Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Goodnight, Finches Everywhere

Singing--> “Good night. Feathers everywhere. That finch will soon be inside me…”

Image: A Girl Writing, The Pet Goldfinch, Henriette Brown, 1870, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: The Gustavus III of Sweden Box, 1751

The Gustavus III Box
Swedish, 1751
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We’ve looked at a lot of pretty boxes over the past year and a half. Here’s one more. This enameled gold box is set with a miniature in watercolor on ivory under glass of Gustavus III of Sweden (1746-1792), surrounded by moonstones.

On the base, a miniature of a double-hulled paddle-wheeled ship has been mounted. On the front, a view of a harbor with warships is displayed. The harbor has been identified as the Swedish naval port of Karlskrona. The hinge side of the box features a scene of a fortification which has been identified as Sveaborg, the Swedish fort which is now part of Helsinki. The box’s ends are also mounted with watercolors on ivory of a Swedish gun barge on one side, and, on the other, a Swedish frigate.

King Gustavus III of Sweden presented this box to Patrick Miller of Dalswinton (1731-1815)—a British banker, inventor and patron of the poet Robert Burns, no earlier than 1791. That’s the date the box was made. King Gustavus III died in 1792 after enduring an infected wound following an assassination attempt at a masked ball. How very Pine Valley-ish.

The box was given to Miller after he offered his double-hulled ship with a paddle wheel to the King. This ship is depicted on the base. The ship--the paddle turned by manpower-- became known in Sweden as “the British sea monster.”

At the Music Hall: Goodnight Children, Everywhere

Vera Lynn
Goodnight children everywhere,
Your mommy thinks of you tonight.
Lay your head upon your pillow -
Don't be a kid or a weeping willow.
Close your eyes and say a prayer,
And surely you can find a kiss to spare.
Though you are far away,
She's with you night and day.
Goodnight children everywhere...

During the Second World War, most London children were evacuated to the countryside for their own protection as the city was being bombed, and were, therefore, separated from their parents. Celebrated singer of the 1940’s, Vera Lynn, recorded this morale-boosting song early in 1940 as a means of comforting both these unfortunate, dispersed children as well as their parents. The song, a lullaby, was meant to remind both child and parent that they were still together—if not in the same location.

And, yes, it does sound like "The Best Things in Life are Free" for a few bars at the start.

The Art of Play: A Fleet of Toy Boats, 1945-1950

Toy Boats
Sam Smith, A.K.A.  "Alan V."
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a “fleet” of six toy boats that were made in Britain during the period of 1945-1950. Among them is a barge called “Olive.” These beautiful toys are the work of one Sam Smith. Smith, for a short period of time in the 1940’s signed his work “Alan V.” He did this initially after opening his workshop, but ceased to use the signature later.

The boats are made of painted and varnished wood with attachments of string and paper.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 368

Where are the two of you going?” Edward Cage bellowed at Robert and Marjani as they crept down the back staircase of his mansion. “You haven’t been dismissed. Now get back up there and tend to my wife. I won’t have you wandering all over this house.”

“We’ve done all that we can for Mrs. Cage,” Robert replied brusquely. “Now, we must depart.”

“You haven’t been looking around the house, have you?” Edward asked.

“No. Are you hiding something?” Robert asked pointedly, aware the Edward would soon realize that they knew that Julian’s nephew had been returned to the Cage’s.

“Of course not!” Edward snapped. “It’s simply that I won’t have you spreading my wife’s illness all over the house.”

“Her illness has already crept into every corner of the place.” Robert continued.

“It has,” Marjani nodded.

Mr. Cage’s face blanched. “I see.”

“Don’t you want to know how Mrs. Cage is?” Robert asked.

“Of course I do!” Edward spat. “Will she survive?”

“I think she will.” Robert sighed. “Though I know she wishes that she would not. Isn’t it strange how one man’s miracle is another’s nightmare?”

