Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Weekend: Part II

Hello, all!  As it's Easter weekend, Bertie, Mr. Punch and I will be taking a break from the usual posting schedule.  We'll be back up to our usual hijinks on Monday.  Until then, you can come back each day to see some of the Easter-related ephemera in my personal collection.

You can click on each image to enlarge it.

Let's continue hopping...

Firstly, how cute is this postcard from 1910?  Don't think about the fact that the chicks are as big as the little girl.  Just love its inherent Edwardian cuteness.

Next, we have a dour bunny.  I'm not sure if he's delivering or stealing the eggs.  I like to think he's stealing them.  I think that might cheer him up.  I just want to hug the little fella.  Bertie, of course, wants to eat him.

More tomorrow!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Weekend: Part I

Hello, all!  As it's Easter weekend, Bertie, Mr. Punch and I will be taking a break from the usual posting schedule.  We'll be back up to our usual hijinks on Monday.  Until then, you can come back each day to see some of the Easter-related ephemera in my personal collection.

You can click on each image to enlarge it.

Let's begin with these:

Since it's Friday, which is typically a Punch-themed day, I'd be remiss if I didn't share this Victorian Easter postcard...a favorite of mine.

I also like this trade card quite a lot, and want a similar hat.  I often make the face which the bunny is making.

More tomorrow!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Dawn of Bertie

"Don't worry lady, I'm bored, too."

Image:  The Dawn of Love, England, Great Britain (made), 1846 (painted), Artist/Maker: Brooks, Thomas, born 1818 - died 1891, Given by Christopher Pearse to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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

Mastery of Design: A Lovely Fabregé Egg

Michael Perchin
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This gorgeous enamel and diamond pendant dates between 1896 and 1903 and is the work of Fabregé artist, Michael Perchin. It was purchased by Queen Alexandra while still Princess of Wales as an Easter Gift.

Everything about this piece is stunning—from the magnificent blue to the glitter of the diamonds.

Bertie's Pet-itations: The Voice

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

Though I may not speak, I have much to tell you, if you'll listen to me.

The Art of Play: A Novelty Egg Doll in a Box, 1870

Novelty "Egg Doll", 1870
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Dolls were often given as gifts to adults to celebrate occasions such as births, christenings and weddings. Very often these dolls were presented in “boxes” which were really elaborate cases of wood, papier mache and glass with elaborately painted backgrounds.

This English doll was most likely given as a gift for a christening or a birth. The figure of a baby is bursting forth from an egg. The doll can easily be removed from its case. Upon inspection, one notices that the doll’s head can be removed to reveal a cavity inside which was specifically created to hold sweets. The usual filling for such dolls was candied almonds—a traditional gift to commemorate joyous events.

The interior of the case is adorned with wax roses which frame a hand-painted mirror so that the doll could be viewed from all sides. Special items such as these were cherished for many years, however, given their fragile nature, few survive. This particular example can be viewed at the Museum of Childhood at the V&A.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 292

Chapter 292 

Your Grace,” Speaight rose as Punch descended the service stairs. “Everyone to your feet” he waved his hands at Mrs. Pepper, Georgie and Maudie who had gathered around Ethel and Ruthy.

“No, no.” Punch shook his head. “Stay where you are, please.” He was careful to speak in the measured tones of the Duke of Fallbridge.

Walking across the servants’ hall, Mr. Punch joined the staff at the table, sitting down with them. He tried his best to smile for the sake of Ethel and the visiting girl.

“When I was a small boy,” Punch began, “I saw many a thing that was frightening. These same things frightened me as a man. I was fortunate because I had something within me which comforted me.” He looked at Ethel and nodded. “You know what I mean by that.”

Ethel nodded slowly.

“When I met Dr. Halifax,” Punch continued, “I realized that I didn’t just have to rely upon myself…or…my own…” he struggled for the words, “inner thoughts to feel safe. I soon saw that I could rely on other people. They, too, may be frightened, but there’s even comfort in being frightened with someone else—someone who cares about you. Ethel, you have many here who care about you. Frightening things may throw themselves at us. They may even sometimes, like today, find their way into our home here. When they do, we, together, will face them and do what we can to make them retreat. And, even on those days when we can’t make them go away altogether, we can always know that, together, we are safe. Together, we always have people who understand us, people who love us and want us to be well. Ethel, for as long as you’re here, you will have that.”

Ethel smiled.

“If you’d like, you may go to your room and get some rest.” Punch smiled.

