All I want for Christmas…..


This just a quick post to say that we shall be at the Kensington Dollshouse Fair on Saturday December 4th. Find us in the very centre of the Main Hall.

This is the last time you will see us there as we shall be exhibiting no more.

SO do drop by and say hello…or goodbye. < sigh>

Just to remind you of

Our display house with the 17th century roombox.

what we have for sale… here is a picture of a previous show.

The London Street

The Morning Room.

Many of the figures you see here are still for sale. They will be heavily discounted at this show.

The Grand Salon

These figures are the ones offered as a prize in the PastMastery competition and so are not for sale.

The little pug, the basket of kittens, the Ginger jar and the fireboard are still available.

Handel's music room

Handel and Mozart might decorate your own music room some day but Boccherini ( Dear Luigi ) stays with me. He is my favourite. Handel’s cat on the stool is for sale though.

There are a few I am keeping back for myself. For my new project. Hush Hush. A very few, I simply cannot bear to part with.

And for the rest…well…it’s rather like being the last puppy in the pet shop before Christmas Day. They all need to go.

All I want for Christmas is that my creations go to good homes.


A Messy Business


You are all enjoying yourselves with my little competition.

To date we have had 288 views of the blog, 7 right answers, a few puzzled readers and several failures. This is mainly thanks to Debbie  of Debbie’s Tiny Treasures who featured my PastMastery post on her blog and got everyone to have a go. Thanks Debbie. And thanks to those who have written to me.

Told you it was going to be simple but not easy!

Today we are going to nip back to the 17th century again as promised and I think, since we are in the run-up to Christmas, we shall go shopping.

Now shopping today, is a frantic affair. It’s mostly a do-it-yourself jobbie with us loading a trolley or basket with bits and bobs and then taking it to a till where a pre-pubescent being with a  nose ring and tattoos tots it up on a glorified calculator, tells you how much you owe and gives you the change the computer insists is correct. Hmmm.

Hardly any pleases or thank yous. And of course this can, in the main all be done under the same roof, should you wish. You can buy your mince and your mints, your flowers and some flour, go to the hair care aisle for shampoo and purchase a nice hung hare for your dinner, all in one place. Everything is packaged to within a inch of its life. No mess

Not so in the 17th century. No do-it-yourself then. And plenty of mess.

Some plaices, I mean places, have bitten the dust entirely. Take the Chandlers for example. Or the Cordwainers.  Mm see what I mean?

We are going to the shops which line Piccadilly in London!

The River Thames c. 1600 with the only bridge across the river.

Now it looked of course, nothing like it does today.

They say this is the oldest shop front in London.... from after the Great Fire of 1666.

No motor cars but plenty of horses ( and what they leave behind ); the difference between the rich and poor was very, very noticeable unlike today and there would have been no posh designer bags with logos advertising the latest boutique or the favourite brand of trainers.

Piccadilly before it was a circus!

Folk would have been loaded up with purchases yes, but their owners would be nowhere to be seen. You see….you didn’t DO your own shopping! Rather like nipping into Debenhams to get yourself a PERSONAL SHOPPER, you had a servant to fetch and carry, especially those who could afford to shop in Piccadilly.If you went shopping yourself, you sat in a wood panelled hall while shop assistants flitted to and fro bringing you goods to feel and look at.

There are two schools of thought as to how this place got its quaint name. Piccadilly.

The name may arise from the fact that a  tailor named Robert Baker, owned a shop on the Strand, in the late 16th century and early 17th century. He amassed a large fortune by making and selling piccadills stiff collars with scalloped edges and a broad lace or perforated border, that were then the height of fashion.

wearing of a piccadillo ruff.

It is also said that this street, when known as Portugal Street ( before Piccadilly) was a less than salubrious area and that gentlemen of a needy disposition would frequent the ladies of easy virtue around and about the buildings here. Many of these so-called gentlemen were married of course. Once it became known that one had frequented this area and of course it always DID { servants can’t keep secrets you know 😉 } one’s peccadilloes might be bruited abroad. This word comes from the latin pecado – meaning sin and so this area might have been known for the naughty goings on, the minor transgressions of the flesh that were every day occurrences here.

Who knows. What ever the name…it’s a memorable one!

Our mistress has sent us to Piccadilly to purchase some everyday requisites. Things that are essential to the living of a refined life. You will of course understand me when I say….

TEA, SNUFF, WHITING, YELLOW STARCH, POMADE…{No..nothing to do with a drink like Appletise}. SEALING WAX and CERUSE. All messy stuff of course.

Tea..? Well we still have that of course, but now we buy it in little perforated bags. IN our 17th century guise, we nip into the specialist tea and coffee shop. It’s sold by the pound, is incredibly expensive and has to be kept under lock and key. It’s weighed out for us to our employer’s own receipt. When we get it home it will be locked into a tea caddy with a glass bowl in the middle where it will be mixed as needed by the mistress before being taken to the kitchen to have hot water poured onto it. Then up it will come to the drawing room again to be consumed by the elegant folk from little porcelain bowls ( no, not a recognisable handled tea cup in sight.) Us poor servants get the dregs later re -heated and a bit thin on taste. Messy process just for a bitter thin drink that scalds the tongue?

Full sized dummy board of a servant with a tray of early Batavia ware tea cups. C. 1700 U.S.A.

Snuff? White powder for the Master who is fond of sniffing it up from the back of his hand and then spraying everyone for yards around, when he sneezes! UGH!


Whiting? Absolutely essential to any ladies’ maid. Needed for the proper cleaning of white leather gloves…soooo fashionable at the moment.But messy to apply.

