Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Sparkle: The New York Flower Basket Brooch, 1930

Cartier, New York
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By 1930, traditional themes in art had become stylized into geometric patterns of cool-tones and shine. The floral jewels of the Nineteenth Century gave way to icy sprays and baskets of diamonds, rock crystal and platinum. 

Take, for example, this floral basket brooch made by Cartier New York in 1930. With its Eastern and geometric influence, the blooms are stylized, and the base of the basket is emphasized by baguette-cut diamonds. Cartier has combined rock crystal with diamonds and platinum to create a study in shades of white which is brought to life from icy splendor by brilliant-cut diamonds.

Painting of the Day: The Bhotiya Villager, 1866

R. Clint, 1866
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s a bit of museum weirdness. Not only does the V&A have no information (none whatsoever) about the artist, R. Clint, who painted this piece, they actually cataloged it for many, many decades as an Indian painting.

The piece was acquired by the V&A in the late Nineteenth Century. At that time, its wooden mount was given an incorrect accession number, and the painting was included with a collection of art from India. The mistake wasn’t discovered until 2004.

The painting depicts a Bhotiya villager from Spituk in Ladakh. He’s carrying a basket containing wood. It seems it was painted in Simla (Punjab State) in March of 1866. It’s one of a set of three similar watercolors by this mysterious R. Clint. The other two are in the British Library.

Saturday Silliness: Cookin' with Gags, 1954

Why Popeye continues to court Olive Oyl is beyond me.  What's her appeal?  It's like Hazel.  All the men wanted Hazel.  Why?  Shirley Booth must have driven the boys wild with desire.  Just like Olive Oyl.  I'll bet Bluto would have liked Hazel.  Pity they never met.

Some things are just lost on me, I guess.  But, it's Saturday, so here's a cartoon.

At the Music Hall: A Tisket A Tasket, 1938

“A Tisket A Tasket” originated as a nursery rhyme, first recorded in the U.S. in 1879. The popular poem was translated to song in 1938, debuting in a celebrated recording by Ella Fitzgerald.

The Nineteenth Century verse was sung as a chant or a rhyming game during which children would form a circle and dance about. One child would run around the outside of the circle and drop a handkerchief. The child closest to the dropped linen would pick it up and chase the dropper who, when caught, was punished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, being kissed, or revealing the name of their love. The version of the rhyme used at the time went thusly:

A-tisket a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it,
I dropped it,
I dropped it,
And on the way I dropped it.
A little boy he picked it up and put it in his pocket

The 1938 version performed by Ella Fitzgerald was arranged by Al Feldman with jazz instrumentals by the Chick Webb Orchestra. Fitzgerald’s version, with the lyrics altered fom the original to be jazzier, was a instant hit. She performed the song in the Abbott and Costello film, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.” 

In fact, here it is.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 175

Chapter 175
Your Name is On Their Nails 

What are you gonna do to me?” Finlay asked with more than a hint of legitimate fear creaking in his voice.

“Well,” Gamilla shrugged, sitting down on the cold, stone floor next to Finlay. “That done falls upon you to decide, Finlay Donnan.”

“How?” Finlay asked.

“See…” Gamilla set the small earthenware vessel and leather pouch on the floor just in Finlay’s sight. “It depends on a good many things.”

“Such as?”

“These things here,” Gamilla pointed to the items on the floor in front of her. “They got questions in ‘em.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“Cuz you ain’t lettin’ me talk, Finlay. You’ll have a chance to say all ya want, but right now, I’m talkin’. And, you—you’re listenin’.” Gamilla frowned.

Finlay nodded.

“This little bottle here…” Gamilla continued. “What do you think it is?”

Finlay sniffed.

“Now’s one o’ the times you can talk.” Gamilla narrowed her eyes.

“I don’t know.”

“Didn’t think ya would.” Gamilla shook her head. “Now, turn your head to the side.”


“Do it.” Gamilla said in a deep voice.

“If I don’t?”

“It’ll be worse.” Gamilla replied.

“First tell me what’s in there.”

“You ain’t in a position to command me, Finlay Donnan.” Gamilla snapped. “But, since I’m a gentle woman, I’ll tell ya anyway. It’s a mixture my mama done taught me to make. It’s somethin’ her mama made, and her mama before her, and so on. See, Finlay, it knows what’s in your heart. Any man or woman who takes this mixture will have all that’s in his heart revealed.”

Finlay’s lip began to quiver. “Is it poison?”

“What do you think?” Gamilla asked. “You’re the one who knows all ‘bout poisons. Right? That’s what Mr. Speaight done tol’ me.”

“You said you wouldn’t kill me.”

“I ain’t gonna.” Gamilla shook her head. “Not exactly. I just want to know what’s in your heart, Finlay Donnan. Can ya tell me what’s in your heart?”


“Is that so?” Gamilla nodded. “I thought it’d be hate. But, hate and fear are bosom friends, I reckon. So, you got fear inside ya, Finlay? What’s a big, smart man like you afraid of?”

“Same things any man who’s different fears.”

“Any man who’s different?” Gamilla raised her eyebrows. “What ‘bout the Duke? He’s different. Are them things you fear the same as those he does?”

“Probably.” Finlay whimpered. “Only he didn’t have a pa what beat ‘im.”

“No. He didn’t. But, he had a mama who done beat him—not just with hands. And, he had a nanny who done terrible things to ‘im. Don’t know all what, but, I know some of ‘em. Many folk have done awful things to the Duke. Even you. Do you think he’s afraid?”


“He don’t seem afraid.”

“Why is he the way he is, then? Why does he think he’s Punchinello?”

“Well, that’s cuz the Duke found a way to face his fears. A way that didn’t make other people die, and feel pain, and feel their own fear.”

“Fine, he’s a better man than I.” Finlay retorted. “It’s easy to be better when you got piles of gold in your coffers and you got the Queen wrapped ‘round your finger.”

“That ain’t why he’s a better man than you.” Gamilla chuckled. “What else is in your heart, Finlay.”

“That’s all.”

“Fear—that’s all that’s inside you?”


“We’ll see about that.” Gamilla nodded. “Tilt your head to the side.”

“Which side?”

“Face away from me.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“I already told ya. I’m gonna let these things ask their questions.”

“How?” Finlay whimpered.

“You’ll see.” Gamilla said firmly. “Move you head to the side.”


“It’ll only be worse if you don’t.”

Finlay did as instructed.

“This may feel cold in your ear.” Gamilla said softly.

Finlay flinched.

“Don’t move. We don’t want to spill it.”

Finlay began to shiver.

“Now, I ain’t done nothin’ yet.” Gamilla sighed. “What you shakin’ for?”

“Are you gonna pour that into my ear?”

“It’s the only way. Since you can’t reveal all that’s in your heart, I gotta let the mixture ask its questions.”

“I’ll tell you.” Finlay shouted, his head darting up. “I’ll tell you! Please. Please don’t put that in my ear.”

“What are you gonna tell me, Finlay Donnan?”

“What’s in my heart.”

“That’s just the first part of it, Finlay.” Gamilla said, tapping the leather pouch with her index finger.

“I’ll do whatever you want.”

“We’ll see if you will.” Gamilla nodded.

“I will. I swear it!”

“If you don’t, into your ear this goes.”

“What about that?” He gestured to the pouch with his chin. “Where does that go?”

“Where do ya think?”

“My eyes?”

“Might be.” Gamilla nodded. “Depends on what’s in your heart.”

“Please, Gamilla.” Finlay pleaded.

“You’d best start talkin’, then.” Gamilla grinned. “I can hear the questions in these vessels scratchin’ to get out. Just scratchin’. Your name is on their nails.”

“I’ll tell you anything you want to know. I’ll do anything you ask.” Finlay began to sob.

“I knew you would.” Gamilla smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-174? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 176 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

The Home Beautiful: The de Lamerie Silver Basket, 1731-1732

Silver Basket
Paul de Laremie, c. 1731
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This silver basket was inherited by the great grandson of Sir Robert Walpole—the first prime minister of Great Britain. Sir Robert had a great appreciation for silver and was one of the earliest patrons of the Huguenot silver smith Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751), the maker of this piece.

The Huguenots (French Protestants) had no choice but to leave France after Catholic King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This edict had allowed a degree of religious tolerance in France, but after it was revoked, non-Catholics were in a sticky situation.

Many of the Huguenots, like de Lamerie, were skilled craftsmen. A large portion of them settled in London where they found a ready market eager to snatch up their wares—mostly luxury items, silver, furniture, jewelry, watches and such. These items also had the appeal of a distinctly French style.

A silver, two-handled oval basket, it sits on a rim foot of pieced ornament. The sides are pierced and chased in a simulation of woven basketwork. The basket’s handles are fashioned as twined rope-work. A coat of arms is engraved on the interior. De Laremie made this basket between 1731 and 1732.

It’s now part of the Gilbert Collection at the V&A.

Object of the Day: Glenwood Stoves Card

Click on the image to feed the plants.

This young lady seems to be feeding breadcrumbs to the reeds. Perhaps there’s something out of sight that she’s feeding—like a duck or a hybrid corn monster. Thankfully for her, the pond at which she stands appears to be lined with concrete. Otherwise, she’s standing so close that she’s bound to topple in an spoil the hat she’s made out of those little ruffled pants one puts on the ends of lamb chop bones (not the puppet, she has no bones). She holds a red and yellow basket which presumably contains her supply of nourishing breadcrumbs.

Now, I ask you—is feeding a plant breadcrumbs encouraging cannibalism? Wheat and all that.

So, what’s this trade card advertising? Hats? Baskets? Crumbs? Reeds? Concrete Pond Edging?



To be fair, I don’t think that this card was designed to sell stoves. It’s a stock card over which “Glenwood Stoves” has been printed. Still, one must wonder why this card was selected.

“Say, Virgil,” says the manager of Glenwood Stoves to Virgil. “We ought to have some of those nice cards printed. You know—the ones the ladies keep in albums.”

“Sure,” Virgil replies.

“Maybe we can get a nice pretty picture on it. Maybe a stove or a lady bakin’, or a nice chicken supper with those fine, little potatoes and….”

“Nope.” Virgil shakes his head.

“Well, then, what would you suggest?”

Virgil thinks for a moment. “Girl.”

“Say, Virgil, that’s a capital idea. The cards with pretty girls on ‘em go really fast. Maybe one of those French girls in a pretty dress?”

“Nope.” Virgil replies. “A little girl.”

“I like those cards with children on ‘em. All cute and rosy cheeked, free of scrofula. Maybe she’s playing with her dolls. Or having a pretend tea?”

“Nope.” Virgil scowls. “She’ll be feeding reeds from a basket of scraps.”


“That’s what it’ll be, Clem.”


“No arguments.”

“But, it’s my name on the card. C.W. Philbrick.”

“Clem, you don’t know a thing about anything. You call the place “Glenwood Stoves,’ but that’s not even what you sell. You sell Elmwood Stoves. You listen to me, and it’ll be a peach.” Virgil sighs.

“You don’t even work here, Virgil.”

“Nonetheless, it’s the girl feeding the reeds or nothing.”

“It’s nothing, then.”

“I’ll abandon your sister, Clem. So help me God…”

And, that’s how it went. So, let’s look at the back.

It says:



Sold by 

C.W. Philbrick 

North Hampton, N.H.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mastery of Design: Cameo portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII)

Cameo Portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales
Henrik Wigstrom, 1911
Commissioned by King George V for Queen Mary
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made by Fabergé workmaster Henrik Emanuel Wigström (1862-1923), this cameo dates to 1911—the year of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. Carved into smoky quartz and set into a gold frame mounted with rose-cut diamonds, this cameo depicts Edward, Prince of Wales who would later be briefly known as King Edward VII (prior to the whole Abdication Kerfuffle), and then, as the Duke of Windsor.

The cameo was commissioned by King George V who gave the portrait to Queen Mary for her birthday, May 26, 1912. The piece was to commemorate the investiture of Prince Edward as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on July 13, 1911 (it was also his sixteenth birthday). King George V asked that his eldest son be depicted wearing the mantle that he donned for his investiture. 

The Royal Collection

We have some nifty things at our online store. For example, we’ve got designs which commemorate another event in the life of the Duke of Windsor…his controversial abdicat

Friday Fun: Punch and the Devil

Punch Professor Lachlan Haig performed this exciting Punch and Judy Show in 2006 with puppets designed and made by Australia’s Professor Whatsit (aka Chris van der Craats) who also shot the video. 

Enjoy Punch’s ongoing battle with the Devil.

Drawing of the Day: The Stout Man, c. 1700

A Stout Man Watching a Puppet Show or "The Stout Man"
Antonio Maria Zanetti
Venice, c. 1700
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

There are three men named Antonio Maria Zanetti associated with the Royal Collection: the elder, the younger, and then, just plain Antonio Maria Zanetti. The “just plain” Antonio was a collector of engraved gemstones, artist and critic from Venice with social ties to the Fourth Duke of Marlborough. Zanetti the younger was a well-known artist in his own right, and Zanetti the elder was known for his clever art criticism and charming drawings. 

This quick sketch is by Zanetti the Elder (1679-1767). The pen and ink drawing dates to about 1700 and depicts “A Stout Man” watching A Pulcinella show.

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...

     If old stories say true,
     I could once talk like you;
But for fear of becoming a slave,
     I was instantly mute,
     And grew cunning to boot,
Determined my freedom to save.

     Now the fop and the fool,
     And the rude boy at school,
All endeavour to practise my art,
     But their efforts are vain;
     They pretenders remain,
And must--till the world they depart.

      To observe how I grin,
     With my snub nose, lips, and chin,
Would the laughter excite of a lord;
     And for mimicry too,
     I my betters outdo,
And more innocent pleasure afford.

And, the answer is...


We're closing up a little early today.  We have a correct answer from regular commenter Sam P.  Good job, Sam!   And, thanks to our merry, little gang of weirdos for all of your answers.  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 174

Chapter 174
The Last Thing 

Finlay looked up hopefully as Gamilla entered the silver vault.

“Come to free me, then?” He asked.

Gamilla shook her head.

“You can at least get me somethin’ to keep me warm. This floor is cold.”

Again, Gamilla shook her head.

“Loosen these ropes, then.”

“Why’d I want to do that?”

“Have a heart, lass.” Finlay grumbled. “You know what it’s like to be bound, I’d wager.”

“I do.”

“Well, then.”

“No.” Gamilla snapped.

“I read ‘bout how your kind are always shoutin’ for freedom. Come on, then, you gotta understand.”

“Freedom is for the just.” Gamilla replied.

“I got deceived, too.” Finlay whined. “I’d no idea that Ellen wasn’t who she said she was.”

“Don’t change the fact that you done horrible things, Finlay Donnan. Don’t matter who you done ‘em for, you still done ‘em.”

“And you’re free of sin?” Finlay barked.

“I ain’t.” Gamilla responded.

“So who are you to judge me?”

“I’m one of the folk you done wronged.” Gamilla answered dryly.

“What did ya come in for, then?” Finlay snarled. “You come to taunt me like your friends did? You gonna tell me how you’re gonna make me into stew and how you’re gonna cut me up?”

“No.” Gamilla answered.

“Well, what, then?”

“I come to give ya your due.”

Finlay’s eyes widened. “What do ya mean?”

“I mean that you’re a bad man, Finlay Donnan.”

Finlay grunted.

“We got a way of dealin’ with bad men where I come from.”

“Where do ya come from, lass?” Finlay smirked. “Somewhere where the sun baked ya? You oughta be grateful you got proper clothes and food to eat ‘stead of rompin’ ‘bout in your all together, chewin’ on toads like a savage.”

“I am grateful for what I got.” Gamilla said. “Now. But, gettin’ here wasn’t such a fine time. You oughta be grateful, too, Finlay. You live in a castle and wear a nice suit of clothes. You got food to eat and people to talk to ya. But, that wasn’t enough. Was it? You wanted what the Duke has. Thing is, Finlay, the things that he most values ain’t things you’ll ever have.”

“Oh, I see. Love and family and all that rubbish. I can do without a screamin’ babe to keep me up nights. I’d sooner die.”

“And you will.” Gamilla nodded, walking forward so that she was standing over the man.

“So, that’s it?” Finlay growled. “You come to kill me?”

“No.” Gamilla smiled. “I come to see to it that you stay alive for a long, long time.” From the pocket of her apron, Gamilla withdrew a small earthenware vessel and a leather pouch.

“What’s all that?”

“You’ll see.” Gamilla sighed. “In fact, might be the last thing you ever see.”

Did you miss chapters 1-173? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 175.

Painting of the Day: A Town Fair with a Puppet Show, 1803

Click on image to go to the fair.

"A Town Fair with a Puppet Show"
Jan Anthonie Langendijk, 1803
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This lively and colorful painting is the work of Jan Anthonie Langendijk (1780-1818). The canvas is dated 1803. The artist shows us a busy city scene. People are milling about, some are seated a café or pub. But, on the right, we see a crowd watching an elaborate puppet show performed by five actors on an elevated platform.

Several examples of Langendijk’s work are part of the Royal Collection. The majority of them appear to present military scenes—a subject frequently depicted by the Dutch artist. He did, however, finish several city scenes such as this one and also was known for his romantic genre paintings.

Object of the Day: Mr. Punch's Alphabet and the Ehrich Brothers

Click image to see Punch's beautiful nose.

It’s Friday! And, as always, Friday is Mr. Punch day here at Stalking the Belle Époque. If not Mr. Punch, then, certainly some of his puppet kin and their appearances in art history.

Today’s “Object of the Day,” is another trade card from my collection. This one is new to me—a gift from my parents. Obviously, you can see why I love it. Commissioned by the Ehrich Bro’s Department Store of New York, the card dates to before 1889 and was a “holiday” advert. Our Mr. Punch takes center stage with his beautiful nose, Punchinello belly and humpy back. He’s dressed in the style of the Piccini Punch known to us through the drawings of George Cruikshank. This Punchinello means business. No slapstick for him. He’s got a sword. But, he looks pleasant and he’s being very patient as this queerly corseted lass tries to teach him the alphabet. Of course, it’s upside down. Oh, for fun. I guess her corset is too tight. She’s got quite a bit of rouge on, too. Or, maybe it’s the corset again.

Above her, we see that the kind people at Ehrich’s want us to be able to find them at “Eight” Avenue and 24th Street.

Now, you may sometimes wonder how I go about dating these items which aren’t specifically inscribed with a date. I say this one dates to before 1889 because my research shows that prior to 1889, Ehrich Bro’s was located at Eighth Avenue and 24th. They’d built a lovely, large emporium there—one of the first. They anticipated great business. However, they did not anticipate that two blocks to the east, on Sixth Avenue, a new shopping plaza dubbed “The Ladies’ Mile” would soon be developed. This, of course, hurt their business considerably. But from 1857 to 1889, they stuck it out. In 1889, they gave up and moved to this building… 

…on Sixth and 22nd. So, since this card lists the Eighth Avenue address, it must be from before 1889.

There you go.

Let’s look at the reverse.
Eighth Ave. and 24th St. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture, Caption Contest: Two and a Half Berties

Let’s have a Bertie Dog caption contest. What would Bertie be saying at this moment? Answers in the comments section, please.

Image: Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) with Prince Alfred, 1849, Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73), Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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

Mastery of Design: The Plaid Brooch, 1848

The Plaid Brooch
Commissioned by Prince Albert
Scotland, 1848
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A work of cairngorm (a form of quartz native to Scotland), gold, enamel, seed pearls and garnets, this handsome brooch is called “The Plaid Brooch.” It dates to about 1848 and was commissioned by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. The Prince Consort presented the brooch to his Royal wife in November 21, 1848. The cairngorm had been collected by Prince Albert himself while on a walk with the Queen at Lochnagar, the highest mountain near Balmoral, in September 1848.

The brooch was intended to record their bravery in attempting to climb the mountain, even in the most inclement weather and fog. Furthermore, it was meant as a gift to the Queen from Prince Albert to celebrate the birthday of Princess Victoria.

The Home Beautiful: "A Catte," by Mary, Queen of Scots c. 1569

A Catte
Mary Queen of Scots
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This embroidered canvas panel, dating to about 1569, was made by Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) who was known as a skilled needleworker.

Mary has pictured a ginger cat with a mouse—set against a checkered floor. Her cipher is prominent. This piece, like much of the Queen’s needlework, was created between 1569 and 1584, during the period when Mary had fled from Scotland and was held captive in England by the Earl of Shrewsbury. Together with Shrewsbury’s wife, Mary Queen of Scots embroidered many such canvas panels which had been drawn out for her in black silk by an embroideress.

Mary based the figure of the cat on an image from a woodcut in” Icones Animalium” by Conrad Gesner--an illustrated tome of natural history which was published in Zurich in 1555. Some suggest that she picked the theme of “A Catte” to indicate that she saw herself as the mouse and Queen Elizabeth as her captor.

Painting of the Day: Queen Victoria at Osborne, 1867

Queen Victoria at Osborne
Sir Edwin Landseer, 1867
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Victoria’s “Go-to” painter for many reasons was Sir Edwin Landseer (1803-1873). Her Majesty admired Landseer’s work for its monumentality and sense of historical accuracy as well as his sensitive and accurate depictions of children and animals. After the 1861 pre-mature death of Prince Albert, Victoria commissioned Landseer to create a pair of paintings which she called “Sunshine and Shadow.” She wrote in her journal that she was “seized with a great wish” to see illustrated the contrast between those dear, joyful times which she had shared with Prince Albert on the Highlands at Balmoral and at their vacation home, Osborne House, and the overwhelming grief she felt since the Prince Consort’s death.

Her Majesty asked, for the “Shadow” portion of the pair that she be painted, “as I am now, sad & lonely, seated on my pony, led by Brown, with a representation of Osborne.”

And, that’s just what Landseer did.

Here, we see the Queen in the mourning attire she donned for the remainder of her life. Landseer pictures Her Majesty seated upon Flora, the royal pony. Flora is being led by John Brown. Behind them, we can see the grand terraces of Osborne, the clock stopped at 3 p.m. Her Majesty reads a letter while, on the ground, her gloves and other letters have been cast aside. As I’ve mentioned before, imagery of cast-off gloves often symbolized a woman alone.

Landseer has also carefully painted two of the Queen’s dogs, a Border Collie (most likely the one called Sharp) and a Skye Terrier whom we know as “Prince.” Princesses Louise and Helena are seen in the background.

That Victoria asked for Brown to be included in the painting speaks of her affection for the servant who had originally been a ghillie (an outdoor servant) at Balmoral. Upon the passing of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria and Brown enjoyed a close friendship. John Brown was deeply protective of the Queen, and she was fiercely loyal to him despite the opposition of her advisors and family, especially the future King Edward VII.

The Queen’s grief was compounded when Brown died in 1883. She wrote:

Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant…Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart…the most remarkable of men.

Landseer painted the portrait based on many live sittings as well as a variety of photographs of the Queen on horseback, the dogs, and the princesses. He began the work on “Shadow” in 1865—creating sketches, but didn’t begin actual painting until 1867. Landseer claimed to have been unsettled by the fog and suggested that his failing eyesight had delayed him. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1867, at the end of the year. He wrote, upon the opening of the exhibit:

If there is any merit in my treatment of the composition it is in the truthful and unaffected representation of Her Majesty’s unceasing grief – The story should be told by the Picture.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 173

Chapter 173
With Each Step 

Gamilla knew that Gerard would be asleep for many more hours. The elixir which Dr. Halifax had given him not only took away the man’s suffering, but gave him the gift of a cleansing sleep. At first, Gamilla had worried about the medicine—given Gerard’s predilection for spirits and tonics which could alter his senses. However, having been present when the man’s wound was sutured, she knew the extent of the pain he must have been suffering and hoped that Gerard would not become dependent on the potion.

Actually, she knew that he wouldn’t. Gamilla vowed that he’d have no reason to desire an altered perception of life—never again. She loved him. She’d loved him since the day he first came into the kitchen at the borrowed house in New Orleans where the Duke and Dr. Halifax had stayed while in America. She loved him that very minute she saw his eyes and his scruffy face. No, she hadn’t shown it. He hadn’t deserved it then. He’d been gruff and brash and fresh. Still, even then, she knew it was all an act—some pantomime he’d devised to protect himself. All of that bravado had faded when the man began to feel accepted, to feel he’d had a home and friends and people upon whom he could rely. Even with his occasional slips with drink or medicine, he was still a fine man—a loyal man. Dr. Halifax couldn’t ask, Gamilla reasoned, for a better valet and she knew that the Duke adored the fellow he called his “beardy chum.”

So, with Gerard asleep and healing, and with Mrs. Pepper watching over young Master Colin, Gamilla made many decisions.

The first conclusion that she drew was that she’d give herself to Gerard as his wife, if he’d take her. She wasn’t sure of the laws in Britain. In America, a marriage between a colored woman and a white man would have been prohibited. But, she didn’t care about the law. Even if Queen Victoria herself came to Belgrave Square and forbade their marriage, Gamilla wouldn’t care. If she couldn’t be his wife in the eyes of the law, she’d be his wife in all other aspects. After all, the Duke and the doctor had a kind of marriage. Didn’t they? The law wouldn’t accept their union, but it didn’t stop them from living their lives together—from protecting and loving one another, from being a family. Gamilla reasoned she and Gerard could do the same. She knew she’d have the masters’ blessing.

She’d almost lost Gerard twice now. The first time when he’d been badly beaten in New Orleans. She feared for his survival then. But, this time was much worse. Much worse. Gamilla realized that there was no point in hiding her feelings. What could be wrong with love? She didn’t care to live in fear any longer.

The next conclusion that came to Gamilla was that she must rid the household of those who sought to harm the masters and her friends. They’d all suffered too much already. When she traveled, again, across the ocean to come to England, she’d gone knowing that Dr. Halifax and the Duke of Fallbridge/Mr. Punch had returned to their homeland to start a calm and happy life together. Gamilla hated that their happiness had been compromised, if not postponed. Furthermore, each person on the staff had been tormented in some way. She, Charles and Gerard—as the closest to the masters—had gotten the worst of it. Not counting, of course, Mrs. North who had given her life to protect the Duke. Mr. Speaight had been poisoned. Ethel, Jenny and Georgie had been attacked. Mrs. Pepper witnessed her own son with his life at risk. Even sweet and moody Violet had had her beautiful hair cut from her head like brush in a field. They’d all been tortured and deceived.

And, Gamilla would stand for it no more.

Ethel, Jenny, Mrs. Pepper and Georgie had argued with her when she announced that she was leaving the Duke’s chamber. Even little Dog Toby barked his opposition.

“Wait for His Grace and Dr. Halifax to come back, Love.” Mrs. Pepper had begged. “Don’t go out there on your own.”

Still, Gamilla knew that she must. Even with Finlay locked in the cellar—the very cellar where he and “Ellen” had left Mrs. North’s cold, dead body—Gamilla feared him. She knew he was dangerous wherever he was.

Perhaps the Duke hadn’t been able to take the man’s life, but Gamilla knew that she could. Not in the same way, of course. No, she’d do it in a way that was far worse—far more crippling. She’d take his life while making him live—useless, impotent, sad and weak.

Gamilla was glad, actually, that the Duke hadn’t killed Ellen and Finlay. She was relieved that such a sin would not fall upon the hands of such a fine, loving man as the Duke. He’d not have his place in heaven compromised. Gamilla knew she had already lost her spot. She had nothing to lose.

Carefully taking the extra key to the silver vault in the cellar from Mrs. North’s desk in the Housekeeper’s panty, Gamilla slowly walked toward the low, worn stone steps to the cellar.

Her smile broadened with each step.

Did you miss Chapters 1-172 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 174.

Unusual Artifacts: Queen Victoria's Fabergé Notebook, 1897

Notebook by Viktor Aarne
Presented to Queen Victoria
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
This and all related images
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I’ve a special spot in my heart for the work of Fabergé’s Victor Aarne. Johann Victor (Viktor) Aarne was one of Fabergé’s most prolific workmasters and was a favorite of Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. His work is typified by the beautiful guilloché enamel, often in candy colors, chasing and ingenious mounting of gemstones.

This notebook was created by Aarne around 1895-1896. We can see his masterful guilloché enamel over silver gilt. It’s set with moonstones.

The piece was purchased by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna in December 1896. The duo presented the treasure to Queen Victoria on Christmas of that year. So thrilled with the gift was Queen Victoria that she set the notebook aside so that she could use it to record her thoughts and memories during her Diamond Jubilee Celebration of 1897. The notebook is filled with her notations from the various Jubilee events, including detailed guest lists. Her Majesty asked each notable guest to sign a page in the book, in essence, turning it into one of the most important autograph books in the world—filled with the signatures of Europe’s Crowned Heads.

