Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Carlo Giuliano Mother-of-Pearl Brooch, 1865

Brooch of Mother-of-Pearl and Gold
Carlo Giuliano, 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Inspired by the shape of an ancient Greek leather shield, this brooch of gold and mother-of-pearl is decorated with twisted gold wires, with grains of gold, and with two cast lion masks and three cast heads of lionesses.

This piece, dating to 1865, is the work of Carlo Giuliano (1826-1895) who trained in the celebrated Castellani workshops in Rome before he accompanied Alessandro Castellani to London, in 1860.

In London, Giuliano established his own manufactory at 13 Frith Street in Soho. His work soon caught the attention of important patrons, and it was, notably, much-admired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their circle. Upon his death, Giuliano bequeathed his collection of jewelry to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). Sadly, most of the best pieces of the collection were stolen in 1899 and never recovered. Giuliano’s sons Carlo Joseph and Arthur made a further gift in 1900, which included this brooch.

At the Music Hall: Bird in a Gilded Cage, 1900

The ballroom was filled with fashion's throng,
It shone with a thousand lights,
And there was a woman who passed along,
The fairest of all the sights,
A girl to her lover then softly sighed,
There's riches at her command;
But she married for wealth, not for love he cried,
Though she lives in a mansion grand.

She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she's happy and free from care,
She's not, though she seems to be,
'Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth cannot mate with age,
And her beauty was sold,
For an old man's gold,
She's a bird in a gilded cage.

I stood in a churchyard just at eve',
When sunset adorned the west,
And looked at the people who'd come to grieve,
For loved ones now laid at rest,
A tall marble monument marked the grave,
Of one who'd been fashion's queen,
And I thought she is happier here at rest,
Than to have people say when seen.

"A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” composed by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer (music) is  a long-favored, sentimental ballad which debuted in 1900.  In its first year, it reportedly sold more than two million copies of the sheet music.

According to Von Tilzer, the composer of the music, said that he was approached by Lamb in 1899.  Lamb presented the lyrics for the song, and although Von Tilzer liked it, he requested that Lamb alter the lyrics so that it was apparent that the woman in the song was married and not a wealthy man’s mistress.

Together, the duo worked on the song at a local public house and were pleased to see that some of the nearby girls were in tears upon hearing the tale of a beautiful young woman who married for money and not for love (a prospect, I’m sure, which one of them were considering).  At that point, they knew that their work was a success.

Enjoy this version sung by Music Hall siren Florrie Forde.

Sculpture of the Day: The Stevens Lion, 1852

Bronze lion after Stevens, 1852
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This bronze figure of a seated lion is copied from a model made by British sculptor Alfred George Stevens (1817-1875) around 1852 for the seated lions he cast for the tops of the newel posts outside of London's British Museum.

According to one critic of the day, “the number of imitations of this lion by other artists is their sincerest tribute; and technically it is equally a triumph for Stevens in the small number (20) of pieces which are necessary in the mould for casting it.”

The lions are no longer in position outside the British Museum. Some were removed in 1896 to railings outside the Charles Holden wing of the Law Society building in Chancery Lane. Others were placed on the railings which surround the Wellington monument in St Paul's Cathedral, London. This transfer took place between 1892 and 1912, when the tomb was removed from the Consistory Chapel in St Paul's.

Figure of the Day: Samson and the Lion, 1860

Samson and the Lion
Staffordshire Group, circa 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted with enamel colors, this Staffordshire figure group of a lion tamer may depict Samson forcing open the jaws of a lion. Made circa 1860, this molded lead-glazed earthenware flat-back was just one of many popular scenes produced by the Staffordshire factory.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 282

Chapter 282

Punch and Robert rushed to the sound of Gamilla’s screams. They found her in the day nursery, her hands held out in front of her, stained red and black.

“Is it Colin?” Punch asked. “Is Colin all right?”

Gamilla nodded.

Robert hurried to the bassinette and found Colin looking quite well. He sighed with relief.

“What’s happened, Gamilla?” Punch asked.

Panting, Gamilla pointed to the door to her room.

Robert and Punch raced to the door and gasped at what they saw.

Hanging on the door of Gamilla’s wardrobe was her wedding gown, once a pale yellow, the color of butter, but now streaked with deep stains of ink—crimson and jet. The bottom of the gown had been slashed and tattered and written just above the ruined hem, in the big letters which only could be made with a child’s ink-dipped finger, was “Go to Hell.”

