Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Cory Floral Bodice Ornament, 1840-1850

Click Image to EnlargeHair Ornament/Brooch
Enameled Gold, Garnets, Foiled Rock Crystals, Pearls
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This gem, from the monumental collection of Lady Cory, began its life as a hair ornament around 1840 to 1850 when naturalism in jewelry was at its most fashionable. Pieces like this were usually made in pieces so that they could be worn as a large, dramatic jewel for formal occasions or broken apart to be worn on a daily basis as smaller gems. 

This ornament of foiled rock crystals, pearls and garnets set in enameled gold has been altered over time. The individual sections of this jewel were merged, removing some segments to use the gemstones for other pieces of jewelry. What remained was made into the brooch that we see today. 

Saturday Silliness: PBS Digital Studios’ Bob Ross Remix

We all remember the man who gave us so many “happy little trees.” With a heart as big as his afro and a talent as deep as the plunge of his unbuttoned work-shirt, Bob Ross entertained people across the U.S. in his quest to encourage all of us to try our hand at painting. 

PBS Digital Studios has created this clever music video, assembling clips from Ross’ show. With a bit of auto-tuning, they’ve created a song which, I’m sure, would have inspired Ross to create a lovely, fuzzy, misty landscape with mountains, happy little trees and, probably a snow-covered cottage. In an oval. Yes, it would have been in an oval.

Painting of the Day: Rainy Weather, Horses in a Stream, 1848

Click Image to Enlarge.

Eduard Hildebrandt, 1848
The Townshend Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

While we mostly associate the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend with his famous collection of jewels, the Reverend was also an avid collector of paintings. Here’s one from his collection. This moody landscape from 1848 is the work of German painter Eduard Hildebrandt (1818-1869) who is famous for his sprawling landscapes, detailed panoramas of towns, soaring views of colonial buildings, harbors and genre scenes.

Hildebrandt executed this painting while traveling in Northern Europe. It’s likely a depiction of Northern England or Scotland, showing two horses in a rainy landscape with a house barely visible in the distance. The painting is an excellent example of the artist’s expert handling of light and his fine detail work as well as his impeccable finishing skills.

At the Music Hall: Any Umbrellas to Mend Today, 1939

Music Hall Caricature
George Cooke, 1907
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Umbrellas, umbrellas for men
Men's umbrella, Lady
Mend by hand, Lady
Umbrellas to mend

Any umbrellas, any umbrellas to mend today?

Bring your parasol
It may be small, it may be big
He repairs them all
With what you call a thingamajig

Pitter patter patter, pitter patter patter,
Here comes the rain
Let it pitter patter, let it pitter patter,
Don't mind the rain.

He'll mend your umbrella
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

When there's a lull
And things are dull
I sharpen knives for all the wives
In the neighbourhood
And I'm very good

I darn a sock
I'll mend a clock
An apple cart
A broken heart
I mend anything

But he'd rather sing
Any umbrellas, any umbrellas to mend today?

He'll patch up your troubles
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

He'll patch up your troubles
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

Umbrellas for men
Umbrellas for men

“Any Umbrellas To Mend Today?” also known as “The Umbrella Man” was written in 1939 by the team of Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and James Cavanaugh. Recorded by many an artist from that time until today, this comic song remains a popular favorite. 

Enjoy this version by Flanagan and Allen.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 105

Chapter 105: 
Low Spirits 

It can’t be.” Gerard shook his head. “Gamilla would never touch a drop.”

“I can smell the alcohol on her.” Robert shook his head. “And,” he paused. “Something else…some antiseptic aroma.”

“But, Dr. Halifax.” Gerard protested, kneeling down next to Gamilla. “She wouldn’t.”

Robert sighed. “Speaight,” he said to the butler.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Would you please go inform the others that Gamilla has been found and that she’s quite all right?”

“Of course, Doctor.” Mr. Speaight nodded.

“If you would, please, wait in the Servants’ Hall. We may need your help carrying Gamilla up to her room.”

“Yes.” Speaight smiled.

“Thank you.” Robert nodded.

Once the butler had left, Mr. Punch looked to Gerard.

“Last night,” Mr. Punch began. “Did Gamilla find ya so she and you could talk ‘bout your argument?”

“No.” Gerard shook his head. “I’d gone to my room and was talking with Charles. I didn’t know she was lookin’ for me.”

“I had suggested that she should.” Robert sighed.

“Perhaps when she couldn’t find ya, she was upset after your argument and…”

“And, took a drink, Your Grace?’ Gerard shook his head.

