Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Pair of English Shoe Buckles, 19th C.

Shoe and Knee Buckles
England, early 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

An Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century gentleman would have felt positively naked without his buckles. Buckles were worn at the knees as a way of securing knee breeches and often, matching buckles were worn on the shoes. While some of these buckles were made of carved, pierced and chased metals, some were set with stones. Only the most extravagant examples were set with real diamonds or precious stones. Most glittered with paste. 

This set of shoe and knee buckles is crafted of silver and set with pastes in steel prongs. They were made in England in the early Nineteenth Century.

Saturday Silliness: Good Little Monkeys, 1935

Copy of “The Inferno” comes to life. Shiny Devil escapes. Monkey sculpture becomes animated. Horrible things happen. Harman-Ising. Enough said. Watch and be afraid.

At the Music Hall: Dacre's "I'll be your Sweetheart," 1899

I’ll be your sweetheart
If you will be mine
All my life
I’ll be your valentine
Bluebells I’ll gather
Keep them and be true
When I’m a man, my plan
Will be to marry you

One day I saw two lovers in a garden
A little boy and girl with golden hair
At first I thought of asking for their pardon
With second thoughts I watched the youthful pair
The boy, all blushing, gave the maid a kiss
And tenderly he whispered this

I’ll be your sweetheart
If you will be mine
All my life
I’ll be your valentine
Bluebells I’ll gather
Keep them and be true
When I’m a man, my plan
Will be to marry you

I’ll be your sweetheart
If you will be mine
All my life
I’ll be your valentine
Bluebells I’ll gather
Keep them and be true
When I’m a man, my plan
Will be to marry you

From the man who brought us “Bicycle Built for Two” (Daisy Bell)—Mr. Harry Dacre (also known as Frank Dem or Henry Decker, 1860-1922), we have this popular song from 1899. Based on a similar romantic theme, the song relies on Dacre’s innocent account of young love.

Drawing of the Day: Donnybrook Fair, 1826

Click image to enlarge
Donnybrook Fair
Daniel Maclise, 1826
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Our friends in Britain would call this a “roundabout,” while in the U.S., we’d refer to it as a “Merry Go Round.” Either way, this is an attractive scene from 1826. This work of ink on paper is by Daniel Maclese (1806-1870).

Some of the people on the ride are seated on wooden horses and some are on sleighs. Interestingly, the Merry Go Round is run on human power—moving as individuals run around with it.

This image was acquired by the V&A as part of a lot of 397 drawings by Maclise (with seven by other hands). The lot depicts, in pencil, ink, and watercolor, mostly figures in landscapes. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 146

Chapter 146: 
Now that I hear it 

Let her go, Georgie.” Mrs. Pepper said quickly.

“Mum!” Georgie yelped.

“Do what the man says,” Mrs. Pepper pleaded. “He’ll cut ya dead, he will.”

“You can count on it.” Finlay growled.

“Georgie!” Ethel screamed. “Let her go!”

George released his grasp on Ellen who flung herself away from him.

“You filthy idiot!” Ellen shouted. “You’ll pay for this!”

George rushed to his mother’s side.

“That was unusually good thinking on your part, George.” Finlay winked, still holding his knife forward.

“I’m still goin’ to the masters!” Georgie replied. “You can’t stop me from doin’ that.”

“Can’t we?” Ellen snarled. “Do you think Finlay would hesitate from cutting all of your throats right now.”

“Can’t get us all.” Ethel snapped.

“Hear me, lass,” Finlay narrowed his eyes. “I will come into your room tonight and kill ya in your bed.”

“Not if I kill you first.” Ethel barked.

“We’ve wasted enough time on these cretins.” Ellen Barrett hissed. “Come, Finlay, we’ve other matters which require us.”

“Ellen…” Finlay coughed. “They’ll go right to that lunatic upstairs.”

“Let them.” Ellen smiled. She looked to Georgie, and, then to Ethel. “You’d best be careful Scullery Maid, young Pepper here is a little rough on a lady.”

“You’re wicked, Miss!” Mrs. Pepper snapped.

Ellen shrugged. Taking Finlay’s hand, she led him toward the door to the Servants’ Hall.

“Are we just gonna let ‘em go?” Jenny whispered.

Finlay turned and aimed his knife at Jenny. “Doesn’t look like you’ve a choice, lassie.”

With that, Ellen and Finlay ran through the servants’ hall to the garden exit.

“Mum, what do we do?”

“We go right to the masters.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “All of us.”

The trip up the service stairs was brief, yet, it seemed to those four, poor individuals to take forever. Each step seemed higher than usual and they all wondered how they’d make it.

