Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mastery of Design: Lady Cory's Holly Sprig Brooch, 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Oh that Lady Cory--did she have some jewelry or what? Here we see a brooch from Lady Cory's collection which was made in France between 1859 and 1865.

The piece is in the form of a sprig of holly, with leaves of enameled gold and berries of coral. Lady Cory was sure to wear this pretty pin at Christmastime.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Fluffy and Dovey, 1900

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Fluffy, the dog, I'm guessing; and, Dovey, the dove, are shown in this watercolor on ivory miniature. The painting was commissioned by Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), by whom it was given to Princess Victoria of Wales as a Christmas gift in 1900.

The painting is the work of Mrs. Gertrude Massey, Née Seth (fl. 1898–1911), and is inscribed: FLUFFY & DOVEY.

Father Christmas through the Ages: A Victorian Christmas Card

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here, we see another card featuring an image of Father Christmas. This one was designed and published in England in the late Nineteenth Century by an unknown artist and publisher.

A work of chromolithography and embossing with gold block printing, on paper, the card depicts Father Christmas in a bell-shaped frame.

At the Music Hall: Love's Old Sweet Song (Just a Song at Twilight), 1884

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng,
Low to our hearts love sang an old sweet song,
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.


Just a song at twilight
When lights are low
And the flick'ring shadows
Softly come and go.
Tho' the heart be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us at twilight
Comes love's old song.
Comes love's old sweet song.

Even today we hear love's song of yore
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day,
So till the end when life's dim shadows fall
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.


Just a song at twilight
When lights are low
And the flick'ring shadows
Softly come and go.
Tho' the heart be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us at twilight
Comes love's old song.
Comes love's old sweet song.

This popular song features words by J. Clifton Binghamton and music by James Lynam Molloy (1837-1909) who was born in Cornalour, Rahan, Ireland, to a wealthy Family. He studied in Dublin, Paris, and Bonn and, in 1872 became a lawyer.

Molloy married and moved to England where continued his hobby of writing songs. In 1884, he wrote what would remain his most popular song, in fact, one of the most popular Irish songs ever-- "Love's Old Sweet Song." John McCormack's recording (see below) is perhaps the best-known version.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 412

Cecil?” Mr. Punch said softly as Cecil drove the horses and carriage carrying Marjani, Robert and Adrienne rattled behind them.

“Yes, Mr. Punch.”

“Well, I wanna say somethin’, only I don’t know how to say it.”

“I’ve found in these cases, the best way is the simplest way.” Cecil responded.

“Oh.” Punch nodded. “Right then. I’m sorry.”

Cecil glanced over quizzically at Mr. Punch. “You’re sorry?”

“That means I wanna ‘pologize.” Punch whispered.

“For what are you apologizing?”

“This whole kerfuffle.” Punch replied.

“What’s a kerfuffle?” Cecil squinted.

“You know…” Punch muttered.

“I’m afraid I don’t. Not exactly.” Cecil smiled. “I had a Scotch friend once who used the word with considerable frequency.”

“Here, you’re teasin’ me.” Punch frowned.

“I am—but, only a little.” Cecil nodded. “You’ve nothing to apologize for, Mr. Punch. This chaos is not your doing.”

“Is a bit.” Punch sighed. “See, your brother—he was comin’ here to see you, he was. Then, he met me on the ship and got all wrapped up in all this kerfuffle what spilled over onto you.”

“Dear Punch,” Cecil smiled. “Robert was wrapped up with you long before you met on the ship, if you’ll recall.”

“Well, that’s true.”

“And, secondly,” Cecil continued. “A lot of this kerfuffle—as you call it—predates my friendship with you. Iolanthe Evangeline has long been the enemy of my family. Her feud with Marie Laveau has lasted longer than you’ve been alive. Edward Cage has forever been a thorn in my side. Ulrika Rittenhouse has always been a queer one. In many ways, you’ve become wrapped up in my chaos.”

“Only, well, were it not for me, Fuller would be home in his little bed, getting’ watched over by them angels Marjani talks ‘bout.”

“He’s still being watched over by those angels. And, he’ll soon be in his own little bed. Mr. Punch, none of this is your doing. Your sister…pardon me…Julian’s sister stole from you, she was a round-heeled girl who made a pact with the devil. You came here to right her wrongs. And, look what you’ve done. Colin is safe, and we’re sure to find Fuller. Perhaps you’ve not regained your father’s diamond, but no matter. You’ve protected what matters most. And, in the process, you’ve been nothing but a benefit and joy to my family. We’re better for knowing you.”

“Coo!” Punch exclaimed. “I ain’t never heard you talk like that.”

