Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Cory Multicolored Flower Brooch, 1810

Click image to enlarge.

Lady Cory's Multi-Colored Flower
France, c. 1810
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another of Lady Cory’s jewels. I’m beginning to think that she and Dame Joan Evans must have had some kind of contest to see who could buy the most. I think it ended in a tie. This floral brooch is set with brilliant-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds with mounts of gold and silver. It was made in France, circa 1810 as the fashion for Naturalistic jewelry was becoming firmly established.  

This concept cycled through several phases.  At first, such pieces were made with diamonds as well as colored gemstones and usually featured a single flower.  As time went on, they became floral sprays with a variety of blooms, still set with colored stones and diamonds.

Soon, these floral sprays transitioned away from polychrome stones and were set only with diamonds.  By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the sprays were simplified, again, to one single bloom set with diamonds.  

Figure of the Day: John Liston as “Paul Pry,” 1820-29

John Liston as Paul Pry
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Staffordshire figure, made in the 1820s, depicts John Liston (1776-1846), considered one of the leading comic actors of his day. The figurine shows Liston in character as “Paul Pry” in the play of the same name. This was one of the actor’s most famous roles and, therefore, this is one of several different figurines of Liston as Pry, the nosy and interfering star of the comic play by John Poole, which were produced in the 1820s—each modeled after contemporary engravings. 

Liston made the annoying character seem quite charming, somehow. The play enjoyed considerable success and, even, introduced several of the character’s catch-phrases into the popular vernacular. By 1825, people were quoting “Pry,’ with: “I hope I don't intrude,” “Just dropped in,” and “It's nothing to me,” with considerable gusto, and, soon, the name Paul Pry became a colloquial term for a busybody.

Saturday Silliness: Toy Town Hall, 1936

This week’s “Music Hall” song (even though it really wasn’t a music hall song) is “My Green Fedora,” (see below). As I mentioned, the comic song was featured, in other films. Notably, it was used again a year after being written in the 1936 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng, “Toy Town Hall.” This short film about a tot who hallucinates that his toys are radio celebrities, was the first Merrie Melodies cartoon in which Carl Stalling is given on-screen musical credit. 

At the Music Hall: I'm Wearing my Green Fedora, 1935

I'm wearing my green fedora,
Not Alice, not Annie, not Casey but Fedora
I usually come to town in a battered old hat of brown
But it got red/green when me and my queen go steppin' around.

She's Fussy about colors,
She's very I think,
But if she won't fix it,
Might even wear pink.

That's why I wear my green fedora.

Fedora is the girl I love

The popular song "I'm Wearin' My Green Fedora" was written in 1935 by songwriters, Al Sherman, Al Lewis and Joseph Meyer for the short animated film, “My Green Fedora.” The film, animated by Chuck Jones and Robert Clampett, was directed by Friz Freleng and produced by Leon Schlesinger. Released on May 4, 1935, the film was heralded for its parody of the famous act of comedic actor Joe “Wanna Buy a Duck” Penner. You’re sure to know this song, even if not from its original source. The song was featured in other films and cartoons, notably in 1936 and 1937—but, more about that later.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 111

Chapter 111: 
Among Us Again 

Mr. Speaight stood at the middle landing of the monumental grand staircase which divided the two wings of the Great Hall at Grange Molliner. His back straight, his eyes bright, he stood proudly in his fancy dress—looking for all the world like Edward the Confessor, complete with little, pointed red slippers on his feet. He cleared his throat, and everyone below turned to look at him.

A group of about fifty people milled about the Great Hall—all in fancy dress. The staffs of both the Belgrave Square house and Grange Molliner were in attendance as well as the many people who worked the estate. Aristocratic neighbors rubbed shoulders with common laborers unaware who was who for, in addition to their costumes, most people wore masks over their eyes, in the style of the Commedia dell’Arte.

Speaight looked down at the crowd and smiled. Everyone looked quite fine in their brightly-colored costumes—glittering with jewels and sequins in the light of the fire and the candles which burned in the eight ornate bronze and crystal chandeliers which adorned the hall.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Mr. Speaight smiled. “Your hosts…His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge and Dr. Robert Henry Halifax.”

