Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where to Shop: Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry, San Francisco

A magnificent bracelet from Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry
Opened in 1969 by Czechoslovakian Jarmilla Lang, Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry is located in San Francisco’s famed Union Square. With their attention focused on selecting the finest antique and estate pieces, the friendly staff at “Lang” takes pride in transporting their customers and visitors to a gentler world of bygone days—a world of grace and elegance. Their selection is unparalleled. Even looking in their windows is a mesmerizing experience.

If you’re not able to visit San Francisco, Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry offers a glimpse into their collection through their wonderful Web site. If you’re in the market for a beautiful piece of jewelry or just enjoy looking, this is the place to go.

At the Musical Hall: "Let's All Go Down the Strand"

The Strand, 1824
Museum of London
Let's all go down the Strand -- Have a banana!
Let's all go down the Strand!

The Strand is a street in the City of Westminster in London, England which starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar and thus marks the boundary of the London. The name comes from the Old English word for “bank” or “shore” owing to the situation of the land on what was once a much wider Thames River. The South side of the street historically boasts the grand homes of notable and influential people. Later, when the mansions were destroyed or pulled down, The Strand acquired a reputation for being a “lively,” but rather dissolute section of town. In the late Nineteenth Century, The Strand was rehabilitated and became a fashionable address for creative people such as artists and writers—notably Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackery.

This famous street inspired a popular song of the early Twentieth Century. Let’s All Go Down the Strand, with words and music by Harry Castling and C. W. Murphy, tells the tale of a group of tourists staying in Trafalgar Square. The cheerful cry of, “Have a banana!” helped to make the song an instant hit in musical halls and in pubs.

Let’s All Go Down the Strand opens this clip from a 2009 production of Magnificence of Musical Hall. It also includes, Down at the Old Bull and Bush and Hello, Who’s Your Lady Friend. It has a nice authentic music hall feel to it.

Have a banana!

Masterpiece of the Week: The Statue of Liberty, 1886

Liberty Enlightening the World
National Park Service
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

--Emma Lazarus, 1903

Though we call her “The Statue of Liberty” her real name is “La Liberté éclairant le monde” or “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886, The statue was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. This colossal figure, designed in the Neoclassical Style, depicts a robed female bearing a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) inscribed with the date of American independence. In her right arm, she holds aloft a great torch, and at her feet lies a broken chain to symbolize freedom.

Sculptor Bartholdi
National Park Service
The statue was to be a gift to the United States provided that the U.S. provide the land and the base. Fundraising for the project proved difficult in both the U.S. and France until publisher Joseph Pulitzer became involved in the effort—spreading the word and heightening interest. The head and right arm of the figure were finished first. Both traveled and were put on display to bring attention to the project. With the statue finally completed, the pieces were shipped to the United States and assembled on the newly built pedestal erected on what was then called Bedloe’s Island.

The statue is supported by an iron-work armature which acts as a skeleton. Thin sheets of copper were hammered in a repoussé method and affixed to the internal structure. These metal sheets make the “skin” of the figure. This was one of the first instances of “curtain wall” construction where the façade of the structure is not load-bearing, but rather decorative. Two spiral staircases within the internal structure allowed visitors to access the observation deck within her crown.

The amber glass torch
National Park Service
The torch has been changed several times over the years. Originally, holes were cut into the torch so that it could act as a lighthouse, however, this proved to be ineffective. Then, a band of windows was constructed around the center of the flame, however this was not suitable either. The metal flame was replaced with a flame of amber glass and iron, topped with a pyramid-shaped skylight. This version of the torch proved an effective light, but was structurally unsound and leaked terribly. In the 1980’s a gilt metal flame based on Bartholdi’s original design replaced the glass version which is still on display at the site.

Lady Liberty has proudly stood in the New York harbor during times of war and times of peace. She welcomes people to our country and serves to remind us of our freedom. She represents the American spirit, and, in many ways is the face of the United States.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 42

Punch used Julian’s hand to knock on the door of the narrow brick house on Jouet Street. He could hear spirited music and female laughter inside.

The door swung open eagerly and a homely woman—overdressed in silk in feathers—glowered out at them.

“Whatchu wantin’?” The woman growled.

Imitating Lord Julian, Punch responded. “I’d like to see the mistress of the house.”

“Got a lot of mistresses here,” The woman cackled. “Which one ya want?”

“The proprietress—Miss Evangeline.” Punch answered in Julian’s voice.

“She don’t see no people off da street.” The woman pulled back her lips to reveal a black hole where he front teeth might have been.

“She’ll see me.” Punch answered in the way he thought Julian would. “I am Julian, Lord Fallbridge.”

“I see.” The woman whistled through her missing teeth. “I am Mala. So charmed to meet ya, Mr. Fallbridge.”

“Lord Fallbridge,” Punch corrected her. “My surname is Molliner.”

“Come right on in and we’ll see about getting someone for to take care of you.” Mala cackled again.

Punch and Naasir walked through the door into a surprisingly spacious outdoor courtyard anchored by a sputtering fountain in the middle of the decorative brick floor. Three French doors lined the back wall through which a crimson room filled with velvet chairs and gold-fringed drapery could be seen.

“Your man’s gonna have to stay out here.” Mala pointed to Naasir.

“No.” Punch said. “He comes with me.”

“Can’t.” Mala spat. “’S gotta stay out here.”

“I must come with His Lordship,” Naasir spoke up.

“Dem’s the rules.” Mala argued.

“Let him come in, Mala.” A woman hissed from the center set of doors. She was the woman from the docks—dressed in purple silk with long lavender gloves which clung to her arms as if they’d been swallowed by shining violet snakes.

“We want our visitors from abroad to feel welcome.” The woman continued.

“Miss Evangeline,” Mala spoke quickly. “You know how the law feels ‘bout dese things.”

“Mala, if the law were to come in here, they’d have a damn sight more to argue about than whether or not we let a colored man in the house.” Iolanthe Evangline laughed. “Besides, we already got two policemen here. They don’t seem to have any complaints. And, I certainly don’t want my guests—who have traveled so far to come here—to think that we’re ungracious. Now, go fetch the water for my bath!”

“Yes’m.” Mala nodded before trotting off.

“Do come in, Your Lordship.” Iolanthe Evangeline wiggled a finger at Naasir and Julian/Punch.

“Your girl is very dedicated.” Punch responded in Julian’s voice.

“All my girls are loyal.” The Elegant Ogress smiled coyly as they came into the parlor.

“What do you think of my humble establishment?” She asked.

“I think it’s exactly what one might expect.” Punch answered as he thought Julian might.

