The Last Post…a job well done.


I am gratified that so many of you have seen fit to read my little blog over the past twelve months and to comment upon it, also. Thank you.

I would have written it even if I had had no followers and no one had taken the slightest bit of notice. 🙂

But I am glad you did take notice, because this means that there are now a lot more people in the world who firstly, know that dummy boards exist and secondly, know what they are and what they were all about. And that to my mind, can only be good. As I said at the beginning of this blog, when I first started to research them all those years ago –  very, very few people knew about them and those that were in the know, knew just a smidgeon.

Now hundreds are devotees.

I think I told you a little while ago about a young lady, a dummy board fancier, who wanted to do a thesis for her Masters on the subject and she came to me for help.

Now she has completed and gained her degree. ( Well Done Julia) and we have access to her work and permission to quote it. So, in this my last post on this blog, I would like to toss a few ideas around and tie up some loose ends, using Julia’s work as a reference point.

Julia’s  speciality is trompe l’oeil. As you will remember, this means deceiving the eye. Julia wanted to evaluate:

how they were able to be successful as illusions, what role they played within the space of the home and the larger society of the time, and what they signify in the particular realms of social structure, vision and interior space.

Dummy Boards ( unpublished paper- Julia Long – Oxford University).

So, we know that illusions and trickery played a large part in the ‘entertainments’ of the wealthier classes in the 17th century when dummy boards were first to be found. This was never more so than in Dutch society where the art of trompe l’oeil was taken to dizzy heights of complexity. Not only in pictures do we see evidence of this but in perspective boxes, ( those little peephole boxes that became three dimensional  when looked into), in dolls houses, which were little microcosms of real life and in other deceits, ( we have talked about some of these in various other posts – the painted food for dining tables, the flat fish placed on chairs to fool the poor hostess, counterfeit coins etc.) It must have been a sad and boring old world to have been a very wealthy person in the 17th century! 🙂 Nothing to do all day but enjoy oneself, no work to do, not even to put on one’s own coat. Is it any surprise that such diversions were invented.

These provided both visual gratification and ‘an intriguing pictorial gloss on popular notions of daily life… The domestic interior [became] not only a repository for social anxieties and ideals but a space for rich pictorial language.’ ( M. Hollander, An Entrance for the Eyes: Space and Meaning in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art (London, 2002)

The Dutch painter Samuel Hoogstraten had several such items strewn about his house and another devotee of the art of trompe l’oeil commented upon the fact in his own written work.

‘so deceptively painted that one could easily mistake them for actual [objects]’ C. Brusati, Artifice and Illusion: The Art and Writing of Samuel Van Hoogstraten (Chicago, 1995)

Julia tells us that it was,

an ‘easy’ deception, but a playful one at that. ( Folk were ) deceived but in a playful way, evoking laughter and conversation.

How can something as playful as a dummy board help us to understand the social structure of 17th century life and its meaning and presence in the domestic interior?

I have watched people and their reactions to dummy boards, not least to those copies that I have painted and have in my home.

A PastMastery commissioned dummy board of Frank as Sir Walter Raleigh now in the U.S.

Some people feel as if they are being watched and this can make them feel uncomfortable. Others take this  step further and are horrified and almost go in fear of them. Some people laugh ( after they have been startled) and others start to interact with them verbally! ( I do myself…yes well…you always knew I was cracked…I know!) 🙂

Just like other trompe-l’oeil images, dummy boards can also inspire strong feelings of confusion and even anxiety in the mind. This is evidenced in another diary entry by Pepys of 1664, in which he discusses a trompe-l’oeil painting, saying: ‘strange things to think how they do delude one’s eye, that methinks it would make a man doubtful of swearing that he ever saw any thing.’ Quoted in Julia’s paper, Pepys, Vol. IV, Part II, 21 Sept., 1664,

Now we get a bit technical!

Rene Descartes,  ( no nothing to do with a French cafe in ‘Allo ‘Allo…) the famous French philosopher, examined trompe l’oeil as a phenomenon. In 1649, he commented on the fact that people had a rather unhealthy admiration for these illusions which he claimed could,

‘either absolutely take away, or pervert the use of reason’  and also he said ‘Astonishment is an excess of admiration, which can never be but evill.

Descartes, The Passions of the Soul, ed. S. Voss (Indianapolis, 1988)

Mmmm..well he would- he was a bit of an old killjoy! He wants everyone to rely solely on the mind, not to, if you like, believe their eyes.

Though folk were amused by these illusions they could also be unsettled by them and if we take this  step further, Julia says

‘they were also uncomfortable with the repercussions unearthed in its presence.’

So, what is an illusion?

Let’s quote Groves….

‘the attempt to make images that seemingly share or extend the three-dimensional space in which the spectator stands.’ Groves dictionary of art.

Below..the Castle Howard sweeper

The Castle Howard sweeper

There are lots of examples in daily life, if we think about it, where we can mistake things, where our eyes deceive us and we won’t go into those here,  but dummy boards ( yes our subject de jour…) are pretending to be human or animal and leap from the mere flat page and inhabit the real three dimensional world in which we live. They have no frames unlike paintings and have bevelled edges so do not betray their two dimensional state.They are an attempt at life.

However, they can’t really be thought real at all unless there are certain ‘circumstances’ surrounding them, not least the quality of the painting itself coupled with poor light levels, clever placing, juxtaposed items and distance from the viewer to the dummy board.

In the 17th century, even wealthy people did not burn many candles at night unless they really had to. Most of the light that was available for reading, conversation or sewing for example, came from the flickering fire and folk tended to live their lives during daylight hours. When dummy boards were ‘invented’ windows were not as clear nor as effective as they are now. Dutch windows in many cases were quite large but interiors were still quite dark. When candles were lit, they were placed in such a way as to light only certain areas, the fronts of objects for example and other areas were left in the dark. ( interesting how that phrase has crept into common parlance. )

The Alchemist a nice dark Dutch interior by Wijck

Dummy boards took advantage of these factors. Julia says,

‘they could seem alive and simply in momentary repose in the midst of pulsing shadows.’

Later, as light in houses improved, window glass became clearer and the manufacture of larger panes was possible. These of course were  employed in the newly fashionable sash window. Dummy boards became less believable as a consequence. They were still made of course, but they were now definitely just a bit of fun.

Dutch houses tended to grow upwards because of the shortage of building land. They had many staircases and narrow halls, turns in landings and alcoves. Moving through these houses one could catch a glimpse of yet another room through a door, a change in level here a sharp turn there.

Dummy boards would appear all the more alive, caught stationary for a moment in between tasks. ( Julia Long )

The Rotterdam Sweeper..busy busy busy. but not moving!

According to many contemporary writers, the home was a source of great pride to Dutchmen in the 17th century. Perhaps this is why we have so many paintings of them. There was a running joke in the Asterix books which I read voraciously when I was a youngster, which more or less stated the fact that Dutch people were cleanliness personified( it’s still a clean place today ) and the females of the family were all but obsessed with it!  Look at any Dutch interior painting and you will find a woman with a broom or a bucket lurking somewhere! Is it so surprising that we find so many dummy boards of sweepers, cleaners and dogsbodys?

