An Iconic Acquisition with a Secret

Jacobite snuff box acquired by West Highland Museum in 2019 with an NFA grant of £3,450.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to purchase a rare hidden portrait Jacobite snuff box at the Lyon and Turnbull auction in Edinburgh in August 2019 at a cost of £9,750.

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Circular snuff box with enamel tartan decoration

The circular box with enamel tartan decoration has a hinged cover which opens to reveal a plain interior. Inside, however, a hidden lid opens to reveal a finely enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in tartan jacket and Jacobite white cockade. He wears the highest chivalric honours of England and Scotland, the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle, signifying the owner’s support for the legitimacy of the Stuart claim to the British throne. The portrait is a variant of the famous Robert Strange example which likely dates this piece to circa 1750.

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Snuff box showing hidden lid

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Snuff box with enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Hidden portrait snuff boxes such as this are amongst the most iconic Jacobite works of art. A Jacobite host could give his friends a pinch of snuff and, depending on the company, could reveal the hidden portrait. This example is in particularly good condition and finely enamelled. The West Highland Museum has been actively seeking Jacobite material since its inception in 1922 and its collections are based on material donated for the 1925 Prince Charles Edward Stuart Exhibition. The collection contains many unique and unusual objects, such as the Secret Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, his death mask, paintings, drawings, miniatures, Jacobite glass, weapons and an important Jacobite archive. This valuable addition to the collection is now on permanent display.

We would not have been able to acquire this fine object without the financial support of the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund and a very generous local donor. We are most grateful to everyone who has contributed to make this purchase possible.

Vanessa Martin
Curator
West Highland Museum

http://www.westhighlandmuseum.org.uk

 

Taking a Line for a Walker

Pictish stone from Tulloch, Perth, acquired by Perth Museum & Art Gallery in 2019 with an NFA Grant of £1,500.

Towards the end of 2017 new roadworks behind St Johnstone’s Football Stadium in Perth unexpectedly and thrillingly unearthed a fascinating and complete carved Pictish stone.

Pictish sculpture of a spear-carrying warrior

Pictish sculpture of a spear-carrying warrior © Perth Museum & Art Gallery

The stone is a large, oblong, glacial erratic of metamorphosed sandstone measuring some 2m in height and bearing on one face an incised figure around 1m high. The key features of this figure are that he is naked, carrying a particular type of spear (a door-knob butted spear that can be dated to the second quarter of the first millennium AD) and sporting a pushed-back, intimidating hair-style. The stone is a significant new addition to Scotland’s corpus of Pictish sculpture and in particular the small group of incised, walking, often-grotesque and ritually symbolic, single figures. The three closest parallels, all spear-carrying walkers, come from Rhynie (Aberdeenshire), Collessie (Fife) and Westerton (Angus).

The probable dating of these to the fifth or sixth century may be indicative of a society dominated by warbands led by warrior princes/kings in which spear-wielding warriors were of fundamental importance. The presence of such a sculpture in the Perth area certainly fills a gap between the end of the Roman military intervention and the later Picts and suggests the presence of an important nobleman’s hall and/or place of burial in the Tulloch area. Stylised depictions of such fearsome-looking warriors on large, highly visible stones could well have been seen as having a warning, protective role and a status/power signalling role as one approached such sites: communicating both with people and the supernatural.

Mark A Hall
Collections Officer
Perth Museum & Art Gallery

Great Neolithic Balls of Stone

Neolithic carved stone ball from Sheriffmuir, Perth & Kinross, acquired by Perth Museum & Art Gallery in 2019 with an NFA grant of £1,625.

Perth Museum is delighted to welcome into its collection a stunning example of a Neolithic carved stone ball, that uniquely Scottish element of prehistoric material culture. It is significant both archaeologically and for the public support it garnered in our bid to raise the £3,250 reward to the finder.

Sheriffmuir Neolithic carved stone ball

Sheriffmuir Neolithic carved stone ball. © Hugo Anderson-Whymark/National Museums Scotland

These astonishing stone balls are generally dated to the Later Neolithic period, around 3200 – 2500 BC. They are almost exclusively associated with Scotland where around 520 are known to have been found, with only a handful known from the North of England, Ireland and Norway. The majority have been found by chance rather than by excavation and their purpose is not fully understood. Curator of Prehistory at National Museums Scotland, Dr Anderson-Whymark writes:

These artefacts have captured the imagination for more than 150 years and despite much debate we’re still not certain how they were used. Were they weapons, symbols of status and power or something more practical? The newly discovered ball from Sheriffmuir is an exceptionally fine example and one of less than 50 that have been highly decorated. It would have been treasured in the Neolithic and will be the star of any Neolithic display.

