Two of a kind

I’m having  a bit if a rest from painting. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a struggle for me some days, to grip a paintbrush for maybe a few hours and sit still, hunched over my easel. So a change is as good as a rest and I have been playing around with my other past time, the little fairies I make in aid of the Hospice. Over on  Whimsicals, my other blog you can see what I have been up to. I will soon get back to my miniature painting though and will take you all through the processes involved with photos, as I usually do.

Meanwhile these two charming dummy board figures were sent to me the other day.

The Tissington Boy

The Tissington girl

They are a delightful pair which live at Tissington Hall in Derbyshire and Sir Richard FitzHerbert Bart. sent them to me in response to my email inquiry. A friend ( another of my dummy board ‘spies’ ) had visited the house,  when on holiday in Derbyshire and seeing the pair, reported to me that there were two small figures there.

I was all prepared for the usual small mass produced figures, which as you know, dear readers,  are two a penny in this country { well maybe two a thousand pounds perhaps! 😉  } Imagine my surprise when I saw these!

Now, we need to look carefully at them, as they aren’t what they seem at first glance.

They are, from their costume, 18th century. The boy has the costume of the mid, the girl, a little earlier in the 8th century. Are they a pair at all in the proper sense of being painted and belonging together from the first? We must remember what we have said in other posts about costume not being a very good indication of age.

However, the paint technique is very similar and though they are very good portraits, they are not actually the figures they purport to be.

The two original paintings on which these figures were modelled, are in Tissington Hall too.

The original image ( from the guidebook ) cut out of a portrait.

Lady Selina FitzHerbert, her portrait ( from the guidebook)

The picture of William FitzHerbert by Thomas Hudson  ( c. 1760 ) is in the West Drawing room of Tissington Hall. Interestingly he is holding an early form of the cricket bat. The picture of Selina is in the Drawing Room too, over the fireplace. She holds a small vase of flowers. They are brother and sister.

Both of these paintings are intact so we haven’t got the often discovered, ” these are dummy board made from images cut out of paintings ” scenario.

So they must have been figures copied from the paintings. We have no hard evidence to say that the artist who painted Lady Selina, Anglelica Kauffmann ( though there are rumours she did,  ) or Thomas Hudson, dabbled in the making of dummy boards, so we know they are not contemporary with the paintings.

The Lady is seen only from the knees up and the dummy board maker has had to add her skirt bottom. They have done a good job. I have, several times, had to add a bit on the bottom of a dummy board, because there are no feet or legs and I know how difficult it is to get the right look to the figure.

Here we have one I painted a while back, of Sir John Thursby, a Northamptonshire landowner who was resident at Abington Hall,- feet and all.

Sir John Thursby from a portrait... his legs and feet added. He is seen in the panelled room at Abington.

The dummy board of William has been copied from the portrait and the portion of the background between the cricket bat and his legs and between his feet, have been cut out. This makes him very realistic of course!

Look at the faces….another clue. They are not representations of the originals. They are slightly different. Can we tell if this was intentional or accidental?  It isn’t easy, I know, to reproduce things exactly.

The clothes are very well produced and the shadows convincing.They work well as dummy boards, William better than Selina. But what are they? Are they trying to mislead us into thinking they are 18th century?

Are they, as I first thought, examples of the 19th century fascination for making a dummy board from a painting? Were they commissioned by one the the 19th century FitzHerberts of Tissington as a bit of fun? Sometimes we find that there is a talented artist in the family and that they were made by a family member – again – for a bit of fun. We have spoken here on this blog about other figures, which are examples of this kind of thing and you have seen quite a few photographs of 19th century, “early” figures. Some are obviously designed to deceive – fakes – and it takes a keen eye to find them out. Others are just as we have mentioned…a bit of fun. These though, are not fakes either.

So What Are They?

They are indeed a bit of fun for they were made in the 1990’s by Sir Richard’s mother! There is a talented artist in the family!

She loved the originals so much that she decided that she wanted some dummy boards made from these particular paintings, to have with her in her cottage. And made them herself.

How wonderful. Not many people were producing dummy boards in the 1990’s, especially historically inspired ones.

She and I are obviously two of a kind.

To see these two for yourself go to:

Tissington Hall

or visit  Tissington Hall, Tissington, Ashbourne,  Derbyshire, DE6 1RA

Thanks to Sir Richard FitzHerbert for the photos, the information and permission to use William and Selina for this post.

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