V&A; Medieval & Renaissance Galleries – Overview: Highlights – Carved Ivory Panels Lorsch Gospels and Symmachi Panel

The Victoria and Albert Museum's Medieval and Renaissance Collection is one of the finest in the world, containing some of the most remarkable artefacts from the period 300-1600 AD.

FuturePlan – Renovation, Conservation and Relocation

As part of FuturePlan, an extensive renovation programme, ten new galleries have just opened. The £30 million project has been huge with hundreds of objects being temporarily packed away while the work took place.

It’s not just the galleries that have been renovated. A massive conservation programme has not only prepared the items for display, but has also revealed new information about objects, their history and function.

Medieval and Renaissance Galleries – Layout of the Exhibition

The new exhibition area spans three floors of the east wing of the Museum and provides a permanent home for more than 1800 objects from the museum’s comprehensive holdings, many of which have not been on view for many years because of the lack of space.

A central orientation hub features a time-line and six short introductory films. There is also a study area with computer terminals and access to online resources, as well as relaxation and reading areas. Two discovery areas offer activities from brass rubbing to dressing up. Throughout the galleries a number of interactives allow visitors to explore specific items in greater detail.

The display, which is roughly chronological, shows items in their social and cultural context, exploring links between the medieval and Renaissance rather than highlighting the many differences.

Italian Renaissance treasures are shown with medieval artefacts. Renaissance clothing, dress, costumes are presented alongside their medieval counterparts. Renaissance and medieval literature, sculpture, art and music are investigated. Religion, war, knights and their armour, household utensils and luxury goods as well as medieval fashions, fabrics and clothing are on display.

Medieval and Renaissance Galleries – Highlights of the Exhibition

To pick out highlights from such an exciting exhibition is virtually impossible. Items on display range from massive architectural remains to intricately carved ivory panels, so here some memorable objects.

The Symmachi Panel

The Symmachi Panel, one of the finest carved ivory panels that has survived from the Late Antique period in Rome, 400-600 AD. This is The panel depicts a priestess standing in front of an altar. She stands beneath an oak tree, sacred to Jupiter, and sprinkles coins on a fire. The priestess's head is tied with ivy, symbolising Bacchus. In front of her is a boy holding a bowl of and a jar, probably containing wine. The Symmachi family, after whom the panel is named, were an important Roman family.

Lorsch Gospels – Front Cover

Another fascinating piece is set of five carved elephant ivory panels that once formed the front cover of the Lorsch Gospels. The back cover is now in the Vatican Museum (Rome).

The panels were produced in Aachen, Germany, in around 810. The centre panel shows the Virgin Mary and Christ. Immediately above, two angels hold a medallion depicting a beardless Christ and below are scenes representing the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds. On Mary's left is John the Baptist and on her right is Zacharias, father of John the Baptist.

These are just two of the fascinating items on permanent display in the V&A's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Galleries describes some of the medieval architecture remains on show in the exhibition. More information can be obtained from the V&A Museum.