Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: A Diamond and Platinum Dress Clip by Cartier, 1940

Dress Clip
Cartier, 1940
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Jewelry in the Art Deco style rely on dense groupings of gemstones, especially diamonds, set in discreet platinum settings which seem to retreat in order to give the stones more prominence. Jewels by Cartier were among the most sought-after.

This dress clip by Cartier, created by Ernest Schwaiger in 1940, was so beloved by its creator that he kept the clip in his own collection, giving it to his wife. The clip was later bequeathed to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Precious Time: A Parian Figural Clock, 1787

Figural Clock on Pedestal
Marble, Parian, Gilt Bronze, Tulipwood, Mahogany,
Satinwood, 1787
Brownley, Vuilliamy & Son, John Deare
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Until the advent of the electric clock, one of the most valuable and important objects in any home was its clock. Clocks took opulent forms and became the centerpieces of the most important rooms in the house.

Because of the importance of the timepiece, great care was taken in the creation of each clockcase. This magnificent clock from 1787 with works by Vuilliamy & Son sits upon an inlaid pedestal designed by Thomas Brownley and is surmounted by Parian figures of Venus and Cupid which were created by John Deare. The inlaid medallion on the pedestal depicts a scene of Apollo surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.

During this time period, objects with a stylistic nod to the French Classical style were highly coveted in England. This timepiece enjoyed a long life in an upper-class London townhouse before being donated to the V&A.

The Art of Play: Baby Georgie, 1905

"Baby Georgie"
Made in Germany, 1905
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This is Baby Georgie. He was one of the first teddy bears in England. Georgie was the beloved companion of five children of the Cattley Family: two boys, Gilbert and Donald, and three girls, Nellie, Constance and Maud, who were all born between 1885 and 1892.

Georgie was one of a whole menagerie of stuffed animals who were such a big part of the family that the children painted portraits of the toys and made elaborate outfits for them. We know the bear’s name because of a caption on a drawing of him. Constance and Maud made this little cotton lace outfit for him around 1906.

At the Music Hall, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am, I am,” 1910

This song is not about the corpulent monarch.
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am,
Henery the Eighth I am, I am!
I got married to the widow next door,
She'd been married seven times before.
And every one was an Henery
She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam
I'm her eighth old man named Henery
Henery the Eighth, I am!

Long before it was recorded by Herman’s Hermits in 1965, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am,” was a beloved music hall song written by Fred Murray and R.P. Weston and popularized by Harry Champion, a music hall star of the time.

Typically sung in a Cockney accent, the song tells the tale of a man whose wife had seven previous husbands, all of whom were named “Henry.” Since the song is meant to be performed with Cockney pronunciation, the name Henry is always spelled as “Henery,” the third syllable being important to the rhythm of the tune.

Fox Television
Champion would perform the refrain at rapid speed, sweating and flailing his arms wildly as he sang at breakneck speed. Other versions of the song are equally enthusiastic, but certainly not as speedy. This pub favorite has been recorded numerous times by many artists and has been referenced frequently in popular culture. In 2004, in an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Magical History Tour,” Homer plays the role of Henry VIII, and though the song has nothing to do with the monarch per se, he sings a parody of the tune with the following lyrics:

I'm Henery the Eighth, I am,
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am, I am,
I've been eating since six a.m.
For dessert I'll have dinner again,
My name's synonymous with gluttony
I'll always eat a turkey or a ham.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 261