“No, Sir. I got lots of dishes what want washin’ in the scullery. Don’t I, Mrs. Pepper?”

“I should say you do.” Mrs. Pepper grinned.

“Ethel,” Maudie began. “I can help you with them pots, if you’ll help me chop all them onions for the upstairs tarts. Would that be all right, Mrs. Pepper?”

“Sure, it would.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “But, be smart ‘bout it. Upstairs dinner is comin’ quick.”

The two girls rose and hurried toward the kitchens. Ethel paused and turned to face the Duke.

“Your Grace?” she said softly.

“Yes, Ethel.”

“Thank you.” Ethel nodded before rushing off after Maudie.

Mr. Punch took a deep breath.

“Your Grace,” Mrs. Pepper smiled. “I got the kettle on. I was just about to get some tea for Ruthy. Maybe you’d fancy some?”

“No, thank you.” Punch shook his head.

“I’ll leave ya to talk with the girl, then.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “Come with me, Georgie.”

“Mum? What am I gonna do in the kitchens?”

“You can bring in them sacks of flour like I asked ya an hour ago.” Mrs. Pepper said sharply.

“Oh, right.” Georgie nodded. He stood up. “Nice meetin’ ya, Ruthy.”

Ruthy looked up.

“Good afternoon, Your Grace.” George bowed his head.

“You’re a good lad, George.” Mr. Punch responded. “Now…” He turned to Speaight. “I’d like to speak with Ruthy for a moment.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Speaight nodded, retreating to his pantry.

“Ruthy,” Punch started, “how are you?”

“I never seen anything like it.” Ruthy shook her head.

“I know.” Punch answered sympathetically. “But, we mustn’t be afraid. The poor creatures can’t help what they are. It’s an accident of nature, as Dr. Halifax says. We should pity them, not fear them.”

“I didn’t mean that, Your Grace.” Ruthy answered.


“No. I was shocked by that poor, sad thing.” Ruthy confessed. “I shouldn’t have screamed like that.”

“It’s understandable that you did.” Mr. Punch smiled. “But, if you didn’t mean, Marduk, as they’re called, what did you mean?”

“This, Your Grace.” Ruthy shrugged. “A master of the house, a Duke no less, coming down and sitting with the staff to make them feel better. Speaking to a scullery maid in such a gentle way so she’d not be afraid.”

“As master of the house, as you say, it’s my responsibility to see that all who live here are safe and comfortable.”

“Most men don’t care, Sir. Especially men like you—men with titles and wealth.”

“I’m not most men.” Mr. Punch chuckled slightly.

“Your Grace,” Ruthy began, “if you’ll have me still, I’d like to start my trial.”

“I’d like that.” Mr. Punch said. “Speaight will take you upstairs to the attics and show you where you’ll be sleeping and give you your uniforms. Then, if you would, tell him that I’d like to see you in the library, I’ll take you to meet Colin. Gamilla and Miss Molliner should have returned by then.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Thank you, Ruthy. I hope you’ll be happy here.”

“I know I will be.” Ruthy nodded.

After arranging for Speaight to take Ruthy to her new quarters, and after checking in on the kitchens to see that everything was as it should be, Punch quietly slipped from the servants’ hall and went upstairs two flights to the library where he found Dog Toby waiting for him.

“Hullo, furry one.” Punch said softly.

The terrier wagged his tail.

“Been a terrible day, it has.” Punch shook his head. “Just terrible.” He knelt to pet the dog, and, then, spotted the ornate table in the center of the opulent room.

“Here,” Punch sighed. “Maybe…maybe we oughta…”

The dog seemed to understand Punch and trotted to the table, lying down under it. Punch crawled across the plush carpet and joined the dog underneath the table.

“Coo.” Punch puffed, lying on his back and shutting his eyes. Dog Toby rolled over so that his head was resting on Punch’s leg.

“Let’s just stay here for awhile, furry love.” Punch whispered. “Our chum will find us.” He sighed again. “Just for a little while, then. Just long ‘nough to catch me breath.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-291 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 293.

The Home Beautiful: An Egg Stand, 1785

Sheffield Plate Egg Stand
Sheffield, 1785
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Eggcup sets or egg cruets first came about in the Eighteenth Century during a period when the upper classes began a long-standing preoccupation with elegant and refined dining. The earliest recorded eggcup frame that’s been found thus far dates to about 1740.

This egg stand was made around 1785 in Britain of Sheffield Plate (copper plated with silver) and conveniently boasts a salt cellar, in the center of the stand, in the form of an oval basket with a swing handle. Originally this cellar would have had a (probably cobalt blue) glass liner to protect the silver from the corrosive effects of the salt.

