Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: A Turquoise and Diamond Bracelet, 1862

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here we have a truly stunning bracelet of gold, enamel, half-pearls, rose-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds and turquoises. Made in 1862 by T. & J. Bragg, this bracelet was exhibited by the firm firm at the International Exhibition of 1862, where it was immediately purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This bracelet is further evidence of the English national craze for arm adornments which began in the 1850’s. Fashion expert Edmond Joly de Bammeville declared at the time that the “daytime bracelet was the main feature of national dress” in England. Since this one was snatched up by the V&A before it had a chance to be sold, it never served its purpose, but, rather, was elevated to a higher calling—representing its bangle brethren for eternity.

Painting of the Day: Victoria, Duchess of Kent, 1839

Victoria Duchess of Kent
The Royal Collection
Sir William Charles Ross (1794-1860) rendered this delicate miniature of watercolor on ivory in 1839—two years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne. The sitter, of course, is Victoria, the Duchess of Kent—mother of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria had a rocky relationship with her overbearing mother, and was quite pleased to leave the Duchess behind at Kensington Palace when she was created Queen. Nevertheless, Queen Victoria commissioned several paintings of her mama. This is but one of several miniatures and full-size paintings of the Duchess which reside in the Royal Collection.


Mastery of Design: A Pair of Antique Turquiose and Enamel Earrings, 1880

Enamel, Turquoise, Pearls, Diamonds, Gold
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Jewels are always lasting symbols of affection and, long ago, became a canvas for creative ways in expressing love through the use of symbols and forms. Here, in this pair of earrings from the 1880’s, we see one of the most enduring symbols of love—cupids.

Neatly rendered on enamel, these cupids are set in frames of gold, adorned with pearls, turquoises and rose-cut diamonds, each symbols of eternal affection.

The Art of Play: The Lord Clapham Doll Chair, 1690-1700

Dolls Chair, 1690-1700
This and all images courtesy of:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum of Childhood
At first glance at the photo, you’d think this was a full-size Seventeenth Century chair, but on closer inspection you can see that the scale isn’t quite right for a human. This miniature chair was made for the “Lord Clapham Doll,” which is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection in the Museum of Childhood.

This tiny chair of wood and cane is in the popular style of the period 1690-1700. The caning in the seats and the pattern of crosses which has been incised in the upper surface of the seat frame are identical to full-size chairs made in the same period—showing that this was made by a professional chair-maker using conventional construction methods.

In order to provide fairness to both genders, the “Lady Clapham” doll sits on a similarly-styled chair. For a doll’s chair or any miniature to survive this long is quite exceptional. As I pointed out, the scale is slightly different from the real thingf. The curators of the V&A explain, “The proportions of the chair are slightly different from full-sized chairs, and not quite to scale with the dolls, because the dolls' feet do not touch the ground.” I don’t know if that’s because dolls don’t like their feet touching the ground or if it’s just the way it worked out.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 314

Marie Laveau paced angrily in her front room, glancing occasionally as the long table in the center of the room. The bodied of Nellie and Louis had been laid upon the table, side-by-side as Marie’s daughter, Young Marie, and some of the women of the Voodoo Queen’s off household prepared the bodies for burial.
“Mama,” Young Marie spat, “Can’t you sit yourself down?”

“Don’t you dare take that tone with me!” Marie snarled.

“Ain’t no good you getting’ all upset,” Young Marie sighed.

“Look at what you’re about, Girl!” Marie barked. “I think we got two reasons to be upset.”

“Who cares ‘bout the death of this scarred-face woman?” Young Marie shrugged. “Don’t know why we’re even botherin’ with her. Can’t we just dump her in the river?”

“No, Girl.” Marie snapped. “Don’t you know you gotta treat a body with respect? Only gonna bring bad spirits to the house if we don’t. Besides, we need her.”

“What good is she?” Young Marie muttered.

“Even this poor body got juju, Girl.” Marie squinted. “’Specially with your poor uncle lyin’ next to her.”

“He ain’t my uncle.” Young Marie scowled. “His brother weren’t my daddy.”

“Don’t matter!” Marie shouted. “He was as good as a father to you as if he done sired you and that makes Louis your uncle!”

“So, what we gonna do with ‘em.” Young Marie asked, stepping away from the table.

“Don’t you know nothin’?” Marie frowned. “Didn’t I just say that these poor shells got juju?”

“They ain’t got nothin’ in ‘em but blood and meat!” Young Marie shrieked. “How we gonna use ‘em for juju?”

