Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Diamond Star, 1975

Diamond Star
Stuart Devlin
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I don’t often feature objects which were made during my own lifetime. But, every once in awhile, one impresses me enough that I want to tell you about it.
This star-shaped brooch was made in 1975 and is comprised of an openwork design made up of the massed bodies of tiny pin men. around a diamond-encrusted hemisphere.

This is the work of Stuart Devlin who was among a group of jewelers based in London who joined together in the 1960s to produce works which were truly cutting-edge. They experimented with contemporary shapes and media and explored new ways of applying gold and setting gems.

Their work was extremely popular with Society ladies who were looking for new ways of expressing their wealth and status.

Devlin was born in Australia and attended the Royal College of Art in London in 1958 before moving to Columbia University in the U.S. By 1965, he’d opened his own London workshop where he designed jewelry, silver, trophies, coinage, medallions, furniture and interiors. He was granted the Royal Warrant of “Goldsmith and Jeweller” to Her Majesty the Queen in 1982.

Painting of the Day: The Broken Jar, 1816

The Broken Jar
1816, David Wilkie
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Shepshanks Bequest
This handsome painting is the work of the famed genre painter Sir David Wilkie who exhibited the canvas at the Royal Academy in 1816. Such domestic scenes were the height of fashion at the time and were assigned tremendous popular and commercial appeal.

Among the many collectors of such paintings in the Nineteenth Century was John Sheepshanks who donated this work among a collection of over five hundred others to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1857.

At the Music Hall: “Two Little Boys”

Harry Lauder
Two little boys had two little toys
Each had a wooden horse
Gaily they played each summer's day
Warriors both of course
One little chap then had a mishap
Broke off his horse's head
Wept for his toy then cried with joy
As his young playmate said

Did you think I would leave you crying
When there's room on my horse for two
Climb up here Jack and don't be crying
I can go just as fast with two
When we grow up we'll both be soldiers
And our horses will not be toys
And I wonder if we'll remember
When we were two little boys

Long years had passed, war came so fast
Bravely they marched away
Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd
Wounded and dying lay
Up goes a shout, a horse dashes out
Out from the ranks so blue
Gallops away to where Joe lay
Then came a voice he knew

Did you think I would leave you dying
When there's room on my horse for two
Climb up here Joe, we'll soon be flying
I can go just as fast with two
Did you say Joe I'm all a-tremble
Perhaps it's the battle's noise
But I think it's that I remember
When we were two little boys

Do you think I would leave you dying
There's room on my horse for two
Climb up here Joe, we'll soon by flying
Back to the ranks so blue
Can you feel Joe I'm all a tremble
Perhaps it's the battle's noise
But I think it's that I remember
When we were two little boys

“Two Little Boys" was written in 1902 by American composer Theodore Morse with lyricist Edward Madden. The song became a popular music hall song both in the U.S., but especially in the U.K, after being performed by the celebrated Harry Lauder. The lyrics tell the story of two boys who grow up to fight in the American Civil War.

In 1969, it became a surprise hit single for U.K. entertainer Rolf Harris who came across the song during a tour of Arnhem Land with his wife and daughter. Mr. Harris, during the trip, visited with one Ted Egan who sang him this song, which Rolf recorded on tape.

Upon his return to England, Mr. Harris realized that he lost the tape and called Mr. Egan who, from twelve thousand miles away in Canberra, sang the song over the phone. Rolf Harris then performed the song on a live television program and the response was so great that he decided to record it.

See note below for iPad users.*

*As I discover new things about the compatabilty of YouTube movies and the iPad, I did notice that clicking on the play arrow in the middle of this video image will get you an error. You can bypass this by, instead, clicking on the YouTube logo at the bottom right of the graphic window. This will open the movie in your YouTube player if you're on an iPad or other such device. I don't know why this is, and I'm not quite sure what else to do about it. So, try that. It worked for me.

The Art of Play: A German Mechanical Dancing Toy, 1865-75

Mechanical Dancing Toy
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A colorfully-dressed couple dances around an opulent setting—this was the stuff of the upper-classes and was out of reach for most people, especially children. So, imagine a child’s face as he or she gazed at this magnificent mechanical toy which was made in Germany between 1865 and 1875. Sadly, most children would never have had a chance to see this toy. This was made as a conversation piece for wealthy Nineteenth-Century men and women who already had access to such events. Automata such as this were made in contrast to the novelty pieces which glutted the limited market. This was the elegant answer to all of the smoking monkeys and laughing urchins.

The mechanical figures are housed in a box of polished wood with a glass panel at the front. The while of the box is surrounded by a carved, gilt frame. The brass clockwork mechanism which operates the figures as well as the music box is activated by releasing the control switch after winding with an iron key.

