A Collections Christmas

Warm wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone in the Eton College Collections.

A Turkey and a Dove
From Florence Hopper’s Scrapbook, 1886

This is one of 97 pages in a scrapbook compiled by 12-year-old Florence Hopper in 1886.  One of the pastimes of Victorian children was pasting purpose-made coloured pictures, called ‘scraps’, into albums. With hundreds of thousands of images to choose from, children could express their tastes and interests in creating their own scrapbooks. The variety of subject matter in Hopper’s scrapbook provides an insight into Victorian life: from flora and fauna to pantomimes, circuses, history and even a variety of horse-driven vehicles.

This image combines two illustrations, one of a turkey and one of a dove. The scraps were printed by chromolithography, then embossed and coated with a gelatine-gum to provide a glossy relief. Although some pages of Hopper’s album contain well over a hundred scraps, this page makes a dramatic impact with only two. Scrapbooks served a didactic purpose, as they were way to learn about the contemporary world, and some, like this example, provide occasional flashes of humour in their juxtapositions. The scrapbook as whole evokes the wonder of childhood and gains its charm from the innocent perspective from which the world is surveyed.

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), The Adoration of the Magi: The Star of Bethlehem, 1895. Tapestry (FDA-A.81:2-2013)

This is the central tapestry panel of a group of three that hangs behind the altar at the east end of Eton College Chapel. The scene depicted is the Adoration of the Magi; to the left, Joseph, Mary and Jesus can be seen under a thatched pavilion and to the right, the three Magi are shown offering gifts to the Christ child with their heads bowed. In the centre of the tapestry an angel is clasping the star of Bethlehem in his hands. Below him, on the ground, an ornate crown alludes to Christ’s divine sovereignty.  The foreground is filled with a multitude of flowers, which can all be identified due to a high degree of botanical accuracy.

The tapestry design was initially conceived in 1886, as a commission for the chapel at Exeter College, Oxford. A full-size cartoon for the tapestry was made using a photographic enlargement, which was then overpainted.  However, Edward Burne-Jones also painted a large gouache version of the design for the Corporation of Birmingham.  The tapestry was woven at the William Morris atelier at Merton Abbey, near Croydon, where he had started to work in 1881.  It was largely worked in wool, with abundant use of silk to give luminosity to the figures’ faces and clothing.

The finished tapestry proved very popular and ten were woven, each with a different border design. In Eton’s version, the Latin inscription along the upper edge refers to the making of the tapestry by Burne-Jones and Morris and its presentation to Eton by Henry Elford Luxmoore in 1895. The tapestry was placed in its current position in 1905, when it was moved from the south-wall of College Chapel.

Albert Goodwin RWS (1845-1932), Barnes Pool, at Eton, 1907.
Watercolour with pen and ink (FDA-D.269-2010)

This watercolour depicts a view from Barnes Pool towards Eton College Chapel, in front of which are the buildings of Baldwin’s Shore. In the foreground, two figures are huddled together and appear to be fishing, a vertical rod just about visible between them. You can clearly make out the crisp outline of one of the lanterns that top College Chapel in the top right of the composition, but the rest of the scene is hazier, evoking dawn or dusk. Mist seems to rise from the surface of the water, which in turn reflects the warm, yellow light emanating from two of the windows. Goodwin was heavily influenced by J.M.W. Turner throughout his career, as is evident here from the rich surface texture of the painting and his atmospheric approach to the scene. It is interesting to note that despite the wintery impression Goodwin evokes, the green leaves of the tree in the top right-hand corner suggest it is perhaps another time of year.

Albert Goodwin was an oil and watercolour painter of landscapes, biblical and imaginative scenes. He produced over 800 works during his lifetime. His exceptional artistic ability was recognised at a young age and Goodwin became a pupil of the Pre-Raphaelite artists Arthur Hughes and Ford Maddox Brown. His first painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy when he was aged only 15. Goodwin was also championed by art critic John Ruskin, who took him on tour of Italy in 1872.

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