Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Krügrr Snuffbox, 1775-1780

Click image to enlarge.
Berlin, 1775-1800
The Gilbert Collection
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Frederick the Great of Russia was a keen fancier of snuffboxes and amassed a gorgeous collection. Here, we see one of them. We’re not sure who served as goldsmith on this piece, but records indicate that it was modeled after a design by Jean Guillaume George Krüger (1728-1791)--a London-born artist who had been summoned to Berlin in 1753. 

Twenty of his designs for snuffboxes survive. The majority of those boxes were made prior to 1774 when the designer moved to Paris. Curiously, this one is thought to have been made between 1775 and 1780—well after its brothers and sisters. 

Now part of the bequest of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert to the V&A, the cartouche-shaped snuffbox is comprised of seventeen panels of bloodstone which are mounted in a cage-work of gold. The panels are densely set with an impressive array of diamonds, some of which are natural yellow and others of which are foiled to create a different color. The cover of the box is set with a depiction of a vase which has been colored to resemble porphyry. In this case is set a bouquet of stylized flowers which are made up of emeralds, rubies and diamonds. 

A border of diamonds set in gold and representations of sprigs of flowers echoes the design of the walls of the box. These sections are divided into six reserves, each set with sprays of flowers. The base is encrusted with diamonds as well, and depicts a smaller bouquet of cut flowers.

Print of the Day: Smoking a Parson, 1807

Click image to enlarge
"Smoking a Parson"
London, 1807
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811, relative of Mr. Punch’s pal, George Cruikshank) acted as engraver on this satirical print which was drawn by a man identified as “Woodward” (1755-1809). The print shows a then-shocking flouting of male authority by a woman.

Depicted here, we have a gin-drinking, pipe-smoking woman who counters the criticisms of a minister by speaking her mind. The woman’s proclivities are indicated by the advertisements which Woodward included in the scene—Rich Cordial Gin and Old Tom Tobacco. The print was published in 1807 in London.

At the Music Hall: Try a Little Tenderness, 1933

Mel Torme
She may be weary
Women do get weary
Wearing the same shabby dress
And when she's weary
Try a little tenderness

She may be waiting
Just anticipating
Things she may never possess
And while she's without them
Try a little tenderness

It's not just sentimental
She has her grief
And her cares
But a word
Soft and gentle
Makes it easier to bear
So much easier to bear

You won't regret it
Women don't forget it
Love's got a whole
A whole happiness
And it's all so easy
Just to try a little tenderness

You've gotta try
You've gotta hold 'er
You've got ta squeeze her
You have to try
You've got ta try
And always please her
You won't regret it
You won't regret it

Everyone has heard this enduing favorite. It’s been recorded time and again and remains one of the most beloved American romantic songs.

Written by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Harry M. Woods, this gentle ballad was first recorded onDecember 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (vocals were provided by Val Rosing). The record was such a success that, the following year, Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby added their own rendition. Within months, many different artists had recorded the song. And, it’s still being recorded by popular artists in 2012.

Enjoy this version by the “Velvet Fog,” Mel Torme.

Saturday Silliness: Trolly Ahoy, 1936

Nom nom nom...

Well, it's Saturday.  So, here's another van Beuren cartoon for you.  This one's from 1936.  

Cannibalism and pancakes abound.  

I don't know why.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 140

Chapter 140: 

Lady Constance took the Baron Lensdown roughly by the arm. “You will talk with me now.”

“Where’s my wife?” He asked calmly, breaking free of her grasp.

“She’s been taken to a room where she’ll spend the night. By the way, you’ll be expected to join her.”

“With her dressed in the cook’s clothes?” Lensdown shook his head. “I find her company difficult enough to withstand when she’s properly dressed.” Lensdown sighed. “I think another bit of brandy is in order.”

“No.” Constance hissed. “You will not put me off any longer.”

“Connie, you surely understand that I couldn’t talk with you in the kitchens while my wife was in the larder changing her clothes with the help of the cook and the scullery maid.”

“You’re not in the kitchens any longer. You’re comfortably accommodated in the Duke’s library. Your wife is on the other side of the house. You have no excuse now.”

“I don’ need an excuse to not speak with you, Constance.”

“Victor!” Constance snapped.

“Say your part, Connie, and be done with it. I’ve a splitting headache, really, and other things to preoccupy me.”

“Doesn’t the well-being of your daughter preoccupy you?”

“We don’t know that the little beast is my daughter.”

“Who else’s, then?” Lady Constance moaned.

“Who knows, Connie?”

