Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mastery of Design: An Indian Nephrite Pendant, 17th-18th C.

Click on image to enlarge

Nephrite Pendant set with Emeralds and Rubies
Seventeenth or Eighteenth Centuries
India
The Victoria & Albert Museum



Made in India in either the Seventeenth or Eighteenth Centuries, this pendant is made of white nephrite jade and is an excellent example of the Indian technique of “kundran” wherein precious stones are set into jade or other precious stones by way of tiny strips of highly refined gold. 


The inset stones create a pattern or, sometimes, a scene. This example features rubies and emeralds. Here we see a scene of birds where the feathers are carved into the rubies. The back of the pendant is painted in enamels and depicts a horseman and a lion against a landscape. This landscape scene is unusual in that it is rendered almost like a line drawing, relying on white enamel. 



Gifts of Grandeur: A Fabergé Ducky, c. 1907

Miniature Duck of Chalcedony, Gold and Rubies
Part of the Sandringham Commission, 1907
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II



Made in 1907 by Carl Fabergé, this ducky is not rubber, but rather made of chalcedony, silver-gilt and rubies. He’s part of the great Sandringham Commission wherein King Edward VII bid Fabergé to create a veritable menagerie of precious miniature animals for his long-suffering consort, Queen Alexandra. 


With his body of unusually white chalcedony and his feet of red gold, he’s even cuter with his little cabochon ruby eyes.



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

Print of the Day: Le Canard a Trois Becs, 1871

Le Canard a Trois Becs
H. Xiat, 1871
The Victoria & Albert Museum



Published in 1871 in Paris, France, this print features a satirical caricature by the artist H. Nérac (also known as H. Xiat) which depicts a duck with three heads. Each head is labeled, in order, “Comite Central,” “Internationale,” and “Commune.” The duck is saddled with a flaming torch which is tied to his body by a red sash.

The print is from a set of caricatures, broadsheets and illustrations in ten volumes printed in France by Jailly and Co. Many of them, like this one, are hand-colored.

An inscription reads:

COMMUNEUX PAR H. NÉRAC.
LE CANARD A TROIS BECS
TABLEAU DE FAMILLE 


The basis of the joke is a visual pun wherein the word “canard” takes a double meaning. It is French for “duck,” but can also refer to a hoax. Three conflicting political figures are uncomfortably crowded onto the body of one duck. 


At the Music Hall: If I Had a Talking Picture of You, 1929

If I had a talking picture of you,
I would run it every time I felt blue.
I would sit there in the gloom of my lonely little room
And applaud each time you whispered, "I love you; love you."

On the screen the moment you came in view
We would talk the whole thing over, we two.
I would give ten shows a day,
and a midnight matinee,
If I had a talking picture of you. 


"If I Had A Talking Picture Of You" was written in 1929 by Ray Henderson with lyrics by B.G. De Sylva. The popular song nodded to the then-somewhat-new-ish novelty of moving pictures with synchronized sound. The song was featured in the 1929 motion picture, “Sunny Side Up” starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. 


Enjoy this version performed by Marvin which was recorded on October 8, 1929.




Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 123


Chapter 123: 
To Blazes 



Give that baby to me.” Punch said to Finlay in his own voice—firmly and gruffly.

“Of course, Your Grace.”’ Finlay smiled, handing the child over to his father.

“What in Hell do you think you’re doin’, you oily beggar?” Punch growled.

“Pardon me, Sir?” Finlay asked with mock innocence.

“What are you doin’ with my child?” Punch asked again.

“I don’t understand, Your Grace?” Finlay shook his head, making the glittery faux horns of his devil costume shake.

“Bugger, you don’t know.” Punch snapped.

“Finlay,” Robert interrupted. “I believe that when you were caught in Colin’s nursery the other night that you were told not to come near the baby unless one of us was present.”

“Mrs. North had me bring him back up while she prepared his milk. The lad seemed like he was a little cold in the kitchens, so she wanted me to bring him here where it was warm. She asked me to wait with him until she returned.” Finlay lied.

