Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Sparkle: A Cairngorm Brooch

Brooch, 1848
Cairngorm, Gold, Enamel, Seed Pearls, Garnets
The Royal Collection
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria preferred to spend as much time together as possible.  They often orchestrated long walks in the countryside so that they could be alone.  During these walks, Albert would pause to pick up pebbles which he would later have made into souvenir jewelry for his beloved wife.  On their first trip to Balmoral in 1848, they decided that they would climb the highest peak near the estate—Lochnagar.  Despite the inclement weather and heavy mists, they made considerable headway (with the queen riding a pony), however, the mists became so heavy that the queen’s advisors (who followed at a close distance) insisted that she go no further.  Prince Albert was determined to make it up to the top.  And, he did.  When he reached the summit, he found a lovely piece of cairngorm.   Cairngorm is a type of smoky quartz which occurs naturally and randomly in Scotland.  Albert secured the cairngorm and when they returned to London, he immediately had the stone cut and set into a brooch of enamel, gold and garnets which he presented to the queen in November, 1848 as a souvenir of their trip and also as a gift for the anniversary of their daughter’s birth.

Masterpiece of the Week: The Libyan Sybil, 1651

The Libyan Sybil
Guercino, 1651
The Royal Collection
King George III was one of the most prolific art collectors of the Royal Family. Later, Queen Victoria would add to his collection as well as continue to purchase paintings by Baroque Italian painters.

This work by the Italian Painter Guercino (known as “The Squinter” for the way in which he studied his compositions through clenched eyes) was painted in 1651 for Ippolito Cattani of Bologna from whose estate King George later purchased the piece. It depicts the Libyan Sybil—the woman who prophesied the coming of the Messiah to the Gentiles. Guercino was known for his paintings of the twelve sybils. This Sybil was painted later in his life. By this point in his career, he had cast aside his usual Baroque tendencies of heavy chiaroscuro and instead, shown us a figure painted in half-shadow in regal, rich colors. The artist has also broken tradition by identifying the Sybil by a simple inscription in the book she’s reading as opposed to her usual artistic attribute of a lighted lamp.

For many centuries, the more Pagan symbol of the Sybil was used as a stand-in for Old Testament prophets. This device of communication was often employed in Italian art by Renaissance and Baroque artists. George III was fascinated by this sort of metaphor and eagerly added such paintings to his collection.

Toys of the Belle Époque: A Wax “Boy” Doll, 1860

Wax "Boy" Doll, 1860
The Museum of Childhood
Victoria & Albert Museum
Dolls made to look like men or boys have always been rare. Since dolls have always been considered the stuff of girls, most doll-makers and toy manufacturers produce feminine figures, thinking that a girl would prefer to play with something in her own image. It wasn’t until the 1960’s, that dolls were made with different body types for specific genders.

In the Nineteenth Century, one basic style of doll body was crafted that was thought to support any kind of costuming and wig. The predominant body-type featured a thin waist, wide hips and narrow shoulders—all classically feminine characteristics. If a customer wanted a “male” doll, very often the look was achieved by adding a short wig and styling the figure in a “masculine” costume. Only rarely did a toymaker add a specific “make” head to a figure.

This wax doll from the 1860’s from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, shows one of the typical “cross-dressing” dolls. The body-type is clearly feminine. However, the figure has been costumed in typical male attire. Sometimes, luxurious whiskers were painted onto these female faces to achieve a look of masculinity. Despite its little suit of clothes, we can’t help but notice that this doll would look a little more natural in a nice frilly frock.

At the Music Hall, “After the Ball,” 1891-1892

After the ball is over,
After the break of morn –
After the dancers' leaving;
After the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching,
If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.

Written in 1891-1892 by Charles K. Harris, this sentimental waltz was the top-selling song of 1892. Sales of sheet music for After the Ball reached over two million copies that year. To date, sheet music sales for the song have exceeded five million copies.

After the Ball is often considered to be the quintessential 1890’s song and is frequently used in films and theater to musically represent the era. The song was first incorporated into a theatrical production in A Trip to China Town and was also used in the Broadway hit, Showboat.

The lyrics tell the story of an older man whose niece asks him why he never married. He recounts a tale of having seen his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball. He refused to hear her explanation, feeling betrayed. He tells the young girl, that many years later, after his beloved dies, he realizes that the man that his girl was so innocently kissing was her brother.

The song has an enduring charm. This 1929 Max Fleischer animated short features a "follow the bouncing ball" style rendition of the song--complete with lots of knee-bending antics from a cartoon dog.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 113

Well, Doctor?” The Duchess of Fallbridge smirked. “What is your recommendation?”

“Lord Fallbridge would not benefit from being held captive in an asylum.” Robert spat. “How could you suggest such a thing for your own son? Have you any idea how those poor souls are treated? Is that what you’d want your son to endure?” Robert looked quickly at Cecil. They each knew they were both thinking of their own mother at that moment.

“I wish for my son to not be a lunatic!” The Duchess answered. “Since that is not a possibility, my next wish is to see that he’s comfortable and out of the way. Or, at least comfortably out of the way.”

“Listen, I ain’t no lunatic.” Mr. Punch snapped, dropping the pretense, of speaking like Julian entirely.

“Your argument leaves something to be desired,” Pauline laughed.

“Chum,” Mr. Punch said desperately, “Don’t let her take me to some awful place.”

“I won’t, my dear boy.” Robert said firmly.

“She’d have to get through both of us before that ever happened, and it’s not likely that she could.” Cecil added.

“All three of us,” Adrienne rose to stand next to her men.

“And a slew of other people—all of whom love your son and wish to protect him.” Robert smiled.

“Protect him from me?” The Duchess feigned a look of hurt. “From his own mother?”

“You’re no mother.” Adrienne shouted. “You’re some kind of monster.”

“A dragon,” Punch mumbled to himself.

Adrienne continued. “Un certain genre de monstre dans une belle robe. Votre parures n'est pas vous faire toute moins horrible. C'est les femmes comme vous qui donnent la maternité une fausseté. Vous êtes une honte pour le mot ‘mère.’”

“Tranquille, prostituée. Vous ne pensez pas je sais que l'oms et ce que vous êtes! Vous avez passé votre vie sur le dos, laissant hommes vous toucher. Je ne vais pas vous laisser me juger!” Pauline growled.

“She’s been with Iolanthe.” Cecil grunted. “I knew it. That woman has her claws in everything.”

“Who I’ve seen is none of your concern, sculptor!” Pauline smiled.

“Then you know what’s become of your daughter,” Mr. Punch said. “Did she tell you that her child—that she sold her child? Yes, Duchess, there’s a babe with Fallbridge blood in his veins being raised by another family, there is. You come here with your wickedness lookin’ to destroy all what you see, when your time might be better spent tryin’ to help your favorite child and her kin.”

“Leave us.” Pauline said sharply. “Leave me with my son. I wish to speak with him—as best as I can.”

“We have no intention of leaving this man alone with you.” Robert answered, putting his arm around Julian’s shoulders.

“It’s no matter, Chum.” Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head. “If she wants me alone, she’ll find a way to get to me.”

“No,” Robert answered. “I won’t have it.”

“My son is not averse to being alone with his mother,” Pauline grinned. “Let me speak with him privately. What I have to say to him is not for the likes of you to hear.”

