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Charles Drury Edward Fortnum

Lamp in the form of a grotesque monster, bronze and serpentine, Italy, ca. 1510-1530, catalogued by Fortnum

Lamp in the form of a grotesque monster, bronze and serpentine, Italy, ca. 1510-1530, catalogued by Fortnum

Charles Drury Edward Fortnum became involved with the South Kensington Museum when he loaned objects to its ‘Special exhibition of works of art’ in 1862. He was also commissioned to write catalogues of the Museum’s collections of majolica and European bronzes. Between 1875 and 1881 Fortnum was consulted as one of the Museum’s art referees.

Charles Drury Edward Fortnum was born in London on 2 March 1820. He spent five years in Australia before returning to England where, in 1847, he married Fanny Matilda Keats. Keats had inherited wealth from the profits of the London department store Fortnum and Mason, enabling Fortnum to pursue his interest in collecting works of the Italian Renaissance.  As an ‘art referee’, Fortnum played an important part in shaping the Museum’s collections - it was through Fortnum that the Museum purchased items from the Castellani sale, although he later become disillusioned with the way that the Museum was being managed.

In 1889, he donated his collection to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and had an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree conferred upon him the following year. Fortnum died on 6 March 1899. He bequeathed a court sword, formerly worn by the poet Samuel Rogers, to the Museum.

Information in the V&A Archive

MA/1/F1015: Nominal file – C. Drury Fortnum

MA/3/12-13, 18, 27-28, 31, 33, 35, 39, 46-49 & 51: Art Referees' reports, 1863-1886

MA/31/1, 2 & 6: Registers of loans in

MA/1/B1403: Nominal file – S. Bing [art referee report]

MA/1/B1533: Nominal file – C. C. Black [art referee report]

MA/1/C713: Nominal file – Castellani [art referee report]

Henry Cole: diaries: typed transcripts, 1822-1882

Other archival sources

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Fortnum Archive [microfilm copy of the archive available in the National Art Library, NAL pressmark: F.99.0003, F.99.0004]

Selected printed publications

List of the bequests and donations to the South Kensington Museum, now called The Victoria and Albert Museum: completed, to 31st December 1900. London: HMSO, 1901. NAL pressmark: VA.1901.0001

Fortnum, C. Drury E. Majolica. [London]: Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, [1875?]). NAL pressmark: 96.M.81

A descriptive catalogue of the bronzes of European origin in the South Kensington Museum, with an introductory notice by C. Drury E. Fortnum. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1876. NAL pressmark: 207.B.4

Thomas, Ben. The papers of C.D.E. Fortnum in the Ashmolean Museum. 1999. NAL pressmark: 011.31 THO

Thomas, Ben, and Timothy Wilson, eds. C.D.E. Fortnum: The collecting and study of applied arts and sculpture in Victorian England. A special issue of the Journal of the History of Collections 11, no. 2 (1999). NAL pressmark: PP.69.E

Wilson, Timothy. ‘Fortnum, Charles Drury Edward (1820–1899).’ In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. NAL pressmark: 920.041 DIC

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