“Is that so?” Robert asked.

“Go and ask her, Sir. She’ll tell you.” Finlay smiled.

“Jus’ what were you doin’ in the kitchens anyway?” Punch asked, hugging the child close to his chest. “Why wasn’t you at the party?”

“I’d gone downstairs to see if the wine was holdin’ out, Sir. Thought I’d be a help to the men you hired. It’s my job as footman to see to the runnin’ of the household, Sir.”

“Is it also your job to go into my jewel casket and help yourself?” Punch hissed.

“Sir?”

Punch’s eyes widened with anger and his face turned red.

“Are you quite well, Sir?” Finlay asked obsequiously. “You don’t seem yourself.”

Mr. Punch took a deep breath and turned to Robert. “Deal with him.”

Robert nodded.

“I’m going to inspect my son. If there’s on scratch on him, Finlay, so help me, I’ll bash your head in and paint your epitaph with your brains.” Punch added before turning around and walking into his chamber.

“Dr. Halifax,” Finlay began. “I’m worried for His Grace. He’s speaking so queerly.”

“Come into the passage.” Robert grunted, pushing Finlay out of his way. He shut the door behind them.

“You know every well,” Robert continued. “That it’s not your place to be watching the child.”

“What was I to do, Sir?” Finlay asked. “Mrs. North gave me an order. I had to do as she instructed.”

“If she did, then, she was wrong. I shall speak with her about that.”

“Yes, Sir.” Finlay nodded.

“When you were coming up here from the kitchens, did you pass Gerard?”

“Sir?”

“Gerard.” Robert repeated. “We’d sent him down to look for the baby. You must have passed him on the stairs or in the passage.”

“No, Sir.” Finlay shook his head. “But, you know Gerard, he probably took the longest route. Probably paused for a drink on the way.”

Robert clenched his hands into fists. “You’d do well to get out of my sight.”

“Sir?”

“Get out of my sight!” Robert shouted.

“Where do I go, Sir?”

“Go to your room. Go to the ball. Go to Blazes for all I care!” Robert shouted. “You’re dressed for it!”

“Yes, Sir.” Finlay whispered.

“Just don’t leave the house.” Robert added. “There’s been a robbery—in addition to this mess with Colin.”

“You don’t think that I…” Finlay began.

“I don’t know what to think.” Robert snapped. “All I know is that you’ve proven to be a most disagreeable member of the household and, frankly, despite your tenure here, your longevity is compromised.”

Finlay smiled. “Sir, you don’t want to sack me.”

“Don’t I?”

“No.” Finlay shook his head. “I can help you. I know just what to do to help a man relax and feel comfortable.”

“You sicken me.” Robert spat. “Go!”

“What of the theft, Sir? Shall I warn the others?”

“No.” Robert snarled. “Say nothing. Presently, I’m most concerned that my son is unharmed.”

“Your son?” Finlay winked.

“Leave my sight, Finlay.” Robert sniffed. “Or the Duke won’t have the pleasure of killing you first.”

With that, Finlay hurried down the corridor. Robert sighed and opened the door to the Duke’s bed chamber, closing it behind him. There, he found Punch seated on the bed—cross-legged in the center, with Colin laid out in front of him.

The baby was now awake and gurgling contentedly as Punch examined him.

“How is he?” Robert asked softly.

“Seems fine.” Punch smiled.

“Thank goodness.” Robert exhaled.

“I don’t understand it.” Punch shook his head. “I’m shocked that Mrs. North would let Finlay take the child.”

“I don’t believe him, dear Punch.” Robert replied. “Something else is afoot.”

“What should we do now?” Punch asked.

“I’m going to go find Mrs. North, and, on the way, let Gerard and Gamilla know that Colin is safe.”

Punch nodded.

“I’ll tell Gamilla to come here so that you can return to the guests.”

