Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year from Stalking the Belle Époque!

We’ll be taking a brief hiatus through Sunday, January 2, 2011.  Come back on Monday, January 3, 2011 to continue our journey through the world’s beauty—both past and present.  Thanks for making 2010 a great year, and here’s looking forward to a gorgeous 2011. 

Mastery of Design: Star of the Order of Bath, 1841


Star of the Order of Bath
Made for Prince Albert, 1840
Gold, Yellow Diamonds, White Diamonds, Emeralds,
Rubies and Enamel
The Royal Collection
 Prince Albert was appointed to many Royal orders throughout his life as consort to Queen Victoria—The Orders of The Thistle, St. Michael, St. George and St. Patrick, but the his first appointment was to the Order of the Bath in 1840.


As was always the case, the appointed party was presented with the insignia of their order upon appointment. Queen Victoria wanted to make sure that Albert’s first insignia was one which was befitting his position as her consort, and, so, she ordered the creation of a new insignia for her husband. Unfortunately, records do not remain as the which of her favored jewelers created this masterpiece of gold, white and yellow diamonds, rubies, emeralds and enamel. It was, most likely, Rundell, Bridge & Co.

Prince Albert
by John Patridge, 1841
The intricate star was unprecedented in its opulence for the insignia for a Royal Garter. Prince Albert was quite fond of it and can be seen wearing it in the 1841 portrait by John Patridge which he commissioned as a gift for Queen Victoria. The star is visible on the Prince’s left torso. In 1844, Prince Albert was appointed Grand Master of the Order of Bath and was instrumental in redrafting many of the guidelines for the position—practices which remain intact to this day.

Unfolding Pictures: The Royal Connections Fan, 1794

"The Royal Connections Fan"
1794
Paper Leaf with Boxwood Guards and Sticks
The Royal Collection
What was a Royal lady to do to pass the time? Sometimes life in a palace can be surprisingly dull, it seems. And, so, the ladies of the Royal Family, turned their attentions to creating little games for themselves. Since card games were a proper pastime for a noblewoman, Princess Elizabeth and the Duchess of York (the daughter of George III and the wife of Frederick, Duke of York respectively—see below for their “baby picture”) concocted a new card game of their own which they called “Royal Connections.” Of course, “Royal Connections” became the height of fashion and was quickly added to the game list of anyone in the uppermost pinnacle of London Society in 1784.


I can’t quite figure out how the game was meant to be played, but the rules and aims are all spelled out on this novelty fan. What a convenient way to be fashionable and to have access to the guidelines for the game! This fan was produced by Stokes, Scott and Croskey of London, who were, curiously, not fan makers, but, rather silk-weavers. How or why they got into the business of making novelty fans for a period of about six years remains something of a mystery.

This fan was created for use by high society ladies in 1794. This example was purchased, later, by Queen Mary for her collection, and was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered at Frogmore House in the 1970’s.

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Princes George, Frederick and Bertie at Buckingham House

"Is this carpet making anyone else feel dizzy?"

Image: George, Prince of Wales, and Frederick, Later Duke of York at Buckingham House, Johann Zoffany, 1764-5, The Royal Collection

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 133

Cecil adjusted his black mask and looked in the glass.


“Quite ominous darling,” Adrienne purred.

“I say, you’ve done a fine job with this.” Cecil smiled, turning around to face his wife.

“I confess that Gamilla and Meridian did most of the sewing on that coat. I was never good with seams. Gamilla made the hood.”

Cecil turned toward the glass again and studied his long black coat, turning slightly to examine the draping hood which hung across his shoulders. “It’s brilliant. Even the waistcoat. Wherever did you find such a fine silver fabric?”

“That, my dear,” Adrienne smiled as she fastened the clasps of her deep purple gown, “was an offering from Marjani. She dyed the fabric herself.”

“Smashing,” Cecil smiled.

“Love, would you help me with my laces?” Adrienne asked.

“I will, but you know I’m so clumsy with these things. Hadn’t I better call for Gamilla or Meridian?”

“They’re both helping Marjani bathe Naasir.” Adrienne answered.

“Poor fellow.” Cecil sighed as he fumbled with the laces at the back of Adrienne’s gown. “How’s he doing?”

“Still poorly,” Adrienne shook her head. “Come on, darling, pull tighter.”

“I don’t want to crush you.” Cecil chuckled.

“You want me to have my usual figure, don’t you?” Adrienne grinned.

“Well, of course, my dear,” Cecil nodded.

“Then, by all means, crush me.” Adrienne laughed.

Cecil pulled tighter on the laces, wincing. “How you women endure these contraptions is beyond me.”

A knock on the door interrupted them.

“Who is it?” Cecil asked.

“It is I, Nellie.” Nellie responded.

Cecil frowned.

“Be nice, darling,” Adrienne whispered.

“I was wondering,” Nellie said through the door, “if I could help you prepare for the masquerade.”

“Let her in,” Adrienne said. “She can do my laces.”

“Very well,” Cecil grumbled, opening the door.

“Oh my,” Nellie said as Cecil opened the door. “What a dark figure you cut, Mr. Halifax. Who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m Jack Ketch.” Cecil answered plainly.

“Who’s that?” Nellie asked.

“The hangman.” Cecil answered flatly. “Come to bring criminals to justice.”

Nellie nodded slowly.

“Jack Ketch was actually an executioner in England.” Adrienne said quickly. “Punch and Judy Men adopted his name for a character in the puppet show.”

“Lord Julian is going as Mr. Punch,” Cecil nodded. “And, my brother is going as another character from the panto—the doctor who attends to Judy.”

“I see,” Nellie answered. “That seems appropriate. Are you all dressing in the same theme? Adrienne, who are you? Surely not Judy in that fine satin gown with all the spangles and feathers. Perhaps you’re the other girl—the one that Mr. Punch fancies. What’s her name? Pretty Polly?”

“No.” Adrienne answered softly. “I’ve not joined the gentlemen in their theme.”

“Who are you then?” Nellie asked.

“Someone far more sinister.” Adrienne smiled. “Help me with my laces, then, would you?”

“I’ll go check on Fuller.” Cecil said quickly as Nellie tugged on the laces of Adrienne’s gown.

“Good evening, Jack Ketch.” Adrienne said flirtatiously.

“Good evenin’, Missus,” Cecil winked through his mask.

“There, now.” Nellie said, tying Adrienne’s laces.

“Thank you, Nellie,” Adrienne replied. “Would you help me with my wig? It’s over there on the table.”

Nellie went to the tall hatbox which held the elaborate wig that Meridian had ordered for Adrienne. Dark curls wound around an ornate comb which held two long, purple feathers.

“This…” Nellie gasped. “This looks like…”

“Yes,” Adrienne grinned. “Tonight, I’ll be Iolanthe Evageline.”