“Oh, dear, oh, dear.” Punch moaned. He walked out of Gamilla’s room and into the day nursery, putting a hand gently on Gamilla’s shoulder and guiding her to the chair by Colin’s bassinette.

“My gown,” Gamilla sobbed. “My gown—the finest I ever had. Miss Lennie and Violet…they been helpin’ me with it. The finest gown I ever had…I was gonna wear it when I…” She gulped. “marry Gerry.”

“Perhaps it can be salvaged?” Robert suggested helplessly, kneeling down next to Gamilla.

“No.” Gamilla looked at her ink-coated hands. “It can’t.”

“Just this afternoon, as soon as you’re calm and ready,” Punch began, “You and Miss Lennie will go to Bond Street and go to the finest dressmaker you can find and you’ll have a new dress made, just like this one, or….or whatever you want…anything you want. And…and…you have them send the bill to me.”

Gamilla shook her head. “Thank you, Sir. But,”

“I know it ain’t the same, but…” Punch began.

“Marjani done made that yellow silk for me.” Gamilla cried.

“Oh…” Punch lowered his head, recalling the friend the left behind in America. Marjani, with her mysterious ways and great kindness—they’d had to leave her, and her granddaughter Columbia behind. Marjani chose to stay in Louisiana despite Punch’s offer to come with them to London. Marjani was dedicated to helping her people—those poor Creoles and Africans stricken with the Yellow Fever. A masterful dyer of cloth, Marjani fed herself and Columbia by creating colors which no one else could ever possibly achieve.

“She done gave it to me jus’ before I left.” Gamilla wiped her face with the unstained back of her hand. “She said she knew that I’d need it for my weddin’ gown.”

“Poor Gamilla,” Robert said, unsure of what to do.

“Here,” Punch suggested. “Is the back ruined?”


“The back of your gown?”

“No.” Gamilla shook her head.

“Well, then, you and Lennie can take it to the dressmaker and, then, maybe they can use the back part of it to…I dunno…make part of the skirts or the bodice or…”

Gamilla smiled. “That’s a fine idea, Your Grace.”

“That way, Marjani will be part of your day.” Punch nodded.

Gamilla tried to compose herself. “Why’d she do this?”

“I don’t know.” Robert shook his head. “Fern’s quite troubled.”

“With good reason.” Punch sighed.

“Where is she?” Robert asked.

“I don’t know, Sir.” Gamilla shook her head. “I looked in her room. She wasn’t there. I didn’t dare look further cuz I didn’t want to leave Master Colin alone.”

“I thank you for that,” Robert inhaled. “Dear Punch,” he looked up. “I want that girl out of this house.”

“So she can do things like this at school and be sent back to us?” Punch replied, shaking his head.

“That’s true.” Robert answered.

“We’d best find her.” Punch stated. “Gamilla, ring for Violet, and ask her to stay with Colin, please. Then, you can clean yourself up, you can. We’ll tell Miss Lennie that you and she will be goin’ shopping.”

“Thank you, Sirs.” Gamilla smiled. “I think I can stay with Colin, we don’t gotta go now…”

“You do.” Punch said with affectionate sternness. “You should go right now. No bride should go to bed wonderin’ where the gown for her weddin’ day will come.”

“Yes, Your Grace.”

“We are terribly sorry this happened.” Robert said as he stood. “We shall have a serious talk with Fern.”

“Don’t be too hard on her, Sir.” Gamilla nodded. “She done jus’ lost her mama and she seen terrible thin’s.”

Robert nodded. Taking Punch by the arm, he led his companion out of the nursery. Punch paused and waved at Colin. “We’ll be back, little chum.”

Once in the passage, Robert grumbled, “Where do you suppose the girl has gone?”

“She must be in the house.” Punch answered. “Lennie’s in the mornin’ room, so she couldn’t get out the rear of the house, we’d have heard the front door and with everyone downstairs, she couldn’t get out the area door or the mews door.”

They descended one flight of stairs, only to be met by Speaight on the landing.

“Is Gamilla unharmed?” Speaight asked.

“Her dress—her wedding dress—has been ruined by Miss Fern.” Robert responded.

