Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Sentimental Ring, 1830-60

Click on image for a larger size.Ring
French, 1830-1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made between 1830 and 1860, this gold ring enameled with sprigs boasts a series of hinged top panels which conceal mottos of love including “Je T’aime.”

This sort of French love token was popular from the 1830s until the end of the Nineteenth Century. Many were made for export to Britain. 

Painting of the Day: William Farren as “Lord Ogleby” in “The Clandestine Marriage,” 1818

William Farren as Lord Ogleby in "The Clandestine Marriage"
Samuel de Wilde, 1818
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted in 1818 by Samuel De Wilde (1748-1832), this work of oil on canvas depicts popular early Nineteenth-Century English actor William Farren in one of his most celebrated roles—“Lord Ogleby” in the 1818 production of “The Clandestine Marriage.”

The painting was bequeathed to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1869 by Rev. Alexander Dyce (1798-1869), a literary scholar and art collector. It’s an excellent example of the work of De Wilde who made a handsome living as a theatrical portrait painter. In this case, we see Mr. Farren as a character who was described as “an old peer, ridiculously aping the graces of youth, but kind-hearted and benevolent, withal.” The painting depicts a moment in Act II scene ii of “The Clandestine Marriage” when Lord Ogleby is presented with a nosegay. The dialogue follows: 

Lord Ogleby: I'll wear it next my heart, madam! - I see the young creature dotes on me! (Apart)

Miss Sterling: Lord, sister! you've loaded his lordship with a bunch of flowers as big as the cook or the nurse carry to town, on a Monday morning for a beau-pot. - Will your lordship give me leave to present you with this rose and sprig of sweet-briar?

Lord Ogleby: The truest emblems of yourself, madam! all sweetness and poignancy. - A little jealous, poor soul! (Apart)

Saturday Silliness: Little Audrey in “Tarts and Flowers”

I've shared this with you before--a couple of years ago, but I think it's time to trot it out again.

In the late 1940’s when Paramount decided not to renew the license to use the popular cartoon character, “Little Lulu,” they came up with their own variation on the idea of the precocious girl—Little Audrey. Though Little Audrey had an entirely different look than her predecessor, she had similar adventures which were often fantastical—like visiting Santa Claus with a group of multi-racial children or even bizarre like traveling to a land ruled by anthropomorphized cake.

The idea of the “Land of Cake” was a carry-over from the 1920’s and 1930’s when standard cartoon subject matter often featured rather unsettling microcosms filled with knee-bending creatures which were made of the same material as the land which they inhabited.

The viewers of the late 1940’s cartoon, “Tarts and Flowers” are almost relieved to know that Audrey is dreaming about this grotesque land of breathing baked goods. However, that comfort is yanked away in the final seconds of the short.


At the Music Hall: The Rose of No Man's Land, 1918

Her Majesty Queen Mary and Mary,
the Princess Royal during the First World War
The Royal Collection.
Crown Copyright
Image Courtesy of:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
I've seen some beautiful flowers,
Grow in life's garden fair,
I've spent some wonderful hours,
Lost in their fragrance rare;
But I have found another,
Wondrous beyond compare.

There's a rose that grows on "No Man's Land"
And it's wonderful to see,
Tho' its spray'd with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It's the one red rose the soldier knows,
It's the work of the Master's hand;
Mid the War's great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She's the rose of "No Man's Land".

Out of the heavenly splendour,
Down to the trail of woe,
God in his mercy has sent her,
Cheering the world below;
We call her "Rose of Heaven",
We've learned to love her so.

There's a rose that grows on "No Man's Land"
And it's wonderful to see,
Tho' its spray'd with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It's the one red rose the soldier knows,
It's the work of the Master's hand;
Mid the War's great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She's the rose of "No Man's Land".

“The Rose of No Man's Land” was a popular song from the end of the First World War. The song was written by Jack Caddigan and James Alexander Brennan as a tribute to the nurses of the Red Cross who served at the front lines.

