Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Sparkle: “County of Cornwall Bracelet,” 1893

County of Cornwall Bracelet, 1893
The Royal Collection
Carat-upon-carat of shimmering European-cut diamonds surrounds remarkably bright, clear rubies in this magnificent bracelet. Created in 1893, the bracelet was a gift to Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary) from the Duke of York (later King George V).

The centerpiece of the bracelet is a stunningly jeweled Cornish rose—a symbol of the ceremonial County of Cornwall. The rose is detachable and can be worn as a brooch or a pendant. A good many of the pieces of jewelry in The Royal Collection feature removable or changeable parts so that the look and use of the piece can be altered as fits the occasion.

In 1947, Queen Mary made a gift of the bracelet to her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II). The Queen has been known to wear the bracelet for certain events. When not in use, it remains in The Royal Collection.

Masterpiece of the Week: Sir Edwin Landseer’s “Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha,” 1839

Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Sir Edwin Landseer, 1839
The Royal Collection
This unusual portrait from the private collection of Queen Victoria is the work of the magnificent Edwin Landseer from whose skilled hand came some of the most beautiful portraits, landscapes and animal scenes produced by any British painter.

The sitter is Queen Victoria’s cousin, Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Victoire was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s mother’s elder brother, Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Gotha. She is painted from the back as she gazes out into the horizon. Landseer included Victoire’s black cocker spaniel in the piece. It’s hard to say if this was because of a particular attachment Victoire had to the dog or because Edwin Landseer really enjoyed painting dogs—something for which he is remembered to this day.

Landseer considered this highly detailed work to be “just a sketch” as indicated in the notation on the reverse of the canvas. It is thought that the “sketch” was drawn without Victoire’s knowledge. Viewers of the work found it odd and enchanting. The painting was given as a gift to Queen Victoria from one Baroness Lehzen on September 10, 1839. The Baroness described the work as “a lovely sketch in oils Landseer has done of Victoire’s back, as a surprise for me; it is so like, - such a treasure — just the figure of that Angel.”

Landseer shows us that a figure that is drawn properly is recognizable as a particular person even from behind. This strange pose at once reminds us of his talent as a painter and the quiet beauty of Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

At the Music Hall: Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?

Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence
in The Red Peppers from
Tonight at 8:30, 1935
Has anybody seen our ship?
The H.M.S. Peculiar
We've been on shore for a month or more
And when we see the Captain
We should get what for

Heave ho, me hearties
Sing Glory, Hallelujah

A lady bold as she could be
Pinched our whistles at the Golden Key
Now, we're in between the devil and the big blue sea
Has anybody seen our ship?

In 1935, celebrated composer, playwright, actor, director and general bon vivant Noel Coward introduced a series of ten short plays collectively entitled Tonight at 8:30. The cycle was intended to be performed over a three night period. The cycle opened in Manchester and played in London, New York and Canada until 1938. Since then, many revivals have popped up.

Originally, Gertrude Lawrence played opposite Noel Coward (who rather enjoyed performing in his own plays). One of the ten plays was called, The Red Peppers and centered around a husband and wife musical act. For this comic tale of theatrical dysfunction, Coward wrote two new songs in the style of traditional music hall numbers. One of these was Has Anybody Seen Our Ship? Coward and Lawrence performed the song dressed as sailors—in character as George and Lily Pepper. Audiences enjoyed the song, but especially the Vaudevillian patter between the verses.

In the 1968 film, Star!, based on the life of Gertrude Lawrence, Julie Andrews and Daniel Massey perform Has Anybody Seen Our Ship? as Coward and Lawrence. For today, however, we’ll go to the original source. Enjoy this 1935 recording of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence performing Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 66

Barbara Allen laughed cruelly, “Just what do you intend to do, my lunatic brother?”

“Intend to cleave yer skull like what you did mine!” Mr. Punch shouted as he held the oil lamp over Julian’s head.

“I shan’t stop you.” Barbara smiled defiantly. “It will only complete the set of scars left behind from your friend.”

Mr. Punch drew Julian’s arm back as if he was going to hurl the lamp at Barbara’s grinning face. Instead, he dropped the lamp which shattered to the floor.

“Coward.” Barbara smirked.

“Not a coward.” Mr. Punch pulled Julian’s lips into a frown. “Smart, I am. Can’t do what you done. Not like bein’ a puppet where the next day Judy is back in the tent with me. Hurtin’ you would be forever, it would. Permanent. Can’t do it. Wouldn’t be clever. And, if there’s one thing that I am, it’s clever.”

“You’re a fool.” Barbara spat as the door to the room opened.

Carling Rittenhouse rushed in. She was followed by Adrienne and Cecil.

“Dear God!” Carling gasped. “My lamp! No sooner had I allowed you and this sick man to remain in my home than you start breaking things. Adrienne, you assured me that nothing strange would happen!”

Adrienne stammered, looking confused.

“It was I, Mrs. Rittenhouse.” Barbara spoke quickly, curtsying. “Lord Fallbridge kindly allowed me to come in to light the grate and I clumsily upset the lamp. I’m terribly sorry. You can take it from my wages.”

“I’ll do more than take it from your wages.” Carling hissed. “You’re dismissed! Pack your things and leave my property.”

“Only…” Barbara began.

“Only nothing!” Carling cried. “I want you out of this house.”

“Mama?” A small voice said from the doorway. “What’s happening? I heard shouting?”

A little boy—no older than four entered the room. His large green eyes were shockingly bright against a cascade of deep auburn curls.

“Rowan, darling.” Mrs. Rittenhouse demurred to her son, “I thought you were with your sister.”

“I am.” Rowan said, coming further into the room. “Who’s that?” he pointed at Robert. “Why’s he in bed?”

“That’s Mr. Halifax’s brother. He’s ill. He will be staying here for awhile.”

“Why are you yelling at the maid with the false hair?” Rowan Rittenhouse asked innocently.

“Never you mind, dear. If you’re with your sister, where is she? I told Ulrika not to let you out of her sight.”

“I’m here, Mother,” a deep voice called from the hallway. A young woman of about twenty entered. She was tall and broad-shouldered with a thick masculine neck. Despite her size, she was quite beautiful with the same startlingly green eyes as her brother. Her bright red hair had been carefully arranged upon her head—further emphasizing her trunk-like neck.”

“Ulrika, take your brother to Nanny.” Mrs. Rittenhouse commanded. “I’ll be down shortly.”

“Really,” Ulrika grinned. “What happened in here?”

“It’s not your affair, Ulrika.” Carling spat. “Go on, now.”

“Very well, Mother.” Ulrika sighed. She looked toward Barbara. “Come along Barbara Allen, I want you to lay out my gown for tonight.”

“Barbara is no longer staying here.” Carling Rittenhouse said firmly. “She’s clumsy and stupid and must be dismissed.”

“Mother!” Ulrika Rittenhouse stamped her foot loudly against the floor. “I won’t have it! You promised me that I could have a proper lady’s maid. You said that I could have any maid I wanted, and I want this one.”

Rowan Rittenhouse cringed.

Cecil, Adrienne, Robert and Julian/Punch all stared dumbly at the scene which unfolded before them.