Their costume too, is authentic. Painted at the time the costume, which was highly regulated, was prevalent, we should have no problem taking them at face value. ( See E. S. Gordenker, ‘The Rhetoric of Dress in Seventeenth- Century Dutch and Flemish Portraiture’, The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, Vol. 57 (1999). )

And talking of dress being  prescribed at this time, dummy boards are a fascinating record of the social structure of 17th century Dutch society.

We have a lot of servants. We have seen them here on  this blog. Servants often held an ambiguous position within Dutch homes. They were often treated as members of the family, though this varied according to the task and time. ( Hollander: above )

Female members of the household often worked with servants in many of the same tasks, and so there was not often a major difference in dress between the two groups of women. Indeed, Hollander mentions that it is often hard to tell if a woman depicted in a painting is a servant or not!

We can see this in the painting below by Pieter de Hooch. Which is the servant and which the Mistress? Well…we are guessing when we say it’s all to do with position in the picture. The Lady is the one with the letter and the servant holds the pail? If the title didn’t tell us, might we assume it was two members of the same family outside for a chat?

Pieter de Hooch 1629-1684

The home with a population of male servants was subject to more tax than the female so obviously you had more of those. (P. Zumthor, Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland (London, 1962))

There was ( this is a laugh depending on your view ) a belief, amongst men that a maid needed watching as she was ruled by the devil…..and so needed to be kept on the straight and narrow! Perhaps this is why we have so many dummy board sweeping maid/mistresses designed to watch over the real maids. ( see Pretty Maids all in a Row )…. A Silent Spy…says Julia…I like that.

It’s a fact, that housewives were encouraged by the many didactic volumes of the time, written for women,  not only to keep  an eye on their servants but to work alongside them as examples of perfect womanhood. We all know what the historic view of women was. We were either succubi, preying on the defenceless man, a creature whose womb migrated and sent us mad now and again ( I kid you not -this is where the word hysterical comes from) or we were examples of sainthood, of pure unadulterated domestic virtue.

Julia tell us that,

Prescriptive literature, such as the emblem books by mid-seventeenth century Dutch writer Jacob Cats, classed all women together as beings in need of moral guidance and constant improvement, which could be achieved through domestic work and devotion to the family.

The V&A sweeper known as Industry

The two dummy board figures of Vanity and Industry from the V&A might be examples of the two sides of the coin here? Maybe they show that it was the

‘daunting suspicion that the two identities- paragon and hussy- might cohabit within the same frame that, literally, bedevilled Dutch men.’ ( S. Schama, ‘Wives and Wantons: Versions of Womanhood in 17th Century Dutch Art’, Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1 (April 1980))

The gender roles of the 17th century Dutch household were extremely prescribed too. We need only to look at some of the wonderful paintings of the age to see that men were placed outside and women and children inside the home, where plausibly possible.

There is a fabulous painting by Nicholas Maes- “The Eavesdropper” of 1657, which illustrates this point perfectly. It is a moment in time where several groups of people are captured in three vignettes, in three sections of the home, making up one picture. Hollander, whom we have mentioned above, describes this work and others as

‘explorative of the relationship between employer and servants in that he represents the household as ‘a cluster of territories.’ Hollander

Maes...The Eavesdropper.

There is a group higher in the house sitting at a dining table, a woman, the eponymous eavesdropper ( who is capturing your gaze completely ) on the downward stair and further down still, two more people are dallying in an open doorway. The social grouping is very blurred. Do we know which contain the  servant and which the master? The clarity of the grouping though, lends credence to Hollander’s idea, his ‘cluster of territories.’ Were the positioning of dummy boards perhaps, governed by the same rules? Of the many extant Dutch dummy boards from the 17th century, many depict servants and children. Were they to be placed in the interior space? Many male figures depict men at arms. Were these figures to be placed outside? We know that soldier figures were often found in the garden, both public and private and it is said they were used in ale houses, outside the doors. Perhaps we will never truly know, for written evidence is sketchy. No where do we see a depiction of a dummy board in a contemporary Dutch painting. What a pity.

The best account we have is Sally Wister’s diary, a young American lady who at the end of the 18th century and during the War of Independence, chronicled her experiences. Even she cannot tell us very much except to say that a dummy board of a British soldier frightened the life out of an American rebel who fled the house in terror. This is an

“example of a gaze that inspired guilt and terror.” ( Julia Long )

Probably the dummy board that the unfortunate rebel soldier saw in the Wister home.

Other figures were to be used in the theatre as extras, along with various servants, hermits and peddlars…in other words –  stand ins for real people.

So, can we draw any conclusions about the Dutch preoccupation with ‘vision’, by looking at the place of the dummy board in Dutch society in the 17th century? We know that they were particularly fond of playing games with vision and with ‘bending the brain’. This happened it many areas of life…architecture, painting, leisure time, interior design. The trompe l’oeil painter was lauded for his proficiency in illusionism. The

“end of painting was not so much to convince the mind but to cheat the eye.”  Roger de Piles upon Rembrandt. R. De Piles, Dialogue Upon Colouring (Paris, 1711)

The dummy board figure, says Julia, worked on two levels of vision.The first and more obvious, is the perceiving of it by an observer who may or may not be fooled by it but cannot help but be moved by it, being affected by its presence; the second is the imagined continued viewing of the observer by the dummy board.

They may have served as the ‘eyes of the house’, effective burglar deterrents, though we have no actual evidence to suggest they were used as such. Dear Old Thomas Peartree ( the Gainsborough figure you remember? ) was a source of discomfort and then amusement to the onlookers in his Suffolk town, though he also served as a calling card for the painter’s abilities.

This idea of a disembodied gaze represented by a dummy board is all the more intriguing when we notice that this particular figure was created with concealed eyes, as his head is angled downward and his hat covers the top half of his face. ( Julia Long )

Indeed not only is he unreal  and  half a man but he does not even possess eyes! How realistic is that? Well actually…very realistic as it’s not possible to know for sure if he is staring at you. Sebastiano Serlio the 17th century theatre designer advocated that figures used in the theatre be made to appear to be asleep. The painted eye cannot hope, he thinks, to convey the real eye and it is this organ that will give the game away. If they are hidden, one will be more likely to be taken in.

And so dummy boards inhabit that strange space between the real breathing and moving, living world and the static depictive one and their placing in a human domestic space represents an invasion of that space, of the home, by illusionsm.

The 17th century was a time when belief, blind and simple was being tested.People were not always comfortable with anything which made them doubt those things they believed to be true.

Deceiving the eye was the means; beguiling the mind was the result (M. L. d’Otrange Mastai, Illusion in Art: Trompe l’oeil: A History of Pictorial Illusionism (London, 1976), )

And many were thrilled by the first and uncomfortable with the latter.

Dummy boards may seem to be innocuous bits of painted wood and it might be thought that they played an insignificant role within the social structure of 17th and indeed 18th century life. However they reveal, quite nicely, the inner workings of those societies and  built into them are many, many layers of meaning.

