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Read, Watch and Listen

Stephen J. Voorhies, ‘An Ideal Kitchen Arrangement’

Fig. 137 in Emily Post The Personality of a House, fourth edition 1948 [1930], New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, p. 398. 

In her discussion of ‘Today’s Kitchen’, leading US etiquette writer Emily Post was influenced by Christine Frederick’s application of Scientific Management to homemaking, and an emphasis on designing domestic spaces with a view to ‘saving steps’ (See, for example ‘Efficient grouping of kitchen equipment’ (Scientific Management in the Home, London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1920 p. 22)

Couple on the Sands, Ambrotype​

The itinerant beach photographer was the first mass-producer of plein-air portraits and very quickly introduced seaside paraphernalia as ‘props’, seen here in the clinker-built boats signifying a coastal location. The two sitters we also see typify a fashionably confident pose of the day. They verge on the defiant in their informality and intimacy, indicated by lounging together on the pebbles and the male placing his arm fully around the shoulder of the female.

The Story 2

TASS WINDOW 817, 'The Devil Take My Cart',"5 September, 1943. Horses figure in different guises in the Windows; here the enemy horse is a skeleton and his cart is on the point of collapse. The dimensions of this Window are small, only 20cm x 22cm, and the technique is different, more akin to silk screen printing. It may be that this is a small size Window made for distribution by hand, especially to soldiers at the front. The horse played a substantial role in both the Russian and German war machines. Many millions of horses perished.

Silver tetradrachm of Phraates III (c. 70-57 BC).

In a rare alliance, Rome and Parthia agreed to overthrow the Armenian Tigranes II. Phraates III, wearing an impressive Parthian tiara decorated with beads, stags and a horn, wanted to place an ally on the Armenian throne. The coin’s reverse shows the enthroned king holding a Veragna bird while Tyche (representing the Parthian city Seleucia-on-the-Tigris) crowns him. In the coin’s inscription Phraates III arrogantly claims to be ‘divine’. He was eventually murdered by his sons for the disastrous Roman alliance.

© Trustees of the British Museum

‘Although your elders’ love for you amounts to adoration, a scene like this would be improved by greater moderation’

Illustration by Charles Malcolm Allen in Betty Allen and Mitchell Pirie Briggs, If You Please: A Book of Manners for Young Moderns, rev. ed., J. B. Lippincott Company, [1942] 1950, p. 194.

Allen and Briggs’s books exemplify a tendency to show in the illustrations what is censured by the text. Scenes of teenagers having fun—listening to loud music, socialising without permission—carry disapproving captions. However, these depictions of censured activity might provide scenarios of identification for young people in a manner unplanned by authors and possibly even illustrators in the absence of an authorial voice for that group in post-war advice books.

Family in Bathers/Studio, Unframed Tintype

19th century examples of sitters wearing bathing costumes paradoxically have not been taken at the seaside, but rather at nearby portrait studios frequently situated close to the beach. This modest unframed tintype is perhaps an example of the studio bathing costume portrait at its most stark.

The Story 3

Vivian de De Sola Pinto  1895-1969. Pinto was Professor of English at the University of Nottingham, 1938-1961. He  also had an interest in languages and other cultures, including Russian. He volunteered for war service. Nothing is certain, but he appears to have been involved in secret and/or diplomatic missions, during which he acquired, or he may have been presented with, his collection of Windows and printed posters. On his death in 1969 Pinto left his collection to the University of Nottingham  along with his library. The Windows were folded and becoming fragile, and their true significance as war art was only gradually realised. 

Postcard of the royal tombs at Nimrud Dagh in Commagene (modern south-central Turkey).

Like Armenia, the kingdom of Commagene bordered both Roman and Parthian territories. In 62 BC, Antiochus I Theos (‘the Divine’) commissioned his royal tomb at Nimrud Dagh. His colossal statue stood alongside figures of lions, Veragna birds, claimed ancestors from both ancient Persian kings and from Alexander the Great, as well as gods fused together from Armenian, Iranian and Greek pantheons. This unique theology placed the king amongst gods of all nations, and sent a strong message to neighbouring superpowers.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Cover, Illustration by Esme, 'The Creda Housecraft Manual'

Stoke-on-Trent: Simplex Electric Co. and London: Odhams, 1958. Permission IPC Media, a Time Inc. Company. CC-BY-NC-ND.

Publisher Odhams Press used the same visual identity across genres and decades when it repurposed cover designs by illustrator Esme (Florence Olive Esme Eve) from The Woman Week-End Book numbers 1 and 2 (1949) for the Creda Housecraft Manual (1958). While the Woman Week-End Books are entertaining selections of short stories, and tips on beauty, housewifery, personal problems, cookery, knitting, and useful things to make’, the Creda Housecraft Manual promotes a household appliance brand forming an example therefore of the ‘advertising cookbooks’ genre.

Couple in Bathers/Studio

This studio portrait of a couple in bathing costumes whilst modest nevertheless seeks a more naturalistic mise-en-scene of faux beach, rock and driftwood and is then given further depth through the tromp l’oeil seascape backdrop. The rented bathing costumes bear the name of the photographer’s studio ‘H.J.Larkins’, but as a tintype seen here in lateral reverse.