Perth Museum’s collection contains a dozen stone balls exhibiting a wide range of stone types and designs and coming from locations across Perth & Kinross. The new addition will go on display alongside these in a new museum currently under development in Perth.

Seven Neolithic stone balls

Seven of the Neolithic balls in the Perth collection preparatory to their display at the National Gallery of Scotland © Perth Museum & Art Gallery

This new example is carved from a fine grained igneous stone and was found on a farm near Sheriffmuir. The majority of Scotland’s stone balls have been found much further to the north, making this example one of the most southerly of the known Scottish finds.

As well as coming from a new place, its design is also new for the Perth collection. The basic form of a round ball with six low knobs is quite widely seen but this example is unusual as two of the knobs have been decorated. One is incised with a grid of cross-hatched parallel lines and the other a set of five parallel lines. Dr Anderson-Whymark suggests that both decorative schemes were applied free-hand, probably with different tools and by two different people, though it is not known whether or not they were decorated at the same time. Dr Anderson-Whymark has taken 3D images of the ball to create a model which can be explored here: https://skfb.ly/6GwpW

The enigma of Neolithic carved stone balls has made them popular with our visitors. In 2011 Perth Museum worked with glass artist Louise Tait who made a glass interpretation of one of the stone balls in our collection. The installation and the glamour of the balls drew a huge response from visitors, who were asked to consider what such objects could have been used for. Answers included sports and games, hunting, weapons, ritual, currency, weights and social identity and prestige.

Outside the Glass Box by Louise Tait

Outside the Glass Box by Louise Tait © Perth Museum & Art Gallery

The other significant aspect of this object is the new fundraising initiative it signalled for Perth Museum. Recognising the very difficult funding climate in which museums operate, the Archaeology & History Section of the Perthshire Society of Natural Sciences introduced a new element in the Society’s long-standing partnership with the museum with the specific objective of helping the museum to continue to acquire significant archaeological finds allocated through the Treasure Trove process. Using the Just Giving platform, the Society set up a page calling for donations: as a test case we decided to focus on the Sheriffmuir ball and sought to raise half the reward fee, £1,625 to match the 50% grant from the NFA. The experiment was a resounding success with our total raised well within the two-month campaign timescale. The Archaeology & History Section and the museum were delighted with this success and look forward to seeing how we might develop the scheme for future Treasure Trove appeals.

Mark A Hall
Collections Officer
Perth Museum & Art Gallery

Overlooked No More: Phyllis Dodd’s portrait of Cathy Honeyman

Oil on canvas, Portrait of Cathy Honeyman, 1951, by Phyllis Dodd, acquired by Glasgow Museums in 2018 with an NFA grant of £1,250.

At Glasgow Museums we are delighted to have been able to acquire this beautifully introspective and evocative portrait of Cathy Honeyman by Phyllis Dodd. The portrait, which until now has been in family hands, highlights what it meant to be a woman in mid-20th century Britain and, more specifically, Glasgow.

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Phyllis Dodd (1899-1995) was active as an artist in the city for 50 years, developing and maintaining a successful portrait practice. She moved there in 1945 when her husband, Scottish artist Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984), was appointed Director of Glasgow School of Art.

Victoria Catherine (‘Cathy’ or ‘Cath’) Honeyman, née Burnett, a gifted pianist who could have had a professional musical career were it not for domestic obligations, was the wife of Dr T J (‘Tom’) Honeyman, arguably Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museums’ most influential and charismatic director. She played duets during intervals in the theatrical performances her husband organised which were, in the words of an unpublished family memoir, ‘pioneering in a new form of interlude music’. Women have frequently been written out of history and this portrait provides a fascinating insight into the lives of two women, eclipsed by more public-facing husbands, who had to balance, and indeed sacrifice, their own careers to meet the demands of family and societal expectations.

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Until now very little has been known about Cathy Honeyman, her husband being viewed in isolation. This painting has already provided invaluable impetus for research, including renewed contact with the Honeyman family and insight into the wider family through archival material, including Cathy’s diaries which simply and eloquently shed light on what it was like to be a middle class woman in 1950s Glasgow. Entries include health and beauty hints, exercise and weight charts, life expectancy tables for females, favourite recipes, postal information and cleaning tips. Advice includes: ‘To remove freckles use a dash of hydrogen peroxide’, ‘Eat slowly, chew properly, and you will not overeat or have indigestion’; and ‘cultivate cheerfulness’. Cathy’s 1951 diary documents regular trips to Scottish seaside resorts Rothesay and Millport and visits to London, Capri, Pompeii, Rome, Florence and Venice as well as regular attendance at theatres, art galleries and cultural events and hosting prominent figures like Kenneth Clark. The diary also documents that she sat to Dodd intensively between 16 and 21 February 1951. It evidences a blossoming friendship between the two women which no doubt aided the insightful and sensitive nature of this portrait. The portrait was commissioned in the year that her husband made a prestigious visit to America, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, and painted when he was negotiating the high profile and extremely controversial acquisition of Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross for Glasgow Museums. The contrast says much about male and female spheres at the time.

