With the anticipation of this weekend’s Christmas market, the merry jingles emerging from Santa’s grotto, and the faint smell of woodchip smoke in the air, the Bowes Museum couldn’t be feeling more festive.
So, in the spirit of merriment, we have recreated The Twelve Days of Christmas with a very Bowes twist. Discover the links between our collection and the carol below, as we explore twelve of our favourite objects. Let the countdown begin!
TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING
This gorgeous painting by an unknown artist allegedly depicts an impoverished gypsy girl with a tambourine. Although with her elaborate hair-piece, gold jewellery and string of ruby-red beads, she looks like she’s ready to head straight to the Christmas party.
ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING
Sitting beneath a fruit tree, with a jug of wine and tartlets to hand, a man woos his lover with his musical prowess. We’ll leave these two to it, and stick to mulled wine and mince pies by a toasty fire instead.
TEN LORDS A-LEAPING
Tucked away in the Fashion and Textiles gallery you can find this stunning needlework panel dating from the early eighteenth century. See the lords leaping about on their horses, amongst lions and leopards in this jolly stag-hunting scene.
NINE LADIES DANCING
Embellished and embroidered, this glitzy velvet jacket epitomises the festive season. Put it on, and it would turn any dancing lady into the belle of the ball. Find this beautiful new addition to Bowes’ fashion collection in our Fashion and Textile Gallery display cabinets.
EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING
Don’t cry over spilt milk, they say. Well it’s easier said than done, as this milkmaid demonstrates. Croy’s painting illustrates a well-known French fable: a milkmaid named Perette walks to the market to sell her pail of milk, and thinks about what she could buy with the money. Excited by the prospect of her future wealth, she skips and spills the milk. If you look closely in the background, you can see Perette’s husband about to reprimand her. Bowes’s advice: be careful whilst handling the brandy butter this Christmas.
SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING
Arguably our best-loved object, our Swan Automaton is the silver star of the Bowes Museum. Operated at set times once or twice a day, come to our Exhibition Galleries on the second floor to listen to the swan’s musical jingle, and watch it preen itself, as it picks a fish from the water!
SIX GEESE A-LAYING
You’d be forgiven for thinking these eggs real, however these 3D goodies are part of the dish’s ceramic design. Whilst the eggs aren’t quite goose sized, they still look good enough to eat 250 years on.
FIVE GOLD RINGS
Overmantel Mirror with Portrait of Josephine Bowes, C19
Find it in: John and Josephine Story Galleries, First Floor
This 2 metre tall giltwood overmantel-mirror incorporates an oval portrait of Josephine Bowes. Whist Josephine only wears one ring on her finger, we think the golden round of the frame and her exquisite pink dress capture decadent Christmas spirit perfectly.
FOUR CALLING BIRDS
Crafted from boxwood, oak, ebony, and multiple exotic woods, this intricate marquetry panel (created by Boulle in c.1690) was mounted in an English cabinet in the late eighteenth century. Perhaps the greatest marquetry-maker of all time, Boulle depicts several birds (as well as dogs, insects and botanicals) in his remarkably detailed panel. How many calling birds can you spot?
THREE FRENCH HENS
Hens, ducks, cockerels and chicks make up the composition of this naturalist French painting. Created between 1845-1874, Couturier’s lively, colourful palette brings a cosy warmth to the farmyard scene.
TWO TURTLE DOVES
Two Models of Doves, 1750-52, Chelsea Porcelain,
Find it in: Lady Ludlow Collection, European Decorative Art Gallery, First Floor
This charming pair of eighteenth-century doves is part of the extensive Lady Ludlow collection. Affectionately known as “Birdie”, Lady Ludlow was an avid collector of bird figurines. With such brightly-coloured plumages, it’s no wonder this jolly duo caught her eye!
AND A PARTRIDGE IN PEAR TREE
Standing over one and a half meters tall, this imposing Hindu Temple Lamp from Mainpuri, Northern India depicts several peacocks cast in a tree-like formation. Although there isn’t a partridge or pear to be seen, just imagine what a spectacle this lamp would make on your Christmas dinner table.
Come and see these stunning objects for yourself during the festive season – copies of this article will be available at reception.
Wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas.
Blog written by: Phoebe Fenton