“Mama,” Rowan Rittenhouse chirped. “We saw Mrs. Cage’s new baby. He’s a good baby. He’s my friend. His name is Holt and when he gets older, he and I will play and I can go to their place and…”

“Quiet, Rowan!” Ulrika snapped. “You little toad.”

“Ulrika, don’t speak to your brother that way.” Carling said sharply. “As for the maid, I have spoken. Now take your brother to Nanny and make sure that Afton is resting comfortably.”

“I will not!” Ulrika bellowed. “Not without my maid.” Her green eyes sparked with rage.

Carling Rittenhouse wrung her hands. “Very well, darling.” She said. “You may keep your maid. For now.” She narrowed her eyes at Barbara. “However, clumsy girl, if you break one more thing in this house, I’ll see to it that the overseer tans your hide. Remember your place in this house. You’re no different than any of the other servants even if your skin is a different color.”

“Yes, Mrs. Rittenhouse.” Barbara curtsied again. She glanced over her shoulder and smirked at Julian. “Pardon me.”

With that, Barbara and Ulrika flounced from the room followed by Rowan who quickly began to chatter again.

“Oh, my nerves. I’m on edge!” Carling moaned. “It’s too much. No one helps me. One minute Rowan is going on about something or other and Ulrika is shouting and little Afton is crying. And, now I have a sick man in my house.”

“Mrs. Rittenhouse,” Cecil began. “I wasn’t aware that Mrs. Cage had birthed another son.”

“Well, she did.” Carling spat. “Obviously.”

“Adrienne, were you aware that Mrs. Cage was expecting?” Cecil asked his wife.

“No, I was not, mon cher.” Adrienne answered.

“Well, she was.” Carling said with considerable exasperation. “A fine boy with a fine name. Holt Cage. It speaks of strength. Now, honestly, I just can’t stay in this sick room any longer. You may stay here as long as you need to recuperate,” She looked at Robert, “and your friend may stay with you. However, do try to be quiet. My nerves are ruined. Ruined. Good day.”

Carling fluttered out of the room.

“Welcome back, Mr. Punch.” Adrienne smiled.

“How’d you know?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I just know.” Adrienne said.

Mr. Punch sat Julian down on the bed with Robert. “Sorry, Chum.”

“For what?” Robert croaked.

“’Bout that ugliness with his sister.” Mr. Punch mumbled.

“Mr. Punch, I’m proud of you. You did the right thing.” Robert said hoarsely.

“Not so sure.” Mr. Punch shrugged Julian’s shoulders. “Only I’m happy to know you think so. Like that you got pride in me, I do.”

Robert began coughing again.

“Here, now you’ve had ‘nough excitement. Time for you to get yourself some rest.”

“I agree.” Adrienne said.

“What did you mean just now?” Cecil asked. “That girl—she is, in fact, Lady Barbara?”

“Not no more. She’s some other creature what call herself Barbara Allen.” Mr. Punch sighed. “Some kind of monster. Don’t know. Just know that the baby what they call Holt Cage ‘as got to be her child what she threw away. Her child what she had with Arthur.”

“Your former valet?” Adrienne asked.

“Yep, me master’s footman what’s gone in the sea.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Killed the father of his sister’s baby, I did.” Mr. Punch began to cry. “Didn’t know it was wrong to do. Know better now.”

“Dear Punch,” Adrienne said sweetly. “Don’t think of it. We must rally for Robert’s sake.”

“Can’t help but think of it.” Mr. Punch sobbed. “Didn’t know it was wrong. Didn’t know.”

At that very moment, Barbara Allen was sneaking out of the Rittenhouse mansion. She ran through the cold evening air, pulling the wig from her head as she ran. She threw back her head so that her own dark hair came loose and fluttered in the breeze. Panting, she reached the stables and flung herself into a stall.

“He’s here.” She panted.

“I know.” A man’s voice responded.

“I thought he was going to kill me.”

“He’s barmy, that one.” The man grumbled.

“Did you post the letter?” Barbara asked.

“I did.” The man answered flatly. “She’ll be here.”

“Good.” Barbara smiled.

“Not to worry, pet,” The man grinned. “You’ll get all that you’re due, and then some.”

“Oh, I hope so.” Barbara sighed.

“We’ll see ‘em all dead.” The man said.

“Say it again.” Barbara laughed. “Say, it again, my love.”

“All dead—all of ‘em.” The man said gruffly.

“Oh, Arthur, I do love you so,” Barbara hissed, pulling the man into a deep kiss.

Did you miss Chapters 1-65? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 67 of Punch’s Cousin.

Term for the Day: Craquelure

Craquelure is a fine pattern of lines and cracks which forms over time across the surface of a painting.  Antique paintings will always display craquelure.  Being as a natural craquelure is something that’s nearly impossible to duplicate, this pattern of cracks is an excellent way to evaluate the age of a painting and to tell if it is an original or a forgery.  Curiously, patterns of craquelure vary depending on the geographical origin of the painting.  Paintings from France, The Netherlands, Italy, England and the Americas all display a different pattern of craquelure.  A trained art historian can decipher a paintings origin by studying the pattern of these lines.  Climatic conditions, altitude and the composition of suspensions used to hold the pigment can all effect this pattern of cracks.  It’s really a fascinating study.  Craquelure does not effect the value of a painting, but rather adds to it by providing more information about the provenance of the work. 

Goal for the Day: Look to the Sky

We look at the horizon, we are aware of our surroundings, we look at the buildings that line our streets, we see the faces of the people we meet, but  how often do we look to the sky?  Even though we’re all covered by the same sky, it looks different in each region, each country.  When I was a young teenager and we moved to Texas, I was immediately struck at how different the sky looked compared to the other places we had lived.  This overwhelmingly huge blue dome seemed so monumental.  To this day, I still find myself gazing at the sky, marveling at the change of colors, the patterns of the clouds and the clarity (or lack thereof).  Today (not while you’re driving), take a few minutes to enjoy the sky-scape above you.  You’ll find the drama and enormity of it to be quite humbling and exciting.

Object of the Day: An Early Nineteenth Century Scottish Landscape

If this painting isn’t Scottish in subject, it is certainly Scottish in origin. It was purchased along with a large lot of paintings and art objects from an estate in Edinburgh wherein it traveled to London, and then to Texas where I purchased it.

Unsigned, a slip of paper accompanying the painting (tucked behind the stretcher) listed it as “Large landscape with spacious sky, gifted 1825.” Judging by the canvas and the stretcher boards, I would say that the 1825 date is fairly accurate. The artist remains unknown.

Despite some minor craquelure which is typical in a painting of this age, the painting is in excellent condition and still retains a vibrancy of color which belies its age. The description of “spacious sky” is spot-on. What drew me to this painting in the first place was the dramatic sky reminiscent of the works of J.M.W. Turner.

It’s a moody painting, and I like that quality about it. Small figures of fishermen are dotted along the edge of the water. They’re unnaturally still as if anticipating an encroaching storm. The sense that this painting has captured a specific second of time makes it all the more appealing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Fun: A Surreal Czech Mr. Punch

Jan Švankmajer, 1966
I really should call this “Friday Freakiness” in this particular instance. This is weird. It’s not weird in a crying-in-the-corner kind of way. It’s weird in a “Hey, it’s 1966 and look how surreal we can be,” kind of way. Odd, yes, it is, but nevertheless fascinating.

