Saturday, March 12, 2011

Painting of the Day: The Black Brunswicker, 1860

The Black Brunswicker
Sir John Everett Millais, 1860
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
Sir John Everett Millais was known for his emotionally-charged, theatrical and highly detailed paintings. He preferred to paint scenes which featured figures which would tempt the viewer to touch them because of the highly tactile nature of their clothing and radiant skin. This painting is no exception.

In the composition, we see a young lady being embraced by a soldier in a historical scene. The soldier represents a member of the special troop of highly-trained German soldiers of 1809 known as The Black Brunswickers whose motto “Glory or Death” became widely known. The Black Brunswickers wore death’s heads on their helmets to reinforce their grisly anthem. This regiment suffered tragic losses at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.

For his subjects, Millais used Charles Dickens’ daughter, Kate, as the model for the girl, and a private in the Life Guards as the model for the soldier. At no point were the two ever in the same room. Each posed with a mannequin for preliminary studies.

Notice the folds of the woman’s dress. They invite the viewer to reach out and touch it to see if it is, in fact, real. Millais has included a figure of a dog to reinforce the humanity of the scene and has placed a reproduction of an engraving of Napoleon Crossing the Alps by J.L. David as a reminder of Waterloo.

At the Music Hall: “We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on The Siegfried Line,” 1939

We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line.
Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line
'Cause the washing day is here.
Whether the weather may be wet or fine
We'll just rub along without a care.
We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line
If the Siegfried Line's still there ...

As the Second World War began to rumble, the British were looking for ways to keep national moral at its highest. One of the best ways to unify the nation was through song.

A line of forts and tank defenses built by the Germans, the Siegfried Line, was more of a propaganda tool than it was a clever defensive strategy. The Siegfried line helped the Germans by ensuring the nations that were battling them were constructing their own defensive lines—thus allowing them to invade Poland. Meanwhile, the Siegfried line was a comfort to the Allies who saw it as a barrier against the Germans which, moreover, was not impenetrable.

The Siegfried Line was the subject of a popular song written in the late 1930’s by British Captain and songwriter Jimmy Kennedy to help raise morale in the U.K. The song was of comfort to the British during the Battle of France and until 1945 when the British actually were able to “hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line.”

Saturday Sparkle: A Portrait Miniature Brooch of Queen Victoria, 1886

Henry Charles Heath, 1886
Miniature Portrait: Watercolor on Ivory
Setting: Gold, Enamel, Diamonds
The Royal Collection
By all accounts, Queen Victoria was quite generous and sentimental, especially with her children. She often presented her children with gifts which would serve to remind them about their family heritage and their history.

In 1886, Victoria commissioned Henry Charles Heath to create this portrait miniature of watercolor on ivory which reproduced one of her favorite later portraits. The miniature was set in a gold frame adorned with red and green enamel and diamonds set in a flower-head pattern.

Queen Victoria presented this brooch to Princess Victoria of Wales for her birthday that year. The item was cherished by the Princess and neatly preserved. It remains in pristine condition in the Royal Collection.

The Art of Play: Animal Hand Puppets from 1950

Animal Hand Puppets
English, 1950
Joy Laurey
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Children’s toys—to this day—often feature figures of animals. Farm animals are particularly popular subjects for toys. This made a lot of sense when many families still raised animals on their land as a source of food and income. These days, since most of us don’t lead agricultural lives, there’s more of a nostalgia-factor and cutesy feel to animal-themed toys which we often associate with early childhood. Such toys also serve as a means of teaching children about where the foods they eat come from and to educate them about words and their usage.

This set of cloth hand puppets made in England around 1950 is quite adorable. We have a horse, a lamb, a piggy and a cow. Each figure is highly stylized in the manner which was quite popular in the 1950’s. Though they were clearly well-loved they still retain much of their original detail and charm.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 193

Barbara stroked the head of the infant that the Cages called “Holt.” She held him close and inhaled his scent. The child nuzzled into her bosom and cooed. She hadn’t held the babe since the day she handed him over to Iolanthe Evangeline. Was this really the baby she’d once placed in a burlap sack and smuggled aboard the ship which had carried them to New Orleans from England?

“He sure does like you,” The young girl smiled.

“He seems to,” Barbara nodded.

“Are you here waitin’ for someone?” The girl asked.

“Yes. Odo has gone to tell Miss Rittenhouse that I’m here.” Barbara answered.

“You a friend of Miss Rittenhouse?” The girl smiled.

“Not really.” Barbara chuckled, cuddling the child. “What’s your name?”

“Zettie.” The girl smiled. “Oh, ain’t I just in a tizzy?”

“What is it?” Barbara asked.

“I done forgot his little blanket. He won’t take his supper without it. Always clutchin’ at the thing.”

“If you’d like to go get it, I can watch him for you.” Barbara said quickly.

“You wouldn’t mind?” Zettie asked.

“Not at all.”

“I won’t be but a minute.” Zettie said eagerly. “It’s awful nice of ya.”

“It’s not a problem, Zettie.” Barbara answered.

“I won’t be but two shakes.” Zettie said rushing up the stairs.

Barbara looked at the baby, “So, they call you ‘Holt,’ do they?” She sighed. “I’d have not called you ‘Holt.’ Can I tell you a secret?”

The baby cooed.

“When I carried you, I had some strange fantasy.” Barbara continued. “Oh, I knew it wouldn’t come to pass, but I thought maybe—just maybe—I’d have called you Colin. That was your grandfather’s name.”

The baby reached for Barbara’s long dark hair.

“You’re mine, you know.” Barbara whispered, clutching the baby closer.

She looked toward the staircase. There was no sign of neither Odo nor Zettie. She then looked to the door.

Without thinking, Barbara Allen rose—the child still in her arms—and did something she’d never planned on doing.

Meanwhile, Marjani and Adrienne were taking a stroll along Royal Street. Marjani’s granddaughter, Columbia trailed behind, holding onto Marjani’s hand. Adrienne pushed her own child, Fuller, in a perambulator, pausing for a moment to make sure her son was properly covered.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Adrienne smiled. “How warm it is for January.”

“That’s New Orleans, for ya.” Marjani said.

“It’s a fine place.” Adrienne grinned. “You know, in its way, it does remind me a bit of Paris.”

“Do you miss bein’ in France,” Marjani asked.

