Black, white and colour

Two pieces of good news. I have sold The Boot! It will be off to a good home at the weekend. Its spell in the showcase at KDF, paid off!

And I have found something I needed to find and am pretty happy about it.

I know how you, my dummy board fancying public, love a detective story. The tale of my ‘discovering’  dummy boards is pretty amazing in itself and you have had some of my success stories here on this blog.

And now here again, we have a puzzle, a tale of mystery, of lost and then found and all by sheer serendipity! I’ll tell you about today’s find.

Years ago, when I was just beginning to have a glimmer of understanding of this strange and little known art form; when I’d got to the stage where I had got a goodly number of them under my belt and was starting to be able to get a handle, so to speak, on the different types, the ages of them, what they meant, I came across a brief  reference to an American magazine article about some dummy boards from the United States…only a tiny mention on one page mind you, in a British book on antiques.

Old books are such an essential part of research.

I sent to the British Library for the article. When it arrived, it was in black and white and in itself only two incomplete pages. This is always galling for the dummy board hunter as, you do so hope that what you are going to receive will be in glorious technicolour, enabling you to see every little detail, every hair of the dummy board dog, every pimple on the end of the aristocratic nose, every fashion plate’s flick of the artist’s brush.

Poo, you think…black and white and not a very good photo at that! What can we learn from that? More to the point…what have I paid for? 🙂

The text wasn’t terribly helpful either. It didn’t tell us where the dummy boards were, where they had been, or anything about them. There wasn’t even a date on the photocopy, for photocopy it was – and rather a poor one at that.

A brainwave and a little digging around in an Oxford library, eventually gave us a date for the Antiques magazine article.

And on careful inspection, we did see a tiny little line of printing to the side of the photo. Just a few dots really.

Thanks heavens for magnifying glasses.

Sherlock does it again....

The line of printing was a person’s name and a reference to an American Newspaper. I wonder, I thought, if this is the photographer?

An e-mail to the newspaper later and we find that the photo is very old indeed. No one knew anything about it at all except that it was out of copyright.

That is a Good Thing ( thanks to “1066 and all that” ) for a dummy board enthusiast, as so many photos nowadays are copyrighted and it costs an arm and a leg to obtain permission to publish. Everyone is out to make money. Few will let you have a photo for nothing, though, I have to say, I have been incredibly lucky, with many of my illustrations.

The original photo. Elizabeth the First and Sir Walter Raleigh

So it’s nice to know that we can have this black and white photo and use it, but how much better, as I have said, to have a colour one, with more detail.

And a colour one has turned up this very day!

The current owners of the dummy board pair ( for it’s this pair we spotted in that old document) have sold it recently at Christies  in New York and it has appeared online at their site. They always have such good photos. I was doing my usual scout round the web today and I found them. More to the point, I remembered the above black and white image and made the connection! The little old grey cells are still in fairly good working order then?

Don’t answer that!

SO here they are. The man, I think has been reversed in this photo.

Overcoming Gremlins is the post where you last saw them.

Liz and Walt...yes you have seen them before....in Overcoming Gremlins

Christies say they are late 18th century or early 20th, 36 inches high, oil on wood and they are probably English…though  my thoughts are they may indeed be American and they look twentieth century.  Perhaps an analysis of the wood of the table could tell us if they are made on an English wood, or an American speciality and that would give us something to go on. More than this we don’t know. We do know they fetched $1250 ( at today’s rate about £850) which is quite a staggering amount for a late and small dummy board pair. The fact that they are small and quite well painted, probably has something to do with it as they could be easily accommodated in the modern home. No massive Baronial pile would be necessary to show them off well.

They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea….and they’re not mine. I prefer something with a bit more of a history. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Tudor/ Elizabethan dummy boards don’t exist. ( the age ended in 1603 ) From all the evidence we have to date, they are a 17th century phenomenon. If we had to call them anything, we might say the dummy board  is possibly Jacobean, ( early 17th century ) probably Carolean ( mid 17th century) and certainly William and Mary, ( end of the 17th century and just into the 18th. )

Dummy boards have been faked over the past one hundred years or so. These two would never pass for the real thing and so they would never even pass as fakes. They are simply a bit of fun. Maybe they were made for the theatre, as an advert.  If they are indeed English, maybe they were made for display in an upmarket Tea Shoppe, housed in an Elizabethan half timbered building. They may even have been, as was the Master Apothecary I mentioned in a recent post, a display in a museum or themed exhibition.

Whatever they were for…It’s nice to think someone liked them enough to pay so much for them.  😉

And it’s nice to see them come from black and white into the world of colour! I would never have guessed they were red!

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