And of course they are cracking good fun!

A lovely dummy board...shhh. He looks so sweet but who knows what he's dreaming about!

I hope you have all enjoyed my year’s worth of posts, some serious and full of information, some I hope thought provoking, some I must admit, rather an advert for my painting and some just downright silly. I have thoroughly enjoyed penning them all. I have laughed at the antics of Sir Bumptious Grandly and the Reverent Pillock. I have enjoyed chronicling the doings of my mini dummy boards and have had a whale of a time condensing my thoughts on the figures I have found into short ( and not so short) essays.

Do keep looking for dummy boards and when you find them e mail me at sue@pastmastery. I may know them…I may not. And if I don’t I will be very happy to do some research on them.

This is a lifelong project. Blowing my own trumpet…no one has seen as many dummy boards as I have, no one therefore knows quite as much as I do about them. I have spent many many years studying them and I still don’t know everything there is to know. Many of my ideas may, in years to come, be found wanting.  No doubt, other scholars will come after me. I hope that I have laid a serviceable enough floor for others to build on. Good luck to them. Julia’s was a job well done. I hope mine was too.

All my posts will remain public, as an informational tool for those who are interested.

Thank you for walking with me whilst I explored that fascinating and forgotten ( but maybe not so forgotten now,) art form, of the dummy board figure.

Happy Birthsdays to you.


{No the title isn’t spelling mistake…read on.}

It’s my birthday today!

Some people my age don’t have them any more but I am not one of those. I don’t care how many years I have been here or about going backwards ( like some people do with their ages), I still like my birthday. Actually I am lucky and nearly every year have a birthday week or sometimes month with things strung out as far as I can push it! 🙂 This is because my friends and family are so far flung that it takes a while to get everyone in!

Enough of this frivolity.

I thought on my birthday I would introduce you to my favourite dummy board.

If I had a lot of money and she was for sale…this is the very little girl I would own. Of all the dummy boards I have seen ( and that is now in excess of 500!) This is the one I would live with.

Girl with orange, c. 1630 Flemish, Wilberforce House, Yorkshire.

She is nothing short of delightful.

Stephen and I recently went up to the York Festival of Folk Dance with our Brackley Morris Men and took the opportunity to go and look at dear little Alys ( as we have named her ) at the house where the famous Mr Wilberforce ( he of the anti slavery campaign) used to live. Actually they have quite a few dummy boards, some interesting, some a puzzle and some downright ugly! 🙂

Alys is the best one in the collection, no doubt about it.

BUT she isn’t actually kosher….”Aw…. that’s sad” I hear you cry!

Yes it is. But it doesn’t make her any less lovely…or any less convincing.

When I first saw this picture, I had no idea of how large she was. It’s hard to judge with the background and I had no details at first. SO, I assumed she was a full sized child of about four or five. She is in fact quite tiny and only about 3 feet high.

Does this ring alarm bells? It should. If she was a figure from the 17th century, and her costume tells us about 1630 Flemish, she would be life sized. No point in having a dummy board, at the beginning of the art form, when they were supposed to be visual jokes designed to make people jump and laugh, a bit on the wee side for reality. So, she can’t be what she is telling us she is…ie: a real 17th century dummy board.

What she can be is a real 17th century portrait!

There is no doubt that a girl like this lived somewhere in Belgium or Holland at the beginning of the 17th century and she was painted then, perhaps in with her brothers and sisters. Then at some time in the late 18th or the 19th century she was cut out of her canvas and mounted on wood to become a dummy board.

Divided from her siblings perhaps….to stand alone.

Aw… again…..

Never mind she makes a super dummy board and so sweet.

She holds an orange, at this time, a rare and valuable fruit,  in one hand and a small flower in the other. She wears an over skirt and bodice of brown silk over a stiffened frame, a stomacher of the same material and an under petticoat of tan silk upon which has been applied flattened woven gold guipuire ribbon. Her cuffs and  collar are of the highest quality dense Flemish bobbin lace, the  tiny patterned variety of which became fashionable in the early 17th century and she wears the coral bracelets that a young child wore in those days to protect them from evil. We can see one little black shoe peeping from under her dress and the curling blond tendrils which escape her close cap. She is from a wealthy family and is probably protestant. If you look at the post The Girl in the Red Dress, you will see what I mean about being Protestant. The other little girl is wearing a cross ( something definitely not allowed to Protestants) and her costume is much more colourful.

Before I knew quite how small Alys really was I painted one for myself…life sized…and this dummy board lives with us in our dining room. Here she is taken standing outside the Auricula theatre in my garden.

Alys in the garden

And of course I must paint a teeny tiny one mustn’t I?

Alys..three inches. Now belongs to Sue and John Hodgson, those two experts of miniature furniture and painting fame.

And guess what? I painted her, well finished her, on my birthday in January 2006. So she shares a birthday with me.


She’s a lot older than me < ahem> you understand!


A Gathering of Gainsboroughs.


We shall draw a veil over the scene at Sir Bumptious Grandly’s house and fly forward to the late 18th century to see what has happened to the miniature dummy board figures that Lyn Silcock bought before Christmas in my Massive Never to be Repeated Sale.

Lyn has kindly sent me some photos of her dollshouse and where she has put the two Gainsborough figures she acquired and the one early 18th century figure of the Rotterdam Sweeper, ( though truthfully she could be the sort of maid anyone might have from the early to the end of the 18th century. Their costumes didn’t change much.)

The figure of Lady Sheffield, pretty in blue, is standing in the Dining Room. ( Please click the pictures for a larger version).

Lady Sheffield, PastMastery dummy board 5 inches.

This life sized dummy board based on the picture painted by Thomas Gainsborough  ( 1727-1788), in 1785 of Sophia Charlotte, Lady Sheffield when she was just 18, was sold into in private collection in the U.S.A. in 1985, from a museum collection. It was common practice for dummy board artists to insert the face of the patron or his wife or children, into existing  historical costumes depicted on famous paintings
and many boards of this kind were made in the late Georgian era and into the 19th century.Some of them are really exceptional as is this very decorative and beautifully rendered portrait of a lady of whom we know absolutely nothing, except that she is modelled on a very elegant Gainsborough portrait now in the Rothschild collection, at Waddesdon Manor.

I live a stone’s throw from this beautiful house and go there often, not just for the beautiful collection of antiques there, nor the lovely and friendly exotic birds in the equally lovely garden but for the CREAM TEAS which are to expire for. You have never seen such enormous scones. ( But I digress…..) So that is why I know that this dummy board does not have the same face as the original.

Waddesdon, between Aylesbury and Oxford.

Lyn also tells me that there is a feature in the monthly magazine Period Ideas ( for those of us who love Period houses this is a MUST ), on Waddesdon and in one of the illustrations in the article, there is a reflection of this portrait of Lady Sheffield in a mirror. How very Romantic! If you don’t buy the magazine then have a peek when you next go into W.H. Smith’s or your local newsagent. I would have put a link to the online magazine here…but there doesn’t seem to be one.