“So, what brings the fine Englishman to my home? I know it’s not because you’re looking for some company.” Iolanthe smiled.

“You know very well what brings me here.” Punch answered.

“Well, I don’t want you thinkin’ I’m disagreeable. But, you aren’t goin’ to get what you want.” Miss Evangeline grinned. “Our newest girl ain’t arrived yet. She’s off on other business. So, why don’t you make yourself at home and have a nice talk with me? I’m not so bad to look at am I? Even if I am a quadroon. I’m the prettiest of my kind. And, I’m nice and soft.” She reclined on a plush, scarlet chaise and laughed.

Punch scowled.

“Though from what I can gather of you, Your Lordship, you don’t much care for soft things. Do you?” The ogress continued.

“I don’t much care for you.” Punch said, his own voice creeping into his speech. “It’s a pretty color that red. Isn’t it? The color of blood.”

“My second favorite color.” Iolanthe Evangeline whispered.

“Where’s his sister?” Punch asked.

“His?” Iolanthe laughed. “Oh, yes, I forgot, you royal men like to speak of yourselves as if you’re talkin’ ‘bout someone else.”

“Where is she?” Punch shouted.

“Sir,” Naasir interrupted. “Do calm yourself. Remember who you are.”

“Here,” Punch continued to shout. “I know bloody well who I am. I’m here for that Barbara. She’s got what’s mine. She’s got the thing what she took from me and cleaved my head for!”

Punch reached into Julian’s pocket and withdrew the carving knife he’d taken from the house on Royal Street. The blade glinted against the light of the sparkling glass chandeliers.

“Mr. Punch!” Naasir reached for Julian’s arm.

Iolanthe Evangeline clapped her hands twice—sharply.

From behind the velvet drapes, two hulking men appeared.

“Now, now,” Iolanthe clucked her tongue. “Even if you are a royal man, you can’t be rowdy in my house.”

She nodded her head at the two men. “Boys, take these two gentlemen to my rooms and make them ready for me. I’ll be along shortly.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-41? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 43 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Don't be Bullied

You don’t have to be in school to encounter a bully. The bullies from the playground grew up to be even bigger bullies. We encounter bullies in all walks of life—in offices, in stores, on the road. These are people who are frightened and angry. They lash out because they want you to feel as bad as they do. Don’t let them.

There’s no need to be antagonistic. Simply rise above them. By responding to them, you’re only giving them the power that they want. All you need to do is go on about your business. By taking the wind out of their sails, they won’t have the energy or the desire to bully you any further.

You are your own person, you are your own director. The way you think, act and feel is ultimately up to you. Remember your own power and worth and let the bullies eat themselves.

Object of the Day: A Walnut Curio Cabinet circa 1920

On this September 11, I thought we should look at American ingenuity of design. This walnut curio cabinet dates to the early 1920’s and tells a tale of American flare. The cabinet itself is solidly, but delicately, built. Faced with smooth burled walnut, the case has a gentle curve to the front. The door itself is one large sheet of glass, mounted with a stylized scalloped design to give the impression of mullions. With its glass shelves and sides, this cabinet was obviously built to display crystal and other fine objects which would benefit from being seen from all angles.

American designers of the early 1920’s had a desire to create simplified traditional shapes. Their dependence on gentle curves and highly polished surfaces speaks of elegance and confidence. These two ideals defined American thinking of the time and remind us that The United States offers many qualities of which we can be proud.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Fun: The Tragical Comedy of the Famed and Fabulous Mr. Punch

I leave you on this Friday evening with this fine bit of weirdness. From the best I can gather, it’s a student film. It’s beautifully strange, and, captures the flavor of our beloved Punch. Enjoy!

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Painted Panel Depicting Street Performers, 1810

Painted Panel, 1810
Victoria & Albert Museum
While browsing the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, I stumbled upon this charming painting from 1810. The artist is unknown, however, this painted board is in excellent condition, and, thankfully has been preserved by the museum.

This street scene would have been a typical sight in early Nineteenth-Century London. A group of street performers has gathered in an alley. A clown-like jester beats his drum to signal the start of the show which includes a violinist, and, most notably, Mr. Punch peeking out from his theater. Below him, a child reaches out to see if she can touch Mr. Punch.

Since this was painted in 1810, odds are that this was a “Punch and Joan” show as Mr. Punch’s wife’s name had yet to be changed. During this phase of Mr. Punch’s life, his wife was actually the aggressor. Around the time her name changed, so did her personality, and she became the object of Punch’s outbursts as opposed to the cause of it. I find this piece to be incredibly charming—especially the glint in Punch’s eye as he peers out as if to say, “Here, look at me!” Let’s hope Mr. Punch continues to draw a crowd for centuries to come.

Antique Image of the Day: Mary of Teck, 1868

Mary of Teck, 1868
The Royal Collection
Mary of Teck (1867-1953) was born Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes. She was engaged to the heir to the British throne Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. However, six weeks into their engagement, he died from pneumonia. Mary was then betrothed to his brother, George, the next heir to the throne. Upon George V’s coronation, Mary became Queen Mary, the Queen Consort. She preferred to use the name “Mary” over “Victoria” to avoid having the same name as her husband’s grandmother, the late Queen Victoria.

This interesting hand-tinted photograph of Mary was taken for her mother and later bequeathed to the queen herself. Housed in a gilt locket studded with cabochon lapis alzuli, the image shows Mary of Teck as a cherubic toddler with rosy cheeks.

This is probably disrespectful, but when I think of Mary of Teck, I tend to immediately think of her rather large head. When you look at her jewels at the Tower of London, you can’t help but notice that her crown is quite a lot larger than everyone else’s. You can see evidence of her large head in this photo from her infancy. But, that’s neither here nor there. She was firm, but loving and very well-respected. Sir Henry "Chips" Channon had this to say of Queen Mary: "[she was] above politics ... magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen."

Congratulations to Our Contest Winner

Many thanks to all of you who entered our second trivia contest. Our winner is Missouri’s Shawn Cripe who was the first to submit all ten correct answers. Shawn will receive his very own “Stalking the Belle Époque” canvas tote bag. Special mention goes to Abhishek Duggal who answered 9 out of 10 correctly.

For those of you keeping track, here are the answers to the questions.