The stand and the pierced and chased egg cups are made in the Neo-classical style. This very clever contraption also features hooks for six egg spoons (which are now, sadly, missing).Boiled eggs would have been nestled in each cup and carried into the dining room by a footman on the stand. Then, each person at table would have been given his or her own egg cup and spoon and could have salted his or her egg from the central cellar. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Ostrich Egg Cup and Cover, 1623

Ostrich Egg
Cup and Cover
The Royal
This lovely, though peculiar, gilt cup was presented to the Reverend John Stopes on New Year’s Day, 1623, as a gift of affection for the Reverend who had followed in his father’s footsteps as the beloved Parson of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Old Fish Street (love the name), City of London.

The cup is inscribed:

This Cupp was given to Mr John Stopes our parsonns sonne by the Parishioners of the Parish of St Mary Magdalenes In or neere Olde Fishstreete London for his paines takinge / with vs by his often preaching with vs hoping that he will so friendly accept it as we most franckly and willing meane it The firste day of January 1623.

The object is crafted of a genuine ostrich egg supported by a silver-gilt base and mounts. Atop the cover, a gilt-silver figure of the goddess Minerva stands. Minerva once held an engraved banner which showed the face of Mary Magdalene and the words, “The 4 of october 1577 Mr James Stopes came to be our parson,” in reference to John’s predecessor, his Reverend father.

The cup and cover bears the mark known as “The Trefoil Slipped.” This is the mark of a goldsmith who was in business from 1570-1630. While the goldsmith’s name in now unknown or forgotten, his mark lives on and is prized for the artist’s use of exotic materials such as ostrich eggs, mother-0f-pearl and abalone as well as his masterful gilding.

Somehow, this object came to auction in 1924. The auction catalog lists the piece as having the aforementioned “banner” in the hands of Minerva. However, over the next thirty years, the banner was lost. In 1953, the piece came into the possession of the American Branch of the English Speaking Union and was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her coronation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Gold and Diamond Wristwatch by Cartier and Jaeger, 1936

Cartier and Jaeger
The Victoria & Albert Museum
After the First World War and around the time of that whole pesky abdication kerfuffle, wristwatches for women became all the rage in England and in France. Previously, women’s watches hung from brooches or chains and were worn on the bodice. While men had begun to wear wristwatches earlier, it wasn’t really until the 1930’s that jewelers really started to create stylish watches specifically for a woman’s delicate wrist.

Cartier became one of the most desirable designers of watches and often employed the watch-makers at the famed Jaeger for the inner-workings of their pieces. Cartier was celebrated for their rectangular women’s watches known as “baguette watches” because of the resemblance of their shape to a baguette-cut diamond. These watches were often set on elaborately jeweled bracelets and sometimes on simple gold bands. The faces were often adorned with baguette- cut diamonds framing the dial.

This watch from the V&A is a perfect example of the Cartier “baguette watch.”

Gifts of Grandeur: A Watch and Chatelaine 1580-1750


Watch and Chatelaine
Chatelaine, German--1580
Watch, English--1750
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Chatelaines were employed for centuries to hold useful items such as watches, keys and small utensils. We’ve looked at other chatelaines before, but this one is particularly handsome.

The chatelaine we see here was made around 1580 in Germany and features a pendant jewel in gold enamel and mother-of-pearl which shows the Centaur Nessus carrying Deianiera.

A gold watch with gilt metal adornment, moss agate and diamonds hangs from the chatelaine. The watch dates to about 1750 and the movement is signed “John Pyke, London, no. 959” and bears case-maker's mark “WI.”

Her Majesty's Furniture: Queen Victoria’s Sèvres Clock, 1837

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Sevres Manufactory
Created in 1837
Presented to Queen Victoria, 1844
Porcelain, Ormolu, Marble
The Royal Collection
Originally made for France's King Louis-Philippe in 1837, this magnificent polychrome porcelain, ormolu and marble clock shows images of famous horologists (clockmakers) and depicts the history of clock-making.  This clock is actually a copy of one that was also made by Sèvres in 1826 for King Charles X. When King Louis-Philippe visited Windsor in 1844, he brought this clock as a gift for Queen Victoria.  The queen was said to have adored the clock which she displayed proudly at Windsor Castle.

