Saturday, September 1, 2012

We’ll be off until Tuesday

Bertie, Mr. Punch and I feel that we’ve earned a little break. And, since this is a holiday weekend in the U.S., we’re going to take a couple of days off to do all sorts of fun things.

While Bertie and I will likely be eating sandwiches (a shared hobby) and sorting through the nineteen billion trade cards which I’ve purchased in the last few weeks, Mr. Punch intends to do something which he feels will really benefit society. He won’t tell me what. All I know is that he’s been muttering a lot about sausages and hot air balloons. Given the several crates of mustard that he’s hiding in his room, I’d advise anyone in the North Texas area to keep an umbrella handy and keep an eye open for chattering puppets in flying machines.

So, here’s wishing all of our friends in the U.S. a happy Labor Day. To all of our friends in other countries, we hope you have a good weekend. And, we’ll see you all on Tuesday.

In the meantime, you can always catch up on any Chapters of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square that you may have missed and/or the 5183 other posts that I’ve put up in the last two years. 

Mastery of Design: A Watercolor on Ivory Eye Miniature, 1800

Eye Miniature
Watercolor on Ivory
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another eye miniature. This one, set in a square frame, is edged by twelve pink gemstones (likely topaz). The artist has painted this romantic token in watercolor on ivory.

Such intimate jewels were exchanged by lovers—usually a woman giving the portrait to a gentleman. These paintings were, like this one, set in jeweled frames and were meant to be worn on the person—inside the clothing. To wear such a personal image for public display would have been in poor taste.

Created around 1800, we don’t know to whom the eye belonged or to whom it was given. We do know, however, that it was made in England. 

Unfolding Pictures: The Sleeping Beauty Fan, 1888

The Sleeping Beauty Fan
Phoebe Traquair
Scotland, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By the 1880’s, hand fans were still fashionable, but they weren’t the social requirement that they were for ladies of the early Nineteenth Century. Fans continued to be made in huge numbers, and, varying materials and quality. Even by the end of the century, many ladies felt that their ensemble was incomplete without this comforting accessory.

Artists working in the then-growing Arts and Crafts style were always looking for new surfaces to adorn, and saw the fan leaf as unexplored territory for their stylistic movement. Among the most prolific of the Scottish Arts and Crafts designers was Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936) who is often considered the leader of the style in Scotland.

We’ve had a look at some of Traquair’s jewelry designs, and, they’re quite impressive. So, I thought it might be nice to look at a fan which features her painting. This fan leaf by Traquair depicts the story of the “Sleeping Beauty” and is distinguished by the artist’s celebrated dream-like style.

The silk leaf is painted with watercolors only on the obverse, with the reverse of the fan left natural. The Sleeping Beauty is being approached by Cupid as adolescent Pans cavort around her. The fanciful scene is typical of Traquair’s work. 

The fan itself, made in Edinburgh, features ivory sticks and guards. 

At the Music Hall: Three O'Clock in the Morning, a Waltz, 1922

Three o'clock
In the morning
We danced the
Whole night through
And daylight soon
Will be dawning
Just one more
Waltz with you

I said the melody
It's so entrancing
It seems to be
Made for us two
I said that I
I could just keep
Right on dancing
Forever dear
Dancing here with you

It's three o'clock
In the morning
I say that we danced
The whole night through
And daylight soon
Will be dawning, yeah
There's a-one
More dance with you

I say that that melody
It's so, so entrancing, yeah
I could just go on and on
I said that I could
Just keep right on dancing
Forever dear
Dancing here with you

(Melody's so entrancing)
Melody's so entrancing
(Seems to be made for us two)
It seems to be made for us two

I could just keep right on
I could keep on dancing forever
Here, dancing here with you
Three o'clock in the morning 

“Three O’Clock in the Morning,” a popular “good night waltz” (of the sort which would signal the end of a dance, or, the closing of a club), features music written by Julian Robledo and lyrics by Theodora Morse (under the name “Dorothy Terriss”).

The first recording of the beloved song is believed to have been by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. In fact, the song is so associated with Whiteman that it became his signature tune.

The song is famously referenced in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and has long been a favorite standard of many recording artists. 

Saturday Silliness: Popeye the Sailor in "Never Kick a Woman"

Yes, I colored it.

This 1930s Max Fliescher “Popeye” cartoon is entitled, ‘Never Kick a Woman” which is a fair enough instruction. It seems that Popeye has decided that Olive Oyl needs some lessons in self defense and, so, as one does, he brings her to a languid, blonde, Mae West type who appears to be constructed entirely of cartilage and saline. Despite Mae’s curious chemical composition, she attempts to seduce Popeye, much to Olive’s chagrin. Chaos and spinach theft ensue.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 129

Chapter 129:

Gerard coughed when he saw the Countess Hamish. She hadn’t just been stabbed, she’d been…for want of a better word, Gerard thought, butchered.