“Not really. Not anymore. Since I married Mr. Halifax, I’m content being wherever he is.”

“That’s sweet.” Marjani answered.

“Perhaps things will finally get back to rights,” Adrienne sighed.

“One day, soon.” Marjani said quietly. “We done had a lot of loss, Missus. We sure done had a lot of loss.”

“Yes,” Adrienne replied thoughtfully.

“I miss my little girl and even her husband, Gilbert.” Marjani continued. “It’s awful to be apart from your child—even when you know you’ll be reunited in Heaven one day. I miss Naasir, too.”

“You and Naasir had become quite close.” Adrienne said.

“We had, Missus.” Marjani nodded.

“You took good care of him.” Adrienne smiled.

“I done tried my best.”

“What do you think of the new fellow—Charles?” Adrienne asked as they walked.

“I think he’s fine to look at.” Marjani grinned. “I think he’s gonna be loyal to His Grace, but I think he’s a man that’s brimmin’ over with his own lot of mystery.”

“Of course he is.” Adrienne laughed. “Heaven forbid we should attract anyone simple.”

Marjani chuckled.

“Mon Dieu!” Adrienne gasped as she saw a frenzied figure rushing toward them.

“Holy Mother,” Marjani muttered. “It’s the Barbara Allen.”

“What’s she got?” Adrienne asked.

“Looks like a child.” Marjani said.

“You don’t think…” Adrienne trailed off as Barbara approached them.

“Please,” Barbara panted. “I know I don’t deserve your kindness. But, as a mother, you surely must understand…”

“Quickly!” Adrienne said, turning the pram around. “Come home with us.”

“You done took your baby back?” Marjani exclaimed.

“I had to.” Barbara gasped.

“Hurry.” Adrienne said. “Come with us.”

At that very moment, Charles wiped the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief.

“I wasn’t aware, Your Grace,” Charles shook his head, “that you knew my brother.”

“Would that I could say I did not.” Julian sighed. “He’s a most sour and disagreeable chap.”

“I should say so.” Charles nodded.

“Iantosca…” Robert squinted. “I can’t say that I know the man. Cecil must. Before he came to America, he often associated with other sculptors.”

“I’m sure your celebrated brother knows Giovanni.” Charles said.

“If I recall correctly, the Iantosca family is quite influential and not without their own fortune.” Julian continued. “So, why is it that you’re her working as a valet?”

“For much the same reason that your own sister has fled to a new country with a new name—preferring to work as a servant—and other things—than living the life which should have been her rightful inheritance.” Charles answered.

“Do sit down, man.” Robert said. “You look quite shaken.”

“I am.” Charles said. “However, Dr. Halifax, I shan’t sit. It would not be right.”

“Good Heavens, man.” Robert grunted. “There’s a time to stand on ceremony and a time to let it go.”

Charles nodded his head and sat in a nearby armchair.

“Now, isn’t it time, Charles, that you tell us your tale?” Julian asked. “If we’re to all live comfortably together, we must know one another. You are aware of my…” Julian smiled. “My unusual circumstances. Perhaps my companion and I can be of some assistance to you.”

“I don’t think anyone can help me, Your Grace.” Charles sighed. “But, I’ll gladly tell you all I can.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-192? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, March 14, for Chapter 194 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Spring Forward

It’s that time of year again where—in the U.S., at least—we turn our clocks ahead one hour. No one really likes doing this since it always feels as if we’re losing an hour of our lives that we could spend sleeping or otherwise engaged in something interesting. Still, we have to do it.

So, tonight before you go to bed, make sure to change your clocks. Thankfully, a lot of our digital devices are self-changing. However, if you’re like me and have a house full of antique clocks, make sure that they’re all happily set to the correct time before you start your day tomorrow.

Object of the Day: A Floral Paperweight by Ed Rithner

Master glass-maker Ed Rithner lived and worked in West Virginia from 1908-1970. His paperweights are coveted collectors’ items and though often always unsigned, they are easily identifiable from his trademark style and brilliant use of color.

This floral paperweight by Ed Rithner is indicative of his late 1940’s style. As is typical of Rithner’s work, the weight features small, intentional bubbles around the central design and the bottom of the weight is frosted with clear marks left behind by the pontil.

An eight petal blue flower surrounds a central bubble and rises above a mottled jewel-tone ground of fine powdered glass. This exceptional example of Rithner’s work is extremely rare and as beautiful as the day it was made.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pets of the Belle Époque: Queen Alexandra with Her Grandchildren and Her Dogs, 1902

Queen Alexandra with Her Grandchildren and Dogs
Frederick Morgan, Thomas Blinks, 1902
The Royal Collection
Though Queen Alexandra and her husband, King Edward VII, didn’t spend as much time together as most married couples, they did both share a love for their family and their pets.

This 1902 portrait of Queen Alexandra by Frederick Morgan and Thomas Blinks shows Alexandra engaged in play with the children of her son who would become King George V. Here, we see the Queen pictured with the future King George VI, the future (brief) King Edward VIII and Mary, Princess Royal. They are surrounded by an assortment of excited dogs who seem quite thrilled to be out in the warm air.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Majolica “Punch” Punch Bowl

One of the most coveted pieces of Majolica ceramics comes from the hand of English master George Jones. With a recumbent figure of Mr. Punch supporting a brightly-painted, holly-adorned punch bowl, this receptacle satisfied the Victorian sensibility for puns, bright colors and whimsy.

The Punch punch bowl was made in several different color schemes including orange, bright blue and midnight blue. They’re quite hard to come by and have been known to cost up to $24,000. But, gosh, wouldn’t it be great to have one?

Friday Fun: Little Audrey in “Tarts and Flowers”

In the late 1940’s when Paramount decided not to renew the license to use the popular cartoon character, “Little Lulu,” they came up with their own variation on the idea of the precocious girl—Little Audrey. Though Little Audrey had an entirely different look than her predecessor, she had similar adventures which were often fantastical—like visiting Santa Claus with a group of multi-racial children or even bizarre like traveling to a land ruled by anthropomorphized cake.

The idea of the “Land of Cake” was a carry-over from the 1920’s and 1930’s when standard cartoon subject matter often featured rather unsettling microcosms filled with knee-bending creatures which were made of the same material as the land which they inhabited.

The viewers of the late 1940’s cartoon, “Tarts and Flowers” are almost relieved to know that Audrey is dreaming about this grotesque land of breathing baked goods. However, that comfort is yanked away in the final seconds of the short.


Antique Image of the Day: The Staircase at Frogmore House, 1861

The Staircase at Frogmore House
Unknown Photographer, 1861
The Royal Collection
This is one of a series of images taken by an unknown photographer of the Royal Residence at Frogmore House. Frogmore House long served as the home of The Duchess of Kent who was kept there by Queen Victoria.

At first glance, this image doesn’t appear to be a photograph, but it is. It has been meticulously and painstakingly hand-tinted to preserve the memory of the house’s original color scheme. A century and a half later, it’s just as vivid an image as it was in 1861.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 192

Barbara Allen brushed past Charles as she ran through the entrance hall of her brother’s borrowed house on Royal Street.

“Miss Allen,” Charles said in an urgent, hushed voice.

“I cannot…” Barbara shook her head, pausing for only a moment. “Not now. Meet me this evening, if you can, at our usual spot in Jackson Square.”

“I will try.” Charles nodded.

With that, Barbara hurried out of the house before the tears began to spill from her eyes. Once outside, she sobbed openly as she walked. Her feet led her further down Royal Street and she soon found herself at the rear entrance of Edward Cage’s towering mansion.

She knocked on the door and was greeted by a yellow-eyed man of small stature and a bristling disposition.

“Whatchoo want?” The man croaked.

“I’d like to see Miss Rittenhouse.”

“Folk always comin’ to the back door to see Miss Rittenhouse.” The man frowned. “Ain’t she got no high-tone friends who might use the front door like regular white folk?”

“Please,” Barbara Allen pleaded.

“Why should I?”

“What’s your name?” Barbara asked.

“Odo.” The man grinned sourly. “They call me Ty Odo.”

“Odo,” Barbara began. “I come in peace. Miss Rittenhouse and I have a shared interest in something. Someone’s life hangs in the balance. It’s imperative that I see her.”

“Fine, come in.” Odo said. “I can’t let ya go in the main house ‘til I talk with Miss Rittenhouse. You’re gonna have to wait here.”

“I will.” Barbara said. “Thank you.”

“Fine, fine.” Odo grunted as he slipped up the back staircase.

Barbara sat in the austere kitchen and wiped her eyes. She was startled by a piercing, yet, strangely warm sound which she immediately recognized. Her heart broke when she heard the baby crying. She turned to see a young black woman coming down the stairs, carrying a pink-faced baby.

“Now, now, Master Holt, I’m gonna get your supper. Don’t you go on fussin’ like that.” The girl cooed to the baby.

She stopped when she spotted Barbara in the kitchen.

“Terrible sorry, Miss.” The girl said. “I didn’t know you were in here.”

“I…” Barbara shook her head, staring at the infant—her own child.

The baby spotted Barbara and extended his arms to her as he wriggled away from the girl who carried him.

“Oh, he likes you.” The girl smiled.

“Yes.” Barbara sniffed.

“You want to hold him while I get his supper?”

Barbara was silent for a moment.


“Yes,” Barbara said eagerly. “I’d like to hold him. Very much—please.”

Meanwhile, at Dr. Biamenti’s house, Charles walked slowly into Julian’s room, led by Robert.

“Yes, Your Grace.” Charles said politely. “Dr. Halifax said that you wished to see me.”

“I do.” Julian smiled. “To begin with, allow me, please, to introduce myself.”

“We’ve already met, Your Grace.” Charles smiled.

“You know quite well that we’ve not. You have been introduced to be other half—Mr. Punch. I am Julian, Duke of Fallbridge. You are aware by now, of course, that I am two men.”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles answered.

“You have no issue with this?” Julian asked.

“Of course not, Your Grace.” Charles answered.

“Is that, perhaps, because you are aware that all men have many different personalities—one way or another. Some even have different names.”

“Yes.” Charles nodded cautiously.

“I overheard you tell Mr. Punch that your real name is Carlo Iantosca.” Julian continued.

“That’s correct.” Charles blushed. “I hope that won’t be a problem. I’m quite honest, Sir. I am loyal and good at my job.”

“I have no doubt of that.” Julian responded. “Since you are so honest, Charles, allow me to ask you a question. I have an acquaintance—a rather unpleasant fellow. He’s an artist to whom I was introduced in London while I was living in Belgrave Square. A sculptor, I believe. One evening, I happened upon him in Covent Garden. He was intoxicated and typically belligerent. He pleaded with me to purchase some of his sculptures. He claimed that he needed funds quickly because he was searching for his brother who’d gone missing. I must confess that I was not especially interested in what he had to say. You see, I dislike being out in public, especially alone, and all I could think about was returning to the safety of my home. I wished him well, and went on my way without being especially helpful. The man was always so unpleasant, so I was not moved by his pleas. I didn’t think much of it, I’m afraid. You see, I was attacked and robbed that night. I hadn’t even thought of the man until now.”

“I’m sorry to hear of your attack, Sir.” Charles interrupted.

“Thank you,” Julian nodded. “I’m sorry to hear that your brother was so distraught by your absence.”

“My brother, Your Grace?”

“Giovanni Iantosca.” Julian said firmly. “The sculptor. He is your brother, isn’t he?”

Charles blushed.

“Charles?” Robert asked. “His Grace asked you a question.”

“Yes, Gentlemen.” Charles nodded. “My brother is Giovanni Iantosca. Yes, I am fleeing from him.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-191? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Jazz Up Your Bath

Our bathrooms are as important as the rest of our homes. We spend a fair amount of time in them and they deserve as much attention to their décor as the rest of the house. A splash of an exciting paint color, some interesting accessories, attractive towels and rugs and an unusual light fixture can add a lot to the look of your bath.

If your bath is feeling a bit blah and antiseptic, stop by a home goods store and pick up some inexpensive towels and a jaunty trash can. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make your bathroom feel less like an outhouse and more like a spa.

Object of the Day: An Antique Three-Arm Chandelier

Lighting in the 1920’s often borrowed design ideas from other eras. In this case, we see that the inspiration for this three-arm, gilt-metal fixture is the urn-shaped hanging lamps of the French Second Empire.

