Phoebe Anna Traquair learned the craft of art enamelling from her friend Lady Carmichael in 1901, and over the coming decade her enamels would be set either as jewellery (notably pendants and necklaces) or ‘architectural’ formats such as triptychs in stands often designed by her architect son Ramsay. They were exhibited both in Scotland and in London with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Her fine enamels soon became the craft for which she was best known south of the Border, with The Studio critic commenting in 1906 that ‘the qualities which are attained in enamel by a worker with a sensitivity to colour make it peculiarly a medium which satisfies an artistic nature ... that enamelling is Mrs Traquair’s medium we do not doubt’. Her subjects, painted on copper or more occasionally silver or gold, were taken from classical or religious subjects, the latter often popularised as angels comforting or watching over female figures. A pendant, necklace or the occasional brooch, set to her design by John Maitland Talbot, Hamilton & Inches, Brook & Sons or (after 1909) Henry Tatton would sell for two or three guineas.
Traquair the artist always gave her craft pieces titles, and The Dream copies the central plaque of a 1906 necklace of the same name. Enamels that were admired or which she herself found particularly satisfying were duplicated, with a number remaining unset in her studio. One such unmounted piece is The Dream, given to the V&A by her granddaughter and dated 1909. The enamel is from the same date: the setting may be by Brook. The dream concept was one that greatly appealed to her, and was introduced to her Mansfield Place Church mural where Joseph’s dream is central to the Old Testament narrative on the nave’s south wall (1900). A dream image was also present on the Lorimer piano painted for Frank Tennant as part of her illustrations of The Song of Solomon (National Museums Scotland).
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