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Album of domestic interiors and figures in fashionable dress.

Great Britain, circa 1860.
Physical Description:
1 v. ([32] p.) ; 23 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
HQ613 .A43 1850
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Information
Archives & Manuscripts
Inscribed, p. [32]: Given to Betty James, by Auntie Jennie, Christmas, 1920.
Binding: In original marbled wrappers. The paper is watermarked "R Turner, Chafford Mills."
Album of 65 drawings of domestic interiors and figures in fashionable dress, by an unidentified artist (probably a young British girl), circa 1860. The album documents fashionable domestic life in the mid-Victorian period, exhibiting a child's eye for detail. The handling is simple; most faces, for example, are drawn in simple profile. All of the drawings are in pen and black ink; roughly half are hand-colored. Most of the drawings have been pasted (presumably by their maker) to leaves in the album, the pages of which were previously used for writing exercises (apparently French lessons).
Almost all of the scenes depict groups of people (on walks, at parties, in the schoolroom, etc.) and pay special attention to clothing and costume, fabrics, and domestic furnishings, which are often carefully rendered in color. The girls and women wear billowing crinoline skirts (usually patterned and pleated), mantelets, hats and bonnets. The men wear trousers (sometimes tartan) and frockcoats. Outfits are very rarely repeated. Many of the characters are given names (Lady Shelburne, Lady Mary Vane, the Duchess of Argyle). Given the prominent social status of many of the named figures, it seems likely that the artist derived their depictions from contemporary news accounts or other secondary sources.
Based on the subject matter of the drawings in the present album, the maker appears to have had significant exposure to the lifestyle and surroundings of a comfortable family. Children are well-dressed, play with a variety of toys, and are minded by nurses and taught in well-appointed schoolrooms. The interiors depicted feature framed artwork, lush upholstered furniture, carpets and tiled floors, lamps, candelabras, and many other decorative objects.
A recurrent theme in the images is a distinct Roman Catholic piety, probably a genuine reflection of the young artist's familial background. There are crucifixes and religious statuary included with the drawing room furniture; an image of Mass at St Peter's hanging on the wall; and various nuns and sisters appearing as characters. There are also many Spanish names and titles in the book, suggesting a fascination or acquaintance with visiting Spanish gentry. Also striking is the attempt to deal with the question of death in several images. The deathbed scenes--one the imminent death of a child--are remarkably candid.
A later inscription (made in 1920) toward the end of the album suggests 1820 as the date of production, but this is erroneous, based on chronological clues in the content. One drawing, for example, depicts portraits of Victoria and Albert, who did not marry until 1840. Furthermore, a "Lady Harry Vane" is depicted and named in another drawing; Lady Vane was married in 1854 to Lord Harry George Vane (1803-1891), later known as Harry Powlett, Fourth Duke of Cleveland. The dress style reflects the fashions of the 1850s.
Subject Terms:
Bames, Betty -- Provenance.
Catholics -- Great Britain.
Clothing and dress -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Death in art -- Great Britain.
Domestic space -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Fashion -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Great Britain -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
Great Britain -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
Interior decoration -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Middle class families -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Property -- Great Britain -- 19th century -- Pictorial works.
Children's art -- 1860.
Ink drawings -- 1860.
Watercolors -- 1860.
IIIF Manifest:

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