“Ah.” Speaight nodded. “I hate to add to your troubles, Your Grace, but…”

“Oh, no.” Punch frowned.

“I’m afraid,” Speaight continued, “Miss Rittenhouse and a Mr. Iantosca are in the front vestibule.”

“Good God, why?” Robert bellowed.

“Miss Rittenhouse has produced an invitation to tea which she claims was sent by you, Your Grace.”

“I?” Punch’s eyes widened. “I’d never do such a thing.”

“I didn’t think so, Your Grace. However, the envelope bears your seal.”

“My seal?” Punch looked to Robert. “You didn’t…”

“Certainly not.” Robert shook his head.

“She insists upon seeing you, Your Grace.” Speaight declared impotently.

Punch’s shoulders sagged. “Come on, Chum, let’s get this over with.”

Robert nodded.

“Speaight,” Punch added. “If you see Miss Fern anywhere…”

“I shall return her to her room, Your Grace.”

“Thank you.” Punch nodded.

Arm in arm, Punch and Robert continued their descent down the stairs.

“Who coulda done that—sending an invitation to that witch?” Punch growled.

“I can’t imagine.” Robert shook his head sadly.

Neither Robert nor Punch said it, but they feared that it had been either Gerard or Charles. Unfortunately, they were correct.

At that very moment, Charles, still shaken from his previous encounters there, and Gerard crept through the back halls of Hamish House, in search of Orpha Polk and her monstrous baby. In his hand, Charles held a huge cleaver he’d taken from Mrs. Pepper’s kitchen.

Charles and Gerard exchanged glances, hearing the sound of Orpha’s voice as she cooed to her two-headed son. Nodding at one another, they advanced.

Did you miss Chapters 1-281? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 283 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

The Art of Play: “Fido” the Toy Lion, 1914

This plush lion is a testament to the love that children feel for their soft toys. Purchased in Calgary in 1914, “Fido” was named as such because he was initially believed to be a dog. He was purchased for a young girl, Nancy Mildon, by her mother. By 1916, as the First World War swelled, Fido was a source of comfort for Nancy, and served as he constant companion. He traveled with her across the ocean three times in 1916 on the RMS Alaunia, in 1921 and in 1929.  

Plush Lion, 1914
Calgary, Alberta
The Merseryside Maritime Museum

While on the RMS Alaunia, Fido was loaned by Nancy’s mother (against Nancy’s wishes) to another young girl aboard the shop, Ruth Merrington. So enamored by Fido was Ruth that she drew a picture of the lion and wrote a poem in his honor which she presented to Nancy upon returning Fido to his best friend.

Fido was so beloved that Nancy kept him (along with the drawing and poem by Ruth Merrington) until her death at age ninety. Today, Fido continues to delight people. He’s on display, with his poem and drawing, in Lifelines Gallery, on the 1st floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museumin Liverpool.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Walnut Fruit Press, 1700

Fruit Press
Italy, 1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This carved walnut fruit press takes the form of a lion's body. The lion rests on walnut brackets and an elm base. The lion's body is hollow, allowing it to receive fruit which is then crushed by a slat of wood with a cross-hatched underside. The mouth of the lion is fitted with a spout from which the juice from the crushed fruit pours.

This fruit press comes from Italy and was carved about 1700 or earlier. The press is really quite small and would have been given a prominent place on a kitchen table.

Friday, March 15, 2013

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.  Some week, I may offer a nifty prize from our online store.  But, this week, again, I don't feel like it.

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 give you a group of three.

One is sitting down , and will never rise.

The second eats as much as is given to
him, yet is always hungry.
The third goes away and never returns.

And...the answer is...

A stove, the fire inside of it and the smoke it produces.

I think Raymond Burr, in general, is a better, let's declare DARCY the winner.  However, I must say, everyone was quite clever today.  Thanks for chiming in.  And, of course, 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.  

Mastery of Design: The Madras Necklace, 1850

Made in India around 1850, we see a gold pendant set with rubies, diamonds and other precious stones on a sliding gold chain. The pendant can also be worn as a brooch. Though the necklace shows obvious European influence in it style, it is clearly an Indian creation with its thicker gold work and distinctively Eastern design.

The piece was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum from an exhibition in 1855 by the Indian Museum which had been formed by the East India Company in the early Nineteenth century.