The chandelier is quite simple in design. The central urn is ornamented with three ormolu mounts in a floral pattern. Otherwise, the piece relies heavily on its shape for its natural elegance. Dripping with tear-drop shaped prisms, this small fixture adds just the right amount of light and shimmer to a room.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Graham (Cracker) Children

“Don’t even think about putting your filthy paws on my snack, Mr. Eighteenth-Century Whiskers.”

Image: The Graham Children, William Hogarth, 1742, The National Gallery, London. 

Mastery of Design: A Perched Raven by Fabergé, 1900

Raven on Perch
Carl Fabergé, 1900
Onyx, Agate, Diamonds, Gold
The Royal Collection
The Royal Collection boasts seven Fabergé figures of birds on perches. This raven created in 1900 of onyx, agate, rose-cut diamonds and gold has special significance.

It refers to the ravens which have been traditionally kept at the Tower of London. The first recorded reference to the Tower ravens occurred in 1883 in “The Pictorial World.” At any given point, there are six ravens in residence at the tower. It is said that should they leave, the empire will fall. This is prevented by keeping their wings clipped. The ravens are happy enough, however, being cared for by the Yeoman Warders.

This figure was a favorite of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra during their reign. With its sparkling diamond eyes, it seems quite wise indeed. Perhaps it knows that the future of the empire rests on its feathery shoulders.

Painting of the Day: A European Pelican, 1635

A European Pelican
Vincenzo Leonardi, 1635
Watercolor over chalk
The Royal Collection
This painting has almost as interesting a travel history than the subject did itself. This particular pelican, it seems, was painted posthumously. He was a well-known, if not out-of-place, visitor to the coast of Italy and attracted much attention for his unusual looks and exotic air. A wealthy Italian fellow named Cassiano del Pozzo, was enchanted by the bird and wished to know more about it. In order to get closer to the pelican, he had it shot. As one does… It seems that studying the creature in his natural habitat hadn’t occurred to Cassiano del Pozzo.

Nevertheless, before dissecting it (and trying to see how much stuff he could fit into its beak pouch—seriously—the answer is 14 pounds of water, by the way), Cassiano del Pozzo commissioned Vincenzo Leonardi to paint this portrait of the poor slain pelican.

After del Pozzo’s death, the painting was shuttled about, spending stretches of time in the collection of the Vatican, later, with King George III, later still, in John’s Hopkins University and finally, in 1988, back to the Royal Collection.

Let’s hope that the painting and the bird may now rest in peace.

Unfolding Pictures: A Stuart Dynasty Fan, c. 1600

Fan from the Stuart Collection
Circa 1600
Leather, Bone
Purchased by George V, 1910
The Royal Collection
In 1910, as instructed by Queen Mary (of Teck), King George V purchased a set of twenty-four relics reputedly belonging to the Royal Stuart Family of the late Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Centuries. Among these items is this leather-leaf fan with bone sticks and guards which is said to have belonged to King Charles I.

The leather leaf of this fan shows an open-work pattern which was typical of the era, most likely copied from a book. The pattern was transferred to the leather by pricking the leaf with pin holes which traced the design’s outline. The area within the pinholes was then meticulously cut with a knife.

Traces of red and green pigment are still visible on the bone sticks and guards which also show signs of having been adorned with some kind of metal sheeting—copper or possibly tin—which was affixed with copper wire via small holes in the bone.

In 1916, Queen Mary proudly displayed this fan and the other twenty-three items in the newly arranged, “Stuart Room” in Windsor Castle.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 191

Barbara Allen looked nervously as Robert who shook his head. “Don’t look to me, Miss Allen. It’s not my decision to make. Were it up to me, I’d not have let you in the house.

Barbara sniffed and looked at Julian.

“I can appreciate that you’re concerned about Arthur.” Julian nodded.

“I am.” Barbara said.

“However, I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that there’s nothing that could get me to lift a finger to assist Arthur in any way.”

“Julian,” Barbara began.

“I’m not going out of my way to offer aid to the man who shot, poisoned and tortured me.” Julian smiled.

“He’s the father of your nephew.”

“I don’t know my nephew. Your son is living in someone else’s house, with someone else’s name. Adrienne’s son is more of a nephew to me than your child, Barbara.”

Barbara stared silently at her brother.

“Now, you’re my sister, and I have come here, after all, to rescue you. I’m still willing to do that. Go to wherever it is that you live, pack your things and return here. We’ll go back to England and forget about all of this.”

“We’ve discussed this before,” Barbara snorted. “You know that I cannot.”

“With Mother and Father both gone, it falls upon us to maintain the family honor.” Julian argued.

“I’m afraid I don’t feel very honorable knowing that my husband is chained in the hold of a ship, awaiting a life of slavery—and neither I nor my brother are able to do a damn thing about it! How is that family honor, Julian?”

“It’s no less dishonorable than running away from home, having a child out of wedlock, selling said child, and then attempting to destroy your own living family members. You had no problem with doing any of that. “

Barbara flinched.

“I am offering you a rare opportunity to forget the past, Barbara. How many of us have a chance to start over?”

“How daft are you?” Barbara asked. “Do you really think that we can erase the past? Are you truly that mad now?”

“It’s up to us to decide how we proceed. None of us is predetermined to be forever mired in our mistakes. It is possible to rise above them, when given aid.”

“You’re willing to forgive me, and help me? But, not Arthur?”

“Arthur is not my blood!” Julian answered. “You are!”

“I wish that I were not,” Barbara answered angrily. “I told Charles that you would be difficult!”

“Charles?” Robert interrupted. “Charles brought you here?”

“It was his idea to ask Julian for help, yes.” Barbara answered.

Robert looked at Julian who shrugged.

“We knew that Charles and my sister had an affiliation.” Julian said to Robert.

“Still, it’s not the place of a valet to suggest what his betters should do,” Robert shook his head.

“His betters?” Barbara spat. “He’s far my superior! What am I? A former whore turned hair dresser who lives in the home of a notorious Voodoo priestess. I’m a fallen woman who sold her own child and contributed to the downfall of her own mother. I don’t care what name I was given at birth. Now I’m Barbara Allen, and I’m no better than dirt! I don’t know why I even bothered to try to rise above it.” Barbara turned on her heel.

“Where are you going?” Robert asked.

“Back where I belong!” Barbara said. “I’m sorry I interrupted your life, Julian—or whatever it is that you’re called these days. I should know that only dirt can blanket other dirt. I may be mistaken in my desire to help Arthur, but how is that any different than anything I’ve done in the last year. I’ve made a career of being mistaken. So, why not continue? And, in honor of that litany of error, I see that the only way to get forward is to stumble backward.”