1. In Punch’s Cousin, what is the name of Robert Halifax’s brother?  Cecil Halifax
2. Who wrote the parody song, Burlington Bertie from Bow?   William Hargreaves
3. What is the real name of the Vanity Fair artist who called himself “Spy?”   Sir Leslie Ward
4. What studio produced the Montgomery Clift/Elizabeth Taylor film Raintree County?   MGM
5. Who wrote the poem upon which Hubert Parry’s song, “Jerusalem” is based?   William Blake
6. In Punch’s Cousin, how did Sir Collin Molliner die?   He was murdered by thieves in France.
7. Which British king is the subject of an unusual autochrome housed in The Royal Collection?   King Edward VII
8. Morganite is a member of which mineral family?   Beryl
9. “The Fair Rosamond” was the mistress of which British King?   King Henry II
10. Film historian Robert Osborne started as an actor at which television studio in the 1950’s?   Desilu Studios

Congratulations, Shawn!

Pets of the Belle Époque: "Tiney," A Scotch Terrier

Meet “Tiney.” Tiney was a “Scotch Terrier” (though unlike any I’ve ever seen) who lived with the Royal Family in 1866. As we can see, Tiney was well-loved. His photo was taken in 1866 by court photographer, William Bambridge. This image comes from Queen Victoria’s personal collection of photographs. Clearly, Tiney was an important dog—important enough to have his picture taken. Considering that most people in 1866 had never been photographed, the fact that Tiney was is rather outstanding. For more images of nobility and their pets, visit the Royal Collection’s exhibition, “Noble Hounds and Dear Companions.”

Decorating Tip: Bring your Space to Life

Do you have a space in your home that just seems a little flat or lifeless? If you do, one way to bring some immediate life to it is with the addition of a house plant. Many people fear plants and think that they’re impossible to keep alive. This really isn’t the case. Most houseplants only require two things: sunlight and water. If you make sure that your plant has enough light, that’s half the battle right there.

As far as watering plants, that’s really going to depend on the humidity in your area. Here, I water my indoor plants once a week. One thing I would recommend is to leave the plant in a separate, plastic container (even the one that it came in). Just place that container in the decorative object you’ll be using to display the plant. When it comes time to water your plants, remove them from their decorative homes and place then, in their plastic containers, in the kitchen sink. Let them sit there to drain for a few hours after you’ve watered them. That way, you know you won’t have any build-up of standing water. Another handy little tool is a glass water globe. Just fill them up with water once a week, and the plant can draw as much water as it needs from them.

Plantzilla likes sunshine.
Adding a plant to a room brings color and life into the space. The addition of a live plant adds dimension and motion to a room. With just the slightest effort most plants will live a long time. As testament to that, I would like to point out the fiddle-leaf fig that’s called “Plantzilla.” Plantzilla lived in my parents’ house for many years before coming here eight years ago. As you can see, at ten feet tall, she’s doing quite well even though she’s about twenty years old. Just for reference, she started out life as a small potted plant--small enough to sit on an end table.  If I can keep Plantzilla alive, surely anybody can manage with a normal sized plant. 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 41

Mr. Punch whooped with glee as the cold December rain stung Julian’s face.

“Isn’t it something?” He cheered.

“What’s that, Sir?” Naasir asked, wiping his face as they walked down Royal Street.

“The way these humans feel things.” Punch grinned. “I don’t feel nothin’ like this when I’m on me own. Wicked lot of trouble these bodies, but I gotta say, it’s somethin’ they way they feel.”

“We should take care that His Lordship doesn’t catch cold in this dampness.” Naasir said.

“Don’t you worry,” Punch laughed. “I’m not gonna let anythin’ happen to me master’s body.”

“I hope not, Sir.” Naasir answered.

Punch spun around to look at Naasir, “You wouldn’t be challenging me? Would you?”

“No,” Naasir smiled. “I’m only trying to look after both of you.”

“Well that’s fine, then.” Punch grinned, propelling Julian’s body to walk again.

“Where are we going, Mr. Punch?” Naasir trotted to catch up.

“Thirty-eight Jouet Street.” Punch answered. “That’s what me master and that bugger Arthur found back home. Me master’s sister wrote it in her own hand. That’s where the ‘ogress’ lives.”

“I see.” Naasir said.

“Do you know where that is?” Punch asked.

“No, Sir.” Naasir smiled.

“Well, we’ll find it!” Punch whooted happily. “We’re on an adventure, us two, walking on our legs and such.”

“Yes.” Naasir smiled.

“Never had legs afore I took up residence in Lord Julian.” Punch continued. “Didn’t like ‘em at first. Only know I’m used to ‘em and I must say that they’re right handy things.”

“They can be.” Naasir agreed.

They hurried toward the French Quarter—soaked to the skin.

Naasir shivered.

The Vieux Carré, despite the rain, was a bustle of people—some stumbling, unaware of the downpour and the chill. Others skittered past under umbrellas. A group of Creole men were singing at the top of their lungs, sheltered by a wrought iron balcony lit by gas lamps.

“What a place!” Punch cheered. “Listen to ‘em sing!”

“Let the good times roll.” Naasir smiled. “The Quarter is always alive with gaiety.”

“We can sing better ‘n’ them!” Punch shouted to Naasir, rain drops falling into Julian’s mouth. “Come on! Sing!”

“You begin, Sir.” Naasir laughed.

“In Scarlet Town, where I was born, there was a fair maid dwellin’! Made many a youth cry well-a-day, her name, it was Barbara Allen!” Punch sang with considerable gusto. “Come on, man, sing along!”

“Don’t know the words, Sir.” Naasir chuckled.

“Lot of good you are.” Punch grumbled. “Then, just make some noise! Hum along or somethin’!”

Naasir hummed loudly as Punch sang. “All in the merry month of May when green buds they were swellin', young Jemmye Grove on his deathbed lay for love of Barbara Allen.”

Punch whooped with joy again.

“Here,” he paused, “Them blokes look like they know what’s what. Come on, let’s ask ‘em.” Punch pointed Julian’s finger toward a group of gentleman standing beneath the overhang of a public house.

Punch sauntered up to them with Naasir following quickly behind.

“Evenin’ gents,” Punch grinned.

“Good evening.” One of them responded.

“My man and I are looking for a woman.” Punch continued.

“Who isn’t?” The man laughed, his friends chimed in loudly.

“A particular woman.” Punch laughed, too.

“Where does this lady live, Sir?” The obvious leader of the group asked cheerfully.

“She ain’t no lady, if you know what I’m sayin’.” Punch answered.

“I do, Sir. I do.” The man winked.

The other men guffawed.

“The address is Thirty-Eight Jouet Street.” Punch smiled.

“I should say you’re not looking for a lady.” The man leaned forward. “I see what you’re after. Just over there on the other side of the shops.” He pointed. “Just be careful sure to get out once you’ve had your fun. Never know when one of them witches will stab you in the heart and take your purse!” The laughter of the other men swelled. “All things considered, it’s worth the danger!”