Yellow starch. No laundress worth her salt would be caught without a drop of this to add to the final rinse when washing the fine folks’ ruffs. Nice fashionable yellow colour…makes ’em look like they have jaundice I think! Not good for the hands…..

Pomade? For brushing onto the wigs and for applying directly to the hair to whiten it. It’s said to keep lice and mites at bay. 😉

Sealing Wax? No such thing as an envelope to put letters in yet. That is a long way off. You fold your letters into a tiny square and seal it with wax to prevent tampering. Of course, it isn’t foolproof. Us servants know how to get under the seal when we need to…. but it’s a messy business sticking it back!

Ceruse? The mistress insists on a flawless white complexion. A sticky mixture of chalk and white lead applied to the face, neck and bosom gives her this. Sadly as it dries out, it cracks and bits flake off into her soup. Poor soul, she is so short sighted, she can’t see it. Good job really.

And what is in it for us servants?

Perquisites. Originally this word meant something acquired, again from the latin perquisitum and shortened this word gives us PERKS!


Well…. the dregs of the tea as I’ve said.We get the left overs of the mixtures of the whiting ourselves for our own use though we have no posh gloves to whiten. No -we use it on our house shoes… those softer versions of boots that we wear around the home. We have no use for sealing wax as we can’t read or write. Snuff..UGH wouldn’t be seen dead with it and as for ceruse…. I pride myself on my peaches and cream complexion, acquired by splashing with icy water and rubbing with oatmeal stuffed into little muslin bags. No need for falseness. My hair is tied up in a little cap so I wear no wig….no need for pomade, though I do love the smell of it….and now and again, I  try just a bit which has messily dropped onto the cloth I put round my mistresses’ shoulders, when dressing her hair.

My little bonnet....head of the Brighton servant. Dummy board Mid 18thc.

Two of our enterprising footmen, Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason have secreted away, in a cupboard, a lot of the candle ends from the light fixtures around the house; those that are half burnt down and are replaced each day. They say they are PERKS!

They plan to melt the left over beeswax ( for such they are and are very expensive and burn with a nice smell and a clear flame ) and re- mould them into candles to sell to a Chandler in Piccadilly.

I don’t think they will profit by it much though. If our Mistress was to get wind of it…oh dear! It would be a fine mess they would be in.

The Chandler, who began as just a candle maker but now sells everything we need for the home; paper, glue, pins, starch, things we might find today at an ironmonger, will want to know where the raw material came from. Won’t he?

I am going into the Cordwainers today too. My mistress needs her black boots repairing and I will take them to a cobbler but she says that Master Cordwainer must look at them for she needs a second pair and he must make them exactly to the same design. He is the man who will make the best shoes from the finest leather in the latest fashions. Therefore, he will make drawings from the existing pair before I take them for mending. Of course I only have one pair of boots. Good stout ones they are too. Even I, though, need pattens, little wooden overshoes like blocks, which raise me from the ground and keep the leather from the muck and mud ( and goodness knows what else) of the 17th century street.

Wooden pattens

It can be a messy business just going shopping, don’t you know !

Of course we all know that Fortnum and Mason has been on Piccadilly since the early 18th century. It’s said the store was founded with profits made by melting down candle stubs filched from Queen Anne’s palace. Who knows!?

Mr Fortnum or Mr Mason? One of the statues in the lobby of the Piccadilly shop.


Bonnie asks why yellow starch was so desirable. Hard to say. It was probably the cost.There were several colours favoured but yellow was more expensive than ordinary starch and so showed how wealthy you were. Apparently it was ‘invented ‘ by a lady called Mrs. Turner. She became embroiled in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower of London and was eventually hanged ( in a yellow ruff! ) at Tyburn for the crime. After this the fashion dyed out…I mean died out. Understandably!

The Venus Throw


I promised you a competition earlier in the year!

I think the time has come for us to have a go!

It’s going to be quite simple, but quite difficult!

The prize will be:


One of my HAND PAINTED, UNIQUE, NEVER TO BE REPEATED historic miniature dummy board figures, worth over £200!

I have decided that as most people, it seems, favour the Georgian era, for their dollshouse, I will give as a prize one of my Georgian Gainsborough dummy boards.

I have said it many times on this blog but….. it was the custom in the late 18th and the 19th century for artists to reproduce famous paintings as dummy boards. Sometimes they were copied perfectly. Sometimes they had the face of another person substituted for that which the original artist painted.

Here is perhaps the most famous example.

Rembrandt's Maria Tripp as a full sized dummy board. 5 ft. 19th c.

And the original on which it was based.

The original half portrait of Maria Tripp.

This was quite the thing to do with Thomas Gainsborough’s work and there are a few dummy boards of his lovely portraits about.

I have painted four of his portraits as mini figures and am going to offer one of them as the prize in my, last, competition. Two that are real figures and two that aren’t.

Two sisters, not a real board but one I thought would make a lovely set of figures. And I was right.

Gentleman with greyhound... (and a friend) -a real 19th c. dummy board

Lady Sheffield..a famous real 19th c. figure. ( And her friend, Hogarth's pug)

The Grand Hall with Lady with Ostritch Feather in the foreground. ( The other three can be seen in the background.)

The last figure, not a real dummy board, leans on a pillar and I will be offering this too in the prize. You choose.

THE QUESTION YOU MUST ANSWER to win one of these figures.

What is the name of the only absolutely proven, known ENGLISH  historic dummy board?

Answers to me by December 12th please. E mail me at

If I have more than one correct answer I will put names in a hat and get Stephen to draw one out. I’ll notify you by e mail and you will feature on the blog, of course.

