Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Special: Happy Howlidays

Silent night, silly night...settle in with some Sugarplum Nightmares
First with Hector the Dog.

Next with Tom and Jerry.

And Rudolph (the Jam Handy version). Enjoy Rudolph's mom's fine legs.

And, finally, follow the bouncing hen fruit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yuletide Dueling Divas and their "Children"

Here, we have very sincere Christmas wishes from Santa's little helpers, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The kids with Bette aren't hers. They're from central casting. The kids with Joan are hers inasmuch as she bought them from a baby broker.

Now, pour your Christmas Scotch and Pepsi and for Pete's sake, stop wishing for that railroad!

Christmas Eve Eve Special: Merry Mania

As you prepare for the coming holiday, enjoy this vintage foolishness and mayhem.

Up first, get into the spirit with some orphan suffering.

We can next celebrate with a mad inventor making dangerous presents for parentless children.

Next, raise the cup that cheers, but doesn't inebriate as a beautiful lady squirrel hosts a Christmas circus.

And then with Little Audrey and some ethnic stereotypes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

With presents to wrap, cookies to eat, and puppet-chow to make, Bertie, Mr. Punch and I are going to take a brief hiatus from our usual updates for a few days. However, make sure to come back on Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because there just might be some jolly surprises for you.

Regular posting will start again on December 27. We’ll see you then. On behalf of Bertie and Mr. Punch, I’d like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas and a happy Hanukkah.

Mastery of Design: The Cooper Christmas Pendant, 1906

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Cooper Christmas Pendant consists of a Madonna and Child within a jeweled niche, suspended within a circular wire frame which has been adorned with stars. The pendant is hung with an additional circular pendant and drop below, while above, a dove descends between the two chains that connect the suspension loop. The piece flickers with the colors and lights of hand-worked silver and gold with rubies, aquamarines, sapphires, opals and chrysoprases.

This is the work of John Paul Cooper whose artistry as a jeweler was celebrated at the 1906 Arts and Crafts Exhibition. Studio Magazine praised Cooper’s work for its sculptural qualities and for its originality during a period when other exhibitors' work appeared rather formulaic and staid.

The shimmer, rich colors, rounded cabochon-cut stones, plain bezels and the hand-worked silver seen here are typical of Arts and Crafts jewelry. Cooper favored figural subjects and he often worked with spiritual and symbolic themes.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: "Punch and Paddy," Peace on Earth, c. 1820

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This engraving entitled, “Punch and Paddy” is inscribed, “Put away that thing, and let's have a Merry Christmas.”

Punch, clearly is addressing the Hangman who is traditionally called “Jack Ketch.” For some reason, here, he is referred to as “Paddy,” a name which must pre-date Jack’s within the confines of Punch’s story. Punch entreats his captor to put his musket away in the Christmas spirit—the epitome of “Peace on Earth.”

Punch, also is dressed atypically as he wears a yellow outfit and a green hat as opposed to his traditional crimson. We can see the gallows poking out on the right—showing Paddy’s intent to capture Punch and hang him. Punch, however, has other plans for Christmas.

Painting of the Day: 'Snowballing' by John Morgan, 1865

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This painting by John Morgan was created in 1865 and is entitled “Snowballing.” It depicts a group of raucous boys engrossed in a hearty snowball fight.

Morgan wanted to make sure that the viewer recognized these lads as country children. At least two of them wear the smock that was still traditionally in use by working men and boys in the country districts of Britain in the 1860s. Smocks meant for everyday wear were usually of a strong brown or grey cloth, and were constructed of pieces of fabric only in rectangular, square or triangular shapes—requiring no pattern and ensuring no fabric was wasted on creating curved shapes.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 422

Mr. Punch looked up and smiled. Adrienne had fallen asleep—her son nestled in her arms. The child also slept—comforted by the scent and touch of his mother and rocked by the gentle sway of the carriage.

Above them, Punch could hear Cecil softly humming to himself—relieved to have found his boy, relieved to know that, finally, all was right in his world and that he and his family could escape the nightmare which had befallen them in Louisiana. A return to England, surely, would be the answer, Cecil thought.

Marjani, too, had nodded off, her face pressed against the carriage window as she breathed heavily—exhausted from the many ordeals which she had endured during that exceptionally long day.

Only Robert, seated next to Mr. Punch, was awake. He gazed at Julian’s face and wondered where his friend had gone. Punch was aware of this.

