Saturday, May 25, 2013

We will return to business as usual on Tuesday

We'll be taking a brief hiatus Sunday and Monday, and return to the usual posts and chapters of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square on Tuesday, May 28.

See you then!

Mastery of Design: The Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara

The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, as it has been since 1910
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

The original tiara, 1818
on Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel

Queen Mary is often depicted wearing her most fabulous jewels—and she had a lot of them, a lot. One of the most frequently worn pieces in which she’s pictured is a fantastic tiara of diamonds and pearls. This is the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara and it was Queen Mary’s favorite.
The tiara that Queen Mary often wore was not the original Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara, but one that she had created for her in 1913 from diamonds and pearls in her own existing collection.

Growing up as Princess May, Mary had often admired her grandmother’s tiara—the original Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara. This had been a gift to Mary’s grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel upon her marriage to the Duke of Cambridge. Upon her death, Princess Augusta passed the tiara on to her daughter Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg . The Grand Duchess, sister of Mary’s mother, was one of Queen Mary’s closest friends. She often loaned the tiara to Queen Mary. However, after the Duchess’ death, the tiara was removed from the family through a long and complicated series of events which are too difficult to recount here.

The original tiara on
Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg
Queen Mary never forgot about that beloved tiara and in 1913 commissioned Garrard’s to create a duplicate based on paintings and photos. The one difference between the new version and the original is that the upper tier of pearl and diamond “spikes” could be removed and worn as various other pieces of jewelry. Queen Mary wore the tiara (with and without its upper tier) for the remainder of her life, bequeathing it to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen mary in the New 1914 Tiara
(with spikes)
Queen Mary in the new tiara
(without spikes)

Drawing of the Day: George Cooke's Vesta Victoria, 1904

Vesta Victoria
November, 1904
George Cooke
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Regular readers of this site are familiar with Music Hall star Vesta Victoria’s work. The singer and performer was born in Leeds in 1874, and joined her famous father on stage at an early age. Vesta’s father was known as “The Upside-Down Comedian” because he sang songs while standing on his head.

Vesta’s first independent success was in 1893 with her hit song, “
Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow.” She soon became a star both in the U.K. and the U.S. and had a repertoire of popular songs which included “Waiting at the Church.”

Regular readers also know the caricature work of George Cooke whose albums of drawings of famous Edwardian Music Hall stars are preserved in the V&A. This one depicts Vesta Victoria as she looked while performing at Collins’ Hippodrome, Stoke-on-Trent, during the week of November 7, 1904. During this period she was was billed as “England’s Brightest and Best Comedienne.”

The work of pen, ink and wash on pink paper depicts Vesta Victoria wearing a white hat with blue and red striped band, a blue jacket with white collar and gloves. She holds a parasol in her right hand.

Unusual Artifacts: Harry Randall's Dressing Case, 1840-60

Dressing Case of Harry Randall
This and all related images from the
Victoria & Albert Museum

This dressing case was used by the leading music hall comic and “pantomime dame” Harry Randall (1860-1932) as a make-up box. The fine quality of the box and its handsome fittings mark of the status that Randall reached as a performer.  Curiously, this was the only personal possession of Harry Randall's that was preserved by his family.

Randall's first professional appearance was in 1884 at Deacon's Music Hall in Islington. He was very close friends with champion dancer Dan Leno and, like Leno, Randall became known for his comedy character songs and his pantomime dames, several of which he performed in pantomimes with Leno.  He became so well known that his name was used in the rhyming slang for 'candles' which became known as “Harry Randalls,” or simply “Harrys.”

The wooden dressing case boats inlaid brass edging to the lid and sides.  The lid of the box is lined with ruched and padded blue velvet, around which there is a dark blue leather border stamped with a gilt foliate pattern.

The box contains a removable wooden tray divided into six compartments, three of the compartments are lined with blue leather; two with pads of blue velvet and one without lining but with a wooden lid with a silver knob.

