Tag: Henry Cole

Back to the blog front page

The Guard Book Project

Portrait of a female by Raphael, pencil drawing, said to be the model for his Madonnas

This project is the digitisation of The Guard Book Archive of Black & White Photographs taken by the Museum between 1856 – 1997. First of all what is a Guard Book?, other terms could be, an Album, Store Book, Scrapbook, Folder, Guard Box, the list could go on, but one word is important, the word Guard, to […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole and the Swiney Cup

Dr George Swiney (c.1786-1844) seems to have developed some quirky behaviours in later life; fittingly, perhaps, his Edinburgh University MD thesis had been entitled De Insania [On Madness]. According to the obituary published in The Gentleman’s Magazine (July, 1841) He lived in the greatest seclusion, not going out of doors more than five or six […]

Keep reading

20 May 1867. A milestone in the history of the Royal Albert Hall

On this very day 150 years ago, Queen Victoria went from Windsor Castle to South Kensington to lay the foundation stone of the Royal Albert Hall. She reported in her diary: A muggy dull day. At ½ p. 10 started for London. A little rain had been falling, the sky was heavy and the air oppressive, […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole at the Boat Race

Boat race map

How did your crew fare in yesterday’s Cancer Research UK Boat Race (aka Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race)? After last year’s disappointment, it was a relief (for me) to see the Dark Blues triumph in the men’s race. As Henry Cole (1808-1882), the V&A’s first director, went straight from school at Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, to a job as […]

Keep reading

John Dillon – autograph collector

Nowadays we tend to use the terms ‘autograph’ and ‘signature’ interchangeably. When we ask a celebrity for his autograph, he usually scribbles his personal signature. There is, however, a telling distinction between an autograph and a signature, which the autograph collector Ray Rawlins learned through a frosty encounter with a member of the British aristocracy: […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole and the Devil’s violinist

Pencil drawing by Daniel Maclise depicting the debut of Nicolo Paganini

Although I knew that Henry Cole (1808–1882), the V&A’s first Director, was an avid concert-goer with wide ranging musical tastes – from Bach fugues to Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi – I hadn’t expected to find a reference in his diary to the Italian virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini (1728–1840): In the Evening I went with Pyne […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole’s “faithful dog”

Experiments with The Model of The Memorial of The Exhibition of 1851

As I was flicking through a copy of Elizabeth Bonython’s King Cole: A picture portrait of Sir Henry Cole, KCB 1808-1882 this attractive watercolour caught my eye: Bonython explains that it shows the quadrangle of the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was known until 1899) in March 1861. Against the backdrop of the Sheepshanks […]

Keep reading

Henry Cole’s “Vertical Stands”: early display cases at the V&A

Pillar stand with rotating frame

No sooner had the new South Kensington Museum flung open its doors than its senior officers were agitating for additional space for the display of objects. In 1859, J. C. Robinson, the Museum’s first Superintendent of the Art Collections, complained in his annual report that ‘at the present time the nature and extent of the space […]

Keep reading

Globetrot, Haggle, Report: The V&A Art Referee in the 19th Century

The V&A Archive has just completed a project to catalogue to item-level the contents of 51 boxes of Art Referee Reports. Now we can help museum staff and researchers find provenance information for objects acquired by the South Kensington Museum from 1863-1886. We plan to make the catalogue available online later this year. What are […]

Keep reading

Christmas with the Coles

The first Christmas card 1843

In 1843 the indefatigable Henry Cole (1808-82), who would later become the V&A’s first Director, devised the first Christmas greeting card (Cole notched up a lot of ‘firsts’ during his impressive civil service career). He commissioned John Callcott Horsley to design it. In his diary entry for 17 December 1843, Cole recorded that ‘In the […]

Keep reading