Below we have my favourite Gainsborough figure. Or should that be figures. This is the most complicated one I have ever done. Two ladies and a dog painted in 2008.

The Girls in the Sitting Room

Sadly, it’s not an existing dummy board but one of the the largest PastMastery miniature figures I executed and one based on the portrait of Thomas Gainsborough’s  (1727- 1788) two daughters Margaret
and Mary  painted in 1777. I have long thought this picture would make a wonderful subject as the shape is good and the costume a real challenge- it’s a shame we know nothing about the little dog!
Fashionable ladies in all centuries had themselves painted as dummy boards, though  few really higher class ones have survived from a much earlier age. Anecdotal evidence suggested that they were so fashionable,late 18th and early 19th century dummy board makers even cut out suitable existing figures from older oil paintings and mounted them on wood, as dummy boards. What cannibalisation.These two girls though are still alright and are in the Whitbread  collection.

On the left we see Margaret ( born 1748). She married an oboe player and was so unhappy in her marriage that her mental balance became disturbed. The other daughter, Mary was born in 1752 and remained unmarried, devoting herself to her sick sister’s care. This is one of Gainsborough’s most endearing portraits, to my mind, though the art critics talk of it as being slick and stiff! Hmmmmm?

Finally, here is The Rotterdam Sweeper, that little hussy, with her broom, making light work of the dust on the kitchen floor.

The Rotterdam Sweeper, c. 1730 5 inches

This figure is doing exactly what she should be doing. Lurking in the shadows, of a dimly lit room. See how effective it is?

There are many sweeping lady dummy board figures, ( as you know those who have followed this blog for a while ) some dating back as far as the middle of the 17th century. This life -sized Dutch maid dates to between 1720 and 1740 and according to records
at the Historical Museum in Rotterdam Holland where she is kept, it is said that she was placed in a corridor or hallway as a visual warning that cleaning was in  progress in the house and that the family or more
properly, the Mistress, was not receiving visitors that day. She is made on one plank of pine and originally had one brace on the reverse at the base. Later in her history a rebated stand has been made for her feet to
sink into. She may have been copied by an English dummy board maker for she has an early 19th century sister figure in the museum at Southwold in Suffolk U.K.

I like this figure.She has a certain spark. It’s probably the way she is looking at you. Few dummy boards do this. They are often engaging something that is, so to speak, over your left shoulder or they are in profile. This one is really looking at YOU and is almost daring you to say something.

Told you…she is a bit of a Madam.

Talking of Madams. 🙂

I haven’t done many Gainsborough figures. When people want figures done of themselves in full sized, they mostly go for the less complicated types of costume as the late 18th century with its satin, lace and embroidery can be quite highly priced in time and effort to execute. ( Notice I didn’t say expensive ).

But here is one figure which is known to you all.

The full sized ( or almost, at nearly 5  foot) Lady Bon, Lady Bonnie Looks. ( actually not her real name at all, but a friend in The U.S.A. who had her portrait painted by me as a Gainsborough lady.)

These photos were taken in my garden and the original portrait is in the Frick Collection in Washington and is of The Honourable Frances Duncombe in 1777. The frock is to die for!


Twelfth Night – Beware! ( Part Two)


And so it is Twelfth Night.

The time when the whole world is topsy turvy.

Our French Chef, M. Yves Grosseteste ( otherwise known as Ivor Bighead ) is busy serving up a Punch that is packed with an absolutely REAL punch. The Maid of All Works down the street a little, Iris Kalot is putting the finishing touches to her ” Fish Pie” which she KNOWS will send her Mistress into paroxysms! The poor Lady Bon can’t abide a fish, she is about to eat, staring at her with glassy eyes! There will be a lot of screaming and yelling in the Grandly and Looks households tonight. And there is not a thing they can do about it. It is all perfectly legitimate and no one should be disciplined for anything they have done especially if it is at the behest of the Master of the Revels or from the Master himself. Oh Dear!

Sir Bumptious…old skinflint that he is, has engaged some ‘entertainment’ for the evening. Not for him the accomplished ( and costly) players of the Globe Theatre, no mention of the Admiral’s Men or the Lord Chamberlain’s men, both troupes “Shakespearean” actors to the ends of their fingers.

No  – he has hired some louts from the Market Square that he saw performing some rumbustious rustic play with dancing bears and ‘maidens’ dressed as Arabic Princesses.

From the York Mystery plays actually but similar to our Rustics.

Here they are now…entering the house yard ( from the back door of course ) and setting up their  < ahem> scenery. A cart with a curtain and a few paltry props made of pasteboard. A hush falls over the assembly. The lights are dim, a drum roll announces the action. The curtain is drawn back. ” ahhhhh”.

Guards of the Kingdom of Bogoff, two 19thc. theatre dummy apt.

On the back of the cart we see a chair ( seen better days  and rather rickety ) which has been crudely painted with gold paint. Above it is a carved sunburst. This, we are told by the players is to symbolise the throne of  King Tat of that arid Realm -Bogoff. His “daughter “, Princess  Sharlaton, she with the large brown cow eyes peering flutteringly over her veil and wavy lustrous black locks cascading down her back, is to be auctioned off to the man who can rid the Kingdom of the dreaded Beast… ( the man dressed as a bear ). The King, flanked by two guards, sits on his throne and declares

Oh woe to the Kingdom of Bogoff

Is there no one who’s brave and who’s true?

The beast has devoured my peasants

And he’s coming to eat you up too!

Oh dear…. well no…it’s NOT Shakespeare. It’s not even poetry.’s traditional Twelfth Night fare, a little play of some sort and the onlookers, simple people most, are transfixed. They have rarely seen anything like it. It wasn’t all that long ago when Theatre was a banned entertainment.

Just look at Sir Bumptious! His eyes are like saucers. His hands are fidgety. His brow is beaded in sweat. Can the potion have taken hold so quickly? A glance around the other staff…no…..they are all fixed upon the action with wide eyes.

Sir Bumptious Grandly takes out his handkerchief and coyly flutters it in front of his face. What ever is the matter with him? He smiles inanely and purses his lips. He is blowing a kiss. Princess Sharlaton catches the movement in the crowd; the white hanky fluttering in the darkness and her eyes ( above her veil ) narrow. She cocks her head to the side to see more clearly in the gloom. This only serves to make her more attractive and fey. Sir Bumptious is captivated. Princess Sharlaton shields her eyes from the glare of the torches and it looks as if she is waving at the crowd.

Sir Bumptious loud voice is heard.

In this land of the heathen and pagan

Here’s  one who’ll not labour in vain

I will slay the beast of Bogoff

( who is at this moment lumbering up to the tail of the cart, threatening the maiden with  growling and slashing with sharp, but false, talons)

And the Princess will be mine.


The players are at a loss. They stand in silence. They are used to the audience booing and hissing. They are immune to the catcalls and whistles. They are even expectant of the odd rotten egg or rock hard dog turd landing in their midst. BUT STEALING THE ACTION? MAKING UP NEW LINES…? DOING A PLAYER OUT OF HIS PART!? The true hero, his mouth poised for the next line is…well…Gobsmacked!

