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Lodore (Last Glass Chatelaine)

Fanny Imlay: the forgotten sister.  The one the family stopped talking about after she quietly went to Wales and drank a bottle of laudenum, bringing sad and eternal oblivion. A shadowy figure we might recognize from time to time in surviving letters filled with sweet intelligence and desperate enquiry. After her younger sister Mary ran off with the wild Percy Shelley and became infamous, Fanny’s lot in life became increasingly confined and restricted....lacking in every way.


Although Fanny was never encouraged to make her living as a writer (or indeed anything else) her character, empathy and intelligence shine in the pages of her few letters. By some accounts she was not as beautiful or accomplished as her sister, but then she was never given the chance. Yet her sweet and brilliant character was noted by many. Both sisters shared the same mother, early Womens' Rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft. The vibrant and loving Wollstonecraft died shortly after giving birth to Mary Shelley...when Fanny was just three. Fanny deeply revered and missed her mother. When Fanny was 6 her step-father remarried


As the eldest girl in the household, Fanny was expected to take charge of domestic duties and solicit funds from friends and business associates so her father could continue writing. Although Fanny believed in his talents she found it increasingly difficult and humiliating to beg for money on his behalf. The family was sinking into debt and Fanny found life in the Godwin household isolating, stressful and tense. Feeling abandoned by her sister, her life closed in and finally became unbearable.  What made it worse...she was by all accounts in love with Percy.


Lodore is the title of a book written by Mary Shelley after Fanny's death. Although Mary stayed silent about her sister, the central female characters have been interpreted as a sympathetic portrayal of Fanny.   Lodore is a glass rescue chatelaine for Fanny. The title of this piece refers to Fanny's deep desire to be whatever the cost.   A chatelaine was traditionally a decorative hook or clasp with a series of chains suspended from it and containing useful household appendages. Domestic housekeepers wore these chatelaine's at their waists. They were designed to carry all the tools necessary for a woman of the household to sort out any problem she may encounter. In this case a sadly ironic reference to Fanny's situation since she could find no way to sort out her ‘domestic problem’.


This chatelaine centers around a small medicinal bottle referencing Fanny's final solution. Mary Shelley....I have decided to give Fanny a different means of escape...a different solution.  For this chatelaine also holds the potential for growth.  Inside the bottle are seeds that will grow and flower as Fanny did not. They are for the planting...they will give voice to her longings for freedom and love.  They leave her with innocence and peaceful dreams.  They have been chosen from the secret Victorian language of flowers. Red Poppy for eternal sleep and imagination. White Poppy for consolation and dreaming. White lilac for youthful innocence and memories. Phlox for our souls are united.


Amber Medicine bottle capped with 19th Century english silver salt cellar lid. Vintage brass picture-hanger forged into a structured, corset-like handle. Tiny brass and enamel hinge. Chatelaine holds various tools:  a silver-wrapped, vintage steel pen nib connecting us with Fanny's few letters.  A  vintage domestic  fork-tine tool to dig  tiny holes  for a single seed.  Attached   is a vintage mother-of-pearl  button (Victorian) referring to the marginalized domestic role from which Fanny tried to escape.  A child’s lost gold heart  found on the floor of a demolished building; it bears little teeth marks. On verso of heart is embedded a tiny seed pearl...innocence.    The strong double chain that binds  is unadorned steel...found on a spool in a dusty old warehouse years ago.

Fashion Photo Shoot :  Photograph/Art Zaratsyan.  Styling/Grace Chumfong. Models :  Ashleigh + Rachel.


This piece has been sold.