Saturday, October 2, 2010

Painting of the Week: Salome with the Head of John The Baptist, 1665-1670

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
Carlo Dolci
The Royal Collection
I have a particular fondness, as I’ve mentioned before, for paintings of John the Baptist’s decapitated head. I’m not quite sure why. I think it’s because deep down, I have Baroque tendencies. After all, no one offered up better paintings of John on a platter than the Baroque Italian artists.

Take this stunning work by Carlo Dolci for example. This painting, executed between 1665 and 1670, was actually Dolci’s second version of the subject. The first, last seen in 1870, has since been lost, or, at the very least is unaccounted for. Dolci excelled at depicting religious scenes. His attention to detail, the clarity of his hand and his impeccable sense of composition and color brought Biblical figures to life. Here, Salome—resplendent in a bejeweled, blue silk gown—is painted so sensitively that her expression seems to change as we view the piece. She seems, at first smug, and, then contrite. On a second glance, she even looks a little fearful. Of course, John’s head is given special treatment with a shining halo that rather cruelly mimics the arc of his dead eyes and slightly-parted lips. This is Italian Baroque painting at its finest.

The artist, Carlo Dolci, was introduced to Sir John Finch in Florence in 1665. Finch admired Dolci’s work immensely and the two struck up a friendship. Finch commissioned several religious scenes for his own private collection and made a gift of this painting of Salome to King Charles II. And, so, the painting remains today in the Royal Collection. This is a fascinating work. Somehow Dolci has taken a gruesome scene and made it into something quite sweet.

Saturday Sparkle: Her Majesty’s Aquamarines

The Royal Collection
Queen Elizabeth II, among her many treasures, is the owner of a fine collection of aquamarines which have been given to her as gifts throughout her life.  One piece of exceptional quality is this stunning aquamarine brooch.  Set in gold and platinum, blazingly white diamonds surround an impressive emerald-cut aquamarine.  This brooch was given to the Queen (along with a matching bracelet) in 1958 by The Brazilian government to complete a set of gorgeous aquamarines they had given her for her 1953 coronation.

At the Music Hall: "When I Take My Morning Promenade," 1910

Marie Lloyd
When I take my morning promenade
Quite a fashion card, on the Promenade
Oh! I don't mind nice boys staring hard
If it satisfies their desire
Do you think my dress is a little bit
Just a little bit..... Well not too much of it,
Though it shows my shape just a little bit
That's the little bit the boys admire

Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) was a wildly popular (and wildly controversial) British musical hall singer of the Edwardian Era. She had the well-publicized ability to make even the most innocent of lyrics seem lewd by creating a conspiratorial relationship with her audience. Winks, gestures and intonations imparted a bawdiness to her songs that they might not have originally possessed. Some of her popular songs, however, did have a bit of a ribald side. Such is the case of When I take My Morning Promenade.

This song is still a beloved music hall favorite. Lloyd’s 1910 rendition of When I Take My Morning Promenade helped solidify her position as the Queen of Bawdiness. Of course, to our Twenty-First Century ears, the lyrics are quite tame. But, at the time, they were rather shocking.

In the following clip from the film, Trottie True, Jean Kent—in full Edwardian garb—sings the song with much the same spirit that Marie would have.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 60

Robert groaned as he struggled to sit up—weighed down by Cecil who had carried his brother to the settee at the back of his studio.

“Not so fast,” Cecil smiled.

“I’m perfectly fine.” Robert sputtered.

“Falling to the floor like a sack of stones would tell me otherwise, Robert.” Cecil shook his head.

“What’s wrong with him?” Mr. Punch shouted, pacing Julian’s body back and forth frantically. “Is me chum hurt? Not gonna die like our pa, is he?”

“I’m not going to die, Mr. Punch.” Robert said. “I simply felt light-headed. I need a drink of water.”

“You shall have one.” Cecil said, walking over to a pitcher to pour a glass.

Mr. Punch rushed to Robert’s side and knelt down next to him. He placed Julian’s hand on Robert’s chest. “Hot, you are—right through them clothes. Hot—not like people hot neither, but sickly hot like when me master had a fever that time when he were a boy.”

“I think all of the excitement has gotten to me, a bit.” Robert said calmly despite the gravel in his voice. “A long passage, and don’t forget we were awake most of the night. I merely need some water and a little rest, and I’ll be back in fighting shape again.”

Punch rocked back and forth on Julian’s knees. “No. This is somethin’ worse than just bein’ tired. I know tired. This ain’t just tired.”

“Which of us is the physician?” Robert smiled.

“You.” Punch grunted.

“Don’t you think I should know if something were terribly wrong?”

“Think you would know, but I think you’d not tell us. Kind of a fool that way, you are. No offense meant, Chum. But, you’re not ‘xactly the best ‘bout tellin’ how you feel.”

Robert coughed.

“Am I correct?” Mr. Punch asked.

“You’re wiser than you think, Mr. Punch.” Robert sighed.

“So, then, what’ll we do? Gotta be another doctor in this damnable town.” Mr. Punch growled.

“There is,” Cecil said, returning with the water. “I’ll have Ty Chidi fetch him.”

“No.” Robert said, sitting up and taking the glass of water angrily.

“Robert,” Cecil responded plainly. “In case you’re not aware, there’s quite a dangerous fever swelling in these parts. It’s not something that we want to ignore.”

“I have not contracted Yellow Fever.” Robert shouted. “Damn it! I’m a physician! I know of what I speak! This is simply the remnants of the poison I drank on that ship!”

“Poison?” Cecil’s eyes widened.

“Me master’s valet—the dead one—gone and poisoned us, he did. ‘S why he’s the dead one and not the one what we brought with us.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“That’ll be enough, dear Punch.” Robert groaned.

“You’re an interesting fellow, Mr. Punch.” Cecil laughed. “I’m glad that we are friends.”

“Same here, Brother Chum, only what’ll we do ‘bout this one.” He pointed to Robert.

“’This one’,” Robert stood up, “doesn’t need anything except a few minutes to collect himself. Then, we’ll be on our way to our appointment with the Rittenhouses.”

“Oh, no!” Cecil laughed, putting his arm around his brother’s waist. “You’ll not be going up la Colline Cramoisie today, brother.”

Robert leaned in and whispered in Cecil’s ear, “Would you have me send Mr. Punch to that house unattended? Do you really think you can handle him on your own?”

“Here!” Punch frowned. “I heard that. And, I don’t ‘preciate bein’ thought of us somethin’ what needs handlin’! I can handle me-self. Done it a long time now, I have. I know how to act in situations what’s difficult, I do. Listen a this…” Punch took a deep breath and spoke again—this time mimicking Julian’s voice. “I’m so pleased to meet you, Mrs. Rittenhouse. My, my, but isn’t this lovely country? How happy you must be here. The landscape does remind me of the stand of trees near Fallbridge Hall.” Punch whooped with joy—returning to his own voice. “And, if you don’t mind, Mrs. Rittenhouse, I’ll be hittin’ your cousin, the nanny with me stick!” He laughed loudly. “Fine, then, I won’t say the last part. But, see, I can be good.”