You want to help me?” Arthur growled at Odo. “Get out of here.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Odo said. “I got a duty, see. Mr. Cage done entrusted me with the runnin’ of his house, and I gotta be loyal to him. See, I come in here and find you doin’ somethin’ with Miss Ulrika. I know who you are. You’re that fella that used to work for the Duke. Don’t know why you’re in here nor why Miss Ulrika’s in the shape she’s in, but I know you don’t belong here. Now, I’d hate for to have to tell Mr. Cage that you’re here.” Odo grinned. “Still, Miss Ulrika never had a kind word for anyone in this house. I know that Mr. Cage wouldn’t mind her bein’ gone. So, you see, I find myself in a terrible position. On the one hand, I’d be doin’ him a favor by helpin’ to rid this house of Miss Ulrika. On the other, it seems a trifle disloyal not to tell him that some blackguard and his companion done come into his house without him knowin’. Perhaps you can help me make up my mind. If you want me to leave, I’d just as well go to Mr. Cage. If you want me to stay, I’ll help you with what you’re doin’. Of course, I’m sure you’d be willin’ to help me out, too.”

“What is it ‘xactly that you want?” Arthur asked in a hushed voice.

“Nothin’ out of the ordinary. I’m a business man same as you. I gotta be paid for my work. Either I’m gonna be paid by you or be paid by Mr. Cage. It’s up to you.” Odo answered.

“You gotta get rid of him, Artie,” Gerard whispered.

“Hush up!” Arthur spat. “Listen, you, I don’t got nothin’ to pay you with.”

“Is that so?” Odo smiled. “Looks like you got yourself a fine new suit of clothes. Those ain’t the livery of a man in service. No, those are the clothes of a gentleman.”

From the heap in which she lay on the bed, Ulrika moaned.

“She’s comin’ to, Artie!” Gerard hissed.

Arthur groaned nervously and put down the cushion that he was holding. He grabbed Gerard’s arm and croaked. “Let’s just get out of here. We got what we came for.”

As Arthur and Gerard pushed past Odo, they found their exit was blocked by a rigid figure in purple. Arthur looked up into Iolanthe’s smiling face.

“Back from sea, are you?” Iolanthe winked. “I must say, I’m surprised. Usually, when I get rid of a man, they stay gone. And, I don’t want you thinkin’ that they don’t.”

“Miss Iolanthe was the visitor that I mentioned was at the back door,” Odo laughed. “I done caught these two men botherin’ Miss Ulrika.” Odo explained.

“If anyone’s gonna bother Ulrika, it’s me,” Iolanthe grinned. “You can leave us, Odo. You’ve been most helpful.”

“Yes, Miss Iolanthe,” Odo nodded.

“Now,” Iolanthe sighed. “You say you got what you came for. What might that be?”

“It don’t concern you,” Arthur trembled.

“I think it does,” Iolanthe shook her head. “After all, if it’s what I’m thinkin’, it’s mine to begin with.”

Meanwhile, in their internal room deep within Julian’s body, Mr. Punch watched as Scaramouche ranted.

“I’m owed!” Scaramouche shouted. “Have you any idea how much has been taken from me?”

“I have,” Punchnodded impatiently. “Don’t forget, Scaramouche, this is me master’s body and his life. You’re just one aspect of him, just as I am.”

“I’m my own man!” Scaramouche declared.

From outside their body, Julian could still hear his other two parts talking within. “No!” Julian shouted.

Mr. Punch raised his eyebrows. He’d never heard his master raise his voice before. He shouted back so that Julian could hear him. “That’s the way to do it, Master!”

Julian looked up to Robert whose wide eyes expressed confusion and concern.

“They’re arguing in there,” Julian pointed to his chest. “Mr. Punch and that Scaramouche.”

“Where’d he come from?” Robert asked.

“I don’t truly know.” Julian shrugged. “He’s a nuisance, isn’t he? I didn’t realize that I had it in me.”

“Every man has an unsavory side. It seems yours has been hidden so long that it’s taken on a life of its own.”

“It would appear so.” Julian responded, squinting as he listened to the voices within him.

“I wish I could hear what was going on inside of you.” Robert sighed.

“I’m glad that you can’t.” Julian shook his head. “Isn’t it funny? Wishes.”

“What’s your wish, Julian?” Robert asked.

“To have some of the power that Scaramouche seems to think he has.” Julian shrugged.

