Saturday, October 30, 2010

Painting of the Week: Canaletto’s “Eton College,” 1754

Eton College
Canaletto, 1754
National Gallery, Britain
Venetian painter Giovanni Antonio Canal (known as Canaletto) was admired for his accurate landscape paintings which depicted startlingly precise topographical features.  His work was especially favored by English collectors.  Canaletto spent a good amount of time traveling and living in England and painted many brilliant landscapes and English scenes.  The painting of Eton College shows the college chapel from the East from across the Thames.   Though Canaletto was staying in nearby Windsor in 1747, and could have painted this piece at that time, the style of the painting suggests that it is a later work dating to about 1754.  This, and other examples of Canaletto’s work is in the permanent collection at the National Gallery, Britain.

At the Music Hall: “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo,” 1892

Charles Coborn
As I walk along the Bois Boolong
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
"He must be a Millionaire."
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

In the 1890’s, as the working class’ dreams of a better life were begining to seem more achievable, songs such as “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” were rising in popularity. With its cheerful melody and upbeat lyrics about the favors of Dame Fortune, this song was a rousing anthem for all those who dreamed of bigger things.

Written in 1892 by Fred Gilbert, the song actually was inspired by the true case of Charles Wells who won over one million francs in Monte Carlo. Though Dame Fortune smiled on Mr. Wells—he also had a hand in his luck. He had used money for his bets that he’d swindled from other people. Still, the song is cheerful and hopeful. Singer Charles Coborn re-popularized the song in the 1930’s (while in his 80’s) during a period of great economic difficulty throughout which people dreamt of better things to come. Coborn famously performed the song in the film Say it With Flowers in 1934. The song also inspired the title of the 1935 film The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo—a film which has nothing to do with the song, but features a performance of Gilbert’s lyrics.







Saturday Sparkle: The Timur “Ruby” Necklace

The Timur "Ruby" Necklace
Garrard and Co., 1853
Made for Queen Victoria
The Royal Collection
As is the case with The Black Prince’s “Ruby,” the famed Timur Rubies are, in fact, spinels. Natural red spinel is an equally beautiful and valuable stone. Here, we see three of them—set in gold and enamel and surrounded by diamonds. These spinels (along with several other large stones) came into the possession of Queen Victoria as a gift from the East India Company for her patronage of the Great Exhibition. These stones came from the same collection of gems which provided Queen Victoria with the Koh-i-nûr Diamond prior to the Exhibition in 1850. Believed, at the time, to have been rubies, the stones were described as “wonderful rubies, cabochons, unset, but pierced. One is the largest in the world, therefore even more remarkable than the Koh-i-noor.” The stone in question is the large central spinel which weighs 352.5 carats.


Queen Victoria had these stones set into the necklace in April of 1853. The necklace was altered in 1858 to allow the central spinel to be removed so that the Koh-i-nûr could be worn in its place. Similarly, five diamond drops which hung from the necklace were made detachable and an adjustment was made to the setting of the central spinel so that the Lahore Diamond could be worn beneath it as a central pendant when not in use on the Coronation Necklace.

Whether you call them rubies or spinels, there’s no changing the beauty of these stones. Queen Victoria, as we’ve noticed was very fond of her jewelry. Her preservation and care of these pieces has given us all the opportunity to enjoy them today.

Toys of the Belle Époque: Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, 1924

Calling this magnificent work of art a toy seems wrong somehow. However, it does fit into the category of “toy” as it is, indeed, a dollhouse—no matter how elaborate. Created as a gift to Queen Mary (the former Mary of Teck, wife of King George V, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II) from the people of England, the initial idea for the dolls’ house came from Princess Marie Louise who consulted with celebrated architect Sir Edwin Luytens. Sir Edwin agreed to construct the dolls’ house—completing it in 1924. The house stands at over three feet tall and is constructed in a 1:12 scale.

The finest craftsman and artists in England contributed the myriad miniature items in the house—many of them fully functional—and the elaborate murals and paintings. With full plumbing, a flushing lavatory (complete with miniature paper), hot water, and electric light (activated by tiny light switches on the walls), the opulent dolls’ house is meant to freeze a moment in time and show just how a royal residence of the 1920’s should have been run. Writers such as Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and W. Somerset Maugham penned special miniature books which were bound in scale. In fact, only George Bernard Shaw scoffed at the request to produce a tiny tome.

The bottles in the wine cellar contain the correct amounts of the actual liquor described on the little labels. Drawers open and close. There are even biscuits in the biscuit tins. Many of the objects in the house are miniatures of specific products that were in use at the time. These objects, in most instances, were crafted by the parent company so that their product would be represented in this special gift.

The majority of the paintings, hangings and fabrics are miniature reproductions of Queen Mary’s favorites from the royal residences. Her Majesty was thrilled with the gift which was put on display at 1924-25 British Empire Exhibition. Today, the dolls’ house is on display as part of the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. The Royal Collection web site features a lovely interactive tour of the house which allows you to “walk” through the miniature and look around in ways never before possible. There, you’ll also find a very thorough inventory of several of the special items in the house as well as another interactive section wherein by clicking the arrows, you can open the lids, drawers and such of many of the delicate objects. It’s quite a lot of fun.  This video--curiously set to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet--is also a nice look into this wonderful dolls' house.




Punch's Cousin, Chapter 84

Marjani rose to her full height and put her hands on her hips. “Go on, now! Git!”


“Come on, then.” Arthur grinned—his slick yellow teeth making Marjani look away. “Show us a little Christian charity, what.”

“Ain’t got no charity for the likes of you. Besides, this place is under quarantine. Don’t want the Yellow Fever, do ya?”

Arthur frowned. “Just because you’re thick with barmy Lord Fallbridge and his ‘chum,’ you ain’t gonna even offer me a helpin’ hand.”

“I’ll give you my hand.” Marjani said, raising her arm high above her head.

“Fine, then.” Arthur grinned. “I know when I’m not welcome.”

“And, if I ever catch you sniffin’ ‘round this child again, I’ll make it so you got nothin’ but a hole where your nose oughta be.” Marjani shouted.

“Say, I could like you.” Arthur winked. “Fancy havin’ a bit of whiskey with me?”

“Git!” Marjani bellowed.

