Thursday, June 13, 2013


The best laid plans, etc.

The reality is, this isn't going to be the week that I planned. And, so, in a rare moment of realism, I declare this a week off.

Unfortunately, other demands are getting in the way of my fun. So, join us again on Monday for the usual hi-jinx, antiques, puppets, doggies, jewelry and other unusual things.

We shall carry on in a few days.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


For the first time since 2010, yesterday, I didn't update this web site.  Sure, sometimes, if I'm overly busy or I have a conflict, I'll post a message to that end, but yesterday, I just wasn't able to.

Among the many things going on, it's a week of celebration for the birthday of Bertie's birthday.  Adopting my Bertie, as regular readers know, is among the best decisions I ever made.

Coming later this week, you'll see how Bertie's birthday (we don't REALLY know when he was born, since he was a rescue, but...) was celebrated with the special "Treat of the Week," that I promised.  My goal, since "Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture" day is Thursday, is to devote the day to all things Bertie.

I'll also be getting back to "Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square."  Bear with me as I sort through a variety of business.

Until tomorrow,

Joseph, Bertie and Mr. Punch

Mastery of Design: The Bird of Paradise from Tipu Sultan’s Throne, 1787-91

Bird of Paradise
Created 1787-1791
Gold, Silver, Diamonds, Emeralds, Rubies
Stolen from the Throne of Tipu,
Sulatan of Mysore, 1799
Presented to George III
The Royal Collection
Here’s something that Mary of Teck didn’t get her hands on! Instead, it came into The Royal Collection via King George III who was equally responsible for adding objects to the collection, albeit in a different way.

Prior to being given to George III, the “Bird of Paradise” was actually a piece of the magnificent golden throne (made up of life-sized gold and bejweled tigers) of Tipu, Sultan of Mysore, India. The bird of diamonds, rubies, gold, emeralds, pearls and silver sat atop the throne and was considered a symbol of happiness. Should the bird ever touch the ground, that would mean an end to peace. Well, the bird hit the ground. In 1799, when Tipu Sultan’s citadel was ransacked and he was overthown and killed, British soldiers hacked his glorious throne to pieces and took the prizes home as glittering trophies. This stolen beauty was presented to George III by The East India Company. George III gave it to
Queen Charlotte who bequeathed it to their daughters, who, in turn gave it to King George IV around 1818.

Unfolding Pictures: The Recovery of George III from Illness Fan, 1789

Recovery of George III from Illness Fan
English, 1789
A Gift of Queen Mary to...
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here’s another fan which Queen Mary (Consort of King George V) managed to wrestle out of the hands of one of her friends and return to the Royal Collection. However, for some reason, Mary didn’t keep the fan. Shortly before her death she donated it, along with a few other objects from her personal collection, to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This fan shows the trend of Eighteenth Century fan-makers to create objects which commemorated important events such as births, marriages and deaths of well-known people, royal occasions or major social events. Here, we see a celebration of George III’s recovery from illness in 1789. Its design is simple and straightforward and well suited to the seriousness of the event.

The elegant, emblematic design includes the rose and thistle which symbolizes the Union of Scotland and England by Act of Parliament in 1707. Above these emblems are the words, “Health is restored to ONE and happiness to Millions.” That seems a little extreme, since George III wasn’t the most beloved monarch of all time, but he certainly was better liked by the average citizen than his offspring: King George IV and William IV.

Chances are, the fan was designed for a lady to carry at the great ball given at the Court in 1789 to celebrate the king’s recovery. His recovery was rather short-lived. As we say in the Southern U.S., until he died, George III, well, “he just ain’t right.” 

Building of the Week: The Royal Pavilion at Brighton

"How you doin'?"
King George IV when Prince of Wales
The Royal Collection

Good ol’ George IV was something of a “bad boy.” Perhaps, even, he was the Charlie Sheen of his day—behaviorally, at least. While King George IV had unquestionably good taste in art and furnishings and assembled an amazing collection of antiquities, he also had a taste for the ladies and for alcohol, good food and other stuff he considered ripping, good fun.

While still the Prince of Wales, George went to Brighton and fell in love with the slightly tawdry (at the time) seaside town. He decided to keep a home there. It seemed like a good place to hide out and also provided a nifty little spot for him to entertain lady friends. He had one particular lady friend who was a frequent visitor to his modest, new farmhouse in Brighton—Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. Mrs. Fitzherbert was a favorite companion of the Prince of Wales. He wished to marry her, but he didn’t dare ask for permission to wed the twice-widowed Catholic woman. So, instead, he married her in secret—as one does. This didn’t sit too well with George’s elders and betters. The marriage was declared invalid—secretly, of course. Later, George would marry Princess Caroline of Brunswick. The State liked that marriage. George, however, did not. He kept seeing Mrs. Fitzherbert (and many others) throughout. And, where better to meet his “friends” than at Brighton? Besides, he would argue, the salt water was good for his gout.

Prince George’s farmhouse was too small. When George had built tremendous stables that dwarfed the house, he knew it was time for him to enlarge his summer residence. In 1787, he employed Henry Holland as architect. Holland had designed George’s London mansion, Carlton House. The resulting structure of several rooms around a central rotunda was still modest when compared to the site today. The house was called “The Marine Pavilion.” It, too, proved too small and was enlarged again in 1801.

Then, George had some family troubles—namely with his father King George III. It seemed George III wasn’t quite himself. In fact, some would say he’d gone quite mad. In any event, George III was not fit to be the ruler of the Empire. Being as George III was still alive, George IV couldn’t be crowned king just yet. So, he was dubbed Prince Regent, and set about taking over his father’s duties. This proved to be something of a distraction for George IV.

Still, in 1815, he found the time to update his Marine Pavilion. This time, designer John Nash concocted a design for a huge, lavish Indo-Saracenic palace with Chinoiserie décor and furnishings. The tremendous pavilion with its Indian-inspired domes and archways was opulently appointed with imported furniture, porcelain and textiles. This gave George IV the opportunity to buy more things for his collection. Nash saw to it that George would be quite comfortable there. The height of technology was employed in the pipes, heating and sanitation.

The Prince Regent was thrilled with the new pavilion and took great delight in its richly-colored rooms, plush Persian rugs, glittering chandeliers, and gilt woodwork. It remained his favorite home. When his father died and he became King George IV, he preferred the Royal Pavilion at Brighton above all other residences—even his beloved Carlton House.

Upon the death of George IV, King William IV also used the pavilion as an occasional home though he didn’t have quite the enthusiasm for it that George did. William IV’s successor, his niece, Queen Victoria loathed the place. She did, however, visit it to show her support for Brighton. After that, she was really rather finished with the place. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built their own—much friendlier-looking—summer home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and they sold the pavilion to Brighton for about £50,000.

While some toyed with the idea of tearing down the palace, most recognized that the Pavilion at Brighton was too important to the city to lose. The building was stripped of most of its fittings (on order of Queen Victoria) and redecorated in a similar, yet more subdued style, for use as a civic hall. In the 1890’s Queen Victoria permanently loaned much of the original fittings to Brighton so that they could be returned to their original home and put on display for the public.

The pavilion has had many uses over the years—including time as a hospital. Around World War II, restoration efforts increased, and since that time, the palace has been well-maintained and open to the public. Today, efforts continue to not only maintain the pavilion, but also to restore it to John Nash’s and King George’s original vision. The palace is open for tours. For more information, visit the official Web site of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: King William III’s Silver Table, 1699

Silver Table,
English, 1699
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Made in 1699 of silver and oak, this magnificent table is part of a suite of silver furnishings commissioned by William III for Kensington Palace in 1698. While the suite had been created expressly for Kensington Palace, it’s not certain whether or not they made it to their intended location. The records for this table are sketchy and aren’t well maintained until the reign of King George III.

On his accession in 1760 George III inherited three late seventeenth-century suites of silver tables, mirrors and stands. For decades, these pieces had been displayed in the State rooms at Windsor Castle where they had sat, at least, since the reign of Queen Anne. George III had the suite cleaned and repaired. This table was among those pieces of furniture.

However, by the reign of George III, the popularity of silver furnishings had diminished and in February 1764, records indicate that “three silver tables and six stands,” together with numerous old sconces, chandeliers and firedogs “which are not English Standard,” were “Delivered to be melted . . . to be reduced into English Sterling to complete his Majesty’s Gift of 8000oz of old Plate to the Duke of Gloucester.” This refers to a generous gift that the King was making to his third brother, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester.

At that point, no record of silver furnishings is shown in any of the collection archives nor in the records of the Jewel House. However, in February of 1805 an account of “their Majesties’ Fete at Windsor Castle” noted “the novel and grand appearance of four silver tables, between each window [in the Queen’s Ballroom]. The magnificent effect of the tables was considerably heightened by four most elegant pier glasses over each with silver frames.” Records also show that for this same ball, five silver chandeliers were hung in the Ballroom and the Queen’s Drawing Room next door.

Somehow, this table and three of its mates were spared from being melted down. This particular table was left in the Queen’s Ballroom on a more permanent basis after that night in 1805. It was recorded in a view of the Queen’s Ballroom in 1817 and remains as part of the Royal Collection in Buckingham Palace to this day.