“It’ll be fine,” Mr. Punch whispered to Robert. “I can handle meself.”

“Stop talking that way!” The Duchess shouted.

“I’ll talk any way I like,” Mr. Punch said. “If I talk this way, you’re the reason.”

Robert looked to Cecil and Adrienne who stared back at him helplessly. He took a deep breath. “We will not leave His Lordship alone with you.”


“No,” Robert said gently.

“Very well…” The Duchess sighed. “Have your way. I wish to speak with my son about his inheritance. I shall do it in front of you if I must…”

At that very moment, further down Royal Street, Ulrika Rittenhouse awoke in a bed at Edward Cage’s city house. She rolled over and looked at Arthur who slumbered next to her—drooling on the pillow.

She clutched his bare shoulder in her hand and dug her fingernails into his flesh. He awoke with a groan.

“My head…my head aches.” Arthur moaned.

“That’s good, my dear.” Ulrika hissed.

“Where’s Barbara?”

“Probably about to meet her first caller of the day.” Ulrika laughed. “You’re better off with me.”

“I hate you.” Arthur sat up, looking around the room.

“I know.” Ulrika smiled. “Isn’t it delicious, really?”

“Give me the diamond and let me find my wife.” Arthur coughed.

“Your wife?” Ulrika sighed. “Suddenly, you’ve become protective and husbandly. How sweet.”

“What have you given us? What is that awful stuff you made us eat?”

“Just one more way to ensure that you’re mine, Arthur, dear.” Ulrika chuckled.

“I’m not yours.” Arthur got out of the bed, looking for his clothes.

“You are. As long as I want you, you are.” Ulrika reached for Arthur’s arm. “I get everything that I want.”

“Not this time, Pet.” Arthur said, pushing Ulrika backward onto the bed. He put on his pants and began to rummage through Ulrika’s baggage.

“You won’t find the diamond there.” Ulrika laughed.

“Where is it?” Arthur demanded.

“Keep your voice down, you fool!” Ulrika spat.

“Where’s the bloody diamond?” Arthur demanded again.

“It shall be yours.” Ulrika grinned. “You just need to complete two little tasks for me first…”

Did you miss Chapters 1-112? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 114 of Punch’s Cousin.

Ornament of the Day: A Papier Mache Father Christmas

I first saw this blue-robed Santa Claus when I was (I’m guessing) eight years old. It was in a little shop in Georgia that we often visited and I remember falling in love with his jolly face and regal outfit. Ever since then, this unique Father Christmas has found a place of importance on my tree.

Crafted of papier mache, he sports a jaunty red hat and a robin’s-egg-blue robe trimmed with (faux) fur. In one hand, he carries a pine tree of brush and across his shoulder hangs a real canvas bag. Beautifully detailed, this hand-painted ornament will always remain a favorite.

Object of the Day: An Antique Papier Mache Crumb Catcher

Often called “Silent Butlers,” these papier mache objects were usually accompanied by a decorative brush which was used to sweep crumbs from a tablecloth and into this shallow receptacle. This crumb catcher dates to the middle of the Nineteenth Century and is most likely English in origin. What’s unusual about this particular “Silent Butler” is its shape. Often, these items took a shell-shape with a scalloped bottom. This one features a stylized asian shape which fits nicely with the scene that was painted on the front.

The painted scene depicts Asian villagers gathering food. Their clothes have been rendered in gold paint. Their faces are inset Mother-of-Pearl. Large rusty-red flowers surround the entire scene and offer a distinctly Chinoiserie touch to the piece.

For an object whose main purpose was strictly utilitarian, the fact that this item remains at all is something of a triumph. Not only has this delicate papier mache crumb catcher survived, it has done so in remarkably good condition.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Fun: The Art of Emanuele Luzzati

We have previously explored the charming artwork of Italian director, scenic designer, painter and animator Emanuele Luzzati with his joyful images of Punch’s Italian cousin, Pulcinella.  Luzzati was responsible for many gorgeous animated short films and illustrated books including a multiple award-winning film of “The Magic Flute.”  This short video shows a sampling of Luzzati’s beautiful art work set to the music of Mozart.  Enjoy!

Antique Image of the Day: The Queen’s Christmas Tree, Windsor Castle, 1857

The Queen's Christmas Tree, Windsor Castle
The Royal Collection
Christmas and Victoriana have long been linked together. When we think of Christmas traditions, our thoughts tend to go back to the Victorian and repeat images straight out of Charles Dickens. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert did much to popularize the decoration of fir trees at Christmastime. They embraced this German custom and actually filled the royal residences with many trees—sometimes one for each member of the family as well as trees for the staff. However, while Victoria and Albert made the custom more common in Britain, contrary to popular belief, they were not the ones to initially introduce the practice to the royal household. That primary introduction came from Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.

It was Victoria and Albert’s tradition to hand out presents on Christmas Eve. We see here an image of one of their Christmas trees in Windsor Castle, taken on Christmas Eve, 1857. This was the queen’s personal tree and all of the presents that she was to receive were placed beneath it. As we can see, among her many presents were autographed photos of popular actors of the day. Queen Victoria was never shy about showing that she was a fan of something.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Punch Hangs the Hangman, 1854

Punch hangs the Hangman—serve him right;
I’ve no compassion for the Fellows
Who ‘stead of the way from, delight
In showing folks that to the gallows.
(“Fellows” and “gallows” don’t exactly rhyme,
But you shall have a better one next time.)

So states the caption of this 1854 engraving from the book, The Wonderful Drama of Punch and Judy by “Papernose Woodensconce, Esq.” The title of the drawing is “Punch Profits from the Introduction He Has Made and Hangs the Hangman.” Papernose Woodensconce was the whimsical penname of author Robert Brough who often wrote about Mr. Punch and his family as illustrated by the renowned George Cruikshank.

Pets of the Belle Epoque: Princess Mary Adelaide with “Nelson,” by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1839

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
with Nelson, a Newfoundland Dog
Sir Edwin Landseer, 1839
Presented to King George V, 1893
The Royal Collection
Technically, this painting fits better into the category of “Royal Pets.” Painted in 1839 by Sir Edwin Landseer, this portrait of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge depicts the royal child with the favorite Newfoundland dog of her father Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge.

Princess Mary Adelaide (known in her adult life by the unflattering sobriquet of “Fat Mary”) was the granddaughter of King George III and the mother of Princess Mary of Teck who would later become the queen consort of George V. Therefore, she is the Great Grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II (Mary of Teck’s son, King George VI was Queen Elizabeth II’s father).

This painting was presented to King George V in 1893 on the occasion of his marriage to Mary of Teck. Mary very much liked this picture of her mother and kept it near. Of course, much of the beauty of the painting owes to its artist, Sir Edwin Landseer—long known as the foremost British painter of animals.

HRH Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck
in later life.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 112

Adrienne gasped. “Mon Dieu. Je ne crois pas. La duchesse ne pouvait pas être ici. Chers Punch, séjour ici avec moi. Ne pas aller. C'est une sorte de truc.”

Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head and sighed. “Non. J'ai été attend son. J'ai longtemps avait le sens qu'elle est ici, j'ai. Je ne sais pas pourquoi elle est ici, mais elle est,” Mr. Punch responded—rather surprised at first that he knew French. He shrugged, recalling that the things that Julian knew, he also knew. He added, “Don’t worry, Lady Chum. Remember, I beat the Devil.”