“You just shut your mouth and finish cleanin’ ‘em up!” Marie Laveau snarled. “You’ll see what we’re gonna do soon ‘nough!”

Meanwhile, at Iolanthe’s house, Mr. Punch stood on the staircase looking up at Nanny Rittenhouse.

“Don’t you have a kind word for your old nanny, Your Grace?” Agnes Rittenhouse said with mock sheepishness.

“No.” Punch whispered.

“My heart was broken when I heard about the death of your poor mother,” Nanny Rittenhouse continued. “She was a fine woman.”

“No, she weren’t.” Mr. Punch frowned.

“I raised her myself, just as I raised you.”

“Which ‘xplains why she was so awful.” Mr. Punch replied dryly.

“How can you be so cruel, Your Grace?” The nanny responded.

“I learned at the feet of the best.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “Listen, why are you here? Ain’t you got a job workin’ for that man what’s got all them wax figures?”

“With the baby no longer in the house,” Nanny Rittenhouse said, “I was no longer needed. Mrs. Cage felt she could look after their young son, Orman, and their niece, Edolie, without my assistance. When I was fetched for Lady Barbara, I knew I should come here and help her.”

“Fetched?” Punch smirked. “You mean, commanded?” Punch took one step further up the stairs. “Don’t you know what this place is? Who these girls are?”

“It’s not the ideal situation, Your Grace.” Nanny Rittenhouse nodded. “But, Lady Barbara needs me.”

“Is that what she’s callin’ herself again? Lady Barbara?”

“Well, no, Your Grace. But, she’ll always be Lady Barbara to me.”

“She’s quite mad, isn’t she?” Charles interrupted. “Can’t you see that?”

“Quiet down, footman,” Iolanthe chuckled. “Who are you to judge who’s mad and who ain’t. Look at your own master if you wanna see madness.”

“That’s enough from you!” Charles shouted. He advanced upon the stairs, climbing up to where Mr. Punch stood. “Your Grace, Barbara needs us. We can’t just stand here talking to these women.”

“She doesn’t wish to see you,” Iolanthe called up to them.

“We’ll see about that,” Charles grunted, taking Mr. Punch by the arm and pulling him past Nanny Rittenhouse who shrieked as they brushed past her.

“This ain’t good, Charles,” Mr. Punch whispered. “That woman’s as evil as they come.”

“Which one?” Charles said with disgust.

“Well, all of ‘em.” Punch sighed.

“All the more reason to get her out of here.”

“Charles,” Mr. Punch said quickly. “I don’t think she’s gonna want to go with us.”

“She doesn’t have a choice.” Charles said. He paused and turned to look at Mr. Punch. “I know what happened here with your own mother. You gave up on her and left her here. And, what became of her? She was killed! Is that what you want for your sister, too.”

“Ain’t fair, it ain’t, bringin’ that up.” Mr. Punch frowned, looking at the floor. “Weren’t my intention for my master’s mum to die. But, if someone’s got her heart set, sometimes there ain’t nothing you can do ‘bout it.”

“You’re weak!” Charles spat.

“I ain’t.” Mr. Punch said gently. “I’m sensible. For all that’s wrong with me, at least I learned to be sensible! And, you’re one to criticize me! Where’s your own brother, then? Hmmm? Where’s your Giovanni? Didn’t you do just the same thing I did?”

“That’s right, gentlemen,” Iolanthe cooed as she joined them in the upper corridor. She was followed by the nanny. “Perhaps you should talk this over some more. There’s nothing worse than dissention between friends.”

“Stay out of this!” Charles grumbled, running down the hallway. “Which room is she in?”

Charles began opening doors—revealing strange women and men about the business of Miss Iolanthe’s house. Most didn’t even notice him.

“Where is she?” Charles barked, looking down the hallway. He stopped in his tracks when he noticed that he was alone in the hall.

Mr. Punch, Iolanthe and the Nanny were nowhere to be seen.

“Damn!” Charles spat. “They fooled me!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-313? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 315 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent

The Duchess of Kent
The last foreign-born Princess to marry into the Royal Family, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark was known for her beauty and compassion. She married Prince George, the Duke of Kent, in 1934 and quickly became an involved member of the Royal Family—with the approval of Queen Mary, her mother-in-law.

Even after the early, tragic death of Prince George, the Duchess of Kent continued to actively pursue her Royal duties. She would often deputize for Queen Mary, and later, for Queen Elizabeth II. She would remain a bright light in the Royal Family until her 1968 death at Kensington Palace.