Arthur laughed and left the shack.

Marjani hurried over to Columbia and knelt down beside her granddaughter. “Now, chil’ if you see that man comin, you jus’ run the other way. You hear?”

Columbia nodded. “Can I see Mama and Papa now?”

“No, Honey. Ya can’t.”

“I just wanna give ‘em a kiss for Christmas.” Columbia lowered her head.

“I’ll give it to ‘em for ya, Honey.” Marjani said softly. “See, your mama and papa, they’re sick and the sickness they got, it’s very catchin’. I can’t have you getting’ sick on me, too. Now, can I? Who would help me feed the pups and grind the stones for my colors.”

“Can I help with the colors tonight?” Columbia asked.

“Yes, Chil’, you can. We’re gonna mix up a big buncha colors. See, we’re gonna have to dye whole bunches of cloth next year. The ladies are wearin’ all their best dresses to the big ball in New Orleans when the year changes. Well, you know, after that, they’re all gonna want new gowns cuz folk done already seen ‘em in the ones they got already.” Marjani said.

“I’ll help.” Columbia nodded. “We gonna make them ladies pretty.”

“That’s right, Columbia.” Marjani continued to force herself to smile. “But, you can only do that if you don’t get sick. So, let me give kisses to your mama and papa for you and you run ‘long back to my place. I’ll tell ‘em both that you love them.”

“Will you get sick, Grandmama?” Columbia asked.

“Me?” Marjani faked a laugh. “Honey, you know your grandmamma. Ain’t nothin’ ever gonna get me sick. Now, go on. See if them pups are wantin’ their supper.”

“I love you, Grandmama.” Columbia hugged her grandmother.

“Oh, I love you, too, my lamb.” Marjani squeezed the girl. Tears welled up in her eyes. She broke the hug and turned away. “Now, go on.”

Marjani listened until she heard the door to the shack close, and, then, she wept bitterly.

At that very moment, Arthur wandered lazily through the sugar cane, grabbing at it with his dirty hands as he walked along and hummed.

He was shocked when he heard a hissing from the cane and thought he’d stumbled upon a snake.

“Oh, it’s you,” Arthur sighed as Barbara Allen approached him.

“Is that how you greet your wife?” Barbara asked.

“It is when she’s dressed like that.” Arthur frowned. “With all them fine clothes that girl’s got, you’d think she could have given you something decent to wear.”

“I don’t dare ask Ulrika for anything else. Haven’t I already paid her enough?”

“I don’t mind.” Arthur grinned. “It’s not bad work.”

Barbara put her hands around Arthur’s throat and squeezed.

Arthur continued to smile. “Jealous?” He gasped. “Don’t you think I will be when you get to work tomorrow?”

“No.” Barbara released her husband’s neck. “Frankly, I don’t.”

“So, then, pet, any luck?” Arthur asked, rubbing his throat.

“No. I can’t get near the place. Mr. Rittenhouse has a whole army of men cleaning up the debris. What about you? Did you get anything to eat?”

“Not a morsel.” Arthur laughed.

“Is this amusing to you?” Barbara shook her head.

“It rather is, Barb’ry Allen.” Arthur continued to walk along, humming. Barbara chased after him.

“Listen to me,” Barbara whispered fiercely. “We’re leaving for New Orleans when it gets dark. If I don’t have something to eat before then I’m going to die.”

“They already all think you’re dead anyway—just like they done me.” Arthur shrugged.

“If I die, you will, too. You need me. I’m you’re sole supporter. You should count yourself very fortunate that I forgave you for leaving me in that blaze.”

“I do, pet, I do.” Arthur winked. “Want us to show you our gratitude?”

“No.” Barbara frowned. “I can still smell Ulrika on you.”

“Least she’s got food.”

“Fine lot of help you are,” Barbara grumbled.

“You know who’d love to help ya?” Arthur smirked. “Your loony brother. He’d be ever-so-pleased to see you alive. I fancy he’d even give you a few shillings.”

“And force me to go home.” Barbara narrowed her eyes.

“No.” Arthur shrugged. “Don’t have to be that way. We can still go off as we planned. Just let him think you’ve reformed your wicked ways. Get what you can, then, tonight slip out.” Arthur pointed down the red hill to Cecil and Adrienne’s house. “Think of him and his companion all nice and warm in that big, yellow house. Think of the diamonds on his fingers—then. Think of him stuffin’ his skinny face with food and talkin’ in strange voices and bein’ all wild and understanding all at once. Don’t you hate him? Think what that hate can get us.”

“He’d never accept you in that house.”

“Tell ‘im I’m gone—abandonned you.” Arthur winked. “He’d believe. Just picture it, Pet, your barmy brother—the grand Lord Fallbridge—thrilled to have his wayward sister back in the family bosom at last. Then, think of the pain he’ll feel when he awakens on Christmas morning to find you’ve gone!” Arthur laughed.

“What about his companion?” Barbara asked. “That butcher is no fool. He has no sentiment when it comes to me. He’d not believe a word of it. Julian is very much in that man’s control, you know. He’s not going to do anything unless the doctor approves of it. Furthermore, what if Julian’s playing one of his games? He’s not terribly reasonable when he’s putting on his little charade with the rough voice and manner.”

“Isn’t it better than freezing and starving for the next few hours?” Arthur smiled.

“And, what will you do?” Barbara asked.

“Oh, I got somewhere to go.” Arthur smiled.

Barbara looked away. “I’m sure that you do.”

Meanwhile, Julian was cuddled up in bed with Toby who snored in the sweet way that only a dog can snore.

“I do like him.” Julian grinned.

“So does Mr. Punch.” Robert nodded from the soft upholstered chair where he sat. “You’re looking better, I must say.”

“I’m feeling better.” Julian answered. “These burns still hurt like the devil. Do we have any more of that salve?”

“Yes.” Robert said, “But let’s wait a bit. I’ve only just put some on.”

“Very well.” Julian sighed.

A faint knock on the door interrupted their conversation.

“It is I.” Adrienne said through the door.

“Enter,” Robert smiled.

Adrienne came into the room. She looked pale and worried.

“Is something wrong?” Robert asked.

“A visitor has come to the rear door. Someone for Lord Fallbridge.” Adrienne explained.

