Saturday, November 24, 2012

Coming to Stalking the Belle Époque Next Week

Bertie, Punch and I hope that all of our American friends have enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. While most of the rest of the country is climbing over itself to purchase blankets with sleeves and pillows that light up, the three of us are planning next week's posts and pretending it's 1880--only with WiFi.

There's quite a lot of nifty stuff on the docket. We've also got some fun videos and Mr. Punch's account of his second Thanksgiving. Of course, "Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square" will continue on Monday when we've finished our wee hibernation.

Slugs and hisses...

Your STBÉ Chums

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from Springfield...

No, not the home of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie et al.  But, the home of Jim, Margaret, Bud, Betty and Kathy Anderson.  You may notice that at this point, all but "Father" will sound different.  Father knew best on radio before he came to TV.  Enjoy this "Father Knows Best" radio special, just for Thanksgiving.  

Of course, this was before he ditched the Andersons, changed his name, moved into Beaver's house and called himself "Marcus Welby."

Something for Which We Can All be Thankful

Regular readers will understand.

Hazel + Girdle Shopping =  Happy Thanksgiving.

This was the only color episode from the show's black-and-white 1961 first season, meant to promote new color televisions.  Now, enjoy, "What'll We Watch Tonight?"

A Day of Thanksgiving

Oh, I'm going to bake a pumpkin pie, we'll have plenty to eat, but we're going to just have to get by without a turkey.

 --A sad, bland mother...come from beyond the grave to remind us that nothing really ever changes.

Dick and Tommy and Susie want you to have a thankful awkwardly-framed, grainy, poorly microphoned, thankful Thanksgiving full of thanks.  

But, seriously, even when things are at their bleakest, we all have something good for which to be grateful.  I know I do.

And, that includes all of you who come here each day.  So, thank you for your continued readership, your great comments and all the fun.


Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Thanksgiving Edition

"Guys, are Kathie Lee and Hoda on this morning?  No.  Fine, pass the dressing."

Image: The First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris, 1863-1930

Happy Thanks-a-ma-giving!

We'll be back with regular posts on Monday, November 26.  Here's wishing all of our friends in the U.S. a very happy Thanksgiving and, for all of our other's wishing you a happy November 22.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Posting Schedule:

Well, as I told you yesterday, Bertie is making me take a few days off. According to the itinerary that he has drafted, he and I will be eating turkeys (he has specifically stated multiple turkeys), squeaking toys, taking naps and sniffing under the front door. Mr. Punch, of course, has added his own ideas to the list. Apparently, I’m going to also engage in some manic slap-sticking and horseplay—likely with an actual horse. And, of course, there will be swazzling, squeaking and mad chirping. A look at Bertie’s calendar also shows he has a meeting scheduled with Mr. Stumpy Pants who, no doubt, will also have something to add to the agenda.

We may surprise you a bit over the weekend with a random post here or there—you never know. But, for the most part, we’ll be back with regular posts on Monday, November 26. Wish me well. I’m out numbered.

Expect some celebratory weirdness tomorrow...just because.

Mastery of Design: The Schlichtegroll Necklace, 1855

Necklace from a parure
Vienna, c. 1855
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Austrian jeweler Schlichtegroll showed an impressive parure at Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855. The suite was purchased by the V&A after the exhibition as an example of a handsome and important-looking parure which was made inexpensively. The set includes a bracelet, brooch and earrings which were inspired by Seventeenth Century jewels. Schlichtegroll specifically designed the suite to be massed produced cheaply from parts which were interchangeable and standardized. 

It does look quite expensive, doesn’t it? It’s not junk, after all. Take a look at the necklace. It’s made of silver gilt, painted in imitation of enamel. The piece is set with almandine garnets, emeralds and green pastes, pearls and imitation pearls. So, there are some real gems, and some fakes, not unlike some of the less expensive jewels available today. It was meant for the merchant class who wanted to give the impression of being more prosperous than they really were—not quite aristocrats and not laborers. I think it serves its purpose quite handsomely and elegantly. 

Figure of the Day: The Flower Girl, c. 1760

The Flower Girl
The Bow Porcelain Factory
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This figure from the Bow Porcelain Factory depicts a young woman with a basket of flowers. She symbolizes Springtime with her basket of flowers, her pink bodice and green corsage and diapered skirt of red, yellow and green. Blue circles and stars adorn her outfit and match her blue shoes—topped by pink rosettes.

She’s wholly Rococo on her circular base with applied leaves. This work of soft-paste porcelain painted with enamels and gilding followed the French fashion of porcelain figural groups designed for the dessert table. 