Robert exhaled and looked up at Gerard.

“I feel bad for Lady Lensdown,” Gerard said softly. “She’s a nice lady, and, I’d hate to think that she saw this.”

Robert nodded. “Someone truly hated the Countess. This is an act of utter contempt and cruelty.”

“I know we ain’t supposed to speak ill of the dead, but...”

“No, I know. Still,” Robert sighed. “No one deserves this.”

“What do we do, Sir?” Gerard asked.

Robert rose from the body of the Countess and inhaled again. “I don’t quite know. My initial thought is that we need to move the woman, but, if we do, we might be risking the removal of something which could give us an idea of who did this. Until light of day, we can’t really see everything with which we might be dealing.”

“We could cover her up,” Gerard suggested.

“Yes.” Robert replied. He looked around the dark room. “There is, I think, in the window seat, a blanket which His Grace was using when Colin was in here earlier today.”

“Oh, yes.” Gerard nodded. “Put it there me-self. I remember His Grace sayin’ he didn’t like the color.” He went to the window seat nestled behind the drapes which framed a bay of leaded-glass windows. Gerard removed the blanket and unfolded it. He and Robert covered the countess’ corpse.

“Any idea who done this, Sir?” Gerard asked.

Robert shook his head. “No.”

“Do ya think it’s the same person what killed our poor Mrs. North?”

“It could be,” Robert sniffed. “But, I can’t imagine why.”

Robert walked to the other end of the room and settled into one of the plush armchairs. Leaning forward, he put his elbows on his knees and cradled his head in his heads.

“Sir?” Gerard asked as he followed the doctor.

Robert looked up and gestured to the chair across from him in the dark room. “Go on and sit, Gerry.”

Gerard nodded and did as he was asked.

“May I ask what you’re thinkin’, Sir?”

“You may, however, I’m at a loss as to how best describe my thoughts at present. This was meant to be a joyful evening. Yet, it’s turned into a tragedy. I’m heartbroken for Mrs. North, and, though there was no love lost between me and the Countess Hamish, I can’t help but feel sympathy for Lady Constance at having lost her mother.”

“It’s gonna be hard to keep Lady Constance from here, Sir.”

“I know.” Robert grumbled. “But, we can’t let that woman see her mother like this.”

Gerard shrugged. “I think maybe she should see her ma, Sir.”

“Do you?”

“Sure.” Gerard nodded. “I think maybe Lady Constance is stronger than she looks.”

“Could be.”

“When I lost my ma,” Gerard continued. “I didn’t get to see her.”

“Oh?” Robert raised his eyebrows.

“Pastor said that she was too beat up.” Gerard replied. “See—she’d.” He paused. “She’d been drowned. Lost for awhile, but…” He gulped. “They found her.” He shook his head. “I wanted to see her…dunno why, but the Pastor said I shouldn’t. I always regretted it, Sir.”

“I do understand,” Robert nodded. “My own mother died in…hospital. We weren’t told immediately, and Cecil and I…” He coughed. “I do understand. I’m not suggesting that Lady Constance not be allowed to view her mother, but, I do think we should not let her see this bloody mess.”

Gerard nodded.

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“We can’t let anyone leave.” Robert shook his head, finally speaking.

“Should I talk to Mr. Speaight? We can open the guest rooms for the ladies and gentleman and make space in the Servants’ Hall for the others.”

“We’ll have to.” Robert whispered. “Though I hate the idea of keeping a murderer or murderers—not to mention thieves—in the house with His Grace and Colin. Well, frankly, as well as the rest of you.”

“But, we can’t let whoever done this get away with it.”

“I know.” Robert scowled. “I don’t even know about the constabulary in this part of the world. Who do we contact?”

“Dunno, Sir.” Gerard answered. “I reckon His Grace does.”

“And, how am I going to tell him about this?” Robert mumbled. “How will he handle it?”

“His Grace is the strongest man I know,” Gerard said. “I’ll bet he’ll be better with it than we done.”

Robert smiled slightly. “Probably so.”

“See,” Gerard continues. “His Grace knows what he’s feelin’ an’ he ain’t scared to let his ‘motions show unlike most folk.”

“That’s very true.”

“I think by lettin’ his feelin’s show, he’s…he’s…”

“He’s able to deal with more than most.” Robert suggested.

“Yes, Sir.”