Other versions of the song were published in 1918 as well as in 1945 as a patriotic tribute following the Second World War.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 158

Chapter 158:
A Nasty Bruise

As Punch and Robert walked briskly through the upper passage, Robert slipped his arm around Punch’s. “You’ve a rather nasty bruise arising on your jaw.”

Mr. Punch nodded. “Not surprised. Charles has got a strong fist. Ain’t nothin’. Glad he did it. Gave me a chance to get…” He paused, unsure of how to describe the struggle he had endured with Scaramouche and Kasperl.

“In that event,” Robert spoke up, “I’m glad Charles struck you, too.”

“Just happy he didn’t knock loose any of Julian’s teeth.” Punch continued.

Robert sighed. “I’m…I…was quite frightened. I wasn’t certain that you’d come back to me.”

“Chum,” Punch smiled though it hurt him slightly to do so. “I’ll always come back to you. Always.”

Robert nodded, swallowing hard. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Considerin’ that I just killed a sister I didn’t know I had and that our Gerard is hurt, that our staff has been terrorized and that Mrs. North is dead, I’m just fine.”

Robert shook his head as they began to descend the stairs. “This evening certainly didn’t turn out as we planned.”

“Last evening.” Punch said softly. “It’s mornin’ now.” He frowned. “I wish we’d never come here. Ain’t it terrible? Me pa’s ancestral home. Coulda been such a joy. But, I wish we’d never come. Ain’t it awful? Dead a year now and the Duchess is still causin’ pain for us.”

“If I had any idea that Miss Barrett was…”

“How could ya?” Punch said quickly. “I didn’t know. Julian didn’t know. I just find it curious, I do, that our Pa wouldn’t have said nothin’ to Julian ‘bout it. You’d think he woulda told Julian he had another sister. Who knows? Maybe there’s more of the Duchess’ bastards roamin’ the Kingdom.”

“I’m sure that Sir Colin would have said something eventually. He was killed so suddenly, he never had a chance. Or, perhaps, he wanted to preserve what little affection or respect Julian might have had remaining for his mother.”

“There weren’t none. Just fear. That’s all that were left. With good reason, too. Sir Colin knew it. He made no show of affection for his wife. Why do ya think he went on all those expeditions? All them years in Egypt. He coulda come back with some regularity, he could. But, he couldn’t stand to be near the Duchess. I remember when Julian leased the house on Belgrave Square. Sir Colin’d said he wanted to take Julian out to luncheon—somewhere fine so the two of ‘em could talk ‘bout things. He seemed so serious, it made Julian nervous. He knew his pa were proud that Julian were leavin’ Yorkshire and Fallbridge Hall and startin’ his own life in London, but there seemed to be somethin’ what he wanted to tell ‘im. Maybe that were it. The luncheon never happened. Sir Colin sent word that he had to go to France to inspect a lot of jewels before the Reveren’ Townshend got to ‘em. He never came back.”

“I’m sorry.” Robert replied.

“Can’t be helped now.” Punch mumbled. “All we can do now is protect our Colin and Dog Toby and our chums what relies on us.”

“And one another.”

“Always that, my Robert.” Punch nodded.

Walking through the Great Hall, they were startled when Lady Constance appeared—as if from nowhere. “Your Grace,” she said quickly. She was still dressed in her gown from the ball, slightly stained with her mother’s blood.

“Lady Constance,” Robert exclaimed. He took a deep breath. “You really should retire to your room. You’ve had such an ordeal this evening. You need your rest.”

Mr. Punch quickly affected Julian’s voice and mannerisms. “Indeed, Lady Constance. If you find your accommodations unsuitable, I can ask…” he paused recalling that Speaight was still recovering on the floor of his bedchamber. “I can personally see to it that you’re made as comfortable as possible.”

“The rooms are suitable.” Lady Constance replied. “I’m unable to sleep. My head runs with images of my mother’s brutal death. To think that the person who murdered her is still in this house…”

“Lady Constance,” Mr. Punch said gently. “You needn’t fear. The person responsible has been killed herself. She is no threat to you now.”


