David Franchi – Monday, 25 April 2016.

Wooden face with inlaid eyes, originally part of a coffin, Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 - 715 BC). Possibly from excavations atAbydos. Courtesy Two Temple Place and Baghshaw Museum (Kirklees Council) A © Two Temple Palace, London.

Wooden face with inlaid eyes, originally part of a coffin, Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 – 715 BC). Possibly from excavations atAbydos. Courtesy Two Temple Place and Baghshaw Museum (Kirklees Council) © Two Temple Palace, London.

It was an intriguing Egyptian exhibition Beyond Beauty” at Two Temple Place, London.

Beyond BeautyTransforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” focused on the ancient Egyptian predilection to beautify the body, for which Two Temple Place, London, created thisexhibition.

A well documented theme, the adorning of the body in ancient Egypt is easy to find in different context, films, books, museums, etc.

However, the Two Temple Place exhibition let us understanding ancient Egyptians at their highest point: it was a culture fascinated by appearance and identity both in life and death.

“Beyond Beauty” proposed a small but fascinating exhibition, with artefacts spanning over four millennia, from 3,500 B.C. to 400 A.D. Many of the artefacts on display came from the same archaeological excavations, and are seen together collectively for the first time since their discovery by pioneering Victorian Egyptologists. Together with these objects, came their interesting stories of how they arrived at their current UK homes, supported by outstanding original archival material.

Created by the Bulldog Trust, “Beyond Beauty” was the result of a group of seven of the UK’s smaller institutions who have coordinated themselves to bring to London their remarkable exhibits: Bagshaw Museum (Kirklees Council), Bexhill Museum, Bolton Museum, Ipswich Museum, Macclesfield Museums, Royal Pavilion & Museums (Brighton & Hove) and Touchstones Rochdale.

The Two Temple Place exhibition showed rare surviving imagery on fine painted coffins, decorated funerary masks, flimsy figurines and skilfully carved reliefs. On display, also, was a significant quantity of jewellery, mirrors, hairpins, scent bottles and makeup. It offered the possibility to look into astonishingly daily routines of private life and the continuous transformation of the ‘fashion’ of the time.

“Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” exhibition invited the public to question why Egyptians

Cartonnage mummy case for the chantress, Shebmut. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 - 715 BC). Unprovenanced; Macclesfield Museum © Two Temple Palace, London.

Cartonnage mummy case for the chantress, Shebmut. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 – 715 BC). Unprovenanced; Macclesfield Museum © Two Temple Palace, London.

cared so much about transforming the way they looked and how our contemporary opinions are influenced by the objects they left behind.

Beyond Beauty was curated by Egyptologist Dr. Margaret Serpico, with Heba Abd El Gawad, a PhD student in Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University (funded by Helwan University, Cairo) currently researching self-presentation in Ancient Egypt. It has been a long-standing aim of Dr. Serpico to create such an exhibition: “The desire to unveil the fabulous objects held in these museums was borne out of a long term project to raise awareness of some of the 200 ancient Egyptian collections in the UK, many in regional museums. I have always been amazed by the many wonderful artefacts in these collections, objects that I wished could be seen by wider audiences. This exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate these collections and appreciate how important it is that we care for and preserve them into the future.”

Two Temple Place is a magnificent neo-Gothic mansion on London’s Victoria Embankment. It is owned and run by the charity the Bulldog Trust. Its Winter Exhibition Programme aims to support regional museums across the UK, highlighting the great riches that are to be seen through an annual free exhibition.

The exhibition “Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” was at the Two Temple Place, London, from 30th January until 24th April 2016.

 

Diamond turban jewel made for the Maharaja of Nawanagar, India, 1907; remodelled in 1935, credit: The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014, ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Diamond turban jewel made for the Maharaja of Nawanagar, India, 1907; remodelled in 1935, credit: The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014, ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

David Franchi, Sunday, 18th April 2016.

A glowing exhibition, “Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection” was successful at the V&A Museum, London.

Bejewelled Treasures” exhibited at theV&A Museum over one hundred exceptional pieces from the Al Thani collection, and three related objects lent by Her Majesty the Queen, from the Royal Collection, London.