“It’s curious, isn’t it? Look at His Grace. People call him mad, and, yet, he’s innately stable because of the very thing for which people condemn him. And, then, you’ve got a man like Baron Lensdown who didn’t move a muscle to comfort his terrorized wife. Would most call him mad—this cruel being? No. Yet, we have a loving, intelligent, compassionate creature who, by nature of being different, is ridiculed while a man with no heart whatsoever is left to a life of utter freedom.”

“Ain’t right, Sir.” Gerard sighed.

“I suppose that I should make some kind of statement to our guests.” Robert stood up. “Will you coordinate with Speaight to see about lodging for them?”

“Yes, Doctor.” Gerard replied.

“Will you extinguish the lamp?” Robert pointed to the oil lamp which someone had lit prior to their entry—he assumed it had been Lady Lensdown.

Gerard went to the lamp, and as the flame extinguished and a shroud of blackness fell across the room, he felt a hand clamp over his mouth.

Unable to scream, Gerard tried to fight against the person who held him so tightly, but he was unable to break free.

Though Dr. Halifax was merely feet away, Gerard succumbed to the sharp pain in his back.

Did you miss Chapters 1-128? If so, you can read them here. Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will be back on Tuesday, September 4 with Chapter 130. Thanks for reading!

Sculpture of the Day: The Sleep of Sorrow and the Dream of Joy, 1861

The Sleep of Sorrow and the Dream of Joy
Raffaelle Monti
London, 1861
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since today’s trade card was so glum and sluggish, I thought we’d look at other historically grim and lethargic artwork today. Hooray! It’s a holiday weekend in the U.S.. Let’s look at depressed children. Well, at least this marble sculpture gives us some hope for better times.

The work of Italian-born sculptor Raffaelle Monti (1818-1881), this allegorical figural group was carved in 1861 to be shown in the International Exhibition in London in 1862. The group depicts a veiled figure of the “Dream of Joy” who hovers above the slumbering figure of “Sorrow.” So, Sorrow dreams of Joy? That seems about right. While the allegory is quite clear, the group was also meant to be a metaphor for the political climate at the time in Italy—a hopeful sign of growing cultural unity with the proclamation of a kingdom there on March 17, 1861.

Monti, born in Milan, worked predominantly in London where he enjoyed the patronage of the wealthy English. He’s best known, perhaps, for the enchanting sculptures which he created for the grounds of the Crystal Palace. Later in his life, Monty was employed at the famed Elkington & Co. where he was involved with the production of electrotypes. For Elkington, Monti created the largest known electrotype monument--an equestrian statue of Charles William Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854).

The sculptor’s work was quite beloved by the English. In fact, this sculpture was praised during the International Exhibition of 1862. Afterwards, it’s believed that the figure group was purchased by the chairman of the London Stereoscopic Company. Over the next century, it passed through the collections of many families. Eventually, it came into the hands of Mrs. Sarah Hoda of Essex who lent it to the V&A for an large display of items from the 1862 Exhibition, in celebration of its hundredth anniversary. Hoda sold the group to the V&A in 1964.

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Tot in Cleveland

Click on image to enlarge.

With compliments 
Crockery, China and Glassware, 
Table Cutlery, and a full line of House Fur-
nishing Goods. 
358 Ontario St. CLEVELAND, O. 

So, with the compliments of Mr. Walther, we have this melancholy, heavy-lidded child who, in a fit of depression, has forced her head through a wall. Perhaps she’s upset because she is so, apparently, sleepy.

This card from my collection is one of a curious lot of pale children with large heads who have decided to ram their craniums through some sort of paper screen. The others, boys, look rather pleased with themselves. This young lady, however, looks as if she’s ready to give up the ghost.

During an era of bright colors, florid designs, and rosy-cheeked tots, every so often, some pallid, morose Victorian child like this one pops up and leaves us, over one hundred years later, to wonder why she’s so sad, and, just what the advertiser was thinking.

These trade cards were designed and distributed to be collected so that the advertiser’s name was always in front of a potential customer. They were meant to be delightful and pretty. Still, there’s always the odd one which looks like it’s depicting a cast member from a questionable local production of “Our Town.”

So, despite her sadness, let’s make her the subject of a nice Saturday-before-American-Labor-Day Caption Contest. Do you feel the need, upon examining her wide, staring gaze and mournful countenance, to purchase cutlery? If so, why? 

Have fun. Answers in the comments, etc.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mastery of Design: An Italian Coral Amulet, c. 1600

Carved Coral Amulet
Italy, Seventeenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A carved coral amulet, this jewel was made in Italy around 1600 and was intended as a baby gift. Mounted in enameled gold filigree, the piece is carved with a bird meant to protect the child from harm. 

