Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Torre Abbey Jewel, 1540-1550

The Torre Abbey Jewel
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Today’s sparkly thing is another Memento Mori. This time, it’s a pendant in the form of a skeleton in a coffin. The piece is rendered in gold, and enameled in white and black, with the remains of opaque pale blue, white, yellow, translucent green, and dark blue enamel on the upper scrollwork.

The pendant would have hung from a chain to serve as a powerful reminder of the Latin term meaning “Remember you must die.” The skeleton and coffin reminded the wearer that death was certain, as was the Lord’s judgment, and thusly, it encouraged a virtuous life.

An inscription on the pendant further reminds that the wearer not fear death, stating in English that through Christ's resurrection - his sacrifice on the Cross and his rising from the dead - we are all “sanctified” or made holy.

The V&A bought the jewel for £21 in 1856. This curiosity was believed to have been found in the grounds of Torre Abbey in Devon. That fact does not necessarily mean that it had any connection with Torre Abbey when it was a monastery. The jewel appears to date from no earlier than the 1540s.

History's Runway: A Costume Design by Victor Stiebel, 1928

Costume Design
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Victor Stiebel was one of Britain’s best-known fashion designers of the mid-Twentieth century. While attending Cambridge, he designed costumes for many university productions and continued to produce stage dresses for several theatrical leading ladies after opening his own couturier house in 1932.

Here, we see one of Stiebel’s most engaging costume designs. The face, with the heavily emphasized, khol-encircled eyes, follows the tradition established by silent-screen star Theda Bara, who popularized the word “vamp” (a contraction of the word “vampire,” which she played in one of her films) to mean a predatory female.

This drawing shows a full-length female figure with black slicked-back hair which ends in kiss curl on the left cheek and with a deep black band around neck. The rather ghoulish figure wears a black fitted dress, the left shoulder bare, with a short bell sleeve. The left side of the skirt ends in a short tail while the right is split on the right hip. The dramatic slit is covered with layers of narrow fabric strips.

A rather theatrical adornment, on the shoulder is a bold corsage of orange, carmine and purple flowers. While, at the hip are one purple and one orange flower.

The costume seems designed entirely to emphasis onto the eyes and blood red lips. Not for one moment, does anyone doubt that this is, indeed, a vamp.

Unusual Artifacts: The Gravedigger's Headdress, 1942

Costume Headdress
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Isn’t this fun? Here, we see the “Headdress for the Gravedigger” from Robert Helpmann's 1942 ballet version of Hamlet that was performed with Sadler's Wells Ballet at the New Theatre. This chilling costume piece is composed of a jester's motley in papier mache, and in the back, the form of a skull. Trimmed with faux ivy it is painted in muted reds and yellows.

The costume is the work of Leslie Hurry (1909-1978) who trained at the Royal Academy in the 1930s where he became known as a surrealist painter. Hurry’s exhibition in 1942 was seen by the theatre director, Michael Benthall, who recommended Hurry to the dancer and choreographer, Robert Helpmann, who was in preproduction for the aforementioned ballet based on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Hurry’s costumes were a huge hit and the success of his designs led him to second career as one of the most celebrated theatre designers of his generation. Hurry would go on to design operas, ballets and plays which were heralded for their surreal and contemporary approaches.

Helpmann's one-act ballet was inspired by the original lines from Shakespeare, “For in that sleep what dreams may come/When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.” The ballet depicts the distorted memories of the dying Hamlet. Helpmann cut the named characters to eight—all of whom are already dead, with the exception of the Gravedigger who is the first to appear.

In Hamlet's confused, expiring mind, the gravedigger becomes the long-deceased jester, Yorick. Hurry’s costume for the character is, on one side, a gravedigger's leather tunic, and on the other, a multi-colored jester's outfit.

At the Music Hall: More Work for the Undertaker

Listen to a song I'm gonna sing you,
You may laugh 'til you haven't any breath.
People nowadays seem to think it very funny
When they hear of a violent death.
Poor little Solomon Levi
To heaven has got a pass.
He searched 'round the house the other night
To find a big escape of gas.


