Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: Queen Elizabeth II’s Wedding Bracelet, 1947

Diamond Bracelet
Philip Antrobus, 1947
The Royal Collection
For their 1947 wedding, Prince Philip (now the Duke of Edinburgh) wanted to present his bride (now Queen Elizabeth II) with a fitting token of his affection. Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece, offered her son the brilliant-cut diamonds from one of her tiaras so that they could be reset into a new piece of jewelry for the woman who would become Queen of England.

Prince Philip commissioned London jeweler Philip Antrobus (of 6 Old Bond Street) to create this magnificent bracelet in a very late-1940’s style. The diamonds are gorgeous in their platinum setting and show that despite his gruff exterior, Prince Philip might just have some of the artistic sensibility demonstrated by Prince Albert in the mid Nineteenth Century.

At the Music Hall: “E-Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay,” 1908

Young Herman Von Bellow, a musical fellow,
Played on a big cello each night
Sweet melodies rare, in a dance garden where
Dancers danced ‘round and ‘round with delight.

One night he saw dancing a maid so entrancing
His heart caught on fire inside,
And music so mellow he sawed on his cello,
She waltzed up to him and she cried:

E-Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay, I-Ay!
E-Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay, I-Ay!
I don’t care what becomes of me,
When you play me that sweet melody:
E-Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay, I-Ay!

Written by Will D. Cobb with music by John H. Flynn for 1908’s The Merry Widow and the Devil, “E-Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay, I-Ay!” tells the tale of a musician’s power over a sensible young lady. This song of enchantment and lyrical love became a popular musical hall sensation near the end of the reign of King Edward VII. It was further popularized by Blanche Ring who belted out the song, much to the delight of audiences.

Painting of the Day: A Stickpin Portrait of Queen Victoria, 1850

Stickpin with Portrait of Queen Victoria
William Essex after Franz Xaver Winterhalter
English, 1850
Gold, Enamel
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When young Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, she was quickly celebrated for her grace and beauty. Images of the Queen became popular decorations and even found their way into the design of jewels. This gold stickpin (or scarf pin) features a portrait of the Queen based on the 1843 canvas by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

The portrait, beautifully rendered in enamel, is the work of the miniaturist William Essex—much beloved of the Queen and Prince Albert. Essex has taken great care to painstakingly reproduce one of the Queen’s favorite portraits.

The Art of Play: A Rare Antique Sand Toy, 1850-1870

Sand Toy
French, 1850-1870
Gerard Camagni
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This unusual and exceptionally beautiful toy dates between 1850 and 1870 and comes from France. Sand toys are particularly rare—prone to damage from wet weather and their fragile natures.

Sand toys function by the power of falling sand which is distributed through a complicated system of hoppers and paddle wheels which served to “animate” a paper figure within a glass case. Given the nature of the mechanism, sand toys didn’t function very well except in extremely dry weather. They were very often broken from the shaking of frustrated children who wanted to mechanism to work in all conditions.

This exquisite toy of glass, paper and wood is intricately decorated and features a figure of a woman in Eighteenth Century dress. Upon the release of the sand, she dances within her glass case.

Remarkably undamaged, this beautiful antique is part of the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 244

Mr. Punch squeezed Toby gently as he rocked back and forth on his bed, muttering to himself. “I hear ya, Master,” Punch mumbled. “I’m listening.”

From deep within their shared body, Julian urged Mr. Punch to be still.

“Can’t.” Mr. Punch grumbled. “Too much is happenin’.”

“Listen to me, Mr. Punch.” Julian pleaded.

“I’m listenin’.” Punch muttered.

“You must tread lightly.” Julian said. “There’s too much at stake.”

“Lightly, lightly, lightly,” Mr. Punch whispered.

“Do you hear me?” Julian asked from within.

“I hear you,” Punch sighed.

“Please, come and speak with me.” Julian said gently from inside of them.

“Not now, Your Grace.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “I’m waitin’ for Charles.”

“But, that’s what I want to discuss with you.” Julian answered firmly.

“Very well,” Mr. Punch grunted. He lay back on the bed, after arranging his puppet next to himself. Toby settled in next to Mr. Punch, putting his terrier head on Punch’s thigh. Punch shut his eyes and breathed deeply. Before he knew it, he was in the little, phantom room within their shared body—the room that only they could see and occupy.

“It’s different,” Punch’s spirit whispered as he squinted in the ethereal space that they shared.

Julian nodded—seated in a slipper chair in the middle of the room. “It is.”

“It’s all gray and cloudy—like bein’ in a storm.” Punch replied, surveying the room which had been transformed into an Italianate parlor with smoke-gray plaster walls and heavy white moldings. Ornate silver objects lined the mantle and tables and a large black slate clock sat ticking on a rococo center table of inlaid marbles of lavenders, pinks and ocean blues.

“Here, what’s that?” Punch pointed to the timepiece.

“It’s our time,” Julian sighed.

“When’s it run out?”

“Sooner than you might think.” Julian said.

“Sooner than I might think,” Punch muttered. “Always seems like time is runin’ out. Funny, that. Time oughtn’t be our enemy. Ought to be our mate, our chum and keep us well.”

“It’s not our enemy, Mr. Punch, but it is a force which we must tame.” Julian replied.

“Ain’t I doin’ the best I can?” Mr. Punch said quickly.