“I’ll thank you to spare me your quaint philosophies. Now, about this illness. Are the others in the house in danger?”

“Are you worried for your son?” Marjani asked.

“Hold your tongue, you impertinent…” Edward belched. “But, yes. Yes, I am. Orman is here with us.”

“He should be strong enough to resist it.” Robert smirked. “What about the other child?”

“Other child?” Edward flushed. “What do you mean? Who told you there’s another child here? My man—Odo?”

“Don’t you have custody of your niece, Edolie?” Robert asked.

“Ah, yes, of course, Edolie. No, no. She remained in Marionneaux.”

“Who did you think I meant?” Robert asked coyly.

“That’s what I thought you meant.” Edward lied.

“I don’t know in what health your servants are,” Robert continued, “but, if any of them are weak, I’d keep them from Mrs. Cage for awhile.”

“I’ll have Odo look after her.” Edward replied dismissively. “He’s strong enough.”

“Speaking of Odo,” Marjani began. “Do you happen to know where he’s gone?”

“No.” Edward frowned. “It’s not my place to keep after the servants.”

“Isn’t it?” Marjani hissed.

“Why do you want him?” Edward asked.

“We want him to fulfill the promise he made to us,” Robert spoke up.

“What promise is that?”

“He swore that if we came with him, he’d give us something in return.” Robert replied.

“What is it that you want? Coins? Take as many as you wish!” Edward snarled, removing a coin bag from his pocket and tossing it at them. “Take the whole lot! I don’t care.”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “We want something far more valuable.”

“Such as?” Edward narrowed his eyes.

“The child!” Robert roared. “We know you have the Duke’s nephew. Your man told us.”

“I’ll kill him!”

“If you can find him.” Marjani interjected.

Edward Cage’s eyes darkened and, as his lip quivered with rage, he leaned over like a beast about to pounce.

“I knew you were hinting at something.” Edward said with an eerie calm. “Listen to me. You will not get that boy out of this house. He’s mine! I won’t lose him again!”

“He’s not in the house,” Robert answered viciously. “Your man, Odo, has taken him into hiding somewhere.”

“Perhaps he’s not the fool that I think he is.” Edward smirked. “You’ll never get that child from me.”

“A ship departs for England tomorrow.” Robert threatened. “We will be on it—all of us! Including the child.”

“You’ll have to find him first.” Edward scowled.

“So will you!” Robert sneered before taking Marjani by the arm and leading her to the door. He turned quickly and glowered at Mr. Cage. “It’s a pity that such a fine and noble woman as Mrs. Cage must suffer through life with a man like you. In all my years of practice, I have never before wished that a patient would die. Death, however, would be preferable to a lifetime with you. Good night, Mr. Cage.”

With that, Marjani and Robert left the Cage’s house.

Alone in the corridor, Edward screamed at the top of his lungs. “Odo!” Hearing no response, he stormed out of the house. “You fool! I’ll destroy you!”

At that very moment, further up Royal Street, Gamilla’s hands trembled as she looked out the front door at the unexpected visitor who had some frantically knocked.

“What?” She said, trembling. “What you want?”

“Mercy,” Iolanthe Evangeline replied weakly. “I need help.”

“You come to the wrong house, Miss Iolanthe.” Gamilla said bravely though her body quaked.

“My hands,” Iolanthe whispered, holding her injured palms toward Gamilla. “I’m hurt.”

“You’ll find no mercy here.” Gamilla tried closing the door, but Iolanthe pushed her way into the house.

“You gotta get out of here, you trash.” Gamilla protested.

“This is the home of a doctor. Isn’t it?” Iolanthe groaned. “You may hate me, but he has taken an oath to protect and assist.”

“Not to the likes of you!” Gamilla came forward, trying to push Iolanthe Evangeline out of the house. “You’re nothin’ but trouble.”