History's Runway: A Pair of Leather and Velvet Pattens, 1730-1740

Pair of pattens
c. 1720
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Pattens—overshoes of wood or iron—were cumbersome at best. Leather overshoes and clogs served as a more comfortable alternative, protecting the shoes without being dangerous. This pair from the early Eighteenth Century, for example is crafted of leather and partly covered in green velvet. It was made for a matching pair of brocaded, patterned silk shoes. The pattens were worn over the shoes, attached by latchet fastenings with ribbon ties. These overshoes were fitted to the arch of the shoes so that the foot would be supported, even with higher heeled shoes. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 196

Chapter 195
Forever Grateful

Good evening,” Robert smiled as he, Mr. Punch and Lennie descended the stairs into the servants’ hall. Punch carried Colin while Lennie was holding Dog Toby. Dr. Halifax held a sizeable package wrapped in gold paper and adorned with a brilliant silk ribbon of bright purple.

Led by Mr. Speaight who had made an appearance long enough to help Charles serve upstairs dinner, the staff rose from their places—except for Gerard who remained in the “nice” chair. They were quite surprised to see the masters and Miss Molliner appear in the servants’ hall.

“Did you require something, Dr. Halifax?” Speaight asked, his voice still weak. He looked over his shoulder and rasped, “Charles, did you forget to set out the cordial tray?”

“No, Sir.” Charles shook his head.

“We don’t need anything at all.” Mr. Punch interrupted. He spoke as Julian since Mr. Hutchinson was present. While the others were aware of his Punchinello tendencies, Hutchinson had never heard the Duke speak in his natural voice and Mr. Punch didn’t want to shock or confuse the man. “In fact, we’ve come to share something with all of you.”

Robert nodded, glancing down at the gift which he held.

“Shall I take that for you, Sir?” Charles asked.

“No, I think I’ve got it. Thank you Charles.” Robert replied. He walked forward and placed the box on the servants’ dining table.

“Please, everyone sit.” Mr. Punch smiled.

Charles hurried to the other side of the table and pulled out a chair for Miss Molliner who nodded her gratitude and sat with Dog Toby in her lap.

“May I take Master Colin, Your Grace?” Gamilla asked, stepping forward.

“For a moment,” Mr. Punch nodded. “Thank you.” He handed Colin to the woman. The baby gazed adoringly up at Gamilla.

“As you know,” Robert began. “His Grace and I were guests of Their Majesties this morning.”

“While we were speaking with the Queen,” Punch added, “Her Majesty presented us with this gift which she described as a token of her joy that we’d returned to London. Her Majesty stated that she hoped that it would bring much pleasure to our household.”

A low gasp rose in the hall as smiles appeared on the faces of the staff—even Mr. Hutchinson.

“So,” Punch continued, “since you are all valued members of the household, Dr. Halifax and I decided that we should open the box with all of you.”

“Imagine,” Mrs. Pepper cooed. “A present from the Queen ‘erself, sittin’ here on me own table.”

“That’s fine, Mrs. Pepper.” Mr. Speaight said softly.

“Well, it don’t happen every day, then, does it?” Mrs. Pepper smiled. “I think we all got a right to be…” She stumbled over her words.

“Mrs. Pepper,” Robert smiled. “I’m just as awed by this as anyone else. I agree with you wholeheartedly.”

“Ain’t that fine paper?” Ethel spoke up. She’d figured that since Mrs. Pepper had her say, there was no reason that she shouldn’t either—even if she was a scullery maid. “Your Grace, is it made of real gold?”

“I don’t think so, Ethel.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“I should like to have paper like that for me scrapbook. Wouldn’t it be that grand?” Ethel continued.

“I should say so.” Jenny nodded her agreement.

“Only gold you’re likely to get,” Georgie winked.

“You don’t know that, George Pepper.” Ethel smirked playfully.

“Indeed.” Mr. Speaight growled.

Ethel, Jenny and George fell silent.

Gerard couldn’t help but chuckle even if it did hurt him a little. Gamilla glanced at him affectionately over Colin’s fuzzy, auburn head.

“Ethel,” Mr. Punch began. “I shall see that I unwrap the package carefully so as not to tear the paper. If you’d like, we can leave the paper here so that you and Jenny and even Mrs. Pepper and Vi might share it.”

“Would you, Your Grace?” Ethel asked brightly.

“Of course.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“But, what if the doctor should want it for his-self?” Jenny whispered.

“I would much rather you have it.” Robert replied.

Jenny blushed.

“You and Jenny share it,” Mrs. Pepper nodded proudly. “That’s good girls.”

“Perhaps Violet would like to have the ribbon.” Mr. Punch suggested.

“Oh, I couldn’t.” Violet said shyly. “It’s too fine.”

“Well, since your name is Violet,” Punch grinned, “and the ribbon is violet, it should be yours.”

“I could put it on my Sunday hat.” Violet set, touching her cap lightly with her fingers, still self-conscious of her cropped locks. “There’s such a lot of it. Maybe Gamilla could use some, too. The color would be so pretty in her dark hair…oh, or on her Sunday dress—at the waist.”

“I shall leave it to you two to discuss the details.” Punch nodded.

“Thank you, Your Grace.” Gamilla replied with sincere gratitude.

“It seems that the wrapping itself was quite enough of a gift.” Robert said playfully. “Maybe we’d just leave it at that.”

“Oh, no, Sir.” Mrs. Pepper said, forgetting herself. “Do open it.”

“Mrs. Pepper,” Speaight warned weakly.

