If you happen to follow us on Twitter you’ll have seen that on the day we published our pseudo-3D view from the International Exhibition of 1862 we also serendipitously discovered an illustration with a close resemblance to one of the pieces on display. These coincidences are starting to get a little spooky!
The exhibition piece – which stands proudly in the foreground of the stereo view – and the illustration share the same unusual design, the antler-like crown and footed base catching our eye and causing our initial double take despite the subtle differences in the surface details and ornamentation between the two. Whilst working to bring the stereo view to life we’d often wondered how the company would have described such a strange object and what it’s function might have been, but our complete lack of knowledge about the piece somewhat hobbled us from being able to find it in the Estimate Book for the 1862 Exhibition. You can imagine our excitement, then, when the illustration we uncovered in SD 1705/MS1788 turned out to have been inscribed with a class letter and number which could be checked against an art catalogue elsewhere in the collection.
Thanks to SD 1705/MS1234, which covers much of the early (class-letter-marked) Art & Design folio artwork, we were able to discover that the peculiar shape depicted in design “M 51” and seen in the exhibition piece relate to their function as “gaseliers” – gas-powered chandeliers.
Not long after sharing this unexpected pairing with our Twitter followers we received an amazing reply showing the central portion of the exhibition gaselier adapted as a garden seat and now found at the National Trust’s Calke Abbey. It’s quite literally a vivid reminder of what old sepia photographs, stereo or not, can’t show – imagine the explosion of colour visitors to that majolica display would have seen!
With the gaseliers still fresh in our minds we then began digitising selected artwork for the three new Minton company records included in our latest catalogue update… only to be stopped in our tracks once again. As we unfolded one particularly large artwork within SD 1705/MS6001 that distinctive crown came into view and it became apparent that we had stumbled across the original artwork for the very gaselier depicted in the stereo view! At 1.54m high and 0.68m wide it truly is a stunning piece of artwork and a very grand finale to our exploration of these unusual pieces… until some more Minton Archive magic places another gaselier design in our hands of course.