Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mrs Aberdein's Papyruseum

Pursuing the trail of enigmatic references... RS Kirby's 1820 piece on Robert Coates mentions that "Mrs. Aberdeen exhibits his curricle in her Papyrueism, and her rooms are crowded almost to suffocation, with the world of taste and fashion. We understand that Mrs. Aberdeen has refused an offer of fifty guineas, which was made her for this elegant little model of Mr. Coates's fancy, alleging that she could not think of lobbing her exhibition of one of its greatest attractions."

click to enlarge
image from "Old Prints", page 271,
The Picture Magazine, Vol 3,
Jan-Jun 1894, via Google Books
It took a moment to get past Kirby's misspellings to find that this concerns the "Papyruseum", a exhibition of scenes and objects made in paper by a Mrs Aberdein. As a flyer pointed out, "Many, Under an Erroneous Idea, Believe that These Works are Simply Flat Cuttings of Paper, We Could Wish it to be Understood that They are Completely Formed Models". Nor were they just papier-mâché, but of fine paper paste (see page 48, The Boy's Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations, 1847). The Papyruseum toured Britain for a couple of decades starting in 1813. Mrs Aberdein was in at the start, but died somewhere between 1814 and 1817, after which Mr Aberdein managed the exhibition. This is the text of the above Papyruseum handbill, c.1818:

Their Graces the Duchesses of WELLINGTON and DORSET, and the
Right Honourable the

Western Exchange, Old Bond-Street
The Nobility and Grentry are most respectfully informed that the Elegant
and truly Unique Productions of the late

These extraordinary Specimens of Art consist of upwards of One
Hundred and Thirty Figures of Persons of different Nations, includ-
ing several PUBLIC CHARACTERS, representing their Expressions of
Countenance, peculiar Customs, and Costumes; also correct MODELS
Variety of FLOWERS, &c. faithfully coloured from Nature.
To attempt an adequate description of these Works of Tasteful Inge-
nuity would be in vain: they require to be seen, to be properly appre-
ciated; and cannot then fail to afford pleasure and satisfaction to the
most fastidious admirers of the Fine Arts.
This exhibition has been honoured with the approbation and support
of some of the most distinguished among the Nobility and Gentry of the
United Kingdom, and is made
Mrs. ABERDEIN's only Child, a Girl of twelve years.
Admission, One Shilling, from Eleven o clock till dusk.
Printed by Browne & Manchee, Bristol

The catalogue - Descriptive Catalogue of the Late Mrs. Aberdein's Papyruseum; Or, an Assemblage of Models of the Costume and Customs of Different Countries; Statuary; Historical, Domestice, Horticultural, and Landscape Compositions, in Paper, Now Exhibiting, for the Benefit of the Daughter and Only Child of the Deceased Artist - is not findable online, but there are accounts that give some details of the exhibits.
In this charming display of female talent and taste are no fewer than four pieces which mark the loyalty of sentiment possessed by the fair artist. The compositions we allude to are--- a fancy temple, dedicated to his MAJESTY and the PRINCE REGENT conjointly; a funeral temple, commemorative of the renowned NELSON; a very splendid temple of fame, in honour of the hero of Salamance; and a funeral temple, sacred to the memory of ... the late Mr. PERCEVAL.
- The Morning Post, April 13, 1813

This elegant and unrivaled display of female genius, calls forcibly for the protection and patronage of our fair readers; an exhibition that genuine taste cannot fail to approve, and which the conscious pride of feminine talent ought to distinguish. When we see a lady lost in admiration at the ingenious and wonderful construction of these elegant little figures, so correct in feature, drapery, and different costume, and all fabricated from paper, we behold her in her proper sphere, and much better employed than when she joins the suffocating crowds that flock to behold a parcel of mutilated statues, of the just proportions of which, or their antique merits, she cannot possibly be a competent judge. We indeed witnessed no part of the Exhibition of the late Mrs. Aberdein's Works, in Leicester-square, without astonishment and admiration. The monument erected to commemorate Wellington's Victories, the Funereal Sculpture of that to Nelson, Maria's Tomb, and the Costume of different nations, are all entitled to our warmest praise.
- page 284, La Belle Assemblée: or, Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine, July 1817