“I’m afraid that our governess…for strange reasons which I will not tire you with presently…was the culprit. She is, herself, no longer living.”

“God willing.” Robert muttered.

“She’s no longer living.” Punch repeated firmly.

“Your governess?” Lady Constance clucked her tongue. “She’s not the murderous party. Not in this instance at the least.”

“No?” Robert squinted.

“No.” Lady Constance shook her head. “It was the Baron Lensdown.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-157? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 159 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Figure of the Day: The Sense of Smell, c. 1752

The Sense of Smell
Derby Porcelain Factory

Modeled by Agostino Carlini (1713-1790) for the Derby Porcelain Factory between 1752 and 1755, this figure group of soft-paste porcelain is gilded and painted with enamels. The group comes from a series which depicted the senses. This one represents the sense of smell and depicts a woman holding a nosegay. She looks away from a curiously-bald child on a stool. The child is reaching for a flower to add to those already clipped. 

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Come Maiden Year, Smiling

Click on image to leave thy bouquet at my feeties.

Hello all. I’m a little slow starting today. It’s been a busy week and Bertie insisted that I sleep late. But, I’m quasi-awake, so, let’s get started.

This beautiful blank trade card was never printed on the reverse. It’s a bit faded, but still very lovely and wholly Victorian. Ergo, it’s the slightest bit odd to modern eyes. A little girl has descended a grand stair. She’s holding a nosegay and appears to be dressed for a wedding. Why she’s standing on a grassy shag rug from the Partridge Family set is beyond me. She looks none too happy about it.

Beneath her is inscribed:

Come maiden year, smiling and kind and sweet
                      And lay thy bouquet at my dear ones feet. 

Copyright…nothing. But, I’d guess 1870-1880.

Hmmmm… Let’s have a Saturday Caption Contest. What’s this girl doing? What’s she thinking? Why the grass? I look to you for answers—answers which you’ll leave in the comments section.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Ruby Vase, c. 1850

Vase of Gold and Rubies
Burma, 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Rubies give a fire to this lavish gold vase. The stones are set into grooves which have been carved into the gold. This luxury was made as part of a suite which also included a handsome comb and gold box.  The comb survives.  

With its flaring rim and grooved pattern of spirals, the gold of the vase shimmers in contrast to the sparkle of the closely-set rubies. It was made in the former kingdom of Ava (near Mandalay) in Burma. The vase, box and comb date to around 1850 and was possibly included in the Exposition Universelle de Paris of 1855. Chances are, the suite was made for a high-standing member of the Burmese Royal Family or as a gift for an official of the former court of Ava. 

Drawing of the Day: The Reinhard Punch and Judy, c. 1882

The Glove Puppet Show
Albert Reinhard
c. 1882
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Drawn around 1882 by French artist Albert Reinhard, this image depicts two men—seen from behind—as they perform a Punch and Judy show. It’s an interesting look at the work of the “Professor” and also a rare glimpse into Punch’s world in the fit-up. 

Friday Fun: Punch and Judy Re-booted, 2012

I don't know how I feel about this.  In 2012, in conjunction with Mr. Punch's 350th birthday, Gold TV decided to give him a "re-boot" or a 21st Century makeover to make sure that he remains relatable and relevant to the present day.  

On one hand, no one wants the Punch and Judy tradition to continue for centuries to come more than I.  I know that Punch has evolved over the previous centuries.  If he hadn't, he wouldn't be Mr. Punch, he'd still be Pulcinella--if that.  I understand that Punch and his friends have always been used for the purposes of communication and that they've incorporated current events and popular figures in order to do so.  So, it makes sense that Punch should be reinvented from time to time.  And, I can see that this group has taken care to maintain important elements of the long tradition.

