January 15, 2012

Pussy On A Plate: Queen Victoria's Etchings


In the early 1840s, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert studied etching under the tutelage of the Royal Portrait Painter Sir George Hayter. Among the subjects of the 87 plates the pair created were a few sketches of their children, including the above print of Princess Victoria crawling on the floor, playing with a ball of yarn, which may have been where she got the nickname Pussy:

The plates were etched at Windsor Castle and some proof impressions were pulled from a small press there. Occasionally, however, the plates were entrusted to a local printer called Brown who had instructions to return all impressions and plates to the Castle.

The Queen and Prince Albert never intended these very personal etchings to stray outside of a very tight circle of family and friends. However, in 1847, a local journalist called Jasper Tomsett Judge, who specialised in Royal reportage for the gossip hungry tourist trade, managed to acquire sixty unauthorised prints for £5 from a journeyman employee of Brown's called Middleton.

Intending to launch an exhibition in London with William Strange, Judge produced a catalogue of the prints which was intended for sale. The press releases in the newspapers advertising the event reached the attention of the Queen and Prince Albert who were clearly not amused. A wave of lawsuits and injunctions against Judge, Strange and Middleton quickly followed and the exhibition and catalogue were never to be.

As such, very few etchings by either Royal exist outside of the private collections at Windsor (who have a full set) and the British Museum (who were given a set by King George V). Examples are also owned by the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as small numbers in private hands.

Auctioneer Dominick Winter is selling six of Queen Victoria's etchings on Jan. 25.

I mention this because, though making little photoalbums is awesome, there's something kind of cool about the idea of making little etchings of your kid.

Lot 359: Queen Victoria, a group of six etchings, est. £1000-1500 [dominicwinter.co.uk]
Sketches [sic] by Queen Victoria that she didn't want seen revealed after 150 years [dailymail.co.uk, where most of the comments are about the Princess Royal's nickname. You stay classy, Daily Mail!]

1 Comment

A journeyman employee called Middleton ??? Haha !

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