The tray contains a wooden lidded compartment, two small round glass jars with silver lids, a long glass tray with a pierced and chased silver lid and a compartment with indentations for tweezers, a corkscrew, a button hook, an awl, manicure scissors and a nail file with a mother-of-pearl handle. The main body of the dressing case has four deep compartments, three containing silver-lidded jars, and one empty with a wooden lid with a silver knob, similar to the wooden lid in the tray but not the same size.

The case was made in London between 1840-1860 by J.J. Mechi.  It is marked:

'No.4 LEADENHALL ST. LONDON. J.J.MECHI. To prevent fraudulent imitations signs all his articles thus without which NONE ARE GENIUNE.'

When the case was donated to the V&A, the donor, a relative by marriage to Harry Randall, wrote: "I am the current custodian of his travelling box in which he kept his make-up. It has been passed down through the family originating from his sister in law Mrs Annie (Nancy) Randall who was married to Alf Randall, Harry's brother. She had everything belonging to Harry Randall, his make-up box, his scrap book, his chair and his sheet music.  After my Great Aunt Nancy died everything of Harry's was thrown out, except his make-up box which my father's sister kept. At this time it still had his original make in on the jars but when my father's sister died and I became the new owner of the box, all the make-up had been washed out by my aunt, unfortunately."

At the Music Hall: Waiting at the Church

I'm in a nice bit of trouble, I confess;
Somebody with me has had a game.
I should by now be a proud and happy bride,
But I've still got to keep my single name.
I was proposed to by Obadiah Binks
In a very gentlemanly way;
Lent him all my money so that he could buy a home,
And punctually at twelve o'clock to-day-

There was I, waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church;
When I found he'd left me in the lurch,
Lor, how it did upset me!
All at once, he sent me round a note
Here's the very note,
This is what he wrote:
"Can't get away to marry you today,
My wife, won't let me!"

Lor, what a fuss Obadiah made of me
When he used to take me in the park!
He used to squeeze me till I was black and blue,
When he kissed me he used to leave a mark.
Each time he met me he treated me to port,
Took me now and then to see the play;
Understand me rightly, when I say he treated me,
It wasn't him but me that used to pay.

There was I, waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church;
When I found he'd left me in the lurch,
Lor, how it did upset me!
All at once, he sent me round a note
Here's the very note,
This is what he wrote:
"Can't get away to marry you today,
My wife, won't let me!"

Just think how disappointed I must feel,
I'll be off me crumpet very soon.
I've lost my husband, the one I never had!
And I dreamed so about the honeymoon.
I'm looking out for another Obadiah,
I've already bought the wedding ring,
There's all my little fal-de-riddles packed up in my box
Yes, absolutely two of ev'rything.

There was I, waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church;
When I found he'd left me in the lurch,
Lor, how it did upset me!
All at once, he sent me round a note
Here's the very note,
This is what he wrote:
"Can't get away to marry you today,
My wife, won't let me!" 

This comic song of a jilted bride was made famous on Music Hall boards by Vesta Victoria (1873-1951), the celebrated music hall singer and comedienne. Miss Victoria, who began her career as a child with her father, performed by affecting a Cockney persona. By, 18982, Miss Victoria was a sensation with her first hit son, “Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow.”

Her deadpan style and tremendous singing voice made Vesta Victoria very popular in both Britain and in the U.S., and by 1907, upon going to America, she was the highest paid performer in Vaudeville.

Building of the Week: Royal Albert Hall, 1871

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, was so impressed with the Great Exhibition of 1851 that he declared a need for a permanent facility to be built in the area that would serve as a place of enlightenment for the British people. Progress on Prince Albert’s idea for a palace to the Arts and Sciences was slow, and Albert’s attention was diverted by a series of family issues which required his personal care in addition to his usual duties. In 1861, Prince Albert died. Though he had declared that he wanted no monuments built in his honor, Her Majesty the Queen was so bereft by the loss of her husband that she insisted that his memory survive in the form of lasting public structures.