“You’re doing splendidly, dear Punch,” Julian answered. “However, even you must admit that we’re facing too many unknowns. Think of all of those who are against us—the Cages, Miss Rittenhouse, The Ogress, Arthur, Marie Laveau…even…”

“Your sister?” Punch asked.

“Perhaps. Is she sincere?”

“You know as well as I do.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “She says she’s changed her ways what are harmful. Can’t see into a person’s heart and mind, we can’t. Can’t know what their true thoughts are.”

“Perhaps not, but we know of someone who can.” Julian smiled. “That’s why I’ve called you here.”

“I don’t understand.” Punch shook his head.

“Naasir,” Julian whispered.

From the corner of the room—as if appearing from a mist, Naasir appeared—whole and well again. No evidence of his burns and his tragic death remained.

“Chum!” Punch exclaimed. “Are you in here, too?”

“Only briefly, Mr. Punch.” Naasir smiled softly. “I’ve come to advise you, if I may.”

Meanwhile, Charles searched for Cecil, finding him in the parlor—gulping down sherry by the fire.

“Sir?” Charles nodded.

“Listen, Charles,” Cecil began. “His Grace and I have an errand for you. Is Miss Allen settled in?”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles answered. “Meridian’s made her quite comfortable in a room off of the kitchen. In fact, she’s gone to sleep.”

“I’m sure the wretched thing is quite exhausted.” Cecil nodded.

“What will you have me do, Sir?” Charles asked.

“I need you to bring a message to my wife and brother. But, take care in doing so. We’re being watched.”

“Sir, I pledge to you that I will do all that I can to protect this family.” Charles smiled.

“I believe that you will.” Cecil grunted. “But, just be careful to look after yourself as well.”


“Don’t be so quick to give your heart to Barbara Allen, man. She’s not chosen that name because of her gentle spirit.”

“She’s a changed woman, Sir.” Charles answered, frowning slightly.

“See that she is before you love her completely.” Cecil replied. “Now, here’s what I want you to do…”

At that very moment, Marjani slowly walked to the window of the dingy apartment above the dress shop in the French Quarter.

“Are you sure that Marie is near?” Adrienne asked nervously.

“I am,” Marjani said. “My senses are dulled, but I feel her.”

“I knew something was afoot.” Robert spat. “But, what should Marie Laveau want with us? How does this concern her?”

“Anything she wants concerns her, Doctor.” Marjani sighed, shaking her head. “She’s got an idea that this is her game now.”

Marjani peered out of the window.

“Is she there?” Adrienne asked.

“Yes.” Marjani nodded, hiding behind the drapes. “And, she ain’t alone.”

“Who’s with her? One of her minions?” Robert snarled.

“No. A man. A white man with chestnut hair and an olive face. He looks a bit like Charles.”

“Charles?” Adrienne asked.

“Yes, Missus,” Marjani nodded. “It's Charles’ face—only twisted in cruelty.”

“His brother.” Robert groaned.

“I suspect so.” Marjani sighed.

“What’s he got to do with Marie?” Robert asked frantically.

“Evil tends to attract itself, Sir.” Marjani replied quietly. “Some kind of marriage made by the devil.”

Well, then,” Robert frowned. “If I’ve learned anything from my dear Punch, it’s that we can beat the Devil.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-243? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, May 16, 2011 to read Chapter 245 of Punch’s Cousin.

Object of the Day: A Special Desk

I’m an arty sort of fellow—as you might have guessed. I enjoy working on my little projects, trying new media and making attractive things. I’m quite fortunate to have lots of space at my disposal. But, I never had a space which was designated for the creation of art. I’d end up working in the kitchen or in my study—neither of which lent itself to doing the often messy work that I wanted to do.

I’d long wanted a spot where I could set up an “art corner.” Now, thanks to my father’s handiness, I do. My father built this attractive desk/hutch to serve as my art center. Hand-built in an attractive antique-style, this new work space is the perfect spot for creating art. With its convenient cabinets, decorative arched niche and ample table, it’s the ideal workspace. Stained a delicious ebony color and backed in a cheerful, bright aqua, this desk is as functional as it is handsome.

Now, a corner in my utility room has become the space I’ve always wanted.

Notice: Posts from May 12 are Back (with my assistance)

Bertie and I are not amused. Even the photo of Mary of Teck over the chair in my study is frowning more than usual. Google’s “epic fail” continued to be a failure of epic proportions and the information which was lost on Thursday was not reposted as they said it would be. So, we interfered and now, it’s back.

Now, back to business as usual….

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Bertie Going to Lunch (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

“That’s right.  Go to the fair, Johnny.  Take the ladies, too.  I’ll look after the chickens.  You can trust me.”
Image: Johnny Going to the Fair, George Morland, Late Eighteenth Century, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Dorset Bow Brooch, 1893 (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

The Dorset Bow Fan
English, 1893
The Royal Collection
This exceptionally fine diamond brooch helped start a trend in jewelry design, giving rise to the popularity of “bow brooches,” a style which endures to this day. The brooch was a gift to Mary of Teck on the occasion of her marriage (to the future King George V) in 1893.

When Mary’s granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) married in 1947, this was among the many exquisite diamond pieces which Queen Mary lavished on the young bride.

Unfolding Pictures: The Eu Fan, 1886 (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

Antique Hand Fan
Eugène Lami, 1886
The Royal Collection
This fan with its splendidly painted leaf, magnificent carved ivory sticks and guards with applied silver, diamonds, rubies and sapphires which form the letters “M.A.” had long been admired by Mary of Teck who had an eye for such things.

