What’s Proof Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

 

Fakes; 1980−90, Made to imitate 18th-century English pottery Earthenware and stoneware
Gift of Henry H. Weldon in honor of June deH. Weldon 1998.28.14−.16, .27a,b

They seem to make unusual exhibition bedfellows: a pair of Tiffany Studios’ lampshades and an eclectic assortment of Staffordshire bear jugs, owl jugs, and candlesticks. On the one hand, the “Grape” and “Dragonfly” lampshades, on loan to Treasures on Trial from the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, are beautiful examples of glass objects: rich in color, intricate in composition, and stylish in design. On the other hand, the Staffordshire objects from Winterthur’s own collection, donated by their original buyer Henry Weldon, are by comparison far more simplistic, if not without their own charm. It is hard not to be drawn to the family of earthenware and stoneware bears that inhabit the back cabinets of the Proof section of the exhibition. Their eyes comical and alert, ears pricked upright, and mouths agape; they are at once bears in a state of both joyous optimism and content repose.

Fakes; 1980−90, Made to imitate 18th-century English pottery
Earthenware and stoneware. Gift of Henry H. Weldon  in honor of June deH. Weldon 1998.28.11, .12, .17−20a,b

Therefore, what these objects share  is not their function, their aesthetic, nor probably even their user, but rather they have all had their authenticity called into question and been exposed as fakes and forgeries through the use of modern microscopic and instrumental analysis in tandem with more traditional connoisseurship. As Treasures on Trial teaches us, techniques such as X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction have become important tools in a curator’s arsenal to understand the material composition of objects and validate their authenticity.

“Grape” library lamp (forgery), Maker unknown; 1975−2000,“Dragonfly” lampshade (forgery)
Maker unknown; 1975−2000, both from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, New York

For the Tiffany lamps and Weldon’s Staffordshire bears, scientific analysis and connoisseurship worked together to ultimately prove that these objects were not genuine. For collectors and curators, connoisseurship is often grounded in opinion rather than fact, resting on a broader knowledge of the field of objects and an assessment of style and technique to differentiate the possible fake from a field of established and documented genuine objects. In many cases, it is connoisseurship that provides the first question and leads to a more thorough investigation. For both the “Grape” and “Dragonfly” lampshades, curators were able to compare the distinctive coloration and quality of glass, the skill of soldering, and the quality of the casting of the bronze bases to many examples of known Tiffany glassware. Meanwhile for the bear jugs and other items of supposed 18th-century pottery, including the owl jugs and candlesticks as well as a candelabrum, teapots, and coffee pots, collectors have a truly extensive back catalogue of examples to make comparisons against. While it was alleged that the faker of the bear jugs and other pieces had used 18th-century illustrations to manufacture these fakes, it was their very uniqueness that first roused suspicion. No genuine surviving examples of such bears are known, and hence if these were genuine, they would be extremely rare. Collectors were also struck by the similarity in form and technique across the different examples of what is now known to be fake earthenware, suggesting that the fakes were produced by an individual craftsman.

The suspicion of collectors was not enough to prove indisputably that the lamps and bears were fakes, and in the case of the bears, it was certainly not enough to level a case against the seller of the items. For the earthenware bears, thermoluminescence analysis dated their production to the 20th century. In addition, the work of Pat Halfpenny, former curator of ceramics at Winterthur, compared the objects against a large sample, creating a two-part case for their fakeness. Despite the combined scientific and curatorial expertise applied to these objects, the courts were still unable to convict the man who sold them to the Weldons in 1992 as evidence of their inauthenticity did not prove that the seller knowingly sold fakes.

While the opulence of the 175 rooms at Winterthur are a nostalgic and charming window into both the culture of a time gone by and the unique collecting habits of H. F. du Pont, they should not conceal the cutting-edge, scientific object research that the institution also houses. The Tiffany lamps and the Staffordshire bears are among the most exciting, but by no means the only objects, which point to the important collaboration between curators and scientists in modern museum life.

Post by Tom Rusbridge, a second-year Ph.D. student from the University of Sheffield and visiting scholar at Winterthur until the end of April (funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities). Twitter: @tom_rusbridge

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Historians as Detectives

Chinese export porcelain, 1920-38. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1966.663; 1966.674; 1966.636; 1966.683.1; 1966.648a,b; 1966.645.1; 1966.638; 1966.639

One of the best examples of the difficulty involved in dating and verifying a genuine antique is represented by the Chinese export porcelain in the Intent section of the Treasures on Trial exhibition. These objects were not sold in a deceitful or malicious way. They were not sold with an exorbitant price tag to intentionally deceive gullible buyers and swindle them, but bought in good faith by H. F. du Pont in 1948 as an expansive set of 63 objects for $7,000. They were, however, incorrectly identified as dating from the late 1700s to the late 1890s by their first collectors, curators, and conservators. They successfully masqueraded under this identity until more extensive historical and scientific research was undertaken in the late 2000s that pinpointed their origins to the 1920s and ’30s.¹

The majority of scholars, however, had dated the porcelain to 1876, and the reason is simple: this fabulous collection of goods—a table screen, flower container, plate, tea canister, platter, punch bowl, jug, and sugar bowl from the exhibition as well as others on display in the main house—include artistic representations of John Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence painting, dated 1786–1818.

This set of objects is an opportunity to consider how historians and curators use objects as clues to determine when and where they were made. As the subtitle of the exhibition, The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, indicates, historians and curators are not only involved in interpretation but often need to act as detectives and piece together a story from clues and fragments. In many cases, these clues are the objects themselves. As historian Edward Muir pointed out, historians “share an assumption with detectives […] that the clues found in documents, at murder scenes, and in informants’ oral accounts point to something other than themselves.”²
 
For a wide range of historians, ceramics such as bowls, teacups, saucers, and teapots have long been a very important part of 18th-century practices of tea drinking, sociability, and new forms of behavior. This story has been pieced together by drawing on a range of sources, including contemporary images and drawings, conduct manuals, and personal journals. However, perhaps the most important source to understanding why these objects were particularly relevant to the 18th and 19th centuries is the common sense understanding of what the objects’ physical qualities would have enabled: the pouring, serving, and drinking of hot drinks. More recently, this has been expanded to include cold and alcoholic drinks and their associated objects in history such as punch bowls and tankards, which are part of this set.

Not on display in Treasures on Trial, but in Winterthur’s China Shop, is a covered soup tureen that forms part of the same set du Pont purchased in 1948. The object, which is slightly over eleven inches in length and eight inches in width and height, is exemplary of the set in demonstrating the full range of decorative features it uses en masse: overglaze enamel decoration, an American eagle holding a banner, Trumbull’s image, the use of bright colors, a floral border, and a prominently displayed “1776” at the base of the tureen. Research into the chemical composition of these goods ultimately dated them in the 20th century, but the scientific data was only one source of information in this case.³

Soup tureen, Jingdezhen, China, 1920-47. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1966.0669 A, B

 

The wrongly identified dates of manufacture of these objects has been a significant part of how they have been understood since. When the objects were first catalogued, the collection entry cards listed 1825–50. It was checked and validated in 1989, and a further museum report in March 1994 corroborated this date based on the form and design of the porcelain. A Los Angeles Times newspaper clipping in the object record of the tea canister cited the date as 1800–20. Most recently, a 2007 flyer for the Philadelphia Antiques Show listed circa 1870 as the date of manufacture.4

Similarly, while James Henry is frequently cited as the seller, H. F. du Pont’s personal correspondence and bills show that Henry was using paper with the letterhead of Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Although James Henry is now understood to be the seller, on face value it is not clear whether he was conducting a personal transaction on business papers or acting on the university’s behalf.

These porcelains serve to demonstrate how working with an incomplete record can create long-lasting misunderstandings and how historians and curators are often detectives when working with these objects. Nevertheless, by tracing clues and fragments, their work can reveal overlapping histories of objects both at their point of origin, through their collection, and—for these goods— their eventual museum home.

Post by Tom Rusbridge, a second-year Ph.D. student from the University of Sheffield and visiting scholar at Winterthur until the end of April (funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities). Twitter: @tom_rusbridge

¹R. Fuchs and J. Mass, ”Deciphering The Declaration of Independence on Chinese Export Porcelain” in American Ceramic Circle Journal 15 (2009), p. 169

²E. Muir, “Introduction: Observing Trifles” in E. Muir and G. Ruggiero, Microhistory and the Lost People of Europe (1991) p. xiv

³Fuchs and Mass, pp. 177–180

4 Registrars object folders, Winterthur Museum

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Timing is Everything

Exhibitions often represent a point in time, and although Winterthur’s new exhibition Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes has been a project two-and-a-half years in the making, its arrival in early 2017 could not have been more opportune. Following political and cultural changes across the globe in 2016—a fraught U.S. presidential election and the British Brexit vote—the public relationship with news media has changed substantially, and “fake news” has become a staple part of discussions around current affairs. Integral to the challenge that a culture of fake news poses for traditional forms of information is the contested role and value of expert opinion which, if once authoritative, is now more readily challenged and open to public or inexpert scrutiny.

These changes in the political environment amount to a culture in which the nature of information has changed substantially, and this reflects challenges faced by museums, scholars, and collectors as well as politicians and newscasters. The issues of what is genuine, how far expert opinion matters, and how fakery and authenticity have an impact on value are concepts explored by Treasures on Trial, alongside some fascinating detective work.

Visitors to the new exhibition are asked to explore the grey space between fact, fiction, forgery, fraud, and fakery materially, viewing and examining a truly wide-ranging collection of objects drawn from home collections and other places, including the FBI’s New York Office and The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass.

The structure of the exhibition—four rooms entitled: Intent, Evidence, Proof, and You Be the Judge— invite visitors to engage with a range of issues connected to material evidence. In the Intent section of the exhibition, visitors explore how, when, and where these fake objects were manufactured. More pressingly, what was the motivation of the person who created them? In the evidence portion, the exhibition explores how modern conservation experts and scientists use up-to-date techniques to identify the materials and techniques of the objects, differentiating replicas from the genuine article. In the Proof section, visitors are shown the process in which material data is combined with connoisseurship and other evidence to make a definite case for fraud, forgery, or fakery. In the final room, three unique cases of material evidence are presented—two paintings and a nineteenth-century Vampire Killing Kit—and visitors are encouraged to make their choice. Are these objects genuine or are they fake news?

Throughout the exhibition, one of the most important issues visitors are asked to consider is the inherent risk and instability involved when working with fake objects. For example, the first object a visitor sees upon entering the gallery is a fake Mark Rothko painting. Embroiled in the so-called Knoedler Scandal, this object —a mass of blue sitting atop a deep red lower section of painted canvas—was produced by a skilled Chinese forger. When the Knoedler Gallery was discovered in 2011 to be dealing in forgeries, it suddenly closed its doors.¹ Although the Knoedler Gallery has privately made settlements with those who bought the fakes under the auspices of their authenticity, it is now with the courts to decide whether the gallery was complicit in these dealings, or whether this was as unknowing mistake. Similarly, the baseball memorabilia lining the back wall of the first room speaks both to the interactions many ordinary individuals may have had with supposedly authentic goods and how convincing these fakes may be. Here baseball bats purportedly signed by Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, a mitt supposedly used by Babe Ruth, and a forged certificate of authenticity are evidence of objects deliberately forged with the intent to deceive, set against the possible unknowing mistake of the Knoedler Gallery. Until ratted out, the seller of the glove alone could have stood to make $200,000.

Painting in the style of Mark Rothko
Pei-Shen Qian
Courtesy of Luke Nikas

Louisville Slugger wooden baseball bat
Purportedly signed by Joe DiMaggio; early 20th century
Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Office

Genuine antique full web workman baseball glove
Purported to have been used by Babe Ruth; 1890s
Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Office

While the differences between these two objects suggest possible differences in the aims and intents of their sellers, the similarities bear much more meaning for the exhibition and its importance to today. This is very much a living exhibition. As Linda Eaton, co-curator, suggested on a walk through for museum staff and scholars, many of the objects on display have particular significance for people alive today. It is a salient reminder that the objects we collect are as impactful for real people as the common and dangerous lexicon of fake news.

Post by Tom Rusbridge, a second-year Ph.D. student from the University of Sheffield and visiting scholar at Winterthur until the end of April (funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities). Twitter: @tom_rusbridge

¹ J. Jones, ‘‘Fake Rothko trial reduces tragic art to farce,” The Guardian Online, February 2, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2016/feb/02/fake-rothko-trial-reduces-tragic-art-to-farce. Accessed April 7, 2017.