“No.” Punch objected. “I ain’t leavin’ Colin.”

“We’ve a house full of people.”

“One or more of whom stole from me.” Punch added. “I ain’t leavin’ our son in the very room what someone just robbed.”

“You’re right.” Robert nodded, running his fingers through his dark hair. His light blue eyes glinted with frustration. He pressed his lips together. “I’ll ask Speaight to act as temporary host until we figure out what to do. Meanwhile, I’ll inform Charles of the theft and have him question the hired staff.”

“Good.” Punch nodded. He sighed. “I just hope Mrs. North can explain herself.”

“So do I.” Robert answered. He bent down to kiss Punch on the top of his head. “I’ll be back shortly.”

As Robert descended the grand staircase, he had no way of knowing what was happening I nthe bowels of the great house.

Down in the silver vaults, Gerard searched for Mrs. North, but he didn’t expect to discover her in the condition which he did. There, in the dim light of the vault, he saw a lumpy blanket stretched across the floor. Expecting to find some misplaced foodstuffs there, he lifted the blanket is disgust.

When he saw what was beneath the blanket, he yelped in horror.

Mrs. North lay dead on the floor of the vaults—her face fixed in an expression of fright, her eyes wide-open, her mouth agape.

Gagging, Gerard stumbled backward.



Did you miss Chapters 1-122? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 124 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

To Serve and Project: A Minton Tureen, 1866


Click image for all the dead-rabbity goodness.
Minton Stew Tureen
England, 1866
The Victoria & Albert Museum


Who doesn’t want a bas relief dead rabbit on their soup tureen? Well, maybe I don’t. But, even though this Minton tureen from 1866 is adorned with the corpses of game, it’s still rather attractive.

This dish, cover and its liner feature a handsomely molded, and rather realistic, group of game, oak leaves, ferns, and a crow arranged in a representation of a wicker basket. Glazed in deep greens and browns, the piece is afforded additional realism from the majolica glazes. Clearly, the tureen was made to serve some sort of disturbing game stew. It’s the sort of thing that when brought to the table, the diners would be able to look at it and know that they were about to get a tasty, hot, wet dinner of rabbit and duckies. This was a favorite thing to do for Victorian designers who thought it amusing to represent the function of an object in its decoration.

The tureen is the work of Léon Arnoux (1816-1902), the art director at the Minton Ceramic Factory of Stoke-on-Trent, England. Amoux had a preoccupation with Renaissance pottery and Sixteenth-century tin-glazed painted Italian maiolica and based his work on these past designs. In 1849, this interest led to the debut of “Palissy Ware” based on the designs of Bernard Palissy and with a nod to the Italian Renaissance style. Later, by the 1880s, these Nineteenth Century recreations became known as “majolica ware”—a term which sticks to this day in regard to all such wares whether made by Minton or not.

The reverse of the liner is marked: “Minton 86 8” and displays a date symbol for 1866.





Object of the Day, Caption Contest A Trade Card for Kellogg, Adams and Eaton

Click image for full-sized weirdness.



Four naked children—they’re not cherubs as they have no wings, and, therefore, have no real excuse to be nude—are romping about. Two of them are riding baby ducks and one, a chick. Now, let’s take a moment to reflect upon this. Either these are very large baby ducks and an enormous chick or these children are unusually small. I think that we must err in favor of the children being atypically small since one of them is wearing a morning glory on his head—not something a normal-headed baby can do. However, given their size, we must question the proportion of the things around them.

While the second duck-rider and the chicken-rider are holding aloft bottles of Kellogg’s Extract, their leader—for he must be since he’s driving the cart and, therefore, controlling the fowl—holds an American flag which has been unpatriotically marked with the words “Kellogg’s Extracts.” This makes sense, on one hand, since, clearly, they are the Kellogg’s Extract Brigade. However, we must call into question the size of the bottles, cart and flag given the stature of these diminutive nudist tots. It’s all very confusing.

