Anyone for chocolate?

I have just been to Bellabelle’s Diary of an Edwardian Toy shop

to look at her wonderful parquet floor and saw a post about the dummy board which I am painting for Julie, here at PastMastery.

Thank you Irene from Edinburgh for the kind comment ( and everyone else too). We can’t do anything with Belle, at the moment as she is quietly drying in the corner. And so, Irene’s comment and her little picture has prompted me to write about the dummy board of the Chocolatier.

The Chocolatier by Liotard

Irene says she has a dummy board in one of her houses- Hambleton Hall and she shows us a little picture of it. Well Done Irene…you are one of a select few who know about this arcane and fascinating art form and who are actually using one.

Well, of course, all of you know more now…now you have read this blog.

You remember me saying that dummy boards of servants were quite a common theme? Irene’s figure is just that and it is based on a famous painting- which is the sort of thing the 19th century dummy board maker would have done. Above is a picture of the original miniature painting by the Swiss French painter Jean Etienne Liotard (1702-1789 ) .

I say a painting. Actually it’s a pastel. Liotard was famous for his pastel work.

There is also a delightful 19th century dummy board, a
50 inch variation on the servant with a tray in private collection in France, by an unknown dummy board artisan.

The full sized Chocolatier- by kind permission of Mme. Crecy

The maid with tray figure was very fashionable everywhere in the 18th century and many lovely examples were made at this time. Below is the beautiful maid with tray by Anders Eklund ( it’s rare to know the maker ) who has recently been on show ( 2009 ) in a trompe l’oeil exhibition in Stockholm Sweden.

The Anders Eklund Maid with Tray at a museum in Sweden.

It was common practice to turn famous paintings or etchings of the day, into dummy board figures to place in your Grand salon or sitting room., though sadly, in many cases we do not know to whom the original artwork might be attributed. This picture, however, can be identified as it was reproduced as prints in some numbers and Liotard himself painted many variations of it.

Chocolate was a highly prized commodity in the 17th and 18th centuries and many lovely dishes and cups were created especially to hold this expensive drink, one of which can be seen on the maid’s tray. Also- note the glass on the tray- in those days the drink was so thick and rich, it had to be served with water.

The original dummy board in the French collection, has lost its stand and has been restored in this miniature of it, which I painted in 2008.

Miniature Chocolatier. 5 inches

And here she is in our Morning room-doing her job at

So…Irene… you do have a dummy board of a dummy board…that exists, in real life!

4 Responses to “Anyone for chocolate?”

  1. pastmastery Says:

    Irene said…..I have a dummy board in my Hambleton Hall – she’s on the top landing of the hall. Not a Past Mastery one, I may add but I liked her as a little touch. She’s also on the little pic I use for blogs.

  2. pastmastery Says:

    Sans says to Julie…1stly, thank you, Julie for the link and the introduction to me of a “dummy board”. I have just bought 2 paper theatre from a museum in Innsbruck and saw how they were selling a paper version of some of these dummy boards for the nativity scene. Now I know..I love Sue’s blog. She is insightful and funny.

  3. Jean Day Says:

    Wonderful! I have just linked to your blog.

    • pastmastery Says:

      Thank you Jean. I will do the same. Your little landscapes are a treat!

      I really should do more myself, but I seem to be taken up with tiny people most of the time!


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