… there’s an account over on the National Leather Collection blog.
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:
This shoehorn is in the British Museum collection and to my mind is a clear imitation of Mindum’s work. Made by Thomas Gen, it was acquired by the museum in 1889 from the collection of Henry Christy.
Click on the picture to open it in a new tab, there’s a few things to which I’d like to draw your attention. The first is that it isn’t finished, the inscription stops part way through. I think the rest of it is marked fairly faintly but is now too indistinct to read. There are mark up lines near the hole and the tip appears to have broken off, possibly following a crack from drilling the hole. I have no idea why it has been inked when the design isn’t finished. There’s no evidence of wear at the end or sides.
The second thing is that the entire design is engraved. It’s been done with one or maybe two tools, almost entirely with point work. The triangles are done by pressing the point in, then levering up, leaving exactly the scalloped base shape on the triangles and uneven depth I was talking about in my study of Mindum’s method (he said, smugly). Dots are done by sticking the point in and then rotating it. Unsteadiness of the hand has resulted in the occasional straight lines radiating from the dots making them look a little hairy. Lines are done by dragging the point, resulting in wider lines where the point has dug in more, or with a sawing motion on shorter and curved lines, resulting in multiple over-runs in places like the fleur-di-lys and square knot near the tip and a faceted appearance on the circles. There are no centre marks in the circles and the circles are not concentric, so compasses have not been used in the layout. I must say, Mr Gen does a nicer job or laying out the knotwork than Mr Mindum ever did, they are beautifully central. Almost all of Mindum’s end up with the knotwork smacking into the right hand border.
Some general observations:
- It has all the elements of a Mindum shoehorn, but the arrangement of knotwork above marigold above stylised crown with two horned ferrets coming in from the sides above cartoon rose doesn’t match any of the known surviving Mindum horns, and Mindum always uses the knotwork as a divider so I think the layout is original to Gen. The elements are so stylised, it looks as if he was working from a drawing or faint memory.
- Every triangle is different – size, angle, depth. Some of the small ones have ended up “T”-shaped as the point is stuck in deeply to form the base, but comes up too quickly and the point just scratches a line. Mindum’s are identical in size and depth, and has each group of three or four (depending on the triangle size)perfectly aligned.
- Lettering is composed of lots of lines, serifs are also lines with dug-out triangles, not the neat, identical triangles Mindum uses. The centre “v” if the A in MADE doesn’t even meet. Gen has matched Mindum’s small dash on the H and I but gone his own way with the lazy S.
- The hatching, to be honest, is a bit of a hash job. Unevenly spaced, uneven line widths and depths and not always laid out to match the curve of the horn. Mindum had trouble with this layout, too, but his lines are even and parallel.
- Gen has had the same problem with finish as I did. The horn needs to be polished to the desired finish BEFORE starting the engraving (or burning). There’s marks all over the place that couldn’t be removed without messing up the engraving.
Now have a look in the embiggened photo at the base of the fleur-di-lys. It’s about the spot where Mindum puts the year if he hasn’t put it in the main inscription. I can see 17-something lightly marked in there with a blade, I think it says 1790, but I may be wrong, what I’m reading as 9 could be the Elizabethan 2 with the big loop at the top. So 1720 at the earliest, but probably 1790. Obviously, this was done after the rest of the design was inked or it would show up darker. There’s no way to tell if it was the same afternoon or 120 years further on, but the width of the cuts does match the line width in the fleur-di-lys and it’s in the right location to be part of the original design. It’s a shame that there isn’t more words, we might have been able to pick if the inscription was modern English from post 1755 (Dr J’s Dictionary) rather than early modern.
Joan Evans in The Burlington Magazine, November 1944, ‘Shoe Horns and a Powder Flask by Robert Mindum’ says that she believed there was a Mindum shoehorn in the British Museum, but at the time of writing her article, it was unable to be located. While museums do lose stuff all the time and catalogues are notoriously incomplete, there’s no official record of them ever owning a Mindum shoehorn and when they needed one for an exhibition recently, they had to borrow Matty Westfelde’s from the MoL. Could this be the shoehorn she’d heard about?
Inverness Museum & Art GalleryCastle Wynd, Inverness, Inverness-shire, IV2 3EB
This was a rather nice small museum and gallery, tucked in at the foot of the castle mound. It manages to fit the whole period from when the earth had just started to cool, through to the week before last into two floors, concentrating on the Highlands. There’s an inevitable Pictish/Celtic slant throughout illustrated with a few quality finds from each location, period and racial grouping of your choice. We spent a wet morning there and managed to identify the snake we’d seen a few days earlier.
Bone die from Urquhart Castle, possibly loaded.
Viking sword charm or toy.
Shoe toggle and comb plate
This small copper alloy box with a miniature portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, painted in oils on a concealed ‘lid’ hidden beneath the outer kid of the box. It contains three ivory dice.
18th century powder horns
Horn cup with silver rim and mount, Robert Naughten (1786-1857)
Leather shoe sole and reproduction. Castle Street, Inverness
Tage, 18th century, leather on wood with iron nails.
A friend pointed this one out on the Internet and I had to share it and my musings.
This is a lovely piece and it’s really nice to have the dimensions. The person writing the catalogue entry probably honestly believed the bottle to be English based on the current location and of just an unusual form, optimistically dating it to the 17th century based on the patination and stitching.
I have a problem with the description: I think the bottle form is Arabic. You can see much earlier examples showing similar features here. If you look closely at the top, you can see a hole where a missing strap handle was attached. Similarly, there are a few stitches missing on the spout, it looks like the spout has been damaged and the leather trimmed to straighten it at some point.
I don’t like the date either. I’d be very surprised if it is earlier than 1850. It’s probably a souvenir of the Nile campaign of the 1890s, bought back by one of the soldiers. There’s a more complete example in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln that is firmly dated to that period and that provenance. It even has the same decoration. Here’s my photos (you knew this was coming, didn’t you…)
Three leather firebuckets at the top of the main stairs in Cawdor Castle, dating to the eighteenth century, later emblazoned with the lst Earl Cawdor’s coronet and monogram. Construction is riveted throughout and virtually identical to those at Cotehele House in Cornwall, HMS Victory and any number of other sites (including this). The top band and handle loops are metal, these buckets have a particularly fine paint job.
Here’s some more photos of the same buckets.
I give in. I’m only about 2/3 of the way through the Scottish National Museum photos and I just can’t face them at the moment. So working backwards from the end of the trip instead, here’s a gallery of leather objects from Cotehele House in Cornwall.
A pair of eighteenth century leather fire buckets in the kitchen. Riveted construction throughout, the top band is thin metal. Similar buckets are in Fort Nelson from HMS Invincible, Cawdor Castle and on HMS Victory in Portsmouth.
Detail of the top bands showing how the handles attach.
Large Black Jack/Bombard that was in the punch room when we visited. The style dates it to the first half of the seventeenth century, it stands really roughly 20″/510mm high when measured to the nearest knee.
There are four layers in the handle. This bombard has a really nice shape around the spout, it looks like it only had very light use and has been looked after. I’m sorry I don’t have any more information about it.
Cotehele House is a National Trust property at St Dominick, near Saltash, PL12 6TA. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele/