Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Her Majesty’s Furniture: Prince Albert’s Casket, 1871

Glass, Ebony, Silver Gilt
The Victoria & Albert Museum
No, this isn’t the casket in which dear old Albert was buried. He’s got that with him in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore—right next to Victoria. This is something much different. It’s essentially a display case of glass, ebony and silver gilt.

This little beauty was created in 1871 to display Prince Albert’s season ticket for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert and his wife, the Queen, were much excited about the Great Exhibition and enjoyed it immensely, thrilled with the works of the British people and, also, using it as an opportunity to shop—an activity that they both fancied. The casket was also meant to house two volumes about the life of the Prince Consort as well as the records of his public addresses.

It’s especially important since Prince Albert was vital in starting the project for the exhibition and the Queen was adamant that her dearly departed husband’s contributions should be forever remembered. Per the Queen’s instructions, the casket is surmounted by figures representing Learning, Science and Philosophy. F. W. Moody (1824–86) designed the casket, O. Gibbons modeled it, and G. Franchi cast and chased the figures and silver gilding.

All that said, I can’t quite figure out what happened to the important contents it was designed to hold, but they don’t appear to be anywhere near it if they ever made it in there in the first place. Nevertheless, the casket, empty though it is, is rightfully in the V&A, looking very pretty and mildly creepy—just as the best things do.

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