However, to see Punch with a mod haircut and wearing a tracksuit and ball rubs me the wrong way.  I am aware that I prefer my art, surroundings, and, yes, even my puppets to be Victorian.  My ideal Mr. Punch is by no means the original Mr. Punch.  He's a creation of the early-to-mid Nineteenth Century.  But, a tracksuit?  At least he still looks like Punch in the face.

Let's see what you think. 

In the end, anything that keeps Punch alive for another 350 years is not something with which I care to argue.  

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...


In almost every house I'm seen,
     (No wonder then I'm common)
I'm neither man, nor maid, nor child,
     Nor yet a married woman.

I'm pennyless and poor as Job,
     Yet such my pride by nature,
I always wear a kingly robe,
     Though a dependent creature


And, the answer is...a dog.

Hooray for Barb who got the right answer.  I would have also accepted coat rack or teapot.  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 156

Chapter 156: 

Charles and Violet reluctantly sat down around the small table in the cellar upon which the strange woman had placed the candle.

“I suppose you’ll want some sort of explanation.” The woman said softly.

“That might be a treat,” Charles replied drolly. “These last weeks we’ve been under the impression that the governess was who she claimed.”

“She isn’t.” The woman shook her head.

Violet snorted. “This is all too much for me.”

“How did this woman come to be called by your name, then?” Charles asked.

“She was, I thought, being kind.” The woman replied.

“You’ll need to explain yourself.” Charles frowned.

“I was a happy girl.” The woman began.

“We didn’t ask for your life story, Miss.” Violet grumbled.

“But, it’s all part and parcel.” The woman said, obviously offended.

“Continue, please.” Charles nodded.

“We weren’t wealthy by any means, but we were comfortable. I always found it strange since Father had no obvious profession. Still, I didn’t question it. Why would a happy girl question her own comfort? I enjoyed a pleasant home with my brothers. We even had a maid of all work. Orpha. She’d been a workhouse girl, but you’d never have known it. She loved to read and she spoke so beautifully. She and I were friends. We were close to the same age and I so enjoyed talking with her. She always had such interesting things to say. She’d taught herself to read, you see. And, read she did. Whenever she wasn’t working. We were all content. Our only sorrow was Roger, my brother.”

“We know Roger.” Charles smirked.

“He’d had an accident as a young man. I was never sure what had happened, but it left him…different. I was charged with caring for him. Usually, he was quite pleasant. But, every so often, he’d become quite wild. I was always able to calm him. Soon, Orpha was as well. You see, we resembled one another. It wasn’t a great resemblance—I was always so much thinner. However, it was enough of a resemblance that when Roger was in one of his rages, blinded by his own thoughts, he would think that Orpha was me. We carried on for many years. Soon, Father’s age began to show. He lost most of his sight. After that, he’d often confuse me for Orpha and Orpha for me.” The woman paused.

Charles and Violet looked at one another.

“I’m terribly sorry. It’s simply that I become quite sad when I speak of Father. My brothers—except for Roger—had lives of their own. They went off, as boys do. So, for the longest time, it was just me, and Father and Orpha.”

“Didn’t you have a mother?” Violet asked.

“She had long since passed.” The woman passed. “Father’s body soon began to fail him and he grew weaker and weaker. Not only did I have to look after Roger, but also him. Orpha suggested that she could be of assistance. She’d learned quite a lot about medicine by reading. And, so, I got Father to agree to employ her as a nurse and we contracted a new maid. Life was much smoother that way. Father would slip in and out of his senses from time to time, but I was used to it from what I’d seen with Roger.”

“That’s awful.” Violet nodded.

“Yes.” The woman sighed. “Then, Father became gravely ill. Just as he was dying, he told me something which shocked me to my very soul. He told me that he wasn’t my father at all. He told me that a Scotchman at Grange Molliner was my father and that my true mother was the Duchess of Fallbridge who was still living. He told me to go to her and claim what was rightfully mine.”

“What did you do?” Charles asked.

