Friday 7 August 2009

If I didn't like Needlework...?

People often ask me if I didn't like needlework, what would I like? Hmm. The answer has to be: illuminated books. I can loose myself in them for hours - or at least in facsimiles of the for hours, for indeed they are too precious for my pocket. One of the most wonderful exhibitions I have ever attended - and one which I sometimes dream about to this day - was of the Florence (Kate) Kingsford exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum nearly 30 years ago. I was simply mesmerized. Kate, though suffering from MS produced 60 works between 1900 and 1910. She was engaged as illustrator to Sir Flinders Petrie, an archaeologist excavating in Egypt, when she produced what is perhaps one of the loveliest works - Hymn to Atten - which is filled with flotillas of lateen-rigged dhows drifting down the Nile, while on the banks are caravans of people and animals. Just to talk about this brings all the wonder back for me. Her husband, Sir Sydney Cockerell, Curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum, held an exhibition of her work in the Louvre in 1914. The image you can see here is from the opening page of the Song of Solomon - and if you know the text, then you can imagine how wonderful those illustrations are. Florence didn't produce just one copy - but 40, each slightly different. Look on Abebooks and you can buy one today for £51,449. But that brings me on to embroidered book bindings - a topic for another day.

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