Also noted in the book is a record of a visit that the Tsar and Tsarina made to Balmoral during the Diamond Jubilee. 

She wrote: 

It seems quite like a dream having dear Alicky & Nicky here. Alix showed me her beautiful jewels, of which she has quantities, all her own private property.

The Royal Collection

The Royal Collection

The Royal Collection

Object of the Day: Grind Your Coffee

Click on the image to love a lassie, a bonnie hee-land lassie.

Well, what have we here? This nifty little trade card with its wordy backside dates to 1889 and was made exclusively for Arbuckle Brothers of New York City—hawkers of coffee which appears to be coated in eggs and sugar.

The obverse depicts various scenes of Scotland, including a Scottish, Lassie, High Street, a Highlander and Edinburgh Castle. Published by Joseph Knapp of New York, it’s a great example of the high quality of their printing.

It would appear that this was the tenth installment in a series of cards promoting Ariosa Coffee which took buyers on a nice, flat trip around the world. Each card included drawings of native people and places and a brief description of each location (printed in teeeeeeny, tiny type).

I’ve spared your eyes by typing out the copy. Meanwhile, I’m now cross-eyed.

Let’s look, shall we?

One of 50 views from a trip around the world.



     It will pay you well to keep a
small coffee-mill in your kitchen
and grind your coffee just as
you use it, one mess at a time.
Coffee should not be ground
until the coffee-pot is ready to
receive it. Coffee will lose more
of its strength and aroma in one
hour after being ground than
in six months before being
ground. So long as


remains in the whole berry, our
glazing, composed of choice
eggs and pure confectioners’ A
sugar, closes the pores of the
coffee, and thereby are retained
all the original strength and

has during 25 years set the
standard for all other roasted
coffees. So true is this that
other manufacturers, in recom-
mending their goods, have
known no higher praise than
to say, “It’s just as good as

And, then, on the next column, we get the tenth installment of our sugar-coated, coffee-based trip around the world. Let’s put on our kilts and go to…


     The point commanding at a
glance the view of all the most
noted features within and around
Edinburgh, is Calton Hill, at the
summit of which is Nelson’s Monu-
ment, its top 350 feet above the sea,
and where, every day at one o’clock
an electric time signal indicates the


     Edinburgh Castle is on a rock
which was the site of a stronghold
before the earliest dates of Scottish
history, and is connected with many
of the stirring scenes recorded in
the annals of this interesting
country. The entrance to the Cas-
tle is by an esplanade on the east.
This is the only entrance. On leav-
ing the confines, a continuous route
leads through the time honored
chain of streets, the Lawn Market,
High Street, with its narrower por-
tion called Nether Bow, and Can-
nongate, to Holyrood Palace.

     The Scott Monument is an ele-
gant structure in the form of an
open crucial Gothic spire, supported
on four early English arches which
serve as a canopy for the statue. It
is about 200 feet high. Under the
central basement arch is a marble
statue of Sir Walter Scott with a
figure of his favorite dog at his

     St. Giles’ Church is a Gothic edi-
fice with massive square tower ter-
minating in open stone work in the
form of a crown, and is noted
as the scene of many remarkable
events. Behind the church is Par-
liament Square. This occupies the
site of an ancient cemetery where
the reformer, John Knox, was
buried. The Hall of Parliament
House is very beautiful with its
stained glass windows, pictures and

     Holyrood Palace is renowned for
legendary romance as to its origin
and for the actual tragic incidents
of royalty within its walls. On the
way to the Queen’s Drive, Craig-
miliar Castle is seen in the distance,
where Mary Queen of Scots often

     Population 1889 (est.) 271,135

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mastery of Design: Ring with a Cameo of Demeter, 1799

Cameo Ring
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the fashion for cameos prompted jewelers to take ancient carvings and set them in new gold mounts and bezels. This ring from the Royal Collection is a nifty example of that trend.

The cameo of white and brown striated sardonyx is an ancient Roman piece from the First Century B.C. It was mounted in this gold ring with an open bezel in 1799 and first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1872, likely a gift to Queen Victoria. The cameo depicts a half-figure of a woman in left profile. She’s holding two stalks of corn and almost certainly represents Demeter.