“You’re the beast, Victor.” Constance snarled.

“I’m not the one who just murdered his mother.”


“I asked you earlier if you were the person responsible for your mother’s death. You didn’t deny it.”

“I didn’t see the need to respond to such a ridiculous statement.” Constance sniffed.

“If not, you, then who?”

“Mother was not well-liked.” Constance replied. “Any number of people…”

“Such as you.” Victor interrupted. “You had the most cause. She was—as cruel as she was to almost everyone—cruelest to you, Connie. Not only that, you stand to inherit…”

“Nothing.” Constance shook her head. “I stand to inherit nothing. Have you forgotten the entail?”

“Still, you’re not left a pauper.”

“However, I was better off enduring her barbs and jabs.”

“Hmmmph.” Victor snorted.

“That’s why you owe me.” Constance bellowed.

“Lower your voice, woman.” Victor spat. “And, what do I owe you?”

“Support, Victor. Or shall I go to Gertrude and tell her…”

“She already knows.” Victor shook his head.

“About the governess, too?”

“Of course.” Victor laughed.

“What about the footman?”

Victor’s eyes narrowed.

“I know about you and that Scotch footman.” Constance smiled. “I also know that you and he are colluding with one another.”

The baron was silent.

“I also know that you’re conspiring with Miss Barrett, the governess. Isn’t that a dangerous bit of treachery?”

“You tire me, Constance.”

“Since you’re weary, Victor, let me just inform you of what else I know.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Victor sniffed.

“Very well.” Constance grinned. “I won’t bother you with it.”

“How kind of you.” Victor nodded.

“I’ll just go upstairs and tell the Duke.”

“Tell him what, you little shrew?” Victor said drolly.

“That I, too, was nearby all those many years ago when a young Victor Geddes—long before he was the Baron Lensdown—pushed a man to his death from the turret of Grange Molliner. The young man—I can still see his pale face and strawberry blond hair—was the cousin of Finlay Donnan—your footman friend. His name was Roger Barrett. Curiously—somehow related to the Duke’s governess. Now, how could that be?”

“Be careful, Constance.”

“But, I am.” Lady Constance grinned. “You see, I also know something else. Mother was great friends with the Duchess of Fallbridge. They were very close. So close, in fact, that the Duchess invited Mother here to assist her with an illness—an illness which turned out to be the arrival of a bastard child—a girl. Ellen. She was raised by her uncle and aunt—her cousins were passed off as her brothers. And, now, she’s here—your former lover. A brother, and a sister—you are thorough.”

“I invite you to silence yourself, Connie.” Victor snarled.

“I will in a moment.” Constance sighed. “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But, there’s one bit that will surprise you. The man you ‘killed’—Roger. He’s not dead. He’s very much alive and quite mad. The Duke pays for his care—just because he’s such a kind, generous man.”

“You lie.”

“That would be you, dear.” Lady Constance shrugged. “Now, I shan’t bore you any further with things you already know. However, I’m sure the Duke would be most interested to be informed of all of this…”

The baron grabbed Lady Constance by the throat.

“Go ahead and choke me,” Constance gasped. “It won’t stop me. I’ve written it all in a letter which will be delivered to the Duke upon my death. You shan’t win this time, Victor.”

He released the woman.

“What do you want from me?” He hissed.

“I’ve already told you—support. And for my daughter to have a name.” Constance grinned as she rubbed her throat.

“Anything.” Victor shook his head.

“And, one more thing.” Constance scowled.


“I want you to confess to killing my mother.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-139 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 141.

Figure of the Day: The Punch Tobacco Box, 1880

Tobacco Box
German, c. 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum

It makes sense that Punch would adorn a tobacco box. Many smoking-related items featured Mr. Punch. What I find rather queer is the fact that the lid of this German porcelain and enamel tobacco box depicts a child in a pram. I don’t tend to associate children with smoking or tobacco in general. But, maybe that’s just me. Nevertheless, the little girl is a continuation of the theme of cherubic little ladies holding figures of Mr. Punch—symbols of both the angelic and the impish.

This box was made in Pössneck, Germany, ca. 1880 by the manufacturers of Conta and Boehme.  You may recognize that name as the makers of a good many of the Victorian Fairings at which we've looked.  It's entirely possible that this little trinket was a fairgrounds prize, too.  

Object of the Day: A Package for Big Kick Chewing Tobacco

I was rather surprised to find this colorful printed paper pouch/bag amongst my trade cards. It’s rather difficult for me to assign a date of creation to it. It could have been printed anywhere between 1910 and 1930. The design hadn’t changed in decades.