Robert and Cecil both shook their heads and laughed.

“Well, then, Mr. Punch, I beg your pardon. Please forgive me.” Robert smiled.

“Quite all right,” Mr. Punch nodded. “Only I know you’re just bein’ protective.”

“I am.” Robert agreed. “And, I’m still going with you.”

“For all you’re protectin’, why don’t ya let the rest of us help you none?” Punch moaned.

“Because I’m perfectly fine.” Robert spat.

Punch grunted, looking to Cecil helplessly. “Don’t know what to do. May have to hit him with somethin’. Not hard, mind ya. Only to keep him down for a spell. Not gonna hurt him.”

“I think, rather,” Cecil smiled, “we should just let him have his way. It would do no good to hit him. Believe me, I tried that often enough when we were lads.”

“Guessin’ you know best,” Mr. Punch sighed, “what with you knowin’ him longer than me.”

“If it helps,” Robert began, “I’ll take to my bed until we need to leave for tea.”

“Might help.” Mr. Punch smiled. “But, I gotta watch ya to make sure you’re really restin’.”

“Dear God,” Robert rolled his eyes. “Very well.”

“Yes, a most interesting man, Mr. Punch. You are most interesting.” Cecil laughed.

Robert was good to his word. He did, in fact, rest before teatime. And, of course, Punch watched him—perched in a chair in the corner of the room, whispering quietly to himself—or perhaps to Julian. Strangely, Robert found Mr. Punch’s child-like murmuring to be something of a comfort, and he managed to fall asleep.

He was awakened by a soft tapping on his bedroom door. Mr. Punch opened it and whooped gleefully. “It’s me lady chum!”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Punch,” Adrienne laughed. “How is Robert fairing?”

“Sleepin’ he is.”

“Was.” Robert sat up and rubbed his yes.

“I’m sorry to disturb you. However we will need to start for the Rittenhouses shortly.” Adrienne walked into the room. Are you sure you’re well enough to go?”

“Quite.” Robert smiled. “There’s been no trouble this afternoon, has there?”

“No.” Adrienne grinned. “All has been quiet. Thankfully.”

“Here, who’s gonna look after the baby chum when we’re out?” Mr. Punch asked. “We don’t want him alone, what with not bein’ able to walk or talk or anything, in case someone nasty should come back here.”

“We don’t typically leave Fuller alone, Mr. Punch,” Adrienne giggled. “Gamilla will stay with him and Gros Chidi will sit outside the nursery door to ensure that no one comes in.”

“That’s fine.” Punch nodded. “Listen, what’s with callin that fella “Growww Chidi?” Mr. Punch exaggerated the way in which Cecil and Adrienne pronounced the man’s name.

“You’re right it does sound like ‘grow,’ however it’s ‘gros’ meaning big. He is Big Chidi and his son his little Chidi. Petite or Ty Chidi.” Adrienne explained.

“Say, pretty clever.” Mr. Punch hooted.

“It’s just tradition in these parts.” Adrienne smiled. “Mr. Punch, Naasir is in your room awaiting you. He’ll help you dress for tea.”

“Don’t need ta get dressed.” Mr. Punch frowned. “Already dressed, I am. Got trousers and a waistcoat and boots and this thing ‘round me neck what makes me feel like I’m gonna choke. Did it me-self, I did.”

“You might want to change your clothes. It’s customary to put on a different suit before going to call on someone.” Robert said gently.

“What do ya think a that?” Punch shrugged Julian’s shoulders. “Well, then, off I go to do the custom’ry thing.”

Mr. Punch cut quite a dashing figure in Julian’s deep blue suit and finest lavender cravat. He wore Julian’s usual diamond ring, and also the fragment of the Fallbridge Blue. In his cravat, he wore a simple stickpin of aquamarine surrounded by seed pearls. With Julian’s wave chestnut hair slicked back, he looked for all the world like Lord Fallbridge—until he spoke.

“How ya feelin’, Chum?” Mr. Punch asked Robert as the carriage jostled up the red hill.

“I’m quite well.” Robert smiled weakly—the motion of the carriage making him feel a bit queasy.

“I’m so fortunate.” Adrienne smiled.

“Why is that, my dear?” Cecil asked.

“Not every woman in Marionneaux can share a carriage with three such handsome men.”

“Here,” Mr. Punch looked away, blushing. He glanced up at the stately plantation at the crest of the hill.

A magnificent mansion—surrounded by monumental white columns—sat at the end of an oak-lined lane. To its left, fields of sugar cane seemed to touch the sky.

“That’s where I am.” Punch muttered.

“It will be all right, dear Punch.” Robert whispered. “Just remember that we’ll find you and that, for now, you’re Lord Julian.”

“Should I start now?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Probably.” Robert nodded.

“Very well,” Mr. Punch said in Julian’s voice. “I say, but isn’t this an enchanting estate? Why, it doesn’t appear at all to be the home of vicious monsters.” He winked at Robert.

“Do I have to correct you?” Robert asked.

“Nah,” Punch said, still speaking in Julian’s voice. “I’ll be good, I will.”

Carling Rittenhouse greeted them outside the house. She was an attractive woman—pale with flaming red hair. She was so slender that she looked as if the gentlest breeze might knock her over.

“Ah, Adrienne, Mr. Halifax,” Carling smiled stiffly as Cecil helped Adrienne from the carriage. “And, this must be your brother. I would recognize that strong jaw anywhere. She offered her hand to Robert once he’d dismounted the carriage.

Robert took her hand. “I am Robert Halifax, and this is Julian, Lord Fallbridge.”

“Your Lordship,” Carling bowed theatrically. “What an honor it is to have you in our home.”

“I was so flattered by your invitation,” Mr. Punch mimicked Julian. “Thank you so much for your hospitality. I will confess that I had a great deal of trepidation about coming to such a new and strange land, but everyone here has made me feel so welcome that I’d hardly think I’d ever left the comforts of England at all.”

Robert, Adrienne and Cecil all looked—wide-eyed—at Mr. Punch, impressed with his composure.

“Oh, well,” Carling blushed, “Do come in, please.”

When Mrs. Rittenhouse turned her back, Mr. Punch tapped Robert on the shoulder and made a very Punch-like wild face. Robert bit his cheeks to keep from laughing.

“The parlor is through here.” Carling said as they walked.

Mr. Punch looked around the house. He concluded it was, in fact, a very fine house with its sweeping maple staircase, colorful rugs, silk draperies and large landscape paintings. But, something about it bothered him—the smell.

“I say,” Mr. Punch began, again, as Julian, “but what is that interesting aroma?”

“Rose oil.” Carling responded as she sat dramatically on a slipper chair. “I do love it.”

“Most intriguing.” Mr. Punch answered in his borrowed voice.

And, so, they began to talk—teatime chit-chat about trivial things—and as they did, Robert grew increasingly overheated. His stiff collar and cravat felt as though they were digging into his throat. He stifled the urge to cough violently. The scent in the room began to overpower him.

Mr. Punch watched Robert, noticing the beads of sweat which were appearing on his “chum’s” brow.

“If you’ll pardon me,” Mr. Punch continued his mimicry, “I’m feeling a bit warm. Is anyone else a bit warm?”

Adrienne glanced at Robert and also noticed his discomfort. “Now that you mention it, Mr.,” She paused. “Pardon me, Lord Fallbridge, I mean. Yes, now that you mention it, I, too am a bit warm.”

Carling looked flustered. “Where is that girl? She always stokes the grate too much!” Anxiously, Carling rang the bell next to the fireplace.

A young woman appeared. Though she was blonde, Mr. Punch recognized her immediately. The woman would not look at Punch, yet she felt his eyes on her face—her face which looked so much like his.

“Barbara, you foolish girl, try to quiet that fire!” Carling growled.

Punch watched Julian’s sister—in her blonde wig—tend to the grate. He wanted to speak—to be himself. Yet, he knew he couldn’t.

“She’s new.” Carling sighed. “Only been here a day or two. I don’t know why I took her on. She came so highly recommended! I can’t imagine why.” She turned to the girl. “Barbara Allen, do hurry! You’re making a backdraft!”

As the smoke from the fire tickled Robert’s throat, he could hold his coughing no more. A horrible wave of convulsing coughs gripped Robert’s body. He coughed so violently that glittering specks of blood flew from his mouth onto the marble floor.

“Oh dear!” Carling gasped.

“Mr. Punch…” Robert stood up, shaking.

“What’s he saying?” Carling asked nervously.

Robert staggered forward. “Mr. Punch.”

“I’m comin’.” Punch answered, hurrying to his friend.

Mr. Punch arrived too late to keep Robert from falling into a heap on the gleaming white floor.

Did you miss Chapters 1-59? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, October 4, for Chapter 61 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Fight Boredom

With everything the world has to offer us, there’s no reason at all to ever be bored. Boredom is a negative state. When you’re bored, it gives rise to behavior that may not be in your best interest. If your thoughts aren’t occupied, they can wander and dwell on things that can deflate you. So, keep yourself interested in something.

Today, if you feel boredom creeping up on you, do something about it. Take a walk, call a friend, go window shopping, watch a favorite film, work on something artistic, read a book—the possibilities are endless. Keeping your thoughts engaged can only foster positive feelings. And, that, should always be our primary goal.

Object of the Day: A Rhinestone Encrusted Celluloid Comb

Complicated hairstyles are not a modern phenomenon. Our Nineteenth Century counterparts reveled in elaborate coiffures for women. In fact, for a woman to literally let her hair down in public was considered quite shocking. Given the fashions of the day, a lady had to find new ways to not only secure her hair, but also adorn herself. Elegant combs such as this one were the answer.

Ornamental combs were not new to the Nineteenth Century. They had been employed for hundreds of years, but women of the Victorian era really embraced the style and manufacturers and jewelry designers were happy to oblige. This comb, dating to the 1880’s is constructed of pierced celluloid. Celluloid, also called ivorine or “French Ivory,” was an early form of plastic which rose in popularity in the 1860’s—replacing costlier materials such as horn and ivory. While combs were sometimes adorned with precious or semi-precious stones, this one is dressed with blue rhinestones, the color of aquamarines, in a natural coral-shape which harmonizes with the florid lines of the piercing.

This comb would have been worn at the back or side of the head to secure the coiffure. Combs with stones were the stuff of evening wear. During the day, simpler combs were used. I like the idea that this is the finishing touch on a lady’s outfit. In perfect condition, this comb was well cared for. Today, as is the case with many of these objects, it has been retired from hair-dressing and is comfortably housed in a glass case—happily sparkling and reminding us of elegant times.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Fun: Kermit, Piggy, Punch and Judy

Well, technically, Judy isn’t present.  But, Croc is.  Here we have a clip from Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show featuring Beauregard performing a “Punch and Judy” Show (sans Judy) for Kermit and a disgruntled Miss Piggy.  I imagine, in puppet society, that Mr. Punch is well-respected by younger puppets.  I’d like to think so.  Kermit has the right attitude.  Piggy, of course, is very much against puppet-violence.  Hiii-yah.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Swanage Beach Series of Diana Quinn

Punch and Judy Hut
Diana Quinn
British artist Diana Quinn has undertaken a series of drawings and paintings chronicling the century-old Punch and Judy Show at Swanage Beach.  Her goal is to record the history of this long-running show which is an integral part of the culture of Swanage. 
Her brightly colored water colors, oil paintings an pencil drawings of Mr. Punch and his wife in their striped tent truly capture the spirit of both the seaside and Britain’s favorite puppet family.  As Mr. Punch would say, “That’s the way to do it!”

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Brad Litwin

During the Victorian era, there was a pervasive fascination with all things mechanical and clockwork. This was reflected in everything from very complicated automata to “mystery” clocks which seemed powered by an unseen force. This was a great time of technological growth—the start of the Industrial Revolution and the primary footstep in the path to our culture today.

I’m heartened to know that in our very digital world, artists are still fascinated by things that are mechanical. Artist Brad Litwin has created a most unusual series of kinetic sculptures which he calls, Mechanicards. Mechanicards can be mailed as one would mail any other greeting card. The difference here is that each card features a working mechanical sculpture—each hand-made and signed by the artist. The attractive and fun art objects are the perfect way to send someone something marvelous and creative.

Antique Image of the Day: "Sally Bonetta Forbes," 1856

Sally Bonetta Forbes, 1856
William Bambridge
The Royal Collection
The daughter of an African Chief, this young lady was imprisoned when a neighboring city invaded her own. Her family was murdered during the invasion and she was taken captive. Due to her high rank, she was held prisoner to await sacrifice upon the death of an official or other high-ranking person who would benefit from taking her with him to the afterlife.

In June of 1850, British Captain Forbes sailed to Africa on the ship, The Sally Bonetta, in an effort to suppress slave trading. There, he chanced to meet the king who had been taken this girl captive. Wishing to rescue the girl, Captain Forbes asked for her to be given to him “as a gift,” knowing that would be the only way to free her. The king agreed and the girl was allowed to return to England. Not knowing her name, Captain Forbes called her “Sally Bonetta” after the vessel which carried them. He gave her his own last name, adopting her as one of his daughters. She lived with his family until one day when Captain Forbes presented Sally to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The Queen and Prince adored Sally and applauded her musical talents. From that point on, Sally often stayed at Windsor Castle with Queen Victoria who acted as the girl’s godmother. Victoria paid for the girl’s schooling, praised her intellect, and encouraged her music. When Sally married in 1862, she named her first born child, “Victoria.” Queen Victoria acted as godmother to Sally’s daughter as well. This photograph was taken when “Sally” was nearly thirteen years old. It was among Queen Victoria’s most cherished images.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Looty, The First Pekingese Dog in Britain

Looty, The First Pekingese in Britain
The Royal Collection
Many of the dog breeds with which we’re very familiar today are actually relatively new imports. I know Westies aren’t indigenous to the south central U.S. Yet, I found this particular photo to be very interesting. To think that anything is the first of its kind in a nation is sort of a delicious thought. Here, we see “Looty,” the very first Pekinese (or, if you prefer, Pekingese) in the United Kingdom. Looty was given as a gift to Queen Victoria in April of 1861. Victoria, a lover of dogs, was immediately enamored with the Peke who had been brought a Captain Dunne of the 99th Regiment, from Yuanming Yuan, the Summer Palace near Beijing.
Looty was given much freedom to roam the Queen’s homes.  This photo taken in 1865 by William Bambridge was just one of a series of albumen prints that Queen Victoria had commissioned to create keepsakes of her beloved pets. 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 59

Tears welled up in Julian’s eyes as Mr. Punch sniffled.