“Let me go!” Iolanthe moaned. She shoved past Gamilla and staggered toward the parlor. To her left, she saw Julian/Mr. Punch on the floor—still unconscious.

“What’s this?” Iolanthe hissed.

“You know damn well.” Gamilla huffed. “You was there. You saw that Laveau woman strike this poor man!”

“Poor, indeed,” Iolanthe said, limping toward Julian.

“Stay away from him!” Gamilla shouted.

“What harm can I do him?” Iolanthe asked, holding up her wounded hands again.

“Miss, you don’t need hands for to hurt someone.” Gamilla grumbled. “Now you gotta get out of here.”

Iolanthe dropped to her knees on the floor beside Julian and put her wounded hands on his chest.

“Don’t you touch him!” Gamilla screamed.

“I’m trying to help him.” Iolanthe growled.

“You ain’t got no good in you!” Gamilla stormed forward.

“I have seen men die,” Iolanthe shook her head. “I know what suffering is. Let me put this man out of his misery. In doing so, we will all be free.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-367? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, October 17, 2011 for Chapter 369 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: The Royal State Barge

We’re almost out of Cigarette Cards. I didn’t think I’d ever run out. But, there are only three more after this. Not to worry, however, I’ve got something nifty in the works to take the place of the “Card of the Day” feature (until I find some more cards). I think you’ll be surprised.
Nevertheless, let’s continue our look at the Churchman Cigarette Co.’s 1935 Silver Jubilee series with this card depicting the Royal State Barge. This particular vessel is not in use anymore. So, it may seem a bit strange to us. In short, a royal barge is a ceremonial barge that is employed by the monarch for processions and transport on the Thames.

The Thames was a regular thoroughfare for the Monarch until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, especially on state occasions or between the Royal Palaces of Windsor, Westminster, Hampton Court, Greenwich and the Tower of London.

In case you can’t picture Queen Elizabeth II sailing down the Thames clutching her ubiquitous blue handbag, not to worry. You won’t see her in such a barge. There is currently no State Barge, but the Royal Nore, which is owned and maintained by the Port of London Authority, is used whenever a member of the Royal Family travels on the river Thames for an official event. This is not something that happens too often.

When the Queen is onboard a barge or Nore, the Royal Standard and Regalia are displayed. Her Majesty is accompanied by her Bargemaster, along with eight Royal Watermen in full ceremonial dress. That’s got to be cozy. These men are/were known as Royal Watermen. The Queen still retains twenty-four Royal Watermen under The Queen’s Bargemaster, one of the most ancient appointments in the Royal Household.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Barge Ware Teapot, 1870

Barge Ware Teapot
English, 1870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This little teapot, though it puts us in mind of the ordinary brown British “Brown Betty,” is a rather special model. This pot has a depressed, bulbous body with a frilled rim, and a domed, wide lid which is surmounted by a flattened knop (decorative ornament). It is glazed with a streaked rich brown color which has been applied with cream-colored sprigs, and garlands, and with birds in shades of green, blue and pink. A sentimental cartouche with impressed, blue lettering reads, “A PRESENT TO A FRIEND.”

The work of Mason, Cash and Co., this pot with its rustic brown lead-glaze and applied decoration is known as “Measham ware” or 'Barge ware', and is associated with use on canal boats.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Countess Harley Teleki Brooch, 1610 and 1620

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This jeweled locket of enameled gold is set with table-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds. As a truly stunning centerpiece, the largest ruby is set in a heart-shaped gold frame and pierced by two arrows. A smartly enameled locket in the back of the jewel contains the miniature portrait of a man.

Such a brooch would have been presented by a man to his love. This example was made in Prague between 1610 and 1620. Cupid, the cherubic son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, was as popular a symbol of love in the Seventeenth Century as he is today. In fact, he’s been shooting arrows into hearts for many centuries and reached a new height in popularity during the Italian Renaissance.