The Duchess of Kent posing
with a picture of her husband,
Prince George, Duke of Kent.
The Royal Collection
The Duchess of Kent is seen pictured in the ninth card by Godfrey & Phillips Cigarette Company. These cards were produced for the Silver Jubilee of the King and Queen in 1935.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Queen Mary’s Seal, 1896

Michael Perchin for Fabergé
The Royal Collection
This attractive seal by Michael Perchin of Fabergé was a gift to Queen Mary on the occasion of her birthday, May 26, 1935 and also for her Silver Jubilee on the throne from Prince and Princess Nicholas of Greece. The Prince and Princess were the parents of Princess Marina who would marry the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary and become the Duchess of Kent.

The seal’s unusual handle is formed of rutilated quartz-- rock crystal containing rutile, a mineral which occurs in columnar-shaped crystals. Queen Mary happily added this handsome item to her collection of Fabergé—a large grouping of objects which she kept in a series of vitrines.

Queen Mary adored her Fabergé collection. After the death of her husband, King George V, her Fabergé collection was one of the first things that she moved with her from Buckingham Palace to her new home at Marlborough house. When the danger of the Second World War forced the Queen Dowager to move from Marlborough House to Badminton House in the country she brought the collection with her, and when the war was over and the Queen set about rebuilding Marlborough House which had been badly bombed, she declared that the ruined house was looking “like home” again when her collection of Fabergé was in place.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: A Gold and Diamond Snuffbox given by Queen Victoria, 1837

Gold, Diamonds, Enamel
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Upon her accession to the throne, Queen Victoria made many gifts to those who had served her mother and herself while they lived in Kensington Palace. An inscription on this magnificent snuffbox of gold, diamonds and enamel records that it was given to Colonel Harcourt in 1837, “in recognition of services rendered to Queen Victoria while she resided at Kensington Palace.”
As Princess Victoria, the future long-reigning Queen lived at Kensington with her domineering mother, the Duchess of Kent. Colonel Harcourt was their equerry. The box was made in Hanau for Storr & Mortimer Goldsmiths in London, by whom it was sold to Queen Victoria. The snuffbox retains its original leather case which bears the Queen’s cipher.

The reverse of the snuffbox, while not jeweled, is equally elaborate—adorned with gold and enamel flowers. Clearly the Colonel cherished the box for it shows no evident signs of wear.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: “Joy & Grief,” Photolithograph Prints

Joy and Grief
The Victoria & Albert Museum
From the George Speaight Punch and Judy Collection
These photolithograph prints date to the late Nineteenth Century and are the work of an unknown artist. Here, we see a girl in traditional Dutch dress. In her arms, she holds a Mr. Punch. In one image she looks quite happy. In the next, entitled, “Grief,” she looks quite the opposite.

I can’t quite tell what she’s holding in her hand, but whatever it is, it seems to have bothered her. Perhaps I’ve seen too many Punch & Judy shows, but I like to think she’s sad because of something Mr. Punch did. He looks very pleased with himself…as he should be.

Friday Fun: Chris Cullen’s Punch and Judy Show

Chris Cullen
As I sit in the sweltering heat of the southern United States (a month of temperatures between 100 and 110) and listen to the air conditioning churn, I’m occupied in concurrently writing and irritating Bertie as I practice my Mr. Punch voice, being careful not to swallow my swazzle. Bertie and I are awaiting the arrival of my Mr. Punch from Bryan Clarke, but the Royal Mail and U.S. Mail have not seen fit to deliver him to me yet. Perhaps Mr. Punch felt the Texas heat and decided to go back to England.

As we wait, let’s watch this little clip of a fine Punch & Judy Show by Chris Cullen which features some very good swazzle-use (which is MUCH harder than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be very difficult) and an appearance by a very floppy Toby dog. Professor Cullen performs his excellent show as part of Banana Brain Fun Shows.

Painting of the Day: A Miniature of Queen Victoria’s Father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, 1814

Edward, Duke of Kent
Miniature on Ivory in Gold Locket
The Royal Collection
The fourth son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn was a military officer with expensive and debauched tastes as well as a host of illegitimate children. At the time of George III’s death, the King only had one legitimate grandchild, and she died young—leaving no one in line for the throne after the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and his younger brother, William. George III’s unmarried sons tried to make suitable marriages to produce a legitimate heir presumptice. Among this rush, The Duke of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld. They had one child—Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent. The Princess was the only legitimate issue in line for the Crown, and after the death of her uncle, King William IV, she ascended the throne as Queen Victoria in 1837. The Duke of Kent never saw his daughter as Queen. He died seventeen years earlier.

But, here he is on a watercolor on ivory miniature in a gold locket. The painting is by Johan Georg Paul Fischer and dates to 1814.