Finally, they reached the passage to the Duke’s room. Mrs. Pepper cleared her throat, and knocked.

There was no response.

“Your Grace? It’s Mrs. Pepper. I’ve got Ethel, Jenny and George with me. I must speak with you.”

After a few seconds, Mrs. Pepper could hear the sound of the door’s lock. She was surprised when Gamilla answered the door.

Glancing inside the room, Mrs. Pepper gasped upon seeing the bloody bed which held Gerard.

“What’s happened?” Mrs. Pepper asked, moving her body forward to block the view from the younger people.

Gamilla, looking exhausted, shook her head. “You’d best speak to Dr. Halifax.”

“Where is he?” Mrs. Pepper asked.

“He’s with the Duke. But, see…the Duke.” Gamilla pointed with her thumb to the adjoining room. “You may find him…not himself, Mrs. Pepper.”

“Oh?” Mrs. Pepper raised her eyebrows.

“Can it wait?” Gamilla mumbled.

“I’m afraid not.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head.

“Then, go on. Knock on the nursery door and say who ya is. Dr. Halifax will answer.”

Mrs. Pepper nodded as Gamilla shut the door, and, then did as instructed.

Dr. Halifax also looked weary and frazzled.

“Yes, Mrs. Pepper?” He said softly.

“Sir, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve got to speak to you and His Grace.”

“His Grace is resting.” Dr. Halifax said softly.

“It’s all right, Chum.” Punch called from inside the room. “Let ‘em in.”

Robert nodded and opened the door, ushering in the four visitors.

Georgie, Ethel and Jenny joined hands upon seeing that Charles was also in the nursery and that he had blood on his shirt front.

“Charlie, are ya hurt?” Georgie asked.

“No, Georgie.” Charles shook his head.

“Gerard was injured.” Robert explained.

“I saw ‘im in the next room, Sir.” Mrs. Pepper replied. “What’s happened to the poor man?”

“He was attacked.” Robert replied.

“Bu Finlay no doubt.” Ethel chirped.

“Why do ya say that, Ethel?” Punch asked, no bothering to disguise his own voice with Julian’s. He’d cycled through enough personalities that evening and didn’t much care to pose as another.

Ethel didn’t seem shocked by this, perhaps because she had so much on her mind. “He just done so to Georgie.”

Robert’s eyes widened and he stepped forward to George. “Where are you cut?”

“Didn’t cut me, Sir.”

“But, he tried.” Mrs. Pepper spoke up.

“Why?” Robert asked.

“We caught Miss Barrett tryin’ to kill our Ethel.”

“Bugger!” Punch shouted.

“I knew she was…” Robert muttered. He turned to Mr. Punch. “So, she has been behind all of this. She and Finlay!” And to think, we let her stay with our child.”

“She’s a wicked woman, Sir.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “What’s more, she’s tellin’ lies.”

“About what?” Robert asked.

“Claims she’s the Duke’s sister.” Mrs. Pepper continued. “Says she’s the child of ol’ Johnny Donnan and the late Duchess of Fallbridge.”

Mr. Punch’s face fell.

Robert studied his companion. “Perhaps you should sit, my dear.”

“I don’t think it’s a lie,” Punch squawked. “Now that I hear it…”

“Sir?” Mrs. Pepper said softly.

“I don’t think it’s a lie.” Punch repeated.

Did you miss Chapters 1-145 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 147.

Object of the Day: Edwin C. Burt Fine Shoes

Click on image to ride in a shoe.

I know that when I’m sledding in a giant ladies shoe (or, specifically in a giant lady’s shoe), I like to wave the American flag. Mine has fifty stars, I’m proud to say, but when this card was printed, the U.S. had markedly fewer states and wasn’t even twenty years past the Civil War.

This clever bit of Victorian weirdness was printed for “Edwin C. Burt, Fine Shoes.” Burt Shoes were a popular brand which was marketed through many retailers. The Burt Company would distribute these trade cards to retailers as a means of advertising individual shoe shops. As we can see, this one was overprinted with the information of a shop in Massachusetts. It reads, “Presented by P/B/ Robinson, 221 Essex St., Lawrence Mass.”

The reverse is neatly printed with additional information about Mr. Robinson’s shoe shop as well as some very vital data about Mr. Burt’s fancy shoes.

Dealer in BOOTS and SHOES of every description, 
No. 221 Essex Street, 

Has a fine line of BURT’S GOODS, manufactured 
expressly for him by 

                                           EDWIN C. BURT, New York. 

