Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Loan to the exhibition ‘The Global City: Lisbon in the Renaissance’ Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

Facade of the Museum Nacional de Arte Antiga © Pitt Rivers Museum

On the 15th of February I travelled to Lisbon with two objects, a Congo cushion cover and an Aztec pendant. Both objects travelled in a crate in the cargo hold of a Tap Portugal plane. Myself and the PRM crate arrived in sunny Lisbon later that day. We were driven to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Portugal’s national art gallery where the crate was stored overnight for the objects to be unpacked and installed in the exhibition ‘The Global City, Lisbon in the Renaissance’ the following day.
Cushion cover 1886.1.254 .1 © Pitt Rivers Museum
Pendant 1905.56.1 © Pitt Rivers Museum
The exhibition recreates the mercantile heart of Renaissance Europe’s foremost global city, Lisbon. A time when luxury and exotic goods, spices and commodities were imported from Africa, Brazil, Asia and elsewhere and sold on the streets of Lisbon. The cushion cover loaned to the exhibition is an important part of the PRM’s collections. The cushion cover is from the Museum’s earliest collections, that of the Tradescants from the 1600’s. The cushion cover has been radio carbon dated AD 1360-1436. The cushion cover is made from raffia fibre, admired for their beauty by European explorers, they were soon prized as bedcovers and floor coverings and taken back to Europe as luxury items. The PRM cushion cover is displayed alongside two other raffia textiles from Kongo from the Museum of Roman Civilisation, Rome, Italy. The pendant is made from jade and is from Mexico and was donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1905.

PRM crate being prepared for cargo at Heathrow © Pitt Rivers Museum
The crate arriving in Lisbon © Pitt Rivers Museum
Installation in the exhibition gallery © Pitt Rivers Museum
Due to the age and fragility of the cushion cover it was packed by our conservation department for a safe journey to Lisbon. For the duration of the exhibition it is very important that the environmental conditions of the display case are kept stable and the textile is not exposed to too much light, humidity or fluctuations in temperature. Before installing the display in Lisbon I checked the condition of the two objects and monitored the environmental conditions of the showcase. I then ensured that the cushion and pendant were secure before leaving for Oxford. The exhibition closes on the 9th of April when I will return to Lisbon de-install the loan and collect the cushion cover and pendant.

Faye Belsey

Assistant Curator