So get your thinking caps on.

To reiterate…

The prize consists of one HAND PAINTED miniature dummy board bearing the PastMastery seal, in a box with an explanatory leaflet. Choose from:

1. Lady Sheffield

2. Gentleman with greyhound

3. Lady with Ostrich feather fan and pillar.

4. Two sisters with dog

And the Venus Throw?

The Romans played a  dice game with four knucklebones. The Venus throw happened when each dice landed on a different side. It was the highest  throw you could have and so, considered the luckiest. It was also considered the most scary, for whole livelihoods, fortunes and estates could be gambled away on it! People too I believe.

I don’t expect you to gamble away your servant or wife though…never fear! 🙂

“This strange disease of Modern Life” Arnold.


What a steady stream of comments and e mails I have had now I have finally said, unequivocally, that I am laying down my dummy board paintbrush.

Thanks to everyone who has written with messages of support, compliments and condolences.

I am giving up painting boards for sale but I shall still paint tiny pictures. I am a ‘tiny’ person ( I wish.) I can’t do big. If I couldn’t paint…if I gave up altogether, I might as well not exist.

Girl with watering can 41/2 inches and the one inch fire screen Rose basket.

There are two things I live for ( besides my dog, my husband..note the order < ahem> and my friends, ) creativity and music. Proper music that is. Music that was written with blood, sweat and tears many years ago by geniuses who had completed the training and knew what they were doing. Music that takes skill to execute today.

Boccherini and his 'audience'

Art ( in all its forms ) that was made by skilled and dedicated artisans.

Hogarth and his pug Trump. Wonder how he got his name don't we?

I’ve told you before I am an old fashioned girl….can’t be doin’ with this 20th/21st century stuff!  😉

Oh how I love the 17th century. I am a lady well out of her age.

I had an e mail the other day, one from a collector of my things ( yes I did have one or two ) 😉 who lives in London and who has A Title……{ Oh you…big head!}

She very sweetly told me

” Sue, you are a wonderful painter, a novel artisan, an unquestionable authority on your subject, a fabulous raconteur and a charming and proper lady to boot!”

I thought that was something coming from a’ ‘real lady’!

She urges me to carry on writing a blog of some kind as she loves to read it, for…

“Your pearls of wisdom, your understated humour which never fails to make me LOL and the absolute finesse in all you do and say.”

HEAVENS! ( Thank you from the heart of my bottom, Kate ) 🙂

Well yes…I am most definitely a lady out of her age. I deplore the demise of femininity ( and here I mean what it is to be feminine- not Feminism which is another thing entirely and not as you might think, mutually incompatible. )

And it has set me thinking that I might carry on a blog on the subject of modern life…..its  silliness and stupidities, its lack of decorum and grace and what it means to be a ‘lady’. And I would hope to do it in a sideways slanted way, gently!

Now, I can’t honestly, hand on heart say, that I am a Lady all the time. Like everyone, I have my moments. However, I do try.  I try to live by a rather idiosyncratic code which is rather old fashioned and might seem a trifle old hat….passe, antiquated and not relevant to today’s way of life.

So be it. I don’t like modern life anyway as I have said. I find it brash, loud, lacking in decorum or gentility and hard jolly work!

If you would enjoy something like that…. please tag along. And pass comment. I love comments…..they make me think.

I think my dummy boards would approve.

Elisabeth Bennet, Austen's famous character from Pride and Prejudice. 5ins.

They hail from an age that had far more charm than our own. They are charming artifacts in themselves, as you have found, those who have been with me in this blog from the beginning.

If they could speak, I’m sure they would make short shrift of the ‘me’ generation..politely giving them a nudge towards the art of selflessness and the importance of good manners.

They are in some cases quite beautiful to look at….if they could speak, again, they would tell us that beauty is not enough without charm and good breeding. Rather like one of these modern roses – without scent, a vintage car without any petrol in the tank or a beautiful purse devoid of pennies.

They have lasted an age. They carry on still. They are not a ‘flash in the pan’, as are many things today. They continue to lurk in the shadows, watching, waiting; serenely carrying on in the face of adversity, with grace and style.

I hope I can. 😉



Mme de Pompadour 6ins across. £250.00 - a figure I painted as a test to see if I could! 😉

My last post ( haha…. how apt), provoked quite a few outbursts from my loyal readers.

Tucked at the very bottom was a line.

I’m giving up painting them in the New year.

“How can I do this?”…you cried. ” We shall miss you….”, ” You are unique!” – ( Thank you Jacky) ” No…you mustn’t!”- ( Thank you Dave ).

Not only will I be giving up painting tiny dummy boards, but I will be giving up this blog too. It’s been fun. It’s been a challenge. I loved writing and it has been a source of great pleasure to me to make you all laugh and to irritate you by turns 🙂 and…yes… educate you. It’s been a good thing for me, in that it has firmed up my knowledge of the dummy board figure and it has been a good thing for dummy boards because they needed an advocate….this all but forgotten art form.

Now I want to concentrate on my book and on collecting the ( very costly ) permissions for copyright and the ( even costlier ) permissions for photos to be reproduced. I have no more to say on the subject really unless I just put the whole book on here. And I really don’t want to do that.

There are other reasons too, why I am giving up.

You know that my health is not good. I find that painting miniatures hour upon hour is not a good thing…well…actually even just ten minutes is a trial!