The fan was the property of French Queen Amélie and represented the work of one of the finest fan-makers in France, Eugène Lami. The fan’s leaf depicts a scene of the Château d’Eu, the country residence of the Orléans family, as it would have appeared in the Seventeenth Century.

Queen Amélie bequeathed the fan to Queen Mary upon her death in 1953, but Queen Mary died weeks later and never received the fan. It was delivered to HM Queen Elizabeth II—Queen Mary’s granddaughter--in 1954.

Mastery of Design: A Pendant with Tassie Cameos of George III and Charlotte, 1780 (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

This delicate pendant gold, enamel, glass cameo and pearls bears the likenesses of King George III and Queen Charlotte. The cameos are referred to as “Tassie Cameos” because they are made in the style of William Tassie who perfected a means of crafting sparkling silhouettes in glass of famous people.

Pendant with Tassie Cameos
of King George III and
Queen Charlotte
The Royal Collection
The pendant, created in 1780, was given by King George III and Queen Charlotte to the Honorable Georgiana Townsend, daughter of the 1st Viscount Sydney—the Leader of the House of Commons who was largely responsible for reaching terms of peace with the United States in 1783 following the American Revolution. It was interesting the Sydney was so instrumental in smoothing things over with the Colonies considering that the whole kerfuffle started with the Stamp Act of 1765—an act passed by Sydney’s cousin, Charles Townsend.

Georgiana had spent most of her life in the favor of the Royal Court and was a favorite of Queen Charlotte. Later in her life, Georgiana was appointed to the sinecure of State Housekeeper at Windsor, a position she held until the end of her life. She lived in the Norman Tower at Windsor Castle until her death.

In 1915, most of the items in the Sydney collection were auctioned off. Mary of Teck purchased this pendant at that auction as part of her quest to return as many Royal objects as possible to the Royal Collection.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 243 (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

Iolanthe’s fingers curled into fists so tight that blood rose on her palms as her fingernails dug into her flesh. Even beneath the thick layer of waxy makeup on her frightfully pallid face, the crimson flush of anger was evident.

Her body shook as she spoke and Ulrika quivered with raw delight at seeing Iolanthe’s rage.

“They ain’t dead?” Iolanthe growled.

“No.” Ulrika grinned, enjoying the spectactle.

“Not yet, they ain’t.” Iolanthe hissed. “Tell me what you know.” The ogress demanded.

“I know that the Duke, the doctor and the baby are alive. I believe, in an effort to escape with the child, they planned this ruse.” Ulrika answered.

“I know they were up to no good when I saw Adrienne Halifax dressed in my image.” Iolanthe trembled. “I never thought them capable of such a deception.”

“They were quite successful with the execution of it, but not keeping up the charade.” Ulrika shrugged. “Several people have seen the Duke as well as Dr. Halifax.”

“You must tell them…” Iolanthe unclenched her fists to point to the door of her cell. “Tell them out there that those men are alive—that I’m innocent.”

“You’re hardly innocent.” Ulrika winked.

“Of this I am!” Iolanthe exclaimed.

“Oh, calm yourself, really.” Ulrika sighed. “Why do you think I’ve come here? I’ll tell your captors that you’re innocent. But, really, Iolanthe, a day in prison for all of the crimes you’ve committed without punishment seems to me to be more than fair.”

“Spare me your opinions of my guilt,” Iolanthe groaned. “Now, go an’ get me out of here!”

“In a moment, Iolanthe.” Ulrika shook her head. “I simply want to discuss something with you first. Arthur and I both do.”

Meanwhile, in the Routhe’s tiny apartment above the dress shop, Adrienne cradled little Colin while Robert sat nearby, impatiently tapping his foot.

“Robert,” Adrienne began, “You must try to be patient. I’m sure that they’ll come for us. Jedidiah said that Cecil and Mr. Punch received our message.”

“That’s right,” Marjani added from the corner where she sat playing with the Routhe’s two daughters. “You gotta give ‘em time. You know they’ve got eyes watchin’ ‘em from all sides.”

“I can’t help but think that something is terribly amiss,” Robert mumbled.

“I get no sense of it,” Marjani replied gently.

“Well, that’s some reassurance,” Robert nodded. “I suppose I really should relax.”

“Yes.” Adrienne smiled. “Do.”

“My apologies.” Robert stood up and began pacing the floor.

“That’s really not the behavior of someone who’s trying to be calm.” Adrienne chuckled.

Robert paused. “True. I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “I just have a feeling.”

“We’re safe here, Robert.” Adrienne responded softly.

“I hope that’s true.” Robert sighed.

Marjani frowned. Her shifting expression caught Robert’s attention and he gazed at her for a moment—questions in his eyes.

“There’s somethin’ in what you say.” Marjani whispered. “Don’t know why I didn’t feel it before. Maybe she dulled my senses with…”

“With what?” Robert asked. “Who?”

“Marie Laveau.” Marjani said softly. “I feel that she’s near.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-242? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Forgive Your Enemies (Reposted from May 12, 2011)

To say that we have real “enemies” is rather melodramatic. Few of us have a Dickensian nemesis these days, but we all have people who have treated us poorly and made our lives difficult and unpleasant. The first order of business, when possible, is to remove yourself from these people. Sometimes it’s not possible to do so because of circumstances, but when the opportunity arises to extract yourself from the companionship of negative forces, it’s always preferable.

