These papier mâché pictures, depicting scenes in the life of Mary Queen of Scots and framed in elaborate 'Jacobethan' strapwork and bejewelled frames, display the Victorian fascination for both historical imagery and manufacturing innovations.
The firm of Messrs. Aaron Jennens & T. H. Bettridge (fl. 1815-1864) were reputed for perfecting techniques in the craft and manufacture of highly skilled papier-mâché wares. Jennens & Bettridge, took over the worksshops of Henry Clay, Japaner to George III and The Prince of Wales, in 1816. Originally based in Birmingham they set up a London shop at 3 West Halkin Street, Belgravia in 1837 and opened offices in Paris and New York two years later. Jennens & Bettridge served as 'Japanners in Ordinary' to George IV and exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Their contribution to 'this important branch of the industrial arts' , particularly their sumptuous 'Victoria Regia' cot and gorgeous floriated 'Lotus-Table', designed by the sculptor J. Bell, received particular notice in the Art-Journal's Illustrated Exhibition Catalogue.
Jennens and Bettridge employed a variety of professional artists to copy paintings on their decorative wares and in order to maintain the very highest standard of ornamentation their artists were trained by painters from the Birmingham School of Design. They were known for a wide variety of decorative objects and furniture, but painted panels were not uncommon and a pair entitled Western Gate, Peking; and The Emperor Teaou reviewing the Guards, Palace of Peking sold in these rooms in September 2001, lot 53 for £9,400.