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Wine Christmas card that shocked Temperance Society up for auction

The first commercially printed Christmas card, featuring a wine-soaked scene that scandalised the Temperance Society, has gone up for auction at Christie’s.

Greetings card, John Callcott Horsley, 1843, England © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As reported by The Guardian, the Christmas card, which dates back to December 1843, is expected to fetch between £5,000-£8,000 at auction.

Sir Henry Cole sent the first Christmas card

One of the rare cards is also being sold online through a consortium run by Marvin Getman, a Boston-based dealer in rare books and manuscripts.

Commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the card, designed by illustrator John Callcott Horsley, depicts three generations of the Cole family raising a toast with glasses of red wine in a hand-coloured panel surrounded by a decorative trellis alongside scenes depicting acts of giving.

Underneath the trellis, a banner reads: ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’. The twofold message was of celebration and charity.

Horsley personalised the card by drawing a small self-portrait in the bottom right-hand corner in place of his signature, along with the date “Xmasse, 1843”.

According to The Guardian, the innocent-looking card scandalised the puritanical Temperance Society due to the depiction of a child glugging from a glass of red.

Cole is credited as the creator of the Christmas card, as he commissioned a printer to transfer the design onto paper cards, printing 1,000 copies that could be personalised with a hand-written greeting, which he sold for a shilling each.

The card went on sale the same week in December 1843 that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published.

The Temperance Society kicked up such a fuss about the wine-fuelled image that it was three years before another Christmas card was produced in England. It is thought that less than 30 of the Cole Christmas cards are still in existence.

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