“Thinkin’ ‘bout Julian, then?” Punch grinned.

“I am.” Robert nodded.

“This were all too much for him, it was.” Punch nodded. “’Sides, he already had enough of his own battles tonight.”

“How so?” Robert asked.

Punch thumped on his chest as he answered softly so as not to awaken the others. “See, in here, is me master. Just before—or during, I ‘spose—all this chaos tonight, he got himself ready to remember.”


“Sure,” Punch shrugged. “All the secrets. All them secrets I been keepin’ from him for years. First, he tried doin’ it on his own, he did, but that weren’t no good. See?”

“No.” Robert shook his head.

“Much as I love me master, I gotta say, he weren’t ready. No. Not to face all that ugliness by his own self. It weren’t a good idea. But, I found him.”

“What do you mean? Where was he?”

“Still in here.” Punch pointed to Julian’s body. “He’s always in here somewhere.”

Robert nodded.

“I know what you’re thinkin’.” Punch chuckled quietly. “You bein’ a doctor. You think our bodies are only filled with meat and juice. Only that ain’t the case. Not really.”

“I’ve examined many a body, and they are always muscle, bone, organs and blood—meat and juice as you say.”

“Well, listen,” Punch replied thoughtfully. “You accept that I’m a different man what shares a body with another man. Same body—two men. More, actually. But, for now, we’ll only think of us two. You understand that, yes?”


“Well, for such a man, the body is also a great mansion, it is. A mansion of many rooms, many places what hold many doors and behind them doors is many things. Some of them things we know and can expect. Some hold surprises. Them’s the worst doors.”

“I see.”

“Me master—he wanted to open them doors, but he weren’t ready for what was behind ‘em.”

“I can appreciate that.” Robert nodded. “It’s rather like receiving a gift from someone you don’t particularly like. You’re curious what’s inside, but rather afraid to open it, too.”

“Sure, if you like. Don’t matter none to me how you describe it, long as you understand.” Punch smiled.

They sat in silence for awhile.

Finally, Robert spoke again. “He’s safe, yes?”

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “He’s safe.”

“Will I see him again?”

“Sure you will.”

“You know, in many ways, you’re becoming more like him.” Robert smiled weakly.

“Am I?” Punch shrugged. “Probably that’s cuz it’s what he wants.”


“Sure.” Punch sighed. “See, I think he likes it in there. I ‘spose he’d rather me live his life for him.”

Robert nodded slowly.

“Don’t fret, Chum.” Punch patted Robert on the shoulder. “He’ll be out soon enough. I’ll see to it. Ain’t no good him hidin’ in there always. I like being alive, I do. But, sometimes, I need a rest, too. I think once we get home—to Belgravia, when he’s in his own house—he’ll be back. And, then, I can rest ‘til next I’m needed.”

“I understand.”

“He’s pleased, he is.” Punch continued. “Don’t worry ‘bout that. He’s pleased with what we done. I can tell. Maybe once all this kerfuffle is past us, I can help him open those doors again—once and for all.”

“I’d like to help, too.”

“I don’t reckon you’d find in there with us.” Punch frowned, looking at his belly.

“I meant from out here.” Robert grinned.

“Oh.” Punch nodded. “That’d be nice and generous and such.”

Again, they sat and silence.

“Coo!” Punch muttered after awhile.


“Hard to think it were only a few days ago when it were Christmas and we were openin’ presents and being happy—‘til Iolanthe went and caused us all that trouble. Still when I remember it, I don’t like to think of that bit.”

“Nor do I.”

Punch continued. “All that hope. And, then, with the New Year, it was to be a fresh slate what was all clean and ready for us to start fillin’ it up with what we wanted, not what we got.”

“The year is still young. There’s plenty of time to fill that slate with our own plans and accomplishments. Look at what we’ve already accomplished. I’d say we’ve been quite successful.”

“I ‘spose it ain’t what you got to cope with, but how you cope with it what matters.” Punch replied, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s it.”

“And, I ‘spose we got lots of Christmases and new years ahead on what we can celebrate.”

“We don’t need an excuse to celebrate our lives.” Robert winked.

“So, then, every day can be Christmas if we want?” Punch asked.

“Yes.” Robert nodded.

“Well, then, ‘Happy Christmas,’ Chum!” Punch said excitedly, yet quietly.