The first of these was what had been originally dubbed, “The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences.” Using some of the proceeds from the Great Exhibition, and additional funds raised by the crown, work began on Albert’s dream of a complex dedicated to the Arts and Sciences in 1867. Just before the foundation stone was laid, the Queen declared that the structure should be named in honor of her late husband and called the building, “Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences.” A memorial to the Prince was constructed in front of the site. While it is now separated from the hall by traffic, the Albert Memorial was meant to the artistic representation of the national memorial to the Prince with the Hall itself being the practical memorial.

Exterior of Royal Albert Hall, 1871
The building was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott, two civil engineers, who sought to create a structure reminiscent of the great Classical amphitheaters. They also had a petty motive of wanting to outdo the recently finished Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Designed as an ovoid building of red brick, the structure was to be surmounted by a huge dome of glass and wrought iron.

Interior, 1871
The dome was constructed off-site and tested. Before its installation, it was dismantled and delivered to London via horse and cart. When the dome was installed, no one was allowed inside the building when the workmen removed the temporary support structures for fear that the massive puzzle of iron and glass would fall from its place. Their instincts were correct. The dome did fall, but only five-eighths of an inch before wedging itself in place. It has remained in place since 1870.

Illustration showing Royal Albert Hall in 1903
Inset shows the Albert Memorial
 The façade of the dome was decorated with a bas relief mosaic frieze of sixteen scenes of “The Triumphs of the Arts and Sciences.” Counterclockwise from the North side of the dome, these are: (1) Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851; (2) Music; (3) Sculpture; (4) Painting; (5) Princes, Art Patrons and Artists; (6) Workers in Stone; (7) Workers in Wood and Brick; (8) Architecture; (9) The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences; (10) Agriculture; (11) Horticulture and Land Surveying; (12) Astronomy and Navigation; (13) A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students; (14) Engineering; (15) The Mechanical Powers; and (16) Pottery and Glassmaking.

Above the frieze, a band of terracotta letters spans the dome and spells out the inscription: "This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on earth peace." That’s quite a lot to write on a building. I knew that the molding above the frieze said something, but it’s a little hard to make out from a distance. The next time I’m there, I’ll have to run around the perimeter of the building and try to read it.

Royal Albert Hall opened in 1871. Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII and the least favorite of Victoria’s children) gave a rousing opening speech whereupon Queen Victoria became so overcome with emotion that she could not speak. Edward, in a rare moment of alertness, noticed his mother’s distress and declared for her, “The Queen declares this Hall is now open.”

The structure was not without its problems. As evidenced from the inaugural concert in 1871, the auditorium had terrible acoustics and a displeasing echo effect that was somewhat corrected in 1969 by the addition of hanging acoustic disks (known as “The Mushrooms”). For a century, a common joke among performers, due to the echo, was that Royal Albert Hall was the only place in the world that a British composer would hear his work performed twice.

Despite its bad acoustics, the opulent hall has hosted hundreds of thousands events and remains one of the main focal points of British arts. The Web site of The Royal Albert Hall has a very nifty interactive timeline which is definitely worth visiting.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Tragedy at the Colosseum Music-Hall, 1878

The Fatal Panic and Crush at the Colosseum Music-Hall, Liverpool in 1878
Sir Luke Fildes, 1878
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print shows an illustration of the fatal panic and crush at the Colosseum Music-Hall, Liverpool in 1878.   It was published by The Illustrated London News in the same year.  Sir Luke Fildes, (KB, KCVO, RA, born 1844 - died 1927) served as the illustrator. 

The Colosseum Music Hall in Liverpool had been converted around 1850 from an octagonal-shaped Unitarian Chapel which had been built in 1791.  The structure was heavily altered to accommodate two auditoria, one for variety acts and one for straight theater.  The alterations to the building had been made poorly and hastily and, on October 11, 1878, part of the ceiling fell—crushing 37 people and injuring many others in the ensuring panic.