As thunderous applause echoed throughout the Great Hall, Mr. Punch and Robert descended the stairs. Robert held Punch’s arm, supporting him on the stairs as Mr. Punch was cradling Colin.

“My friends,” Mr. Punch began when they reached the landing. He tried his best to set his face into an expression which would be typical of Julian, but he found he was much too excited to be completely reserved. And, so, his eyes were wide with anticipation and joy. Still, he managed to keep his voice even and suitably formal. “Dr. Halifax and I would like to welcome all of you to our home. Furthermore, we’d like to introduce all of you to Colin, Lord Fallbridge.” Mr. Punch paused and looked down at the baby in his arms. His voice trembled for just a moment. “He’s a handsome little lord, isn’t he?”

The revelers applauded wildly.

“We had rather thought that our Colin’s first public appearance would be at his own christening, however, I think that this is an even more suitable debut for this child who will one day be the Tenth Duke of Fallbridge. Many of you may have noticed that Colin is named for my father, Sir Colin Molliner. The majority of you knew my father. He was the great explorer and archaeologist, yes, but he was also a devoted father, master and friend. When Dr. Halifax and I arrived here recently for our holiday, I spoke to him of the Servants’ Ball which my father would host here at Grange Molliner, and, we decided to continue that tradition in his honor. I’m sure that Sir Colin would be as proud as Dr. Halifax and I are of all of you. Our staff from our home in London has proven to be particularly loyal and exceptional. Our governess, Gamilla…”

Mr. Punch paused to point out Gamilla who stood in the center of the room—for the night, Cleopatra. She looked gorgeous, dressed in a shimmering azure and silver sheath with a gold and turquoise headdress. Her long, dark hair was down, and cascaded over her shoulders. Over her eyes, she wore an azure blue mask, trimmed in gold.

Gamilla grinned with pride. To begin with, she was quite pleased with her fancy dress and felt, for the first time, really, exceptionally beautiful. She was also proud to be standing next to Gerard who was dressed as Marc Anthony and who looked at her with such affection that it made her heart race. The evening was quite exciting overall, in fact. From her costume to the aroma of the floral garlands, to the spiced punch and tables of delicious foods surrounding the great butterscotch cake—she’d never seen anything like it. And, then, there was Gerry who looked so relaxed and handsome in his crisp toga and indigo robe—one broad, bare shoulder was exposed and his muscular arms were showing. It was the first she’d ever seen of any of Gerard’s body aside from his face, neck and hands, and she found the sight confusing and exciting. But, most of all, she was thrilled to have been called Colin’s “governess” in front of the entire room. Though part of her felt that Miss Barrett should not have been slighted in such a way, she knew Mr. Punch meant no harm, and could not help but feel that it was her rightful due.

“Gamilla has not only been kind to our boy, but has brought such joy to our home. Ladies and Gentlemen, Gamilla came to us all the way from America. In her short life, she has lived in Africa, America and, now, the British Empire, and we are most pleased that she has chosen our home as her own. Similarly, our valets, Charles Iantosca and Gerard Gurney—both of whom came home with us from America, are invaluable to our lives. Never before have we known such loyalty. Our Mrs. Pepper—who gave us the exquisite, magnificent cake you see over there—makes sure that we are fed while Speaight, keeps our household running smoothly. Without them, and without Violet, Georgie, Ethel and Jenny…and Hutchinson, who could not be here, we would be at a loss.”

Ethel and Jenny clasped their hands together, both feeling so overcome with emotion that they thought they would cry. Though they were both quite young—just girls, really—they could not recall a time when anyone ever singled them out for special mention, and, certainly never made a statement about them which was met with applause.

Mrs. Pepper held her head up high. She felt quite regal indeed—dressed as Queen Charlotte and wearing jewels which once belonged to the Duchess of Fallbridge. She never had another master who would introduce her to guests at a ball, and certainly not one who would lend her his mother’s jewels. She, too, felt as if she might cry with pride, especially when she glanced over at the towering cake she’d made—adorned with colored frosting in a plaid to match the Molliner Tartan. She looked over at her son, Georgie, and saw that he did, in fact, have tears in his eyes. She was prouder still, then.