Bags such as this one were produced by the Scotten, Dillon Company to retailers who sold their “Big Kick” chewing tobacco. When a customer made a tobacco purchase, it was scooped into this bag. It’s actually quite a good selling idea.

Clearly, the bag was never used. The brilliant red and blue printing is almost as bright as the day it was made. The front differs from the reverse only by the presence of the “union made” seal and the weight of the tobacco that would be placed in the pouch.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mastery of Design: Edward VII's Cigarette Case, 1903

Cigarette Case
Presented to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, 1903
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Dowager Tsarina Marie Feodorovna presented this Fabergé cigarette case of three-color gold, rose-cut diamonds and a cabochon ruby to her brother-in-law King Edward VII in March 10, 1903 to mark the fortieth wedding anniversary of His Majesty and Her Majesty Queen Alexandra. The exuberantly elegant case takes a gently rounded rectangular shape—shining with red, yellow and white gold, (a favorite combination of Carl Fabergé) in a brilliant sunburst design. This pattern radiated around the combined cipher of King Edward and Queen Alexandra. The cipher, and on the reverse, the date, “10 March 1903 XL 1863–1903” are all set in diamonds.

Antique Image of the Day: Eckstein's Punch and Judy, 1798

Punch and Judy Show
Johannes Eckstein, 1798
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Johannes Eckstein (active 1770-1802) created this beautiful work of pen and ink and watercolor in 1798. This highly detailed image shows us a crowd engaged by a Punch and Judy show.

Look at Mr. Punch. Isn’t he just adorable? This would have been a wooden relative of the Punchinello famously recorded nearly twenty years later by George Cruikshank.

Today, this image is part of The Royal Collection. 

Friday Fun: Mr. Bimbamboozle's Punch and Judy

Some of Chris Somerville's puppets.

Enjoy this clip from a 2010 show performed by Mr. Bimbamboozle (Professor Chris Somerville) at “Family Fun Day” at Penrhyn Castle in North Wales.

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...

     My body is light,
     My head it is white,
With a cord I am laced around;
     I am beaten with sticks,
Yet not for bad tricks,
But to animate, by my sound,

     The unthinking youth,
     Not heeding the truth,
Which would save them from every alarm,
     To fight, kill, and die,
And cause much misery,
     To those who have done them no harm.

Curses!  I forgot to put up the answer.  Here it is!


Frankly, I liked all of your answers better.  Many thanks to all of you for brightening my day with your wit...and Angelo.  Make sure to 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 139

Chapter 139: 
A Fight 

What was that crashing I heard?” Robert shouted from the adjoining room.

“It’s nothing, Sir.” Charles called back, standing over the, again, unconscious body of the Duke of Fallbridge.

Charles turned and hurried to the door which separated the nursery from the Duke’s chamber. He opened it slightly. “I knocked something over.”

Robert rose from Gerard’s bedside. He wiped his bloody hands on a cloth. “Gamilla, would you please clean up Gerard a bit?”

Gamilla nodded.

“I’ve gotten the wound sutured. Now he needs rest.” Robert smiled.

“He ain’t gonna die, Sir?” Gamilla asked softly.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “However, he’ll need to stay in bed for quite some time so that he can regain his strength.”

“I’ll look after him, Sir.” Gamilla said, relief evident in her voice.

“I think we’ll assign Georgie to care for him.” Robert said. “I’d prefer that you continue to take care of Colin.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gamilla answered.

“Not to worry,” Robert said quickly. “You’ll have plenty of time with Gerard. After all, his Grace and I will wish to stay with Colin more closely now that…” Robert paused, recalling the horrors of the evening, but, most of all the fact that—as far as he knew—his companion was still in the same state in which Robert had left him.

He was still unconscious, yes. But, the Duke was hardly in the same state.

Robert, continuing to wipe his hands, walked across the room and pushed open the door to the nursery with his foot.

“Charles?” Robert whispered as he entered the nursery. “Is Colin quite all right? What was upset in here?”

Charles bit his lip as Robert entered the room.

Robert’s eyes grew wide when he spied the Duke’s body on the floor. “What in Hell…”

“Sir,” Charles began quickly.

Robert interrupted him. “What is the Duke doing on the floor?”

“I punched him in the jaw, Sir.” Charles flinched.


“I had to.” Charles said softly.

Robert hurried to the Duke’s side and knelt down. “Let me understand this. His Grace regained consciousness and…and you struck him?”

“It wasn’t His Grace. It wasn’t Mr. Punch.” Charles shook his head. “It was another…someone else.”

“Guignol?” Robert asked. “He’s harmless. He appears to personify His Grace’s sense of anxiety and worry. Despite speaking only in French, he’s…well, he’s no threat to anyone.”

“Not Guignol, Sir.” Charles answered.

“Ah, it was Mr. Scaramouche.” Robert sighed. “Then, you did the right thing. Scaramouche is a creature of pure anger. He’s irritational…you recall in…”

“No.” Charles interrupted. “It wasn’t Scaramouche either.”

“Who, then?” Robert barked. “That’s all there is.” He clenched his eyes shut, hoping that such an action would help him control himself. “There was another voice, wasn’t there?”

Charles wasn’t sure what to say.

“Dear Punch mentioned once that…when…” Robert gulped, sinking a little further to the floor. “He once heard another voice from within, but that it faded…” Robert lowered his head. “It faded—long before we came back to England. I didn’t…”

“Sir.” Charles knelt down.

“What did it call itself?” Robert asked emotionally. “Himself? What name?”


Robert shook his head. “German.”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles nodded.

“Mr. Punch told me of a time when he and his father had visited a small town in the North where they happened upon a German busker who called his puppet Kasperl. He was rather like Punchinello, I’m told. What’s this…entity…persona…” Robert trembled. “What’s he like?”

“Dangerous, Sir.” Charles answered softly. “Not at all like Mr. Punch. Cold. Authoritative. He told me that he wished to destroy the Duke’s body. I didn’t know what else to do. So…I struck him. I hoped that, perhaps, the blow to the head might…”

“Shake Mr. Punch loose again?”

“Perhaps.” Charles blushed.

“That’s not the way it works,” Robert muttered.

“How does it work?”

“I don’t exactly know, but I’m fairly certain that…well, that’s not the way to do it.”

“I couldn’t let him harm Mr. Punch…errrr…the Duke. Or, even Colin.”

“I don’t fault you, Charles.” Robert mumbled. He reached forward. “Help me up.”

Charles helped the doctor to his feet.

“Let’s get His Grace back to the sofa.” Robert pointed. Together, they lifted the Duke and carried him to the more comfortable spot.

“Will you leave me with him?” Robert asked, once the Duke had been made, at least, to look more comfortable.

“Where shall I go?”

“Check on Gamilla and Gerard. Just for a few moments.”

“Were you able to…”

“Yes. I sutured the wound. I believe he’ll be fine. The medicine which I have him to numb him should wear off soon. He’ll be glad to see you.”

“I’ll leave the door opened, Sir.”

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “I’ll call if I need you.”

Robert watched as Charles exited the room. Before leaving, Charles paused and said quietly. “I am sorry, Sir. You know I’d not hurt His Grace for the world.”

Robert nodded slowly.

Alone with his companion, Robert took a deep breath and looked at the bruise which angrily grew on the Duke’s face.

“I don’t know how,” Robert said aloud. “But, I’m not going to let this Kasperl nor anyone else take over my Punch’s body. So, whoever is listening in there—know that you’ve got a fight on your hands.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-138? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 140 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Print of the Day: A Punch & Judy Show

Click on image for detail.Punch & Judy Show
John Augustus Atkinson
Late Eighteenth to Early Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome lithograph is likely the work of John Augustus Atkinson (1775-1835) and dates to the late Eighteenth to early Nineteenth Century.

The print gives us a taste of the cross section of society who would have stopped in their day to be entertained by a Punch & Judy show on the street. Ladies and laborers alike have stopped to see Punch’s antics.

I like this quite a lot. However, I have one question. We see the crowd. We see the “bottler.” We see the booth, the puppets, and even a mule. But, where’s the professor? The fit-up is curiously uncovered at the bottom—exposing the legs of the portable structure. So, technically, we should see the knees, legs and feet of the puppeteer. Take a look. No professor! Was this a purposeful omission? A mistake? Was Atkinson trying to tell us that the Punch and Judy tradition is an entity of its own that will continue through generations? Was he trying to tell us that Punch and his friends were the stars of the show, not the man behind the curtain?

We’ll never know, but I like to think of it as meaning that Punch is a creature of his own—independent of those of us who may temporarily assist him in his work.

Object of the Day: Mr. Punch and Pretty Polly Scraps

Click on image to climb inside those comfy wooden shoes, too.
Not really.  But, you'll get a bigger image.  

