It's been a bit glum round Woolf Villa because T and I aren't feeling well. Today we decided to brave the cold, dreary weather and cycle to the Victoria and Albert Museum, our favourite museum. There's always something new to see.
Today it was a bronze mantel decoration called SCANDAL, made in 1930 by a sculptor called Charles Sargeant Jagger. This faded old magazine photo shows what "Scandal" looked like a fashionable London house in the 1930s. But there is more to it than meets the eye.
Take a close look and you will see it shows a pair of naked young lovers kissing passionately (below)
They are surrounded by spiteful old gossiping ladies, pointing their fingers and throwing up their hands, ugly figures but beautifully done. Look at this old hag's patterned dress.
Or this fat old lady below, with glasses and double chin? And her friend, to the right, gasping in horror.
The work was commissioned by Henry Mond (later Lord Melchett) and his wife Gwen. They had been targets of gossip for living in a three way relationship with Gilbert Cannan, a friend of D.H. Lawrence.
Jaggers also made a fire basket for the Monds with two long-necked art deco cats, a double face (representing two-facedness) and the front view of a parrot (signifying mindless copying prattle).
I found these pieces clever and fascinating yet also rather unpleasant - just as catty as any of the gossips the Monds objected to. I have no problem with people doing anything they like in their private lives as long as it doesn't break the law or harm the vulnerable. So I'm sympathetic to the young lovers. But I kept imagining these rich, privileged people flouting convention, then petulantly hiring an artist at vast expense to show how cross they were at being disapproved of.
Still, two guys next to me were highly amused at "Scandal" and thought the Monds must have been very cool - a feisty, likeable pair of jokers.
What do you think?
After considering "Scandal" T and I looked at other newly displayed sculptures. Some of them look a bit comical to modern eyes, so we amused ourselves by giving them alternative captions. Here's the god of gardening, conquering an intruder in the vegetable patch with his trusty fork
And these angels are surely singing at a karaoke party
Didn't feel like joking about this powerful bust of Oliver Cromwell, who defeated King Charles II in 1650. He was a strong, clever and ruthless man, and I'm still not sure if he was a hero or a villain, but this sculpture has such presence, and look at his clothes - a lion's head on his shoulder
Our plan was to see the British Design exhibition. There's a slew of accompanying events, including a wonderful free photography show with tantalising samples of many famous and less famous photographers.
The "main" show, "British Design 1948-2012, Innovation in the Modern Age" was okay but not up to other recent V & A shows.
Still, it had some good things. I really loved the wonderful designs and models for Coventry Cathedral. This cathedral, like one-time architectural showpiece town of Coventry itself, is currently well out of fashion, and even its website doesn't particularly showcase its architecture. I hope that will change, because I love it. Here's some of the cathedral's silver plate against a magnificent sample of a detail of Graham Sutherland's huge Aubusson tapestry that hangs behind the altar.
Apart from Coventry and some interesting stamp designs by the wonderful David Gentleman, the show contained far too many old chestnuts like the 1973 Hovis ad (once voted Britain's favourite in some poll) and Concorde, which was half French anyway. There were short clips of well known films like "Blow Up" (actually an international movie) and things the V & A was selling replicas of in its shop, like the Patrick Ryland fish toy - charming, but hardly an icon of modern design.
I also blinked at how sponsors Ernst and Young glossed over the demise of manufacturing - design culture had "moved from manufacturing to innovative financial, retail and creative services" they said.
So now we have post-industrial places like Stoke on Trent
and Middlesbrough (below) as exciting powerhouses of modern design? Er, not exactly.
In fact, not even powerhouses of creative financial design, whatever that is...
Afterwards, I bought a book at the museum shop and my purchase was put into a carrier bag printed with a vintage 1950s design representing "England". As you see it has a castle, some trees, a huntsman with a horn and a bloke in a top hat brandishing a whip.
So not sure I give a thumbs up to this rather unfocused show ... but we went with our brilliant National Art Pass and got in at a huge discount. And then we had a really excellent scone and cup of tea in the gorgeous Victorian cafe
And both of us felt much better for our visit to the V & A.
I have something to do this coming week, and I won't have much internet access so may not post again for a few days, but I'll try to enable the comments.