“You do!” Robert exclaimed. “You already do!”

“Do I?” Julian frowned.

“If you could, what would you say to Scaramouche right this very moment?” Robert asked.

Julian shut his eyes and concentrated. Suddenly, he was overcome with a terrible frustration, the likes of which he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in nearly thirty years. He began to shout.

“There’s so much I wish to say!” Julian bellowed.

Inside of their body, Punch whooped and grinned. Scaramouche grew pale as Julian continued to shout.

Both Punch and Scaramouche listen from inside as Julian finally said what he was thinking. “Scaramouche, you go on about what you’ve lost. Look at what I’ve lost. My mother—though she was most unpleasant—is dead. My father is, too. My sister is lost to me as is her child who I cannot seem to rescue as we had planned. I’ve lost my independence and my safety. I’ve been ripped from the comfort of my home and my routine! I’ve been taken from the only places wherein I feel safe! My possessions have been stolen from me as has my autonomy, and most importantly, I’ve lost my ability to trust! I have been burned, beaten, shot and battered! What have you lost that I haven’t? Nothing! You are only a small part of who I am—no more significant than a stand of hair or a discarded fingernail!”

Soon, Punch noticed that Scaramouche was becoming transparent.

“Not so strong, are you now, Mr. Scaramouche?” Punch laughed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-260? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, June 6, 2011 for Chapter 262 of Punch’s Cousin.

Mastery of Design: A Gold and Carved Crystal Brooch of a Yorkshire Terrier, 1875

Gold, set with crystal which is carved and painted
from the underside.
English, 1875
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Always on the forefront of the arts, the British devised a variety of new techniques in the creation of jewelry. For instance, British artists pioneered the art of the reverse intaglio wherein a hardstone or crystal was carved from the underside, and often painted to create a startling three dimensional effect.

This crystal brooch, set in gold, dating to 1875, is an excellent example of early British reverse intaglio. Here, we see the figure of a Yorkshire terrier which has been carved from the reverse and painstakingly painted. With its pointed ears and bright blue bow, this adorable doggie appears to be looking at us from behind a window. It’s a beautifully rendered likeness and an exceptional piece of jewelry.

Object of the Day: A Drawing by Cecil Aldin, 1912

British artist and illustrator Cecil Aldin became known for his drawings of sporting life, especially his beautifully and fluid illustrations of dogs. An avid fan of dogs, Aldin particularly enjoyed drawing his canine friends.

Aldin illustrated many famous tomes from Kipling’s The Jungle Book to Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, but is most celebrated for his personal stories of dogs and their adventures. Among these is Mac, the story of a curious West Highland White Terrier.

This illustration is one of a collection from the 1912 book, Mac. Here, above Aldin’s signature, we see Mac up to his usual mischief. Of course, I find myself drawn to these illustrations because of their similarity to my Bertie. However, in their own right, they are wonderful representations of the true nature of all terriers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Punch and Judy Lancers Sheet Music Cover, 1880

The Victoria and Albert Museum
This chromolithograph was the cover for the sheet music to a popular comic song of the 1880’s. Written by H.S. Roberts, the song was part of the Quadrille on Popular Comic Tunes.

Here, we see Mr. Punch in military regalia astride a stead. Toby trots along beside him as Judy follows in a carriage. It’s a rather bizarre image, but appealing in its way.

Though I can’t find a performance of the piece, the music is still available for purchase. See the link (without image) below.

Antique Image of the Day: Frame with Photograph of Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, 1896

Frame With Photograph of Princess Louise
The Royal Collection
The eldest daughter of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Princess Louise (1867—1931), married the 1st Duke of Fife in 1899. In 1905, she was created Princess Royal.

Queen Alexandra was fond of all of her children and kept photographs of them in exquisite frames by Fabergé which were often brought along with her from residence to residence.

