Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Micromosaic Dove Brooch, 1860

Micromosaic Brooch
Italy, c. 1860
From the Gilbert Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This circular brooch is crafted in the classical style and dates to around 1860. Made in Italy, this fashionable bit of micromosaic depicts two doves and foliage set against a gleaming gold background. 

Tourists visiting Italy would often bring back micromosaic pieces during the “Grand Tours” which were so important to those in upper-class society. These panels would range in size and shape. Some were made into jewelry while large panels were set into furniture.

I think the many, many doves who have made nests on the columns and porches of my home would appreciate this quite a lot.

Painting of the Day: George IV Wearing the Order of the Garter, 1821

Portrait Miniature of King George IV Wearing the Star of the Order of the Garter
Enamel on Copper
Henry Pierce Bone, 1821
After Thomas Lawrence
The Gilbert Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The work of Nineteenth-Century English master painter Henry Pierce Bone (1779-1855), this enamel miniature on copper dates to 1821. The piece, an oval head and shoulders portrait of King George IV wearing a red uniform with the Star of the Order of the Garter, is set into a gold, enamel and ormolu frame set with pearls.

Such miniature portraits of the Sovereign were made to be given as gifts meant as a show of favor to the recipient. Bone was a favorite of the Royal Family who often employed him as a miniaturist. His ability to copy large state portraits in enamel was unparalleled. In this instance, the miniature is a brilliant replica of a famous portrait of King George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), considered the most fashionable portraitist of his day.

The reverse is inscribed:

His Majesty
London Oct. 1821
Painted by Hy Bone
RA En. Painter to the King &c.

At the Music Hall: Billy Mayerl's Marigold, 1927

Billy Mayerl
Image from "The Billy Mayerl Society"

“Marigold” is perhaps the best known composition of celebrated English pianist and composer Billy Mayerl (1902-1959). Mayerl was the “Master of Light Music” and rose to great popularity on the boards of the English Music Halls and musical theatres. His syncopated novelty piano pieces (over three hundred which he wrote himself) were often named for and inspired by flowers and trees. Though he’s famous for these piano pieces, he also composed a variety of more substantial works for piano and orchestra. Mayerl also founded and operated the “School of Syncopation” which offered instruction in modern musical techniques such as ragtime. This led to his long-running correspondence course, “How to Play Like Billy Mayerl.”

These two videos are quite enjoyable. The first is a recent performance of “Marigold” and the second is a rare film of Billy Joseph Mayerl himself playing the piece.

Precious Time: The Jean Romilly Watch, 1760-61

Quarter-Repeating Watch by Jean Romilly
This and all related images from:
The Gilbert Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Made by Jean Romilly (1714-1794) between 1760 and 1761, this quarter-repeating watch of enameled gold is set with panels imitating moss agate. The reverse of the watch is mounted with a scene of a young flute player leaning over a young woman in order to read his music, while another woman and a boy whisper together in the background.

Within this intricately painted scene on the back of the watch, a large armoire and a square stone column to the left of the composition are counter-balanced by a depiction of a massive draping of pale-purple silk taffeta flowing into the composition from the upper right.

This watch is another treasure from the V&A’s Gilbert Collection.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 93

Chapter 93: 
The Task at Hand 

Blimey,” Ethel cooed as their carriage approached Grange Molliner. She took Jenny’s hand. “It’s a storybook.”

Jenny nodded. “Just needs a prince.”

“We got a Duke and that’s just the same thing.” Ethel smiled.

“Sure, but he ain’t gonna ask for our hands.” Jenny giggled.

Ethel guffawed like a mule.

“Stop it, you two.” Violet snapped. The long journey from London had made her irritable and tired.

Aw, let ‘em have their fun, Vi.” Georgie grinned. “This is a holiday.”

“Is it?” Vi frowned.

“Well, yeah.” Georgie nodded. “The Duke brought us out here to go to the ball.”

“And, to work.” Vi sniffed. “Ain’t like he shut up the whole of No. 65 just so we could come here to dance.”

“They got a staff of their own here,” Jenny scowled. “They don’t need us to work.”

“Look at the place,” Vi pointed. “Do ya think they’re not gonna put extra hands to work?”

“My mum says we should count our blessin’s.” Ethel grumbled. “In all here years, she ain’t never heard of no master never bringin’ a scullery maid, a house maid, a kitchen maid and a page all the way to Scotland just for a ball—just to be kind. We’re lucky, we are. The Duke is good to us.”

“Dunno why you gotta spoil ever’thin’.” Jenny added. “You’re just a sour girl, Vi.”

“I know why she’s poutin’.” Georgie grinned. “She misses Hutchinson.”

“I do not!” Violet frowned.

“That ol’ man?” Ethel laughed. “What’s she missin’ ‘im for, then?”

“I think our Vi fancies ol’ Hutch.” Georgie grinned.

“Georgie Pepper, you’re a cad.” Violet snarled.

“I’m right, ain’t I?” Georgie teased. “Didn’t you cry when Hutch told ya he wasn’t gonna come?”

“No!” Violet spat. “I didn’t.”

“Sure ya did. I saw ya sulkin’ in the master’s library when you was puttin’ the dust covers out.” Georgie contorted his face into an expression of mock mourning. “’Woe is me! My old love ain’t comin’ to Scotland!’” He said in falsetto.

“You shut your gob, Georgie.” Violet snapped. “I don’t care if Mrs. Pepper is your mum, I’ll smack your face good. Sure, you think you’re that clever, but you don’t know nothin’!”

“He’s old ‘nough to be your pa.” Jenny giggled. “And, he’s losin’ his ‘air.”

“Old ‘nough to be her grandpa, no less.” Ethel added.

Violet’s eyes filled with tears.

“Aw, let’s leave her be, Girls.” Georgie laughed. “Ain’t Vi’s fault if Hutch don’t care ‘nough ‘bout her to come to Scotland.”

“He wanted to go!” Violet sniffed. “But, he’s loyal to the masters and he was right to stay behind to look after the house—what with them newspaper men tryin’ to get in all the time and them folks always ringin’ the bell. He was right to stay! You’ll see, the Duke will be proud, he will! Prob’ly even give Mr. Hutchinson a rise in wages.”

“We’ll see.” Georgie nodded.

The carriage rolled to a lurching halt and the driver climbed down to open the door. “Grange Molliner,” he barked. Meanwhile, the driver’s companion began to toss their baggage down.

“Easy!” Georgie grunted as he got down. “Them girls got cologne in there.”

Ethel and Jenny giggled.

When the central door—a monumental gothic arch of wood and iron—of the castle opened, the girls tried to look more respectable, but seeing that it was Gerard and Charles who emerged, they squealed with delight.

Charles shuddered at the girls’ giddiness, but Gerard couldn’t help but smile.

“Ain’t it grand, Gerry?” Jenny chirped.

“However have you been?” Ethel talked over her friend. “Is it wonderful here?”

“It’s very nice, girls.” Gerard nodded.

Gerard and Charles picked up the girls’ cases, allowing Georgie to carry his own.

“Where’s Mr. Hutchinson?” Charles asked, looking around.

“He didn’t come.” Georgie responded. “Thought it best to stay back and watch the ‘ouse.”

“His Grace will be surprised.” Charles shrugged.

“Are we goin’ in the front?” Ethel’s eyes widened as she strained to look through the door.

“Certainly not.” Charles laughed. “Follow me.”

Ethel looked disappointed, but obeyed. The happy group followed Gerard and Charles.

“How is His Grace?” Jenny asked. “Is he well?”

“Quite recovered.” Charles nodded as they walked.

“And the doctor and the baby?” Ethel asked.

“And, Gamilla?” Jenny continued.

“And my mum?” Georgie asked.

“All are well with the exception of Miss Barrett.” Charles interrupted.

“What’s wrong with her?” Violet asked, finally speaking.

“Got a fever on the way.” Gerard responded. “Dr. Halifax is makin’ her stay in her room.”

“Who’s lookin’ after the boy?” Georgie wondered.

“Gamilla.” Gerard replied.

“Oh.” Georgie sighed.

“Look smart, then.” Charles grumbled. “Entrance to the Servants’ Hall is just here. Don’t want to keep the masters waiting. Mr. Speaight went to tell His Grace and Dr. Halifax that you’ve arrived when we saw the carriage.”

“Ain’t this fine?” Ethel mumbled as they entered the Servants’ Hall.

“Hullo.” Mr. Speaight greeted them warmly. “I’m glad you all arrived well and sound.”

“Mr. Hutchinson stayed back.” Charles said quickly.

“Oh?” Mr. Speaight narrowed his eyes.

“Them men from the papers kept comin’ to the house.”

“What for?” Gerard asked.

“Still wantin’ to talk ‘bout the murder of Mr. Stover.”

“Her Majesty put a stop to that.” Charles shook his head.

“Perhaps with the upstanding newsmen, Charles.” Mr. Speaight sighed. “But, there will always be vultures looking for a scandal.”

“Bastards.” Charles muttered softly enough that the girls couldn’t hear him.