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A Closer Look: Winterthur’s Dollond Telescope

Taking a closer look has a double-meaning when a telescope is the object of our gaze. This one, with a mahogany wood barrel and brass fittings for glass lenses, is a special treasure in the Winterthur collection. It seems enormous by today’s standards for personal telescopes— about 50 inches long— and although not heavy, is awkward to hold steady at your eye. The barrel’s exterior has 10 faceted, tapering sides, and it may be mounted on a tripod stand. Two brass straps encircling the case near the end were added sometime later to stabilize a few long cracks in the mahogany.

Telescope, 1760‒80; mahogany, brass, glass. Made by Dollond, London, England. Winterthur Museum, Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont, 1961.1488.

The Museum of the American Revolution, opening April 19, asked Winterthur to lend a historically significant telescope, so we scheduled a light cleaning session with conservator Linda Lennon. As we worked together, I became eager to share its hidden elements and history as well as a few photos taken during the process. You can see Linda demonstrating how the brass tube fits inside the mahogany case (eyepiece already removed).  

                     

Before any treatment begins, we always update our research and visually assess an object. I knew the brass tube had an engraved inscription added long after the first owner’s lifetime:                             

“Spy Glass of the celebrated J. Paul Jones, who gave it to J. Ross, whose Son in law S. Breck, presents it to S.F. Du Pont, of U.S.N., as a token of his high estimation of Capt. Du Pont’s public services and private virtues. Phila\a March 1851.”

Telescope was the favored name for this instrument within the international science community, but spyglass was also in common use among English-speaking mariners.

The “Capt. Du Pont” was Samuel F. DuPont (1803–1865), a relative of Winterthur Museum’s founder H. F. du Pont, which helps explain why I found this telescope tucked into the corner of a bedroom floor in the Winterthur house beneath a portrait of John Paul Jones (1747–1792). Jones, a Scottish-born merchant and captain, immigrated to North America when it was still a British colony, but he became a fierce adversary at sea. In 1776 Jones directed his mastery of maritime arts and warfare tactics to lead the emerging American navy. Today Jones retains the reputation of a daring and dauntless Revolutionary War naval commander, a reputation bolstered by ample historical fact and patriotic nostalgia.

John Paul Jones, ca. 1777‒85; ink on laid paper. Engraved by Carl Guttenberg after C.J. Notté; published by Esnauts et Rapilly, Paris, France. Winterthur Museum, Museum purchase, 1976.87.4

Jones’s history makes the telescope a notable artifact, but the most recent owner also achieved fame during his lifetime. Samuel F. DuPont rose within the ranks of the young navy that Jones helped build, ultimately becoming a Rear Admiral during the Civil War. Today he is nationally remembered at DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. The inscribed date of 1851 may be in recognition of his military service off the coast of California during the Mexican-American War as well as his work to professionalize the U.S. Navy.

Paul Jones’s life lamentably ended at age 45, while he lived in Paris. I am still searching for a direct link for this telescope to the Philadelphia merchant John Ross sometime before Jones died. I suspect that just before Ross’s son-in-law placed the telescope into DuPont’s hands, the barrel was repaired, and the brass spyglass given a serious polishing for the engraved dedication, which still looks fresh today.

My new research identifies the third stellar name on this telescope. The stamp of a maker, “DOLLOND” appears just above the shop’s location, London, on the telescope’s original sliding lens cover.           

In the 1760–80s, when the telescope was made, Peter Dollond and his brother John Dollond, Jr., began running their father’s business specializing in scientific instruments. Their father, John, an innovator in optics, received an important 1758 patent for achromatic lenses used in refracting telescopes. The Dollond firm became known for superior lenses and produced a range of telescopes for British customers as well as for international scientific and military needs.

Peter Dollond participated in the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia), and the society received an achromatic telescope as a gift from another member in 1784. A few early Americans sought these costly instruments—Thomas Jefferson owned two. I found a newspaper announcement from 1810 announcing that one of Dollond’s large achromatic telescopes had arrived for use at the University of Pennsylvania. Jones’s telescope was still a valued instrument in 1851 but unlikely to have been used by Admiral DuPont.

This photo pictures the inner brass spyglass. It seems that all the original lenses and components are still intact, although one cracked glass had to be stabilized. In the next photo you can see that the brazed seams in the tube above are actually three separate segments that draw apart further and encase a smaller lens tube. All of the spyglass parts and threaded brass rings to hold each lens in place are shown here.

It’s not every day that we get to dismantle an historic instrument, so Linda took great care tracking which lens fit each bezel. After this telescope is cleaned and the case is lightly waxed, it will be reassembled for an exhibition where it will represent the best optical technology available to the American Navy during the War for Independence. It is in pretty splendid condition considering it was used at sea and on land about 250 years ago. Today, we can search on a website dedicated to marine traffic to discover a ship’s homeport and cargo, but this instrument’s carefully ground lenses and their proportionate design brought a distant ship or horizon into clearer sight.

By Ann Wagner, Curator of Decorative Arts, Winterthur, with special thanks to Winterthur conservators Linda Lennon and Bruno Pouliot and photographer Jim Schneck.

These projects were supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services

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The Fad for the Orient: Early Twentieth-Century Trade Catalogues and U.S. Fiction

Desk and bookcase, mid-18th century. Zoe Oliver and Charles H. Sherman Fund, 2015. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

My residency at the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Garden last year coincided with the opening of the exhibition Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, which focused on how Asian art objects traveled to North and South America in the first wave of globalization (roughly estimated as 17th– 19th centuries) and featured cabinetry, textiles, and silverwork of truly impressive craftsmanship.

By chance, I was at Winterthur to learn about Asian goods in America but was studying a different cultural and historical moment— the rise in mass markets for Eastern products in the early 20th century. Therefore, I spent my time not in the museum surrounded by exquisite lacquerware or intricately woven tapestries but rather poring over trade catalogues in the library archives and learning about cheaply produced everyday objects that populated the homes of average U.S. citizens.

