Friday, May 10, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The "Munched Tobacco" Punch and Judy

Hand-colored Etching, Nineteenth Century.
Ink Inscription, 1956.
The George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Well, it’s Friday, and you know what that means—Punch and Judy stuff, especially since yesterday was Punch's 351st birthday.

I like this particular image from a late Nineteenth Century British Print and wish that I could see the reverse of the piece. You see, the image features two motto-like jokes which will forever be unanswered.

The illustration shows Judy (left) and Punch (right).

Under Judy, the text reads: “If the ruins of the Tower of London could speak, what King and Rebel would they name?”

And, under Mr. Punch: “If a piece of munched tobacco could speak, what old English poet would it name?”

Since we don’t have access to the original answers, I’ll let you decide what they should be.  Feel free to post your guesses in the comments section. 

The print is of black ink on paper, loosely washed with watercolor. Mr. Punch and his lovely bride are depicted in a jubilant dance with a glass of wine and tankard of ale.

Above them, written in ink is a personal message—perhaps to George Speaight who amassed the V&A’s exceptional collection of Punch and Judy ephemera. I can’t quite make it out, but I think it reads, “Amazing times. Happy New Year. Alfred Kirby, 1956” and may be a message to the collector when the print was given as a gift, almost one hundred years after it was made.

The curators of the V&A have felt it necessary to note, “Punch is shown to have extreme, exaggerated form of kyphosis and sternal protrusion.” Meaning that our Mr. Punch has a wicked hunchback and big ol’ belly. Well, duh. That’s what makes him Mr. Punch. Curiously, no mention is made of Old Red Nose’s large proboscis and chin nor his wife’s similar facial characteristics. I guess that’s, “normal.”


Darcy said...

For the Tower Of London part I have no clue .
So I'll say the Bertie dog. I'm pretty sure he's both a rebel and a king.
For the Munchie tobacco old poet part I think it might be Chaucer .

Joseph Crisalli said...

It's definitely Bertie Dog. ANd, I think the second part is right, too.

Dashwood said...

Uh, I don't think the Tower is in ruins so it can't say anything. BUT, if it did say the names of a Rebel and a King, they would be James Dean and Elvis Presley.

As to the poet thing: Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Everything he wrote sounds like a mouthful of 'baccy.

Joseph Crisalli said...

I agree on all counts.