Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mastery of Design: Box with miniature of Peter the Great's Monument, 1913

Box of Gold, Enamel, Diamonds and a Miniature
Henrik Wigström forFabergé, 1913
Purchased by Queen Mary for King George V
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made for Fabergé  by the celebrated Henrik Wigström (1862-1923), this box of gold, guilloché enamel, rose and brilliant diamonds,  and a miniature en grisaille (in a limited, mostly gray, color palette) depicts Peter the Great's Monument.  It was made in 1913 for Prince Vladimir Galitzine; from whom purchased by Queen Mary,  September 10, 1934.  Mary presented the box to King George V on Christmas Day of 1934

The scene shows Etienne Falconet’s monument in St Petersburg which was completed in 1782, glorifying Peter the Great’s absolutism. The miniature is designed to look like a cameo.  The painting was the work of  Vassily Zuiev, a miniaturist employed by Fabergé, and is dated 1913, the year of the Romanov tercentenary.

At the Music Hall: I'm Shy, Mary Ellen, I'm Shy, 1910

I courted Mary Ellen for fourteen solid years, 
But she made me blush when she,
One night boldly said to me,
'You've never kissed me once, John,
Tho' I'd like you to', she sighed,
'Why don't you call me pretty names?'
I hung my head & cried,

I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy,
It does seem so naughty, oh my!
Kissing is nicey, I've often heard say,
But still how to do it, I don't know the way,
So you put your arm round my waist,
I promise I won't scream or cry,
So you do the kissing & cuddling instead,
'Cause I'm shy Mary Ellen I'm shy.

Last year with Mary Ellen to Lowestoft I went,
Mary Ellen said to me, 'I'm going bathing in the sea'
So while I go & have a splash, where all the ladies go,
You go & have a bathe amongst the men', I said,'No,no!

I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy,
It does seem so naughty, oh my!
Men are so rough & I'm sure they will stare
They'll splash me & duck me if I go in there.
The girls ain't so rough as the men,
And they wouldn't duck me or try
So I'd rather bathe here along with the girls
Cause I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy'.

While out with Mary Ellen we met a 6 foot man,
'That's the saucy scamp', said he,
'Who last week insulted me,
Not just you thrash the massive brute
I looked at his six feet, then she said,
'Take your coat off,' but I said 'What, in the street?

I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy,
It would look so naughty, oh my,
I said as I looked at the great hulking chap,
If I wasn't for one thing, I'd give him a slap,
But look at the ladies about
They'ld all stop to look, and, oh my!
If I take my coat off they'll see all my shirt
and I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy'.
To marry Mary Ellen I went to church one morn,
While the party with the bride went to church,
I stood aside, for quite an hour I stood there,
While she waited to be wed,
Then she came out & said,
Come on, I don't like to, I said,

'I'm shy Mary Ellen I'm shy,
It would look so naughty, oh my!
But still we got married & got home alright,
And kept up the fun with our friends until night,
Then they wished Mary Ellen good-bye,
And they started to go, so did I,
Then she said, 'You're not going', I said, 'Yes I am,
'Cause I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy!'

Written by Charles Ridgewell and George Stevens in 1910, this comic song about a mousy guy’s love for a young lady was popularized by Music Hall star Jack Pleasants.  This song was famously performed in the third class lodgings aboard the Titanic

Enjoy this rendition by Mr. Pleasants.  I would like to note that it is labeled as 1903, however, this would be impossible since it was not written until 1910—coincidentally the year of the death of King Edward VII and the accession of King George V.

History's Runway: A Pair of Korean Silk Purses, 1850-1900

Korean, 1850-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Purses such as these developed in Korea out of necessity as traditional Korean dress, called “hanbok”, did not have pockets.  So, a purse was not only decorative, it was useful.  A purse like those we see here was used by women.  Typically, they were adorned with Buddhist motifs embroidered in gold and silk thread.

These purses of red silk satin, made between 1850 and 1900, are secured with decorative green knotted cord.  They are emblazoned with multi-colored embroidery of rocks, waves, lotus flowers and the 'long life' character—“su,” which has been embroidered in gold above a lotus flower.  An embroidered coin can be seen in the middle of a scene of rocks.

These purses were given to Queen Mary in 1924.  Her Majesty bequeathed these along with many other items to the V&A in 1953.  