Dr Joanna Meacock
Curator of British Art
Glasgow Museums

https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums

 

Silent Wings: Glider Lands at Dumfries

A CG-4A Waco glider, acquired by Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum in 2018 with an NFA grant of £1,110

A CG-4A Waco (Hadrian) glider has been acquired from the Shropshire-based Assault Glider Trust (AGT) by Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum. The National Fund for Acquisitions helped with the cost of transporting the aircraft to Dumfries.

At Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum we are in the midst of expanding our Airborne Forces Collection. This enhanced collection will allow us to tell the story of our airborne forces from their inception during the Second World War to the present day. Part of this story was the use of the American-designed Waco glider by British Airborne Forces in Sicily and by the Chindits (special operations units of the British and Indian armies) in the Burma campaign. And of course, just to be very British, we renamed it The Hadrian.

Period picture of a Waco CG-4A Assault Glider, courtesy of Assault Glider Trust

Period picture of a Waco CG-4A Assault Glider, courtesy of Assault Glider Trust

The aircraft has been restored to a very high level by the staff at AGT with one side left open to allow people to see into the body of the aircraft and get a far greater insight into what it must have been like to fly within one of these remarkable aircraft. Sadly the AGT lost the rights to their site and have been looking for a good home for one of their most impressive exhibits. Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum was selected but then came one of the biggest challenges in the world of aviation heritage, how to get it here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KAdcum72CM

It adds a whole new dimension to ‘object handling’ when the exhibit weighs 3,900 lbs, is 49ft long and you need to take the wings off to move it. Two trucks, some heavy lifting gear, and a very large frame to hold the wings later and the airframe was heading north.

The airframe is currently under cover in the new Airborne Forces Collection building at Dumfries and will be the centrepiece of our new exhibition scheduled to open for the 2020 season.

Glider

The CG-4A Waco (Hadrian) glider at Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum © Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum

Charlie Ewing
Director
Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum

http://www.dumfriesaviationmuseum.com/

 

The Dandy, Dundee and Daddy McCartney

The Dandy print shirt and trouser suit, 2016, designed by Stella McCartney, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2017 with an NFA grant of £517.

 

It all started with Twitter. It’s where I keep up-to-date with most museum-related news these days. Stella McCartney was releasing a new clothing line after approaching Beano Studios to collaborate for The Dandy’s 80th anniversary in 2017. It featured a trouser suit, t-shirts and a dress showing Korky the Cat, Dinah Mo and twins Cuddles and Dimples. We had to have it in the collection.

2017-125-1=2 Stella McCartney 'The Dandy' suitStella McCartney, The Dandy shirt and trouser suit, 2016. © Dundee City Council (Dundee’s Art Galleries and Museums).

 

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum has a large costume collection with strengths in female Victorian costume and Dundee couture costumiers, including Miss Laing, active in the 1870s, and Maison Souter, active from the late 1870s to the 1920s.

 

1978-1645-1 jpegBodice and skirt by Miss Laing, 1873-77. © Dundee City Council (Dundee’s Art Galleries and Museums).

1976-659-1 jpegBodice and skirt by Maison Souter, c1894. © Dundee City Council (Dundee’s Art Galleries and Museums).

There was a burst of collecting during the 1970s and ’80s but little was added to the collection from the 1990s to the present. This could be an indication of changes in society and our throwaway culture but it is something that we aim to address. I am keen to develop this area of the collection by focusing on clothing made in Dundee or inspired by Dundee, hence Stella and her Dundee-centric DC Thomson collection.

The collaboration seems to have come about due to Dad, Paul McCartney’s, love of The Dandy, first issued on 4 December 1937. Dundee publisher DC Thomson & Co Ltd pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for a comic at the time – figures of authority were mocked and slapstick humour was championed. Just before the comic ceased printing and went digital in 2012, Paul McCartney fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he featured in the comic alongside Desperate Dan and Bananaman.

Having successfully secured funding from the National Fund for Acquisitions we purchased the shirt and trouser suit towards the end of 2017. Now fully accessioned, it’s waiting for its first outing. The plan? Over the next year or so we are keen to redisplay some of the cases in The McManus to get more of the costume collection out on view, including the trouser suit. Stella, meanwhile, has continued her collaboration and, in keeping with 80th birthdays, has designed a range of kid’s clothing featuring Beano characters for Beano’s 80th this year.

Now, where did I put that NFA application form …

 

Carly Cooper
Curator (Social History)
Leisure and Culture Dundee

http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/