“I’d long heard of the Duchess of Fallbridge. Everyone had. Her cruelty was legend as was her excess and her sharp tongue. She wasn’t the sort of woman I cared to claim as my mother. I was shattered. To think that the boys were not my brothers. I love them so—even Roger. Father told me I should seek out my new siblings: Julian, Lord Fallbridge; and Barbara, Lady Fallbridge. Well, Lady Barbara was rumored to be just as her mother and Lord Fallbridge was said to be a kind man, if not strange and reclusive. Father told me that Lord Fallbridge was a favorite of the Crown and that he was a famous jeweler. Still, I didn’t care. I wanted no part of it. I wanted everything to be as it was. Comfortable. And, then, Father died.”

“I’m sorry,” Violet shook her head.

“Orpha was a great help to me, then. I shared all of my woes with her. She was my friend. With Father gone, I was afraid I’d have to dismiss her. I was never sure where our money came from, and, Father left us with so little. I could take care of Roger on my own. I cried inconsolably at the thought of losing Orpha and, also, from…well, from not knowing who I really was. To think that my brothers weren’t really mine and that somewhere in Yorkshire, I had other siblings—wealthy, famous siblings. I couldn’t dare think of contacting them. And, with all of that, I would lose my only friend.”

“Orpha told me that she would try to seek work as a governess, but she was afraid that she’d have no luck. What grand household would hire a governess who was a self-educated workhouse girl? Orpha told me that a girl like me would have no trouble. But, her, she feared—well, she’d fail. I told her that I wished I could give her my life as I no longer had a use for it. I was so ashamed. To think that I was…” The woman shook her head.

“So Orpha suggested that she use your name?” Charles asked.

“Yes.” Orpha nodded. “I was so disconsolate that I agreed. I would hire smaller rooms and care for Roger and she would carry on with her life and assist me as best she could. We grew up together. We were friends. I trusted her. So, she became Ellen and I became Orpha Polk.”

“And, then she started in on her scheme.”

“Yes. I’d heard rumors that the Baron Lensdown was having an…” The woman shook her head. “I’d hear much gossip. She stopped coming around. And, then, one day I read that Lady Barbara and the Duchess of Fallbridge had died while visiting America.”

Charles looked down.

“Is something the matter?”

“I…” Charles began. “I knew Lady Barbara very well.”

“I see.” The woman sniffed.

“Carry on.” Charles nodded.

“That’s when Orpha returned. She gave me a great deal of money and told me that she needed me to leave England. She presented me with a story that the newly ascended Duke of Fallbridge was mad and that he knew that I was his sister and that he’d come after me. I now know it was all a lie. She brought me to Scotland and promised she’d look after Roger. She told me that Roger would never know the difference. That much was true, I suppose. It breaks my heart.”

“Did she bring you here—the the Grange?” Violet asked.

“No, no.” The woman shook her head. “Just to the village. I got a job as a parlor maid. Then, a few days ago, Orpha came for me and…she was so rough. I…” She began to cry. “She brought me here and locked me in this cellar. I…”

“There, there.” Violet went to the woman’s side and patted her on the back.

Charles rose as well.

“I don’t know what to do.” The woman sobbed.

“We’re gonna get out of here, is what we’re going to do.” Violet said softly.

“Yes, we are. But, it’s going to take all three of us.”

“Then what will become of me?”

“We’ll take it one moment at a time.” Charles smiled.

“Here, what should we call you. Can’t call ya Miss Barrett—not while…”

“Call me ‘Lennie.’” The woman sniffed. “That’s what father called me.”

“Lennie,” Charles nodded. “Help
me move that trunk over to the window.”
Lennie wiped her eyes and went to work.

Did you miss Chapters 1-156 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 158. 

Print of the Day: Der Narresneider, 18th C

Der NarresneiderPrint, 18th Century
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This peculiar print is of unknown origin, but likely dates to the end of the Eighteenth Century. Since the myriad writing incorporated into the image is in Dutch and German, we can guess at its place of origin.