“It’s quite all right, Speaight.” Robert spoke up. “I think His Grace should have the honor. After all, it is he who is truly the favorite of the Crown.”

“I don’t know about that.” Mr. Punch shrugged, almost abandoning his impersonation of Julian. “However, I’d be quite happy to open the box.”

Punch carefully undid the ribbon and removed paper, making sure not to tear it. He set both gingerly aside for the girls and revealed a polished, gleaming wooden case.

“It’s a casket.” Jenny whispered to Ethel.

“Well, there’s somethin’ inside it.” Ethel chirped.

Punch chuckled and lifted the lid of the casket. His eyes sparkled as he reached inside and removed a shimmering music box of ivory and gold set with jewels. The Queen’s cipher was mounted at the top of the box in diamonds with a surround of deep red Burmese rubies. A foliate design and gadroons of emeralds, diamonds and sapphires adorned the sides of the music box.

“Cor!” Ethel gasped.

The room was filled with happy mumblings.

“I do say,” Mrs. Pepper put her hand to her throat. “Ain’t it that lovely?”

“It certainly is, Mrs. Pepper.” Robert nodded, himself overwhelmed by the gift.

Punch opened the music box and the room came alive with light music.

“What is the song?” Mrs. Pepper asked.

“It’s the ‘Punchinello Quadrille.’” Robert grinned.

Mr. Punch burst into a ripple of laughter. The others in the room, except for Hutchinson, followed.

After the laughter subsided, they sat and listened to the music until the mechanism wound down. For a moment afterward, they enjoyed the silence together.

Finally, Mr. Punch spoke up.

“We shall place this in the library.” He declared. “And, I hope that we will all enjoy it’s music again together often.”

“I think I speak for the staff, Your Grace,” Speaight began, “when I say that we are most grateful that you’ve shared this with all of us.”

“As Dr. Halifax and I already said, the gift was for the household, and we are all…well, the household.” Mr. Punch replied.

“Now,” Robert added. “We shall leave you all to your evening.”

“I will carry the box up for you, Sir.” Charles said, springing up to place the music box back in its wooden casket so he could transport it.

“Thank you,” Punch nodded.

“Sirs, if you’d like, I can take Master Colin up to his bed.” Gamilla volunteered.

“Uh,” Punch paused. “Yes, that will be fine. We’ll be in shortly to kiss him goodnight.” He turned to face the staff again. “Good evening, everyone.”

“Good night, Your Grace.” Ethel called out.

Speaight considered chiding the girl, but thought better of it. Never before had he known a staff to be so fond of the master. Why, he wondered, would he wish to have that change.

Mr. Punch, Robert and Lennie—still holding Dog Toby—climbed the stairs.

“You really are wonderful with them.” Lennie smiled.

“No, Lennie.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “They’re wonderful with me. For that, I’ll forever be grateful.”

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will be on hiatus for a few days. New chapters will resume on Monday, November 26. Until then, you can catch up on any chapters you’ve missed in the Chapter Archive

Gifts of Grandeur: The Baynes Locket, c. 1775

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A plait of hair from some long-gone beloved has been preserved in this locket since about 1775. In the Eighteenth Century, locks of hair went from being mementos that were hidden away to being the centerpieces of important jewels. Some jewels used the hair or strands of hair as part of the pattern or in a miniature painting. Hair was even used to make sentimental objects. 

This locket with its openwork gold bow, bequeathed to the V&A by Mrs. Isobel Baynes in 1950, was made in England in the late Eighteenth Century. A work of gold, it is set with pearls, emeralds and green pastes (likely replacements). The plait is protected by glass. On the reverse, a painted coronet surmounts a monogram. 

Object of the Day: With Compliments of the Season

Well, as Thanks-a-ma-giving is tomorrow here in the States, it’s the official unofficial start of the Christmas season, so I thought I’d present you with this very long and large trade card from my collection which neatly sums up the enduring American attitude toward Christmas.

With Compliments of the Season,
Your Friends
Excelsior Mfg. Company.

Well, thank you very much, my friends at the Excelsior Manufacturing Company—whoever you were and whatever you did. And, thanks, also, to you, young lady. Whoever you were—with your stylish feather fan, your green hose and your 1880s-style party dress. You’ve certainly got your hands full what with your nosegay and the fact that you feel the need to hold up your dress. Seems as if you’ve dropped some of your flowers along the way on the very attractive carpet. And, I’d advise you to look where you’re going before you walk into that column. But, thank you. Thank you very much. All joking aside, I have to say that this is a very beautiful card. The stunning emerald green alone is a color which cannot be duplicated so majestically no matter how good our modern printing is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Posting Schedule

It’s getting to be “Thanks-a-ma-giving” here in the U.S. And, yes, that’s how I refer to the holiday, because…well…because of Homer Simpson, mostly.

Bertie and Mr. Punch insist that I take a few days off. Even the tail-less cat, Mr. Stumpy Pants, who lives in my front yard has let it be known that I might benefit from a wee break. And so as to prevent myself from Berties’ furry wrath and in order to avoid repeated blows to my head from a slapstick-wielding puppet (and there’s no telling what a cat with no tail would do to me), I’d best cooperate.