The scene of a three-sided ballroom is adorned with mirrored walls and a red cloth curtain, and is trimmed with gold metallic paper. Across the front top is a band of similar cloth. The floor is of printed paper over wood, showing birds, trees,, flowers and fruit and a lead chandelier is suspended from the top. At some point later, two electric lights were added.

The figures are two bisque German dolls with blonde wigs. The woman wears a purple jacket trimmed with gold, a cream skirt covered with black lace, and black lace attached to the top of the head. The man wears a purple jacket with green and gold trim, green breeches and a green cap which extends to a long point at the back, decorated with gold trim and a gold and purple tassel.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 350

Roll him on his side,” Robert said quickly.

Marjani assisted Robert to gently push Julian’s body onto his right arm. Julian continued to cough and sputter, but did not regain consciousness.

“Robert!” Cecil shouted from across the room. “What’s happening to him?”

“I don’t know,” Robert snapped. “If I knew, I’d stop it. Wouldn’t I?”

Cecil frowned but said nothing further.

“Julian,” Robert whispered into his friend’s ear. “Can you hear me?” He sighed. “Mr. Punch?”

The only response was a series of raspy wheezes.

“It’s as if he’s drowning.” Robert muttered.

Adrienne rushed into the parlor. “I hear coughing. Is Julian…” She studied the scene before her. “Dear God.”

“Perhaps you should not watch this,” Cecil said gently, putting his arm around his wife.

“And, why shouldn’t I?” Adrienne shook her head. “Maybe I can help.”

“Maybe I can.” Agnes Rittenhouse barked, coming into the room behind Adrienne.

“Miss Rittenhouse, please,” Adrienne shook her head. “I asked you to stay out of here.”

“He was always doing this as a child.” Agnes clucked her tongue. “Having these sorts of fits…especially around bath time. We just learned to ignore them. He only wanted attention.”

“Bath time?” Robert scowled, looking up. “He would thrash and sputter like a drowning man at bath time?”

“Always overdramatic.” Agnes shook her head. “He could never get enough attention.”

“Is that so?” Robert rose from the floor. “Why would a child behave as if he were drowning at bath time?”

“Who can say?” Agnes shrugged. “You’re no stranger to him. You know he’s quite mad. Always was.”

“Something brings madness.” Robert snapped, recalling his own mother. “It is not something which just happens like tears.”

“I wouldn’t know about that.” Agnes smirked. “Just walk away from him and he’ll stop his fit soon enough.”

“I will never walk away from him.” Robert replied sharply, kneeling down again.

“That’s your funeral.” Agnes sighed.

“Get her out of here,” Cecil whispered to Adrienne.

“Come with me, Miss Rittenhouse.” Adrienne quickly took the old woman by her arm.

“You know,” Agnes began as Adrienne ushered her out of the room. “He’s only doing this so to stall from getting Lady Barbara. All eyes on Julian. That’s the way it has always been.”

At that very moment, within their shared body, Julian dropped to his knees, his face turning scarlet.

“You should try breathing,” Prince Albert grumbled.

“Look how weak you are.” The vision of the Duchess of Fallbridge cackled. “My weak son.” She turned to the phantoms of Agnes Rittenhouse and the child Julian. “Let him up.”

Agnes’ specter released her grasp and allowed the boy to rise above the surface of the boiling water. He gasped for air as did the image of the adult Julian.

“Have a proven my point?” The Duchess smiled.

Julian did not respond as he tried desperately to catch his breath.

“Don’t fight them,” The child Julian croaked to his adult self. “They will always win.”

“No,” Julian cracked, slowly pulling himself up. “No, they won’t.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-349? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, September 26, 2011 for Chapter 351 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: The Royal State Mace of Charles II

As described in the post below, a mace represents the presence of the Monarch at various meetings. This is one of two maces designed for Charles II which are still part of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

This mace has famously been employed in Parliament for centuries. It is depicted in the Churchman Cigarette Company’s series of cards made for the Silver Jubilee of King George V as part of the demonstration of the various and sacred parts of the British Royal regalia.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Electrotype of the Mace of the City of Gloucester

Mace of the City of Gloucester
Reproduction, c. 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A mace is essentially a ceremonial club. In many countries maces are symbolic of governmental power, and specifically in the U.K., a mace represents the presence of the Sovereign at a meeting or gathering. In fact, some meetings—such as those of parliament—are only valid if the mace is present.

This is a Nineteenth Century reproduction of a mace which was originally made in the Seventeenth Century. The original mace is one from City of Gloucester which was made in 1652 (and altered in 1660) of silver-gilt.