More work for the undertaker.
Another little job for the casket maker.
At the local cemetery they've
Been very, very busy on a brand new grave:

Reuben he was standing on Broadway.
Of cable cars he'd heard an awful lot.
He wanted to see how the old thing worked
So he looked down in the slot.
A car came up behind him.
He didn't hear the bell.
The bump of the car changed his address
From Broadway down to...


A boy named Jack was playing football.
He was what you call a center rush.
They picked him up in pieces when
It ended in a crush.
His father quickly sent for
What was left of Jack.
When he opened the box he suddenly exclaimed,
"Why, they've only sent a quarter back!"


"More Work for the Undertaker" is this week’s Music Hall song, and a more perfect song I couldn’t find for Halloween. The song is sung in this recording by Daniel W. Quinn who was considered one of the first major stars of the American recording industry.

This rather macabre and grim song predates this recording. It had a long life in the Nineteenth Century as a British music hall favorite. As was often the case, the song found its way to America, where, as always, it was Americanized with different lyrics. The newer lyrics are those printed above and those you’ll hear in Quinn’s recording.

The original version seems to have been by Fred W. Leigh with words by “Burton and Brooks.” The British Music Hall version concerned the dangerous misadventures of a youth named Sambo (yes, Sambo—fill in the blanks). The refrain of “another little job for the casket maker” seems to have originally been “another little job for the tombstone maker.” Like all of these popular songs which pre-date major efforts at recording, their original versions all differ slightly.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 380

Gentlemen,” Edward Cage smiled as he descended the stairs to find two uniformed authorities in his foyer. “May I help you?”

“You own a man named Odo?” One of them asked.

“I do.” Edward nodded. “Have you found him intoxicated?”

“No.” The man growled. “We found him after he murdered an elderly white woman.”

“I can’t believe that he would have done that. Odo is too stupid to be dangerous.”

“We’ve taken him. He’ll be executed.” The other man spat.

“Did you catch him in the act of killing this woman? What was her name?”

“Agnes Rittenhouse. You’re friends with the Rittenhouse family, aren’t you? Their eldest is staying here. Is she not?”

“My wife and I are very good friends with the Rittenhouses. However, the woman you speak of was a cousin—a poor relation. She worked for them. A very pathetic woman, and, one I am sad to say, who probably had ties to the wrong kind of people.”

“What exactly do you mean?” The second man asked.

“You know how people like that are. I’ve heard she was fond of spirits. Perhaps other things…a very troubled woman.”

“I see.” The men nodded in unison.

“A very unnatural type.” Edward Cage continued.

“Unnatural in what way, Mr. Cage?”

“You know…” Edward winked.

“Ah.” The older of the two men smiled.

“I had sent Odo with some provisions for her.” Edward lied. “You see, my wife, Corliss, she’s always trying to minister to these poor people. Since Mrs. Cage has taken ill, I’ve tried to take up with her charitable duties. I sent my man with the usual things that Mrs. Cage sends.”

“Your wife is ill?”

“Yes,” Edward nodded. “The Yellow Fever.”

The two men covered their mouths with their hands.

“It’s quite sad.” Edward nodded. “But, don’t worry, she’s quarantined in her room.”

“So, you knew that your man was at the Hotel Triumph?” The younger of the two men asked.

“Oh, yes.” Edward nodded.

“He claims he found the woman already dead.”

“I’m sure he’s telling the truth.” Edward smiled.

The two men looked at each other. Finally, the older one sighed. “We’d like to send him back to you, Mr. Cage. But, we…”

“Of course,” Edward grinned. “You’ve got a murder to solve. It’s a very exhausting thing. Perhaps I could make a slight donation to your outfit. Though…if I did, who knows how it would be used. Maybe if I were to give you each some compensation for your troubles, your way would be made that much easier.”

“Yes, Sir.” The older man smiled.

“Come with me,” Edward gestured toward his study. There, he withdrew his cashbox from his desk. “I can’t be sure what’s in here. The last that I looked there were several hundred gold coins. I think, actually, I’ve put more in since last I counted. Would you two fine gentlemen like to distribute this contribution as you see fit?”