Meanwhile, in Mr. Punch’s room, Punch was sprawled out on the bed, dressed only in a silk dressing gown and stockings.

“Come on, then!” Punch whooped. “Let’s see you!”

“Just a moment,” Robert grunted from behind the papier mache screen in the corner of the room. “Damn these boots.”

“Hurry up, Chum!” Punch hollered.

“Fine,” Robert said, coming out from behind the screen and taking a bow.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch said, sitting up. “Look at you.”

“What do you think?” Robert asked, fidgeting with his white satin mask with the long, pointed beak. “I suspect I’m more Venetian Carnival than I am Covent Garden.”

“Nah,” Mr. Punch shook his head. “You look like the doctor in your long, gray coat. Nice.”

“One more bit,” Robert said, putting a white powdered wig on his head. “Oh, itchy.”

“Quite nice, indeed.” Mr. Punch grinned.

“Your robe, Mr. Punch,” Robert smiled, wiggling his finger toward Mr. Punch’s dressing gown which had come undone.

“Sorry.” Punch blushed. “Still not used to all this.” He stood and pulled the robe tightly around Julian’s body. “Now, then, it’s time to get me dressed, isn’t it?”

“It is.” Robert nodded. “I think, however,” he grunted, “I’m going to take this off until we leave.” He removed the wig and untied the mask. Rubbing his eyes, he smiled, “That’s better.”

Mr. Punch sighed. “I hope we’re doin’ the right thing.”

“We are.” Robert nodded.

“I’m worried ‘bout Adrienne.” Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head.

“We all are. But, she’s a strong woman and she knows what she’s to do. We’ll all keep an eye on her.” Robert forced himself to smile, “Now, then, behind the screen with you.”

“I don’t see why I need to go behind the screen.” Mr. Punch grumbled. “It’s crowded back there.”

Robert shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just the way we do things. Besides, I’ve laid out your costume on the chair.”

“Coo!” Mr. Punch exclaimed as he went behind the screen. “Look at it! I forgot how perfect it is.”

Punch struggled with his underclothes and the purple and green striped trousers. He stumbled out from behind the screen and said proudly. “Look at me!”

“I see you, dear Punch,” Robert chuckled. “Now, the rest of it.”

“Come on, help me.” Mr. Punch moaned.

“Very well,” Robert smiled. He went behind the screen and retrieved the bright white shirt, wide ruff and brilliant red and blue coat that Adrienne and Gamilla had made. Pulling the shirt over Julian’s head, he helped Punch with the buttons on the coat and fastened the ruff behind his neck. Taking Mr. Punch by Julian’s shoulders, he turned the man toward the glass.

“And, so…” Robert smiled.

“Here,” Mr. Punch exclaimed at his own reflection. “I look like meself—me puppet self. Strange to see it with Julian’s face atop it.”

“Put this on,” Robert said, handing Mr. Punch a bright crimson mask studded with sequins.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch squawked, “Shiny!”

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “And the hat.”

Robert placed the curving scarlet and blue hat—trimmed with gold and topped by a gold tassel and brass bell—atop Mr. Punch’s head.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Mr. Punch exclaimed.

Robert gazed at Mr. Punch.

“Here, you’re lookin’ at me funny. What are ya thinkin’?”

Robert shook his head. “Uhh…I’m not quite sure. Yes, it is strange to see. But, yes, it’s wonderful, too. For the longest time, I…”

“What is it?” Punch asked.

“Well, I’ve gotten so used to you being Mr. Punch. And, I’ve become accustomed to the idea that there’s two of you in there…it’s just…” Robert shrugged. “I’m not sure. I suppose it’s a little shocking to see this physical combination of the two of you.”

“You’re missin’ Julian, ain’t ya?” Punch asked.

“I…”

“It’s all right if you are.” Mr. Punch smiled. “I understand.”

“It’s been so long since he’s been with us.” Robert sighed. “Not that I don’t appreciate having you. I do. I couldn’t ask for a better friend.”

“Ain’t nothin’ to worry ‘bout.” Mr. Punch smiled beneath his mask. “Julian’s here, too. This is all just too much for him. It’s a little much for me, too, but I gotta carry on, I do.”

Robert cleared his throat. “Well, then, I think this deserves a toast, don’t you think?”

“A toast?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Yes,” Robert smiled, walking to the vanity where Meridian had left a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. “We should drink to the new year—to 1853—and to our family.”

“That’s somethin’ that folk do, is it? Drink to the new year?”

“Yes,” Robert smiled. “It’s tradition.”

“Does it matter what a person drinks?”

“No.” Robert shrugged.

“Well, then, if it’s all the same to ya, I’ll take a drink of water instead. I don’t know if givin’ me spirits would be such a fine thing right now.”

Mr. Punch walked to the night table and poured himself a glass of water, unaware that Nellie had dissolved something in the pitcher hours before. The angry crystals—given to her by the greedy Ulrika Rittenhouse—that Nellie had poured into the pitcher had long since mingled with the water—leaving nothing but a shimmering clarity that belied the poison inside.

“That’s been there since last night,” Robert said. “”Let’s get you some fresh.”

“Water is water.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “Ain’t no fresher comin’ out of the pump than when it’s sittin’ here.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Robert nodded. “You know, as much as I need this drink, I think you may be correct about the effects of spirits at the present. Pass me some of that to water this down.”

Punch handed the pitcher to Robert who poured a bit into his whiskey.

“Here, when do we need to leave?” Punch asked, studying the tumbler of water.

“The ball won’t start for another hour. So, we’ve plenty of time. The waxworks isn’t far from here.” Robert said, sniffing the whiskey.

“Never been to a waxworks before.” Mr. Punch mumbled.

“You’ll like it. Lots of statues for you to talk to.” Robert winked. “Now,” Robert raised his glass.

Punch nodded.

“Here’s to 1853! May it be a year that is filled with nothing but joy!” Robert said. “And, here’s to our family, and to my dear Mr. Punch.”

Robert reached the glass to his lips.

“Wait a tick!” Mr. Punch said.

Robert did not take a sip.

“I want to say something, too!” Mr. Punch smiled.

“Go on,” Robert nodded.

“Here’s to me chum, Robert what helps me and is kind and smart and warm and sturdy. And, here’s to Adrienne who is gentle and smells like sugared biscuits. And, here’s to Cecil what is gruff but knows how to do things and made me a puppet head like a nice bloke, and here’s to Fuller what’s a baby.”

“Well said.” Robert said, raising his glass again.

“I ain’t finished,” Punch sighed.

“Oh.” Robert lowered his glass again.