Friday Fun: Justin Tai’s Punch and Judy Show

Justin Tai
For today’s “Friday Fun,” we feature a clip from a performance by Professor Justin Tai who has been performing Punch & Judy shows since the age of nine. Today, Justin and his show are a fixture on the Broadstairs Beach in Kent.

Justin offers up some interesting shtick that I’ve not seen before. His puppets are also quite different with their rather wild hair. I wonder who made them.

Enjoy Professor Justin’s performance from this video from 2008.

Drawing of the Day: The Discovery of the Tomb of Punchinello, 18th C.

Click image to enlarge
The Discovery of the Tomb of Punchinello
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Eighteenth Century drawing by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) is something of a mystery. We’ve examined several drawings by Tiepolo previously. He often found inspiration in the characters from the Commedia dell’Arte, especially Pulcinella (Punchinello) and frequently depicted Mr. Punch’s ancestors in multiples and family groups.

This work of pen over red chalk has long been referred to as “The Discovery of the Tomb of Punchinello”—an English attribution, after-the-fact, based on Tiepolo’s other works more so than any context given in the piece itself.

The front of the drawing depicts a group of four men watching three others raising the slab of a tomb. The recto depicts Death giving audience.

Obviously, this is a study for a painting. Curators at the V&A--where this lives—have long thought that the piece was an early idea for Tiepolo’s “Scherzo No. 17” which was officially entitled “The discovery of the tomb of Punchinello.” The central figure is shown in a Franciscan habit, suggesting that, perhaps, a miracle of St Anthony of Padua was the inspiration for the scene.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 281

Chapter 281
Box of Rodents

Darling,” Ulrika whispered into the ear of her lover, Giovanni Iantosca. “I think your brother was quite rude today. I loved every minute of it.”

Carlo has changed,” Giovanni moaned in his Italian baritone. “He used to have such…such passion per la vita. Such a bright…brightness. Now, what has be become. Uno smidellato. He’s been too much with those…”

“Mandrakes?” Ulrika winked.

“I don’t know this word.” Giovanni shrugged. “I am only seeing my brother become something he is not.”

“What is he, really?”

“He is an Iantosca. He is like me!”

“I don’t think he is.” Ulrika sighed. “Why, his reaction to poor Marduk was positively delicious. He was horrified, darling. Isn’t it something? How could his dear, little faces frighten anyone? Really, darling, do you understand it?”

“I understand nothing.” Giovanni pounded his thigh with his fist.

“Oh…that’s not true. You understand many things, but best of all, you know how to give me a green dress…”

“What is this? I have never given you a gown.”

“No, darling.” Ulrika winked, pulling up her skirts to her knees.


“Why not?”

“Orpha is just in the next room.”

“Call her in.” Ulrika cooed.

“Very well.”

“Delightful.” Ulrika moaned reaching for Giovanni.

Just as he was about to embrace her, they both stopped as the sound of the front bell ringing interrupted.

“Ignore it.” Giovanni shook his head.

“I might be the delivery I’m expecting.” Ulrika pushed Giovanni away.

“Orpha can get it.”

“The mother of the messiah?” Ulrika frowned. “Certainly not. Darling, really…”

“Of course, of course.” Giovanni sank to the floor. “Why have we no servants?”

“Who exactly?” Ulrika laughed as she straightened her skirts. “Servants talk, darling. You know that.”

“It is not right you should open your own door.”

“I’ll survive.” Ulrika winked.

She hurried to the front hall to open the door. A messenger trembled as she did. “Miss Rittenhouse?”


He handed a crisp white envelope to her.

Without a word of thanks, Ulrika closed the door on the boy.

“That is not the box of rodents.” Giovanni frowned as Ulrika returned to the parlor.


“What is it?”

“It’s a hurdy gurdy. Really? Darling, what does it look like?” Ulrika snapped.

“I love when you shout at me.”

“I know.” Ulrika nodded. She turned over the envelope. “The Duke of Fallbridge’s seal.”

“Open it.”

Ulrika ripped open the letter. She read it silently and began to laugh throatily.

“Well, morbida, empia bestia?” Giovanni asked. “What is funny?”

“It’s an invitation.” Ulrika chortled. “To tea with His Grace, the puppet Duke and his fancy lover.”

“Non ci posso credere” Giovanni shook his head.