The displayed jewels range in date from the early 17th century to the present days. They were made in the Indian subcontinent or inspired by India. They included spectacular jades made for Mughal emperors and a gold tiger-head finial from the throne of south Indian ruler Tipu Sultan. On show also objects from the collection of the Nizams of Hyderabad, together with interesting Cartier of the 20th century. There were also contemporary pieces made by JAR of Paris and Bhagat of Mumbai, combining Mughal inspiration and Art Deco influences.

The exhibition “Bejewelled Treasures” extended in five sections. The first was The Treasury which displayed the assets of India. From ancient times, the royal treasuries of India contained vast quantities of precious stones. Diamonds were found within the subcontinent, especially in Golconda. The best rubies were form Burma. Sri Lanka supplied sapphires. Being the great eastern market for gemstones, since the 16thcentury Goa have seen the arrival of emeralds from South Africa.

The second section, The Court, was about the Mughal rule, the Muslims emperors, and the Court of Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The Mughal rule had a lasting influence on the arts of the Indian subcontinent. The Muslims emperors, originally from Central Asia, were most powerful in the late 16th century and 17th century. They were modelled by Iranian culture and Persian literature, but also borrowed Hindu court convention. Outside the Mughal Empire, Tipu Sultan of Mysore was very distinctive, his treasure was made of tiger motifs and was looted by the East India Company when he was defeated and killed.

The third section, Kundan and Enamel, focused on this traditional style. Used in Indian jewellery, it was created in

Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies, By Bhagat, Mumbai, India, 2011, credit The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies by Bhagat, Mumbai, India, 2011, credit The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

the late 16th century by the goldsmiths of the Mughal court and it is still used today. It combines two different techniques which set ornaments and luxury artefacts with precious stones using highly refined, 24-carat gold, or kundan and enamel the back or the inner surface of ornaments.

The fourth section was Age of Transition. Due to political upheavals, during the 18th and early 19th century, production of traditional jewellery moved out of palace workshops and into commercial world. This section was focused on the impact of the British domination on India, for example the style changes of the production, which was influenced by the European, but also the commercial transformation following the construction of new routes, like the railways.

The last section was Contemporary Masters. Jewels of the Indian past continue to inspire designers of today. Here very interesting were two short films purposely made for Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection exhibition. They were shot in workshops in Mumbai and Jaipur and together they illustrate the making of traditional enamelled Kundan Jewellery. Meaning pure refined gold, Kundan is extremely soft and malleable, enabling craftsmen to set stone using pressure only.

The first video was ‘Kundan Setting and making a hearing’ and showed this process – which is made of the following Making a Component, Engraving, Enamelling, Foiling the Diamond, Positioning the Diamond and Kundan Setting.

The second video ‘Polishing a diamond’ was about this technique and how to refine the stone.

The objects were drawn from the Al Thani collection, notable for the quality and size of its precious stones, both unmounted and set in jewellery. It is the private collection formed by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani.

Brooch set with emeralds, sapphires and diamonds by Cartier, Paris, France, 1922, credit The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014, ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

Brooch set with emeralds, sapphires and diamonds by Cartier, Paris, France, 1922, credit The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited, 2014, ph. Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

The exhibition was curated by Susan Stronge, Senior Curator, Asia Department, V&A Museum, London, and follows Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al Thani Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, curated by Navina Haidar, Curator, Islamic Art Department.

The exhibition is part of V&A Museum India Festival, a series of exhibitions, activities and events in Autumn 2015 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Nehru Gallery of Indian Art at the V&A.

Sponsor of “Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection” was Wartski, which celebrated its 150 year anniversary by sponsoring this major exhibition of jewellery.

The exhibition “Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection” was at the V&A MuseumLondon, from 21 November 2015 until 28 march 2016.

 

David Franchi – Monday, 28th March 2016.

Bust of a Woman by Giacomo Manzù, 1952, Bronze © Estorick Collection, London

Bust of a Woman by Giacomo Manzù, 1952, Bronze © Estorick Collection, London

It is a great exhibition Giacomo Manzù, at the Estorick Collection, London. 