So, while tomorrow will see all of the usual posts, starting Thursday, we’ll be on hiatus until Monday of next week when it’s back to business as usual.

And, don’t be surprised if Mr. Punch has something to say about his second Thanksgiving!

Mastery of Design: The Townshend Lumachella Ring, c. 1850

Lumachella Ring
The Townshend Collection at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Oh, Reverend Townshend…when did you find time to preach? That’s right. You didn’t.

At this point, regular readers have learned more from me about the Reverend Chauncey (or Chauncy, depending on the day) hare Townshend than they ever wanted to know. He’s even popped up in Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square. So, I’ll spare you more details about his life of privilege and collecting and palling around with Dickens. If you want to learn more, click on the "Townshend Collection" tag below to see other posts about him.

Here’s another ring from Townshend’s collection. This one’s not quite as shimmery as the others, but it’s equally as rare. The stone here is lumachella—a marble that contains the fossilized remains of snail shells. Another name for this gem is “fire marble” since the shells provide an iridescent play of red and green. Most gem quality lumachella comes from Corinth, Greece. This one is set in a coronet mount—meant only for display, probably around 1850.

Figure of the Day: Boy on a Snail, 1907

Boy on a Snail
Wiener Keramik
Austria, 1907
The Victoria & Albert Museum

1907 saw Austrian designer Michael Powolny create sketches for this earthenware and enamel figure of a boy on a snail. The modeling and production was completed at the factories of Wiener Keramik, known for their fine work in Vienna. The underside is marked with the monograms, “MP” and “WK.” Wiener Keramik was founded by Michael Powolny and Berthold Löffler in 1905. In 1919, the successful manufactory became known as Gmundner Keramik.

Art Nouveau, n'cest pas?

Unusual Artifacts: The Paul Aettinger Nautilus Cup, 1590

Silver Gilt Cup Mimicking Ornamental Nautilus Cups
Paul Aettinger, 1590
The Victoria & Albert Museum

During the second half of the Sixteenth and at the dawn of the Seventeenth Century, ornamental stemmed cups made of Nautilus Shells were popular, luxurious novelties for display in the homes of wealthy gentlemen. The bowls of the cups were made from the shells of sea snails, the Nautilus pompilius—an exotic and rare material which was often fashionably set in silver. Such cups were adorned with a marine motif, typically with figures of sea monsters, mermaids and, often with a finial shaped like Neptune. 

This silver gilt ornamental standing cup, made in Regensburg, Germany and dating to about 1590, is made in the shape of a nautilus shell to mimic those featuring the real thing. The cup’s figural stem takes the form of a female. As was typical, the whole is surmounted by a figure of Neptune with trident and chain. Famed German silversmith Paul Aettinger created this beautiful work of art. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 195

Chapter 195
The Nice Chair

Gamilla!” Jenny shouted from her spot at Mrs. Pepper’s worktable in the kitchen of No. 65 Belgrave Square. “Come quick!”

“What is it, girl?” Gamilla rushed into the kitchen from the servants’ hall. “I’m busy. I got all this mendin’ for the baby and…”

“Look.” Jenny pointed.

Gamilla turned to her right, and through the decorative grating which served to separate the kitchen from the service stairs, Gamilla saw two familiar feet, painfully and slowly trudging down the stairs.

“Gerard Gurney!” Gamilla snapped. “What you doin’?” She rushed out of the kitchen and into the passage. With her hands on her hips, she glared up the staircase to a clearly out of breath, and sheepish, Gerard.

“I was hungry.” Gerard smiled boyishly.

“Well, I’m all kinds o’ glad that you’re hungry, Gerry, but ain’t no good you comin’ down all them stairs! Just think—you done come down from the attics! That’s five flights! You wanna pop your side open and bleed to…” She stopped, shaking her head. “Well, you done it now.” Grumbling, she trotted up the stairs and gingerly put her arm around Gerard’s waist, helping him down the rest of the way.

“Don’t know what I’m gonna do with you.” Gamilla sighed when they’d reached the passage.

“I do.” Gerard winked.

“Not yet, I ain’t.” Gamilla shook her head. “Can’t believe you done dragged yourself all the way down here just cuz you was hungry. Don’t ya know I was gonna bring ya somethin’ after I done fed Master Colin?”

“Gamilla,” Mrs. Pepper called out from the larder, wiping her hands on her apron. “The boy was lonely more than he was hungry. Now, let’s get him by the fire in the nice chair.”

Gamilla frowned, but did as Mrs. Pepper said.

As she helped Gerry to the chair which was usually reserved for Mrs. Pepper, she whispered. “Was ya lonely, my sweet man?”

“A little.” Gerard replied. “I feel useless. Charlie’s doin’ everything for the masters. I’ve not seen him all day as he’s havin’ to do my work as well as his. You got your duties. Even George is doin’ some of my work.”