The image shows a man being treated by a doctor. That’s not so strange. What is strange is that he’s tied to the wall and the doctor is about to cut off his ear. Hmmm… Furthermore, the doctor has the face of Mr. Punch. Luckily for the patient, Dr. Punchinello has been distracted by a woman who seems to indicate that she has a bump on her head.

Since my German is quite bad and my Dutch is even worse, and, I can’t really make out what the text says, I’ll just let you decide what’s happening here.

The print is part of the Royal Collection.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Ticket to Wynnstay, 1786

Click on image for admission.

Ticket to the Private Theatre at Wynnstay
Wales, 1786
The British Museum

Printed in 1786, this work of rusty red ink on very thick card was produced as a novelty admission ticket for the theatre at Wynnstay. Wynnstay was a grand Seventeenth Century estate in Wales which became the home of Eighteenth Century politician and statesman, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet. Wynnstay boasted an elegant private theatre for which Williams-Wynn would have attractive tickets printed to issue to his guests as mementos of their evening’s entertainment.

This ticket features Mr. Punch, Judy, the Baby and the Devil standing around a barrel which has been adorned with theatrical masks. “Wynnstay” is printed prominently in the center.

In the Nineteenth Century, Wynnstay was a favorite visitation spot for Queen Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent. A hundred years later, the estate had fallen into disrepair and the house was sold off and converted into a school. Later, it was cut up into flats and several private homes. The gardens are now in a continued state of revival.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: A Peasant Woman Annoying Bertie

"Drama Queen"

Image: A Peasant Woman Fainting from the Bite of a Serpent, Charles Lock Eastlake, RA (1793-1865, not to be confused with architect and designer Charles Locke Eastlake, 1836-1906), Italy, 1831, Given by John Sheepshanks 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: The Forget-Me-Not Signet Ring, c, 1634

Signet Ring
Germany, 1634
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Germany in 1634, this gold signet ring is surmounted by an octagonal bezel which is set with a panel of verre eglomisé (gilded glass) which depicts clasped hands holding three forget-me-nots between "AW" and "GH." Inscribed "ANNO/ 1634/ 12 IVNI," the ring is further decorated with masks on its shoulders. It is the earliest known mention of the union of root beer and the last remaining ABC network daytime serial. I kid.

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Stephens Settee, c. 1870

French, c. 1870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Part of a sumptuous suite which also contains four matching armchairs, this handsome settee represents the clever reproductions of then-already-antique furnishings which were made in the Nineteenth Century in France. The frame is a fairly accurate facsimile of a settee which was made in the 1770s or 1780s by Jean-Baptiste III Lelarge. Lelarge was the third generation of a monumental dynasty of Parisian chair-makers.

The tapestry with which the seat and back panel are upholstered seems to really date from the Eighteenth Century. They were, perhaps, originally made for a suite by Lelarge or one of his kin. The present frames were made to fit. The frame of beech features lovely carving including floral motifs of forget-me-nots. The name of the maker is now lost, it we believe it was made between 1870-1890.

The suite once belonged to Mrs Lyne Stephens who bequeathed the group to The V&A in 1895. Mrs. Stephens was the principal dancer at the Paris Opera from 1831 to 1837. There, she performed under the stage name of Marie-Louise Duvernay. Later in life, she devoted herself to her husband, as well as to religion, philanthropy and collecting fine French Decorative Arts. 

The Home Beautiful: A Maw & Co. Tile, c. 1835

Earthenware Tile
Maw & Co., , 1885
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This attractive earthenware tile in relief is adorned with a quatrefoil in deep crimson with a pattern of stylized emerald-hued leaves which lead to the center of the tile. A repeated relief of blue forget-me-nots completes the design.

Made in Broseley, England around 1885, this is the work of Maw & Co, a producer of elegant tiles which was established in 1850 and still continues to manufacture tiling for the world's most luxurious and prestigious addresses.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 156

Chapter 156: 

Orpha Polk 

Nothin’.” Violet grunted as she wiped her hands on her apron. “We pulled up every carpet in the place and there ain’t no way down to the cellar.”