Unfolding Pictures: The Triumph of Harlequin Fan, 1750

Triumph of Harlequin
Fan, 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A beautiful watercolor on kid leather leaf is mounted on carved and pierced mother-of-pearl sticks which are inlaid with silver-gilt foils and yellow gold. This is the “Triumph of Harlequin” Fan and it dates to 1750. It was, most likely, made as a souvenir of Venice’s Carnival.

In the Eighteenth Century, visitors from all over Europe flocked to the Carnival in Venice. Depicted are the distinctively costumed figures associated with the celebrated Italian theatre troupe the Commedia dell’Arte. These costumes were often reproduced for people to wear during Carnival when whole of Venice was transformed into a costumed masquerade.

The painting on the fan leaf is extremely fine and delicate—both front and reverse. Speaking of the reverse, this side shows a naval scene. A tall ship lies anchored by a dark cliff with a glowing sunset behind. It’s decidedly an Italian take on the Eighteenth-Century French art of fan-making.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: "La Gran Tragedie di Ariosto"

La Gran Tragedie di Ariosto
Naples, Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This illustration comes from Naples and dates to the Nineteenth Century. It’s unusual in that it shows the development of the Punch & Judy Show. As we know, Mr. Punch came to the U.K. from Italy where he had his roots in the Italian character, “Pulcinella.”

The drawing depicts a Pulcinella show, however, we can clearly see that the puppets look more like the popular Nineteenth Century Mr. Punch than they do Pulcinella. So popular was Punch that many Italian “Professors” styled their own puppets after the British Red Nose as opposed to their own masked Pulcinella.

We see, depicted here, an audience watching a puppet show in Naples. The title of the performance (as depicted on the front of the fit-up) is "la gran tragedie di Ariosto.” The title refers to “Orlando Furioso,” an epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto. This poem was a popular subject for traveling puppet shows.

Friday Fun: The Harlequin Automaton

From:  Pierre Mayer
This charming video is proof that Nineteenth Century ingenuity and artistry is still alive. The video features a new automaton made in the Victorian style by French artist Pierre Mayer.


Punch's Cousin, Chapter 367

Here, boy.” The vision of the man sneered as he bent over the hallucination of young Julian. Both the adult Julian—who watched the memory along with Mr. Punch from inside their shared body—and the phantom of the child Julian gasped as they studied the man’s grotesque face. It was gray, festooned with grizzled whiskers upon a leathery quilt of wrinkled skin. The man’s eyes were yellow where they should have been white and from his mouth, a foul air seemed to fall out in a flood like so much wet garbage.

“He can’t hurt ya now, Master.” Punch whispered. “This is just a memory. They ain’t real. The man. The nanny. Even little you over there. Ain’t nothin’ gonna hurt ya, it ain’t. I won’t let it.”

“It will hurt.” Julian shook his head as he continued to watch. “I feel it—just as if I were there in front of him again.”

“Aggie,” the man winked at the vision of the nanny. “Wherever did ya get yerself such a fine lad? He’s a real nobleman, this one. Look at them buttons he got. One of them buttons costs more than all the gold I’ll earn in me own life—a hundred times over.”

“He’ll do—if you like piggies.” Agnes shrugged.

“I do,” The man laughed.

“What’s yer name, Boy?” the man asked.

“Julian, this man is talking to you.” Agnes spat.

“Julian, is it?” The man sneered. “Allow me to introduce me-self. I’m called ‘Gus.’ I’m a friend of your fine nanny.”

Julian nodded.

“Don’t go tellin’ him lies, Gus.” Agnes spat. “You’re no friend of mine.”

“Yet, you came all the way here to see me from Fallbridge.”

“Not out of friendship.” Agnes sniffed. “I got my work to do. No one’s going to look after me when I’m old. What’s the harm in setting aside somethin’ for when the weather’s gray?”

“Ain’t no harm in that.” Gus laughed. He turned once again to little Julian.