“Now, clean yourselves up,” Mr. Speaight said. “And be quick. The masters expect all of us from Belgravia to join them in the Great Hall. They want to greet you personally to Grange Molliner.”

“Where do we…”

“Over there…” Speaight pointed to a door to the left of the kitchens. “Quick, quick.”

“Where do we put our bags, Sir?” Georgie asked.

“Leave them in the vestibule for now.” Speaight replied. “After you the masters welcome you, you’ll meet the Grange’s staff and the housekeeper, Mrs. North. Then, you’ll be shown your rooms.”

“Georgie!” Mrs. Pepper shouted from the kitchens. “My boy!”

“Mum!” Georgie said cheerfully.

“No time for that, then.” Mr. Speaight sighed.

Nevertheless, Georgie went to greet his mother.

Speaight and Charles exchanged glances, each shaking their heads as Gerard grinned.

“Gerard,” Mr. Speaight grumbled. “Would you be good enough to ask Finlay to prepare the cordial tray for Dr. Halifax? He’ll want it brought up after the masters speak to us.”

“Sure, Mr. Speaight.” Gerard nodded. He scanned the Servants’ Hall. “Where is he?”

“He was just over by the hearth a moment ago.” Speaight frowned.

“Ain’t there now, Sir.” Gerard shrugged.

No. Finlay wasn’t there. He’d, moments before, crept up the service stairs and climbed into the central tower of the castle where he waited to light a candle—the agreed-upon signal for the Baron Lendsown to enter the Grange.

The baron awaited, shivering, hidden in the hollies which lined the lane leading up to the estate. He fumbled with something in the breast pocket of his long coat. The knife felt cold and heavy. The weight of it made his body shake. Lensdown could see the silhouette of Finlay behind the diamond-paned glass of the window.

Taking a deep breath, the baron tried to think of reward he would soon garner and not about the task at hand.

Did you miss Chapters 1-92? If so you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 94 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Meissen Envelope Snuffbox, 1755-c.1880

Meissen Porcelain, Enamel and Gold
Painted Interior--1755
Mountings and possibly exterior panels made in Nineteenth Century
This and all related images from:
The Gilbert Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum

This unusual snuffbox is one part of a small group of Meissen boxes that were made in the shape of envelopes. The exterior of the box is rather plain, just like an envelope, but, when opened, it reveals a wondrous scene of musical entertainment beside the river Elbe—painted in enamels. Albrechtsburg, the castle outside Dresden, is visible in the scene, in the background behind the musical scene. That castle was the location of the manufacture of Meissen porcelain. Given this, it is highly possible that the scene used in this box may have been made as a souvenir of a visit to the Meissen Factory. While the porcelain and enamel scene was made in Meissen around 1755, the mounts and execution of the box came about much later—likely during the Nineteenth Century. 

The box’s mounts are of a particularly high quality. While the goldwork is rather simply, it is wholly elegant with its two flaring thumpieces and handsome sheen. The top of the box, in keeping with the envelope theme is "addressed" as any package would be.  Inscribed in enamel, the "address" reads:  “à Celui qui le Merite,” or “To the one who deserves it.” Cute.  The reverse is "sealed" in envelope style with an enamel painting of an impressed blob of red sealing wax.  It's a truly splendid piece.  

Click the images to enlarge.

The piece is part of the collection that Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde amassed during their lifetimes. Theirs is one of the world's great decorative art collections. It includes treasured examples of silver, mosaics, enameled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996, leaving it to the V&A where it remains a centerpiece to this day.

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Zen Yogi Society

There aren't going to be any dues. Not this month or any month from now on.  Mrs. Addams talked her husband into quittin' your phony society.  She says zen yogi is a fake! Yeah, she put 'im wise to you, Quack! 

--Fester Frump, 1962 

Click image to enlarge.

Another trade card from the genre of monochromatic children injuring themselves against a metallic background, this card dates to about 1880 and was likely produced in America as a stock card.

Like the others we featured this week, this one was never used. So, we’re having another caption contest. What’s happening here? Who would pick this card to advertise their company? What sort of product would use this card? What’s the tag line?

You’ve all done such a great and amusing job this week. Let’s see what you’ve got today.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Townshend Red Spinel, 1840

Red Spinel set with Diamonds
From the Collection of the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Natural red spinels were once known as “Balas Rubies.” However, spinels come in a vast array of colors. Throughout history, red spinels have often been confused with rubies, but actually have a different chemical composition.

This famous red spinel is part of the collection of 154 gems which were bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. The gorgeous stone has been mounted in a gold setting surrounded by a sparkling border of brilliant-cut diamonds.

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.  

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Yes, it's another long one.  Here we go... No cheating...

What is the difference between a tunnel and a speaking tube?

And, the answer is...

 One is hollowed out, the other is hello-ed-in (hullo-ed-in/hallo-ed-in).

Many thanks to all who answered!  It was another brilliant round.  You all did splendidly.  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store?

Antique Image of the Day: Watching the Show, 19th C.

Click Image to Enlarge

Watching the Show, c. 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print from the V&A’s George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive depicts a group of children watching a Punch & Judy. Hand-colored with watercolors, the print was published in the mid-Nineteenth Century and is believed to be the work of a French artist.

Friday Fun: The Famous Codman Punch and Judy

Click image to enlarge.

The Codman family began its centuries with Mr. Punch at the seaside of Llandudno in 1850 when Richard Codman I began performing his celebrated puppet show. His son, Richard II took over the show in 1888. Richard II’s son, Bert, took up the family business until his death in 1969, two days after the passing of his beloved terrier, Dog Toby. In 1961, Jack Codman began performing in the family’s spot on the sea. Jack’s daughter, Jacqueline, took over for her father and now performs as a bottler for her son, Jason, who has ascended as the newest Codman “Professor.” Enjoy this clip from one of Jason Codman’s recent Llandudno shows.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 92

Chapter 92:
Until the Harvest 

Finlay grinned as he opened the door to the Hunting Cottage.

“Victor,” he cooed.

“Hurry up and shut the door, Finlay.” The Baron Lensdown snarled. “Your masters are just outside. Do you want them to spot me?”

Finlay shook his head. “Those two don’t ever see anything. They’re too busy with the baby or the dog or the Duke’s puppets or whatever fool thing has preoccupied them.”

“Nevertheless.” Lensdown shrugged.

“Sit down, Victor.” Finlay smiled.

“You’re not to address me as ‘Victor.’” The baron said stiffly.

“You never minded before.” Finlay chuckled.

“I mind now.”

“When I met ya, you were called ‘Victor Geddes.’ It’s still your name. Isn’t it? Even if you are the Baron Lensdown now.”

“You’ll address me as a footman would address a Baron.” Lensdown continued.

“Will I?” Finlay winked. “We shall see.”

“If you’re going to be difficult, Finlay, I can easily leave presently.”

Finlay sighed. “When did you become so haughty?”

“When I married Gertrude.” The baron replied.

“You shoulda stayed with me.” Finlay growled.

“A footman?” Lensdown shook his head. “My appetites would not be satisfied by a footman’s wages.”

“Does Gertrude satisfy all your appetites?”

“Never mind.” Lensdown answered.

“Did my sister?” Finlay frowned.

“Ellen served her purpose.” The baron replied. “She amused me. Never did I think that she’d be so useful to me.”

“That remains to be seen.” Finlay shook his head.

“Finlay, you’re the one who summoned me. You’ve made promises, Finlay. I’ve kept my end of the bargain, now I need you to satisfy your pledge.”

“What’s your hurry?”

“You know very well what my hurry is.” The baron snapped.

“Be patient, Victor.” Finlay smiled. “We’re almost there. You spoke to the Duke, then?”

“Your masters invited me to the impending ball.”

“Good.” Finlay nodded. “There’s just one more bit remaining and you shall have your reward.”

“What’s to stop Ellen from devouring you?” Lensdown sniffed. “You know she’s quite mad.”

“I know exactly how dangerous my half-sister is. And, I also know what a lying sow she is. She thinks I’m convinced that she’ll protect me when all is said and done, but I know that the moment she has what she wants, she’ll cast me aside…or worse.”

“Worse, I’d wager.” The Baron muttered.

“With you on my side, however,” Finlay laughed, “we’ll make sure that the vicious lass gets a taste of her own poison.”

“I simply want what you’ve promised me, Finlay.”

“You can have it, and so much more.”

“I don’t desire more.”

“Are you sure?”


“Very well,” Finlay scowled. “This evening, we’re expecting the remaining servants from Belgrave Square to arrive—a scullery maid named Ethel, a kitchen maid called Jenny, a carriage man called Hutchinson and a page by the name of Georgie. Georgie is the cook’s son…”

“What has this to do with me?”

“If you’ll shut your gob and let me finish, I’ll tell you.”

“Continue, then.”

Finlay took a deep breath. “The Duke has gone to considerable expense to bring everyone here for the Servants’ Ball. He’s quite pleased with himself, thinking that he’s continuing his idiot father’s legacy of kindness and that he’s doing something so grand for the staff. He’ll certainly be preoccupied this evening when the others arrive. No doubt, he’ll wish to welcome them himself. And, wherever the Duke goes, the Doctor goes.”