“And, here’s to Naasir what’s in pain, but will get better. And to Marjani what’s a nice lady who is very strong, and to the little pale girl what’s called Columbia, and to Meridian who makes good sausages and to Gamilla who brings me things to eat, and…” Mr. Punch thought. “And, of course, to Toby…” Punch glanced at the dog who was curled up in a chair in the corner of the room. “What’s furry and soft and warm and good. And to all the good folk in Marionneaux what take care of us. And to the bloke—Dr. What’s His Name--what’s lettin’ us stay in this house, and…”

Robert chuckled. “And…?”

“And to me puppet and even to Her Grace and Barbara Allen what are awful, but don’t have to be. And, to the folk what are in Heaven who watch over us—me pa, Sir Colin, and your ma and pa. But, ‘specially to Julian who’s me master and what gave me life and who we miss. And, again, to you, for bein’ so good to me, Chum.”

“That was a fine toast.” Robert grinned. “And quite specific.”

“I try.” Punch nodded. “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year to you, dear Punch.” Robert winked. “Shall we drink?”

“I don’t see why not.” Mr. Punch shrugged.

They raised their glasses to their lips…



Did you miss Chapters 1-132? If so, you can read them here.

Mr. Punch and his friends will be taking a brief hiatus Friday, December 31 and Saturday, January 1. Come back on January 3, 2011 for Chapter 134 of Punch’s Cousin and to see if Mr. Punch and Robert actually make it to the New Year’s Ball at the Waxworks.


From Mr. Punch and his companions, and me and Bertie, Happy New Year!

Goal for the Day: Face the New Year with a Positive Outlook

Every year holds myriad high points and low points.  It’s our responsibility to leave the low points in the past and look to the future with a clear mind and bright eyes.  Nothing can reverse the past, but only we can affect the future.  So, as we approach the new year, let’s each display a positive attitude, a peaceful mind and a hopeful heart.  2011 will prove to be a beautiful year.

Object of the Day: A Sweet Doggie

This ceramic figurine of a Westie dog probably dates to the 1930’s. His quizzical expression is accentuated by gold-painted eyes, eyebrows and whiskers which match the details on his pointed ears, little feet and carrot tail. The figurine is glazed with an opalescent finish which playfully gives him a sense of motion and life.


The reverse of the sculpture is signed in pencil. Time has worn some of the writing away, but from what I can still see it says, “by Raymond Kane, Klamath Falls Oregeon.” Despite its desert landscape, Klamath Falls is known for its geothermal waters. Since being founded in 1867 as Linkville, Klamath Falls has been the home to many a talented folk artist.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Building of the Week: The Palais Garnier, Paris

The Palais Garnier as it is today
From its founding in 1669 by King Louis XIV, The Paris Opéra has called several different venues its home. Prior to 1821, three of the ten opera houses in which The Paris Opéra found a home had been destroyed by fire. In 1821, the Opéra opened a new opera house called Salle Le Peletier which remained in operation until 1873. The Salle Le Peletier had seen innumerable artistic triumphs as well as a host of important visitors including Queen Victoria in 1855. However, by 1858, Emperor Napoleon III—as part of his Second Empire reconstruction of Paris—had seen the need to build a larger home for the Opéra. Napoleon III envisioned a grander version of the Salle Le Peletier with soaring domes and magnificent architecture.


The Grand Foyer
The emperor enlisted the Baron Haussmann to oversee the construction. A contest was open to architects who wished to submit their designs for the new opera house. In 1861, the competition was won by architect Charles Garnier for whom the building is now named.

Construction was slated to begin in 1862. The Empress Eugénie is rumored to have asked Garnier if he considered his creation to be in Greek or Roman style. His response was, “It is in the Napoleon III style, Madame!” And, so it was. Napoleon selected the land upon which the Opéra was to be built—a section in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The land, however, was not terribly cooperative owing to its swampiness and the presence of a subterranean lake. Water was pumped from the location for eight months, but the lake would not abate. Garnier was forced to amend the designs for the foundation to be built over the lake. And, so it remains today.

The Grand Staircase
The presence of the lake under the Opéra was one of the chief inspirations for the 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. The other was the famous failing of a chandelier’s counterweight which caused the fixture to plummet to the floor, crushing one person to death. Of course, this figures prominently into Leroux’s story, and perhaps, more famously, into the musical version of the same name by Andrew Lloyd-Webber

But, before chandeliers could crush anyone, or, even, before a singer could belt out a note, the Opéra had to be finished. The construction was stalled by numerous setbacks—not the least of which was the Franco-Prussian War and the resulting collapse of The Second Empire. For awhile, the Opéra feared that the skeleton of their new home would have to be demolished due to lack of funds and a distinct political disinterest in finishing the building.

In 1873, circumstance forced the completion of the new opera house when a fire rampaged through the Salle Le Peletier—raging for twenty-seven hours and completely destroying the home of the Paris Opéra. The Palais Garnier was completed in 1874, giving the Opéra a permanent new home and the people of France a reason to celebrate.

The Theater
A rich confection in the Beaux Arts style, the Palais Garnier is a magnificent combination of multi-colored marble, bronze, gilding, glass, columns and statuary. With its majestic central staircase, magnificently frescoed vaults and color scheme of red and gold, it truly is a palace of the arts. The centerpiece of the monumental theater is an enormous crystal chandelier which weighs over six tons—this time, properly weighted and firmly held to the domed ceiling.

The dome of the theater itself was repainted in 1964 by Marc Chagall in a modern style and color palette which proved to be controversial. While some felt that Chagall’s fresco was a fitting addition to a building which was, in essence, a temple to the arts, others believed that Chagall’s work was out of place and inappropriate to the Beaux Arts style and velvety architecture of the Palais Garnier. Forty-seven years later, Chagall’s work remains, and while quite accepted, still raises some eyebrows.

Chagall's Dome
The façade of the Palais Garnier features a variety of sculptures including busts of famous composers, two gilded figural groups of Charles Gumery (of “Harmony” and “Poetry”) and a central sculptural group by Aimé Millet which is called, “Apollo, Poetry and Music.” The architectural rhythm of the façade is repeated in the interior grand foyer—substituting lavish colored marble for the cool exterior stone. Hung with mirrors and chandeliers, the foyer is quite operatic in and of itself.

Aside from Chagall’s painting and some technological changes, the Palais Garnier remains much as it was in 1874 and gives one a sense of the epic scheme that Napoleon III had for Paris. Though the Second Empire did not survive, Garnier’s creation of “Napoleon III style” has remained relatively untouched and has served as a source of inspiration for generations of artists of all media.


Precious Time: Queen Charlotte’s Porcelain Clock, 1761

Porcelain Clock Case
Chelsea, 1761
Presented to Queen Charlotte, 1761-7
The Royal Collection
Queen Charlotte, much like her husband, King George III, was a collector of beautiful objects. This brightly colored soft-paste bone ash porcelain clock was a gift to Queen Charlotte from one of her sons and curiously is a near-twin to another such porcelain clock in the queen’s collection.