I am giving up doing the shows after February 2011 too. Why is this? I think they are too high cost for returns. I think they are not proving useful to me and I know that they are detrimental to my health as it takes me weeks to recover. I cannot do them alone and Stephen has to have time off to help me. He hates doing them and being self employed he loses money if we don’t make any. Now, I wouldn’t mind too much if I was inundated with orders mid way between one show and another. But they are a mere trickle. I get perhaps  three or four a year. Commissions are very nice but I would like to sell some of the figures I have Already Painted, between shows, those that are historical replicas. That is after all why I started doing it. To offer the miniature world something they had never seen before and couldn’t really buy anywhere else. Hand painted in oils on wood.

I have come to the conclusion after about six years of making them, that the Miniature world is not yet ready for them.

I have exhibited, I have lectured, I have blogged, I have evangelised for my subject. To no avail.

I do not sell enough to make it worthwhile.

Girl with White Pinny and The Cocker Spaniel. Both sold.

I’m sure you have heard it before but if I had had a £ for every person who had – a. promised to come back and buy one or – b. thought they were absolutely brilliant and such a clever idea and blah blah…. I would be doing very well thank you.

I know my loyal followers enjoy my scribblings as much as I like to pen them…but not enough of you have put your hands into your pockets and have purchased, once you have read about my antics with my antiques ( sorry!)

So in February, after the Thame show, PastMastery mini dummy boards will be no more.

Regency bowl of fruit. Actual size. It's about an inch in real life and the most difficult piece I have ever done.

If you feel like owning one, you can either come and purchase at KDF or Thame, for the last time, I will be having a SALE! Or you can e mail me and tell me what you might like, from my existing figures. I am doing no further commissions.

Those of you who, who are owners of a PastMastery figure may, in the fullness of time, hopefully, think that they have a unique item which is a limited edition and which I trust will become a real collector’s item.

From this post till I finish I will concentrate on my silly stories illustrated by dummy board photos.

This I know you buy!

The Candle Girl who lights up!

Thanks to all those who I haven’t mentioned who have sent messages of support. They are much appreciated.

And a swansong?

There is a beautiful madrigal by Orlando Gibbons ( click here to hear a wonderful rendition by the Hilliard Ensemble.)

The Silver Swan who living had no note, when death approached unlocked her silent throat.

Leaning her breast against the reedy shore, has sung her first and last and sung no more.

Farewell all joys, oh death come close mine eyes,

More geese than swans now live more fools than wise!

Sums up how sad I feel I think.

Post Early for Christmas!


It is now , as I type, only 8 weeks and 2 days to Christmas!


It creeps up on you like a nasty illness! ( Not that I think, actually, Christmas is anything like an illness, I love it!)

I have not really been unaware of its presence lately. Over on my other blog, Whimsicals I have been Christmassy for a while now, as indeed I must, when my predominant product is perfumed with orange and cinnamon, pomegranate and plum pudding fruits, warm gingerbread and spruce. ( Not together you understand!) 😉

So I thought we would have a little taster, just to remind us that Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat and that it would be very nice if a few people could put a penny or two in the impecunious miniaturist’s hat!

One might wonder, on a blog devoted to dummy boards, what I might find to talk about that is related to Christmas.I’ve often said that there is practically no area of life into which the dummy board maker, over the last 5 centuries or so, has not poked his paintbrush! This celebration is not sacrosanct.

Christmas, of course as we know it, is a relatively modern festivity. I suppose we can really say that it ‘took off’ at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century. It was at this time that the dummy board maker, working in his decorative art studio where he, for the most part turned out signs for shops, painted carriages for the wealthy, and possibly embellished the dainty furniture and Art Nouveau walls that were becoming  all the vogue at this time, turned his attention to producing work specifically geared to the decorative demands of the season.

Christmas is without doubt, all the fault of the Germans….or more properly the Germanic peoples. They were the ones, eons ago, who thought about decking the halls with boughs of holly, kissing under mistletoe ( though it may have more sinister origins actually ), praising the holly and the ivy ( full grown or otherwise ) and dragging in the Yule log. That gives us a clue. Yule.

Dragging in the Yule Log ( Chambers book of Days.)

If you are one for old manuscripts, boring dead old languages and bits of ‘arcaniaand you know that I am, you will know that Yule or Giuli was a festivity practised by the Ancient Anglo Saxons way back when, in the deep mid- winter, when frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron and water like a….. oh for goodness sake…..!  and it was originally, a celebration of the Mother……How interesting…..

And so the whole thing is still, more or less ( if you take out the wanton greed and commercialism of our modern age ) a Paean to motherhood, babies and all that soppy stuff. Nothing originally, of course to do with yer actual Christ. ( But that’s another story). 😉

So it’s to Germany and Austria that we must look for the Christmas dummy board.

IN a tiny town out west, in the U.S.A. ( where else? ) run by a wonderful chap called Brian Goddold, ( wonderful name too), is a CHRISTMASABILIA COLLECTION!

I kid you not.:)

He has scoured the globe for all ‘old’ things to do with Christmas. He has 17th century Thuringian balls ( well! )  😉 made of glass, real silver tinsel from the 18th century, boxes full of 19th century dolls made of celluloid, glittery shapes made from strung beads, ancient moth eaten paper chains and this…..

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree, How lovely are your branches. < ahem>

This is a 19th century dummy board of a Christmas tree, standing four feet high. ON it we see all the usual paraphernalia we would expect on a tree of this age. Little bells, wrapped sweets, cones, dolls, jesters or punches with the hump; fruit, stars, candles ( real of course ), wonderful pull along animals and the ubiquitous bauble.

It was made at the end of the 19th century in Nuremburg, in Germany’s Bavarian region for display in chocolate and confectioners shops. They would slide them into the window amongst all the goodies that the shop had to offer.Gorgeous cakes and pastries, delicately decorated chocolate boxes and  shaped edible creations in the form of angels, bells and snow topped trees.