Precious Time: A Watch Case and Chatelaine from George III, 1785

Watch Case
Presented by
George III,
The Royal

King George III enjoyed giving gifts to people. Next to presentation boxes, he most frequently gifted magnificent watches to close friends and family members. This beautiful watch case and chatelaine was a gift from George III from about 1785. A magnificent work in gold, enamel and diamonds, the piece was likely given as a gift to his godson, James George, Third Earl of Courtown. Another theory is that the watch and chatelaine were a gift to the parents of James George who were very close to the King and lived in Windsor Castle.

Regardless of to whom this beautiful object was given, it was later purchased from the family by King George V and Queen Mary so that it could be preserved in the Royal Collection. The watch case is layered in blue enamel and set with a crowned cipher of George III, set in diamonds. This diamond and enamel work matches the details on the chatelaine. A chatelaine is a rather elaborate belt-hook from which a series of chains hang. The chains were meant to hold commonly used household items such as watches, scissors, keys, seals, etc. Curiously, chatelaines were almost exclusively worn by women, so why George III bestowed so many to male friends is quite mysterious. Nevertheless, when you receive a gift from the King, it’s always a good idea to accept it—especially when it’s as lovely as this.

Objects of the Day, Museum Edition: Three of George III’s Dress Coat Buttons, 1780

Three of George III's Dress Coat Buttons
Mounted as Brooches
Gold, Enamel, Pearls
The Royal Collection
Queen Mary (wife of George V) tucked these precious little beauties away in her magazine of pretty things. She came by them quite honestly, having been bequeathed them by the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1916. At first glance, they appear to be three small, attractive, yet peculiarly matching, brooches. Further inspection (and the documentation that goes with them) shows otherwise.

King George III had, surprisingly, a passion for buttons. In fact, he was known to have crafted a button or two in his lifetime. Mrs. Papendiek, the keeper of the wardrobe of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, wrote of the king’s love of buttons, “for in his youth one of his favourite occupations had been turning and button-making. Of a German in Long Acre he had learned how to make the loop and attach it to the button. And when in 1784 a Mr. Clay showed him his newly perfected button, for gentlemen’s mourning attire, the King is said to have exclaimed, ‘Send me several sets of buttons, for as I am called George the button-maker, I must give a lift to our trade.’”

How charmingly odd.

Though George III usually dressed quite somberly, on special occasions, he would be known to drape himself in diamonds from head to toe—creating a rather dazzling effect. Always included in his finest suits were magnificent buttons. It is from a set of George III’s buttons that these brooches come. Brilliant blue enamel and gold-set pearls added just the right amount of opulence to many a suit. When the men’s fashions turned away from bejeweled elements (and what a sad day that was), these buttons (twenty-two in total) were given to Queen Adelaide (wife of William IV) who made them into a suite of jewelry which consisted of two necklaces, five brooches and a pair of earrings. I’m sure George III would have approved.

Upon Queen Adelaide’s passing in 1849, the suite of jewels was bequeathed to her niece, Princess Augusta of Cambridge, (A.K.A. the aforementioned Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) by whom they were bequeathed to the ever-interesting (and one of my favorite Royals) Mary of Teck. I’m not sure what became of the other two brooches, the necklaces and earrings. No doubt, they’re hidden away somewhere at Windsor Castle.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mastery of Design: Queen Elizabeth II’s Aquamarine and Diamond Tiara, 1957

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II happens to have quite a few tiaras at her disposal. She also happens to wear all of them, though not at once. A good many of them were gifts—particularly from her grandmother, Mary of Teck. This particular one wasn’t a gift, per se, but it was crafted from several gifts given to the Queen for her 1953 coronation.

Aquamarine and Diamond Tiara
Adapted by R. & S. Garrard & Co.
The Royal Collection
When originally constructed in 1957, this tiara featured three upright stones which matched the central portion of the tiara. All three were detachable and could be worn as brooches. The stones rose gracefully from a simple platinum and diamond band.

As a Coronation gift from the people of Brazil, Queen Elizabeth II was given a luxurious suite of aquamarine pieces. In 1971, the Queen had several of these aquamarine pieces adapted into additions to this tiara. The two flanking stones were removed in favor of these aquamarine and diamond scrolls and the central stone was replaced with the centerpiece from a particularly beautiful diamond and aquamarine necklace from the Brazilian suite.

The resulting tiara incorporates the original head-band with these adapted pieces, creating an unusual work of dazzling blue and sparkling diamonds. Her majesty frequently wears this tiara with the remaining pieces from the Brazilian suite and other items from her collection of aquamarines.