The Home Beautiful: The Monnoyer Painted Mirror, 1710-20

Painted Mirror
Antoine Monnoyer, 1710-20
The Victoria & Albert Museum

For a painted mirror such as this to survive for centuries is nothing short of miraculous.   The mirror glass is fragile and the surface paint easily chipped or stripped away during cleaning.   Furthermore,  such mirrors were often built into an interior and many examples were destroyed when the room was altered or redecorated.

This mirror is the work of the French artist Antoine Monnoyer who was born in 1672--the son of the artist Jean Baptiste Monnoyer, who worked for Louis XIV.  Coming to England in 1683, the Monnoyers, both father and son, painted flowers from all seasons of the year, achieving a decorative effect that would have been impossible with fresh-cut flowers. According to the V&A, “Jean Baptiste did a mirror closet at Kensington Palace for Mary II. Apparently she was so fascinated by his skill that she watched him while he worked.”

This mirror was painted in England and includes the coat of arms of the Duncombe Family, thought it is speculated that this was probably added later.  This example may have been an overmantel in a room which was thickly hung with tapestries.

Queen Mary, consort of King George V, was a fan of this style of mirror and, as such, hoped to restore the similarly-painted mirror closets at Kensington Palace.  She ordered such fashionable painted glass to be installed, but it does not survive.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 484

I understand,”  Mr. Punch nodded.  “Me boy—he ain’t really me own son.  His mama is my sister.  See, she weren’t fit to be a mother to poor Colin, and, so, I took him to live with me and me chum here.  But, when I thought I had to give him up, I was…well, it were like me heart was broken, it was.  So, I understand that you don’t want to give your own son away.”

Robert smiled.  “Lily, we do appreciate that you’ve taken the time to speak with us today.”

“You don’t understand.”  Lily shook her head.  “I’ll let you have the boy.  I just won’t give him ‘way.”

Marie Laveau scowled.  “I think what the girl means is…”

“Oh, I know what she means, magic Chum.”  Punch sighed.  “She wants somethin’ in return.”

“That’s right.”  Lily nodded firmly.

“What did you have in mind?”  Robert asked.

“Your clothes are dirty,”  Lily smiled.  “But, Marie says that’s from the fire ya’ll was in.  But, I see on this man’s hands two gold rings sparklin’ with diamonds.  And, I know diamonds is what rich folk wear.  I see all them ladies in their fine houses with their brooches and rings and them gentlemen with their pins and buttons.  I know you got money.  You’re a Duke, ain’t ya?  Don’t that mean you’re like a prince or somethin’.”

“Do it?”  Punch looked at Robert.

“It’s complicated, actually.  However, even though His Grace is not a member of the Royal family, his rank is just below that of a prince.  Yes.  Still, I don’t think you appreciate that we have no money with us.  Anything that we had—with the exception of the Duke’s jewels—were lost in the fire aboard the ship.”

“You can get some money, can’t ya?”  Lily asked.

“I have access to much wealth,”  Mr. Punch smiled.  “But, it’s all in England.  It’ll take time and we don’t got time to waste.  I can promise you anything that you want.”

“Promise me?”  Lily scoffed.

“These are honest men,”  Marie interjected.  “They’re good, decent men and their word is gold.  If they make you a promise, they’ll keep it.”

“Ain’t these the same two men you was tryin’ to punish all this time, Marie?”  Lily frowned.

“Well, yes.”  Marie replied uncomfortably.  “But, I done realized I was wrong for to do that.  We made our peace.  And, the doctor here, and Mr. Punch—errr…His Grace…they done saved my life in that fire.  I know that if they make you a promise, they’ll be true to it.”\

“No.”  Lily said.

“Perhaps we can raise the money you might want.”  Robert said.  “What is your price?”

“I don’t know.”  Lily grunted.  “What do you think?”

“I think it’s best to get that boy away from you.”  Mr. Punch snapped.  “Any woman willin’…”  He paused.  “It’s one thing to want to find a better life for him and to let him have a chance.  That’s what we wanted for him.  But, you…you want to sell him!”

“Do you think I want to do that?”  Lily hissed.  “You sit there in your diamonds and judge me?  Do you know what it’s like for me?”

“I think they do,” Marie said softly.  “If any two white men ever knew what you was going through, it’s these two.”

“Sure.”  Lily smirked.

A knock on the parlor door interrupted the conversation.  Young Marie entered.  “Mama?”

