The last week in March

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I don’t believe is the last week in March. So, the last week in March is the time to plan a living Easter basket. Please find the pretty pastel coloured Easter basket with flowers and some painted wooden Easter eggs and small stuffed bunny. This is a delightful hostess gift to make if you are expected somewhere for Easter dinner.

Spring daffodils

Bring home a bucket of Daffodils.  It’s Easter time. The daffodils know it.  Now each bird and flower is driven by its own life force to play a small part in the arrival of spring and, by doing so, makes spring happen. This time of year eggs are certainly part of Easter celebrations all over the world.

No time for a question which came first, the chicken or the egg? Hello, cheer up, it’s near Easter!

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 Scotland has a number of Easters – geographical ones, that is.

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Moniack

There’s Easter Lochend in the Highlands,  where you can hunt out the remains of a very old and overgrown Iron Age fort. Or make the journey to Easter Moniack in Inverness where you can see some ancient cairns. From there you could make a day of it travelling to the 13th-century Beauly Priory or the Loch Ness Monster Centre only nine miles from the Cairn and have, not an Easter egg hunt, but a monster one instead.

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Eggs, chicken, hen are the most popular and well-known words. However, do you know that the most famous Scots everyday endearment is hen? In Scots, the word hen can be used as the name of a fowl in much the same way as it is in English and it can be used instead of the English word chicken. Thus, the English chicken soup was often known as hen-broth or hen-bree.

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A hen-wife was a woman employed to tend hens and other poultry. Interestingly, the term hen-wife, when applied to a man, is a man who is rather womanish and over-concerned with matters more appropriate to females. True, it is often used to wives, girlfriends, daughters, other female members of the family or female friends. However, hen has become just a familiar form of address which can be directed at any female, whether she is your best friend, a nodding acquaintance or a total stranger. You will find it regularly used by people in shops, bus drivers, taxi drivers and so on to their customers.

Hen, in common with love, dear, etc, is not always uttered in friendly tones when used as a form of address. Mostly, it is used unthinkingly in neutral tones, part of the bored and boring automatic exchanges of mundane, everyday life, but it can be used with irony or even hostility. A woman is likely to be greeted with a hostile “Thanks, hen,” if she has unwittingly or intentionally upset someone. Her failure to give a big enough tip (a serious offence) may elicit such a response.

Oscar Wilde said: ” an egg is always an adventure; the next one may be different.” 

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The egg is a curious object, they are painted, eaten, inspired and used for fun.

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Louis XV, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1748)

Louis XV of France loved boiled eggs and had them every Sunday for breakfast. He was so deft at eating them that the Parisian people would come and watch their king’s skills at work. A crowd would gather, then a high-ranking servant would shout: ‘The King is about to eat his egg!’, and everyone would watch agog as King Louis sliced the top of the egg with one swift stroke of his fork. It’s amazing what passed as entertainment, though I have to admit it’s quite a skill. Louis 15th helped the popularity of egg cups as people bought an eggcup to try and emulate their king as he was reported to be able to “decapitate an egg at a single stroke.”

Louis XV gold travelling flatware set, probably Strasbourg c.1750, the egg cup liner bearing mark for Johann Frederick Bittner, Strasbourg 1768

 Do you like eggs?

Today,  I woke up well rested, I had time to make myself a coffee in my favorite mug and watch a classic The Taming of the Shrew movie and I  reminded myself …….. “Tis hatched and shall be so” — quote from William Shakespeare.

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As long as its true nature stays hidden, it will appear bland and benign. But once the shell is cracked, all hell breaks loose, or all heaven, depending on where the egg is taken from that point forward”

Yes, the egg is a curious object.

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But what about an egg cup ?????

Egg man Le livre de Lancelot du Lac & other Arthurian Romances, Northern France ca. 1275-1300. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MS 229, fol. 31r

An egg cup, sometimes called egg server, is a container used for serving boiled eggs within their shell. Egg cups have an upwardly concave portion to hold the egg and often include a base to raise the egg-retaining portion and give stability, informally known as footies. Egg cups can be made of porcelain, pottery, wood, plastic, glass and various metals or Bakelite. Some are made of two materials (wood and ceramic). Something for object conservators.

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 Collecting egg cups is called “Pocillovy”, deriving from the Latin pocillum for an small cup and ovi for eggs. Egg cups have been used since prehistoric times, with some of the earliest occurrences on Minoan Crete. In particular, archaeological recovery at the Bronze Age palace of Cretan Knossos reveals the presence of egg cup use as early as the 18th century BC.  An early silver egg cup from 74 BC was found in the ruins of Pompeii.  In Europe, the egg cup has been in used since the 15th century. It was by then part of a breakfast buffet. Prior to the 1700s, Egg Cups were made of silver or wood. In the 1700s, porcelain ones started to be made as part of complete dish sets. In the 1800s, highly decorative porcelain ones started to be made for sale on their own or in sets. Bowls of silver ones started to be covered in gilt, to stop the silver inside from getting tarnished by the yolk of the egg. The Victorians made many different sizes  to accommodate different-size eggs from different kinds of fowl — they even made ones for minute quail eggs. Egg Cups with attached platters started appearing in the 1930s. In the 1900s, working people started to be able to travel on day trips, souvenir cups from various places started being made with a coat of arms or a scene from a particular town on them. During the 19th century, egg cups were produced in their own right as individual pieces of chinaware. Silver cups made in the 19th century were often gilded inside. This was to prevent the sulfur from the egg from staining the silver which some say affect the flavor. At this time, ‘egg’ spoons tended to be made of horn, ivory or bone. So, that was everything done only for eggs !!!

Maria Theresa’s Mundzeug — her personal eating tools that she took wherever she went. This contains her fork, knife, spoons (serving and egg), an egg cup

The earliest examples of Victorian egg cups often come in sets of four, six or even twelve as breakfasts had become gastronomic feasts by this time and families of more than 10 were commonplace. The size range of egg cups is surprisingly wide as the Victorian farmyard contained many more species of egg-laying poultry than the modern battery farm so egg cups range in size from the smallest for quail eggs to chicken, turkey, goose and even swan eggs.   The egg hoop is like a wasted napkin ring with one end sometimes larger than the other to take different sized eggs in one end for hens egg and the other for turkey or duck egg. The hoops are quite rare these days  especially if they have a famous factory mark on them such as Wedgwood or Spode.  

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  Is more , more…. eggs cup story:  during the 1900’s the huge growth in railway travel launched a boom in the holiday souvenir trade and potters were quick to supply cheap egg cups bearing a black & white or sometimes a full-color scene of the sea-side resort or town.

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 These cups had a towns’ coat of arms and name and were not just limited to popular destinations and seaside resorts, but many inland towns were featured. Most European pottery firms large and small have a range of egg cups in their pattern books, some had short production runs and some were made for many years and still being produced today. So,………………………………….. let’s enjoy the Easter eggs.

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      Egg is always an adventure; the next one may be different.

Dye Easter eggs and take a spring walk.

Ella

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About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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