I found these two tucked into a pile of trade cards. They, I think, were once a part of a trade card themselves, but, now, they’re best called scrapped. So, who have we here? Well, certainly the chap is Mr. Punch or, more accurately a child dressed as Mr. Punch. Who’s his companion? A girl, rather uncomfortably dressed in a Commedia dell’Arte-inspired costume. Sure, they could be Pulcinella and Columbine, but I prefer to think of them as Punch and Pretty Polly. 

Now, as children dressed in Venetian Carnival costume tend to do, they’re standing in wooden shoes and toasting one another with champagne. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s a sort of multi-cultural mishmash. It’s a little bit Dutch, a little Italian, a little French—and, typically American. 

So, what’s this all about? On the reverse—when you put the two shoes side by side—you seem the remnants of an old ink stamp, torn away by being glued into an album. It seems these two little folks were once part of a trade card advertising for a Newark, new Jersey-based toy shop. 

And, that explains a lot.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture, Caption Contest: Another Bertie

Click image for original size.  

This week, I thought--since you are all so talented with the caption writing--that you could put the words in Bertie's mouth. Leave your caption ideas in the comments. 

Image: Another Bite, George Smith (1829-1901), 1850, England, Given by John Sheepshanks to The Victoria & Albert Museum. 

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

Mastery of Design: The Dame Joan Evans Pyramid Ring, c. 1660

Gold, enamel and crystal ring.
Italy, 1660
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the substantial jewelry collection of Dame Joan Evans, we have this enameled gold ring which dates to circa 1660. Its pyramidal, triangular bezel is set with a crystal. However, its most interesting feature is the pair of gold hands supporting a central heart of deep red enamel. This attractive and sentimental symbol supports the central stone. Meanwhile scrolls reversed on black enamel adorn the underside and hoop. 

The ring was made in Italy and is a stunning example of Seventeenth Century jewelry. Throughout the centuries, the ring passed from owner to owner—eventually ending up in France where it was given a French import mark in 1893. 

Figure of the Day: The Orange Girl, 1770-1784

The Orange Girl
Niderviller Pottery Factory
France, 1770-1884
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another attractive French porcelain figure which, once, would have graced an elegant dining table in a wealthy household. She would have once been joined by similarly attired figures, but now, she stands alone.

With her pyramid of oranges supported on a tray, she’s clearly an orange seller. Given her station, however, she’s dressed quite well--in that fantastical way in which peasants were portrayed in these figure.

This is the work of the Niderviller Pottery and Porcelain Factory, dating somewhere between 1770 and 1784.

Unfolding Pictures: The English Garden Fan, 1760-1770

Click image to see startlingly large grapes.
Hand Fan
England, 1760-1770
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Scenes of lush, elegant English gardens were considered suitable and fashionable adornment for hand fans in the late Eighteenth Century. Take, for example, this one, made between 1760 and 1770, which offers a lovely vignette of such a garden populated by a ruined classical colonnade as well as a folly in the shape of a pyramid. It’s quite possible that his folly is also an icehouse.

What’s curious about this fan, making it unlike other British fans of the era, is the fact that the central vignette of the landscape is surrounded by a strangely disproportionate still-life of grapes, peacocks and a spaniel. Still, it’s an attractive fan and in remarkable condition when one considers its age. The leaf is made of vellum and the guards and sticks of carved, painted and gilt ivory.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 138

Chapter 138: 

While Robert worked to save Gerard—assisted by Gamilla—Charles sat patiently watching the unconscious body of the Duke of Fallbridge and the Duke’s slumbering son. Time seemed to stand still, but, then, there was a quick and unexpected movement.

Charles, upon seeing the Duke’s eyes flutter, gently rose from his chair and placed Colin in his cradle.

Hurrying to the Duke’s side, Charles knelt down by the sofa upon which he’d placed his employer and whispered. “Your Grace? Can you hear me?”

Suddenly, the Duke’s eyes sprung open like those of an over-wound automaton. He bolted upright into a stiff sitting position.

Immediately, Charles knew that Mr. Punch had not returned. Looking into the familiar face, Charles rose to his feet and bowed his head slightly. “To whom am I speaking?” Charles asked.

“I am called Kasperl.” The words slipped unctuously out, coated with a slight German (or perhaps Austrian—Charles couldn’t decide which) accent.

“Kasperl?” Charles nodded. “Where is Mr. Punch?”

“Gone.” Kasperl replied curtly.

“And His Grace, the Duke?”

“The same.”

“Ah.” Charles answered.

“Before you begin with your ridiculous sycophancy,” Kasperl cringed—his voice slithering from the Duke’s lips, “Let me inform you that I have no interest in Punch’s little pantomime.”

