Sir Alfred Munnings was a famous and successful painter and President of the Royal Academy of Arts, but for a time his wife Violet’s pet Pekingese, Black Knight, was equally famous.  Violet took Black Knight with her everywhere and frequently concealed him in a specially designed handbag with a “window” in the end through which he could observe the goings on.

IMG_6251
“The most famous dog in the world.”  Black Knight in his handbag.  Photo courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum. 

He attended exhibition openings, horse shows, and horse races.  In his black velvet evening bag he was smuggled into formal dinners and receptions.  Eventually the press discovered him and after a photo of Black Knight at a reception at the Prime Minister’s residence made the papers, the public became a bit obsessed with the small black dog.

IMG_6266
“Sir Anthony Eden, myself, and Violet Munnings at a party at the P. Minister’s 10 Downing Street, 1949.”  Photo Courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum.

Readers were able to keep abreast of all of Black Knight’s activities as the newspapers regularly reported on the events he attended, what he dined upon, the people he met, and his tips on the outcomes of horse races.  Violet collected the newspaper articles about him, as well as his photos, in a scrapbook.  Most of the photos in this post are from Black Knight’s scrapbook courtesy of The Munnings Museum which was kind enough to share them.

black knight 3
A collage of newspaper clippings about Black Knight.  Photo from the back dust jacket of Diary of a Freeman.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

His popularity was such that he published an autobiography in which he described his adventures for his fans.  He talks about his activities at home, such as riding the mare Chena, or cuddling on the longest sofa in the library, his favorite room in the house.

IMG_6258
A. J. Munnings, Violet Munnings, and Black Knight.  Photo courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum.

Black Knight’s social calendar was rather full.  He attended many parties and receptions at St. James Palace and Buckingham Palace.  Five different Lords Mayor of London welcomed him as a guest that their banquets, and he was even made an honorary Freeman of the City of London.

IMG_6257
Violet and Black Knight looking through his scrapbook.  Photo courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum.

He was presented to the Queen at the Royal Garden Party, attended the King and Queen’s silver anniversary party at Buckingham Palace, and even attended Princess Elizabeth’s wedding.  According to Black Knight’s account of the event, he stowed away in Violet’s hand muff and was not discovered until she was seated in the Abbey!

He enjoyed attending horse races and would indicate his picks for the winners by barking at them.  He even had his own account with a bookmaker where Violet placed his bets for him.  Black Knight accompanied Violet everywhere for ten years until his death in 1955.  After his death she refused to be parted from him and had him stuffed.

IMG_6284
Black Knight today, on his cushion in Violet’s room.  Photo courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum.

And so he continued accompany her for years afterwards.  Today he resides on a cushion in her room, at the house they lived in, which is now the Munnings Art Museum.

castle house
The Munnings residence, Castle House, now The Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, England.  Photo from the European Museums Network.

If you’d like to read about Black Knight’s exploits and adventures in his own words, his autobiography, The Diary of a Freeman, is available the Main Reading Room here at the Library.  It is quite delightful to read about events from his point of view.

IMG_6270
Black Knight recreating his pose for the portrait that was used as the cover of his book, Diary of a Freeman.  Photo courtesy of The Munnings Art Museum.

The Library also holds numerous books about Sir Alfred Munnings, including his autobiography, which shows the events portrayed in Black Knight’s book from another, taller,  point of view.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

 

Advertisements

Hound shows have been part of the American sporting landscape for decades, and we’re privileged in Virginia to have one of the largest shows in the world. The Virginia Foxhound Club hosts the Virginia Foxhound Show every spring, barely 30 minutes drive from NSLM.

NSLM-6318

The Virginia Hound Show was founded in 1934 by William Du Pont, Jr., president of the now-defunct American Foxhound Club, by request of his sister, Marion Du Pont Scott.

In 1934, William duPont, Jr., president of the now-defunct American Foxhound Club (and great-grandson of the founder of the duPont Company), was asked by his sister, Marion duPont Scott (wife of actor Randolph Scott), to seek the sanctioning of a hound show in Virginia. Mrs. Scott offered her Montpelier estate (built by President James Madison) as a venue, and the show, which offered a bench show as well as field trial classes for mostly American hounds, ran for seven years under the auspices of the American Foxhound Club until the outbreak of World War II.

American Foxhound Club History, by Norman Fine

NSLM-6289

While the Virginia Hound Show is one of the largest shows in the United States, the Bryn Mawr Hound Show is the oldest, founded in 1914.

The Bryn Mawr Hound Show was started in September, 1914 by John Valentine, Plunket Stewart and J. Stanley Reeve. Local Masters of Hounds were contacted and, upon receiving approval and support, officers were elected and committees appointed. Apparently, the first show was a great success, as 21 of the foremost packs in America showed hounds.

Bryn Mawr Hound Show History, excerpted from History of the Bryn Mawr Hound Show 1914-1989 by C. Barton Higham

NSLM-6287

Together these are two of the most prestigious hound shows in the United States. At the shows, hounds are judged on conformation, suitability, and temperament, individually and in packs. Many prizes from both shows have been won by the Orange County Hounds, one of our local hunts, and are on display in the Library’s Main Reading Room and Founders’ Room.

NSLM-6312

This year, Orange County was hugely successful at both shows, winning 12 classes at the Virginia Foxhound Show and 11 classes at Bryn Mawr. The star at both shows was Kermit, a hound who won Champion American Foxhound, Grand Champion Foxhound, and Best in Show at Bryn Mawr as well as Best American Stallion Hound, Champion American Dog Hound, and Champion American Foxhound of the Show at the Virginia Hound Show.

