Friday, 24 February 2012

Carey and the Swan. . .

I've recently read a galley of Peter Carey's new novel The Chemistry of Tears, due out in May.  At the core of the story is the reconstruction of a beautiful swan automaton with hundreds of individual pieces made out of silver and glass.  When activated, the swan dips its head and picks up one of the fishes in the water below (created by rotating glass tubes). The novel blends the modern story of the curator involved in the restoration, with the historical story of the man who originally commissioned the project. I was telling a librarian yesterday about how much I had enjoyed reading the book and since librarians are endless founts of knowledge, she immediately piped up and said, "oh yes, that sounds just like the swan at the Bowes Museum".   One google and many youtube videos later, it's clear this must have been the inspiration for Carey - his descriptions match it completely.  But the novel doesn't prepare you for the absolute gorgeousness of this swan, originally created in 1773.  I must make a pilgrimage to see it some day, along with the rest of the museum which focuses on the decorative arts, and has some lovely gardens and fountains. 

Check it out in action here.

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