Representative of the style of the time, the clock represents a pastoral group of many figures, rendered in brilliant polychrome. Judging by the predominant red color and it’s extraordinary match to another clock in the Royal Collection, we can determine that this clock case was created in Chelsea by Lawrence Street Factory whose catalogs offered hand-sculpted porcelains known for their startlingly vibrant red. The figures were most likely modeled by Joseph Willem—a Flemish designer who worked for the Lawrence Street Factory during the 1760’s. Willem was known for his delicacy of hand and his ability in creating lush, bucolic scenes. Slight differences in the modeling between the two clocks would indicate that this clock’s near-twin was not modeled by Willem, but rather by another artist seeking to imitate the Flemish artist’s work.

The clockworks and face were replaced by King George III’s official clockmaker, the German-born George Philip Strigel who was faced with the monumental task of winding and monitoring all of the clocks in all of the Royal Residences. Many was the time when the King would find Strigel on a stool, reaching high above his head to wind a mantel clock. I have a mental picture of Strigel muttering under his breath while caring for this frivolous creation which would be so greatly against his German sensibilities.

Painting of the Day: A Gala Performance at the Paris Opera, 1855

A Gala Performance at the Paris Opera
Dieterle and Lami, 1855
Commissioned by Napoleon III
Presented to Queen Victoria, Christmas, 1855
The Royal Collection
In 1855, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveled to Paris for an official State Visit and were greeted by the French people and Emperor Napoleon III with warmth and opulence. In their honor, a special evening was planned at the Paris Opera which included a sampling of what Napoleon considered the finest of France’s operatic and ballet stars. While Queen Victoria very much enjoyed the architecture of the opera house and was enchanted by their luxurious box, she was less than impressed by the performance itself finding it too long and rather dull.


As a gift for the Christmas of 1855, Napoleon III presented Queen Victoria with an album of paintings which he had commissioned to chronicle their visit to Paris. Among them was this watercolor of their evening at the Paris Opera. The Queen and Prince Albert can be seen entering their box on the right. The architectural portions of this watercolor were painted by the Paris Opera’s scenic designer known as Dieterle. The figures were painted by celebrated French society painter, Eugene Lami.

Unusual Artifacts: A Dangerous Door Lock, 1761

Door Lock, 1761
William Walls
Presented to King George III, 1765
The Royal Collection
This attractive piece of hardware holds a deadly secret. Handsomely crafted of steel, brass and wood in 1761 by inventor William Walls, this lock features a charming Asian-inspired scene on its plate, and, more curiously, two pistols.


Yes, pistols. The lock was so designed that should it be tampered with or should someone try to open it without the correct key, bells (now missing) would sound and two tiny pistols would fire small bullets through the holes on either side of the keyhole. The barrels of the flintlock guns were accessible from the reverse so that they could be refilled and set in between shootings.

Though ingenious, the lock was not fool proof. In fact, the danger of such a device was the simple fact that if an unsuspecting innocent person should turn the proper key in the wrong way, or should accidentally fumble with the lock as one often does when in a hurry, he would immediately be shot for no good reason.

William Walls presented the lock to King George III in 1765. George III appreciated the lock as a scientific study, but it’s unclear whether or not the device was installed in any door. If it was, chances are, it was not set to fire.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 132

Adrienne looked to Mr. Punch who shrugged.


“Ain’t no harm in lookin’ at the thing.” Mr. Punch said, stroking Toby’s ears.

“I wouldn’t feel right about it.” Adrienne sighed. “I would feel as though I’d be invading Nellie’s privacy.”

“Listen, Lady Chum,” Mr. Punch responded, patting Toby’s stomach and standing up. “The outside of a letter is for anyone to see. Besides, it’s not a matter of betrayin’ Nellie’s privacy, it’s a matter of seein’ that your husband and your baby are safe. Ain’t no harm in that.”

Punch placed his puppet carefully on the chair next to Adrienne who smiled softly. He walked into the hall and glanced at the letter. Shaking his head, he returned to the parlor and retrieved his puppet, sitting in the chair across from Adrienne.

“Well?” Adrienne asked.

“It’s addressed to ‘U.R.’ a few houses up Royal Street.”

“U.R.?” Adrienne exclaimed. “Ulrika Rittenhouse? She’s staying at Edward Cage’s house.”

“Has to be,” Mr. Punch nodded. “But, how does your Nellie know that red-headed devil?”

“I can’t imagine.” Adrienne frowned.

Meanwhile, in Edward Cage’s house, Ulrika rolled over in bed and grinned at Arthur.

“You were so angry last night, really.” Ulrika cooed. “It was quite delicious.”

“Shut up,” Arthur groaned.

“Your face,” Ulrika whispered gleefully, “It’s positively blue from bruising. The doctor’s got a strong fist.”

“I told you to shut up,” Arthur pulled a pillow over his head.

“Have you forgiven your little Ulrika?” The woman mewed.

Arthur was silent.

“You know you don’t have any choice.” Ulrika continued. “I own you.”

Arthur flung the pillow at Ulrika and got out of bed, stumbling to find his clothes.

“Where are you going?” Ulrika asked.

“I’m going to see my wife.” Arthur spat.

“Your wife, dear heart, is most likely already entertaining her first gentleman caller of the day,” Ulrika frowned. “Come back to bed. You need your sleep. I know that you were up all night.”

Arthur frowned as he got dressed.

“Don’t think I didn’t hear you rummaging around the room.” Ulrika continued.

Arthur still said nothing.

“You don’t think the diamond is in here do you?” Ulrika laughed. “I’m not that foolish.”

“I hate you,” Arthur growled.

“Show me how much,” Ulrika smiled.

“You are somethin’.” Arthur shook his head.

“Come back to bed, Arthur,” Ulrika said forcefully.

“With Edward Cage and his whole family rattlin’ around this house?” Arthur mumbled. “You know they came here last night. I’ve got to get out of here.”

“And go where?” Ulrika laughed. “To wait in line at Iolanthe’s to see your wife?”

“Quiet.” Arthur hissed. “Maybe I’ll pay a visit to Lord Fallbridge and his protector. Seems that your little plan hasn’t been very effective.”

“Not to worry, my dear,” Ulrika smiled. “It’s all taken care of.”

“How’s that, exactly?” Arthur grumbled. “The lunatic is as happy as a clam in that house.”

“Pleased as Punch, you might say,” Ulrika laughed.

“You’re a right funny one,” Arthur grunted. “You went to all the trouble of havin’ Agnes put that suicide note in his clothes. I don’t see as how His Lordship is goin’ to take his own life anytime soon. The barmy fool is quite content.”

