Saturday, December 8, 2012

Coming Next Week

Make sure to come back next week to read about Bertie's account of his vacation and my description of a very interesting journey that I took on my own.

Mastery of Design: The “Mazel Tov” Ring, 1800

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This filigree ring of gold wire is set with a plate engraved with the inscription “Mazel Tov.” The plate, actually seems to be a later addition to the ring which originally dates to 1800. In Hebrew, “Mazel Tov” loosely translates to “Good luck.”

A ring such as this would have served as a ritual gift, given during the Jewish marriage ceremony. Though this practice has been a part of the ceremony since ancient times, it is only documented since the Fifteenth Century.

Figure of the Day: The Young Peddlar, 1760

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This figure in soft-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilding depicts a young, male Jewish peddlar. A basket of bottles is slung from his shoulders and he wears a fur-lined turquoise-green jacket, striped trousers, black shoes and a fur-lined red cap.

Made in 1760, this figure is the perfect example of the kind of porcelain ornaments produced in Derby in the Eighteenth Century. From the fine modeling of the figure to the applied flowers on the base, it’s the quintessential representation of the skill of the Derby Porcelain Factory.

The subject is clearly identified as a young Jewish man by his fur-lined cap and jacket—traditional garb for English Jews in the Eighteenth Century.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Painting of George Cameron as Mr. Punch, 1945

Charles Cameron as Mr. Punch
Albert Houthuesen, 1945
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Our Mr. Punch has had a deep influence on all of the creative arts for many a century. Not only has he been directly incorporated into a variety of media, his image has been used as inspiration and has been copied to send a host of different messages. In many ways, he’s more than a puppet. An argument can be made that he’s the most famous man in Britain.

Here, we see a full-length portrait of the clown Charles Cameron as Mr. Punch. While most of us don’t know who Charles Cameron is, we do know Punch. So, clearly the celebrity of our wooden-headed friend has far outlived that of those who would mimic him.

Cameron wears a night cap and baggy white trousers which owe more to Mr. Punch’s Italian ancestor, Pulcinella, than they do to Punch himself. It’s the actor’s face, however, which most resembles Punch. Seen in profile, Cameron has been painted with the characteristic Punch-like nose and jutting chin. He holds his hands to his face with palms turned outwards, and one foot and affects a balletic pose with one foot in front of the other.

The painting heralds from the Doncaster Theatre and dates to 1945. It is signed in ink on the reverse, “Houthuesen.”

This painting is the work of Albert Houthuesen who, it seems, enjoyed painting clowns. Charles Cameron was one of several clown portraits that Houthuesen drew while at the Doncaster Theatre in 1945. During this period, Houthuesen and his family were living temporarily in Tickhill, near Doncaster, and had a close affiliation with the theatre. But, what was it exactly that drew the artist to clowns? Houthuesen's biographer reports that for the artist, the clown became a symbol of art and poetry. Houthuesen often portrayed the clown as philosopher and saint.

Albert Houthuesen (1903-1979) was born in Amsterdam. He traveled to London with his mother in 1912 after the death of his father. There, he attended the Royal College of Art and became a teacher and a full-time artist. He often depicted scenes which showed his affection for the theatre, dance and clowns, and he enjoyed a long friendship with The Hermans, a family of Russian Jewish clowns.

Antique Image of the Day: Hanukkah, 1944

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The image, printed in black, on the front of this postcard depicts four concentration camp inmates behind a makeshift Hanukkah menorah. Within this sober image, the word Hanukkah (in Hebrew) and the year, “1944” are lettered.

This postcard was issued by the Jewish organization Agudat Jiszrael (Union of Israel) in Budapest in 1945. The image was designed by Felix Gluck in 1944. Gluck had fled his native Bavaria for Budapest in 1936 to escape the Nazis, but was imprisoned in Mauthausen--a forced labor camp in Austria, from 1944 to 1945. The card, now, not only chronicles the atrocities that Jewish people faced before and during the Second World War, but also their innate sense of hope and admirable dedication to their beliefs.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Eighteenth Century Hanukkah Lamp

The Victoria & Albert Museum
 Made in the Netherlands in the Eighteenth Century, this brass Hanukkah lamp features the requisite eight lights. Its back-plate is cast and pierced and surmounted by a Star of David with a Hebrew inscription which reads: “For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light.”