“This is all fascinating.” The baron sighed.

Finlay ignored the man. “Charles and Gerard—the valets—think that the Duke will wish to address the staff when the others from London arrive. That will mean that the African, Gamilla, will be alone with the child while everyone else is occupied. I will open the garden entrance and leave it for you.”

“Where’s the nursery?”

“It’s just next to the Duke’s bedchamber at the top of the first flight of stairs. It’s the second door on the west side.” Finlay answered.

“Where is Ellen?”

“Her room is on the lowest floor—at the far east side of the house.” Finlay grinned. “Everyone else will be in the Servants’ Hall.”

“How will I know when the Duke is out of the way?”

“I shall light a candle in the center window of second floor of the front tower.” Finlay explained.

“And, I’m to wait in the shrubbery?”

“I don’t care where you wait as long as you arrive on time.”

“What if I don’t?” Lensdown snarled.

“Your wife will receive a letter from a friend informing her that her husband is debauched.” Finlay sighed. “But, let’s not worry about that, Victor. You’ve only one little task which I’m sure you’ll find most free of difficulty, and, if I remember you correctly, most agreeable. And, then…well, you’ll never have to worry about anything again. Not Gertrude, not Ellen, nor, even the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“You know,” The baron replied. “He doesn’t seem to recall a thing. It’s as if the whole episode has been erased from his mind.”

“He’s mad.”

“I sometimes wonder if I had something to do with it.”

“What’s this?” Finlay smiled. “A conscience?”

“I shouldn’t have done it.” The baron sighed. “I knew that I should’t have done it.”

“Which part?”

“Any of it.” Lensdown shook his head. “I didn’t know the boy was watching.” He grumbled. “But, once I discovered that he’d seen the whole thing—I didn’t have a choice. How was I to know that he’d end up a lunatic?”

“It wasn’t your doing entirely.” Finlay answered gently. “After all, it was, as I recall, his nanny’s idea.”

“Rittenhouse always liked me.” Lensdown nodded. “It was she who suggested I travel to Yorkshire. I’d written her of the…incident. I wondered if the boy remembered what had happened. She told me that he had never mentioned it, but that he was a sneaky, furtive thing. She suggested that he was biding his time before he told Sir Colin. So, at her suggestion, I went to Fallbridge Hall, and, followed her instructions. Still—it pains me every so often. I can’t help , but think…” He paused. “I will always owe her a debt of gratitude. Whatever became of her?”

“She was killed.” Finlay grinned. “When the Duke was in America.”

“Did he kill her?”

“No.” Finlay shook his head. “No. It was another party.”

“How tragic.”

“One reaps what one sows, Victor.”

“Is that true of you?”

“Yes.” Finlay nodded. “But, I shall dance until the harvest.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-91 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 93.

Print of the Day: Punch and Judy at the Seaside, 1886

Click image to enlarge
Punch and Judy at the Seaside, Llandudno
R. Barnes for the "Graphic"
Britain, 1886
The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This 1886 print by R. Barned depicts a seaside crowd watching a Punch & Judy show. By the Nineteenth Century, Mr. Punch and friends were one of the most popular forms of seaside entertainment. This print is housed in the V&A’s British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild Collection and was originally published in the “Graphic Magazine,” on September 10, 1886.The show seen here takes place at Llandudno and the “Professor” depicted is Richard Codman.

Richard Codman began performing his famous Punch & Judy Show in 1850 and quickly became a main attraction at the seafront at Llandudno. Richard was the first “Professor” in the celebrated Codman Family, passing the tradition on to his son. Now, the sixth generation of Codmans is still performing regularly in the same spot in Llandudno.

Check back later for a “Friday Fun” video of the current generation of the Codman family performing with Mr. Punch and his puppet kin. 

Object of the Day: A Puppet Head Update

We’re not going to do a caption contest today since it’s Friday and we have “Mr. Punch’s Puzzles.” And, since it’s Friday, it’s also Punch day! I figured that for today’s “Object of the Day,” I would give you an update for a previously mentioned object.

Remember this

Well, he’s not just a head any more. My father built a body for him out of deep red corduroy. He’s even got a proper Mr. Punch hump! Now, after fifty or so years, this little guy finally has a body. Good for him! And, thanks to my father!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie Bell

"This is pretty and all, but staring at a mountain isn't going to put dinner in my belly."

*Click image to enlarge*

Image: The Vesper Bell: The Young Reapers, Friedrich Dürck (1809-1884), 1848, Munich, Germany (painted), Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend to The Victoria & Albert Museum.