Queen Victoria was painted in 1821, before her accession, holding this miniature in a portrait by Sir William Beechey which depicts the the Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria. The elaborate gold locket is the work of the jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, and shows their masterful chasing and repoussé work. The Duke is identified by his Garter emblems, his coronet and his name, EDWARD. The locket’s reverse is similarly chased and is adorned with the badge of the Bath within the collar, and the collar and badge of St Patrick.

Fischer based this miniature on a portrait by Sir Beechey which also dates to 1814. No stranger to the Royal Family, Fischer’s first Royal sitter was King George III, whom Fischer painted for his Golden Jubilee.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 313

Gerard shook his head as he followed Meridian through the long, low passage at the rear of the ornate mansion on Royal Street.

“Somethin’ troublin’ ya?” Meridian asked.

“Nah.” Gerard answered.

“Sorry ‘bout your friend.” Meridian added. “Though he was a cruel one, nobody should die like that.”

“Thank you,” Gerard replied softly. “It’s funny, isn’t it?”

“What’s that?” Meridian asked as they walked.

“I rather hated Arthur when he was alive.”

“Then, why’d you go ‘round with him?”

“Didn’t have no choice, really.” Gerard sighed.

“I understand.” Meridian nodded. “Now that he’s gone, I almost miss him.”

“That’s the way it is,” Meridian shrugged. “When I was young, I had a master who would hit me and my sisters and brothers. He was a right terrible beast, that one. But, see, he sold us. When we went to the new place, I missed the old master, and wondered why. Did I miss his beatings? No. I missed the things that were…what do you call it?...familiar. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that as long as you realize that sometimes new places and people are better—if you let them be. Nobody here is gonna hurt ya. And, if you’re Dr. Halifax’s man, I can tell ya, he’ll treat you with respect and kindness as long as you don’t do nothin’ to hurt his family.”

“I won’t.” Gerard said quickly.

“See that you don’t.” Meridian smiled. “Cuz you’ll have to answer to me, too.” She stopped outside a door and pointed. “Here’s where you sleep. You gonna share with the house boy. Ain’t no other place to put ya. But, he’s a young one and don’t snore. Nice enough boy. Just don’t ask him ‘bout his ma.”

“Why not?” Gerard asked.

“Cuz I said so.” Meridian nodded firmly.

“Yes, ma’am.” Gerard said, his eyes widening. “Now, go on and get some sleep.”

Meridian watched as Gerry slowly entered the room and listened as he introduced himself to Billy, the young man he was to share his room with.

As Meridian shut the door behind her she frowned. “Them Englishmen and their kindness, I hope it don’t end up bitin’ ‘em.” With that, she walked away.

Meanwhile, inside Iolanthe’s house, Mr. Punch narrowed his eyes at “The Elegant Ogress.”

“I do hate you.” Mr. Punch growled.

“I’m sure you do.” Iolanthe laughed. “Funny, but I don’t hate you. I should, you lunatic. But, I don’t. I almost got respect for ya. And, I don’t want you thinkin’ that I don’t. For as much as you’re a looney, you got some sense to ya and you’re a worthy enemy. I can’t help but feel some warm feelings for someone who done showed me up so many times.” She turned to Charles, ‘You, on the other hand, I don’t like. You’re just too ‘good.’ You irritate me.”

“Where’s Barbara?” Charles asked, ignoring Iolanthe’s taunts.

“Upstairs.” Iolanthe pointed. “She don’t want to see you. Either of you.”

“I don’t care.” Punch grumbled, heading for the staircase.

“I can’t let you see her.” Barbara shook her head.

Punch didn’t stop.

“Your Grace,” Iolanthe said with no small amount of false charm. “I can’t let you do that. She’s in her bath.”

“I’ll wait then.” Punch stopped midway up the stairs.

“You bitch!” Charles shouted. “Barbara’s gone mad and you’re taking advantage of her condition!”

“She came with me freely.” Iolanthe replied, unperturbed by Charles’ outburst.

“I don’t believe that.” Charles argued.

“Steady on,” Punch whispered. “This is not the way to deal with her.”

“I know no other way now!” Charles spat.

“Listen, footman,” Iolanthe snarled. “I won’t you come in here and make demands of me or my partner.”

“Your partner?” Punch asked, leaning on the banister.

“Yes,” Iolanthe grinned. “Barbara is now my business partner. She’s my equal—here, at least.”

“Why?” Punch raised his eyebrows.

“Why don’t you ask her maid?” Iolanthe pointed to the top of the stairs where Agnes Rittenhouse had appeared.

