"Elaborate Thingamajig"
England, 1887 
91.8 cm ~ bronze, gold, marble, glass, copper, tin, porcelain, nacre, lignum vitae, etc.

 

The late Victorian era saw the rise of a new form of commemorative artwork, the "incomprehensible presentation piece." These elaborate tabletop sculptures were commissioned by individuals or groups to memorialize an event, either real or imaginary, and generally wound up being presented to the Queen for lack of anything better to do with them. 

This particular piece was commissioned by the London Charitable Ferryboat Mechanics Fellowship to salute an event that has been lost to us, possibly involving Vikings, Crusaders, circus employees, ballerinas and either oat farmers or cat-o-nine-tails manufacturers, depending on the interpretation of the object(s) being carried in the left arm of the surmounting figure. The four plaques mounted on the base give no clue as to its purpose, reading, from left to right, "To Her Majesty in Respectful Commemoration Thereunto," "Victoria Regina, England's Queena," "1887 -- Ferryboats Forever," and "Souvenir of Brighton Beach."

Her Majesty, upon being presented with the piece, was overheard to remark, "We are amused... we think. Or maybe we are honoured... or simply perplexed. May we think about this one for a while?"

After several attempts to find a use for the object it was relegated to the Royal Miscellaneous Artwork Storerooms in Chichester, which were unfortunately not destroyed during the London blitz.

 

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