This short film from 1966 entitled Punch and Judy (though Judy is nowhere to be seen) is the work of famed Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer who credits much of his artistic sensibility to the puppets he played with as a child. It really is an interesting film in a very 1966 kind of way. It just seems to me to be an awful lot of trouble over a Guinnea Pig.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive at The Victoria & Albert Museum

The George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
Victoria & Albert Museum

In August of 2010, The Victoria & Albert Museum received a tremendous paper archive of historical Punch & Judy documents as a donation from the estate of George Speaight (1914-2005). Mr. Speaight, a distinguished historian and expert in the field of British entertainment, had, over his lifetime, amassed this important collection of objects, ephemera, iconography and artwork related to Punch & Judy which chronicles the development of Britain’s favorite puppet show over a four hundred year period from its Italian roots to its present glove-puppet form.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is currently cataloging the collection and will soon make it public in “The Reading Room” at Blythe House. Brimming with colorful and interesting images from Mr. Punch’s history, the archive features beautiful scenes such as this cheerful drawing of “The Theatre Royal.” Mr. Punch seems quite pleased to share the stage with a real, live dog, doesn’t he? For those of us who aren’t very close to Blythe House, the archive will also be available online.

Antique Image of the Day: "Group at Gloucester House," 1856

Group at Gloucester House
Antoine Claudet, 1856
The Royal Collection
On June 30, 1856, Queen Victoria traveled with two of her children: Bertie (Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII) and Alice to Gloucester House to visit the Duchess of Gloucester.  The Duchess—the last surviving child of King George III—was in ill health and died the following year.  During their visit, photographer Antoine Claudet asked to daguerreotype the group.  The Queen gave her consent and Claudet took several images which he later hand-colored.  He was so pleased to have had the opportunity that, with the Queen’s permission, he posted a notice in the Court Circular stating his excitement. 
This image shows Queen Victoria (center) flanked by the Duchess on the right, Prince Albert Edward on the left and Alice in front.  That evening, the Queen noted in her journal that she, “went in the afternoon to Gloucester House & was daguerreotyped with dear Aunt Gloucester, Bertie & Alice, several times.”  We’re quite fortunate that Queen Victoria kept such a careful diary of her daily activities.  Such a thing helps us to realize that even our most trivial actions might one day be interesting to someone.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Prince Albert Edward with a Terrier, 1864

Prince Albert Edward and Friend, 1864
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) inherited his mother’s appreciation for dogs. Many of the photographs of Edward VII in The Royal Collection show him with dogs. From his infancy to his death, this was a man who enjoyed his canine companions. Of course, later in life, Edward’s favorite companion was Caesar, however, he seems to have a rather good relationship with this particular pleasant-looking terrier. The dog appears to be smiling as Prince Albert Edward playfully tugs his ear.

The Royal Households have always been home to many dogs. There has even been the occasional cat. For an in-depth look at Royal pets through the ages, check out Noble Hounds and Dear Companions.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 65

Robert coughed violently. “Julian, tread lightly.”

“No worries, Robert.” Julian whispered.

Julian walked over to his sister and bowed courteously. “Lady Barbara, have you met my friend, Dr. Robert Halifax?”

“I have no interest in meeting your friend, Julian. You know rather well that he and I have met before. I have the scars to prove it.” Barbara spat. “And, I am no longer ‘Lady Barbara’ as you well know.”

“You’ll always be Barbara, Lady Fallbridge.” Julian shook his head. “No matter how much you try to disguise yourself.”

“I left that behind.” Barbara frowned. “Here, I’m Barbara Allen.”

“Blonde hair doesn’t suit you.” Julian smiled. “You should remove your hairpiece.”

“Stop smirking at me.” Barbara growled.

“Why are you here, Barbara?” Julian asked.

“I came to see if the man was dead yet.”

Julian heard Mr. Punch pleading with him from somewhere inside his body. “Master, please. I know what’s gonna stop her.”

“Patience.” Julian muttered.

“What?” Barbara snarled.

“Barbara, I think you mistake my meaning. Why are you in this place? This town? What is it called? Marionneaux.”

“That’s none of your affair.” Barbara answered flatly.

“It is most assuredly my affair. I’ve been dispatched to fetch you. Now that I’ve found you, I intend to return you to Mother.”

“Return me to Mother?” Barbara chortled. “Do you think that Her Grace will accept a whore into Fallbridge Hall?”

Julian’s face fell.

“That’s what I am, as you well know. Among other things.”

“You could return to England. No one would be the wiser.” Julian said quickly.

“No?” Barbara glanced toward Robert. “You don’t think anyone knows? Ask your ‘friend.’ He knows. He brought my…that thing…that child into this world.”

“Robert will keep your privacy.” Julian said.

“Yes, he will. Dead men tell no tales. Isn’t that right? Arthur isn’t talking, is he?” Barbara laughed.

“Arthur had no tales to tell.” Julian frowned.

“No?” Barbara laughed.

“Where is the child now, Barbara?” Julian asked.

“We’ve already discussed this. Or, don’t you remember? I see you’re still playing that little game of yours.”

“Game?” Julian asked.

“The voice, the rough language, the wild look in your eye. Really Julian, a man your age should stop childish play.”

“It isn’t play.” Julian shook his head. “I’m not well. And, I can see that you’re not either. We can help one another.”

“I offered to help you, earlier. You refused. Now, I intend to help myself.”

“How do you intend to do that?” Julian asked.

“In the same manner that you helped yourself.”

“Barbara, I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you? Idiot! Shall I remind you, again, about Arthur?” Barbara grimaced.

“What is your preoccupation with Arthur? I never witnessed you having interest in any of the servants before.” Julian ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“I’m interested in the father of my child!” Barbara hissed.

Julian staggered backward. “Arthur?”

“Of course.” Barbara grinned wickedly. “Why not? He was good looking. Wasn’t he? The child has his eyes. Piercing eyes.”

“I want to see them. I want to see this baby.” Julian said as calmly as he could.

“You can’t.” Barbara laughed. “It isn’t mine to show.”

“Where is the child?” Julian asked again.

Barbara grinned. “Nowhere you’ll find him. Perhaps he’s with your precious doll,” she taunted him. “Was my big, brilliant brother, the famous jeweler, upset to find his precious glove puppet missing?”

“You’ll never know how upset.” Julian said softly.

“Well, hurry, then, perhaps you’ll still be able to find pieces of it in the fields—that is, unless the crows have used it for their nests.”

Julian grasped his head in his hands and sat on the edge of Robert’s bed.

“Don’t you think I enjoyed tearing that thing to pieces?” Barbara laughed cruelly, “I remembered all the times when I was a child and you’d make me look at that ugly thing. I saw you, Julian. I saw you. I saw you talking to it. A grown man talking to a puppet! I saw you!” She shrieked.

“Stop.” Robert rasped. “Please, stop, Barbara.”

“Julian, I saw you. I laughed when I took it! I laughed! I knew it would kill you. You cherished that bit of wood and papier mache and cloth more than you cherished anything! I knew it would kill you! And by killing you, I took the one thing that would set me free. You see, Julian, I’m free. That diamond—just a rock—gave me my independence and in the process I destroyed you and I showed Father just what I thought of him. The Molliner Blue! Ha! Everything in that house was the property of Mother. Everything was seared with the name of Fallbridge! No, not me. Not anymore! So, go, Julian, go find the shreds of your puppet! I’ll keep what’s mine and I’ll love every moment of it.”