“Don’t fret, my dear,” Ulrika sighed, sitting up, “News of Lord Fallbridge’s tragic death at his own hand will soon reach us. In fact, we’ll receive word of it before the ball tonight. It will be too, too sad really.”

“How do you figure?” Arthur grumbled, putting on his boots.

“Let’s say that a girl from Marionneaux—a fallen angel—one who owes me a debt of gratitude will coax Julian Molliner into his eternal slumber. And, then, Arthur, my dear, we only have two little details to attend to before we get everything we so rightly deserve.”

At that very moment, Nellie was quietly making her way into Julian’s room. There, she spotted the pitcher of water on the stand next to the bed. From her pocketbook, she retrieved an envelope of vicious looking crystals which she poured into the pitcher. She frowned as they dissolved. “God forgive me,” She muttered to herself.



Did you miss Chapters 1-131? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Practice Forgiveness

The changing of the year is the perfect time to let go of negative feelings and start anew with a sense of peace. Throughout the last 365 days, we’ve all probably encountered situations wherein we’ve felt slighted and ill-used. While continuing to allow ourselves to be in such situations is unhealthy, we should also remember that holding onto anger is equally damaging. Release yourself from those hurt feelings and forgive the people and circumstances who caused them. Allow yourself to carry on without that extra burden.


And, most importantly, learn to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made over the last year. No individual is perfect. We all have errors in judgment. Learn from the mistakes you’ve make, and let yourself be free of them. With a clean slate, the new year can be as fulfilling as you let it be.

Object of the Day: Hebe and Jupiter’s Eagle

This unsigned bronze sculpture on a green marble base depicts Hebe—the daughter of Jupiter and Juno—astride her father’s eagle. Hebe was the goddess of youth and the cupbearer of the gods. Often depicted as a lithe figure of ideal beauty, Hebe was a frequent subject of Nineteenth Century French sculptors whose goal was to present the feminine ideal. The subject remained popular well into the 1930’s as the female form became more abstracted, relying on curvilinear planes and organic shapes.


This particular sculpture is modeled after the work of Francois Rude who often sculpted Hebe with Jupiter’s eagle. I would place the sculpture as having been cast in the early Twentieth Century. The fierceness of the eagle is contrasted against the softness of the figure of Hebe in keeping with Classical depictions of the subject.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Royal Commode

Commode
Bernard (II) Van Risamburgh
1745
Purchased by King George IV
The Royal Collection
This commode (or vanity) was created circa 1745 by Bernard Van Risamburgh.  Van Risamburgh, who went by his initials, BVRB, was celebrated for his furniture-making skills and his use of lacquer and marquetry.  To create this piece, the black lacquer was stripped from a Seventeenth Century Japanese screen, and transferred to this commode.  Any imperfections in the lacquer were hidden with the many ormolu mounts and marble top.  BVRB was able to piece together several sections of the original antique screen so that the painted scene would remain intact.  It was, truly, quite a masterful destruction of an antique, and with surprisingly attractive results.  This commode was purchased by King George IV who had a love of Asian-inspired art and is now part of The Royal Collection.

Submit Your Nominations for “Humanitarian of the Week”

In 2011, we’ll begin anew with our focus on those individuals whose dedication to humanitarian efforts has made a tremendous difference in our world. We’ll focus on those people who are known to us through their work in the arts and humanities, but whose charitable works know no occupation or title.

As we did in 2010, next year, we’ll name a “Humanitarian of the Year.” I have a good many people in mind for articles, but I’d like to know who interests you. Simply submit your nomination via email and I will consider that individual for inclusion in our list.

I look forward to seeing who you’ll submit!

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Michael Rooney, RA

The Photographer's Studio
Mick Rooney
The Royal Academy
Royal Academician Michael Rooney was a passionate painter at an early age, studying at the Royal College of Art and British School in Rome. His work is unusual, mysterious, atmospheric and almost spooky in a way that puts one in mind of the work of a polychrome Charles Addams. For that reason alone, I find it charming.


Michael, known as “Mick” Rooney, says this of his work:

I am a narrative painter who seeks stories to tell, and as such I am ever conscious of the perceived difference between ‘high art’ and illustration. I prefer the word illumination which, rich with the promise of clarity and insight, somehow speaks directly to the soul.

Woman with Fishes
Mick Rooney
The Royal Academy
At once startling and exciting, Mick Rooney’s work doesn’t struggle to show an idealized life, but, rather to show the very essence of life. These bug-eyed children, for example, would be quite gruesome if one encountered them on the street, but in their painted form, they do seem like an excellent representation of many of the children I saw writhing around stores this past week. Similarly, the painting “Woman with Fishes”—this is not just a portrait of a woman with fishes, but rather a statement of those clammy, dull moments which we all experience every so often. No, it’s not pretty in a conventional way. But, we often give up traditional beauty for the truth of experience.

Film of the Week: “Make Way for Tomorrow,” 1937

It would make a stone cry.

--Orson Welles on Make Way for Tomorrow

Director Leo McCarey was best known for his Depression-era comedies with stars such as The Marx Brothers, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. He’s also affectionately remembered as the writer and director who brought us many sentimental favorites such as Love Affair, An Affair to Remember and The Bells of St. Mary’s.

However, one of his best films is one which has largely been forgotten until recently. 1937’s Make Way for Tomorrow seems to have been lost amongst McCarey’s other films in the historical record, yet it’s an excellent picture worthy of recognition.

The film concerns a couple in their seventies—Lucy and Barkley Cooper (played by Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore) who have lost their home to foreclosure and gather four of their five grown children at the house to explain the state of their affairs. The fifth child, a wealthy daughter, lives in California and isn’t able to join the others. The Cooper children make a half-hearted attempt to help their parents—none of them wanting to take both parents in, and none of them wishing to have their own lives disrupted. And, so, Lucy and Barkley are split up—each going to a different child’s home where they find themselves treated as unwelcome intrusions.

Lucy holds out hope that Barkley will find a job and that they will, one day, be together. However, their self-centered children use circumstances to further keep their parents apart—just for their own convenience, and devise a way to get each parent out of their homes.

I saw this film for the first time over Christmas. To be honest, at first, I didn’t like it. However, after awhile, I found that it was really quite an excellent film with a lot to say. The initial scenes of Lucy and Barkley irritated me because I felt as though neither of them was taking their situation seriously enough. At one point in the film this was explained when Lucy says to her granddaughter that at her age, the only enjoyment left to be had is, “pretendin’ that there ain’t any facts to face, so would you mind if I just kept pretendin’?” From that point on, I began to enjoy the picture and, especially, the performance of Beulah Bondi who was, once again, playing much older than her actual age.