The amulet could have been suspended from a ribbon over the cradle or, perhaps, hung from a rattle.

Antique Image of the Day: Les Etrennes du Bébé, 1865

Click image to enlarge.
Gifts for a Baby
A. Queyror, 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Created in 1865, this illustration is entitled “Les Etrennes du Bébé “or “Gifts for a Baby.” Etchings of the print were published in Paris by Cadart & Luquet. Essentially an inventory of toys, I selected this image by A. Queyroy because of the very obvious figure of Mr. Punch along with a toy theatre, a drum, a rabbit and a horse.

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and Pretty Polly

1859 Proofs for prints of George Cruikshank's Punch & Judy Series of 1827
This pair of images shows courtly dances including the dance with Pretty Polly
as performed by Piccini.
Images from the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Another scene from a recent Punchinello show which replicates the 1827 drawings of Mr. Punch by George Cruikshank, here we see Mr. Punch courting Pretty Polly with a dance. I wish I knew who the professor was here. He’s used “The Beggar’s Opera” by John Gay as the dance music.

The video, again is by Chris van der Craats.

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 is the army not going to have bayonets any longer?


And, the answer is...

They're already long enough.

Many thanks to all who answered!  I always love to see the many thought processes of our little community at work.  And, of course, special mention to Shawn who was not only our first poster, but also gave us the official answer.  

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 128

Chapter 128: 
Her Poor Mother 

Robert took a few cautious steps toward Lady Lensdown as the occupants of the Great Hall fell silent.

“Tell me, Baroness,” Robert began softly. “What’s happened? How were you injured?”

Lady Lensdown moaned softly and stiffly extended her bloodied hands.

“I’m going to try to help you, if you’ll let me.” Robert said soothingly.

“No.” The baroness rasped. She withdrew her hands and wiped them on her gown—the action, however, only served to bloody her hands more as they brushed across the crimson stain which had ruined the bodice of her opulent attire.

“You’ve asked for help,” Robert nodded patiently. “I can help you.”

“I don’t need help.” She sobbed.

“Clearly you do.” Robert continued.

“It’s not me who wants help.” The baroness cried.

“I don’t understand.” Robert shook his head.

“I think she’s too distraught to make sense, Sir.” Gerard whispered as he came up behind the doctor.

“It’s Martha.” Lady Lensdown groaned. “She’s dead.”

Robert squinted. “Martha?” He paused for a moment. What was Mrs. North’s Christian name? Was it “Martha?” How could the baroness have found Mrs. North? From where had the blood come?

“In the blue parlor.” The baroness continued. “Martha…there on the floor by the fire.”

“Mother?” Lady Constance shrieked from the rear of the hall. She pushed her way through the crowd and came upon the baroness, kneeling at her side. “Mother’s dead?”

“Stabbed through the heart.” The baroness whimpered.

“Dear God,” Robert hissed as he realized that the baroness had found the murdered body of the Countess Hamish.

“Take me to her.” Lady Constance begged. “I must see her.”

“No.” Robert said quickly. “I think it’s best that my man and I investigate first.”

“I will not be kept from my mother.” Lady Constance snapped. “She needs me.”

“You’re no good to her now.” Robert said as gently as possible. “Please, let me go first.”

Lady Constance raised her hands and tugged on her elaborate coiffure until the straw-like strands of her hair came loose from their pins and false curls. “Doctor, she’s my mother.”

“I know what it means to lose a mother.” Robert nodded. “I truly do. However, let me spare you a grisly scene. Let me tend to her first so that you might remember her peacefully.”

Lady Constance’s angry face fell into one of resolve. “Yes.” She whispered.

“Furthermore,” Robert began, raising his voice so that he would be heard by all of those in the Great Hall. “I fear for the Lady’s safety. This is the second murder that has taken place in this house tonight. The first victim was our dear Mrs. North.”

A rattling cry arose from the staff who shrieked “No” amongst other mournful shouts.

“I must ask everyone to stay in this room. No one may leave.” Robert continued.

Scanning the crowd, Robert spotted the Baron Lensdown who leaned casually against one of the clustered stone columns which supported the hall’s Tudor-style arcade. “And, you, Sir, you might come for your wife.”

The Baron shrugged and, after adjusting his cuff buttons, stepped through the crowd.

Still on her knees, Lady Lensdown turned to Constance. “Connie, dear,” She sobbed. “This is my fault. I am to blame.”

“Shhhh…” Constance shook her head, putting her hands on the baroness’ shoulders. “Don’t say such things.”

