Lines of beauty … curators check the newly arrived works. (Photograph: Martin Godwin)

Somehow, Alessandra Griffo is finding a way to concentrate. Standing at a brightly lit table with the sound of drilling, lifting and thumping in her ears, Griffo is checking works that have just arrived from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where she works. She’s on the lookout for any abrasions, tears or stains her fragile cargo might have sustained in transit.

Above us is the Renaissance-style dome of the Reading Room of the British Museum. Around us is a labyrinth of red and green walls specially built for the museum’s imminent new exhibition of Italian Renaissance drawings. And on the table before us rests a sketch of a dome made by the architect Giuliano da Sangallo in about 1485, a thrilling echo of the real one floating overhead.

This imposing Victorian chamber has been ingeniously adapted in the last few years. It is now the British Museum’s most dramatic exhibition space, having housed, in recent years, terracotta warriors from China, lavish carpets from 17th-century Persia and scenes of bloody Aztec sacrifice. The new exhibition taking shape here contrasts sharply with its big, bold predecessors. But Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings features some of the most beguiling drawings ever made. Taken from the collections of the Uffizi and the British Museum, it features delicate masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael.


Jonathan Jones
The Guardian