Punkbotanist just sent me a photograph of a painting I did years ago of a waterlily... Thought I'd put it up to show you.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
In June last year I saw a rather special collection of minerals at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge. This trip was part of the project I was working on at the time on Sir John St. Aubyn. Throughout his lifetime, Sir John had two very good friends, one was called the Rt. Hon. Charles Greville and the other was Sir Abraham Hume. I visited Sedgwick Museum, because I understood that they held the 18th century mineral collection, which was amalgamated by Abraham. The collection itself was beautifully arranged, and above is an example of some of his diamonds. They are mounted on small, slender ebony mounts, so that they could be studied in more detail during the time of collection.
Although many of the minerals were indeed beautiful, the most important insight I got during the visit was from these two labels. Interestingly, they are rather similar in their design. One can only assume that either the same person made them, or two very close friends around 200 years ago. I actually know who created the label on the right from the handwriting - a French expatriate called Comte Jacques Louis de Bournon. He catalogued John's, Abraham's and Charles' collections from 1794-1815. I am guessing that it is labelling a piece of lead, looking at the description 'Plumb'...!
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Sunday, 4 October 2009
The beginnings of my family tree (a corner!)...
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
On Monday, my colleague and I visited Devonport Guildhall to meet up with some staff members to talk about the touring exhibition. We needed to find a space to put the panels in, and so we were slowly taken around all the free spaces in the old grandiose building.
In the last part of the building were what the contractors called 'the cells'. To begin with, I had in mind little cubby-holes or a small space which they had called 'cells' as a modern term. However, I was quite mistaken - they really did mean cells! I managed to take a photograph of one of the doors (left) of the room (below). This space had such a dramatic atmosphere and seemed to be such a find, that I thought I'd share it with you all. I don't think many people know about these cells.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
© Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
The twig inside this herbarium sheet is 210 years old. We believe that Sir John St. Aubyn (1758-1839) collected this branch. The tree species would have been relatively new to St. Aubyn, as the tree had only been introduced to England from China a few decades before this specimen was collected.
Ginkgo trees are incredibly enduring and have been planted in towns and cities because they can grow even in the most polluted of places. An extreme example of this trees tenacity can be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where four trees growing 1 to 2 kilometres from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast. While almost all other living things in the area were destroyed, the Ginkgo trees survived and are still alive to this day.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
I have found out that this object is a branch of two oranges, with their leaves, covered in a calcium crust. This mineral would have been made by placing the oranges in the waters of Carlsbad in the Czech Republic over 200 years ago. Count de Bournon wrote about this item in his c1799 catalogue:
"Incrustation de Spath calcaire, faite sur un bouquet de feuilles d'oranger aux quelles étoient adhérentes deux oranges, placé dans les eaux incrustantes de Carlsbad en Bohême une cassure faite, sur le milieu de la réunion des tiges, laisse appercevoir que cette incrustation Spathique, qui est d'un rouge brun foncé à texterieure, est d'un jaune ocreux dans l'intérieur".
Which translated reads:
"Incrustation of calcareous spar, made on a bunch of orange-tree leaves to which two oranges were attached, placed in the encrusting waters of Carlsbad in Bohemia. A break, made on the middle of the junction of the twigs, allows one to see that this sparry incrustation, which is a dark brown red on the outside is yellow ochre inside."
Apparently, it was a common for people to put things in petrifying springs like this to see how long they took to become 'petrified '. It would take approximately two years for such objects, which were then available for sale to visitors there...
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
Sir John St. Aubyn, painted by John Opie, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery ©
Sir John St Aubyn, 5th Baronet, was born at Golden Square, London on 17th May 1758. Sir John was captivated by science and the arts and was a keen collector. Sir John's father (the 4th Baronet) was brought up by a Dr. William Borlase (1695 to 1772), a passionate mineral collector and Natural scientist. The influence of his father’s learned interest is likely to have also assisted in creating Sir John’s fascination with minerals and the natural world. St Aubyn succeeded to the baronetcy at the age of fourteen and was a clever and distinguished man. He served as High Sheriff of Cornwall (at the age of 23), and went on to become a Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Linnean Society, member of Parliament, Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians, Fellow of the Geological Society of London, Fellow of the Society of Arts and Provincial Grandmaster of the Freemasons. The St. Aubyn’s were also well-known gardeners in their time, and on the 5th baronet’s Royal Society election certificate, his interest in botany is mentioned.
Juliana Vinicombe, painted by John Opie, St. Michael's Mount Collection ©
Sir John St. Aubyn is said to have spent a lot of time with a number of young ladies in his early years, but the first lady to live with Sir John was Martha Nicholls. Her father, John Nicholls, came from an old Cornish family and was a well known landscape gardener. Astonishingly, Sir John St. Aubyn never married Martha, even though she had five of his children. Instead, he married the other lady in his life - Juliana Vinicombe. Sir John met her when she was very young and sent her to be educated at Cheltenham. He eventually married Juliana, a blacksmith’s daughter, in 1822 when he was 64.
The St. Aubyn family had two estates in Cornwall – Clowance and St. Michael’s Mount, which Sir John inherited from his father in 1772. However, it appears that Sir John St. Aubyn found life in this part of the country rather uninspiring for his tastes in fine art and literature, and so he spent more of his time in London, or on estates closer to the city.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
The Prince came to see our new galleries in Plymouth. Apparently his favourite object was this one on the left - the Cattewater Gun. It was discovered in 1973 when the mouth of the river Plym was being dredged. It is one of many guns which would have been mounted on the ships rail and fired at the crews of enemy vessels. Guns such as these were the most common armament used at sea by both naval and merchant vessels between AD 1450 to 1520. During this period, William Caxton published the first book in England and King Henry VIII became the King. A few years after this gun fell into the murky waters of the River Plym, the English Reformation began, and many Monasteries, like this gun, were lost.
Monday, 25 May 2009
I've always been interested in history, and have happy memories of my journeys through time. I remember working on topic books when I was in primary school, and really enjoying myself as I escaped the present. I embraced topics such as the "Tudors and Stuarts" to such a point that I used to dream I was friends with kings and queens of that time. I thought I couldn't be happier in my imaginary world, I thought nothing could be better than being friends with Joan of Arc. But that was before I studied the Egyptians...
I wasn't sure why we had to go all the way up to London for a school trip, I had never travelled that far on a school day before. But then I had never visited the British Museum before either. Gosh, it was amazing. I remember not knowing what to do with myself because I was so amazed and excited at seeing so many old things. Then, I saw him - Ginger. A 5400 year old mummy from Gebelein, Egypt. Here is the poem I wrote the night after I saw him.
Ginger the Dead Egyptian
He was called that because of his hair
He lay in a scrunched-up position
And really he was quite bare
His tongue was all dry and crispy
His tummy had all fallen in
Perhaps he died before dinner
And that’s what made him so thin!