This rose-colored frame of three-color gold, silver-gilt, guilloché enamel, pearls, and mother-of-pearl was the perfect case for a photo of the feminine Princess Louise. It bears the mark of Viktor Aarne; one of the many talented designers and craftsmen at Fabergé.

Friday Fun: Count Them, Mr. Punch

Professor Whatsit's Shop
At some point in every Punch & Judy Show, Mr. Punch pauses to chat with the Constable who has, invariably, noticed that Punch has murdered a few people. As the Constable counts the number of bodies in the rather large pile of Punch’s victims, Punch—with a swift whack on the head—adds the copper to the pile.

Soon, however, Punch realizes that the pile is not quite as dead as he thought. He finds himself taunted by one body in particular—Joey, the Clown. And, so, as the children in the audience encourage Punch to kill again (which is my favorite part of this), he attempts to put Joey in his place once and for all.

This video comes to us compliments of “Professor Whatsit,” also known by his real name, Chris van der Craats of Melbourne.

Royal Pets: Paul, The Fabergé Bulldog, 1910

French Bulldog
Carl Fabergé
The Royal Collection
As a child, the future King George V was surrounded by the dogs that lived with his father, King Edward VII and mother, Queen Alexandra. Among the assorted Royal canines, King George V developed close relationships with the French Bulldogs in particular. As an adult, George had a fondness for a French Bulldog named Paul. Paul modeled for Carl Fabergé and the result is this statuette of agate, guilloché enamel, rose-cut diamonds.

King George V purchased this statuette, along with several others, from Fabergé’s London Branch shortly after his father’s death, and George’s subsequent ascent to the throne, in 1910. He presented the figure to his wife, Mary of Teck, who enjoyed these things quite a lot. While it was an addition to Mary’s existing collection of Fabergé animals, it was the start of a subset collection of tiny French bulldogs.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 260

Here,” Mr. Punch whispered. “It’s gone dark.” He squinted as their internal waiting room became increasingly dim.

“It’s the medicine,” Julian replied quietly.

“That’s our chum, always thinkin’, he is.” Punch said proudly. “He stopped that Scaramouche, he did!”

“Did he?” Julian asked.

“Didn’t he?” Mr. Punch frowned. Though Julian couldn’t see Punch, he could sense his partner’s displeasure. “He ain’t yelpin’ and squallin’ no more.”

“That doesn’t mean that he’s been defeated,” Julian sighed.

“Indeed, I have not.” Scaramouche bellowed from a deep corner of the room.

“Bollocks!” Punch grunted.

“I concur,” Julian added crossly.

“Shut up, the two of you!” Scaramouche shouted. “I don’t belong in here with you! Who is out there living right now?”

“No one, Scaramouche.” Julian answered. “My body is resting.”

“Your body?” Scaramouche spat.

“Certainly! If not mine, who else’s?”

“Mine, to be sure!” Scaramouche said. “You two weren’t using it correctly!”

“Is that so?” Julian scowled in the darkness.

“If you had been, we’d not have suffered as we have!” Scaramouche growled.

“Oh, do settle down,” Julian grumbled. “I’ve grown weary of this.”

“That’s it,” Mr. Punch whooped. “You put him in his place, Master! Here, why don’t we just try to ignore him? How ‘bout it?”

Mr. Punch squinted as his question was met with silence.

Soon, the room began to fill with a blue light with which Mr. Punch was not familiar. As his eyes adjusted her looked around and found himself alone with Mr. Scaramouche. Julian was nowhere to be seen.

“We meet at last,” Scaramouche grinned wickedly. “And, now, you don’t have your timid little Duke to protect you.”

At that very moment, in his bedroom, Julian’s eyes fluttered open.

“Robert,” he whispered weakly.

“Thank God!” Robert said, rushing to the bedside. “Julian…I’ve missed you.”

Julian smiled. “I’ve missed you, too.”

Meanwhile, further up Royal Street, in Ulrika Rittenhouse’s bedroom, Arthur and Gerard watched in horror as the handle of the door jiggled once again.