“We’re in the middle of somethin’, honey.”  Marie answered her daughter.

“I know, Mama.  But, there’s a woman here.
“Who’s she want?”

“You and the Duke.”
“Who is this woman?”

“Her name is Barbara Allen.”  Young Marie answered.

Did you miss Chapters 1-483?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 485 of Punch’s Cousin.  We’re counting down to the exciting conclusion of our tale.  Punch’s Cousin will conclude with Chapter 500.  So, all of you who have followed for the last year will want to keep reading as Mr. Punch and Robert find out whether their journey was a success or a tremendous failure.

A new online novel, Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will debut in this place in three weeks.  You’ll find out more about this new story on Sunday.  

Obscure Book of the Day: A Pictorial Biography of Her Majesty Queen Mary

Here’s another Pitkin Guide!  Hooray!  This one is called “A Pictorial History of Her Majesty Queen Mary.”  And, that’s really exactly what it is.  Like all Pitkin books of the era, this one has no date of publication, but it was obviously published during Queen Mary’s lifetime, so before 1953.  Judging by the images, now-Queen, then-Princess Elizabeth had already married and given birth to Prince Charles, so this book dates between 1948 and 1953.

The forward, “The Story of a Great and Gracious Lady” was written by Marguerite D. Peacock, a frequent contributor to these Pitkin Guides.

Let’s take a look inside…

Queen Mary, first as The Duchess of York with her first son, David--the Great Keruffler--and, finally with her grandson, Prince Charles.

Princess Mary of Teck

Princess May was a beloved figure throughout Britain.

After her marriage, Mary was created Duchess of York.

At the Delhi Durbar with King George V--declared Emperor and Empress of India.

Ready to be Queen.  Wearing the famed Cambridge Emeralds.

Queen Mary was a great source of national morale during the Great War.


Her final meeting with her disappointing eldest child, David.  After the Abdication Kerfuffle, Mary did not see her son for many years.  The Duke of Windsor had one final visit with his mother before her death. Jerk.

If you love Queen Mary as much as I do, you might enjoy our exclusive “Teck Support” designs which are available only at our online store.  Or, if you want to rub the late Duke of Windsor’s abdicating nose in it, the Abdication Kerfuffle ™ designs will be just the thing.

Object of the Day: A Scrap from the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary

So, the other night, I had a lovely dream.  I dreamt that I went to the 1911 Coronation.  Not only that, I was a special guest of King George V and Queen Mary.  I rode with them in the gold carriage all the way to Westminster Abbey.  For some reason, Queen Mary was sitting between me and King George.  Queen Mary frowned at me several times and said, “Joseph, is it really necessary to smoosh my gown?  You’re crushing my gown.  You’re ruining it!”

When we arrived at Westminster Abbey, we disembarked the carriage and I discovered that the drivers were Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb from the booze-fueled fourth hour of Today.  Queen Mary warned me that if I stepped on her train, I’d have to wait in the carriage with Kathie Lee and Hoda and I promised that I would be good so I could go into the Abbey.  KLG asked me why I didn’t want to stay with her.

Why do I share this with you?  I suppose as a way of further demonstrating my devotion to Queen Mary and King George V (and, it seems Kathie Lee and Hoda).  My home is filled with antique images of George and Mary (not KLG and Hoda), and here’s one more.

This scrap was produced in 1911 for the coronation.  It depicts the King and Queen, wearing their shimmering Orders and Garter Stars, in a regal wreath.  They are flanked by the Royal Standard and the flag of Britain. 

These die-cut chromolithographs were produced so that the public could collect them an incorporate them into albums or use them for the decoupage projects which were popular at the time. 

I’m always thrilled when scraps survive in this unaltered state and I’m quite pleased to have this one.  It is, apparently, the stuff that dreams are made of.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Goldstein Emerald, c. 1940

Emerald, Ruby, Diamond and Gold Ring
American, 1940s
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in the early 1940s, the angular geometry of this ring typifies much of the jewelry of the  Art Deco period, but also shows the then-growing trend toward softer forms.  By the 40s, jewels relied on angled curves, volutes, and flourishes with an increased sense of three-dimensionality. 

While still angular, this ring, made in the U.S., is set with a central cabochon emerald for softness.  This is flanked by square-cut rubies and diamonds which tend toward the earlier, more geometric standards.