“Oh?” Charles tilted his head to the left.

“This charade with which you humor him. I will not be called ‘Your Grace.’ I have no desire to be burdened with such pretense. Nor, young man, do I have a desire to mislead those around me. I am not the Duke of Fallbridge. Don’t refer to me as such.”

“Who are you, then?”

“I’ve told you, boy, that I am called Kasperl.” He sniffed.

“What does that mean exactly?” Charles asked.

“I have no time for such things.” Kasperl frowned. He pointed to Colin’s cradle. “What is that?”

“That is your son.”

“Not my son.” Kasperl shook his head. “I’ve nothing to do with it. Nor do I wish to. Where’s the doctor? He should be informed of my arrival.”

“The doctor is engaged presently.”

“Fetch him.”

“I cannot.” Charles shook his head.

“Very well,” Kasperl growled. “I do not need him. You will do.”

“For what exactly, Your Gr…” Charles paused.

“You have caught yourself. Good. You’ll do well.” Kasperl nodded. “Fetch me a change of clothing.”

“What’s wrong with your present clothes?”

“They’re not mine.”

“We have none of your clothes here.” Charles smiled.

“Ahhhh…” Kasperl scowled. “That would be true. I will wait.”

“For what?”

“You border on insolence.” Kasperl snapped. “Where is your famed loyalty?”

Charles shrugged. “If you’re not the Duke, then I do not work for you. If you’re not Mr. Punch, we are not friends. I have no connection to you. I have no reason to be loyal.”

“I command you!” Kasperl barked.

“No.” Charles shook his head. “You do not.”

“You must do as I say. You must take commands from whoever lives in this body.”

“But,” Charles replied cleverly, “you have no interest in what you called Mr. Punch’s ‘pantomime.’”

“No, I do not.” Kasperl sighed. “I do not care about his child nor about his romance with the handsome doctor nor his foolish, misguided attachments. This body is nothing to me but a tool so that I might exact my plan.”

“Which is?”

“To destroy it, of course.” Kasperl replied plainly.

This, rightfully, alarmed Charles. “It is not yours to destroy.”

“It’s as much mine as it is Punch’s.”

“Mr. Punch, as I understand, has earned his ownership of the body—a right he was also granted by His Grace, the true and original owner of those bones and that flesh. The two, I believe, are as tied to one another as Mr. Punch is to the doctor. They have an understanding. You have no right to interfere.”

“And, you have no right to question me.” Kasperl spat. “You are nothing but a servant.”

“In this household, I serve His Grace, yes, but....”

“You serve Mr. Punch,” Kasperl interrupted.

“I’ve learned that they are one in the same.” Charles growled. “You say that there’s some deception at hand. However, there is not. We refer to Mr. Punch as we would the Duke because he is of just such a station himself. There’s no deception. It’s respect for his standing. You, however, are new to me, and I can already decide that you are not worthy of my respect.”

“How dare you…”

“You’d do well to spare yourself the upset.” Charles frowned. “Why don’t you just retreat to from wherever you came? No one wants you here.”

“I shall, before finishing my task, first destroy you.”

“No.” Charles smiled defiantly. “Return Mr. Punch to us.”

“I cannot.”

“You can and will.” Charles stepped closer.

“If you come nearer to me,” Kasperl snarled, “I will kill this body. I will kill it. You will see. More than anything else that I can do while here—that is what most appeals to me.”

“I don’t think so.” Charles shook his head.

“You challenge me?” Kasperl laughed.

“No.” Charles sighed. “You’re no challenge.”

Charles, then, raised his fist. “I’m sorry, Your Grace.”

With that, he struck the Duke’s gentle face with such a strong and swift blow that the man flailed backward—falling to the floor, unconscious.

Did you miss Chapters 1-137? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 139 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Painting of the Day: Tombeau de Lipsius. Pyramide. Chefren. 1880-1890

Click on image to enlarge
"Tombeau de Lipsius"
Pierre Henri Theodore Tetar van Elven
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted in Egypt between 1880 and 1890 by the monumentally-named Pierre Henri Theodore Tetar van Elven (1828-1908), this work of watercolor over pencil is accented with white oil paint.

Titled, “Tombeau de Lipsius,” the image actually depicts a scene from Giza of the Pyramid of Khufu. Such a painting would have satisfied the growing desire for exotic images of Egypt which developed from late Nineteenth Century archaeological finds.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Eureka Granulated Soap

Click on the image to see a larger picture.


Soap, that is. 

This brand of granulated soap published a series of trade cards which featured the “Seven Wonders of the World” in 1881. And, here’s one of them. This one depicts the Egyptian Pyramids in a stylized frame-within-a-frame image punctuated by camels and teeny, tiny campers. Printed in the minty greens, turquoise blues, salmon and pinks which were popular in the 188os, this card is just as crisp and attractive as the day it rolled out of the printing house of J.M. Bufford & Sons of Boston and New York.

As archaeologists were continuing to make new and impressive discoveries in Egypt in the later Nineteenth Century, the Egyptian-style was growing in fashionability—considered quite exotic on the shores of America and Europe. So, I’m sure this card was eagerly collected.

The obverse reads:

Egyptian Pyramids 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Child & Child Serpent Brooch, c. 1900

Child & Child, c. 1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since Queen Victoria’s serpentine engagement ring revived the ancient theme of snakes in jewelry, the idea of incorporating the little slithery beasties into works of precious metals and gems remained quite popular well into the dawn of the Twentieth Century. In fact, there’s been a recent snaky resurgence of late.

Made around 1900, we can see from this brooch that the snake was alive and well as Victoria was about to close her reign. The brooch was made by the firm of Child and Child (marked with two Cs with a sunflower). Brothers Walter Child (1840-1930) and Harold Child (1848-1915) founded their jewelry concern in Seville Street, London, in 1880 and quickly impressed London Society with their artistic designs. Child and Child was popular with such celebrated luminaries as Queen Victoria herself, King Edward VII, King George V, my pal Queen Mary, the late Empress Frederick of Prussia, and the Tsarina of Russia.

Just looking at this handsome brooch of gold, silver, amethyst, enamel and a pearl tells us why the brothers’ works were so popular with the elite of London. It’s truly a masterpiece, and, best of all, it doesn’t bite. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Berquin Lilacs, 1900

Berquin, circa 1900
Acquired by Queen Mary in 1924
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The workmaster Berquin created this exquisite sculpture of glass, hardstone, porcelain and gilt metal in 1900. The lovely object features a hardstone and glass branch of lilacs set into a square vase of porcelain.

The vase is adorned with gilt metal mounts which hint at the coming Art Deco style. This was one of the many glorious objects collected by Queen Mary throughout her lifetime. She happened upon this piece in 1924 and added it to the Royal Collection. The curators of the Royal Collection simply and plainly indicate that the sculpture was “acquired” by Queen Mary in 1924, so, I have a feeling this was one of Her Majesty’s many, “I think that would look lovely at Sandringham” moments wherein she shook down some unsuspecting hostess for her bric-a-brac. God love her. 

Today, the piece is still displayed in its original glass case upon its wooden, stepped base.

Figure of the Day: Phyllis and Strephon from Gilbert & Sullivan's "Iolanthe," 1924

Figure Group from "Iolanthe"
Chelsea, 1924
The Victoria & Albert Museum

These hard-paste porcelain figures, painted in enamel colors, depict “Phyllis and Strephon,” characters from Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera “Iolanthe,” (a name which refers to the color of lilacs) as they were portrayed in 1924 by Sydney Granville (1880-1959) and Winifred Lawson in the famed D'Oyly Carte Company’s production of the show at London's Prince's Theatre.

The costumes for the production, designed by Norman Wilkinson, were inspired by the painted apparel of 18th Century pastoral-themed porcelain figurines. This fact became part of the advertising campaign for the show which touted Miss Lawson as having the beauty of a piece of china.

That advertisement became, in turn, the inspiration for this 1924 figure group which was made by Ethel Sleigh and Phyllis Simpson of the Potters' Guild in Chelsea, England. 

The Belle Époque Today: The Art of Alex Duliba

Alexander Duliba

We'll gather lilacs in the spring again 
And walk together down an English lane 
Until our hearts have learned to sing again 
When you come home once more
                                   --Ivor Novello

Every so often, and, I admit it’s quite rare, I find myself impressed with the talents of an actual, living person. And, so, since I take these things quite seriously, I share the achievements of these individuals with all of you. With the exception of the occasional puppeteer or Punch Professor, usually—in fact, exclusively—these individuals have been visual artists. But, today, I’m going to introduce you to Alex Duliba, a singer.

Mr. Duliba, a baritone from Essex, England, has developed his exceptional skill and impressive range over the course of his lifetime. Encouraged as a child to pursue his dream of singing, Alex studied with Miss Joyce Ellis, and, later Mr. Robert Alderson, both of whom quickly found that young Duliba had a natural knack for line, as well as grasping the importance of text and style. Alex thrived in his studies of the classics.