“You’re a lot of help,” Punch nodded happily. “I’m in your debt.”

“Say nothin’ of it.” The man grinned. “If we don’t see you in two hours, we’ll assume you done got your guts spilled.”

“No one’s gonna spill me guts.” Punch laughed. “I ain’t got guts!”

“Son, you got your nose wide open.” The man chuckled. “Best to ya!”

“Good night,” Punch said. “Come, Naasir.”

“I don’t wish to be disagreeable, Sir.” Naasir panted, again, wiping the rainwater from his face. “However, this might not be the kind of place we’d want His Lordship to go.”

“Ah, Julian’s in there doin’ whatever it is he does.” Punch thumped Julian’s chest. “He won’t know what we done or where we been.”

“As you say, Mr. Punch.” Naasir answered nervously.

Punch stopped and opened Julian’s coat. “Look at what I got.” Punch said with considerable pleasure. He withdrew a long knife.

“Where did you get that, Mr. Punch?” Naasir asked, wide-eyed.

“From the sideboard in the dining room.” Punch smiled. “No, it ain’t me master’s guts that are gonna be spilled.

At that very moment, back on Royal Street, Robert grunted awake, coughing, as Meridian entered Lord Julian’s room.

“Julian?” Robert muttered.

“No, Dr. Halifax. It’s jus’ me.” Meridian said merrily

“Ah.” Robert nodded slowly. “Do you know where His Lordship is?”

“Not rightly.” Meridian shook her head as she stirred the fire in the hearth. “He done went out with his man nigh on half an hour ago.”

Robert squinted at the window. “In this rain?”

“Guess they be wantin’ some adventure.” Meridian laughed. “You know how folk get when they come to New Orleans. Ain’t no skin off my back.”

Robert sighed and rose cautiously off the settee. “Do you happen to know of a woman called ‘The Elegant Ogress?’”

“What you wantin’ to know ‘bout her for?” Meridian said sternly, her eyes wide.

“I’m just curious.”

“You don’t want to be messin’ with that one. No, Sir. She’s got that place on Jouet Street where men go in, but sometimes they don’t come out. No, Sir, you don’t want no part of that.”

“Thank you, Meridian.” Robert answered.

He waited for the woman to leave before returning to his room to fetch his coat. “Punch, Punch, Punch, what are you doing?” He muttered as he searched for his boots. “Please, God, let Naasir have the sense to keep that poor man out of harm’s way.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-40? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Arrange your Books

Many of us are unsure how to organize our book collections. You don’t have to follow the Dewey Decimal System unless you’re lending your books out like a library. The real question is how you use your books. If you keep them around for purely decorative purposes, then you might as well arrange them by color and size. I must admit, that the visual aspects of books play a large part in how I arrange them. However, I always try to keep subject matter in mind. Group your books according to subject. That way, if you’re looking for a specific title, you’ll know, in general, where to find it.

Take a few minutes today to have a look at your book collection. If it’s a nonsensical jumble, try to place volumes in an order that you understand. It’ll save you precious minutes when you’re hunting for just the right book.

Object of the Day: An Embroidered Victorian Book Cover

The English Victorians took every opportunity that they could to add embellishment to the items that they used every day. Books were no exception. This remnant of a Victorian book cover is testament to that fact. Most likely, this cover was created for a personal journal, photo album or a collection of post-cards or souvenirs.

Beautifully embroidered in gold thread, this cover is trimmed with silk fringe and lace and decorated with sequins and rhinestones. Many hours and much artistry were devoted to crafting this magnificent cover. Only the top remains. Just what it covered remains a mystery. I found this artifact at the traveling Antique Elegance Show and was enchanted by its artistry. It now is housed in a custom-built shadow box to protect it as it had once protected its precious contents.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Get to Know The House of Fabergé

Romanov Russia, Limited
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name, “Fabergé?” Yep. Those nifty Russian eggs. However, there’s more to The House of Fabergé than just stunning enameled and bejeweled eggs.

The Fabergé family has its roots in France, where in the Seventeenth Century, their name was recorded as Favri. Over two hundred fifty thousand French Protestants (known as Huguenots) fled the country around 1685 due to the anti-Protestant campaigns in France. Among them was the Favri family. As they traveled throughout Europe, the Favri name changes several times-- Favry, Fabri, Fabrier and by 1825, to Fabergé. They worked mainly as tobacco planters. Then, in 1830, Gustav Fabergé traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to train to be a master goldsmith.

Diamond and Aquamarine Brooch
Romanov Russia, Limited
Gustav Fabergé, in 1842, opened a jewelry shop in a Russian basement. At the time, the name appealed to the Russian nobility who favored French design and culture so much so that French was the language of the court. The Fabergé line became quite popular. Gustav later married Charlotte Jungstedt, the daughter of a Danish Painter. Their son, Carl Fabergé would carry on the family name. Known as a master designer and craftsman, Carl was invited to repair the valuable objects at the Hermitage Museum.

Romanov Russia, Limited
Under Carl’s direction, The House of Fabergé thrived. In 1885 saw the start of a tradition when Tsar Alexander III commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter egg to be presented to Empress Maria Fedorovna. The tradition of the Tsar making of gift of a magnificent jeweled and enameled egg each Easter continued until 1917. Forty-two of these remarkable eggs survive.

The House of Fabergé created a full line of opulent jewelry and decorative items in their signature enamel. They also produced fine glass and silver designs. Their works graced the bodies and homes of royalty, nobility and the most elite.

The Russian Revolution proved problematic for this prominent family with ties to the Imperial Court. Imprisonment, terror and illness marked a dozen years of their lives. Finally, the family again settled in France, opening a shop in Paris.

Since then, the Fabergé name has been sold to numerous corporations. The name was used for a variety of products including fragrances and cosmetics. In 2009, Fabergé Limited launched a new up-market jewelry line in the tradition of Carl Fabergé. The name will always be associated with the most opulent works—true pieces of art which will be treasured for centuries to come.

Romanov Russia, Limited

Gem of the Week: Alexandrite

Adin Fine Antique Jewelry,
A rare variety of chrysoberel , Alexandrite exhibits unusual color change properties due to the presence of chromium oxide. In natural light, Alexandrite exhibits a pine-green color. In incandescent light, the stone appears to have a yellow or orange color. And, in candlelight, the color is a fiery reddish pink to purple color.

Discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in 1830, Alexandrite was named for Czar Alexander II. A form of Alexandrite is also now mined in Sri Lanka, however this stone displays a different range of colors than the more valuable Russian Alexandrite. Sri Lankan Alexandrite tends to have a color range from blue to brown.