The process of reproduction employed here is called, “electrotype” which was described thusly in the “Art Journal” of February, 1844:

The electrotypes are perfect; the finest lines, the most minute dots are as faithfully copied as the boldest objections.

Electrotypes are exact copies of metal objects and was a process which was discovered as a by-product of the invention of electroplating (silver plating by electrolysis), which Elkington and Company patented in the 1840s.

The process—which was undeniably mysterious and confusing to the public at large—was further described by “Penny Magazine,” also in 1844. “Early experiments, often by amateur scientists using Elkington’s home electroplating kits, involved coating fruit, flowers and animals in silver or gold 'with the most perfect accuracy'. They 'retained all the characteristics of the specimens before their immersion.” And, so, a lucrative market for recreations of famous works of art in metal arose, however, to avoid breaking English hallmarking laws, all marks were to be deleted from copies of silver objects.

Elkington and Co. launches a display of electrotypes at the 1867 Paris Exhibition which proved to be extremely popular. This mace was part of the display.

The original mace was made by Thomas Maundy for the City of Gloucester in 1652. Maundy, under the supervision of Oliver Cromwell, designed a new mace for the House of Commons which so pleased Cromwell that he ordered “all other great Maces to be used in this Commonwealth to be made according to the same forme and patern.” And, so they did. Versions of this mace crop up all over the U.K. in various places and are still in use.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Sapphire, Diamond and Chalcedony Pendant, 1925

French, 1925
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This platinum and enameled gold pendant is set with brilliant-cut diamonds, carved sapphires, stained chalcedony and jadeite. Hung from a ribbon, it dances as the wearer moves, catching the light. The pendant is attributed to Parisian jeweler Janesich.

Janesich created a masterful work in a combination of styles—capitalizing on the icy contrast of gemstones which had become popular in the mid 1920s, but also incorporating the ideals of past ages with the florid folliage.

Antique Image of the Day: A Photo of a “Punch and Toby” Show, 1860

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Taken in 1860 by an unknown photographer, this image gives us a rare glimpse of a “Punch & Judy” show of the mid-Victorian period as performed on the streets of London.
To be more accurate, this show is labeled as a “Punch and Toby” show which chronicles the adventures of Mr. Punch and his dog either before marrying Judy or after murdering her. The crowd in attendance seems quite engrossed. Though not pictured here, by this point in history, the Dog Toby would have been portrayed by a puppet rather than a live dog as was the practice in earlier incarnations of the show.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Catherine the Great Pendant, 1790

Russian, 1790
Made for Catherine, The Grest
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in 1790 by an unknown Russian jeweler this pendant of diamonds set in silver takes the form of an egg suspended from a Russian crown. The pendant is also mounted with vertical rows of gold beads. As a surprise, the egg unscrews at its widest point and reveals the monogram of Catherine the Great--set in diamonds on a blue glass ground.

This masterpiece is thought to have been presented by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762-1796, to a member of her court, almost certainly at Easter. Ah, the Russians and their jeweled Easter eggs! Compared to others, this one is rather modest. But, I still wouldn’t return it if it was given to me.

Farewell “All My Children”—for now.

In a variety of ways, I knew it was coming. I was prepared for it. Stuart Chandler, the “heart and soul” of Pine Valley, a town I’ve known for 37 of its 41 year existence, was thought to have been killed two years ago. When he died, the moral compass of Pine Valley was lost. But, he didn’t die. He’d been kept in captivity by a “mad” doctor with good intentions and a bad track record. I knew Stuart was coming back. I knew he was going to be reunited with his twin brother, Adam. I knew his son, Scott, would rush to his side and that his “widow,” Marion, would be freed from captivity in a mental ward upon learning that her beloved husband was alive.

I knew, similarly, that Erica Kane would get her movie deal. This was the woman who—forty-one years ago—complained that her hometown of Pine Valley was boring, certainly not as exciting as the “corner of Hollywood and Vine.” And, yet, there she stood on that very street corner, seeing her dream fulfilled. I like Erica—petulant Erica, selfish Erica, loving Erica, frightened and insecure Erica. I like her daughters, too. I knew what would happen with all of them.

The fact that longtime Pine Valley resident Tad Martin—a flawed, but loving cad-turned-family-man—would be reunited with the love of his life was not unknown to me. Nor were the ghostly appearances of deceased townspeople. I took delight in knowing that my favorite Pine Valley-ite, Janet Green, would break out of Oakhaven Mental Institution to share some tender moments with her daughter. I watched these things come to pass, knowing that they were coming, yet delighting in them nonetheless.