“We would,” the older man nodded, quickly taking the box.

“We’ll send your man back to you.” The other said.

“I apologize for the inconvenience.” Edward nodded in mock seriousness.

“Good evening, Mr. Cage.”

“Good evening, gentlemen.” Edward replied, showing them toward the door.

As Edward opened the door, he shivered when he saw Mr. Punch, Robert, Adrienne, Cecil and Marjani on the other side.

“We’ll leave you to your company,” One of the officers smiled.

“No.” Mr. Punch spoke up. “We need to speak to you blokes. You’re constables, yes?”

“In a manner of speaking.” One of them replied.

“What’s this about?” the other asked.

“The abduction of two children!” Cecil roared.

All of the color drained from Edward Cage’s face.

“Is that so?” One of the officers asked. “We don’t need to involve Mr. Cage in that.”

“Yes,” Robert nodded. “We do.”

“They’re both in this house, I’d wager.” Mr. Punch frowned.

The constables turned to look at Edward Cage.

“You’re welcome to look, if you like. Just let me check on my wife. I only hope the fever hasn’t taken her from me yet. Though…I’d hate to expose all of you to her illness.”

“We’ll take our chances, we will, you bloody ass.” Punch said, pushing his way into the house. He looked at the officers. “Well?”

“Just a moment, Sir.” One of the men shook his head. “Let’s discuss this first.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-379? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, October 31, 2011 for Chapter 381 of Punch’s Cousin—and some truly spooky surprises!

Obscure Book of the Day: The Pictorial History of Buckingham Palace

This book by the Pitkin Publishing, entitled, “The Pictorial History of Buckingham Palace: The Queen’s London Home” is part of the “British Heritage” series that was published in conjunction with the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Marguerite D. Peacocke, author and historian, offers brilliantly concise text that gives a brief history of the palace that was first officially occupied by Queen Victoria upon her accession in 1837. Most importantly, Peacocke’s text supports the hundreds of stunning images of Buckingham Palace that were collected by the editors. These pictures give a unique look at the Palace as it developed from a London retreat for a bored Queen Charlotte who wanted distance from her insane husband to the official London home of the Monarch.

Let’s take a look inside…

Sometimes one enjoys sitting on one's throne in one's throne room, waiting for tea sandwiches.

One's throne room also has space for an intimate dinner.

The Principal Corridor--just what it sounds like.

Seen from the air.

The famous balcony where appearances are made.

The three historical facades of the Palace.

"Come on, doggie, let's call the Prime Minister."

Queen Mary (pictured at the bottom left) with the whole Royal gang, was not thrilled when it was her turn to move into Buckingham Palace.  First of all, her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, was taking her sweet time moving out after the death of her husband, Edward VII.  It was months before Mary and George V could move in.  Later, after the death of her own husband, Mary finally understood why her mother-in-law was so slow to leave.  The idea of leaving the palace was very troubling.  But, leave she did to make room for her son and daughter-in-law, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. 

Nothing imposing about that staircase at all.

Queen Mary took a great deal of time in preserving the palace's reception rooms while adding her own touches.

The Picture Gallery which holds much of the Royal Collection.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Witches' Sabbath, 1606

The Witches' Sabbath
The Victoria & Albert Museum
As we get closer to All Hallows Eve, let’s continue our look at some spooky art. Here’s an interesting and powerful painting from the V&A. It’s essentially a domestic interior/genre painting. However, on closer inspection, we can see that amongst the many characters depicted, there are some little monsters or demons who are practicing magical rituals with books, and a cauldron while two elegantly dressed ladies in the foreground look on. At the feet of these two ladies are displayed skulls within a circle with knives and a candle. So, no, this isn’t your typical Seventeenth Century Dutch Genre Painting.

This is the work of Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642) who was the most notable of a celebrated family of artists. Frans’ claim to fame is the fact that he was the inventor of the “monkey kitchen” compositions (which is exactly what it sounds like). This thematic quirk is described by our friends at the V&A as “a genre that was subsequently widely disseminated by David Teniers (1610-1690) and was renowned for his innovative imagination.”

