As the Queen's House refurbishment continues, we've started planning the displays. Our Curator of Decorative Arts, Sue Prichard, tells us more.
Exciting times for the Queen’s House team as we get down to the serious business of laying out objects for the display cases. This is my favourite part of my job, being in close contact with an extraordinarily diverse decorative art collection which includes uniforms, flags, ceramics, glass, jewellery, sailors’ craftwork and ship figureheads.
Yesterday Simon Stephens (Curator of Ship Model and Boat Collection) and I spent a fascinating afternoon discussing which models will go on display in the Modern British Art Gallery when the Queen’s House opens in July. Simon is a veritable walking encyclopaedia; explaining the finer points of a Morecambe Bay Prawner and a Norfolk Wherry. Living in Deal, where I spent most of my teenage years fishing off the pier, I confessed that my heart belonged to the Deal Galley!
Much to the amusement of our colleagues, we commandeered the floor of our open plan office and measured out the floor plan of the showcase and armed with post-its and photocopies proceeded to lay out our intended display. Our selection was dictated by the juxtaposition of the ship models with the wonderful Alan Sorrell panels originally designed for the Nelson Bar of HMS ‘Campania’, which toured British ports as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition. I love the ‘folkiness’ of the mural, each panel represents the individuality of each fishing community, a poignant reminder of the important role the fishing industry played locally and nationally in post war Britain.
I was thrilled to discover that we also have a 19th century chatelaine going on display. As I child I was in awe of Daphne du Maurier’s finely drawn character Mrs Danvers, the imposing housekeeper of Manderley who terrorises the second Mrs de Winter in the novel ‘Rebecca’. Interestingly Mrs Danvers didn’t wear the decorative waist hung ornament now most commonly associated with the term. I love the femininity of the chatelaine, the variety and combinations of small keys, scissors and sewing tools, tiny perfume bottles and purses attached to short chains. They are the equivalent of the modern day charm bracelet and in many cases reflecting the tastes and preoccupations of the wearer. Our example features a small pot pourri, a thimble holder, pin cushion and pair of scissors in a silverwork case. The ornamental belt clasp is engraved with the initials E L H. Could this evocative object once belonged to the vivacious Emma Hamilton? Highly unlikely although this chatelaine, like all good stories, has stood the time of time and will take its rightful place on display in the newly refurbished ‘house of delights’.
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