“Not alone, you don’t.” Adrienne responded.

“You want for me to take the baby?” Meridian asked.

“Yes, please, Meridian.” Adrienne nodded, gently placing Fuller in the woman’s arms. “Will you see to it that he’s fed?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Meridian smiled. “Your Lordship, I done put that lady in the front parlor.”

“Thank you, Meridian.” Mr. Punch said softly.

“I can tell her to go away.” Meridian said quickly. “I can tell her you’re not here. Just she was so insistent that she see you. Seems kind of wild, that one. Demanded that I let her in cuz she’s your mama.”

“It’ll be fine, Meridian.” Mr. Punch smiled weakly. “You did the right thing, you did.”

“Meridian,” Adrienne rose from the chair, “Will you send one of the men up to alert my husband and his brother that Her Grace has arrived.”

“Sure will,” Meridian nodded. “Will she be stayin’ here?”

“No.” Mr. Punch and Adrienne answered in unison.

Meridian chuckled. “If you need me, just ring the bell and I’ll come a-runnin’.”

“Merci.” Adrienne said.

Meridian left through the door at the rear of the room. Fuller cried and reached his arms out—wanting his mother. “It’ll be good in the end, Little Chum.” Mr. Punch smiled at the baby who stopped his crying. “Never fear. Here, you take Toby with you for company.” He looked to the dog, “Toby, go with Meridian and the little man.” Toby trotted off, following Meridian.

Mr. Punch glanced at the puppet which still happily sat at the dining table. “I ‘spose we’d better leave me wooden chum here.”

Punch and Adrienne stood silently in the dining room for a few seconds.

“You know I’m going with you.” Adrienne said finally.

“You don’t have to do that, Lady Chum.” Mr. Punch answered.

“I’m afraid you have no choice, chers Punch. I’m going whether you like it or not.”

“She’s going to chew you up.” Mr. Punch sighed.

“I’m not afraid of her.” Adrienne smiled. “Remember, you’re not the only one who can beat the devil. We’ve got the angels fighting on our side.”

“Gonna need a lot of angels.” Mr. Punch grumbled. “We’d better go. Her Grace don’t like to be kept waitin’.” He slid open the pocket doors.

“Punch, hadn’t you better speak as Julian might?” Adrienne asked as they walked into the hallway.

“Yes.” Mr. Punch answered quickly. “I hadn’t thought of that. It’d be worse if I use me own voice. Don’t rightly know what I’ll say to her. How’d she find us?”

“I’m not sure, my dear.” Adrienne responded softly. “But, we’re soon to find out.”

Very slowly, Mr. Punch walked through the tall archway into the parlor, followed closely by Adrienne.

The Duchess scowled from her perch in the small settee by the fireplace.

“What took you so long?” She hissed. “Always dawdling. Don’t you know I traveled a long way to get here?”

“I know, Mother.” Mr. Punch answered in Julian’s voice.

“That’s all you have to say to your mother?” The Duchess asked. “No greeting? No affection?”

“Of course, Mother.” Mr. Punch bowed his head. “Good morning. It’s always…” He searched for the right words. “…so interesting to see you.”

“You sound strange.” The Duchess frowned. “Stranger than usual. And who is this?” She glared at Adrienne.

“Adrienne Halifax, may I present Her Grace, Pauline, The Duchess of Fallbridge.” Mr. Punch said, still affecting Julian’s voice. “My mother.”

Adrienne curtsied. “It’s a pleasure, Your Grace.”

“Where’d you find this one?” Pauline sniffed. “Though I can’t say that I’m unhappy to see you with a woman.”

“I’ve been traveling with Adrienne, her husband, and her husband’s brother.” Mr. Punch explained. “They’ve been very good to me.”

“How grand of them.” The Duchess smirked. “I don’t suppose their kindness has anything to do with your enormous wealth.”

“I don’t think it does, Mother.” Mr. Punch said as Julian. “Cecil and Adrienne have a fair amount of wealth of their own. And, Robert—Dr. Halifax—has no need to be mercenary.”

“Likely.” Pauline coughed.

“Do sit, Adrienne,” Mr. Punch said to his friend. Adrienne sat—uncomfortably—in the chair across from Her Grace.

“How did you find me, Mother?”

“Do you think it’s difficult to find someone?” Pauline answered. “Well, I suppose you would. You’ve not had much success in finding your sister. Have you?”

“I’ve found her.” Mr. Punch answered. “I know exactly where she is and what she’s been doing. Do you?”

“Insolent boy!” The Duchess spat. “I did not sail to this God forsaken place to be abused by my own son!”

“Why did you sail here?”

“How many weeks have passed?” The Duchess growled. “How many weeks have passed with no word from you? I feared you’d both been murdered—like your poor father.”

“I see you’ve cut short the period of mourning.” Punch said, gesturing to the duchess’ deep blue gown and glittering jewelry of sapphires.

“Hold your tongue.” Pauline growled. “Go and pack your things. You’re coming with me.”

“I’ll do no such thing.”

“Your place is with your family.”

“You’re correct, Mother. And, I’m with my family, I am. These people have been more of a family to me than you ever were.” Punch answered, his own voice creeping into his speech slightly.

The Duchess of Fallbridge raised her eyebrows. “How dare you speak to me that way?”

“It’s ‘bout time someone did!” Mr. Punch shouted.

“Dear God, you are mad.” Pauline responded angrily. “And, you…” She turned to Adrienne. “You and your lot have only encouraged his lunacy!”

“We encourage him to be himself.” Adrienne said plainly. “We respect and love him for who and what he is. Isn’t that what a family does?”

“Listen, you trollop.” The Duchess of Fallbridge shouted. “You have no right to speak to me that way!”

“And, you have no right to speak to my wife that way,” Cecil said firmly as he entered the room, followed by Robert. Both of them had bits of shaving cream clinging to their ears as they obviously had hurried down the stairs.

“Look, it’s carnival time at the fairgrounds.” The Duchess moaned. “I suppose you’re the Misters Halifax I’ve heard of.”

“We’ve heard of you, too, Your Grace.” Robert said, going to stand next to Mr. Punch. “And, to be accurate, I am Dr. Halifax.”

“How nice for you, Doctor.” Pauline smirked. “How convenient to have a doctor so close at hand. Perhaps you can help me, Doctor. I think it’s time to ensure the safety of my son. Can you recommend a cozy little asylum to which I can commit this shameful creature who bears my name?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-111? If so, you can read them here.

Ornament of the Day: A Glass Sculpture by Carruth Studios

Ohio-based sculptor George Carruth has long been delighting the world with his whimsical sculptures, art and ornaments. This Christmas ornament from the 1980’s is unusual inasmuch as it’s glass as opposed to the usual Carruth medium of clay.

Emerald green glass features a bas-relief figure of Father Christmas in exquisite detail. With all of the charm of George Carruth’s careful sculpting, and with the added shimmer of colored glass, this ornament has always found a prominent place on the Christmas tree.

Object of the Day: An Antique Dutch Advertising Tile

One of the main exports of the Netherlands, for centuries, has been painted tiles. So, it’s no wonder that the Dutch would use a tile for advertising purposes.