This particular painting is a perfect example of Frans Francken's representation of witchcraft and served as one portion of a series that he produced on the subject. Francken reveals the traditional iconography of witches--oscillating between beauty and horror, sensuality and lust.

This depiction of “The Witches' Sabbath,”’ naturally, takes place at night and hints at the illicit character of their activity. While the whole scene gives the impression of chaos, and a concept of suffering, there is also a sense of regeneration which alludes to the strength of the magical power of the witches.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Waterton Skull, 1680-1720

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Today’s sparkly thing is a rather ghastly little number. Here, we see an enameled gold ring with a bezel in the form of a skull and cross-bones which has been set with rose-cut diamonds

The Waterton Skull’s exact place of origin is unknown, but it is European and dates between 1680-1720. This sort of jewelry was worn after the death as a loved one as a memorial, but also as a memento mori—essentially a token to remind us all that we, too, shall die.

Get ready for some more ghoulish jewels in the coming days as we head toward Halloween.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Death of Judy

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Ah, the world’s most beloved puppet murderer, Mr. Punch! Here we see him in the act of killing his wife, Judy. Afterwards, she comes back to haunt him as a ghost which he also manages to destroy. He’s a crafty little man.

This hand-colored engraving dates to the early Nineteenth Century. Aside from that, nothing else is known about it. It is part of the exceptional assortment of Punch-related ephemera in the magnificent George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection at the Victoria * Albert Museum.

Sculpture of the Day: Hogarth's Richard III, 1840

Staffordshire Flatback
David Garrick as Richard III
Based on the painting by Hogarth
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I just saw one of these on a recent antiquing excursion with my parents. Here, we see a glazed earthenware flatback figure of David Garrick as Richard III. He is seated in a white tent, wearing a green coat with a textured “ermine” border with gilt details on both the tent and on his costume.

These earthenware flatbacks and figurines were designed as mantelpiece decorations, and, as we know, were first produced in Staffordshire in the late 1830s—originally with figures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As the decades passed, and the figures became more popular, they were created in a wide range of popular subjects ranging from the Royal to the theatrical.

This flatback of celebrated actor David Garrick as Richard III depicts the famous tent scene before the Battle of Bosworth, when Richard is haunted by the ghosts of those he had murdered. The composition was modeled after a painting from 1745 by William Hogarth. I like that the V&A has pointed out, “In the painting his hand is raised in a gesture of horror and not the rather benign royal wave it appears to be in the flatback.”

Just a biographical note on David Garrick (1717-1779)—he was recognized as one of the greatest actors ever in both comedy and tragedy. Born in Hereford, Garrick came to London in 1737 to work as a wine merchant but made his London debut as an actor at Goodman's Fields as Richard III in 1741. Later, he managed the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 1747 until 1776.

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and the Ghost

Chris van der Craats' Ghost

I know I posted this last year, but it’s so perfect for the season and such a good performance by Australia’s very talented “Professor Whatsit,” Chris van der Craats. Here, we see Mr. Punch versus the Ghost. Usually, in the traditional narrative, this is the ghost of Judy.


Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 379

Adrienne’s eyes filled with tears as she listened to Robert and Mr. Punch. At first, she and Cecil had been relieved to spot Marjani, Robert and Punch in the French Quarter. They had hurried toward the trio—overjoyed that Punch/Julian was conscious and anxious to hear news of the missing children.

“So, she’s dead?” Cecil grumbled. “The woman who took our boys is dead at the hands of Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“But, where are the children?” Adrienne wept.

“Here, now, Lady Chum, don’t cry. You know that Ogress is gonna bring Colin to Edward Cage again. Damn man, callin’ my boy by the wrong name—‘Holt.’ As I figure, she’s got…”

“But, we don’t know that!’ Adrienne interrupted. “What of my boy? Did she take him, too? You know she loathes me for leaving her. You know that she’d do anything to move to make me suffer! Don’t you think that she would love to make me suffer! She would do anything! She knows that Fuller is my son.”

