At Rochester Cathedral

Douce counted among his friends not only Thomas Stothard (1755-1834), but also two of his sons, Charles Alfred and Robert. Many works by the former, who was historical draughtsman to the Society of Antiquaries, are kept with Douce’s topographical prints. His brother Robert was less well known -and, apparently, less successful in his dealings with the Society. In September 1830, Douce wrote to Cumberland that young Stothard had been ‘unhandsomely treated’ by the Society, probably referring to his failure to obtain an appointment to replace his brother, who had died in 1821. Douce added, in characteristic fashion, that he could not understand such treatment, since ‘they have certainly employed men of less talent’.

That Robert Stothard was a competent draughtsman is proved by two rather delicate drawings that Douce annotated as ‘Drawn by R Stothard’:

Robert Stothard, Two sculptures from Rochester Cathedral, c. 1825, graphite, ink and grey wash (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The two figures above represent Church and Synagogue -they can be found in the jambs of the doorway to the Chapter Library, Rochester Cathedral. Stothard’s drawings show the sculptures before their restoration by Lewis Nockalls Cottingham in 1825 -the photograph below is from an article on the cathedral signed ‘Dotted Crotchet’ and published in The Musical Times (March 1, 1908), in which the author writes, rightly outraged at this ‘vandalism’, that the ‘ill-fated’ Cottingham ‘transformed the female figure on the left into a mitred bearded bishop!’. The bishop remained in place until the late nineteenth century, when the figure became female again:

Cottingham was an antiquary, a preservationist, and, according to the DNB, an early ‘promoter of an archaeological Gothic revival’. Despite being considered as ‘a careful historicist’, his restoration of the doorway has been unanimously criticised. But it was a suprise to find out that Douce might be the one to blame for the bearded bishop: in her catalogue of the Cottingham exhibition at the Ashmolean, Janet Myles refers to his correspondence with Douce on the subject of this specific figure. Douce agreed that the Church should be represented by a Bishop, rather than by a female personification, and he sent Cottingham ‘a tracing from an old brass’ that seemed to support this choice of iconography (Myles 1998, p. 82). The drawing below by John Carter (who knew Douce and influenced Cottingham) shows the doorway before the two creative antiquaries laid hands on it:

John Carter, Entrance to the Library of Rochester Cathedral, c. 1780-86, Pen and grey ink and grey wash and watercolour, over graphite © The Trustees of the British Museum

The second drawing by Robert Stothard in Douce’s collection depicts the less controversial figures in the jambs of the West doorway:

Robert Stothard, Henry I and Queen Matilda, c. 1825, graphite, ink, and grey wash (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Stothard’s designs were actually preparatory drawings for the etching below (a proof before letters), which might have appeared in an as-yet unidentified publication, possibly in connection with his brother’s Monumental Effigies of Great Britain:

After Robert Stothard, Figures from Rochester Cathedral, c. 1825, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

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Bonasone in red

Over fifty prints by Giulio Bonasone from Douce’s collection were transferred to the Ashmolean in 1863. At the time, they were integrated in the main sequence and they can now be found under the printmaker’s name. The print below, however, remained in one of the paper-lined wooden boxes that came from the Bodleian in 2003:

Giulio Bonasone, Lamentation at the Foot of the Cross, 1546, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Douce owned at least two other impressions of the Pietà by Bonasone, but this is the only one printed in red ink (WA2003.Douce.4579). The engraving, after a presentation drawing by Michelangelo now in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, was formerly in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s collection -his stamp can be seen upside down on the verso:

The bottom left corner, which was missing, has been (quite nicely) drawn over in red chalk:

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A peep at the balloon

On Saturday, 7 July 1810, the Oxford-born chemist James Sadler (1753-1828) took part in the celebrations of the installation of the new Chancellor of the University by ascending in a balloon from Merton fields with his fourteen-year-old son, Windham. The Literary Panorama reported on the occasion that “he took with him in the car, 100 small bags filled with sand […], some cold beef, a bottle of brandy, four bottles of water, and a cat fastened in a wicker basket”.