This tile features a transferred painting by Pieter de Hooch. The map that usually hangs on the rear wall in this picture has been replaced with an advertisement for “Netherlands Distilleries” and features text in both English and Dutch. The text reads: “Geneva, The Very Best Netherlands Distilleries formerly E. Kiderlen, Delft (Holland).”

I would guess that this piece dates to the early Twentieth Century and sports a maple frame from around the same time period. This unusual and attractive tile speaks of Dutch sensibilities and immediately gives the viewer a taste of something quintessentially of Holland.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Bertie at Windsor Castle

"Listen, Queenie, these other dogs have got to go."

Image: Windsor Castle in Modern Times, 1840-1843, Sir Edwin Landseer, The Royal Collection

Mastery of Design: A Diamond Finger Ring with a Miniature of King George III

Finger Ring with Miniature of George III
Gold, Diamonds, Miniature on Ivory
The Royal Collection
Prince Albert wasn’t the only Royal to give impressive gifts to his bride-to-be. The custom has been going on for centuries. In 1761, King George III presented the future Queen Charlotte with an impressive suite of jewels. These additions, when added to her already massive collection of jewelry, made her the first Queen of England since the Seventeenth Century to have a collection of jewels at her disposal that rivaled that of the royalty of other nations.

Part of the suite of jewels is this attractive and personal ring which was intended to be worn on her little finger at their wedding. Beneath a large emerald-cut diamond lies an exquisite miniature of George III which has been painted on ivory. The central diamond is surrounded by smaller old mine cut diamonds. Queen Charlotte is said to have cherished this ring, leaving it to one of her daughters upon her death. For awhile, its whereabouts were unknown. It reentered the Royal Collection during the reign of Queen Victoria—only to be lost again when the King of Hanover claimed most of Victoria’s jewels as part of his fortune. Many years later, it was once again purchased by the Crown.

Gem of the Week: The Pink Diamond

The Graff Pink
When we think of “Fancy Color” (I still hate that term) diamonds, we tend to think of yellow and blue. However, diamonds are available in a wide range of colors. Among the most valuable of the colored diamonds are pink diamonds.

Pink diamonds have been in the news quite often in the last decade. To mark their brief engagement, Ben Affleck presented one to Jennifer Lopez—making the rosy-hued diamond all the more popular. Last month, a 24.78 carat diamond of “fancy intense pink” color took the world’s record for the highest price paid for any gem at auction. Auctioned by Sotheby’s, the diamond was purchased for $46 million by London jeweler Laurence Graff. The diamond—now named “The Graff Pink” sold for almost double the cost Graff paid in 2008 for a 35.56 carat blue diamond. Graff described the diamond thusly: “It is the most fabulous diamond I’ve ever seen in the history of my career.”

Like other colored diamonds, the more intense the color, the more valuable the stone. As I always caution you, when buying a colored diamond, make sure to ask if the stone has been treated or enhance to produce a more desirable color. While enhanced diamonds have their place, you should not be paying the same price you would for a natural colored diamond.

Unfolding Pictures: A Baton Fan with Blackamoor Finials, 1750

Baton Fan with Blackamoor Finials
French Leaf with German Stick and Guards, 1750
Given to Queen Victoria from Prince Albert, 1840
The Royal Collection
Just before their marriage, Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with four antique fans from the collection of his family. His grandfather, Duke Augustus of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, had amassed a remarkable collection of fans with the help of German dealer, Joseph Meyer. The queen was so pleased with the gift that she made a note in her diary that her beloved had given her “Four beautiful old fans.”

Of the four, one is especially interesting. This unusual fan is called a “baton fan” because, when closed, it takes on a cylindrical shape as opposed to the flatter shape of most fans. The sticks and guards are German in origin. Created in 1750, the fan guards end in delicately carved, Moorish-inspred, figural heads—each with carefully pierced ears from which gold earrings hang. The fan leaf was painted in France and depicts a romantic, courting scene which the prince found especially appropriate for the occasion.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 111

Marjani walked slowly into the central hall of the rambling plantation house of Mr. Manuel Fontanals. The house smelled of tobacco, whiskey and men. The aroma made Marjani’s already blood-shot eyes sting. She squinted in the dim morning light, and saw, at the end of the hallway, the figure of a man in silhouette.

“This way, Marjani.” Mr. Fontanals said softly. “Come into the library.”

Marjani did as instructed.

Mr. Fontanals shut the door behind her and pointed to a chair in front of his long, dark desk. “Sit.”

Marjani sat stiffly, folding her hands in her lap.

“Can I offer you something to drink? Some brandy, perhaps?” Mr. Fontanals asked softly.

“No, Sir.” Marjani replied flatly.

Manuel sat behind the desk and looked at Marjani with his large, dark eyes. Marjani knew those eyes. They were the same wide orbs that had stared at her from the face of her granddaughter, Columbia, as she’d told the girl that her mother was dead.

“I know I speak for everyone here when I tell you how sorry I am that you’ve lost Nontle and Gilbert. You did everything that you could to make them comfortable at the end. You’re to be commended for your loving care.”

“I don’t want no commendation.” Marjani said. “I want my family to be alive again.”

“I know that you do.” Mr. Fontanals responded.

“Is that why you asked me in here?” Marjani asked. “To tell me you’re sorry?”

“That, and another reason.” Mr. Fontanals answered. “Have you told the child, yet?”

“Yes.” Marjani nodded stiffly. “I done tol’ her that her mama and her daddy are gone. But, it ain’t true. Is it? We both know that Kirabo…Gilbert as you call him…was not her daddy though she thinks he was. We both know who her daddy really is. And, we both know that he’s very much alive and doin’ quite well in his fine, fine house.”

“I’d advise you to think before you speak.” Mr. Fontanals said firmly.

“I always do, Sir.” Marjani spat. “I always think before I do anything. Do you?”

“Marjani, I don’t wish to be bad friends. I’ve asked you here to give you a gift. I had planned to release you at the stroke of the new year. However, I’m going to make an exception given your circumstances.”

“Release me?” Marjani smirked.

“Yes. As of this moment, you and your granddaughter are free. If you so choose, you may stay here and continue to work on my land, but since you have the opportunity, I suggest you take the child and leave here.”

“You just want me to go far away, don’t ya?” Marjani shook her head. “You don’t want no reminder of your lust walkin’ around here.”

“I’m being kind, Marjani.” Mr. Fontanals answered curtly.

“Is that what you call it?” Marjani frowned. “Well, Sir, whether it’s kindness or not, I will take Columbia and leave this place. I’ll leave it behind and never think of it again.”

She rose from her chair and walked toward the door.

“Do you need any…funds?” Mr. Fontanals asked. “I can give you a little something to help you start anew.”

“I don’t need nothin’ from you, Sir.” Marjani said without turning around. “I got folk who done care about me who already gave me all that I need to take care of me and my little Columbia.”

“Are you sure?” Mr. Fontanals asked.

“Very.” Marjani said, opening the door.

“Not even a word of thanks?” Mr. Fontanals laughed.

“My thanks is that I’m leavin’ here without slapping your face, Sir.” Marjani said as she walked out.

She didn’t pause, she walked from that house and never looked back. She walked up La Colline Cramoisie and paused at the yellow house with its comfortable gleaming towers—the home of Adrienne and Cecil. There, behind the house, she found Gros Chidi.

“Marjani,” Chidi said gently. “We done heard ‘bout Nontle. She’s with the angels now.”