“Barbara,” Julian said angrily, putting his hand on his chest where his gunshot wound still stung him. “Don’t react this way. You’ve not changed in all these years. You still react with the same impetuosity as when you were a tiny girl.”

“Do I?” Barbara grumbled as she walked out of the room.

She paused in the doorway and spun around, “Well, then, Julian, comfort yourself with your memories of me as a child. For, those are all the joy you’ll ever have from me.” She looked at Robert. “Good day, Doctor. And, good luck with your ward. I trust you two will find much happiness in each other.”

With that, Barbara stormed down the hallway.

“Robert,” Julian said quickly. “Perhaps she’s right. Do fetch her back.”

“No.” Robert shook his head.

Julian sighed.

“You should be proud,” Robert said after awhile. “You were strong and resolute and handled that quite well.”

“Thank you,” Julian said. “I only wish she’d be more rational. However, I can’t imagine why I’d expect it of her. She never was and never will be.”

“You’re too kind-hearted.”

“Barbara wouldn’t agree with that.” Julian grumbled.

“You need to rest now,” Robert sat on the edge of the bed.

“I will in a moment.” Julian said. “However, there’s something I need to do first.”

“What’s that?” Robert frowned.

“I’d like to speak with this Charles.” Julian winked. “Mr. Punch told me about him. I recalled something about him that I think he’ll find interesting.”

“Oh?” Robert asked.

“Punch isn’t the only keeper of secrets,” Julian smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-190? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Don’t be Afraid to Speak Out

So often, we feel as though no one cares about what we have to say. Doesn’t it seem as though our thoughts, feelings and opinions often go dismissed? The truth of the matter is that, it’s true, for the most part; others are usually more obsessed about their own feelings to give any consideration to someone else’s.

However, every person has someone in his or her life who cares, who wants to listen, who wants to help, who wishes to lend their support. The key is knowing who you can trust and who really cares. Don’t be afraid to tell your trusted companions and family members how you feel. When someone truly loves you, there’s nothing you can say that will sound “silly” or “foolish.” To those who love you, all of your thoughts and feelings are valid. By giving then voice, you’re putting yourself one step closer to understanding them, and, also, giving your loved ones a much-cherished look into yourself.

Object of the Day: A Large Bristol Glass Vase

This is the Frankenstein’s Monster of Bristol glass. It’s big and ungainly and not terribly bright. It almost looks like a normal piece of Bristol glass, but it somehow misses the mark. Sure, it’s a milky-white color with a hand-painted pattern of flowers and gilt detailing at the neck base and around the ruffled top. But, it’s so big and it’s such an awkward shape…

By now, you may have guessed that this is not my favorite object in the house. It was a gift and I keep it around because I respect it for its age, and…well, that’s about it. It’s old, certainly mid-to-late 1800’s. For that reason alone, I should respect it. I also find it an interesting reminder that not everything is perfect.

I will note that it photographs much better than it looks in person. How fortunate for it…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Precious Time: "The King’s Clock," 1770

The King's Clock
Blue John, Gilt Bronze, Enamel,
Glass, Steel
The Royal Collection
This mantel clock was ordered around the same time as an ornate chimney garniture for Queen Charlotte’s bedroom at the newly repurposed Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) in 1770 and was made according to strict instructions by King George III.

William Chambers was instrumental in creating the design of the clock case which features gilt bronze sphinxes on either side of the base. The clock boasted an 8-day striking movement of a design by the horologist Tomas Wright.

Despite being made specifically for Queen Charlotte’s private chamber, the clock ended up on the chimneypiece of The Crimson Drawing Room where it remained for many years.

Sculpture of the Day: The Eagle Slayer, 1845

The Eagle Slayer
John Bell, 1845
The Royal Collection
Bare to the mountain blast
And ever bounding fast,
His glances upward flang,
His quiver 'hind him cast,
For vengeance on the bird
Swift up the mountain-side he past,
By love and anger spurred;
Aloft he shakes his bow,
Thanatos to Aeto [Death of the eagle].

The above poem was written by sculptor John Bell for his monumental work—The Eagle Slayer. The figural group was the talk of the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was represented in two versions—one in bronze and one in steel. The larger than life group depicts a shepherd exacting revenge on the eagle who just murdered one of his sheep—who lies at the shepherd’s feet.

The Victorians, who were quite mad about Classical subject matter, applauded the group with its theme of justice and the eternal struggle between right and corruption. The steel version of the work stood at the base of the grand staircase at Kensington Palace for many years.

Building of the Week: Château de Dampierre

French Baroque architecture reached a critical apex with the designs of architect Jules Hardouin Mansart. Mansart, one of the most notable architects of the Seventeenth Century, became closely associated with the grandeur and opulence which rose in prominence during the reign of Louis XIV. One of the hallmarks of Mansart’s designs was his use of the roofline which we now refer to as “Mansard”—named for the architect’s great-uncle, François Mansart. Also alled a “French Roof,” the Mansard roof is a four-sided hip roof in a gambrel style which is characterized by two slopes on each of its sides. The lower slope slants at a steeper angle than the upper and the whole of it is interrupted by dormer windows which afford additional useable space.

An excellent example of the Mansard roof can be found at the Château de Dampierre in Dampierre-en-Yvelines, in the Vallée de Chevreuse, France. The Château, designed by Mansart, stands proudly behind ornate wrought iron gates. With its Mansard roof, balustrades, archways and heavy ornamentation, it is the height of French Baroque architecture.

The castle was built for the duc de Chevreuse between 1676 and 1683 and features a formal garden designed by André Le Nôtre who included an elegant water feature. The Château itself boasts lavish staterooms and interiors.

The interiors of the castle have been altered over time. The most notable alteration came with the refurbishing of the grande gallerie so that archaeologist and collector, Honoré Théodore Paul Joseph d'Albert, duc de Luynes, might better showcase his magnificent collection of artifacts. For this purpose, Hellenistic-style friezes and bas reliefs wee added by sculptor Pierre-Charles Simart and a fresco entitled “The Golden Age” is the only remaining evidence of an attempt to adorn the gallery in frescoes by the celebrated painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.

The Château de Dampierre is open to the public for tours. For more information, visit their official Web site, but be forewarned that it’s in French, as one might expect.