Ivor Novello
Alderson suggested that the songs of the great Ivor Novello would certainly suit Duliba’s style, and, Alex quickly realized a passion for Novello’s work as well as a deep appreciation for the ballads of the 1920s through 1950s. Alex Duliba noted to me that he felt quite fortunate to have been able to share this love of those enchanting ballads with his late, beloved grandmother who had a special fondness for them as well.

Without a doubt, I’m impressed to see a person in my own (relatively) age group, devoting his life to a revival of such works. So, three cheers for Mr. Duliba. His immense talent speaks—or sings—for itself. Enjoy this clip of young Alex singing Novello’s “We’ll Gather Lilacs,” and keep your eyes open as I have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more from this baritone. 

Here’s wishing Mr. Duliba much success.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 137

Chapter 137:
You Simply Must 

Robert’s eyes stung with hot tears. “My dear Punch?” He gently shook his companion.

“What’s happened to him, Doctor?” Gamilla shrieked.

“I…I don’t know. He’s, I think…he’s done this before. It’s…it’s when he’s…I don’t know what to call it…” Robert wiped the sweat and tears from his face with the back of his hand. “When he’s…transitioning. From one entity to another.”

“Oh.” Gamilla nodded. “Does that mean that…the Duke…you know, Sir,…the original Duke is done gonna come out?”

“I’m not certain.” Robert furrowed his brow. “I was fearful of this. I know he doesn’t like when I shield him, but, he’s so delicate and sensitive. He’s received, as we all have, shock after shock this evening. I was afraid this would trigger such an…” Robert raised his hands in frustration. “Why are there no words for this? Why?”

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Gamilla said softly.

“Such an episode,” Robert continued. “We’ll call it an ‘episode.’” He examined his companion. “His breathing and heart beat are regular.” Robert glanced up at the bed where Gerard continued to moan.

“Sir,” Charles spoke up. “Shall I go get your bag?”

“I hate to send you out, Charles, but I think you’d best.”

“I’ll go in the nursery and stay with Colin ‘til Charles returns.” Gamilla said, rushing into the next room after taking one more look at Gerard.

“Dear Punch,” Robert leaned in, whispering. “I’d like to stay with you and watch over you, but…” He sighed. “Gerard needs me, too.”

Robert sat on the floor next to the Duke’s body. “Come back to me.”

Taking the Duke’s hand, Robert continued to whisper. “I know that you sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t be happier with Julian, and, despite my reassurances, I know that you carry that with you. Please hear me. It’s you, dear Punch. You have to come back to me. You''re my whole world.  You and Colin.  We can't go on...  Whatever is happening inside of you right now—I wish, how I wish I could understand it—just know that we need you to come back to us. Not just me, but especially for Colin. Colin needs his Punch. He adores you, my dear.  He worships you.  He needs you. I need you. The staff…we all…” Robert trailed off. “Now, you listen to me, Mr. Punch. You’re the heart of this family. Without you, we can’t continue.”

Panting, Charles rattled back into the room, locking the door behind him. He extended his arm and offered the surgical bag to Dr. Halifax.

“Thank you, Charles.” Robert stood up. “Did you get a sense of the atmosphere of the household?”

“Very quiet, Sir.” Charles responded. “Mr. Speaight is showing people to their rooms. I saw nothing of Finlay nor Miss Barrett.”

“Good.” Robert sighed again. “Will you help me carry His Grace into the nursery?”

“Of course.”

“We can put him on the sofa in there while I work on Gerard. If you’d watch him and Colin…”

“I’ll see that they’re both well.”

After carrying Julian’s body into the nursery, Charles sent Gamilla to attend to Gerard with the Doctor.

Alone with the Duke, Charles picked up Colin from his cradle and sat in the chair next to the sofa where the Duke lay.

“Your Grace,” Charles said aloud. “Colin is here. I suppose he thinks you’re sleeping. Perhaps you are. I’m here, too. It’s Charles. I think you can hear me. I don’t understand what goes on inside of you. I imagine it’s quite a terrible thing which you must endure. But, I also know how strong you are, Your Grace. Would that I were so strong, Sir.  I have enough trouble being just one man.  I don't know how you manage being two or more.  I couldn't do it.  I know you think I'm very hearty, but, you see, I’m not. I try to appear to be, but…I’m not. I…” He shook his head. “Colin wants to talk to his papa, Your Grace. So, you’ve got to wake up.”

He hugged the child and added, “You simply must.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-136? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 138 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.