The next step is to find a way to forgive the offending party. No, you shouldn’t forget what they’ve done, and you if you’ve successfully avoided them, there’s no point in finding them again to give them an apology. However, letting go of the hurt and resentment is an excellent way to lighten your own burden and free your spirit.

Object of the Day: “Mac,” by Cecil Aldin, 1912 (Reposted from Thursday, May 12, 2011)

Several years ago, when my Bertie came to live here with me, I purchased a series of loose pages which had been extracted from an antique book. I wasn’t sure what they were, but they featured beautiful drawings of a West Highland White Terrier in the style of Herbert Dicksee. I wasn’t sure who had drawn the images or who had written the book—or even what the book was. But, I loved the images and framed them to hang around the room where Bertie keeps his toys and dishes.

A little terrier-like investigation revealed that the pages were from an 1912 book called Mac with images and text by Cecil Aldin. Published in England, the book is written in Scottish dialect and follows the adventures of “Mac,” a Westie and his other canine friends.

Aldin, a contemporary of Dicksee who drew images of Caesar for the King Edward VII book “Where’s Master?”, was born in Berkshire in 1870—the son of a Kensington home builder. He studied under the well-known illustrators John Leech and Randolph Caldecott and became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1898.

These charming illustrations capture the true spirit of a Westie—curious, stubborn, playful and bright. I appreciate these pictures because they remind me of Bertie. This is one of my favorites. One of Bertie’s games is to steal my shoes—sometimes right off of my feet—and hide them. Shoes, to Bertie, represent the act of my leaving, so they are his natural enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught him in this very pose.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Notice: Technical Difficulties

Google is being disagreeable--again.  You may have noticed that Stalking the Belle Époque—like all blogs hosted by Google’s Blogger—reverted back to Wednesday and deleted data from Thursday.  I’m told that those articles will be restored.  I suppose we’ll see.  Technical difficulties are preventing further posts.  We’ll be back on our usual schedule as soon as possible.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sculpture of the Day: A Bust of Queen Elizabeth II as a Princess, 1937

Princess Elizabeth
Sigismund de Strobl, 1937
The Royal Collection
Her Majesty, the Queen, has been the subject of portraits ranging from photographs to sculptures since she was a young girl. This beautiful marble bust, sculpted when the subject was a nine-year-old princess, is the work of Hungarian sculptor Sigismund de Strobl. De Strobl worked on the bust for two years, completing it in 1937.

The sculpture proved so popular that it was reproduced in porcelain and remains one of the most enduring images of the youth of the present Queen.

Building of the Week: The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island

Finished in 1895, The Breakers is the first of two Vanderbilt Mansions in the high-tone city of Newport, Rhode Island—the New England summer resort of the wealthy and famous. Considered one of the finest examples of Golden Age architecture in the U.S., The Breakers represents the imposing Neoclassical style which defined Beaux Arts Architecture.

Members of the Vanderbilt Family, it seems, became easily bored with their homes and always searched for new, opulent digs. Goodness knows they had enough properties at their disposal. This particular mansion—of seventy rooms and totaling over 65,000 square feet—was built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1893 and 1895. Vanderbilt enlisted celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the Beaux Arts Mansion which was to sit upon land that had previously sported another grand home—lost in a fire in 1892.

Because Vanderbilt was concerned that his new palace, like its predecessor, might also be consumed by a fire, Hunt designed the mansion to be built from stone and metal with no supporting structures of wood. The mansion’s furnaces are, to this day, located outside of the house—at a great distance away. They remain under the entrance to the estate. In the winter, the snow and ice on the land over the underground furnace rooms always melts.

In true Neoclassical style the house is a symmetrical plan, built around an impressive Great Hall. The interior of the house boasts the finest Italian and African marbles, rare woods, extravagant ornamentation, mosaics and architectural remnants from historical structures which were purchased abroad. The stained glass ceiling in the great hall was actually extracted from another home belonging to the Vanderbilts.

Though the house now belongs to The Preservation Society of Newport County, the furnishings and artifacts inside are still the property of the Vanderbilt family who occasionally still use the ornate Louis XVI-style apartments on the third floor.

When in Newport, a visit to the Breakers would be well worth your while. Touring the glorious, formal gardens and this magnificent house would be like returning to 1895. To learn more about visiting The Breakers, visit the Web site of The Preservation Society of Newport County.

Precious Time: The Apollo Clock, Late Seventeenth Century

Late Seventeenth
The Royal Collection

King George IV—even as a young prince and Prince Regent—had an insatiable desire to collect objects, especially those related to King Louis XIV of France and Versailles. His lust took Charles Foster Kane-like proportions, so much so that he often never even displayed the items which he collected, but kept them in storage after spending thousands of pounds on them. Was he a Royal hoarder or just passionate? We’ll never know. However, looking at his huge assemblage of items, we do know that he had very good taste.

George IV had such a desire to collect that he was known, as one does, to send his staff members out shopping for him. A favorite was His Majesty’s pastry chef, François Benois who often shopped for the Prince Regent/King. On one of his shopping expeditions in Paris, Benois came upon this important tall-case clock which had belonged to King Louis XIV as evidenced by Louis’ emblem, the mask of Apollo, which is nestled into the elaborate cresting of the case. Of course, Benois knew he had to return with this rather enormous timepiece and took great pains in doing so.