Alexandrite Bar Pin
Russian, circa 1890
A La Vieille Russie, Fifth Avenue, New York
Natural Alexandrite is extremely rare. If you happen to find an Alexandrite piece, make sure to ask if it’s natural or synthetic. Most often, the stone will be synthetic or a color-treated spinel. A true Alexandrite will display subtle colors as opposed to the brighter, more neon colors of synthetic.

Popular in Russian jewelry design of the Romanov Era, Alexandrite was also a favorite of French and English designers. Though difficult to find, this stone is one of the most unique and attractive gems created by our planet.

Term for the Day: Piercing

Never do a Google search for “piercing furniture.” Just a friendly warning… In terms of the decorative arts, piercing refers to the removal of material through carving with a sharp implement to create a pattern. Piercing is a technique that is employed with a variety of media. Silver and other metals can be pierced to create a pattern. Similarly, wood can be referred to as pierced. The absence of material makes the design.

For example, the crest of this Eastlake pedestal has been pierced. Not only does this give the crest an interesting design in addition to the other carving, it also gives a glimpse of the pedestal’s shaft. Piercing was a popular technique in Victorian design and remains one that is often emulated today.

Decorating Tip: Attractive Organization

We all accumulate little things that just never seem to find a place—especially in our offices: stamps, pins, paperclips, those little sticky notes. Instead of just dumping them in a drawer where they’ll end up in a tangle of junk, put them in small decorative boxes which you can display on your shelves and on your desk. That way, you know where everything is, and it’s easy to get your hands on it. Secondly, you’re creating visual interest in the room by adding attractive object which are also useful. From new to antique, you can find boxes in any color or material that suits your tastes. You’ll be easing your mind and your eyes at the same time.

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: “I caught the rabbit.”

Just because we should all be reminded that the best way to exhaust ourselves is to play with our toys.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 40

The Vieux Carré was gripped in the cold fist of a stinging December rain which pelted the windows of Dr. Biamenti’s fine house on Royal Street. Julian’s skin crawled with each sharp tap of angry water on the glass. He paced the plush crimson rug in front of the fireplace in his bedroom.

Robert lay across the settee, his rhythmic breathing periodically interrupted by a raspy wheeze. Julian paused to study his napping friend. He looked pale and gaunt. The strong lines of his face had turned to sharp angles which repelled the firelight to cast clenching shadows around the man’s eyes and jaw.

Julian squinted and rubbed his temples as the faint echo of some distant chatter deep within himself mimicked the staccato of the rain.

“You rest, Robert.” Julian whispered. “Rest for both of us.” He rubbed his head again, “For all three of us…”

Julian took a blanket from the bed and gently placed it over Robert who mumbled in his sleep.

A gentle rap on the door signaled Naasir’s entrance. He smiled as he carried a carafe of water into the room. He placed it silently on the bedside table.

“Shall I help the doctor to his room?” Naasir asked.

“Not yet,” Julian shook his head. “Let’s let him sleep for awhile. He’s quite exhausted.”

“As you wish, Sir.” Naasir nodded.

Julian squinted again, straining to understand the faint squawking which rattled from within.

“Do you hear something, Lord Julian?” Naasir wondered.

“Nothing. I…” Julian paused and changed the subject. “Have you settled in?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. I am in a room with an old man named Cal. He’s a fine man with many things to say.” Naasir replied cheerfully. What a change he was from Arthur.

“You’re comfortable, then?”

“Very much so. Thank you for being concerned about my comfort.” Naasir replied.

“Not at all.” Julian answered.

“Meridian will be up shortly with some tea for you both. Let me take the doctor’s boots since he has them off. I will polish them up nice and shiny. I will take yours, too, Sir. Let me fetch you your fine, soft slippers.” Naasir suggested softly, so as not to wake Robert.

Julian sat down on the bed to remove his boots.

“I will attend to that.” Naasir whispered.

“That’s not necessary.” Julian smiled.

Robert sputtered and coughed. Julian watched him to see if he’d awaken. He did not.

“Poor man.” Naasir shook his head. “He carries much burden. The weight of it makes him tired.”

“Yes,” Julian sighed.

“Your burden is greater,” Naasir continued, “Yet, you never sleep, Sir.”

“A part of me is sleeping presently.” Julian grinned weakly. “Though I can’t say for certain just for how long.”

Naasir picked up Julian’s coat which had been slung over the arm of a chair. “I will hang this, Sir, and lay out your dressing gown.”

“Thank you,”

Naasir reached into the pockets of the coat—as he had always done for Sir Louis—to make sure that nothing of importance had been overlooked. He pulled out the note which Julian had been handed that morning on the dock.

“Will you want to keep this, Great Man of the Rocks? Pardon me, I mean to say, ‘Lord Julian.’”

“Yes.” Julian said quickly, taking the folded paper from Naasir.

“It has evil on it.” Naasir’s eyes widened.

“It does.” Julian drew in a deep breath. “It’s a note from the woman who has my sister. At least, I think it’s she who gave it to me. It’s signed with her name.”

“Is the name Iolanthe Evangline?” Naasir asked.

“It is.”” Julian raised one eyebrow. “How do you know?”

“Iolanthe Evangeline is the taker of girls.” Naasir replied quietly. “She is a force.”

“You know of her?”

“I know that she is a woman of ice and violets. She is created of cold amethyst.” Naasir said. “She is the ice to Marie Laveau’s fire.”

“Marie Laveau is the voodoo priestess you mentioned when you gave me that bag.”

“The gris-gris, Sir. Yes.” Naasir nodded. “I took the liberty of placing it under your pillow when we arrived here.”

“Oh…” Julian raised his eyebrows. “Thank you.”

“It is strong stuff, but not strong enough to protect you from that crystal woman.”

“She’s dangerous, then?”

“You know they call her ‘The Elegant Ogress.’

Julian answered, “Yes.”

“She is dangerous. She challenged Marie Laveau herself. They say Marie took punishment by making Iolanthe’s skin blister each time it is touched by blood. And, so, she must wear gloves to cover the scars of her sins.”

“I don’t like the idea of my sister being in her hands.” Julian began.

“No, Sir.” Naasir said sympathetically. “You must battle her.”

“Battle her?”

“Yes, it is in the legend that ‘The Great Man of the Rocks’ will cleave the amethyst heart of the cold monster—as she has cleft his head.” Naasir explained.

Julian’s eyes closed as the familiar inkiness drowned him. Within him, Punch grumbled softly. “Me head. Me head is split.”