Joining Moore and Bondi in the cast are the always-excellent Fay Bainter and Thomas Mitchell. This is a picture filled with excellent performances and clever writing, and I’m glad that it’s being recognized.

Make Way for Tomorrow was Leo McCarey’s favorite of the over two-hundred films that he directed. Also in 1937, McCarey directed the comedy, The Awful Truth—a film which won him an Academy Award for Best Director. When he accepted the Oscar, he stated, “Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture.”





Punch's Cousin, Chapter 131

Nellie stood and glared at Mr. Punch. “It’s easy for you, isn’t it?”


“Nothin’s ‘specially easy for me.” Mr. Punch said, widening Julian’s eyes.

“You can just sit there on the floor with your puppet and your dog and judge me.” Nellie continued.

“Ain’t judgin’ you.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “Asked a simple question—one what don’t need to have a long answer. Seems to me it’s a question what should get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’”

“How could you possibly think that I’m here to do harm to Adrienne and her family?” Nellie put her hands over her face.

“Easy.” Mr. Punch sighed. “See, anyone what’s got anything to do with Iolanthe Evangeline—in my short time here—seems to be under some sort of spell, only thinkin’ to do whatever it is that the ogress wants. You come from Iolanthe’s house…”

“So does Adrienne!” Nellie snapped.

“Many years ago.” Mr. Punch said. “We know what Adrienne’s about. But, I don’t know you, I don’t. Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout you.”

“You’re a rude beast is what you are!” Nellie shouted.

Adrienne came rushing down the stairs and into the parlor.

“What’s all this?” Adrienne asked.

“Your dear friend,” Nellie sniffed, “has accused me of being in collusion with Iolanthe Evangeline and having come here to somehow infiltrate your family.”

“Didn’t accuse.” Mr. Punch argued. “Just asked a question.”

“I’m sure Mr. Punch didn’t mean any harm.” Adrienne said. “After all, he doesn’t know you, and his main concern has always been for the well-being of our family.”

“Oh, take his side, then.” Adrienne snapped. “I’ll tell you this, his sister was correct when she said he’s a madman. Look at him, sittin’ there on the floor with his toys like a child. What sort of person is this?”

“Nellie, I wish to help you, but I won’t have you say anything against Mr. Punch.” Adrienne said firmly.

“So, you been talkin’ to Barbara Allen, have you?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Of course!” Nellie growled. “I was the one who was instructed to show her around Iolanthe’s house when she arrived. Certainly she’d tell me about herself as we go to know one another! She’s not the only one who says you’re a looney. Iolanthe…”

“Nellie, can you really mean that you’d believe anything Iolanthe has told you?” Adrienne asked.

Nellie narrowed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I think I’d like to go up to my room.”

“We’re just about to have breakfast.” Adrienne responded.

“I’m not hungry.” Nellie replied as she walked from the room.

Adrienne sighed and sat in the chair across from the spot where Punch sat on the floor.

“Terrible sorry,” Mr. Punch said softly. “Only I had to ask. I just wanted to know if she was still workin’ for Iolanthe—maybe sent here to watch us and see what we’re doin’.”

“It’s a natural thought, dear Punch.” Adrienne smiled. “And, one, I’m afraid that should have occurred to me. I was so caught up in my own memories of trying to extricate myself from Iolanthe that I hadn’t considered it. Nellie was always quite loyal to me. She was a good friend. When I saw that she was in need, I naturally wanted to help her. And, yet, she’s always been loyal to Iolanthe, too. I thought that her realization that Iolanthe is dangerous was a good thing. But, perhaps it was false. I don’t like to distrust people for whom I once felt affection, but times as they are, I find that I can’t necessarily go ahead on blind faith. Everything’s become so complicated, I’m afraid. It’s not my nature to be doubtful, nor to cast aside anyone who needs my help, however, I think you were just in asking her what you did, and I thank you for continuing to protect my family.”

“She didn’t answer me question.” Mr. Punch said. “Do ya think she could be false?”

“I don’t know.” Adrienne shook her head. “We’ll need to watch and see, I suppose.”

Meanwhile, upstairs, Nellie barked at Meridian as she passed the woman in the hallway. “Girl!”

Meridian turned around with wide eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Is there a boy in this house who can carry a letter?” Nellie asked.

“There is,” Meridian said. “Only, as housekeeper here, I’ll tell you that I ain’t sendin’ one of my boys with a letter to Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“Impertinent!” Nellie snapped. “What makes you think I’d send a letter there?”

“I only thought…”

“It isn’t your place to think. Now, is it?” Nellie demanded.

“Beggin’ your pardon, Ma’am, but it is my place to think. I work in this house. I work here for Dr. Biamenti, but I ain’t no slave. I’m a free woman, see. Dr. Biamenti done made it clear to me that I’m to have a mind of my own and to make the decisions that he would make while he’s away. The safety of the folk that live and work in this fine house is my responsibility.”

“Just take the letter,” Nellie grumbled, reaching into her pocket book and removing an envelope.

Meridian examined the envelope and saw that the address was Royal Street.

“This is just up the road.” Meridian said.

“Do you see,” Nellie began, “that you’ve misjudged me? Do you see that?”

“I see that this letter is to be delivered to Mr. Edward Cage’s house. But, there ain’t no name on it. Just initials. You wanna put a name on it?”

“There’s only one person staying at that house with those initials. It will be delivered to the right person.”

“Very well,” Meridian nodded. “Mr. Cage done arrived last night along with his wife and family. So I’m told. Unless, of course, the letter is for someone else who’s stayin’ there.”

“That’s really not your concern. Is it?” Nellie scowled.

“I’ll have a boy take it over right away.” Meridian nodded.

“And, there’s no sense in mentioning this to anyone! My correspondence is my own private affair!” Nellie said.

“As you wish,” Meridian nodded, smiling slightly. “Will you be down for breakfast, ma’am?”

“No.” Nellie frowned.

“You want me to bring a tray up for ya?” Meridian asked.

“No!” Nellie said, flouncing into her room.

Meridian chuckled to herself, studying the envelope she’d been given. With a sigh, she hurried down the staircase and stopped in the parlor.

“Mrs. Halifax?” Meridian began.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch interrupted. “Are we ready for breakfast?”

“As soon as Dr. and Mr. Halifax come down, we are, Mr. Punch.” Meridian smiled.

“Ah.” Punch sighed.

“Mrs. Halifax,” Meridian continued, “Your guest, Miss Nellie, she’s got some correspondence that she wants sent out. I was wonderin’ if maybe you had anything to be delivered, too. That way, I could send Leroy to make one trip.”

“No, I don’t have anything.” Adrienne said slowly.

“Well, if you do, just put it on the silver tray on the hall table where I’m gonna leave this letter from Miss Nellie so that Leroy can pick it up. I’ll send him out in about ten minutes. ‘Til then, this’ll be waiting on the hall table.” Meridian said pointedly.