“It’s possible.” Mr. Punch said softly. “Sometimes when folks is upset, they want to make themselves feel better and…”

“I of all people know all ‘bout that, Your Grace.” Gerard interrupted. “I drank ‘way my whole young days, but…not Gamilla. Where’d she even get any whiskey?”

“It’d be easy enough to come by,” Robert shrugged. “The whiskey tray and the cordial tray were in the drawing room when His Grace and I retired. If Finlay had brought them down and left them in the pantry, it’s possible that…”

Mr. Punch nodded. “She coulda jus’ grabbed a beaker, and, bein’ upset, decided she’d try to make ‘erself feel better.”

Gerard stood up and extended his hand. “Could I see the beaker, Sir?”

“Sure.” Mr. Punch nodded, offering the vessel to Gerard.

As Gerard took the stoneware beaker, Violet returned to the vestibule, followed by Finlay who carried a bowl of warm water for her.

“Here you are, Doctor.” Finlay nodded.

“Set it down on the table.” Robert pointed to the narrow wooden table which stood against the wall between the doors to the wine cellar and the silver vaults.

Finlay glanced down at Gamilla and clucked her tongue. “Poor dear.”

“Thank you, Finlay. That’ll be all.” Mr. Punch interrupted before the footman could continue. He made sure to speak as Julian would.

“Oh, Gerard, I see you found your beaker.” Finlay smiled as he walked past Gerard. “I meant to bring it to you last night, seein’ as you left it out all full like that. Thought maybe you’d like to have your cup o’ warmth when you turned in for the night. But, I forgot all about it.”

“Your mug?” Robert tilted his head to one side.

Gerard nodded. “It is mine.”

Mr. Punch squinted through the darkness at the beaker. In fact, he had seen Gerard with it before. The simple beaker had a transfer printed portrait of Queen Victoria on it—a souvenir of her 1852 Silver Jubilee. It was a favorite of Gerard’s who often kept it nearby filled with tepid tea and lemon.

“But, I didn’t leave it out. It were with my gear—my brushes and polish and such. Where I always keep it! And, I sure didn’t leave it out with nothin’ in it, ‘specially not whiskey.”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Finlay smiled. “We’re all grown men. We all like a drop now and again.”

Violet cleared her throat, frowning at Finlay.

“Violet,” Robert said quickly. “Will you go warm Gamilla’s bed, please? We’ll bring her up shortly.”

“Of course, Dr. Halifax.” Violet sniffed, exiting the vestibule. She cast a final derisive glance at Finlay as she left.

“Finlay,” Robert began once Violet had left, “are you accusing Gerard of drinking?”

“I’m not accusing.” Finlay replied plainly. “I don’t see how it’s any great crime if the man likes a drop now and again. We all do.”

“I haven’t had a…” Gerard fumed, so angry he could barely speak.

“It’s no concern of mine.” Finlay continued. “Even if Gerard likes to put a few drops of med’cin in his whiskey. Not like it does ‘im any harm.”

“What medicine?” Robert asked.

Finlay put his hand over his face as if he’d made a mistake. “Oh, nothing, Sir. I don’t know what I’m sayin’.”

Robert looked at Gerard who was clearly livid.

“Finlay,” Mr. Punch began, in Julian’s voice, “please explain yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Your Grace.” Finlay shook his head.

Gerard took a deep breath. “Dr. Halifax, Your Grace, when Charles broke his wrist, I took some of the medicine you gave him for the pain. I took it for a few days without you knowin’. Charles and Gamilla knew ‘bout it, and, they made me stop. The bottle was returned to you because I knew I was wrong in doin’ it. I was just curious, is all. But, I stopped.”

“I see.” Robert nodded.

“How did you know about that, Finlay?”

Finlay cleared his throat.

“It happened long before we left for Scotland.” Gerard added.

“I musta heard Charles talkin’ about it with Gerard or somethin’, Your Grace.”

“Is that it, Finlay?” Robert asked.

“Well, Sir.” Finlay looked at the floor. “Maybe I seen him slip a few drops in his mug.”

“You did not!” Gerard bellowed. “You’re a liar! Like when you said I was drunk the other morning! I wasn’t!”

“Well, Gerard.” Finlay shook his head again. “You’re awfully clumsy for a sober man. And, now, here’s your girl—passed out on the floor with your beaker filled with whiskey and God knows what else.”

Mr. Punch rubbed his forehead with his left hand. He noticed Finlay glance at his rings. Punch frowned. “I think that will be all for now, Finlay.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Finlay bowed his head before exiting.