Unusual Artifacts: An Unusual Naturalistic Brooch, 1920-1930

Great Britain, 1920-1930
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By the 1920’s, botanical-themed jewelry was still quite popular in Britain, but had changed considerably from its Georgian and Victorian roots. We can see the stylistic changes in Naturalistic jewelry with this unusual brooch. Instead of full blooms, we see stylized mushrooms and bullrushes in brown enamels, highlighted by settings of gold and platinum and accentuated by a large baroque pearl, diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

While the design is clearly Art Deco, it differs from other pieces of the era because of its markedly rural feel as opposed to the skyscraper, urban look of most jewelry of the time.


Masterpiece of the Week: A Pair of Earclips, 1963

The Victoria & Albert Museum

In 1963, the famed jewelers at Boucheron created these earclips of gold, platinum, turquoises and diamonds. An elegant, timeless design, they could have fit in with any outfit of almost any time period, but they are clearly inspired by the jewels of the 1820s.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Platinum and Diamond Commemorative Brooch, 1937

"Thunderbolt" Diamond Brooch, 1937
Platinum set with Diamonds
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The combination of diamonds and platinum defined the look of the jewelry of the 1930’s. Designers created elegant pieces which not only served as ornaments, but lasting reminders of important events.

This platinum and diamond brooch from 1937 was created to commemorate the breaking of the World Land Speed Record by Captain George Eyston in 1937. Beneath rolling clouds, we see Eyston’s car, Thunderbolt, which Captain Eyston designed, built and drove himself. Powered by two aero engines made by the firm of Rolls-Royce, the car was celebrated not only for its speed, but its beauty.

As a token of their appreciation for the good press from this event, Rolls Royce presented this stunning brooch to Captain Eyston’s wife. It’s mighty nifty. Who says driving fast won’t win you anything?

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square and the Treat of the Week

Come back tomorrow for a very special "Treat of the Week" and new chapter of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Antique Image of the Day: The Complete Set of Nine Stones Produced from the Cullinan Diamond

The Complete Set of Nine Stones Produced from the Cullinan Diamond
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This platinum print from October of 1908 shows “the complete set of nine stones produced from the Cullinan Diamond.” The print was acquired by the future King George V (1865-1936) in 1908 so that a record of the diamond’s cutting could be added to the future Queen Mary’s records.

The diamonds pictured here were cleft from the Cullinan Diamond. Cullininan I and II, the two largest, were set aside for King Edward VII. They were set in 1909 in an awkwardly large pendant brooch. In 1910, when George V ascended in place of his father, he asked that the Culinan I and II be set into the head of the Sovereign's Sceptre and on the band of the Imperial State Crown, respectively. The diamonds, however, remained detachable and could be worn either together or independently as brooches. Queen Mary liked to do that every so often.

The remaining diamonds cut from the Cullinan were retained by Asscher (the cutter for whom the famed diamond cut is named), with the exception of the Cullinan Vi which had also been given to King Edward VII. Asscher kept these stones and the smaller collection of ninety-six smaller stones and fragments as a fee for cutting the original massive diamond.

However, did you really think Queen Mary would NOT get her hands on them? The whole lot was acquired by the South African government who gifted all of them to Queen Mary in 1910 in preparation for the 1911 Coronation. Stones III and IV were set into a pear-shaped drop of 94.4 carats. A square-cut stone of 63.6 carats was set in the Queen’s new coronation crown in 1911. These two stones now form the Cullinan Brooch. Another of the larger diamonds was adapted into a pendant for Queen Victoria’s cullet necklace, worn with the Lahore Diamond. Queen Mary managed to find uses for the whole lot, and, in doing so, made sure that the pieces of the original stone have stayed together forever. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Set of Five Platinum Eternity Bands or Guard Rings, 1920-40

Guard Rings
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here, we see a set of five platinum guard rings set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Today, we’d refer to these rings as Eternity Bands and, they’re quite in fashion again. This set was made between 1920 and 1940.

These narrow rings are set with a continuous line of matching, single-color stones. Such rings initially became very fashionable during the 1930s. They were worn either next to or instead of a plain, gold or platinum wedding band. Of course, diamonds were the most popular choice, others were often set with emeralds, rubies or sapphires. One famous lover of such rings was Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent. On her marriage in 1934 to Prince George, the Duke of Kent (son of George V and Mary of Teck), she selected three - one of rubies, one of diamonds and one of sapphires, the colors of the Union Jack.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Carnelian Ring with an Intaglio of George IV, 1821

Intaglio Ring
Made for George IV, 1821
The Royal Collection

An intaglio (carving in hardstone) of carnelian is set in a gold ring with an open bezel, and a shaped lobed border. The shoulders of the ring are mounted at each side with two cabochon turquoises and a seed pearl forming a trefoil with, each with an applied gold stem. This ring was acquired by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, around 1958.

