Following Number One London’s Georgian Tour, Louisa and I had a day to ourselves in London and decided to spend a good portion of it in the V&A. Following are  photos of just a few of the things we saw on display in their Fashion Collection.

Fashion doll, 1885

From the V&A website: French Doll. Fine bisque head with fixed glass eyes. Tightly curled mohair wig. Pierced ears (no earrings). Ball-jointed strung composition body.
Dressed in an English costume; silk satin formal day dress in gold and peacock blue, trimmed with deep blue silk velvet. Fully lined in white cotton. Large bustle. White lace at neck and wrists. Dress fastens in back with embroidered buttons. Smocking at yoke, bodice and cuffs. Leather shoes and crochet socks, some white cotton underwear. Doll was originally mounted/sewn to a padded cushion and had her shoes pasted to a cardboard base for display purposes; this has since been reverted by Conservation.







When Louisa and I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum in May, I saw the item above, labeled as being a “Detector Lock,” which allowed its owner to see if anyone had opened the lock in their absence. I had never seen one before, or knew that such a lock existed, so I did some further research. Here’s the lock’s description from the V&A website:

British Galleries: By 1700 British locksmiths were famous for their technical and decorative skills. Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, probably ordered this lock when he visited England in 1669. It has two dials that indicate how often it has been opened; one is a dummy, to provide extra security.

Object Type
This highly ornate ‘detector’ lock was intended for the door of a private apartment or an office in a royal palace. Such locks were often carried by their owners when travelling and used in different residences.

Historical Association
The lock bears the arms of Cosimo III de’ Medici. He visited London in 1669, the year before he became Grand Duke of Tuscany, and possibly ordered this lock on that occasion. The maker, Richard Bickford, was the most famous locksmith in London and a visit to his shop would have been on the itinerary of an important visitor.

The lock is signed on the rim by Richard Bickford. He was one of a family of locksmiths who worked for wealthy patrons. A few years earlier the Bickfords had made a jewel casket for Queen Mary, also displayed in the British Galleries.

Design & Materials
The ornament on this lock is similar to other fine metalwork by the Bickfords. It consists of finely chiselled, pierced and engraved gilt brass, mounted above panels of blued steel which provide a vivid and brilliant colour contrast.

Above is another, more elaborate example of a Detector Lock in the V&A collections, created by British locksmith John Wilkes around 1680. You can watch a video that explains how it works here.






Following a major renovation and rehanging of the entire collections, it was time to celebrate…at one of several Opening Parties, we met for cocktails and canapes in the Calatrava addition (completed 2001). After the  official ribbon-cutting, we proceeded into the Older but newly renovated sections to view the entire collection in a new format.

MAM notice!
The Milwaukee Art Museum website is here.
Victoria here. As a long-time member, docent, volunteer, and staffer at the MAM, I was eager to see old friends in a new setting…and to enjoy the refreshed facilities, from the building itself, the HVAC system, lighting, and re-organisation of the collection. 
European Galleries

One (or three?) of those old friends: 
Triple Profile Portrait, C. 1560-80
French, School of Fontainebleau
Most of the galleries were closed for several years to complete the 6-year, $34 million for the renovation and expansion.  Special exhibitions went on in the Calatrava Wing, but we were very happy to see some of our favorites on display again.

The Age of Enlightenment–Immanuel Kant, 2008
by Yinka Shonibare, English, b. 1962
mixed media, purchase by the Contemporary Art Society

The MAM has a particularly fine presentation of American furniture, much from the Chipstone Foundation, as well as the Layton Art Collection. Read about the Chipstone Foundation here

Another of my personal favorites: London Visitors, 1874, by  James Tissot
French (1836-1902) A view on the steps of the National Gallery with the the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in the background.

And now to some promised Art from the Georgian Period, in both Britain and the U.S., her  colonies during much of the period 1714-1837

Miss Frances Lee, 1769
Francis Cotes (English, 1726–1770)
Portrait of Jane Emma Orde, ca. 1806
John Hoppner (English, 1758–1810)
    Puzzle Jug, ca. 1820
    Sunderland or New Castle, England
    Attributed to John Barry (British, active 1784–1827)
    Landscape, n.d.
    John Constable (English, 1776–1837)
    Thomas Lawrence (English, 1769–1830)
    Frederick, Duke of York, n.d.
    William Blake (English, 1757–1827)
    Portrait of a Terrier, The Property of Owen Williams, ESQ., M.P. (Jocko with a Hedgehog), 1828  Edwin Landseer    (English, 1802–1873)
    Charles Willson Peale (American, 1741–1827)
    Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828)
    Philadelphia, High Chest of Drawers, 1760-75
    John James Audubon (American, b. Santo Domingo [now Haiti], 1785–1851). Entrapped Otter (Canada Otter), ca. 1827–30. 
    John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815)
    Alice Hooper, ca. 1763

     Also on view until May 31, 2016 are two more portraits by Copley.  The MAM states, “For the inaugural exhibition in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing’s Focus Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Museum will show two rare paintings never before exhibited in the United States: a pair of pendant portraits of American colonists Anne and Duncan Stewart by the country’s first old master, John Singleton Copley. Painted by Copley in 1767, the portraits show the Scottish couple who were prominent in Boston and Connecticut politics until the American War of Independence, when t
    hey took the loyalist side. In honor of their support, the English king restored their estates confiscated during the Jacobite Uprising, and the couple returned to Scotland, taking the portraits with them. Now owned by Edinburgh’s Stewart society—descendents of the sitters—the works will be returning to the United States for the first time in almost 250 years.