“Don’t talk to him!” Grown Julian shouted.

“They can’t hear you, Master Chum,” Mr. Punch said.

“Why not?” Julian asked. “Mother and the nanny heard us when I revisited a different memory.”

“But, not now, Master.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Some memories can’t be changed. This is one of ‘em. We gotta just watch.” Punch pointed.

Julian frowned, but kept quiet.

“And, ain’t that a fine puppet, ya got?” Gus continued.

“Gus is talkin’ to you.” Agnes pushed young Julian forward. “Answer him!”

“Thank you,” little Julian whispered.

“What’s his name?” Gus smiled.

“Punch,” the child said softly.

“Well, then, if it ain’t ol’ Mr. Punch. Come to hit me on the head, is he? Gonna hit me like I were Judy?”

The child did not respond.

“Wish I could have done,” Punch whispered to the grown Julian as they continued to watch the scene from the past.

“As do I.” Julian nodded.

“Would you like to show me your puppet?” Gus asked as the memory progressed relentlessly.

Little Julian shook his head.

“Go on!” Agnes spat.

“My friend, Mr. Punch, will hit you, Sir.” The child said politely and softly.

“Will he now?” Gus laughed

“Oh, yes, Sir.” The child smiled. “Would you like to see him do it?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-366? If so, you can read them here.

Puppet of the Day: The Albert Smith Clown, 1890

"Joey the Clown"
Albert Smith, 1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Celebrated Punch & Judy Man and puppet maker, Albert Smith delighted late Nineteenth Century audiences with his enchanting puppets. Here, we see one of the few surviving examples of Smith’s puppets—a figure of “Joey the Clown”—one of the standard characters in the Punch & Judy mythology.

Joey, as has been customary fir the last couple of centuries, is a glove puppet with a carved and painted face and hands and painted black hair. Joey sports a red leather pointed hat which is edged with fringe at the front. He wears a multi-colored striped tunic with a red and white ruff, blue cuffs and edging, and a strip of red, yellow and red braid at the front. His wardrobe is adorned with three metal buttons set with artificial jewels (some of which are now missing). On the reverse of the puppet is stitched a long black wired sleeve which was meant to conceal the Professor's arm

The set by Albert Smith from which "Joey" comes. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Dancing Dolls Engraving, 1821

John Burnet, 1821
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This 1821 English engraving by John Burnet depicts a dancing marionette performance being held in a family home and entitled "The Dancing Dolls."  It was published in London by Hurst, Robinson & Co in 1822.

In this hand-colored engraving, we see a boy (acting as the puppeteer) who is playing a drum and a pipe whilst making two marionettes dance by using his knee to move the cord to which the puppets are attached back and forth. In the audience in this dear, private performance, we see sn old woman, a man with a baby on his lap and a young girl holding a dog. Two small children watch from the open window.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Hunger and Irritation

"Hey, you back there!  Are you going to stand there staring and pouting or are you gonna put some cheese in this bowl?  You know, starving the dog won't get you a boyfriend."

*Click Above Image to Enlarge*

Image:  Jealousy and Flirtation, Haynes King, 1874, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Mastery of Design: The Froment-Meurice Bottle, 1854

French, 1854
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This exceptional bottle of rock crystal is mounted in silver and silver-gilt, enameled and set with rubies and Baroque pearls. Its rectangular body is cut with oblique grooves, spreading neck, and a circular foot. The silver and gilt mounting is made up of sprays of enameled foliage set with pearls of various shapes and colors, tied by a ribbon enameled in black and set in rubies.

This is the work of François-Désiré Froment-Meurice in Paris, 1854. Here, François-Désiré Froment-Meurice is imitating the mounted rock crystals produced by Renaissance goldsmiths for court collections and earlier Egyptian vessels. The foliate decoration and the form of the bottle are, however, distinctively in the fashion of the 1850s.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Portuguese Dress Ornament, 1770

Bodice Ornament
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here’s a pretty, little thing. This bodice ornament of a bow and a symmetrical arrangement of flowers is made up of large golden-yellow topazes (sometimes described as “sherry topaz”) and a mixture of colorless topazes and rock crystal. The colorless topazes have a slight pink tinge which sets them apart from the crystal.

