Sunday, May 12, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: The Hand and Arm of Victoria, Princess Royal, 1843

The Royal Collection

Queen Victoria had a great desire to capture moments in the lives of her family. She was very much interested in recording the growth of her children so that she could remember them at all stages of their lives. This desire took many forms. She had miniature portraits painted of her children as they grew. She even had jewelry commissioned which used their baby teeth as the principal ornament.

When Victoria died in 1901, a touching (and to modern eyes, quite odd) collection of marble arms, hands and feet was found in her private rooms at Buckingham Palace. The Queen had commissioned sculptor Abraham Kent (who would most likely not be remembered were it not for these objects) to create these marble keep-sakes of her children’s features so that she could remember them when they were small. Kent took a plaster mold of the Princess Royal’s hand and arm in order to capture every detail when he was sculpting the stone. The process of obtaining the casts had to be done while the children were sleeping as they would not stand for it while they were awake.

The Royal Collection
This sculpture, like its brethren, was kept on a crimson velvet cushion under a glass dome to ensure that the marble would stay a pristine white. It really is quite beautiful in its own way. We must remember, when we view artifacts such as this, that this was before everyone had a camera in their pocket. Today, we have so many ways of recording our lives. Victoria, like many other mothers throughout time, simply wanted a way to recall the sweetest years of her children’s lives.

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