This would have served as a menorah at Hanukkah--the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights which celebrates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 207

Chapter 207
Without Fail

Queen Victoria sat silently for a few moments after Mr. Punch had explained all that had happened to him and to Robert over the last year. He’d told her about Lady Barbara’s escape to America with her newly-born child; of Barbara’s dealings with the Elegant Ogress, Iolanthe Evangeline; of the strange magic of Marie Laveau; of their many dangerous adventures; of the development of the relationship that he and Robert shared; of the deaths of their friends, and, of the deception they employed to rescue Colin. Punch had even told the Queen about Julian’s mother, the Duchess of Fallbridge and her lascivious taste for servant men, her murder at the hands of Iolanthe Evangeline and the illegitimate child who had emerged recently after their trials in Scotland. The tale concluded with Hutchinson’s collusion with Eudora Stover and Hortence and the threat against Colin.

For a moment, Punch began to despair that he’d said too much. He glanced anxiously at Robert who was clenching his hands together nervously.

“Well, then.” Queen Victoria said finally.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded.

“It’s all quite fascinating.” She sniffed. “You two poor souls, you’ve been through quite the ordeal. And, look at you both. You’ve weathered it all and risen above it, handsome and triumphant.”

“Thank you, my Queen.” Punch smiled slightly. “Only we haven’t risen above all of it, we haven’t.”

“No.” The Queen shook her head. She gripped the arms of the soft chair of golden damask in which she sat. “When I was a girl, in Kensington Palace, I felt quite alone. I was not alone, not per se. However, for all of the people who flitted about the palace, I knew that no one, except Lehzen, of course cared much for me. I was prized, yes, but not valued. You see, at a point, when it was known to my mother that I was one day to be Queen, any shred of maternal affection she felt for me gave way to avarice and ambition. And, so, while I was prized, I was no more than another bauble which she could flaunt as a symbol of her own status. No, more of a figure of ivory and gold, locked away in a reliquary. Prized but untouched. That was a very lonely world, indeed.”

“For that, Your Majesty, I am deeply sorry.” Mr. Punch said softly.

“No need to be, my dear Punch.” The Queen shook her head. She looked to Dr. Halifax. “Doctor, I see in your eyes that you understand me.”

“I do, Your Majesty.” Robert nodded. “In a way. I was neither prized nor valued. My brother, Cecil, he loved me as brothers do. Our father—he loved us in a peculiar way, a way that depended on theatricality and excessive displays. Our mother…well, she knew neither if she loved nor hated anyone. Later, I was wanted by some, but for their own pleasures, never for my own.”

“Did you ever dream, Dr. Halifax?” The Queen asked.

“Dream, Your Majesty?”

“Yes, Doctor. Dream. I used to dream. I’d ignore whatever was around me and, in my girlish way, arrange my dolls into little families. Happy families. Yes, I played at happy families. As I grew into a woman, I dreamed of being a wife and a mother and would often find myself wondering if there was anyone who would…match me. To marry a Queen,” She shook her head. “Is daunting at best.”

“I understand, ma’am.” Robert nodded. “I did dream. Often when I was studying, my mind would wander.”

“To where, Doctor?”

“To visions of kind eyes and a soft smile. To the even sound of a gentle voice. To strength and yielding.”

“Did you ever think you’d find it?” Victoria asked.

“I would often despair that I’d not.” Robert replied. “Until one day.”

“What day?”

“One day at the Great Exhibition, Your Majesty. A day that I saw Your Majesties with a certain Lord Fallbridge.”

“I see.” Queen Victoria winked. “The future Duke. He was your answer?”

“Yes and no.” Robert answered. “I knew that within him was the answer.”

“That’s me.” Mr. Punch grinned.

“I’d gathered that, Mr. Punch.” The Queen chuckled.