They stare with open mouths as Sir Grandly hobbles, with his bad leg up to the cart and propels himself on to it with his trusty stick.

The Master of Revels is smirking. Any minute now……

Sir Bumptious Grandly goes down, painfully on his knees in front of the Princess.

The other players splutter. He intones.

” Oh princess, you are quite Divine

Give us a kiss and you’ll be mine”

( well Sir Bumptious is no Shakespoke either!)

He leans forward, grasps the ( rather tall ) maiden around the < ahem> area of the buttocks and squeezes. It’s as far up as he can reach.

He closes his eyes and purses his lips. ( Silly Old Codger, Sir Bumptious Grandly is in LOVE! ) He expects the kiss.

He buries his face in the Maiden’s lap…”ahhhhh.”

Uh oh.

Quick as a flash the ‘Maiden’, who of course is no maiden but a strapping lad of fifteen with a pair of  falsies, a falsetto voice and ‘lap’ that is most certainly NOT to be squashed, steps back and takes a swipe at the totally unprepared Knight of the Realm.

Just as the punch is about to land on the chin of  the unsuspecting member of the aristocracy, there is a loud rumble from below him.

And an enormous melifluous fart!

And the lad falters….screws up his face and utters ” PHEWARGH!”

The Master of Revels grins. IT HAS BEGUN!

Mais Oui!

A LOUD SCREAM reverberates around the courtyard.

The Maid of all works Iris…who after this night might be a Maid of NO works, comes flying in through the gate….pursued by a flying fish, and another and …another.

Ah yes….. Lady Bon has been served her dinner!

The Master of Revels twirls his mustache…..and laughs and laughs and laughs.

Mais Oui!

Lady Bon enters the courtyard, the last of the fish in her hand. A mangy dog makes a grab for it.

( Did I say that the players had brought a dog with them?)

Lady Bon Looks, is a cat person, you understand but she has a soft spot for dogs. But not this one. She takes swipe at it. ” Get away you noisome beast!”

The fish lands smack bang in the middle of  M. Grosseteste’s physog!

There are more enormous eructations emanating from the courtyard.

Half the audience are clutching their stomachs, the other half are crossing their legs.Those that are, for the moment, unaffected are holding their noses.

Sir Bumptious Grandly’s household is quite a populous one.

And there is only one outside convenience!

Mais Oui!

Mais wee.

The Lord of Misrule – Prepare! ( part one )


I thought it was time we wended our way back into the mists of the past to re-visit our old friends from the 17th century.

And one or two from the 18th too.

And since it is Twelfth Night shall we see what they are up to at the end of the Christmas festivities?

Yes…it is Twelfth Night and no…it’s not just a play of that name by one William  Shakespeare. Twelfth Night marks the end of the Winter celebrations which began with the ceremonies of All Hallows Eve…Halloween to you.

A person would be appointed to be the overseer of the festivities and this person would be The Lord Of Misrule.

The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day, even the King and Queen and all those who were highly placed would become the servants and the servants and the peasantry got a chance to see what it was like to GIVE the orders! To a point of course.

Special cakes were baked and eaten. Other food was prepared ( remember this is a lean time of the year… not a lot of food about) and for many, it was a chance to eat drink and make merry, for you never quite knew where your next meal was coming from. Winter was still biting hard.

SO who is to be our Lord of Misrule?

Let’s eavesdrop on the household of the 17th century dummy board, V&A Gentleman with Cane otherwise known as Sir Bumptious Grandly!

Ah poor thing!

Ah yes…here he is….and Oh dear… I think he has been overdoing the port a bit over Christmas… maybe he has gout….he seems to have a gammy leg!

” Gammy leg indeed” we hear him cry…” Nothin’ to do with the port. Damned icy steps.. I’ll crack the head of the servant , if I ever find him, who failed to sweep the step properly and lay down salt.”

( Actually we happen to know that Sir Bumptious is rather mean and he forbade his poor servants to use up the rather expensive salt rations, on the outside steps. Hmmmmm)

” Goin’ about my lawful business at the coffee house and th’exchange was Hellish labyrinthine I can tell you. Me Sedan men were slippin’ and slidin’ all over. And it was Mortal cold …I can tell you.

The sedan chair with a lighter load than Sir Bumptious

( Sir Bumptious is not known for his plain speaking.

Shall we translate. ) ( See I like Coffee, I like Tea )

” Going to work at the Coffee House…no he doesn’t wait on tables but sits around drinking the stuff till it sends him dizzy, talking to his friends, playing cards and speculating on stocks and shares..oh and pinching the bottom of the (only) lady who is allowed in, The Coffee Drawer or maker of the drinks. The Exchange of course is where he goes to actually fiddle about with his money.Labrynthine? He just means it took him a long time to get there and that his Sedan chair men, those poor unfortunates who are engaged to lift him up in a covered seat and ferry him to and fro, were rather uncertain of their foothold on the ice.

The servants are all standing in a row in front of him.

The life sized Brighton Man as one of the servants

He points his stick at them.

” Now….in this season I want no daffing about, no darraigning and any man I see deboshed will go straight in the ice house! ”

Ah- this means that anyone who fools around too much, who sets the place in disarray whilst drunk, will go straight in the cold pantry.

” Who have you chosen to be the Lord tonight then? ”

The French Chef steps forward.This is the much celebrated Monsieur Yves Grosseteste. ( IN English he would be Ivor BigHead…but you don’t tell him that!)

” T’is Moi Sir….I ‘ave all thee fud orgeenized. Zere ees little to do now. I go and put on my corstume.”

This is the only member of staff Sir Grandly cannot intimidate. Something to do with the large French meat cleaver he likes to stuff into his belt. His Hachoir…mmm sounds scary doesn’t it?

Anyway off goes Ivor to get ready for his role as Master of the revels. The others disperse and Sir Grandly goes back to his bottle of claret.

Ivor is to wear a special outfit for the Lord of Misrule.

He has a small hat for his head with a peak and a feather. He wears a many coloured striped doublet, which just about fits around his skinny middle, pantaloon breeches for his rather large bottom and an enormous ruff. He carries a staff with ribbons and bells on. He looks frankly, quite a sight. He will give the orders and the rest must obey. Oh and he still has his meat cleaver in his ( straining) belt, along with his gentlemanly sword. Remember, he is no longer a servant. ( If he ever though he was !)

Monsieur Yves Grosseteste as Lord of Misrule.

We can hear him singing in his kitchen!

To the tune of Lilibulero ( a very famous 17th c. tune )

” Champs Elysees, et La Tour Eiffel

I’m going to geeve zem all merry ‘ell!

Feexing a meal to fill zem all up

Somesing quite naughty in ze wine cup.

Drinkit, stinkit, I am so clever

Zey will be running all night to ze pot

Zey never will guess it,  zey never no never

Zey never can blame me, never can not!”