“Happy Christmas, Mr. Punch.” Robert patted his friend’s knee.

“Looks like we got the present we wanted,” Punch pointed toward Fuller, still asleep in Adrienne’s arm.

“And so much more,” Robert smiled. “so much more.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-420? If so, you can read them here. Come back on December 27, 2011 for Chapter 422 of Punch’s Cousin.

History's Runway: A Leather Reticule, 1819

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a rectangular brown leather reticule with a flap and a brass catch, a stamped gilt border and panels of tortoiseshell surrounding two ivory panels incised with designs of floral baskets. This surprisingly current-looking bad features a gilt chain. The leather is marked, “BATH 1819,” though it looks like a handbag which would be in vogue in 2011.

The leather handbag was first introduced around 1815 in the form of an envelope-like pocket with a flap which fastened by means of a metal catch. Many, like this one, were adorned with metal plaques, or insets of tortoiseshell or ivory panels.

This bag still contains a letter with the watermark BATH 1819. It is addressed to Mrs. Kennedy, Capel Street, and reads “May I request My dear Mrs Kennedys acceptance of this small Christmas tribute - and wishing you many happy returns of the day. I remain very very affectionately M. Hamilton, Christmas Day.”

Clearly both the letter and the Christmas gift were cherished by Mrs. Kennedy as they have remained in pristine condition for nearly two hundred years.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Clock Biscuit Tin, 1877

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This beautiful clock, on first glance, appears to be the real deal. However, it’s one of the many clever biscuit tins produced in Britain at the end of the Nineteenth Century after the Licensed Grocer's Act of 1861 allowed groceries to be individually packaged and sold. Biscuit tins were made in increasingly complex and elaborate designs—not only making them appealing to shoppers who might choose one brand of biscuits over another because of an attractive package, but also ensuring that they’d remain beloved collectibles for centuries to come.

This tin was produced in 1877 for the Christmas season and depicts a tall-case clock in the chinoiserie style which was so popular at the time. A remarkable job of shaping the tin with raised details is only made all the more beautiful by the chromolithography.

P.S.  The hands move and everything!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Aragon Star Earrings, 1795

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Aragon Star Earrings were made in 1705 of chrysoberyls set in gold and silver with open drops comprised of stars and crescents in the center. This pair of earrings takes its name from their place of origin—Aragon, Spain.

Chrysoberyl is a name used for a variety of gemstones of similar properties and composition, including peridot, alexandrite, cat’s eye and chrysolite. These versatile stones were much admired during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. With their wide range of colors, exceptional brilliance and a hardness of 8.5, they were found to be a sturdy and attractive gemstone. Clear or white chrysolite, along with white spinel, were often used as an alternative to diamonds in order to create exquisite pieces like these earrings that were slightly more affordable. Now, these stones, along with spinel, are quite rare and fetch as high a price as the average white diamond.

Print of the Day: The Ghost of Christmas Present, 1843

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This hand-colo(u)red etching was created for an early edition of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol,” published in 1843, and depicts the scene in which Scrooge's third visitor—The Ghost of Christmas Present—appears.

It was drawn by John Leech (of "Punch Magazine" fame) and published in an edition by Chapman & Hall. The title and artist’s signature are still clearly seen.

Christmas at Home: A Missouri Christmas

Friend of Stalking the Belle Époque, Shawn, has graciously shared pictures of the impressive Christmas decorations which adorn his beautiful Missouri home. Shawn has been collecting antique and vintage Christmas decorations and objects for many years. Let’s let him tell it in his own words…

He writes…

It's Christmas in Missouri! Hello to all the fans and followers of STBE! I wanted to take this opportunity to share Christmas at my house with all of you. My little Victorian house was built in the 1880s and, though my first love is Victorian antiques, I tend to collect and display vintage Christmas items from the 1930s through the 1960s. The bay window in my dining room becomes the home of my nine-foot tree with more than a thousand lights. Next to it is my vintage, late 1960s, Toymaster cardboard electric fireplace. My parents had one of these when I was a child and I was thrilled to find one for my own decorating (the one my parents had is long gone). The ornaments are a mix of new blown glass, to vintage Shiny Brite, to German and early Japanese. I use many, many strands of vintage glass bead garlands and a vintage 1940s Noma Star topper. In the center of the front is a vintage GloLite Santa that can either stand on its own or also be a topper. To top it all off, I use anywhere from 8-10 boxes of tinsel! I just love the sparkle it gives to the tree and it seems so appropriately vintage. I have also collected many Santa Claus figures over the years...most of those in the pictures, including the large Santa and Mrs. Claus standing by the cardboard fireplace were made by the now-closed Harold Gale Display Company of Kansas City, Mo. These were common department store display figures throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The early ones, of which I only have one or two, actually feature hand painted faces that were done my Mrs. Gale herself! I find them beautiful and charming. I also enjoy putting a few lights on the outside of the house, as you can see in the photos of this year and the snowy photo of last year. So, I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into my house and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!

