Who Knew?

Renaissance Watercolours, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, presents for the first time watercolor during the Renaissance as a unified art form, highlighting its versatility and pivotal role in understanding, interpreting and documenting the natural world. It explores the development of watercolor, from manuscript illumination to depictions of people, places and nature that more closely resemble watercolors as we know them today.

During the Renaissance, an era of expanding horizons and cultural exchange, watercolor flourished across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Its versatility, portability and immediacy made it ideal for painting directly from life. It was also widely used for designs, copies, modelli, and cartoons. However, the Renaissance watercolor has never been considered as a coherent artistic genre and due to their light sensitivity, watercolors are seldom put on permanent display. This display offers a rare opportunity to experience these delicate objects. Here’s a sneak peek.

watercolor drawing
Canterbury Cathedral font design, watercolour drawing, by John Christmas, about 1638 – 39, Britain. Museum no. E.574-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor painting of figure
Portrait of a European, watercolour painting, about 1610 – 20, India. Museum no. IM.9-1913. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor painted object
Anne of Cleves portrait miniature set in an ivory box, watercolour, Hans Holbein, 1539, England. Museum no. P.153:1, 2-1910. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor painting of fruit
Watercolour, by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, about 1575, England. Museum no. AM.3267W-1856. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor painting of palace
Nonsuch Palace from the South, watercolour, by Joris Hoefnagel, 1568, England. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor floral painting
Daffodils and a Red Admiral Butterfly, watercolour, by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, about 1575, England. Museum no. AM.3267A-1856. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
watercolor painting of figure and hounds
A Huntsman Resting with His Hounds, watercolour drawing, by Jacob Jordaens, about 1635, Southern Netherlands. Museum no. 4905. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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