THE GENUINE BURT SHOE has the name of 
stamped in full on the LINING and SOLE of EACH SHOE 
and are warranted. 
The Major Knapp, Lith. Co., 56 Park Place, N.Y. 

It seems that in the printing process, the sheet became misaligned and the “CAUTION” type was repeated. There’s also a curiously placed “Over” which makes little sense. However, look at that nifty logo for Burt’s Shoes! That indicates to us that this card was printed in 1878 or so.

Unusual Artifacts: A Delft Model Sleigh, 1760-1770

Model Sleigh
Dutch, 1760-1770
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s an attractive, yet somewhat strange item. Made in Delft, Holland, somewhere between 1760 and 1770, it’s a model sleigh of tin-glazed earthenware which has been painted with enamel colors. The sleigh has been adorned with landscapes. 

I imagine it’s meant to be purely decorative, but some sources indicate that such models were intended for use as vases. The underside is marked with a K and a plus sign. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Geneva Snuffbox, 1810

Click image to enlarge.

One of a Pair
Sene and Detalla of Geneva
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This is one of two very similar lavish enamel and diamond snuffboxes made in Geneva (by the firm of Sene and Detalla) which are found in the V&A’s Gilbert collection. Like its mate, this one was likely made for export from Switzerland to the Ottoman market in 1810.

The oval box features a cover enameled in translucent red. The cover boasts a double diamond border and the topmost panel is applied with a diamond spray. The sides of the box’s base are enameled with a blue trellis pattern which is mounted with enameled “pearls.” The inside of the lid has been set with an enameled plaque which depicts doves and a basket.


Print of the Day: Brewtnall's "On the Road to Derby - The Punch and Judy Man," 1870

On the Road to Derby -- The Punch & Judy Man
E.F. Brewtnall, 1870
for the Illustrated London News
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The original drawing for this engraving entitled “On the Road to Derby – The Punch & Judy Man” was created by E.F. Brewtnall. The drawing was reproduced in 1870 in the Illustrated London News.

I find this to be a lovely and sensitive picture. Here, we see a Punch & Judy Professor seated, at work touching up the paint on the face of his handsome figure of Punch. Dog Toby sits nearby, supervising, while the Professor’s bottler assembles the fit-up.

I’m sure that you can guess that this is part of the V&A’s George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive.

Friday Fun: Justin Tai’s Punch and Judy Show

Justin Tai
For today’s “Friday Fun,” we feature a clip from a performance by Professor Justin Tai who has been performing Punch & Judy shows since the age of nine. Today, Justin and his show are a fixture on the Broadstairs Beach in Kent.

Justin offers up some interesting shtick that I’ve not seen before. His puppets are also quite different with their rather wild hair. I wonder who made them.

Enjoy Professor Justin’s performance from this video from 2008.

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...

We dwell in cottages of straw,
And labour much for little gains;
Sweet food from us our masters draw,
And then with death reward our pains.

And the answer is...


Or lomein.  Or strawberries.  I don't care.  The best part is your answers which are superior.  Well done, everyone!  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 145

Chapter 145: 
To Spill Tonight 

Take her into the cellars, Georgie. I’ve got the key. Mr. Speaight left it with me.” Mrs. Pepper said quickly. “Jenny, girl, go get the masters smart-like!”

“You don’t want to do that.” Ellen growled.

“She’s right.” Finlay grinned, stepping out of the shadows.

“This don’t concern you, Finlay.” Georgie snapped.

“That’s right. Get out of here.” Ethel shouted.

“Close your mouth.” Finlay spat. “I won’t take orders from a scullery maid.”

“Then, you’ll take orders from me, Finlay Donnan.” Mrs. Pepper said with authority. “With Mrs. North gone and Mr. Speaight elsewhere, I’m in charge. I’m the senior member o’ the staff.”

Finlay laughed.

“I’m warnin’ you, Finlay.” Georgie yelled, his grip on Ellen tightening.

Ellen yelped.

“What’s any of this to you anyway?” Ethel blurted out. “It don’t concern you.”

“Doesn’t it, lass?” Finlay smiled.

“If you knew the lies this one was tellin’,” Mrs. Pepper shook her head, “even you, Finlay, would want that much distance.”

“Lies? You mean that she’s the Duke’s sister?” Finlay scoffed.

“So, you know?” Ethel frowned. “I s’pect you’ll be tellin’ us that you believe her?”

“I do believe her, lass.” Finlay grinned.

“Right.” Ethel stuck out her tongue.

“I do.” Finlay nodded. “Listen, Scullery, I was there. The girl’s not just the Duke’s sister. She’s mine, too.”