“My answer came when I saw my dear Albert. My cousin was known to me, of course, but when I looked into his eyes—a grown man, so strong and lean with such thoughtful, caring eyes, I knew then that I was no longer alone. We two.” She paused. “And, now, we are more. I saw my dreams realized and you seem to have seen yours as well.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Punch and Robert answered in unison.

“And, yet, I am…” She paused. “I am protected.” She shrugged. “I enjoy a certainty that most do not. Even though you’ve one another and your lovely Colin, you still face uncertainties that I do not. Not only because life tends to intrude, but because of your…situation. I hate to see two people so like me, two people for whom I carry a deep respect and admiration and to whom, we are, in many ways, indebted, face fear and loneliness.”

“Your Majesty is most kind.” Robert replied emotionally.

“And selfish, Dr. Halifax. I do not care to see my favorites bothered.” She giggled. “It inconveniences us.”

“As it did today.” Mr. Punch said thoughtfully.

“Yes.” Victoria sighed. “Though we do understand.”

“We are grateful.” Robert replied.

“I shall help you.” The Queen said firmly. “You must leave this to me.”

“We are Your Majesty’s servants.” Mr. Punch smiled.

“I shall press you into service immediately, then.” The Queen half-smiled.

“Whatever Your Majesty wishes.”

“Go to the Prince Consort’s study and buy that lovely diamond for me forthwith.” The Queen grinned.

“Without fail.” Mr. Punch nodded.

Did you miss Chapters 1-206 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 208.

Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s 1842 Christmas Brooch

Princess Victoria Brooch
Presented to Queen Victoria on Christmas, 1842
Designed by Prince Albert
Crafted by William Essex after William Ross, miniaturist
Enamel, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, &
The Royal Collection
To celebrate Christmas with his wife and their first child, Princess Victoria, Prince Albert designed a beautiful enamel and jeweled brooch for Queen Victoria. Inspired by a painting by Raphael, the prince envisioned an angel with sparkling wings and the face of their infant daughter.

Jeweler William Essex was commissioned to create the brooch to Prince Albert’s specifications. For Princess Victoria’s enameled, cherubic face, Essex used as his model a miniature painting of the child princess by William Ross. The resulting brooch of enamel, gold, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and topazes shows the young Princess as a putti draped in a regal blue robe. In her tiny hands, she clutches a cross of diamonds and rubies.

Queen Victoria was—rightfully—thrilled with the brooch and wrote in her journal, “The workmanship and design are quite exquisite, and dear Albert was so pleased at my delight over it, it’s having been entirely his own idea and taste.”

The Art of Play: The Magic Punch & Judy

The Magic Punch and Judy
England, 1977
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This card-backed flyer is printed with a set of cut-out Punch & Judy puppets. The images are described as, “a reconstruction of H. G. Clarke's THE MAGIC PUNCH & JUDY first published [ca.] 1875.” The work of Mike Bartley, this 1977 flyer reads further:

Mike Bartley

BRISTOL (0272) 621955 

Friday Fun: Santa Claus, Punch and Judy, 1948

It's that time of year again!

This edited down version of the 1948 short film, Santa Claus, Punch and Judy omits the rather unnerving Santa Claus bit and some other politically incorrect business and focuses on the performance of famed American Punch Professor George Prentice who is credited with keeping Mr. Punch and his chums vital and relevant throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. Here, you can see some new characters of Prentice’s own creation. There’s a particularly belligerent monkey, and Mr. Punch has some rare interaction with a cat. Prentice very cleverly incorporated popular songs of the day into his show while keeping Mr. Punch’s spirit close to that of his predecessors.

And, so, I give you, Santa Claus, Punch and Judy (minus Santa, but plus one monkey).

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...

 I've seen you where you never was, And where you ne'er will be; And yet you in that very same place May still be seen by me.

And, the answer is...


Well, we had some very interesting, if not, somber responses today.  And, one mysterious statement of affirmation from Carolyn which I can't quite pin to any one answer.  Um...Carolyn?  Care to elaborate?  But, we can always count on Darcy, Dashwood and Shawn from some fun!  Furthermore, for the love of Pete, Angelo, go get a dog!  And, thus ends another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  Come back next week for another bit of Friday fun.