“I’m not one to gush, Mr. Punch.” Cecil cleared his throat. “I’ve never been a master of expressing my emotions. Robert’s better at it than I.”

“Well, you done a good job of it.”

“Thank you,” Cecil mumbled. “Besides, I’ve been wanting to take Adrienne and Fuller back to England with me for some time. Now, we have a reason to do so. And, we owe it to you.”

“So, you like me, then?”

“Yes.” Cecil chuckled.

“Even when I do things like what I did to the officer? You know, when I hit folk on the head and such?”

“Especially when you do things such as that.” Cecil teased again. “After all, you are Mr. Punch. You’d be a poor Punch if you didn’t indulge in some Pulcinello antics now and again.”

“That’s the way to do it,” Punch whooped.

“Indeed.” Cecil nodded.

“So, you’re like me brother, then?” Punch asked.

“Yes.” Cecil smiled. “I am.”

“Coo!” Punch repeated. “That’s fine.”

“Whoa…” Cecil pulled the reins, slowing the horses.

“What is it?” Punch asked.

“Look ahead…” Cecil whispered.

Adrienne stuck her head out of the window.

“Why’ve we stopped?” She asked.

“Shhh…” Cecil hushed her.

Adrienne looked ahead, her eyes widening. Suddenly, she burst from the carriage, screaming. “My baby!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-411? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, December 12, 2011 for Chapter 413 of Punch’s Cousin.

The Art of Play: A Toy Bird/Christmas Ornament, 1975

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I've looked at this bird about two dozen times. It's one of those images that has been randomly assigned to me repeatedly as I catalogue online images for the V&A. After the twenty-fourth time, I decided i like it.

So, what is it? It's a toy bird, yes. But, not one that would be too fun to play with. This toy bird, resembling a peacock, is best described as a Christmas tree ornament. At the base of the neck is a small metal loop allowing for an ornament hook. Some of the bird's painted clay surface adorned with fragments of clear glass. The rest of the body and wire legs are covered with pink fur which I suspect is meant to resemble feathers. The head is also covered in glass fragments while the neck is adorned with long glass beads.

Made in China in 1975, the bird was for export to Western Europe.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Charles I Wassail Bowl, 1640

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Aside from egg nog, the drink most closely associated with Christmas is wassail, or spiced ale. The ornate bowl we see above is from a set made for serving wassail. This unusual set is the only one ever found that has a table and candle-stands to match. The bowl and cups are in a style made predominately date from the 1640s.

The entire set was owned by one family for generations before the Victoria & Albert Museum purchased it in 1976. The lore of the family states that King Charles I gave it to Sir Charles Cokayne, 1st Viscount Cullen, after the Civil War battle at Naseby in 1645.

Well, let's look at that. The battle did take place near Cokayne's house, Rushton Hall, Northamptonshire. However the style and craftsmanship of the furniture suggests that this story could only apply to the bowl and cups. Obviously, the table and stands must have been added later, in the 1670s, when spirally turned supports were fashionable.

Another unusual feature of the set as a whole is that it is made of lignum vitae, a dense wood imported from the West Indies. The wood's high oil content makes it resistant to liquids, and it takes incised decoration well. The curators of the V&A note, "Both the wood and the ivory, which provides a strong contrast, are decorated with 'rose engine turning', in which delicate circular patterns are incised into the material while it is spun on a lathe."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Barbor Jewel, 1615-1625

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A pendant of enameled gold is set with an onyx cameo of Queen Elizabeth I and with table-cut rubies and diamonds. It is hung with a cluster of pearls. On the reverse, an oak tree has been enameled. This is known as The Barbor Jewel.

According to Barbor family tradition, first recorded in 1724, this jewel was made for William Barbor (died 1586)--a Protestant. The family tradition states that William Barbor wanted to commemorate his escape from the stake (where Protestants were put to death by the Catholic rulers) thanks to the accession of Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

As with most family traditions, this one is probably apocryphal. The style of the enameling, setting and the Queen’s costume indicates a later creation date, from about 1615-1625. Regardless, it’s an important historical ornament, and as beautiful as the day it was made.

The Home Beautiful: Christmas Ornaments by Krebsglas, 1900

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Blown in Lauscha, Germany, in 1900, by the manufacturer, Krebsglas, we see a collection of glass Christmas ornaments.

These Christmas decorations are typical of the east German region of Thuringia which has long been celebrated for its glass-blowing and lampwork. These examples from 1900 are mould-blown.  The spire--intended for the top of the tree--is particularly fine and was most likely from a mould from the late Nineteenth Century.