Charles glanced at Violet. She looked quite pretty dressed as Juliet. Charles could tell that she missed Hutchinson—her aging, balding Romeo. Charles took a deep breath and smiled. He was pleased that the Duke had not mentioned Miss Barrett. He wondered if it was purposeful, but concluded that it wasn’t. Charles sighed and looked down at his costume. Even if his mask itched, he felt he made a handsome Hamlet and was quite pleased with the way his costume had turned out.

Punch smiled as the room was, again, filled with applause. He looked at Robert and nodded.

Robert began. “And, then, when we came here, I had the honor of being introduced to the wonderful staff at the Grange. Led by Mrs. North…” Robert nodded at the woman he thought to be Mrs. North. At the base of the stairs, a plump woman was standing, dressed as “Me A’an Sel”—the fairy girl of Scottish lore. Draped in an iridescent purple robe, the woman’s back was graced by wings of papier mache and tulle, and, upon her head she wore a large hat shaped like an upside-down morning glory—the silk petals of the flower nearly completely obscuring her face. The woman bowed slightly.

“Led by Mrs. North,” Robert continued. “the staff here has proven as warm and welcoming to me as if I’d spent my entire life here. So, tonight, we honor all of you who live and work both here and in our London home as well as those of you who tend the land here. We are joined tonight by our neighbors: some from here in Aberdeenshire, and some, from as far away as London. Each of you makes our life interesting, bright and full in your own particular way.”

“And, so,” Mr. Punch spoke up. “We invite all of you to eat and drink your fill and to dance until your heads spin. Before we begin, I’d like to ask each of you to raise your glasses aloft.” He chuckled. “Dr. Halifax will have to hold his glass up for both of us since my arms are rather occupied by young Colin.”

The crowd laughed as Robert took a glass from a tray offered to him by Speaight.

Robert raised his glass.

Mr. Punch began. “My father had a favorite toast that he liked to give at gatherings such as this. Some of you may remember it:

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don't love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.”

The crowd laughed.

“As they say here,” Mr. Punch continued, still managing to speak as Julian even though he was feeling quite emotional. “Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh. Excellent health and every good blessing to each of you!”

Everyone responded, “Slàinte!” Each took a sip.

“Slàinte don Bhànrigh!” Mr. Punch added.

“Health to the Queen!” The crowd responded, taking another sip.

“And, finally,” Mr. Punch gulped, his voice cracking slightly, “To Sir Colin Molliner, Cha bhithidh a leithid ami riamh! His equal will never be among us again!”

“To Sir Colin!” The crowd cheered.

“Now!” Mr. Punch chirped. “The pipers!”

Suddenly, from the door beyond the Great Hall, a troupe of pipers dressed in the Molliner Tartan—their bagpipes blaring “God Save the Queen.”

Robert looked over to Punch who had tears in his eyes.

“I’m cryin’ on the baby, I am.” Punch whispered in his own voice.

“You did beautifully, dear Punch.” Robert nodded, his own voice choked by emotion as well.

“Thanks, Chum.” Punch responded softly.

“Shall we go down and join our guests?” Robert asked.

“Not yet…” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Let’s watch from up here for a few more minutes.”

“As you wish.”

“I like to think this is how our pa is seein’ it.” Punch nodded toward the cheerful commotion below.

“I have no doubt, my dear.” Robert smiled. “And, I’m sure he’s quite proud.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-110? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 112 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square as the ball gets under way!

History's Runway: A Hat by Balenciaga, c. 1960

Hat of Woven Green Straw
Balenciaga, c. 1960
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made circa 1960, this attractive hat of woven green straw is trimmed with a pin which has a bobble on each end. The unlined headwear features a hatband with a grosgrain back and green velvet front.

The hat was made in Paris, France, and is the work of the famed designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, (1895 – 1972). It’s part of the collection of Mrs. Fern Bedaux—the extremely wealthy widow of an American multimillionaire office systems pioneer, Charles Bedaux--whose beautiful clothing was given to the V&A by her niece and heiress Miss E Hanley. Mrs. Bedaux always celebrated for her fashion sense, purchased her entire wardrobe regularly from Balenciaga, amassing an unrivaled collection of the designer’s work.