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 206

Chapter 206
A Clue

For Pete’s Sake,” Orpha sneered. “Have either of you ever seen soap?”

“What’s the matter, honey?” Eudora guffawed. “Our scent not what you’re used to? Maybe you smelled of roses when you was rottin’ in the workhouse.”

“Don’t matter none.” Hortence laughed. “Soon we’re gonna smell of money.”

Orpha smiled.

“What’s that grin, then, Ellen?” Hortence asked.

“Orpha. My name is Orpha.”

“You spent so much time makin’ people call ya ‘Ellen,’ and now you’re back to that ugly name?” Eudora frowned.

“It suits me.” Orpha replied curtly. “And, I’d caution you, Eudora, to cast judgment on the prettiness of anyone’s name.”

Eudora blushed. “Where’s ol’ Hutch, then? He ought to be here by now.”

“Had to take the fancy men to the palace.” Hortence smiled. “He’ll be along.”

“I do wish he’d hurry.” Orpha sniffed.

“If it bothers ya so much, dearie, you can go stand by the window.”

“Oh, I’ve smelled worse.” Orpha grumbled. “It’s only that I’ve another appointment.”

“Ain’t she that important?” Hortence teased. “Who with?”

“It’s not your concern.”

“Is it a gent?” Eudora winked.

“Yes.” Orpha answered.

“Maybe it’s that Baron Lensdown what you’ve been…”

“It’s not.” Orpha interrupted. “Nothing like that. Let’s not dwell on it. I simply don’t want to keep the man waiting. He’s a fierce temper when left to himself.”

“Oh?” Eudora nodded. “I understand.”

“I’d say you do.” Hortence clucked her tongue. “I ain’t never met a man with a worse temper than your pa.”

Eudora shook her head. “Aint it so, dearie?”

“I was under the impression that your father was imprisoned.” Orpha raised her eyebrows.

“Oh, he was.” Eudora nodded. “But, he’s out now.”

“Does he know that your brother has been killed?” Orpha asked.

“Aye.” Eudora answered. “He’s lookin’ for blood, too.”

“You told him, I hope, that Dr. Halifax is responsible.”

“That I did.” Eudora nodded. “Fancy that doctor tellin’ me that it were you what killed our poor William.”

“Yes, fancy that.” Orpha replied. She glanced out the window.

“What’s on your mind, Ellen?” Eudora asked. “You ain’t gotta worry ‘bout ol’ Hutch. He knows better than to cross us.”

“I’m not worried about Mr. Hutchinson.” Orpha replied. “And, please, call me Orpha.”

“Right.” Eudora nodded. “But, somethin’ is weighin’ heavy on ya.”

“I was just thinking about my own brother.”

“Just lost ‘im, didn’t ya, dearie. See, we ain’t so different.”

“Only he weren’t really your brother.” Hortence smiled. “Was he? He wasn’t even your cousin. You gone and started to believe all them tales you been tellin’.”

“No.” Orpha snapped. “I know very well who I am. Just because Finlay Donnan wasn’t my brother nor any of the Barretts for that matter, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a brother of my own.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.” Hortence muttered.

“Nor I. You’re that convincin’. When we learned you wasn’t really the Duke’s kin nor the Barretts’, we rather figured you was all alone in the world. You was in a workhouse, after all.”

“I have a brother.”

“Still livin’?”

“Yes,” Orpha nodded.

“Do ya see ‘im?” Hortence asked.

“Yes.” Orpha smiled. “However, he doesn’t know who I am.”

“More’s the pity.” Eudora nodded.

“I suppose.” Orpha replied. She thumped a table angrily. “Where is that man? All he had to do was deliver the men to the palace! He was to come straight back here before he picked them up.”

“Don’t fret,” Eudora smiled.

“What if the Duke…” Hortence wrinkled her nose.

“What?” Eudora asked.

“What if he done somethin’ to Hutch?”

“By reachin’ through the carriage?” Eudora laughed.

“After they stopped.” Hortence scowled.

“Not possible. The Duke and his fancy man know that if they say a word we’ll get that fine baby of his.” Eudora shook her head.

“I’m surprised at you,” Orpha grinned. “You’ve so many children of your own, I’m rather shocked you don’t value the life of a child more.”

“That’s why.” Eudora winked. “I got too many of me own.”

Orpha sighed. “I simply must go. I don’t want to keep my appointment waiting. I’ll return immediately afterwards and I expect to hear what happened with Hutchinson. Surely he’s much to report. You know that the Duke and Dr. Halifax must have confronted him.”

“We’ll keep you that informed, dearie.” Eudora nodded.

“I’m sure you will.” Orpha said, gathering up her things and slipping from the filthy house.

Alone with Eudora, Hortence howled with laughter. “Stupid bitch.”

“Ain’t she though?” Eudora chuckled.

“Don’t have a clue what’s ahead for ‘er, does she?”

“Let’s hope not,” Eudora sighed. “Let’s hope not.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-205 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 207.

Print of the Day: Twelfth Night, 1843

Twelfth Night Characters
George Cruikshank, 1843
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another wonderful illustration by the brilliant George Cruikshank (1792-1878). This one portrays twelve characters, including Mr. Punch. Published by the Illustrated London News on December 30, 1843, the print is entitled “Twelfth Night Characters.” The reverse shows a poem wherein each character is described.

Objects of the Day: Restored Kasperl Puppets

Remember this set of vintage German Kasperle puppets? They were sad. They stank of cigarette smoke and had mostly lost their bodies. What little of their cloth trunks remained was rotting and torn. Still, I wanted them and knew that they could have a good life once again.

Many weeks later, my mother, father and I (though I didn’t really have much to add until the end) managed to reconstruct their bodies.

Don’t they look great? Frankly, they’re better appointed than they were originally. And, they seem quite pleased. 

Kasperle, the German Mr. Punch, has a handsome new coat with yellow accents and a kicky ruff. The wizard has been given a handsome new robe, gold trimmed cape, and “jeweled” hat. The grandmother looks quite lovely in her new gown with heart-shaped buttons and ribbon-trimmed apron. Even the witch and the devil got a makeover. The devil seems quite proud of his glittering cape, rhinestone buttons and handsome gloves. Meanwhile, the witch is dressed like Mrs. Roper!

Even the 1950s-era rubber Punch got a boost in his appearance with a new ruff, gold buttons and accents for his hump. 

All is well in puppet land.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Portrait of an Unknown Lady with Bertie

“An apple? Is that the best you’ve got?”

Image: Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Child, Andrea Soldi (1698-1771), Britain, 1740, The Victoria and 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 Jenkins Bracelet, c. 1880

Europe, c. 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Bracelets were the most fashionable accessories of the 1850s-1890s. Worn in stacks, bracelets were combined to suit any outfit and time of day. “Daytime” bracelets were considered by the French connoisseur Edmond Joly de Bammeville as the “main feature of national dress” in England. Not only would a woman stack her bracelets, but, often, she’d wear up to seven or eight different designs at the same time between the wrist and elbow on both arms—even over gloves. 

This silver gilt bracelet is set with half-pearls and rose-and brilliant-cut diamonds. The jewel is adorned with pierced scrolls and a decorative border. It days to the 1880s. 

Unfolding Pictures: The Venus Interceding with Jupiter Fan, 1730-1769

Venus Interceding with Jupiter Fan
French, 1730-1769
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Many Eighteenth Century fans were inspired by stories from Classical mythology. Here’s a great example. Known as the “Venus Interceding with Jupiter” Fan, it was made in France between 1730 and 1769. The leaf of the fan shows the high standards for fan-painting as well as serves as an excellent example of French Baroque painting. The hallmarks of Baroque painting—theatricality, intense and brilliant colors and unnaturally exaggerated lighting—are all clearly evident in this delicately painted scene. A Chinoiserie scene—also fashionable at the time—graces the reverse of the fan. 

The fan’s sticks and guards, also, are indicative or Baroque style with their intricate carving and piercing, painted cartouches and inlays of mother-of-pearl. 

Click images for larger pictures