Father Christmas through the Ages: A Christmas Card from 1890

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This Christmas card with deckled edges (rough or feathered), features a recessed and partly cut-out front which depicts Father Christmas cycling through the snow with his famous sack of presents on his back. "A MERRY CHRISTMAS" is printed on the front with a doll, ball and two Christmas crackers (The U.K. holiday tradition of paper tubes filled with gifts and a motto. The tubes are sealed with cardboard coated with gunpowder. When pulled from each end to open, they make a popping or cracking sound which Bertie dislikes.) to one side.

The wording inside reads:

"Here's good old father Christmas
On his bicycle astride
May he bring you lots of presents
And a merry Christmas-tide"

The artwork was created by Ernest Nister in London and the card was printed in Bavaria. It is signed "To Amy from Sissy"

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Holiday Letter from School, c. 1850

George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum, we see an engraving entitled “The Holiday Letter from School - a Boy's Dream of the Coming Christmas,” which rather puts me in mind of the scene from “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” when Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge sees young Ebenezer singing, “When You’re Alone in the World.”

The engraving is after the painting by Adrien Marie, and was published in the Nineteenth Century. Seated at his desk, the boy writes home, sharing his eagerness to take part in the family’s holiday traditions. He dreams of the joys of Christmas—reuniting with his mother, toys, puddings, feasts, sports and games. Notable is the figure of Mr. Punch at the lower right—riding a croquet mallet.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 411

Damn!” Ulrika Rittenhouse screamed so loudly that she woke Fuller who was asleep in Giovanni’s arms. Giovanni, too, was startled and jumped, causing the carriage to rock, and thus, making the child scream even louder.

“Shut him up!” Ulrika growled.

“What is the matter?” Giovanni muttered.

“I’ve forgotten something.” Ulrika frowned.

‘We’ve forgotten many things—our clothes, for one. You said we could get anything we needed in Marionneaux.” Giovanni mumbled sleepily, his accent thicker than usual.

“This one particular thing can’t be replaced in Marionneaux.” Ulrika snapped. “In my haste…well, really…how could I have been so stupid?”

“What did you leave behind that’s so important?”

“The diamond, you fool!”

At that very moment, back on Royal Street, Barbara Allen slumped onto the steps of one of the palatial homes that lined the street.

“Barbara, let’s go rest. Gamilla will let you use her room.”

“I’m not going back to my brother’s house.” Barbara shook her head. “We must continue to pursue Ulrika. I just want to sit for a moment.”

Charles sat on the wet pavement next to her.

“It’s not necessary. You know your own son will remain with the Duke. You may not like your brother, but, you can be assured that Colin will have a good life. What becomes of Adrienne’s Halifax’s son is none of your concern.”

“Adrienne Halifax once showed me kindness when no one else would. I repaid that with betrayal.”

“So, you think that restoring her son to her will make amends?”

“No!” Barbara laughed. “I’m not interested in making amends. I’m interested in punishing Ulrika Rittenhouse! Taking the child from her will cause her pain—just as she caused me pain when she took the blue diamond from me.”

Charles bit his tongue, but desperately wanted to remind Barbara that she herself had stolen the diamond from her own brother.

“Wait…” Barbara said excitedly, her eyes flashing with thought.


“Ulrika fled without taking anything with her. That’s what Robert Halifax told us. Surely she wouldn’t be carrying that priceless gem with her on the streets of New Orleans in the middle of the night.”

Charles took a deep breath.

“I’m sure it’s still in Edward Cage’s house.” Barbara continued.

“You don’t think that we have a chance of gaining entrance into Mr. Cage’s house? With his wife’s illness, his gunshot wound and the place crawling with officers?”

“Remember, Charles, I trained under Iolanthe Evangeline. There’s nothing I can’t do.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-410? If so, you can read them here.

The Art of Play: Theater Bilderbuch, 1885

This and all related images courtesy of The Victoria & Albert Museum

Produced in Germany in 1885, this colorful book comes alive with four pop-up toy theatre scenes - Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Adoration of the Magi and Christmas Eve. Each scene arises in three dimensions on a stage and is accompanied by a verse or scene printed in German.

Notice who is on the cover—our Mr. Punch! He seems to be making a rare German appearance. Actually, this is Mr. Punch’s German cousin, Kasper. They look a lot alike.

This is an unusual variation of the toy theatres which were popular throughout Europe during the second half of the Nineteenth Century. Clearly the book was created to be given as a Christmas gift. The final scene depicts Christmas Eve in a typical German house. Set on a stage with a youthful orchestra in front, the Christmas scene’s three-dimensional effect the best of the lot.