Some of the AMC Cast Circa 1988
I knew All My Children had been cancelled. I'd been keeping close watch of the progress of the final few months of broadcasts. I knew that this was its last week on network television. I was prepared. And, frankly, as irritated as I was by the fact that ABC Daytime and its parent company, Disney, had lied to its fans, its cast and crew, and cancelled a program that has been an historic mainstay of the world of television, I thought that my knowledge of the passing events was enough to prepare me or its ultimate, untimely end.

But, it wasn’t.

Here in the Dallas market, we view(ed) episodes of All My Children “a day behind,” meaning that we saw the shows on tape as opposed to the official ABC feed on the day of the broadcast. This inconvenience was instituted to accommodate the clumsy noon news broadcast of our local affiliate. So, we won’t actually get to see our last glimpse of Pine Valley as we knew it until Monday. But, I’ve been watching the episodes on the proper day on my iPad.

You’d think that advanced knowledge would have armed me for this sad reality. And, yet, last night, as I watched Stuart reunite with Adam (splendidly played by David Canary), I began to sob for the first time. Yes, it was sweet and tender. But, for the first time, it occurred to me that it was true. All My Children was coming to an end. The door to Pine Valley was closing.

Anyone who regularly reads Stalking the Belle Époque knows that I am a believer in serialized drama. Life, after all, is serialized drama. Our existence is not summed up as neatly as books, movies and television shows would have us think. Life goes on, people change, circumstances alter—day after day. That’s why the medium works. It’s true to life. And while the events of Pine Valley were often surreal and spectacular, they continued and grew and developed day after day, just like life. Look at Punch’s Cousin—it’s certainly not the most realistic depiction of life, yet it continues and the people change and develop. Readers and viewers are drawn to serials because they mimic life, but also because the characters become a part of the fabric of our own existences.

Daytime drama and soap opera has been going strong for many, many decades. These shows have transitioned from radio to television and have their roots in the very beginnings of storytelling. And because of their nature, the characters become friends and family.

I was born in 1973. Since then, All My Children has been part of my life. My mother has watched the show since the very first episode in January of 1970. We watched the show together. I remember watching it with her as a child and telling my father about Cliff and Nina and Palmer Cortlandt when he came home from work. I watched it in college. I watched it as an adult in my own home.

Natalie and Janet
as played by Kate Collins, 1991
When life was bad, Pine Valley was there. When life was good, it was there, too. I could escape to it, relate to it, learn from it. Erica Kane was as much a part of my life as the people that I saw every day. In some ways, Erica was more reliable. I knew what to expect from Erica. Real people are variable and confusing. No matter what, I knew that I could escape to Pine Valley—rant with Kendall, relate to Bianca, laugh with Janet, struggle with Erica, admire Joe Martin, hiss at David Hayward, be annoyed by Greenlee and become engrossed in the creation of the genius that is Agnes Nixon.

And, now, it’s gone. And, in many ways, it is, truly, like losing a friend, like the death of a family member. It’s strange. And even though I was prepared for it, I wasn’t really prepared for it. So, today, it hit me. It’s over.

Or is it? In January, the executives at Prospect Park hope to relaunch All My Children online or possibly on cable. Two cast members (Cameron Mathison and Linsday Hartley) have already been signed to continue and others have been approached and are in negotiations. Will it work? I don’t know. Even if it does, it will be different. Different always isn’t bad, of course. But, the reality is, Pine Valley as we know it is gone.

Looking back, the town of Pine Valley has been in trouble for awhile. As a writer, I probably shouldn’t say this since I don’t really wish to make an enemy of Disney, but for the past few years, ABC Daytime has been terribly mismanaged and All My Children has been the dumping ground for dozens of bad ideas and even worse, half a dozen truly, shockingly awful writers. All concerned with the show have been treated shabbily. That’s really not the way these veteran actors, writers and producers deserved to be treated nor is it, certainly, the way to treat a piece of American cultural history. But, that just gets us back to all of my issues with our current cultural climate. So, I won’t get into all of that at present.

I understand that the decision to cancel was “economic.” But, it could have been avoided. And, so, any respect I had for Disney or ABC is gone along with my friends in Pine Valley. I have hope that All My Children will be resurrected one way or another, but my loyalty to the people who nailed shut the coffin will never rise again. After all, ABC has shown their compassion to the grieving fans by offering them an official, limited edition cast photo from the last episode—for twenty-five dollars. Go to Hell, Mickey.

So, farewell to All My Children—for now. And, thank you for a lifetime of adventure, fun and education. It’s a legacy that I will do my part to uphold.

Here are some more posts about All My Children.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 349

The vision of the late Duchess of Fallbridge moved forward and stood before Julian in the uncomfortable scene that he had imagined.

“Just what, may I ask, do you think that you can do to me?” The Duchess hissed to her son as the illusion of his child-self screamed in the boiling tub of water. “You’re nothing. You’re vapor and light—even less of a person than you are in reality, if that’s possible.”