Upon arrival at Carlton House, this late Seventeenth Century clock—which George IV was said to greatly admire—was packed away in storage, never being displayed. Unlike Louis XIV, George IV had space issues in his residences. Presumably Louis never ran out of room at Versailles, but Carlton House wasn’t without its limits. Why George IV didn’t use this clock at the Brighton Pavillion, we’ll never know. However, it’s long life in storage has preserved it quite well so that future generations will be able to enjoy its magnificence.

Unusual Artifacts: The Prince Regent’s Sabretache, 1818

Thomas Cuff, 1818
Baize, leather, silk, silver and gold
The Royal Collection
Though King George III forbid his son, the Prince of Wales (later The Prince Regent, later King George IV) from actually participating in any military activities in which he’d be called upon to carry a weapon, the Prince was quite interested in the military and was thrilled and proud to be appointed Colonel Commandant of the Tenth Light Dragoons.

The Prince channeled his interest in the military into a passion for collecting uniforms and military accoutrements. He also made sure to have a hand in the design of uniforms for various military organizations.

This unusual Sabretache shows the Prince’s influence in design as was most likely made for the Prince to wear on ceremonial occasions. A sabretache is a decorative pocket or pouch (usually of leather) which is designed to be worn from a military officers belt. This ornate sabretache incorporates velvet and silver and gilt thread and was clearly never meant to be worn in battle.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 242

Did you know,” Barbara began slowly, “that I could have been a Lady of the Bedchamber to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria?”

“Beg your pardon?” Punch tilted his head to one side.

“It’s true.” Barbara nodded. “Julian knows—perhaps you don’t. If I’d stayed in England and married the Baron. Mother promised that if I’d made a suitable marriage, I could have been a Lady of the Bedchamber. She’d already discussed it with both The Duchess of Wellington and The Viscountess Jocelyn. She told me she had. Isn’t it interesting?” She sighed. “I could be at the palace right now, attending the Queen. That’s what Mother wanted for me. It’s what she wanted for herself. Her Majesty never cared for Mother—found her to be too…strong. Previously, Mother tried desperately to attain the position with Queen Adelaide. But, His Majesty King William IV didn’t want a Fallbridge in the Court. I could have been the one who reunited our name with the Sovereign.”

“Seems to me that me master was the one what done that.” Mr. Punch frowned. “Don’t forget that Julian and His Royal Highness Prince Albert have collaborated on many of the garter badges and various stars of various orders.”

“I’ve not forgotten.” Barbara smiled. “Mother always resented the fact that her son—so much like our father—was the one of us who was welcomed into the Court. Do you…do you remember, Mr. Punch? Are Julian’s memories the same as yours? You share a body, but do you share thoughts?”

“I remember most of the times we went to the palace. Smokey place—smelled a bit bad. But, Prince Albert’s a nice enough bloke. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention when me master was workin’. Wish I had. I liked Balmoral. I remember those times better. Me master was frightened, he was—goin’ all the way to Scotland, so I was out more often than not. Once we got inside the castle, it were different. Then, me master was in charge. All them diamonds—so many of ‘em. Sparkling on black mohair. The Prince so jolly and excited ‘bout it all. Them’s times me master were happy. He always just wanted to be respected. I never thought that were somethin’ you wanted.”

“It’s all I ever wanted, I suppose.” Barbara sighed.

“Miss Allen,” Cecil interrupted. “Do you have a point?”

“Yes, Mr. Halifax.” Barbara chuckled ruefully. “I have. I can’t say that I’m not shocked to learn that Arthur has returned. I had hoped that he would not.”

“Your own husband?” Cecil asked.

“A footman who seduced me. No. He didn’t just seduce my body, he seduced my mind and preyed upon my natural inclinations to be…base. To be base. To be like an animal and claw and scratch. He was like a strong wine—bitter at first, but the more I consumed, the more dizzy I became and the more I craved it. I went quite mad from it, but now…”

“Now, you’re no longer mad?” Cecil raised an eyebrow.

“No.” Barbara shook her head. “You need not worry about Arthur. He’ll have no influence on me.”

“I’ll see to that.” Charles added.

“I know you will.” Barbara smiled.

“So, are you trying to tell us that you’re a changed woman? Shall we refer to you as Lady Barbara again?” Charles grinned sarcastically.

“No.” Barbara shook her head. “I’ve murdered all of that. I’m Barbara Allen and Barbara Allen I shall stay. There’s no returning to an ideal that never existed. However, I can be better than I am, and that’s my aim. I do hope you’ll trust me, but I understand that it will be difficult. As I said, I shan’t squander this chance. I’ve lost so much. I cannot dare lose the wonderful things I have now. While I cannot change the evil I’ve done, I can employ myself in aiding the people I’ve hurt—my family.”

“I believe ya, Barbara. Me master does, too.” Mr. Punch smiled. He looked at Charles. “Are you still me valet or not?”

“I am.” Charles nodded.

“Good.” Punch answered. “Please inform Meridian to prepare a room—downstairs—for Miss Allen and one for yourself. I won’t have you sharin’ a room in me house.”

“You’re more like Julian than you know,” Barbara winked.

“’Course I am.” Punch grumbled.

“I will, Your Grace.” Charles nodded.

“Then, come to the parlor for instructions. We’ll need to send you to the Quarter with a message. Me chums and the boy are waitin’ for a response.” Punch continued.