The shops around the towns of Germany/Austria would purchase our Christmas Tree to be novel and different and they would push the boundaries of decorative decency, filling their windows to bursting point with every example of the chocolatier’s/confectioner’s art, in order to be The Best In Show. And yes, believe it or not, there were prizes for the best one.

This little tree is a bit of an enigma. On it , it clearly says, Merry Christmas. What would a German tree be doing with an English greeting?

We think it’s possible this one was made for the export market…but we have no idea where it went. It was bought at auction in 1999 and had been in the U.S. for a while then. Maybe it was made for the American market. What ever, it’s a very ( forgive me ) sweet thing!

A chocolate museum in Austria the sort of building that would house the dummy board Christmas Tree

This tree is pretty unique. I know of only one other and sadly, that was photographed in the 1980’s and has since disappeared.

The second Christmas tree, rather crudely cut from his very cluttered original background.

The same thing applies though. It was a window display, a eye catcher, a point of sale accessory.

Another interesting Winter dummy board, is the Mistletoe girl.

This four foot high figure was made also at the end of the 19th century and is a direct copy of that wonderful painting by John Everett Millais ” The Mistletoe Gatherer”. Many paintings, as you have heard before on this blog, have been transferred to the dummy board form, over time and this one lends itself perfectly.

The Mistletoe girl

Nothing is known about it, except that it is painted by a talented artist and copyist and it is in private collection in France where it has been for many years.

There she sits, in the snow, her sickle in hand, a bundle of mistletoe strapped to her back, waiting for….well we don’t really know do we? Is she waiting for a customer to come and buy a sprig or will she sell the whole bundle to one greengrocer? The choice is yours.

And you have quite a bit of choice if you are looking for a figure to decorate your house this Christmas too. Modern Christmas dummy boards abound. There are bunnies dressed as Santas, Santas in every colour you can imagine….including red. There are anthropomorphic creatures of every phylum with which you may prink and preen your parlour.

Modern Naive Santa

A more 'traditional looking' Santa

However, if you really want CLASS – in the same collection as above in the U.S. are two most beautiful 4ft. Father Christmases. These too were for coffee, confectioner’s, chocolate shops. These too were hand painted in exquisite detail in Nuremburg Germany in the 19th century.

The green St. Nicholas with his traditional companion, the hare.

Of course they are not the sugary sweet Santa Claus in red that we see everywhere at Christmastide. They are the more earthy, rustic, original St. Nicholases.( I’ll show you the brown one later in the season.)

I couldn’t resist painting them in miniature, as I have the first tree and the girl gathering mistletoe. I doubt I will get the opportunity to see the like again, in my lifetime. They are so rare.

If they were available as a full sized figure, and I had a couple of thousand pounds ( each!) lying about I would certainly buy them could I come across them in auction. It’s possible I  could of course copy them full sized….but somehow their history gives them a real charm  a modern copy would never have.

The mini figures are available from me, at a lot less than a thousand pounds  😉 and all the Christmas figures featured here will be on show at the Kensington Dollshouse Festival in London on the 4th December.

Please do pass by the stand. You may never get the opportunity to buy them again.

I’m giving up painting them in the New year.

More anon.

So it’s a definite case of Post Early For Christmas!


Bad News – Good News?


A very sad thing has happened. It has never happened to me before. Do you want the bad news, or the good news first?

I had an e mail yesterday from the daughter of the lady who has commissioned my Governess and child.

My commission is never to be delivered. The nursery into which they were to have been ensconced will never be finished. My creation is surplus to requirements.

My poor client has died!

Well…I knew she was elderly but according to her daughter Margaret, she didn’t quite expect to be called that miniature mansion in the sky quite yet.

So there is no going back…nothing for it but to declare that my Governess and child are homeless.  😦

My client did thoughtfully send me a deposit, which I must say I require from all my commissioners, be they large dummy boards, little ones, mini pictures or full sized ones. Margaret will not require this sum of money to be returned, she tells me. She is not a miniature fancier. She has no interest in dolls houses or their contents. One thing is certain, my double dummy board will not be required to swell this particular collection and I have no idea what will happen to all my client’s mini bits and bobs.

So I will have to put my pair on sale at Kensington Dollshouse Festival on December 4th. And since I have been paid for a good part of the work I have done, I will be able to offer this dummy board to the masses at a reduced price!

Have a look at:

All in the Stars

for a look at the figure as it is at the moment. There is a bit more work to go on yet. I’ll post a picture when it’s complete.

BUT there is Good News- if anyone here is after a *one off * Georgian Governess and a young boy… speak now…or forever hold thy peace.

This dummy board can be had for An Even Better Price to readers of this blog. E mail me from

Some good may come out of the bad.


The Fashion for Fripperies.


This is a question, posted on my website contact page, which turned up in my inbox a little while ago.

Dummy boards are quite old aren’t they? I haven’t seen all that many but those I have seen don’t seem to be quite as knocked about as I think they should be, given the fact that they have been trundled from here to there. Why? Are they fakes?


Definite fakes?


Now this is a very interesting question.

Firstly, the gentleman asking the question is an antiques dealer and has seen just a few in his career. He is also in America, where really old dummy boards, ie: those that are 17th and early 18th century are quite rare.