“A visitor for me?” Julian sat up. “Who on Earth would wish to see me? I don’t know anyone here except for the people in this house and the Rittenhouses. And, I know that Mrs. Rittenhouse would not want to visit with me.”

“Julian,” Adrienne said softly. “It’s your sister.”



Did you miss Chapters 1-83? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, November 1 for Chapter 85 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Make Your Mark in History

My house circa 1890.
Whether your home is old or new, you’re a part of its history. We live in a society that likes to tear down its history. So few architectural examples of America’s past remain. Progress is one thing, but forgetting our roots is something else entirely. Nevertheless, we can assume that your home will continue to stand even after you’ve long left it. One thing that I remember doing as a child was—each time we moved—leaving a note tucked away behind a piece of molding. This little memento—out of sight—said something along the lines of “We lived here from this date to this date.”

I liked that idea as a child, and I like it now. As an aficianado of historic architecture and the owner of a Victorian home, I am always thrilled to find little clues and reminders of the families and people who walked the same floorboards. Each of us contributes something remarkable to our world history—even in the most minor of ways. It’s time to record it! So, today, if you own your home, print out a little something that states who you are and how long you’ve lived there or any other information you’d like to share and hide it in some place remote where it might be found in a century. Someone in the future will be very happy to find it.

Object of the Day: A Drawing by Henry Gastineau, 1831

Henry G. Gastineau (1791-1876) studied at the Royal Academy Schools and trained as an engraver. He is best known, however for his topographical drawings and landscape paintings. He travelled extensively throughout Britain, painting and drawing the landscape and man-made features.


Here, we see Gastineau’s drawing of Menai Bridge—signed and dated 1831. This suspension bridge which was built in 1826 connects the Island of Anglesey to the mainland of Wales. Referred to as Pont Grog y Borth in Welsh, this was one of the first suspension bridges ever constructed in the world. Gastineau has captured the bridge—still in its infancy—with remarkable detail. Surprisingly, the site still looks very much the same today.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Fun: Emanuele Luzzati’s “Punch and the Magic Fish”

Last week, I posted a film animated by the painter, scenic designer and director, Emanuele Luzzati which depicted a scene from the daily life of Mr. Punch’s Italian cousin, “Pulcinella.” This week, I’m pleased to offer another short film by Luzzati and Giulio Gianini entitled, Pulcinella e il pesce magico (Punch and the Magic Fish).  Based on a tale by the Brothers Grimm and retold with Pulcinella as the lead, this adorable film was also translated into a picture book of the same name.  Enjoy!




Punch and the Magic Fish

Pets of the Belle Époque: Queen Victoria and Her Collie, Sharp, 1866

Queen Victoria and Sharp
W. and D. Downey, 1866
Noble Hounds and Dear Companions
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria had the companionship of many dogs throughout her life and seemed to feel about them the way I always feel about dogs.  She respected their loyalty and dignity.  This 1866 photograph by W. and D. Downey, shows Victoria with a dog she cherished later in her life when she had entered her long period of mourning.  The smooth-coated Border Collie which she named “Sharp” lived to be fifteen years old.  Victoria and Sharp were very devoted to one another.  The Queen even kept a silver statuette of sharp as a centerpiece on her dining table.  As was her tradition, when Sharp passed away, he was given a noble grave with a fine marker and epitaph seen here in this image from Number One London.





Mr. Punch in the Arts: “Punch & Judy on the Beach in Llandudno,” 1886

Punch & Judy on the Beach at Llandudno
R. Barnes, illustrator for The Graphic, 1886 or 1887
Victoria & Albert Museum
In the 1880’s in Britain, as railways made travel faster, people welcomed the newfound freedom and ease with which they could travel to the seaside for a much-needed holiday.  Punch & Judy shows were a staple of seaside resort life.  In fact, they still are.  Here we see an illustration produced by R. Barnes for the newspaper The Graphic which shows a seaside scene at a beach in North Wales—Llandudno.  The drawing is thought to depict Professor Herbert Codman’s Punch & Judy Booth.  Members of the Codman family were well-known Punch & Judy men and performed over generations for over a century in Wales.  This highly detailed drawing is as accurate as any photograph—showing details such as the bathing machines in the distance and the reactions of the crowd as they watch the show. 

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Victoria in Fancy Dress, 1845

Queen Victoria in Costume for
The 1745 Fancy Ball
June 6, 1845
Commissioned by the Queen
for her Portrait Album
Watercolor over Pencil
The Royal Collection
Fancy Dress Balls (or, as we’d say in the U.S., “costume balls”) were quite the sophisticated thing in British Society of the Nineteenth Century.  Everyone enjoyed the freedom of wearing clothes from another time and place.  Queen Victoria was no exception.  This small watercolor and pencil drawing shows Queen Victoria in one of her favorite costumes—a grand gown designed by the royal dressmakers M. and Mlle Vouillon et Laure for the June 6, 1845 Bal Costumé.  The Bal Costumé that year is historically often referred to by the name “The 1745 Fancy Ball.”  The theme that year was to dress as one would have one hundred years prior. 

Queen Victoria was so pleased with her Eighteenth-Century-inspired gown that she commissioned several portraits to be painted of herself wearing the costume.  In her journal entry for that night, she even drew a small sketch of the gown.  Though our mental picture of Victoria is of the stoop-shouldered widow in black, we must remember that this was a woman who was once young and in love—a woman who very much enjoyed life. 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 83

Julian awoke to find himself in his bed at the Halifax House. He began to rub his eyes and was surprised to see that both of his hands were bandaged. One felt warm and stiff, the other, tight and pinched.


He pushed himself up on his elbows, and as he did, he felt that his left leg was also bandaged. Propping himself up his pillow, he noticed Robert sitting at the foot of his bed.

“Good morning,”’ Robert smiled. The man was fully dressed and though he looked gaunt and pale, he was clearly in much better health than the last time Julian had seen him.

“Good morning,”’ Julian nodded stiffly. “When did we switch positions? The last I recall, you were in bed and I was sitting with you.”

“That was several days ago,” Robert said softly.

“Days?” Julian asked. “How many days?”

“Tomorrow is Christmas Day.” Robert grinned.

“Ah, that many days.” Julian sighed. “You’re well?”

