The Museum of Cornish Life holds an extensive collection of artwork ranging from intricate cross stitch embroidery to 19th century portraits. As the museum’s Curatorial Intern, one of my main projects involves photographing each piece in the art store and adding newly discovered information to our collections database. The aim of this project is to give us a better understanding of the artwork held by the museum, allowing us to display these pieces in future exhibitions, and in turn give visitors access to some fantastic artistic endeavours connected to the Duchy.
The art store itself is nestled snuggly in the eaves of the museum (I’m a firm believer that the most exciting stories begin in attics; another reason why I was thrilled to be given this project). My favourite thing about documenting the art store is never knowing what we’ll come across next. There is huge excitement in unwrapping a piece, peeling acid free paper from its frame and canvas and discovering what’s hiding underneath. Personally, I have a fondness for portraits and the tangible, human stories they tell. I’m also interested in artists’ scribbles which so often appear on the backs of artworks, looping, sometimes illegible and always exquisite.
In this article I share some of the most interesting pieces to be discovered in the art store so far…
- “Cornish Flower Seller in Wartime”
“Cornish Flower Seller in Wartime” is a framed oil on canvas by Doris Thomas of Coverack. The boy depicted is selling daffodils, bringing colour and life to challenging times.
2. A London Cornish Association Dinner
This black and white photo mounted on card shows the 50th anniversary dinner of the London Cornish Association taking place at the Criterion Restaurant in London on March 28th, 1936. The dinner was attended by Mr William John Rogers, Mayor of Helston who is seen in the second row from the front in his Mayoral Chain. The London Cornish Association is still active today and “promotes and fosters fellowship and goodwill among Cornish people in London and elsewhere” (LCA website). Interestingly, The Criterion Restaurant features in the very first Sherlock Holmes story; Dr Watson is told of his prospective roommate (Holmes) after meeting a friend at The Criterion.
3. “A South West View of Helston”
This framed engraving of Helston was made by J. Shury from a sketch by MP. Moyle and published by W. Penaluna in September 1815. The engraving is “dedicated by permission to the Worshipful, the Mayor and Corporation of the Borough of Helston by their Obedient humble Servant, W. Penaluna”. The engraving depicts Helston after the old Coinage Hall had been demolished.
4. Portrait of Herbert Edwards
This framed and glazed photograph shows Herbert Edwards, Porter at Praze Station 1913-1914 who was killed in action in France on the 11th of April 1916. “His Life Laid Down. His Duty Done” features underneath the photograph. The portrait serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Cornish Community throughout the First World War.
5. Two Coloured Photographs of the Furry Dance Clock
The Furry Dance Clock was designed and built by H. Kneebone of Helston and is currently on display at the Museum of Cornish Life. These photographs show the inner workings of the famous musical clock which forms an important part of Helston’s best-known tradition, Flora Day.
6. Letters sent by the Home Office on the Deaths of Queen Victoria and King Edward the Seventh
The first of these black edged letters was sent by the Home Office, Whitehall on March 19th, 1901. It is addressed to the Chairman of the Helston Board of Guardians and reads “Sir, I am commanded by the King to convey to you hereby His Majesty’s thanks for the Loyal and Dutiful Resolution of the Guardians of Helston Union, expressing sympathy on the occasion of the lamented death of Her Late Majesty, Queen Victoria, and congratulations on His Majesty’s accession to the Throne. I am, Sir, Your obedient Servant…”
The second letter was sent by the Home Office on June 29th, 1910. It is addressed to the Clerk of the Helston Board of Guardians. The letter reads, “Sir, I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that the Message of Condolence of the Guardians of the Helston Union on the death of His Late Majesty King Edward the Seventh has been laid before Queen Alexandra, whose Thanks I am to convey to you. I am, Sir, Your obedient Servant, Edward Troup.”
At the Museum of Cornish Life documentation of the art store continues. Keep up to date with our website and social media channels where we’ll share more of the art store’s secrets.
Rachel Haddy (Curatorial Intern)