“Your poor mother,” Lady Lensdown cried. “Your poor mother. And, you poor girl. I shall try to be a mother to you as I might.”

“Gertrude.” The baron snapped as he approached his wife. “Come with me. You’ve made enough of a fool of yourself for the night.”

Robert clucked his tongue in disgust. He looked up and caught sight of Ethel, Jenny and Georgie Pepper who stood next to Mrs. Pepper who had her hand over her mouth.

Nodding his head, Robert signaled to the four who came forward to the assistance of Lady Lensdown.

“Come with us, Dearie.” Mrs. Pepper said softly, offering a hand to the baroness who, with gratitude, took it.

“Where are you taking my wife?” The baron sniffed.

“To help her, Sir.” Mrs. Pepper scowled. “An amusing thought to you, I’m sure.”

“Come wit’ us, Miss.” Ethel whispered to Lady Constance. “We’ll take ya to the kitchens and give ya some tea, then.”

Lady Constance nodded.

Satisfied that Constance and Lady Lensdown were being looked-after, Robert tapped Gerard on his shoulder and the two headed for the Blue Drawing Room—steeling themselves in preparation for the brutal scene they were about to encounter.

Did you miss Chapters 1-127 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for another chapter of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Print of the Day: Punch and the Baby, 18th-19th C.

Mr. Punch and the Baby
Hand-colored Engraving
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum, we have this hand-colored (with watercolor) engraving of Mr. Punch. The engraving is difficult to date, and therefore it’s been assigned to a range between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century. 

We don’t know the publisher nor do we know the artist. What we do know is that it’s cute—in its innately Punchy way. In this scene from the traditional Punch & Judy show, we see Mr. Punch happily sending the baby out the window. 

The image is part of a set which, at some point, was pasted onto colored paper along with other Punch-related ephemera.  

Object of the Day: Punch Presents Quick Meal Coal Ranges, circa 1904


This little booklet will amuse the Children. Let them
copy the pictures on the Tissue Paper.

Punch and Judy 
          of olden times
     Are now the subject of
          our rhymes.
Punch’s appetite was
     So he ordered Judy to 
          cook a steak.

Now Judy, you know,
     had an old time
     And to cook for
          Punch she often
But Punch could not
     be pleasant or glad,
     And oft at mealtime
          he was mad.

One day, when he was
          in a fit,
     And Baby cried ‘till
          it was sick, 
Punch threw it madly,
          out of doors;
Poor Judy shrieked
          aloud, of course.

A Policeman came
          into the door,
      And Judy cried
          aloud some more;
But Punch could not
          be taken in,
     And swore the battle
          he would win.

He won the battle
          To be sure,
     But could not win
          Poor Judy more.
A bright idea popped
          in his head—
     “I’ll get a QUICK
          MEAL RANGE,”
               he said.

So when the Range
           was set up right,
     Judy worked with
          all her might,
And cooked, and
           noon and night,
     You never saw such
           a pretty sight. 

Click images to enlarge.

This fanciful little booklet, complete with its original tracing paper inserts, was made to advertise St. Louis-based “Quick Meal Coal Ranges” and Gas ranges for the Ringen Stove Co. of Missouri. Since the booklet mentions the World’s Fair, we can guess that it was made after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

This American company has cleverly featured Britain’s Mr. and Mrs. Punch and their baby. Punch, as you’ve just read, is annoyed by Judy’s slow range and tosses the baby out of the window. But, after gleefully smashing the Beadle, Punch decides he can make everything right by buying Judy a new range. And, actually, it does seem to do the trick.

I can’t tell you how much I love the illustrations in this booklet. They’re too wonderful, and I adore the look of utter joy with which Punch approaches everything he’s doing. He’s as happy with his meal of turkey and hams as he is just to throw the baby out of the window. And, that’s why we love Mr. Punch.

I’ve scanned most of the book for you. Enjoy the pictures. They’re quite a treat. You’ll see that some of the pages are covered by the original tissue paper. I’ve moved the paper out of the way in the next image.  I'm just surprised it was never drawn in.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Duke of Reichstadt with Bertie

"Put the trashcan back in the bathroom, Napoleon, Jr.."

Image:  Duke of Reichstadt (1811-1832) as a Boy,  Jean-Baptirse Isabey (1767-1855), c. 1818, Watercolor on Ivory, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

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

Mastery of Design: The Edmund Ware Ring, 1912

Click on image to enlarge.
Engagement Ring
Edmund Ware
London, 1912
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The work of British designer Edmund Ware (1883-1960) in 1912, this fantastic gold ring is bezel-set with a cabochon sapphire which is flanked by six brilliant-cut diamonds. Each diamond is presented in a separate, raised collet. The shoulders of the ring are adorned with tracery.

