'Obby 'Oss Mask, Padstow, Cornwall, England
Masks such as these are used in the Padstow 'Obby 'Oss May Day celebrations. It is worn during a dance that celebrates the coming of Spring. It is also linked to fertility rights; any woman caught under the skirts of the ‘Oss was thought to become pregnant. Each year, on the 1st May, the town is decorated in greenery and the 'Oss (horse) parades the streets, followed by a 'teaser' who holds a padded bat. The procession is accompanied by accordions, drums and singing. The mask is worn with a black skirt that covers the wearer completely. Some have suggested the similarity to West African, Malaysian and New Guinea masks may be due to Cornish contact with these areas. The mask was made by the Bate family, and first worn by Walter Bate (1907- 1977) who was known locally as 'The Old Colonel' because he had served in Kitchener's army. He was also a highly respected member of the lifeboat crew having been recognised for distinguished service. TRURI : 2007.88
© RIC, photographer Mike Searle
The Pilgrimage to Canterbury, Thomas Stothard (1755-1834)
Oil on panel, English School, late 18th / early 19th century. Thomas Stothard was born in London and was apprenticed to a draughtsman of silk pattern designs in Spitalfields. When his master died, he attended the Royal Academy in 1778, was elected a Royal Academician in 1794 and, having been taken under the wing of Sir Joshua Reynolds, devoted much of his skill to engravings and illustrations. Stothard worked prodigiously, his family portraits funding much of his art schooling. He admired Rubens and although his paintings are often small in size, they reflect Rubens' colours and composition. This painting shows just one small part of The Pilgrimage to Canterbury. The finished painting (Tate N01163) includes around thirty characters and is almost a metre in length. The engraver and publisher Robert Cromek commissioned this painting from Stothard. He then put it on display and charged visitors a shilling to see it. He also collected subscriptions for the forthcoming print of the painting. William Blake, then a close friend of Stothard, claimed that Cromek had commissioned a painting of the Canterbury Pilgrims from him first, but that Cromek had not liked his design and so took the commission to Stothard. Blake then accused Cromek and, through him, Stothard of copying his long, frieze-like composition. Blake was furious when Stothard's resulting work spring boarded his career and brought about numerous important commissions. It is unlikely that Blake's accusations were well-founded, but the dispute effectively ended Blake and Stothard's friendship.
River Street, Truro, Cornwall. Around 1905
View down River Street showing the Truro Savings Bank and Baptist Chapel, later to become the Royal Cornwall Museum. The architect of both buildings was Philip Sambell (1798-1874). The Savings Bank was built in 1847 and closed in 1894. The building then became Henderson's School of Mining in 1897. The School of Mining closed in 1907 and the Royal Institution of Cornwall purchased the building in 1908 to house their growing collections. The interior of the building underwent extensive alterations, including the demolition of the rear part to build the main gallery and a west wing was added. Truro Baptist Chapel was built in 1850. The chapel was purchased by the RIC in 1985 as an extension to the museum. Extensive refurbishment and additions followed, including the 'link' between the two buildings. An upper floor was added to the Baptist Chapel creating the Treffry gallery. Photographer: Arthur Philp.
© From the collection of the RIC