“Poor boy.” Gamilla said softly. “Didn’t mean to be harsh with ya, but…”

“You worry.” Gerard smiled.

“I do.” Gamilla sighed as she helped him into the chair.

“I missed bein’ down here with everyone. Here, maybe I can polish some boots…”

“Not a chance,” Mrs. Pepper snapped as she brought a small plate of biscuits to him. She set the plate on a footstool near Gerard. “You got my support comin’ down here, Gerry, but no one’s gonna let ya lift a finger ‘til Dr. Halifax says you’re ready.”

“Where is Dr. Halifax?” Gerard asked. “I didn’t see anyone upstairs.”

“His Grace and the Doctor have gone to the palace to see Their Majesties.” Mrs. Pepper replied proudly. “They’ll be back for luncheon and I’ve no doubt His Grace will be ravenous. So, I gotta go make sure luncheon is ever-so nice for ‘im. Now, you eat your biscuits and…” She pointed. “Georgie left some of them awful things he reads in the basket there. You might look through ‘em.”

“Nah.” Gerard shook his head. “I don’t read so well.”

“And you think Georgie does?” Mrs. Pepper laughed. “There’s pictures in ‘em. Go on. I’ll peek in on ya now and again.” She looked at Gamilla. “Now, I know you want to stay here with Gerard, but Master Colin’s bound to be hungry. I don’t want to tell you what to do, my dear, but with Mr. Speaight still abed…”

“I know, Mrs. Pepper.” Gamilla smiled.

“The baby ain’t by himself, is he?” Gerard asked.

“No, no.” Gamilla laughed. “Miss Molliner is with him. They’re playin’ with Master Colin’s soft toys and Dog Toby.”

“Miss Molliner?” Gerard raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, sure.” Gamilla smiled. “You didn’t know. Miss Lennie. She’s takin’ the Duke’s family name. It was His Grace’s idea.”

“But, she ain’t a Molliner.”

“No, but she ain’t really a Fallbridge neither—cuz she’s…well, ya know. Her situation. His Grace was very kind to suggest she take his name.” Gamilla explained.

“He’s a fine man, our master.” Mrs. Pepper grinned. “So generous.”

“Tell me, is she nice? His Grace don’t have much luck with sisters.” Gerard asked.

“Seems nice enough.” Mrs. Pepper shrugged. “If not timid. But, she’s had a rough time of it. She’s ever-so polite, this one. Kind of funny. As timid as she is, she’s got a peculiar strength to her. She don’t suffer cruelty. Speaks her mind in a polite way, but makes sure folk know if she thinks somethin’s unfair. Seems devoted to the folk she thought were her kin and also seems to truly respect His Grace and Dr. Halifax. I look to Dr. Halifax, see. I figure if he’s got his back up, we should, too. But, he seems at ease around her, and that’s good enough for me. We all know he ain’t gonna let no one near His Grace or Master Colin what’s gonna do ‘em harm. But, I seen them talkin’—the doctor and Miss Molliner—out in the garden. They looked friendly enough—like a man chats with his spouse’s sister: polite, but easy.”

“Dr. Halifax always knows what’s what.” Gerard nodded. “Maybe we’ll finally have some peace in the house.”

“Let’s pray we do.” Mrs. Pepper smiled.

“Where’s everyone else?” Gerard asked.

“Like we said, Mr. Speaight’s still ailin’. Ya saw Jenny in the kitchen…”

“Where she ought to be choppin’ them onions…” Mrs. Pepper said loudly. “And not listenin’ at the pass-through.”

From the kitchen, a clatter of pots showed that Jenny had heard.

“Ol’ Hutch drove the masters’ to the palace. Vi is up in Miss Molliner’s room makin’ room for all them new gowns the Duke ordered for her.” Gamilla continued. “Charlie’s somewhere up there tendin’ to the masters’ things. Ethel’s in the scullery finishin’ the breakfast things and talkin’ to herself like she does and Georgie’s…” Gamilla squinted. “Where’s Georgie?”

“My boy is with Charlie.” Mrs. Pepper said with a mother’s pride. “He’s puttin’ the Duke’s collars in them lovely leather cases.”

“Oh.” Gerard nodded.

“Don’t worry, Gerry.” Mrs. Pepper smiled. “Let me finish up my meringues and I’ll come and have a lovely chat with ya over a cupper.”

“Thanks, Mrs. P.” Gerard grinned.

“I gotta go.” Gamilla glanced up at the clock. “Can’t have a hungry boy up there.” She looked with concern at Gerard.

“I’ll be all right, ‘Milla.” Gerard said sweetly. “Don’t fret.”

“Honey, I’m gonna…” Gamilla paused and glanced at Mrs. Pepper, not wishing to speak so intimately in front of the cook.

“Oh…” Mrs. Pepper winked. “My meringues…” With that, she hurried off, giggling under her breath.

“I’m gonna have to stay in the nursery ‘til luncheon.” Gamilla said quickly.

“I know.” Gerard nodded. “You can’t stay with me all day. You’re the new nurse. I’m proud of ya.”