“Yes, Sir.” Charles said.

“Thank you, Mr. Punch,” Barbara whispered awkwardly.

“You’re welcome,” Mr. Punch nodded. “Only, know this. If I find you’ve lied to us again, I’ll beat you with me stick and I won’t think twice ‘bout it. I’ll grind you into sausages for Toby’s breakfast.”

“You won’t have to do that.” Barbara replied.

“I should hope not. I don’t think Toby would fancy eatin’ you.” Punch answered cheerfully.

“I shall return, Sir.” Charles said.

“I’ll go with you,” Barbara rose. “Thank you, again.”

“Sure, sure.” Mr. Punch waved her off.

Cecil and Mr. Punch walked toward the parlor.

“You’re too kind, Mr. Punch.” Cecil shook his head.

“What’d you have me do, grumbly Chum?” Mr. Punch sighed. “I ‘spect you’d have done the same.”

Cecil chuckled. “I imagine I would have.”

“’Sides, ain’t it better knowin’ where she is and what she’s ‘bout then wonderin’ what’s goin’ on with her?”

“Yes.” Cecil nodded, frowning.

“You’re thinkin’ ‘bout Iolanthe Evangeline, ain’t ya?” Punch asked.

“I am.” Cecil answered plainly. “I most certainly am.”

At that very moment, Iolanthe Evangeline growled as a guard tapped metal door of her cell.

“What?” Iolanthe hissed.

“You got visitors.” The guard said.

Iolanthe rose as the door opened and Ulrika and Arthur entered—both soaked with rain.

“Where’s my son?” Iolanthe barked.

“Safe. Being tended to by Zettie at Edward’s house.” Ulrika smiled.

“What are you doin’ back here?” Iolanthe narrowed her eyes at Arthur.

“Come to help ya,” Arthur grinned. “Ain’t that kind o’ me—considerin’ what you done to me?”

“And how do you propose to help me?” Iolanthe asked. “I’ve been arrested for murder.”

“One you didn’t commit,” Ulrika grinned.

“Well, I know who I done killed and who I didn’t!” Iolanthe spat. “I had nothing to do with the murder of the lunatic Duke nor his companions!”

“No one did, Iolanthe.” Ulrika laughed. “They’re all very much alive.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-241? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make a Suitable Marriage

No. I’m not talking about finding a human mate. I’m referring to the combination of decorative items in your home. If you’re looking for a way to display your favorite possessions that has visual impact, you should consider combining items in artful ways.

For example, this antique Mercury Glass vase is quite handsome on its own, but when combined with a crystal cake stand, it is given greater visual importance and weight. The vase—being a tasty confection—looks great atop the cake stand, and the unusual marriage of items is eye catching.

Today, as you unwind after your day, look through your collections and find items which you normally wouldn’t think of marrying and see how they fit together. It’s a fun way to relax and change your décor at the same time.

Object of the Day: An American Cut Glass Compote

When searching for a new mate for the orphaned lid of a pressed glass souvenir of Queen Victoria’s 1887 Golden Jubilee, I considered many different options from a silver tray to other items of pressed glass.

The winner of the job is this American Brilliant Cut Glass compote which dates to the early Twentieth Century. American Brilliant Cut Glass thrived from 1876 to 1914. This piece is most likely from the latter end of the date spectrum as it displays a simpler form of the classic pattern.

Rising gracefully from an architectural base, the compote is, on its own, quite attractive, but also makes the perfect stand for an interesting artifact.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Bergère from the Collection of King George IV

Morel & Hughes, 1812
The Royal Collection
This magnificent bergère (an enclosed, upholstered French chair) is one of a pair which belonged to King George IV. Made in 1812 by the fashionable London firm of Morel & Hughes for George IV’s Carlton House, the pair reflects the fascination with Greek-inspired designs which prevailed at the time.

George IV, especially while Prince Regent, very much appreciated design and tried to stay abreast of “modern” trends. He took great pride in his collections and reveled in showing off his opulent homes.

Film of the Week: They Won’t Forget, 1937

Though at first glance, 1937’s They Won’t Forget seems like a simple story about a small Southern town, a secretarial school, a girl and her sweater. As the film continues, however, it’s clear that there’s more going on. This is a tale of racism, murder and continued, post-Civil-War resentment.

Based on Ward Greene’s novel Death in The Deep South, the film is also a fictionalized account of a true murder case—1913’s trial and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank following the murder of Mary Phagan. Directed by an un-credited Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Jack Warner for Warner Brothers, the film stars Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris, and an almost unrecognizable Lana Turner in her first film role.

The film begins on Confederate Memorial Day as a small Southern Town is rocked by the murder of one of their most beloved young citizens. What develops in a vicious tale of politics, prejudice and enduring distrust between the North and the South.

Rains gives an excellent performance as cruel District Attorney, Andrew Griffin. Similarly, Edward Norris is superb in the role of the teacher who is wrongly accused of the girl’s murder. The performances are heavily 1930’s in style, but they hold up well and are perfect in communicating the subject matter without being overwrought.

It’s an interesting film which doesn’t get much attention or play. It’s one that would be wroth finding and watching if you have an interest in history or are a fan of the always engaging Mr. Rains.