“What?” Mrs. Pepper scowled.

“Her da’s Johnny Donnan and her ma is the late Duchess of Fallbridge. That makes her kin to both me and the Duke. So, I guess that means, Mrs. Pepper, that I outrank ya. I’ll thank your monkey son to take his hands off of me sister.”

“Don’t do what he says, Georgie.” Mrs. Pepper said to her son.

“I won’t, mum.” Georgie shook his head.

“Listen you two, I’m not surprised the likes of you have joined your wicked minds together in this lie, but I’m not going for it. Maybe you’re evil, but I ain’t. I ain’t gonna help ya, and furthermore, I don’t take orders from no Scots footman neither. I take my orders from the masters and that’s what I aim to do.”

“That’s right.” Ethel nodded. “Me nor Jenny nor George do neither.”

“I was afraid of that,” Finlay sighed. “Very well. Have it your way.” He backed up as if to leave and, as he did, reached into the pocket of his coat—having changed from his devil costume.

Quickly and with no warning, Finlay spun around with a long knife in his hand. He rushed at Georgie coming upon him from behind and holding the knife to his throat.

The girls and Mrs. Pepper gasped.

“Now, Mrs. Pepper,” Finlay hissed. “Unless you want the blood of your son to spill tonight like the Countess’ did, you’ll have him release my sister this minute.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-144? If so you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 146.

Drawing of the Day: A Tiepolo Punchinello, c. 1750

Click the image to look up his Punchy nose.
View of a Punchinello
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
c. 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I much enjoy the work of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo who frequently depicted Punchinelli engaged in various activities. In fact, we’ve looked at several examples of his work and seen many a Pulcinella involved in his daily routine.

This sketch has been attributed to Tiepolo and dates to about 1750. The recto of the page depicts a bearded old man while this, the verso, shows this Puchinello who is clearly struggling to lift a wine skin. Faint traces of another sketch can be seen on the right of the page. You can make out the hat nose and ear of another Punchinello which has been lightly drawn beneath.

If this was a study for a painting, I’m not sure. However, on its own it’s a clever work and gives us a look at a Punchinello at an angle few get to see.

I’m quite fortunate. Seated next to me for most of the day is a very large Punchinello and I get to look up his nose all day, every day, but, for most of you, it’s a rare treat indeed. 

Object of the Day: An Envelope from 1906 Advertising Punch Cigars

Click image to enlarge.

Obviously, this envelope appeals to me because of the smiling puppet gent pictured on it. Stamped 1906, the envelope from Illinois appears to be empty, yet, it’s sealed. The return address lists a “candy” shop which, in 1906 terms, also meant “cigars.” 

For many people, the name “Punch” instantly puts them in mind of cigars. The “Punch” name has been used by two cigar concerns. The logo here refers to the first which was founded by a German man in 1840—named for our Mr. Punch. These cigars were manufactured in Cuba and the company utilized images of Punch and Dog Toby for advertising purposes for many decades.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Way-Bertie

"You don't really expect me to sleep here?"

Click image for bigger Bertie goodness.  

Image: The Wayfarers, Thomas Alexander Ferguson Graham (1840-1906), 1870, Given by James Orrock to The Victoria & 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: Cameo of a Child, 1820-1850

Head of a Child
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The practice of engraving gemstones has been ongoing since the earliest days of the Roman empire. Though the art has seen periods where it is more in fashion than others, it has remained one of the most popular jewelry-making techniques in history.

Made between 1820 and 1850, this cameo is the work of Benedetto Pistrucci, (1784-1855). Born in Italy, Pistrucci moved to England as an adult. There, he became Chief Medallist at the Royal Mint and was responsible for designing and crafting the coronation medals for George IV and Queen Victoria.

The example we see pictured above shows the fineness and delicacy of Pistrucci’swork. The carving shows the infant daughter of his friend Dr. Archibald Billing—a physician and a gem collector. Pistrucci carved the girl’s image based on a wax model which Billing made himself. 

Unusual Artifacts: A Layette Pin Cushion, 1778

Layette Pin Cusion
England, 1778
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Until the widespread marketing of the safety pin in 1870, baby clothes were pinned with the same, ordinary, sharp pins which were used for everything else. For this reason, the gift of a layette pincushion was traditional and entirely appropriate. However, many believed that a pin cushion should not be given unto after the birth since it was thought that pins in the home would make for a painful delivery. “For every pin, a pain” and “More pins, more pain” were common sayings. When a pin cushion was given as a gift, it was typically adorned with pins in a pattern with some importance or relevance to the situation. This English example from 1778 is made of hand-quilted ivory cotton which has been edged with cotton fringing. The topmost plane of the cushion has been adorned with a pattern of pins which show an escutcheon with a coat of arms used by the Pateshall family. The initials “AP” are shown above and the date (1778) below. On each side of the initials, a speckled bird with raised wings is depicted while a stylized flower is shown at each side of the date. Other pins make a floral border or tendrils. 