“Miss Ulrika?” Odo repeated through the door.

“We gotta hide!” Gerard mouthed to Arthur as they heard Odo’s keys jingle.

Arthur shrugged as if to say, “Where?”

“I’m going to enter the room, Miss Ulrika,” Odo said as he unlocked the door.

Arthur and Gerard stood over Ulrika’s limp body, frozen in fear.

As Odo entered the room, he grinned a yellow smile.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” Arthur said quickly.

“I think it is,” Odo laughed. “May I be of assistance?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-259? If so, you can read them here.

Mastery of Design: An Unusual Turban Ornament, Early Eighteenth Century

Turban Ornament
Early Eighteenth Century
Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds, Beryls
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In 1922 and 1923, the V&A accepted a donation of rare and unusual turban ornaments from a Mr. Talyarkhan, who had purchased them from the Maharaja of Jaipur. This gold and jeweled ornament from the early Eighteenth Century is among the most exceptional of them.

Created for a male turban, this ornament would be held in place by the folds of the turban and is designed to be viewed from both the front and from behind. The front of the piece features a pattern of flowers and leaves in rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pale beryls. The reverse shows the same design with the exclusion of the diamonds.

Historians at the V&A are unsure if this ornament was made in India or Pakistan, however, Indian portraits from this time period depict similar ornaments al lof which seem to rely on floral motifs.

Object of the Day: Wills’s Cigarette Cards Depicting the Family of King George V and Queen Mary, 1935

Who knew that such a thing as Royal trading cards existed? Collect all 50! “I’ll trade you my 'Duke of Kent’s wedding' for your 'King George visiting the Royal Academy.'” And, yet, here they are.

Wills Cigarette Company also known as Wills, Watkins & Co., Wills & Co., W.D. & H.O. Wills and a few other names, was one of the first tobacco companies in Britain. Starting as a shop front around 1791, the company developed into a major cigarette manufacturer, offering unprecedented benefits to its employees—benefits such as paid vacations, medical care and cafeterias and gymnasia for workers.

Among the other innovations of Will & Co. was the inclusion of advertising cards with their packets of cigarettes. By 1895, these advertising cards were changed to general interest trading cards which could be collected by customers. Not only were they educational, but these cards encouraged people to buy more cigarettes. Among the many sets produced by Wills & Co. was a 50 card series about the lives of King George V and Queen Mary.

Recently, I purchased—all at once—this set of 50 cards which had been amassed by some Royal-loving smoker over seventy years ago. The cards are in remarkably good, if not perfect, condition. Each card shows a scene from the lives of King George V and Mary of Teck from their coronation to important events in the lives of their children and families. The reverse of each card contains the Wills logo as well as a paragraph about the scene.

They’re really quite lovely. And, so, in order to showcase all of them, starting next week, we’ll be replacing the “Goal for the Day” section at Stalking the Belle Époque with a “Card of the Day” section which will not only give you a chance to enjoy the beauty of these cards, but also to discover the history behind each scene.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Vanity, Thy Name is Bertie

“Yours is pretty.  I’m just saying that my collar is nicer.”

Image: The Toilette, also known as The Necklace, Charles Robert Leslie, 1849, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Gifts of Grandeur: A Swiss Enameled Gold Necklace, 1860

Enamelled Gold Necklace
Switzerland, 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When visiting Switzerland in the late Nineteenth Century, fashionable people often returned to their homes with examples of the enameled gold jewelry for which the Swiss had become celebrated.

This enameled gold necklace was a gift purchased in Switzerland and comes from the collection of an anonymous donor to the V&A. Showing the fine enamel-work of the Swiss, the necklace features multiple portraits of ladies of fashion, linked by heavy gold chain.

Such a souvenir would have been highly coveted. This style of necklace was especially in vogue during the London Season of 1861.