Precious Time: A Necessaire and Watch, 1770

Necessaire and Watch
James Cox, 1770
The Victoria & Albert Museum

There’s a fine line between absolutely hideous and truly beautiful. This object sits firmly on that line. I can’t quite decide if I like it or not. It’s certainly ornate and regally-made. With its Gold-mounted agate casket, settings of pearls and paste gems, clockwork mechanism and sounding carillon, it is a work of art. But, perhaps it’s a bit too much, and a little confused. Adorned with shimmering insects and resting on feet of gilt elephants, this necessaire with a watch surmount offers a lot of visual stimulation which makes it simultaneously gorgeous and frightening.

This is the work of the jeweler and goldsmith James Cox who was celebrated for his lavish objets de vertu, and applauded for his constant inclusion of automata and watch movements. The uppermost portion of the necessaire contains a drawer which opens to reveal a range of personal articles such as tweezers, scissors, a pencil and penknife. There’s some debate as to whether or not Cox made all the objects in this necessaire, but he did produce a good many of them.

In the late Eighteenth Century, when this was produced, the growing upper-class showed their wealth by indulging in opulent objects such as this. This was more of a status symbol than it was truly practical. And, while it’s certainly overwrought, it is beautiful in its own way.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 291

Chapter 291

Ruthy’s terrified screams brought people scampering into the front hall from all over the house.

Mrs. Pepper and Georgie appeared from the service entrance which was tucked under the broad sweep of the stairs. Maudie and Ethel followed.

“Dear God!” Mrs. Pepper shrieked upon seeing Marduk.

Georgie took his mother’s arm. “Mum, don’t look at it.”

“What is it?” Maudie whispered to Ethel.

“It’s…it’s…that…” Ethel’s voice swelled, “…thing!” Ethel screamed. “Kill it! Kill it!” She began to rush toward Ulrika, but Georgie grabbed the girl around the waist.

“George, get the girls downstairs!” Mr. Punch shouted. “Mrs. Pepper, will you show Ruthy downstairs, please?” He pointed to the frightened, potential nursery maid.

“KILL IT!” Ethel howled. “KILL IT!”

“Come on, Ethel, please…” Georgie whispered. “Let’s go downstairs.”

“No.” Ethel moaned, gripped in a spasm. “I must kill it!”

“Maudie…help me.” Georgie mouthed.

“Ethel,” Maudie said quickly. “Remember what ya said to me last night? Remember how ya said that your Jenny was watchin’ over you from heaven? She’d not want to see you so upset, and she’d sure not wanna see ya do anythin’ so terrible as killin’ somethin’. She’d want ya to be well and safe. So come on down with me and Georgie. There’s a love.”

“Jenny…” Ethel sobbed. “They killed her for that thing…”

Still distraught, Ethel let Georgie and Maudie escort her back downstairs.

Meanwhile Speaight arrived from the floor above, followed by Gerard, Charles and Robert.

“What’s wrong, girl?” Ulrika cackled as Mrs. Pepper escorted Ruthy downstairs. “Jealous of my beautiful little friend?”

“How did you get in here?” Robert demanded as he reached the landing.

“The door was unlocked. Really, you ought to be more careful.”

“Speaight!” Robert shouted. “You are dismissed!”

“Sir?” Speaight spoke up.

“This isn’t the first time your negligence has put my family in danger. Pack your things and get out of this house at once!” Robert bellowed.

Speaight looked to Mr. Punch who shook his head.

“As for you, Ulrika…” Robert stood next to Punch. “You know you’re not welcome here. Neither you nor your entourage.”

“I’ve come to see my brother.” Giovanni responded defiantly.

“I don’t want to see you!” Charles shouted.

“Please, lower your voices.” Ulrika snapped. “You’re bothering the baby. Look how they’re trying to hold some of their ears. What a pity that the third arm isn’t a little longer, really.”

Mr. Punch studied Marduk. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward and approached the child in Ulrika’s arms.

“What are you doing?” Ulrika backed up defensively. “You can’t touch the messiah.”

“You brought him here so we could see ‘im, no doubt.” Mr. Punch shrugged, making no effort to disguise his voice. After all, chaos had already overtaken the house. “So, let me see ‘im.”

“Very well.” Ulrika smiled. She stepped a little closer.

“Hullo, two-headed baby.” Mr. Punch said. He wanted to look at Marduk in the eye, but wasn’t sure which head to pick. “You know, you ain’t really a two-headed baby. You’re two different people. You’re twins. You just got joined together before you was born.”

“Don’t tell him things like that. Really, Duke.” Ulrika hissed. She looked down at the child. “You are a two-headed baby. Don’t listen to the man. He’s mad.”

