Camels are remarkable creatures domesticated by man about 4000 years ago to carry loads and people. Whether they ever appeared at a stable in Bethlehem is highly questionable, but there is no doubt that Renaissance depictions of majestic camels carrying the Magi from distant lands add a wonderful exoticism to the otherwise pastoral nativity scene.
It was the camel’s curious appearance and haughty smile that so appealed to Lulu when she was a child and inspired her friendship with the explorer and conservationist John Hare. John is the first recorded foreigner to have crossed China’s hostile Gashun Gobi Desert in search of the Wild Bactrian camel. Thanks to his tireless campaigning over the last twenty years, these critically endangered mammals have now been recognised as a 700,000 year old species, genetically distinct from the Bactrian camel, and John has been able to establish a breeding programme for Wild Bactrian camels in the Mongolian Desert.
Whilst canine visitors are often welcomed into the Soane showroom, last week saw the first visit from a camel! The life-sized camel puppet sauntered through the front door, seemingly drawn in by the Nureyev Trolley laden with drinks. It was the Belgravia Christmas Sunday market with all sorts of frivolities underway along Pimlico Road and Lulu had invited the camel along too. Built by talented sculptor Louise Emily Thomas with input from designer Ed Dimbleby of the Handspring Puppet Company (he created the horse in the West End production of War Horse), it required three puppeteers to animate the camel with its moveable head, big blinking eyes and tail that batted back and forth with abandon. Commissioned by the Wild Camel Protection Society (of which Lulu is a patron), it attends events promoting the cause of the charity and reminding everyone of the importance of the magnificent camel.
All of this added to the exciting build-up to Christmas, which has already seen the decoration of our Christmas window (see the last Journal post, ‘Reflected Glory’), champagne and Secret Santa gifts by a roaring fire in the Rosewood Hotel’s clubby Scarfes Bar, and friends and clients visiting the showroom to choose a special present. We were wondering what precious gifts the Three Kings might choose from our Soane collection. Here are our suggestions for three small but splendid objets suitable for transporting by camel – or even on foot:
The Pineapple Table Lamp
The pineapple is traditionally a symbol of welcome in America and so makes a wonderful present. The Pineapple Table Lamp is cast in solid brass to an exceptionally detailed naturalistic design that bears close inspection and reflects light beautifully. It is offered in a choice of Soane’s metal finishes and for a very special recipient, may be gold plated.
The Small Circular Hand Beaten Mirror
Soane’s Circular Hand Beaten Mirrors are forged by an exceptionally skilled blacksmith in his Forest of Dean workshop (see our previous post, ‘Man and Beast’). For glorious warmth, we would recommend this classically styled mirror in our Yellow Gold forged finish.
The Amber Light
This polished globe lamp is carved from blocks of quartz from Thailand and may be electrified or used with candles. The Amber Light creates an intense golden glow which enlivens any dinner table and makes an extremely popular present.
And it would be remiss of us not to mention Soane’s Hairy Paw Front Door Stop in this post. A supremely practical (suitably tall and heavy), yet whimsical doorstop, the hairy camel ‘foot’ is offered in a range of metal finishes from dark bronze to polished brass and is a wonderful year-round reminder of this remarkable creature.
See more wonderful camel images on Soane’s ‘Camels’ Pinterest board.
Top image gallery: Adoration of The Magi, Paolo Veronese, c1570; Photograph of Domesticated Bactrian camels in Gobi Desert by kind permission of the WCPS; Byzantine mosaic depicting the Magi in Persian clothing with breeches, capes and Phrygian caps, c565; Design drawing for the WCPS War Camel.
Soane Britain will be open until 1pm on Christmas Eve and will re-open on Monday 5th January.
We wish our friends and clients a very