Oh dear it looks like Sir Grandly’s household is in for a bit of a shock! Of course he is quite right….. they can’t blame him. He’s the BOSS! He can do what he likes.

I think we will go down the road and see what is happening in the house of our other friend, Sir Filthy Looks and his wife, Lady Bonnie Looks.

The young Sir Filthy Looks.

Lady Bon in her garden

Here it’s a little more decorous it seems. There is quite a bit of partying going on but no one is drunk yet and the chef isn’t threatening them with a meat cleaver, ( or with a nasty potion in the wine).

Ah…our little maidservant, the one we met doing the shopping in A Messy Business, I think her name is Iris Kalot, she is putting the finishing touches to the Twelfth Night Pie. She is a maid of all work and so she has to do some of the cooking as well.

The Chertsey Maid as the Maid of all work, Iris Kalot.

She too is singing. It’s a nice sweet, three four melody… ah that’s better….

“Ha ha ha, he he he, how I love little fish, love to buy and to serve little fish!

First I cut off their heads, then I pull out their bones,

However they are -they’re delish!

Ha Ha Ha He He He they are all food to me,

With a  cleaver I hack them in two

Then I pull out what’s inside and I serve it up fried

‘Cos I love little fishes don’t you?

Oh dear…can’t we get away from cleavers in this street?

“Here is something for tempting the palate

Prepared in the classic technique.

First you pound the fish flat with a mallett

Then you slash through the skin, give the belly a slice,

The you rub some salt in, ‘cos that

m a k e s  i t  t a s t e  n i c e.”

Ah…I think she has been having lessons from Monsieur Grosseteste….

Deary Me, don’t forget, that we must keep you wet

Ah… I think she means moist but of course it doesn’t rhyme. Ivor…sorry, Yves, doesn’t know that word.

Then we stuff you with bread, it don’t ‘urt ‘ cos yer dead

And yer certainly lucky you are.

‘Cos it’s goin’ to be ‘ot in my big boiling pot,

Tooda loo, little fishy, au revoir!”

Oh dear… I think we know what is being served up in the Looks household this evening.

Sounds a fishy business to me.

😉 pie! They're lookin' at you...

It’s a New Year Treat!


Happy New Year to all my lovely blogees!

And thank you for helping me out with my miniature dummy board figures before Christmas. I only have a very few left now…and will try to use these as prizes in a little quiz that I am about to run here on PastMastery.

I also have a few photographic ones still hanging about. If you would like to have one ..please refer to this post ( bottom) to see what they look like, let me know and they will be on their way to you. All I need is the price of the postage and you can send that in stamps. E mail me and I’ll let you know how much your parcel costs. They are of no use to me and I would rather they decorated a dollshouse somewhere than go in the bin!

The hand painted ones are no use to me either…someone must have them!

And so….Now for my little  2011 quiz….

I have some questions about dummy boards…the first second and third persons ( and so on ) to email me at

will have the choice from these Hand Painted figures featured here,

The Wilberforce House gardener ( 5 ins

Mrs Anne Osborne has this one now.

The Mistletoe Girl 4.5 ins

The poor lonely lady from the theatre pair. 4 ins.


Lady with red rose 5 ins.

Lacemaker 2

Miss Angela Newstead ( no relation ) picked this one.


And I have decided to give away all my photographic figures as prizes when the real ones have gone, too! ONLY THREE REAL ONES LEFT NOW! Somebody must like Mozart or The Red Rose Lady or The Mistletoe Girl.

A young Mozart 4.5 ins...Yes...I know he WAS bigger than this....


Here we go.

1. Where did dummy boards originate? WAS IT  a. England b. France c. Holland

2.When do we think they were invented? WAS IT  a. in the 19th century b. in the 17th century c. in the 12th century

3. Where does Thomas Peartree live? IS IT  a. Ipswich b. Winchester c. Yarmouth

There! It’s really easy.

AND The first person to tell me what THIS IS… ( yes -it too is a hand painted one )

A mystery object...No! you can't have it any bigger!


So PLEASE still  have a go at the rest……

Now for some other news.

You all know that  I have painted over many years, replica figures of life sized dummy boards from collections all over the place. These have been for sale on the website and have come and gone over the 9 years or so I have had PastMastery.

A lady emailed me before Christmas to make inquiries about having one of them for her Mother as a present.

It was the figure which is one of a pair housed in the National Trust collection at Chirk Castle in the north of England. I call these two 17th century figures Matty and Toby.

They are Dutch children, c.1600. The boy with a rudimentary golf club and the girl with a basket of apples; one seems to be doing service as a golf ball. They are dressed in the typical costume of the well to do middle classes seen in the paintings of the age, plenty of lace. Of course the young man wears skirts as did all the young boys of his age.We think, by the expressions on their faces that they are “up to no good”!
Here they are shown on the oak staircase at Abington Manor,
Northamptonshire, England, which is contemporary with them of course.

Tobias and Matilda ( their Sunday names of course) 🙂

Duly, this figure was parceled up and sent into deepest darkest Kent!

My customer was so delighted with it, that, this week, this lady emailed and has ordered Toby as well.

Good…I was beginning to have a lot of trouble with him. He was getting quite out of hand – missing the steadying influence of his little sister! < ahem!>

Humphry Clinker

And guess what? She has also got a place for Humphry Clinker and for  Sir John Thursby too!

Humphry is a fanciful evocation of the character from Tobias Smollett’s novel ” The Expedition of Humphry Clinker ” – a very funny book ( I urge you to read it ).

Here he is seen in the Oak room- a panelled dining room in his own house of Ablington, in Northants.

John was a real person and he owned Ablington Manor  near Northampton. I painted him from a portrait which hangs in the house, for a special exhibition as part of Open Studios week in  2005. His beautiful two tone blue/ gold coat was a challenge to paint as was the lovely brocade of his waistcoat.

Well… as you can see…for me it IS a Happy New Year! It’s working a treat!

Hope it will be for you too…. when you win my competition!

A Christmas Carol ( not a Scrooge in sight!)


As promised here is, on my last post of the year, a feature on Christmas.

I think I said in a previous post, I am not one for restraint at Christmas. Not for me the single coloured tree with a few bits here and there.  Raffia, string and brown paper is just not me. Christmas is all about tasteful excess, if that is not an oxymoron 😉

So here is my Christmas tree with, as mentioned before, the thirty or so 19th century to 1950’s baubles ( all glass and terribly frightening )! I don’t know how many glass baubles I have in total but it must be in excess of 100.The really old ones were bought, for my Grandfather, in the 19th century when this sort of thing was very new in the U.K. Then I have all my childhood and my Mother’s childhood baubles and some from my brother Ian’s, who is twelve years younger than me- so they are late 60’s, early 70’s.

e Some of my early decorations in their original box and the incredibly fragile tissue paper.

The 60's and 70's

On the tree you will see some hand made cones which I’ve done this year. These will be handed out to friends as they come and go over the season and will be filled with sweets and chocolates, as they would have been in the Victorian era.

A Victorian type cone.

