Birmingham Bisset's Museum
By the late eighteenth century, Birmingham had firmly established itself as the 'workshop of the world', home to innumerable industries producing everything from buttons, buckles, japanned and papier-mache wares to guns, whips, swords and steel toys. This medal served as an advertisement for some of these trades, as well as for some of Birmingham's principal attractions, including Bisset's famous museum and picture gallery and the Theatre Royal, both located in New Street.
James Bisset (1762-1832) was a Scottish-born artist, manufacturer, writer, collector, art dealer and poet, who spent most of his life in and around Birmingham.
Bisset was born in Perth, the son of a merchant who invested the Baltic flax trade but had fallen upon hard times. He was educated at Perth Academy until 1776 when he moved at the age of 13 to Birmingham, where his brother had established himself as a merchant. At the age of 15 Bisset obtained an apprenticeship with a Birmingham japanner, and by 1785 was listed in a local trade directory as a painter of miniatures.His invention of a method of painting on the inside of convex glasses enabled him to develop a successful business making ornamental goods and marry the daughter of a local landowner, and the early years of the nineteenth century saw him diversifying into medal-production and art dealing.
In 1808 Bisset moved to a large house in New Street where he established a museum and picture gallery, Birmingham's first that displayed everything from paintings and medals to stuffed wildlife and "works of savage nations". He was visited by both Sir William Hamilton, the greatest collector of his day, and Horatio Nelson. In 1813 he sold two paintings by Canaletto and moved to Leamington Spa.
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