If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by the Library and enjoy the trophies on display!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

How do museums care for art collections?

In the 1983 film “Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” Cookie Monster has to resist eating delicious looking pictures. [Image: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Don%27t_Eat_the_Pictures] (c) Sesame Workshop
Museum professionals work hard behind-the-scenes to make sure unique collections and cultural heritage survives for future generations to enjoy. The ways in which we store, handle, and light art objects are key to preventing damage and slowing deterioration over time. The professional term is preventative conservation, and it is the unsung hero of museum collections care.

You may have noticed that most museums are extremely vigilant about preventing visitors from touching the artwork.

Dirt and oils from hands can add up to damage over time. Cracking in painted surfaces is inevitable, as the different natural and man-made materials that make up canvas and paint expand and contract over time. But, pressure – from a hand or pointing finger, for instance – can result in extensive cracks that may not show up until later.

Details from: John Frederick Herring, Sr., The Start of the Derby, 1845, oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017
Concentric circles or bullseye cracks can develop from pressure (like a finger poke) that has been applied to a painting canvas.

And a careless gesture too close to a painting could result in more immediate (and very expensive) damage – like this $40-million Dollar Elbow.

Physical damage can also be caused by the environment. If you have ever hung a photograph in your home where it is hit by direct sunlight, you may have made the sad discovery that your picture has started to fade away. Works on paper – such as pencil, ink, watercolor, and especially photographs – are particularly sensitive to light damage. In the museum we monitor light levels carefully and use window coverings to filter out harmful UV light from the outside.

Routine cleaning and treatments also help prevent damage. We enlist professional conservators to combine science and chemistry with art to do so.

Sculpture conservator Andrew Baxter prepares wax to protect the bronze sculpture of a filly, Darn That Itch by Jean Clagett, on the NSLM campus.
Tools of the trade: The sculpture conservator uses wax tinted with different types of pigments to create a protective layer over the bronze.
A pre-treatment photo of the NSLM’s Sea Hero statue. Note the greenish hue, particularly on the base.
After annual cleaning and re-waxing, the green discoloration is gone and rain water beads and pools on the base of the bronze.

To learn more about the treatment of outdoor bronze sculptures and our Sea Hero statue, read this past blog post, Bath Time for Bronze Horses.

When damage does occur, whether naturally or by accident, conservators also help us repair and restore works of art. A large, four-paneled, 18th century sporting screen in the permanent collection is currently undergoing treatment by a conservator. In the photos below, you can see the progress so far. The left photo was taken before any cleaning or treatment. The right photo was taken during the treatment process after yellowed varnish and old discolored repairs have been removed. The bright white areas are filled-in repairs that will eventually be repainted.

Details from: (after) James Seymour, Four-paneled Sporting Screen, mid-18th/19th century, hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, each panel 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006
On the left, photos taken before treatment show cloudy, yellowed varnish and old, discolored past repairs. On the right, photos taken during treatment show brighter colors and details. The areas of bright white are newly made repairs to old damage.

Once cleaning is complete and all repairs have been finished, the screen will be re-coated with a thin layer of protective varnish and can then be put back on view in the galleries.

It takes consistent care to keep these objects looking their best. If you want to help support the ongoing conservation efforts here at the NSLM, please consider making a donation!

The NSLM Library holds more than a few game books and hunt diaries.  Game books typically tally up the bag for a given day’s hunting while hunt diaries give more detailed information about the participants, the weather, and any interesting events that took place during the hunt.  I recently discovered that the Library also holds a copy of the charming fishing diary of a woman named Muriel Foster.

The diary records over 30 years of Muriel’s fishing activities, and as one might expect, details when and where she fished, her catch, and the flies she used.  What makes the diary unique are the lavish illustrations that she added to embellish it.  The diary would become a family heirloom and it is her great-niece that decided to have it published in 1980.

DSCF5015
Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Muriel was born in in 1884 in Surrey, England.  She was a tomboy and enjoyed many of the activities her brothers participated in, including fencing and fishing.  Demonstrating artistic ability, she was enrolled in the Slade School of Art, where she studied under Henry Tonks.  While Muriel did well and even exhibited a drawing at the Royal Academy, she was not destined to become a professional artist.  Unmarried in her mid-forties she established her own household in a home called Ivy Cottage, in Wiltshire.  Here she spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests in drawing, painting, gardening, and fishing, and here she welcomed her many nieces and nephews.

DSCF5053
Ivy Cottage.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The illustrations on the pages of her fishing diary pull the viewer into Muriel’s experience.   She shows us not only the fish and the flies she used to catch them…

DSCF5048
Assorted flies and a fish.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5021
Fish.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

but also the other animals she encountered while fishing…

DSCF5049
Seal off the Islands, and “Luna.”  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5032
Slavonian Grebes on Loch Farralin.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

the landscapes that surrounded her as she fished…

DSCF5025
The river at Hildersham.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5028
Lough Conn, pontoon bridge.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

and the people that sometimes joined her on her outings.

DSCF5044
Colin with Bob, Smoke, Ranger and Jandoc.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5047
Hector.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Her drawings evoke the full experience of fishing, not simply the challenge of hauling in a trout or salmon, but also the enjoyment of spending time out of doors and a love of the countryside.  I imagine her spending cold winter nights illustrating the diary with the same calm and patience required for fishing.  Her paintings and drawings allowing her to relive the days on the river or loch until her next outing.

DSCF5059
The end of the day.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Perhaps some of the fishers reading this will be inspired to create a similar record of their adventures.  I’ve only included a few photos of the diary here.  If you’d like to get a closer look just let us know you’re coming and we’ll be happy to get it out for you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail