Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mastery of Design: Pendant of the Dwarf God Bes, c. 600 BC

Pendant of the Dwarf God Bes
Egypt, c. 600 BC
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I confess, I picked this jewel for today because I was tickled by the title of “The Dwarf God Bes.” Bes, it seems, was an Egyptian deity of music, war and childbirth. I’m not sure how all of those things go together, but there you have it. Oh, and, yes, he was also a dwarf. And, he was thought to be good luck. Charms of Bes were placed around the home to protect the house and pendants such as this one were worn to protect the wearer during war, childbirth, or…um…music. Again, they don’t really go together. But, who am I to argue with a dwarf god? 

This pendant is constructed of gold and adorned with glazed steatite. It was made in Egypt between 600BC-100BC.

Unusual Artifacts: The Annibale Rossi Virginal, 1577

Italy, c. 1577
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

What is the difference between the musical instrument we call a “virginal” and the one we refer to as a “spinet”? Even museum curators find that the terminology for virginals and spinets is often unclear.

The instrument that you see pictured above—from the Victoria & Albert Musem--has been until recently described as a “spinet.” However, further research into the terms shows that this is actually of a type of instrument which is described by musicologists today as a “virginal.” Spinets and virginals, along with harpsichords, are stringed keyboard instruments which are special inasmuch as the strings have a plucking mechanism rather than a striking mechanism as in a piano. They are decidedly similar instruments.

The term “virginal”(thought to be chosen for its association with young female musicians) was commonly used in England to denote all plucked instruments, and some writers still use it to denote smaller instruments in rectangular cases. This practice was in use from the Sixteenth Century onward. Meanwhile, the term “spinet” has long been used to refer to a pentagonal or polygonal instrument.

Recently, the term “virginal” has been more accurately bequeathed to instruments with strings running at right angles to the keys, and with long bass strings at the front while the term 'spinet' denotes instruments with strings at an oblique angle and with the longer bass strings at the back. In other words, the spinet is a smaller version of the harpsichord—an instrument with only one set of keys.

In either case, both types of instruments were originally designed to be portable and were laid on a table top for playing.

The very first virginals were produced in Sixteenth-Century Italy. These early examples were created in a variety of shapes, from rectangular to polygonal. These Italian virginals were generally crafted of thin cypress wood, topped with elegant moldings and trim-pieces, and adorned with exotic inlays. These small instruments were surprisingly loud and could produce the entire range of notes in popular music of the time.

Here, we see such a virginal from Sixteenth-Century Italy with a cypress case and soundboard. It boasts boxwood and ivory ornaments, and is inlaid with pearls, amethysts, lapis lazuli, jasper, agate, turquoise and other precious and semi-precious stones. Since the ability to play an instrument was considered a “princely virtue,” instruments were treated with the utmost respect and were regally adorned. This example shimmers with 1,928 precious and semi-precious stones.

Annibale Rossi (active 1542-1577) of Milan in northern Italy, was the maker of this elaborate virginal. Rossi’s signature is still easily read on the piece. Rossi was praised in Paolo Morigi's work, La Nobilità di Milano (1595): wherein he was said to have produced an instrument “with the keys all of precious stones” for a “learned and refined nobleman.” Such a mention was quite an accolade considering that while the instruments and their owners were often praised, their makers were usually not.

Saturday Silliness: In My Merry Oldsmobile 1931

The popular song, “Come Away with Me Lucille, in My Merry Oldsmobile” has been interpteted by Max Fleischer into a bizarre saga of perversion, peeping tommery, rough lovin', suggestive candy, elaborate underwear, and… 

Just oddness as only 1931 could serve up. 

This short film was also meant to sell cars. Really. It was an ad. It doesn’t make me want an Oldsmobile, not that I could get one anyway.

At the Music Hall: Till We Meet Again, 1918

When the clouds roll by I'll come to you,
Then the skies will see more blue,
Down in lovers lane my dearie,
Wedding bells will ring so merrily,
Every tear will be a memory,
So wait and pray each night for me,
Till we meet again. 

With music by Richard A. Whiting and lyrics by Raymond B. Egan, “Till We Meet Again,” was a popular American song of the First World War. The sentimental piece chronicles the parting of a young lady with her soldier love.

Whiting had originally written the song so that he could enter it into a Detroit, Michigan song contest in 1918. He hated the finished product so intensely that he threw the draft away. Whiting’s secretary rescued the manuscript and, through Whiting’s publisher, Jerome Remick, had the song entered into the contest after all. There, it received rave reviews and won the highest honors. By 1919, “Till We Meet Again” was the Number 1 song in the U.S.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 169

Chapter 169:
Kin to Me 

I hadn’t seen her in years.” Finlay said softly. Robert and Georgie had helped the man—still bound—sit up so that he could lean his back against the wall and speak to the group.

“And how did she introduce herself?” Robert asked.

“She wrote to me from London after her father died.”

“My father.” Lennie mumbled.

“I couldn’t have known that, then, could I?” Finlay snarled. “Besides, he wasn’t your father neither. He was your uncle. Your pa is the same as mine.”

“I thought he was my father.” Lennie replied.

“Is she gonna talk over me this whole time?” Finlay snapped. “If she is, I got nothin’ to say.”

Mr. Punch looked with sympathetic eyes at Lennie.

She nodded her understanding.

“Continue, Finlay.” Robert said.

“I received a letter. It said that it was from Ellen Barrett. I remembered the scandal. I knew what had happened. She said she’d been told of her true birth and that she wanted to know her real brothers. She asked if she could meet me, and, I said that I’d like to meet her. She’d just gotten work with Baron Lensdown and told me that when the Baron and Baroness came to Aberdeenshire, she would look in on me. And, she did. She looked just as I thought she would. She knew all the things she should know. I’d no idea she was a fraud nor reason to even think she would be. She told me how she’d been the baron’s lover and I shared my own…experience with him. She told me that we should get our revenge. I liked the idea. She also told me that you, Your Grace, was rumored to be a recluse and that she had an idea that might separate you from some of your fortune.”

“What was her plan?” Mr. Punch asked.

“That kept changing, Sir.” Finlay explained. “All her early plans were altered when she learned of the deaths of the Duchess of Fallbridge and Lady Barbara. She doubted the stories of Lady Barbara’s death, but seemed to feel that the Duchess was truly gone, leaving Lord Fallbridge to ascend as the Duke. Then, we’d heard you were returning to London. By that point, she’d been dismissed by Lady Lensdown. When she’d heard that you were coming home with a son, she decided to try to insinuate herself into your household as governess. In the meantime, I was to help her find proof of her true birth. I’d located some documents suggesting it, but it wasn’t until Ellen could look for herself that she found indisputable proof that she was the Duchess’ daughter.”

“And, in order to get back here to do it, she had to poison me, she did.” Punch grumbled.

“She’d have done anything that she could, Sir.” Finlay nodded. “All she wanted was to get you in a position where she could control you. She tried to get the doctor away from you—many times.”

“By trying to make it appear that I’d committed murder.” Robert frowned.

“Yes, Sir. She knew that Stover bloke’s sister—knew that he’d been…that he knew you. With the rumors of the Duke’s madness and with your known protection of him, either way…”

“She’d get between us.” Robert sniffed. “It didn’t work.”

“No, Sir.”

“Not once did she mention me?” Lennie interrupted.

“No, and why would she, lass?” Finlay laughed.

“Don’t speak to me in such a manner.” Lennie hissed.

“Why not?” Finlay smirked. “You’re kin to me, ain’t ya?”

“I’d rather not think of it.” Lennie said softly.

“Well, on the one side, you got me. I ain’t no prize, but then, neither is your other brother—the Duke.”

“That’s enough.” Robert snapped.

“Doctor, I’ll admit, the man is handsome, but you’re the only one that seems to think he’s as fine and grand as all that. Everyone else knows he’s mad! He thinks he’s a puppet for the love of Christ!”

“I don’t think that I am a puppet ‘xactly. Not now. I know I’m a man. I just got the spirit of a puppet.”

“That’s so much better.” Finlay laughed.

“His Grace is the master of this house and he is not the one on trial.” Robert spoke up.

“On trial, am I?” Finlay snorted.

“Very much so.” Robert narrowed his eyes.

“How do ya…” Finlay began. He stopped when he saw the Baron Lensdown enter the chamber.

“You’ll have to leave.” Charles said quickly, walking to the man.

“No.” The baron shook his head.

“This is a private family matter, please.” Robert said.

“I doubt it.” Lensdown replied. “You’ve got your staff seated in here as if they’re at a music hall. Meanwhile, one of your men is tied up on the floor. My family gatherings don’t resemble this.”

“You should try it.” Mr. Punch barked.

“What do you want, Baron?” Robert asked.

The baron glanced to Finlay who looked up at him with expectation and hopefulness.

“I just wanted to tell you.” The baron smiled. “Your former governess is still very much alive and with her father in the stables.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-168? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 170 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Painting of the Day: A Portrait by Frederick Cruickshank

Portrait of a Lady Seated in an ArmchairFrederick Cruickshank
England, 1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Frederick Cruickshank (1800-1868) was an English painter who is often confused with the other notable Cruikshanks (George, Isaac and Isaac Robert), however, there’s no obvious relationship and the names are spelled differently.

While the “K with no C” Cruikshanks are best known for their sociopolitical, satirical and theatrical drawings, Cruickshank (with an extra C) was known for his portraiture. This portrait of an anonymous subject is an excellent example of Frederick Cruickshank’s work. Here, we see a rather morose woman in a room adorned with musical accoutrement. The sitter’s identity has never been deduced, but there are some curious clues in the composition which hint to her situation. There’s an abandoned pair of men’s gloves on the floor—perhaps a suggestion that she has been cast aside by a husband or lover. Furthermore, a prominent bust on a pedestal resembles any of a series of busts made by Sir Francis Chantrey of engineer and steam engine innovator, James Watt. Does this mean that this woman is a member of the Watt family? Is she a relative from the Campbell family?

We will never know who she is. We know only that she is surrounded by beautiful things arranged in an intentionally peculiar way. An expensive guitar and piano indicate wealth, while the cut flowers on the mantel are arranged in an ice-bucket—a signature of an individual style.

And, that’s the beauty of this Cruickshank’s work. He was known to be able to say quite a lot about his sitters without identifying them by name and by only including unique attributes.

This work of watercolor and body color was painted in 183o and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831 and Cruickshank was careful not to reveal the identity of the sitter by calling the picture simply, “Portrait of a Lady Seated in an Armchair.” 

Object of the Day: The Sterling Piano

Click image to make your face crooked.


Makes your lips go off center. 

Makes you wear odd hats. 

Shortens your car. 

Gives you a doppelganger dressed as the opposite gender. 

These are just a few of the things which this trade card for “The Sterling Piano” seems to suggest to me.

However, I don’t think that’s the point. When I saw this one for the first time, I chuckled because in the lithography, somehow, the red ink became misaligned. Pure red is only used in two little spots and the fact that it’s askew gives both figures a slightly goofy expression which I’m sure wasn’t intended.

Let’s see what the reverse says: 


T H E 


And, if you look closely, there’s still the very, very faint remains of a retailer’s stamp:

HANCOCK’S (unreadable) 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Podolsky Necklace, 1947

Gold, Rubies and Diamonds
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This exceptional necklace is constructed of an intricate series of flexible, ribbed tubes of gold. This technique—known as “snakes” or “gas-pipes”--rose in prominence in the 1930s and remained very fashionable for necklaces and bracelets throughout the 1940s.

Two hollow, flexible “snake” chains--one of white gold and the other of yellow gold—are joined into a clip fastening at one end and ending in two gold drops surmounted by two collars, one of sapphires and the other of rubies at the other end.

An open scrolling band at the front encases the chains. This band is set with brilliant-cut diamonds bordered by a thin band of table-cut rubies on one side and of sapphires on the other. This section is removable and can be worn separately as a clip.

The necklace was made in London between 1947 and 1948 by Eyna Wolko Podolsky (1888-1962). Paul Podolsky, the son of the maker, stated that in 1947, 18ct gold was possible only for export and that this necklace was made for their client Abdul Maleek in Alexandria, Egypt.

Antique Image of the Day: Mr. MGrimaldi and Son, as Clowns

Mr. Grimaldi and Son, as Clowns
Early Nineteenth Century
Byn and Arliss
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Little is known about this print from the late Eighteenth to early Nineteenth Century except that it depicts Joseph Grimaldi and his son. Grimaldi, senior, known professionally as “Joey the Clown” was celebrated for his work in pantomime as was the younger Grimaldi. Both, however, met sad ends after struggled with alcoholism. Printed in London, this is the work of an artist known as “Byn” and was printed by Arliss & Co.

Friday Fun: May Fayre 2012, Mr. Punch's 350th Birthday

In May, we celebrated Mr. Punch’s 350th birthday.  Let’s look back at the festivities from “The Big Grin” with this video taken at Punch’s party at the Covent Garden May Fayre of 2012.  

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 Spring I look gay,
     Deck'd in comely array,
In Summer more clothing I wear;
     When colder it grows,
     I fling off my clothes,
And in Winter quite naked


And, the answer is...a tree.  Many thanks to everyone for playing, especially since this one was rather obvious.  You're all good sports!  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 168

Chapter 168: 
The Best Part 

I insist that you unhand me,” The baron snapped as Johnny dragged him into the stables.

Johnny ignored the man.

“Do you know who I am?” Baron Lensdown snarled.

“Sure. You’re the one what sullied my daughter and my son.” Johnny roared.

Baron Lensdown couldn’t quite argue with that.

Suddenly, as they reached the farthest end of the stone building, Johnny tossed the baron into the straw.

The fall knocked the wind out of the man who grunted. “What…what will you do with me?”

“Look!” Johnny pointed behind the baron.

“What is it?” the baron asked.

“Look on her!” Johnny shouted.

“Is it Ellen?” The baron shook. “I…I… couldn’t stand to see her…not like that.” He struggled to sit up and, when he finally did, Johnny looked at the man and grinned.

“Go on.” Johnny pointed again. “Look on my girl.”

“I already saw her in death.” The baron whimpered.

“See her again!” Johnny demanded. He raised his right leg as if he’d kick the baron in the teeth.

Lensdown scrambled backward. He could feel his back brush up against Ellen’s body.

“Oh!” the Baron Lensdown squealed. Finally, he turned slowly and looked down. He shuddered at the sight of Ellen—dried blood crusted on her forehead.

“At least you could have closed her eyes.” Lensdown rasped.

“I can do that myself.” Ellen grinned.

Lensdown shrieked like a child and scurried into the corner of the stable stall as Ellen sat up, laughing heartily. Johnny, too, howled with laughter.

“What is this nightmare?” Lensdown trembled.

“Oh, Victor,” Ellen coughed, brushing straw from her apron. “You’re so disappointing.”

“As are you.” The baron retorted. “You can’t even die properly.”

“That madman didn’t kill me. He just knocked me out for awhile. He’s not quite as swift as he thinks he is.” Ellen replied. “Aren’t you glad I’m not dead?”

“Of course.” Lensdown nodded slowly. He looked to Johnny. “Why all of the theatrics, then? Couldn’t you have told me that Ellen was alive?”

“I done what me girl asked me to do.” Johnny replied dryly.

“Look Victor, as much as I’d be thrilled to enjoy an emotional reunion with you, I simply must press you back into service.”

“Oh?” The baron frowned. “After the shock I’ve just had, I’m lucky to still be breathing.”

“My dear, I was presumed dead and I’m still functional.” Ellen scowled. “All you had to endure was a minor fright.”

The baron sighed.

“Now, Father tells me that Finlay’s gotten himself caught.”

“How?” Lensdown asked.

“I’m not exactly sure.” Ellen shrugged. “It seems that the Duke and his little band of merry fools have managed to tie him up. I want you to extricate him.”

“How am I to do that?”

“You’re a baron, you’ll think of a way. Appeal to the Duke as a peer. Tell him you wish to help by removing the man from his care.”

“I have no authority nor credibility in that house, especially with the Duke. Lady Constance has been insisting to all who’ll listen that I’m the one who murdered her mother.”

“Why would she do that?” Ellen asked.

“I couldn’t say.”

“Perhaps because you fathered a child with her.” Ellen smiled. “Darling, don’t underestimate me. I know all that you do. I know you’ve been colluding with Finlay behind my back. I know where you’ve been and what you’ve done there. Always.”

“Then, you should know that since the Duke already suspects me of criminal activity, he’s unlikely to hand Finlay over to me.”

“That’s not my problem.”

“And, what should I do with him should I get him?”

“Take him to the hunting cottage.” Johnny grunted.

“You’ve managed to get the Duke’s man, Charles, and that blonde maid there, yes?”

“Yes, Lass.”

“Good. Father, thank you.” Ellen nodded, unaware that Charles, Vi and Lennie had already escaped. “We’ll need them.”

“That other girl is there, too. Who’s that one, Lass?” Johnny asked.

“What other girl?” Lensdown raised an eyebrow.

“She’s…” Ellen began. “She’s my former…she was Roger’s nurse once. You remember Roger, Victor? The man who went mad after you injured him?”

“I’m so glad you’re alive, Ellen.” Lendsown smiled wryly.

“Don’t be talkin’ like that.” Johnny shouted.

“That’s fine, Father.” Ellen rubbed her head. “Victor was just leaving.”

“I don’t know how you expect me to do this. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”

“Maybe not. But once you’ve tried, if all else fails, you can cut up the turnip and eat it.” Ellen smiled. “And, sometimes, that’s the best part.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-167? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 169.

Print of the Day: Grimaldi and the Alpaca, 1813

Click on image to try to get your own alpaca.

"Grimaldi and the Alpaca"
London, 1813
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Dated 11 January, 1813, this chromolithograph published by Rudolph Ackermann depicts a scene from the Popular Pantomime of The Red Dwarf which was performed at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. The panto starred Joseph Grimaldi as “Joey the Clown.

Part of Grimaldi’s routine at this 1813 show involved “Joey’s” interaction with a man attired as an Aztec. The clown would try to trick the Aztec into giving away his Alpaca. I must confess, I never thought I’d be typing the words “Grimaldi and the Alpaca” together. But, that’s what the print is entitled. The image was drawn by one R. Norman. 

Object of the Day: Grimaldi or Joey the Clown or...

Click on image to feed the baby.

Joseph Grimaldi (known as “Joey the Clown”), credited as the original white-faced clown, was mimicked and copied by many of his contemporaries. His then-unsual makeup and wig are no considered standard clowning attire, but, then, he was all new. The image of the white-faced clown quickly became a popular artistic theme during Grimaldi’s day. Unless specifically indicated, it’s difficult to tell if these images are actually of Grimaldi or of his many imitators.

For example, I recently came across this antique scrap amongst a lot of trade cards in my collection. If this isn’t Grimaldi, he’s a pretty close approximation. He even appears to be wearing “Joey’s” specific costume.

My question is this, however—Why the baby? Who gives their baby to a clown to be fed with a giant, comic spoon? It troubles me, especially when you consider that “Joey the Clown” became a character in the Punch and Judy tradition. We know how well it turns out for babies there.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture, Caption Contest: Bertie-tation

This week, let’s have you put the words in Bertie’s mouth. Put your ideas for Bertie’s caption in the comments section. 

Image: Meditation: A Lady Looking Out of a Window, Arie Johannes Lamme (1812-1900), c. 1850, Rotterdam, Holland, Joshua Dixon Bequest 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 Temperance Ornament, 1610-1620

Temperance Dress Ornament
Germany, Seventeenth C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This ornament of gold openwork is graced with a central female figure. She holds two goblets of water—an attribute of “Temperance.” She’s enameled in white, blue, green and black. 

The work of an unknown goldsmith, it’s believed this jewel was made in Southern Germany between 1610 and 1620. The piece was likely made as a dress ornament and was probably sewn directly onto the fabric of the gown. It’s possible that this was one of a set of four such ornaments, each depicting the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. 

Sculpture of the Day: The Needy Peasant,1760-1800

The Needy Peasant
Bernhard Caspar Hardy
Germany, 1760-1800
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This curious sculpture of wax and textiles was created by Bernhard Caspar Hardy (1726-1819) in Cologne, Germany between 1760 and 1800.

In the late Eighteenth Century, Hardy was one of the most popular modelers in Germany, known for his sensitive depictions of sentimental subjects and his ability to mimic the style of the fashionable paintings and engravings of the time.

This relief, entitled “The Poor Man Prays” is modeled in relief in wax and attired in fabric to create his jacket, hat and waistcoat. The wax figure has been built up on black glass which was later set in a wooden frame. This is one of two similar models by Hardy in the collection of the V&A.

Precious Time: The Roman Charity Watch and Case, 1680-1700

Watch and Case
Switzerland, 1680-1700
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This watch is housed in a copper gilt case which, along with the timepiece, has been enameled with a variety of Italian scenes including “Roman Charity” and “Lucretia.” Made in Geneva, Switzerland, the movement is signed “Baccuet.” Created between 1680 and 1700, the enameling was done by the family team of Jean Pierre (1655-1723) and Ami Huaud (1657-1724). Their competent enamel work on the scene of “Roman Charity” was based on an engraving by Claude Mellan which itself was after a painting by Simon Vouet. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 167

Chapter 167:
That I Am 

Yes?” Baron Lensdown sniffed irritably as he answered the door to his chamber.

“You—come with me.” Johnny Donnan grunted.

“Pardon me, my good man?” Lensdown replied effetely.

“You’re needed.”

“By whom exactly?” Lensdown frowned.

“You’re needed.” Johnny repeated.

“Is it my wife?” The baron asked. “Has she taken ill? Did the shock of the past evening cause her to become worse?”

“Ain’t yer wife.”

“What is it, then?”

“Do ya know who I am?” Johnny growled.

“Yes.” Lensdown answered slowly. “You’re the stableman.”


“Don’t let’s be coy with one another, Mr. Donnan.” Baron Lensdown smirked.

“Come with me, then.”

“Whatever for? We’ve no business. We’ve no connection to one another.`”

“You lay with my offspring. There’s yer connection.”

“So, you’ve been talking with Finlay, have you? I suppose he was very quick to boast of his conquest.” The baron muttered.

“Finlay?” Johnny roared.

The baron’s face went pale. He grabbed the baron by the shoulders.

“Unhand me.” The baron croaked.

“A brother and a sister?” Johnny howled.

“Not at once,” The baron struggled.

“You come with me now.” Johnny spat, digging his thumbs into the baron’s flesh.

“You’re hurting…” The baron moaned.


“What do you want with me?” Lensdown pleaded.

“I don’t.” Johnny snapped as he dragged the baron from his room. “My child does.”

“If Finlay wants me, then…”

“Not Finlay!” Johnny tightened his grip as the baron squealed. “Ellen!”

“Ellen?” The baron sputtered. “She’s dead.”

“Why do ya say that, lad?” Johnny smirked, taking delight in the sound of the baron’s heels dragging against the stone floor.

“I was in the passage when the Duke struck the fatal blow. I heard it all. I saw her dead. Just as I saw you do the same to the Duke’s man that you’re doing to me.”

“She wants ya.”

“How does a dead woman…” The baron again tried to struggle, but Johnny held fast.

“My girl wants ya to join her…”

“You’re mad!” The baron squawked, believing that Johnny was going to kill him.

“Yes.” Johnny laughed. “That I am.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-166? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 167 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Figure of the Day: Caritas, c. 1759

Germany, 1759
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Fürstenberg, Germany (presumably where the family of Diane is von), this figure group of hard-paste porcelain depicts a woman wearing a head-cloth and a flowered smock. Seated upon the sort of Rococo base one would expect from a German figure of the 1750s, the woman is nursing a child while other children are flitting about in various stages of dress. The group obviously is meant to represent Caritas (Charity). It’s the work of the Fürstenberg Porcelain Factory’s chief modeler Johann Christoph Rombrich and dates to about 1759. 

Object of the Day: Charity's Home

Click on image to see a picture with no relation whatsoever to the copy.

Well, I have no idea.

I decided that I would sit down and type the copy from the reverse of this page and see where it took me. After a lot of dialogue and a peculiar use of the affectionate term of “glow worm,” the copy finally told me that this was an ad for Met Life Insurance. It’s the twelfth of something. I’d guess that it’s twelfth chapter of an ongoing insurance-themed saga. It appears to be a page from a booklet since it just cuts off.

The obverse gives us a nice look at a little girl with a puppy. This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story of Israel and Charity and their shotgun house. Still, it’s a strangely compelling read.

Judge for yourself. I insist. I took the time to type it.




A FEW years ago, my wife said to me one morning:

“Israel, we must have a home of our own.”

Said I: “Charity, it’s just impossible; we hain’t the means.”

Said she: “Israel, we hain’t the means to pay the rent these people charge, that’s clear.”

She began washing up the breakfast things, and off I went to duty.

In the evening, Charity said to me, as we sat down to supper:

“Israel, I’ve bought a lot.”

I srpanf up from my chair and said: “You’ve bought what?”

“A lot.” Said she.

“A lot?” Said I.

“A lot.” Said she.

“Well!” said I and sat down again and went for the tea and biscuit. When I came to, I said to my wife: “Just explain yourself, Charity.”

“I’ve bought a lot,” said she. “Mr. Dodd says the fifty dollars down are satisfactory, and the rest may run at six per cent. Twenty feet front, one hundred feet deep—two thousand feet at twn cents a foot, two hundred dollars. Fifty paid, one hundred and fifty due.”

“But, Charity, how about a house?”

“All right, Israel. I’ve made a contract with Chipps & Cullings; house, shed and fence, fifteen hundred and fifty.”


“Israel, honey, don’t talk please. You men—“

“Charity, are you?”

“Deranged, eh? No, love, not a bit. One hundred dollars cash when possession is given--”

“But, Charity--”

“Stop a minute. You know, Israel, we can never get our large bureau, nor our large sofa, nor our high-post bedstead, nor our large dining table, nor our large wardrobe into this little four-room house. That’s clear, hain’t it?”


“Well, then, we’ll sell them all, and the proceeds will meet these two cash payments.”


“Exactly, with a little difference, may be. So, you see.”

“But, how can we do without those things?”

“As easy as you will do without cigars; as easy as you will be your own barber and boot-black; as easy as we’ll both take our breakfast without half-dollar butter; as easy as I’ll make all last winter’s clothes carry me through next winter; as easy as I’ll carry you through, nice and genteel, on the same principle; as easy as--”



“As easy as I’ll do without a “breakfaster” and a “nooner” and a “night-cap,” and my cigars, and an occasional theatre ticket, and--”

“Exactly, old glow-worm.”