When his eyes opened again, he began to speak. The voice that fell from his lips was Julian’s, but the words were not. Those belonged to someone else.

“Then, battle her I must.” Punch said in Julian’s voice.

Naasir smiled.

“You find something amusing?” Punch asked, still impersonating Julian.

“It’s no use you trying to trick me, Mr. Punch.”

“Here!” Punch growled. “What do you know ‘bout it?”

“Mr. Punch,” Naasir grinned. “The light in your eyes is red where the light in Lord Julian’s is blue.”

“Think you’re pretty clever, eh, valet?” Punch powered Julian’s body to rise from the bed.

“I am not clever, Mr. Punch. I am observant.” Naasir grinned. “There is no need to deceive me. I am here to serve you as well. My loyalty is to all those who inhabit that body.”

“So, you’re loyal, what.” Punch chuckled. “Just how loyal are you, then?”

“To a fault, Mr. Punch.” Naasir bowed his head. “You may recall what I saw on the ship?”

“I do.” Punch frowned.

“Yet, I have chosen to keep that to myself so that I may protect both you and His Lordship.”

“And me chum?” Punch asked.

“And the doctor, too. Though he is suspicious of me, I will care for him also. It is my job to serve and to fulfill my destiny.”

"Good." Punch grinned.  "You like to sing?"

"I do." Naasir nodded.

"Maybe you're not so bad." Punch chuckled.

"I can show you that I am not."

“Then get me out of here without me chum knowin’.” Punch winked. “I know where to find the ‘Elegant Ogress.’ If it’s a battle she’s wantin’, I’m the one for the job.”

Did you miss chapters 1-39? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Look Closer

Had I not taken the time to take a closer look at the box pictured below, I would have missed out on a wonderful find. If I’d just dismissed it because it wasn’t appealing on my first glance, a valuable antique could have gone unnoticed. That same concept applies to so many things.

How often do we let our first impressions color our actions? How many things and people go unnoticed because we can’t be bothered with a second look? Many of us are blessed with good instincts which instruct us on how to react. Even those with the best instincts should use some discretion before we pass judgment. Question yourself and what motivates you.

When selecting the people with whom we surround ourselves, we should “interview” them all as if we were going to hire them for a job. In essence we are. We’re hiring them to be a friend, a business associate, or a mate. Sometimes our first impressions can be wrong. Take a closer look.

I can only use the example of my dog, Bertie. He was dismissed as a “bad” dog—untrainable, disagreeable. He was a puppy who was left in a chicken coop. A terrier puppy is going to eat chickens when he has the chance. Who leaves a puppy in a chicken coop? So, they got rid of him. Had his previous owners taken the time to get to know him, they’d have seen that he is the sweetest, most gentle dog in the world. All he needed was a chance to show it.

Everyone and everything deserves that chance. Wipe away the grime and see what you find. If it’s worthless, keep going. If it’s valuable, everyone wins. Just remember, your loss could be someone else’s gain.

Object of the Day: A Victorian Knife Casket

Blackened with a century’s worth of grime, at first glance, this object seemed like just a wooden box. On closer inspection, I could see that beneath the dirt, there were traces of a pattern and the faint sheen of Mother-of-Pearl. The price was low, and, so, the box came home with me.

The repeated application and removal of paste wax revealed a lovely casket of deep maple, inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl. Most likely a knife casket for use on a sideboard, the style and craftsmanship of the box suggests that it was created in the mid-Nineteenth Century and is most likely American in origin. With its shimmering geometric borders and carefully inset rosettes, this box didn’t contain any treasure, but proved to be a treasure itself.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Painting of the Day: Marie Antoinette by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun

From the New Orleans Museum of Art
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842) is undoubtedly the most famous female painter of the Eighteenth Century. Her work shows the French Rococo influence, but she also represents a neoclassical sense of balance and structure in her compositions and technique.

The daughter of Parisian painter, Louis Vigée, and a hair dresser, Élisabeth was sent to a convent school at the age of six and remained there until she was eleven. The following year, her father died from an infection following surgery to remove a fish bone from his throat. Her mother married a wealthy jeweler, Jacques-Francois Le Sèvre, and the family moved near the Palais Royal. By her early teens, she was already a professional portrait artist. Sadly, Élisabeth’s studio was shut down because she was practicing without a license. She later became a member of Académie de Saint Luc and worked with the appropriate credentials.

Élisabeth married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, also a painter and dealer of art, in 1775. Her career and reputation flourished, and soon she found herself invited to The Palace of Versailles to paint a portrait of Marie Antoinette. The Queen was pleased. Over the next six years, Élisabeth painted over thirty portraits of the Queen and other royals and was considered the official portrait painter of Marie Antionette.

One such portrait of Marie Antionette is now housed in the New Orleans Museum of Art. Here, the Queen is older, but still beautiful in a gleaming white skirt and fine royal blue overdress. While some portrait artists try to show their subject as they really were, I suspect Le Brun, erred on the side of flattery. The result is a striking portrait which shows Marie Antoinette at her most regal.

Life became rather complicated for Le Brun and her family during the French Revolution. Her close ties to Marie Antoinette labeled her as a counter-revolutionary. Nevertheless, after fleeing France, she worked in Italy, and notably Russia, where she painted Catherine the Great. Le Brun did return to France under Napoleon I, but life was never quite the same.

When we look at her work, we can see her loving hand in every brushstroke. Her sensitivity and tender use of her media will forever keep LeBrun’s artistic spirit alive.

Decorating Tip: Drama with Drapery

Your window coverings are often the finishing touch that defines the look of a room. Weather you prefer long, puddle panels, swept back swoops, swags, shutters, blinds or even just a simple shade, your windows should reflect the style of the room. One easy and relatively inexpensive way to dress up your drapery is through your choice of hardware.

A huge variety of decorative curtain rods are available in many different stores. I personally like the look of metal rings. I enjoy the Victorian feel of them. It’s easy to find something that you like. The best part is, with so many options, you’re sure to find a color and style of hardware that will fit your decor. If you like your existing drapes, but want to add a bit of drama, switch out the curtain rod to one with an ornamental finial or design. Or, add some tie-backs or other accessories. It’s an easy, affordable way to make a big difference in a room without making a big effort.

The Punch and Judy Fellowship

Mr. Punch from The PJF
Founded in 1980 by Percy Press II, and a small host of other celebrated Punch and Judy performers, The Punch and Judy Fellowship (PJF) has worked for the past thirty years to, as they put it, “preserve, promote and protect the traditions of Britain's much loved national puppet show.