“What is it, dear Punch?” Robert asked.

“Dunno.” Punch responded with a quavering voice. “Me eyes is makin’ water.”

“Those are tears, Mr. Punch.” Robert smiled.

“Know what they are.” Punch grumbled. “Only I ain’t used to it is all.”

“Cecil will paint it.” Robert gestured to the wooden head which stared out at them from the work table. “It does look like you, doesn’t it?”

“Does.” Punch nodded Julian’s head. “Looks like I used to look before me head got split open.” The tears rolled down Julian’s face.

“Are you crying because you’re happy?”

“Dunno.” Punch repeated. “Happy, yes. Happy I am that Brother Chum cared ‘nough ‘bout me to make me head. Happy to have a new head. Only…”

“Only what, Mr. Punch?” Robert asked.

“Only I got Julian’s head now. See, I already got me a new head.” Mr. Punch said. “And, this one is a real head. Not a head made of wood or wax or paper. And, this one’s good lookin’. Nice and attached to a body what don’t have no hunchback. This one’s got a chin and a nose like people got—like you’ve got. This one can make water come out its eyes.”

“I see.” Robert nodded slowly. “You’ve grown to like being in Julian’s body.”

“Sure I have!” Punch answered. “But, I miss me puppet body, too. Life were easier when someone else was makin’ me move—didn’t have to think.”

“But, you didn’t get to feel either. And, for as much as it hurts sometimes, feeling is a wonderful thing.”

“’S right.” Punch sniffed. “Am I rotten to want to have both?”

“No.” Robert smiled. “It’s only human to want everything—to desire to be what you are and what you were.”

“But, I ain’t human.” Punch began to cry again. “I ain’t nothin’.”

“You’re most certainly something. You’re more human than you realize. But, you must remember that this body,” he touched Julian’s shoulder, “belongs to Julian.”

“I know.” Punch nodded Julian’s head. “Only he ain’t usin’ it correctly.”

“He needs a chance to be able to do so.” Robert said.

“He can’t. He needs me. I’m what protects him.” Mr. Punch said frantically.

“For now.” Robert responded softly. “Tell me, what is Julian doing right now?”

“Restin’” Punch thumped Julian’s chest, “In here. Tired, he is.”

“Can you talk with him?” Robert asked. “In there?”

“I can only he don’t hear me so well. Doesn’t understand. I hear him fine, but he don’t hear me so very well.”

“Can you try to tell him that I miss him?” Robert asked.

“Do ya?” Punch frowned. “Do ya miss him?”

“I do.” Robert nodded. “As you would say, ‘he’s me chum.’”

“Huh.” Punch grunted.

“Mr. Punch, I understand that you’re torn.”

“What’s that?” Punch asked.

“I mean that you’re confused—torn between two desires. Seeing that Cecil has made you a new head for your ‘puppet self’ is exciting to you. Isn’t it?”

“Yep.” Punch nodded.

“However, you rather enjoy being in Julian’s body. You want both things. I understand.” Robert smiled.

“How could ya?” Punch asked.

“Because I, too, want two things.” Robert responded softly.

“What’re they?”

“Well, it’s strange to admit it, but I wish there were a way to keep both of you. You know how fond I am of Julian. And, yes, I do miss him. I know he’s in there with you, but you can’t both be out at the same time. But, when Julian’s present, I also miss you. I’ve grown fond of you as well. You, actually, were the one I met first. I wish there were a way for both of you to be a part of my life.”

“So, you do understand.” Mr. Punch sighed. He ran Julian’s fingers over the wooden head and smiled. “’S nice to see me big, ugly nose again. Must admit. Look at me smile.”

“I’m looking.” Robert answered.

“Listen, Chum, I’ll tell Julian that you’re missin’ him. Right?”

“Right.” Robert grinned. “Do you think he’ll be making an appearance anytime soon?”

“Not likely.” Punch shook Julian’s head. “Like I said, me master’s restin’. For now, ya got me.”

“I understand.” Robert nodded.

“I know you do.”

Robert began to cough—deep, painful coughs.

“There’s the hackin’ again.” Mr. Punch frowned.

“It’s the dust in here.” Robert sputtered. “My lungs have been sensitive since Arthur poisoned us. I feel…” A wave of coughing overtook him.

“Feel what, Chum?” Mr. Punch asked, slapping Robert on the back.

Robert stood up straighter and tried to compose himself. “I feel as if I have a little fluid in them.”

Mr. Punch sighed. “Don’t know what lungs is. But, I don’t ‘spose they ought to get fluid in ‘em.”

“No.” Robert laughed. “I’ll be fine. Not to worry.”

Mr. Punch slapped Robert on the back again—this time playfully. He paused. “Here! You’re awful hot.”

“From coughing. I got myself overheated.” Robert said quickly.

“No.” Punch disagreed. “Ain’t the kinda hot ya get when yer runnin’ or doin’ something. I can feel the hotness comin’ off yer back. Right through yer coat. And, it’s cold in here, and such.”

“It’ll calm down.” Robert sighed.

“A human ain’t meant to be that warm.” Mr. Punch frowned again.

“You know, my brother is a fine sculptor. I had forgotten just how good he is.” Robert said, changing the subject. “I should tell him.”

“Tell him now.” Punch pointed to the door. “Here he comes.”

“So, Mr. Punch, what do you think of my gift to you?” Cecil grinned.

“Think it’s wonderful good.” Mr. Punch whooped. “When i’ comes time to use it, I’ll be ever so proud.”

“I’m glad.”Cecil winked. “One of the few comforts Robert and I had as children was watching the Punch and Judy shows. I’ll never forget that face.”

“Glad that me puppet brothers did ya some good.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“Not as much good as you have, Mr. Punch.” Cecil said sincerely. “Now,” he turned to his brother.

“Before you begin, I already know what you’re going to say. I acted rashly…”

“Stop, Robert.” Cecil held up a hand. “Yes, you did act rashly, but you acted, frankly, as I would have. Regardless of the means, we’ve gotten those men out of our home, and most importantly, away from Adrienne and Fuller. For now. You know they’ll come back.”

“All the more reason to find out what’s happening with Iolanthe Evangeline and why Lady Barbara appears to be here in Marionneaux at the Rittenhouse mansion. We merely have to figure out a way to gain entrance to the Rittenhouse’s.” Robert said.

“That, I’m happy to report, will be easier than we thought.” Cecil said, withdrawing a letter from his pocket.

“Here! What’s that?” Mr. Punch asked.

