Journal Article

‘The habit of their age’

Julia Petrov

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 20, issue 2, pages 237-251
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI:
‘The habit of their age’

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  • Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections
  • History of Art
  • Social and Cultural History


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In her recent books, Lou Taylor has highlighted the connection between the collecting of dress by late-Victorian and Edwardian genre painters and the later inclusion of their collections in museums of decorative arts such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (V & A) and the London Museum in the early-twentieth century. Drawing on this preliminary work, and using contemporary periodicals and archival sources, the histories of four specific collections are highlighted: at the London Museum the John Seymour Lucas, Edwin Austin Abbey and Ernest Crofts collections and at the V & A the Talbot Hughes collection, all acquired in the period 1910–14. The investigation aims to explain why dress, so often at that period derided as ephemeral and frivolous, was finally accepted as a legitimate subject for museum collections and focuses on the changing meanings of the dress object as it moved from the private to the public sphere.

If we would bring back to the imagination the spirits of the past, we must clothe them in the habit of their age, and neglect no detail, however slight, which would help to complete the picture.1

Journal Article.  11090 words. 

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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