Dating to about 1880, this trade card advertises, obviously, for Kellogg’s Extract which was produced by Kellogg (yes, I believe it is THAT Kellogg), Adams and Eaton of Boston, Massachusetts. This bottled syrup came in flavors much like the vanilla and lemon extracts that we use today. Usually, the extracts were, as best I can tell, marketed for use in ice creams and baking.

This fun bit of Victorian weirdness was part of a lot of ephemera which I recently bought. Actually, it’s quite a rare find and I’m very pleased to have it. While odd, it is delightful in that peculiar way unique to Victorian advertising. I think we should have a caption contest for this one. As always, post your answers in the comments section. Could it be a sly bit of trickery for a different company involving the famed two-d Addams clan? You tell me.



Friday, August 24, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Pendant by Sir Alfred Gilbert, 1890-1910

Pendant
Iron, Glass and Turquoise
Sir Alfred Gilbert
1890-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum


This casual pendant of iron wire is set with turquoise and a glass bead. It’s the work of Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) who is considered one of Britain’s most prominent turn of the Twentieth Century sculptors. Gilbert is best known for his aluminum figure of Eros which stands in Piccadilly Circus.

Gilbert’s passion for experimenting with metal led him to jewelry design. He created a series of informal pieces of jewelry like this one, largely from iron wire which he would set with inexpensive materials such as glass in addition to semiprecious stones and shell. These jewels were often given to family members as gifts and were cherished for their spontaneous, hand-wrought, and light-hearted look.

Gilbert, however, did occasionally create formal jewels from precious metals and stones, including the Mayoral Chain of the town of Preston and the presidential badges and chain for the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours—an organization of which he was an active member for his other pursuit of watercolor painting.

This piece dates between 1890 and 1900. 





Print of the Day: Harlequin and Mother Goose, 1811

Click image to see original size.
"Harlequin and Mother Goose"
William West, 1811
The Victoria & Albert Museum


This print from 1811 was produced by William West (?-1854) and was meant to honor the popular play “Harlequin and Mother Goose” or “The Golden Egg” which debuted at Covent Garden Theatre on Christmas of 1806. The play marked the first major appearance of Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown) who premiered his famed “Bang-Up” song.

William West became known as a publisher of prints and sheets depicting theatrical characters. He worked from the “Circulating Library” which was located on Exeter Street near the Strand. By the end of his career, West published over 140 play sheets at an unheard of rate of one every month. His works served to record the most successful plays and theatrical productions of the London stage for a period of 20 years. 


This print from “Mother Goose” was his first offering. Aside from Grimaldi, we also see “Mr Simmons” as “Mother Goose,” a Harlequin representing John Bologna,, and a figure of Mr. Punch with a saltbox and rolling pin. Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy, are also show on the lower left.


Friday Fun: Punch & Judy Cromer Pier 2012




This Punch & Judy show features all the usual suspects and, despite being un-swazzled (the instrument which gives Mr. Punch his distinctive voice) is a lot of fun. The show was performed a few weeks ago on Cromer Pier in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.



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...


Emblem of youth and innocence,
With walls inclos'd for my defence,
     And with no care opprest;
I boldly spread my charms around,
Till some rude lover breaks the mound,
     And takes me to his breast.

Here soon I sicken and decay;
My beauty lost, I'm turn'd away
     And thrown upon the street;
Where I despis'd a vagrant lie,
See no Samaritan pass by,
     But num'rous insects meet.

Ladies! contemplate well my fate,
Reflect upon my wretched state!
     Implore the Almighty aid,
Lest you (which heaven avert) like me
Should come to want and misery,
     Be ruin'd and betray'd.




And the answer is...


A ROSE.

Good, albeit weird, answers from everyone today!  I am thoroughly impressed.  So, while all of you are at home tonight, pressing croissants and onions to your bosoms, I hope you remember your online triumph.  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  

And, for you caption fans, we've got a Trade Card Caption Contest tomorrow which ought to be interesting.  Four words:

Tiny.  Babies.  Duckies.  Extract.  