PAPYRUSEUM, in Musgrave’s Alley.—With perfect sincerity we undertook to recommend this Exhibition to the patronage of our townsmen and neighbours. With the same feeling, and through a conviction that we are only advocating the cause of true merit, we beg leave to say a few words in its favour. A more striking specimen of ingenuity and preservance [sic] cnnnot well be conceived, than is furnished by this collection of imitation. These faculties were exerted on a bed of sickness, from which the interesting artist was not able to move for the last four years of her life, within which space of time was begun and completed an assemblage of representations of human and vegetable nature, and also the productions of art, most surprising for their variety, minuteness, and correctness. One of the advantages of this Exhibition is that, on the score of morality, it is not only unexceptionable, but, on due consideration, well calculated to improve and strengthen some of the best precepts, to inspire the juvenile mind with a laudable thrist for knowledge, to revive many pleasing impressions of maturer years, and to convince every one who sees it, that perseverance is scarcely to be bounded in its efforts and results. There is nothing here, to which an objection can be offered on the ground of religious feeling or sentiment. What is t be seen, is a display of nature and art, as they are found in a display of nature and of art, as they are found in some of their most pleasing form. It is utterly free from caricature, from ribaldry, or indecency.”
- Trewman's Exeter Flying Post (Exeter, England), Thursday, July 17, 1823

An Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington—Alexander, Emperor of Russia— Buonaparte, late Emperor of France—The Don Cossack, who was in London in 1813—A Russian Baba—Children's Ice Hill in Russia, and coming down in Sledges— The Russian Queen of the Gipsies—An English Ballad-singer, well known in London— A Flower Girl in London—Monks and Nuns of various Orders—Palanquin of Madeira— Chinese Torture—Costumes of Spain, Portugal, Madeira, Switzerland, Russia, Iceland, East Indies, and China.
- Aberdeen Journal, August 30, 1826
 I've been able to find little else about Mrs Aberdein, except that she was an invalid:
This climax of ingenuity and perseverance is the more interesting, having been done on a bed of sickness, to which Mrs A. was confined for thirteen years.
- review, Caledonian Mercury, October 3, 1816
She was commemorated in verse ...
Nor can I here forget (so lately seen,)
Thy wonderous work, oh tasteful Aberdeen!
And, while it such unrivalled skill displays,
Neglect to pay my little meed of praise.—
When first I view'd thy miracle of art,
A beauteous whole, correct in every part,
Where in perennial groups, the loveliest flowers
Without the aid of spring's mild suns and showers,
Such vernal beauty always seem to wear
The bee might think to gather honey there,
Methought I stood upon enchanted ground;
And saw a new creation bloom around.
- Frome. Jacob Player, page 175, The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, 1822

O, Thou! who with inimitable art,
To simple paper could'st such forms impart,
How highly gifted with superior pow'rs,
Thus to beguile Affliction's tedious hours!
Thy varied figures we admiring view,
And hail each image still to Nature true;
E'en Nature's self might ask, with wonder fraught,
What mortal hand my plastic skill has caught ?
Thyself unconscious of the voice of fame,
Thy works from death shall long preserve thy name.
- page 24, Elizabeth Bentley, Miscellaneous Poems, 1835
Mrs Aberdein
... and the John Johnson Collection's Scrap Album section has a relevant clipping (Allegro ID:  - 20090604/15:53:47$mf). It's undated and unidentified, but I just found out what it is, via Catalogue of engraved British portraits preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum (1908, Internet Archive catalogueofengra01brit). It's the admission ticket to the Papyruseum ...
ABERDEIN (Mrs.) ; artist in paper ; fl. c. 1820.
1. Oval medallion supported by seated female. Admission ticket to her 'Papyruseum.'
Stipple. Artist/engraver: Brocas
 ... so the lady in the oval image is in fact Mrs Aberdein.

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