Punch rolled his eyes. “I’m mad…” He continued to speak to the child. “You’re two people, and you need help and care, not…this.”

“He gets plenty of care.” Giovanni spat. “Though now we will need help with his mother now crippled as she is…thanks to that blond man whom my brother prefers to me.”

Gerard clenched his eyes shut. Charles steadied his friend by placing a hand on his shoulder.

“We come with a demand.” Giovanni continued..

“I guessed you would ‘ave.” Punch sighed, waving his hand dismissively. “Only, I ain’t done talkin’ to the babies.”

“Baby!” Ulrika snapped. “A two-headed baby.”

“You’re holding two children in your arms.” Robert shook his head. “Ulrika, the Duke speaks the truth. This is not some divine creation. This is no deity, no earthly appearance of some demon. What you see here are two, wretched, deformed babies—an accident of nature. Surely, even you can understand that.”

“I’m not surprised that a man of science such as yourself would have no faith. Really, I’m surprised you and the Duke are so…close, given the fact that he is, by nature and ignoring his madness, a creative person.” Ulrika sniffed.

“Whatever you call ‘em, whatever you think these babies are,” Punch interrupted, “the fact is, they’re sick and they’re gonna die if they don’t get proper care.”

“He’s as healthy as you or I.” Ulrika growled.

“It’s the deformity what makes ‘em sick. Who knows what problems they got inside? They need a doctor or they’re gonna die. Have they ever seen a doctor?” Punch asked.

“No!” Ulrika replied.

“These children could share organs,” Robert began. “Such a thing could weaken them. From what Ethel and Fern have told us, they’re not being fed a diet suitable for any human…”

“HE eats what he likes.” Ulrika barked. “But, I’m glad, really, that you brought up young Fern.”

“Why?” Robert demanded.

“We want her.”

“We know you do.” Punch shook his head. “Only, ya ain’t gonna get ‘er. Now, listen, if you come here with these sad children to convince us to give you Fern, it ain’t gonna work. We said all we gotta say. I don’t think these babies is monsters. I’m sad for ‘em. I wish you’d let Dr. Halifax examine ‘em so they could at least be as healthy as they can be. But, we know you won’t. So, you’d best go. There’s no point in discussin’ things what we know won’t ‘appen.”

“I’m glad, really, that you feel that you can be so open and free with me,” Ulrika nodded. “I shall return the favor. Your man took the hand of this child’s mother. The mother of our messiah. She needs help in caring for him. We want Fern to be that help. An eye for an eye. You took a hand, you give a hand.”

“Fern is not a hand.” Punch replied. “She’s a girl and she ain’t to be traded. We know what Gerard done. Frankly, we all decided that Orpha Polk deserves much worse. Only, I will say this—ain’t a body in this house what’s gonna have her murder on our heads. Neither will there be a person in this house what’s gonna be responsible for ‘er care. The woman killed many people, many of whom were from this household. If there is debt, it is she who is in ours. Fern will remain where she is. We know of your plans for her. You shan’t carry them out.”

“If we do not get what we want, we will have to take something else.” Giovanni snarled, looking up at Gerard.

“There is nothing here for you.” Robert stepped forward. “Charles, Gerard, please show our guests out.”

Charles and Gerard descended upon Ulrika and Giovanni.

“Wait.” Ulrika said quickly. “I won’t have them near Marduk.” She turned to Giovanni. “We will go.”

Giovanni nodded.

“Just know, really, we’ll return.”

“You can certainly try.” Punch shrugged.

With no further discussion, Giovanni, Ulrika and Marduk left. Charles locked the door behind them.

Speaight descended the rest of the stairs and stopped in front of Robert. “I shall pack my things, Sir.”

“No.” Punch interrupted. “You will not. Will he, Chum?”

“No.” Robert muttered. “However, if the security of this house is compromised again, I will insist that His Grace dismisses you at once.”

“Yes, Sir.” Speaight nodded before exiting.

“Poor children.” Punch shook his head.

“It’s out of our hands.” Robert sighed.

“What would you have us do, Sir?” Charles asked softly.

“For now,” Robert said, “We’d prefer Gerard clean himself up before Gamilla returns home.”

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “She’s already had enough frights today.”

“Should I not tell ‘er what I done?” Gerard asked.

“You should tell her.” Punch shook his head. “But, you should look well and rested when you do.”

“Thank you, Your Grace. I’ll clean myself up.”

“I’ll go and change my livery and prepare for dinner, Sirs.” Charles added.

