[DIORAMAS]. 'Arthur Holmes' Box of Delights' [Twelve hand-painted wooden dioramas depicting hunting, shooting and fishing scenes]. 1920.
A collection, complete in all its parts, of 12 individual hand-crafted, and numbered, three-dimensional landscaped scenes, or dioramas (all bases 163 x 95 x 10mm; the tallest insert 220mm), which are hand-painted throughout on all visible surfaces (including the oval bases, and sides) and composed of multi-layered scenery and characters which slot into the base together with exquisite detachable fishing rods with twine, floats and bait, landing birds, and even an angler's satchel with leather strap; the whole fashioned in wood and featuring a series of figures (adults and children) engaged in traditional rural pursuits of hunting, shooting and fishing; each signed on the base, in ink, by the maker Arthur Holmes, numbered, and dated 1920 throughout; all contained within a carefully constructed custom-made wooden slatted and lidded box with metal clasp (no longer functioning) and including internal compartments and trays with leather lifting tabs configured with outlines to indicate the storage plan.
This lovingly, and painstakingly, hand-crafted personal artefact is testament to the great skill and patience of the creator and is a beautiful production that would not look out of place in a museum. Unfortunately we have no provenance to offer beyond the maker's (Arthur Holmes) signature throughout, as it originated from a provincial fair, with no associated history. It is tempting to speculate that the project was conceived as a diversional occupation undertaken by a First World War veteran. Such occupational therapies in arts and crafts were championed by specialists and had a notably beneficial effect on recovery, "many soldiers, especially those originating from urban industrial areas engaged in diversional occupations that they were unacquainted with and that had little to do with their interests" (Diversional Occupational Therapy in World War I by Jennifer A. Bloom Hoover).