Punch looked up at her with wild eyes. “Nanny,” he whispered.

“Good evening, Your Grace.” Nanny Rittenhouse smirked. “I’m so glad we’re reunited.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-312? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. The Duke of Kent

Look! It’s Georgie! In this, the eighth Godfrey & Phillips Silver Jubilee Card, we see Prince George, the Duke of Kent about seven years before his shocking death in a 1942 plane crash. Just before her son’s death, Queen Mary noted in her diary that “Georgie” finally seemed happy and settled-down. He had married Princess Marina and they had a three children: Edward (now Duke of Kent), Princess Alexandra (later, the Honorable Lady Ogilvy) and Prince Michael of Kent.

Queen Mary had always had a soft spot for her fourth son. She enjoyed his company immensely and particularly liked to go shopping with him because they shared similar tastes. During the Second World War when Queen Mary had been taken away from London to stay at Badminton House in the country (threats against the Queen Dowager were quite real and the government feared that she would be abducted by Nazi forces), Prince George was the only one of her children who could visit her regularly because his position as Air Vice-Marshal allowed him free access to air travel. Together, they would sneak off to visit country antique shops and salvage yards. During her time at Badminton, Queen Mary became fanatical about finding scrap metal and giving it to the “cause.” She would often venture out on her own—sometimes with Prince George—and freely take whatever she could find that could be melted down for the military. The Queen, however, didn’t quite understand country life, and often mistook tools and barrows which had been left out over night (so they could be used again in the morning) as discarded. Prince George would see to it that these items were quietly returned without the Queen’s knowledge before they could be reported stolen.

It was at Badminton—just a day after visiting with her son—that Queen Mary was interrupted in her metal-thievery to answer a phone call. She was told that her precious Georgie had died. By this point in her life, the Queen had endured--with little outward emotion--the deaths of her parents, her fiance, her most beloved aunt, her youngest son, her husband, and her dearest friends. The death of her second youngest son, at first, was too much to bear for the Queen. Instead of sinking into despair, she chose not to believe it. Soon, however, the reality of the tragedy was too clear. In her typical manner, Queen Mary soldiered forward, but in a different way.

The Queen Dowager, while being driven in her deep green Daimler, would often offer rides to young soldiers that she or her driver spotted walking along the country roads. This became a regular event and one that the Queen looked forward to. She would talk honestly with these young men about her family and her life and listen intently—with tears rolling down her cheeks—as these soldiers described the horrors of war, their family troubles and the losses of their friends. Sometimes she’d offer them small gifts or a few coins, but most likely, she’d casually give the young men a cigarette and, together, they would chat and smoke as they drove.

She stated that this was what Georgie would have wanted her to do. I’m sure she was right.

Blake Ritson as The Duke of Kent
The Duke of Kent has been portrayed several times in popular modern culture.  Most recently, we've seen the Duke portrayed by Blake Ritson in the 2010 continuation of the celebrated Upstairs, Downstairs.  I've also included a fun little video of the children of King George V and Queen Mary. 

The Duke and Duchess of Kent with Prince Edward, 1936
Photo by Marcus Adams
Notice that Queen mary has written "Georgie, Edward, Marina" on thw photo.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Princess Marina’s Baby Dress, 1910

Embroidered Linen
Made for Princess Marina, 1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though children’s fashions tended to be simpler in design than their adult counterparts, they were nonetheless well made. Clothing, overall, was made to last. Even in the early Twentieth Century, most families—even the wealthiest—didn’t have closets full of changes of clothes. Children’s clothes, especially, were constructed to be sturdy. However, great attention to detail was still paid because, in many cases, these articles were passed down from child to child—often for generations.

This beautiful dress of embroidered linen was made in 1910 for Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968). The Princess was the youngest of the three daughters of HRH Prince Nicholas of Greece and his wife Grand Duchess Elena of Russia. However, most people remember Princess Marina as the wife of the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, Prince George (“Georgie” to his mother, the Queen), the Duke of Kent whom the Princess married in 1934. “Georgie” and Marina appeared to have a happy marriage though beneath the surface there was a lot going on that wasn’t known by the public. Together, they had one child, Prince Edward (now Duke of Kent). Princess Marina, even after the untimely death of the Duke of Kent in 1942, was quite popular with the people of Britain who admired her fashion sense—a trait, it seems, which she developed as a child.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Star-struck

“Step away from the mandolin, HAM-let. I’m the star of this show.”