“Fine,” Punch nodded. His face fell.

“What is it, dear Punch?” Robert asked.

“The girl…Ruthy…I almost forgot.”

“Was that the nursery maid the agency sent?”

“Yes. She’s not gonna want to work here now.” Punch shook his head.

“Would you like me to speak with her?”

“No, Chum. I’ll do it. Maybe I’ll just go downstairs instead of sendin’ for ‘er. Just get it over with. Would you go see how Vi is getting’ on with Colin?”

“Of course, my dear.” Robert replied. “I’ll even check on Fern.”

“She’s meant to be writin’ letters of apology in ‘er room.” Punch answered. “Maybe I oughta write one me-self.”

“To whom?”

“To that scared girl downstairs what came here ‘xpecting a job, but got the scare of her life instead.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-290 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 292.

The Home Beautiful: A Porcelain Dressing Table Mirror, 1756

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a mirror and stand of soft-paste porcelain which has been painted with enamels. It features gilt-metal mounts and a brass plaque. Four drawers of brass with brass handles comprise the lower part. On the reverse is a brass door engraved with a dotted pattern of flowering stems.

The mirror’s stand is in the form of a monumental fountain. Six scrollwork feet and flowered drapery complete the look of grandeur and three ducks and bulrushes in relief add a bit of the whimsical to the design. Gilt scrolls and painted bouquets and sprays of flowers add to the overall effect of Rococo splendor which dominated the style of 1756, the year this was made.

The mirror’s frame takes a decidedly rococo form with a border of gilt scrollwork and a circular recess at the top which is painted outside and inside with bouquets and enclosed by sculpted branches of laurel. The concave recess was intended to house a watch movement or the clockwork movement of a music box. A pair of doves in relief surmount the mirror which has been made to lean against the stand.

Such a mirror and stand were intended for a lady's dressing table. This one has quite a history and was probably the “Lady's Toilet” set which was offered at an auction of important pieces of Chelsea porcelain in 1758. The Chelsea factory produced wares for the elite of London.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Clockwork Bear, 1850-1899

Clockwork Bear
The Victoria & Albert Museum
While the concept of a “Dancing Bear” seems quite cruel to us now, it was a staple of Nineteenth Century carnivals and an idea that was often incorporated into children’s playthings. To begin with, the bear was already a favorite subject of toy makers of the Nineteenth Century both in Europe and in the U.S. Here’s a rabbit skin and clockwork example which not only looks disturbingly realistic, but also dances just like the bears that people would see in traveling shows.

This poor bear stands on its hind legs and balances its weight on a walking stick. A figure of wood and cardboard covered in fur, it contains a clockwork mechanism. The bear has a brown glass eye (the other is missing), red plush jaws and teeth made of bone. Its nose and paws are of carved and painted wood. Upon his mouth, he wears a brass wire muzzle from which hangs an attached chain and ring.

Probably the work of a French toymaker, the toy is operated by a large brass key with a circular handle which is inserted into the right side of the body. When the metal rod on the left side is moved, the figure is animated--alternately rocking from side to side to give the impression of walking and dancing.

It’s attractive and horrible all at the same time, sort of like the very idea of a dancing bear.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Cory Diamond Spray, 1860

Lady Cory's Diamond Spray
London, 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the massive jewelry collection of Lady Cory, we see this spray ornament of brilliant-cut and rose-cut diamonds set in silver which was made around 1860 during the height of the fashion for Naturalistic jewelry.

The ornament was intended for use on the bodice or the head. The floral spray is created in three attached units, with two “tremblers” set in silver. The design represents blooming roses, rosebuds and leaves.

Painting of the Day: Antoine Margry's "Flowers in a Vase," 1849

"Flowers in a Vase"
Antoine Margry, 1849
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Shockingly little is known about the life of French artist Antoine Margry except that he lived in the first half of Nineteenth Century and that he was a painter of flowers who exhibited at the Salon between 1831 and 1847. What little we can surmise about Margry comes from studying his paintings. Clearly, this French painter was influenced by the compositions of Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish still-lifes. Margry expertly parrots these compositions while offering his own stylistic trademarks—an interest in direct observation of nature and a broad hand and technique.

Created in 1849, this canvas has been called simply “Flowers in a Vase.” Here, Margry has realistically rendered a scene of roses, peonies, lilacs, chrysanthemums, bluebells and morning glories, all arranged in an urn-shaped vase standing on a plinth.