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Have you been to Hembold's?

Click image to enlarge.

I actually really like this card. When I was sorting through a lot of antique ephemera which I just purchased, this one immediately caught my eye. The colors are perfect examples of the popular chromolithograph palette of the 1880s and the gold on black architecture of the “frame” is indicative of the type of images which were favored. It’s just a nifty little package.


Well, what’s with the guy? I understand, and am, truly, an aficionado of, the grotesque caricature style which was the hallmark of Victorian comic drawings. So, on one hand, this fella with his large head and spindly body is entirely appropriate for his purpose. But…

Why is he so sweaty? What’s his problem? I imagine he’s worn out from wearing a sandwich board. But, has it made him apoplectic?

Now, I understand that this is a “stock card” which was selected from a catalog and, then, later, printed with the advertiser’s information, but, the image doesn’t have anything to do with what’s being sold.

It reads:

Have you been to 
Chestnut St.? 
He has a beauti- 
ful display of the 
most recent im- 
portation of 


which he offers 
at greatly 

Reduced Rates. 

Be sure to go and 
examine his 

And, then, he’ll sweat on you and presumably make little moaning noises through his nose.

If this little guy could talk, what would he tell you?

Let’s have a caption contest. You know how it works—use the comments page. And, go…

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Phillips Bros. Garnet Necklace, 1870

Garnet Necklace
Robert Phillips
The Victoria & Albert Museum

London jeweler Robert Phillips was doubtlessly one of the most influential jewelers of the late Nineteenth Century. His firm, Phillips Brothers, was known for spearheading the Revivalist taste in London--a trend which borrowed visual cues from a range of historic periods and a variety of sources.

Mrs. Haweis, a society writer, recalled one visit to Phillips in Cockspur Street in her book, "The Art Of Beauty."

She wrote:

"Under the direction of Messrs Phillips, the most perfect models are sought for the ornaments they furnish. Museums and picture galleries are ransacked for devices of necklaces, earrings and pendants."

This garnet necklace, dating to c. 1870, is a great example of Phillips' historically-inspired wares. The necklace of gold mesh is punctuates with gold pendants in the form of vultures which are hung with almandine garnet carbuncles. The reverse shows the plumed mark of Phillips Brothers of Cockspur Street.

Friday Fun: Piccini's Punch with Hector the Horse

Mr. Punch and Hector the Horse
George Cruikshank, 1827
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The previous two Fridays, we have looked at a recent production which successfully recreated the Tragical Comedy (or Comical Tragedy) of Mr. Punch as performed by Piccini and as recorded in the 1827 illustrations of George Cruikshank.

This video by Australia's Chris van der Craats, shows the portion of the show wherein our Mr. punch attempts to ride Hector the Horse. His attempts don't go well and, of course, he falls off--declaring for all the world, and the doctor, to hear that he is dead.

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...

Four wings I have, which swiftly mount on high,
On sturdy pinions, yet I never fly;
And though my body often moves around,
Upon the self-same spot I'm always found,
And, like a mother, who breaks her infant's bread,
I chew for man before he can be fed.

And the answer is...


Congratulations to Darcy for figuring out the correct answer and many thanks to everyone who answered.  We had some terrific responses today!  Well done!  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.  

Drawing of the Day: The Punch and Judy Pick-pocket, 19th Century

Punch and Judy Pickpocket
Drawing for a Series of Lithographs
Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This watercolor and ink drawing is unsigned and, therefore, rather difficult to date. Certainly, however, it comes from the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century.

The image, depicting a man being pick-pocketed while watching a Punch and Judy show was published in Paris as a set of lithographs by Nöel et Dauty. J. Langlumé acted as lithographer. Each lithograph was hand-colored.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 110

Chapter 110: 
The Valets 

"Maybe we shoulda worn costumes, Chum." Mr. Punch sighed as he studied his reflection in the glass.

"We're wearing kilts with formal white tie." Robert chuckled. "I think that counts as a costume."

"Not here, Chum." Punch shook his head. "This is just regular evening attire here. It don't count as fancy dress."