“I’m on my way. Dr. DeCuir allowed me to come back to Cecil’s provided I still take plenty of rest. I couldn’t stay at the Rittenhouse Estate.”

“Why?” Julian asked.

“I had to be here with you.” Robert replied.

“What exactly has happened to me?” Julian whispered.

“You’ve been in a fire.” Robert responded. “The ceiling fell in on you.”

Julian searched his brain for some sort of memory of it, but he could not recall anything that had happened.

“Mr. Punch is keeping that little bit of information for me.” Julian smiled weakly.

“He was quite heroic.” Robert said. “I’m told he saved the lives of several horses, and, also, rescued Iolanthe Evangeline from the blaze.”

“She was also there? Horses? This was in a stable? Not here, I hope?”

“No. At the Rittenhouse property. You—I should say Mr. Punch—and Naasir went to administer some sort of Voodoo powder to Arthur and Barbara which would render them free of their wickedness and make them honest.”

“Arthur?” Julian said with a great deal of confusion. “Oh, yes.” He thought for a moment. “Of course, he did not perish in the sea, did he? So, I’m not a murderer. Is this correct?”

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “And, so, Mr. Punch and Naasir had gone to try to extract the truth from them.”

“Did it work?” Julian grunted.

“That’s hard to say.” Robert shrugged.

“Why was Iolanthe Evangeline there?” Julian asked.

“That’s also difficult to say.” Robert sighed. “Ulrika Rittenhouse was also present. She reported—after the fire—that she and Barbara had found a woman who had been shot and brought her to the stables to tend to her. She said that the woman identified herself only as Iolanthe and that she was in the presence of a large man. She says she knows nothing more. However, we know she’s lying to keep in the good graces of her mother. Naasir told us privately the whole story—that Cecil had shot Iolanthe and that she had been carried in by the man who called himself ‘The Professor.’”

“Where is she now?” Julian asked.

“That’s an excellent question, dear Julian.” Robert shook his head. “When the blaze had been extinguished, the men searched for her, but found only a patch of bloody moss.”

“And the professor?” Julian asked.

“The charred remains of a man were found in the embers.” Robert said softly.

“Naasir? He’s safe?” Julian asked.

“Yes. He suffered some minor burns. When the ceiling collapsed, he rushed in and rescued you.”

“I must thank him.” Julian sighed. “Why was I in the stable in the first place? If there was a fire, one would think Mr. Punch would have had sense enough to get out of there.”

“He had quite a bit of sense.” Robert responded. “He’d gone in to rescue Barbara and the Professor.”

“What of Arthur?” Julian asked.

“He seems to have escaped.” Robert answered. “Don’t you wish to know what became of your sister?”

“I’m afraid to ask.” Julian said softly. “Is she…?”

“Her body was not found. Mrs. Rittenhouse presumes her to have died in the blaze. However, I have my doubts. The man was found, but there was no evidence of Barbara.”

“I see.” Julian sniffed.

“You need your rest,” Robert said quickly, “You’ve been badly burned on your leg. Your hand only suffered minor burns.”

“What of my other hand?” Julian asked.

“That was cut earlier that day. Mr. Punch broke a window when he realized Arthur was alive.”

“I’d have done the same.” Julian chuckled. “I suppose I did do the same—just without knowing.”

“I wasn’t quite sure which of you would awaken.” Robert smiled. “You’ve been unconscious for so many days. I was beginning to become quite alarmed. Aside from the trauma of the fire, I suppose you’re quite exhausted. Your body needed time to repair itself. I imagine Mr. Punch is still napping in there.”

“Most likely.” Julian nodded. “I don’t hear him. I can usually hear him chattering away. He talks to himself quite a lot.”

“I know.” Robert grinned. “Julian,” Robert began, “when I saw the blaze from my window, I feared you’d perished. I…”

“I understand.” Julian nodded.

“Well, then,” Robert cleared his throat, “there’s someone who very badly wishes to see you.”

“Oh?”

“Come here, Toby.” Robert said, patting the bed.

Julian was surprised to see a terrier come trotting out from beneath the table near the fireplace. The terrier jumped on the bed and curled up next to Julian. Though slightly, painful, Julian stroked the dog’s fur with his bandaged hand.

“What a sweet pup.” Julian grinned. “Whose is he?”

“Yours.” Robert winked. “Well, to be accurate, he’s Mr. Punch’s dog. However, I think you can share ownership.”

“We share everything else.” Julian smiled.

“He was a gift from Marjani.” Robert explained.

“Has Marjani been helping you look after me?”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “I’ve only seen her a few times. Her daughter is quite ill. Yellow Fever.”

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that.” Julian said softly.

“They’ve been quarantined in a shack on the back of Mr. Fontanals’ land. The daughter’s husband has contracted it as well. Frankly, I’m surprised that they’ve lived as long as they have. They must be suffering terribly.”

“I can’t imagine.” Julian shook his head.

Meanwhile, in that dirty shack, Marjani leaned over her daughter and whispered. “Honey, I done brung you somethin’.”

Nontle opened her eyes and sputtered—sending blood droplets onto her white nightgown.

“Don’t speak, chil’.” Marjani said.

From a red bag, she removed a polychrome sculpture of the Virgin Mary. “I got this for ya. She’s gonna look over you.” She placed the statue next to the bed.

Grabbing her daughter’s hand, Marjani smiled. “She’s been watchin’ out for ya. Look at how well you’re doin’. My lamb, tomorrow is Christmas. There’s lots of rejoicin’ to be done. We’re gonna have a miracle we are. I know we are.”

Nontle gurgled as Kirabo twitched in his pained slumber.

The door to the shack creaked open and Marjani turned around to scold whoever had entered. “This ain’t no place to come to. We got a quarantine…”

Her eyes widened as a little girl came into the shack.

“Columbia!” Marjani gasped. “You can’t be in here!”

“I wanna see Mama and Papa.” Columbia said sweetly.

“No, Sugar. You gotta get away from here.”

Tears began to trickle down the girls’ cheeks. “I done made a present for Mama.” Columbia held up a torn scrap of parchment upon which she’d scribbled in red chalk.

“Where’d you get that chalk, Honey?” Marjani asked.

