Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sculpture of the Day: The Atholl Inkstand, 1844-45

The Atholl Inkstand
Commissioned by Prince Albert, 1844
Presented to Queen Victoria, Christmas, 1845
Silver, silver gilt, granite, marble, quartz,
stag teeth, cairngorm, amethystine quartz
Kitching & Abud
The Royal Collection

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, was a remarkably intelligent man with many varied interests and a keen appreciation for the arts. He was also, however, quite fond of shooting animals. This was pretty standard for a young nobleman in a culture which traditionally encouraged its lads to participate in “field sports” and hunting. But, ever the clever fellow, Albert found ways to combine all of his many interests while being attentive to his greatest love—Victoria herself.

The prince often enjoyed incorporating the teeth of the animals he killed (mostly stag) into works of art and jewelry. He delighted in presenting these trophies to friends and loved ones and enjoyed the permanence they offered in the commemoration of a special event or relationship.

In 1844, when Albert and Queen Victoria vacationed in the Scottish Highlands, Victoria called their visit was, “a little Arcadia for a few weeks” as the prince decried that the Highlands, “act as a tonic to the nerves and gladdens the heart of a lover like myself of field sports and of nature.” So enchanted with Scotland were the Royal couple (a love which led them to purchase Balmoral) that Prince commissioned this ornate inkstand to present to the Queen as a souvenir of their peaceful holiday.

A silver sculpture of a stag stands proudly atop an inkwell encased in a casket of silver gilt, granite, marble, quartz, stag teeth, cairngorm, amethystine quartz. Two silver plaques on the casket read, “In Remembrance of the Highlands 1844 and This inkstand, designed under the direction of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, as a memorial of the Highlands, is ornamented with pebbles picked up at Blair Athol by Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, and with teeth taken from the deer shot by His Royal Highness during their visit in the autumn of 1844. Executed by Kitching and Abud.”

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