“I know, but…”

“Now, ‘Milla.” Gerard shook his head. “Master Colin needs his Gamilla.”

“So does my Gerard.”

“Mrs. P. will look after me. My sweet, I just couldn’t stay in that bed any longer. Lookin’ at them same four walls, seein’ Charlie’s empty spot, thinkin’ ‘bout you, wonderin’ what was goin’ on down here. At least down here, folk will pass by me, say a few words. I can see what’s goin’ on in the house. Feel like I’m part of it.”


“I won’t get up from this chair ‘til Mrs. P. tosses me out. I’ll look through George’s books. I’ll watch the fire and smell the cookin’. With Ethel, Jenny and Mrs. P. down here, ya know I ain’t gonna get away with nothin’.”

“I only want ya to heal up well so we can…” Gamilla whispered.

“And, I will.” Gerard replied.

“I just gotta go.” Gamilla shook her head.

“Ya sure do. Now, go feed that baby so he can grow as strong and handsome as his papas.”

Gamilla nodded.

“Gamilla…” Gerard began.


“Well, it’s just…”

Gamilla smiled.

“I love you,” Gerard whispered.

“Oh,” Gamilla’s eyes filled with tears. “I love you, too, you impossible, stubborn, wonderful…” She giggled, putting her hand over her mouth. And, then, she rushed from the servants’ hall to go feed Colin.

Gerard leaned into the “nice” chair and smiled broadly. For the first time in days, he finally felt at home.

Did you miss Chapters 1-194? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 196 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.


Gifts of Grandeur: A Fabergé Snail, pre-1896

Nephrite Snail
Carl Faberge
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Carl Fabergé—we know his work: the shimmering eggs, the wee, precious animals. But, what inspired this master? Fabergé amassed a tremendous and important collection of Japanese netsuke (those intricately-carved decorative pendants that were worn on men's kimonos). These jewel-like objects certainly influenced his animal carvings.

Fabergé employed a variety of hardstones to create the miniature menageries which were coveted by his Royal and aristocratic patrons, especially Queen Alexandra and her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary. Queen Alexandra assembled one of the largest collection of Fabergé animals when King Edward VII commissioned models from the Queen's Zoo at Sandringham. At Fabergé's London branch; in addition to the jewels, floral sculptures and other treasures, over 250 models of animals were available for purchase with the most popular being the elephant. 

This nephrite jade carving of a snail, made by Carl Fabergé himself before 1896. It lives at the V&A. I guess there was one that escaped both Alexandra and Mary. Or, maybe they didn’t like snails.

Object of the Day: Giant Snails

Well-dressed children, a lamb, a precarious peacock and a deer rump—as if these weren’t enough, we’ve got some enormous snails. ENORMOUS SNAILS. Can you imagine what the French would do to those suckers?

Speaking of enormous, this card is actually quite large—double the size of most trade cards. The image on the obverse is wholly Victorian with its bucolic theme and frame-within-a-frame composition. It’s the sort of card which could have been used by any kind of business.

This one was never printed on the reverse. It was, however, handed out by someone for some reason because, clearly, it was collected and treasured. The back shows that it was, for over a century, glued into an album—serving to preserve it all this time. And, I’m glad.

Frighteningly large snails, aside, it’s quite a lovely chromolithograph. The perspective is unusually spot-on for Victorian advertising imagery. Look at the country manor house in the background. The detail in the image is beautiful. So, apparently, in a world where snails are almost as big as birds, we know, at least, that the children are well-dressed and that they possess strange powers over animals.

Only the girl in white doesn’t seem to be having a good time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, 1930

Platinum, Gold, Yellow and White Diamonds,
Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires
Van Cleef & Arpels, 1930
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve seen the transition of botanical-themed jewelry through the ages from Georgian spray ornaments to enameled toad-stools. This was the next step.

Made in 1930, in Paris, this stunning brooch of platinum and gold is set with baguette and brilliant-cut white and yellow diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. A creation from luxury jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, this is the height of 1930’s chic combined with the delicacy of the Nineteenth Century.


Antique Image of the Day: Clementina, Lady Hawarden, 1864

Clementina, Lady Hawarden and Companion
South Kensington Gardens, 1864
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Isn’t this an odd photo? It dates to 1864 and was taken at the Horticultural Gardens at South Kensington. In left profile, we have Clementina, Lady Hawarden she’s donned fancy dress as a jester or harlequin. Next to her is an unidentified young female companion. Who is this woman? Some believe her to be Marion Lloyd, a close friend and cousin, and the daughter of Lady Hawarden's sister Mary Keith (Keithy) Lloyd. The young lady is dressed in a peasant costume. 

The photo was taken in a photography booth at the gardens.  That's a lot of leg for 1864.

Figure of the Day: Charlie Keith, 19th C.