“Your Grace, Dr. Halfax,” Gerard began urgently. “I ain’t had a drop o’ drink in I don’t know how long, and ‘cept for them few days in London, I didn’t touch that medicine. I knew I done wrong and I ain’t done it ‘gain. And, even if I did, I wouldn’t have left my beaker out full of liquor and medicine, and ‘specially not where Gamilla woulda drunk from it. I wouldn’t do anything ever to hurt Gamilla. Not ever! You gotta believe me.”

“We do believe you.” Mr. Punch spoke up. “Don’t we, Chum?”

Robert sniffed. “We need to carry Gamilla to her room.”

“Dr. Halifax?” Gerard gulped.

“Gerry, I know how you feel about Gamilla. I truly do. I know you wouldn’t harm her.”

Gerard nodded.

“However, this isn’t the first time Finlay has accused you of drinking.”

“But, I haven’t!”

“Of course you haven’t.” Punch said soothingly.

“I can see why Gamilla would drink from your beaker. But, I can’t understand why it was filled with whiskey.”

“Finlay done it!” Gerard said. “He wants me to look bad. He probably filled my beaker with whiskey do he could ‘find’ it and try to make me look like a rummy. But, Gamilla got at it first. She ain’t got no experience with spirits like that and it made her sick before she even knew what she were drinkin’. I could kill him for hurtin’ her!”

“Now, now…” Robert said. “Why would Finlay want you to look bad?”

“He wants my job!” Gerard argued. “He wants to be close to you and His Grace like me and Charles are. He wants a nice, soft job in London. You said yourself how he was jealous.”

Robert smiled. “You’re right.” He patted Gerard’s shoulder. “But, we don’t know that it was Finlay who filled the beaker.”

“And we don’t know that it wasn’t.” Mr. Punch added.

“You gotta believe me…” Gerard began.

“Gerard, I believe you.” Robert said finally. “However, I have to say, I’m disappointed to learn about the medicine.”

Gerard looked at his shoes. “I know. I’m terrible sorry ‘bout that.”

“Sure you are, Gerry.” Mr. Punch said gently. “We know.”

“For now, however, let’s worry about Gamilla.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerard said softly.

“Let’s see if we can’t get her to her room.” Mr. Punch suggested.

“I’ll carry her, Sir. She’s so small and light.” Gerard gulped.

As Gerard bent down to lift Gamilla, she moaned slightly—her eyes fluttering.

“Let’s turn her over.” Robert said.

The three of them helped to roll Gamilla onto her back.

“Oh…” Gamilla moaned. “My head.”

She opened her eyes slightly and squinted.

“Where am I?” She asked throatily.

“You’re quite safe,” Robert replied. “You’re at Grange Molliner. In the cellars.”

“How’d…” She coughed. “Oh, my head. What happened?”

“You seem to have had some spirits.” Punch whispered.

“Spirits?” Gamilla muttered. “I don’t…”

“Do you remember?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I…” Gamilla groaned. “I just…”

“Who gave you the whiskey, Gamilla?” Robert asked.

“Gerard did.” Gamilla mumbled.

Punch and Robert looked at Gerard.

“I didn’t, Sir.” Gerard shook his head. “I didn’t.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-104? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 106.

Unfolding Pictures: The Emily Beauclerk Fan, 18th C.

Click image to enlarge.
Hand Fan
French or British, Eighteenth Century
Watercolor on paper leaf with ivory sticks and guards.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, a variety of hand fans were imported from the East into Europe. China exported a vast array of fans into England and Europe and, soon, the Chiense style became quite fashionable for hand fans. European artists strove to emulate these Chinese fans in order to keep local business going. This fan, made in the Eighteenth Century, probably comes from either Britain or France and is a clever take on the Chinese style which was growing in popularity at the time.

With expertly carved and pierced ivory sticks, the fan sports a paper leaf which has been hand-painted with a watercolor Chinoiserie landscape. However, instead of depicting the usual Chinese figures in Eastern dress, the men and women in the scene are show in fashionable European dress. Their faces, nevertheless, are meant to look Asian. One of the figures, a woman, is shown holding a paper fan with a floral pattern in pink which nearly replicates the flowers which have been painted on the reverse of the leaf. 

The fan was donated to the V&A by one Emily Beauclerk, its last owner.

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Some Americana Weirdness

Click image to enlarge.

Two extremely round-headed boys with legs almost as stumpy as their necks have paused to make floral wreaths and garlands. While one waves the American flag, the other stoops over to, I think, light some sort of pyrotechnics—or a canon for rodents, or some kind of hose which sprays blood. Whatever it is, they’ve taken the time to prop it up on some bricks and adorn said bricks with more flowers. 