By 1879, the theatre—which had been closed since the tragedy—reopened after having undergone extensive repair and renovation.  Gone were the two auditoria—replaced with one which could hold 3000 people.  Sadly, the tragedy tainted the theatre and the new incarnation of the venue failed, closing and reopening again in 1880 as the Star Music Hall.  Since that time, the theatre has undergone many changes and been called by many different names.  By 1916 it had become a warehouse.  The structure was bombed during the Second World War and was, then, subsequently demolished.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Pair of Ruby Earclips by Van Cleef and Arpels

Rubies and Gold
Van Cleef and Arpels
The Victoria and Albert Museum

This set of earclips by Van Cleef and Arpels was made between 1940 and 1950. The feature a curved panel of gold set with rubies swept around a rod of gold.

The surface of each clip has a pattern of honeycombs in which each hexagon holds a star-set ruby. This design was created by Van Cleef and Arpels in the late 1930s, and was introduced as a flexible bracelet. The style remained popular throughout the 1940s and into the '50s.

The Parisian jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels opened their first New York branch in October of 1929. Bad timing as the venture was ruined by the Stock Market Crash. Ten years later, following the New York World's Fair, they re-established their presence in New York and were, as we know, wildly successful.

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...

What is round as a dishpan, deep as a tub, and still the oceans couldn't fill it up?

And...the answer is...

A Sieve or Colander.  Congratulations to Kathy for being the first to give the right answer.

I'm closing this week's puzzle a little early since I'm battling a computer virus and wanted to make sure I could post the answer before I start the process of restoring things.

Come back next week 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.  

Friday Fun: Punch and the Courtier

The Courtier
As recreated by Chris van der Craats
In the 1820’s artist George Cruikshank famously illustrated scenes from the Punch & Judy shows of the Professor known as Piccini. Many of the characters in Piccini’s puppet plat have fallen out of use. Among these was the “Courtier” who was a great source of irritation to Mr. Punch.

Piccini’s puppet play introduced the Courtier character who Piccini based on the traditional notion of the romantic Italian. The Courtier is notable for his long, extending neck—a trait he shares with the irascible Mr. Scaramouche. As Punch is courting “Pretty Polly,” just before his murderous spree gets truly underway, he encounters the Courtier and is, of course, wildly irritated by him. In some versions, Punch merely threatens the Courtier. In others, he knocks the man’s head off of his long neck. In most cases, the Courtier serves as a symbol of the threat of Punch’s demise by hanging.

The reality of the puppet, however, was that Piccini wished to show off his skills as a puppeteer. The Courtier is unique to Piccini’s version of the play and served to showcase Piccini’s talents. The Courtier performs a rather difficult trick of arranging and removing his hat—not an easy task with wooden hands that are incapable of grasping. Skilled puppeteers have been known to recreate this unique scene which, according to Piccini’s original script plays as follows.

Cruikshank's drawing of
Piccini's Courtier, 1829
From Punch and Judy:
A Short History with the 
Original Dialogue
[Enter a figure dressed as a courtier who sings a slow air, and moves to it with great gravity and solemnity. He first takes off his hat on the right of the theatre, and then on the left, and then carries it in his hand. He stops in the centre, the music ceases; and suddenly, his throat begins to elongate, and his head gradually rises until his neck is taller than all the rest of his body. After pausing for some time, the head sinks again; and as soon as it returns to its natural place, the figure exits.]

ENTER Punch from behind the curtain, where he has been watching the maneuvers of the figure.

PUNCH: Who the Devil are you? Me should like to know, with your long neck? You may get it stretched for you, one of these days, by someone else. It’s a very fine day [Peeping out and looking to the sky]. I’ll go fetch my horse and take a ride to visit my Pretty Poll’.


Of all the girls that are so smart,
There’s none like Pretty Polly:
She is the darling of my heart,
She is so plump and jolly.

Here, we see this original scene as performed by Australia’s Professor Whatsit, otherwise known as Chris van der Craats who has brilliantly recreated this figure based on the drawings of Cruikshank.

Mr. Punch" in the Arts: "Punch Hanging the Devil," 1841

Image From Punch Magazine.

Throughout Mr. Punch’s English evolution, he increasingly began to represent the voice of the people and became a tool by which satirical commentary could be proffered without fear of retribution. In 1841, Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells founded Punch Magazine—taking the name from the popular puppet as well as a personal pun that they shared with their contributor, Mark Lemon, “Punch is nothing without Lemon.”

