Prince Albert, designer; R. & S. Garrard; Edmund Cotterill
Commissioned by Queen Victoria
Prince Albert's close interest in design led to first-hand participation on several occasions. This centrepiece was his first collaboration with the firm of Garrards, and it seems that the combination of an Italian Renaissance-style tazza and models of four of the family pets was conceived by the Prince. When the centrepiece was first displayed in 1849 at the Annual Exhibition of British Manufactures, reactions were mixed. Henry Cole, in an editorial in the Journal of Design, felt that the Renaissance-style upper part was too reminiscent of the French School for the exhibition, but admired the fine modelling of the dogs. On the other hand, in the Art Journal Prince Albert is credited with a design showing ‘Italian character of the best class’. The Illustrated London News, extolling the improvements in the standard of British modelling and the skills of Edmund Cotterill, who ran the Garrards design studio, concluded that ‘in no branch of the Fine Arts have the artists of this country made greater progress than in the art of modelling [silver] statuettes … It may indeed be called a national art, and a national manufacture’. Cotterill stood ‘at the head of the class of artists who model for silversmiths and his productions, annually exhibited at Messrs Garrard, have earned that house a celebrity which no other can equal’. Cotterill was first employed by Prince Albert in 1840 to make a model of his greyhound Eos for which he was paid £10. The model was used again for this centrepiece and appears on several other items of plate in the Royal Collection, including paperweights and inkstands.
Both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were dog lovers. Although the centrepiece is often described as portraying the Queen's favourite dogs, Eos was in fact the devoted pet of the Prince. The other dogs all belonged to the Queen, and include the terrier Islay, acquired in March 1839: ‘He is a darling little fellow, yellow brindled, rough long hair, very short legs and a large, long, intelligent good face’. The other terrier is Cairnach, of whom the Queen wrote that ‘he had such dear engaging ways’. The fourth dog is a dachshund known as Waldmann, one of several of that name.
All four dogs were portrayed several times for the Queen: in watercolour for the Animal Album from the mid-1840s, and in oils by Landseer and Thomas Musgrove Joy (1812-66). Islay was often depicted in the pose seen on the centrepiece, on his hind legs. Three of the dogs, Eos, Islay and Cairnach, appear in Windsor Castle in Modern Times by Landseer.
78.5 x 71.5 x 71.5 cm
Engraved: EOS CAIRNACH WALDMAN ISLAY. Struck with hallmarks for London, 1842/3 and maker’s mark for R. Garrard. Stamped: R & S GARRARD PANTON St LONDON
Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010