Aside from being an exceptional piece of jewelry and indicative of Ware’s designs, this ring has special significance, especially for Ware himself. Ware designed the ring as an engagement present for his future bride. There are no records which note her reaction to the gift, but I’d bet she was quite happy with it.

Painting of the Day: Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria, 17th C.

Click image for larger size.
Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Marie
Gonzales Coques after Anthony van Dyck
Seventeenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A handsome and unusual double portrait, this canvas by Gonzales Coques (1614-1684) depicts King Charles I of England. He is shown wearing the Order of the Garter. At his side is his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, depicted with the peaceful symbols of a laurel wreath and an olive branch. Set against a lush landscape revealed behind a drape, the Royal couple is presented in an interior with a table upon which sits the crown, scepter and orb.

This painting is one of two double portraits of Charles I and his Queen Consort. The first, dating to 1632, by Anthony can Dyck, now in the collection of the Archiepiscopal Castle and Gardens in the Czech Republic, was much larger. Gonzales was commissioned to paint this smaller version, making his painting as much of a scaled-down copy of van Dyck’s as possible.

Van Dyck’s original was proudly displayed above the drawing room mantel is Somerset House in London—Queen Henrietta Marie's private residence since 1628. Records show that the commission had originally been granted to Daniel Mytens (sometimes recorded as Mitjens), but Queen Henrietta found his work to be unsatisfactory and van Dyck was contacted. The painting, he was told, must create a pleasing sense of the union of the King (making his sovereignty obvious) and the Queen who should show that she offered herself and her power peacefully to the King. The Queen’s father, King Henry IV, was often shown with a laurel wreath, and so, van Dyck chose this as the Queen’s attribute. He added the olive branch of peace as a means of also demonstrating the influence of Charles I’s father, famously peaceable King James I. 

Gonzales’ small-scale copy of van Dyck’s original is decidedly faithful to its source. While the original remained in Royal ownership for many centuries, this version was purchased in the Nineteenth Century by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend who is well known to readers of this site not only for his impressive collection of art, but, especially for the massive assortment of jewels which the ultra-wealthy, fashionable and not-too-religious reverend amassed over his lifetime. 

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Victoria's Engagement Bracelet, 1839

Queen Victoria's Engagement Bracelet
November, 1839
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This gold bracelet is constructed of flat, tapering links—each engraved with tendrils and volutes. The centerpiece consists of a lovely amethyst which has been carved as a double heart. Behind this is a glass locket—now empty—which is engraved with a V monogram and the date: 23 Nov. 1939.

This attractive bauble was one of several elegant and costly engagement gifts given to Queen Victoria(1819-1901) upon the announcement to the Privy Council of her impending marriage to Prince Albert in 1839. The bracelet was given to the Queen by The Duchess of Kent, Her Majesty’s mother with whom she had, at best, a rather rocky relationship. 

Upon the Queen’s 1901 death, at her previous request, this bracelet was one of a group of jewels which was put on display in the “Albert Room” at Windsor Castle. This was the room in which Prince Albert had died in 1861. Victoria insisted that the room remain untouched and just as he left it—and, so it did until her own death. After Queen Victoria’s death, the group of jewels which she had specified be displayed in the Albert Room were to remain there and, she insisted, not passed on to her family. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 127

Chapter 127: 

The Buzz of Voices 

Gamilla never had a chance to confess how ill-used she’d been by Finlay and Ellen.

Just as she was about to speak, the Duke and the doctor (and even Colin) had fallen silent in anticipation of Gamilla’s next statement. Her declaration that danger lurked within the house worried her masters, and, so they offered their friend and servant their full attention. A strange anticipatory silence filled the nursery—one which had wholly unsettled Mr. Punch so deeply that even—from within their shared body—Julian could feel Punch’s angst. The addition of this anxiety to his own natural hum of worry caused Julian to stir uncomfortably, causing what could best be described as a dull pain in Punch’s stomach. He stifled the urge to belch as sweat arose on his brow and clung to the shining copper strands of his hair.

Punch and Robert watched as Gamilla wrung her hands and inhaled. As she parted her lips, the silence of the room was sliced by a knife of horrific sound which rose from below—fighting through the buzz of the voices of the guests and, even, the pipers.

Robert jumped when he heard the desperate sound—part cry, part howl and part scream.

At first, Punch thought the wail, which was distant, yet piercing, had come from within him—the manifestation of the pain of one of those who lived within the body he shared with Julian, perhaps even an entity of which he was not yet even aware. However, when he saw Robert’s reaction, he knew that the sound came from without.