“My darling, please.” Cecil wrapped his arms around his wife. “I can’t think that Iolanthe Evangeline—as cruel as she is, and as mad—would harm a child. She’s a mother herself.”

“Don’t you?” Adrienne buried her face in her husband’s shoulder. “All those weeks ago in Marionneaux she stood next to the bassinette and threatened our son. Now that she has him…”

“We don’t know that she has him,” Robert cut in.

“And, if she doesn’t? Where is he, then? He wasn’t in Agnes’ room.”

“No, Lady Chum. He weren’t.” Punch shook his head.

“What if…” Adrienne gasped, withdrawing from Cecil’s embrace. “What if she wants to make him a replacement for her own son? What if she…”

“That won’t help anything…” Cecil answered, trying to comfort his wife. “Let’s not let our imaginations carry us away.”

“Oh, no?” Adrienne spat.

“Adrienne, we must continue to search.” Robert interjected. “We know that Iolanthe will bring the Duke’s nephew to Edward Cage. Let’s go there.”

“The doctor’s right.” Marjani spoke up. “Iolanthe done jus’ left the hotel. She can’t be much farther ahead of us.”

“And, she’s hurt.” Punch added. “So, she’s gotta be movin’ slower than usual.”

“Come, darling,” Cecil said. “Let’s go toward Royal Street.”

“Yes,” Adrienne nodded. “Let’s do hurry.”

Meanwhile, at Edward Cage’s house on Royal Street, he had just deposited “Holt” in the nursery and was carrying Adrienne and Cecil’s son, Fuller, through the passage to see where he could be kept.

There, he met Ulrika Rittenhouse who had managed to sneak Giovanni into her room.

“Where’ve you been?” Edward snapped.

“Out, Mr. Cage.” Ulrika smiled flirtatiously.

“You’re a mess. Look at you—dirt all over your face and gown. What have you been doing?”

“I’m a grown woman, Mr. Cage. You needn’t worry about me.”

“When your mama and papa left here, they left you in my care.” Edward frowned.

“I assure you, really,” Ulrika winked. “I’ve been up to no good.”

“Of course you haven’t.” Edward chuckled heartily. “You little…”

“Now, Mr. Cage.” Ulrika wagged a finger at him. “I see you’ve been up to some mischief, too.”

“Have I?”

“That’s not your child.” Ulrika grinned.

“Yes, he is.” Edward laughed. “Now.”

“What of the other boy? Holt?”

“He’s back home again.” Edward nodded. “And, for our troubles, we’ve been given this little extra gift.”

“How pleasant.” Ulrika responded.

“Mr. Cage!” An urgent voice called up the stairs, followed by frantic footsteps.

One of the Cages’ maids, Zettie, rushed into the hallway.

“What is it, Zettie?” Edward asked. “Has Mrs. Cage passed?”

“What’s wrong with Corliss?” Ulrika interrupted.

“She’s got the Yellow Jack.” Edward replied plainly. “She fell ill while you were out. You should avoid her room.”

“I always do.” Ulrika joked.

“No, Sir. It ain’t Mrs. Cage.” Zettie responded. “There’s some men at the door. They want to talk with you. They’re wearin’ uniforms and all.”

Ulrika and Edward exchanged glances.

“Did they say why?” Edward asked, fearful that they’d come for one or both of the children.

“There done been a murder. That’s what I heard them say!” Zettie said breathlessly.

“Who was killed?” Edward asked.

“Was it the Duke?” Ulrika asked eagerly. “Or his sister?”

“No.” Zettie lowered her head. “It was your cousin, Miss Rittenhouse, the one who done worked as your mama’s nanny.”

“Frail, sticky Agnes?” Ulrika grinned. “Who would care enough to murder her?”

“Them men—they say it was Odo!”

“Odo.” Edward said softly, recalling Odo’s complicity in obtaining “Holt” from Agnes and how Odo had taken the boy from the house to keep him from Robert Halifax. Why would Odo have murdered Agnes? Worse, still, would Odo tell the authorities all of the events that had led to that moment?