Organised by the Estorick Collection, theexhibition “Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman” brings to London his works, celebrating one of the most important Italian artist of the twentieth century.

Giacomo Manzù is internationally recognised as a sculptor master. He is well-known for his really fine and touching portraiture and religious work.

The Estorick Collection exhibitionfocuses on both drawings and bas-reliefs of Manzù. It is organised in collaboration with the Galleria d’Arte Maggiore Bologna. It presents more than 50 sculptures and works on paper.

Mostly self-taught as an artist, at an early age Giacomo Manzù had learned from craftsmen and carpenters to work and carve wood. He was strongly influenced by sculptors Auguste Rodin and Medardo Rosso and his production referred to religious imagery.

Born in Bergamo on 22nd December 1908, Giacomo Manzù, name of art of Giacomo Manzoni, died in Roma on 17th January 1991.

He approached art during the military service he did in Verona (1927 / 28). There he studied the doors of the church of San Zeno and the casts of the Academy of Fine Arts “Cignaroli”.

After a brief stay in Paris, in 1929 Manzù moved to Milan. The year after the architect Giovanni Muzio commissioned to him the decoration of the chapel of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which he did between 1931 and 1932. Also in 1932 he participated in a group exhibition at the Galleria Il Milione, his first exhibition.

In 1933, he was appreciated at the Triennale of Milan for a series of busts and the following year he had his first

Tebe in an Armchair by Giacomo Manzù, 1980, bronze © Estorick Collection, London

Tebe in an Armchair by Giacomo Manzù, 1980, bronze © Estorick Collection, London

major exhibition at the Comet Gallery in Rome, with painter Sassu with which he shared the study. In 1934 he married Antonia Orena.

In 1938 he began a series of Cardinals, iconographic theme of his entire career. The first Cardinal sitting was exhibited at the Quadrenniale in Rome (1939). He will produce more than 300 versions of this theme, different in size, location and materials, among them the Cardinal seated figure remains the most replicated and famous of the series.

The Estorick Collection exhibition includes some of his famous Cardinals, all hieratic figures, immobile, eternal symbols of religion, with eyes closed in a prayer or reflection position, enveloped by their liturgical vestments. The simplicity of their conical forms gives to the figures with a profound sense of monumentality and serenity.

At the Estorick Collection exhibition were also displayed bas-reliefs on the theme of the Crucifixion which, despite their delicacy of line, were also strong condemnation of Nazi-Fascist violence for which Manzù had troubles with regime and also with the church.

Having been awarded a professorship at Brera Academy of Milan (1940), Manzù established himself as one of Italy’s most important sculptors.

After the war, Manzù returned to teaching at the Brera Academy until 1954, and then at the Salzburg Sommerakademie until 1960. There he met Inge Schnabel, who would become his life companion and with whom he had two children, Giulia and Mileto. Inge and her sister Sonja became the models of all his portraits.

Between the 1950s and 1960s, Manzù realised the three sets of monumental bronze church Doors of Death for the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican in Rome, his most important work. It was commissioned directly from Pope John XXIII, under suggestion of Don Giuseppe de Luca, and both were depicted on the door, but died before it was installed in 1964. Don Giuseppe strongly insisted, because was aware that the atheist Manzù would have created a work worthy of the geniuses that had built and decorated the famous and most august of basilicas of the world. The artist did not disappoint him, so that his work is to be next to the ones of the greatest artists of the mankind history.

Manzù was also drawn to the sensual world and the Estorick Collection exhibition contains two of his vigorous sculptures of entwined lovers, as well as a number of studies on paper of female nudes either reclining or performing stripteases.

These go together with other affectionate and private portraits of family members such as Manzù’s daughter Giulia, his son Mileto and his lifelong companion Inge, depicted in the artist’s typically sparse style. Also featured are works portraying characters from mythology and examples of his very distinguishing, naturalistic still life sculptures.

The exhibition “Giacomo Manzù: Sculptor and Draughtsman” runs at the Estorick Collection, Canonbury, London, from 15th January until 3rd April 2016.

