Sunday, September 15, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Burns and Highland Mary, 1851

Burns and "Highland Mary"
Copeland & Sons, Ltd., 1851
Purchased by Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert at
The Dublin Exhibition, 1853
Also included were two glass
lamp shades.
The Royal Collection

Ye banks, and braes, and streams around 
The castle o' Montgomery! 
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers, 
Your waters never drumlie: 
There Simmer first unfauld her robes, 
And there the langest tarry; 
For there I took the last Farewell 
O' my sweet Highland Mary. 
--Robert Burns, 1792

With the rise of Parian ware, in the 1850’s, sculpture was becoming something that even the middle classes of Britain could afford. This unglazed biscuit mimicked the look of marble without the expense and was the perfect medium to create both original figures and reproductions of famous artwork.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert—who had access to all the marbles in the world—were keen collectors of Parian figures because they liked the intimacy of the pieces and the feel of the medium. They allowed makers of Parian ware such as Copeland & Sons to create Parian reproductions of several of their most beloved full-scale marble figures so that others could also enjoy their beauty.

While at the Dublin Exhibition in 1853, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased two Parian figural groups by Copeland & Sons with the intention of making them into lamp bases. This is one of the two groups. Created in 1851, the group depicts the poet Robert Burns with his lady-love, Mary Campbell, who as known as “Highland Mary.” Not only were Victoria and Albert drawn to the medium, they also liked the romantic subject matter—being as they were similarly in love. 

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