I went into the project knowing that a fad for Eastern objects existed—one that in fact dated much earlier than period I was interested in—but I had no idea just how prevalent it was. The diversity and amount of Eastern merchandise marketed to U.S. consumers in the early 20th century, whether authentic or (more commonly) faux, is staggering. In addition to popular items like divans, ottomans, or Turkish rugs, consumers could also purchase a wide variety of goods with, according to retailers, “Oriental” designs, such as rose jars, vases, bottles, teapots, cups and saucers, spice dishes, toothpick holders, egg cups, sardine boxes, sake cups, baking fish dishes, shirred egg dishes, spoon holders, candle snuffers, match boxes, inkstands, earthen figures, porcelain figures, bon-bon boxes, puff boxes, pomade boxes, tobacco jars, ash trays or receivers, Calcutta water coolers, umbrella stands, cuspidors, garden seats, paper cutters, napkin rings, masks, crumb trays and brushes, flasks, lanterns, gongs, and scent bottles.

The list goes on.

I generated this particular inventory from a single catalogue put out by A. A. Vantine & Co., a New York-based specialty store that advertised itself as “Importers from the Empires of Japan, China, India, Turkey, Persia and the East.”

Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, n.d.

Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, 1917.

 For Vantine’s and other traders in goods branded “Oriental,” the Orient or the East was defined in expansive terms; it referred at once to the Far East, the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. These stores collapsed together very different cultures considered “other” and exotic in order to turn a profit. In a sense, they created the Orient by tapping into Western fantasies about the East.

Specialty stores like Vantine’s were not alone in fostering and escalating the fad for Eastern merchandise. Ordinary department stores also got in the game, with, for example, Montgomery Ward & Co. retailing Eastern-inspired women’s fashions, such as kimonos and turbans, and Larkin & Co. selling “Oriental” perfume.

Advertisement for Woman’s Turban, Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue, Spring and Summer, 1927.

Advertisement for Chypre Perfume, Larkin Co. Catalogue, Spring and Summer, 1926.

Sears, Roebuck, & Co. and Marshall Field & Co. favored home furnishings like rugs.

Cover of Marshall Field & Co.’s Home Crest Floor Coverings Catalogue, 1922-1923.

 The trend even extended to foodstuffs. Vantine’s regularly advertised what it called “Oriental delicacies,” including tea and crystallized Chinese fruits, while companies like Hills Bros. billed their dromedary dates as food favored by “princesses of the Orient.”

Early 20th century U.S. consumers could purchase goods not only to put into every room of their home—kitchen, bedroom, living room, bathroom, or den—but also, more intimately, to put on their bodies or in their bodies in the form of foods to eat.

As a scholar of U.S. literature, I wanted to better understand how Eastern objects figure in U.S. narratives, particularly short stories and novels from the 1910s–1930s. These objects made their way into the pages of literary fiction from that period with a surprising frequency. What accounts for this phenomenon? Are authors merely reflecting cultural trends or is something else happening? In short, what narrative work do these Eastern objects perform?

Sometimes these objects appear for sensationalist effects, particularly in middlebrow magazine fiction. For example, one thriller by Richard Washburn Child, “The Screen” (1921, The Pictorial Review), generates most of its tension from the titular Japanese screen, a peculiarly animate object behind which a murderous man hides.

Close-Up of Illustration by Robert McQuinn for Richard Washburn Child’s “The Screen,” The Pictorial Review, Mar. 1921.

Similarly, in May Sinclair’s “The Token” (1922, The Pictorial Review), a small figurine of the Buddha seemingly holds magical powers, including the ability to bring back the dead. The authors use these objects to immediately conjure foreignness and, by extension, mystery and danger. We might think of this practice, which of course relies upon stereotypes about Eastern allure or peril, as form of shorthand.

My research focuses on another sort of shorthand role that Eastern goods play in literature from this period—they routinely signal characters’ social status. For instance, Sinclair Lewis and Edith Wharton used such objects to announce and satirize middle class or nouveau riche characters’ pretensions. In bestsellers like Lewis’s Main Street (1920) and Wharton’s The Glimpses of the Moon (1922), characters purchase and use Eastern objects in a misguided attempt to access what they perceive to be high culture.

For example, Main Street’s Carol Kennicott, a new resident in the small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, throws an “Oriental” housewarming party to show how urbane and creative she is. All of the paraphernalia for the party could have been bought at Vantine’s: guests wear “Oriental robes” and eat chow mein, chop suey, and lychee nuts while sitting amongst Japanese bric-a-brac. While Carol may be more adventurous than her new neighbors, she is not truly worldlier. Lewis pokes fun at her affectations, suggesting that the difference between Gopher Prairie and Carol’s hometown of St. Paul, which she perceives as a sophisticated metropolis, is in fact minimal.

Wharton does something similar with characters like Violet Melrose of Glimpses. Violet decorates her Versailles chalet with Eastern wares, including “leopard skins” and a “pillowy divan.” However, she doesn’t know the difference between China and India.

In lampooning Violet in this way, Wharton goes so far as to suggest that buying Eastern products might preclude genuine knowledge of the East. This type of armchair cosmopolitanism is precisely the sort of experience stores like Vantine offered. As one catalogue declared, “This Book Brings the Offerings of the Orient to Your Door. It enables you to rest comfortably at home in your easy chair, and, at your leisure, select by mail, with absolute confidence, from the largest collection of Oriental goods in America.”

Interior Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, 1917

The image accompanying this pronouncement features a fantasy bazaar, an oddly mixed space conjuring regions as different as China, Japan, and North Africa. A white woman comfortably wanders down this uncanny street, seemingly not noticing its incongruities. This is the woman that Lewis and Wharton satirize in their 1920s novels. Like Carol Kennicutt and Violet Melrose, she doesn’t know or care about the differences among these cultures. Her goal is merely to buy something that will display to others her supposed refinement.

Post by Margaret A. Toth, associate professor of English and director of the Film Studies minor at Manhattan College. She has published essays in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, MELUS, and Legacy and is currently working on a manuscript titled “Edith Wharton and Post-War Cultures: Reflections on Art and Faith.” https://manhattan.edu/campus-directory/margaret.toth

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Blossoming Prints: The Dutch Flower Still Life Tradition at Winterthur

H. F. du Pont in the Azalea Woods at Winterthur, spring 1958.

Winterthur welcomes the first day of spring with printed flowers in bloom! Visitors to Winterthur know that Henry Francis du Pont’s love of flowers and gardens extended to his collecting and decorating practices. In addition to displaying fresh flowers in many rooms at Winterthur, Mr. du Pont exhibited paintings, prints, and drawings of floral bouquets throughout both the museum and his later home at Winterthur, the Cottage.

View of the Main Hall in the Cottage in 1994, showing a Dutch Baroque flower still life painting from the circle of Jacob de Wit (1695–1754), a follower of Jan van Huysum. Circle of Jacob de Wit, Putti supporting Baskets of Flowers with Birds and Fruit, on stone ledges. Oil on canvas, 52 x 46 ½ in. Sold, Christie’s, 1994.

Although he selected these works solely for their decorative appeal, there is a rich historical tradition of flower imagery that is present throughout the collection at Winterthur.

The floral still life genre dates to seventeenth- century Holland, a period known as the Dutch Golden Age. Dutch flower paintings functioned as decorative images, specimens for scientific investigation, and symbols of the passage of time. The works of Jan van Huysum (1682–1749), a leading Dutch flower painter, embody these functions. Van Huysum examined flowers closely so that he could paint them as naturalistically as possible. At the same time, his canvases were very imaginative, combining foreign and local flowers from different seasons in an artificially arranged bouquet.

Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, European artists emulated van Huysum’s bouquets in paintings and prints, and many examples can be found at Winterthur, such as an oil painting inspired by van Huysum and watercolors painted by his followers—all created in the eighteenth century. Van Huysum’s works reached a wider audience through prints however. Two mezzotints at Winterthur represent van Huysum’s lavish compositions in rich tones and delicate surfaces, created by Austrian printmaker Johann Peter Pichler (1765–1807).

Early nineteenth-century Austrian prints after paintings by Jan van Huysum. Johann Pichler after  Jan van Huysum, Still life with flowers and bird’s nest and Still life with flowers and fruit.       Mezzotints, 23 ½ x 17 ½ in., 1994.110.1-2

Pichler probably saw the original van Huysum painting Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest while working in Vienna as it hung there in the Czernin collection (today in the Scottish National Gallery). The printed bouquets seem to be growing wildly before our eyes, barely contained within the boundaries of the plate. The lush still lifes have meticulous botanical details, such as buds in all phases of bloom, gathered in vases decorated with classical nudes.

Extravagant bouquets featuring different varieties of flowers as well as various insects and fruits made the exotic attainable for print consumers near and far. For instance, a number of prints after paintings by Dutch still life artist Pieter Casteels (1648–1749) were published in Britain in the mid-eighteenth century and collected as far away as the American colonies. These prints commemorated the months of the year in flowers. Winterthur owns a full calendar set entitled Flora, published in 1745 by John Bowles to meet the high demand for fanciful flower pictures.

Two hand-colored etchings from a set representing calendar months published in 1745, after 12 paintings of the same subject done by Dutch still life artist Pieter Casteels from 1730–31.            Thomas Bowles and J. Clark after Pieter Casteels, MARCH and JUNE. Line etched with minimal burin work and hand colored, 14 x 10 in. 1966.1048.3 and 1966.1048.6

The set of thirteen etchings featured one bouquet per month plus a title page introducing the pleasures of the garden. All of the flowers were labelled and grouped according to the month in which they bloomed. Some months included flora from America, which was as foreign to the British as the Dutch tulips that stemmed from the Ottoman Empire. Bowles’s bouquets were prized for both botanical accuracy and aesthetic invention, depicting elegantly curved stems, heavy hanging blossoms, and delicate sprigs of leaves in balanced yet asymmetric compositions.

Most floral illustrations were printed in black and white, though they were sometimes hand painted after printing, such as in popular natural histories like William Bartram’s Travels from America. To show flowers in color not only recorded nature more accurately but also enhanced the aesthetic pleasure of looking at flowers in bloom. Printing in color would increase production and allow for potentially more vibrant colors. Two exciting, recent Winterthur acquisitions demonstrate a pioneering color printing technique applied to popular flower still life bouquets that were produced for public consumption.

Two rare, late seventeenth-century Dutch color prints by Johannes Teyler and workshop, after flower bouquet designs by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer. Johannes Teyler, A Bouquet in a Black Urn and A Bouquet in a Brown Urn. Etchings printed in colors à la poupée, 6 ½ x 4 ½ in., 2017.5.1-.2.

Attributed to Dutch engraver and inventor Johannes Teyler (1648–ca. 1709), A Bouquet in a Black Urn and A Bouquet in a Brown Urn are etchings and engravings made with the innovative method of printing à la poupée, where colored ink was selectively applied to the printing plate. This effectively created “printed paintings,” as each impression was unique. These and hundreds of other prints produced in Teyler’s workshop represent the first flourishing of true intaglio color printing in the West.

Like the printmakers who looked to paintings by van Huysum and Casteels, Teyler’s workshop of engravers and designers often took inspiration from existing European paintings. Winterthur’s prints were modelled after painted bouquets by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636–1699), a Flemish flower painter working in France whose compositions included alien and familiar flora. For example, the Black Urn contains a tropical pink mallow and a northern rose in shadow. Teyler’s exotic subjects, dazzling colors, and beautiful designs proved to have international appeal as his prints were collected during or shortly after his own lifetime by British statesmen.

Many of the fantastic flowers illustrated here were recently digitized thanks to a 2016 Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Please enjoy these plush prints in our online database or in person at Winterthur, where you can also appreciate our blooming March Bank in the garden!

For more floral-themed objects in the Winterthur collection, visit the Flowery Thoughts: Ceramic Vases & Floral Ornament exhibit on view in the Galleries at Winterthur.

Post by Liz Simmons, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the University of Delaware and Graduate Assistant in the Museum Collections Department at Winterthur

References

Fowble, E. McSherry. Two centuries of prints in America, 1680-1880: a selective catalogue of the Winterthur Museum collection. Charlottesville: Published for the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum by the University Press of Virginia, 1987, 224-227.

Taylor, Paul. Dutch flower painting, 1600-1720. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Turner, Simon. “Opus typo-chromaticum: The Colour Prints of Johannes Teyler.” In Printing in Colour 1400-1700: History, Techniques, Functions and Receptions. Eds. Ad Stijnman and Elizabeth Savage. Leiden: Brill, 2015, 196-206.

 

Posted in Academic Programs, art collections, Du Pont Family, House, museum collection, Paintings, Prints, Photos & Drawings, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment


The Julia Child of Needlework

The second blog post in our New Accessions series features the needlework of Erica Wilson (1928-2011) recently donated to Winterthur by her family. Quite modern compared to the majority of Winterthur’s decorative arts collection (most of which were made before 1860), Wilson’s works are an exciting new addition to the collection because they exemplify the continued importance and history of needlecraft in America into the twentieth century.

This photograph of Erica Wilson was posted by her husband, modern furniture designer, Vladimir Kagan, to his blog in 2012. He captioned it “Erica Wilson at home with flowers and wool – her favorite pallet for colors.” http://vladimirkagan.typepad.com/vladimir-kagans-blog/2012/02/

Known as “America’s First Lady of Stitchery” and the “Julia Child of Needlework,” Wilson was a key leader of the needlework revival that began in the 1960s. One of the most prominent and successful needlework entrepreneurs of the second half of the twentieth century, Wilson inspired a new generation to try their hand at traditional crafts that were long out of fashion.

Wilson was born in Tidworth, England, in 1928 and was raised in England, Scotland, and Bermuda. According to family tradition, it was Wilson’s mother who suggested she consider attending the Royal School of Needlework in London (RSN), a fateful decision that ultimately shaped Wilson’s life and career.

Founded in 1872, the RSN revived the art of hand embroidery that had almost disappeared with the rise of machines for textile production. The school quickly attracted students and staff. By the beginning of the 20th century, RSN employed about 150 women, who taught classes and worked special commissioned projects, such as the gold embroidery on Queen Elizabeth II’s Purple Coronation Robe of Estate. The project was worked during Erica Wilson’s time at the school (1948­-1954), and it took a total of 3,500 hours to complete.

Royal School of Needlework employees embroidering Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Robe of State in 1953. From http://www.thehousedirectory.com/blog/royal_school_of_needlework

Queen Elizabeth II with her coronation maids of honor, 1953. From http://orderofsplendor.blogspot.com/2012/02/flashback-friday-queens-coronation-gown.html

Several items now in the Winterthur collection highlight Wilson’s training in traditional needlework techniques, such as crewelwork, whitework, blackwork, and goldwork.

Crewelwork “Elizabethan Lady,” by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1973. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.5.2.

Whitework “Elizabethan Lady,” created by Erica Wilson at the Royal School of Needlework, London, circa 1948-1952. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.5.1.

Blackwork vest panel embroidery, by Erica Wilson, after 1954. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.7.

Goldwork embroidery, by Erica Wilson, after 1954, Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.6.

As a student, she proved her proficiency in these different techniques by creating samplers. Her long, narrow reference sampler shows her mastery of the seven basic stitches of needlework (stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filing) and also her ability to work in a variety of materials, including silk, wool, and metallic thread.

Reference Sampler, created by Erica Wilson at the Royal School of Needlework, London, circa 1948-1952. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.0047.001.

After graduating in 1952 with a Diploma in Embroidery and Design, Wilson stayed on at the Royal School an additional two years as an “Instructress.” In 1954, she was recruited by Margaret Parshall, an American visiting the RSN, to teach at a needlework school she was establishing in Millbrook, New York. Wilson’s reputation in the United States blossomed quickly and led to new opportunities: additional teaching invitations (including at the Cooper Hewitt School in New York City), the production of popular correspondence courses that taught the technique of crewelwork (or embroidery with wool thread), and in 1962, the publication of her first instructional book, Crewel Embroidery. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, the book was a hit, selling over a million copies. Its success subsequently led to the publication of over a dozen more books over the next several decades.

Erica Wilson’s first publication, Crewel Embroidery, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1962. http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/23/living/by-hand/the-embroidery-influence-of-erica-wilson-lingers-on/

Encouraged and supported throughout her career by her husband and business partner, famed modern furniture designer Vladimir Kagan, Wilson also pioneered several new methods for introducing novice audiences to needlecraft. When creating her custom designs, Wilson branched out beyond historic tradition. She designed whimsical patterns that appealed to modern crafters and drew inspiration from some of her favorite children’s books, including the stories of Beatrix Potter. Many of these designs were shared through “Erica Wilson’s Creative Needlework Society,” established in 1971 as a division of the Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc., that sent out needlework projects to tens of thousands of society members.

Hunca Munca from Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), around 1972. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.21.

Peter Rabbit, “Love is a shared umbrella,” by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1979. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.20

Jacobean-scalloped flower crewel correspondence course kit, instruction manual, and completed embroidery, distributed by Erica Wilson’s Creative Needlework Society, after 1971. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.70.1 and 2015.47.68.1

Her most visible public endeavor was her television program Erica, which Wilson hosted beginning in 1971 on Boston’s PBS affiliate WGBH and broadcast nationally. Episodes of the program focused on an individual technique such as cross-stitch and bargello or themes like sentiments in stitches.

Bargello spot sampler, by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1973. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.2.

During the 15-minute show, Wilson gave a brief history of the subject, displayed several historic examples, and used her own works in progress to break down and teach her viewers basic techniques. Erica was filmed in the studio next door to where Julia Child’s The French Chef was filmed, and Wilson’s efforts to “demystify” the art of embroidery earned her the nickname “The Julia Child of Needlework.” (OpenVault by WGHS has recently digitized nearly 24 episodes of Erica, which can be viewed online).

Opening credits to the “Crewel Point” episode of Erica, first aired January 25, 1972. The television program ran on PBS stations nationally from 1971 to 1972, and 1975 to 1976. http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_41245820CE9940B9935D0285C8C7B7AA

Wilson’s legacy lives on through the over 80 examples of her work now in the Winterthur collection. Her works will aid future scholars studying American textile and business history, and as she always aimed to do, will continue to inspire new people to embrace the beauty and fun of embroidery.

Several of Erica Wilson’s needlework pieces will be on display in May 2017 in Collecting for the Future: Recent Additions to the Winterthur Collection.

Post by Nalleli Guillen, Sewell C. Biggs Curatorial Fellow, Museum Collections Department, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

References

Fox, Margalit. “Erica Wilson Dies at 83; Led a Rebirth of Needleworking,” The New York Times, December 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/nyregion/erica-wilson-dies-at-83-led-a-rebirth-of-needleworking.html

Hilker, Anne. Unpublished interviews with Vladimir Kagan on his late wife, Erica Wilson, May 9 and 10, 2014. (Special thanks to Anne, who presented her knowledge of Erica Wilson’s life and work during a work shop at Winterthur’s 2016 Needlework Conference and graciously shared selections of her Ph.D. dissertation research with us).

Reif, Rita. “Her Home is Also Her Studio—And She’s Very Happy About It,” The New York Times, December 20, 1971.

Sikarskie, Amanda Grace. “Erica Wilson: The Julia Child of Needlework.” http://openvault.wgbh.org/exhibits/needlework/article#footnote-2

Wilson, Erica. Crewel Embroidery. New York: Charles Scribern’s Sons. 1963.

Wilson, Erica. Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1973.

Posted in Decorative Arts, Exhibitions, galleries, museum collection, needlework, Textiles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Paper Dolls and the Cycling Craze

The 1890s was a momentous decade for women. Not only was the suffragette movement gaining worldwide momentum with New Zealand and South Australia enfranchising women, but sea changes in fashion also transformed the daily lives of women. Despite dress reform advocates warning women of the dangers of tight corsets and fighting for sensible, non-restrictive clothing for decades, it was an invention that made practical changes which years of rhetoric could not— the bicycle.

The bicycling craze swept the nation in the 1890s, with insatiable demand keeping nearly 2,000 manufacturers in business. Numerous manuals were published to instruct riders on road etiquette, proper breathing and riding technique, and accident prevention. Sometimes referred to as steel horses, bikes were a cheaper, faster, and more adaptable means of transportation that fostered both self-reliance and sociability. Earlier uncomfortable and unsafe models transformed into safety bicycles featuring cushion and pneumatic tires, coaster brakes, and most importantly a drop frame that was easier for women to mount and navigate.

1880s trade card advertising ordinary bicycles with the large front wheel and much smaller rear wheel. These models were impossible for women to ride with long skirts, with slower tricycles deemed more appropriate for their restrictive clothing. Col. 9, Downs Collection, Winterthur Library

The sport’s attractions elicited endorsements from such luminaries in the women’s movement as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Anthony stated “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”  Stanton also noted the connection between women’s health and the health of the nation, commenting that the bicycle will “make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.”

All this goodwill and interest in bicycling helped to propel the liberating direction that women’s clothing had been moving in. By 1890 the unnecessary bustle was finally eliminated, and the following decade witnessed shortened skirts (with extra fabric seemingly migrating to sleeves) and loosened corsets, enabling women to effortlessly cycle their way to good health and independence.

Paper doll bicycle costume from an 1895 issue of The Boston Sunday Herald showing a shorter skirt. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

The more radical bloomers, enjoying only a limited popularity since the 1840s, finally became widely accepted as the standard cycling costume for women.

Dolls from an 1898 Art Supplement to The Philadelphia Press cycling their way to freedom. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Paper dolls, helping to fuel the craze especially among young girls, easily and immediately sported the new fashions. With the print explosion in the second half of the 1800s, paper dolls were readily circulated in serial publications like newspapers and women’s magazines. In the mid-1890s, the periodicals Boston Sunday Herald and The Philadelphia Press offered the latest cycling fashions for all readers to enjoy and imitate.

Advertisers wisely created paper dolls as a tool in their marketing arsenals. The Pope Manufacturing Company, the largest bicycle maker in the world at the time, promoted its lightweight models to women and young girls through a series of dolls with detailed clothing descriptions. In a time when images of celebrities could be used without compensation, the stage actress Georgia Cayvan (1857-1906) may or may not have approved of her commercial appearance for Pope. At least her six outfits used in Pope’s promotion (a series mailed to anyone in exchange for five 2-cent stamps), were designed by leading couture houses like British high-end sportswear firm Redfern. Garbed in unlined, loose-fitting Zouave trousers, or bloomers, and a short jacket and face protected from harsh winds by chiffon, one Cayvan doll stands astride her Columbia bicycle ready for adventure.

Georgia Cayvan doll modeling her loose bloomers for ease in pedaling and maneuvering on her Pope bicycle. Reverse details her clothing. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Georgia Cayvan doll modeling her loose bloomers for ease in pedaling and maneuvering on her Pope bicycle. Reverse details her clothing. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Although it’s unknown whether Cayvan actually wore an outfit such as this one, it was undoubtedly much more comfortable and practical than the Libby Glass Company glass dress she had donned and exhibited at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Thankfully glass dresses never became a fad.

Cayvan in her glass dress at the World’s Columbian Exposition. T500 C53b F, Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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Artists’ Handmade Paper Dolls

One day I decided to hunt our Waldron Collection for handmade paper dolls by known or professional women artists. My interest was piqued after using illustrator Frances Brundage’s paper dolls from the 1890s set “Children from Many Lands,” sold by Raphael Tuck & Sons, in a library exhibit, and I hoped to find dolls that artists may have created for their own amusement. “Little Women” fans know of the paper dolls played with by the Alcott sisters, presumably made by Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister May Alcott, later known for her still life paintings. After all, creating paper dolls is an entertaining way to practice rendering poses, facial expressions, and clothing.

Sarah Goodridge’s self-portrait, 1829. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, posted originally on Flickr as Miniature Painting, Sarah Goodridge: Self Portrait by freeparking

Our Waldron Collection database lists dolls made by Sarah Goodridge (1788–1853). What a find, for while not now a household name, miniature painter Goodridge (sometimes Goodrich) was a respected artist sought after by many famous people in the early 1800s. A humble beginning that began with first self-instruction and then evolved to training by an unidentified miniature painter, propelled her to open her own studio in Boston in 1820 and take lessons from Gilbert Stuart, the foremost American portraitist.  In several years, she was in regular demand by not only her former teacher Stuart but other notables such as China trader Russell Sturgis, newspaper publisher and author Isaiah Thomas, and Senator Daniel Webster.

Upon looking at the several dolls and various outfits attributed to Goodridge with our cataloger Laura Parrish, it was immediately apparent that at least two sets of hands, and maybe a few more, created them because while all the dolls are of a similar size between 2 and 3 inches, the clothing styles date from two different time periods. Mrs. Waldron, the collection’s donor, thankfully kept a 1940 letter by a Goodridge descendant’s husband stating one set was made by Sarah Goodridge, the other by her great niece Martha Harris Appleton Brown (1843–1919).

The first set contains one doll with four dresses in the high-waisted, slim silhouette style of the early 1810s, and therefore we can safely say made by Goodridge. The dresses have tags meant to be folded over the doll but don’t show much evidence of being played with as the creases aren’t deep. Goodridge was in her 20s at the time, early in her career, but obviously having advanced manual dexterity to execute them. Never having married, Goodridge lived with various siblings throughout most of her life and helped to support them with her artwork. In 1851 she moved in with her sister Beulah for her last two years.  Perhaps she instilled her love of paper dolls in Beulah’s granddaughter Martha and gave instructions on making them.