Image: Charles Mayne Young as Hamlet and Mary Glover as Ophelia in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, George Clint, 1831, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mastery of Design: A Figural Gold and Diamond Pendant, 1901

Georges van der Straeten
French, 1901
The Victoria & Albert Museum
 As jewelry designs transitioned from the Victorian to the Edwardian and Art Nouveau, jewelers began to experiment with depictions of the human form and ways in which a figure could be stylized and romanticized without being unrecognizable. Carving in precious metals became quite popular and gave rise to new interpretations of idealized female beauty. This figure in gold and adorned with diamonds shows the new vision of the feminine form as a representation of windswept grace and effortless elegance.

This pendant in relief is the work of Georges van der Straeten. Van der Straeten was a sculptor from Ghent whose work led him to Paris where he remained until his death in 1928. The pendant is actually a locket which contains a hidden mirror. It is inscribed on the reverse, “Monte Carlo 13 March 1901” around a sprig of mistletoe. Clearly, this was a token of affection meant to recall a happy time spent in romantic pursuits.

Precious Time: A Gold and Diamond Wristwatch by Cartier and Jaeger, 1936

Cartier and Jaeger
The Victoria & Albert Museum
After the First World War and around the time of that whole pesky abdication kerfuffle, wristwatches for women became all the rage in England and in France. Previously, women’s watches hung from brooches or chains and were worn on the bodice. While men had begun to wear wristwatches earlier, it wasn’t really until the 1930’s that jewelers really started to create stylish watches specifically for a woman’s delicate wrist.

Cartier became one of the most desirable designers of watches and often employed the watch-makers at the famed Jaeger for the inner-workings of their pieces. Cartier was celebrated for their rectangular women’s watches known as “baguette watches” because of the resemblance of their shape to a baguette-cut diamond. These watches were often set on elaborately jeweled bracelets and sometimes on simple gold bands. The faces were often adorned with baguette- cut diamonds framing the dial.

This watch from the V&A is a perfect example of the Cartier “baguette watch.”

Gifts of Grandeur: The Notebook Watch, 1840

Swiss, 1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This masterpiece of gold, enamel, silk , paper, and glazed miniatures under glass is a clever combination of useful items and attractive design. Made in Switzerland in 1840, this notebook boasts glazed miniatures of bucolic scenes on both covers and conceals an enamel and gold pen.

When opened, the notebook reveals, on one side, a scene of the Palais Royale in Paris, and on the other, a jeweled watch with an enamel face.

Curiously, though I have access to a dozen photographs of this work of art courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, I have none of the watch or the scene of the Palace nor can I find any. There’s a picture of the paper lining, but none of the good stuff. So, we’ll have to imagine what they might look like. But, based on the opulence of the outside, I’d guess that the inside is quite grand.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 312

Where’d you get this?” Giovanni asked as he studied the huge blue diamond closely.

“Never you mind about that,” Ulrika winked. “All you need to know is that it’s mine now. But, it can be ours—if you’re a good boy.”

“I’m not a child.” Giovanni frowned.

“Clearly.” Ulrika laughed.

“What is it that you want me to do?”

“It’s really quite simple, darling.” Ulrika whispered. “I want you to use your hands.”

Giovanni smiled.

“As an artist.” Ulrika continued.

“I learned long ago that my other line of business is far more profitable.” Giovanni grinned.

“In the short-term, perhaps. But, my dear, with my patronage, you can achieve fame—immortality!”

“And, so can you, yes?”

“Yes.” Ulrika nodded. “Leave behind your bloody work and let me make you famous!”

“You think you can do that?” Giovanni squinted.

“Really, I can do anything,” Ulrika cooed. “Especially with you.”

“What about your other men?”

“What other men?” Ulrika teased.

“That one you just dreamed of.”

“Arthur?” Ulrika shrugged. “He won’t be a problem.”

At that very moment, Robert crossed Arthur’s arms over his chest and covered the man’s lifeless body with a clean blanket.

“Good riddance,” Robert grunted.

“He died in filth—just like he done lived.” Marjani shook her head. “At least now he won’t bother us no more.”

“No.” Robert sighed. “You know, Marjani, this is the second time that I’ve seen this man ‘die.’ At least this time, I know he’s really gone. He won’t come back to hurt Julian again. He’s only a memory now.”

“Memories can be painful, too, Sir.” Marjani took a deep breath. “Do you think there’s any truth in what Arthur said ‘bout the Duchess?”

“I don’t know.” Robert shook his head. “We’ll just have to help His Grace forget all about it. All about Arthur if we can.”

Gerard tapped on the stable door and poked his head inside. “Can I come in now?”