I’ve mentioned the history of Punch and Judy before. We know that the first recorded account of Mr. Punch comes from Samuel Pepys’ sighting of him in 1662 in Covent Garden. Since then, Punch has been associated with Covent Garden. However, in the 1970’s the future of the markets there seemed rather bleak. When the Covent Garden Wholesale and Flower Market moved from its long-time location to elsewhere in London, some developers hinted that the markets would be demolished. Thankfully, this historic district was spared and repurposed into a retail shopping area in 1980. During the redevelopment of Covent Garden, Percy Press II, the renowned Professor, still performed his Punch and Judy show. His performances were legendary, even inspiring the name of the pub which anchors the area: “The Punch and Judy.” Mr. Punch, his wife and friends continue to make appearances in Covent Garden—as they should.

The first meeting of the PJF took place, appropriately enough, at “The Punch and Judy.” At that moment, the PJF began its mission to keep Mr. Punch’s history alive and to ensure that his story continues for many centuries to come. Through encouraging “Punch” performers, sponsoring events, providing historical background to the public, and, even performing shows, the PJF has done wonders to protect Britain’s favorite anti-hero.

I’m proud to say that I’m a member of the PJF. While I’m not a performer, I hope that with Punch’s Cousin, I’m doing my piece to make sure that Punch and his impetuous, but often well-meaning, antics are remembered and respected.

Term for the Day: Corinthian Columns

Corinthian Columns at
the former home of Dr. Biamenti,
now The Cornstalk Hotel
Today, Julian noted the Corinthian columns at Dr. Biamenti’s New Orleans home. The term “Corinthian” column refers specifically to one of the three classical orders of architecture. The three orders are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

The most ornate of the three, Corinthian columns usually have fluted shafts beneath heavily carved capitals. The capitals take the form of an inverted bell, decorated with acanthus leaves, volutes and other ornamentation. Corinthian columns have been employed in architecture, both as support and as decoration, since 2 A.D. Mainly used originally in early Roman architecture, Corinthian columns continue to be employed as stately supports for the most prestigious buildings in the world.

Building of the Week: The Cornstalk Hotel, New Orleans

In Punch’s Cousin, when they arrive in New Orleans, Julian, Robert and Naasir are staying at the home of a friend of Robert’s—Dr. Joseph Secondo Biamenti. While Julian and his companions are fictional, Dr. Biamenti and his opulent mansion are quite real.

The grand Victorian home at 915 Royal Street now houses “The Cornstalk Hotel,” so named for the decorative wrought iron fence which surrounds the property. The hotel is a beloved French Quarter landmark with a rich and storied history.

A building has stood on that site since 1730. In 1816, Judge Francois Xavier Martin, an author, historian and Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, built a home on the property where he remained until 1826.

Legend has it that author Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed at the house where she witnessed the slave markets in the Vieux Carré and was, thereby, inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin—a book which helped incite the passions that caused the U.S. Civil War.

In 1834, the mansion was purchased by Dr. Joseph Biamenti who embarked on a major renovation of the property which included the ornate Victorian façade that we see today. This is the building Robert, Julian (Punch), and Naasir would have seen upon arriving in 1852. In 1856, Dr. Biamenti commissioned the famous cornstalk fence which features painted, sculptural stalks of corn rising from bases shaped like pumpkins entwined with morning glories and other vines. As a finishing artistic touch, a yellow butterfly graces the front gate. Visitors to The French Quarter often stop to marvel at this magnificent house and its unusual fence.

The mansion has hosted many famous people over the years from film stars to a United States President. You, too, can stay there if you’re in the Vieux Carré. With its ornate woodwork, crystal chandeliers and posh rooms, The Cornstalk Hotel will afford you a chance to be enveloped in true New Orleans style. Visit their Web site for more information.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 39

Robert knew immediately that Mr. Punch would soon be out. As they disembarked from The Hyperion, he could sense Julian’s anxiety. With wide eyes, Julian surveyed the clattering throng on the dock. He fidgeted nervously with the ring on his left hand.

Robert paused for a moment and looked at Julian. Lord Fallbridge seemed thinner than when he had boarded the ship, yet, he also seemed taller. Cutting a handsome figure in his dark suit, Julian anxiously ran his right hand through his chestnut hair. The blue diamond on his right hand sparkled violet against the earth-colored strands of his hair. Julian had taken to wearing the blue diamond ring every day in remembrance of his father.

“You’re stopping. Why are you stopping?” Julian said quickly.

Robert smiled. “Just waiting for Naasir to catch up with us.”

“Ah.” Julian nodded. He glanced back at the ship. “Do you think the captain will report Arthur’s disappearance to the authorities?”

“He said there was no need to.” Robert shrugged. “The man had no family, no home. You are the person responsible for him. We’ll send word to Fallbridge Hall once we get settled in. They did all they could to look for him. As the captain said, people disappear from ships regularly. He suspects Arthur got himself intoxicated and fell overboard.”

“I wish I knew what happened that night. You’re correct about one thing. I was responsible for him. And I may have been responsible for what happened to him. You heard what that rough-looking man said—the “professor.” I came to fetch Arthur from his cabin that night.”

“Mr. Punch came for him. Not you.”

A hurried man bumped into Julian, startling him.

“My apologies,” The man mumbled before racing off.

Robert watched Julian carefully, looking for signs of Mr. Punch.

“Look there,” Robert pointed, trying to distract his friend. He coughed for a moment. “See those spires?”

Julian looked toward the land. “I do.”

“That’s St. Louis Cathedral.” Robert said. “Cecil sent me a watercolor that he painted of it once.”

“It’s quite beautiful.” Julian nodded. “Though not quite as grand as Westminster Abbey.”

“Grand in a different way.” Robert smiled. “Everything is different here.”

“I can already see that.” Julian sighed. He furrowed his brow.

“What is it, old friend?” Robert asked.

“Are you sure that your friend won’t mind my staying in his home. I can just as easily go to the hotel as I had planned.”

“We’ve been over this already.” Robert coughed. “I had already planned to stay there before I left for Marionneaux. I was told I could stay for as long as I needed. We’ll have the whole house to ourselves. Isn’t that preferable to staying in a noisy, crowded hotel?”

“Yes.” Julian agreed. “I just don’t want to impose on Doctor...I’ve forgotten his name.”

“Dr. Joseph Secondo Biamenti.” Robert said. “And, I’m sure he won’t mind. He’d probably be happy to show the place off to another person. He’s just had the whole house redone. He’s written that he’s very pleased with the transformation. Apparently, it’s quite ala mode. He spent a fortune at it. But, that’s the sort of man he is. He’s even talked about erecting a wrought iron fence around the place—shaped like cornstalks!”

