Photographs by Chris Cardwell/ Tessa Farmer
A series of missing objects and unexplained breakages suggest that the Holburne Museum is infested. The disruption to the displays has been caused not by clothes moths, carpet beetles or woodworm, but by malevolent skeleton fairies. The source of infestation appears to be a vase from the museum stores recently added to the central display of hanging vases.
A toppled vase has smashed to reveal a hoard of stolen silver spoons, netsuke and jewellery. Flying skullships constructed from animal skulls, silver and broken ceramics are flown by enslaved insects. They deposit stolen objects into vases as they fly past. An angry swarm of honey bees, controlled by the fairies, spews from other vases.
Below, the fairies observe the fracas they have created, indulging in a lavish banquet amongst the ornate tableware. Moths, grasshoppers, ants, beetles and dragonflies emerge from painted depictions before being hunted and feasted upon.
A salamander transmuted from a nearby bronze darts towards the feast, ridden by fairies eager to join the festivities.
The fairies topple bronze statuettes using apostle spoons and hair stolen from a smashed Victorian mourning brooch. Determined to overpower Hercules and his companions they are aided by an army of giant ants.
Fairies frolic amongst botanical ceramics, pouncing ravenously on juicy caterpillars tumbling from flowery plates.
Inside the 'Small Wonders' cabinet fairies hide in the shadows, attacking netsuke with scissors and dancing to the violinist putto.
They hunt exotic and familiar animals, which have escaped from two tiny oil paintings.
The hunt continues inside a carved wooden sculpture, halted only by an encounter with a much larger lion.
Bat winged fairies dance with dressed fleas below a silver memorial medallion. Floating upwards in bubbles the fairies are drawn towards Elizabeth Boser's funeral spoon.
Amongst playing cards and gaming counters, the fairies watch a flea circus and dress fleas. Artefacts from Professor Cockerill's famous flea circus collection in London were recently stolen and commandeered by the fairies for their entertainment.
A fleeting moment of civilised behaviour is witnessed: the fairies host an elegant tea party, enjoying hornet head cake and maggot biscuits. It is interrupted by rogue bees appearing from the 'Bee and Goat' cream jug.
In the alcohol cabinet drunk and disorderly fairies quarrel, fall into tankards and pass out.