Tag: Henry Cole

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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 […]

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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: […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Pulling out all the stops: Henry Cole and Royal Albert Hall’s Grand Organ

The Royal Albert Hall: The Great Organ, Orchestra, and Chorus

The BBC Proms season is only just underway so it seems somewhat premature to mention the climactic Last Night of the Proms, when the bronze bust of Sir Henry Wood, borrowed for the duration of the concert series from the Royal Academy of Music and set on a plinth immediately before the Royal Albert Hall’s […]

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Pet Cemetery: Henry Cole, Jim, Tycho and Pickle

This blog was prompted by an enquiry we received recently about the two commemorative plaques for ‘Jim’ and ‘Tycho’ set into the wall in an obscure corner of the V&A’s John Madejski garden. On Thursday, 30 January 1879, Sir Henry Cole (1808-82), the V&A’s first Director, wrote this poignant entry in his diary: 49 Wilton […]

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Richard Redgrave (1804-1888): A Reluctant Traveller

Cole and Redgrave

You’d think that the opportunity to travel around Italy at the Museum’s expense, hunting for priceless late Medieval and Renaissance treasures to send back to South Kensington, would have been considered by a nineteenth-century curator as one of the perks of the job. Not so with Richard Redgrave. Redgrave was a painter and arts administrator; […]

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