Most dummy boards circulating in the auctions of the United States are 19th century imports from Europe or are American copies of 19th century figures. Those that are really old tend to be in collections of museums which hang onto them. Some have been sold out of those collections lately but few are really significant historically. The exception to this might be the pairs of late 17th/early 18th century children figures which we have talked about before. These were made in London by sign and coach painters in the area known as Saffron Hill, where these artisans collected and are what we might call nowadays, mass produced. ( As much as anything not made by machine can be.) 😉 We have spoken about these before in A Bit on the Side.

They are the most commonly found dummy board figures of all and are represented in practically every country where we find this art form.


late 17th/ early 18th c. boy at Forde Abbey Dorset.


There are, as there must be, a few fakes about. They were quite commonly produced in the late 19th/early 20th century when the fashion for this rather, what might be called, esoteric artifact became a little more widespread.

People were becoming more affluent and had more disposable income than heretofore. In order to beautify their homes they wanted to forge a closer connection with the past ( think William Morris and his cronies,) and there was a fashion for harking back to the past.Quite a few small figures were produced at this time which were most certainly intended to deceive the purchaser into thinking they were buying the real thing, the real 17th century McCoy! You would be no one unless you had a few antiques dotted about. Even in a rather modest home.

So yes….to answer the question, some of those figures you have seen Bill, might be fakes.

A pair of small children from the 17th century, made between let’s say 1680 and 1720 might fetch £3000 – £4000 today at auction ( depending on who is there to bid, of course ). If you could churn these out and convince people they were the real thing you would be, as they say, quids in! It was no different in the past.


Little girl end of the 17th beginning of the 18th century. Forde Abbey Dorset.


Now to the problem of condition. Bill is quite right when he says that some of them don’t look as if they have ” been around a bit”.

The other thing our 19th century ancestors were good at was Restoration, with a capital R!

Many conservators now ( note the  c. word), spend hours undoing the damage that our well meaning but rather hubristic forefathers did, to buildings, antiques and textiles for example and decorative items.

Now we tend to CONSERVE things. In the past they mended them, made them good, put back that which was missing and ‘tarted things up’. 😉 IN some cases they changed the thing beyond all recognition!

Art conservation is the preservation of antiquities for the future. This includes the examination and documentation of items, some treatment and preventative care, all the while supported by research and education. The conservator will discover the causes of any deterioration and will try to prevent further trouble. The work done is generally reversible.

Restoration involves repairing, cleaning and sometimes an informed reconstruction of the work. The most common task today, of restorers, for example, is the removal of accretions from sculptures or paintings. Restoration tries to bring the artifact back to what we think it might have looked like when new. The major problem here is that there may be differing  views on what we think the artifact is supposed to look like, and  inappropriate restoration may adversely affect the item’s long-term preservation.

Many dummy boards have been restored. Some have been completely overpainted. And this is why when we look at them it’s sometimes  difficult to tell if they are the real thing or not, if they are historic or not.

I hope this answers your question Bill.

Let’s go a little further. There is a fashion at the moment, for Vintage. I’ve touched on it before in…Shabby Chic and said how I deplore it. Rusty old garden chairs, scarred wooden furniture, items that really belong in the garden shed, torn books or paper items, old boxes, crates and jam jars, chipped enamel ware and faded fabrics are de rigueur in the fashionable home of the moment. I truly cannot understand it.

If I have something that I adore which has seen better days, I would keep it…yes…but I wouldn’t put it on show to draw attention to the fact that I hadn’t ( or my ancestors hadn’t ) looked after it very well.

And some things belong out of sight. Generally those things worth keeping, are and have been, looked after.

We do have, we are lucky, many fine antique items which adorn our home. I look after them. I cosset them. I polish. I handle carefully ( yes I DO use my 18th century glass) and if something is damaged I get an expert to look at it and either conserve it or restore it properly, if I am unable to do it myself. {Before you ask……no I don’t own any historic dummy boards. They are far too expensive for me. I wish I did. 😉 }

If I did own an old dummy board, would I get it Restored?

I think I would. I don’t think I could live with an item quite as distressed as this….


Soldier dummy board possibly mid to late 19th c. Thanks to Malcolm Gliksten


But I would make sure that it was obvious it had been restored, to the right eye. I would most certainly do something with the two from Forde Abbey ( above ), for example …they are so sweet.

Homespun style is not my thing. I am old fashioned and I like a thing to look as if it is well cared for, not well used; I like it to have been carefully designed and skilfully executed, not look like something a four year old could have come up with. Simplicity is all very well…but true simplicity is deceivingly clever and there are few fashionably decorative things around today which could be dignified with this epithet.

If I see one more hessian sack cut up and turned into one of these silly hanging, marginally dove shaped, button for eyes, badly sewn creations for an equally silly price…..I will scream! *What skill in that eh? It’s not even as if they are novel. They are everywhere.

If I was trying to find something a bit different from an online gift shop, I would be hard pressed. They are all the same…..We are all supposed to have pretty, pretty homes, in whites and pastel colours ( not very practical with dogs and children), with twee little fabrics and boudoirs for bedrooms ( my husband might have something to say about that )! We should all have open shelved kitchens with bric a brac on every shelf, edged with pretty, pretty lacy wotnots, ( again I think Stephen’s nerves might be a bit frayed by that  feminine touch,) forgetting that the reason we all developed doors on our kitchen cupboards was to keep out flies and dust!

Oh dear…I won’t go on….

I’ll stick to my dummy boards….. they at least were laboured over ( generally ) by skillful craftsmen who knew their job, had served an apprenticeship of 7 years and who were paid a pittance to create something clever, which has lasted centuries and in the main, are beautiful to look at even today.

*No apologies to those who like this kind of unsophisticated stuff! 😉

The fashion will change. It always does.