“I’ll go right down.” Edward nodded. “Take the child.”

Zettie, with a confused look on her face, took the baby. “This ain’t…”

“No.” Edward answered quickly. “Holt has been returned to us. He’s in the nursery. This boy is now my ward. He will be part of our family.”

“What’s his name?” Zettie asked.

“Ah.” Edward sputtered. “I…well…”

“Raphael.” Ulrika spoke up.

“Yes.” Edward squinted. “That’s it.” With that, he descended the stairs to greet the authorities.

“Miss Rittenhouse,” Zettie asked meekly. “Do you know where this chil’ is gonna sleep?”

“Zettie,” Ulrika smiled. “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll take the boy.”

“Oh, no, Miss.” Zettie shook her head. “It wouldn’t be fittin’.”

“Please, Zettie. You’ve so much to attend to, really. And, I can look after a baby. Remember, I have a little brother, Rowan, at home.”

“Yes, Miss.”

“Give him to me.” Ulrika smiled.

Reluctantly, Zettie handed the boy to Ulrika who responded, “Now, go on. Maybe you should look after Mrs. Cage.”

“Yes, Miss.” Zettie said, glancing over her shoulder as she walked away.

Ulrika held the child up in front of herself and grinned at him. “You’re Fuller Halifax, aren’t you? Well, really, you were. Now—now you’re Raphael Rittenhouse. And, you’re all mine.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-378? If so, you can read them here.

Obscure Book of the Day: The Pictorial Story of Windsor Castle

“The Pictorial Story of Windsor Castle” was published with the subtitle of a quote by Samuel Pepys (the historian who first wrote of Mr. Punch in England), “The Most Romantic Castle That Is In the World.” This is one of two books about Windsor Castle in my collection by the Pitkin Publishing Company. Pitkins produced many of these little volumes about British Heritage, so it’s not terribly surprising that there would be more than one on the same subject. Each takes a slightly different view point. However, my one complaint about these books is that not one of them has a publication date, so, you’ve got to deduce from the text when it was printed.

This one, I think pre-dates the other Windsor Castle book. That other seems to have been written when Elizabeth was already Queen—so, after 1953. This one makes no mention of the monarch at the time of writing, however, the ads in the back seem to be for books referring to Princess Elizabeth and her family. One of them refers to the infant Princess Anne. My guess is that the book was printed around 1951.

But, here’s the great part about these Pitkin books. They are all filled with beautiful pictures and very tightly-written copy. Marguerite D. Peacocke has crafted a splendid tale of the history of Windsor Castle which is brilliantly illustrated with contemporary and historical images.

Let’s take a look inside…

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: "The Ghost at the Wedding Ceremony," 1853

The Ghost at the Wedding Ceremony
John Everett Millais, 1853
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Okay, it’s getting to be Halloween. So, of course, we’ve got to take a look at some spooky objects. Hey, here’s one.

This drawing by Sir John Everett Millais dates to 1853. It’s a scene of nine standing figures, four female to the viewer's left and four male, with one partly cut off and another ghostly, to the right. In the center of the composition is a figure with a book who seems to be expressing concern for the forward-most woman. She appears to be recoiling from the leading man's advance. He holds, in his right hand, a ring.

Well, that’s all very curious. What could it mean? This is a depiction of the separation of lovers by death. It is inscribed with the phrase, “I won't, I don't.” Essentially, this is the representation of a bride spying the phantom of a deceased sweetheart. He clutches his broken heart as he looms behind her new bridegroom.

But, surely there’s more to it. Some believe that the drawing may, in fact, allude to the marriage of Effie Gray (who once owned the drawing) to John Ruskin in 1848. When the drawing was created, Effie and Millais were in love. Ah…so, has the artist depicted himself as the very-much alive broken-hearted suitor in a metaphorical scene of infidelity?

The figure on the right could be John Ruskin's father. The elder Ruskin was known as a dominating man who tried to control every aspect of his son's life. In fact, that seems to have been a family trait. The Ruskins were notably dysfunctional. Other historians contend that the ghost is actually a representation of Ruskin's grandfather, who committed suicide.

