Hurry along to the V&A before July 17 and luxuriate in the art and design of this aptly titled show, The Cult of Beauty, which is the life’s work of a true aesthete, co-curator Stephen Calloway, who absolutely looks the part. You will discover some familiar faces, not long escaped from The Ashmolean, the visions of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Burne Jones’s lush Laus Veneris, and Rossetti’s Bocca Baciata are among the 60 gorgeous paintings following the pointed finger of Alfred Gilbert’s Eros. The artists and designers of the Aesthetic Movement wanted art for art’s sake and the Grosvenor Gallery, opened in 1877, introduced them to wealthy patrons. Although John Ruskin championed the Pre-Raphaelites, his reaction to Whistler’s work in the first Grosvenor show was rather different. He accused Whistler of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face”. The artist took Ruskin to court and won but was awarded damages of one penny.

As well as female beauty there is Leighton’s athletic male, The Sluggard (pictured), waking from sleep. Indeed, there are many strands to this exhibition. In 1855, the US fleet ended Japan’s isolation. The British government sent our first professionally trained designer, ingenious Christopher Dresser, to Japan and he was wowed by what he saw. There are two of his impressive Moon Vases, imitating cloisonné made for Minton, in 1880. The reason he is under-celebrated is that he designed for 60 top companies but rarely had his name on their products. Among the ceramics is a sumptuous platter by William de Morgan with his gorgeous glazes and peacock decoration. Indeed peacocks are everywhere — a whole room of them — along with the lilies and sunflowers, almost a cliché.

It was not surprising that the Aesthetes were made fun of in their time. There are pictures of a languid Oscar Wilde, the original style guru, and Swinburne in mock poetic style, “Quite too utterly”, the epitome of sensitive lovers of beauty. And they loved their porcelain. Rossetti, Wilde and Whistler all had a passion for collecting Chinese Blue and White. Lecturing in America on The House Beautiful Wilde announced: “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.”

Whistler probably had the most sophisticated eye for it. In a wonderfully British send-up, the caption on a Royal Worcester teapot with a Wilde type figure is “Fearful consequences through the laws of Natural Selection and Evolution of not living up to one’s teapot.”

The humour in the show is a touch of genius because it releases us to forget seriousness and just luxuriate in the beauty — and that surely is the whole point. The sensuous women are not there by permission of religious imagery or classical tales or to enhance the status of aristocrats; they are there for their beauty. That must have been liberating at that time, 1860-1900. It will be hard not to enjoy this feast for the eyes — unless of course you have an aversion to peacock feathers.