“Certainly, Gerry.” Robert nodded. “We’ve put him to rest. He’s clean now. Do you wish to see him?”

“No.” Gerry shook his head quickly. “I just wanted to thank you.”

“No need.” Marjani raised her hand.

“I guess I need to figure out where I’m goin’.” Gerard sniffed.

“You’re going to the servants quarters.” Robert smiled.

“I am?” Gerard raised his eyebrows.

“Yes.” Robert nodded.

“What for?”

“His Grace has a valet—Charles. But, I have no one to assist me. If you’d like the position, you may have it. We’re traveling in two days to England. I’ll need help on the voyage. Just know that we’re traveling incognito and I’ll need you to be discreet.”

“You can count on me, Sir.” Gerard said eagerly. “I won’t disappoint you!”

“You’d better not.” Robert smiled. “We have a way of getting rid of bad valets at sea.”

Marjani chuckled.

“I can go back to my family.” Gerard smiled. “My brother and sister and their kin in Wales.”

“That’s right.” Robert nodded.

“Why you don’ this for me?”

“Because Mr. Punch—there’s no denying to you that His Grace has different personas—promised he’d help you if you were sincere. You seem sincere, so, we’ll help you. But, you’ve got to stick to your word.”

“I will, Sir.” Gerard smiled. “I won’t ruin this chance. Coo! Seems Arthur brought some good to me after all.”

“Sometimes wondrous things come from the darkest places.” Robert replied. “Now, off to bed for you. We’ve much to do tomorrow.”

“What ‘bout Artie?” Gerard pointed.

“We’ll take care of his remains in the morning.” Robert answered.

“Thank you, Sir.” Gerard said with relief. “Thank you, Miss.”

Marjani chuckled. “Miss? Well, then. Go to the house and ask one of the men to show you to a room. Tell ‘em you’re Dr. Halfax’s new man. They’ll show you what to do and Meridian will give ya whatever ya need.”

With no other words, Gerard hurried off.

“That was right kind of you, Sir.” Marjani patted Robert’s shoulder.

“It’s what Punch wanted.” Robert sighed.

“I’m sure he’s safe, Sir. I’m sure he’ll be home shortly.” Marjani said.

“I hope so, Marjani.” Robert frowned.

Meanwhile, Mr. Punch scowled at Mala’s hideous face. “That woman’s here now?”

“The maid—Agnes?” Mala squawked. “She’s up with Miss Barbara.”

“I want to see her.”

“Which one?” Mala asked.

“Both, actually.” Punch squinted.

“Can’t see neither.” Mala croaked.

“Why’d you ask me, then?” Punch bellowed.

“Oh, do let him in!” Iolanthe called from behind Mala as she came down the stairs. “And, the other man, too. I’m sure that Miss Allen would welcome a visit from these two gentlemen.”

“Why you bein’reaonable?” Punch asked over Mala’s shoulder.

“Who says I’m being reasonable?” Iolanthe guffawed. “Maybe I want to get you in this house so I can finally do away with you. The choice to enter is yours. What I do once you get in, however, is my choice.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-311? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: H.R.H. Mary, the Princess Royal

Mary, the Princess Royal (seen here in this, the seventh card in the Silver Jubilee series by Godfrey & Phillips) was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. At the time of her birth, her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, passed letters of patent to ensure that all children of the then Duke and Duchess of York would be styled as Royal Highness. Mary was created Princess Royal. She was the sixth Royal daughter to hold that title. She was also known as Princess Mary of Wales, and, after her marriage, the Countess of Harewood.

Throughout her life, Mary was the great-granddaughter of the Sovereign (Victoria), grand-daughter of the Sovereign (Edward VII), daughter of the Sovereign (George V), sister of the Sovereign (Edward VIII, briefly, and George VI), and aunt of the Sovereign (Elizabeth II). After that whole abdication kerfuffle in 1936-7, Mary sided with her eldest brother, “David,” (Edward VIII and, later, Duke of Windsor) with whom she was forever close. This, I’m sure, irritated Queen Mary. In 1947, when Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) married Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten (now the Duke of Edinburgh), Mary refused to attend the wedding because her brother, the Duke of Windsor had not been invited. Oh my!

Princess Mary of Wales marriage to
the Viscount Lascelles, 1922
Princess Mary, in 1922, married Henry Charles George, Viscount Lascelles and 6th Earl of Harewood. Some believe that their marriage was a loveless, arranged union. The Viscount, fifteen years Mary’s senior, was said not to have been an affectionate mate. However, their two sons both contend that this wasn’t true. They state that their parents were actually quite well-matched and had a very happy union.