No matter what is depicted here, it is a remarkably powerful image. Surely, it was a difficult subject for Millais to draw—the marriage of his love to a man that he loathed. Perhaps that’s why the drawing is unfinished. It may have just been too painful for him to continue.

But, things looked up for Millais—briefly. Effie’s marriage to Ruskin was annulled in 1854—a year after the creation of this drawing--and she married Millais in 1855.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie Sitter

"We are way past nap time!"

*Click Image Above to Enlarge*

Image: Children Playing at Doctors, Frederick Daniel Hardy, 1863, The Victoria & Albert Museum

History's Runway: The Tomalin Tea Gown, 1895

Tea Gown
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Meant to be worn for an informal tea with close friends or family, this purple silk velvet dress features puffed elbow-length sleeves and a full, long-trained skirt which falls from below the bust.

The elbow bands, V neckline and front of the skirt are trimmed with embroidered bands of lilac and green silk in an Art Nouveau design.

Unfolding Pictures: The Lady Prendergast Fan, 1764

The Lady Prendergast Fan
The Victoria & Albert Museum
With a leaf of kid leather, this gorgeous fan is painted on one side with a trompe l'oeil pattern of white lace, blue fabric and pink-striped ribbons. An oval frame in the center shows a vignette of a posh woman sitting in a garden has been expertly rendered. She is attended by a male servant who offers her a glass.

This sort of scene was fashionable during the Eighteenth Century and was considered an appropriate image for a genteel lady's fan. Other variations of the scene depict a tea party with a similar composition.

Unusual Artifacts: A Ceramic Tea Canister, 1760-70

Bohea Tea Cannister
c. 1760
The Victoria & Albert Museum
As we already know, in the Eighteenth Century, tea was quite a luxury and was therefore stored in vessels which not only connoted its value, but kept it safe. It's difficult for us to think of such common items as salt and tea to have any real value when we look at them through modern eyes, but that just makes us wonder what, two centuries from now, will be commonplace that we presently assign great worth.

A fitting container for valuable tea, this tea canister and cover are made of salt-glazed stoneware. Rectangular, with a flat top and wooden cover, it is painted in strong colors with small figures in landscapes and, on the front, in a panel surmounted by a mask and flanked by flowers, urns and scrollwork, reads the inscription, "FINE BOHEA TEA."

This sort of domestic, ceramic tea canister tended to resemble miniature versions of the dramatic japanned metal vessels from which loose tea was dispensed in shops. This particular example was most likely made at one of the Yorkshire pottery concerns rather than in Staffordshire.

The fine quality and condition of this piece suggests that it was infrequently, if ever, used and may, in fact, have been employed as part of a shop window display.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 378

Odo ran until he thought his lungs would burst and his brittle, scrawny legs would snap like dry twigs. He didn’t even pause to go around to the rear of the Hotel Triumph. Instead, he ran straight through the gilt bronze doors into the lobby.

“Hey!” The desk clerk shouted. “You can’t come in here, Boy!”

Odo didn’t stop. He sprinted for the stairs, unsure if he was even breathing. His tiny, claw-like hands were slick with cold sweat and slid across the deep mahogany banister of the hotel’s theatrically proportioned staircase.

His mind raced even faster than his putrid, little body. “What am I gonna tell the old bitch? I don’t got no diamond. I gotta get that baby back to Mr. Cage before he notices…”

But, Edward Cage had noticed. Ferociously storming through the house, Edward Cage hollered for Odo. “Odo! You skeleton! Where’s my boy!” Edward burst into his wife’s boudoir, forgetting for a moment that Corliss lay suffering from the Yellow Jack.

He loomed over the miserable, frail woman and belched. “Where’s Holt? Where’s my boy.”

Corliss pulled back her lips to reveal gums and teeth that were thick with deep, purple blood.

“Where did Odo take the boy?” Edward bellowed.

“Odo?” Corliss croaked.

“Yes, woman!”

