Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Diamond-Eyed Pug Snuff Box

Snuff Box
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Of Prussian origin, this snuff box of bloodstone takes the shape of a recumbent pug dog.  He sports diamond-set eyes and teeth, a tongue of rhodonite and the gold inlaid inscription "TOUJOURS FIDELE" on his collar.

The doggie sits upon a rectangular four-color gold base which has been chased with a scene of three hounds attacking a bull in a wooded landscape.

The box was given by George, Duke of Cambridge to King Edward VII.  Edward bequeathed the box to his son, King George V.

Painting of the Day: Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, c. 1850

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Samuel Cousins, 1850-1870
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Thought to be painted by Samuel Cousins (1801-1887) between 1850 and 1870, this watercolor on ivory miniature is mounted on card. While the piece is unsigned, it closely matches the style of a miniature of Alexandra Zicaliotti by Cousins which can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Cousin’s work is defined by small brushstrokes, jewel-like colors, dense painting and visual focus on the sitter’s eyes. Primarily an engraver, Cousins wrote in his 1887 private memoir that he had been commissioned to paint some miniatures for special patrons—including Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the Duchess of Teck—pictured at the top of this post. Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (mother of Queen Mary) was the second daughter of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, youngest surviving son of King George III, and of Augusta, daughter of Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. It is possible that this painting dates to before Princess Mary Adelaide’s 1866 marriage to Prince Francis, 1st Duke of Teck, only son of Alexander, Duke of Württemberg. 

Princess Mary Adelaide, by the way, was known to enjoy a good meal.  And, speaking of good meals...tomorrow, we'll be featuring this week's "Treat of the Week."  It's the annual "Easter Edition," so you won't want to miss it.  Lots of good stuff to see!

Gifts of Grandeur: A Kangaroo and its Baby by Carl Fabergé, 1913

The Royal Collection
Crown Copyright
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In November of 1913, King George V purchased this carving by Carl Fabergé from Fabergé's London branch as a gift for his wife, Queen Mary. The humorous carving of a kangaroo and baby cost the King £23.

Like her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, before her, Queen Mary collected the extraordinary range of animals that Fabergé produced. The sculpture is made of Siberian nephrite rather than a more realistically-colored stone for a whimsical effect.  However, 
Fabergé, as always took great care in representing the anatomy of the animal as accurately as possible, even setting the eyes with rose-cut diamonds.

Sculpture of the Day: Hush-a-bye, Baby, 1874

Study for "The Rocking Chair"
Dalou, 1874
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Hush a bye baby on the tree top,
When the bough bends the cradle will rock. 

The above nursery rhyme is inscribed into the base of this terracotta sculpture. The piece was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1874. The work of Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902), the figure group is a study for a large marble group which was commissioned by the Duke of Westminster.

The marble group, called “The Rocking Chair,” was finished based on this terracotta study. The final piece was shown in 1875 at the Royal Academy and remains in the collection of the Dukes of Westminster.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 97

Chapter 97

"You try my patience, Ellen."  The specter growled--its rigid countenance inches from Lennie's.

In fact, Lennie was unsure exactly what she herself was.  She was keenly aware that she was unable to move.  Much like the visions she'd had of her late mother, she felt that she was just a mask-like face unattached to a proper body of any sort.  When she spoke, she could not feel  her lips move, nor her eyes blink, her tongue in her mouth, her...  She felt nothing really.  Nothing physical.  Where was she?  What was she?  

What had happened?

Lennie did her best to remain as present as possible.  

The last she could recall, she'd been scratched, or cut.  They were in the crypt.  She'd been with Violet and Maude and Ethel.  They'd spotted Jackson and challenged him.  He'd offered her a jeweled comb which had fallen to the floor of the crypt--likely from the wig which he'd used to dress the corpse of her mother.  The teeth of the comb had been somehow poisoned--probably by the very preservatives he'd used to keep the corpse.  

Lennie replayed these events in her thoughts--over and over again.  She did so to drown out the insidious chatter of her mother's spirit.

What was going on outside of their shared limbo?  Surely, by now, Punch and Robert had come to her aid--Matthew, too.  They'd carried her back to the Hall.  Yes, that's surely what had happened.  Likely, Robert was working on some means of restoring her to health.  She tried to convince herself that this would pass like waking from a nightmare.  She would soon realize that it was just...just...

When Lennie was a little girl, in fact, well into her adolescent and young adult years, she suffered from a nightmare wherein she felt as though she could not move.  She was paralyzed as if a horrible goblin or hag were sitting upon her chest.  She could not scream or do anything and thought she would surely die.  Of course, eventually, she would awaken.  When she did, she told the woman who raised her--her aunt, though, at the time, Lennie thought her to be her mother.  

"Aye, Mara--the hag.  She sucks the breath from your wee body, Mara does."  Mrs. Barrett replied.  "That's what she'll do to ye.  She'll take the breath from yer body.  And, there's nothin' ye can do 'bou' it."

That didn't help.

This--this was no different than "Mara."  

This--this situation, whatever it was.  This confusion.  

This was just a trick of her mind, Lennie thought.  There was no "hag" who sat upon Lennie's chest to suck the life from her whilst she slept as a child.  Mara, the sleep hag did not exist, then, and she did not exist now.

Lennie kept thinking.  "I have been wounded.  Likely I have been poisoned.   This poison is making my thoughts play tricks on me, and I am unable to have clarity.  My brother and Robert are helping me, and soon I shall awaken and be well.  Whatever I hear--this voice which calls itself my mother--is no more danger to me than 'Mara' was to me as a child."

"What makes you think that?"  The Duchess laughed.

Lennie tried to ignore the voice.