“Aren’t you comprised of the same?” Julian said firmly. “Aren’t you just a trick of my mind? Additionally, while this hallucination may, indeed, stop at some point, I will continue whereas you will not. You’re dead, Mother.”

“No, I’m not, Julian.” The Duchess shook her head. “I’ll never really die. Yes, it is true that my body has ceased, I will continue on forever. Julian, I’m in everything you do. Every shiver, every moan, every second that your heart continues to be—I’m there. You’ll never be free of me. And, this, I think, you should count as a blessing? What would you be without me? Truly? A dreamer? You have no real use. Of what are you capable? Cutting stones? Making baubles? Well, that’s all very pretty. But, it’s not very substantial. So, you’ve dedicated your life to bringing a moment of happiness to someone when she opens a box to see a glittering jewel. Where’s the permanence in that? What mark have you made on the world? Count yourself blessed that you’ve got my blood—Fallbridge blood—in your veins. At least, then, you have potential for greatness. That’s more than most. In that, at least, you’re not entirely useless.”

“I am not even marginally useless.” Julian spat. “Tell her,” He said turning to the specter of Prince Albert.

“What shall I say?” The Prince shrugged.

“Anything! Offer something. You’re…” Julian paused. “You’re a creation of my own mind, so do as I tell you.”

“I’m impressed, Your Grace,” Prince Albert smiled. “Very well, I shall speak for you. The Duke,” the prince began, “has, indeed, made a mark on the world. Look at me.”

“I am looking at you, Your Majesty,” Julian’s mother curtsied.

“Look upon the attire your son has imagined for me. Look upon my regalia. Do you see this?” The image of the Prince pointed to the sash which clung to his uniform. “Do you see my garter badges, my stars?”

“I do.” The Duchess nodded.

“Though I am imagined, these are not. These are exactly the image of those same jewels that the Duke created for me. When I am gone, when the Queen is gone and our son ascends the throne, and his son, and his son after him, these jewels will remain even after our bodies have long turned to dust. These jewels will be worn by Kings and Queens of England for centuries to come and each time one of these is pinned to their breast, the hands of the Sovereign will touch those very stones that were so lovingly touched by the Duke. You speak of permanence. Is that not permanence enough for you?”

“A curious argument, but one that I cannot refute. There’s truth, indeed, to what you’ve been urged to say, Your Majesty,” The Duchess nodded. “But, still, those stones are far stronger than my son.”

“Stronger than you or I.” The Prince grinned.

“It doesn’t change the fact that he’s of little worth.”

“How dare you?” Julian interrupted.

“Don’t speak to me in such a way!” The Duchess snapped. She turned and looked over her shoulder, shrieking at the nanny who continued to scrub the vision of young Julian who suffered so terribly in the boiling bath. “Dunk his head!”

Nanny Rittenhouse did as she was asked and pushed the child Julian roughly into the scalding water.

“You always were filthy and difficult!” The Duchess howled with laughter. “That will tame your foulness!”

As the ghost of his past self began to sputter and cough—his lungs filling with the hot water—so did the image of the adult Julian.

“You see, Your Majesty?” The Duchess cackled. “He’s weak!”

At that very moment, in their borrowed house on Royal Street, Marjani and Robert watched in horror as Julian’s limp body began to rattle and shake in a fit of coughing and gasping.

“What’s happenin’?” Marjani asked, trying to hold Julian’s body down as he thrashed wildly.

“I don’t know!” Robert gasped.

Did you miss Chapters 1-348? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Imperial State Crown

The next card in the Silver Jubilee series from 1935 by Churchman Cigarette Company shows the Imperial State Crown. Not as old as St. Edward’s Crown and considerably lighter and more sparkly, The Imperial State Crown is similar in design to St Edward's Crown: in that it consists of a base of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis before four half-arches surmounted by a cross. This crown also features a velvet cap inside, surrounded with an ermine border. The Imperial State Crown is more heavily jeweled. It includes 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies and the famed spinel known as the Black Prince’s Ruby. The cross at the top is set with the blue stone known as St. Edward's Sapphire. This was a sapphire taken from the ring (or possibly the coronet) of Edward the Confessor. The aforementioned Black Prince's Ruby (spinel) is set on the front cross pattée. Also included on the crown are the famous Cullinan II, or Lesser Star of Africa, which is also set in the front; and, on the back band, the 104-carat Stuart Sapphire.

The Imperial State Crown made for
Queen Victoria.
While St. Edward’s Crown is the one used during the coronation, The Imperial State Crown is typically the crown worn at the end of a coronation when the new Sovereign departs from Westminster Abbey.