“Don’t give up hope yet, Violet.” Charles said as calmly as he could. The girl was already distraught after what had happened to her. Charles didn’t care to upset her further.

“I didn’t have hope to begin with.” Violet sighed. “You sure there was a cellar?”

“Reasonably sure,” Charles responded. “I can’t think of another reason why there’d be such a low window on the rear façade. These old lodges often had cellars to keep wine and meat as well as powder and such.”

“What good is it if we can’t get there?”

“That’s just it, Vi.” Charles replied. “This cottage was built for convenience—purely that. Even out on the hunt, the riders could have easily made the journey back to the Grange. After a late hunt, a house such as this would have been designed as a comfortable stopping point and an excuse for further revelry.”


“I suppose this cottage is here to make the hunt easier. Certainly, having to go outside to seek out supplies wouldn’t have been convenient. Each hunter would have had a man with him. I imagine that their men would need to have…”

“What’s gotten into you?” Violet asked.

“I just thought of something.” Charles’ eyes widened. “Where would the servants be?”

Violet shrugged.

“So far, all we’ve seen are the bed chambers and this drawing room. But, there must be some small hall for the servants, and, possible, even a scaled-down range and kitchens.”

“I ain’t seen nothin’ like that.”

“There must be a service entrance.” Charles sniffed. He looked toward a corner of the cottage’s small drawing room, squinting into the darkness. “Did we look over there?”

“Sure.” Violet frowned. “There’s nothin’ over there but them cases of trophies.”

Charles hurried to the other side of the room.

“What are you doin’?”

“Gentlemen of the Eighteenth Century loved their novelties.” Charles smiled. “I remember a palazzo near my home town in Italy. I visited there once with my Uncle Giacomo. I was very excited when I saw one room that had a hidden door. It was built into the wall and made to look like a case for books, but, if one tugged on the moulding it was a door which led to a service hall.”

“Do ya think…”

“Maybe.” Charles nodded. He ran his hand along the side of the trophy case and found, on the left side, a raised metal nob. Pulling the bob forward, the case opened to reveal a staircase.

“Oh!” Violet squealed. “You’re brilliant!” She rushed to his side.

“Take my hand,” Charles said. “It’s dark. I don’t want you to fall.”

Charles guided Violet down the winding staircase into the musty, black cellar.

“Look over there.” Charles exclaimed. “There’s that window. I can see the moonlight through it.”

“I don’t know if either of us can fit through that.” Violet said softly. They walked briskly to the window.

“I think I can.” Charles said. “We’ve got to find something to boost me up to it. If I don’t fit, you’re much smaller than I…”

Charles stopped. He’d bumped into something—clearly a person.

“Who is there?” Charles asked, reaching forward with the hand which Violet wasn’t holding.

“What” Violet chirped. “Someone’s here?”

“Don’t hurt me,” a meek voice whimpered.

“Who are you?” Charles demanded.

“My name is Ellen.” The voice replied.

“Miss Barrett?” Charles growled.

“How did you know my name?” The woman gasped.

“You’re not fooling me.” Charles barked. “Your innocent pantomime isn’t going to be effective.”

Suddenly, Charles and Violet squinted as the woman lit a candle. As their eyes adjusted to the light, they saw in front of them a complete stranger.

She did, in fact, look vaguely like Ellen Barrett, however, she was gaunt, and considerably thinner. She wore a dirty gown, slightly tattered at the sleeves. In whole, she looked defeated and frightened.

“I don’t know you.” The woman said meekly. “I don’t know you.”

“Nor we you.” Charles said slowly.

“You aren’t Miss Barrett.” Violet snapped.

“I certainly am.” The woman replied, clearly hurt. “Why do you doubt me?”

“Because we know Ellen Barrett. She’s a brash, miserable creature of pure evil.” Charles replied.

“Oh…” The woman began to cry softly. “She’s not Ellen Barrett. I am.”

“Who is she, then?” Violet asked suspiciously.