Mary’s devotion to the empire took the form of years of charitable works, mostly in the field of nursing. She shared her mother’s interest in the arts and would often accompany Queen Mary on her almost-daily museum/shopping jaunts, making sure they could return to Buckingham Palace in time for the Queen to pour King George V’s tea. The Princess Royal passed away in 1965 while walking in the gardens of her impressive estate, Harewood House.

Mary, the Princess Royal in 1901
The Royal Collection

Object of the Day: A Commemorative Plate Depicting the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, 1937

Shelley China, 1937
Photo by Marcus Adams, 1934
The Royal Collection
The unexpected coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth allowed for a lot of souvenir merchandising opportunities that King Edward VIII’s coronation wouldn’t have afforded. The commemorative objects made for the coronation that didn’t happen could only feature images of Edward. It was Edward, Edward, Edward—which I’m sure the future Duke of Windsor liked because he was, after all, rather self-involved. Still, after the abdication crisis, and the news that the Duke of York would ascend the throne, manufacturers were able to produce souvenir items which not only featured their new king, but his consort and his two very photogenic daughters—the Princesses Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret Rose (now dead).

Here, we see a very attractive souvenir plate which was made in 1937 for the coronation of King George VI. The plate features a transfer-print which shows a photo of the two young princesses taken in 1934 by famed photographer Marcus Adams.

Meanwhile, the Edward VIII souvenirs were mostly scrapped. I’ve got a few of them. I like to think that the rest of them were purchased by the Duke of Windsor himself who probably delighted in eating off of his own face and drinking tea from his own head. Of course, that’s purely speculation on my part, but I suspect not too far from the truth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Honeycomb Brooch, 1969

Gold, Fire Opals, Diamonds
John Donald
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though much quieter about it than her daughter, Princess Margaret (who, by all accounts, tended to be rather obnoxious about most things), but more out-going about it than her eldest daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen Mother was always interested in fashion and staying current.

Of course, she had her favorite designers. She even had her favorite jewelers and purchased a good many pieces of jewelry throughout her exceptionally long life. One of her favorite jewelry designers was John Donald.

Here’s an example of Donald’s work. Dating to 1969, this brooch-pendant of gold, diamonds and fire-opals depicts a bee on his honeycomb. This was made during a period when London jewelers were, in many ways, ahead of their time—experimenting with contemporary designs and materials and exploring new ways of interpreting natural elements. As shoppers began to embrace a variety of stones and shapes, Donald found himself eager to offer them unusual new designs.

John Donald's career soared in 1960, and in 1961, he presented his work at the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery at Goldsmiths' Hall where he attracted the attention of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret Rose.

Unfolding Pictures: The Grand Tour Fan, 1770-1780

The Grand Tour Fan
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in Rome between 1770 and 1780, this fan of gouache on vellum, with carved and pierced ivory sticks, and carved and inlaid ivory guards was one of the many collected by Queen Mary throughout her lifetime. The Queen’s interest in fans began as the young Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. Known as “Princess May,” she was often given fans as gifts by her “Cambridge” cousins—members of the Royal family who were especially fond of the intelligent young lady. By the time Princess May had ascended as Queen Consort, she was as generous with her possessions as others had been with her. She often made gifts from her own collection to her favorite people. The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) with whom Queen Mary shared her titles, was a favorite, and often the recipient of such gifts.

This particular fan was given by Queen Mary, slightly before her death, to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The fan leaf depicts a view of the church of St Peter’s in Rome, fitting the curving colonnades of the basilica to the shape of the fan leaf. In the Eighteenth Century, many Britons embarked upon “the Grand Tour” of Europe and collected souvenir items such as this. While the subject matter is clearly Roman, the sticks and guards are certainly influenced by the popular style of the time-- carved with fashionable Chinoiserie scenes.

Painting of the Day: A Watercolor of The Queen Mother as a Girl, 1907

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Mabel Hankey, 1907
The Royal Collection
When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) was seven years old, her mother had a delicate pink dress made for her which had been based on a gown from a painting by the Spanish master Velázquez. At the time this special gown was completed, the young lady was photographed in it several times.

Miniature painter Mabel Hankey was commissioned to create a watercolor portrait of Lady Elizabeth in this gown. Two pictures were created—both of them done from photographs rather than painted from life. Both of these miniatures by Hankey are now in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II who cherishes these images of her mother.

Mabel Hankey was born in Bath--the daughter of artist Henry Eddington Hobson. She was the first wife of the painter William Lee Hankey, and, after many years of study, exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Miniature Society, the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Academy.