Cats and Pigeons

Well, I am back from KDF and none the worse for wear. I survived the trip on the train with ‘The Boot’  ( to understand this read…a previous post… Letting Go ), in a bag . It is now sitting in the Showcase in  the Foyer of  the Town Hall in Kensington. If no one buys it, it will come home on Sunday.

The 1/24th scale boot house with tiny little children.

It was wonderful to see all my miniaturist friends and to look at all the brilliant things they  have been up to, over the  past year or so.  Long may they continue to be so creative.

I delivered Small Dog and the Lydiard Girl to  Sandra of Diminutive Dolls and she was thrilled. What is more, so was Small Dog ( PHEW!) People can be odd about their own portraits. We don’t always see ourselves as others do. But at least they won’t bite you if they think you have made them look like a walking  bathmat!

Anyway…Sandra will take over from here and we can  all watch the progress of the Lydiard Girl’s nursery on her blog. And the conversations that Small Dog and  my own Wire Haired Fox Terrier, Delphi Dog have been having on email,  behind our backs!

So, today we shall go back to dummy boards! And to another detective story.

I had an amazing piece of luck yesterday morning! Before I left, to speed off for my train, I  thought I  would  just take a quick peek at blog stats  to see what was what. It intrigued me that some people had been putting into the search engine the term ” Victorian dummy boards” and that they had arrived at  my blog. As  all of us know, who have been reading this blog, dummy boards are not exactly a  Victorian  spectacle.

So I did the same.

I do periodically look at the term Dummy Board Figures in Google images anyway.  It helps me to find new sites and old figures. And after putting in ‘Victorian dummy boards ‘  yesterday…I came  up with  a new figure I hadn’t seen before. Well….that’s a bit of a  porky! I have seen it!  But not this particular one.

The Sewing Lady- at Temple Newsam House Leeds U.K.

You will remember that I have said, probably several times, that some  figures were repeated over and over. { Yes I know I am a bit of a bore  😉 }

This one of  course is no more Victorian than I  am! It’s earlier…much earlier.

A long while back in my searching for original dummy boards, I came across a document written in 1976  that listed, in particular, two figures that were claiming to be early American dummy boards. What a find, I thought!

One dummy board that is in the collection for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, in Boston, Massachusetts. ( Historic New England ) was thought to be a named figure of someone who had actually lived, – unusual enough in itself. We know that there are very few absolutely kosher figures with cast iron identities….and this one was supposed to be one of those.

Now it seems there are two.

Where there are two…in my experience, there are likely to be, in the strange world of the dummy board figure, several others.

The figure I found in that document is purported to be that of a seated Mrs. Elisabeth Janvrin Adams( 1687-1757) of Portsmouth and Newington , New Hampshire. ( Two Early New England Dummy Boards ).
Tradition Janvrin-Adams Family lore states that when asked by an interested contemporary what she was sewing, Mrs Adams replied “ I am making a shift for Phil”. Phil, a diminutive for Phyllis was a popular name for a Negro servant, who we are told, was a member of the Adams household at the time.

Elisabeth Janvrin...or is it?

Now we wonder if this is all a bit of nonsense?

It looks now, as if this figure might be a stock  design.

Seated dummy board figures are quite a common pattern. We have several early ladies peeling apples { though some sources say they are peeling potatoes…well – really!} 🙂

seated pair c. 1700 Private Collection U.K. By kind permission of Sampson and Horne, London. The lady is peeling an apple, the man is smoking.

We have men smoking, as above or reading books. There are ladies and some children { yes amazingly – in those days they were seen and not heard remember: )  } just…well…sitting…. and there are others which seem to be servants…doing… things.

Seated girl c. 1700 Private Collection

And there are a few who are sewing.

So Elisabeth Janvrin may not be Elisabeth Janvrin at all.

The other interesting thing about this figure is the fact that recent microanalysis of the wood of the table ( you will recall this is the board that the figure is painted on), reveals that it is made from European Scots Pine. It was acquired for the Athenaeum in Portsmouth, Maine U.S.A. in the mid 19th century and came with a provenance from the Janvrin Adams’s home in Newington, New Hampshire. The lady’s first husband was known to have been a trans- Atlantic trader and it is said that he may have imported the figure directly from Europe. It has been suggested that she may have been painted on the remnant of a Scots pine shipping crate which an American artist has used as a medium.

Or, let’s face it, have we just got a straightforward English  or more likely Dutch import?

Has someone been telling porkies…or, at the very least…did someone in the past invent a very nice provenance for this figure?

Will we ever know?

Another interesting fact.

The face of the girl  at Temple Newsam House is one we see now and again in other dummy boards.

There are  several figures of seated peelers with this face. This has the same taste, doesn’t it, as one of my previous posts on that other group of girls…the Sweepers { see. Cleanliness is next to Godliness ) where a bunch of figures all have the same  face? It would be wonderful to find out who this girl was. Who was the model for this group of figures?

The face of a seated peeler..the same face?

NOW,  what I need is another piece of luck. I need to find another one like it. Then  I will be sure  that  what we  have  is another group of similar if not the same  figures, probably made  by the same person, from the same model and not a particular one off. Not Elisabeth Janvrin at all.  And not American..but Dutch!

😉 That should put the controversial  cat amongst the  art historical pigeons!

One Response to “Cats and Pigeons”

  1. The Real Thing? « Pastmastery's Blog Says:

    […] goes for dummy boards too. The figure of a seated sewer we looked at in the post Cats and Pigeons , the  early 18th century Temple Newsam Girl, has been re-mended for apparently, she had seen […]

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