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Collectors: Ricketts, Charles S.(1863–1937) & Shannon, Charles H. (1866–1931)

The British artists Ricketts and Shannon shared a unique life and a love for art together since they first met as students in 1880. Shannon is best known for his painting and lithography, Ricketts for his contributions as a book designer and illustrator, as well as for designing costumes and sets for the theatre. Together they accumulated an eclectic collection of art from Greek and Egyptian antiquities to English drawings, Persian miniatures, jewels and Japanese prints. For much of their lives they resided in a house in Chelsea called 'The Vale' surrounded by these exquisite objects and their friend, Oscar Wilde, described it as 'the one house in London where you will never be bored'.

Shannon had visited the Fitzwilliam in 1918 and was much taken with its collection. He also had a good personal friendship with Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Museum from 1908 and 1937. So, when Shannon passed away in 1937 a large proportion of the one thousand strong collection he had built up with Ricketts was bequeathed to the museum.

Just over one hundred Egyptian pieces were included within this bequest, many of which can be seen on display. These were purchased during the pair's trips to Egypt, first in 1911 and later in 1914, although the exact provenance of the pieces is not always known. Notable artefacts from their bequest include the wooden statuette fragment of an official of Dynasty 12(E.41.1937), displayed in case 23b, gallery 19, wood and ivory Bes figures (E.67a-c.1937), in case 13, gallery 19, and the statuette of a nude woman (E.83.1937), displayed in case 19c, gallery 19.

Further Reading

Darracott, J. (1979) All for art: the Ricketts and Shannon Collection: exhibition selected and catalogue, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, 9 October – 3 December 1979. Cambridge.

Darracott, J. (1980) World of Charles Ricketts. London.