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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Corridor outside Temporary Exhibition space, room 32

Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma

Mosaic
ca. 1868 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This mosaic representing Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma is part of a cycle of monumental mosaic portraits depicting famous artists. The series of originally 35 mosaics was created between 1864 and circa 1875 for the South Court of the South Kensington Museum, the later V&A. The mosaics were originally installed on the side walls as part of a decorative scheme celebrating the arts. This mosaic is made after a painting by N. H. J. Westlake.

Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma (d.1517) is said to have been a Dominican Friar who painted on glass at Bologna. He is by far the most obscure figure of the Valhalla series.

The stained glass designer Nathaniel Westlake (1833-1921) was a protégé of the Gothic Revival architect and designer William Burges. Westlake began to design for the English firm of stained-glass manufacturers Lavers & Barraud in 1858, becoming a partner in 1868, after which the firm was called Lavers, Barraud & Westlake; he retained this name after he became sole partner in 1880. It was Westlake's knowledge of medieval art, Pre-Raphaelite style and simplification of previously over-elaborate drawing that brought the firm success in the 1860s.

The series of mostly idealised portraits against gold backgrounds soon became known by the public as the Kensington Valhalla. The term alludes to the Vallhall as eternal home of heroes in Norse mythology. It also refers to the concept of a reunion of outstanding personalities of different periods by the means of art. An earlier example of such a hall of fame is the Walhalla near Regensburg in Germany (opened in 1842).

The selection of the Kensington Valhalla includes many famous artists, from Phidias and Apelles as representatives of ancient Greece to contemporaries such as the Irish painter William Mulready who had died only five years before his mosaic was completed.

Mosaics played an important part in the canon of materials and techniques used for the interior decoration of the new South Kensington Museum. The ambitious project of a revival of the art of mosaics involved one of the major Venetian mosaic companies of the time, Salviati & Co. It also led to the innovation of the technique by the introduction of vitrified ceramics mosaics made by Minton, Hollins & Co. These ceramics mosaics were created following the cartoons of professional artists by female students, including members of the family of Henry Cole.

The Kensington Valhalla remained in place until 1949. Some of the mosaics are now on display in other galleries of the museum. In addition to the mosaics themselves, preparatory sketches and cartoons by established contemporary artists such as Edward Poynter or Lord Leighton are part of the V&A collection.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glass mosaic
Brief Description
Mosaic panel, glass, depicting Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma, by Salviati after a painting by N.H.J. Westlake, Britain, about 1868
Physical Description
Vertical oblong glass mosaic with curved top depicting idealised full-length portrait of Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma (1407-1491) in Dominican habit and apron, holding up a segment of a stained glass window depicting an angel; standing on plinth in front of a golden background
Dimensions
  • Approximate height: 2.675m
  • Approximate width: 0.905m
  • Approximate depth: 0.045m
  • Weight: 153kg
Marks and Inscriptions
'FRA. G. D'ULMA'
Object history
This mosaic was created for the decoration of the South Court of the Museum. It is part of a cycle of mosaic portraits of famous artists. They were created between 1863 and ca. 1875 and installed in blind arcades on the upper level of the South Court.



Historical significance: Only few extensive mosaic cycles were executed in the 19th century. Apart from the South Kensington Valhalla the mosaics of the Albert Memorial, Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor, and at Saint Paul's Cathedral, all begun in 1864, were the only other comparable projects of the time. All of them were made by Salviati & Co.

The mosaics of the South Kensington Valhalla are based upon designs of a variety of artists, some of whom were, or were to become, major figures of the Victorian art world. The commission is extremely well documented. The related documents and cartoons at the V&A make this cycle of mosaics not only an outstanding group of artistic value, but are also an excellent case study for the history of the buildings of the Museum.
Historical context
The Museum played an important part in the revival of mosaic in Britain in the 19th century. The technique goes back to ancient times and was always regarded as one of the most precious and long-lasting techniques for adorning walls and floors. The enormous costs of mosaics limited its success in the 19th century.

The early mosaics for the South Court were made using the traditional material glass. They were created by the Venetian company Salviati & Co., the most successful mosaic makers of the time who had branches in London and New York. The majority of the mosaics consist of vitrified ceramics which were provided by the English company Minton, Hollins & Co. The Mosaics were made by the Mosaic Class of the Art School of the South Kensington Museum and were supervised by a representative of Minton. Amongst the students were family members of Henry Cole.

A second, less ambitious series of mosaics was created for the north cloister between 1868 and 1874. In 1878 a ceramic mosaic memorial for Sir Henry Cole, designed by Frank Moody was installed on the first landing of the Ceramic Staircase and is still in place today. The use of mosaic at the museum also included marble mosaic floors, some of them laid by 'Female Convicts' of Woking Prison from 1869 and was dubbed Opus Criminale by contemporaries.
Subject depicted
Summary
This mosaic representing Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma is part of a cycle of monumental mosaic portraits depicting famous artists. The series of originally 35 mosaics was created between 1864 and circa 1875 for the South Court of the South Kensington Museum, the later V&A. The mosaics were originally installed on the side walls as part of a decorative scheme celebrating the arts. This mosaic is made after a painting by N. H. J. Westlake.



Fra Beato Giacomo da Ulma (d.1517) is said to have been a Dominican Friar who painted on glass at Bologna. He is by far the most obscure figure of the Valhalla series.



The stained glass designer Nathaniel Westlake (1833-1921) was a protégé of the Gothic Revival architect and designer William Burges. Westlake began to design for the English firm of stained-glass manufacturers Lavers & Barraud in 1858, becoming a partner in 1868, after which the firm was called Lavers, Barraud & Westlake; he retained this name after he became sole partner in 1880. It was Westlake's knowledge of medieval art, Pre-Raphaelite style and simplification of previously over-elaborate drawing that brought the firm success in the 1860s.



The series of mostly idealised portraits against gold backgrounds soon became known by the public as the Kensington Valhalla. The term alludes to the Vallhall as eternal home of heroes in Norse mythology. It also refers to the concept of a reunion of outstanding personalities of different periods by the means of art. An earlier example of such a hall of fame is the Walhalla near Regensburg in Germany (opened in 1842).



The selection of the Kensington Valhalla includes many famous artists, from Phidias and Apelles as representatives of ancient Greece to contemporaries such as the Irish painter William Mulready who had died only five years before his mosaic was completed.



Mosaics played an important part in the canon of materials and techniques used for the interior decoration of the new South Kensington Museum. The ambitious project of a revival of the art of mosaics involved one of the major Venetian mosaic companies of the time, Salviati & Co. It also led to the innovation of the technique by the introduction of vitrified ceramics mosaics made by Minton, Hollins & Co. These ceramics mosaics were created following the cartoons of professional artists by female students, including members of the family of Henry Cole.



The Kensington Valhalla remained in place until 1949. Some of the mosaics are now on display in other galleries of the museum. In addition to the mosaics themselves, preparatory sketches and cartoons by established contemporary artists such as Edward Poynter or Lord Leighton are part of the V&A collection.
Associated Object
1145-1868 (Design)
Bibliographic Reference
Physick, John. The Victoria and Albert Museum. The history of its building. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum 1982. Pp. 62-67, no. 16
Collection
Accession Number
A.18-2009

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record createdOctober 8, 2009
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