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 122


Chapter 122: 
The Duke’s Coffers 



What’s happened?” Robert panted as he bounded into the nursery, followed by Gamilla and Gerard. “Where’s Colin?”

“Dunno!” Punch wailed as he came out from his bedchamber, Dog Toby trotting behind him. “Dunno!”

Robert put his arms around his companion. “Don’t fret, dear Punch. We’ll find him.”

“But…” Punch yelped. “He’s s’posed to be here. And…and…he ain’t. He ain’t here.”

“I’m sure he’s with Mrs. North—probably in the kitchens.” Robert replied, withdrawing his embrace.

“I…” Punch gulped. “That’s what Gamilla said, but I gotta bad feelin’, I do. Like…like when our ma came to New Orleans and…”

“Shhhh, my dear.” Robert said gently. He looked over his shoulder. “Gerard, will you run down to the kitchens and see if Mrs. North and Colin are there?”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerard nodded.

“Gamilla, will you, please, go to Mrs. North’s room upstairs and knock. It’s possible that she’s taken him up there where she’s more comfortable. Perhaps she wanted to change from her fancy dress and into her uniform and took Colin with her.” Robert continued.

“Of course.” Gamilla said.

Gamilla and Gerard hurried to their tasks.

“Chum.” Punch began breathlessly. “I knew we shouldn’t have let him out of our sight. We got this house fulla people—we don’t know none o’ them folk what’s servin’. Anyone coulda just come up here and…”

“And gotten past Mrs. North?” Robert smiled. “I hardly think so. I doubt she’d let anyone come near Colin.”

“Maybe so, but she’s an old woman, and she coulda easily been taken over by someone stronger…”

“There are few stronger than Mrs. North.” Robert said.

“The son of a Duke…” Punch moaned. “Everybody knows that the Duke of Fallbridge has almost as much in his coffers as the Crown itself. Don’t you think some unsavory bloke would try to take the son of the Duke of Fallbridge?”

“For ransom?”

“Of course!” Punch snapped.

“Darling,” Robert said softly. “Please, try to…”

“I won’t, Chum. I love ya, but I won’t calm down—not ‘til Colin’s in me arms.”

“All right,” Robert said, putting his arm around Punch’s waist.

“Anybody coulda come in here.” Punch continued. “I…I…” He sniffed as tears welled up in his eyes. “I wanna sit under the table.”

“Let’s wait until we get Colin back in his cradle.” Robert whispered gently.

“I…I wanna get in the cupboard.”

“That won’t help anything.”

“I shoulda made Colin stay in the cupboard.”

“I don’t think he’d like that very much. You know he doesn’t care for the dark.”

“But, but he’s in the dark right now!” Punch answered. “At least, he’d be safe in the cupboard. Or the wardrobe. We’ll put him in the wardrobe.”

“That’s no way for a little boy to live.” Robert replied. “We can’t keep him locked away to keep him safe.”

“Still,” Punch said, his voice cracking. “Them’s all kinda folk what want to hurt little boys. Don’t tell me otherwise—cuz I know. I know, Chum. I know all ‘bout it.”

“I know you do.” Robert squeezed Punch.

Punch’s eyes widened. “The wardrobe…”

He broke away from Robert and ran through the connecting door to his bedchamber.

“Punch!” Robert called after him. “Don’t get into the wardrobe.”

“I ain’t gonna.” Punch shouted back.

Robert came into the Duke’s room and saw Punch opening the wardrobe doors. He removed his jewelry case from the wardrobe and set it down on the bed. Opening the case, he yelped. “I knew it!”

“What?” Robert rushed to his side.

“All gone—all of it. All me fobs and stickpins and studs and cuff buttons. Me watches and all. Even the ring with the piece of the Molliner Blue!”

Robert looked at the empty jewel box and his face fell.