“A letter from Carling Rittenhouse inviting Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Halifax, Dr. Robert Halifax and Julian, Lord Fallbridge to tea this afternoon so that she might make the acquaintance of His Lordship, the celebrated jeweler. It was handed to me as I was walking back from depositing those henchmen on La Rue de la Marchands.”

“Coo!” Punch whooped. “Goin’ ta tea, we are. Gonna see that woman what’s me master’s sister and get back what she took from me head!”

“One thing at a time, dear Punch.” Robert said weakly. Cecil’s studio seemed to spin around Robert’s head. He clutched the work table to keep from toppling over, but he couldn’t hold himself up.

“I need…” Robert groaned as he hit the dusty floor.

Did you miss Chapters 1-58? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Forgive your Mistakes

No one is perfect. Even the people who think they’re perfect aren’t perfect. It’s part of being human to make mistakes. We make big mistakes, and we make little mistakes. Regardless, don’t beat yourself up about them. Try to correct your errors and do what you can to fairly handle their consequences, but then, let them go. All you really can do is learn to not make the same mistakes. Continually dwelling on your errors is only going to burden you. Remembering to rise above them will allow you to do a better job the next time.

So, today, forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made—big or small. And, know that you will have a better go at it the next time.

Object of the Day: The Trial of Thomas, Earl of Stafford by William Fisk

The engraving which hangs in The Palace of Westminster
I’m going to go out on a limb here and challenge The House of Parliament. In the collection located at the Palace of Westminster hangs an engraving which they attribute to Painter William Henry Fisk. I believe that that attribution is incorrect. The engraving, The Trial of Thomas, Earl of Stafford at Westminster Hall, 1641 was produced in a limited run of about two hundred (according to the almost illegible pencil marking on the engraving). One of these engravings hangs in the Palace of Westminster. One of them hangs here in my study.

A portion of the engraving which hangs in Texas.
I have the advantage of being able to look at the engraving itself. The artist has signed the work himself as has the engraver. The signature is plainly “William Fisk, 1846.” The same hand has written the title and the print run. While the engraving in Parliament is attributed to William Henry Fisk (1827-1884), I believe it is the work of his father, William Fisk (1796-1872).

First of all, the elder Fisk was a well-known painter of historical scenes while his son was an anatomical artist and landscape painter whose paintings of trees were exhibited at the Royal Academy and were a great favorite of the Queen. This work speaks more to the former than the latter. This work also bears a striking resemblance to another work by the elder Fisk which shows the Trial of Charles I.

I think that the Palace of Westminster has incorrectly attributed their engraving to the wrong Fisk. The original painting upon which this engraving is based cannot be located. However, I can see quite plainly in this limited edition engraving from 1846 that this is the work of the father and not the son.

It goes to show that everyone makes mistakes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mastery of Design: The Cambridge Emeralds

The Vladimir Tiara, 1921
The Royal Collection
Like most famous jewels, the Cambridge Emeralds have a long and fascinating history. Originally part of a collection of magnificent jewels belonging to Indian royalty, a suite of flawless emeralds came into British hands and was auctioned off at a charity ball in 1818. The winner was The Duchess of Cambridge, the grandmother of Queen Mary. Eventually (and with some difficulty which is the stuff of much debate and dubious scandal), Mary managed to get hold of the emeralds and took no time in having them set into both new and existing pieces of jewelry.

A Diamond Brooch
with Two of the Cambridge Emeralds
The Royal Collection
Most notably, Queen Mary had a portion of the Cambridge Emeralds installed in the newly acquired Vladimir Tiara—once the crown of Grand Duchess Vladimir, aunt of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. Mary ordered that the original hanging pearls in the tiara be replaced with fifteen of the celebrated Cambridge Emeralds. I should add that the pearls were retained and can be replaced in the tiara when emeralds just won’t do.

Many of the other emeralds were used in a variety of brooches, necklaces, bracelets and earrings designed by the Royal Jewelers at Garrards. In almost all cases, the emeralds are detachable from their settings so that other stones can be fitted depending on the color of the gown. That was rather an economical idea of Queen Mary. Wasn’t it?

Earrings Featuring the Cambridge Emeralds
The Royal Collection
The Cambridge Emeralds in their various settings are not part of the Crown Jewels, but rather are the personal property of Her Majesty, the Queen and are on display as part of The Royal Collection. Queen Elizabeth II often wears two of the brooches which were set with the Cambridge Emeralds and has worn the Vladimir Tiara on special occasions. Queen Mary would be proud.

Term for the Day: Intaglio

Victorian Gold and Amethyst Intaglio Ring
A. Brandt & Son
Intaglio, in terms of jewelry-making is the opposite of cameo.  Where the carving in a cameo is raised in bas relief, intaglio is carved into the surface of the stone.  Rings and watch-fobs often feature hard-stone intaglio.  These items, used primarily by gentleman, were designed so that the piece could be used to make an imprint in sealing wax.  The art of intaglio in gem-work has been employed since the Eighth Century B.C. and is still practiced today albeit for purely decorative purposes.

Gem of the Week: The Amethyst

A Georgian Amethyst Brooch With Pearls
The Three Graces
Prized for its deep color and hardness, amethyst is a type of quartz. Most amethysts are purple, however, a range of color exists between pinkish to a very deep eggplant color. Green quartz is often referred to as Green Amethyst. Ideally, a purple amethyst will exhibit a very deep color called “Deep Siberian” which, when cut correctly, will display flashes of red light, and sometimes blue.

Amethysts have been employed in jewelry-making for thousands of years. The stone’s hardness makes it ideal for intaglio carving. The Egyptians and ancient Greeks greatly valued the amethyst, the latter believing that the stone had been colored when Dionysus poured wine over it.

Once one of the “cardinal” gemstones—those considered the most valuable, among them: emeralds, diamonds, rubies and sapphires—discoveries of large quartz deposits in the Nineteenth Century devalued the stone a bit. Nevertheless, the amethyst is a beautiful gem which speaks of enduring elegance.

Song of the Week: "The Punch and Judy Show," 1927

Popular English dance band of the 1920’s and 30’s, Ambrose and His Orchestra, recorded this “novelty song” in 1927. This song was recorded in England just after Ambrose was asked to return from a lucrative job he had taken in New York. Edward, The Prince of Wales, himself had written to bandleader Benjamin Ambrose in 1925 stating that “The Embasy [Hotel] needs you. –Edward.” How could Ambrose resist?

This jaunty little song was inspired by the jubilant spirit of the Punch and Judy Shows in Covent Garden. Since I only had the audio to the song, I put together a little video of “Punch” images to go along with it. Enjoy!

Decorating Tip: Create Levels

To display your cherished items more effectively, you might consider arranging them in levels. By using a stand, pedestal or base, you can elevate an item in a grouping to draw attention to it and create a more visually interesting tableau.

Lucite stands like the one pictured here are inexpensive. You can also use wooden or ceramic stands ranging from something quite simple to something very ornate. It all depends on the objects you’re displaying. You can even use books to elevate items. Not only does giving varied height to individual items in a grouping draw attention to the different pieces, it also creates a more harmonious presentation.