A huge export of topaz from the Portuguese territory of Brazil in the Eighteenth Century gave rise to increased use of the stone in Britain. However, it is possible that this ornament was made in Portugal.

Unusual Artifacts: A Crystal Memorial Slide, 1700

Memorial Slide, 1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though rather unsettling at first, this gold slide with an enameled skeleton holding an arrow is quite attractive. Within the slide, the initials “IC” are shown on a background of hair under rock crystal. The reverse is engraved, “IC OBT 6 JUL AETA 3 YE 8 MO.”

This is the perfect example of a Seventeenth Century commemorative memorial jewel. Such memorial jewels were a staple of the Eighteenth Century in more romantic forms, but these early examples take a more realistic look at death. Imagery such as skeletons, skulls and winged hourglasses were frequently used for such jewelry and hair from the deceased was almost always incorporated.

From the inscription on the reverse, which is partially in Latin, we can see that it was made in memory of a child with the initials “IC” who had died on the 6th of July (in an unknown year) who was aged three years and 8 months.

The slide is fitted with two flat loops at the back through which a ribbon of silk or woven hair would be threaded, enabling it to be worn around the neck or wrist.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 366

Gamilla glanced nervously at The Duke of Fallbridge who was still unconscious, sprawled out on the floor of the parlor.

“There’s someone at the front door,” Gamilla whispered, knowing that the Duke would not respond.

The weak knocking at the door continued and Gamilla began to sweat with anxiety. When Dr. Halifax and Marjani fled the house, they gave her no instructions other than to watch over the Duke. Similarly, when Mr. and Mrs. Halifax left to search for the two missing children, they didn’t mention to her what to do should someone come to the door.

She hoped that whoever it was would go away before they woke Meridian.

She sighed softly.

But what if it was Mr. or Mrs. Halifax—injured or tired, carrying one or both of the children? What if it was the doctor or Marjani? They’d left in such a hurry, perhaps they hadn’t brought their keys.

Or, what if it was that awful woman who’d taken the babies? Perhaps she came back to kill everyone in the house. Or, Marie Laveau? Or…

Still, the knocking continued.

Gamilla rose slowly to her feet.

“What should I do, Sir?” Gamilla asked the Duke, knowing, still, that he would not respond.

She walked into the front hall and cautiously approached the front door. Pressing her ear against the door, she strained to hear who it might be.

For a moment, Gamilla thought that whoever had been rapping had gone away. But, then, the knocking began again.

Gamilla took a deep breath and flung open the door.

She gasped she saw the horrible sight on the other side!

At that very moment, deep within his own body with Mr. Punch, the Duke of Fallbridge was also gasping.

“Where are we?” Julian asked Punch as he examined that unfamiliar surroundings which had suddenly appeared in front of him in his imagination.

“London, Master.” Punch replied softly.

“But, we were just at Fallbridge Hall.”

“I’ve skipped ahead in your thoughts,” Punch nodded.

“I told you that I didn’t want to see this!” Julian answered.

“You have no choice, Your Grace.” Punch replied. “Oh, I wish that you did. I’ve tired, I have, for so long to keep this things what’ll hurt you away from your thoughts. But, still, I know that you gotta see it one day. And, now, I think, is the time what’s best.”

Julian gazed upon the scene which played before him. His eyes widened with terror when he saw the image of Nanny Rittenhouse dragging his young self behind her by his little hand. And, then, he appeared.