Click the images to enlarge them.  It's worth it.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Greeting Card from 1860

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This is one of 158 Christmas and New Year cards which were produced in England between 1860 and 1880. The artist and publisher are unknown for this color lithograph which features paper lace and fabric appliqués.

The card boasts a Christmas tree motif—a symbol which was once again becoming popular in Britain. It shows the ideal Christmas tree from the Victorian era, alive with color and style. Two cherubic children adorn the tree with ornaments typical of the era which also have a bit of Dutch style to them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie-Moon

“So, what do we do now? Jump out and shout, ‘Surprise’? Is this how Santa sneaks into houses?”

*Click Image Above to Enlarge*

Image: Scene from ‘The Honeymoon,’ George Clint, 1835, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Precious Time: The Mechanical Globe Clock of Emperor Rudolph II, 1584

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This astrological clock was made by Georg Roll and Johannes Reinhold of Augsburg. The Emperor Rudolph II of Prague purchased the clock at Christmas in 1584. Rudolph II had one of the greatest collections of automata and clocks in the area, but, it seems, was very hard to please. A second similar globe by the same makers (now in the Kunsthistorichesmuseum in Vienna) was bought by the Emperor's brother, Archduke Ernst. The emperor, however, was shocked to know that his brother paid a higher price for his clock and accused Roll of selling him an inferior piece. Roll was then to imprisoned for treating the Emperor “in a scurvy manner.”

The globe served as a model of the universe and simulated the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars. The clock features finely engraved dials, enameled clock faces and elaborately cast legs.

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Victoria’s 1849 Christmas Brooch

Brooch, 1849
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This simple and elegant brooch was purchased by Prince Albert and presented to Queen Victoria at Christmas 1849. In the Royal Collection there exists a receipt for payment for two brooches dated 14 January 1850, £14—this was one of the two.

The brooch was acquired during the royal visit to Dublin in August 1849. The design of the piece was based on an ancient prototype and demonstrates the revived interest in Celtic history that was developing at the time.

Prince Albert selected the brooch expressly to show royal patronage of the Irish jewelry trade and was created by West & Son, one of the largest jewelers at the time in Dublin. Set with garnets, the brooch mimics Celtic knot-work.

Father Christmas Through the Ages: “A Merry Christmas to ‘Yon,’” 1910

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This Christmas postcard is gilded and embossed. The front depicts of Santa Claus in a red robe, as he stops outside of a house with a basket of dolls and toys. He also holds a doll and a toy trumpet.

The card is further adorned with a decorative border at the left side and top showing fir-tree branches adorned with candles and apples.

At the bottom are the words "A Merry Christmas to yon (sic)" in gilt letters. The card was made in Austria, possibly accounting for the misspelling of the English word, “you.”

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 410

I got business to do, Odo.” Mala grumbled, pushing Odo off of her.

“I jus’ need ya for a few minutes, girl.”

“A few minutes?” Mala laughed. “You already done wasted my time. You gonna come back with me and tell Miss Iolanthe why it’s takin’ me so long to get…”

“To get what?” Odo asked.

“None ya.” Mala growled.

“Is it somethin’ I can help ya get? Maybe we can help each other. I wasn’t foolin’ when I said I’d get Mr. Cage to buy ya from Miss Iolanthe. See, he gonna owe me. You help me, I’ll help you.”

“Quit your talkin’, Odo,” Mala said turning her back on the man. “Talkin’ ‘bout sellin’ me… I ain’t your kind, Odo. I ain’t gonna be sold to no one.”

He reached for her again.

“If you goin’ to touch me again, Odo, you gotta be ready for to eat some gravel!” Mala spun around.

Odo withdrew his hand.

“That’s what I thought.” Mala smiled.

“You got spirit,” Odo grinned.

“That’s all an ugly girl’s got.” Mala retorted.

“You ain’t so ugly.” Odo winked again.

“Sure.” Mala frowned.

“No, you ain’t. Sure, your face is ugly and your figure ain’t so pretty, but you got a fire in ya that’s kinda nice.”

“Fire burns.” Mala scowled.

“Fire makes things, too.” Odo answered.

“What you want from me?” Mala sighed.

“You know the safe house?”

“Sure, I do.” Mala shrugged.

“You been there?”

“Sure.” Mala nodded. “Get a lot of our girls from there.”

“They let you take them girls?”

“Naw…” Mala laughed. “I gets ‘em before they go in.”

“But, you know folk there?”

“Yep.” Mala chortled. “They don’t like me none.”

“I need for ya to take me there.” Odo pleaded.