Thank you, Shawn!  That's the way to do it!

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Christmas Table, 1855

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This table, created in the style of Louis XVI features marquetry of tulipwood among other woods, with mounts of gilded and silvered bronze and a frieze set with a porcelain plaque

Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901) ordered this small French table as a Christmas present for her husband, Prince Albert, in 1855. The porcelain plaque on the front frieze shows their joint monogram, ‘VA’.

The gift of the table was meant as a souvenir of their state visit to the Emperor Napoleon III in France earlier in 1855, a visit which also coincided with the Exposition Universelle in Paris. This elaborate exhibition was France’s pointed response to the British success of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Queen Victoria visited the Paris exhibition three times, enjoying it immensely. However, she did not order this table until she returned to London. The table is the work of the firm of Edouard Kreisser. It was accompanied by a matching cabinet. Both the table and the cabinet were known to be at Osborne House in the late-nineteenth—located in the Small Drawing Room or Audience Room. It is not known when or how the table left the Royal Collection, but I have no doubt that Queen Mary didn’t know it was missing or she’d have found a way to get it back.

The table resurfaced in 1964 when it was known to be with the dealers of Kerrins in London. It was then purchased by Mr. George Farrow, who presented it to the V&A.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 421

Barbara Allen spun around once she and Charles got far enough away from Edward Cage’s house.

“This is marvelous!” Barbara squeaked. “Finally, this glorious diamond has been returned to its rightful owner.”

“Isn’t your brother its rightful owner?” Charles muttered.

“What?” Barbara stopped, the glee slipping from her face like water. She tilted her head to one side—dark curls cascading at an angle and hanging over her shoulder like Spanish moss from on oak tree.

Charles cleared his throat. “Isn’t His Grace the diamond’s owner? Did you not steal this from him? I believe that’s one part of the reason that he came here in the first place.”

Barbara glared at Charles, her eyes so filled with contempt that they seemed to glow through the misty night like mean candles.

“That’s what you told me. Am I mistaken?” Charles continued.

“I thought you loved me.” Barbara spat, her back stiffening with rage.

“I do.”

“I thought you loathed my brother.”

“I don’t loathe him. I don’t loathe anyone—except maybe my own brother. Your brother, the Duke, annoys me. I don’t understand him and his madness. I find him to be bothersome, but I don’t hate him. He was very kind to me and treated me with respect—even when I didn’t deserve it. That’s more than I can say for any ‘sane’ man. I think he deserves to have his property returned to him.”

“It’s Father’s diamond.”

Charles sighed, fearing that Barbara was retreating into the murky world of her own pitiable madness again.

“I know he’s dead.” Barbara snapped. “Don’t look at me like that and issue forth your bovine sighs. I am aware that my father is dead. My mother is, too.”

“As heir to the Fallbridge duchy, His Grace is the owner of that gem. And, if I recall, your father had entrusted the Duke with its care long ago.”

“If you can call hiding the diamond in the hollow head of Julian’s puppet ‘entrusting.’”

“The stone should be returned to the Duke. We don’t need it.”

“Don’t we?” Barbara laughed. “On what are we to live? Our pure love? Ha! You are a fool.”

“Why not? Why can’t we live on love like honest people. I’m able-bodied. So are you. Why can’t we both work for our bread?”

“Because I’m a lady!”

“You ceased being a lady long ago, Barbara. Let’s be honest.”

“You didn’t seem to mind that when you…”

Charles interrupted. “We can live comfortably. We don’t need much.”

“Comfortable people never triumph!”

“Over what do you wish to triumph?” Charles asked frustratedly.

“Over those who’ve wronged me.”