“It’s true, really.” Ulrika tossed the letter at him.

She turned and began to walk away.

“Where do you go?”

“To dress for tea, darling. You should do the same.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-280 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 282. 

The Art of Play: The Three-Headed Scaramouche, 1870-1890

Scaramouche--Trick Marionette
The Tiller Clowes Troupe, 1870-1890
Restored by George Speaight
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another marionette from the Victorian troupe of the Tiller-Clowes family, this figure depicts Mr. Scaramouche, a character which was adapted from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte to the English Punch and Judy tradition.

Made between 1870 and 1890, the marionette still wears his original costume and survives in excellent condition. Whether a glove puppet or a marionette, Scaramouche is often employed as a trick puppet. Usually, his neck extends to twice the length of his body, however, this example is a little different.

He features three heads. The two smaller heads are inserted in the larger head which is supported by the body. The largest head wears a purple silk hat, the second head wears a striped cotton hat and the third is hatless. At the point in the show when Scaramouche becomes overwhelmed by Mr. Punch, typically, he shows his frustration by having his neck extend upward. In this case, however, instead of his neck growing, Scaramouche shows his angst by having the two smaller heads pop out of the largest head—creating a comic effect of utter confusion. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Commedia dell'Arte Doctor, 1850

The Doctor
Italy, c. 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here, we see a glazed figurine which depicts a grey-mustached Commedia dell'Arte character, most likely the Doctor. He has donned an elongated, brimmed maroon hat, a cream neck ruff, a black doublet and hose, with a black cape that is lined in yellow. He takes a foppish stance, with his left hand on his waist, and his right hand at his side. He is holding a roll of documents. His pedestal is decorated with two comedy masks and very rococo style shell-like patterns.

This figurine was probably manufactured in the second half of the Nineteenth Century, and is one of a set representing various characters from the Italian the Commedia dell'Arte. The Doctor, or Dottore, was traditionally portrayed as a pompous scholar from Bologna, and was essentially an academic version of the greedy Pantalone. He spoke in a haughty manner peppered with malapropisms and gibberish. This stock character was adopted into the Punch & Judy tradition and remains a part of the mythology of Mr. Punch to this day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Bertie and the Tinker

"I don't give a damn."

Image: The Tinker; Le Chaudronnier ou Le Rétameur de Campagne, c, 1874, Legros, born 1837 - died 1911 (artist), Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides to The Victoria & Albert Museum.    

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery of Design: A Swiss Garnet Necklace, 1800-1870

Choker of Garnet Beads
Swiss, 1800-1870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Choker or collar necklaces like the one pictured above were originally worn both in Austria and Switzerland for the practical purpose of hiding a goiter--a disfiguring disease caused by lack of iodine, a condition which was endemic in the high Alps.

Though the designs vary from valley to valley, usually, these chokers were constructed of loose chains of silver links, or beads of garnet or coral, sometimes, even, punctuated with plaques of delicate silver filigree. Traditionally, and for comfort, these necklaces were worn over a thin scarf of black silk. Such chokers were generally termed “Halsbätti” which literally means a rosary worn on the neck. This was because the beads resembled rosary beads, but I want to emphasize that these pieces never were assigned any religious meaning.

This example consists of six rows (originally seven) of faceted garnet beads (actually, they may be garnet-colored glass) with four rectangular plaques, each covered with filigree tracery. The two-part clasp is made of matching filigree, with rosette over the central hook. It was made in Schwyz, Switzerland between 1800 and 1870.

Painting of the Day: Prince Arthur, 1852

Prince Arthur
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1852
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873) was a favorite of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria who often commissioned the artist to produce family scenes which included the Royal children and pets—specialties of the painter.

The German-born Winterhalter had been brought to Queen Victoria’s attention by the Queen of the Belgians in 1842. He worked for the Royal Court until his death.

This handsome portrait by Winterhalter was completed in 1852. It depicts Prince Arthur (1850–1942), the third son and seventh of the nine children of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. Prince Arthur depicted seated, holding a soldier doll. A copy of the portrait was made by Winterhalter by command of Queen Victoria who presented it to Prince Arthur’s godfather, the Duke of Wellington on the occasion of the Prince’s birthday.

We should remember that in the mid-Nineteenth Century, little boys were still being attired in what is essentially a dress.