"Maybe so, but it's fancy enough for me." Robert teased.

"I shoulda brought our disguises what we wore to the New Year's ball. We coulda been Mr. Punch and the Doctor."

"We’re already Mr. Punch and the Doctor.”

“You know what I mean.” Mr. Punch snorted. “From the puppet show. They was fine costumes, they was.”

“Yes, they were. However, we don't have them anymore, my dear." Robert smiled. “Remember?”

"Oh...that's right, it is. All our things was burned up on the ship. What a pity. Least we had to forethought to save me jewelry case."

"I lost my favorite long coat in that blaze. I've never found another which fit as well."

"All your coats fit beautifully, Chum."

"I think you're a bit biased, but, thank you."

"See, ain't the coat what makes it fit well, it's you underneath it." Punch winked.

"And, I like you, too." Robert grinned. He reached over and adjusted Punch's tie. “I must say, you look quite handsome. I’m glad that we’re not in fancy dress. It gives me a chance to see you as you are. Besides, it was you who suggested that we not dress up so that the servants can be the focus of the ball.”

“True.” Mr. Punch smiled. “They’re gonna have a good time, they are. I just know it.”

“I’m sure they are.” Robert nodded.

“Just before I come up here, I seen Charles and Gerry carryin’ their clothes to their rooms. I think Charlie felt funny not doin’ his job this evenin’.”

“Gerard seemed hesitant to leave us to our own devices as well.” Robert chuckled.

"But, you know, Chum, I think we done quite well dressin' ourselves tonight." Punch smiled.

"I concur." Robert nodded. "Isn't it funny? Until I met you, I had to dress myself without the aid of a valet for my entire life. Suddenly, after a year of having a man, I've become almost unable to groom myself without assistance."

"That's what happens," Punch nodded. "Keeps us a bit like infants. The most powerful and influential men and women in Britain don't know now to take a bath on their own." He giggled. "I think we should be most proud of ourselves for doin' it on our own."

"Well, there is some satisfaction affixing one’s own collar. Frankly, I don’t know how Charles and Gerard can stand us sometimes. They both deserve more than this evening off."

"I know they do." Punch agreed. "When we get back to London, we gotta be better 'bout givin' them their afternoons out. Still, I think tis is gonna be a grand evenin' for 'em both. Gerry's sure excited and I think Charles is, too."

"Yes. He's just a tad more inscrutable than Gerard. You know, Gerard confessed to me that he was nearly bursting with anticipation to put on his fancy dress. They agreed to valet for each other--as Gerard said, 'like proper gentlemen.' I think it's quite nice how they get on now."

"It is." Punch replied. "And, Gerry wasn't still upset 'bout Gamilla?"

"Concerned, I think. Not upset. But, he's been checking on her all day. I have a feeling that everyone has decided to put all of their troubles out of their respective heads tonight and enjoy themselves."

"I hope so." Punch grinned. "Coo! I gotta say that I'm excited me-self."

"You're most excited about the grand cake that Mrs. Pepper and Jenny made."

"Well, yes." Punch blushed. "But, I'm also excited that our boy is gonna get to go to a fine party, and that our chums is gonna have a break and get to enjoy themselves. And, one more thing."

"What's that?"

"I'm gonna dance with you."

Robert smiled sweetly. "We couldn't."

"Why not?"

"Well, it's just not..."

"Listen, Chum, this is our house. And it's our ball. We can do what we want."

"I haven't gotten used to that concept yet." Robert sighed. “I’ve never really been able to just do whatever I wanted before.”

“Now you can.” Punch replied, “That's what tonight is for. You just better get used to it, My Robert. As far as I am concerned, you may do anything you wish."

"I already am. Just spending each day with you." Robert answered.

Mr. Punch whooped. “That’s the way to do it.” He looked at his feet and giggled. “But, first, you’d best help me with them shoes.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-109 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you may read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 111.

Print of the Day: The Political Chiavari, 1829

The Political Charivari
W. Kohler, 1829
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome lithograph is entitled "The Political Charivari," most likely inspired by the French illustrated newspaper "Le Charivari" (literally translating to "Pandemonium"). If this sounds familiar, it’s because "Le Chiavari," which was published from 1832-1937, was so successful that it inspired the English magazine "Punch." Punch launched in 1841 with the subtitle: "The London Charivari."

Dating to 1829, this litho depicts a Punch & Judy fit-up inhabited by a Punchinello with his traditional hump. His cudgel is labeled "Opposition." The "professor" is shown as a rather mysterious and suspicious fellow who's barely visible.

Two figures stand outside of the puppet booth--both of whom seem to be acting as bottlers--those who attract spectators and take their "contributions." Meant as some kind political statement, the actual significance is somewhat lost today.

It was published in London in August 1829 by S.W. Fores, 41 Piccadilly and printed by W.Kohler, 22 Denmark St. Soho. George. Now, the lithograph is part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

Object of the Day: A Scrap of Mr. Punch Riding a Cat

Click image to enlarge.

I live in a house full of Punchinellos, so, you can consider me the Jane Goodall of the slapstick set. It's a whole "Puppets in the Mist" scenario.

Aside from their penchant for sausages and for general mischief-making, your average Mr. Punch is prone to chattering, bouts of glee, and, a peculiar desire to see which animals are ridable.

Here, we see a Victorian scrap--technically once cut from a magazine. It depicts our Mr. Punch dressed as a jockey and, riding a cat, as one does.

I bought a huge lot of ephemera just to get this scrap.

Whoever cut this out had a steady hand and a lot of patience. Mr. Punch looks quite content with himself, yes? Frankly, knowing Punchinellos as I do, I can say with considerable certainty that Mr. Punch would very much enjoy riding a giant cat. But, wouldn't we all?

Click image to enlarge.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Here Comes the Bertie

"You could always use it as a duvet."

Image: Untitled Watercolor, Edward Johnson (1825-1896), 1877, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery of Design: A Swedish Bridal Crown, 1750-1870

Click image to enlarge.

Swedish Bridal Crown
Silver Gilt
The Victoria & Albert Museum

While we tend to treat each bride as a queen on the day of her wedding, Scandinavian brides truly looked the part, wearing bridal crowns which were based on medieval originals made of heavy, gilt silver.

Until very recently, in Sweden, all brides wore some kind of special headdress either a crown or tiara. Traditionally, gilded silver crowns were worn particularly in the east of the country, while, in the rest of the country, the crowns were sometimes made of cloth which was ornately decorated with ribbons, beads, and metallic lace. For centuries, swedish bridal crowns were full-size, however, during the Eighteenth Century, these headpieces became smaller, and were worn on the top of the head. Since most of these crowns were quite costly and elaborate, the bride often would hire or rent a crown. Only the wealthiest families could provide a crown for a bride which she could keep. These were often passed on through generations.

Here’s such a crown. This small, silver-gilt bridal crown is comprised of six upright openwork sections which have visual roots in the style of the renaissance. These sections are joined at the top by a ring of silver-gilt wire, with applied winged angels’ heads. The band at the base is decorated with pyramidal points and more winged angels’ heads in silver and the whole of it is hung with pendants. It was made between 1750 and 1870. 

Figure of the Day: The Bride as Europa, 1904-5

The Bride as Europa
Germany, 1904-1905
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

German modeler Adolph Amberg (1874-1913) designed this porcelain figure for the Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur, Berlin, between 1904 and 1905.

The porcelain figure boasts an underglaze of enamel color and has been finished with gilt details. The figurine represents the bride as “Europa” with her usual attribute wearing a dramatic drape as she rides a bull. 

The figure was designed as part of a monumental group which was presented as a gift for the wedding of the German Crown Prince. 

Unfolding Pictures: A Chinese Feather Fan, 1911-1930

Feather Fan
China, 1911-1930
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Chinese have been producing fans from feathers for over 2000 years. These fans, with their dramatic tufts of colorful feathers, most often featured long handles made of bamboo or wood though specialty examples were made for high-ranking people with handles of ivory, jade or other carved hard-stone.

