Treasures from the V&A 400-1600 AD

We’ve been meaning to visit the Treasures from the V&A 400-1600 AD exhibition at the Millennium Galleries ever since it opened, but it was one of many things that got put of until the school holiday. The title of the exhibition may not sound exciting, but the publicity featured a rather beautiful photograph of a casket (one that lays claim to hold relics of no less a person than Thomas a Beckett) which was most definitely whetting our appetite.

I went expecting to see displays of beautiful objects – which I did – but I was pleasantly surprised at the strong local elements in the exhibition. The exhibition has three themes, the first, Piety and Devotion, featured a section devoted to Beauchief Abbey. Tiles and vessels from the abbey were on display, along with a chapter book listing some of the abbey’s possessions. We couldn’t read any of it (I’m the product of a modern education; my Latin is limited to merely attempting to recognise it), but we marvelled at how well preserved it was.

Status and Display introduced us to Mary, Queen of Scots. She spent part of her life in captivity in Sheffield and some of her letters and pieces of embroidery were included in the displays.

My maths teacher self was taking over by the time we reached the final section, Secular World. I’d already seen examples of symmetry and a code used by Mary, enough to have me contemplating whether a maths trail might be feasible and whether I can organise one before the exhibition closes at the end of May. (Getting students out of school is a major logistical exercise!)

Then I unexpectedly found myself in the presence of an amazing object, something that made me feel quite reverential. Sitting inside a glass case, looking quite ordinary at first glance, was one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. Wow. You won’t be surprised to hear that I lingered over that for a long time.

I really enjoyed this exhibition, there were some stunning artifacts on display. Some of them were amazingly intricate and beautiful, some were interesting to read, all were worth seeing.

And that maths trail? I’m going back next week to make notes and chat to the museum staff. Some things just have to be done.

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