 

David Franchi – Saturday, 13th February 2016

HN Nadja Auermann Fashion, Dolce & Gabbana, American Vogue Monte Carlo, 1995, © V&A Museum London.

HN Nadja Auermann Fashion, Dolce & Gabbana, American Vogue Monte Carlo, 1995, © V&A Museum London.

The powerful exhibition “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” was a great success, at the V&A Museum, London.

The V&A Museum exhibition, “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain”, presented in London more than 250 pairs of historic and contemporary footwear from around the world, with references to 70 named designers, including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Prada.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an unrivalled shoecollection, with items brought together in London from across the world and covering over 2000 years of history.

On display there were shoes worn by or associated with high profile personas or famous footwear referring, for example to films or TV. Historic lotus shoes made for bound feet, 16th-century chopines and silk mules with vertiginous platforms designed to lift skirts above the muddy streets also featured.

Shoes express your personality, perhaps more than any other aspect of dress. Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also strong signs of gender, taste and even sexual preference. Footwear has long been a way for a wearer to reveal their identity and their social status.

The exhibition was organized over two floors. The lavish boudoir design of the ground floor gallery explored three themes: transformation, status and seduction.

Transformation focused on the myth and legends where shoes are empowering. Surprising footwear appears in folklore all over the world, for example in the story of Cinderella. Today these concepts are used to sell by the contemporary marketing and shoemaking and to produce a design accepted as magical and transforming the life of the buyers.

Shoes have symbolised the social status throughout the centuries and across cultures. The section Status focused on

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, Evening shoe beaded silk and leather, France, 1958-60, © Victoria and Albert Museum London.

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, Evening shoe beaded silk and leather, France, 1958-60, © Victoria and Albert Museum London.

high society wearer, those who have footwear often inappropriate for walking but representing privileged and leisurely lifestyles. Physically restrictive, shoes define the movement of the wearer, and also how they are seen and even heard.

Status also revealed that in the past shoe fashions originated from the European royal courts, while today the focus has moved to famous shoe designers. Items on display were: shoes used by trend-setting women in the 18th-century French court, Indian men’s shoes with extremely long toes, and noisy European slap-sole shoes from the 17th century, together with designs by the some of the most well-known names in fashion today, including Alexander McQueen and Sophia Webster, and the legendary Vivienne Westwood blue platforms worn by Naomi Campbell (1993).

Within ‘Seduction’, the shoes symbolised an expression of sexual empowerment or a passive source of pleasure. Like feet, shoes can be objects of fetishism. High Japanese geta, extreme heels and tight-laced leather boots were on display as well as examples of erotic styles channelled by mainstream fashion in recent years.

On the first floor the setting was organised as a laboratory. It was focused on analysing the designing and creating progression of footwear, from initial concept to final shoe. On display were animations and videos showing the art of making footwear, and how today makers blend traditional craftsmanship with technological modernism, and usability with art.

On displays also designer sketches, materials, embellishments and shoe lasts alongside pullovers, remarking the originality in creating innovative styles with ever-higher heels and more spectacular shapes.

Clarks, Desert boots light brown suede, 1994, © V&A Museum London.

Clarks, Desert boots light brown suede, 1994, © V&A Museum London.

The V&A Museum exhibition also focused on shifts in spending and production with examples from an 18th-century ‘cheap shoe warehouse’, one-off handmade men’s brogues and trainers made in China. It also examined the future of shoe design, with experiments of material and shapes, moulding and plastics. A video featured interviews with five significant designers and makers: Manolo Blahnik, Sandra Choi, Caroline Groves, Marc Hare and Christian Louboutin.

The last section of the exhibition explored footwear as commodities and collectibles, and it presented six collections, whose owners were practically unrecognisable – a part from notorious Imelda Marcos.

The Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition was curated by Helen Persson, Curator in the Asian department of the V&A Museum, specialising in textiles and dress.

The V&A Museum exhibition supporters were Clarks, Agent Provocateur and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.

The exhibition “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” was at the V&A Museum, London, from 13th June 2015 until 31st January 2016.