Julian moaned.

Robert tried to sit up to comfort him, but he didn’t have the strength. “Julian,” he rattled, “Julian, come here.”

Julian’s arms raised high above his head and thrust down onto the bed loudly.

“Shred me!” Mr. Punch shouted through Julian’s mouth. “Shred me, did ya! Proud of yerself, you are, too. Not a trace of remorse in ya.” Mr. Punch propelled Julian’s body to leap from the bed.

Barbara stepped backwards, but continued to look defiant. “You’re a lunatic.”

“Ain’t no lunatic.” Mr. Punch growled. “I’m the sanest of the lot of ya.”

“Mr. Punch, please.” Robert groaned.

“Mr. Punch?” Barbara laughed. “You feed his insanity.” She turned to Julian. “All the more reason to destroy him.”

“Here! You ain’t gonna hurt nothin’ no more.” Mr. Punch hissed. “Not me nor me chum nor me master. Nor even that baby what’s got Arthur’s eyes or so you say. See, whore, you didn’t destroy me when you ripped me body to pieces. Got a new body, I do, what I share with me master and together in it, we got love, see. Love and good things which are stronger than you. I’m learnin’ things, I am. Learnin’ to be a proper human what’s got a family. Prayed, I did. Do you know what that means? Made a wish and got me chum to live. I got power you don’t. I know things that you’ll never know. I know love, trollop! I know what’s good and what ain’t. I’m stronger than you.”

“Honestly, Julian, stop this foolishness. Stronger than I? You barely weigh ten stone.”

Mr. Punch grabbed an oil lamp from the bed stand. “Don’t matter how much a fella weighs.” He raised the unlit lamp over Julian’s head. “Not when he’s got somethin’ to hit with.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-64? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Don't Let Minor Setbacks Derail You

For as much as we have to assist us in our daily lives, the simple fact is that it all doesn’t always work when you want it to, nor does it all work at the same time. We’ve become accustomed to instant results. However, we need to remind ourselves that everything isn’t urgent. Sometimes, we just have to be patient.

So today, when your Internet connection goes down or your cell phone drops a call, don’t let it upset you. There’s really nothing that we can do with it. It’s simply a minor setback. Behind all of our systems and technology are people—people who are prone to the same errors and mistakes that we all are. Becoming agitated and dwelling on minor inconveniences isn’t going to fix the problem nor is it going to change the reaction time of the people responsible for making everything run smoothly again. All it will do is derail your whole day. You can keep yourself on track even if the conveniences that you rely on aren’t. Stay on your path. Everything else will catch up.

Object of the Day: A Painting by Carl Friedrich Koch, 1875

Almost jewel-like, this painting by Nineteenth-Century German Romantic Movement painter, Carl Friedrich Koch glimmers with brilliant color. A young couple strolls along a country lane, obviously courting. In the background, a misty church rises. Their path is lined with white roses and billowing foliage. The man—resplendent in his red coat and important hat—is focused solely on his companion. Meanwhile, the woman in her delicate pink gown glances at us knowingly from behind her parasol. She wants us to know that they’re in love and that she has been triumphant.

Carl Friedrich Koch (1856-1941) excelled in his representations of these romantic scenes. Also, a celebrated landscape painter, Koch had a talent for rendering richly-colored natural settings. Many of his paintings feature cherub-faced women with a glint of mischief in their eyes. Paintings such as his In the Garden, which typics a similar theme, hang in the world’s finest museums.

I’ve always enjoyed this painting. The figures have such personality and vibrancy. Every time I walk past it, I get the sense that they could stroll right out of the frame. Koch was a master of combining the elements of classical landscape with the romantic themes that were popular at the time. His work has a sense of both the contemporary and the traditional. To me, that’s a brilliant way to approach life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Painting of the Week: Portrait of Manon Balletti by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1757

Portrait of Manon Balletti
Jean-Marc Nattier, 1757
The National Gallery, Britain
The brilliant color of her face stands out against her powdered hair and pearl-trimmed silver gown. A rose at her bodice mimics the flower of her cheeks as she gazes at us sweetly from the Eighteenth Century.

This portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1757. Nattier was one of the leading French portrait artists during the reign of Louis XV. His work is celebrated for its fine detail, the tactile look of the flesh, the liveliness of his sitters’ expressions, and his bold contrasting colors. This sumptuous painting depicts Manon Balletti—the daughter of a famed French actress. Miss Balletti was notoriously engaged to Casanova before making a smarter marriage to an older, more stable architect. Nattier’s knack for creating monumentality in his portrait by employing classical elements to his work is evident here. Manon Balletti looks like a statue come to life. She is, indeed, as lustrous as the pearls which adorn her gown.

Gem of the Week: The Pearl

South Sea Pearl and Diamond Earclips
Lang Estate and Antique Jewelry

A natural pearl is one of the most beautiful and rare treasures of the world. A pearl is formed of calcium carbonate and is created when grit enters the soft tissue of a mollusk. In order to protect its tissue, the mollusk secretes nacre around the foreign object to smooth it. Layer upon layer of nacre, in time, creates a pearl. It goes to show that some of the most beautiful things are born of irritation. The most valuable pearls are round natural pearls. However, pearls come in a variety of natural shapes. Oblong, egg-shaped, oval or irregularly shapes pearls are often referred to as “Baroque Pearls.”

The majority of pearls on the market today are “cultured pearls” meaning that they don’t occur on their own in natural circumstances. Cultured pearls are farmed from “Pearl Oysters” which are manipulated by man in controlled settings to create the pearls. A “pearl farmer” intentionally irritates the oyster by adding foreign elements into its system so that the oyster must create a pearl.

Pearls can come from mollusks in saltwater or in freshwater. Pearls from the sea are generally regarded as more valuable. The beauty of a pearl is in its iridescent luster—a property it gets from the nacre. Pearls come in a wide range of colors from white to pink to black. For centuries, the pearl has been regarded as one of the most valuable natural creations—admired for its beauty and valued for their rarity. Who could possibly argue with the simple elegance of a shining pearl?

Song of the Week, "Lily of Laguna," 1898

Eugene Stratton
She's my lady love,
She is my dove, my baby love.
She's no girl for sitting down to dream,
She's the only queen Laguna knows.
I know she likes me,
I know she likes me,
Because she said so,
She is the Lily of Laguna,
She is my Lily and my Rose.

Written in 1898 by Leslie Stuart (best known for writing the musical, Floradora), Lily of Laguna was popularized by singer Eugene Stratton who performed the song in blackface—a common performance technique at the time. Originally, the song lyrics were written in such a way that they would be considered terribly racially insensitive today. This was not meant to offend anyone, but rather to convey a sense of a different culture which, today, seems quite outmoded. In the 1940’s the song once again became popular after a rewritten version was performed by Bing Crosby and Mary Martin. In the newer version, the racially insensitive language was replaced with imagery of boats and lollipops and the composition was given a jazzier feeling.