So plaintiff, so mournful and besotted with woe was the cry that it elicited a similar response in Colin who pulled his lips into a frown as angry pink rose in his infant face.

“Shhhh…” Punch whispered to the baby, swaying him softly. His outward calm was belied by the expression of terror which glinted in his eyes like the stones of the ring which Robert had given him.

“Sirs?’ Gamilla yelped. She recalled the “spirit” which she had seen and grew pale. “Do ya think it was that poor lost soul?”

“No, Gamilla.” Robert shook his head. “Our worries lie with the living.”

“When I lived in Africa,” Gamilla began. “I once heard a spirit cry in such a way. Do ya think, maybe, it was the specter I saw—that man…”

“It were a woman,” Punch whispered.

Gamilla put her hand over her mouth. “Mrs. North? Cryin’ out from beyond?”

“No.” Punch shook his head. “That was a woman with breath in her bosom.”

A knock on the door made all of them jump and elicited a tired whimper from Colin. Dog Toby barked with as much menace as he could muster for he was as anxious as his masters.

“Your Grace?” Charles said softly as he and Gerard entered the nursery. “Did you hear that scream?”

“Yes.” Mr. Punch answered.

“It came from downstairs, Sir.” Gerard explained.

“From the Hall?”

“No.” Gerard shook his head.

“It sounded as if it was coming from the direction of the Blue Drawing Room.” Charles answered. “Ought we go investigate?”

“I think we’d best.” Robert nodded.

“What of His Grace and the child?” Gamilla asked. “I’d not like for them to be left alone.”

“Not to worry, Gamilla.” Punch said quickly. “I’ll lock the doors. I’ve got Dog Toby and I know how to look after me-self. Remember, I’m Mr. Punch.” He looked around the nursery. “Anyone comes in here, I’ll hit ‘em over the head with…” He shrugged. “With the handle of that bed warmer.”

“As adept as you are at striking people across the cranium, my dear.” Robert shook his head. “I’d prefer if someone stayed here with you and Gamilla. Charles? Will you be so good as to keep your post here so I can be assured that my family is well-guarded?”

“Of course, Doctor.” Charles nodded.

“Gerry, you can come with me, please.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Chum…” Punch began to protest.

“Dear Punch, you are our Colin's legal guardian. You need to stay with him. This is your place. You are his protector.”

“And, yours, Chum.” Punch replied.

“I know.” Robert smiled. “But, Gerard will ensure I’m protected. As Colin is smaller and more helpless, he needs all of your strength to be focused on him presently.”

Punch sighed. “Gerard,” he began.

“I won’t let nothin’ happen to the doctor, Your Grace.”

“Nor will I let nothin’ happen to Gamilla.” Punch nodded. “Nor Charles.” He added.

Charles nodded his appreciation.

“We’d best be off.” Robert said quickly. “I hope we return quickly.”

Robert and Gerard paused until they heard the door lock behind them and, then, hurried down the main staircase to the Great Hall. They needn't have searched for the source of the scream. She’d come out to find them.

The crowd in the Great Hall had parted as the Baroness Lensdown staggered into the center of the room.

Robert and Gerard watched from the landing as Lady Lensdown—whimpering like a child—stumbled toward the staircase. Hushed sounds of alarm arose from those on either side of her as they saw the woman’s gown—upon the front of which a large bloody stain had claimed a nasty spot.

Blood coated the woman’s trembling hands.

She stopped at the foot of the stairs and moaned, falling to her knees.

“Please,” She wailed. “Please help me.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-126 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 128.

Antique Image of the Day: The Engagement Photo of TRH Queen Elizabeth II and the of Edinburgh, 1947

Engagement of Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth
to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten
July 10, 1947
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Taken on July 10, 1947, by a now unknown photographer, this is one of the official engagement photos from the announcement of the impending marriage of then-Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Buckingham Palace.

On the day that the engagement of the future Queen Elizabeth II and future Duke of Edinburgh was announced, the Royal Family invited press photographers to Buckingham Palace to take photos of the couple. As is the custom, the bride-to-be clasped her hands in such a manner as to modestly display the engagement ring which Prince Philip had given her. The ring was made by the jewelers of Philip Antrobus Ltd,, and was created from diamonds which were taken from a tiara belonging to Prince Philip’s mother.

Just for fun, here's a picture of Her Majesty's ring.

Click on image to enlarge

The Engagement Ring of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
The platinum ring is set with a three carat solitaire flanked on each side
by five smaller brilliant-cuts.
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: "Welcome Soap," c. 1887

Click on image to welcome the soap.

Welcome Soap.