Unfolding Pictures: “The Skating Scene” Fan, 1863

Fan Depicting a Skating Scene
French Leaf, 1863
Leather, Mother-of-Pearl, Gold, Coral
The Royal Collection
This fan with its sheep leather leaf; carved mother-of-pearl guards and sticks; gold pin with coral heads; and gold loop formed of the initials A and E; was given to the future Queen Alexandra on the day of her 1863 wedding to the future King Edward VII by Queen Victoria’s half-sister Feodora.

The leaves are certainly French in origin while the guards and sticks may have been crafted in England. As was typical of the day, the leaf is decorated with scenes of Nineteenth Century courtly life: dancing, music-making, and most prominently, skating. These were especially important activities to Alexandra who excelled at all of them, especially ice skating for which she had a long passion. In fact, her skating in 1864 hastened the premature birth of her eldest son, The Duke of Clarence.

Queen Alexandra amassed an impressive collection of fans, but this one was always special to her because of the scenes depicted, the donor and the event it represented.

Mastery of Design: The Townshend Pink Diamond Ring, 1800-1869

Pink Diamond Ring
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Among the rarest of the fancy color diamonds, pink diamonds are difficult to find, especially those which have not had their color enhanced. Natural pink diamonds have been found in Tanzania, Brazil and North West Australia.

The remarkably bright pink diamond was donated to the V&A as part of the impressive collection of Reverend Chauncey Hare Townshend. It is one of an exceptional suite of colored diamonds that were owned by the Reverend. This diamond, like the others, has been mounted in a ring for purposes of display and was never worn. Set in gold, the pink diamond is surrounded by a frame of brilliant-cut, colorless diamonds. The ring dates between 1800 and 1869.

The Townshend Diamonds
Once Part of the Hope Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 259

Tell me more, Doctor,” Scaramouche said shakily, still lying on the floor.

“With this liquid,” Robert replied, forcing himself to smile, “you will be able to silence those other voices which seem to plague you.”

“Those other voices, Doctor,” Scaramouche snarled, “are your beloved friends. Do you expect me to believe you’d wish to see them quieted?”

“I am a physician,” Robert said, shuddering for a moment as he recalled Giovanni Iantosca’s warm blood on his hands. “My first priority is to help the person who is in front of me. My personal feelings have no bearing on my duty.”

Scaramouche looked up at the shimmering vial which Robert held between his fingers.

“I shan’t be taken in by your lies.” Scaramouche coughed. “I’m far too intelligent for the likes of you.”

“As you wish,” Robert nodded. He turned slightly and nodded at Marjani, and then at Cecil. Both Marjani and Cecil spring forward and restrained Mr. Scaramouche. Marjani—with her unusual strength—held the man’s borrowed arms and torso against the floor as Cecil pressed upon his chin to force open his mouth.

Scaramouche squirmed and struggled to no avail.

“My apologies, Scaramouche,” Robert said as he uncorked the vial and poured the liquid into Julian’s mouth.

Cecil clamped his hand over Julian’s mouth so that Scaramouche could not spit out the liquid. When they were certain that he’d ingested the tonic, they released him.

Scaramouche howled angrily. “Murderers! You’ll all pay!”

“I haven’t murdered you,” Robert replied, shuddering again as the image of Giovanni’s crumpled body darted behind his eyes. “All that will do is make you sleep.”

“And what of the others?” Scaramouche asked groggily.

“I do not know.” Robert sighed. “I don’t know what goes on inside of that body. When the body sleeps, I know not if your minds continue. I hope that they do so that they may convince you to retreat from whence you came.”

Julian’s eyelids grew heavy. Before long, the body had fallen asleep.

“Help me,” Robert nodded at Cecil.

Robert and his brother picked up Julian’s body and carried him to his room upstairs. Arranging him on the bed, Robert sat beside the shell of his friend and sighed. Looking at Julian’s face, he said softly, “I wish I understood what happens inside of you, you lovely wretch. If you can hear me, Julian, Mr. Punch, please, take this moment to quiet this savage man. I only wish I could assist you further.”