Lily of Laguna is quite important historically. Not only was the song adapted to be “We Are The Navy Blues,” the theme song of the Carlton Football Club, it was used as a means of sending a coded message during World War II. The British Military ordered that the song be played at specific times over the radio as a signal to underground troops.

The most memorable part of the song is the chorus, “She’s my lady love.” It’s a joyful, light-hearted lyric—no matter the version.

In this clip from the British film, The Way Ahead (in the U.S.--Immortal Battalion) neatly demonstrates the sentimentality and significance of Lily of Laguna during the second World War.

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: "Bertie with the Ace of Diamonds"

"Hey! Keep your eyes on your own cards, Feathers."

Image: The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds, Georges de La Tour, 1635, Musée du Louvre

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 64

It’s the Yellow Fever, isn’t it?” Cecil asked Dr. DeCuir.

“No.” The doctor shook his head.

Adrienne sighed with relief.

“No signs of ‘Yellow Jack,’” Dr. DeCuir continued. “No traces of blood around the eyes and mouth and his abdomen seems unaffected. No, this is respiratory. Now, he’s got a very severe infection, I’ll say that, and he does have fluid in his lungs. I’d guess this is the result of an infection from some internal injury.”

“We were poisoned.” Julian said as he covered Robert’s shivering body with a blanket. “Could that have caused some sort of internal damage which became infected?”

“Could have.” The physician nodded.

“When will he recover?” Adrienne asked.

“Hard to say. He may not. He’s a pretty sick man. He needs to be looked after at all times. You’ve got to keep his air passages clear. Make sure he gets nourishment, but nothing heavy—broths and grits.”

Julian raised an eyebrow.

“Gruel.” The physician chuckled. “As you might say.”

“Ah.” Julian nodded.

“We’d like to take him home.” Cecil said.

“No. I’d not suggest moving him. Not in this cold weather. Can’t risk him catching a further chill.”

“Well, he can’t stay here.” Cecil thundered. “Not with Carling and Fane Rittenhouse. She’d never stand for it.”

“Going to have to.” The doctor grunted. “I’ll let you know when and if he can be moved.”

Julian sighed, sitting on the edge of Robert’s bed. He took the man’s hand in his own. Robert’s eyes widened at the unusual display of physical affection.

“Told you…” Robert rasped. “Told you I didn’t have the fever.”

Julian smiled. “To be fair, dear Robert, you didn’t tell me anything. I’ve only just arrived.”

Robert’s eyes laughed. The sparkle didn’t last long, however, as his body was soon gripped in another spasm of coughing.

“We’d best go tell Mrs. Rittenhouse that she’s going to have to be inconvenienced for awhile.” Cecil grumbled.

“I’d better do it,” Adrienne volunteered. “I don’t think she cares much for you.”

“She doesn’t care much for any man.” Cecil muttered.

“I’ll return in a moment.” Adrienne said.

Dr. DeCuir turned to Marjani. “Girl,” He grunted, “You work here?”

“No.” Marjani replied. “Sir, I work over ta Mr. Fontanals’ place. See, he lets me help out with the nursin’ of folk when they needs it.”

“Well, we need it now.” Dr. DeCuir said sharply.

“I’ll stop there on my way down la Colline Cramoisie and tell the overseer not to expect you back for a few days.”

“Yes, Sir.” Marjani nodded. She turned her back to him and smiled at Julian. She mouthed, “See, I’ll look after ya.”

Julian took a deep breath. “I suppose Mrs. Rittenhouse should prepare herself for another unwanted houseguest.”

“Lord Fallbridge?” Cecil squinted.

“Well, Cecil, I can’t very well leave your brother here. I shall stay with him.”

“Do you think that’s wise?” Cecil asked.

“He really should.” Dr. DeCuir said. “Your brother needs someone here with him besides that, ‘nurse.’ We can’t trust those people.”

“’Those’ people are a sight more trustworthy than most of the land owning people in this town, Dr. DeCuir.” Cecil frowned.

“I shall take my leave, then.” Dr. DeCuir grumbled. “If you need me, send for me.”

With that, the man left the room.

“Trash.” Marjani muttered after the man left.

“I agree.” Cecil smiled at her.

“You want me to leave you alone with these men, Sir?” Marjani asked.

“No. That’s not necessary. You seem to be fully aware of our situation.” Cecil said pleasantly. He turned to Julian, “Lord Fallbridge, perhaps I should stay here with Robert.”

“Your place is at your own home with your wife and child.” Julian shook his head. “I really don’t know what’s gone on here since we arrived, but I can’t help but feel a sense of dread—greater than the usual sense of dread I feel on a daily basis.” Julian sighed. “Am I correct in my assumption that your family is in danger?”

“Our family. You are.” Cecil nodded. “I shall tell you all of the details.”

“Not now.” Julian shook his head. “However, don’t you agree that you should be present in your own home?”

“I do, however, I can’t very well leave you here. You’re not well yourself.”

Julian bristled.

“I don’t mean to offend you, Lord Fallbridge.”

“Please, call me Julian. No, you didn’t offend me. I understand your concern. However, I don’t think we need to fear anything. My other…” Julian paused. “I don’t know what to call him…”

“Mr. Punch.” Cecil shrugged. “He’s a distinct entity unto himself.”

“Yes.” Julian nodded. “You’ve been around him for all the time we’ve been here. I believe that should he take control again that he’s perfectly capable of handling himself and whatever situations might arise.”

“I know that he is. He’s a perfectly lovely…” Cecil shrugged again. “Individual? If one can call him an ‘individual.’ Adrienne and our child, Fuller, absolutely adore him. I’d trust him with my life—and have.”

“So, we have no need to be concerned.” Julian nodded firmly.

“I’m only thinking of your privacy. I don’t want people to be suspicious and, well, frankly judge you harshly.”

“I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but oddly enough, I don’t really care what people think of me.” Julian smiled.

“That’s the way to do it,” Robert coughed, squeezing Julian’s hand slightly.

Julian laughed. “Whatever risks I might be taking are certainly worth it to make sure that our Robert recovers quickly.”

“You’re just as stubborn as Mr. Punch.” Cecil grinned. “I like you already.”

“Thank you.” Julian blushed. “I’m not quite sure where this stubborn streak has come from.”

“It suits you.” Cecil said. “Now, I’d best go check on Adrienne. Surely by now Carling Rittenhouse has crumpled into a sobbing heap. I’ll return.”

“Anything I can do right now for ya?” Marjani asked.

“There is one thing.” Julian nodded, “if you wouldn’t mind. My man, Naasir…”

“Brother to Cephas. I know Cephas. He’s so proud of his world-travelin’ brother.”

“Yes.” Julian grinned. “I’m not quite sure where Naasir is, but we most assuredly could use his help.”

“I’ll go an’ get him if you like. He’s just over to Mr. Halifax’s place, I’m sure.” Marjani said quickly.

“Would you mind?” Julian asked.

“Now, what do you think?” Marjani chuckled. “You just stay here with this nice man and keep him quiet. I’ll be back in the tick tock of a clock.”

“Thank you, Marjani.” Julian said sincerely.

“Anythin’ for the Great Man of the Rocks.” Marjani winked.

“You…” Julian’s eyes widened.