Punch Magazine gave rise to a new style of parody and political commentary and is credited as being the first publication to refer to a comic drawing as a “cartoon.” A conservative magazine, Punch offered sophisticated humor without the threat of vulgarity, and was soon welcomed into the finest drawing rooms and clubs. The magazine grew in popularity until the 1940’s. Soon, its readership slowly declined. The magazine closed in 1992. Mohammed Al-Fayed’s 1996 remake of Punch Magazine was a dismal failure.

Image From Punch Magazine.
Still, many copies of Punch remain today and offer us a glimpse at the art, politics and humor of one hundred and fifty years of British history. I’m particularly fond of the magazine’s first cover. The engraving by Landelis depicts Mr. Punch triumphantly hanging the Devil (a favorite pastime of his). The wild look of glee on Mr. Punch’s face just makes me smile.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square Will Return on Tuesday

Today, we are vexed by technical issues and business intrusions.  So, we're going to postpone today's chapter of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.  The next chapter will be posted on Tuesday, May 28 as Bertie and I will be taking a hiatus on Monday and Tuesday for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday.

Tomorrow, however, you'll have all sorts of fun Music Hall related stuff to look at.  So, make sure to come back then.

Antique Image of the Day: Punch and the Devil

Mr. Punch and the Devil
Print of unknown origins
George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This engraving is something of a mystery. Nothing is known about its origins and it could date anywhere between the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. The work of an unknown artist and publisher, the print has been hand-colored with watercolors and, at a later date, mounted on card.

The image depicts a decidedly human-looking Mr. Punch as he defeats the Devil (who is quite grotesque and ferocious) by literally kicking his posterior. Long a part of the Punch & Judy mythology, Punch’s triumph over the Devil has frequently been portrayed in art, however, few depictions are as jubilantly realistic.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Mr. Punch's Devil, 19th Century

Watercolor painting, Nineteenth Century, Unknown artist, V&A
Watercolor Painting
Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Worked in watercolor by an unknown artist and dating to the late Nineteenth Century, this drawing portrays a puppet devil and other grotesque characters. Since this is part of the V&A’s George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection, we can presume that the devil we see here was probably used as Mr. Punch’s Devil, however, the presence of the other puppet demons suggests that the painting depicts a group of figures which had many purposes. 

The work bears an inscription on the reverse.  While this handwritten note doesn’t give us any idea about the origins of the painting, it does give us a little sense of its life before coming to George Speaight and ending up in the V&A.

On the back, in pencil, is written, “Puppet/ devile from Faciet/ The [illigible] Puppet/ presented by Max Joseph/ to Mary/ May 14th 1963.”

Interesting.  All of that meant something to someone at one point. 

I really like this.  I wouldn’t want to display it in my home since it would scare Bertie, but I find it appealing in a devil puppet kind of way.

Reverse, watercolor painting, George Speaight Archive, V&A

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Dull-Maker

"All this time you're wasting, you could be making pancakes."

Image:  The Lace Maker, Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans (1811-1888) (artist), Creation Date: dated 1846, Materials: Oil on panel, Dimensions: 41.3 x 44.0 cm, Acquirer: 
Prince Albert, Prince Consort, consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-61),
Provenance: Given to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria, 26 August 1846; first recorded at Windsor c. 1872, Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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 
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Mastery of Design: The Lady Cory Garnets, 1835

Lady Cory's Garnets
France, 1835
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This necklace, made in 1835, was inspired by ancient Greek garnet jewelry which, like this piece, used fine gold wire to affix the stones.
  This piece typifies the jewelry of the 1830s which was often lighter in metal weight, but set with a wide range of different stones, often in archaeological styles.  

Look at the the highly ornate filigree work of spirals and volutes (cannetille) and granules (grainti) which offer an appealing relief texture.
   The Parisian jeweler responsible for this piece obviously made it to appeal to the British populace who could afford such pieces and their growing interest in ancient styles.  The necklace was acquired by Lady Cory who added it to her important collection of jewels--now housed in the V&A.