Doll with 4 dresses. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Doll in 1810s dress. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

The second set consists of several dolls, four girls, a boy, and a baby, with around 36 costumes. The fashions are from the early 1860s and support the statement that Brown made them. The back of one dress shows the paper was cut from an 1862 published report. Instead of sporting tags like the Goodridge clothing, these costumes were designed showing fronts and backs with slits at the neck to be placed over a doll’s head. Interestingly, most slits aren’t large enough to fit over the dolls’ heads—was this an error in craftsmanship or were these meant to be admired and not played with? While most dolls and clothing appear to be drawn by the same hand, a few don’t display the same level of skill and precision. The eldest of seven children, perhaps Martha used paper dolls as an activity with her younger siblings making most, but not all of the examples. While we can never say with utmost certainty who created these dolls, they were lovingly preserved for several generations of the family and now by us for all to admire.

Dolls with early 1860s outfits. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Dolls with early 1860s outfits. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Doll and dresses, with too-small slit in the green dress. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This is the second post in a series about paper dolls housed in the Winterthur Library’s Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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The History of Little Paper Dolls

It may seem incongruous that a renowned research library for the study of American decorative arts has an outstanding collection of paper dolls. This extensive and greatly used collection was donated in the 1970s and 1980s by Maxine Waldron, art teacher, amateur artist, and enthusiastic doll collector.  Miraculously surviving despite the medium’s fragility, these paper dolls offer much information to today’s researchers on fashion history and changing attitudes toward childhood. The collection spans several centuries and includes an assortment of dolls, such as handmade and printed dolls as well as ones from advertising, newspapers and magazines, and ones of well-known figures. The collection also includes dolls accompanied by boxes, books, cloth costumes, and greeting cards. Several sets from the late 1700s and early 1800s were fashion plates and not intended for children’s play.

The History of Little Fanny booklet. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Chapter 6 instructions on dressing Fanny. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

In 1810, printsellers and stationers Samuel Williams and Joseph Carr Fuller, located at the imaginatively named Temple of Fancy in Rathbone Place, London, published what is believed to be the first commercially printed paper doll intended for children’s use. Known as a toy book, The History of Little Fanny consists of a paper doll, several costume changes, and a small booklet housed in a slipcase. Fanny is not a full-length doll, only a head and bust. When the doll is slipped behind a costume, it measures only 4½ inches tall. Keeping with the early 19th-century notion of children’s toys imparting a much-needed morality tale, the story of Fanny is a lesson in obedience, with instructions on dressing her to symbolize her status in society.

At the beginning of this redemption story, told in couplets, Fanny, dressed in a white frock holding a doll, is a vain, idle child who is more concerned with her fine clothing and amusements than cultivating her mind with books. Rebelling against her mother’s edict forbidding her to unnecessarily wear her new fur-trimmed coat, muff, and bonnet, Fanny skips out of her house with her “wicked maid” only to befall tragedy when a beggar girl robs her of her finery, leaving Fanny in the thief’s tattered clothes. An unidentified woman hires Fanny as an errand girl and she then proceeds to work her way up the chain, first delivering fish, then milk and eggs. Fanny sports several, fairly decent outfits during her travails: a cloak with hat in hand to denote the beggar’s clothing and three dresses and accoutrements appropriate for delivering goods. Her luck changes one day when Fanny is tasked with bringing butter to her mother. Upon recognizing her house and afraid her mother will reject her, Fanny sits on the steps to cry. Her mother, seeing her grief-stricken daughter, folds her into a hug and all is forgiven. The last chapter concludes with a repentant Fanny attired in a modest frock holding a book in hand to reflect her new studious demeanor.

Fanny in an errand girl costume. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This 13-page toy book is targeted to a young audience, so adult readers shouldn’t focus on the gaps in the story (mainly the absence of a timeline that informs the length of Fanny’s suffering). Somewhat puzzling is Fanny’s ignorance of her address. However, most shocking are the lines “Had she but known her mother’s watchful eye/Follow’d her close, and was for ever nigh,” revealing her mother orchestrated or was at least aware of the punishment. This seems to go beyond a lesson in obedience.

Nevertheless, Little Fanny proved to be immensely popular, was reprinted numerous times, and even spawned other iterations. Advertised as the companion to Fanny, The History and Adventures of Little Henry also debuted in 1810 with Ellen, or the Naughty Girl Reclaimed close on its heels the following year. Ellen’s story resembles Fanny’s. It is of a disobedient girl who runs off to play in her nice clothing. The story takes a departure when Ellen falls into a muddy ditch ruining her clothes, thereby angering her father, who sends her to the school in the village kept by Ellen’s nurse. Ellen reacts very badly by throwing a book in the nurse’s face. Resisting her punishment, she runs away to the woods where a gypsy steals her cloak, which forces her into gathering sticks for work. Ellen falls ill, frightening the “cruel” gypsies, and a woman rescues her, nursing her back to health and giving her fruit to sell. Luckily, her mother catches sight of her, and Ellen’s return to grace is completed. This is a more convoluted story than Fanny’s, but at least her mother wasn’t a participant in the punishment.

Ellen in the woods after running away. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Instead of following the same disobedient formula, Henry’s adventures show how cruel fate can alter the course of someone’s life. Born to wealthy parents, baby Henry is left unattended outdoors one day by a careless nursemaid and swooped up by a gypsy. Despite his parents searching for him, Henry is not found and is raised by gypsies until sold to a chimney sweeper. Henry, running away from this life of drudgery, becomes a drummer in a soldier band and then a sailor working his way up to midshipman, respected by all. Somehow his parents finally discover his whereabouts, and a happy reunion takes place.
What strikes me as fascinating in the latter two stories of Ellen and Henry is the appearance of gypsies as an evil force. England’s history of dealing with Gypsies, Romas, and Travellers has always been a contentious one, beginning as early as 1530 under King Henry VIII with laws forbidding them to enter the country or face deportation. Despite the repeal of some anti-Gypsy laws in 1780, the fear still existed with new vagrancy legislation enacted in the 1820s, some of which is still on the books today. These early children’s toy books reflect the anti-Gypsy sentiment of the times, giving readers today another lesson in history not intended by the original creators.

Henry as a midshipman. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This is the first post in a series about paper dolls housed in the Winterthur Library’s Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.
Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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