I’ve recently had contact with Richard Gardner, of Richard Gardner Antiques about the sale of Mindum’s Hinson shoehorn from 1600. Permission has been given to Richard for the catalogue to quote me extensively, and the website provides links to the catalogue and the relevant pages of this blog.
The sale page is here. The Featured Image is Richard’s copyright.
The usual disclaimer applies, I have no financial interest in the sale but in this case there is a debt of gratitude owed to the current vendor for trusting me alone with the horn and a camera for four hours one day.
Imagine if you will, the Museum of London, late on an uncommonly warm summer afternoon. The kids are tired and grumpy, I’m already worn out from three weeks of travelling and we’re belting through the last few cabinets in the Great Fire exhibition so we can fit in dinner before presenting to the Globe’s performance of Coriolanus in the evening. I’m really not paying attention and just snapping photos of anything of leather, bone or horn with plans to review them later…
Which I did accidentally last night while looking for examples of refectory tables with cleats that pass through the apron frame but aren’t attached (for the record, there’s one in The Great Oak Room in the Red Lodge, Bristol). That’s three months short of ten years. We were there in April 2006.
The last three frames of the set are William bloody Morris’ bloody powder-bloody-horn made by Robart bloody Mindum in 16-bloody-01.* Do you know how much time I’ve spent trying to get a clear photo of the powderhorn in the intervening time? The museum placard doesn’t help: “Powder horn made for William Morris, 1601.” If you didn’t know it was by Mindum, you wouldn’t have learned much because the inscription is turned towards the wall of the cabinet. For whatever reason, it didn’t trigger the Mindum alert at the time and didn’t stick in my memory.
Construction is classic powder horn. The base is pressed/glued in because the last thing you want to have if the powder catches alight and goes off is a nailed-in base causing compression. Having third-degree burns still beats losing a leg in the ensuing explosion. The moulded leather collar and carrying thong are probably original. Like on the 1600 Hinson shoehorn, the initials of a previous owner are branded on the base. The owner in 1888 was Rev W F Creeny who donated it to the MoL, so we know it was sometime prior to that.
The design elements are the same as on his shoehorns, with bow-ties, triangles, foliage trefoils, scroll-work and flowers, although the inscription is done inside a frame rather than around the edge. He’s separated the decoration into fields with the use of borders, larger triangles featuring in groups of two, and smaller in groups of three. My instinct is that they are the same size as the ones on the Hinson horn, but I’d have to measure them to be sure. The flowers/marigolds are within a knotwork band, I wonder if he got the spacing right this time, or if they get all mushed up together around the back somewhere to make it all fit.
I think the majority of the stippling is red, the rest of the line work is black. The base has a simple circle and diamond grid design as it wouldn’t usually be seen.
It looks like I have a couple of thousand photos from 2003, 2006 and 2011 to review soon to see if there are any other gems amongst them.
* Australian punctuation used to commemorate Australia/Invasion Day.
For discussion of the complexities of the observance of ‘Straya Day, see this post on the Australian National Maritime Museum’s blog.
I’ll do the disclosure part first. The 1596 horn is to be auctioned on 24 November as lot 134 by Matthew Barton Ltd. I’ve been in contact with Matthew to discuss the content of the catalogue listing for this lot (go to p39), and have been given permission to use his photograph. He also provided the information on the 1599 Violet shoehorn below that was also missing from my catalogue. At no time was promotion or advertising requested and this post should not be construed as such. When I become aware of other Mindum horn sales, I’ll also mention them.
Photograph copyright Matthew Barton Ltd 2015
I think this is a particularly significant horn for a couple of reasons that I’ll outline below.
The finish of the horn isn’t as fine as his usual work. There’s a number of inked-in scratches meaning that either he didn’t polish the horn before starting, or it’s been reinked since. I think it’s the former due to the way the triangles along the top edge are worn and uncoloured.
The location of the date isn’t quite right, it looks like he had planned to put it at the end of the inscription but then changed his mind after doing the text and put it in a more prominent location instead. He usually fills those sort of spaces with scrollwork. He’s also tried a different technique that I haven’t seen on any of the earlier horns. There’s a row of opposing triangles between the arches at the base and the lady. Rather than opposing point to point, these are wider spaced and the points of one row face towards the spaces between the triangles in the opposite row. He’s done a knife cut either side from the apex to the base, then a third across the base, slid the point in and lifted the piece. Slow, fiddly and not a particularly good finish. I can’t see it used on any of the later horns, but he does use the opposing facing triangles from 1597 on as far as I can see, every horn after that date. I’ve discussed the purpose-built tools I think he had made in a previous post.