I imagine that this has something to do with Independence Day. The reverse of the card is not printed. And, so, let’s have a caption contest. Tell me, by posting in the comments, what you think this card could have advertised. What happening in the scene? We haven’t done a caption contest this week, so, let’s see what you’ve got. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Jeweled Ivory Cup of King George IV

Ivory, Silver Gilt and Jeweled Cup
Belonged to King George IV
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Here’s one of the stars of The Royal Collection. This jeweled ivory cup is known by the curators of the collection as “The Brain,” since…well, it looks a bit like a brain. This was one of the many treasure collected by the oddly opulent King George IV whose taste for just about everything drained the Royal coffers.

Made in South Germany (or, some say, Austria), when the ceremonial cup was first purchased by George IV, it was a work of carved ivory mounted in gilt silver. As grand as it was, it wasn’t special enough for Georgie who had the emeralds, rubies and turquoises added just to make it a little shinier.

The carved, lobed ivory cup and cover is surmounted by a finial carved with a figure of Diana Goddess of the Hunt. She’s holding a spear and has her trusty hunting hound beside her. Sleeping hunters and animals (hares, hounds and boars) surround her and the reeded silver band.

The applied ivy leaves were mounted with the rubies, emeralds and turquoises which reflect the carved, high relief scenes around the sides of the cup. The bowl is supported on a stem carved as Hercules on a domed rocky base—surrounded by a silver-gilt border and similar rim of jeweled ivy leaves.

When the cup first arrived in England—long before being purchased by George IV (it changed hands several times before George got a hold of it), its appearance was so astounding that it was mentioned in the “Morning Post and Daily Advertiser” which noted:

RECENTLY brought from Vienna, and added to the Museum, an inconceivably beautiful effort of art.... consisting of a cup or vessel carved in ivory; the figure of Hercules dressed in the skin of the Nemean lion forms the handle or stem.

The Art of Play: The Three-Headed Scaramouche, 1870-1890

Scaramouche--Trick Marionette
The Tiller Clowes Troupe, 1870-1890
Restored by George Speaight
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another marionette from the Victorian troupe of the Tiller-Clowes family, this figure depicts Mr. Scaramouche, a character which was adapted from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte to the English Punch and Judy tradition.

Made between 1870 and 1890, the marionette still wears his original costume and survives in excellent condition. Whether a glove puppet or a marionette, Scaramouche is often employed as a trick puppet. Usually, his neck extends to twice the length of his body, however, this example is a little different.

He features three heads. The two smaller heads are inserted in the larger head which is supported by the body. The largest head wears a purple silk hat, the second head wears a striped cotton hat and the third is hatless. At the point in the show when Scaramouche becomes overwhelmed by Mr. Punch, typically, he shows his frustration by having his neck extend upward. In this case, however, instead of his neck growing, Scaramouche shows his angst by having the two smaller heads pop out of the largest head—creating a comic effect of utter confusion. 

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and Scaramouche

Mr. Punch and Scaramouche
George Cruikshank, 1827
From the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
at The Victoria and Albert Museum

Last Friday, we enjoyed a video by Australian Punch and Judy Man, Chris van der Craats which showed us a recent recreation of some of George Cruikshank’s 1827-era drawings of the “Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch.” Here’s another recreation—complete with Piccini Punch. This one shows Mr. Punch and Scaramouche.

In the early Nineteenth Century version of the puppet show, Mr. Scaramouche was Mr. Punch’s neighbor and the original owner of Dog Toby. Punch encounters Dog Toby who bites his “beautiful nose,” and, then, Scaramouche confronts Punch about harassing his terrier. Punch confused Scaramouche by dancing with him, and, then beating him with his cudgel—eventually, taking Dog Toby as his own companion. This video begins just after Punch has had his first meeting with Dog Toby.

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.  Here we go... No cheating...

Why are cats like unskillful surgeons?

And, the answer is...

Because they mew-till-late (mutilate), and destroy patients (patience).

Isn't that just priceless?  Oh, for fun.  Actually, you guys came up with some really clever and amusing answers today.  Well done!  Special mention to April Matt, Sam P, Shawn, Carolyn, Darcy,  Dashwood, Gene, Angelo, and Barb.  Excellent responses!  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.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 104

Chapter 104: 

Clad in dressing gowns over their nightshirts, Punch and Robert followed Charles downstairs to the Servants’ Hall. There, Mrs. North and Mr. Speaight were organizing a search party in the hope of finding Gamilla.