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our online store. 

Mastery of Design: A Memorial Locket, c. 1780

Memorial Locket
England, 1780
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Britain around 1780, this memorial locket of engraved gold is set with an ivory miniature painted in watercolor. It depicts a woman alone in a landscape.

Such memorial jewelry rose in prominence starting in 1760. Most pieces contain a memento of the deceased—usually a lock of hair, and they almost certainly show the name and date of death of the person who has passed. This example, however, is missing the name of the deceased. It appears that the original glass backing which would have contained the lock of hair, and, possibly the inscription, was replaced with a different color gold at a later date.

Unusual Artifacts: A Claude Glass, 1775-1780

Claude Glass
The Victoria and Albert Museum

A Claude Glass is ostensibly a small, blackened mirror which is contained in a box. The device acts as a portable drawing and painting tool which was popular in the late Eighteenth Century with the amateur artists who embarked on international “sketching tours.”

The device was especially meant for us in rendering landscapes by reflecting a landscape so that it could be copied by the artist. The reflections of the landscape, it was said, resembled some of the characteristics of the Italian landscapes by the famous Seventeenth-Century painter and sketcher Claude Lorrain from whom the instrument gets its name.

The instrument consists of a slightly convex blackened mirror. The artist would hold the glass up to his or her eye, allowing the scenery behind the viewer to be seen as opposed to that in front. The convexity of the mirror served to reduce the dimensions of extensive views into those more suited for a small drawing. The mirror was blackened (as opposed to a normal silvered mirror) served to produce a somewhat weaken the reflection, making only the most prominent features stand out. This also reduced the intensity of the colors. The resulting image was thought to be a more picturesque view of the landscape.

Painting of the Day: Sweet Summertime, 1869

Click image to enlarge."Sweet Summertime"
Richard Redgrave, 1869
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Richard Redgrave (1804-1888) was known for his majestic English landscapes. Redgrave had a deep affection for the land and his passion showed in his paintings. Painted in 1869, this scene of shepherds depicts Wotton Meadows, near the Redgrave’s home in Surrey.

The canvas is signed, “Richd Redgrave 1869.” While today we remember Redgrave as a painter, he was also an educator and key player in the Royal Collection. This troubled the artist throughout his later life as he felt more associated with these roles than with his beloved artwork. According to the V&A, “In 1847 he began his official career in art education as Master at the Government School of Design, becoming Head Master in 1848, Art Superintendent 1852, Inspector General 1857, and Director 1874.”

Redgrave was also famously appointed as “Inspector of the Queen's Pictures” by Queen Victoria. For Her Majesty, Redgrave compiled a catalogue of the Royal Collection from 1857-1879. He wrote in 1856:

“I regret to find that I am so identified with office work that it is almost forgotten that I am a painter.” 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 91

Chapter 91: 
Rolling Hills

Baron,” Robert extended his hand.

“So, you’re the oft-discussed Dr. Halifax?” The Baron Lensdown answered—his face devoid of any expression either favorable or otherwise. He shook Robert’s hand.

“I am.” Robert nodded.

“You’ve been the talk of Mayfair.” The baron continued.

“Due to my involvement with the birth of Prince Leopold?” Robert responded.

“Among other reasons.” Lensdown replied. He looked to Mr. Punch. “Are you enjoying your holiday, Fallbridge?”

“Very much so, thank you.” Punch responded, imitating Julian.

“I hear you were quite ill when you departed.”

“I was.” Mr. Punch answered. “However, I’m very well now.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Lensdown nodded. However, he didn’t look very glad. He didn’t look as if he felt much of anything. “I do hope you’ll pardon the unannounced visit, Fallbridge. You see, I was walking and happened upon your estate. I hadn’t anticipated actually seeing you. After all, you’re not known for your love of the outdoors. I didn’t think you’d mind if I trespassed on your land. I’ve not been on this estate for nearly three decades. You may not remember this, Fallbridge, but I attended several garden parties here in my youth.”

“I recall.” Mr. Punch replied.

“Do you?” The Baron Lensdown sniffed. “You were always so remote—even as a boy. I could never be sure if you actually noticed anyone who was in attendance.”

“I am prone to notice more than is obvious.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“How long have you been in Aberdeenshire, Sir?” Robert asked, hoping to change the subject.

“I only just arrived, really.”

“Is the baroness with you?”

“Yes.” The baron replied, for once his face registered an emotion—a fleeting, slight frown.

“How long will you be staying?” Punch asked.