“Take your own damn self there. You got a better chance of gettin’ in than I do.”

“Not the way I figure doin’ it.”

“What you want wit’ the safe house, Odo? You like where you is. You’re the one always sayin’ how grand Mr. Cage’s houses are and how soft ya got it. Why you need to get away?”

“I ain’t tryin’ to get away!” Odo exclaimed in exasperation. “Fine, girl. I’m gonna trust ya. You know the Duke?”

“Sure—he hit me on the head.”

“Well, his little nephew is in the safe house with one of my people. You know that my master wants that baby for his own. I get the baby back, I’m a hero.”

“Now I understand.” Mala grunted. “What you need me for?”

“I can’t jus’ walk in there like I am. That Routhe woman’ll know me straight away. I gotta sneak in like I ain’t no threat. That’s where you can help me, girl.”

“I sure do hate that Englishman.” Mala narrowed her lopsided eyes.

“And, jus’ think how happy Miss Iolanthe’ll be when she hears you helped get Mr. Cage’s baby back to him.” Odo grinned—his teeth thick and yellow.

Mala snorted.

“You gonna help me?”

“Sure,” Mala nodded.

Did you miss Chapters 1-408? If so, you can read them here.

The Art of Play: Santa’s Christmas Train, 1975

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another toy from the mid-1970s, like yesterday’s example, this one was made in China. However, this charming toy was made for export to the U.S. Here, we see a Christmas-themed train engine constructed of lithographed tinplate.

A interior clockwork mechanism, when wound, moves the engine on two wheels and a cone-shaped piece of plastic simulating smoke spins around when the train is in motion.

The whole is decorated with a Christmas-theme: holly, bells and reindeer faces at the windows. The words MERRY CHRISTMAS and SEASON'S GREETINGS are printed on the sides and the front depicts the face of Santa Claus.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Victorian Christmas Card

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Christmas card was made between 1885 and 1900 in Britain and is constructed in a sliding pop-up format. The front of the card is an icy green with gilt ornamentation and shows a pyramid of half a dozen little girls wearing similar party dresses with blue sashes. Each is holding a blue fan.

When the checkered sliding tab at the base of the card is moved to the middle, the pyramid of little ladies is pulled upright, revealing a verse:

"With CHRISTMAS Greetings.
Hide not your beauty with the flirting fan,
But win allegiance to your smiling face;
Be first among the many, if you can,
Queen of them all in comeliness and grace".

The card is signed "Amy with love from George & Maudie"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Johann Georg Klett Snuffbox, 1750

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A masterpiece of the art of stonecutting, this snuffbox comes from Dresden and is the work of the celebrated stone-cutter, Johann Georg Klett (1720-93) who cut both hardstones and glass on the wheel and is known to have worked as Hofsteinschneider (court stonecutter) for the court of Saxony in 1755.

This snuffbox from 1750 shows the fineness of his work. The bloodstone panels were mounted in gold and set with diamonds and rubies. The coronet atop the coat of arms is supported by the orders of the Elephant and St. Andrew. The arms on the lid represent Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg (1683-1756) who acted as regent for his brother from 1728 to 1747 and then ruled in his own right until his death.

Father Christmas Through the Ages: A German Christmas Postcard, 1906

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Christmas postcard is a color lithograph which has been gilt on embossed card. It was printed in Germany for export to the U.S. The front shows an illustration of Santa Claus in a blue robe, as he drives a car full of dolls and toys and stuffed animals (including an elephant), with a superimposed holly-trimmed cartouche containing a rebus (words and pictures) verse:

"Be merry and full of Joy,
Every (pictograph of girl) and every (pictograph of boy)
May your (pictograph of stockings) be full of good things,
And your (pictograph of heart) be gay as everybody sings
A Merry Christmas"

On the reverse, the sender's name and address are written in ink (Mrs Jennie Lynn of Strong, ME) as is the address of the recipient: Master Montie Tebbetts, Carmel, R.7.D.#.2 Maine, c/o Mrs Fannie Lynn. The card has a one cent stamp attached, and is postmarked STRONG DEC 18 1906 ME.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Sèvres Vase Aubert No. 40, 1924-37

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty,
Queen Elizabeth II
This is one of a pair of vases, called “Vase Aubert No. 40” which was made in hard-paste porcelain between 1924-37. One of the pair depicts “Africa” while the other depicts “India.” The vases were presented by the President of the French Republic to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) on the occasion of their coronation, May 12, 1937

The vases themselves were produced by Sèvres as early as 1924, but were evidently left undecorated. One, seen here, was painted in 1928 by Henry-Joseph Lasserre with a tiger hunt in the Indian sub-continent. The scene depicts huntsmen seated in howdahs on the backs of elephants, shooting at tigers in a lush jungle.