The curators at the V&A have, through careful research, deduced that this cushion was given as a gift in commemoration of the birth of one Edmund Burnam Pateshall of Allensmore Court on December 3, 1778.

The Art of Play: Baby-Bär, 1935

Soft Toy
Germany, 1935
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Looky look! It’s Baby-Bär. Born in 1935—from the Germany Schuco Toy Company—this little bear of mohair has an internal mechanism which is operated by his tail. Moving the tail side to side makes the bear shake his head. Moving the tail up and down makes him nod his head. Therefore, Baby-Bär is one of Schuco’s famous “Yes/No” toys—all of whom could indicate the affirmative or negative when their tails were manipulated. To make sure that the Baby-Bär looked like a baby, he was given an open mouth and wide, googly eyes.

This bear is in perfect condition because he was a shop, stock bear. He was used for display and never sold. He still has his original card and ribbon and has utterly no wear whatsoever. Though he had no one to love him, it kept him in perfect condition for all these decades.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 144

Chapter 144: 
Not a Chance

When she felt those thin, bony hands tighten around her mouth, Ethel fought the way her cousin Everard had taught her.

Ethel could remember each word her cousin had said that day before she went to work for the Duke.

“A pretty girl like you, Ethel,” Everard had said. “You’re gonna have to learn to fight.”

“Awww…” Ethel had scoffed.

“I mean it, Ethel.” Everard had insisted. “Now, you listen to me, if a man ever comes at ya and you don’t want ‘im to, you gotta do whatever you can to save your virtue.”

“I’ll just scream.” Ethel had argued.

“Sometimes ya can’t scream.” Everard had shaken his head sadly. “You remember what happened to our Heather.”

“Oh.” Ethel recalled frowning. “But, I’m smarter than that.”

“Maybe so, but even the smartest girl…well…just listen.” Everard had replied.

So, in those dark kitchens, when Ethel knew that her life, and possibly her virtue, were in danger, she recalled those words that Everard had told her.

Firstly, and with all her might, she bit the hands which tried to stifle her screams. That released those hands quick enough! And, then, when she was free and could feel whoever was trying to hold her reach for her apron strings, she swung bother her elbows back. She could feel the bones of her elbows jab into the soft stomach of her attacker who yelped. Odd, it seemed to Ethel, that the yelp of pain which arose behind her was a feminine one.

“Help!” Ethel screamed as loudly as she could. “Help me! Mrs. Pepper! Georgie!”

Ethel felt her attacker grab for her again—this time taking her right arm. With her left hand Ethel spun around and struck at the person in the dark. She felt the person’s face beneath her fist.

“Help!” Ethel screamed again.

Again, the attacker grasped for Ethel, tightening both hands around the girl’s waist.

Ethel took a deep breath and, remembering her cousin’s instructions, thrust her head backwards. It hurt her when their heads struck one another, but, Ethel knew that the blow had hurt the attacker more than it hurt her. Ethel felt a wetness trickle down her neck and knew that she’d bloodied the other person’s nose.

Then, like a mule, Ethel kicked backwards with her right leg—her strongest—with as much force as she could.

Just then, Mrs. Pepper, Georgie and Jenny came clattering into the kitchen.

“A candle, Jenny,” Mrs. Pepper shouted.

Jenny ran back to the Servants’ Hall and grabbed a lit candle, hurrying back to the kitchens.

And, then, they saw who had attacked Ethel.

Standing there in the center of the kitchens, Miss Barrett, panted, blood trickling down her face and onto the gentleman’s shirtfront she wore. In fact, she was dressed entirely in a man’s ensemble.

“Miss Barrett!” Mrs. Pepper gasped.

Georgie rushed forward and restrained Miss Barrett, pinning her arms behind her back.

“Let me go!” Miss Barrett moaned.

“She tried to kill me, Mrs. Pepper!” Ethel wailed, running to the cook’s outstretched arms.

“I should say she did,” Mrs. Pepper said gently. “But, you stopped her, my girl.”

“You’re making a mistake!” Miss Barrett screamed.

“I knew she were bad, Mrs. Pepper.” Ethel cried.

“We all did, girl.”

“What do I do with her, mum?” Georgie asked.