“Until Gertrude grows weary of the place.” Lensdown answered. He paused. “I understand you’ve employed my former governess--Miss Barrett.”

“We have.” Mr. Punch nodded.

The three men stood in awkward silence for several minutes.

“Why is the child out here with you, then?” Lensdown finally asked.

“We enjoy spending time with our son.” Mr. Punch grinned.

“Your son?” Lensdown squinted. “I don’t understand. Both of you?”

“Well, yes.” Punch replied firmly.

“As I understand it, Fallbridge, he’s not even really your son, let alone the doctor’s.”

“His parentage doesn’t matter to us, Baron.” Robert replied. “He’s as much the Duke’s son as he is anyone’s.”

“And apparently yours, too.” The baron deadpanned.

“Why not?” Robert demanded.

“I mean no offense, Doctor.” Lensdown said quickly. “Honestly. I’ve always had a tendency to speak without thinking. Forgive me.”

Mr. Punch nodded. “Of course. Say no more of it.”

“My initial inquiry was actually to decipher whether or not Miss Barrett was a suitable governess for the child. Since she is not here with him, I assume that she is not satisfactory.”

“She is ill,” Mr. Punch explained. “Our parlor maid…”

“The pretty African?”

“Yes.” Mr. Punch squinted. “Gamilla. Gamilla’s taken up Miss Barrett’s duties while she recovers. However, since Dr. Halifax and I both enjoy our time with our son, we decided he should join us while we took some air this afternoon.”

“Is it serious—Miss Barrett’s illness?”

“Not terribly.” Robert answered plainly.

“She was ill once when she was in our employ.” Lensdown began. “However, the reasons for that were…” He paused again. “You see? There I go again.” He cleared his throat. “Your Grace, I don’t mean to detain you from your comfortable scene. I shall carry on.”

“Baron?” Punch interrupted. “We are hosting the Servants’ Ball this weekend. Just as my father did. Since it’s tradition to invite the families from the nearby estates, please know that you will be receiving an invitation within the day.”

“We shall be delighted to attend.” The baron nodded. Still, he showed no true emotion—his face almost mask-like. “Thank you.”

“Good day, Baron.” Robert said quickly.

“Good day to you,” Lensdown replied. He took a deep breath and walked briskly away.

Robert gently knelt on the blanket and lowered Colin to a comfortable spot before sitting down himself. Mr. Punch joined them, absent-mindedly stroking Dog Toby’s fur.

“How is it possible,” Robert began, “that a man can be simultaneously bland and offensive?”

“Dunno.” Punch shrugged, happy to be speaking in his own manner again.

“You knew him when you were boys?”

Mr. Punch shook his head.

“Or, rather, Julian knew him?” Robert corrected himself.

“It’s odd.” Punch sighed. “I’m sure Julian and he were known to one another. After all, the two estates are so close, we must have. But, I don’t remember it ‘xactly. I knew who he was, but, don’t know how.”

“That’s rather strange since you seem to remember everything which Julian ever said or did.” Robert said softly.

“Maybe he were ‘round more before I developed in Julian.” Mr. Punch shrugged.

“Unpleasant chap.” Robert shook his head.

“Sure is.” Punch chuckled. “Imagine? Miss Barrett and him…”

“I’d rather not.” Robert smiled.

“Sorry I had to invite him to the ball.” Punch muttered.

“I understand why you did. If you hadn’t, it would have meant considerable offense. We won’t worry about it. There’s no reason to spend much time with him at all. We’ve many others who will be in attendance whose company we actually enjoy.”

Punch nodded.

“Let’s not allow it to spoil our day.” Robert continued.

“Nah.” Punch shook his head. “Ain’t to reason to.”

Robert picked up Colin and cradled him—looking again to the sky—as Mr. Punch returned to his drawing. Or, at least he tried…

Instead, he gazed out into the distance. For a moment, he thought he saw the Baron walking toward the old hunting cottage. Had he gone in? No. He couldn’t have. The cottage was locked.

Punch squinted again. He saw nothing ahead except the pines and the rolling hills.

Shrugging, he returned to his work as another chill tickled his spine.

Did you miss Chapters 1-90? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 92 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

The Home Beautiful: The Copeland Ewer, 1850

Porcelain Ewer
W. T. Copeland, 1850
Stoke-on-Trent, England
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in 1850 by the famed firm of W.T. Copeland of Stoke-on-Trent, England, this ornate ewer--in the classical shape associated with the French Renaissance--was not created to be used, but was rather meant primarily as a decorative object. In fact, this special piece was truly made as a means of demonstrating the proficiency and skill of Copeland’s modelers and decorators. The vessel boasts handsome Italian landscape scenes on each side. Copeland's chief painter, Daniel Lucas, is responsible for these handsome landscapes which nod at Eighteenth Century French porcelain.