“Thank you, Meridian.” Adrienne smiled.

Meridian exited, depositing the letter in the place she’d specified.

“Sendin’ out letters, is she?” Mr. Punch asked, absent-mindedly petting Toby’s ears with the hand that wasn’t covered in puppet.

“She has that right,” Adrienne nodded. “As our guest.”

“Wonder who she could be writin’,” Mr. Punch frowned.

Adrienne glanced through the doorway to the hall table. “Yes, I wonder.”



Did you miss Chapters 1-130? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make Reasonable Resolutions

As 2010 comes to a close, we begin to look to the future. In Dickensian fashion, the year ahead of us is cloaked in mystery and points forward with a long bony finger. Despite the sometimes ominous bravado of the future, we shouldn’t fear it, but rather look to it with hope.


Many of us traditionally make “New Year’s Resolutions” which range from getting in shape to the cessation of bad habits. But, it’s important to make reasonable, realistic resolutions for yourself. Setting yourself up for failure will only prove frustrating in the end. So, as you look to your future, look to your past. Know the things that you could have done differently, and know your capabilities as a person. Accept those things about yourself which you cannot change, and find ways to compensate for them. All the while, remember that you’re a worthwhile person who is capable of great things.

When making your list of resolutions, focus on the positive. This is not a time to list the litany of your flaws, but rather a time to rejoice in the things you do which are positive. Resolve to do more of the latter and the former will diminish in time. Be realistic about yourself, and you’ll find that the person you’ll be in the upcoming year will only be a reflection of the good within you.

Object of the Day: A Toothsome Stickpin

Among the surprises under the Christmas tree for me this year was this handsome Victorian stickpin. An unusually long gold shaft has been set with a shimmering tooth. We’re not quite sure from what kind of creature the tooth came, but it’s certainly a pointy, vicious-looking chomper.


English gentlemen in the Victorian era often wore jewelry set with teeth. This trend was made fashionable by Prince Albert who frequently had the teeth of the animals that he hunted set into jewelry as gifts for friends and family. If we think about it, using teeth in jewelry, while it sounds strange to our Twenty-first Century ears, is no more unusual than using pearls. Pearls are also a biological creation from the interior of a creature. And, some teeth, such as this one, are just as attractive as any pearl.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s Portrait Bracelet, 1839

Gold Serpent Bracelet with Enamel Portrait of
Queen Victoria
Commissioned by the Queen, 1839
Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Enamel
The Royal Collection
Over a period of several years, Queen Victoria had commissioned a set of bracelets from the Royal Jewelers at Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. These bracelets—gold, set with rubies (for passion), diamonds (for eternity) and a serptentine design (to suggest “wisdom”)—all featured enamel portraits of Queen Victoria copied by hand by Henry Pierce Bone after the Coronation portrait by George Hayter. The only difference was that Victoria ordered that she not be wearing the Imperial Crown in the enamel portraits on the bracelets since they were to be given as personal gifts.


Bracelet Reverse
The Royal Collection
This is one of those bracelets—one of the originals, in fact, which is housed in the Royal Collection. The reverse of the bracelet shows the queen’s insignia “V.R.” for Victoria Regina and the date of July, 1839. This bracelet, it is believed, was given as a special gift by the queen to her mother.




Sculpture of the Day: A Figure of Queen Victoria in Classical Robes, 1847

Queen Victoria
John Gibson, 1847
The Royal Collection
Symbols of royal power are long-seated in tradition. Very often, to show the permanence of power, an artist will return to Classical ideals in creating a portrait of a monarch. Such was the case with this life-size portrait sculpture of Queen Victoria. Sculpted in 1847 by John Gibson, this lovely statue in the Classical Greek style was cut from fine, pure-white marble which was, then, painted in the polychrome color-scheme thought to have been typical of ancient Greek sculptures.


Overtime, the over-painting was removed, and what remains is a very striking portrait of the woman who was once the most powerful in the world—in the style and pose of everlasting royalty.

Submit your Nominations for 2011’s People of the Week

In 2011, we’ll start anew with articles about individuals whose work in the arts and humanities have made a brilliant impact on our world. I already have a good many people in mind, but I’m looking to you to see who you think should be recognized.

Simply submit your ideas via email. I’m curious to see who has made a difference in your world through his or her work in the arts and humanities. My goal is to shine a spotlight on the efforts of forty-eight exceptional people. As we did this year, at the end of 2011, we’ll vote for our “Person of the Year.” Let’s start thinking of the exceptional people who make this world a brighter and more gracious place.

Treat of the Week: A Cozy Christmas Cottage

There’s nothing cozier than a snow-covered cottage at Christmastime—white smoke billowing from the chimney as the decorations twinkle in the ice. Unless, of course, that cottage is made from a moist, luxurious ginger cake—as is the case of this delicious cottage which my mother baked and decorated for dessert on Christmas Day.
This cute confection consists of a tender, light ginger cake which has been baked in a mould resembling a wee house. How she manages to get this out of the mould without cracking off the tops of the trees is beyond me, but that’s the skill of an excellent baker.

It’s as delicious as it is adorable. And, just the sight of it reduces everyone to a joyful child. I must accurately quote myself as having said, “I want a tree!”

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 130

Mr. Punch sat on the floor of the parlor, muttering to himself as he smelled the aromas of piping hot sausages, eggs, biscuits and other savory delights coming from the dining room where Meridian was laying out a decadent breakfast on the sideboard for her guests.


Perched atop Julian’s/Punch’s right hand was his puppet figure which Punch manipulated so that it appeared to perform a joyful dance. “Coo!” Mr. Punch cheered to Toby who sat nearby, also eagerly awaiting his breakfast, “It won’t be long now. A nice, peaceful breakfast. It’ll be grand, it will. Just us family and all that food.”

Toby barked his agreement.

“Well, then, Mr. Toby,” Mr. Punch continued, “just what have you got to say for yourself this morning?”

Toby wagged his tail.

“A fine response, I should say.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“And what say you, other Mr. Punch?” Punch asked his puppet.

“I say, let’s forget the others and have a go at those sausages,” Mr. Punch answered for himself, affecting a voice which was as close to Punch’s traditional squawk as Punch could create without the necessary “swazzle.”

Giggling from the hallway interrupted his cheerful conversation.

“Here,” Punch called, “Who’s there?”

“It is I,” Nellie said as she walked into the room.

“And what are you?” Mr. Punch asked, gently placing the puppet in his lap and wiggling his fingers to Toby so that the dog would come to him.

“We’ve not been introduced. They call me ‘Nellie.’” She responded, batting her eyelashes.

“Huh.” Mr. Punch grunted. “Have you any other name?”

“Just ‘Nellie.’”