The other was painted in 1930 by Louis-Jules Trager, depicting an African scene of antelopes, camels and native dancers amongst the pyramids. In May 1937, the English royal arms was added at a cost of 6,000 francs.

The two vases, each valued at 40,000 francs, were sent in 1937 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for presentation to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth by the President of the French Republic, Monsieur Albert Lebrun. However, after the whole Abdication Keruffle ™ with his older brother the King had announced that, as a general rule, he would not accept coronation gifts. To avoid embarrassment, the French ambassador was informed that the gift would be treated as personal rather than as official.

The Home Beautiful: Queen Alexandra's Elephant Bell-Push, 1896-1900

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Alexandra, consort of the rather lusty Edward VII, amused herself while her husband was dating other women by collecting the work of the House of Fabergé—especially wee animals made of precious stones. This collection was one of the few things upon which Queen Alexandra and her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary, Consort of George V) could agree as both enjoyed this particular hobby.

When one collects Fabergé animals, it’s only natural, after amassing a few hundred, that one would start to commission unusual pieces to make the collection a little more exciting. So, why not a bell-push shaped like an elephant?

Here, made between 1896 and 1900 in nephrite, silver, and guilloché enamel, and rubies we see such a bell-push. Even though Fabergé was bes known for opulent decorative items, they did occasionally produce practical items, among which bell-pushes were some of the most functional and complicated. Such bell-pushes were designed to sit upon a desk.

Here, the push-piece is in the form of a silver elephant set with cabochon ruby eyes. The elephant is a reference to Queen Alexandra’s native Denmark, where the elephant is incorporated in the design of the senior Danish order of chivalry.

The elephant, here, stands on a tapered platform of salmon-pink guilloché enamel with a nephrite base. It bears the mark of Fabergé ‘s Karl Armfelt; with a silver mark of 88 zolotniks (1896-1908); and Fabergé in Cyrillic characters.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 409

Let Miss Allen and Charles join us,” Robert said calmly as Mr. Punch sputtered at him from atop the carriage with Cecil.

“Here, you gone barmy or somethin’? Ain’t no way that one’s comin’! Chum, did Edward Cage hit ya on the head or somethin’? Cuz you ain’t thinkin’ all logical like what you do. We’re…” He let his voice trail off into a whisper as he looked with irritation at Barbara Allen, “we’re goin’ to find Fuller what’s been taken by Ulrika Rittenhouse.”

“I realize that,” Robert nodded, speaking softly to Mr. Punch. On Punch’s left side, Cecil glared at his brother.

“My son,” Cecil growled. “is still missing! And, you’re suggesting that we bring the very woman who set this whole lot of chaos into motion?”

Robert nodded. “She’s quite mad. And, she’s quite desperate. We need her imbalanced mind. She’ll be willing to do things that we simply wouldn’t allow ourselves to do.”

“You have no idea what I’d be willing to do, Robert.” Cecil bellowed.

“Listen, chum. She talks a nice spell, Barbara does. We all been taken in by her. Adrienne, me, Charles—at one time or another, we all felt sorry for her or believed the nonsense what she pours out. But, it ain’t gonna do no one any good.”

“Robert, get in this carriage this instant or be left behind!” Cecil snapped.

Robert climbed into the carriage with Adrienne and Marjani. As he did, he looked at Barbara and Charles and nodded. “Thank you for offering.”

“No…we didn’t just offer,” Barbara said frantically. “We may not be welcome in your party. But, we will follow behind. Perhaps not to rescue the child you call Fuller, but certainly, to find Ulrika. We may not be united, Dr. Halifax, but we are…one.”

The carriage rode off.

“Come Charles,” Barbara hissed. “We shall find a way to follow them.”

“Barbara…” Charles began.

“My Charles,” Barbara tilted her head to one side. “Don’t begin to question me now. My passion for you is great, but if I am denied what I want, my contempt for you will be greater.”

Charles nodded slowly and followed behind Barbara as she went off in search of a conveyance to Marionneaux.

At that very moment, Iolanthe Evangeline sat in her silken boudoir weeping wildly. Tears fell upon her burned and damaged hands as she studied them.

“Gloves may hide these scars, Marie Laveau!” Iolanthe shouted to the empty room. “But, each time I bathe, I will forever be reminded of your treachery!”

Iolanthe’s tears turned to laughter as she thought of Mala walking through the cold night to the apothecary.

“Mala will return to me,” Iolanthe nodded to herself. “With the tools that I need so that Marie will always be reminded of me as well.”