    Duncan Stewart of Ardsheal, d. 1793
    by John S. Copley, 1767

    Anne Erving, Mrs. Duncan Stewart (1740-after 1802)
    by John S. Copley

    I hope I didn’t miss too much — I am delighted to say there will be many return visits to the newly re-hung galleries!

      For now, just a few pictures of the magnificent building in three parts:
    A view of the first War Memorial Center from the south) by Eero Saarinen, opened in 1957, which included the Milwaukee Art Center
    The recently expanded and renovated Kahler Wing (1975 and 2015)
    from the east
    Two views of the Calatrava Wing and the two other sections;
    looking north from Lake Michigan

      Fashion Museums in Britain

      Red Silk Robe a l’Anglaise, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1760’s

      Victoria here, taking some time off of Pinterest for a change…and ruminating on the wonderful fashion museums which have so carefully preserved the clothing and accessories of bygone eras.  The U.K. is replete with wonderful museums, almost all of which have some fashions, in even the smallest of local collections. The grandaddy of them all is, of course, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which modestly calls itself, The world’s greatest museum of art and design.” The website is here.

      I suppose no one who has visited the sprawling site on Cromwell Road would quarrel with the designation, for it is truly superhuman to cover its many displays even in multiple visits.I can hardly drag myself out of the fantastic gift shop when I get there!

      Would you be disappointed if I did not include a link to that wonderful shop?  Be forewarned — they are excellent at shipping.  Click here — if you dare.

      The Costume Collection has been recently redone and has re-opened with an exhibition of ball gowns from the 1950s to the present. It will be on display through January 2013, along with selections from the permanent collection of historic fashions.

      I love the Georgian, Regency and Victorian gowns usually on view.  Due to their fragility, the items are frequently rotated from storage to display and back.

      V and A: White Dress with scalloped hem, ca. 1830
      British, cotton muslin with wool embroidery, silk, satin and wadded rouleaux

      V and A: Evening Dress, 1807-11  British,
      machine made silk net, embroidered with chenille thread, with silk ribbon, hand sewn; over red petticoat

      Among the V and A’s fashion exhibits

      Also in London, Kensington Palace stores, conserves and exhibits Historic Royal Fashions.  Recently, the collection of Royal Wedding Gowns was restored. Beginning this fall, some of the storage areas, formerly Princess Margaret’s Apartment 1A, will be renovated for Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his Duchess, the former Catherine Middleton.

      Parts of Kensington Palace formerly housed Diana, Princess of Wales, and is the home in which Prince William grew up.  Other members of the extended royal family also have quarters there.

      Here is an article that tells more about the Palace, the renovations and the Royals.  For more details, click here.

      Parts of Kensington Palace include the State Rooms of William and Mary, the childhood rooms of Queen Victoria, and the Royal Fashions.   I have not seen an announcement of the final plans for the fashions, but one assumes that  Historic Royal Palaces, which administers Kensington Palace a well as other former Royal residences in the London area (e.g. Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace) will take advantage of sharing the complex with the popular young Royals to attract visitors to their displays.

      Queen Victoria’s Wedding Gown, Kensington Palace
      The Assembly Rooms, Ba

      In Bath, The Fashion Museum is located in the Assembly Rooms, which are administered by the National Trust.  The Fashion Museum has more than 30,000 items from1600 to the present. The website is here.

      a view of storage at the Fashion Museum
      display at the Fashion Museum
      Gown of plain-weave white cotton, ca. 1813, with striped wool shawl
       Bath Fashion Museum
      Lilac cotton sateen corset lined with cream cotton
      1880-85, Bath Fashion Museum
      Shoes of many eras carefully preserved, Bath Fashion Museum
      Another excellent Fashion Museum shows many items owned and preserved the the National Trust at Killerton House, a Regency-era country villa in Devon. The website is here.
      Killerton, NT
      Croquet Dress, 1863-65, silk taffeta with glass buttons
      Killerton House Fashion Collection
      Man’s Waistcoat, 1750, silk, satin, metal
      Killerton House Fashion Collection

      Also at Killerton are many attractive rooms and an extensive garden to explore.  As always, NT has a selection of tasty delights at the tea-room not to mention the temptations of the NT gift shop.