“From the man.” Columbia said, wiping her eyes.

“What man, Columbia?”

“The white man.” Columbia pointed behind her as Arthur entered the shack.

“Nice little girl, that one.” Arthur grinned. “Say, how’s about givin’ me a bit o’ help, then?”



Did you miss Chapters 1-82? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Face Each Day with Dignity

It’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter a situation today that you just don’t want to have to deal with.  Whether it’s a dreaded phone call, a meeting with disagreeable clients or a personal conversation that you just don’t want to have, you can still approach the situation with dignity.  All of us are imbued with a natural dignity which never goes away.  We can make mistakes, we can be goofy, we can look like fools, but regardless, we still have dignity.  When you face each situation knowing that you are a worthwhile human being, you will always be successful no matter what the immediate outcome is.  By presenting a dignified face to the world, you are securing your rights.  Being dignified doesn’t mean you have to be sour or put on a false front of pompousness.  It simply means that you have control over your thoughts and actions, that you know yourself and what you’re capable of, and that you wish to move forward in fairness.

Object of the Day: A Ruffled Bristol Glass Vase

The art of Bristol glass was a mainstay of the Victorian decorative arts. Most homes had Bristol glass pieces which, aside from being decorative, were used in daily life. Bristol glass took many forms. By the mid-Victorian period when all things ruffled were the rage, Bristol glass objects often featured ruffled details. This Bristol glass vase is English in origin and dates to the 1860’s. Remarkably still brilliant in color, the vase is a bright blue upon which a Rococo revival pattern has been painted in gold and accented with small red flowers and greenery. This color combination says a lot about the palette of Victorian homes. Many of us tend to think of Victorian design as being very dark and muddy. However, middle Nineteenth Century families enjoyed bright colors and employed them frequently into their décor.


Bristol glass—especially older pieces—is quite fragile and should be treated carefully. However, when kept out of harm’s way, they will continue to bring brilliance and beauty to your home for many more decades to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary’s Menthol Case, 1908

Menthol Case, 1908
Given to Queen Mary when
Princess of Wales.
Gold, Enamel, Moonstone.
The Royal Collection
Designed sometime between 1896 and 1908 by Henrik Wigström for Fabergé, this beautiful box was given as a gift by The Duchess of Roxburghe to Queen Mary (when she was still the Princess of Wales) on Christmas of 1908. A large cabochon moonstone tops the case, set in two-tone gold. The sides are resplendent in careful enamel-work in white and a pale blue which perfectly matches the stone. Gold ribbons and swags adorn the enamel.


A menthol case is rather a peculiar idea to modern eyes. Menthol—a minty crystalline compound derived from peppermint or other mint oils—was often carried for medicinal purposes. Menthol is a solid at room temperature, but becomes an oily balm when slightly heated. Menthol was used to heal chapped lips, clear sinuses, combat bad breath, aid ailing stomachs, as a topical analgesic and even to prevent itching. It would make sense to keep this useful compound near to you when your medicinal options were rather limited. Since menthol tended to be messy, cases such as this kept a lady’s bag oil-free.

I wonder if it still smells like menthol. I suppose I’ll never know. The case is on display in the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. If any of you ever get a chance to sniff it, let me know.


Gem of the Week: Moonstone

Edwardian Moonstone and Rose Cut Diamond
Ring in Platinum and Gold
A. Brandt and Son
Whenever I hear, “moonstone,” I think of the 1868 novel, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins which was technically about a diamond. It was one of the novels that we filmed for Wishbone in the mid-1990’s. I have fond memories of that shoot. Just for fun, I’ve put a clip from that episode below.

However, an actual moonstone is a gemstone formed from sodium potassium aluminum silicate. The moonstone is so named because of the peculiar sheen with which it seems to radiate—really an optical trick cause by the reflection of light against internal planes of feldspar. The bluish-white color and opalescence of the moonstone also contribute to its lunar-like appearance.

Moonstone is usually cut in a cabochon to take full advantage of its moon-like presence. The stone was used in setting as well as strung beads and has been employed for centuries. Late Victorian and Edwardian jewelry often featured the moonstone. The effect of the moonstone’s inner radiance when set against the hard shine of gold and the sprarkle of rose-cut or mine-cut diamonds was particularly dramatic in candlelight and gaslight. Moonstones remain a popular gem today, often finding a place in settings which contain amethysts and multi-colored sapphires.

Song of the Week: The Theme from “Otto e mezzo” by Nino Rota, 1963

Composer Nino Rota has given us the unforgettable scores of some of the most celebrated motion pictures ever made: La strada, Plein soleil, La dolce vita, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet and the Godfather films, to name a few. His long and brilliant association with director Federico Fellini inspired some of his most musically interesting works. Of particular note is the theme from Otto e mezzo (8 ½). The film deals with an artistically-blocked film director whose reality intertwines with a fantasy world. Rota’s score is a beautiful combination of marches, jazz, classical music, lounge music and melodies of the circus. The hauntingly upbeat main title theme finds itself interpreted as a Sousa-esque march, a circus fanfare, an operatic aria and, even, a throaty cabaret tune in the style of Edith Piaf. The score perfectly matches the theme of the film and shows that the team of Rota and Fellini was one that was difficult to rival. His music has clearly inspired composer Danny Elfman (listen to the soundtrack of Edward Scissorhands, or anything else he’s ever composed) as well as offered a flicker of an idea for the ill-fated musical follow-up to 8 ½--Nine.


This clip features a montage of photos from Otto e mezzo set to the opening theme from the film.



Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: "Bertie at the Railway"

“Look! They have little girls at this zoo.”
Image: The Railway by Edouard Manet, 1872-1873, The National Gallery of Art, U.S.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 82

With cruel, crackling fingers, the fire spread quickly through the stables. Mr. Punch hurried to the stalls and opened the gates, releasing the horses which ran into the pasture.


“Go on, big-eared dogs!” Mr. Punch whooped. “That’s the way to do it!”

“Arthur!” Barbara screamed. “You’ve got to do something.”

Arthur stood, paralyzed with fear.

“Arthur!” Barbara shouted again.

“I’m sorry,” Arthur said finally. He gazed at Barbara for a moment and then ran from the stable.

“I have to get Mother!” Ulrika shouted.

