Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Peasant Rest?

Having now understood the meaning behind Godfrey Blount's piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 'The Spies', it is clear to me that the other piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum that is referred to as The Spies elsewhere (and I have called The Spies on my blog!) should not be called so.  It appears much more similar to other Blount tapestry pieces that were used in bedroom furnishings.

The Victoria and Albert Museum have informed me that the hanging was purchased from Sotheby's Belgravia in April 1978.  It is 210cm x 180cm.

Hanging by Godfrey Blount, 1896
Victoria & Albert Museum

Linda Parry explains the evolution of bedroom style of the 1890s in the Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement (Thames & Hudson, 2005): "Printed cottons with white and pale grounds were increasingly used throughout the house, and more attention was given to bedrooms.  Heal's, famed for its hygienic mattresses, sold a range of suitable bedroom furnishings including printed cotton and silk bedcovers.  They also sold applique hangings from Haslemere which were acceptable hygienically because they were made from washable linen."  At the Paris Exhibition in 1900 (Exposition Universelle), Heal's exhibited a pair of oak bedsteads with the "covers and hangings of Haslemere 'Peasant Tapestries'" (Parry, 2005).  
Godfrey Blount bedcovers and hangings, exhibited by Heal's at 1900 Paris Exhibition,
 Parry, Linda, 
Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Thames & Hudson, 2005
In 1897 the Artist (vol. XX) published a picture of an oak bedstead designed by Ethel Blount with tapestries designed by Godfrey Blount.  The similarity between the tree and bird design in this picture and the Victoria and Albert Museum's hanging is striking.  In later years there is no mention of beds being made by the Peasant Arts Industries. 

Oak bedstead designed by Ethel Blount, head, foot and quilt peasant tapestry
designed by Godfrey Blount from
The Artist, November 1897
The Godfrey Blount tapestry held by the Haslemere Educational Museum is a bed hanging donated by Mrs Helena Gertrude King's (Joseph King's second wife's) housekeeper, Mrs Tuffs in 1999.

Godfrey Blount Drapery.
Reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum

Presumably the Victoria and Albert Museum's hanging at 210cm x 180cm would be too big to have formed a headboard, but perhaps it could have been for a bedspread?  Or maybe it was just designed for a hanging.


  1. I have always wondered why on earth the "Swallows and Rose Tree" hanging at the V&A would be called "The Spies". Your explanation sounds much more likely and it appears that birds and trees, in various combinations, make up several of Blount`s wall hangings or bed drapes.

    Ethel and Godfrey`s bed, in the second photo, looks like something from a much earlier time. It looks almost medieval. Reminiscent of furniture in Pre- Raphaelite paintings. Part of that late Victorian longing to go back to a simpler, pre -industrial age.

  2. I wonder whether Ethel & Godfrey's bed was made by Arthur Romney Green, the furniture maker, who was working in Foundry Meadow at the same time. That might explain why the bed-making didn't continue.

    I also wonder whether the Blounts called the Kings "The Spies"!


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