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: "Bertie X"

"You're looking the wrong way."

Image: John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Madame X, 1884, The Metroplitan Museum of Art

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 58

The professor laughed. “I outweigh the both of ya--together. Do ya really think you could lick me?”

“I don’t need brute strength,” Robert smiled, removing a pistol from the breast pocket of his coat. “Not when I have this.”

“Here!” Punch cooed, “Where’d you get that, Chum?”

“It’s Cecil’s.” Robert said, pointing the pistol at the professor. He looked at the man called Zeke, “Get over there by your companion!”

Zeke did as instructed.

“Now, now, Doctor.” The Professor smiled. “We don’t want no trouble.”

“What is it you’re wantin’ then?” Mr. Punch frowned. “You come here for somethin’. Not gonna get me chum, Naasir. Not gonna bother me family no more.”

“You’re both barmy!” The professor spat. “You’re both mad!”

“If I am mad,” Robert narrowed his eyes, “I come by it quite naturally. And, if I am mad, I don’t suppose I have any idea what I’m doing. So, killing you won’t be difficult for me at all.”

Mr. Punch hooted. “Well, then, this is turnin’ out to be kind o’ a bit o’ fun, after all. Which one will ya shoot first, me chum?”

“The big one.” Robert growled. “I want the other one to watch him die.”

“Coo!” Mr. Punch chuckled. “Didn’t know ya had it in ya, Mate.”

“Barkin’ mad—the lot of ya.” The professor stammered.

“Am I?” Robert smiled. “Is it madness to protect my family? Don’t you think that threatening women and children is much more a sign of madness than my fraternal affection? Perhaps it is you, ‘Professor,’ who is mad.”

Footsteps thundered through the corridor behind them as Cecil bounded into the nursery. “Robert, dear boy, stop.”

Cecil was followed by Gros Chidi and his son, Ty Chidi and another man that they’d yet to meet. “Just let the boys take these two men out of here.” Cecil said slowly.

“And, have them return with more threats? And, have them inflict more pain on Adrienne? And, let them burn Naasir? And, allow them to harm my…Julian. And, let them bring uncertainty to your son?” Robert hissed frantically.

“What would you have me do, Brother? Allow you to kill these men in my son’s nursery?” Cecil whispered.

Robert lowered the pistol. “Take them before I change my mind.”

“Chidi!” Cecil snapped. “You and the boys show these men to La Rue de la Colline Cramoisie and escort them all the way down the hill.”

“If I ever see you again,” Robert raised the pistol, “either of you—I’ll make sure you’re filled with holes.”

Chidi and the others pushed The Professor and Zeke from the room.

“Give me my pistol.” Cecil said firmly.

Robert handed the weapon to his brother.

“How you found this is beyond me.” Cecil shook his head.

“You always keep a pistol in the top shelf of the bookcase in your study. Behind the books on Bernini.”

“I’m going to follow the men down the hill.” Cecil said quickly. “Adrienne and Fuller are safe with Gamilla. I want both of you to go out back to my studio and wait for me there.”

“I’m sorry, Cecil.” Robert sighed.

“For protecting my family?” Cecil smiled. “Never apologize for that. Just try to keep your wits about you.”

“I think he done perfect!” Mr. Punch whooped. “Showed me he’s got the guts what’s needed to be the champion he claimed he was.” Punch looked at Robert with great admiration and affection. “Liked you for a long time, I did. Trusted you, too. But, now, Chum, I respect you.”

Robert smiled. “Thank you, dear Punch.”

“Go on, then, both of you.” Cecil said sternly. “Mr. Punch, on the table in my studio is something for you. I stayed up most of the night working on it. It isn’t painted yet. But, you’ll know exactly what it is.”

“Somethin’ fer me?” Punch asked.

“Yes, a gift to show my gratitude to you for loving my family.” Cecil said. “Now, I’d best make sure those men are off of my land.”

With that, Cecil hurried down the passage.

“I’m proud of ya, Chum.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“I’m not so very proud.” Robert shook his head. “I don’t know what got into me. I’m usually so much more level-headed. I don’t know what possessed me to get Cecil’s pistol this morning. I just had a feeling I’d need it.”

“Glad you did,” Punch nodded Julian’s head. “Only, you don’t think maybe you got your own Mr. Punch inside you what made you think to do it?”

“No.” Robert smiled. “You’re the only Mr. Punch around here. There’s only one of me.”

“For the best,” Punch grinned. “Can’t really recommend it, what. No, it’s a bit confusin’ bein’ more than one fella at a time. ‘Sides, everyone only needs the one Mr. Punch, and I’m it.”

“You are, most assuredly, it.” Robert smiled. “Come along. Let’s do as Cecil said. I’m sure we’ll get a stern talking to. It’s his prerogative as eldest brother.”

“Fine, but then can we go to the Rittenhouse place what’s got Lady Barbara?” Punch asked as they walked.

“Yes, but remember, we need…”

“I know.” Mr. Punch groaned. “A map so’s we don’t make a mess a things. I know.”

Together, they walked out of the house—after checking on Adrienne and Fuller once more—and toward Cecil’s studio. A large brick building with rows of windows, Cecil’s studio stretched gracefully through a grove of huge oak trees, creating an L-shape which mimicked the lines of the main house.

“Kinda nice in here, in’t.” Mr. Punch smiled when they entered the building. “All bright and cheerful with lots a windows what he can see out of. And, look at all the statue folk. Marble and metal. Clay! Coo, hope he talks to ‘em.”

“I’m sure he does.” Robert nodded.

“Good, cuz I don’t…” Punch paused, pointing to the table in the center of the room. “Here!”

“What is it?” Robert coughed.

“Right there!” Punch pointed wildly. “It’s me head!”

Robert looked at the table. Amidst a pile of wood shavings and sawdust was a figure of Mr. Punch—not as he looked in Julian’s body—but as he once looked when he sat in the cabinet at Fallbridge Hall.

“Aint’ got no color on it. But, I can see, it’s me head! That’s me nose and me chin!” Punch whooped. “Brother Chum made me head!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-57? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Let Your Thoughts Blossom

I was once told by an employer, “You can be creative at home. We don’t want to hear your thoughts.” Her words have stuck with me all these years. Now, of course, I spend my days being creative at home, and, have discovered that people do, in fact, want to hear my thoughts. However, I recall that, at the time, her words were particularly hurtful. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this experience. How many of us are told that we’re “not paid to think” or that our ideas and opinions don’t matter? Well, guess what. They DO matter. Your thoughts are extremely valuable. Your ideas are priceless. So, don’t let anyone try to prevent you from thinking. If the people around you don’t wish to share your ideas, dreams, creativity, and concepts, don’t share them with them. Keep them to yourself or share them with people who will care. Just keep thinking them! You will always be able to find a venue for your creativity. That is, as long as you don’t allow other people to keep your thoughts from blossoming.

Today, let your ideas breathe and grow. Of course, pay attention to the tasks at hand, but also allow yourself the freedom to think. Each of us is capable of something brilliant. Give yourself a chance to discover it—no matter what anyone else says.