Humanitarian of the Week: Wendie Mallick

Wendie Mallick
One of the most prolific actresses in television and film, Wendie Mallick, over the past twenty-three years, has performed in no less than five film or television roles a year. Now known as TV Land’s “Victoria Chase” in Hot in Cleveland, Mallick has earned a large fan base for her popular roles in programs such as Just Shoot Me and Frasier. A little known fact about Mallick is that she was a contender for the role of “Diane Chambers” in Cheers. What a different show that would have been if she’d been cast. Nevertheless, Miss Mallick has managed to entertain millions of people with her sharp comic timing and impeccable delivery since leaving a successful career in modeling to pursue a life as an actor.

Mallick is not just a consummate performer, she’s an active humanitarian. Along with her husband, Richard Erickson, Mallick founded a charity named “A Drop in the Bucket.” Through this charity, Mallick and Erickson support a variety of causes. They are especially involved in their support of a women’s shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Furthermore, their charity aids a much-needed medical center in the Congo.

For the many years of entertainment she’s given all of us and for the assistance and comfort she offers those in need, Wendie Mallick is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

Enjoy this clip from Hot in Cleveland which features Mallick with the always adorable Susan Lucci.

The Belle Époque Today: An American Experience at the National Gallery, London

George Bellows
The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery in London recently unveiled twelve important American paintings never before seen in Britain. The work of George Bellows and his association of fellow artists known as the “Ashcan Painters”—William Glackens, George Luks, John Sloan and their teacher Robert Henri—are the masters behind these distinctly American canvases. Predominantly comprised of painters from New York and Pennsylvania, the Ashcan School rose in prominence in the early Twentieth Century and caught the attention of the public with their progressive ways of showing the speed, violence and starkness of the emerging modern society.

Seven of the twelve paintings in the exhibition are by Bellows himself and show his knack for depicting urban scenes. Similar to the works of British painters of the time period, these works are an interesting glimpse into a rare, but familiar, malaise with the changing world. The exhibition--An American Experiment--runs until the end of May. For more information, visit the Web site of London’s National Gallery.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 241

Cecil and Mr. Punch tried—as best they could—to explain the series of events that had led them to that moment. Barbara listened—wide-eyed—as she was told of Edward Cage’s demands, the danger from Marie Laveau and Iolanthe Evangeline, and, finally, of Ulrika Rittenhouse’s interference.

“It’s all too horrible,” Barbara whimpered.

“It is,” Mr. Punch said softly. “Here, I know you’re upset with what we done—takin’ Colin from you, but you got to know that we only want the best for the boy. That’s why we done what we did.”

“I was upset, Julian.” Barbara began.

Charles interrupted. “Miss Allen,” he began.

“You don’t have to pretend, Charles.” Barbara smiled. “I’m sure that Mr. Halifax and my brother know that we’ve become close.”

“’Spected so.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“Very well,” Charles blushed, “Barbara, perhaps we should make an effort to call this gentleman by his proper name. Though he looks like the Duke of Fallbridge and though they share a body, he is not the Duke. I don’t understand how it works, only that it does.”

“I know,” Barbara nodded slowly. “But, it’s quite a lot to take, isn’t it?”

Mr. Punch grinned. “I’d say so.”

“What do you prefer to be called?” Barbara asked.

“Mr. Punch. Or, just Punch.”

“Punch, thank you for all that you’ve done.” Barbara said, her eyes welling up with tears.

“You’re thanking me?”

“I am.” Barbara nodded. “Your love for my son is astounding. And, that you continue to offer me familial comfort despite all I’ve done to you and your friends and…well, if you’re two different people, to Julian.”

“I s’pose we are kin.” Mr. Punch sighed. “That’s the way to do it. Isn’t it?”

“It is.” Barbara said. “I never thought that I would admit it, but I admire you. Who would have imagined that I’d learn how to be human from…”

“A puppet?” Mr. Punch chuckled.

“Yes.” Barbara smiled softly. “I do not wish to be diverted from it, either. This is my chance—perhaps my final one. I will never be able to blot out the horrible things I’ve done, but I can improve my circumstances and those of the people around me, from this point forward.”

Charles patted Barbara’s shoulder. “That’s wonderful, Barbara.”

“I wish to assist you in rescuing Colin.” Barbara said.

“Why should we trust you?” Cecil interrupted.

“Because I am changed. I am sincere.” Barbara responded, her eyes widening.

“I recall a Christmas visit to my house in Marionneaux when you filled my wife’s head with such claims and then left with our silver and jewels.” Cecil scowled.

“Then, I will have to prove my sincerity to you.” Barbara replied softly.

“Will you be able to do it in the presence of your husband?” Cecil snorted.

“My husband is at sea.” Barbara replied quickly. “Or possibly dead.”

“No, he ain’t.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “He’s up the street with Ulrika Rittenhouse right this very minute.”

Barbara coughed.

“Does that change things, Miss Allen?” Cecil snarled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-240? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Figure Out What Relaxes You

We’re a society of people who are always “on.” We are called upon to be ever-alert, ever-vigiliant and ever-engaged. But, sometimes, we need to be “off.” A human body and mind can only go so long without rest.

Because we’re so accustomed to constant stimulation, very often, we forget how to relax. We bombard ourselves with continuous information which can make our minds race. Today, do yourself a favor and remove yourself from some of the barrage of feelings and actions which we face each day. Remember how to relax. Spend some time revisiting the ways in which you can relax. Moderate exercise, arts and crafts, music, reading, meditation. Give yourself a chance to breathe so that, tomorrow, you can be at the top of your game.