This is the second crown known by this name. The first—which was very similar—was used instead of St. Edward’s Crown during the coronation itself of both Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward VII, who both complained that the weight of St Edward's Crown was too uncomfortable. The Imperial State Crown is also worn at the State Opening of Parliament.

The present Imperial State Crown was created for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 by the Crown Jewelers Garrard & Co. It is an exact replica of the original Imperial State Crown which had been made for Queen Victoria, but is even more lightweight than its predecessor. The Crown was again remodeled for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953 to give it a more feminine appearance than it had when made for her father. This was accomplished by lowering its total height by one inch.

The Crown as it is today.
Seen from the front with the Cullinan II and
the Black Prince's "Ruby."

The crown seen from the back
with the Stuart Sapphire.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Carnelian Ring with an Intaglio of George IV, 1821

Intaglio Ring
Made for George IV, 1821
The Royal Collection
An intaglio (carving in hardstone) of carnelian is set in a gold ring with an open bezel, and a shaped lobed border. The shoulders of the ring are mounted at each side with two cabochon turquoises and a seed pearl forming a trefoil with, each with an applied gold stem. This ring was acquired by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, around 1958.

The intaglio depicts a laureate bust of King George IV (1762-1830) in profile to the right, wearing a tunic. The reverse of the intaglio is inscribed: GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA BRITT REX MDCCCXXI and the band is engraved: GEORGIUS HANOV: REX. SEPR. 1821. Clearly, this was made shortly after George IV’s coronation in 1821 and was most likely intended as a souvenir of the coronation which took place on 19 July 1821. The inscription on the band is curious in that it appears to commemorate George IV’s visit to Hanover that same year. There, he enjoyed a second coronation ceremony and was crowned King of Hanover—traditional for a male monarch at the time--to much celebration. After his brother, William the IV was King, their niece, Queen Victoria was crowned, but was not the Queen of Hanover since the throne of Hanover could not be held by a woman.

George IV enjoyed being depicted as a Roman emperor, and such images were often produced in a variety of media He also enjoyed jewelry and spent heavily at the Royal goldsmiths of the era, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, on numerous rings, lockets and medallions for presentation to his family and courtiers as souvenirs.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Supernatural Selection

“Come on Cecilia, even a saint can pick a tea bag faster than that.”

Image: St. Cecilia and the Angels, Paul Delaroche, Paris, 1836, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Precious Time: The Nathan Fishberg Diamond Watch Ring, 1925

Watch Ring
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Platinum, diamonds…well, of course this jewel was made in the 1920’s. Even with its typical Deco styling, it’s still an unusual piece. This is both a watch and a ring, set with rose-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds surrounding the watch face.

Made in 1925 in London by Nathan Fishberg, this unusual ring satisfied the era’s desire for icy shimmer and unique objects. The ring is part of a suite of three rings by Fishberg which were designed to be worn either independently or at once.

Unfolding Pictures: The Golden Crown Marriage Fan, Germany, 1700

Marriage Fan, 1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Brides were often presented with fans as gifts on their wedding day. This tradition lasted well into the early Twentieth Century. This fan was such a gift. Here, we see a fan with ivory sticks and guards and a painted vellum leaf showing a pattern of hearts and a crown.

Wedding fans sometimes illustrated past, historic or famous wedding ceremonies, but also displayed symbols of betrothal and marriage. This particular fan is the earliest marriage fan in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The symbolic design shows two hearts surmounted by a gold crown. This composition represents the sacred “coronation” of the union of the betrothed. These symbols are surrounded by swags and roses in the traditional Baroque style.

Though we’re not precisely sure from where the fan came, the style of the painted vellum leaf suggests that it was the work of a provincial workshop as opposed to one of the more established studios in Paris, London or Amsterdam.

Mastery of Design: A German Wrought Iron Chandelier, 1450-1500

Wrought Iron, 1450-1500
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here we see a chandelier of painted and gilt wrought iron designed in a triangular form, and surmounted by a large suspension ring. The entire fixture is adorned with cusped arches, pinnacles and Gothic foliage with branches and pans for 6 candles. Each cup features borders of openwork running foliage while the central socket of the chandelier shows a fitting for either thinner candle or the figure of a saint.

This is a chandelier in its purest form since, after all, a “chandelier” is literally a “candleholder,” with its name deriving from the French word for candle, “chandelle.” Hanging chandeliers have always been important functional and decorative interior details.

The earliest chandeliers evolved from “candle-beams” which were essentially two pieces of wood which were nailed together in the form of a cross with spike at each end. Candles of animal fat (or tallow) were fixed on the spikes. By the Fifteenth Century—when this example was made, chandeliers had evolved into the ring or crown designs with which we’re most familiar. These became popular in cathedrals and the palaces and estates of the wealthy. Over the course of the Fifteenth Century, chandeliers became increasingly ornate, and, ultimately were hung with glass or rock crystal. The finest chandeliers of this era came from Germany especially from the areas around the lower Rhine near Cologne and in northern Germany.

