Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Ten In London

Sunday, September 9

The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street
The National Army Museum
The Raphael Cartoons At The Victoria And Albert Museum
The Brompton Oratory

We will have breakfast at our hotel and leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m.

We shall begin the day by taking the subway to Sloane Square Station and attending morning service at The Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, the church we will have visited and toured, in depth, the previous Thursday.

After service, we will walk over to The National Army Museum for our third and final exploration of the collection.

We will first visit the large art gallery on the top floor, which contains dozens of magnificent portraits of historic military figures by Allan Ramsay, Benjamin West, Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Henry Raeburn. No one ever visits this gallery, whose portraits are superior to comparable portraits by the same artists at Tate Britain and at The National Portrait Gallery. This is one of the great rooms of art in London, and no one seems to know about it. The best Benjamin West painting I have ever seen is in this gallery.

We will next visit the museum’s special exhibition on the Falklands War, which opened not long ago. It is supposed to be excellent.

When we have completed viewing the special exhibition, we will send my parents in a cab to The Victoria And Albert Museum. My brother and Josh and I will take a long walk through back streets to The Victoria And Albert, seeing neighborhoods no one but locals ever visit. While we are making our way there, my parents will have an hour to explore the giant Victoria And Albert on their own.

We will meet up with my parents in the large café of The Victoria And Albert Museum, and we will all have a late lunch there.

After lunch, we will visit one room, and one room only, of this overwhelming museum: the giant hall in which hang The Raphael Cartoons.

These are the giant paintings Raphael painted, on orders from the Pope, to be used as models for Flemish tapestry-weavers, who created giant tapestries (now lost) to line the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Only seven of the original ten Raphael paintings survive, and these seven paintings, all owned by Queen Elizabeth, have been on loan to The Victoria And Albert Museum for over 140 years. They are among the greatest masterpieces of Western Art.

We will spend an hour with the paintings, time truly necessary in order to enjoy them fully. The light levels are kept deliberately low in order not to damage these masterworks, and it takes some time for eyes to adjust to the light levels. Happily, long benches are placed before each of the giant paintings, so visitors may sit and examine the paintings at leisure and in comfort.

When we have completed our time with the cartoons, we will leave The Victoria And Albert and go next door to The Brompton Oratory.

The Brompton Oratory is the second-largest Roman Catholic house of worship in London--only Westminster Cathedral is larger. The Brompton Oratory was founded by John Henry, Cardinal Newman, and it is a purely Italianate Baroque marble structure, inside and out. It reminds me of countless Baroque churches in Rome.

Many of The Oratory’s treasures were imported from Italy, with the Siena Cathedral providing much of the statuary, including twelve marble apostles sculpted in 1680. The Brompton Oratory is a great building, entirely atypical of London, and well worth the visitor’s time.

When we leave The Oratory, we will walk to a nearby Polish restaurant, which my brother and I discovered, and which is truly excellent, and have a nice dinner.

On this evening, we will have dinner guests--a musician friend of my parents, and his wife, visiting from the continent, will be joining us for dinner.

After dinner, we shall walk back to our hotel, and make it an early evening.

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