“Like I done said, we been expectin’ ya.” Marjani winked again.

Alone with Robert, Julian felt the man’s forehead and sighed. “I’ve been gone for quite awhile, haven’t I?”

Robert nodded weakly.

“I must confess, I have no idea what’s going on on.” Julian said softly.

“You’ll find out.” Robert rasped. “There is one thing…” Robert began, but his voice caught in his throat and his body rocked with another wave of coughing.

Before Robert could continue, the door to the room opened slowly.

Julian looked up to see who had entered.

His eyes widened and he gasped. “Barbara…”

Lady Barbara entered—still dressed as a maid, still wearing the blonde wig.

“You seem surprised.” Barbara growled.

“Shouldn’t I be?” Julian asked.

“After the way you spoke to me earlier, I should expect you’d be shocked that I’d return.” Barbara hissed.

Julian frowned and shook his head. “Of course.”

From deep within him, Julian heard a familiar voice. “Master, let me deal with this one. She’s not good enough to talk to ya, she ain’t. Said she wanted to make me chum disappear. Master, I can make her disappear. Easy, it’d be. Easy. I’ll make ya proud, I will.”

“Very well, Mr. Punch.” Julian said aloud.

Did you miss Chapters 1-63? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Feed the Birds

If you get a chance today, pick up some bird food at your local home improvement store.  You don’t really need a fancy feeder though that’s always a nice addition to any yard.  Setting out some food for our winged friends invites a wealth of attractive color and sounds into our lives.  Equally fun, if you live near a pond or body of water, on your lunch break, pick up a loaf of inexpensive bread so that you can feed the ducks.  Taking a few minutes to interact with nature is always healthy.  It’s a time for you to appreciate the simple things that life has to offer and an opportunity to unwind. 

Object of the Day: An Antique Bristol Glass Vase

This elegant pedestal vase is in remarkably pristine condition. Of the many Bristol Glass pieces I’ve collected over the years, this is by far my favorite.

Porcelain-white Bristol glass has in an interrupted oval shape sits upon a delicately-turned base which has been banded in an antique silver-blue and gilt trim. The vessel is painted with a scene of brightly-colored birds amidst gold and white flowers and stalks. On the reverse, pale green palm trees in silhouette arc gracefully in a quintessentially Victorian pattern.

One of the things that most draws me to Bristol Glass is the architectural nature of its design. Graceful, yet solid forms such as this were the result of using a mold to shape the glass. I’m also attracted to the natural themes and scenes painted on these pieces. Victorian and Edwardian very much appreciated the beauty of nature and strove to bring the outside world into their homes. This took the form of painted and sculptural representations and, even, the slightly creepier, but nonetheless intriguing art of taxidermy. This was an era where “collecting” was a highly regarded sport. To surround yourself with beauty was a chief goal. I think that’s an ideal that we should strive to incorporate into our existence today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Something Old, Something Blue: Brooches Given to Queen Victoria’s Bridesmaids

Victoria and Albert, Art and Love
The Royal Collection
At Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert, in 1840, twelve unmarried ladies of noble birth acted as her bridesmaids. Their principal duty was to carry the long train of Victoria’s gown. As is the custom today, Victoria presented her bridesmaids with a gift to express her appreciation and to serve as a keepsake. She chose to present each girl with a jeweled brooch in the form of an eagle.

After the wedding, the bridesmaids, still in their flowing white gowns trimmed with roses, were each presented with a blue velvet box from the jeweler, Charles du Vé (who worked with the Royal Jewelers at Garrards). According to the Queen’s specifications, the brooches were set with stones which were symbolic of the occasion. This was a traditional practice in Victorian jewelry-making where certain stones meant certain things. Each brooch shimmered with turquoise and pearls to represent true love, diamonds to represent eternity and rubies to signify passion.

Thankfully, most of these twelve brooches still survive and are kept in the original families of the young ladies to whom they were presented. At once a sweet souvenir and a striking piece of jewelry, these magnificent pins were truly the gift of royalty.

Building of the Week: The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville

The Hotel in 1910
The Hermitage Hotel

It has welcomed six presidents and has played host to the likes of Bette Davis, Al Capone, Greta Garbo, Steven Spielberg and Al Jolson. This is The Hermitage Hotel—once the social center of the elite of Nashville, Tennessee. Built in 1910, The Hermitage was the first million-dollar hotel in Tennessee and was immediately a symbol of Nashville’s success as a Southern city. Named for President Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee estate, The Hermitage, no expense was spared in building it. Marble and Russian walnut became the perfect backdrop for the opulent furnishings and rich Persian rugs. The ceiling in the lobby is a testament to the glass-maker’s art—cut and stained glass are expertly assembled into magnificent vaults. The hotel, with its gilt moldings and graceful arches, is the epitome of Belle Époque style.

When the doors opened, the people of Tennessee knew they had something exceptional. The Hermitage Hotel quickly became the hub of social and cultural activity. Musicians such as The Francis Craig Orchestra and Dinah Shore entertained guests. “Meet me at the Hermitage,” was on everyone’s lips. The hotel even became the seat of the Democratic Party for awhile, providing a dramatic stage for political events.

The Lobby.
The Hermitage Hotel
During the 1980’s and 90’s, the hotel changed hands frequently. Now, however—one hundred years after its construction—the Hermitage Hotel is in the caring hands of Historic Hotels of Nashville, LLC who has undertaken an extensive restoration plan which has returned this hotel to its Golden Age splendor.

Unusual Artifacts: King George III’s Egg Boiler, 1804

The royal eggs, of course, must be boiled to perfection. One wouldn’t want the yolks too firm nor too runny. Even with an expertly staffed palace, sometimes a king has to take control of his own life. After all, you can’t trust just anyone to boil your eggs.

And, so, we have King George III’s personal egg boiler. This silver-gilt egg boiler was the centerpiece of an elaborate breakfast set presented to the king by his daughters on the occasion of his sixty-sixth birthday on June 4, 1804. A flame housed in the chamber underneath kept the water boiling. And, certainly, to ensure perfection, the piece is mounted with an egg timer. George III did actually use this quite often. With its gilt cabriole legs, engraved royal insignia and serpentine handles, this little item is as much of a work of art as it was useful.

Treat of the Week—Special Edition: Bertie Dog Cupcakes

Part of living a beautiful life is learning to celebrate. Every June 11, for Bertie’s birthday, my mother bakes a very special cake which represents Bertie’s interests (dogs have interests) and his personality.

For his seventh birthday, the Bertie Dog was treated to many sweet little representations of himself with these gorgeous Westie cupcakes. Delicious butter cream icing topped rich white cake. Iced Marshmallows and smaller portions of cake create the sculptural effect. Chocolate (a.k.a. “dog poison”) free, Bertie was able to enjoy a small portion of a cupcake with the rest of the family. This was the perfect end to a really lovely day set aside to honor a very special little guy. We all feasted on hamburgers (because that’s what he wanted) and enjoyed one another’s company.

Our mission here at “Stalking the Belle Époque” is to find the beauty that still remains in each day. Some days, the beauty comes straight from our kitchens.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 63

Marjani rushed into the room. Panicked, Punch bellowed at her—his words incomprehensible as he pointed to Robert who lay on the bed. Marjani hurried to the man’s side.