My Christmas Tree and candlebridge

Some cones made with Stampin Up papers

These I get from my friend Jenny who is a demonstrator for Stampin’ Up – a wonderful company supplying stamps and papers, dies and punches and much more. Go and have a look.

A cone nestling in my tree branches

No…I don’t do this…”less is more mullarky!”

Below you will see what I have done to the mantelpiece and hearth.

All white, silver and iridescent

You might just be able to see the lovely figure of a reindeer made in wire which my husband bought me many years ago. Bea, as she is known, ( because she is a HIND) comes out every year and sits in the fireplace. 🙂 She will be surrounded with tiny tea lights come Christmas Eve.

I have a large collection of silvered glass and the ( real antique mercury glass ), items. They too come into their own at Christmas on the mantel.

In the Dining room, I decorate with pale blue and silver with a touch of pearl. The room is painted a duck egg blue and the curtains are a pale gold silk so it all blends well. The flowers lights were a present last year from a good friend and were an absolute find. I hang my collection of tiny blue baubles from it nowadays.

The blossom lights and Fairy Floss ( left)

I used to make bespoke Christmas Tree Fairies for Harrods, Fortnums and General Trading years ago and one of these sits on the bookcase. She is the last of her kind and Christmas just wouldn’t be right without Fairy Floss.

I drape a magnolia and hellebore garland over the dining room doorcase and Mabel ( our lovely Maple and Co bureau ) gets a pearl and glass leaf garland too. Remind me to polish the silver on top! 🙂

The dining room

The Hall is a painted a fantastic colour called Pale Hound by Farrow and Ball. It changes colour with the light (or lack of it ) and really comes into it’s own at Christmas when I add a lot of red and green. I made the doves last year and added a fake garland with mistletoe ( to catch people as they enter or leave!) round the light. You can see that Delphi Dog has her own hand made stocking. < yes well….ahem>

The photo is rather light but it's very atmospheric really.

And she also has her own advent calendar in which ( you’ve guessed it ) reposes a bone a day! That too I made for her in patchwork. Some days we forget…and then she has a whole load of them all in one day! ( Don’t tell the vet).

The advent tree


So there you have it…. Christmas in the dummy board house!

And talking of dummy boards…a while back one of my loyal readers, Penny,  sent me some super photos of Christmas figures she has made over the years. Santas and Winter characters, every one. I thought you might like me to share them with you?


All that remains is for me to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my loyal readers and to those who have dipped in and out all year. May you, whatever you do at Christmas, have a fun filled time.

See you in the New Year when we shall once again put our toes into the murky waters of the 17th century and plumb the depths of the crepuscular world that is the home of the dummy board figure….


My Christmas siting room.

And my ONE concession to  Christmas religiosity? The medieval carol…brought up to date…

First Come First Served!


It is now only 11 days and 21 hours ( as  I begin to write ) to Christmas!

I hope you are all suitably decorated. I hope that you are chewing through your Christmas card list and that you have wrapped dozens of parcels with just a few to go. Not all that long ago I was in a bit of a tizzy wondering how on earth I was going to manage it all! But here we are and I have nearly finished.


Now that I feel a little more settled about my domestic Christmas arrangements, I can set myself to my PastMastery dummy board arrangements.

As promised here are the figures that are left after the prize has been doled out ( My winner JIll has chosen her prize). Here is what she said….

I love your dogs so much that I must have Gentleman with Greyhound.

So off they go to deepest, darkest Yorkshire where I am sure they will be very happy. Pictures, she promises me, will follow.

IN the PastMastery  Display House we still have:

Lady with Ostrich feather fan ( and pillar) Nick has just bought her!

The lady with ostrich fan leans on a pillar

Mozart £48.00

You would need a harpsichord or spinet for this one. He could lean on a table too.

The Lacemaker no 2 £26

This is the second may remember I blogged the making of number one.

kittens in a basket ( no chips) £10 ( Bon is now the owner of this little basket of fun!)

they are very tiny

On the street we have:
The naive Wilberforce House Gardener £10.00

He is extreme right. Not his politics I hasten to add!

London Theatre Pair £25.00 ( they can be split at £ 14 each) ( The gentleman has gone to Veralie , the lady is still for sale and since she is now alone, she can be £12.00)

Henry cat is sold but I do have him as photographic dummy boards. See below!

Mistletoe girl.(She is on the last but two posts on the blog )£25.00 Off You Go!
Lady with red rose £16.00
The scholar £10.00 (He is in the middle of the street.)

all will be charged carriage at cost.

I am also hoping to offer the display house for sale. I have absolutely no idea if any one would want it but my friends in the ‘know’
tell me that it might be something someone would like.

It has black and white  line drawings on the back walls of all the rooms. This was done so that the items we were displaying, which of course are in colour, would show more readily against them. They can be removed easily. But they do show up things very nicely should you wish to keep them.

From top left to bottom right…the drawings are:

The Morning Room…. The Salon at Woburn Abbey

The Grand Salon, A friend’s house in Oxfordshire

The Long Gallery, Hardwick hall

Handel’s House ( his bedroom…yes it really is )

The Butler’s Pantry, Leeds Castle kitchen

The Old Kitchen, Canons Ashby kitchen.

The furniture is stuck down and this too is all black and white. It can be prised up as it’s only held with a light application of PVA.

The rooms get deeper as you go towards the top. This is to allow for storage at the back.The Mansard roof is hollow, again for storage.

The front is hand painted in bricks and stones.

The street is separate and butts up against the front of the house. ( Has its own storage case). Railings are attached and there are steps down the a pathway.

The outside of the main house has PastMastery applied in paper onto a black lacquered surface and it can be removed with stripper.

The front is removable and fits into the space with turning toggles. The logo on it, again can be removed.

The floors are papers and have seen a lot of wear ( blue tac’d my figures to them) so they would need to be replaced ( except the marble of the Grand Salon).

The whole house is lit from the front.

I really have no idea how much it is worth. But if I count the cost of the materials and a little for labour ( just a little ) I think it might be possible for it to go to a new home for £150!!!

Let me know if you would like me to take some further photos.

Buyer collects or arranges collection. Speak to me nicely ( and up the price a bit ) and I’ll get my carriers to deliver! 😉

I ALSO HAVE quite a few photographic representations…dummy boards of my original figures which are photos.

They are quite good and are perfectly adequate to display in your houses.


They are absolutely no use to me whatsoever as I do not have a dollshouse and am keeping the roombox with the original 17th c. figures so do have some dummy boards I want but there will be no room for these.

Please consider giving them a good home or I will have to give them to the dustman!

I have uploaded a sheet with the names of the figures on the dummy boards. If you click on the picture I hope it comes up life sized for you to read

SMALL would be something like a small dog. £TWO POUNDS!

