For some reason known only to her, Mirinda has bid for and won, an Arts & Crafts diorama on ebay. Even she admits she doesn’t know why.
Coincidentally, today at work, I researched one single object and all the people featured in it. The object was a diorama. I should stress that it wasn’t the same diorama.
Made in the late 1950’s in the Museum Workshop, the museum diorama depicts a moment in 1677 when the Naval Board met to discuss the dimensions of the new English fleet. It was as a result of an act of parliament requiring 30 new ships to be built.
It features a book lined room with a big oak table in the middle. Upon the table is a ship of the line. Around the table are seven figures. Six of them are discussing the ship, gesturing and generally making their points.
The figure at the head of the table, complete with luxuriant black curls, is King Charles II. He sits back in his chair as if happy to hear what his subjects have to say, not really part of the decision making process apart from his signature.
At the other end of the table sits Samuel Pepys, scribbling down notes, acting as a sort of Restoration minute secretary. It’s tempting to think he is reporting the event in the eponymous diary but, actually, he is taking notes about the meeting in his capacity as a naval official.
The other figures represent various stages in the administration and construction of the ships. These include the tearaway and general mad adventurer, Prince Rupert. Here was a man who liked to live life on the edge. He took the upheaval of the monarchy, embraced it and ran down the street yelling “Bring it on!” to anyone who’d listen.
Basically German, Rupert was, at various times, great mates with Charles. They’d known each other throughout the Civil War, with Rupert fighting either on land or sea, in England or Europe in an effort to restore the king to power.
Two figures in the diorama are, arguably, the most important. They are the ship builders Sir Anthony Deane and Sir John Tippetts.
Deane was an exceptional man. Born the son of a shipwright, he managed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps to become one of the most important shipbuilders of the 1600’s. His designs were revolutionary, his ships fantastic. Eventually becoming the Master at the Royal Docks in Portsmouth, he took the navy down a route that would eventually lead to the Establishment of 1733.
His rise to greatness was helped in a large degree to his fortuitous meeting with Samuel Pepys. Pepys saw something in Deane and the two became the best of friends. Samuel’s position allowed him to push forward those he thought best suited for naval positions. And so he pushed Deane.
While they were, no doubt, good friends, it also has to be noted that Pepys didn’t like the Pett family, who dominated ship building at the time. I guess, anything that would remove them from the scene was a good thing in his books.
Sir John Tippetts I haven’t been able to find an awful lot about but it’s interesting to note that by the time of the diorama, he was reaching the end of his naval career because of his gout. Eventually, when it became obvious he couldn’t leave his house, his services were no longer required.
Anyway, it was a day well spent. As usual, I spent lunchtime wandering around the V&A and spotted this little group taking photographs on Narcissus’ pool.
Nothing odd about that, I guess…unless you take a closer look at the models. It’s not often that couples wear matching hair and trousers.