“We’ll lock her in the cellars while we get the masters.” Mrs. Pepper said firmly. She turned to Miss Barrett. “You’ve got much to explain, Miss Barrett.”

“Release me.” Miss Barrett ordered.

“Not a chance,” Georgie spat, pulling painfully on the woman’s arm.

She yelped. “You can’t do this to me!”

“Why not?” Mrs. Pepper scoffed. “You tried to hurt our Ethel and worse, I’ll bet you killed our Mrs. North and that countess. I’ll bet it’s you what’s been behind all them wicked goings on what plagues our household.”

“You don’t know who I am.” Ellen scowled.

“I should say we don’t.” Ethel snapped.

“I’m the Duke’s sister!” Miss Barrett barked.

Did you miss Chapters 1-143? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 145 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square. 

The Home Beautiful: A Baby's Cradle, 1810

Bateau Cradle
French with German Ormolu Mounts
Circa 1810
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Cradles that would either swing or rock have been built for over five centuries. Of course, most of those cradles, when rocked or swung a little too hard, would deposit Baby onto the floor. It wasn’t until the Nineteenth Century that the makers of baby cradles began to realize that they could build a mechanism that would keep the cradle from swinging or rocking too far and spilling the child out.

Here’s a handsome example of an early Nineteenth-Century cradle. The boat shape of this French cradle gives it the name “Bateau.” French cradles in this ovoid shape were usually made without elaborate decoration except for some figural carving at the top of the curving pole which was used to hold drapery—in this case a swan. So, with its glittering mounts, this one is quite a rarity. Instead of the usual plain mahogany of most similar cradles, this one is mounted with ormolu adornment. It’s believed, given the unusually elaborate decoration, that though the cradle was decidedly built in France, the ormolu mounts were added later, likely in Germany. 

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: The Baby Sitter

Click on the image to get a closer look.

This handsome chromolithograph was never utilized. In one way, it’s a shame that it wasn’t since it’s very cute. However, the fact that it wasn’t used also increased its chances of surviving in such good condition. See the “sign” in the upper right corner? That was meant to be over-printed with a company’s information. This card was printed in bulk. Advertisers could select it from a catalog and have the already-printed stock, over-printed with their own slogan and address, etc.

I was quite happy to see this card tucked into a stack I’d bought a few weeks ago. I like dogs, as you know, and I rather find the idea of a terrier taking care of a baby to be a charming one. Of course, if I was a parent to a human child, I might feel differently about this. But, as I am only a parent to Bertie, I find it cute.

Having lived with a terrier for over a decade, I have to tell you that should I ever tie a rope to a basket containing a baby, Bertie would not conclude that it was his job to gently pull the rope to rock the baby. If instructed to do something with the rope, Bertie probably would, bit, gentle rocking would not be the result. Forceful, playful tugging on the rope would occur because, well, that’s how dogs play. Babies would be flying all over the place. But, Bertie’d like that. He likes babies. They’re soft and they taste sweet (to kiss not to eat).

So, let’s have a caption contest.

What could this advertise? Why is the dog baby sitting? Whose baby is it? How does the baby feel about all of this? Why are they outside? Why is there a blank piece of wood nailed up there? And, go… Answers in the comments, please. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Arthur King Brooch, c. 1970

Arthur King, c. 1970
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The abstract and sculptural jewels of the 1960s and 1970s tended to shy away from polished gold, introducing new textures which were created through the use of flame and heat. Furthermore, symmetrical cuts were out of fashion and jewelers played with new gemstone cuts and shapes. The work of Arthur King typified this modern spirit.

King taught himself the art of jewelry-making during the Second World War. His success in the U.S. spurred the opening of galleries in London, Paris, Miami and Cuba. His work was known for its irregular shapes, uncut and unpolished stones, unusual textures, unexpected color combinations and the use of scrap metal.

This abstract brooch of gnarled gold is scattered with diamonds. Made in 1970, it’s a perfect example of King’s design sensibilities. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Rabbit Bonbonière, c. 1759

Candy Box
Chelsea Porcelain Factory
c. 1759
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in London, this bonbonnière of porcelain has been modeled after a mama rabbit with her babies. The attached cover of copper is painted with enamels and a gilt metal mount. Inside the cover, sprays of flowers have also been painted. The rabbits are moulded in full relief. These, too, are painted with enamels. Such an exquisite box was meant to hold candies and sugared fruit. It was made between 1759 and 1769 by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory.

