Friday, March 2, 2012


Map to show where blue glass beads were sold as a cure for bronchitis - Edward Lovett, circa 1914

"I made a rough outline sketch of London, marking in ...26 districts.  I took it quite easily by devoting one day to each of these places ...the shops where I made my enquiries were of two classes, viz:  A poor class shop ... (and) a better class shop ... every shop of the low class recognized the blue beads as a cure for bronchitis, but not a single shop of the better class knew anything about it, or if they did would not admit it."     Edward Lovett , MAGIC IN MODERN LONDON

This map is part of a recent exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.  Miracles & Charms is really two exhibitions: one featuring the amulet collection of folklorist Edward Lovett, & contemporary artist Felicity Powell's exploration of it, and the other of Mexican votive paintings. 

The Wellcome Collection is a marvel. Its founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, collected more than a million objects related to medicine, and its exhibitions explore the interconnection of art and medicine. Admission is free, and it's not one of those places where blockbuster crowds will almost turn you off museums for good. A trip to the Wellcome will plant dreams in your head and set you back off along Euston Rd. in quiet delight.

A couple of days after I left London, I was looking around the second-hand market at Oxford's Gloucester Green, and was drawn to a stall selling vintage toys. Most of them were more than I wanted to pay, but a box heaped with inexpensive, battered lead and tin figures was more like it. Some of the people were missing limbs, or had their faces almost rubbed away, but sitting in the palm of my hand they were tempting. Still, I argued with myself, I had far too many of these sorts of orphans at home. I put the pieces back, but was unable to resist one more dive into the pile, and came up with this miniature hare. caught forever in motion:

I might be in need of an amulet these days, what with the Gods of Housing & Demolition threatening to wreak havoc. I'm carrying the hare in my change purse, and hoping he'll be a little help.

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