MEDIUM is a small person or a large dog £ FOUR POUNDS

LARGE is a life sized person.£FIVE POUNDS


{ Just to let you know I have only got – 3 Butlers left, only 1 Rotterdam Sweeper, 1 candle girl, 1 pair of seated servants, 3 girl with white pinny,  1 pair of spaniels, 2 Leeds Castle J Russells, 2 Toleware terriers, 3 Henry cats, 2 West highland terriers, 4 King Charles Spaniels, 4 man in red coat, 2 Lady with red fan, 2 lady with blue gloves, 3 pairs of Theatre figures, 2 Floras,  2 raised pies, 3 basket of fruits, 2 Baton Rouge girl and only one Gentleman with cane ( though I do have a 1/24th one which someone might like if they let me know }.

I’ll keep this updated daily.

If you would like a small one please send me stamps to the value of the item and £1 more for post and packing. If you are abroad let me know and I’ll e mail you the cost of the postage. We can sort out the details later. 🙂

Please send a cheque plus £2 for post for the others. E mail me at sue@pastmastery for address etc.


All that remains is to say that I hope you enjoy browsing and see you soon.



MY JUL DECORATIONS and some lovely Santa figures made by one of my Blog followers.

Prizes All Round!


And so we come to the end of the current ( and last ) PastMastery competition.

ONLY Twelve people ( out of thirty five ) who entered came up with the right answer.

And this is where they found it, on my blog.

Make Mine a Half

The answer is…..Thomas Peartree, the half a figure designed for the top of a wall by Thomas Gainsborough!

Thomas Gainsborough

Many of you thought that the Lullingstone Sweeper was the right answer. But she is likely to be Flemish…remember? And the legend attached to her that she was painted in this country by Van Dyck is very unlikely to be true.

Others thought that some of the Girl Peelers ( ladies peeling apples ) were English. Yes….they might be. But we can prove without a shadow of a doubt that Thomas Peartree is ENGLISH because we have documentary evidence that Gainsborough, for a start painted it and that it was seen shortly afterwards and was commented on. Have a read of the blog post to see what I mean.

I did sort of give the game away a bit when I said, in the competition preamble, that I was looking for

the name of the only absolutely proven, known ENGLISH  historic dummy board?

Because I used almost the same formula in my last words about Thomas Peartree in Make mine a Half.

The only absolutely pedigree, absolutely beyond question, proven and native ENGLISH dummy board…is sadly, only a half a one!

Is what I said.

Thomas Peartree on his wall.

Don’t you think too, that there is rather a large clue in the prize I am giving away?

And who got it right and had their name  drawn out of the hat?

Tarantara < fanfare>

CONGRATULATIONS! Jill Rothwell from Bradford in the U.K.!

You can chose between Gentleman with greyhound, Lady Sheffield, Gainsborough’s daughters, the two sisters and Lady with Ostrich feather. Let me know and it will be winging its way to you by the next post….providing it doesn’t snow again immediately! 🙂

Well done!

Here is a sample of the sort of miniatures that Jill produces.

She knits tiny little 1/24th and 1/48th toys and little scenes…but please don’t e mail her at

to ask her to knit you a jumper for your Granny…..unless your Granny is Thumbelina!!

So sweet..a little mouse family, wonderfully knitted.

A box full of goodies

I hear bells!

All that remains of this topic, is to tell you, that in my next post ( I promise not to keep you in suspense )I will list which figures were not chosen by our winner and are then consequently, FOR SALE at terribly reduced prices and which figures I still have left after my sale at KDF.

Watch this space….

MEANWHILE…. do take a look at Diary of an Edwardian Toyshop, my friend Julie’s blog.

She came to the show at Kensington Town Hall and bought a few little bibelots for her Toyshop.

The little PastMastery dummy board Frances Darley Bolt, in the doorway of Julie's shop.

The little dummy board of the girl with a white pinafore, as I call her, is one which has quite a good provenance.

She is a very good and well contained shape for a dummy board, is a life-sized figure and is at present displayed in the privately owned Shelburne Museum in Vermont U.S.A.,  part of the Darley-Bolt bequest. It has been very simply painted in oils on canvas mounted on a board and it may even have been cut out of an earlier painting -a practice well established in the 19th century.
It shows a pretty young girl in Edwardian dress and is undoubtedly a portrait figure. Influenced by the Impressionist fashion of the early twentieth century, the artist has sketchily painted the ruffled collar of the girl’s dress and the stiff linen of her apron using visible brush strokes, laying the white paint on thickly in places where the light strikes the folds. For once, we know who the girl is. She is the youngest daughter of the American Industrialist Mr. Darley Bolt and was no doubt copied from the painting by Singer Sargent.

The above of course is a miniature version of the real thing.

The Christmas Tree.

IN the window of Julie’s toyshop, just behind the wonderful lamb pulling a cart, is the Christmas Tree dummy board. You have ALL seen this one before and quite recently in.

Post Early for Christmas

I’ve said it before but I shall, I’m sorry, say it again….This is a 19th century dummy board of a Christmas tree, standing four feet high. ON it we see all the usual paraphernalia we would expect on a tree of this age. Little bells, wrapped sweets, cones, dolls, jesters or punches with the hump; fruit, stars, candles ( real of course ), wonderful pull along animals and the ubiquitous bauble.

It was made at the end of the 19th century in Nuremburg, in Germany’s Bavarian region for display in chocolate and confectioners shops. They would slide them into the window amongst all the goodies that the shop had to offer; gorgeous cakes and pastries, delicately decorated chocolate boxes and  shaped edible creations in the form of angels, bells and snow topped trees.

They would have competitions to see who could win the prize for the most beautifully decorated window.

I think this window would win prizes!

Just like….Jill!

Congratulations again, Jill.

Off you go!


I apologise, dear readers, for not posting earlier but my trip to The Kensington Dolls house and Miniature Fair on Saturday, completely wiped me out! ( As they say).

IN more ways than one.

It has taken me this long to be able to stand up without too much pain ( and that is with my special tablets!)


I sold off most of my miniature figures and now only have a few left. After my competition ( ends Sunday 12th ) I will put those figures I still have on this blog and reduce them further. They must go to good homes for Christmas! This will be, of course, minus the figure that my competition winner chooses.

I now have only 12 correct answers. You have a one in twelve chance ( so far ) of winning a Gainsborough dummy board of your choice. QUICK!  enter the competition.

I am also very glad that the snow has gone. Wiped out too…. thank Heavens!

It is still minus 10 in the garden overnight though. It’s nice to have snow at this time of year to make it Christmassy ( or should that strictly be Adventy?) but we have to spare a thought for all those people who still must get to work. Nurses, firemen ( yes they are still busy even in this weather ), carers in Care Homes and people of this ilk,  upon whom other people really rely and without whom, many people will be totally stuck.

We must also think about those who work outside…like my poor husband. A static job ( it’s been rose pruning), in minus ten is no fun! Some days of course he has had no work at all….the ground is frozen as hard as a harlot’s heart! And that -when you are self employed, is frightening. The ground not the harlot’s….oh never mind….;)

So…off you go nasty weather….off you go.… and you too, my esteemed readers, of you go and enter my competition and then OFF one of my Gainsborough  miniatures will go to a lucky winner!

Next post?


STILL for sale...The Mistletoe outside figure.