I'm just returned from a glorious day at Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, and as is always the case, I've been inspired, awed, and amused. Established by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur's vast museum collection contains nearly 90,000 objects, featuring decorative and fine arts made or used in American from 1630-1860.
Obviously, not everything is on display at once, so there's always something new to discover as different pieces are cycled through the galleries or presented as part of special exhibitions. The collection is wide-ranging and endlessly fascinating, from exquisite needlework to master cabinetry, priceless portraits to elegant chamberpots (a post on 19th c. bourdaloues at Winterthur remains one of our all-time most popular.) Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of the most intriguing pieces I saw today.
One of my earliest blog posts was on "lovers' eyes", the small brooches and rings made popular in the late 18th c. by the Prince Regent and his lover Maria Fitzherbert. I've always liked them, and was delighted to spy this one today. Painted in watercolor on elephant ivory, this eye seemed particularly lively, which makes me guess the rest of the lady was merry as well. That guess is as good as any, since the identity of both the lady and the recipient of this brooch have long been forgotten. The painting is framed by a gold snake swallowing its own tail – a sentimental symbol of eternity, and eternal love. It's a very small brooch, only about an inch across, making it easy to wear secretly pinned inside a coat, or on the underside of a lapel. A most romantic little love token, isn't it?
Above: Pin/Brooch, England or America; 1790-1830, Winterthur Museum Collections, Gift of Roland E. Jester in memory of Margo Jester.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.