Little did Iolanthe know, but Mala had been interrupted in her journey.

“Hello, lovely,” Odo slurred.

“Who you talkin’ to, Odo?” Mala snapped.

“You, my dear.” Odo winked. “I’m so glad you know me.”

“Know you? Oh, I know you. You’s Mr. Cage’s boy. I know you, Ty Odo. I also know that I ain’t no more lovely than you is tall ‘n’ handsome. So, quite your fool talk and let me by.”

“What’s a little thing like you doin’ out in the cold, cold, night?” Odo continued.

“None ya!” Mala belched.

“I jus’ wanna see that you’re safe an’ warm.” Odo smiled.

“I ain’t neither. And neither is you!” Mala barked.

“I can make you warm.” Odo winked again.

“Sure, you can.” Mala laughed. “Cuz your sorry skin ‘n’ bones is gonna warm me right up. Sure—jus’ like wrappin’ myself in leather.”

“Honey, I jus’ need ya to do one little thing for me.” Odo smiled.

“I got things that need doin’ already!” Mala growled. “Least Miss Iolanthe, she pay me!”

“I’ll pay you.”

“I don’t want none o’ your kind of pay, Odo.”

“How’d you like a nice warm house for to live in with folk who are nice and pretty things and no men comin’ in and out every minute.” Odo grinned.

“What you mean?”

“I can get Mr. Cage to buy ya. I’ll get ya out of Iolanthe’s house. You can come work with us! It’s nice there. Good food, warm beds, easy work.”

“You think I’m ‘nose-wide-open’ for you, Odo? I don’t believe ya!”

Odo grabbed Mala by the arm. “You gonna help me, woman!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-408? If so, you can read them here.

The Art of Play: A Mechanical Toy Elephant, 1975

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum of Childhood

Here’s a toy that I could have played with—and would have. Made in 1975, this mechanical toy is lithographed tinplate upon a green plastic platform mounted on two black plastic wheels at the back and one tinplate wheel at the front. It depicts, naturally, an elephant riding a cycle while balancing a ball on its trunk—as they do.

When pulled along by the green plastic cord, the back wheels turn. These wheels are attached to cogs which turn the post for the ball while one of the cogs strikes a small paper-covered interior box, making the noise of the “motor.” As the ball is spinning, the attached tassels flare out.

The manufacturer of the toy is unknown and the piece is not marked. It was acquired in Peking in the mid-1970s and was probably made expressly for the Chinese market. This is part of a large collection of Chinese-made toys from this era which is housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Museum of Childhood.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Sèvres Elephant Coffee Pot, 1862

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I don’t care for coffee, but, I would drink coffee were it poured from the trunk of this elephant. Here, we see a stunning coffee pot and cover in the form of the head of an elephant. It is constructed of porcelain with pâte-sur-pâte (when layers of relief adornment are applied to an unfired porcelain piece by applying white slip with a brush) decoration and gilt.

When this coffee pot was made in 1862, Britain was finding elephants quite fashionable. You see, the second half of the Nineteenth Century saw a series of international exhibitions of displaying fine and decorative arts from across the globe. This served to introduce new themes to the decorative arts. Exotic animals, especially those from India, were especially popular in Britain.

This jolly, but, slightly menacing, elephant was displayed at the London 1862 International Exhibition by the French manufacturer, Sèvres, who described it as “A Coffee Pot Of 'Oriental' inspiration.” The elephant was created by the designer and decorator Marc Louis Solon—known for his imagination and whimsy. This piece allowed Solon to showcase his sense of humor and artistic expertise.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary's Ruby and Thirteen Cameo Tea Brooch, Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

Crown Copyright

The Royal Collection

Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Mary rescued more jewelry from being broken apart than Sting has rescued Rain Forest trees. This brooch of gold, Burmese rubies and thirteen onyx cameos was part of an impressive parure dating back to the Sixteenth Century. Queen Mary was known to wear the brooch for teas and less formal occasions when diamonds would not have been appropriate. The current arrangement of the cameos dated to the early Nineteenth Century when the piece was reconstructed with additional rubies and a mounted hook for a detachable pendant drop. Her Majesty admired the brooch and accompanying suite which had been part of another collection, acquiring it in 1932.