Unfolding Pictures: The Toilette Fan, 1670-80

French, 1670-80
The Victoria & Albert Museum

“The toilette,” the process of getting dressed, was a fashionable subject for a fan leaf in the late Seventeenth Century. Such scenes were often depicted on elegant fans. Here’s an example of such a fan showing an attractive, elegant room which opens on one side with a view of a distant landscape behind. Therein, putti are preparing Cupid’s bath and making his bed. The vellum leaf, painted in watercolors, is based on paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder.

The reverse is painted with three bunches of roses within a broad border which repeats the shape of the fan leaf. The border is punctuated with a design of flowers and formal leaf patterns.

The sticks and guards are of pierced and carved tortoiseshell and have been decorated with hand-painted squiggles. The fan was made between 1670 and 1680 in France. Some feel that it was meant to celebrate the “Appartement des Bains” at Versailles—the sumptuous bathroom of Louis XIV's mother, Anne of Austria. 


The Home Beautiful: A Seddon & Sons Chair, 1790

Seddon & Sons of London, 1790
Seen here without its cushion.
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Once part of a large set of drawing room furniture, this delicate satinwood chair with its hand-painted polychrome flowers and feathers must now represent its lost brethren. Made in 1790 by the English firm of Seddon & Sons, the chair was owned by the wealthy Tupper Family of Hauteville House in Guernsey, England, who had furnished their opulent drawing room in the light, painted and marquetried style which was popular at the time.

Seddon & Sons was, at the end of the Eighteenth Century, undoubtedly the largest furniture concern in London. The shield-shape of the chair’s back was, likely, inspired by the designs of George Hepplewhite which had been published in his book The Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer's Guide of 1788.

The original bill of sale accompanies the chair and notes that it was one of eighteen which had been ordered by Daniel Tupper for Hauteville House. Three of the set were armchairs.

The bill reads:

George Seddon & Sons,
J. Shackleton

18 Satinwood Elbow Chairs round fronts and hollow can'd seats neatly Japanned - ornamented with roses in back and peacock feather border @ 73/6 ea. £66.3.0.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 290

Chapter 290 

Meet the Baby 

Speaight opened the door to the library grandly and announced, “His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge.”

Punch never really enjoyed being announced in such a fashion. Of course, he understood that he was, indeed—along with Julian—the Duke of Fallbridge, but still such a dramatic entrance didn’t appeal to the man who’d much rather have preferred the sound of a bottler’s drum.

Taking a deep breath, Mr. Punch entered the room where he spent most of his time—a room which, due to the presence of this stranger—suddenly became uncomfortable. He chuckled to himself, thinking that though he’d taken control of their shared body, a part of Julian was always going to be with him.

“Good afternoon,” Punch nodded. “You must be Ruthy?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” The girl nodded, answering in a decidedly Northern accent. She was a slight, fair-skinned girl with caramel-colored hair and brown eyes.

“You’ve come to us highly recommended,” Punch continued, careful to speak in the aristocratic tones expected of him by newcomers. “Please, sit.” He gestured to one of the plush chairs.

Ruthy did as instructed.

“Miss Buck at the agency passed your credentials to me and I can see that you’ve been a valued member of many of a household. May I ask your age?”

“I’m aged twenty-three years, Your Grace.”

“Very good.” Punch nodded. “Did Miss Buck tell you anything about my household?”

“Yes, Your Grace. She told me that you live here with a physician and you’ve an adopted son called Colin. I’m told that Master Colin has a nanny already and that, should you see me fit, I would serve under her.”

“That’s correct.” Punch replied, wishing that he could speak as he normally would. But, it was too soon. “Dr. Halifax is my companion’s name. Colin’s nanny is called Gamilla.”

“Camilla,” Ruthy nodded.

“Gah-milla with a ‘G’.”

“Oh.” Ruthey replied. “Is that a French name?”


“The colonies?”

“African…Africa. Africa, Africa.” Punch shook his head.

“So, she’s…”

“A treasured member of our household who is equal to everyone else downstairs.” Punch interrupted. “I trust you understand.”

“Yes, Sir.” Ruthy blushed.

“You will meet Gamilla later. She’s gone shopping with my sister who also lives here.”

“Your…your African nanny has gone shopping with Lady Fallbridge?”

“With my sister… She’s not called Lady Fallbridge.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon, Sir. Sometimes titles confuse me. Lady Molliner, then?”

“Miss Molliner.” Punch answered.

“But, Sir, I thought it customary for the sister of a Duke to be given the title of ‘Lady’ as a courtesy.”