Object of the Day: A Moonstone Stickpin

Mystical and mysterious, the moonstone was a popular gem of the Victorian era. It was prized for its milky blue glow and the way in which it seemed to absorb light. Moonstone was frequently used with other stones in elaborate settings, but it often found itself center stage.

Such is the case of this lovely English stickpin of 9 karat gold. The large moonstone is set into a sterling silver bezel which has been chased with a minute pattern of laurel leaves. A stickpin such as this would have been used by a gentleman in less-formal situations such as daily business or trips to the country.

Just as appealing as the day it was set, this moonstone stickpin continues to demonstrate the ethereal refraction which made this simple stone a super star.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Painting of the Day: The Governess, 1844

The Governess
Richard Redgrave, 1844
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When Richard Redgrave exhibited this painting in 1844, he asked that the following quotation accompany the canvas: “She sees no kind domestic visage here'” Redgrave was sympathetic to the lives of governesses. His own sister was a governess and died young. She often told him of the awkwardness of the position—not quite a servant, not quite a member of the family. The role was lonely and ambiguous, but it was also one of the few acceptable means by which a middle class girl might earn a living.

Redgrave painted this scene of a distracted governess holding a letter which seems to have recalled unhappy emotions. The canvas was well-received, but deemed a trifle depressing. When it was purchased, the buyer asked if it couldn’t be “made cheerier.” And, so, Redgrave added the scene of the children in the background, while refusing to alter the countenance of the poor central figure.

Person of the Week: Mr. Punch

He has been known as many things: a loveable rascal, a rogue, a murderer, an adulterer, an innocent, a father, a husband, an abuser, a friend and foe of animals, a sausage-maker, an ornery neighbor, a scamp, an imp, a national icon and an international celebrity. He’s Mr. Punch. And, today is his 349th birthday.

No, he’s not technically a person, but he’s an enduring personality who has been repeatedly brought to life by thousands of artists all over the world for centuries. Throughout the past few months, we’ve explored Mr. Punch’s history—from his Italian roots, to his “birth” in England’s Covent Garden to his many cousins worldwide. This plucky puppet has inspired countless literary works (including Punch’s Cousin), a magazine named in his honor, grand works of art and humble folk arts. Interestingly enough, he’s risen above his origins to become something of a symbol of Britain and the people who inhabit it. He gets away with the things that we all wish we could do. He beats the devil! He triumphs over his problems! And, he does it all with a great amount of confidence and humor.

We shouldn’t really consider Mr. Punch to be a role model. Some of his behavior is quite questionable. But, we do have to admire his attitude and we can all adapt some of his unrelenting spirit into our own lives. He’s the best and the worst part of each of us—represented in figures of wood and felt. He encourages us to be the puppeteers of our own lives and to always be prepared to say, “Huzzah, I beat the Devil.”

For his 349 years of entertainment and enlightenment and for becoming more than the wooden-headed hunchback that first appeared in Covent Garden, Mr. Punch is our “Person of the Week.” Or, at the very least, “The Puppet of the Week.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Punch.

Gifts of Grandeur: Tsar Nicholas II’s Imperial Presentation Box, 1900

Imperial Presentation Box
Made for Tsar Nicholas II, 1900
Carl Blank for K. Hahn Co.
Two-color gold, guilloché enamel,
rose-cut diamonds, and seed pearls.
Queen Mary, by whom given to
King George V
The Royal Collection
This gorgeous box created of two-color gold, guilloché enamel, rose-cut diamonds, and seed pearls appears, at first glance, to be the work of Fabergé, but it isn’t. Crafted in 1900, the box bears the mark of Carl Blank of K. Hahn. Hahn was one Fabergé’s main competitors for imperial commissions and Blank was one of his chief artisans.

Of the 370 Russian Imperial Presentation boxes, 150 were made by Fabergé and 50 were made by Hahn. This box is one of Hahn and Blank’s finest. Within a field of sky-blue enamel, the cipher of Tsar Nicholas II has been set in diamonds and accented by pearls.

One of several items from the Revolution that Queen Mary acquired, she purchased the box from a dealer, recording it in the Royal Collection as an Imperial Presentation Box made for Tsar Nicholas II. Mary of Teck did make one error in her recording of the piece. She attributed the work to Fabergé. She later gave the box to her husband, King George V.

Treat of the Week: Mother’s Day Special

Though my mother is the Queen of Cuisine, every year my father tries his hand at creating a special dinner for Mother’s Day and my mother’s birthday. It must be a daunting task for him, considering the skill and artistry my mother brings to every dish she prepares. However, each year, he outdoes himself and serves up dishes which make for a perfect celebration and give my mother a day off from the kitchen.

This year brought a lovely, puffy cheese soufflé which was a tasty as it was attractive. Rising high above it’s dark blue dish, the soufflé had a wonderful crust and was delightfully creamy. Served with a salad of fresh greens, fruit, nuts and blue cheese, the soufflé was large enough for two servings each, and then some.

The meal was accompanied by a lovely homemade bread. Made from scratch and coated with sesame seeds, this bread was really quite delicious and would have done any baker proud.

The meal concluded with a beautiful lemon meringue pie. Meringue is tricky stuff, but my father managed to make it perfectly. The creamy, lemon filling atop the homemade crust was light and flavorful.

Hats off to my father and thanks for a delightful meal in honor of my mother. For someone who only cooks twice a year, he does a great job.