This example was actually made in modern times during a time when feathers were en vogue with contemporary fashions. Made between 1911 and 1930, this fan nods at Chinese antiquity with its brightly-colored fathers and gleaming handle made of carved hard-stone and glass adorned with a geometric pattern based on ancient Chinese bronzes (Ancient Chinese Bronzes, huh?). Two small red stones, possibly garnets, have been mounted on either side of the handle.

The fan was likely made in China for export to the U.K. where the Art Deco fashions dictated a renewed interest in the geometry of the Eastern arts. The color palette indicates that the fan would not have been intended for use by a Chinese woman, but rather a wealthy European lady whose tastes tended toward the trendy gold and brown colors which often dominated accessories of the era.

Donated by Lady Logan from the collection of her parents, Robert and Alexandra Everts, the fan is an excellent example of the kinds of Asian accessories which were in demand in the 1920s.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 109

Chapter 109:
Fancy Dress 

Well?” Ethel giggled as she turned around. “How do I look?”

“Cor!” Jenny gasped. “Don’t you look that beautiful?”

“Do I?” Ethel asked. “Here, hold up the glass for me.”

Jenny held up the small looking glass as Ethel went to the farthest end of their small, shared room. She studied her reflection. “I think I may cry,” Ethel sniffed.

“I might, too.” Jenny nodded. “You look like a right and proper princess, you do. Just like out of a fairy tale.”

Ethel twirled so that her gown of shining coral silk flared out around her legs.

“And look a’ them jewels! They’re that elegant.” Jenny said happily.

“Weren’t it kind for His Grace to lend ‘em to me?”

“And to Mrs. Pepper, too.”

“Have you seen her yet?” Ethel asked.

“No.” Jenny shook her head. “Only saw her costume hangin’ up in her room. It’s a proper queen’s gown, that one. She’s gonna look just like Her Majesty Queen Charlotte.”

“You ain’t never seen Queen Charlotte.”

“Well, no, ‘course I didn’t. I’m nigh on sixteen!” Jenny clucked her tongue. “Only I weren’t born ‘til Victoria were Queen. But, I seen paintin’s o’ Queen Charlotte and George III.”

Ethel nodded. “Come on, then. Let’s get you in yours.”

“Glad that His Grace suggested I be Joan of Arc.” Jenny squealed.

“You should be gladder still that the sketch His Grace sent to the tailor wasn’t all armor, but rather St. Joan in her plain gown. You’d tip over with all that armor on, you would.”

“You know I would.” Jenny tittered excitedly. “And, did ya see the wig that they sent?”

Jenny opened a tall box and removed a short, sandy wig on a stand. “I’ll look like me brother with it on!”

“You’re gonna be very smart, Jen.” Ethel smiled. “You’ll look jus’ like the saint herself.”

“Look!” Jenny spun around. “There’s a sword and all.”

A knock on the door interrupted their girlish chatter.

“How is it, then?” Ethel asked.

“It’s Gamilla and Vi.” Violet answered.

“Oh!” Jenny scrambled for the door and opened it. “Hurry and come in before the boys see us.”

“How ya feelin’ Gamilla?” Ethel asked with sincere concern.

“Much better.” Gamilla answered—embarassed.

“We was all worried.” Jenny nodded.

“Was you really drunk?” Ethel giggled.

“Come on, then, let her be.” Violet scolded the girls.

“But, Gamilla,” Jenny said quickly. “What happened? Did Gerry get ya drunk?”

“It happened just as Mrs. North said,” Violet interrupted. “Gamilla accidentally drank out of the beaker, thinkin’ it was Gerard’s. She didn’t know it was filled with whiskey. It was an accident, and we don’t need to talk no more ‘bout it.”

“Sure, she gets one kiss from Mr. Hutchinson before we leave for Scotland and she thinks she’s the mistress of the ‘ouse.” Ethel teased.

“We just wanted to see your fancy dresses.” Gamilla smiled, hoping to change the subject. “Ethel, you look beautiful.”

“Thanks, Gamilla.” Ethel grinned.

“And, is this your sword?” Gamilla asked Jenny.

“I’m gonna be Joan of Arc.” Jenny chirped.

“I’m gonna be Marie Antoinette.” Violet boasted.