“Odo didn’t take that boy,” Corliss said, unaware of what had really happened.

“Who did, then?”

“His rightful family.” Corliss growled, flecks of bloof flying from her lips.

“What did you do?” Edward demanded.

“I told the doctor to take that boy,” she paused and coughed viciously, her poor, sad body gripped in pain. “I told him to bring the boy back to his uncle, the Duke.”

“You sow!” Edward screamed.

Corliss smiled. Sadly, she had no idea that Robert and Marjani had not gotten to the child in time and that Odo had left him with Agnes Rittenhouse.

“I ought to kill you myself.” Edward hissed. “But, I don’t have to. You’ll die all on your own.”

“No.” Corliss whispered hoarsely, the perspiration on her brow flickering in the firelight like diamonds. “Not this time, I won’t.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Edward spat as he rushed from the room.

Meanwhile, at the hotel, Odo finally reached Agnes Rittenhouse’s room where he found the door ajar. He could hear the clerk’s footsteps following in fast pursuit.

Odo burst into Agnes’ room and when he saw the bloody scene before him, he recoiled—contorting his mouth into a silent scream.

Paralyzed with fear, Odo didn’t even notice when the clerk entered the room behind him until he heard the man speak.

“What did you do, Boy?” the clerk shouted in terror, grabbing Odo by the shoulders.

“I didn’t do it!” Odo rasped. “I didn’t do it!”

At that very moment, as Edward Cage lumbered out of his house into the night, he was startled by a familiar whisper.

“Mr. Cage,” Iolanthe Evangeline grinned—her pallid face made all the more ghostly in the cold moonlight.

Edward turned to see Iolanthe standing behind him holding the two boys.

“You got him back.” Edward reached for the child. “You magnificent beast!”

Iolanthe handed the baby to Edward. “Did you doubt me? No one should ever doubt Iolanthe Evangeline. And, I don’t want you thinkin’ that they should.”

“Bless you,” Edward replied emotionally. “How can I ever thank you?”

“You can thank me by takin’ this other boy, too.”

“Whose is he?”

“Yours if you want him. He’s a fine, fat little thing. Ought to grow up nice and strong.”

“I see that,” Edward smiled.

“You want him?”

“Not until I know to whom he belongs.”

“Adrienne and Cecil Halifax.” Iolanthe laughed.

“I’ll gladly take him.” Edward chuckled. “Gladly.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-377? If so, you can read them here.

Obscure Book of the Day: The First Golden Gift Book of Prince Charles and Princess Anne

In 1951, in honor of the first birthday of Princess Anne, the second child of then-Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), the Pitkin Publishing Company issued “The First Golden Gift Book of Prince Charles and Princess Anne.” This book celebrates the lives of the soon-to-be Queen’s first two children and is filled with dozens of handsome photos of the young family as well as the children’s great-grandmother, Queen Mary; their grandfather and grandmother—King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) respectively; and, even their auntie, Princess Margaret Rose.  Great care is taken to show the children with their favorite toys and engaged in their most beloved places. 

I have quite a few of these Pitkin Books from the early fifties, and they really are quite beautiful. Their purpose was to serve as Royal souvenirs, yes, but also to make the Royal Family and their story more accessible to the general population.

Let’s take a look inside...

The first two Royal tots with their mummy, then-Princess Elizabeth, and daddy who looks jollier than usual.

The centerfold shows the happy children with their young mother who was really quite beautiful.
Pitkins wanted you to know that they had other books.  Each one ends with a cleverly sentimental ad.

Being Mummy.

Nurse Helen Lightbody holds up her two charges as they greet their parents return from Scotland to their home at the time, Clarence House.

"H.R.H. Prince Charles of Edinburgh sounds just the right note as he makes his entry into this 'First Golden Gift Book...'"

Prince Charles' Baby Photo

Princess Anne's Baby Picture.

Toys, toys, toys...

I love the upper photo because Queen Mary really looks as if she'd much rather be inside sorting through her collections and having a nice, calming cup of tea. 

The Royal Family Tree from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert upward.