      Manchester City Galleries

      I have never visited Manchester (something I need to remedy), but the Manchester City Galleries website (here) has an extensive on-line fashion collection.  Here are a couple of examples of their holdings.

      Man’s Court Suit, 1775-85
      Tennis Dress, 1880’s

      Bodice, 1650-1660, Dorset, UK

      For a list of museums with fashion and costume collections, click here.  And if you are a resident of the US, there are many outstanding fashion collections here too.  Do you have any recommendations for good fashion collections on either side of the pond?

      The Kyoto Fashion Institute seems to be an amazing place, or at least its website and publications are excellent.  They organize many exhibitions, some of which are shown in venues outside Japan.    Click here.

      Visiting the Birmingham Museum of Art

      Now that the fabulous exhibition The Look of Love has closed in at the Birmingham Museum of Art in the largest city in Alabama, I want to encourage a visit to see the permanent collections. You will find many fascinating objects and stories. The website is here.

      Because I found the exhibition of Lover’s Eyes so exciting, I admit I skipped some of the Museum’s excellent collections of Asisan, African, Native American, and pre-Colombian art — which is really a shame.  However, I lingered in the American and British galleries as long as I could.

      In the American galleries, you will find outstanding works from many familiar artists and movements.  One of my favorite groups is the Hudson River School, usually sweeping and dramatic views of the American landscape. 

      Looking Down the Yosemite Valley, California, 1865
       Alfred Bierstadt, German-American, 1830-1902

      Portraits are always popular, especially those of heroes — and beautiful women.

      Portrait of Oliver Hazard Perry, Hero of Lake Erie
      by Jane Stuart (1812-1888)

      Jane Stuart was the daughter of that renowned painter of early Americans such as George Washington, Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828).  Jane assisted her father in his work and after his death carried on his portraiture and promoted his legacy.

      In the Galleries
      John Singer Sargent was well known in Europe and the U.S. for his outstanding portraiture, continuing the magnificent tradition of Lawrence, Gainsborough and Van Dyke.  Lush colors, rich fabrics, flattering facial and body characteristics, and an overall impression of aristocracy were a few of the characteristics these artists shared.

      Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess d’Abernon
      John Singer Sargent, American, 1856-1925

      I notice that many museums have trouble deciding whether to put the work of Thomas Sully and Benjamin West in the British or American galleries.  It seems to depend upon which side of the Atlantic the institution rests.

      Thomas Sully, American, born England (1783-1872)
      Prison Scene from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pilot 1841

      “Cecilia Howard and Katherine Plowden arousing the prisoner Edward Griffiths from his slumber.” 

      Erasistratus the Physician Discovers the Love of Antiochus for Stratonica, 1772
      Benjamin West, b. U.S., d. Great Britain 1738-1820

      Benjamin West was born in Pennsylvania and early in life showed artistic promise. He moved to London in 1863 and within a few years was named historical painter to George III. West served as second president of the Royal Academy of Art. The painting above is typical of the very popular style of large historical paintings in the third quarter of the 18th century.  There are many fine portraits it he British Gallery by an array of excellent 18th and early 19th century artists.

      Unknown Sitter, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, British (1769-1830)
      ca. 1800
      Wilson Gale-Braddyll (1756-1818) 1776
      by George Romney, English 1734-1802
      Captain Arthur Blake 1769
      Sir Joshua Reynolds, English (1723-1792)
      1st President of the Royal Academy of Art
      E. Finley, Esq.
      Sir Henry Raeburn, Scottish 1756-1823
      Mrs. William Monck 1760-65
      Thomas Gainsborough, English 1727-1788

      The Birmingham Museum of Art has wonderful collections of Decorative Arts, below a scene in the British Gallery.

      The chair, ca. 1775, originated in the workshop of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), mahogany, with modern upholstery.

      Sewing Box on Stand, 1790, attributed to Matthew Boulton, English (1728-1809)
      Rosewood with stoneware (jasperware), silver and cut steel

      Below:   Wedgwood,   Britannia Triumphant, jasper; holding a portrait medallion of George III. Thought to have been made to commemorate the victory of British Naval forces over the French in 1798.


      The figure itself, attributed to John Flaxman Jr., English, 175501826
      The collection of Wedgwood is stupendous, totalling almost 10,000 pieces from 1759 to the mid-20th century. Below of wall of medallions, mostly Jasper.

      Below, a selection of vases from various Wedgwood periods.

      Wedgwood, designed by Halsey Ricardo, England 1854-1928
      Originally made for Buckminster Park, Leicestershire
      house demolished 1952

      Obviously, I could go on for ages telling you about the glories of the museum.  But I will leave that to you, as you investigate their very fine website.  I close with a final piece, a charming cherub head that caught my eye.

      Scent Bottle, ca. 1750
      soft paste porcelain with gold mount
      from the Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory
      Chelsea, England