“Who?” Charles said, taking a deep breath. “Arthur?” He shook his head. “Dead! Who else? Nellie? Dead!”

“They’re nothing to me.”

“Who then?” Charles asked angrily. “Your brother? Sure, he’s barmy, but he’s kind. He’s rescued your son and given him a chance at a happy life in his ancestral home. Colin will one day be the Duke of Fallbridge and all of your family’s wealth will befall him. His Grace will give your son what you couldn’t—a name and his rightful fortune. You’ll punish him for that?”

“I’m not so concerned about Julian.” Barbara muttered.

“Who then?” Charles asked again. “Ulrika? Do you really think you can silence her? She’s stronger than we are. So are Iolanthe Evangeline and Marie Laveau. Neither of us stands a chance against them. Why ruin yourself further in a pointless battle?”

“I’m terribly saddened that you have so little faith in me. Now—with this diamond in my hand—I have the means to triumph over all of them and make them pay for their crimes! And should I fail, I’ll die knowing that I, at least, made them suffer.”

“What of your crimes? Will you pay for them?”

“Haven’t I already?” Barbara shouted—her voice echoing through the empty streets. “I began paying the day that Dr. Halifax cut that screaming child from my body! Halifax—he’s another one…”

“You’re consumed by it. Revenge! Don’t you realize what you’ll be missing? Have you no regrets?”

“The only regret I have is that I cannot make all men suffer as they’ve made me suffer.”

“All men?” Charles snorted. “And, me?”

“You, too, yes.” Barbara smirked. “Perhaps, in fact, I should start with you.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-420? If so, you can read them here.

Antique Image of the Day: Chu Chin Chow's Christmas Panto, 1916

Victoria & Albert Museum

Chu Chin Chow, a musical comedy, was written, produced and directed by Oscar Asche, with music by Frederic Norton. The show was loosely based on the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. One of the thieves, the Robber Chieftain—Abu Hassan, murders a wealthy Chinese merchant, Chu Chin Chow, and disguises himself as the man in order to gain entrance to a prosperous man’s house. The show premièred at His Majesty's Theatre in London on August 3, 1916 and ran for five years with a total of 2,238 performances.

Here, we see a pen and ink drawing for a proposed poster design for Chu Chin Chow at His Majesty's Theatre. The image—meant for the winter season of 1916--depicts Chu Chin Chow dressed as Father Christmas cutting into a plum pudding. Underneath is written: "More plums than in any Pantomime".

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Christmas Card, c. 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This chromolithograph Christmas card depicts two children engaged in collecting mistletoe and holly branches in a forest. A cartouche bearing a Christmas poem fills the open clearing. The boy carries mistletoe and a holly branch as the young girl reaches for a sprig of mistletoe.

The verse reads:

Christmas Greeting
The leaf shall laugh,
The berry shall glow,
For joy of our hearts
'Neath the mistletoe

This card celebrates the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe, a practice which originated in an old Norse practice of warring enemies calling truce under mistletoe, and sealing their pledge with a kiss. Not what one exactly pictures when one thinks about Vikings. The kiss, it seems, symbolized an exchange of souls. Plus, I guess, it was a way to keep warm.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mastery of Design: The “Mazel Tov” Ring, 1800

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This filigree ring of gold wire is set with a plate engraved with the inscription “Mazel Tov.” The plate, actually seems to be a later addition to the ring which originally dates to 1800. In Hebrew, “Mazel Tov” loosely translates to “Good luck.”

A ring such as this would have served as a ritual gift, given during the Jewish marriage ceremony. Though this practice has been a part of the ceremony since ancient times, it is only documented since the Fifteenth Century.

Unusual Artifacts: Rimmonim, circa 1680

The Victoria & Albert Museum

These attractive rimmonim of silver filigree are hung with six gilt bells with petals from which, also, six bells are suspended. They are surmounted by crown-shaped finials with five branched fleur-de-lys from which more bells are hung.

Rimmonim (literally, “pomegranates”) are the finials that top the most sacred object in the Jewish faith, the Torah scroll, which is wound on rollers called the “Trees of Life. The scroll is kept in a rigid case or covered by a cloth mantle for protection.

The torah is the focal point of the synagogue--kept in the Holy Ark (Aron ha-Kodesh). On Sabbaths, Mondays, Thursdays and holy days the Torah is removed from the ark and read in front of the congregation.

