Monday, 1 December 2008

Silver Swan

My parents live close to a place called Barnard Castle in the North of England which houses Bowes Museum. Since being a child, the highlight of any visit was a performance by the magical silver swan.

The Silver Swan dates from 1773 and was bought from Parisian jeweller M. Briquet for £200 in 1872. It was seen at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition by John and Josephine Bowes. It was also seen at the exhibition by the American novelist Mark Twain and is described in his book The Innocents Abroad:

‘I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes-watched him swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as it he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop - watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it...'

The Swan has recently been dismantled and reconstructed to be cleaned and given an over-haul as well as recording the details of the workings for future generations, last Thursday was it's unveiling. So it now looks like it will continue for many years to come, an icon in itself for the North East of England.

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