“Her name is Orpha Polk. She’s taken my life.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-155? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 157 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Gifts of Grandeur: A REGARD Locket, c. 1830

Heart-shaped locket.  English, 1830.  Language of Stones.
Two-color gold, rubies, emeralds, garnets, amethysts, diamonds and turquoise.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I have a special fondness for Victorian (and earlier) jewelry in general, but I’m always tickled by those British pieces which adhere to the "language of stones.”  This concept allowed a sentimental message to be conveyed using the initial letter of each stone in the design to spell out a word or phrase.

Here, for example, the stones adorning this heart-shaped  locket spell "Regard.”  Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond.  The stones are set in two-color gold around a “forget-me-not” of five turquoises centered by a ruby.

Such a piece of jewelry would have been a brilliant way to declare affection for family and friends, passion for a lover.  Some pieces even showed loyalty to a monarch or a cause, and also religious devotion and grief.

Object of the Day, Caption Contest: Forget Me Not

 Click on image to forget.  Or not.

Hmmm...where to begin? This isn't a trade card per se. It's not a calling card or even a visiting card. It's simply a pretty little chromolithograph printed on card stock. Now, I do believe that this could have been used as a trade card. It looks like the sort which were available for over-printing or reverse printing through catalogs. But, this just wasn't a run-of-the-mill stock card. This one is beautifully embossed. This would have made printing on the reverse rather awkward, but that never stopped them.

This was the preferred Victorian image-- Cupid or some random putto (or perhaps just a winged baby, who can tell?) surrounded by a variety of symbolic flowers (none of which, oddly enough, is a forget-me-not), sitting on a quasi-funereal plinth, wistfully carving some sweet message into a tabula rassa with one of his arrows. On the plinth below him is inscribed "Forget me Not."

Regardless if this unused card was made as a blank trade card or as a never-used affectionate greeting, it is gorgeously printed. These bright, rich colors are, to me, the epitome of Victorian printing. Furthermore, the embossing is exceptional. A chromolithograph in relief of this quality doesn't seem to be the work of late Nineteenth-Century American printers. I'd say this was European.

So, let's have a caption contest. We've not done one yet this week. I'm ashamed, why don't you tell me what the little tyke is scrawling on the tablet...

Answers in the comments section, please.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Gilbert Devil, c. 1842

Bottle Stopper
Garrard's, 1842-1843
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This bottle stopper of cast silver and cork was made in England between 1842 and 1843. It’s the work of Robert Garrard II (1793-1881). The stopper takes the form of a winged devil pulling down at a chain. This unusual piece is part of the collection of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert at the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Antique Image of the Day: "Into the Abyss," 1919

Click on the image to dance with the devil.
Into the Abyss
German, 1919
The Victoria & Albert Museum

After the Great War, Germany became a republic—an idea which was not embraced by some nationalists as well as communists. This poster from 1919 serves to vilify political extremists as well as make a middle-of-the-road democracy seem appealing. The communists are depicted as devils and pied pipers. The rotund clergyman acts as a symbol of those who wished for a return to Imperial Germany.

This is the work of artist Theo Matejko (1893-1946) who produced propaganda posters for the German Democratic Party until 1933. Then he went on to work wholly for the National Socialist [Nazi] Party. Boo! The text “IN DEN ABGRUND” translates to “Into the Abyss.”

The Home Beautiful: When Pope Absolves, The Devil Smiles, 1780-90

When Pope Absolves, The Devil Smiles
Staffordshire, 1780-1790
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A work of moulded, lead-glazed earthenware, this bell-shaped cup is modeled with a double face. One face represents the Pope with a triple crown. This is the face which shows when the cup is held downward. The other face, prominent, when the cup is tilted upward depicts a horned devil. The faces are joined by volutes and raised acanthus leaves picked out in blue.

Inside the cup, the inscription reads, “'When Pope absolves / the devil smiles.” It was made in Staffordshire, England between 1780 and 1790.