Bronze Candlestick
Presented to Charlie Keith
London, Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

You may remember Charlie Keith’s (1835-1895) from our September look at one of his costumes. This London clown was billed as “the Favourite Clown, Tumbler, Chair and Original Performer,” following in the footsteps of Joseph Grimaldi and his son. In fact, Keith based his white-faced look on Grimaldi’s, even adapting Grimadli’s wig-style, the “three bobble coiffure.” He was so successful that by 1868, he’d opened his own traveling circus. This figural bronze candlestick was presented to Keith in the late Nineteenth Century. The clown figure is likely based on Keith himself. The modeler is unknown.

The bronze is thought to have been given to Keith before his death in 1896. He died in Bury and was buried in Southport.
 I wonder why he wasn't buried in Bury.  That would have suited him better.

Treat of the Week: Pork Roast, Clove Cake and Chocolate Chip Cherry Cookies

We had quite a feast this weekend when Bertie and I visited my parents’ house. This pre-Thanksgiving treat began with a savory pork tenderloin with a sweet glaze, fresh peas and buttermilk mashed potatoes. I ate far more than I should have, but frankly, it was all so good, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve a special place in my heart for buttermilk mashed potatoes, so, I was quite pleased to return home with an extra serving or two. 

This week’s dessert was two-fold. First we had a handsome and tasty clove pound cake rich with the flavors of spice and raisins. I always like the look of a pound cake—all nicely dusted with confectioners’ sugar. But, then…oh my. My mother made one of my favorite kinds of cookies—her famous chocolate chip cookies with cherries and walnuts. Yum! So fond am I of these cookies, that years ago when I was writing children’s serials, I created a whole year-long sub-plot about them! 

I look at it like this—this treat was a practice run. I’m just getting in shape for Thursday!

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 194

Chapter 194
An Exhibition 

Prince Albert narrowed his eyes and glared at Punch and Robert who sat across from him in some small, dim, cold reception room in Buckingham Palace. For all his many visits to Buck House (both as Julian and as Mr. Punch), Punch had never seen that particular room and wondered if it was, perhaps, a room used only when the Prince Consort was displeased with something or someone.

“You’ve no doubt wondered why I’ve summoned you here today, Fallbridge.” Prince Albert glowered.

“No, Sir.” Punch responded—speaking as Julian. He wasn’t sure how his natural voice would be accepted by the Prince Consort. While Queen Victoria seemed to much prefer Punch’s manner to that of Julian and was surprisingly supportive of it, Punch was quite sure that Prince Albert would not be as generous about the Duke’s newfound informality.

“No?” Prince Albert growled.

“I know very well why Your Majesty has asked us to come this morning.” Punch said as pleasantly as he could.

“You’ve made a laughing stock of me.” Prince Albert spat.

Mr. Punch’s eyes widened slightly. “That was not my intention, Your Majesty.”

“I promised the organizers of the International Exhibition that they would receive three pieces from my personal jeweler, the very celebrated Duke of Fallbridge. And, yet, the deadline has passed us by and the Duke of Fallbridge has not provided me those pieces. I had to send jewels from Garrard’s to New York.” The Prince grumbled.

“My sincere apologies, Sir.” Mr. Punch nodded. “When Dr. Halifax and I sojourned to Aberdeenshire, we’d done so with the intention of allowing me ample time to finish my designs and send them to the goldsmith for production. However, we were beset with much tragedy and confusion. As I’m sure Your Majesty would, I had to focus all of my energy upon my family.”

The Prince Consort’s expression softened a bit. “Yes, I would.”

“Dr. Halifax and I discussed at depth last night just how disappointed Your Majesty must be.” Punch replied, looking to Robert for confirmation.

“We did, Your Majesty.” Robert nodded with ease though he had no idea what Punch was talking about.

The Prince Consort looked to Robert, for whom he had developed an obvious fondness, and his eyes flashed slightly. “Did you?”

“Yes, Sir.” Mr. Punch continued. “However, we concluded that the Americans really do not possess the sophistication to appreciate items that are not simply theatrical.”

“Go on,” The Prince replied.

“They don’t possess the depth of the British. We appreciate fineness while they look only at size. The larger and more overwrought the better. Therefore, in their estimation, I’m sure they’d consider the works of Garrard’s to be quite impressive. They’re sure to praise Your Majesty quite clever to have sent such specimens. Meanwhile, the subtlety of my work would , no doubt, be thought of as quite dull when viewed by American eyes.”

“This is true.” The Prince nodded. “Is this your thought, too, Dr. Halifax?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Robert replied quickly.

“Dr. Halifax and I did have an idea, however, which would serve to not only impress the empire, but also prove to exhibit Your Majesty’s fine tastes.” Punch expertly continued.


“Of course, my late father was very much involved with Your Majesties in early discussion regarding the Museum of Manufactures. Your Majesty’s Great Exhibition was such a success that it only follows that a museum should be the next phase. I’m sure my father would have been quite pleased to have seen the brilliant exhibitions mounted at both Marlborough House and Somerset House to this end, and would have been so proud of Your Majesty’s idea for a new structure to house the impressive, growing collections. The newly proposed South Kensington Museum would offer an ideal forum for a jewelry exhibition. Your Majesty’s inherent appreciation for both the arts and sciences, after all, is evident in jewelry—using the treasures of the earth and man’s natural brilliance to create something wholly beautiful.”

