TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: THE COLLECTION’S COUNTDOWN

 

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

1
Italian Girl with a Tambourine, 1845-55, Oil on Canvas
Find it in: Music Room, Second Floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

2
Groups: Lovers under a Tree, 1743-47, St. Cloud Porcelain
Find it in: Ceramics Galleries, Second Floor

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

3
Needlework Panel for Table, 1710-35, Wool and Silk
Find it in: Fashion and Textile Gallery, First Floor

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

4
Evening Jacket, Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937-38
Find it in: Fashion and Textile Gallery, First Floor

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

5
The Broken Pitcher, Comte Raoul de Croy, C19, Oil on Canvas
Painting not currently on display.

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

6
The Silver Swan Automaton, James Cox workshop, 1772-74, silver
Find it in: Exhibition Galleries, Second Floor

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

7
Dish with Eggs, mid-C18, Sceaux Fiance
Find it in: Ceramics Galleries, Second Floor

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

9
Warwick Cabinet, Andre-Charles Boulle and Mayhew & Ince, 1690-1780
Find it in: European Decorative Art Gallery, First Floor

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

10
A Poultry Yard, Philibert Léon Couturier, C19, Oil on Canvas
Find it in: Picture Galleries, Second Floor

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

12
Temple Lamp in the Form of a Tree, 1867, Brass
Find it in: Silver and Metals Gallery, Second Floor

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

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