"Ellen, I know all about Mara.  Mara was just one more part of me."  Pauline continued.

"How could she have been?"  Lennie replied finally.  "When I had those dreams, you were very much alive.  You only died last year.  I had those dreams when a child."

"Mara...whatever you liked to call her...and all those like her--all powerful feminine beings.  We are all part of the same being.  You don't think she was some simple goblin?  Some 'sleep hag' meant to tease a little girl?  Do you want to know what she really was, Ellen?"

"Why do you..."

"Bother you?  Why do I know what you're thinking?"  Pauline laughed.  "Ellen, you have no private thought.  Not now.  The longer you are away from life, the more of you I take.  The more of you I possess.  Let me help you, Ellen.  At present, you are nothing.  You can be one of those great women.  You can be like Mara."

"And torture and tease children?"  Lennie scoffed.  "I think not."

"You make it seem so silly.  She was not some foolish fairy.  Mara was a succubus, as am I...as you shall be.  We shall be all powerful."

"Your desperation is palpable."  Lennie answered.  "If you are all powerful, then, why do you require me?  Furthermore, why do you wish to be reborn in a human body?"

The light around the duchess' face faded slightly.  

"You are pathetic."  Lennie continued.

"I was once like you."  The duchess continued.  "With the exception that I was exquisitely beautiful."

"I'd much rather be intelligent."

"I possessed both intelligence and beauty."

"Release me from this nightmare."  Lennie demanded.

"I have already told you that I cannot.  I cannot until you give me the promise that I need.  You are correct, my power is not as great as I insist, but it is still great enough that I can hold you to me until I get what I want or until you are dead, and, then, we shall both be lost."

"I would rather be lost than offer you any assistance."  Lennie responded.

"Then, lost you shall be."  Pauline answered.  "Yet, you do not even know the nature of the promise."

"There is no promise I could make to you that would not be too much."

"So be it."  The duchess shrieked--her face engulfed in flames which burned quickly and brightly in a hideous flash.  "I leave you here, then--in nothingness!"

With that, Lennie was alone in her limbo.  She could not quite decide if it was worse.

Did you miss Chapters 1-96 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 98.

The Art of Play: The Tate Baby House,1760

The Tate Baby House
Dorset, 1760
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This toy house was last owned by a Mrs. Walter Tate in whose honor it is named. Made in Dorset, the dolls’ house is said to have been modeled on an Eighteenth-century Dorset house.

Unlike many other dolls’ houses of the Eighteenth Century, this one features a very complex structure which comes apart in several sections so that it could be easily taken on trips.

Since journeys at the time were predominately taken via carriage, they took a long time, and therefore, trips and visits lasted much longer than they do today. Therefore, careful planning was involved and people would take a variety of different items which we would never consider bringing along with us today—like this dolls’ house.

A “Baby House,” such as this one from 1760 was designed as a plaything for an adult woman who was encouraged to decorate the house, furnish it and use it as a model for her own home in some ways.

The furniture that we see here is not contemporary with the house which was first updated in 1830 and, then, at regular intervals afterwards by its various owners. After all, that was the point of the thing—to use it as a model for a real home as well as afford a lady a fun thing to do. In some households, in fact, houseguests would bring small presents for the “baby house,” such as little silver kettles or salt cellars.

This house is constructed of painted wood with a balustraded external staircase leading up to the first floor level, A pedimented entrance door has a Venetian window above with four windows on either side. Above the cornice is a parapet formed of pilasters and turned balusters, behind which is a glass lantern lighting the staircase hall. Oeil de boeuf windows flank the basement door. The original windows were replaced in the Victorian era and the roofline and base are Edwardian alterations.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Bon Ami Cleanser

Click image to see a very small girl or a very large cat.

Known for its famous slogan, “Hasn’t scratched yet” along with their mascot of a newly hatched chick, Bon Ami Cleanser has been a part of many a home (including mine) for decades. Developed in 1896 as an alternative to the harsh tallow-based cleansers of the late Nineteenth Century, Bon Ami’s name translates to “Good friend.” And, truly, it has been. It’s also one of the great examples of successful American branding.

In 1896, as Bon Ami was finding its marketing legs, and before the long-lasting “baby chick” campaign was developed, Bon Ami played with other ideas to communicate the idea that their product would clean without scratching.

I was fortunate enough to come across one of those original 1896 ad campaigns with this trade card which I recently added to my collection.

We have, in this lovely chromolithograph, an image of a little girl (who, is, by the way, truly little in that queer proportion unique to Victorian commercial art—she’s either very small or the cat, bird and bird cage are exceptionally large) trying to pull her cat away (by the tail) from a cage containing a parrot. And, they’re outside. Interesting.

Still, we get the idea. The cleanser doesn’t scratch. We’re reminded of this by the ad copy:



While the Baby Chick motif is more elegant, this gets the point across quite well.

Let’s see what the reverse tells us:

Bon Ami
is a modern improve-
ment in the list of
household necessities,
doing the work of a metal polish,
a scouring soap and all powders used for cleaning
purposes (not for washing of clothes). It will clean
anything cleanable and polish anything that can be
polished. It contains no grit to scratch or acid to
corrode; neither is there any alkali to redden or
roughen the hands; on the contrary, it leaves them
     It is always 
which is applied to the surface to be cleansed.
It requires so little water for this that slops and
muss are avoided. It is made of the best and finest
material, and is so constituted that while it is too
fine to scratch, it is coarse enough to clean. Coarser
cleansers gradually and surely wear out the article
cleansed, but 
BON AMI removes the dirt WITHOUT
     Don’t fail to try the sample. 
Read carefully
directions with each package. 
The Bon Ami Company, 66 Maiden Lane,              NEW YORK CITY.