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Every Donkey has his Carte de Visite.

Satirical card showing a dog delivering a carte-de-visite

In 1854, a Frenchman, André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri, patented a new form of photograph called the carte de visite. These were small images, typically about 54 mm × 89 mm, mounted on thicker cards that measured 64 by 100 mm; about the same size as visiting-cards (literally, carte de visite). Disidéri’s invention meant that multiple copies […]

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Living the high life in Hackney

Coloured woodcut by an unknown artist, c. 1811. Museum no. E.4766-1923

  This colourful print of a hot-air balloon flight caught my eye while I was cataloguing a collection of prints and drawings relating to Hackney and other East London boroughs. As it happens to be the 204th anniversary of the event depicted, it seemed the perfect opportunity to share the story. James Sadler (1753-1828) was […]

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A Proud and Posturing Great-Grandfather


Images of Louis XIV played an important role in celebrating, commemorating and promoting his power. Many survive on decorative objects, charting his life from cradle to grave. Almanacs (a type of calendar) were often used to depict the heroic exploits of Louis and his family with illustrations and verses depicting wars, royal weddings and births […]

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A very brief history of staying dry

E.1240-1931 Poster No Wet - No Cold; 'No Wet - No Cold'. Colour lithograph poster with a stylised graphic design of umbrellas, advertising the London Underground Railways. Designed by Manner and issued by the Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd., 1929. Manner Underground Electric Railways Co. of London, Ltd. London 1929 Colour lithograph © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As I said in the first post, to stay dry is a very human wish (unless of course you subscribe to the ‘aquatic ape’ theory put forward by some natural historians); so how did people keep the rain off in the olden days?     There is evidence that aboriginal Americans were the first true […]

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Forecasting rain

MISC.215:1-1988; Red rubber wellington boots; Dunlop, ca. 1959. Held by the Museum of Childhood © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    The V&A’s Textiles and Fashion collection holds tens of thousands of objects and is one of the most comprehensive collections of its type in the world. Researching this huge collection is one of the greatest pleasures of my job but, being a busy boy, I cannot devote as much time to research as […]

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Into each life some rain must fall

Va benone...ecco che piove!; Postcard, Milford Haven Collection, 'Va benone...ecco che piove!', Man putting up his umbrella against 'rain' caused by dog urinating, lithograph, Italian, ca.1904
Ca. 1904
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  If, like me, you have been a victim of Britain’s unpredictable and frequently inclement weather you may have observed two things:   British people have a tendency to discuss the weather frequently and at great length. A lot of time has been expended trying to find methods to stay dry.     The first […]

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Who Was Wheatcroft?

Detail of a sinking ship from E.32-1949

Whilst cataloguing, I often reflect on the many engravers whose work is now in our store, either anonymous, or signed only with cryptic initials or widespread surnames, and are fated to remain unknown. Only their work remains to silently attest to the skills of these unknown craftsmen and women. I may wish that A.R. (E.126-1941) […]

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Printing workshop with Speed Resident Noemi Niederhauser

© Victoria and Albert Museum

On Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th of October families were invited to take part in a print making workshop run by Speed Resident, Noemi Niederhauser. Everyone was encourage to get creative with inspiration drawn from a textile piece that Noemi has found in the collection. With carved potato stamps and self-drawn paper stencils children and […]

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St Martin de Porres


Today on Sanctus Ignotum we have a case study in race relations, and our first South American saint. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a liberated black slave, Martin was initially apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. He joined the Dominican Order as a lay-helper, though his dedication to […]

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St. Petka

Petka's head

This Orthodox saint’s proper name is Paraskeva of the Balkans, but she is also known alternatively as Petka. She was born on the shores of the Sea of Marmara at the start of the 11th century. She claimed that God spoke to her at the age of 10 while in church, quoting Jesus (and therefore […]

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