letter from london | january 2012

courtesy of vitorio benedetti

by Melanie Nelson

Well, managed to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition after all for – free and without queuing – so feel very privileged.  It was a bit too crowded but the punters being mostly over 60 and a cultured bunch it was pretty well behaved.  Oddly enough I found it easier to view the sketches, they were so small that I think most people must have given up, I can only assume that Leonardo had superior eyesight.  The long queues were for the paintings many of which are very familiar.  My personal favourites are Salvator Mundi, probably by Leonardo and one of many versions, although I am not religious, I do find this painting very moving.  To be honest I am not quite persuaded by Leo’s portrayal of the baby Jesus’, being generally oversized (maybe he and his contemporaries didn’t like or associate with babies) though his portrayals of women and male grotesques are superb.  “Portrait of a young woman as Artemisia” which is actually by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio who worked in Leonardo studio, supposedly a poor imitation of the master, I thought it was lovely.  I was also fascinated by Leonardo’s ideas on the workings of the brain as illustrated inVentricles of the brain and layers of the scalp” (lent by The Queen apparently), showing the brain split into 3 chambers the first being for gathered data, the middle the home of the soul, imagination and intellect and the third for stored memories.  Obviously Leonardo had a very active middle brain.

Salvator Mundi

Ventricles of the brain and layers of the scalp

Portrait of a young woman as Artemisia

Another well attended exhibition over the winter has been The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman  put together by Grayson Perry for The British Museum.  I have to say I knew more or less what to expect with Leonardo da Vinci but Grayson Perry blew me away!  To start with, it was a wonderful idea for Mr Perry to select his favourite pieces from the museum and show them alongside his own work.

I knew something of Grayson Perry as a cross dressing ceramicist and his adventures with his teddy bear, but had no idea how versatile, thoughtful and purely joyous his work is after the mindless drivel I witnessed at frieze in the summer it was great to have my belief in the power of art restored.  Not that Grayson seems to refer to his work as Art but Craft and he has done a fabulous job in saluting Craftsman from all eras and all cultures.  Hold your beliefs lightly!

Grayson Perry

Alan Measles on the back of Grayson's Bike

Tomb Guardian glazed ceramic

Grayson Perry - Map of truths and beliefs 2011

It was also a great excuse to visit the British Museum again and particularly The Great Court by Foster and Partners, what a fabulous and inspiring space.

British Museum Great Court

melanie nelsonMelanie Nelson is the co-founder of Addison Nelson Design and AND Furniture.  She is based in London working on a diverse range of exclusive private and commercial interiors in South East Asia and Europe.

One Response to “letter from london | january 2012”
  1. Interesting reflections Mel. If you haven’t already and it’s still available, the Grayson Perry interview on iplayer, from Alan Yentob’s Imagine series is worth a viewing. Are you intending to see the Hockney show at the RA? Kate Pellegrini.

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