“No!” Barbara ordered. “Would you have her discover Miss Evangeline?”

“What do I care?” Ulrika screamed, fleeing the stable.

“Leon!” Barbara spat. “Help me carry her to safety.”

Still dizzy from the powder, the professor shook his head. “Let her burn. That’s what she deserves.”

“He’s correct.” Iolanthe moaned.

“Naasir, run to the cabins and get some of them men to help put this blaze out.” Mr. Punch said quickly. “Go on then, if we don’t do somethin’, these humans are gonna roast in here, they are.”

Naasir narrowed his eyes. “They’ll burn the way they wanted me to burn.”

“We can’t do it, Chum.” Mr. Punch pleaded. “One thing I learned is that it’s not our place to say what’s to happen to people.”

From outside the stable, they heard Carling Rittenhouse screaming as Ulrika dragged her to the stable.

“Listen,” Mr. Punch continued, “You’ve got to.”

“What about you, Sir?” Naasir asked.

“I can take care of me-self.” Mr. Punch said. “Go, then.”

Naasir ran off to find help.

Mr. Punch hurried to Iolanthe Evangeline. “Part o’ me wants to see the fire eat you. But, I know that it’d haunt me master forever if I let it happen.”

He strained to pick up Iolanthe from the hay. His injured hand throbbed with pain.

“Leave me here.” Iolanthe groaned.

“No!” Mr. Punch shouted.

With Iolanthe Evangeline in his arms, he screamed at Barbara. “You fool, would you die in here? Get out!”

“I can’t!” Barbara said frantically as she darted from stall to stall—coughing from the smoke.

“You, too, Professor, or whatever name you’re callin’ yourself.”

The professor stood as still as a statue and grinned at the flames which rose to the roof of the stable.

“Can’t stay in here, I can’t.” Mr. Punch shouted as he carried Iolanthe from the stable. He deposited her gently behind the hedgerow in the Spanish moss which had fallen there in great tufts of fleecy gray.

“Right,” Mr. Punch coughed. “Stay there, you monster. If there’s to be any justice, you’ll find it from men and not from fire.”

Mr. Punch rushed back into the burning barn as Naasir and about a dozen of the field hands came charging toward the place with buckets in their hands.

“Are you daft?” Mr. Punch shouted to “the professor,” “Get out of here!”

The professor continued to grin, looking up at the ceiling which groaned as the fire licked at it.

Punch squinted into the smoke to find Barbara. He saw her digging frantically in the hay.

“I can’t find it!” She screamed.

“Doesn’t matter.” Mr. Punch raced to her side. He grabbed her around the waist so he could carry her out, but she beat him about the head and shoulders with her fists.

“Unhand me!” She screamed.

“Won’t let you perish in this, I won’t. Me master’d never forgive me even if you are a beast what stole from him.” Mr. Punch argued.

Barbara wriggled free. “He left me!” Barbara spat. “He left me in here to die!”

“Don’t worry none ‘bout Arthur. He’s no good! Barbara, we can make all o’ this right, we can. Just come with me! No sense in letting Julian lose his father and his sister, too.”

“I hate you.” Barbara growled. “You’re mad!”

“I’m comin’ back for you, I am.” Mr. Punch frowned. He next went to Leon, the professor. He tried to tackle the giant man, but the professor shoved Mr. Punch away.

“Leave me.” The professor snarled. “This will be the start of my Hell.”

With a hideous creak, the timbers of the roof began to give way and fell in glowing splinters around their shoulders.

“Don’t know what to do.” Mr. Punch moaned as he heard screams from outside.

With a monstrous crash, the entire ceiling fell around them in a heavy mass of orange, red and gold.

Mr. Punch fell to the smoking hay beneath him. He felt Julian’s body grow heavier and heavier as his lungs filled with smoke. Within seconds, the bright world around him turned black.



Did you miss Chapters 1-81? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Know Your Limits

We all like to fancy ourselves as invincible.  We press ourselves to do as much in a day as possible and sometimes we push our bodies and our minds beyond what they can naturally handle.  There’s no shame in admitting that you’re not superhuman.  In fact, it’s healthy to realize that you’re a being that is incapable of infinite motion.  This is the time of year when we run the risk of becoming ill if we work our bodies into the point of becoming overtired.  Today, when your work is finished, remember that you need to take the time to recharge yourself.  Keep track of what you’ve accomplished and know that you don’t have to do everything immediately.  Listen to your body.  When you’re tired and hungry, your body will let you know.  That means it’s time to stop and refuel.  You can go “above and beyond” without breaking yourself down.

Object of the Day: An Antique Chinese Fan

Bright white feathers have been mounted over the gem-tone hues of peacock feathers and hand-painted with a scene of a couple in Han Dynasty costume surrounded by cream and coral-colored roses and greenery. Set on wooden sticks pierced in a Chinese style with a neatly carved guard, this fan still sports its original braided loop and tassel.


Fans like this were made in China for import to England. During the Edwardian era when peacock feathers were all the rage, fans like this would have been purchased for display in the home as opposed to actually being used. The Chinese created myriad attractive decorative items for import to the United Kingdom. As styles leaned toward Chinoiserie and the aesthetic and naturalistic ideals of Asian art, the English public gobbled up items like these.

Markings on the reverse of the fan case indicate that it spent some of its life in England. Part of the original markings have been covered over with a sticker that places it as having been deposited in an art gallery in Arizona for awhile. I’m not sure how it ended up in Texas, but I’m glad that it did. It now hangs over the door to my study where it adds a shock of brilliant color against its dark background.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Building of the Week: Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, New York

With its impressive three-story turret, graceful ogival arches and soaring Gothic details, this mansion on the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York seems to be simultaneously gloomy and romantic. Now, considered one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival Architecture in the United States, when the mansion was first constructed in 1838 for William Paulding (one-time mayor of New York) by architect Alexander Jackson Davis, it was referred to as “Paulding’s Folly.” Then, known as “Knoll House,” the home began to draw positive attention as American tastes changed toward the more dramatic.


The Dining Room
A.J. Davis doubled the size of the house and added the large tower for the home’s second owners, George Merritt, in 1864. Merritt renamed the house, “Lyndhurst” for the Linden trees that grew on the park-like expanse of property which still remains. The next owners, The Jay Gould family, used the house as a summer home in the 1880’s.