Mr. Punch moaned loudly. “Not got any air in ‘im.” He shook Julian’s hands in the air frantically. “Help us.”

Marjani placed her hands firmly on Robert’s chest and pushed on it. “Holy Mother, protect this man. Protect him.” She pushed again, and again, rhythmically. “Protect him.”

“Help.” Punch whimpered.

“Say it with me, Your Lordship.” Marjani said quickly. “Say it with me. ‘Holy Mother, protect him.’”

“Protect ‘im.” Punch sobbed. “Protect ‘im.”

Marjani continued to press on Robert’s chest.

“Protect him!” Punch shouted. He grabbed a glass from the bed stand and smashed it against the wall. “Can’t do nothin’!” Mr. Punch groaned. “Gotta hit somethin’!”

“No, Sir. You gotta keep yourself at ease.” Marjani said, still compressing Robert’s torso. “There’s much you can do for to help.”

“I’d do anything, I would.” Punch said, shaking. “Does your holy woman know that? Does she know that I’d do anything? Here!” Punch looked up to the ceiling. “Let me take his pain. Don’t matter to me. I ain’t no stranger to it. I’m two men, I am. I can take the pain what’s killin’ me chum. Holy Mother, hear me. I’ll do anythin’ ya ask only let me chum have breath in ‘im. Can’t lose him. Can’t!”

A slow, deep rattling came from within Robert’s chest. He man sputtered weakly.

“Help me, Lord Fallbridge, help me for to sit him up.” Marjani called.

Mr. Punch rushed to Robert’s side and gently bent the man forward.

“Did you fix ‘im?” Mr. Punch rubbed Robert’s back. Punch whooped! “You did. You fixed me chum He’s got life in him again.”

Marjani smiled, arranging pillows behind Robert’s back so that he could recline slightly, but still remain upright. “I’d nothin’ ta do with it.”

“Julian…” Robert whispered.

“Sir, he wants Julian.” Marjani said. “Now, tell me for true, is that you?”

“No.” Mr. Punch said quietly. “Isn’t. Only his body. It’s me mind what’s in here. But, you knew that.”

“Yes, sir.” Marjani nodded. “Seems to me your companion’s wantin’ Julian.”

Mr. Punch let the tears roll down Julian’s cheeks. “Can’t look after ‘im from inside here.”

“Can’t ya?” Marjani whispered.

Punch wiped Julian’s eyes with the back of his hand.

“Julian…” Robert gasped feverishly. “I know…”

Suddenly, a flurry of activity filled the room as a short, portly man with frizzled gray hair entered.

“Clear the way,” the man barked.

He was followed by Carling Rittenhouse, Cecil and Adrienne.

“You there! You, get out of my way.” The man snapped at Mr. Punch.

“Come over, here, dear brother.” Adrienne said. “We will wait together while Dr. DeCuir examines Robert.”

“Julian…” Robert moaned.

Mr. Punch grunted and looked to the ceiling. “I promised I’d do whatever was asked o’ me.”

Robert coughed violently.

“Is it?” Carling Rittenhouse fluttered about. “Is it ‘Yellow Jack?’”

“Hush up, woman!” Dr. DeCuir spat. He listened to Robert’s breathing. “You!” He hollered to Marjani. “Help me get him out of his coat and shirt.”

Marjani did as instructed.

“Merciful heavens,” Carling Rittenhouse gasped.

“Mrs. Rittenhouse, if the sight of a bare-chested man scandalizes you, then, perhaps you should leave the room.” Cecil growled.

“Not until I know what form of contagion your brother has brought into my house along with his lunatic friend.”

“Pardon me?” Cecil stepped forward. “You’re speaking of a member of my family. Lord Fallbridge is one of us.”

“Lord Fallbridge? Ha! This man is no Lord. Have you heard the way he speaks? He’s obviously some sort of imposter. You’re all trying to trick me!”

“I assure you, Madam, I am no imposter.” Julian said plainly. “I am Julian Molliner, Lord Fallbridge.”

Cecil and Adrienne looked at the man they had only known as Mr. Punch. The voice that came from the man was much like the manner in which Mr. Punch spoke when he was impersonating Lord Julian, but clearer and less forced.

“I will confess,” Julian continued. “I have no idea who you are or what you think you’re doing. But, I can plainly see that my friend is in a terrible way and I will thank you not to interfere. I get the sense that this is your home. If it is, kindly be a good hostess and allow your guests some privacy.”

“You’re all a lot of savages!” Carling Rittenhouse gasped. “Savages in silk and diamonds are still savages.” She rushed from the room.

Marjani had stripped Robert to the waist and stepped aside while the doctor continued his examination. Adrienne turned her back slightly.

Julian looked around the room, trying to figure out where he was and how he’d gotten there, who he was with, and just what had happened to Robert.

Marjani silently walked past Julian and whispered. “He’s done been askin’ for ya. I see the other fella went away for a spell. My name’s Marjani Caruthers. I’m your friend.”

Julian smiled.

“Girl!” Dr. DeCuir bellowed. “Come here at once.”

Marjani hurried to the doctor’s side.

Cecil extended a hand to Julian, but quickly withdrew it as he remembered that Julian didn’t like to be touched.

“We meet at last, Lord Fallbridge.” Cecil smiled.

“I take it that you’re Cecil.” Julian nodded.

“And this is my wife…”

“Adrienne.” Julian finished the sentence. “I’d know you anywhere. When he awakened me, I heard Mr. Punch’s voice clearly for the first time. He said that I would speak to an angel ‘what was’ his sister. That would be you, of course.”

Adrienne smiled. “I am happy to know you.”

“I only wish our introduction occurred under better circumstances. Is Robert ill? What is the matter?”

“We don’t know. He’s been coughing.” Adrienne said.

“Blood. And, a fever.” Cecil added.

Julian blanched. “I must sit with him.”

Julian walked over to the bed and stood next to the doctor.

“Get back there with the others.” Dr. DeCuir snapped.

“No.” Julian shook his head, surprised at his own assertiveness. “I shall not. Mr. Halifax, I’m told, has been asking for me. I shall not disappoint him now that I’m here.”

Robert’s eyes fluttered. “Julian?” He croaked.

“Yes, my friend.” Julian smiled. “I’m here.”

From deep inside Julian—somewhere—Mr. Punch listened to the whole scene. “You’re out for now, me master, but I gotta go back, too. Can’t be too far from me chums, I can’t. Look after them for me, won’t ya? For now…”

As Julian took Robert’s hand in his, he smiled—smiled for the feeling of Robert’s fingers relaxing and smiling because he could still hear Mr. Punch speaking clearly.

“Well, then.” The doctor cleared his throat.

“What is it, Dr. DeCuir?” Cecil asked.

“Exactly what I thought it was.” The doctor shook his head.

Did you miss Chapters 1-62? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Keep Your Boundaries

Do you ever feel as though you’re being pressured into doing something that you don’t want to do? Do you find it difficult to say, “No?” Have you begun to feel that some of the people in your life take advantage of you? If so, it may be time to reevaluate your boundaries.

While pushing people away completely is not in your best interest, it is important to keep healthy boundaries. Remember, you have rights. You have the right to feel, to think, to be independent, to act according to your own plan. You have the right not to feel guilty, you have the right to not be bullied. You have the right to say, “No.” And, most definitely you have the right to privacy.