Upon seeing the masters, the entire staff rose from the seats.

“Your Grace,” Mrs. North paused, nodding in the direction of Mr. Punch. “Dr. Halifax.”

“Carry on,” Mr. Punch nodded, speaking as Julian.

“Your Grace, not to worry, we’re going to find Gamilla,” Speaight said formally. “We will be searching the estate.”

“Ach. You needn’t worry ‘bout a thin’, Your Grace. We’ll find the wee African lass.” Mrs. North interrupted.

Gerard hurried from his spot—his eyes red and swollen from crying—and went to Punch and Dr. Halifax.

“Sirs…” He rasped, his voice quavering. “Please…”

Mr. Punch put his hand on Gerard’s shoulder and whispered in his own voice, “Don’t ya worry, Gerry. She’s jus’ fine, she is.”

“But…” Gerard trembled, his eyes filling with tears again. “I…if anything…”

“Have I ever lied to ya, Gerry?” Punch asked so quietly that Gerard could barely hear him.

“No, Sir.” Gerard responded softly.

“Well, then, know that our Gamilla is going to be back at your side.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerard nodded slowly.

Speaight spoke up. “Your Grace, Dr. Halifax, when was the last you saw of Gamilla?”

“Last night,” Robert began, “I spoke to Gamilla and suggested that she take a walk in the courtyard.” He didn’t mention the argument that he’d seen between Gamilla and Gerard nor that he had told the girl to find Gerard in the courtyard and work it out.

“We’ll start there, Sir.” Speaight nodded.

“I’ve already looked there,” Gerard shook his head.

“We’ll look again.” Speaight sighed.

“I don’t know where we should start…” Gerard began. “The estate is so huge, she…” He paused when he heard a commotion coming toward them.

“Mr. Speaight!” Violet screamed as she ran into the hall. “Mr. Speaight!”

“What is it, girl?” Speaight asked.

“I found Gamilla!”

Robert, Punch, Speaight and Gerard sprung to attention and followed Violet out of the Servants’ Hall.

“She’s here, Sirs.” Violet said in a shaky voice.

In a small nook between the wine cellars and the silver vaults—several steps down from the main servants’ hall—Gamilla was sprawled out on the cold stone floor, her black gown spread out into a fan shape around her. She lay—face down—with one arm extended above her head as if she was reaching for something. The alcove was dark, but even in the dim light, Punch could see that Gamilla had been reaching for a stoneware beaker which had been placed several inches above her head.

Gerard rushed to her side. “Gamilla, my darling.” He shook her gently

“Gerard,” Robert said softly.

“Why won’t she wake up, Doctor?” Gerard sobbed.

Robert looked at Mr. Punch. Punch stepped forward and reached gently for Gerard, pulling the man away from Gamilla.

“Violet,” Robert said quickly, “Please go and get me a bowl of warm water and some flannels.”

“Yes, Doctor Halifax.” Violet responded, hurrying out.

Seeing that he was alone with people who knew of his true nature, Mr. Punch felt free to speak as himself. “Gerry, let Dr. Halifax look at her. He’ll help her, he will.”

“Why ain’t she openin’ her eyes, Sir?” Gerard choked.

“Dunno, but Dr. Halfiax is gonna help her.”

“Punch,” Robert looked up. “The beaker there…” He pointed. “What’s in it?”

Mr. Punch walked over and picked up the beaker, sniffing it. He wrinkled his nose. “Chum…”

“Is it?” Robert asked.

Mr. Punch nodded. “It’s whiskey.”

“Whiskey?” Gerard raised his eyebrows. “But, Gamilla don’t…”

Mr. Punch shook his head.

“She’s not hurt,” Robert sighed. “She’s drunk.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-103? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 105 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Figure of the Day: Scaramouche and Columbine, 1740

Scaramouche and Columbine
Meissen Porcelain Factory
Germany, 1740
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I’ve always enjoyed Meissen porcelain figures and I’m especially fond of the work of one of their chief modelers, Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775) who was responsible for a monumental and diverse range of figures.

In my opinion, some of the most attractive of Kändler’s figures were those which he based on the Commedia dell’Arte. These porcelain figurines and groups were made, in many cases, for export to France where, in the Seventeenth Century, the fashion for adoring the dining table with porcelain figures during the dessert course was especially en vogue. This figure group depicts the Commedia dell’Arte characters of Scaramouche and Columbine. Made in 1740, the figures of hard-paste porcelain shows the famed couple embracing. Columbine holds a bird cage, showing how Scaramouche has captured her heart. The pair of lovers is brilliant with enamel colors in blue, red, gray, yellow, turquoise and white.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Callot Pulcinella Dwarf, 19th C.