Unusual Artifacts: A Silver Inkwell and Taper Holder in the Shape of a Foot

Inkwell and Taper Stick
Silver, partially gilt with glass liner
Elkington & Co., 1846
The Royal Collection
For collectors of antiques, objects from the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are highly regarded pieces. The Queen and Prince themselves were avid collectors of antiques and had a taste for items made in what they considered an antique style.

This silver inkwell/taper stick appealed to Queen Victoria because of its historical design. Designed by Benjamin Schlick of Elkington & Co., the inkwell is based on sketches Schlick made during a visit to Pompeii wherein he had a chance to study many of the artifacts from the site. The inkwell was delivered to Queen Victoria so that she might present it to Prince Albert as a gift for their wedding anniversary in 1846. They made on addition to the piece. Atop the glass-lined silver well, a lid was added by the Royal jewelers at Garrard & Co.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 190

Julian,” Robert exclaimed emotionally.

“Good evening, Robert.” Julian smiled. “And, Happy New Year—a bit belated.”

“Thank you,” Robert nodded quickly.

Julian understood that Robert was thanking him for more than just the holiday wishes of cheer.

“Are you…” Robert began, unsure of how to finish the question.

“I’m well.” Julian sighed. “Though I must confess, I’m a trifle uncomfortable.”

“Being shot will do that.” Robert smiled. “How is our Mr. Punch?”

“Quite frustrated with me, I’m sure.” Julian chuckled. “I don’t think he wanted me to pop out.”

“So, he’s still…”

“Oh, yes,” Julian grinned. “He’s in there. Waiting. Most likely impatiently.”

“It’s good to see you, Your Grace,” Meridian interrupted.

“Oh, thank you, Meridian. I’m sorry. I didn’t see you back there. It’s good to see you as well.”

“Dr. Halifax,” Meridian whispered, coming forward. “What should I tell the young woman downstairs?”

“You should tell her to come up,” Julian said.

“Julian, I don’t think…” Robert began.

“I know what you’re going to say.” Julian held up his hand, painfully. “However, I need to speak with her.”

“Perhaps another time.” Robert suggested.

“I don’t know that I’ll have another chance.” Julian shook his head.

“These people will keep coming out of the woodwork.” Robert grumbled. “I have no doubt that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to speak with Barbara Allen.”

“If she’s come here, she must have a reason.” Julian said. “She’s my sister. Even if you and Cecil had some kind of quarrel, if he came to you, you’d help him.”

“Cecil wouldn’t subject me to the atrocities that your sibling has brought upon you.” Robert frowned.

“I’m not suggesting that he would, I’m simply trying to make a point.”

“I understand that.” Robert sniffed. “However, you must understand that you’re still weak and fevered. It wouldn’t do to upset yourself. And, God knows that the woman is only here because she wants something from you. Or, worse, wants to try to harm you again.”

“You know, when I was shot, she leapt in front of the bullet to protect me.” Julian said. “I watched from within myself as it happened.”

“I didn’t know that.” Robert sighed. “I wouldn’t have expected it of her.”

“She’s a complicated person. For as much as she’s like our mother, she’s also got something of Father in her. She must. I refuse to think that she’s an entirely lost soul.”

“You’re far too kind,” Robert shook his head. “However, if this is what you wish, I shan’t prevent it. I only ask that you allow me to stay in here with you.”

“I expected that you would. I rather want you to.”

“Very well,” Robert nodded. “Meridian, will you show Miss Allen up here?”

“Yes, Dr. Halifax.” Meridian smiled.

Only a few seconds passed before Barbara was walking slowly into Julian’s room.

“You look well,” Barbara said softly.

“As well as one can with a hole in his chest.” Julian answered.

Barbara nodded at Robert, “Thank you, Dr. Halifax for saving my brother. Not just this time, but in so many different ways.”

“It’s my pleasure to look after His Grace.” Robert said.

“I’d like to apologize for the terrible things that I said to you.” Barbara whispered. “I was unkind. I associated you with a difficult time, and…”

“Say no more, Miss Allen,” Robert interrupted. “I understand.”

“Why have you come, Barbara?” Julian asked. “Surely, if you wanted to find out how I was doing, you could ask your friend, Charles.”

“So, you know that I suggested Charles inquire about the position of your valet?”

“You know that we do.” Julian winked.

“I do.” Barbara nodded. She took a deep breath. “Julian…” She paused.

“Is there a problem?” Julian asked.

“It’s just that…your voice. I just realized that you sound like yourself.”

“I’m present—temporarily, at least.” Julian smiled. “However, you must realize that even when Mr. Punch is at the helm, I’m still aware of what’s going on.”

“This is real, then?” Barbara asked. “It’s difficult for me to comprehend, you know. That there are two people inside of you.”

“It’s not for you to comprehend. I only ask that you respect it.” Julian answered plainly.

“I do.” Barbara answered. “Julian…”


“I need your help.”

“I figured as much.” Julian smiled wryly. “Are you ready to come home? Do you wish to leave these mistakes behind and return to your life?”

“No.” Barbara shook her head. “I can never go back. You know that.”

“Well, then, how can I help you?” Julian asked.

“It’s Arthur. Iolanthe Evangeline has done something to him. Now, he’s been shipped off and I don’t know how to rescue him.”

“You’re not serious?” Robert guffawed.

“He’s the father of my child.”

“The child that you sold.” Robert answered flatly.

“He’s my husband.” Barbara said.

“An unfaithful husband at best.” Robert replied. “I’m terribly sorry to be so blunt, Miss Allen, however, you must realize that your Arthur is a bad lot.”

“He still deserves a chance,” Barbara said.

“So, you have come here to ask me to assist you in finding the man who poisoned me and my companion? To aid the man who impregnated my sister? To offer my support to the man who tortured us lo these many weeks? Barbara, you can’t really think that I’d lift a finger to do anything for the man who…who just shot me! Look at me! I’m in this bed—again—because of him!”

“Julian, I know you’ll help—not for Arthur, but for me. I know you. I know what a kind heart you have…”

“I think I may just surprise you this time, Barbara,” Julian grunted as Mr. Punch might have. “Our situation has changed.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-189? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Remember Your Power

You may not have any control over the unpleasantness of other people, but you can control how you react to it. You have the power to process your reactions to every situation in a positive way. If you allow yourself to become angry or upset, you’re only going to make the situation more unpleasant.

