Call-out culture was alive and well in the Victorian Era: the first-ever commercial Christmas greeting card, which sold at Christie’s Valuable Books and Manuscripts sale in London today for £13,750 (~$18,370), was viewed as scandalous by British teetotalers for ostensibly promoting underage drinking.
One of 21 surviving copies of 1,000 printed, the rare lithographed card was designed by painter and illustrator John Calcott Horsley in 1843 at the request of Sir Henry Cole, a British civil servant who founded the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The hand-colored central panel depicts a family toasting to the card’s recipient, flanked by images representing charitable acts. Every person at the table is holding a glass of wine, including a young child on the right, who appears to be taking a generous sip enthusiastically aided by their complicit family member. (The three smallest children in the background, notes Christie’s catalogue essay, innocently enjoy some plum pudding.)
While initially well-received, the scene caused a stir amid the burgeoning Temperance movement in England for being a little too merry.
“They were quite distressed that in this ‘scandalous’ picture they had children toasting with a glass of wine along with the adults,” Justin Schiller, a New York-based antiquarian books dealer, told AP. “They had a campaign to censor and suppress it.” It took three years before another Christmas card was produced.
However controversial the cheeky illustration may have been in the 1800s, it was met with great enthusiasm in the salesroom today. The lithograph and an accompanying signed proof, expected to fetch between £5,000-8,000 (~$6,720-$10,752), nearly doubled its high estimate. Although other cards were designed and printed from November 1844 onward, Christie’s notes that the Horsley-Cole greeting is the earliest in the tradition. It was also published in the same month as Charles Dickens’s holiday classic A Christmas Carol.
The card was one of several holiday-themed lots in the sale sold through a consortium run by the Boston-based rare books and manuscripts dealer Marvin Getman, which also included a comparatively morose handwritten poem by Emily Dickinson that is likely about Santa Claus dying.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The action could disrupt public access to the museum as workers campaign for higher wages and better labor conditions.
Over 500 scholars signed an open letter to reinstate the exhibition, which was postponed in consideration of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
This week, artist studios in the streets of Manhattan, a Texas high school, a Brooklyn apartment, and more.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Ed Ruscha, Nina Katchadourian, Luis Camnitzer, Martha Edelheit, and more.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
Asawa’s life masks do not keep count of past or future losses.
At San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, Mobina Nouri took scissors to her own strands and invited others to do the same.
Amid a worsening inflation crisis, Sergio Guillermo Diaz’s banknote artworks are a poignant symbol of Argentinian resilience.
Theatres of Melancholy: The Neo-Romantics in Paris and Beyond highlights a group of artists who found acclaim and patronage only to fall back into obscurity.
Presented by Northwestern’s Block Museum and McCormick School of Engineering, this new exhibition seeks empathy at the boundaries of life. On view in Evanston, Illinois.
Jean Renoir’s newly restored 1939 classic proves that lawless wealth — then as now — makes a marvelous farce of us all.
Hamburg’s Antisemitism Commissioner disparaged photographer Adam Broomberg for his support of the BDS movement.