Figure of the Day: A Meissen Sweetmeat Stand, 1735

Sweetmeat Stand
Meissen, 1735
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As I’ve previously mentioned, I especially like the work of Meissen’s J.J. Kändler (1706-1775). He worked for the Meissen porcelain factory between 1731 and 1775, and, there, he was responsible for producing over 2,000 original models for figures, animals, and groups as well as attractive utilitarian wares such as this sweetmeat stand.

Kändler’s workbook of May 1735, notes his own description for this stand which he called an “Indian grotto with shells and leaves for holding sweetmeats.” The stand was accompanied by two separately modeled and removable seated figures. This hard-paste porcelain stand would have held lovely delicacies—the wee cakes, pastries, candies, nuts and sugared fruits which would have concluded the dessert course of a beautiful and elegant meal. 

The Home Beautiful: The Granville Toby, 1985

Toby Jug
Rockingham Pottery, 1985
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Toby Jug is a modern take on the Tobies which were popular in the Nineteenth Century. This character jug is one of a set of fourteen miniature Toby Jugs which were made to represent characters from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. These are, essentially, based on an original series which was designed by the Burslem pottery firm of Shorter & Sons in 1940 when principals from the D'Oyly Carte Company were photographed in costume and in character. The Toby Jug pictured above depicts Sydney Granville (1880- 1959) as “Don Alhambra” in “The Gondoliers.” The original series featured large and small jugs as well as a line of wall plaques, cigarette boxes and ash trays. The Second World War halted production of the Burslem series which wasn’t actually released until 1949.

The series was resurrected by the Rockingham Pottery in 1985 who modeled their wares on the original moulds.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 143

Chapter 143:
Any Further 

She ain’t gonna be able to help us,” Mrs. Pepper shook her head. “Poor thing is too overcome.”

“Well, Mum, she knew Mrs. North for a lotta years.” George said softly.

“Sure she did. I don’t fault her for it. We’re all upset. I liked the ol’ woman.” Mrs. Pepper sighed. “But, if Mrs. Gall ain’t gonna help us with the cookin’, that means Jenny and me are gonna have to feed breakfast to the whole house.”

“I can help, too,” Ethel volunteered. “Maybe I don’t know as much as Jenny, but I seen ya cookin’ and I can do choppin’ and such.”

“Good girl, Ethel.” Mrs. Pepper smiled. “Gonna be a lot of dishes, too. Lots of washin’ for ya.”

“I can do both. All them people gotta eat.”

“Why’d the Duke make everyone stay?” Jenny asked innocently. “Why not let them all go to their own homes?”

“Because, girl,” Mrs. Pepper replied patiently. “One of them folk killed our Mrs. North and that Countess Hamish. His Grace couldn’t let them go. The bloke what killed them ladies would leave and not come back. So, he made everyone stay ‘til he could figure out which of ‘em done it.”

“What’s to say he didn’t already leave after he done what he done?” Jenny asked. “Before the Duke locked us all in?”

Mrs. Pepper shrugged. “Even so, maybe someone saw somethin’. It makes sense to keep ‘em all here.”

“I don’t much like the idea of bein’ locked in with a killer.” Ethel shivered.

“Don’t worry, girl. No one wants to kill you.” Mrs. Pepper clucked her tongue.

“Why’d anyone want to kill Mrs. North?” Ethel asked.

“Maybe she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Georgie answered. “’Haps she saw someone do somethin’ and said she’d tell or maybe she knew somethin’ she oughtn’t.”

“That’s one thing for sure,” Mrs. Pepper shrugged. “Mrs. North all what went on in this house.”

“Poor thing.” Ethel sighed. “I hate to think of her lyin’ up in her room—dead.”

“Better she rest in peace there than on the floor of the silver vaults.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head. “Such a sad thing.”

“And, the Countess—she’s still up in the blue room.”

“Terrible thing.” Jenny mumbled.

“Where is the Duke anyway?” Ethel asked. “He and the doctor been upstairs for hours now.”

“I heard there were some of his jewels missin’.” Jenny said.

“I tol’ ya that.” George frowned.

“Oh, that’s right.” Jenny nodded. “Maybe they caught the man what done it and they got him upstairs.”

“Ain’t seen Gerard nor Charlie in awhile.” Mrs. Pepper squinted. “Nor Gamilla.”

“Hope nothin’s wrong.” Georgie nodded.

“I ‘spect if there was, His Grace would tell us.” Mrs. Pepper replied. “Now, why don’t we put on the kettle? Mr. Speaight’s gonna be that tired when he comes down. Poor man, takin’ care o’ all them folk without the boys to help ‘im.”

“He’s got Finlay to help.” Jenny looked up.

“No, girl.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head.

“Where’s Finlay, then?” Ethel asked.

