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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

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High Life below Stairs

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    2010,7081.344

  • Title (object)

    • High Life below Stairs
  • Description

    Interior of a kitchen showing servants at leisure: a stout woman dances with a black man in the centre accompanied by a man with a wooden leg who sits playing a violin on the left; watched by others on the right, a young woman standing on a chair and supported by a young man, while a seated man wearing a tricorn smiles and points at her and an elderly woman stands with her arms folded under her apron, a dog at her heels; two posters pasted on the wall behind, shelves, bellows and other kitchen implements in the background. 1770
    Mezzotint with etching

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  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1770
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 253 millimetres
    • Width: 355 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered below the image with the title and 'London: Published as the Act directs, July 17th. 1770. // Printed for Carington Bowles, No. 69 in St. Pauls Church Yard.'
  • Curator's comments

    This appears to be a reworked state, perhaps also republished.

    The print is the first of forty-seven remaining mezzotints in an album collected and assembled by the Duchess of Northumberland. The majority of prints are pasted on to album sheets with tabs of paper at each corner. The tabs are often cut out from the margins of the print, left for this purpose when the sheet was cut down to insert in the album, and may be the Duchess's own handiwork. The prints doubtless include the 'macaroni prints' and 'macaroni magazines' which are listed in her accounts, on 19 March 1773 for 8/6d and on 11 December 1772 at 1/-, respectively.

    A label on the front cover of the album indicates that it was sold as Lot 274 at Sotheby's, Belgravia on 26 November 1974. The sale included nineteen lots from the Northumberland collection (nos 271-289). Lot 274 is described as a volume in good condition containing around 100 prints, including some which can be identified among those remaining: 'The Female Barber ... the Pantheon series published by Humphrey; a few macaroni plates; a number of humorous barber-shop scenes'. The lot fetched £2000.

    A number of important prints from the Northumberland collection had appeared earlier in a sale entitled 'The Print Library from Syon House', at Sotheby's, 11 April 1951, in 221 lots. The core of the collection comprised albums containing works by late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Netherlandish masters, Collaert, Goltzius, Galle, Passe, de Vos, Wierix, and Stradanus and Sadeler, of each of whose work there were two sets. The majority of these were bought by Colnaghi. They survive in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the New York Public Library and Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne; one of the sets of Stradanus was broken up by Colnaghi's and dispersed, and a large number of pages bought by the British Museum. The same method of assemblage is found in these other albums (apart from the two extra sets of Stradanus and Sadeler which came from the library of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford): in the 'Catalogue of Prints' in her nine-volume, manuscript index and inventory of her collection, the Duchess describes an album of the works of de Vos as a 'Volume ranged by myself, de Vos'. (See Antony Griffiths, 'Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland and her albums of prints' in 'Festschrift for Marjorie B.Cohn' ed. C.Bowen and others, Cambridge 2001)

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  • Bibliography

    • Russell undescribed bibliographic details
    • Chaloner Smith undescribed bibliographic details
    • BM Satires undescribed bibliographic details
  • Location

    c.193

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    2010

  • Acquisition notes

    Acquired with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the British Museum, the Art Fund, Mrs Charles Wrightsman, the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and numerous individual donors.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    2010,7081.344

Interior of a kitchen showing servants at leisure: a stout woman dances with a black man in the centre accompanied by a man with a wooden leg who sits playing a violin on the left; watched by others on the right, a young woman standing on a chair and supported by a young man, while a seated man wearing a tricorn smiles and points at her and an elderly woman stands with her arms folded under her apron, a dog at her heels; two posters pasted on the wall behind, shelves, bellows and other kitchen implements in the background.  1770
Mezzotint with etching

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Object reference number: PPA297386

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