“Now do ya see?” Punch groaned. “Someone took Collin. Someone came in here and took me jewels and our son!”

“No.” Robert shook his head. “We’ll find him.”

Taking Punch by the arm, Robert led him to the door and opened it.

Both of them yelped as they saw Finlay—still dressed as the devil—holding Colin on the other side of the door.



Did you miss Chapters 1-121 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 123.

Figure of the Day: Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown), 1840

Staffordshire Flatback, 1840
Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown)
The Victoria & Albert Museum




1837 saw a new trend in production for the porcelain makers of Staffordshire when they introduced lead-glazed earthenware flat-back figures of Queen Victoria. These figures were painted in enamels on the front while the back, (which was, you can guess, flat) was left white. In tended to be displayed on a mantelpiece, sideboard or any location where the reverse of the piece was against a wall, these figures quickly became popular.

Flatbacks were soon produced depicting a variety of subject from Royalty and historic figures to actors and celebrities. The modelers often referred to popular prints of the day in order to find subjects and depict them somewhat accurately.

This one is modeled after a print of the famed Regency Panto clown Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown, 1779-1837) who found much success with “Mother Goose” in 1806 at Covent Garden. Grimaldi was revered as a comic singer, a daring acrobat and as a performer who could make dozens of unexpected costume changes during his routine. He was so renowned that, to this day, the name “Joey” is often used as a nickname for a clown. This Staffordshire figure is dated to about 1840, but, sadly, we have no way of knowing the name of the modeler.


Object of the Day: A Scrap of Joey the Clown


A young man goes to see his doctor to report that he is overcome by a terrible sadness and doesn't think anything will assist him. 
The doctor says, "Why not do something happy, like going to see Grimaldi the clown?". 
The young man answers, with a knowing look, "Ah, but Doctor", he says, "I am Grimaldi." 
                                    --Popular English Joke, circa 1820 


Joseph Grimaldi
John Cawse, pre-1862


Here’s Joey. Readers of this site are familiar with Joey the Clown as a puppet figure who acts as Mr. Punch’s friend, and sometimes, the master of ceremonies of the show. Joey even serves occasionally as Punch’s conscience, but, mostly, he revels in tormenting and egging on Old Red Nose.

But, why is the famed puppet clown so named? Joey, in the Punch and Judy tradition, is an homage to the original Joey the Clown—the pantomime creation of performer Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who is credited as the creator of the “white face” clown which is the archetype for all modern clowning.

Grimaldi entered the theatrical world at the age of three—the son of a performer and his mistress. Within a few years, he was wowing audience with his acrobatic performances and comic antics. Truly, Joseph Grimaldi was the father of clowning as we know it, and, certainly, one of the most important figures in the development of Pantomime.

Joseph Grimaldi was also the first “sad clown.” His life was, in large part tragic. After his father’s passing, he dealt with terrible poverty. Later, the loss of his first wife in childbirth clouded Grimaldi’s life and led him to alcoholism. A popular joke of the 1820s—see above—makes the depression of the man behind Joey quite clear.

And, so, because of this, Red Skelton made a second career scaring generations of people with paintings of sobbing clowns.

Nevertheless, Grimaldi’s later years were marked by more sorrow as he lost the ability to walk due to the torture he’d inflicted upon himself with his often-dangerous physical comedy. He was forced to retire, and, upon doing so, quickly became impoverished. Benefits were held in his honor, but it didn’t help. As his own son died from alcoholism, Joseph Grimaldi died as well. His last wish was to be decapitated before burial because of a lifelong fear of being buried alive. Well, that would have done the trick.

But, clowns are fun! Yes? 

Click image to enlarge.

This scrap from the 1860s-1890s is teeny tiny. It was stuck in with a bunch of ephemera which I recently bought and, at first, I almost didn’t notice it. If he’s not Joey the Clown, he’s certainly one of the many who were inspired by Grimaldi—complete with Joey’s trademark wig and makeup. I like to think he’s Joey, at least. And, so, we devote today’s Punch-Friday to Mr. Punch’s friend and sometimes tormentor, Joey the Clown, and his creator, Joseph Grimaldi.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: First Bertie

"I think she might have another boyfriend."