Julian moaned. “It is he—the man.”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Mr. Punch began to cry. “But, you gotta see it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-365? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Coronets of a Prince or Duke of the Royal Blood and a Duke

We conclude our look at the coronets of the British peerage with the coronets of a Prince or Duke of the Royal Blood and a Duke.
There’s a distinction to be made in the titles. A Prince, obviously, is a prince and the son of a monarch or a descendant of a person of princely status. A Royal Duke is a duke who is a member of the British Royal Family, and is, therefore, entitled to the style of "His Royal Highness.”

A non-Royal duke (male) or duchess (female) is a member of the nobility. This is historically of the highest rank in the peerage below the monarch. Historically, Dukes or Duchesses control a duchy. For example, in our online novel, Punch’s Cousin, Julian, the Duke of Fallbridge is a non-Royal Duke. His title is inherited, but he is not a member of the Royal Family, and is therefore not entitled to the style, “His Royal Highness.” Subsequently, he is referred to as “Your Grace.”

Coronet of a Duke of the Royal Blood
While non-royal dukes are entitled to a coronet of eight strawberry leaves, to bear at a coronation and on his coat of arms, royal dukes are entitled to princely coronets (four crosses patée alternating with four strawberry leaves). The coronet of a Royal Duke will often bear a fleur-de-lis. A Royal Duke also bears six rows of black dots in the ermine, as opposed to four rows of dots for a duke.

Coronet of a Non-Royal Duke

Coronet of Charles, the Prince of Wales
The Royal Collection

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Egyptian Rock Crystal Bottle, 975-1000

Egypt, 975-1000
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This tubular-shape bottle narrows at the neck and foot and is adorned with a broad band of palmette scrolls in the center and plain moldings, at the shoulder and foot. Given the fact that this piece is between 900 and 1000 years old, it has suffered some damage—a chip and a missing foot. Looking through the mouth hole, one can see at the base the mark of a drill—a fascinating technology used to fashion this vessel in Egypt.

Rock crystal vessels were made for the rulers of Cairo during the Fatimid period (969–1171). These were the work of very skilled craftsmen. Enormous skill and paitence was required to hollow out the raw rock crystal without breaking it and to carve the delicate, often very shallow, decoration. Because of this, these were prestigious items that the ruler would have displayed in his treasury.

These bottles were probably used for storing perfumes—highly costly materials in their own right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Major William Careless Locket, c. 1653

C. 1653
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This copper-gilt locket is made in two parts and hinged at the top. The front is engraved with the arms and motto of one Major William Careless. The reverse is engraved with a scene showing Careless and King Charles II hiding in the oak tree. A portrait of Careless and an inscription appear in the locket’s interior.

So, why are they hiding in a tree? After the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the young Charles II and Colonel Careless took refuge in Shropshire where it is believed that they hid from the searching Cromwellian soldiers by climbing up into “a great oak.” With them, they took, “some victuals for the whole day viz. bread, cheese, small beer, and nothing else.” In the words of Nelson Muntz, “Haw, haw!”

The inscription reads:

Renowned Carlos! thow has won the day

(Loyalty Lost) by helping Charles away,

From Kings-Blood-Thirsty-Rebels in a Night,

made black with Rage, of theives, & Hells dispight

Live! King-Loved Sowle thy fame be Euer Spoke

By all whilst England Beares a Royall Oake'

Mastery of Design: The Countess Gautier Brooch, 1830

Brooch, 1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here, we see a beautiful brooch of gold set with an emerald, turquoises and topazes in the form of a basket of flowers. Though the maker’s mark is unidentifiable, a Paris warranty mark for 1819-38 is clearly seen.

Jewelry of the 1830s often represented Naturalistic themes. As the V&A’s curators puts it, “A love of nature was one of the most universal and respected sentiments in the 19th century.” This Naturalistic theme was influenced by the Romantic movement and the revived Rococo style.

This is a transitional design. Until about 1830, such designs were delicately stylized, but later, more exact representations of flowers, leaves, fruit and insects became the basis for more elaborate pieces.