“Lion About”

I’m back from a fun and successful show in Thame.

I think at last people are beginning to get the hang of this miniature dummy board thing! It has been a bit of struggle in some cases, to get the message across that,

  1. They are hand painted ( yes- even though there are signs everywhere saying so ).That every single one is painted in oils on wood and not decoupaged. That they cut out and finished by hand and, as a consequence, each one is unique.
  2. The full sized ones were an often seen item in the real homes of the past from the 17th century onwards and were as decorative as a painting for the wall, so why shouldn’t they be represented in the small world too?
  3. There is no such thing as a dolls house or room box that is ‘unsuitable’ for a dummy board
  4. That, for those who feel that three dimensional dolls are not what they want, dummy boards might be the alternative, in the 1/12th world.

The dogs and cats were particularly admired this weekend and I don’t have many left! Better make some more.

Gentleman and his dogs. Miniatures of 19th century dummy boards. 5 and 2 inches

The most common type of dummy board figure you might have seen ( besides the group we talked about in the last post), if you had been born at the right time in the right place, would have been those of animals, particularly dogs and cats. They are small, very endearing, were easily painted and don’t necessarily have to be all that realistic for us to be taken in. Above all they were cheaper than the larger human figures.

You’ll have noticed I started this post in the ‘present perfect tense’… that implies you would have seen them. Today they are less common.

What has happened to them?

They are still around but not in the numbers we might expect. The fact that many of them were small had led to them being discarded when they got a bit knocked about a bit around the edges. It’s much easier to throw a tatty small dog board on the fire than a 7 foot soldier like George!

Animals were often used as fire boards, those screens that decorated the summer fire grate, and constant putting them in and taking them out over the seasons may have led to damage. They might have suffered damp from rain entering the chimney or they might simply have gone up in smoke when a stray spark caught them.

Of course, there are still some very nice examples of dogs and cats just lyin’ about- doing what dogs and cats do best.

The Toleware Terrier. Private Collection in the U.K. 10 inches

But there are very few lions! Yes I did say- lions.

Who would want such a large feline decorating their fireplace?

Well…. they weren’t originally for the fireplace. Some of the smaller examples might have been used as summer firescreens. I suppose they would have been quite a talking point over tea of an afternoon.

They were, it is thought, most likely, to have been the 19th century equivalent of the “point of sale display”.

Today we have photographic images for everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Car exhausts! We are bombarded with images, on lamposts, walls and fences. We have ‘A’ boards and billboards, noticeboards and signboards. They are pasted onto windows and are strung up over the road ( too many and too intrusive- if you ask me!) Adverts are everywhere! Not so in the dim and distant past.

Adverts were there, of course, but not in such great numbers and they would have been ‘hand made’. We are all familiar with pub signs; The Dog and Duck, the White Horse, the King’s Head, the Mole and Chicken ( Mole and Chicken?)

In the days when few people could read,a sign board was a very helpful thing…. a gold crown for a goldsmith, a pestle and mortar for an apothecary and, possibly a lion for a circus performance, a fair or sideshow or at the pleasure garden.( More about this form of past time later ).

How much better to have a real ( ish) looking ( if a bit small- that roar doesn’t fool anyone! )painted wooden lion, cut out and sitting on the grass advertising your show. And much less unpredictable than the real thing!

The Circus Lion. English 19th c. Private Collection in the U.K. 30 inches.

Have you flossed today Leo?

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One Response to ““Lion About””

  1. Pastmastery's Blog Says:

    […] hermits, Green men, nymphs and shepherds, peacocks and lions ( that too we have explored in Lion About ). Large lion in private collection 19th […]

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