“Yes.” The Prince nodded.

“Perhaps the South Kensington Museum could feature a permanent exhibit which we would suggest should be named for Your Majesty. This exhibit would feature jewels created in honor of Your Majesties and the little Royals. I would volunteer to not only design—with your Majesty’s considerable assistance—and orchestrate the manufacture of these jewels, but also oversee the machinations of staging the exhibit—a sparkling altar to the brilliance of British arts and sciences. The Prince Albert Jewellery Room.”

“I like it.”

“After all,” Robert spoke up bravely. “It would serve as an international beacon for anyone interested in the truly exceptional. It’s a much more fitting tribute to Your Majesties than a smudged glass case at some American fair.”

“Who would pay for this undertaking?” Albert asked.

“Well, Sir, I’m sure that I could donate a good many pieces and I’d be thrilled to provide gemstones from my own collection.” Punch answered coolly. “You could consider that my gift to the Empire. Furthermore, I’ve not doubt that Dr. Halifax and I could convince other peers and Society families to make contributions. Why, the Reverend Townshend alone would be able to provide a good many gems. If the Crown would make a small investment into the manufacture of the pieces, we would be able to keep the cost quite low.”

Robert smiled confidently.

“I find the idea intriguing.” Prince Albert sighed. “I shall discuss it with Her Majesty, the Queen.”

“I am your servant, Your Majesty,” Punch bowed his head.

The Prince rose, prompting Punch and Robert to do the same.

“You two are to wait here,” The Prince shook his head. “The Queen wishes to see you as well.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to know that, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded.

“Do not mention this scheme of yours to Her Majesty. I shall address the topic myself in my own time.”

“Of course, Sir.” Punch smiled.

“Good Day, Fallbridge.” Prince Albert said sharply. He looked to Robert and with a slightly softer tone added. “And, to you, Dr. Halfiax.”

With that, the Prince Consort strutted from the room.

Robert chuckled under his breath and whispered. “We didn’t discuss any of that, dear Punch. How on earth did you decide to suggest such a thing?”

“I knew he was gonna be angry,” Punch shrugged, replying in a hushed tone. “I knew we had to appeal to his vanity, we did.”

“You could have warned me first.” Robert laughed. “I wasn’t sure what to say.”

“Oh, you did real good, Chum.” Punch winked. “’Sides, I didn’t think of it ‘til just now.”

“You are too brilliant.” Robert shook his head.

“Only in the company I keep.” Punch smiled.

“I will be glad to see Her Majesty and thank her for her kindness in seeing that the house was looked after.” Robert continued.

“Coo!” Punch whispered, “I’d be happy to see anyone other than an angry German prince, but, yes, a visit with the Queen will do us both good.”

They noticed that one of the rigid footmen in attendance had opened the door to the chamber.

Standing, Punch and Robert prepared to receive their Queen.

Did you miss Chapters 1-193 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 195.

The Home Beautiful: The Chateau d'Ecouen Tile, 1542

Tin-glazed earthenware tile.
Rouen, France, 1542
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This earthenware tile looks like the sort made in the Nineteenth Century. When I was sifting through images for this week’s posts, I came upon this object and made a note to myself about the “jester tile from 1840.” But, this is no Victorian tile—it’s about three hundred years older than that. 

The tile was made in 1542 in Rouen, France of buff earthenware with a tin glaze. Image. It’s in remarkable shape for being from the Sixteenth Century. Painted with a pointy-eared jester, the tile is likely to be one of a series of similarly-painted tiles from the workshop of Masseot Abaquesne. Other tiles from that set—made for use in pavement at the Chateau d'Ecouen --bear the arms of Anne de Montmorency impaling those of his wife Madelaine of Savoy. 

It's believed that the jester tile is associated with this group from the Chateau d'Ecouen.

Object of the Day: A Reward of Merit

Click on image to tickle the jester.

How many of these were thrown away since 1880? It makes me sad to think that hundreds of these were likely discarded.

When I was in school, if I was given some “reward” for a job well done, I was presented with a pumpkin sticker or a gold star or some goofy, boring piece of paper with a scrolly border and “Certificate” written on it. I’d have much rather received something like this Nineteenth-Century “Reward of Merit” with its handsome chromolithograph. But, they weren’t handing out antique ephemera in the 1980s. If they had been, I’d even have tried tumbling in gym class.

The card simply says “Reward of Merit.” It was presented to one Jessie Alcorn from James G. White, teacher. I wonder what Jessie did so well. We’ll never know, but, obviously, it was an important enough achievement that Jessie and Jessie’s descendants saw fit to keep this handsome little certificate for well over a century (and then sell it). With its comic image of a jester, this certificate was likely purchased by the teacher as part of a package of other such cards. This one is marked at the bottom as being No. 2400. I’m sure the teacher has his choice of many different images. Here, we have a charming scene with a Punchinello-nosed bloke being tickled by a contortionist child. The jester playfully sticks out his tongue. I just love it!