I never realized that soap needed to be greeted. But, this card from Curtis, Davis and Co. makes it very clear that soap tends to want a little pomp and ceremony when it arrives. Who knew?

I have no idea what’s happening here. Is the “Welcome Soap” box/sign directed at the androgynous gent who is greeting the regal looking girl? Or is he proposing marriage? Either way, he doesn’t look like he’s made out of soap. He’s got a horn, and a hat, and a long green cloak, and false eyelashes, but no soap. The dogs are very happy about it, too. Funny—Bertie never gets excited about soap. Quite the opposite. Even the horses are thrilled.

To be fair, Welcome Soap was a brand, not a greeting. This soap powder by Curtis, Davis & Co. was quite popular in the late Nineteenth Century. Launched in 1887 (around the time this card was produced), the soap came in bottles. James Mellen of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who trademarked the name for the firm in 1887 admitted in the Trademark documents (which I happened to find online) that the choice of the word “Welcome” for the brand was purely arbitrary.

It’s actually a rather handsome card with those gorgeous, rich, brilliant colors which make these Nineteenth Century chromolithographs so appealing to me. It’s just that the scene is theatrically bizarre. But, again, most of these cards are rather odd—and, again, that’s why I like them. 

So, let’s have a caption contest. You know how it works. Put your ideas in the comments section.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Toadstone Ring, 1500-1600

Toadstone Ring
Germany, 1500-1600
The Victoria & Albert Museum

What is toadstone? During the Medieval and Renaissance eras, the stone was thought to have literally come from the head of a toad. That’s a lot of toads popping things out of their little skulls. As it turns out, toadstone has nothing to do with toads. It is, actually, the fossilized tooth of a fish—equally strange.

In the Thirteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, toadstones were assigned mystical properties—specifically thought to protect the wearer from being poisoned or getting kidney disease. Well, that’s oddly specific.

So powerful was the stone that it was said to give off heat when in the presence of poison and that, should the wearer be bitten, it could ward off snake venom. Furthermore, it was thought that toadstone could protect a pregnant woman from the fairies and demons which would want to steal the newly born child and switch it out for a changeling.

Here’s an interesting example of a toadstone ring. This, like most such rings, comes from Germany and dates to sometime between 1500 and 1600. The silver ring features a crown-shaped bezel which holds the toadstone. The shoulders of the ring are engraved with vines and flowers.

Toadstone is also known as “crapaudine” or “crappot”—charming names, which, oddly enough were assigned to it because of its rusty brown color. The proper name is “Lepidotes.”

Painting of the Day: "Fishing" by François Bocion, 1855

Click image to enlarge.
Oil Painting
Bocion, 1855
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Would you guess that a fellow named François Bocion (1828-1890) was French? Well, he wasn’t. He was Swiss. So there. Bocion was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and trained as a painter under Christian Gottlieb Steinlen (1779-1847) and François Bonnet (1811-1894) .

Bocion would move to Paris in 1845 where he entered the atelier of Louis-Aimé Grosclaude (1784-1869) and later that of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). There, he struck up a friendship with the famed Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and other painters of the Realist movement.

Around 1849, Bocion left Paris to return to his native Lausanne where he became a teacher at the “Ecole moyenne et industrielle.” He stayed there, teaching, until he died. During that period, however, he took a place as one of the era’s most prolific artists, and, also took some time out to travel to Paris, Vienna, Anvers and London. Still, he preferred Switzerland above all other places. There, he aided in founding the Swiss Society of Watercolourists in 1884.

If you ever wanted to see a perfect example of Bocion’s compositions, especially those post-Paris masterpieces he created after his return home—this is it. Bocion took his inspiration from all walks of life and reveled in capturing daily moments in a realistic way. Here, he shows us a fisherman, rendered in the palette of muddy, purple hues which Bocion favored in the 1850s.

The male figure in his working clothes sits, bare-footed, on a rock at the edge of a lake. The deep tones of the shadows are balanced by the white sails of a boat to the man’s left and the glow of the light on the water.

The painting was bequeathed to the V&A by the Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend in 1868. 

Unusual Artifacts: A Shagreen Cigarette Case, 1879

Click image to enlarge

Cigarette Case
Shagreen, metal and silk
France, 1879
The Victoria & Albert Museum

With the fashion of smoking on the rise for gentlemen at the end of the Nineteenth Century, jewelers created luxurious cigarette cases. Usually, these were made of precious metals, but sometimes, a case would be covered in an unusual material. This case was made of shagreen (sharkskin) which has been artificially colored. The case is lined with purple watered silk. It was made in France for sale at Howell and James’ shop in Regent Square, London.