Object of the Day: Opus ’88 by Caithness Glass

As I’ve mentioned previously, Scottish Art Glass company, Caithness Glass has been producing amazing and exceptional works of art since 1961. Of the many Caithness pieces in my collection, one particular favorite is this floral-inspired paperweight entitled, Opus ’88.

Designed by Colin Terris, the piece is described in its accompanying paperwork as, “Set upon a vibrant cobalt blue base, a delicate rose form rests within a flourish of delicate greenery.” Truly, the fineness of this work is exquisite. The utter skill with which this was created is astounding and represents the brilliance of the artists at Caithness.

Crystal paperweights are fascinating objects, really. Humans have an innate curiosity about anything which reflects light. However, when you add the element of drama inherent in something which appears to be a world unto itself, we can’t help but be enthralled. And, really, that’s what the artists at Caithness have done here. They’ve created a microcosm in glass. The floral form at the center of the paperweight is both detailed and abstract. On first glance, it appears to be a rose, however on closer inspection, we can see that it’s more than that, it’s a series of planes, textures, lines and colors which when combined give us an impression of something familiar. You could study this for hours and always find something new. That, in my opinion, is the essence of art.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Unusual Artifacts: The Hand and Arm of Victoria, Princess Royal, 1843

The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria had a great desire to capture moments in the lives of her family. She was very much interested in recording the growth of her children so that she could remember them at all stages of their lives. This desire took many forms. She had miniature portraits painted of her children as they grew. She even had jewelry commissioned which used their baby teeth as the principal ornament.

When Victoria died in 1901, a touching (and to modern eyes, quite odd) collection of marble arms, hands and feet was found in her private rooms at Buckingham Palace. The Queen had commissioned sculptor Abraham Kent (who would most likely not be remembered were it not for these objects) to create these marble keep-sakes of her children’s features so that she could remember them when they were small. Kent took a plaster mold of the Princess Royal’s hand and arm in order to capture every detail when he was sculpting the stone. The process of obtaining the casts had to be done while the children were sleeping as they would not stand for it while they were awake.

The Royal Collection
This sculpture, like its brethren, was kept on a crimson velvet cushion under a glass dome to ensure that the marble would stay a pristine white. It really is quite beautiful in its own way. We must remember, when we view artifacts such as this, that this was before everyone had a camera in their pocket. Today, we have so many ways of recording our lives. Victoria, like many other mothers throughout time, simply wanted a way to recall the sweetest years of her children’s lives.

Mastery of Design: A Jeweled Bouquet Holder, 1855

The Royal Collection
In 1855, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, “A week ago the Empress gave me a beautiful bouquet holder, in diamonds, pearls & rubies with the stem in enamel. She said nothing beyond hoping I would take the bouquet, which I felt quite shy in accepting. The holder is quite lovely.”

This fabulous jeweled bouquet holder was given to Queen Victoria by the French Empress during her ten-day state visit to France. Victoria long admired the Empress’ jewelry and the care with which she commissioned the pieces. Queen Victoria was particularly thrilled with this exceptional piece. Her love of the Empress’ jewels was so great, in fact, that when the French Crown jewels came up for auction, she bid on several lots. She was, however, outbid.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A French Jewel-Cabinet, 1787

The Royal Collection
Designed by Jean-Henry Riesener, in 1787 for the French Royal Family, this exquisite jewel cabinet was among the many opulent pieces of furniture seized during the French Revolution. Subsequently, it was put on display in a French Museum, but later sold off due to the increasing debt of the French government at the time. Enter Britain’s King George IV with his fascination for French design. The cabinet was quickly purchased (along with a number of other important French items) and added to The Royal Collection.

This cabinet was designed to reflect its use. Sensitively sculpted three-dimensional figures and fittings of ormolu were carefully added to this highly shined walnut piece to give the overall look of it a sense of being a jewel in and of itself. Today, this is considered one of the finest examples of French furniture-making of the period. We should be thankful to King George IV for rescuing it from an uncertain future so that it can proudly represent the tastes of two empires.

Common Misconceptions: The Difference Between a Castle and a Palace

Windsor Castle, the older and more fortress-like
cousin to Buckingham Palace.
Many people use the words “palace” and “castle” interchangeably. However, they are two very different kinds of structures. A castle is a fortified building designed to act as protection against an attack or siege. While a castle can be quite grand and can feature reception rooms, a castle’s main purpose is to provide protection for its inhabitants and their land.

A palace, on the other hand, is designed for pleasure and entertaining. The main purpose of a palace is to be impressive and to show the power and wealth of its owners. While palaces, are often fortified to protect against intruders, they exist mostly to be beautiful.

Building of the Week: Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace Today
The British Monarchy
The official seat of the British Monarch since Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne in 1837, Buckingham Palace is the core of London’s posh City of Westminster. The current palace is actually adapted from the London townhouse of The Duke of Buckingham. Originally called Buckingham House, it wasn’t the first structure to stand on that site. The land was initially part of the medieval Manor of Ebury. Later, in 1624, the first house on the land was built by Sir William Blake and was later purchased by Lord Goring in 1633. Goring is responsible for the first formal gardens at the site. The land was then sold Henry Bennett, The First Earl of Arlington. The mansion, then known as Goring House, burnt to the ground in 1674. Arlington House was erected in its place. The Land was sold to the Duke of Buckingham and Normanby is 1702, and Buckingham House was erected in 1703.

The palace as it looked during George III's reign.
The British Monarchy
The layout of Buckingham house was compromised of a large central section flanked by two wings which very much resembles the footprint (albeit smaller) of the current Palace. The house was purchased by King George III to be a private residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte, so that she might retreat from the day-to-day chaos of St. James Palace, the official seat of the monarch at that time. Fourteen of their fifteen children were born at the mansion which was renamed, “The Queen’s House.”

An 1850 Photograph Showing George IV's facade.
The British Monarchy
 In 1820, when George IV ascended to the throne, he continued the renovations started by his predecessor, however, being a lover of French design, he dictated that the new façade be styled in the manner of French architecture. Under the direction of architect John Nash, the palace took on a French Neoclassical look. Nash’s plans for the palace were costing far more than the monarchy could afford to spend. Upon the death of George IV, King William IV removed Nash from the project and replaced him with Edward Blore. With expenses soaring, the question of what to do with the palace arose. Some felt it should be the seat of the British Museum, others thought it should become the new home of the Houses of Parliament after a fire damaged the Palace of Westminster.

The Throne Room
The British Monarchy
 Queen Victoria was the first monarch to live in Buckingham Palace since William IV died during the period of renovation. She named the palace the official home of the monarch and was instrumental in dictating the decoration of the state rooms—most of which remain as they were at the time. Victoria soon found the palace to be as dysfunctional as it was beautiful. Poor air circulation, a lazy staff and faulty pipes made life in the palace uncomfortable. Her husband, Prince Albert, saw to it that Buckingham Palace was improved in every way. As their family grew, the palace seemed too small. In 1847, the palace was expanded, again, under the direction of Edward Blore. Upon the passing of her husband, Victoria retreated the palace for her other residences, feeling that being in Buckingham Palace reminded her too much of her much-beloved husband. Under pressure to return, she did make an effort to be more present at the palace in the final years of her life.

The Grand Staircase
Redecorated by Edward VII
The British Monarchy
Buckingham Palace—aside from being a political center—was also a major artistic and social center. During the reign of Victoria’s son, Edward VII, the palace saw many a lavish party, concert and event. Edward VII insisted that several of the state rooms should be redecorated in the fashionable cream and gold color scheme so popular during the Belle Époque. A good example of this is the Grand Staircase which retains the style of the Belle Époque to this day. Edward, however, was careful not to modernize too much. He made sure that the portraits that his mother had selected to be inset in the panels along the staircases remained unchanged.

In 1913, King George V, upon the installation of The Victoria Memorial outside the palace gates, ordered that the façade of the palace be changed to a more fitting (and less French) backdrop for the enormous sculpture of his grandmother. Blore’s façade was drastically changed—replacing the curvilinear French gables with massive classical pediments. His wife, Queen Mary, undertook major renovations inside the palace, furnishing the whole with antiques and art from The Royal Collection. Mary’s hand can still be seen in the unchanged Blue Drawing Room.

Queen Mary's Blue Drawing Room
The British Monarchy
During the First World War, the palace was remarkably unscathed. However, during World War II, Buckingham Palace was bombed seven times. The worst of which was a 1940 bombing which destroyed the Royal Chapel. Today, on the site of the chapel, stands The Queen’s Gallery—a venue in which the public can be admitted daily to see The Royal Collection.

Unlike Sandringham House, and Balmoral Castle, Buckingham Palace (and similarly Windsor Castle) are not the private property of the Queen. The palace belongs to the British state and is funded by the people who, in turn, are admitted yearly for tours. The palace is a ceremonial house—designed for political entertaining and business. It is meant to impart a sense of the British Empire. With its grand state rooms and bustling offices, it certainly does just that.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 57

The larger of the two men brushed past Adrienne and walked toward Fuller’s bassinette.

“Nice lookin’ baby.” He growled.

“Stay away from him.” Adrienne said firmly.

“Now, now, I ain’t gonna do nothin’.” The man laughed. “Just havin’ a look.”

“This has nothing to do with him.” Adrienne hissed.

“Do ya think this cradle is sturdy enough?” The man smiled. “Seems to me that any little movement could knock it right over. Like, say, if you was to make a loud noise.”

“Get away from my child.” Adrienne said plainly.

“Do as we say,” The man said threatingly, “and I will.”

“I will not go with you.” Adrienne responded.

“Isn’t you we want—this time.” The man laughed. “Though I must confess, I forgot what a ripe little thing you are.”

“What do you want, Professor?” Adrienne asked angrily.

“Ah, see, you remember me.” The man grinned.

“How could I forget you?” Adrienne asked. “You were the man who tortured me for that woman…that monster.”

“You say, ‘torture.’ I say, ‘influence.’” The Professor said, scratching his thick, black beard.

“I thought you were sent back to England. Your methods of ‘influence’ were even too much for Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“Sent for me, she did.” The Professor winked. “Guess she needed me after all. Needed me to bring something back with me from England. A few things, to be sure. Nice voyage, it was, too. Made a friend. His name was Arthur. He died, you know. Fell off the ship, they say. I don’t think that’s likely. No, I think it’s more likely he was pushed.” The professor flicked a finger against the bassinette so that it rocked gently.

“Leave my child alone.” Adrienne growled.

“Where’s the loony?” The professor asked.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Adrienne said.

“You know exactly what I mean. See, my friend here and I intend to have him. Your Lord Fallbridge.”

“What would Iolanthe want with Lord Fallbridge?” Adrienne asked.

“Not her that wants him.” The professor grinned. “Let’s say I’m here for her and for me. She wants the African. I want the loony what murdered my friend.”

“Lord Fallbridge isn’t a murderer.” Adrienne said.

“Maybe not. But, somethin’ inside him is.” The professor answered sharply. “So, just tell me where he is and where we can find the African priest and we’ll be on our way.”

“They’re not here.” Adrienne lied. “They’ve gone off somewhere. Ask my husband. He’s downstairs right now.”

“You’re lying to me.” The man balled his hand into a fist.

“I’m not.” Adrienne said defiantly. “Now, leave my house.”

“I won’t be leavin’ empty-handed.” The professor shook his head.

“Take me, then.” Adrienne said. “Iolanthe would welcome a chance to show me the cost of my insolence.”

“Temptin’.” The professor winked. “Only I think the little one will do nicer.”

“If you touch that child I will kill both of you.” Adrienne drew in a deep breath.

“I’d like to see you try.” The professor grunted.

“So would I!” Robert shouted as he and Mr. Punch entered the room.

“If it isn’t the good doctor and his loony.” The professor smiled.

The other man made a motion toward Robert and Mr. Punch.

“No!” The professor spat. “Zeke, let the men say their piece.”

“Adrienne, take Fuller and go to the cabins.” Robert said quickly.

Adrienne rushed to the bassinette and grabbed the baby. She hurried past Robert and whispered, “Thank you.”

“Remember me?” The professor asked when Adrienne had left the room.

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “You’re Arthur’s friend from the ship.”

“Oh, I’m friend to a lot of people.” The professor smiled.

Mr. Punch could keep silent no longer. “Who do you think you are threatenin’ me family? Nobody—nobody will harm me family what I love. You hear?”

“Settle yourself, loony.” The professor laughed. “It’ll all be so much easier if you do as I say.”

“I’ll stop yer laughin’!” Punch lunged Julian’s body forward. Robert grabbed Julian’s arm to stop him.

“No, Mr. Punch.” Robert yelled.

“So, he calls himself Mr. Punch?” The professor grinned. “Funny, isn’t it? Me bein’ a professor and all. Maybe I can make the puppet talk.”

“Ain’t a puppet!” Punch screamed. “Not no more. I’m a man, I am.”

“You ain’t a man.” The professor chuckled.

“And, you ain’t no professor!” Punch shouted.

“Where’s the African?” Zeke asked.

“Quiet, Zeke!” The professor said. “I’m handlin’ this.”

“Let me kill ‘em, Chum” Mr. Punch pleaded. “Please.”

“No!” Robert said firmly.

“They’re just gonna make us suffer. Ain’t no good sufferin’. Let me kill ‘em.” Punch continued.

“No,” Robert repeated. “I’d rather do it myself.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-56? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make Your Home Your Castle

Our homes should be a retreat from the craziness of the world. We take great care in making them comfortable and attractive. Filling our homes with things that please us is a natural part of life. We want to be at ease in our homes. That’s all the more reason to make sure our homes are safe.

Today, take a few moments to make sure that your home is as safe as it can be. Have you recently changed the batteries in your smoke detectors? Is everything in working order? Have you taken steps to ensure that your home is protected against intruders? Every few weeks, do a brief check of your home’s systems to make sure that your home is, truly, your castle—a haven to protect you and keep you comfortable.