Simply take a deep breath and remember your power. Keep your cool and know that you can handle anything that life throws at you. You’re only as strong as you allow yourself to be.

Object of the Day: La Velata di Raffaelo

Among the most famous portraits by the Italian artist Raphael (Raffaelo Sanzio da Urbino) is “La Velata.” This portrait of a regal woman has long been prized as one of his most masterful paintings and features a subject who appears in another of his famed works, “La Fornarina” (the Baker Woman).

This Nineteenth Century portrait miniature on card is a reproduction of that famous work. Set into a brass and burgundy mohair frame with an oval opening. On the reverse of this miniature, the title of the piece is written in pencil along with a series of other Italian words which are no longer decipherable followed by its place of origin—Florence.

Reproductions of famous artwork became quite popular in the Nineteenth Century. Sometimes sold as souvenirs of travels (as I would think this piece is), people satisfied their curiosity and appreciation for the art of other cultures by displaying these objects in their homes. It’s a tradition we continue to this day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Pietra Dura Table Cabinet, 1680

Table Cabinet
Italian, 1680
Purchsed in Rome, 1760 by
Queen Charlotte and King George III
Pietra Dura, Ebony, Oak, Ormolu
The Royal Collection
This table cabinet, now denuded of its stand, is really nothing more than a means of cleverly displaying thirteen masterful petra dura panels depicting scenes of birds, florals and landscapes. The Florentine panels are set into frames of ebony, oak and gilt bronze.

King George III and Queen Charlotte purchased this cabinet while visiting Rome in 1760. Queen Charlotte has a well-documented enthusiasm for the art of hardstone peitra dura and collected several pieces of furniture similar to this one. Her affection for the medium seems to have been inherited by her son who purchased the cabinet at the 1819 auction of Queen Charlotte’s belongings while he was still Prince Regent. As King George IV, he displayed this cabinet proudly in his private apartments.

Film of the Week: Kind Lady, 1951

A wealthy art collector, Mary Herries, leads a quiet life in her large townhouse. She’s alone most of the time, that’s true. However, she is not lonely. Aside from her loyal maid, she’s kept company by the many gorgeous, priceless paintings and sculptures which fill her lavish home. She’s a gentle soul—a truly kind lady. When she meets a struggling artist, Henry Elcott, she is moved by his sad tale of the poverty in which he, his ailing wife and their baby live. She takes pity on the man, and soon, she finds that he and his whole family have moved into her elegant London house.

Soon, however, Mary discovers that her kindness has been repaid in a peculiar fashion. She’s locked in her room—held prisoner—while Elcott and his faix family systematically rob her. Posing as Mar’s nephew and styling his criminal friends as her new maid an butler, Elcott tells people that Mary has gone mad and that if they hear screams from her bedroom to ignore them because they’re just the rants of insanity. Not only is Mary held hostage, but her maid, Rose, is as well. The two women struggle to break free. However, many days pass, and they’re trapped. There is, indeed, madness in the house. But, it isn’t Mary who’s gone insane. It’s Elcott. The true depth of his depravity becomes clear when he paints a portrait of Mary. His thievery is nothing compared to the sinister plan he has concocted. Will Mary and Rose manage to escape? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

1951’s Kind Lady is a remake of a film by the same name from 1935 which is itself based on a play (of the same name) by Edward Chodorov who found his inspiration in a short story by Hugh Walpole entitled, “The Silver Mask.” This version stars Ethel Barrymore as Mary Herries and Maurice Evans as Elcott (Maurice—pronounced “Morris”—is best known to American audiences as Samantha Stephens’ father Maurice—pronounced “Mohr-ise”—on Bewitched and as “Hutch” in the film version of Rosemary’s Baby.” Angela Lansbury and Keenan Wynn play Elcott’s conspirators, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards. Doris Lloyd plays “Rose.”

It’s a chilling, taut thriller which is really quite disturbing. It makes one reconsider showing any kindness to strangers and cautions us to think with our heads and not our hearts.

Humanitarian of the Week: Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan
Known for her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and her emotionally-charged songs, Sarah McLachlan has established herself as one of the most talented and popular performers of her generation. Born in 1968 and adopted in Nova Scotia, McLachlan showed in interest in singing and in music as a child. By the age of seventeen, she’d already started her own rock band and was considered by her schoolmates as the person in their class most likely to be a star. She met their expectations. Her albums have been critical and sales successes since 1991.

With all of her success, and the daily work of raising her two young daughters, you’d think that Sarah McLachlan would have little time for much else; however, she’s always been interested in ensuring the ethical treatment of both people and animals.

In 1997, McLachlan responded to her concerns that female performing artists weren’t receiving equal airtime and promotion by establishing Lilith Fair—a concert festival which showcased female artists and helped launch the career of many performers.

McLachlan has also lent her support to the AIDS research as well as to the American initiative to raise funds for those who were affected by the 2005 tsunami. She performed on the U.S. telethon for tsunami relief as well as worked to establish a similar concert in Canada. Along with her manager, she launched One World: The Concert for Tsunami Relief which raised $3.6 million for the cause.

Additionally, McLachlan is a passionate advocate for animal rights and works closely with the ASPCA. Her two-minute commercial for the ASPCA, set to her hit song “Angel” was so effective that it encouraged the organization to produce more with McLachlan, raising $30 million in donations for the ASPCA since 2006.

McLachlan also offers her support to organizations searching to end world famine and debt and to bring attention and aid to the people of Africa. Through her philanthropic efforts, she has raised millions of dollars for these organizations.

For all of her varied efforts and her king and generous spirit, Sarah McLachlan is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Paul Brason, PPRP, RWA

HRH Prince Michael of Kent
Paul Brason, 1986
A past president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (PPRP), Paul Brason has been exhibiting his work since 1977. His large figural paintings have a haunting quality to them. With subjects composed of detailed planes of light, Brason employs a sense of color that allows his models to seem to break away from their backgrounds. Brason has painted a host of exclusive commissions from high-profile sitters including HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

Known primarily for his portraiture, Paul Brason is also an accomplished painter of non-figural works including studies of interiors, genre paintings and landscapes. This multi-talented artist has also been involved in publishing, working with the Tate Gallery on the book, Voyage Round Great Britain and as editor for Banks' Florilegium. This prize-winning artist now resides and keeps a studio in Bath. To see more of Brason's work, visit his official Web site

Paul Brason

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 189

Julian walked calmly toward the imaginary stage and extended his hand toward Mr. Punch.

