Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Fontana Inkstand, c. 1550

Fontana Workshop, c. 1550
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in the mid-Sixteenth Century, this tin-glazed earthenware inkstand comes from the Fontana Workshop in Urbino, Italy. The inkstand is surmounted by a figure of a young man playing an organ. He is joined by his faithful spaniel who is getting his ear scratched by his master. An inkstand such as this would have been made to appeal to a young gentleman for use in his private study. During this era, a class of urban professional men was developing and many workshops created specialized items to appeal to them. Desk accessories and ink stands were the centerpieces of these collections. Very often, these stands were fitted with compartments for pen, pounce, a paper knife, and scissors. This example once had a sliding drawer which is now missing. 

The scene depicted here shows a fashionable young gentleman dressed in the “uniform” of a nobleman. He sits at an architecturally-designed organ which is being operated by a boy at the reverse operating bellows. The entire group rests on a rectangular stand supported by lion's paws at the corners. At one point in the last five hundred years, the stand was broken, and, then, restored. There’s evidence of restoration to the chair, the brim of the hat, one of the capitals of the organ’s pilasters and the boy’s toes and bellows. 

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