This horn appears to be missing at least a third, possibly more of its original length. This is normal for the horns that have been heavily used, due to wear from the coarse woollen stocks in use at the time – several others show similar amounts of loss. Looking at the decoration, there’s a row of opposing triangles across the top, that would normally separate another design area from what we currently have. For 1596, I’d expect at least an encrowned rose or fleur-di-lis at the end, and possibly a band of knotwork. This then gives us significantly more room for the inscription around the outside edge.
This example is only the second known to display Mindum’s middle name, the other being the 1595 “Robart Go To Bed” horn. I’m not certain of the significance of this and why it only appears to have happened during this two year period. Have a look at where he has put his name. The extant inscription is THIS IS ROBART HEND / RT MINDVM. Could this be Mindum’s own shoehorn? Given the extra space we’ve identified and following his usual formula, the inscription may have read:
THIS IS ROBART HENDART MINDVM’S SHOIN HORN MADE BY THE HANDE OF ROBART MINDVM
The lady on his shoe horn looks very similar to the lady on the 1593 Jane Ayres shoe horn in the Salisbury Museum and appears to be wearing the same hat, not a particularly fashionable one for the period. I’ve haven’t seen the 1595 Jane Ayres shoehorn, it hasn’t been noted since 1921 but may feature another picture of Jane. I’ll owe an ale to anyone who can produce a picture of the later one.
Crackpot theory time: let’s assume for the moment that this is Mindum’s own shoe horn. He’s done a picture of his sweetheart on it, arguably Jane Ayres. We know he married a woman called Jane some time prior to 1613 as he made (another?) shoe horn for her then. This is pure supposition drawn from idle speculation, but I would like it to have been true.
The second horn escaped my attention mainly because the sale predated on-line catalogue distribution. It last sold in 1986 at Christie’s Important European Sculpture and Works of Art sale NINI-3357.
This has all the features you’d expect to see on a later Mindum shoe horn. The design is the same as Iohn Gybson’s 1597 with the addition of a small tree at the base near the arches. The catalogue notes that it is “A late 16th century English white oxhorn shoe-horn by Robart Mindum.” The inscription is:
THIS IS ANTHONIE VIOLETS SHOING HO / HANDES OF ROBART MINDUM 1599
I’ve attempted to contact Christies for more details or a better image but am yet to get a response.
Thanks to Matthew Barton for bringing both these to my attention.
In the Big Book on p53, I feature an illustration from John Waterer’s Leather in Life, Art and Industry, with, what in my defence I will point out is Waterer’s original caption.
English travelling trunk of pinewood covered with cowhide, ornamented with brass studs. Second half of the 17th century.
It transpires that it is a Queen Anne chest, reputedly Queen Anne’s chest (1702-1714) and dates from the first quarter of the eighteenth century. A contemporary chest of drawers appeared on Antiques Roadshow in 2013 and has more recently been authenticated.
Note the similarity of the bunch of grapes on both this chest and the Roadshow one.
Click to view the clip:
I’ve just uploaded a new version of the Mindum catalogue, version 1.6. This will probably be the penultimate update before moving to a Wikipedia entry.
There’s been a bit of activity since the last update, mostly to do with the Museum of London. Thank to some work done by Alex Chapman, we’ve been able to confirm the entire Evans collection of shoehorns and the 1601 Morris powder horn are in the MoL, along with all but one of the Drane collection. The 1597 horn with the scratched-out name that Joan Evans mentioned from the Drane collection is still missing but I’m hopeful about it turning up sometime.
There was a bit of a kefuffle about the dating of Mathew Westefeldes’ shoehorn, with 1609 being suggested, but it turned out to be an incorrect record in one of the research files. It’s also been confirmed that the claim of an end year of 1623 from the VAM (Treasures of the Royal Courts… &c) was a typographic error and should have been 1613 as expected.
I’ve added links at the end in a new section to the 18th C imitation by Thomas Gen in the BM that I think Joan Evans had been looking for but couldn’t find and to the seventeenth century shoehorn in the York Castle Museum that has been suggested as the one mentioned by Paula Hardwick.
As usual, I’ve done the usual check for link rot and given the whole document an overall tidy up.