Image: First Love, William Mulready (RA, 1786-1863), 1838-1839, Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857, to 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: The Dame Joan Evans Putti Locket, 1570-1600

Memorial Locket with Cameo and Enamel Painting
Cameo:  1570, Setting: 1600
Germany
The Victoria & Albert Museum



From the collection of Dame Joan Evans, we have this layered agate cameo which depicts two male busts. The cameo is set in gold and adorned with painted enamels and rubies. It’s believed that the cameo was made in Germany circa 1570 and was set into the gold mount around 1600. 




The reverse of the cameo has been painted with an enamel landscape which shows a skull and a putto blowing bubbles—a clear representation of the brevity of human life. Given this, it’s entirely possible that this was meant to serve as a memorial locket or, perhaps, a memento mori.

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Putti Cabinet, 1855

Cabinet
Jackson and Graham, 1855
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum



This handsome cabinet was not made for domestic use, but rather as a sample of the ingenuity and talents of the craftsmen and designers of the London furnishing firm of Jackson and Graham. Made in the Eighteenth Century style, the cabinet was presented at the Paris International Exhibition of 1855 where it was heralded for its fineness.

The 1855 catalog notes of the cabinet that “the interior is finished with as much care as the exterior, being of satin-wood inlaid with tulip-wood and the fronts of the drawers inlaid with ivory and panelled, the panels being fitted with finely-chased and gilded metal-work.”  


The stars of the show are the three porcelain mounts depicting putti representing the arts.  These panels are mounted in gilt moldings which echo the shape of the central mirror.

The piece was designed by Alexandre Prignot (born 1822) who had been the chief designer for Jackson and Graham from 1849 to 1855. This piece was one of his final triumphs. The ceramics were supplied by Minton & Co. while Elkington & Co, offered the electroplated mounts. Cope and Collinson provided the casters.

The marquetry, giltwood, and inlays of marble and porcelain drew much positive attention and praise at the 1855 exhibition as did the mirror which surmounted the cabinet. 






Figure of the Day: Two Putti with Grapes, 1762-1770

Figure Group
French, c. 1760
The Victoria & Albert Museum



The work of the French Crépy-en-Valois Porcelain Factory, this figure group depicts two blond puttis seated face-to-face. Each one is holding a bunch of grapes. Figures like this one were designed to represent the seasons. Typically, those holding grapes denoted Autumn.

The soft-paste group, painted in enamels, was made between 1760 and 1770.

The underside is marked “D.C.O.” Interestingly, the enamel that we see on this figure is a later addition. For years, the piece was attributed to Mennecy, however, that attribution was amended when it was noticed that the figures had been re-fired with newer enameling.



Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 121



Chapter 121: 
Sure 



Colin,” Mr. Punch yelped like a wounded animal. He staggered around the nursery, whimpering and looked up at Gamilla who stood helplessly at the door. “He ain’t here!”

“They gotta be somewhere.” Gamilla said quickly. “Maybe Mrs. North took him to her room. Or maybe she done took him for his bath.”

“He already had his bath!” Mr. Punch replied desperately. “Before the ball.”

“Maybe he needed cleanin’.” Gamilla suggested.

“No.” Punch shook his head. “Somethin’s wrong, it is. You know it as well as I do. Mrs. North were told to take Colin here and stay with him, not to go off anywhere else.”

“Could be he was hungry and Mrs. North took him to the kitchens.”

Punch, with trembling hands, pulled on his cravat to loosen it. “No.” He gulped. “Please, Gamilla, do as I said. Go get Dr. Halifax.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gamilla nodded.

“But, don’t rush down the stairs or look like somethin’s afoot. I don’t want to upset the guests.”

Gamilla nodded again and hurried off.