Figurine of a Dwarf
French, Nineteenth Century
Based on an engraving by Jacques Callot
The Victoria & Albert Museum

On Tuesday, we looked at one of a series of figurines which were produced in France in the Nineteenth Century and were modeled after images created by Jacques Callot (1592-1635) who was artistically inspired by a troupe of “grotesque” dwarf entertainers known as “Les Gobbi.”

Callot’s other great interest was the Italian tradition of the Commedia dell’Arte. Since Les Gobbi incorporated many facets of the Commedia into their act, the troupe was of great appeal to Callot who was fascinated by their costumes and their melodramatic antics.

This figure of multi-colored, glazed porcelain depicts one of Callot’s drawings of a member of “Les Gobbi.” This little fellow, a masked dwarf musician plucking a violin, is clearly based on the Commedia dell’Arte stock character, Puclinella, who, as we know, is Mr. Punch’s Italian ancestor. The dwarf wears a wee black Pulcinella mask and affects some of the grotesque features which we’ve come to associate with our Old Red Nose. That’s the way to do it.

And, don’t worry. It’s not another day devoted to dwarf-related are. It’s Friday, so it’s a Mr. Punch day! Let’s carry on. Shall we?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: A Bertie Complaining

"You are invading my personal space."

Image: A Man Smoking, Andrew Geddes (1783-1844), late 18th century-early 19th century (painted), Given by John Sheepshanks to the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1857.

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: The Fabergé Border Terrier, 1907-1908

Border Terrier of Agate and Rose Diamonds
1907-1908, part of the Sandringham Commission
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This Fabergé figure is part of King Edward VII’s Sandringham Commission which ordered the creation of a menagerie of animals made of gold and precious stones for Queen Alexandra. The animals depicted in these figures reflected the many which lived at Sandringham House.

Made between 1907 and 1908, this sculpture of agate is set with rose-cut diamonds, and depicts a Border terrier. Border Terriers were just one of the many breeds kept in the kennels at Sandringham. The sculptor, now unknown, has done an excellent job capturing the playful character and inquisitive nature of the dog.

The Home Beautiful: Queen Victoria's Terrier, Spot, 1885

Paperweight of Bronze and Granite
English, 1885
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This paperweight dates to 1885 and features a bronze figure of a dog upon a low bronze base. The whole of the piece is supported by a plinth of gray, black and white mottled granite, lined beneath with red velvet. The dog depicted here is another favorite of Queen Victoria—Spot, a white terrier with lemon markings. Queen Victoria adopted spot in 1880 and, five years later, commissioned an now unknown sculptor to create this figure of her beloved companion. 

Antique Image of the Day: Princess Louise and her Dog, 1867

Princess Louise
April, 1867
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The photography firm of Hills & Saunders is credited with the creation of this April, 1867 image of Princess Louise (1848-1939, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert).  However, the attribution is not entirely certain and the image could well be the work of another photographer mimicking Hills & Saunders. 

This almost full-length photo shows Princess Louise standing (in near profile), looking down at a terrier.  She holds his front legs, supporting him as he stands on a chair on his hind legs.  Dogs don’t really like to do this.  But, she’s a princess, and I suppose he had no choice.  Besides, he looks quite content.

The Princess wears a long-sleeved dress in quintessential 1860s style.  Her throat is adorned with a jeweled slide (or cross) on a ribbon and handsome jewels hang from her ears.
This is one of a series of photos taken at the same time.  

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

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 103

Chapter 103: 

Chum…” Mr. Punch whispered, gently tapping Robert’s shoulder with his index finger.

Robert sputtered, rolling over—his dark hair spread out across his pillow.

“Chum…” Punch repeated, poking Robert again.

“Hmmm?” Robert muttered, his eyes opening into drowsy slits. He looked up at Punch who leaned over him in the bed.

“It’s mornin’.” Punch smiled brightly.

“Already?” Robert mumbled.

“Yep.” Mr. Punch chirped. “We should get up.”

“What time is it?” Robert asked, opening his eyes a bit more. “It’s still dark.”

“But, we’ve much to do, Chum.” Mr. Punch clapped his hands. “Lots, lots, lots, lots…lots to do.”

Robert smiled, sitting up.

“You know what today is?” Punch asked gaily.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well…” Punch’s eyes widened as he teased the doctor.

