THE reopening of the enlarged Freer Gallery in Washington, the first showing in the National Gallery there of the travelling exhibition of French paintings from the Barnes Foundation, and the tribute to the Havemeyers at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (Splendid legacy, to 20th June) could not fail to provoke reflections on these three collectors and the differing demands of their benefac- tions.
, to 20th June) could not fail to provoke reflections on these three collectors and the differing demands of their benefac- tions.
THE decorated box presented to Admiral Keppel when the freedom of the City of London was bestowed on him at the time of his acclaim as a national hero in 1779 (Figs.32-34) is now on display in the newly refurbished Eighteenth-Century Gallery at the Museum of London after many years in the reserve collection. The commissioning and design of the box is uniquely well documented, not only through a contemporary published account which explains its unusually complex iconography, but by means of drawings, manuscripts and two hitherto unpublished bills which give details of its manufacture (see Appendix I, below). In 1985, Timothy Clifford first drew attention to the connexion between the box and designs by John Bacon in the Victoria & Albert Museum when he published two of Bacon's drawings, but the wealth of material concerning the box has not previously been considered together.
COMPETITIONS and exhibitions hold a special place in the development of the applied arts in the mid-nineteenth century.* The popularity and success of the great international exhibitions held in London, Paris and elsewhere, as well as a host of lesser events encouraged the production of virtuoso 'exhibition pieces'. Towering thrones and giant vases were designed to show off technical and artistic skills rather than fulfil the average customer's needs. Once the show was over the manufacturer could still use his 'white elephant' to generate publicity, by presenting it to some notable person, or displaying it in his own showrooms. Even better, he could hope to sell or present it to one of the new museums of applied arts devoted to the improvement of public taste in design. These were springing up all over Europe in the wake of Henry Cole and Prince Albert's Museum of Manufactures, founded in 1852 and moved to South Kensington in 1857. Many of the early acquisitions of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) were made in this way, starting at the Great Exhibition where it purchased ?5,000 worth of objects with the aid of a special Treasury grant. Nor did it neglect humbler competitions. Between 1864 and 1870 the Museum purchased sixty-one of the winning entries from a series of competitive exhibitions organised by the Society of Arts, and intended to encourage higher standards of craftsmanship and design amongst workmen employed in the applied arts industries. Mostly small in scale, the objects are in a variety of media ranging from painted porcelain to engraved ivory and wrought iron. Now dispersed among the various material-based collections of the Museum, they mostly survive in store, though a group was recently selected, by chance rather than conscious design, for display in the museum's new European Ornament Gallery. The story of the competitions can be reconstructed from the
THE 'grand style' of the age of Louis XIV, with its com- bination of baroque and classical features, was readily adapted at the faience factories of Nevers, one of the largest and most productive centres of ceramic manufac- ture in seventeenth-century France. Splendid pieces of maiolica, of huge size and massive form, were created there at this period. There were fiscal reasons for the production of these luxurious items. The decline of the French economy in the wake of Louis XIV's ruinous military campaigns resulted in a series of royal decrees from 1672 onwards, limiting the production of silverware for private use and ordering that existing silver be melted 'down. After the 1688 edict alone, silverware worth ten million livres was melted down and later re-used for coinage. Because their products were intended to take the place of silverware, the Nevers faience craftsmen tended to follow the patterns es- tablished by silversmiths such as Claude Ballin and others.
was melted down and later re-used for coinage. Because their products were intended to take the place of silverware, the Nevers faience craftsmen tended to follow the patterns es- tablished by silversmiths such as Claude Ballin and others.
DURING the second half of the seventeenth century it became customary for noblewomen to entertain 'officially' in their bedrooms and dressing rooms.* In response to this, husbands often gave to their wives, as wedding gifts, silver or silver-gilt toilet services to add a note of magnificence to their dressing tables. This was the realm of Pope's Belinda, where,
...unveil'd, the Toilet stands displayed Each silver vase in mystic order laid ... This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder box. The Tortoise here and Elephant unite, Transform'd to combs, the speckled and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining row, Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
THE existence of two thirteenth-century choir-stalls at Durham Cathedral seems never to have been noted in the literature. It has always been assumed that the medieval choir-stalls were destroyed by Cromwell's prisoners in 1650-51, to be replaced by a set of Gothic-survival furniture, including a new organ and choir screen, by Bishop Cosin between 1660 and 1672.