Museum Blog Post: The Victorian Dish and Fish
When exploring the Neville Museum’s exhibit on Victorian artifacts it became clear to me that not only was I to discover artifacts that one would expect from such a grandiose time in history (lacey curtains and frilly dresses being just one example of such fancy), but I was also about to embark on a journey to fresh new discoveries I had not even considered I would find.
I took pictures of these two artifacts that caught my eye, but the website would let allow me to download them, so I will have to show you ones that are close but not 100% the same.
The first thing I paid attention to were the oddities in the shelves of bits and bobs on display. One of these oddities consisted of a rather extravagant butter dish, resembling a tower with a silver dish at the bottom that a silver lid could close upon. It struck me as odd to see how unnecessarily poignant the designs were and the elaborate material it was made of, so I did a little background check. These dishes were used because butter at the time didn’t get made into sticks, they coagulated into hunks and were kept at the bottom of the dish while the lid sat on top to preserve what was there. People at the time made their own butter and it was seen as not necessarily pride, but just a show of the effort they put into making this butter themselves by displaying it in such fancy ware.
The second dish I saw that caught my eye was a ceramic bowl held up by three ceramic fish, their tails were the main supports while their faces/mouths acted as the feet of the dish. It was titled as ‘majolica’, and upon further inspection I discovered that majolica is a style of pottery that was popular back in England. It produced very shiny colorful designs that were well-preserved. The label for the dish read “Compote, majolica”, and I had never heard of either! A compote, as it turns out, is a French dessert made of things such as fruits and sugar and raisins and all kinds of delicious sounding delicacies, and this dish served them either warm or cold. Although these dishes are still constructed today, the vast majority appear to be composed of glass or acrylic, nothing so intricate and artful as this majolica style pottery seen in the exhibit.
I was also curious about the use of fish. Were they representative of something in Victorian times? According to http://www.angelpig.net/victorian/fishing.html, wealthier Victorian families sought fishing as a means of escape from the bustling city life (in England who can blame them for wanting to get away from places like London?). Any sculptures with fish in them represented the high life these wealthier families lived.