to a series of posters you could find all over London in the 1980’s, that were part of a self-marketing campaign. This is what it said on them: “A pretty good café with a quite nice little museum attached to it.” It was a successful campaign with me and never failed to give me a smile.
Well, thanks Chuck for the digital trip… The only time I went to London, I
did not visit the V&A. But that was ages ago and I wasn’t interested in
applied arts at the time
You say that there is “complete lack of any tribal pieces on display in the Islamic gallery”. So, the rugs of Hali 73 (“Mind the gap – Baluch Rugs in the Victoria & Albert Museum” article, also digitalized on Tom Cole’s website) are not exhibited, I gather?
In the past (distant past), it was possible to make an appointment to see what they have behind locked doors. They were quite accomodating back then.
My impression is that most museums have only a tiny percentage of their holdings in view.
When I visited Topkapi for the first time, hoping to see their fantastic collection of inscribed prayer rugs. Nobody who was working there that day was even aware of the collection's existence.
"rose ground vase carpet"
Chuck, thanks for the excellent tour. I will definitely put this museum on my
Once again I'm reminded how important and variable personal taste can be when evaluating carpets. I refer to the rose ground vase carpet you mentioned as having some disappointing drawing.
That carpet was listed by A. Cecil Edwards as one of the eight finest persian carpets in the world (see page 12 and plate 5) and the acme of its type. A picture of it's details provided the background of the dust jacket on my edition of his book. The notation on the jacket mentions it was formerly in the possession of William Morris.
Thanks again for the tour.
Thanks, Horst, for the tip on the cafe' - I did not visit on the last trip. However, it looks like I'll be flitting back to the UK sagain sometime over the couple months and I will certainly try to get back for another look - and maybe the pics for the South Asian salon -
Jack - I don't have a copy of Edwards; if you or anyone else can post the images you describe I'd really appreciate it.
Filiberto, Marvin - Yes, I was surprised and a little disappointed that none of the Baluchi, Turkoman, and other tribals were not on display. That said, if I have enough advance notice and the museum is willing, I'll attempt to schedule a back room visit. I'd love to see some more old carpets with known provenance.
I wonder how you managed to keep out reflections almost completely, especially as you were using a flash. Any special technique?
I took a couple of hours to walk about a mile from my hotel to the V&A and back one early afternoon in the summer of 2001. We were on a rather tight vacation travel schedule but I was able to get away for a short time. I had visited the County Museum in Los Angeles a couple of years before, expecting that the "other" Ardebil would be gloriously displayed for the world treasure it is. But even the docents that I inquired about it to were not even aware that the museum owned it. It was not even brought out until a rug conference was held nearby a few years later.
And a couple of my preconceived notions were proven wrong that day I visited the V&A.
I only had time for a quick visit, so I went straight to the carpet room.
At that time, the Ardebil was on the wall and I had no idea how huge it really was until I walked into the room and saw it in the middle of a very large wall with other carpets on either side. The lighting was not very good, so one could not appreciate it as well as you can now that it is on the floor, but I was overwhelmed at the size and impact it had.
I seem to recall that there were a few other smaller rugs on a couple of swing-out racks in a smaller room nearby- almost as an afterthought. And they were not rare or unusual. Just as though they were on a sale rack at a department store.
I suppose that, similar to Division 1 American University major sports programs, the More Important Arts bring in the paying customers and the rest of the collections, such as rugs and chyrpys, are just along for the ride. Just like golf, racketball and rowing are supported by football and basketball programs.
There was, however, an exhibition of Dale Chihuly glass art hanging from the ceiling of the lobby of the V&A, which was rather incongruous to me because I live in the Seattle area where Chihuly is based and there is quite a bit of it on display here in various places. To me, it seemed out of place.
I did not have time to peruse the rest of the museum, but one thing I did want to see was the Anglo Persian Carpet Company. The former 2-page ads in Hali that showed a bounty of desirable carpets, "Founded in 1910, the oldest rug company in the UK, across from the V&A and above Kensington Station" made one assume that it would be a veritable bazaar in size and the scope of its collection. As much as the Ardebil was huge, the Anglo-Persian was tiny. I kept looking around for stairs leading up to a mezannine or down to a basement gallery, and where were all those glorious rugs? Well, they must have sold the rugs because nothing much caught my fancy and the store was no bigger than a small sandwich shop. I believe it is now out of business.
But at least the V&A is not, and as you have shown they have spruced things up quite nicely!
Hi Horst, Pat,
Sorry for the delayed reply -
Horst: to mitigate the flash reflections, I tried to shoot from an angle no less than about 15 degrees from perpendicular to the glass. Some of the pieces are hung relatively high (like the Esfahan Safavid rug on page 2), so I was shooting upward. A nice feature of a digital camera is the instantaneous gratification factor - a bad shot can be detected, deleted, and reshot with little aggravation.
Also, I found that I could shoot using the zoomed telephoto at an angle close to perpendicular and still miss the flash, or at least keep the flash flare well to one side of the image. I'm using a Panasonic DMC-FZ5 Lumix camera, which has a 12X optical zoom with a Leica lens.
For the darker areas, I took advantage of the fact that one can lock the focus by pressing the shutter button down halfway and holding it. That, and a calibrated eye, allowed me to go to an area that was lit well enough for the autofocus to work and lock the focus on an object about the same distance away from the camera as my actual intended subject. Then I walked back to the dark area (or in some cases, rotated back to the subject), and fired away.
Pat: I believe that Anglo Persian is in liquidation; I seem to recall seeing several auction promotions a few years ago where their inventory was sold off. But if there is a warehouse somewhere, I'd love to see it. Thinking about it, some time ago I was in contact with someone who bought for them in South Asia (prior to the Soviet invasion); if I can remember (getting tougher these days...), I'll drop him a line and see what he knows.
And, for all (the silent majority ), here is an image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website of a fragment of Turkish material very similar in design to the childs kaftan at the top of page 2 of the Salon. It's interesting that the designs and the suggested origin are so similar. The metallic thread on a similar fragment at the Harvard Museum is described as having yellow silk wrapped with gilt silver foil. Talk about tedious...:
In answer to Marvin, its still possible to make an appointment to see items in the hold - or at least it was in 2003 when I was there last. I asked for and got to see a number of early Turkmen pieces, including the lovely kapunuk illustrated in the Pinner and Francis catalogue of V&A Turkmen.
Edwards dust cover
Chuck, this is the front of the Cecil Edwards dust cover showing the rug from virtually the same angle you photographed it. I'll transcribe the section about this rug from his book and scan the back and picture inside the book as well later. Regards, Jack
Yes, thanks - that image even looks like it has some flare from a flash, doesn't it ? Looking forward to seeing the rest of the pics.
Currently, my collection still has a few open storage spots reserved for affordable 16th century Persian rugs; until that bit of untidiness is cleared up, I won't be able to say much about such pieces other than: I wouldn't mind having a few...