Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Mystery for Halloween

What do you imagine this is? and what do you imagine is its connection to witches, Frankenstein, and Conway, New Hampshire?

You can find this mysterious image on our website at this link. This has been called a Druid's altar or temple. It can be found along the Thames in England not far from where George Harrison had his estate.The stone circle consists of forty-five granite megalithic stones that were once part of an ancient burial site. It is part of a pleasure garden that once belonged to Henry Seymour Conway for whom our town was named.

Also on the grounds can be found obelisks, fake Grecian ruins, gothic cottages, a rustic bridge, tunnels, caves, and a grotto reflecting the macabre and romantic tastes of the 18th century.

During Conway's 250th anniversary celebration a few years ago a lot of attention was paid to Henry Seymour Conway. Now we turn our attention to his only daughter. Here she is depicted as a witch (from Macbeth). See this link.

Here is another less Halloween-like portrait of her.

These images are part of a group of photos that had been gathered on the Conway family by a previous Curator, David Emerson, but had never been catalogued into our pastperfect online database. This image in the collection was a copy of this oil painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, also in London's National Portrait Gallery. More at this link.

Not only was she the subject of artists, she was an artist herself. Even more rare for a women of the time, she was a sculptor.

Here is a portrait bust she did of a friend dressed as Thalia (the muse of comedy and idyllic poetry) now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.See this link. It is inscribed in Greek that "Anne Seymour made me."

She did self portrait now at the Uffizi that again in Greek text reads: ΑΝΝΑ ΣΕΙΜΟΡΙΣ ΔΑΜΕΡ Η ΕΚ ΤΗΣ ΒΡΕΤΤΑΝΙΚΗΣ ΑΥΤΗ ΑΥΤΗΝ ΕΠΟΙΕΙ which translates to "Anne Seymour Damer from Britain, made herself".

These inscriptions of ponderous, almost sad faces carved in cold marble make me think of Mary Shelly's book Frankenstein which is enjoying its 200th anniversary this year. Remember that novel begins and ends with death and destruction at the North Pole. There are also etymological coincidences (or not coincidence?) that tie to our own Frankenstein here in the white mountains. See this link.

While we are just having fun with words and images, Anne's real life was a combination "girl power" and love on the rocks. Note: we have an outreach program about "love on the rocks" in the White Mountains that includes tales of love, loss, murder, suicide, betrayal and abandonment.

More about Anne's life can be found at this link. It is poignant and seasonally appropriate to mention that she was buried with her sculpture tools and the bones of her favorite dog.

Have yourself a very happy Halloween!

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