The item in question, pictured at the start of this posting, is the 'Diana and Minerva commode' which is the showpiece item in the State Bedroom at Harewood House. One of the programme's talking heads described the piece as 'astonishing' by virtue of its 'design and quality'. I'd like to focus upon a third aspect, its representation of the goddesses on the two roundels. I want to consider why these two particular goddesses were picked, and - in view of my past and current work on one of the deities - why Minerva in particular. Is it enough, as the documentary noted, that Minerva was the goddess of craft? If so, why is she being juxtaposed with Diana, a goddess of wild spaces? What messages are being constructed via inclusion of these figures about classical culture in a Georgian neoclassical grand house if not would-be palace? The piece was intended as parade rather than functional furniture and helped put the wealth and status of Harewood on show. Nothing seems to be done to chance. This expensive piece, using various exotic woods, has been executed following some thought - as the documentary discussed, it is like a work of architecture in miniature replete with frieze. Ebony and ivory are used to inlay the roundels. Would any two mythological figures have done the job equally well?
Answers to follow!