“Thank you,” Marjani nodded. “Chidi, my girl and I are leavin’ Marionneaux. We’re free.”

“Where you gonna go?” Chidi asked.

“New Orleans.” Marjani answered firmly. “Do you know where Mr. Halifax went to?”

“They got the address in the house, honey.” Chidi smiled. “You gonna go to them? I know how you like Dr. Halifax and His Lordship.”

“That’s where I’m goin’.” Marjani nodded. “I’m goin’ to find the ‘Great Man.’”

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Mr. Punch was seated in the long red dining room of Dr. Biamenti’s house on Royal Street. He sat at the deep mahogany table and drummed Julian’s fingers against its gleaming surface. Toby sat beneath the table at Mr. Punch’s feet and murmured to himself in a series of small grunts and growls—a habit he picked up from Mr. Punch. Across the table, the puppet smiled at Mr. Punch from the chair where he’d placed the figure.

“Don’t worry, dog Chum,” Mr. Punch said. “The others’ll be down for breakfast soon. Can’t come fast enough for me. I smell them sausages over there. Makin’ me awful hungry. But, we gotta wait for the others, cuz that’s what’s polite and that’s the way gentlemen behave, it is.”

Toby barked.

“You’re a gentleman, too, Chum.” Mr. Punch said. “Only if you’re a little gentleman in a fur coat. Still, we gotta behave ourselves so me master’ll be proud.”

Punch whooped with relief when the pocket doors slid open in Adrienne entered with Fuller in her arms.

“My goodness, dear Punch, but you’re up early today.” Adrienne said.

“Sure am!” Mr. Punch smiled. “Hungry, too.”

“You look quite handsome.” Adrienne smiled.

“Thank you, Lady Chum.” Mr. Punch grinned. “Only I didn’t do it meself. Naasir helped me with this fool collar and noose…errr…cravat.”

“Well done.” Adrienne nodded.

“So, where’re Cecil and me chum?” Mr. Punch asked.

“They’re on their way.” Adrienne smiled. “The last I saw of them, they were bickering over a shaving mirror. Brothers…”

“Have you got any brothers?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I have two brothers.” Adrienne nodded. “And a sister. Though I’ve not seen any of them since I left France.”

“They got babies?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I don’t really know, Mr. Punch.” Adrienne sighed. “My family wanted very little to do with me…at a point.”

“Ah.” Punch grunted. “Sorry.”

“I’ve made my peace with it.” Adrienne said softly.

“Seems to me that family oughta be nice to one another.” Mr. Punch continued. “Even if they don’t agree with what you’ve done. But, I understand. Me master’s mother and sister are… Well, I understand. His father were nice, he was.”

“That’s what I’ve heard.” Adrienne nodded.

Meridian hurried into the dining room through the door at the rear of the long room.

“Good mornin’, good mornin’!” Meridian chirped cheerfully. “We got some fine, fine vittles for you folk this mornin’. Your Lordship’s gonna be so pleased! Can we expect Dr. and Mr. Halifax down?”

“Yes.” Adrienne nodded. “Shortly.”

“And, look at young Mr. Halifax. Ain’t he a fine baby? I’ll bet he’ll be wantin’ some breakfast, too.”

“I believe he’s quite famished, Meridian.” Adrienne chuckled.

“You want I should take him in the back and give him some milk?” Meridian asked.

“No, but if you could mash some fruit, I’ll feed him myself.” Adrienne smiled appreciatively.

“I got just the thing. Some right fine apples. We’ll set him up right.” Meridian grinned and started back toward the kitchen. A knock at the front door interrupted her.

“Now, who could that be at this hour?” Meridian asked, wiping her hands on her apron. “Too early for deliveries. Excuse me, folks.”

Meridian walked briskly into the front hallway, closing the dining room doors behind her.

She returned several seconds later. The smile on her face had faded.

“Who was it, Meridian?” Adrienne asked.

“There’s a lady here for to see His Lordship.” Meridian said slowly. “Says she’s his mother.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-110? If so, you can read them here.

Ornament of the Day: A Glittering Westie

Long before Bertie ever existed, I always liked West Highland White Terriers.  From the time I was four until I was twenty-one, we had a beautiful Lhasa Apso named Mrs. Odetts who was a valued member of the family.  Just as today, I will give gifts to the family from Bertie, my parents gave gifts from Mrs. Odetts. This ornament was given to me one Christmas nearly thirty years ago as a gift from our lovely dog.  Little did anyone know at the time that I would share my home with a plucky, wonderful Westie.  So, now, each year when I put this ornament on the tree, I am happily reminded of two exceptional dogs.  That’s the true spirit of Christmas—remembering those (both two-legged and four) who have brought quality to life, both past and present. 

Object of the Day: A Portrait by Vivien Biett Smith

As Europe found itself embroiled in The Great War, thousands of soldiers left their homes and families for the first time to go to battle. Many of those left behind feared that they’d never see their loved ones again, so they did all that they could to preserve the images of their brave men and boys. While photography was more available to the general population than it had ever been before, the idyllic permanence of a painted portrait was appealing. So, many soldiers found themselves sitting for portraits before going to fight. Other portraits were painted as memorials after the loss of a soldier using photographs and loving memories to capture an idealized image of the fallen hero.

This World War I era painting by Vivien Biett Smith comes to Texas from Scotland and had belonged to the same family for generations. The identity of the subject is unknown; however, we can see that he has been lovingly rendered in this beautiful portrait.

He stands proudly in his uniform, his face set in an expression that is both dignified and playful. Little is known about the artist except that other such portraits have been credited to her. This painting is an excellent example of why it’s so important to properly care for works on canvas. At some point in its history, it seems to have been stacked with other framed paintings. The frames have left indentations on the canvas. While the canvas could be re-stretched and repaired, I prefer to leave it as it is. It’s only fitting that he should have some battle scars. He’s earned them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Precious Time: A Longcase Equation Clock, 1703

Equation Clock
The Royal
This remarkable clock was created in 1703 by horologists Thomas Tompion and Edward Banger for Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark. An amateur horologist, Prince George loved clocks and was the patron of many well-known clockmakers.

Aside from the stunning craftsmanship of its ornate walnut case and ormolu mounts, this clock is remarkable in the way that it runs and the extremely complicated information that it relates. The clock is said to be able to run for 390 days on a single winding. The clock face records both mean and solar time and displays the day of the week, the planets, the day of the month (both old and new style), the month, the appropriate sign of the zodiac, the year (accounting for leap year) and the position of the sun.

A favorite of Prince George, this astounding timepiece was kept in the Royal bedchamber. Later, it became King George III’s favorite clock as well. He moved the clock to Buckingham House (later to become Buckingham Palace) where it was to record many, many years.

Unusual Artifacts: An Ancient Egyptian Wig

Human Hair Wig
Thebes, Egypt
18th Dynasty, 1550-1300 BC
The British Museum
Historians and archaeologists believe that most ancient Egyptians kept their hair cropped very short or shaved altogether as a means of combating the hot climate. Wigs were worn on special occasions. Historians have recorded that most artistic representations of ancient Egyptians depict the subject wearing a wig. At a point, even false beards were worn by men.

