The museum has recently acquired a collection of over 500 printed books and pamphlets dating from the 17th to the 20th century concerning health and relationships at home. The manuals and handbooks, aimed at amateur readers, represent a diverse range of domestic medical practices and treatments over 300 years when the home was the site of most medical treatment and household members the practitioners – covering ageing, beauty, sleep, women and children’s health, recipes for medicines and invalid diets.
The collection includes many books concerned with sexual and marital relationships - including 28 editions of Aristotle’s Master-Piece. This was a wildly and enduringly popular work, which went through hundreds of editions from its first publication in 1684 right up to the 1930s. Neither by Aristotle, nor a masterpiece, it deals with reproduction and women’s reproductive health.
A selection of books from the collection, including some of the Aristotle editions, is currently on display at the museum.
Purchased with support from Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries
2 June 2017
New acquisition: Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman by Edward Robert Hughes
Portrait of Bell and Dorothy Freeman, watercolour on paper, by Edward Robert Hughes, signed and dated 1889. Geffrye Museum of the Home, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.
We are very pleased to announce the acquisition of important watercolour portrait by the late Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914).
The portrait is a charming and sensitive depiction of two young sisters, Bell and Dorothy Freeman, who were aged about fourteen and eight years when the picture was painted in 1889. The painting is particularly relevant for the Geffrye because the girls are shown in a domestic interior, most likely at their family’s London home. The interior is decorated in the ‘artistic’ taste, with William Morris wallpaper (visible behind the settee) and red velvet curtains. This portrait is also significant as an example of a work of art created for middle-class patrons. Although the details of how and why the picture was commissioned are not recorded we know that the family remained in friendly contact with the artist over some years and it was probably intended to hang in their home.
The painting will feature in Enchanted Dreams: the Pre-Raphaelite Art of E. R. Hughes at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery between 17 October 2015 and 21 February 2016. This major exhibition will be the first ever dedicated to Hughes and his work. Further information about the exhibition can be found here.
On its return to The Geffrye next spring the portrait will be displayed in our Reading Room, with other works from the Geffrye’s unique collection of paintings depicting domestic spaces.
This purchase was made possible by grants from Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.
New acquisition: Japanned corner cupboard with stamp of John Taberey
Corner cupboard japanned in green and black with an impressed mark, 'JO. TABEREY', inside the door, c.1750. Geffrye Museum of the Home, London.
John Taberey was a japanner working on Giltspur Lane, off Newgate Street, in London in the mid-1760s. Japanned furniture like this corner cupboard, glazed and varnished in imitation of East Asian lacquer and decorated with fanciful figures, would have been a familiar sight in the parlours of London’s middling sorts. What makes this cupboard exceptional is that Taberey’s name is stamped inside the door: making it the only known piece of furniture marked with an identified London japanner’s name.
The Geffrye holds a small but significant collection of labelled London furniture and this cupboard will be a valuable addition to the collection and to our knowledge of the London furniture trade. You can see other examples of labelled London furniture from our collection here.
New Acquisition: A Rare Delftware Posset Pot
English delftware posset pot, painted with the initials ‘SM’ and the date ‘1695’. Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund and the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
This delftware posset pot was purchased by the Geffrye in November 2014, with help from the Art Fund and the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
It is made from tin-glazed earthenware, or delftware, with painted decoration in five colours. It is a significant object as only a handful of dated polychrome delftware posset pots of this period survive today.
Posset was a hot drink made from milk or cream curdled with ale or wine, flavoured with sugar and spices and sometimes thickened with bread or biscuits. This nourishing mixture was considered suitable for invalids but it was also consumed at celebrations and it is most likely that this pot, which is large and elaborately decorated, would have been used in the context of a social gathering.
You can see the posset pot on display in our period room representing a parlour in 1695.
New Paintings Displays
Domestic interior with a sleeping soldier, oil on canvas, 1860-1869, by Henry Nelson O'Neil (1817-1880). Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund.
We have recently redisplayed our outstanding collection of paintings of homes and gardens. These can be seen in the Reading Room and the 20th-century paintings area. Some significant recent acquisitions, including this painting by Henry Nelson O’ Neil, are on show for the first time.
This painting explores how events in the wider world, particularly Britain’s efforts to maintain control of a large empire during the second half of the 19th century, affected life at home. A young man can be seen sleeping while his mother looks on anxiously. Two travelling-trunks, in the foreground of the painting, provide clues to the narrative. The first contains a neatly folded military uniform and has a sword propped up beside it. The other has some lettering on the lid, partly cut off at the edge of the painting, which reads ‘…VI/[Be]ngal’, suggesting that the sleeping boy is about to leave home to join the 6th Native Bengal Infantry in India.
The redisplay of the two galleries was carried out with the support of the Birkbeck Alumni History of Art Society.
You can see more images of homes and gardens from the Geffrye’s collections on our website here.
Pewter plates bearing touchmarks attributed to Thomas Curtis of London, c.1550. Purchased with the assistance of the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and a private donor.
In November 2013 the museum purchased these six pewter plates salvaged from a shipwreck. They were made in London around 1550, and were probably destined for Spanish colonists on the island Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The ship carrying them sank off the coast of what is now Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and the plates lay on the seabed for over 450 years before being salvaged in 2011.
Pewter made before 1600 is exceptionally rare but we know from documentary sources that the homes of the London middling sorts were busy with pewter plates, dishes and chargers.
Replica Upholstery Project
Conservator Kate Gill working on one of the chairs / A joined oak chair, made in England in the early 17th century, with new replica upholstery.
Two seventeenth-century chairs with new replica upholstery have recently been added to our 1630 period room. Halls of that period were typically furnished with a variety of types of seating, often including upholstered chairs. However, no chairs from middling homes of this early date have survived with their fragile textile coverings intact so we have used specialist conservation methods to recreate what that they would have once looked like.