“Are ya?” Ethel’s eyes widened. “Cor! I’ll bet yours is beautiful!”

“It is,” Violet finally smiled. “But, not as pretty as yours.”

“I doubt that.” Ethel laughed. “Let’s help Jenny get dressed and, then, we’ll come and help you.”

“We only got a couple hours before the ball.” Jenny said. “We gotta hurry.”

“We got time.” Ethel chuckled.

“What ‘bout you, Gamilla?” Jenny asked. “Who are you gonna be?”

“Cleopatra.” Gamilla said softly.

“Oh!’ All three girls said in unison. “Ain’t Gerard gonna be charmed?”

Gamilla looked at the ground.

“Let’s hurry, then!” Jenny said.

“Listen, girls,” Gamilla looked up. “I wanna help ya, but I’m just gonna go make sure Mrs. North is up from her nap. She was so kind to stay with me off and on today. Poor dear tired herself out doin’ everythin’ she did. She told me she was gonna take a nap and asked if I’d wake her in time to get ready for the ball.”

“Hurry back, Gamilla!” Ethel said. “We need ya! Besides, I wanna see your Cleopatra!”

“I’ll be right back.” Gamilla nodded, hurrying from the room. As she approached Mrs. North’s door, she saw it open and watched as Mrs. North hurried from the room.

“Mrs. North!” Gamilla called after the woman. But, she didn’t turn around.

Gamilla chuckled. “Poor thing can’t hear a sound.”

With that, she shrugged and walked back to join the other girls. Though her head still pounded slightly, it was nearly as strong a beat as that of her heart. Despite the trouble which lurked around her, she had decided that she was going to enjoy the ball—if only just because it was a special gift from the Duke and the Doctor. She was going to dance and talk with Gerard and eat and be a lady for one night. Little did she know, but her life would be forever changed in just a few hours.

Did you miss Chapters 1-108 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 110.

History's Runway: The Maud Steel Wedding Gown, 1927

Wedding Gown of Gold Velvet
Britain, 1927
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in 1927, this gold silk panne velvet wedding dress is embroidered with artificial pearls. It was made for and worn by Miss Maud Katharine Alicia Cecil for her marriage to Richard Greville Acton Steel on November 17 at the church of St. Margaret's Westminster in London.

The bride wore the gown with a veil which was held in place by a heavy wreath of orange blossoms, anchored around the brow. The gown’s long court train was carried by a page and a bridesmaid. The bride felt that the gown’s neckline was too low, and so, in order to cover her décolletage and soften the gown’s bodice, she wore a camisole with scalloped lace edging beneath the gown.

Gold, silver and shell pink were the most popular colors for 1926 and 1927 weddings with velvet leading the choices of textiles. The late 20s saw an increase in shorter, more revealing wedding gowns, however, Miss Cecil has taken a more traditional and modest route with her choice. 

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Sewing Machines

Click Image to Enlarge

Because cupid wants to sew you into your dress, that’s why.

What have we here? Yes, it’s another trade card. American, dating to the early Twentieth Century, this card advertises Singer Sewing Machines. The obverse depicts a rather demented looking putto sewing the court train of a woman’s wedding dress—just as she’s about the walk down the aisle, it seems. Faintly written above the cupid are the words:


Bride and groom both look slightly disoriented.

The reverse of the card has the typical, confusingly vague and overly dramatic ad copy.

It reads:

Some Very hard Nuts to Crack 

     Companies have sprung up in every part of
the Union for making an “Imitation Singer

     The public will draw its own inference. GOLD

     The Singer has taken the FIRST PRIZE over
ALL competitors more than

    After the Chicago Fire, the Relief Committee
Undertook to furnish sewing machines to the needy
Women of that city. Applicants were permitted to
Chose From sixteen different kinds of machines.
2,944 applicants were furnished with machines. 

          2.427 chose SINGER MACHINES
                235   “   Wheeler & Wilson
                   127   “   Howe 
                       30 “   Wileox & Gibbs
                          5 “   Wilson
                          2 “   Davis 

118 distributed their choice among TEN other 
kinds of machines. 

These girls were to EARN THEIR LIVING on these
Why did they take Singers?