If that’s the case, then, one would think we’d have museums awash in Egyptian wigs. However, they are rather difficult to come by. This wig was found in a tomb in Thebes, and was, remarkably, in its original box. Still in excellent condition, this wig is constructed of human hair which has been pressed into a molded wax scalp. Hundreds of individual hairs were pressed into the wax. The upper layer of the wig is comprised of bleached human hair which has been curled. Each curl has been impregnated with wax so that it will hold its shape.

Since being brought into the collection of the British Museum, this hairpiece was studied by a prominent wigmaker who declared the coiffure to be just as sturdy and as masterfully made as any modern wig. No wonder it’s lasted as long as it has.

Painting of the Day: “Balmoral: Lower Corridor and Staircase,” 1857

Balmoral: Lower Corridor and Staircase
James Roberts, 1857
The Royal Collection
Upon completion of the new castle at Balmoral in 1856, Queen Victoria commissioned a series of paintings of the interior of the house to commemorate their new home. Painter James Roberts completed several highly detailed watercolor studies of many different rooms in the castle. These paintings have served future generations well by providing an accurate account of how the castle was decorated and furnished. Maintenance and renovation of the estate has been aided by the presence of Roberts’ pictures.

We can see here that Prince Albert has lined the lower corridor with a row of his trophies—the heads of many of the stags that he so famously hunted. This also gives us a glimpse at Queen Victoria’s art collection—most notably the sculpture beneath the mirror. This sculpture—which remains as part of the Royal Collection—is bronze version of Le Lion Amoreux by Charles Geef which was created especially for the queen after she saw the life-size plaster original at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Building of the Week: Balmoral Castle, Scotland

The Old Castle at Balmoral, 1853
The Royal Collection
The private summer residence of the Royal Family, the estate at Balmoral covers an area of over sixty-four thousand acres in the Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The estate originally belonged to King Robert II who kept a hunting lodge on the property. In 1390, Sir William Drummond built the original castle on the site. The land would change hands three more times before the Nineteenth Century. In the 1840’s, the estate was owned by the Second Earl of Fife who leased the house and lands to wealthy patrons in search of a peaceful place to hunt and rejuvenate themselves. In 1848, the castle and lands were leased to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who both fell in love with the beauty of the grounds and the elegant, but comfortable, castle. The queen and her husband petitioned for ownership of the property and achieved their goal in 1852.

The New Castle at Balmoral, 1856
The Royal Collection
In 1853, the corner stone for a new castle at Balmoral was set into the ground. Beneath the stone, Queen Victoria ordered that a letter in her own hand and coins of the realm (encased in glass) be set beneath the stone. While Victoria and Albert loved the original castle, they realized that it was too small and too old to comfortably house their growing family and rapidly enlarging staff. Prince Albert worked closely with the architects and designers of the new castle to ensure that it not only met their immediate needs, but also blended with the design of the original structure as well as the pristine landscape.

Balmoral, 1860
The Royal Collection
Balmoral has since remained in the Royal Family and, like Sandringham House, is privately owned as opposed to being a state residence. The estate has been the favorite spot of many a royal. Queen Elizabeth II and her family are particularly fond of the spot and spend as much time as they can there.

Over time, the size of the estate has grown incredibly. In 1878, Queen Victoria rescued a one thousand acre stretch of forest by purchasing it before it could be destroyed by timber merchants. The forest, known as Ballochbuie, was officially added to the estate at Balmoral. Later, an additional two thousand acres were added as a safe haven for red deer.

Queen Elizabeth II and her Children
at Balmoral, 1952
Balmoral is still a working estate, and while the staff has been considerably reduced lately, the Royal Family employs up to fifty full-time staffers throughout the year. Nearly one hundred thousand people visit Balmoral each year—wishing to tour the land and see its natural beauty first-hand. The tourist trade is quite a boon to the surrounding areas—producing upwards of four thousand jobs for local workers each year.

The site of many a historic occasion, Balmoral has seen its share of Royal triumph and tragedy. There, the coronation activities of King George IV were carried out. Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain was born there. Most recently, it was at Balmoral where the Royal Family received word that Diana, Princess of Wales, had been killed in an automobile accident.

Princes William, Charles and Harry at Balmoral
The Royal Collection
The Duke of Edinburgh, husband to Queen Elizabeth II, plays a large part in overseeing the workings of Balmoral and has taken a keen interest in preserving the trees and wildlife on the estate. As the land continues to be governed by its royal owners, we can be sure that it will continue to be one small stretch of untouched beauty for centuries to come.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 110

After awhile, the steady rhythm of Toby’s breathing soothed Mr. Punch to sleep. As soon as Robert had retired to his own room, Punch had crawled into the bed next to his puppet and the slumbering dog. His mind began to wander as he considered everything that Robert had just told him. Would their plan really work? Would it put Adrienne in too much danger? Could they really defeat Iolanthe Evangeline? What about the undoubted presence of Julian’s mother? Mr. Punch was certain that the Duchess of Fallbridge had arrived in New Orleans. With all of these thoughts racing through his mind just above the usual chatter and noise which always plagued him, his exhausted body shut down.

That night, Mr. Punch dreamed vividly and clearly. The images which played behind his eyes were so sharp and clear that they could not have come solely from Mr. Punch. No—somewhere deep within the body that they shared, Julian, too, was asleep. And, he, too, was dreaming.

At first the dream wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, it was rather a warm scene—filled with delicious food and laughter. Sausages and eggs and bread and cheese with no crocodiles in sight to snatch any of it away. Punch dreamt that he and Toby and Robert enjoyed a feast. They were sitting on a grand, deep-green lawn. Was it a park? No. It was the land near Fallbridge Hall. The realization made Julian’s body shiver, and suddenly made the dream go dark. In his vision, Toby was suddenly gone. So was Robert. Punch heard a baby cry. Was it Fuller? Or was it Barbara’s child—the one that the Cages had named, “Holt?” Or was it Barbara herself—once again, in this dream-world, returned to a child so that Julian could have had some influence on her. As the dream baby wailed, the skies above Fallbridge Hall grew dark and heavy with clouds. Suddenly, Mr. Punch became aware that his body had changed. He was once again shaped like a puppet—only, he was the size of a man. He couldn’t see very well past his hooked nose, a nose so bent that it touched his equally distorted chin. But, his costume wasn’t that of Mr. Punch. No, he was dressed in the armor of St. George. And, there was the dragon.

A hideous beast swelled behind the Hall. It rose on its monstrous legs and roared—three heads. Three awful heads. One—the face of Iolanthe Evangeline. Another—the face of Ulrika Rittenhouse. The middle—the largest and most horrible—the face of the Duchess herself.

In the Duchess’ teeth hung the limp body of Barbara Allen. From Ulrika’s mouth, the blood of Arthur and Agnes Rittenhouse dripped like water from a fountain. From the mouth of the ogress, Adrienne and Cecil dangled—screaming for help.

“Robert!” Punch called in his sleep. “Chum? I need you!”

Suddenly, the dark sky exploded in a wash of fire as if the sun itself had burst open like a rotten fruit. From the center of it, Naasir floated freely out. He was followed by two others—people with skin as dark as his own. Mr. Punch didn’t know them. But, he heard Marjani’s voice. He could not see her, but he heard her voice. “This is my daughter. This is her husband. They’ve gone to the sky, Mr. Punch. They’ve gone to the sky.”

The three-headed dragon roared again, spewing fire from six nostrils. Yet, Naasir and his companions walked right through it—untouched. Just as they reached the earth, they disappeared.