Robert walked out of the room and down the stairs, followed by Cecil.

In the parlor, the rejoined Barbara and Marjani.

“Doctor, how are my son and Mrs. Halifax?” Barbara asked.

“We’ve left them in a safe place with Marjani’s friends and your Charles.” Robert answered. “However, we must free them soon.”

“We’ll need to ensure that His Grace is in his right mind,” Cecil began, pausing for a moment as he considered what exactly Julian’s “right mind” would be. “Then, we can assist them in fleeing to safety with the child.”

“There’s more to discuss, Brother,” Robert sighed.

“The boy is not ill, is he?” Barbara asked nervously.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “However, we have other dangers.”

Meanwhile, as Arthur raised the green cushion above Ulrika’s face, he muttered a few words of apology to the woman.

“Ain’t it funny?” He mumbled. “I somehow hate to do this.”

“Artie?” Gerard whispered. “Someone’s comin’.”

“What?” Arthur hissed.

Gerard pointed to the door as the handle jiggled.

“Did you lock it?” Arthur mouthed.

Gerard nodded.

“Miss Ulrika?” Someone said softly as a knock sounded against the door. “It’s Odo, Miss. There’s someone at the back door for to see ya.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-258? If so, you can read them here.

Precious Time: An Empire Trophy Clock, 1810

French Case, 1810
Gilt Bronze, Chased and Cast
English Movement
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Clocks in the form of trophies with military themes were popular during the “Empire” period of France. This period’s tastes relied heavily on military motifs with classical styling.

This particular clock of cast and chased gilt bronze has been polished to a mirror-like shine. Dating to 1810,the maker of the case is unknown thought the movement is suspected to have been the work of John Moore & Son. The clockworks were updated later in the Nineteenth Century and replaced with an English movement though the French case remains unaltered.

In the clock’s central shield, the clock face is nestled within a wreath of oak leaves and is supported by the figure of an eagle holding a thunderbolt. Similar leaves adorn flanking figures of a griffin and an eagle as well as two plumed helmets—all symbols of military victory.

Object of the Day: A Rare Souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, 1935

I have never seen souvenir medals until recently. This medal from 1935 is a souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and his consort, Queen Mary. Suspended from a ribbon of red, white and blue, the face of the spelter medal shows the visages of the King and Queen in profile with the words, “H.M. King George V, H.M. Queen Mary, 1910-1035.” The reverse of the medeal bears the inscription, “To commemorate the Silver Jubilee of our beloved King and Queen, 6th May, 1935.” The reverse is adorned with a laurel wreath pattern.

I’m not quite sure to whom these medals were given. My guess is that they were gifts to those who helped prepare of the Jubilee festivities. I’m quite fond of it. Now, it’s displayed on a red ribbon, adorning a lampshade. Illuminated from behind, it continues to serve its original purpose—to remind us of a remarkable reign.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: A Diamond and Emerald Parure, 1806

Diamond and Emerald Suite
Necklace and Earrings
From a Parure by Nitot & Fils, 1806-1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Just part of a larger parure, this suite of emeralds and diamonds is thought to have been a gift from French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his consort Joséphine to their adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, on the occasion of her arranged marriage to the heir of the Grand Duke of Baden in 1806. Created by Nitot & Fils, the principal jewelers to Napoleon and Joséphine, the necklace and earrings feature dozens of diamonds and especially clear emeralds.

This was the height of fashion in 1806 with its large stones and the simplicity of design that were favored at the court of Napoleon. To give the wearer more options, the emerald drops at the back of the necklace can be detached and worn as earrings. These drops cam later, having been added to the necklace in 1820.

