Saturday, February 07, 2015

Testing Artificial Teeth

Testing Artificial Teeth - William Heath Robinson

My wife and I visited Derby museum the other day. The Derby china collection was first on the list because we know one of the chaps who reclassified it last year. A fine collection but little in the way of interest somehow.

No great attempt has been made to fit the exhibits into a social and commercial setting, particularly with respect to the industrial revolution and the middle class passion for the status conferred by fine china.

The Derby china is very pretty, but I think the gilding is all superficial ; and the finer pieces are so dear, that perhaps silver vessels of the same capacity may be sometimes bought at the same price
Samuel Johnson - letter to Mrs Thrale 1777

After the china it was on to the Joseph Wright exhibition which L finds a little spooky, partly because of the size of the paintings - many are virtually life size. She says the effect is like being surrounded by long dead people from another and now somewhat mysterious age. After a while I begin to know what she means.

The Heath Robinson exhibition was entertaining though. A fine reminder of his delightfully inventive humour. Worth a visit if you are in the area. Another more sombre reminder lurks behind the exhibition though, because we’ll never see Heath-Robinson and his world again.

After Heath Robinson it was on to the ancient bits and pieces from Derby’s long history, from Roman and medieval pots to flint arrow heads. While browsing the exhibits we were both struck with the same idea: wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have made a career finding and studying these ancient relics? If only we’d followed another direction.

Or maybe not. As habitual cynics we know the grass among the artifacts may not be as green as it seems to the casual museum visitor. To pinch a phrase from Saki, we are too familiar with the long reach of elaborate futilities. Heath Robinson without the humour.


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Sackerson said...

Love Heath Robinson.

Paddington said...

On a related note, I have become convinced that there were specialists, even in the paleolithic era. It takes time to make arrow heads, and is far more efficient to have one man make them for many. This turns out to be backed up by recent finds. Even in antiquity, the engineer/autistic was very useful.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - so do I. Almost found myself laughing out loud at the exhibition.

Paddington - yes, there is a startling quality difference between the arrow heads and domestic tools such as scrapers which can be extremely crude.

Anyone could probably make a scraper but arrow heads would require skilled instruction and lots of practice.

Sackerson said...

There was a Europe-wide neolitihic trade in flints, wasn't there? Must have had miners and traders.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - yes, Grimes Graves suggests it was big business.

Sackerson said...

JD writes:

Interesting post by AKH about Derby -

1. Heath Robinson was a genius :)

2. The Joseph Wright paintings: not spooky, just very good paintings. Really good art will always do that. If it doesn't it is not Art. The Rembrandt self portrait in The Prado is 'alive', the Picasso etchings of the Minotaur in Barcelona are even more 'alive'

My own paintings have a 'reality' which I can't explain (well, I would say that, wouldn't I!)