Today, give yourself a few moments to pause and take stock of what you’re feeling. Are you exercising your rights? If not, you may need to assert some boundaries into your relationships at work, with your friends, or even at home. There’s no need to be confrontational. Simple logic is all that’s needed. That combined with a level head and a sense of calm, will ensure that you’re happily living life on your terms.

Object of the Day: Danse Des Escarpes by August Moreau

Everything about the idea of a “Dance of the Scarves” would have appealed to a Nineteenth Century French sculptor with Auguste Moreau’s sensibilities. The fluidity of the veils, the implication of motion, the opportunity to render a figure of a robust young woman and the blending of ethereal and terrestrial beauty would have been an appealing subject indeed.

It’s no wonder, then, that Auguste Moreau chose this subject. Sculptors of the era were often inspired to create more naturalistic representations of classical or, even, biblical themes. The figure presented by Moreau in this sculpture reminds us of Salome and her lethal “Dance of the Seven Veils,” however, this is a more bucolic interpretation. Here, the figure is elevated in joy, a large rose tucked behind her ear. She immediately speaks to us of grace and elegance. These were the hallmarks of French sculpture, and, undoubtedly Auguste Moreau’s calling card.

Cast in spelter and signed on the reverse by the artist, this piece features its original rosewood base. She is a spirited reminder that the simplest of moments can be the most breathtaking.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Film of the Week: The Corn is Green, 1945

Based on the semi-autobiographical 1940 play by Emlyn William’s, The Corn is Green starred Bette Davis as Lily Moffatt, a middle-aged woman who struggles to educate the children of a Welsh mining village and, in doing so, faces many obstacles from the townspeople who need the young men to work in the mines.

In 1945, Bette Davis was only thirty-six years old, however, she jumped at the chance to portray the fifty-something Miss Moffatt. Never afraid to look unglamorous, Davis donned a gray wig and a specially made suit of padding which appeared to add thirty pounds to her petite frame. Davis’ performance is quiet and deep. She imbues Miss Moffatt with a combination of steely resolve and maternal feelings. She was surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast which included the always-enjoyable Nigel Bruce, John Dall, Rhys Williams and Joan Lorring. Made for Warner Brother’s, the film was directed by Irving Rapper with whom Davis had a good relationship. Rapper had a great knack for catching Davis at just the right angles to reveal the subtlety of her performances.

Davis and Dall as "Miss Moffatt" and "Morgan"
Warner Brothers Pictures
Warner Brothers was a little nervous about the film. While they knew that it featured outstanding performances from Davis, John Dall (the young man, Morgan, whose remarkable intellect encourages Miss Moffatt to continue her fight) and Joan Lorring (the scheming tart who tries to sabotage Morgan’s successful future), they felt that it might not do well at the box office. The studio manipulated the picture’s trailers to portray a glamorous love story. Shots of Bette Davis looking stunning from Now, Voyager were interjected into the trailer and dialogue was edited so that it appeared that the relationship between Moffatt and Morgan was a romance as opposed to a teacher and student. This little bit of Hollywood trickery wasn’t needed. The film received decent reviews and garnered Academy Award nominations for John Dall and Joan Lorring in the “supporting” categories.

While not glamorous nor full of gripping action, this is a story of perseverance, second chances and sacrifice. Davis often said that she enjoyed playing Miss Moffatt. In fact, she reprised the role in a very short-running musical version of the story fittingly called, “Miss Moffatt.” For good solid drama and lots of nifty Welsh accents, this is the right film.

Enjoy this incredibly misleading trailer which tries to make it seem more romantic than it is. Ahhhh...Warner Brothers.

The STBE Challenge: An Inviting Bridge

One of our regular followers sent me this very attractive photo of a nature trail where she walks each day.  I wish more communities had areas like this that were not only beautiful, but also a safe place to get some exercise and enjoy nature.  This just goes to show that sometimes beauty is just around the corner.

Humanitarian of the Week: Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews
In order to be a true humanitarian, one must feed minds as well as bodies. I have always believed that the only way in which we can be complete as a culture is to understand from where we’ve come. Everything that we do and all that we have has some correlation to a decision made by our ancestors. Only when we explore the past, can we begin to comprehend what the future holds for us. To me, the kindest thing you can so for someone is to introduce them to our collective history, especially the history of the arts. One man who has dedicated his life to the teaching of a very specific art is Mark Andrews, celebrated “Punch & Judy Man” and Secretary of The Punch and Judy Fellowship.

Mr. Andrews is considered one of the best and most influential Punch & Judy “Professors” in the United Kingdom. Through his continued performances of Britain’s favorite puppet show, he is preserving an important piece of world culture and history. Andrews also travels to give lectures on a variety of topics, including: The History of Punch and Judy, Seaside Holidays of the Past, Puppets and Puppetry, and Victorian Entertainment. Co-editor of the recently published, limited edition book, That’s the Way to Do It: Thirty Years of the Punch & Judy Fellowship, Mr. Andrews continues to enrich our culture by reminding us of our roots. For fostering a spirit of reflection, providing us with a chance to see our beautiful past, and for keeping Mr. Punch up to his beloved antics, Mark Andrews is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”  A visit to Mr. Andrews' Web sites is definitely enjoyable.  They are Punch & Judy Man and

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Martin Firrell

Why settle for the art world when you can have the whole world?
–Martin Firrell

St. Paul's Cathedral
Martin Firrell
During the Belle Époque, the visual, written and performing arts underwent major transformations. At the start of the “gilded age” pastoral scenes and idealized landscapes were hung in salons vibrating with romantic string music. However, as the beautiful era progressed, artistic movements such as The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood popularized a reliance on naturalistic forms and realism. Literature began to rely on stark realism and theater-goers were soon shocked by displays which would have been considered unconscionably graphic ten years prior. This was the beginning of both a return to classical forms and their adaptation to new and exciting ideas. Today, artists of all media and genres work in that same spirit. One who seems to combine many of these elements in his work is London-based public artist, Martin Firrell.

Martin Firrell

Firrell says of himself, “I have been described as a typographer, a designer, a writer, a campaigner, an activist, an artist, a provocateur, a benign propagandist, and a sci fi geek.” Known world-wide for his large scale projections of words and phrases on British monuments such as Guards Chapel, the National Gallery in London, the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Tate Britain and St Paul's Cathedral, Firrell’s goals are to arouse people’s thoughts, to encourage them to question the structure around them, to guard themselves against oppression and to explore their own sense of curiosity. He believes that art is for everyone and that each individual should be allowed to process thoughts in their own way and to develop a unique way of life without interference. By projecting provocative images, Firrell hopes to stimulate thoughts that the every-day citizen may not have had an invitation to investigate previously.

Royal Opera House
Martin Firrell
Firrell’s text-based works often incorporate pertinent images—sometimes moving, always on a grand scale, and always technically precise. Exhibitions such as “The Question Mark Inside” raised the question of what makes life meaningful. Other displays explore the meanings and consequences of diversity, religion, politics, masculinity, ageing, and heroism. Firrell’s work is unusual and exciting. To learn more about Mr. Firrell, visit his Web site.