This chandelier came from a church and is a rare surviving example of ecclesiastical Fifteenth Century lighting. Furthermore, it is an equally dear example of an iron chandelier, created during a time when most chandeliers were made of less-expensive cast brass. This fixture was one of the Victoria & Albert Museum's early purchases. It was bought in 1857 for £25 and signalled a change in direction in the Museum's collecting priorities under the direction of John Charles Robinson who began as curator in 1853.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 348

Clear a space,” Cecil barked at Nanny Rittenhouse as he stormed into the parlor at their borrowed Royal Street Mansion.

Adrienne rose and rushed to her husband. “Were you able to find them?”

“We didn’t get to Charles or Barbara,” Cecil shook his head.

“You didn’t retrieve Lady Barbara?” Agnes Rittenhouse gasped.

“No,” Cecil snarled, lowering his eyes at Julian’s former nanny. “We didn’t make it that far.”

“That’s terrible.” Agnes began.

“Aren’t you at all concerned about your other former charge?” Cecil grumbled.

“Oh,” Agnes sniffed. “Did His Grace get himself into a scrape again? Foolish boy.”

Cecil began to speak, but was interrupted as Robert and Marjani carried the limp body of the Duke of Fallbridge into the parlor.

“Mon Dieu!” Adrienne whispered upon seeing Julian’s face, his pale skin offset by the growing bruise on his temple. “What’s happened?”

“Marie Laveau struck him.” Robert responded.

“With a rock.” Marjani added.

“Get that bitch out of here,” Robert snapped, gesturing with his chin to Agnes Rittenhouse. “I’ll not have him see her when he awakens.”

“Miss Rittenhouse, perhaps you can retire to the library…” Adrienne began.

“I’’ll show you the way,” Cecil smirked.

“No!” Robert spat as he and Marjani lowered Julian onto a low, plush sofa. “I want her out of the house.”

“But, Sir, I can be of assistance,” Agnes squawked.

“I highly doubt that.” Robert growled.

“Come with me,” Cecil ordered.

“I will not leave, unattended with a gentleman.” Agnes replied icily.

“Just what do you think I’ll do to you?” Cecil laughed.

“I’ll take you,” Adrienne interrupted. “You’ll be quite comfortable in the library.”

“Hurry, my dear.” Cecil whispered to his wife.

“I will.” Adrienne nodded.

Once Agnes had left the room, Robert loosened Julian’s cravat and collar. “Why hasn’t he regained consciousness yet?”

“He’s fighting a terrible battle,” Marjani shook her head.

“To come back to us.” Robert muttered.

“Yes,” Marjani nodded. “But, also, Sir, to come back to himself.”

Robert brushed his fingers against Julian’s forehead, moving Julian’s chestnut hair.

“I wish I could help him,” Robert mumbled.

“Only he can help his own self right now.” Marjani whispered.

At that very moment, inside his own body, in a world of his own creation—a world built on ghosts and memory—Julian snarled at the specter of his mother.

“Let the boy go.” Julian demanded as he pointed at the frightened, suffering image of himself as a child.

“Never,” The Duchess shook her head. “He’s mine—forever. You will always be powerless against me. Always.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Julian said, stiffening his back. “Don’t be so sure.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-347? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: St. Edward’s Crown

In the Crown Jewels of Britain, there are a lot of crowns. Several monarchs wanted their own special crowns, others were made for particular purposes. Others still, were changed and altered over the centuries. Of all of them, this one—St. Edward’s Crown—is the very first one any monarch wears.

The original crown of St Edward the Confessor (for whom the present crown is named) was worn by him at Christmas in 1065. That crown, in fact, may have incorporated jewels and gold from a crown worn earlier by Alfred the Great. In 1066, also on Christmas Day, St Edward's Crown was most likely used in the coronation of King William I as a symbol of his inheritance by “right rather than conquest.” The same crown was used, thereafter, for the coronations of William Rufus (1087), Henry I (1100), Stephen (1135), Henry II (1154), Richard I (1189 and 1194), and John (1199).

Then, things changed a bit—as they do. In 1216, at the first coronation of King Henry III, a different crown was used. Some contend that the original St Edward's Crown had been among the crown jewels that were lost by King John (John is an unlucky name in the Royal family). However much evidence shows that the original crown and regalia survived until 1642, and that these were kept in the Treasury of Westminster until the time of King Henry VIII who, at least, didn’t try to eat them. Most believe that St. Edward’s crown was employed in 1533 for the coronation of Anne Boleyn, but that it was then subsequently destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's order during the English Civil War. St. Edward’s Crown was re-created in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II.