Mastery of Design: A Ring Containing the Hair of King George III, 1816

Enamel, Gold, Diamond, Rubies
Containing the Hair of King George III
1816, English
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This ring of enameled gold contains bezel-set rubies and a brilliant-cut diamond in the shape of a crown. The band is dated, 1816. Behind the crown, a locket is cleverly hidden upon which has been inscribed, “Hair cut from the head of George III, 1 Apr., 1816.”

Items of jewelry, especially during the Nineteenth Century, frequently held lockets of hair—often behind rock crystal or glass as a memento of a loved one or in memory of a person who has passed away. To have a lock of a Regent’s hair was quite extraordinary. It’s unknown who made the ring and for whom it was made. However, the fact that it has remained intact with its original contents is nothing short of miraculous.

Sculpture of the Day: Queen Victoria, 1888

Queen Victoria
Marble, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Speaking of busts of Queen Victoria, this one would have also been a very welcome addition to my collection, but I doubt the V & A would be willing to part with it. Created the year after her Golden Jubilee (1888), this marble bust was sculpted by Count Gleichin.

In addition to her the small diamond crown which she preferred over the larger Imperial crown, Victoria is shown wearing the badge of the Imperial Order of the Star of India and the Royal Red Cross (instituted in 1883).

Gleichin, who became a sculptor later in life after losing his fortune, quickly became highly regarded for his brilliant work and his ability to create extremely lifelike figures. This bust is an excellent example of his work.

Film of the Week: Citizen Kane, 1941

Well, hooray for the Bulldog.”
--Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane

With one single word, the most famous word in film history, “Rosebud,” Citizen Kane grew into a tremendous topiary and, despite its few detractors, is considered one of the greatest achievements in world cinema.
The brainchild of Orson Welles, known to most of the U.S. at the time for his popular (and controversial radio program) “The Mercury Theater on the Air,” Citizen Kane not only starred Welles alongside his trusted “Mercury Players,” but was directed, produced and even written by him (with additional dialogue by with Herman K. Mankiewicz). Since its 1941 debut, the picture has been considered one of the most visually beautiful and technically innovative of its time as well as one of the greatest cinematic achievements in history.

This was Orson Welles entre into cinema and established his reputation as a genius, but also made him almost unemployable because of the countless controversies surrounding the creation of the picture. To begin with, the plot—the story of a wealthy man whose raw emotions, drive, ego and insecurities drive him to become one of the most powerful men in the world—closely mirrored (not accidentally) the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was not the sort of man that one would wish to tangle with. As publisher of the nation’s largest newspapers, when he heard of Welles’ project, he prohibited any advertisements for the film from running in any of his newspapers.

Nevertheless, the film was a critical triumph. Of course, making it wasn’t such an easy process. Welles certainly had a top-notch cast with his “Mercury Players” including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Comingore. George Coulouris, Ray Collins and the late Ruth Warrick (known best to current audiences as Phoebe Tyler Wallingford on All My Children). Each delivers exceptional performances. I am especially fond of Dorothy Comingore’s portrayal of Susan Alexander, Kane’s second wife, who varies between vulnerability and brashness with the blink of an eye. When she frowns slightly and mutters, “You never give me anything I really want,” she more clearly shows her digust with the man she once found so enchanting than if she had screamed the eight words at the top of her lungs.

Hearst tried to block the production at every turn, even trying to get all the prints of the picture destroyed. Having failed at halting production, Hearst tried to pressure theater owners from showing the film. Ultimately, Welle’s was successful and the film was given surprisingly good reviews. Still, despite its masterful cinematography, brilliant performances, poetic script, majestic sets and sweeping score, the picture lost money.

Nevertheless, Welles was still a hot commodity. Having conquered stage and radio, his path in film seemed clear. His next project, The Magnificent Ambersons, was expected to be another triumph and the studio hoped I would make up the losses from Citizen Kane. However, it was a terrible failure, and soon, Welles found that he was almost unemployable.

All that aside, the picture will remain one of the finest of the classic films. An amazing symphony of images and dialgoue, the film draws you in and doesn’t release you from its deep focus until the very end.