“Well—well. Suppose we should do without these things, and I should be taken away before it is paid, where would our own—my Charity’s home—be then?”

“Oh, you can get your life insured in the METROPOLITAN, and make that all safe.”

“Darling, here’s with you!” I never saw debts squared off so soon. Two hundred and fifteen hundred make seventeen; and one hundred and fifty cash, paid off by proceeds of surplus furniture, leaves fifteen hundred and fifty. Fifty dollars a month pays this off in—no, not thirty-one months, because the interest and insurance payments put it off somewhat…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Cory Jade and Ruby Necklace, c. 1825

Click image for detail.

The Cory Jade Necklace
France, 1820-1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Gold filigree, cannetille and grainti decoration give this handsome necklace the unmistakable style of the late 1820s to early 1830s. While we don’t know the maker, it’s a safe assumption that it was made in France because of the fineness of the gold work. The necklace is set with jade, chrysoprases, and rubies. It is part of the collection of Lady Cory which now lives in the V&A. 

Figure of the Day: Beltrame and Columbine, 1740

Beltrame and Columbine
Meissen, c. 1740
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in 1740, this figure group was manufactured by the Meissen Porcelain Factory and was modeled by my favorite Meissen modeler, Johann Joachim Kändler (1706 -1775). The group of hard-paste porcelain depicts the “Spanish Lovers,” Beltrame and Columbine. Both are dressed in the theatrical style which was favored by modelers of the time. Rococo flowers adorn the base.

Painting of the Day: Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli, 1470-1480

Smeralda Bandinelli
Sandro Botticelli, 1470-1480
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Sandro Botticelli (1444/5-1510), a student of Fra Filippo Lippi, worked in Florence under the patronage of the Medici, and later in Rome for Pope Sixtus IV. There, he joined Ghirlandaio and Rosselli in adorning the walls of the Sistine Chapel around 1481.

By 1490, Botticelli had worn himself out. His style had changed as he had undergone a series of personal crises. His work became unpopular and, by 1510, he was in poor health, dying in poverty—a sad end for one of the period’s most celebrated painters. His early portrait work is particularly notable.

Take this portrait, for example. The sitter was Smeralda Bandinelli, the wife of Viviano Bandinelli and the grandmother of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. For all of its implied formality, this is actually a rather casual portrait. Smeralda is depicted in a light summer costume—the sort she’d have worn around the house. Draped and red and white silk, she looks cool and comfortable against a homey backdrop. Painted in Florence, the portrait of tempera on panel dates between 1470 and 1480. Smeralda, by the way, is thought by some to be the face of Botticelli’s famous “Primavera.”

Print of the Day: Loose Talk Can Cost Lives, 1942

Falter, 1942
The Victoria & Albert Museum

American and British servicemen faced a common problem during the Second World War—“good time girls.” These vixens in their seductive sweaters with their flowing hair, red fingernails, painted lips and flashy baubles were thought to be on the prowl to snare innocent men and shake them down for military secrets.

To be sure, there were a variety of female spies who did, in fact, seduce servicemen into sharing confidential information. However, most of these girls were more interested in making some money than they were in selling intelligence to the Nazis. Nevertheless, men were warned to keep their mouths closed and not get trapped by these “good time girls.” Many a propaganda poster warned against them. Here’s one.

This one was printed in America and depicts such a temptress. She’s the picture of seduction, in fact. She’s even taller and stronger than the soldier who has fallen into her embrace. She’s got him and she aims to corrupt him, and, then go straight to Hitler with whom she’ll laugh while tossing her blonde curls over her broad shoulders.

The poster warns is “Sailor beware.” Still, we can’t be quite sure if he’s pushing her away or returning her so-called “affection.”

The point was…this could be you. Well, not me. But, maybe one of the rest of you. An inscription in black on pale blue at the bottom states: “Loose Talk Can Cost Lives.” Well, we can’t argue that. 

The poster was designed in 1942 by John Falter (1910-1982) for the British and American Ambulance Corps.