Figure of the Day: "Contributors to Punch," a Fairing, Nineteenth Century

Some Contributors to Punch
Fairing, made in Germany,
Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victorian china objects called “fairings” are small porcelain ornaments which typically incorporated figures either alone or in groups, and depict a variety of scenes--humorous, political or domestic. Such ornaments usually rest on a base which often features a painted caption describing the scene. While most fairings are meant to be simply decorative, they were sometimes created to function as pinboxes, matchstrikers or holders for watches or small mirrors.   China fairings get their name from the fact that they were chiefly given away as prizes at Victorian era fairs starting around the middle of the Nineteenth Century and until the start of the First World War.

This fairing is predominantly a grayish-white porcelain on a rectangular base which is molded with scrollwork in the front, leaving a reserve upon which is inscribed: “Some contributors to Punch.”  This reference to the popular “Punch Magazine” depicts four figures:  one is a man with the word 'Whiskey' written on a band round him, in the center is a punch-pot on a pedestal with a human face, to the left of the punch-pot is a cone shape representing sugar--with legs and a human face. In front of this, we see a lemon with legs and a human face. There are two glasses lying on the floor in front.  This clever visual pun is meant to put one in mind of writers for the famed magazine, but it is, in fact, contributors to the drink called punch.

This was made in Germany in the late 19th century of porcelain painted with enamels.

Print of the Day: Sheet music cover for "Punchinello Lancers," 1896

Sheet Music for the Punchinello Lancers, 1896
from the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see the sheet music cover for “Punchinello Lancers” by Warwick Williams, published by Francis, Day & Hunter, 1896.  The cover depicts our Mr. Punch holding a puppet labeled “A Wall Flower.” 

The following texts accompanies the music: 


Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  Be on the look-out!  Sometimes--not today, because, frankly, again, I don't feel like it--the winner will receive a fabulous prize from our online store.

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would find that rather unsporting and it might get you a slapstick across the noggin.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go...

Which is the most miraculous animal in the farmyard?

And, the answer is...

The PIG for it is first killed, and, then it is "cured."

Public Congratulations to Darcy and Dashwood who, in combining their answers, came to the correct conclusion!  

Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  

And, remember, “That’s the way to do it!”

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 483

Lily looked from face-to-face in Marie Laveau’s dimly-lit front parlor.  She hugged her child tightly.  Finally, her eyes settled on Mr. Punch.

“Marie done tol’ me for to call ya, ‘Your Grace.’  You tell me to call ya ‘Mr. Punch.’  The two names don’t sound like the same thing.  One is light and pretty, the other is hard and ugly.”

“That’s me.”  Mr. Punch nodded.  “I ‘spose like all men, I’m a bit o’ both.  But, ‘Punch’ is a fine thing, too.  When it don’t mean hittin’, it means a fine drink what ya swallow at parties—all spicy and warm.  Punch can make you laugh and make everythin’ seem all right.  That’s what I aim to do, Miss.”

Lily smiled.

“And you thought you were without charm,”  Robert whispered behind Punch’s ear.

“Will you please sit?”  Punch asked the girl.

Marie pulled out a chair from beneath the table and offered it to the young woman.  She sat reluctantly, balancing her baby on her lap.

Punch and Robert also grabbed chairs and sat across from Lily.

“I’ll leave ya to talk,”  Marie nodded.

“No…”  Lily said quickly.  “Please stay.”

“These men ain’t gonna do ya no harm.”  Marie clucked her tongue.  “I done tol’ ya that they’re fine gentlemen.”

“No, Lily’s correct.”  Robert spoke up.  “Marie, you should stay.  You’re as much a part of this as any of us.”

“If you like.”  Marie smiled, sitting on the edge of the table.

“He’s a fine lookin’ boy, your son.  You must love him a terrible lot.”  Punch began.

“I reckon.”  Lily nodded.  “Looks like his daddy.  Maybe too much.”

“Has his father met him?”  Robert asked.

“No.”   Lily shook her head.  “And, he ain’t gonna.”

“Shouldn’t he?”  Robert continued.

“I ain’t gonna talk ‘bout him.”  Lily answered firmly.

“As you wish,”  Robert nodded.

“Must be hard bringin’ up a baby all by yourself.  You got family what helps ya?”  Punch asked.

“No.”  Lily shook her head.  “My folks is all dead.  Last one took ill wit’ the fever and died two weeks ago.”