The cameos depict a rather odd assortment of subjects:

1. Two female figures, in long dresses.
2. Seated male nude, possibly Dionysus, approached by a satyr blowing a horn.
3, Male nude running towards a bonfire.
4. Male nude, making a sacrifice at an altar.
5, Orpheus, nude, with a small animal.
6. Female musician with her right breast exposed.
7. The Adoration of the Magi
8. Male musician, wearing a tunic.
9. Cupid, walking to the right, reading from a scroll.
10. Cupid, walking to the left, carrying a vessel.
11. Cupid, facing left, teasing a bird.
12. Cupid, walking to the left, again.
13. Kneeling male nude, offering an object to a seated male wearing a tunic, possibly a slave serving his master.

Father Christmas Through the Ages: Christmas to Greet You, c. 1890

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Whether you call him Father Christmas, Santa Claus or Old Saint Nicholas, you have a set idea of what the jolly gift-giver looks like. Kris Kringle takes different forms in each country.

Here, we see a classic representation of Father Christmas, as he is known in the U.K. This greeting card is a charming masterpiece of embossing, chromolithography and block printing. Produced in Britain in the late Nineteenth Century, it bears the atypical message, "Xmas to Greet You."

Greeting Card of the Day: May You Have a Quite Too Happy Time, 1882

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I now want to sign all correspondence, "May you have a quite too happy time." In addition to that perfectly sweet phrase, this card was one of a series of prize-winning greeting cards applauded for its color lithography.

The set of cards was intended to parody the Aesthetic Movement which promoted a fondness for Chinese and Japanese objects, plants, and flowers. Among the objects idealized by followers of the Aesthetic Movement, teapots were the most popular. This card satirized the fascination with teapots in particular.

This is the work of Albert Ludovici II who was inspired by George du Maurier. Du Maurier drew numerous cartoons satirizing the Aesthetic Movement for "Punch" magazine (yay!), including a famous cartoon entitled "The Six-Mark Teapot."

In the aforementioned cartoon, the "Aesthetic Bridegroom" and his "intense Bride" are looking at a teapot. The groom announces, "'It is quite consummate, is it not?" and the bride responds '"It is, indeed! Oh, Algernon, let us live up to it!"

Antique Image of The Day: The J. Mariette Teapot Designs Print, 1700

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I rather like this print which was published by Jean Mariette in Paris which was designed to show the range of decoration available for china patterns. The items in question here are different teapot designs. The two teapots are adorned in motifs ranging from acanthus leaves and rosettes to animal designs.

The band of decoration in the center of the print demonstrates available patterns for floor mosaics which could be installed to match the ornamental motifs and repeats available in Mariette's available collections of china, planters and other ceramics.

Ornament prints such as this were used by firms to demonstrate their wares, but also, indirectly led to the longterm establishment of certain fashions in the decorative arts.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 408

Mala scratched her thighs as she shuffled lazily, yet angrily, through the mist.

"Fetch me this, Mala," the grotesque woman muttered irritably to herself as she trudged along.  She affected something akin to Iolanthe Evangeline's commandingly pompous voice, "'You ugly little hog, I know you're thinkin' how much you hate me and I don't want you thinkin' I don't.'" Mala mocked her imperious employer.  "What's that even mean?"

Scowling, though it was difficult to differentiate that expression of discontent from her usual countenance, Mala--in her own limited way--began to review her situation.

"Wouldn't talk to me like I was some kind of trash if I done had a pretty face like the other girls.  Oooo, what I'd do.  If my nose wasn't so much like a sow, my eyes like a cow, and I didn't got this here limp.  If my eyes was in the same spot on each side of my face and I didn't got no fat lump on the back of my neck, I'd be like the others--high-tone, fine, soft dresses and flowers behind my ears.  Cologne on my legs and butter on my lips.  Miss Iolanthe, she wouldn't talk to me like no mule.  I'd not have to wash the parts of her body she don't even want to touch, I wouldn't have to slosh her slop down my arms and get her stink under my fingernails and I sure as hell wouldn't be out in the freezin' night to wake some fool druggist."

Mala literally spat upon the cold ground and continued her rant.  "'Wrap my hands, Mala.  I'm hurt Mala.  Help me, Mala!  Go to the druggist, Mala.'. Help your own damn self, woman!" Mala sighed.

She didn't understand why she had to go to the druggist for the powders Iolanthe asked her for.  "Them things ain't gonna help her hands none." Why'd she want that stuff anyhow?  That was the stuff Mala had to buy when one of the girls got herself in trouble.  "Ain't gonna doctor up no burned hands.  A little mustard'll do that right fine."

At first, Mala didn't even notice Odo stumbling toward her.  However, he saw her.

Odo grinned at the sight of Mala's deformed face and knew that the pudgy hobgoblin was his ticket back into Mr. Cage's good graces.

Did you miss Chapters 1-406?  If so, you can read them in the Chapter Archive.