Perhaps this ewer was a prototype for some of the pieces which Copeland displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Copeland enjoyed considerable success at the Crystal Palace. There, the firm was awarded a prize medal for the “general excellence” of its fine porcelain. Of particular note was a vase with similar gilt ornamentation and landscape scenes which garnered much praise. For the next fifty-one years, this lovely ewer was in the collection of London’s Museum of Practical Geology before being transferred, along with a host of other objects, to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1901. The Museum of Practical Geology listed the piece in its 1855 catalogue of pottery and porcelain as “a single-handled porcelain vase, gilt and painted with landscapes.” The ground color was described as “The Queen’s Lilac.” 

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: An Unusual Victorian Chromolithograph

Click image to enlarge.

This is not a trade card. It’s not really a scrap either. Scraps were made specifically as scraps, intended to be used for scrapbooks and other projects. This is an image from a magazine which has been carefully and meticulously cut out. Many, many Victorian women and men cut images from publications and used them as scraps. You can tell the difference—if you can get a look at the reverse of one—is that these cut-out pieces are printed on the back, not with a business’ information, but with the remainder of whatever was on the next page. In this case, it’s various ads for coffee and, oddly enough, chemicals.

I can see why this was cut out as it’s an attractive scene printed on very thick paper. I’d guess it was on the cover of a magazine or a smaller publication printed in Chicago, Illinois. It has all the hallmarks of 1880s commercial art—a charming landscape with an overlay of flowers. The flowers in question are red carnations. In the fashionable “Language of Flowers” which was prevalent at the time, especially in Britain, red carnations symbolized deep affection. They were assigned such phrases as, “Alas my heart!” or “My heart aches for you!”

Since we’re doing daily caption contests this week (except for tomorrow, I admit) to mark our second anniversary, let’s see what you’ve got to say about this image. It’s not an ad, but you can make it an ad if you want. What’s happening in this scene? Why was this particular image saved? Did it mean something to someone? I’ve so enjoyed your comments this week, so let’s keep it going.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Cory Bow Brooches, c. 1760

Click images to enlarge.
Set of three Russian Diamond and Silver Brooches
From the Collection of Lady Cory.
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This set of three bow brooches once belonged to Lady Cory whose fascinating collection of jewels was bequeathed to the V&A.

These brooches were designed around 1760 and were made to be worn together in a variety of arrangements, but especially with the largest bow at the center of the bodice with the two smaller bows pinned near to the shoulders.

That these diamond bodice ornaments have survived since the mid-Eighteenth Century is nothing short of a miracle since most similar examples were either sold in pieces or broken apart so that the diamonds could be re-set in a more contemporary style in the Nineteenth Century.  The diamonds, set in silver, are especially fine early examples of the emerging brilliant cut.

The set was made in Russia, perhaps by Duval of St. Petersburg. It is known that these brooches were among the Russian Crown Jewels sold by the Bolshevik government after the Russian Revolution.

The V&A values the suite at a whopping £1,100,000.  This value includes the remaining six pieces of the parure--a set of three small matching dress clips which were designed to be worn in a variety of ways--either at the corners of the bodice, on the shoes, at the shoulders, on a bag or as connectors between the three bows (see below).

History's Runway: The Firbank Day Dress, 1912-14

Day Dress
Britain, 1912-14
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This day dress shows the simple, elegant attire worn by a young woman at the seaside in the 1910s. The dress once belonged to Miss Heather Firbank—the daughter of the affluent Member of Parliament Sir Thomas Firbank and sister of the novelist Ronald Firbank.

With its simple collar and spotted cravat, the dress demonstrates the innocence of pre-World War I Britain’s feminine fashions when cravats and foulards adapted from menswear dominated designs for dresses and blouses.

In August 1912, “The Queen” magazine wrote of:

“the prettiest style of Robespierre collar, finishing with a Latin Quartier cravat of blue and white birds-eye spot silk.”

This is just one piece of the historical wardrobe of Heather Firbank whose many gowns and dresses were packed into trunks in 1921. They remained hidden in these trunks in storage for over thirty-five years until 1960 when the V&A acquired well over one hundred items from her wardrobe. Today, this collection remains one of the most important assortments of the kinds of garments worn by a fashionable and wealthy young woman between 1905 and 1920. Miss Firbank’s wardrobe was the centerpiece of a 1960 exhibition entitled “Lady of Fashion.”