The interior of the house maintains the style of the Gothic Revival façade, focusing on vaults, arches and intimate spaces befitting the time period it emulates. Deep-colored rich woods, stained glass, exceptional plastering, and intricate stonework define the mansion’s interior. Unlike many of the mansions along the Hudson River, Lyndhurst was designed to be romantic more so than overpowering. Curiously, when all of the past owners vacated the house, they left behind their furnishings and art. Today, Lyndhurst proudly showcases this multi-family, multi-generational collection of grand and sumptuous décor.

The Library
One of Jay Gould’s daughters, Anna, Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord, maintained Lyndhurst until her death in 1961 at which time the house and its sixty-seven acres were given to the National Trust to preserve. This historic site is now open to the public for tours as well as private events.



Unusual Artifacts: Victorian Hair Jewelry

A Victorian Memorial Locket
Hair set behind Stuart Crystal
Gold, Enamel and Pearls with a Watercolor Background
Victoria & Albert Museum
Hair lasts a long time. In fact, when treated properly, human hair can remain uncompromised forever. The ever-lasting nature of hair fascinated our Victorian counterparts who in a world prior to widespread photography, were always in search of enduring personal mementos and physical reminders of loved ones. While locks of hair were given as romantic gifts as a sweet memento, most often hair was employed in memorial art and jewelry. Hair was removed from the deceased and incorporated into intricate designs. Some artists devoted themselves entirely to working with human hair—promising that all of the hair would be returned and that there would be no mixing of other people’s hair into the work. Large wreaths were created out of braided hair which was twisted and sculpted into flowers, leaves and other natural shapes. These odd sculptures were framed in shadowboxes so that they could last for eternity. However, the most common use of human hair was in memorial jewelry.




Georgian Memorial Ring
The Three Graces
 
When a loved one died, common practice dictated that during (and after) the period of mourning, the living would wear reminders of the deceased. Special memorial rings of black enamel, onyx or jet were crafted which bore the name of the departed and their date of death. Within these rings, a lock of hair was set behind Stuart crystal.

More intricate and interesting were the pieces of jewelry made entirely of wound and braided hair. Items such as the brooch below were lasting bits of the physicality of the deceased. While we view these objects with modern disgust, we must remember that death was something that was a large part of home life during the time period. Even when the services were directed by a mortician, the deceased remained in the home for the viewing and funeral. Our Nineteenth Century equals didn’t have the scientific distance from death that we do today. Therefore, keeping a simple reminder of their departed loved one seemed quite natural to them.


English Hairwork and Gold Mourning Brooch, 1842
Victoria & Albert Museum

Hair art and jewelry is really quite fascinating. If you have any in your family or your personal collection, I’d love to hear your comments.



Painting of the Day: “A Footman Sleeping” by Charles Bargue, 1871

A Footman Sleeping
Charles Bargue, 1871
The Metroplitan Museum of Art
French artist and lithographer Charles Bargue produced many exceptional works of art which were heradled for their richness of color, and, most especially, their beautifully balanced compositions. Aside from his artwork, Bargue’s most influential contribution to Art History is his Cours de dessin. The Cours de dessin was a specially designed drawing course which was published from 1866-1871. The course included one hundred ninety-seven of Bargue’s lithographs which were printed on individual leaves. The lithographs were meant to guide art students to master their drawing skills by first drawing from plaster casts, then emulating the works of the great masters, and finally drawing from life. Many renowned artists studied from the Cours de dessin—most notably Vincent Van Gogh who copied the entire book in 1880 and, again, in part in 1890.


An excellent representation of Bargue’s talent is A Footman Sleeping which was finished in 1871. Here, we see that a footman has fallen asleep on the job—presumably waiting for his employers to return home. Bargue’s exquisite sense of balance is seen here as the sitter occupies the center of the scene—flanked by furniture and architecture of equal weight. The viewer is guided though the scene by means of the color white—the footman’s glove that has fallen to the floor, his hose, his hat and the papers stacked on the chair. We are then lead in the opposite direction by gold which leads our eyes to the framed painting above the man’s had. This sort of clever composition served as an excellent example for young artists. Bargue may have simply wished to teach what he knew, but in doing so, he also created a legacy which extends well past his own paintbrush.


Gifts of Grandeur: Elizabeth II’s Flower Basket Brooch

The Flower Basket Brooch, 1948
A gift from George VI and Queen Elizabeth
The Royal Collection
White and yellow diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold comprise the shimmering mosaic that is The Flower Basket Brooch.  The brooch was a gift to then-Princess Elizabeth from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) to their daughter upon the birth of their first grandchild—Charles, Prince of Wales in 1948.  The large brooch is a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.  She has often been photographed wearing it—as seen in this 1948 photo of the royal mother and child.   


Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth)
with Prince Charles, 1948
The Royal Collection


Punch's Cousin, Chapter 81

Marjani pulled a creaky wooden chair to the side of the bed in which her daughter and son-in-law lay gasping for air. A gray mist settled in the room as if suspended from the rough wooden ceiling. At first, Marjani thought that the chimney wasn’t drawing properly, but there was no fire lit in the hearth. She breathed deeply and filled her lungs. The mist smelled of lavender and sage. She smiled.


“Have no fear, Chil’,” Marjani said softly, “The Holy Mother done heard my cries and she’ll make you well again.”

“No.” Nontle shook her head feverishly. “No.”

“Yes, Sugar.” Marjani said firmly. “Don’t go fightin’ it. You gotta get better. You got your little girl ta think of.”

“Keep my baby safe, Mama.” Nontle groaned.

“I will, Honey, but jus’ ‘till you get back on your feet.” Marjani answered.

“Mama Caruthers.” Her son-in-law gasped.

“What is it, Kirabo?” Marjani asked.

“Ain’t gonna make it.” Kirabo moaned.

“Don’t talk like that.” Marjani said plainly. “You gotta. The Holy Mother is here. She’s gonna help ya.”

“She ain’t here, Mama Caruthers.” Kirabo groaned. “She ain’t never been here.”

“Stop that talk, Kirabo.” Marjani responded angrily. “You jus’ stop it.”

