Thursday, February 16, 2012

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Ginger Girl Dummy Board , 1630-50

Dummy Board, 1630-50
East Sutton Park, Kent
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at dummy boards—life-size, painted wooden cut-outs met to play a visual trick—several times before.  Here’s an exceptionally well-painted one which was made in England between 1630 and 1650 by a professional sign painter.  The figure depicts a ginger-haired female in a style of dress which was popular with wealthy women about 1640.  Curiously, the figure is holding a broom—unlikely for the lady of the house.  It’s possible that this is meant to represent a servant girl wearing her mistress’ hand-me-downs, and therefore suggests a later date of creation.  A companion board, also at the V&A, shows the same titian-haired female figure holding a mirror, so the pair probably represents the concepts of  “industry” and “vanity.”

This dummy board and its mate came from East Sutton Park, Kent, the family of Sir Robert Filmer, a prominent royalist who died in 1653. The pair was purchased in 1898 at the sale, near Maidenhead, of one Mrs. Sankey-- a daughter of Sir Edmund Filmer.

It’s important to note that there is a similar figure of a sweeping woman at Lullingston Castle, Kent, and another related figure at Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwickshire. The example we see here, and its mate, are said to have faces which are supposed to be copies of family portraits of the family of Sir Robert Filmer.

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