(C) The Historic Royal Palaces
The present crown that we call St Edward's Crown contains much of that crown that had been made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II, and also pearls from earrings worn by Queen Elizabeth I. The crown as it is today, is constructed of solid gold with a design which features a base with four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, within which a velvet cap with an ermine border is set beneath two arches surmounted by a cross. In all, the crown is set with 444 precious stones. Until, 1911, the stones were often removed and set in different ways or with different stones for each coronation. In 1911, for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, the stones were permanently set. In more recent coronation, only Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward VII, decided not to be crowned with St Edward's Crown--mostly because of its weight of 4 lb 12 ounces. They used the lighter and far more sparkly Imperial State Crown. However, Queen Mary, a stickler for tradition, encouraged her husband, King George V, to wear the proper coronation crown.

The crown is commemorated in this cigarette card by Churchman Cigarette Co.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Photograph from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

The Coronation, 1953
The Crowning
The Royal Collection
From the Royal Collection, we have this 1953 image by an unknown photographer of the very moment when St. Edward’s Crown (the crown used during the coronation) was placed on the head of Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.

At this point in the coronation, the monarch has been anointed and dressed in the “Supertunica” and Imperial Mantle of cloth of gold. The new Sovereign is, then, invested with the outward symbols of monarchy: the Armills (golden bracelets), the Orb, the Coronation Ring and the two Sceptres.

This act is followed by the actual crowning of the Monarch, with Saint Edward’s Crown. With this, the congregation stands as the Archbishop lowers the crown onto the Sovereign’s head. At this moment, all the princes, princesses, and peers place their own coronets on their heads. The congregation then declares, “God save The Queen” as Royal Salutes are sounded in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Cartier “Attlee” Brooch, 1902

Diamonds, Silver, Gold
Cartier, London, 1902
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This brooch of brilliant-cut diamonds, set in silver and backed with gold was made by Cartier in 1902 and presented to the wife of the British prime Minister Clement Attlee when she launched the tanker, “British Fame” at Clydebank in 1948.

Louis Francois Cartier (named for his grandfather), joined the family jewelry business in 1899. More suited to the business world than the artistic world, Louis used his abilities as a businessman to establish Cartier as a famous brand worldwide. Soon, the business expanded with the opening of the Cartier London store in 1902 and the New York store in 1909. This brooch is the work of the London Store and is one of the first pieces to be sold at that location.

Painting of the Day: A Portrait of Lady Anne Hamilton By James Lonsdale, 1815

Lady Anne Hamilton
James Lonsdale, 1815
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Since the early Seventeenth Century, portraiture has been one of the most important historical genres of painting in Britain, allowing us a look at people who were lost centuries ago. Even if those looks are idealized, we are able to study the development of human appearance, priorities and fashion throughout history because of the existence of portraits such as this one.
Painted by James Lonsdale in 1815, here we see Lady Anne Hamilton (1766-1846). Lady Hamilton was the eldest daughter of Archibald, 9th Duke of Hamilton. Anne Hamilton famoulsy became lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales (1768-1821), the future Queen Caroline, and remained at the Queen’s side until 1813, staying loyal to Caroline through her many troubles with her husband, the Prince Regent (later King George IV).

Lady Hamilton continued to be a dedicated friend after the future Queen Caroline left England in 1814 after becoming separated from her husband, the Prince Regent. Just before the coronation of King George IV, Queen Caroline returned to England to claim what she thought was her rightful place as Queen Consort. Of course, the new King was not eager to see his wife—barring her from the coronation in July of 1821. Queen Caroline took up residence with Lady Hamilton in Portman Street, Portman Square.

Eleven days after enduring the humiliation of not only being banned from the coronation, but also taunted and hissed by the assembled crowd, Queen Caroline began to suffer from abdominal cramps while at the Drury Lane Theater. By August, she was dead. Lady Hamilton accompanied the Queen's body to Brunswick for burial after her death in 1821. The only legacy that Lady Hamilton received after her tireless service to the Queen was she received was a portrait of Caroline.

The painter, James Lonsdale (1777-1839) exhibited two portraits of Lady Anne Hamilton at the Royal Academy. One in 1805 and a second in 1815. Based on her dress, this one is thought to be the one exhibited in 1815.

Lonsdale shows Lady Hamilton seated on a plush settee, wearing a dress of black velvet with a high empire waist and a gold belt, possibly of silk, which matches the gold edging on the square neck and puffed sleeves. She also wears a large plumed black hat, adorned under the brim with a band of jewels.