These particular rimmonim probably come from a magnificent Torah mantle that was made for the Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam in the late Seventeenth Century.

Antique Image of the Day: Hanukkah, 1944

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The image, printed in black, on the front of this postcard depicts four concentration camp inmates behind a makeshift Hanukkah menorah. Within this sober image, the word Hanukkah (in Hebrew) and the year, “1944” are lettered.

This postcard was issued by the Jewish organization Agudat Jiszrael (Union of Israel) in Budapest in 1945. The image was designed by Felix Gluck in 1944. Gluck had fled his native Bavaria for Budapest in 1936 to escape the Nazis, but was imprisoned in Mauthausen--a forced labor camp in Austria, from 1944 to 1945. The card, now, not only chronicles the atrocities that Jewish people faced before and during the Second World War, but also their innate sense of hope and admirable dedication to their beliefs.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Silver Yad, c. 1797

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A “yad” is a pointer used in Jewish worship to motion to or touch the Torah. This silver Yad ends in the shape of a hand—a traditional form for such items. This yad features a cylindrical handle with a fluted band round the middle, and a suspension ring for hanging.

The yad helps the reader to follow the sacred text of the Torah (the scroll containing the Pentateuch--the first five books of the Hebrew Bible). Yads are usually made of silver, and sometimes set with precious stones on the index finger of the pointer. When not in use, the yad is hung over the breastplate that is suspended from the staves of the Torah.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 420

Charles was amazed at how quietly Barbara flitted around Ulrika’s room. Despite the fact that the woman was opening every drawer, rummaging through every trunk, and even looking under each piece of furniture, she made no noise whatsoever which might have alerted the others in Edward Cage’s house that they were there.

“Are you going to help me?” Barbara growled softly.

“I wouldn’t know where to start.” Charles whispered. “Besides, I shouldn’t be comfortable going through a lady’s things—even if the lady is Ulrika Rittenhouse.”

Barbara’s eyes widened with anger.

“Tell me where to look.” Charles nodded.

“Stand on that chair and look above the wardrobe, and I’ll…” Barbara hissed. She paused and studied a large crystal shaker of powder on Ulrika’s dressing table.

“What?” Charles asked.

“That’s not the shaker that goes with her toilet set.” Barbara whispered.

“How do you know?”

“I acted as her maid in Marionneaux.” Barbara snarled. “I am familiar with her things.”

“Perhaps this is the one she brings for travel.”

“No.” Barbara shook her head. “Her travel case is enamel and gilding.” She picked up the shaker and studied it closely. “This isn’t even for powder. This is a sugar caster.” A smile crossed Barbara’s lips. “And it’s monogrammed. C.C. It’s Corliss Cage’s. This shaker came from this house.”

Barbara unscrewed the silver cap and started to empty the floral-scented contents onto the floor.

“What are you doing?” Charles rasped.

Suddenly, a dusty object thudded to the floor atop the pile of pink-ish powder. Even the clinging grains of pink could not hide its blue sparkle.

With greedy fingers Barbara picked up the stone and cleaned it by rubbing it against her dress as Charles’ mouth fell open.

“The Fallbridge Blue.” Barbara grinned.

“Your brother refers to it as ‘The Moliner Blue.’”

“My brother also thinks he’s a puppet.” Barbara snapped.

“What do we do now?” Charles asked.

“Now?” Barbara smiled. “Now, Charles, we live…”

Did you miss Chapters 1-419? If so, you can read them here.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Eighteenth Century Hanukkah Lamp

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in the Netherlands in the Eighteenth Century, this brass Hanukkah lamp features the requisite eight lights. Its back-plate is cast and pierced and surmounted by a Star of David with a Hebrew inscription which reads: “For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light.”

This would have served as a menorah at Hanukkah--the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights which celebrates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Lang Quartz and Jewels Box, 1770

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This magnificent quartz box for holding sweetmeats is mounted in engraved and chased gold and encrusted with stones carved in the form of a woman, birds, flowers and insects. Made in Augsburg, c. 1770, this is the work of the jeweler Heinrich Gottlob Lang who managed to incorporate a host of gorgeous colored stones into his design. The stones, carved and faceted, include: sapphire, pink tourmaline, white opals, garnets, marcasite, lapis lazuli, bowenite, malachite, turquoise, jasper, agate, and chalcedony.