“Today is the day that we sleep for another few hours.”

“No!” Punch laughed. “Today is the day of the Servants’ Ball!”

“Ah,” Robert joked. “I suppose that’s why Gerard and Finlay put all those tables in the Great Hall.”

“Oh,” Punch winked. “You’re excited. Can’t tell me that you ain’t. This is more your sort o’ thing than it is mine. You’re the one what likes parties and music and such…”

Robert yawned. “I also like to sleep.”

“Can’t have both.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Now, get up.” Punch sprung from the bed.

“Where are you going?”

“To look at our boy.” Mr. Punch replied enthusiastically. He scrambled to the nursery door and bounded into the room where he found that Colin was also already awake. Picking up the boy, he carried him into the bedchamber and sat the child on the bed next to Robert and Dog Toby.

“Say ‘Mornin’,’ Baby Chum.” Mr. Punch said softly.

“Punch.” Colin replied.

“Good enough,” Robert nodded, reaching for the baby’s small hand.

“Our Colin’s goin’ to the ball, too.” Punch grinned.

“For a little while.” Robert answered.

“We gotta let Gamilla have some time to enjoy herself. ‘Specially with Gerry. I hope they’ll dance.”

“I hope so, too. Presuming that they’ve gotten past their little tiff.”

“Sure they did.” Mr. Punch nodded. “Ain’t no reason to hold a grudge.”

“I do see Gerard’s point.” Robert replied. “He mistrusts Miss Barrett and is only looking out for Gamilla’s well-being.”

“But, Gamilla’s got a right to like whomever she wants.” Mr. Punch added.

“I know, but sometimes if a person is…” He paused. “Let’s not us start quarreling about it.”

“No.” Punch laughed. “We got too much to do. Ain’t no time for fightin’.”

“What exactly do we have to do?” Robert asked. “Isn’t everything already prepared?”

“Well…” Punch replied thoughtfully. “Yes, I s’pose it is. Only we got to walk ‘round and look at the decorations and go see the cake and smell the flowers and inspect the table settings, and, well…we just gotta be excited!”

“And, you don’t like parties?” Robert teased.

“Never really thought ‘bout it. Julian certainly don’t.”

“No. He does not.”

“’Cept for the ball what I went to with you in New Orleans and me birthday party, I ain’t never been to many parties. I liked me birthday party an awful lot. The ball in New Orleans not so much, but that were not fault of the ball—more so the fault of them what was invited.”

“This won’t be anything like that.” Robert smiled.

“I trust it won’t.” Punch nodded. He walked to the mantel and pulled the bell. “Charlie and Gerard are always up even earlier than this. Can you ‘magine?”

“Frankly, no.” Robert chuckled.

“I figure we’d best get ourselves dressed before Gamilla comes up.”

“Good thinking.” Robert sighed, climbing out of the bed and wrapping his dressing gown around himself. “I shall return when Gerard is finished with me.”

“Be quick.” Punch said eagerly. “I’m gonna. I ain’t even gonna play in the bath today, I’m not. Won’t throw soap nor pretend I’m a fishy or nothin’.”

“I’m very impressed.” Robert winked. He opened the door and jumped a bit—surprised to see Charles on the other side.

“Sir.” Charles nodded.

Robert studied Punch’s valet. “Are you quite well? You’re very pale.”

“Dr. Halifax, Your Grace,” Charles said seriously. “We have a problem.”

“Oh no.” Punch frowned. “It ain’t the cake, is it?”

“No, Your Grace. The cake is fine.” Charles gulped. “We…we can’t find Gamilla.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-102? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 104 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Painting of the Day: A Miniature of Wat the Terrier, 19th C.

Porcelain plaque painted with enamels.
Before 1889.
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This work of enamel and porcelain was modeled after an anonymously taken photograph of Queen Victoria’s terrier, Wat. Intended as a decorative plaque to be displayed on a wall or a small stand, the painting shows Wat resting on the grass. A smooth-haired Fox Terrier, Wat wears the collar which the Queen specifically chose for him.

The plaque was produced by Carl Schmidt of the Royal Berlin Porcelain Manufactory (1763-1918) and dates before 1889. 

Object of the Day: A Westie Cigarette Card from Player’s Cigarettes

Click image to enlarge.

In 1875, the Allen and Ginter Tobacco Company started producing cigarette cards. These chromolithographs, printed on card stock, depicted a wide range of subjects from celebrities and historical figures to animals and plants. By 1877, the phenomenon had come to the U.K. when W.D. and H.O. Wills began printing similar collectible cards. These precursors to “bubble gum” and “baseball cards” were a nifty marketing gimmick, and, soon, people all over the world were collecting them.

