28 Oct 2019
The acclaimed contemporary British ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal has generously donated one of his pieces to the College. De Waal is an alumnus and Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall having come to read English in 1983. He has exhibited widely and his work is held in major museum collections around the world. His best-selling memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes was published in 2010 and has received many literary prizes.
The ceramic and steel work is titled Lacrimae rerum, which translates as ‘tears of things’ from a line in Virgil’s Aeneid. It is part of de Waal’s long-standing work on memorial and loss. This theme is personal to him: his grandfather was a refugee to Britain in 1939 and his library was looted by the Nazis and the majority of it was lost. The artist remembers that his grandfather would quote Virgil to his father from some of the poetry books that he managed to save.
Lacrimae rerum references the loss of libraries and memoralises the relationship of his father and grandfather. The piece was intended for a library as he considers them to be a central part of his life and has been a vocal supporter of them. The College is delighted that the Jerwood library’s beautiful reading room was chosen as its home.
The artwork is a companion piece to de Waal’s 2019 exhibition ‘Psalm’ which includes a porcelain pavilion called ‘Library of exile’. The sculpture is inscribed with the names of over sixty lost libraries and contains about 2,000 books by exiled writers from Ovid to the present day. It will be travelling to the British Museum in London in 2020 and will continue on to its final destination, Mosul in Iraq.