“Master,” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“Dear, Punch.” Julian said firmly, but kindly, “you need to join me. Come back and sit.”

“I can’t.” Mr. Punch began to cry. “I can’t let ‘em continue with this. I can’t let you see!”

“I must!” Julian answered. “Mr. Punch, I must!”

“It’s gonna hurt ya,” Mr. Punch said, wiping his eyes.

“And, aren’t we accustomed to being hurt? Look at what we’ve endured together. And just in the last few weeks! We’ve been cut and poisoned and burned and shot! We’re strong, Mr. Punch. Together, we’re strong. If we face this together, perhaps we’ll be even stronger.”

“We’re strong ‘nough,” Mr. Punch grunted.

“I love you for trying to protect me. You’ve done such a fine job of it for all of these years. For that, I’m exceedingly proud of you,” Julian began. “But, now, I must know everything. I’m frightened, yes. But, I’m also ready to be alive. Since we’ve been in this country, I’ve spent most of the time here—in this room, inside of our body. It’s been glorious. I finally had what I’ve always desired—time, time alone, peacefulness! It’s given me time to think and regain my strength. Now, I’m feeling hearty and brave. I know that I can take on more. I can have an active role in our battle, but I can’t fight what I don’t see. I can’t go into this blind. We’re partners, you and I. We can win this battle together, but only if we’re both functioning with the same intelligence. You’ve done nothing but protect me—fiercely and loyally. Now, let me protect you so that I can protect us!”

Punch sighed loudly.

“If I let you see this,” Mr. Punch answered, “then, I’ve failed. What good am I?”

“You’re infinitely good! And necessary. I still need you. I’ll always need you, Punch. You’re the other half of me. In some ways, you’re the better half.”

“Will we ever be a whole?” Mr. Punch whispered.

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Certainly not in the traditional sense. But, if we work together…if we function together—on an even ground—we’ll achieve a certain kind of unity. It’ll be our own version of wholeness. Unique to us! Two columns supporting one structure. Together, they’re unified. Together, they’re one building. If you remove one or chip away at one, the whole edifice comes crashing down.”

Punch smiled.

“Take my hand,” Julian smiled back.

Mr. Punch took Julian’s hand and rose from the stage.

“Now,” Julian grinned. “Sit beside me. Let’s see this together. We will comfort one another as best we can, knowing all the while that this is necessary, that we shall use this pain to fuel a fire which will propel us to victory. From victory comes peace, my dear Punch, and that’s all anyone can ask.”

Punch sat in the chair next to Julian’s. “How will they know to come back?” He pointed to the stage.

“They’ll know.” Julian whispered.

Mr. Punch clutched Julian’s hand as a blue mist began to form on the “stage”as the figures began to reappear in the places in which they had stood before Punch had made them vanish. They began to rematerialize as if they were beings made of smoke.

Suddenly, above them—outside of them—they heard Robert’s voice. He was angry.

“Meridian,” Robert said. “You tell Miss Allen that she’s not welcome in this house!”

“She’s pleadin’, Sir.” They heard Meridian say. “She wants to his His Grace.”

“As you can see,” Robert answered her. “His Grace is resting. He’s not conscious. Please, send her away.”

Meridian took a deep breath and nodded. “Of course, I will, Sir. It just ain’t gonna be so easy.”

“I’ll help.” Robert patted Meridian’s hand. “I’ll talk with her.”

“No.” Julian said, sitting up.

Robert gasped as he saw the life return to Julian’s body. He was surprised to hear the voice of Julian and, though he was thrilled to hear his friend, wondered where Mr. Punch was.

“Please,” Julian smiled. “Let me speak with her.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-188? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Find Peace

Peace is hard to come by. We’re so accustomed to chaos, that sometimes we mistake peacefulness and quiet as boredom. However, there’s great joy and comfort to be found in those rare subdued moments when you can sit quietly alone or with a pet or loved one and just enjoy a few seconds of blissful ease.

Seize those opportunities to have peace. They’re few and far between. If you can, set aside a few minutes each day to cuddle up and be still. These are the moments where in we’re most able to restore our bodies and minds. That’s what we need the most in order to face all the other activities of life.

Object of the Day: An Antique Memorial Stickpin

Victorian society had very strict guidelines concerning mourning. The length of the mourning period and the attire worn varied depending on an individual’s relationship to the deceased. One particular rule that was constant was that sparkling gemstone jewelry was forbidden for both women and men. Diamonds were out, and a person in mourning would wear more sedate gems of jet, onyx, black enamel or mother-of-pearl.

Mourning or memorial jewelry took many forms. Very often memorial pieces were created especially to remember the person who had passed away. Rings and brooches with insets of the deceased’s hair behind crystal were engraved with the name of the lost loved one as well as the birth and death dates. Some pieces of jewelry featured the letters “I.M.O.” to represent “In memory of” while others would feature the initials of or a portrait of the deceased.

This memorial stickpin from the mid-Victorian era features a gold hand from which a mother-of-pearl shield dangles. These would have been available for purchase at a jewelers shop wherein the initial of the deceased was affixed—upon order—in gold. In this case, the deceased’s name started with “F.” A gold letter was applied to the shield.

Though somewhat spooky and grim, this stickpin is a sweet reminder of someone’s grief. It’s in astoundingly good condition owing to the fact that the pin was only worn during the period of mourning, and, then, preserved.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Painting of the Day: “Poetry” by Alessandro Turchi, 1606

Alessandro Turchi, 1606
The Royal Collection
Dressed in blue to show the heavenly nature of her art, this painting of “Poetry” shows the muse crowned with a laurel wreath. In one hand, she holds a book, in the other; she holds a pen sharpened from a laurel branch. Poetry has wings on her head to show that she inspires “flights of fancy.”

This gem-like painting by Alessandro Turchi is inspired by the work of Cesare Ripa and was the back of one of two shutters which were created for the installation of the organ at the newly built Verona Accademia Filarmonica. When the shutters were opened, Poetry appeared on one side and Music on the other.

King George III added this painting to the Royal Collection during his reign. With its brilliant color and gilding, Poetry continues to inspire flights of fancy to this day.