Thursday, November 5, 2015
The English pig
Going back a few years from my previous post and we reach around 1910 and the golden age for English tiled shopfronts, when the architectural ceramicists were still being influenced by the swirls and curls of the Art Nouveau style, and before World War I banished jollity. Welcome, then, to the premises of Jesse Smith, butcher of Cirencester, a company that has hung on to a lovely Edwardian shopfront and interior, one with tiles that beautifully celebrate the pig and what a butcher can do with it.
It begins before we even get inside the shop, with a pig portrait in one door reveal and, low down in another (above: almost obscured by some barbecuing equipment last time I passed) a legend in curvaceous Art Nouveau lettering designed to make the pig fancier’s mouth water: Pickled tongues. The design on the right of this image, with its sinuous lines and mysterious semicircles (Do they evoke stylised flowers or seed heads?) would not look out of place in Vienna. The Secession comes to the Cotswolds for a short break.
As I come out clutching my pork pie, I reflect that I know few better architectural celebrations of the English pig. But I also reflect that the French know a thing or two too. Wasn’t Paris a cradle of Art Nouveau? And don’t they say that Tout est bon dans le cochon?