“I’m terrible sorry.”  Robert answered sincerely.  “Where do you live?”

“I gotta room.  Just a room.  Marie got it for me.  It’s in the back of one of the other girl’s places.  She got a husband and kids of her own, plus, like me she works for Marie.  So, she don’t got time for to fool with me and my baby.”  Lily answered.

Mr. Punch watched as the child reached up and put his little hand on his mother’s face.

“He loves his mama.”  Punch smiled.

“Sure he does.”  Lily frowned.  “But, he shouldn’t.  I ain’t no good.”

“Why would you say such a thing?”  Robert asked.

“You’re a good woman, Lily.”  Marie nodded.  “You’re a fine worker.”

“Bein’ a fine worker don’t make me no good mama.”  Lily scowled.

“Lily…”  Robert began, but Lily interrupted him.

“I don’t mean to be rude, Sir,”  Lily sighed, “but, why am I here?  Do you men want my boy?  Marie said you got a boy of your own.  You want him to have a brother or somethin’?”

“Not exactly.”  Robert shook his head.

“What is it, then?”  Lily asked, clearly looking disappointed.

“Do you know a man named Edward Cage?”  Robert asked.

“Heard the name.   He’s the fella with that waxworks.  Very rich man.”

“He’s looking to adopt a son.”  Robert explained.

“He wants my boy?”

“No.”  Punch responded.  “He wants mine.  I was hopin’ that if you…”

Lily interrupted Punch.  “You want to give him my boy instead.”

“Yes.”  Punch answered honestly.

Lily frowned and looked down at her child.

“I know it must be a difficult thing for you to…”  Robert said, but Lily interrupted him again.

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout it, with respect, Sir.”  Lily snapped.

“Of course.”

“You’re jus’ askin’ me for to give up my chil’.  Jus’ give him ‘way.”

“Yes.”  Punch nodded.

“I won’t do it.”  Lily shook her head.

Did you miss Chapters 1-482?  If so, you can read them here.  

Unusual Artifacts: Another Glass Magic Lantern Slide

Magic Lantern Slide by Theobald & Co.
Hand-painted glass.
Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Number eight of the set of twelve Theobald & Co. Magic Lantern slides at the V&A, this hand-painted glass slide depicts our Mr. Punch attempting to ride a donkey.  It’s this awkward ride which leads to a terrible fall and Mr. Punch’s traditional declaration of “Oh, dear!  Oh, dear!  I’m dead.  I’m sure of it.”  Even after the doctor tells him that he’s not dead, Mr. Punch cannot be convinced.

The following text accompanies the slide during a magic lantern show:

Punch: Oh dear, oh dear, I do hope I haven’t hurt it. I thought the nurse was down below. Heigh, ho! what shall I do? I know, I’ll get on my moke and go for a ride. Gee up, Neddie, now don’t be a donkey, on you go. What! you will kick will you, don’t kick up a row anyhow, old chap. Let’s be friends. Don’t you understand? Your ears are long enough. Give poor old Punch a proper ride, you rascal, or I’ll sell you off cheap.

Object of the Day: A German Trade Card Depicting a Punch & Judy Show

This beautiful Victorian trade card heralds from Germany.  The color-lithographed front of the card depicts an elegant interior wherein a group of well-dressed children and a white dog are enjoying a Punch & Judy show.  Mr. Punch—or his German cousin, Kasper—has just dispatched his bride—not with is traditional slapstick, but with a weapon more akin to a branch or “switch.”

Now, my German is not good, so I’m not sure what exactly this is advertising.    I will, however, reproduce the text below.  If any of my German-speaking readers would like to translate for me, I’d be thrilled.  Just post your translation in the comments. 

Using what little I know about German, I can guess that this is an ad for coffee grounds which, apparently, welcome you “Home.”  I’m curious to see what any of you can tell me. 

It says:

Ein gesundes

von kräftigem, angenehmen,
lieblichen Geschmack, dasauch
für jedes Familiendglied be-
kömmlich, bereitet man aus halben Portion Bohuenkaffee und
einer halben Portion.

Aecht Hauswaldt
Achten Sie bitte genau auf Schutzmarke, “Haus”!

Joh.  Gottl.  Hauswaldt
Brauncschweig.  Magdeburg
Eger i. B.
Gegründet, 1786