“Cornstalks?” Julian laughed.

“Cornstalks.” Robert chuckled. “These Americans.” He shrugged. “It’s just on Royal Street. We’ll get a carriage as soon as Naasir joins us with the bags. Joseph will be away for the season. He’s left his staff behind with orders. We’ll be quite comfortable there.”

Someone else bumped into Julian—this time a woman in a violet gown. She wore long purple gloves. Her face was shockingly white—masked in wax and powder. Her dark hair was pulled back in a chignon into which a long, aubergine feather had been tucked. The feather fluttered in the breeze.

She stopped and looked Julian. Her lips were painted a brilliant red which made Julian think of Punch’s cap.

“Pardon me, Sir.” The woman cooed. “I wasn’t watchin’ where I was going. Now, I don’t want you thinkin’ I’m just the sort of woman who rudely walks into people.”

“No matter.” Julian answered sheepishly. He’d never seen a woman with a painted face like that. Something in her eyes unsettled him.

“You see, I’m lookin’ for someone. A lady…” She grinned, her eyes glinted coldly.

“I hope you find her, Miss.”

“Thank you.” She nodded. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course.” Julian said quickly, relieved to see Naasir approaching them.

The woman walked slowly away

“Here’s Naasir,” Julian tilted his head in Naasir’s direction. “I do wish he’d hurry. I want to be gone from here before Nanny Rittenhouse emerges from the ship.”

“Ah, Great Man of the Rocks,” Naasir laughed as he approached. “Is the lady, New Orleans, making you feel ill-at-ease?”

“Yes.” Julian nodded.

“Listen, Naasir, I’d appreciate it if you’d refer to Lord Fallbridge as, ‘Your Lordship’ and dispense with this ‘Man of the Rocks’ business.” Robert interjected.

“As you wish.” Naasir smiled. “Not to worry. I will keep you quite safe, Your Lordship. Now, I shall go fetch a carriage.

As they rode toward Royal Street, Julian took in the sights and smells of the Vieux Carré. The whole of the city seemed to have an aroma unto itself—a potent perfume of spices, spirits and the sea. The land itself was strange and magical—a city surrounded by trees from which hung ghost-like swags of moss which blew in the breeze like tattered shrouds.

All the while, Robert watched Julian. He was surprised that Mr. Punch had not yet made his appearance.

“I believe this is it,” Robert pointed toward a large, welcoming house. Four Corinthian columns supported a wrought iron balcony in front of a grand cream-colored mansion. On the left a turreted stone tower rose proudly. On the right, a handsome gable surrounded the glittering light from a leaded-glass window.

“What a lovely house.” Julian smiled as he stepped from the carriage. “Quite extraordinary.”

“It’s exactly what Joseph said it would be.” Robert said.

Naasir removed their luggage from the carriage as Robert approached the door which was flanked by columns like the ones on the porch. Before they could knock, the door swung open and a stout African woman emerged—her arms open wide.

“Welcome, welcome, Dr. Halifax.” She said with honey in her voice. “And, I see you done brought someone with you. I’m called Meridian! I’m the housekeeper.”

“Good evening,” Robert nodded politely. “This is Julian, Lord Fallbridge. I’ve invited him to stay here as my guest. I do hope we’ll extend Dr. Biamenti’s hospitality to him.”

“Oh, well,” Meridian bowed her head. “A Lord. We are honored to have you here, Your Majesty.”

Julian smiled. “Thank you. I’m not, however, due the courtesy of ‘majesty.’”

“What do I call you, then?” The woman laughed.

“Lord Julian will do nicely.” Julian answered.

“Well, then, Lord Julian and Dr. Halifax, do come in and rest your aching bones. I will make sure the finest rooms are made ready for you.” She pointed to Naasir. “Who’s that?”

“My man, Naasir.” Julian answered.

“He will plum want to stay here, too?” Meridian asked.

“Yes.” Robert answered.

“We’ll put him out back with Cal.” Meridian said firmly. “It’ll be good for ol’ Cal to have someone for to talk to.”

Robert and Julian walked into the house through a grand archway. “Such a beautiful passage.” Julian smiled at the ornate woodwork and cornices.

“Pride of Royal Street, this house is.” Meridian beamed proudly. “Now, you two go in the parlor and set yourselves down for a spell. I’ll be bringin’ some nice things for you to eat.” With that, she hurried off, shouting for “Cal!”

“The people here are quite different than what we’re used to.” Robert said as they walked into the rich, red parlor. “I don’t know how Cecil understands a word they say.”

Julian stretched his arms and shoulders. “It’s a wonder that we did.” He looked to the black marble fireplace. “Perhaps we should stir that fire a bit. It’s rather chilly in here.”

He put his hands into the pockets of his coat and felt something that he hadn’t noticed before—a small, folded piece of paper.

Julian took the paper from his pocket and opened it.

“What is that?” Robert asked, his voice becoming raspy as it did toward the end of the day.

Julian read the message and sighed. “A message.”

“From whom?”

“See for yourself.” Julian handed the note to Robert.

Robert read aloud. “I got her, and I aim to keep her. “ Robert shivered. “Regards, Iolanthe Evangeline.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-38? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Keep an Open Mind

We’re all faced with ideas which don’t appeal to us. Very often, we shut ourselves off from new concepts or beliefs we don’t understand. Even if we believe something is fundamentally wrong, we can still treat people who feel differently with respect. Try for a moment to see another side to any situation and to accept possibilities that you may not have considered.

The best that can happen is that you’ll realize an opportunity that you never thought possible. The worst that can happen is that you walk away having learned something that reinforces your original beliefs. In either event, you’re going to win.

Objects of the Day: A Pair of Art Nouveau Vases

The Art Nouveau period (approximately 1890-1905) was defined by fluid shapes, free-flowing curves and a reliance on stylized natural themes. The style of the “new art” was undulating with life. A popular medium during the art nouveau, art glass reached a stylistic apex often featuring bright colors set against the contrast of clear and frosted glass.

This pair of French art-glass vases defines the Art Nouveau style. Rising to a gentle, tapered trumpet from the bulbous base which was characteristic of the style, these vases speak of the delicacy of natural forms which so inspired artists of the day.

Garnet-colored, hand-painted designs with roots in the Rococo, effortlessly reinforce the shape of the vase. They’re accentuated by gold paint which shimmers against the frosted glass. Clear glass adds an extra layer of dimension along the edges of the vases. Thin and delicate, these vases stand at fifteen inches in height. They seem to be untouched by time and continue to represent their origins with pride.