“Ain’t no one seen him.” Georgie answered.

“Well, ain’t that just like that one?” Ethel scowled.

“Somethin’ ‘bout ‘im I don’t like.” Georgie muttered.

“Ain’t our place to like ‘im, son.” Mrs. Pepper smiled.

George nodded at his mother.

“Nothin’ to like.” Ethel continued. “You know? Once I saw ‘im goin’ into Miss Barrett’s room.”

“What were you doin’ upstairs, girl?” Mrs. Pepper squawked.

“I’d gone to get the jewels what His Grace let me borrow for tonight. I had permission and all.”

“Sorry.” Mrs. Pepper nodded.

“Why’d Finlay be goin’ into Miss Barrett’s room?” Georgie asked.

“Bringin’ her somethin’ for her illness, I guess.” Jenny chimed in.

“They’re two of a kind, ain’t they?” Georgie asked.

“Here, why don’t no one like Miss Barrett?” Jenny wondered.

“The Duke likes her well ‘nough to let ‘er take care of Master Colin.” Mrs. Pepper replied. “And, that’s good ‘nough for me.”

“I don’t like the looks of her.” Ethel sighed. “She’s got a mean look to her.”

“She ain’t ugly though.” Jenny said.

“No.” Ethel shook her head. “Say, you know what’s strange?”

“I can think of a few things.” Mrs. Pepper winked at her son who chuckled.

“No, no.” Ethel frowned. “When we was upstairs at the ball, I was lookin’ at the paintin’s on the wall of the Great Hall—all them portraits and such.”

“What of it?” George asked.

“Well—all them folks, they’re the Duke’s family, yes?”

“Yes. Most of them on his father’s side—the Molliners.”

“But, there’s the one big paintin’ at the back of the hall—a paintin’ of the Duke when he were younger with his ma and his pa and his sister.” Ethel continued.

“Sure.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “I saw it. His Grace looks quite the same as he does now—only he’s got roses in his cheeks now.”

“It ain’t the Duke what I was lookin’ at.”

“No?” Jenny asked.

“No, it was his sister.”

“Poor soul, I hear she’s dead.” Mrs. Pepper shook her head.

“But, didn’t ya notice?” Ethel scowled.

“What?” Mrs. Pepper asked.

“Lady Barbara looked an awful lot like Miss Barrett.” Ethel replied.

“Now ya mention it,” Mrs. Pepper narrowed her eyes. “She did.”

“Ain’t that queer?” Ethel asked.

“Well, it’s hard to tell from a paintin’.” Mrs. Pepper shrugged. “Besides, lots of girls look alike.”

“Somethin’ ‘bout the eyes.” Ethel went on. “Just the same. Same mean eyes.”

“Go put the kettle on, girl.” Mrs. Pepper chuckled. “And stop your foolish talk.”

“Yes, Mrs. Pepper.” Ethel nodded sadly. She rose from the table where they were all seated and wandered off to the kitchens.

Ethel was surprised to see that the lamps in the kitchens had all been extinguished. Had she known was awaited her, she’d not have gone any further.

Did you miss Chapters 1-142 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 144.

Print of the Day: The Plum Pudding in Danger, c. 1800

Click to enlarge.
The Plum Pudding in Danger
James Gillray
c. 1800
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Illustrated by James Gillray (1757-1815), this satirical drawing was printed around 1800. We see who I believe to be King George III and Napoleon Bonaparte seated at a dining table, carving up the earth which is portrayed as a plum pudding. The meaning is rather obvious.

The piece is really rather attractive, but, then, I like this sort of thing. It is inscribed: 

The Plumb-pudding [sic.] in danger--or--State Epicures taking un Petit Souper.
"the great Globe itself and all which it inherit" is too small to satisfy such insatiable appetites."

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Hogg, Brown and Taylor Dry Goods

Click on image to be frightened.

This is my greatest fear. I live in terror that in the kitchen of any restaurant are children in puffy hats licking my pudding.

I’m serious. This is terrifying. Look at it. It’s bad enough that the little girl is chowing down on from a giant mixing bowl, but, worse still are the two boys. One is licking an oversized spoon while the other…the other…


You can see for yourself the evil afoot here.

The illustration is labeled “Reussi Le Nougat.” I think that means, “Licking Your Pudding.”

So, when I first came upon this trade card, I wondered what it could be advertising. I’d never have guessed that it was a card for “Dry Goods.” There’s nothing dry about this image.

However, on the reverse, it says:


Let’s have a caption contest. Answers in the comments section, please. Let’s see if you think it’s as terrifying as I do.