Love 1862: Going On Honeymoon

John Pollard Seddon, 'King Rene's Honeymoon Cabinet', 1861, London, oak cabinet inlaid with various woods, with painted metalwork and painted panels, 133.4 x 252 x 87 cm.  Victoria and Albert Museum, W.10:1 to 28-1927 © V&A, 2014

John Pollard Seddon, ‘King René’s Honeymoon Cabinet’, 1861, London, oak cabinet inlaid with various woods, with painted metalwork and painted panels, 133.4 x 252 x 87 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, W.10:1 to 28-1927 © V&A, 2014

So for the last instalment of Love 1862, we thought we’d send you off with a tale of happily ever after.

In 1861, the English architect John Pollard Seddon designed this desk for his own use. To complete the desk he asked some of his friends, including Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, to contribute, each completing its decorative panels.  Collectively the cabinet was displayed at the 1862 International Exhibition, alongside other Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. products.

The cabinet depicts scenes from the Medieval King René of Anjou’s honeymoon.  King René was a notable patron of the arts and this story was very popular among artists and writers in the mid to late nineteenth century.  Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Anne of Geierstein’ (Edinburgh, 1829) imagined the honeymoon and inspired several Pre-Raphaelite paintings and pieces of decorative art – for example, four stained glass window panels designed and made by Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Morris & Co. for the artist Myles Birket Foster, such as this one below.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) for Morris & Co., 'King Rene's Honeymoon: Music', c.1863, London, stained and painted glass panel, 64.2 x 54.7 x 3.2 cm.  Victoria and Albert Museum, CIRC.519-1953 © V&A, 2014

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) for Morris & Co., ‘King Rene’s Honeymoon: Music’, c.1863, London, stained and painted glass panel, 64.2 x 54.7 x 3.2 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, CIRC.519-1953 © V&A, 2014

Each of the decorative panels is an allegorical reference to the arts: architecture, painting, sculpture, music, gardening, pottery, weaving, ironwork and glassblowing.  On each panel both King René and his new bride engage in these artistic endeavours, directly creating a link between the creative arts and romance.

For all you romantics out there, consider this conclusion to Love 1862 a piece of free advice: creativity is the way to your love’s heart!

Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, © 2014

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