The following year, he did it again, this time to celebrate the Regent’s birthday. The popular enthusiasm surrounding the ascent of Sadler’s balloon from the gardens of the Mermaid Tavern, Hackney, was captured in this satirical print by William Elmes, from Douce’s collection:

William Elmes, Prime bang up at Hackney or a peep at the balloon 12th. Augt., 1811, hand-coloured etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The coronation of George IV in 1821 was similarly marked by this ‘Coronation Balloon’, on board of which Charles Green ascended from Green Park in London:

John Arliss, Mr. Green’s Coronation Balloon, 1821, woodcut (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Douce was interested in balloons not only as spectacle, but also as a mechanical innovation. In the folder labelled ‘Aerostation’, we find images that focus on the technical aspects of ballooning -this print, for instance, belonged to a series illustrating an improved type of balloon. Signed by the Gerli Brothers (Carlo Giuseppe, Giuseppe, and Agostino), the plates were published as part of their Maniera di migliorare e dirigere i balloni aerei (Rome, 1790):

Fratelli Gerli, Balloon, c. 1790, etching and engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

It seems that Douce joined in the ‘balloonomania’ that followed the invention of the balloon in 1783. Judging from the print below, he might have been one of the ticket-holders disappointed by the failure of Durs Egg and S. J. Pauly, whose “Dolphin Balloon” propelled by a steam engine never materialized:

Richard William Silvester, Ticket, c. 1815, etching and engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

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Parlour game

Bonnets are everywhere due to the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice*. This blog could not resist the temptation to join in, especially when the said article of apparel features so prominently in Douce’s folders of costumes, where the fashion plate below can be found:

Anonymous, Promenade in Kensington Gardens June 22-1806, hand-coloured etching and stipple (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Bonnets are also very much in evidence in an early nineteenth-century set of cards that Douce kept with his wood engravings: each oblong print is divided in two squares in which two characters (usually one male and one female) appear in different attitudes, with captions below:

Anonymous, Parlour game, c. 1800-25, hand-coloured wood engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The parlour game to which they pertain probably consisted in splitting the cards, distributing the male and female characters among the company assembled, and then pairing them again to create random conversation lines:

We suppose that the players would be amused by the resulting scenes of courtship, whether successful, as in the example above, or not, as can be seen below:

Needless to say, no self-respecting Jane Austen heroine would be caught dead playing such a game.

*BBC News on Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary


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The cook’s oracle

In December 1826, Douce wrote to his friend George Cumberland:

 If you will write a book of cockery for your Bristoldians & other gormandizers, you will get as rich as Dr Kitchener, who told me that he has sold 20,000 of his “Cook’s Oracle” & out of each copy pockets 1/6d.

Douce was referring to the ‘epicure and writer’ William Kitchiner (1778-1827), whose cookery book went through many editions and, according to the DNB, ‘demonstrated Kitchiner’s familiarity with the entire process, from shopping, through preparing and serving the dishes, to cleaning up’:

Anonymous, The vegetable woman, c. 1815-30, wood engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Douce owned not only the Cook’s Oracle, but also the rest of Kitchiner’s oeuvre, including his Peptic precepts (1821) and The pleasure of making a will (1822):

Hannah More’s The Cottage Cook, or Mrs Jones’s Cheap Dishes (c. 1815), Robert May’s The Accomplish’d Cook, or the art and mystery of cookery (1665), The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery (1675), and Thomas Dawson’s The good huswifes Iewell, deuises for conceites in cookery (1596) were other works on the same subject that could be found in Douce’s library:

Douce’s portfolios also contained prints on ‘Cooking, brewing, baking, etc’. These include a diagram explaining The method of cutting up an Ox used by the London Butchers, which, according to Douce’s annotation, “was done for Sir Joseph Banks from the famous Lincolnshire Ox”:

Anonymous, The method of cutting up an Ox, c. 1792, etching and stipple (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Coincidentally, the chef to Sir Joseph Banks was also responsible for the meals served at the weekly meetings of the ‘committee of taste’ hosted by Kitchiner at his home in Warren Street. In the same folder where Sir Joseph’s ox is kept, we find this sixteenth-century kitchen with which Antonio Tempesta represented January in his series The Months:

Antonio Tempesta, Gennaro, 1599, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

To the plucking and roasting in Tempesta’s kitchen, other cooking-related activities such as skinning and grinding are added in the print below, which reproduces the left-hand side of Jacopo Bassano’s The Rich Man and Lazarus:

After Jacopo Bassano, The Rich Man and Lazarus, 17th century, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

As you can see, some verses in praise of the kitchen “to which the four elements bow” are inscribed below the image. They explain how water provides the cook with the fresh fish lying in the foreground, while both the vegetables scattered on the floor and the poor hare skinned on a table on the right were once nurtured by the earth. Air and fire are alluded to by the poultry that is being roasted in the background. A very similar idea underlies this early nineteenth-century kitchen scene which, like The vegetable woman above, was probably produced as an illustration to a children’s book:

Anonymous, The cook, c. 1815-30, wood engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