The beautiful Baton Rouge Girl English 1680 by kind permission of the museum.


All in the Stars?


I feel like a jelly that’s been sat on 😉

I’ve been a bit poorly this week and so haven’t got on with my commission as I should. It has been sitting drying for quite a while. It’s a good job there is no hurry. My client is in the throes of constructing the nursery in which my figure will sit and hasn’t got as far as she would like either…. must be something in the stars!

Here is a horoscope for Aquarius today….

“Oh dear. Things have been a bit slow lately.Perhaps you feel that you haven’t done as well as you ought to have done. It is, though, hard to imagine how anyone else could have done better had they faced the same circumstances. Working through complicated problems and long lists of jobs is as easy for you today as slicing a hot knife through butter. { I wouldn’t say it’s quite that yet…} Your concentration span is impressive, and your mind is bright and alert. ( Mmm is it ever? } You also know that if the conventional route doesn’t work, you have plenty of lateral thinking ideas up your sleeve too. All power to you, Aquarius. You know how to get the job done”

Well….doesn’t that make you feel a bit better 😉

You will remember, Teresa Thompson very kindly let me “borrow” her dolls for a dummy board of a Governess and her charge, as I couldn’t find anything which was good enough as a reference.

Here are her dolls.I have had to crop the photo, as my client didn’t want all four children. It would have made it quite a wide figure too and the board I paint on would have had to be joined. As it is, it only just fits.

Now we have prepared the board, transferred the design and the painted in the outline.

Just the beginning.

The Governess is quite young in Teresa’s doll. I am going to make mine a bit older.

Here is the first layer of paint.

The first paint layer and the board stuck to the painting slope.

Teresa took as her model, the painting by Hogarth, of the Graham children.

William Hogarth. The Graham Children. The Tate gallery. London.

So we can do the same and use the picture as an aid, to faces and dress.In addition I shall use the face of an 18th century dummy board girl, from Sweden, for my governess.

Incidentally, do you remember we were talking about a dummy board which was holding a bunch of cherries? This was in The Girl in the Red Dress .

One child is holding up cherries in this picture. The youngest one, sat in a kind of cart, seems to be fascinated by them and isn’t looking at the bird in the cage or at the viewer.

Cherries, as we said, are often a symbol of death in infancy. The eldest child here isn’t the deceased child, but the smallest one is. He died whilst this picture was being painted, hence the symbolism of the cherries. We must remember infant mortality was high in the 18th century.Sad.

I’ve said it before on this blog…but it’s amazing what we learn when we seriously make a study of something……about  other things, I mean. Subjects additional to those we have chosen to study that is.  Quite by accident. I wonder if that too is in the stars? 😉

So here is what we have so far.

The Governess and little Lord..somebody. Miniature about 3 1/2 by 5 inches

Three layers of paint and the detail is emerging and the realistic depth of the characters. More to go on of course and then the final details.

Sorry this is a short post…. hopefully the words will flow from the pen ( or keyboard in modern parlance ) next week when I am feeling better.

Double Standards?


You do love my little trips into the 17th/18th century don’t you? 🙂 ( well…you tell me you do ).

I like writing them! And since I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself for developing a nasty case of the head cold ( or in 17th century speak a rheum ), and I don’t fancy doing any painting ( my nose would dribble too much anyway), we shall shoot off again into that fascinating century.

We have been to a Masquerade and a Masque. We have sampled the delights of the coffee house. We have rambled along the streets of the capital, discovered the delights of the Pleasure Garden and the Royal Hospital at Chelsea.

Where else is there for us to go?

Well…yes we could go to church!

But in the 17th century that wasn’t terribly exciting or adventurous. Unless you were a recusant!

Now, a recusant was someone who refused to attend the services of the Church of England. They might originally have been a Catholic ( when of course the accepted Church was that of Protestantism, here in England Scotland and Wales. ) who still hankered after the Mass in Latin. They may have been simply disaffected with the accepted Church, or they may have been just plain pagan. Yes, there were still, in certain rural parts, people to whom Christianity was a mystery, people who had never really engaged with it. Thankfully.

II you were caught, you were fined hugely. You might have been imprisoned too. And occasionally you might have died for your faith…or lack of it. So most people paid lip service to the conventions  and avoided trouble. Or they paid the fines.

No, not exciting – unless you have a preacher upon whose every word you can hang? ( Sometimes literally!)

Let’s nip into one of those newly re- built churches of London; the ones that were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and see what the theme of the day is. If we sit at the back…we can easily slip out again! 😉

St. Benet Fink in London before it was demolished in the 19th century.

Let’s slide in to the back pew of *St. Benet Fink, ( I kid you not..a silly name I own it….but a true one.) on Threadneedle Street. There is a sermon going on.

” And I say unto you, you have sinned…sinned and are stooped in filth…” Aha! One of Pillock’s.

No…genuinely. The Reverent Pillock. His full Baptismal name is – Praise In Loud Lyrics Oh Contumacious Kindred. The Reverent Kindred, but he is ever known as Sin and Damnation Pillock! ( Truly they DID have some strange names at this time…I’m not pulling your leg!)

The Reverent Pillock perhaps?

” Exasperate your hearts, you know it to be true. In the deepest well of your being you are wading in sin. Lift your eyes to the Heavens  and ask God to reach down and execute you, for you are in dire need of  Saveloy.”

Ah yes…his other name, his nickname if you like is, Drivel Pillock! He was wounded in the head at the battle of Edgehill in the Civil War and ever since then he has been unable to q u i t e achieve the right word….in the right place. A Mr. Malaprop.