In the last year, I’ve amassed a rather sizeable collection of antique cigarette cards—most of which you’ve seen on this site, and mostly relating to the British Royal Family. However, every now and then, there’s one which just stands out. For obvious reasons, this Player’s Cigarette card is a favorite.

The front of the card depicts a jaunty West Highland White Terrier—some ancestor of my Bertie. He is labeled as what he is, and, is engaged in the sort of earth sport which terriers enjoy.

The reverse of the card, from a series showcasing handsome canines, reads:

West Highland White 

White Scottish Terriers have 
Been carefully bred by the 
Malcolm family at Poltalloch 
for a hundred years or more, 
and the modern West Highland 
White Terrier has been evolved 
from that game and “varmint” 
old stock. They are very closely 
related to the Cairn Terrier, 
differing only in colour and 
being slightly larger. They 
should have harsh coats about 
2 ins. Long and be pure white in 
colour, any other colour being 
strongly objected to. Weight: 
dogs, 17 lbs., bitches, 16 lbs. 
Height at shoulder 9 to 11 ins. 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary's Fan Snuffbox, 1903

Snuffbox by Michael Perchin
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Mary had a weakness for Fabergé, as we know, and she especially favored the works of Viktor Aarne and Mikhail Evlampievich Perkhin (1860-1903). In fact, Perkhin (also spelt Perchin) was the most represented Fabergé workmaster in Queen Mary's monumental collection.

This box from 1903 was a particular favorite of Her Majesty Queen Mary. A work of bloodstone, gold, and pink guilloché enamel, cabochon mecca stone, diamond, pearls, this box by Perchin takes the form of a hand fan surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds. What would be the fan's handle forms the hinge. It is set with pearls and the thumb-piece is adorned with a cabochon moonstone.

Unfolding Pictures: The King's Theatre Haymarket Fan, 1787-1788

Click Image to Enlarge
The King's Theatre Fan
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The King's Theatre, Haymarket was originally called The Queen's Theatre after Queen Anne. Opening in 1705, the theatre quickly became the place "to be seen." A person's seat at the theatre was an excellent measure of one's social standing.

This fan, made between 1787 and 1788, demonstrates just how going to the theatre, and where you were seated, proved your social standing. The fan, with ivory sticks and paper leaf, is printed with the seating plan of the theatre on one side and the layout of the subscribers' boxes on the other.

Subscribers-- those who rented boxes for a season at the theatre--could include Mrs. Fitzherbert, mistress of the Prince of Wales, and other important figures from Court, the peerage or the aristocracy. Those in these seats held discs or tokens of ivory or mother-of-pearl in order to prove their right to be seated there. The closer a person sat to the subscribers' seats, their greater their chances of being seen, and seeming important. This fan allowed a lady to be able to see in advance where to sit her party.

Drawing of the Day: Beatrice Lillie in Auntie Mame, 1958

Beatrice Lillie as Auntie Mame
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The famed Beatrice Lillie (1894-1989) was billed as "the funniest woman in the world." Lillie made her West End debut in 1914 and went on to become a huge star in revues, on radio, in television, films, and one-woman shows. Her charm, wit, and liveliness made her an international sensation.  

This caricature depicts Lillie in the title role of Auntie Mame by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The show played at Oxford New Theatre in August of 1958.

Gilbert Sommerlad (1904-1976), a rehearsal pianist and orchestral violinist for over forty years often sketched the stars on stage when he wasn’t needed in the orchestra pit. This drawing of Lillie is his handiwork. Over the decades, thankfully, Sommerlad complied his sketches in a series of albums, preserving them for posterity.

The Art of Play: The Tiller-Clowes Music Hall Ball Juggler Marionette, 1870-1890

Trick Marionette
Tiller-Clowes Family, 1870-1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We've looked at other puppets from the Victorian Tiller-Clowes marionette troupe. The V&A houses thirty-five of the troupe's Nineteenth Century figures, most of which retain their original paint and costumes. In 1945, George Speaight purchased the collection and worked to restore the puppets. Upon his death, the collection was left to the V&A.

This marionette, in his original outfit, represents a ball juggler. This figure would have been inordinately complicated to operate. The balls which the figure can "juggle" can be made to rest on his feet, hands or head. Such trick puppets were often used as entertainment before a show or between acts and also enjoyed independent success when members of the troupe would perform alone as a novelty at a music hall.