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A medley print

Medley prints like the one below really capture the sense of mixture, the hotchpotch quality, and the endless referencing that characterize Douce’s folders:

Sutton Nicholls, [Medley print] The king and the cobler, 1702-1710, hand-coloured etching and engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Unlike the impression in the BM, Douce’s print bears the inscription ‘Designed, and Engraven, and Sold, by S: Nicholls’, which almost certainly refers to the draughtsman and engraver Sutton Nicholls (1668-1729). Nicholls is known mainly for his views of streets and buildings in London, very similar to the image of a red brick house to which his name and address are attached here. The blank sheet on the right side of the BM print becomes a five of hearts in the hand-coloured Ashmolean print, and the date 1694 is added to the publication details on the title-page of The King and the Cobler:

Anonymous, Medley print, 1730-60, etching and engraving (London© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Nicholls minutely reproduced the woodcut that illustrated several editions of the story of the merry cobbler enriched at court after entertaining Henry VIII incognito. The chapbook, based on an older ballad, was often reprinted between the late seventeenth and the early nineteenth century. It is a good example of the black letter books that Douce collected and valued as ‘copious stores of information’ resulting from ‘the earlier labours of our countrymen’, as he explained in the preface of his Illustrations of Shakespeare.

Nicholls proudly displayed his skill as a printmaker by imitating the expressive coarseness of the popular woodcut in another technique (etching). But his virtuosity is also in evidence when trying to replicate different styles, as can be seen in the juxtaposition of the title-page and the more delicate woodcut on the top right corner. The latter was probably copied after a publisher’s device -a very similar woodcut was used, for instance, by the Dutch cartographer Johannes Janssonius (1588-1664). It shows Fame (masked in Nicholls’s version) standing on an armillary sphere, with two men holding a spade and a mathematical instrument below and the motto “Vivitur ingenio”:

Among the remaining scattered prints we see depictions of a mouse, a landscape, Cupid as a boy carrying a sword, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Jack of Spades, and a female head. A few lines from a letter that seems to reproduce the Lettres Satiriques by Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) can be read below. They refer to the satire published under the title ‘Vision of Hell’ by the Spanish author Francisco de Quevedo in the third part of his Sueños. Needless to say, Douce owned Bergerac’s letters, as well as Quevedo’s works and some curious versions and translations of the latter, such as the Nuits Sévillanes (Brussels, 1700) from which this frontispiece is taken:

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The Star of the Kings

A few months ago, I came across the image below while cataloguing a series of prints of the months from a late seventeenth-century almanac in Douce’s collection:

Christoffel van Sichem IV and Jan de Bray, Januarius / Louw-Maendt, c. 1694, woodcut (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The man pouring water from a vase next to a fountain in the background of this nocturnal scene alludes to the Zodiac sign of Aquarius. The foreground, however, is occupied by a group of children that go from house to house carrying a lantern in the shape of a star. They celebrate the feast of Twelfth Night which, according to Anke A. van Wagenberg-ter Hoeven, was ‘the most important family gathering of the year in the seventeenth-century Netherlands’. Two impressions of Jan de Velde II’s The star of the kings, considered as ‘the earliest depiction of star-singers’, were kept by Douce with his prints of popular amusements:

Jan van de Velde II after Pieter de Molijn, The star of the kings, c. 1630, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Bernard Picart also included the star-singers among his illustrations for the Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743):

Bernard Picart, L’Etoile des Rois promenée dans Amsterdam, 1726-33, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Douce cut Picart’s illustration from the book and he filed it with the print by Van de Velde, on the back of which he pasted a piece of paper with the account of the Dutch Twelfth Night provided in the Cérémonies. A compulsive extractor (and annotator), Douce later added another scrap scribbled with a description of a parade involving the three kings and a star that took place in Florence in 1467, found in Machiavelli’s Istorie Fiorentine (1532).

In her study of “The celebration of Twelfth Night in Netherlandish art”, Van Wagenberg-ter Hoeven establishes a distinction between ‘outdoor’ and ‘domestic’ celebrations. Both types are combined in this Carnaval Hollandois after Jan Steen, also from Douce’s collection, which shows the star-singers entering a room where the Twelfth-Night king drinks surrounded by revelers:

J. Wysman after Jan Steen, Le Carnaval Hollandois, 1797, stipple (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Posted in Almanacs, Carols, Engravings, Everyday life, Feast, Festivals, Prints, Seasons, Stipple, Zodiac | Comments Off on The Star of the Kings

A tale for Christmas 1779

On 15 January 1821, Douce wrote in his Book of Coincidences that he “had had a strange dream about Lady Craven”. Elizabeth Berkeley (1750-1828), who would become margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth after her second marriage following the death of Lord Craven in 1791, was a travel writer and society hostess who counted Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole among her numerous acquaintance:

Ozias Humphrey, Elizabeth, Countess of Craven, c. 1780-3, oil on canvas (Tate Collection)

Unfortunately, Douce did not elaborate on his dream (the Book of Coincidences contains references to three further “strange dreams” involving a cross-bow eaten as a broiled fish, the Bishop of Norwich, and a disembodied head “on which a large quantity of rouge had been coarsely laid”). But he mentioned Lady Craven again in September of the same year. After a visit to Dr Fryer in Turnham Green, Douce “had purposely walked to Brandenburg house”, where the margravine lived before it was rented by Queen Caroline:

J. P. Neale after James Lewis, Brandenburgh House and Theatre, Middlesex, 1815, engraving

While sorting out some papers on his return home that evening, “Lady Craven’s novel of Kinkvervankotsdarsprakengotchderns turned up accidentally which I read”. The full title of the novel in question is  Modern anecdote of the ancient family of the Kinkvervankotsdarsprakengotchderns: a tale for Christmas 1779 and the third edition, bequeathed by Douce to the Bodleian, was published in 1781. There is nothing Christmassy about the story itself, but the author hoped that the dedicatee, Horace Walpole, would consider her “little book” as “an acceptable Christmas box”.

After Edward Penny, The Mistletoe or Christmas Gambols, 1796, stipple (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

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The ruff-setter

In 1817, the April issue of The Critical Review carried an article on Philip Stubbes’s The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), in which Douce and his print Der Kragen Setzer are mentioned with regard to extravagant fashions and to the moral perils associated with them:

Mathias Quad, Der Kragen Setzer, 1589, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The Critical Review noticed that, in his Illustrations of Shakespeare (1807), Douce had described the print as an example of the theme of the Devil’s ruff-shop, of which another version, published by Joannes Galle after Maerten de Vos, can also be found in his collection:

After Maerten de Vos, Diaboli Partus Superbia, c. 1600-20, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Douce’s attention focused on the “poking-sticks” to which the inscription below the image refers -both Douce and his friend George Steevens considered these satirical prints as visual evidence of the meaning of the phrase ‘poking-sticks of steel’, used by Shakespeare in Winter’s Tale. Douce was, again, drawing upon his own portfolios when he added that “other prints represent several monkeys habited in ruffs, and busily employed in poking and starching them”:

Pieter van der Borcht, Laundry, c. 1562, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Amusing as these images might seem, the message conveyed by their ruff collars was rather serious. They were associated with Pride and Excess, which would ultimately lead their reckless wearers to eternal damnation. Douce also kept several satirical prints in which well-starched ruffs acquire more sinister connotations:

Anonymous, Ne pouvons point à fort bon droict bien rire…, c. 1600, engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

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Britannia Excisa

This satire on Robert Walpole’s 1733 Excise Bill was misplaced (maybe by Thomas Dodd, who did some rearranging after Douce’s death) and kept among Douce’s wood-engravings, which I have been cataloguing this week:

Anonymous, Britannia Excisa, 1733, woodcut (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The print has been cut from a pamphlet, as can be seen in this impression in the British Museum:

Anonymous, Britannia Excisa: Britain Excis’d, 1733, woodcut and letterpress © The Trustees of the British Museum

The accompanying ballad refers to the Excise crisis, “when it seemed that the entire country was rebelling against Walpole government’s proposal to extend their taxation powers to necessities like wine and tobacco” (see S. Aspden’s ‘Ballads and Britons’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol. 122, 1997, p. 41). According to the text, the six-headed dragon that represents the Excise scheme gobbles “Beef, Bread and Bacon”, while one of its heads throws gold back to the Minister, sitting comfortably in a chaise behind.

The print in the BM belonged to Edward Hawkins (1780-1867), Keeper of the Department of Antiquities of the Museum since 1826. He was almost certainly the Mr Hawkins who visited Douce to enquire about a medal given to the latter by John Flaxman on 24 December 1819. He was also the ‘E. Hawkins of the Museum’ whom Douce asked for an introduction to Thomas Burgon in 1833 (see Douce’s book of Coincidences). Moreover, his portrait was kept by Douce with his images of “English literati”:

Maxim Gauci after Eden Upton Eddis, Edward Hawkins, 1833, lithograph (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

When I catalogued Douce’s collection of satirical prints a few months ago, I noticed that, despite being much smaller, to some extent it replicates the collection of satires gathered by Hawkins and purchased by the BM after his death.

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