Tuesday, 27 July 2010

R is for Rococo

This little frame, an OTT rendition of the rococo style if ever there was one, has just undergone remedial treatment, prior to its going on display in Sir John Ramsden's Dressing Room at Temple Newsam House. Some splits needed gluing back together; I used fish glue and gentle cramping pressure. The gilt surfaces cleaned quite nicely with a little Vulpex detergent in white spirit. A word of caution, however. Overcleaning can result in undesirable consequences as demonstrated in the following before and after pictures:


Posted by Ian Fraser

Friday, 23 July 2010

Supporting research of Oriental and European lacquer

Yukiko Yoshi is a MA furniture conservation student at West Dean College. The dissertation she is working on is a comparative analysis of the metal powders used in
Oriental lacquer and the European imitations of Oriental lacquer, sometime called japanning. Her MA supervisors are: Mike Podmaniczky, Associate Professor at Winterthur Museum, Delaware, and tutor Furniture Programme at West Dean College; Nick Umney of the furniture consevation department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In support of her research Yukiko requested access, in order to study and sample, several lacquer items at Temple Newsam House. I think there are two reasons why Yukiko looks so happy here. First that the access was agreed (and TN staff are looking forward to receiving a copy of her dissertation, heavy hint, Yukiko!). Second, Yukiko just learned that she has been awarded a six month paid internship, (HLF funded, ICON administered) in frame conservation at Guildhall Art Gallery. Supporting research and encouraging access have been fundamental to service delivery, since before I worked at Temple Newsam House, and all the years since, values I share with my colleagues, past and present. A precis of Yukiko's findings will be placed on the blog.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Good Morning Campers!

For the last week I have been looking through a variety of small objects to display at Abbey House as part of our newly decorated, seaside themed, penny arcade. These have related to different areas of the British holiday experience - postcards, travelling to the seaside, and the souvenirs you can pick up. As it’s almost the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to blog about it.

One item that caught my eye and that I have been busy reading is “The Camp Herald” from 1935. This was published by the ‘Cunningham Young Men’s Holiday Camp’, affectionately titled Switzerland, but based in Douglas, Isle of Man. It was first established in 1887, and continued up until 1939. During World War I, it was requisitioned as an internment camp to contain prisoners of war. For World War II, it was requisitioned as a naval training camp. It never managed to recover and re-open as a holiday camp after World War II.

“The Camp Herald” was published yearly to keep campers up to date with the latest goings on, but also to serve as a good piece of marketing. It contains pictures of all the facilities at the camp, alongside testaments from past campers about how much fun they had, and how they will be returning next year with more of their friends.

C.A.E. from Hull, August, 1932 writes:

“I feel it my duty to write and tell you what a wonderful holiday my friend and I had at your Camp. Unfortunately, my friend had only one week, but I soon made fresh pals on my second week. The food is excellent in every way, the bungalows very comfortable, and the service rendered by the Camp staff, not forgetting the Orchestra, is first rate. We both intend coming again next year, and in addition bringing more friends from Hull.”

Looking at the facilities, it may not seem as grand as the Butlin’s or Pontin’s of the mid twentieth century, but it certainly pre-dates them by some way. The ‘campers’ stayed in tents, outdoor chalets, or for the wealthier, there was an indoor bungalow option – with a toilet provided on every floor. They could swim, eat, enjoy a good orchestral concert, play bowls, tennis and golf, or even watch the TT race. The camp offered a valet service to ensure each young man could look his best with nice clean clothes.

It may sound fun and games, but there were rules to the camp – and these were published in the Camp Herald to make sure any ‘would-be’ campers knew what was expected of them. Alcohol was not permitted at any time during the holiday – whether it was on camp or not. Girls were a definite no, especially late at night. And there was a curfew with lights-out – 11.45pm until 7am on weekdays, 11.30pm until 7am on Sundays – with absolutely no chance of an extension to this. Rowdy campers who disobeyed the rules in any way would be swiftly removed.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Translation in progress for a Chinese table screen

This eight-fold table screen which is currently displayed at Lotherton Hall is one of the most interesting yet trickiest objects from the Chinese collections. It is believed to be a present to someone, possibly an official or a prestigious scholar, on his 80th birthday some 200 years ago.

I am trying to unravel the full meaning of the cursive scripts which appear on the square panels of each side. They used many symbolic and old Chinese words, however, making them hard to read. At first, I thought they were two poems consisting of 8 lines and 7 syllables each, which described the painted scenes of figures and mountain views respectively. After spending some time researching the words and the contexts in which they have been used, I am now hesitating to suggest that the two poems seem to address completely different topics. The poems allude to the story of the Heavenly Peach Garden owned by the Queen Mother of the West (王母 pinyin pronunciation: wang2 mu3) who is the Daoist Goddess of Immortality. Yet some of the lines reveal the role of the owner of this present in relation to the politics at that time, while some share similarities with the Chinese couplets (对联 pinyin pronunciation: dui4 lian2), which are still used on the occasion of birthdays nowadays. Here is my translation of some of the scripts:

五湖太老方傾 ? (荦)

Pinyin pronunciation:
wu3 hu2 tai4 lao3 fang1 qing1 ?(luo4)
si4 hai3 gao1 ren2 jin4 fu4 shi1

Great learning is known only when elders from the Five Lakes
And scholars from the Four Seas gather to improvise

Notes: Five Lakes, Four Seas mean all corners of the world


Pinyin pronunciation:
yuan4 yan2 he4 suan4 qi2 fang1 shuo4
wang2 mu3 pan2 tao2 ren4 yi4 tou1

We wish you longevity like Fang Shuo who gained immortality
After eating the peaches stolen from the Queen Mother

Notes: Fang Shuo served as an attendant then the Superior Master of the Palace under Han Emperor Wu (140-87 BC). His brash confidence and ready wit were favoured by the emperor. This led Fang to become a prominent figure in the Daoist legends. One famous story about him was that he thrice stole and ate the peaches of immortality from the Queen Mother of the West.


Pinyin pronunication:
man4 yan2 tao2 ? (jun4) wu2 zhen1 shang3
gan1 gu3 xiang1 feng2 jin4 zhu3 ren2

Rumors say that Tao Xun failed to appreciate
I came across friendship in this foreign land (uncertain)

(These two lines are tricky, the meanings suggested by these words do not seem to make sense)


Pinyin pronunciation:
zi4 shi4 peng2 hu2 tian1 bu4 lao3
bi4 tao2 hua1 de5 zui4 chang2 sheng1

I believe in the fairy mountain and the ageless sky
Let us live to eternity beneath the golden peach blossoms

Another mysterious aspect of this object is whether the paintings and the poems were created by the same person. The painted scenes of figures appear to suggest a moment before a feast began when the guests and attendants carried out some form of offering. The mountain scenes are decorative. The same red seal mark consistently appears in the corner of the calligraphy squares suggesting this is the poet’s mark, is believed to provide information of who wrote the scripts, which is however, not yet identified.