There is a full house. There always is. His sermons are an education.

” People may say- God has fornicated us…yes…he has completely constricted us to the depths of Satan’s dwarf!”

Ah yes….

There’s a lot of nodding of heads and tittering of…well…titters.. 😉

We look around.

Ah… Mrs. Bunintheoven. Now she is a recusant, a Catholic from Ireland. But she doesn’t mind coming to church to show of her fine clothes and her brood of children. 11 now and…we see there is another on the way.

Mr. Bunintheoven isn’t here. He is a Master Baker and has dispensation to be at home…baking. He works all night and sleeps by much of the day. Mmm, and other things.

Lady and baby 1680 Dutch .Mrs Bunintheoven?

Sitting right at the front, is a stalwart of the church, Patience Isavertu. She is married to that old codger ( at least thirty years her senior ), Diligence Isavertu. They are Hugenots and have come over from the Continent where they were persecuted for their Puritan faith. Here they have found a nice place amongst the artisans of London and are well known for the fine fabric they weave. And Mrs. Isavertu is noted for her lovely embroideries.

Mr & Mrs Isavertue? A very rare early 18thc. double dummy board from Bolling Hall Yorks. U.K. by kind permission of the owners.

The Reverent has worked himself in to a froth. A right Royal prickle. < ahem>.

“….from Clerical times, there has been an idea of feminine booty. An ideal sought after, fraught over. A kind of Holy Gruel!”

His favourite theme…women and their vanity, men and their lusts?

“Men have sought to possess, to own the immaculate ( Heavens..he got that one right!). “Was not Helen of Troy the face that lunched a thousand shops?”

Mmmmmmm. 😉

” But a wicked woman who was unfashionable to her husband. A parasol of beauty but nevertheless the acne of  adulterous woman kind.”


The Reverent is summing up after two hours of rant! He is very fond of all words ‘dirty’.

“Foulness is amongst us. Some people are veritable sowers. ” Mrs Isavertu looks up, a frown on her brow. English of course isn’t her first language.In her head she is listening to her own tongue but her ears hear something quite different. Does he mean that people who are sewers are corrupt? She pinches her lip with her teeth. Oh dear, she doesn’t look very happy.

” Middens…. their lives are middles with all the filmy rhubarb, the nosy besmirching pollination one can imagine.”.

Goodness…poor Mrs. Isavertue, looks ready to burst into tears.

” All will be saved…. God is Mercurial. He will forgive. Search your lives, every corner, every dim regress, every crook and fanny. Confess, stitch out your homes to his measliness.”

Poor Patience looks a little better.

Girl with black gloves. Mid 18thc. Chateau de Malle France.

She catches the eye of a rather pretty woman in a saffron gown holding a fan in her black gloved hand. A series of emotions passes over her face. Surprise, she scowls- annoyance, she tosses her head up- pride, she smiles with her mouth ( not her eyes )- sarcasm?

This is Widow Ophra Mann, from the other side of the river. What is she doing here? She belongs amongst the lower class of Southwark, the stews and bath houses, the roaring public alehouses and the ( God forbid) theatres!

She is an actress! And we all know what THAT means.

The congregation is ready to go home. Patience lifts her eyes to the church roof.

A crucifixion dummy board set. Church in Cyprus 19th c.? By kind permission of Dr. Clare Graham

However did this manage to escape the rigorous iconoclastic purges of the past few years?

Double standards of course…. do one thing…profess another. Patience Isavertue ‘harrumphs’ in irritation and stands ready to file into the aisle.

” Oh how nice to see you once more Mrs. Mann.” says the Reverent as the pretty lady passes.He pumps her hand enthusiastically ” I trust you are in good stealth? ” Ophra Mann frowns…and then the brow clears,

” Yes indeed Reverent. I am well. I am staying with my married sister Mrs. Amanta Fleece in the city. Perhaps you might care to visit?”

There is a whispered conversation and the two part.

“Mmm?” thinks Patience, ” there is more to this than meets the eye !”

Mrs Isavertue takes a turn around the newly refurbished church. White walls, no painting. Good. No statues. Good.  But what is THIS?

Aaron, early 18thc. Church in the East of England

A dummy board figure of an Old Testament saint! High up in the rafters of a side chapel. Whatever do they want him for?

And on the other side another one to match!


Moses early 17thc. ditto above

(One of a pair of Double Standups!!),

They think they are beautifying the church but graven images are not needed in such a holy place. One needs to focus the mind. Plain white walls and a lack of decoration does that perfectly.

She stomps out after her elderly husband, the last to leave.

” Thank you Reverent Pillo…..Kindred for a most edifying sermon. ” he is heard to say.

Dilligence makes his way slowly ( he is a bit bent with all that leaning over the loom), down the street.

The Reverent Pillock locks the church and hurries away!

“Pah” says Patience. “We all know where he is going.”

It’s a well known fact that the Rev has got a thing going with The widow Mann.

All this talk of sin and damnation. Needs to look into every dim regress and crook and fanny of his own soul. And him a married man. Disgusting. I’d have nothing to do with it all. Not catch me fraternising with…”

” Mrs Isavertue..” Patience hears her name and turns. The pretty lady is tripping lightly over the churchyard to greet her.

Patience smiles.

” Oh Mrs Mann I’m so ploosed to see you. Your new kirtle, the one I have been embroodering with rises, will be ready next week. Would you like to call for a farting?”

“Indeed I would, thank you. ” is the reply.

Ah well…… needs must when the Devil drives… Poor Patience says to herself!


The new kirtle embroodered with rises? Chateau de Malle girl with fan. Mid 18thc. French.