Alone in the nursery, Mr. Punch moaned and looked about the room. He went to Colin’s cradle and felt the blankets. They were cool to the touch. “He ain’t even been in here.” Punch took a deep breath and, then, decided that he’d best check his own chamber.

Walking briskly to the door which separated the two rooms, Punch flung open the door and went inside. Dog Toby, who had been sleeping on the bed, awoke with a start and looked with confusion at his master.

“Oh, Toby, Toby.” Punch wailed. “Where’s Colin?”

The dog stood up and walked across the bed—his ears alert and his eyes eager to understand.

“Thought maybe Mrs. North brung him in here, I did.” Punch confided in the terrier who, as Punch reached forward, licked his master’s hand.

“Here, I gotta calm me-self. Sure Colin’s safe, he is. He’s with Mrs. North. Many’s a time when she would look after Julian when her were Colin’s age, and he never suffered for it—least not from her.”

“Damn it!” Punch scowled. “Where’s Robert?” He looked at the dog. “Stay here, Dog Toby. Ain’t nothin’ to worry ‘bout. Sure our boy is safe. Sure it’s just what Gamilla said. Mrs. North probably took her to the kitchens for some milk or a biscuit. Sure.”

He sat down on the bed beside the dog. “Robert’ll be here in a tick and we’ll be jus’ fine.”

Dog Toby settled in next to Punch and put his head on Punch’s knee.

“Sure, it’ll be just fine.” Punch muttered. “Just fine. Just fine. He’s with Mrs. North, and Robert’ll be here just now.”

Of course, we know that Colin was not with Mrs. North. Mrs. North was quite dead—left in the silver vault under a stiff, itchy blanket. Colin was still with Ellen who, upon hearing Gamilla and Punch approach had hidden in the wardrobe at the farthest end of the nursery. When Punch left the nursery, Ellen had slipped out—baby in her arms—and hurried down the corridor.

Ellen Barrett—dressed as Mrs. North—was not eager to be caught with the child, certainly. However, she was even less eager to be spotted with handfuls of the Duke’s jewelry stuffed into the front of her bodice.

Suddenly, she regretted sending the Baron Lensdown away on his errand to lure Finlay to the top of the tower. Frankly, she thought, she could have used the assistance of either or both of her mistrusted accomplices.

She cursed quietly under her breath as she turned into an unused passage. She should have known that the Duke would have wanted to check on the baby. Still, she’d thought her task would have been completed by then.

Now what was she to do? When the doctor arrived, he’d surely embark on a quiet search of the castle. What if he found Mrs. North’s body too soon?

“I have no choice.” Ellen sighed in irritation as she turned around and headed for the narrow, stone staircase which led to the roof of the central tower.



Did you miss Chapters 1-120? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 122.



Gifts of Grandeur: The Putti Snuffbox, 1750

Click images to enlarge.
German Snuffbox
Circa 1750
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum



I always like the snuffboxes that are constructed of different media. Typically, we see examples made of precious metals or porcelain, but every so often, we get one of shell or bone which is just lovely. This one is made of tortoiseshell—a medium which found its way into a variety of the decorative arts.

The cartouche-shaped box depicts a scene of putti playing in a fountain—as they do. It’s quite a clever use of carious precious materials. The pilasters with their scrolling decoration are made of inlaid gold while the putti themselves are rendered in ivory. Mother-of-pearl inlay forms the fountain while lapis lazuli and malachite add notes of blue and green respectively to the piece.

There’s no doubt as to the Rococo influence here. Made around 1750, this box is a nifty example of a German take on the Rococo. There’s some debate about just where in Germany the box was made. Some say Southern Germany, particularly Bavaria, while others insist that the piece was constructed in Berlin.

The sides are adorned with more putti and gold shells while the base is engraved with a gold rocaille. The reeded mount comes alive with shell and the scrolled thumb-piece adds interest to the front. Today, the box forms part of the magnificent Gilbert Collection at the V&A.