The monster drew nearer to Mr. Punch. Again, the baby cried.

“I beat the Devil!” Mr. Punch shouted to the beast. “I could beat you, I could!”

Fire shot from the heads of the foul creature.

Mr. Punch awoke with a start. The burns on his legs itched horribly. He grunted.

Toby rolled over and licked Julian’s cheek before drifting back to sleep.

“I can beat the Devil.” Mr. Punch muttered to himself. He put a protective arm around Toby and glanced up to make sure his puppet was still in bed next to them. “I can.”

At that very moment, at her bawdy house, Iolanthe Evangeline was holding the Duchess by her arm. She growled in the woman’s face. Pauline’s usual iciness had melted and she was sobbing uncontrollably.

“Let me go,” The duchess pleaded.

“Never.” Iolanthe hissed cruelly. “I’ll ask you again. Will you be my partner in this or will you not?”

“If I say that I won’t?”

“Then, I’ll make sure you never say another word as long as you live. The memory that the world will have of you will be the one that I create for you.” Iolanthe whispered.

“I’ll join you.” Pauline said breathlessly.

“Good.” Iolanthe released the woman from her grasp. “We’ll start now.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-109? If so, you can read them here.

Ornament of the Day: A Westie Ornament by Joy to the World

Joy to the World—a maker of fine Christmas ornaments—features a special line of sculptural glass decorations designed to resemble different breeds of dogs. Not only are these ornaments highly detailed and beautifully made, but a portion of the proceeds goes to help animals in need through a donation to The Morris Foundation.

Betty White has long endorsed the Joy to the World “Pet Set” ornaments. In fact, she signed one especially for my Bertie.

Object of the Day: “Clear Moon and Sea” by Correia Art Glass

I’ve always had a fondness for the designs of California-based Correia Art Glass. Their sophisticated designs often rely on silhouettes and contrasting colors and usually have their roots in organic elements.

This oversized paperweight, entitled, “Clear Moon and Sea” was created by Correia Studios in 1988. The contrast between the royal blue shadow of the moon and the exposed crescent creates a sense of stark drama over the gently breaking waves below it. Another layer of crystal beneath the surface represents the curve of the earth and adds an element of sparkling infinity to the piece as a whole. It’s truly an ingenious composition.

To learn more about Correia Art Glass, visit their Web site.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vote for “Humanitarian of the Year!”

Since Stalking the Belle Époque began in July, I’ve highlighted the lives and careers of eighteen exceptional people whose humanitarian efforts have made a tremendous difference in the lives of their fellow humans as well as in the lives of animals. Each of these eighteen people has contributed tirelessly to a variety of causes.

Now, it’s your chance to decide who will be Stalking the Belle Époque’s first annual “Humanitarian of the Year.” To vote, select the name of your choice from the poll labeled “Humanitarian of the Year” in the right-hand navigation bar (below the Blog Archive). While you’re there, you might also like to vote for “Person of the Year.” Voting ends on December 12, 2010.

The winner will receive special recognition for his or her contributions.

The nominees are:

Fran Drescher—actress, author, activist, talk show host
Betty White—actress, animal rights activist
Niecy Nash—television personality, actress
Bobbie Eakes—singer, actress
Elizabeth Taylor—legend, actress, AIDS activist
Hattie McDaniel—actress, pioneer
Bette Davis—legend, actress, activist
David Walliams—actor, author, swimmer
Audrey Hepburn—legend, actress, activist
J.R. Martinez—actor, veteran, spokesperson
Mark Andrews—performer, Punch & Judy man, public speaker
Bernadette Peters—singer, actress, author, activist
Angela Lansbury—singer, actress, author
Stephen Fry— writer, actor
Doris Roberts—Actress
Mary Tyler Moore—Actor, Activist
Prince William of Wales—Activist, Patron of the Arts
Catherine Deneuve--Actress

Film of the Week: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, 1967

In 1967, French filmmaker Jacques Demy once again teamed with composer Michele Legrand to create the third in Demy’s trilogy of musical films. Following Lola, and Les Parpaluies de Cherbourg, Demy introduced Les Demoiselles de Rochefort about two young twins and their search for love.

The film stars Catherine Deneuve and her real-life sister Françoise Dorléac (who was killed in a car accident shortly after filming) as twin sisters—Delphine and Solange--who must teach music and dance in order to make a living. They have a close relationship with their mother (played by Danielle Darrieux) who runs a café in the center of town, and their much-younger brother, Boo-Boo.

The lives of everyone in Rochefort are interrupted when two suave carnies come to town with their troop. The two men (played by West Side Story star George Chakiris and Grover Dale) take an immediate fancy to the twins. However, the girls’ attentions are divided between the new men in their lives and a artistic sailor and a dashing stranger (Gene Kelly).

Unlike Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, this film is more of a musical than it is an operetta. Much of the dialogue is spoken in between long, wild bouts of singing. In typical Legrand fashion, the music is haunting and memorable. Add the vividly-colored sets and costumes, excellent dancing, romance and humor to the mix and you have a remarkably entertaining film.

What I always find most astounding about the film is that the songs rhyme in both French and English. Listening to the French and reading the subtitles, one finds that the translations are literal, but still rhyme. This is quite an astounding feat! I love this brilliant and bright picture for its beautiful music and stunning visuals. It’s a little manic at times in the way that only a French film from the 1960’s can be, but that’s part of its appeal. Even with Gene Kelly’s somewhat out-of-place appearance, it’s a picture worthy of the highest praise.

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Mat Collishaw

The Magic Lantern
In 2010, in an effort to engage the entire city of London with the architecture of their museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum, commissioned artist Mat Collishaw to create a monumental animation that would illuminate the building and provide added artistic-interest on a large scale.

Collishaw created an enormous zoetrope which he calls, “The Magic Lantern.” The Magic Lantern projects a series of rapidly-cycled images which create the illusion of movement atop the museum. The display creates the effect of dozens of enormous moths flocking around a lantern in the museum’s cupola. At dusk, each night, the zoetrope is started, allowing viewers from many angles and long distances to witness the enchanting show.

Midnight Icarus
Collishaw rose to prominence as an artist in the 1990’s for his clever use of film and light in his artistic installations. For this installation, he also created a smaller replica of the magic lantern which can be viewed during the day in the interior garden of the V&A.

The Magic Lantern will be active through the end of March, 2011 and can be seen from Cromwell and Exhibition Roads and from the South Kensington tube.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Highlander Candelabra, 1854

The Highlander Candelabra
Designed by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1854
Commissioned by Queen Victoria
The Royal Collection
The royal estate at Balmoral in Scotland has long been a favored retreat for the Royal Family. Queen Victoria was especially fond of the spot. To accommodate their growing family, Prince Albert orchestrated an elaborate renovation and addition to the existing house.

As part of that remodeling, new furnishings were commissioned. The queen wished the estate to be decorated in an appropriately Scottish theme. We can see a Scottish influence in almost every detail. Take these exquisite candelabra, for example. Herbert Minton and Company created these magnificent parian figures which stand atop bases of gilt and bronze-plated silver. The figures hold the candelabra which are adorned with large, ornate stags’ heads.

A multinational effort, the candelabra were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer. The figures were sculpted by John Bell and the stags’ heads were created by French sculptor A. E. Carrier-Belleuse.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 109

You most certainly will not.” Robert said firmly to Mr. Punch who frowned.