“Customary, but not always the case.” Punch responded quickly. “Miss Molliner also lives here. We’ve also recently had a new addition to the household. You may not have been told.”

“No, Sir. Another baby?”

“No.” Mr. Punch answered. “A girl, aged seven…or eight. I’m actually not quite sure of her age, to be honest. She’s just come to us. Her mother has died and she’s to be our ward.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Fern…Fern is her name.”

“Is she a relative?”

“Not exactly.” Punch shook his head. He lied, “she’s a distant cousin of the doctor’s. Your chief duty, aside from assisting Gamilla in the nursery, is to keep a watchful eye on Fern. She is, understandably, going through some turmoil and, in light of that, is…” He took a deep breath. “She’s a good girl, really. However, given all she’s endured of late, she’s given to being a little difficult.”


“Given that you had no knowledge that there were two children in the household, I can understand if you’d not wish to take the position.”

“Oh, no, Sir. I’d still like it, if you’ll have me. own mother died when I was quite young. Perhaps I can be of some comfort to the girl.”

“I hope so.”

“But, won’t you be wantin’ a proper governess for her?”

“Perhaps in time.” Punch replied. “We…that is, Dr. Halifax and I…decided it best to let Fern find her place within the household first and become accustomed to her new home. She’s already shown that she’s bright beyond her years, so, a tutor might be a better choice for her. Time will tell.”

“I look forward to meeting her.”

Punch smiled slightly, a look which clearly confused Ruthy. He quickly changed the subject. “Another matter I should note is that at the end of the month, Gamilla will be marrying Dr. Halifax’s valet, Gerard Gurney, who also serves as second footman here.”

“I’ve gone all my life without seeing one Africa, and now there’s two in this house.” Ruthy’s eyes widened.

“No.” Punch shook his head. “Gerard is Australian.”

Ruthy nodded slowly.

Punch narrowed his eyes, but continued. “In light of that, I’m having the nurse’s quarters in the night nursery expanded for the couple so that Gamilla may stay near Colin until he’s older. Should you be hired, you’ll have a room in the attics with the rest of the staff.”

“Will I have to share a room?”

Punch squinted. “I don’t think so. Speaight will know better about that as he organizes the quarters. I know there are more rooms up there than we have people to fill ‘em.” He inhaled again, noticing that his aristocratic reserve was slipping as he grew more fatigued. “After Gerard and Gamilla are married, Dr. Halifax and I will send them on a brief wedding trip. During this time, the parlor maid, Violet, will take up Gamilla’s duties until they return. You will be called upon, during that period to assist more than you normally would.” He paused and studied the young woman. “You look puzzled.”

“It’s just unsual for a master to allow two servants to marry.”

“We are quite happy for them.” Punch nodded.

“I see.”

“Have you any other questions?” Punch asked.

“Do you travel often, Your Grace?”

“Not often.” Punch shook his head. “We have a home in Scotland and another in Yorkshire. In the past, we’ve taken the entire staff with us when we travel.”

“I’ve seen Fallbridge Hall.” Ruthy smiled. “It’s beautiful.”

“So, you’re from Yorkshire?”

“Near there.”

Punch nodded. “Your wages will be as discussed with Miss Buck. If there’s nothing else, I’d like to introduce you to Colin to see how you get on with him. Then, perhaps, we can discuss bringing you on…on trial.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Punch bit his lip and nodded again, rising to ring for Speaight who arrived, as usual, with alarming promptness.

“Your Grace?”

“Would you please have Violet bring Colin down? Bring him to the morning room, please. It’s rather too chilly in here for him right now.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Speaight answered, retreating as quickly as he arrived.

After a moment in awkward silence Punch said to the nervous girl, “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you downstairs to the morning room.”

Ruthy followed the Duke out of the library and down the stairs. When they reached the ground floor, Punch’s eyes widened as an unwelcome sight greeted them. Standing in the hall, apparently after letting themselves in, stood Ulrika Rittenhouse, holding a lumpy bundle which was clearly Marduk, and Giovanni Iantosca.

“How on Earth?” Punch snapped. “Speaight! Speaight! Charles!”

Ruthy, realizing that something was amiss, took a step back.

“Oh, look, darling. A new girl.” Ulrika grinned. “Would you like to meet the baby?”

Ruthy, thinking that the baby in question must surely be Colin, nodded obediently.

Before Punch could say, “No,” Ulrika unveiled Marduk.

“How sweet.” Ulrika grinned as Ruthy screamed in horror. “They like you.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-289 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If not, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 291.