“My name ain’t Kirabo.” The man wheezed. “My name is Gilbert.”

“I ain’t callin’ you by the name they done give ya.” Marjani said. “I’m gonna call you by the name your mama done give ya. You ain’t no Gilbert. You was born Kirabo…”

“An’ I’ll die Gilbert.” Kirabo rattled.

“No, you ain’t.” Marjani argued. “The Lady Mother done heard my cries. She’s here with us right now. She’s come for to heal you! Don’t you go doubtin’ the Holy Mother.”

“Nothin’ gonna help us now, Mama.” Nontle said weakly.

“Jus’ stop it!” Marjani shouted. She caught herself and spoke softly. “Now, you both gotta think sweet thoughts. Think of your Columbia and happy times. Your baby girl needs her mama and her papa.”

“I ain’t her papa.” Kirabo coughed. “You know that well as I do. Her papa is that fine…”

“You’re the only papa she knows.” Marjani interrupted.

The cabin creaked around them. Marjani thought she heard the gentle voice of a woman rise from the earth like dust. A stiff cold wind blew against the thin wooden walls and forced its way in between the planks—hissing and whistling as it triumphantly cut into the cabin.

Marjani’s eyes widened. “That ain’t the Lady Mother.” She rose and went to the narrow window, peering outside. “That’s somethin’ else. Somethin’ come for to punish me.” She looked to the ceiling of the cabin and called out, “I done only used that powder for good! No use punishin’ me when all I wanted was for to help them nice gentlemen.”

The walls rattled again and Marjani gasped. “I won’t be punished.” She clenched her eyes shut. “I won’t.” She drew in a breath and shouted. “If anyone’s gonna be punished, it’s the wicked ones!”

Meanwhile, at the Rittenhouse stables, Mr. Punch angrily pulled away from Iolanthe Evangeline.

“Get your hands off me.” Punch said sharply.

“You be quiet and listen.” Iolanthe said weakly as she lay back in the hay.

“Miss Evangeline, I don’t think you should be talkin’ right now.” Barbara said nervously.

“Why not?” Iolanthe asked, wincing from the pain in her shoulder. “Why hide any longer?”

“Let her talk,” The professor said in a strange voice. “Let her talk or I will.”

“This is delicious.” Ulrika smiled wildly as she flopped herself down onto a bale of hay.

“Shut that demon girl up,” Iolanthe growled.

“Now, now,” Ulrika laughed. “Is that any way to treat your hostess?”

“Listen to me, Lord Fallbridge.” Iolanthe began, ignoring Ulrika.

“Here, I’m listenin’.” Mr. Punch frowned—making no attempt to continue his impersonation of Julian.

“You know your sister is a ruined woman.” Iolanthe smiled.

“True.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Had a child, she did. Not married neither.”

“I am married.” Barbara spat defiantly.

Mr. Punch raised Julian’s eyebrows. “To him?”

“Yes.” Barbara grinned. “Arthur is my husband.”

“Wasn’t your husband when you had the baby, was he?” Mr. Punch frowned.

“I don’t have the baby now. So, what does it matter?”

“The baby,” Iolanthe laughed. “The baby. Made a nice bit of money on that one.”

“You sold the child.” Mr. Punch said angrily. “I knew that you sold that baby what done nothin’ except be born.”

“Yes, I sold it. And, why not?” Iolanthe moaned as her shoulder began to throb again.

“Miss Evangeline!” Ulrika said. “Stop!”

“The money I made more than paid for the expense of bringing Barbara here. There was even enough left over for Leon…” She pointed at the professor. “He’s an oaf, but he did his job well enough even if he did lose Arthur for awhile. But, that had more to do with you than anything else.”

“Why? Why did you bring Barbara here?” Mr. Punch asked.

“To make a profit.” Iolanthe grinned. “She’s a fine lookin’ girl. I’m sure to get my money’s worth out of her. Besides, she promised me great riches if I were to take her.”

“What kind of riches?” Punch asked.

“The kind that last forever…” Iolanthe responded.

“Will you please cease your talking?” Barbara barked.

“The diamond…” Mr. Punch began.

Suddenly, the stable doors blew open as a violent wind knocked against the building. One of the doors upset a wooden stool which held a kerosene lamp. The lamp fell into the hay, shattering. Within seconds, the dry hay was ablaze. The room grew bright with fire.

Ulrika jumped up and shrieked. “I don’t like fire!” She screamed. “Someone put it out!”

Naasir and Mr. Punch looked at one another. Naasir smiled.

“Arthur!” Barbara screamed. “Do something!”



Did you miss Chapters 1-80? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Untangle Your Life

It’s easy to get caught up in the little dramas that surround us. Sometimes, we get roped into things which don’t really concern us. It’s important to consider your own well-being and comfort. Yes, we should be supportive of our friends and co-workers when they’re having a rough spell.


However, very often, we become embroiled in petty little arguments and scenes that have nothing to do with us and only serve to drag us down. It is possible to untangle yourself from a web of mayhem.

You can be supportive without becoming a party to behavior that you may not endorse. When someone comes to you with trite complaints and quarrels, simply keep your boundaries. You can listen without becoming an active participant in a situation which may end up harming you. Rise above gossip and bad-mouthing other people. Remember to take the high road. You are responsible for your own actions. While people can influence us, the decision of how you react is up to you.

Object of the Day: A Paperweight by Zellique Art Glass

Since 1971, Joseph Morel has been creating masterpieces in glass. Originally planning on a career in ceramics, Morel took a course in glassblowing as a favor to a professor and became enchanted by the stunning artistic possibilities of the medium. After working at Orient and Flume, Morel opened his own studio in Benicia California—Zellique Art Glass.


This intriguing paperweight by Joseph Morel is an explosion of depth and color. From the jewel-like crystals of its base to the sharply rendered vines and crisp blue flower, this piece is alive with excitement. The vine and blue flower motif represents much of Morel’s work as he used variations on the theme in a variety of works ranging from lamps to vases.

Morel take a painterly approach to his glassblowing—incorporating a dramatic sense of depth and use of color which gives his pieces a brilliant natural quality atop a contrasting abstract background. His masterful control of his medium makes Joseph Morel one of the greats in the art of glassblowing.