“If Cecil gets to go, I don’t see why I can’t.” Mr. Punch answered. “Chum, I can keep him from…”

“Cecil isn’t going anywhere either.” Robert said, interrupting Mr. Punch.

“Now, listen, little brother,” Cecil began.

“No.” Robert answered sternly. “Cecil, I understand your frustration, but I can’t allow you to let that color your judgment. You need to keep your wits about you. We have a plan. It’s a good one, I might add. So, there’s no reason to act rashly and diverge from what we’ve already decided.”

“Well, then.” Cecil sputtered. “I don’t suppose you’re going to stop me.”

Robert grabbed Cecil by the arm. “Is that a wager you’d really care to make.”

Mr. Punch whooped. “People! You’re a strange lot, you are. Always findin’ things what you wanna fight ‘bout. Here, I’m gonna say somethin’. Maybe you got no faith in what a puppet man’s gotta say, but I’m gonna say it anyway.”

Robert released Cecil’s arm. “Go on, dear Punch. We put a great deal of faith in your opinion.”

“I was gonna go with Cecil, I was. But, see, that was me thinkin’ with me heart. I learned somethin’. Can’t just go hittin’ things with sticks and firin’ pistols at ‘em. Look what we got with Arthur, what. Didn’t work out so well, now did it? I gotta say, me chum is right in what he says. If the two of you got a plan, then you’d best stick with it. See, that’s somethin’ you thought out already, it is. That’s gotta be better than goin’ off with rage in your heart. Nothin’ good’ll come o’ that, it won’t. Here, I understand what you’re thinkin’, Cecil, me chum. I do. But, you gotta think before you do somethin’. This ain’t no pantomime. What happens here is real and it’s permanent, it is. Ain’t no comin’ back from it. Ain’t no other Cecil waitin’ in a trunk, ready to come out if the first Cecil gets hurt. There’s only one of ya. And, you got a family to think of. Goin’ out with a pistol is only gonna get you hurt. What’re the rest of us gonna do if that happens?”

“I say,” Cecil grunted. “For a ‘puppet man,’ you’re awfully wise.”

“I learned a lot, I did.” Mr. Punch grinned. “Here, look at Toby. All curled up with me wooden chum, just sleepin’. Shouldn’t we be doin’ that? Now, Toby knows that when he wakes up there’s gonna be all sorts of challenges he’ll have. Don’t know what kind. Dog challenges, I ‘spose—like whether he should dig a hole in the dirt or whatever it is dogs think ‘bout. But, you don’t see him stalkin’ ‘round at night. No. He knows he’s got to be a good dog and take care o’ himself so that he can be with me and Robert and the whole bunch o’ us.”

Cecil looked confused. “Yes, of course, Mr. Punch. But, we’re not dogs. We’re people. Our challenges are far greater than where to bury our bones.”

“It’ll be your bones we’re buryin’ if you go out like you’re thinkin’.” Mr. Punch said plainly.

“Very well.” Cecil answered flatly.

“Adhere to our scheme, Cecil.” Robert said gently. “We’re going to be triumphant. We just need to be smart about it.”

“Here.” Cecil handed his pistol to Robert. “Take this. I’ll have no more lectures tonight.”

“Cecil…” Robert began.

“Don’t say another word.” Cecil grumbled.

With that, he went back to his room.

“I do understand.” Mr. Punch said to Robert once he was alone. “I found meself caught up in the spirit o’ what he was thinkin’, I did. It’s easy to run out and fight without thinkin’. But, it takes a brave man to be wise ‘bout how he protects his family.”

Robert smiled. “Well put, dear Punch.”

“Here, now, all this talk ‘bout plans and schemes. But, nobody’s seen fit to tell ol’ Mr. Punch just what they are.”

“We didn’t want to worry you.” Robert said.

“I’m worried anyway. Maybe knowin’ will help me not to worry. Remember, I got double the worry, I do. I got me own and I got Julian’s to trouble me. Might help me to know what’s goin’ on.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Robert sighed. “I’ll explain it all in the morning.”

“Not in the mornin’.” Mr. Punch shook Julian’s head. “Now.”

Meanwhile, at Miss Iolanthe’s Bawdy House, the Duchess of Fallbridge shrieked wildly.

“You’re married?” She screamed. “To whom have you been married.”

“To the father of my child.” Barbara answered vacantly.

“Which is?” The Duchess demanded.


“The footman?” The Duchess shouted. “Arthur? My Arthur?”

“What do you mean, ‘your Arthur’?” Barbara stuttered.

“Nothing.” The Duchess grunted. “How could you do this to me? How could you disgrace the family?”

“Why do you think I’m here, Mother?” Barbara said, he speech still slurred. “Why do you think I traveled across the sea to get away from you? Isn’t it better to think I’m dead than to think I’ve disgraced the family name? Go home, Mother. Go back to Fallbridge Hall and tell everyone that Lady Barbara is dead.”

“You’ve ruined us.” Pauline hissed.

“I’ve ruined…” Barbara growled. “What of Julian? Perhaps you should concern yourself with your son! He’s gone completely mad! He thinks he’s someone else.”

“It’s really quite charming,” Iolanthe smiled. “He is utterly insane.”

“You, hold your tongue.” The Duchess spat at Iolanthe.

“Temper, Your Grace.” Iolanthe winked. “That’s no way to speak to your hostess.”

The Duchess walked slowly to a chair and flung herself in it dramatically. “Everything is crumbling. This is not what I wanted at all.”

“Sometimes you just don’t get what ya want.” Iolanthe chuckled. “Sometimes, you can make it happen anyway.”

“I told you to hold your tongue.” The Duchess answered sharply.

“I’ll hold my tongue.” Iolanthe smiled. “After I tell your daughter who it was that murdered her father.”

“Keep quiet!” The Duchess growled.

“What is she talking about, Mother?” Barbara asked.

“Don’t call me ‘mother.’ I’m not your mother. I don’t know who or what you are.”

“Go to your room, Miss Allen.” Iolanthe said. “Assuming you’ve come to stay.”

“I have.” Barbara nodded.

“Get some sleep, then. Tomorrow’s gonna be right busy for ya.” Iolanthe winked.

Barbara stood awkwardly in the center of the room and stared at the Duchess.

“Go.” Iolanthe said firmly.

Barbara did as instructed.

“Now, now,” Iolanthe smiled at Pauline. “Looks like you got nothin’. Daughter’s a whore. Son’s a lunatic. Husband’s dead. Just you left—you and all that wealth. Maybe now, you’ll realize that I’m all you’ve got. Maybe now you’ll know that we have to help each other.”

“My daughter is dead.” The Duchess moaned. “Dead…”

At that very moment, back in Marionneaux, Marjani staggered out of the shack and fell to her knees in the cold, damp earth. She wailed horribly and beat her breast with her fists.

Several of the field workers rushed toward her, but stopped a few feet away—fearful of the Fever seeds.

“My baby is dead!” Marjani screamed. “My little girl is gone!”

“She’s gone to Heaven, honey.” One of the workers said. “She’s gone for to be with the Holy Mother.”

“How am I gonna tell that little girl that both her mama and her daddy are gone?” Marjani fell to the ground and clawed at it with her hands. “How am I gonna do it?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-108? If so, you can read them here.