“That don’t make sense. Everybody’s got at least two names, they do. Think of it, some would say me surname was Punch, but it ain’t. Me given name is Punch since I got a surname—Molliner—which is the same as the one which…” Mr. Punch paused and squinted at Nellie. “Listen, are you a wicked one or a good one?”

“I should like to think I’m good.” Nellie smiled.

“We’ll see, then. Won’t we? Adrienne said there was a woman here. Don’t want to play with me puppet, do ya?”

“No.” Nellie laughed.

“That’s fine.”

“You never finished introducing yourself, Sir.” Nellie sat down. “Customarily, a gentleman rises when a lady enters the room, and introduces himself.”

“Ah,” Mr. Punch nodded. “I can’t very well rise, see, as I got me dog with his head restin’ on me knee and it’d be a shame to bother this nice creature what’s comfortable. ‘Sides, I got me puppet in me lap and I don’t feel much like standin’.”

“Very well.” Nellie frowned. “You could at least introduce yourself. That should be simple enough.”

Mr. Punch chuckled. “Not quite as simple as you might like to think.” He sighed. “Did Adrienne tell you anythin’ ‘bout me?”

“She said that you were a Lord. Is that true?”

“Yes,” Mr. Punch nodded definitely, “this is the body of a Lord. Lord Fallbridge to be exact. That’s whose face you’re looking at. Lord Fallbridge’s given name is Julian. His surname is Molliner, and he’s a Lord cuz his mother is a Duchess. The Duchess of Fallbridge. That’s how all that works.”

“What shall I call you?” Nellie asked.

“Well, then, strange as it might seem…” Mr. Punch sighed again. “It’d be best to call me Mr. Punch.”

“As your friends do?” Nellie asked. “I’ve heard Mr. Halifax and his brother refer to you as Mr. Punch. They explained that it’s an affectionate name for you.”

“Funny, isn’t it, that folk’d have affection for Mr. Punch? Most of us are rogues, we are. But, we’re loveable rogues, I ‘spose. I’m not like the others in many ways, and in many ways I am.”

Nellie tapped her fingers impatiently, “Shall I, then, call you Mr. Punch?”

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “Seems to be the best thing. You’ll know when I’m not Mr. Punch. It’ll be different.”

Nellie nodded slowly.

“Ah, you don’t understand, do ya?” Mr. Punch laughed. “That’s to be expected. So, how do you know Adrienne?”

“I’ve known her a long time.” Nellie answered vaguely.

“Here, were you a whore?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Sir!” Nellie gasped. “You are impolite!”

“Not really,” Mr. Punch shrugged Julian’s shoulders. “I don’t mean nothin’ cruel by it. Ain’t no shame in sayin’ what you were or even what you are, long as it’s true. Lord Fallbridge’s sister is a whore. And, I know that Adrienne was. Don’t mean I love her any less. In fact, I love her more for it because she fought to get away from it, and it weren’t her fault in the first place. I mean, Adrienne—not Barbara. Barbara’s gone and chosen it. Adrienne didn’t. Did you?”

“I really don’t wish to have this conversation.” Nellie spat.

“Pardon me if I seem uncouth. I’m learnin’ ‘bout how to be a gentleman, I am. I meant no harm.”

Nellie nodded.

“Do you work for Iolanthe Evangeline?” Punch asked.

“I did.” Nellie said softly. “Mr. Halifax and Adrienne are going to help me.”

“That’s kind of them.” Mr. Punch smiled. “Now, I’ll beg your pardon in advance for askin’ this question should it offend you, but, see, I gotta ask. And, I’ll tell ya, I’d appreciate an honest answer because you know I’ll find out eventually. Did the ‘Ogress’ send ya here to spy on us? Is that why you’re here? See, I can look at your eyes and know that there’s a hardness inside ya. You’re hidin’ somethin’. So, tell me now, are you here to do the wicked work of Iolanthe Evangeline?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-129? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: The Art of Thanks

Most of us received gifts this holiday season, and while—hopefully—we thanked the giver at the time, it’s always a nice idea to send a “Thank you” note.  I like to think that this courtesy is one that hasn’t gone out of fashion.  My belief is that if someone has taken their time to shop for and select a gift for you, that’s worth taking a moment to write a sincere note of thanks.  As threadbare as the saying sounds, it really is the thought that counts.  So many people are caught up in the item itself, that we forget that more so than a financial investment, giving someone a gift requires a far greater expense—the expense of time. 

Object of the Day: A Baccarat Bunny

Since being given permission in 1764 by King Louis XV of France to start a crystal company, Baccarat has been producing some of the most beautiful and celebrated crystal and art glass in the world.


Among my collection of paperweights, a particular favorite of mine has always been this bunny by Baccarat. Fine black crystal reflects the simple shape of the rabbit—at once elegant and modern, but also reminiscent of the opulent curves of the crystal creations of the Eighteenth Century.

I’ve had this beautiful bunny for a couple of decades now, and I find myself admiring him just as much now as I did then.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Regular updates to Stalking the Belle Époque will resume on Monday, December 27, 2010.  Here’s wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!


Image: Adoration of the Shepherds, Guido Reni, 1640, The National Gallery, London

Treats of the Day: Assorted Candies

Cookies aren’t the only things to come out of my mother’s magical kitchen at Christmas.  Cakes, breads, puddings and a wide variety of savory dishes are beautifully produced.  And, so is candy.  This assortment of candies is always a welcome treat.  Splendidly molded chocolates sprinkled on the reverse with nonpareils shimmer in the light.  Some have been filled with nuts and dried fruit.  Cool, crunchy peppermint bark of white and dark chocolate layers is always a favorite.  And, of course, there’s always the luscious, creamy pralines—both traditional and chocolate.  This is the time of year when we should celebrate, and, in doing so, let the calorie counting rest for a few days. 


Ornament of the Day: Father Christmas

When I was a little boy, I loved the stories of Babar, the King of the Elephants.  One of my favorites was Babar and Father Christmas.  I always wanted to put a Father Christmas figure at the top of the Christmas tree.  However, no such tree topper was to be found.  Finally, when I was about thirteen, we found one, and I’ve had it ever since.  He tops the big tree in my dining room each year, and I just adore him. 





Reminder: "Punch's Cousin" Will Return on Monday

Punch’s Cousin will be taking a brief hiatus until Monday, December 27.  Of course, you can access the Chapter Archive here.  When we return, Mr. Punch and his friends will have many challenges to face as the calendar changes to 1853.  There’s lots of excitement in store…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Isaac Van Amburgh and Bertie

“All I’m saying is that I don’t appreciate when the lion tries to steal focus.  Now, are you gonna eat that lamb?”


Image: Isaac Van Amburgh and His Animals, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1839, The Royal Collection