The intaglio depicts a laureate bust of King George IV (1762-1830) in profile to the right, wearing a tunic. The reverse of the intaglio is inscribed: GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA BRITT REX MDCCCXXI and the band is engraved: GEORGIUS HANOV: REX. SEPR. 1821. Clearly, this was made shortly after George IV’s coronation in 1821 and was most likely intended as a souvenir of the coronation which took place on 19 July 1821. The inscription on the band is curious in that it appears to commemorate George IV’s visit to Hanover that same year. There, he enjoyed a second coronation ceremony and was crowned King of Hanover—traditional for a male monarch at the time--to much celebration. After his brother, William the IV was King, their niece, Queen Victoria was crowned, but was not the Queen of Hanover since the throne of Hanover could not be held by a woman.

George IV enjoyed being depicted as a Roman emperor, and such images were often produced in a variety of media He also enjoyed jewelry and spent heavily at the Royal goldsmiths of the era, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, on numerous rings, lockets and medallions for presentation to his family and courtiers as souvenirs.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Berquin Lilacs, 1900

Berquin, circa 1900
Acquired by Queen Mary in 1924
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The workmaster Berquin created this exquisite sculpture of glass, hardstone, porcelain and gilt metal in 1900. The lovely object features a hardstone and glass branch of lilacs set into a square vase of porcelain.

The vase is adorned with gilt metal mounts which hint at the coming Art Deco style. This was one of the many glorious objects collected by Queen Mary throughout her lifetime. She happened upon this piece in 1924 and added it to the Royal Collection. The curators of the Royal Collection simply and plainly indicate that the sculpture was “acquired” by Queen Mary in 1924, so, I have a feeling this was one of Her Majesty’s many, “I think that would look lovely at Sandringham” moments wherein she shook down some unsuspecting hostess for her bric-a-brac. God love her. 

Today, the piece is still displayed in its original glass case upon its wooden, stepped base.

Unusual Artifacts: Return from Market, 1928

Click on image to get snowed.
"Return from Market"
Pietre Dure
Italy, 1928
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This pietre dure (or pietra dura, if you prefer) scene of hardstone and marbles depicts a monk with two elderly men and a young woman. They’re accompanied by a group of animals as they journey home from market in a snowstorm.

Made in 1928 in Florence Italy—long known for its elegant works of pietre dure—the piece shows the enduring beauty of this technique. Each stone has been carefully chosen to create movement and texture in the scene. The veins of the marbles and the crystals of the other hardstones have been set in such a way as to emulate the look of a painter’s brushstrokes.

The work is attributed to Mario Montelatici, a well-known master of pietre dure in his own right and the son of the famed Giovanni Montelatici whose workshop in the Via Amolfo in Florence produced many an award-winning work. The piece is composed of white and bardiglio marble, onyx, gabbro and albarese. It is set in a gilt wood frame.

The Home Beautiful: An Unusual Cabinet and Stand, 1660-1690

Cabinet and Stand
The Royal Collection

This cabinet and stand are a marriage of two individual pieces as well as a marriage of cultures. The cabinet itself was made around 1660 in Germany, possibly by Melchior Baumgartner. While the piece was created to hold precious jewels, it was also intended to be a jewel in its own right. The structure is crafted of pine, ivory, cedar, and ebony, with a facing of panels of pietra dura of semi-precious stones including lapis lazuli and agate, and gilt brass. The panels themselves were imported into Germany from Florence and Prague, thus making this a truly international piece.

The ornate gilt stand dates to about 1690 and is almost definitely an English addition. Historians believe that the stand was added to the piece when it was brought into the Royal Collection.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: King George IV’s Bath Cabinet

Bath Cabinet
Morel & Seddon, 1828
Made for King George IV
The Royal Collection

Once King George IV had finished redecorating Carlton House, he turned his attention to refurbishing the Royal apartments at Windsor Castle. The first order of business was to redo his bedroom and bath. The trouble with George IV was that he had so many passions and so many tastes that combining his desires into one cohesive interior design was somewhat complicated if not impossible. George IV wanted his bedroom and bath to be hung with blue silk—like a tent in the Persian style—into which mirrored alcoves would be inset for his bed and bath.

To this end, this bath cabinet was made from panels from a cabinet built in 1810. The three-sided casket of purplewood, satinwood, pietra dura and gilt bronze was set on casters. It opened at the top to allow access to the bathtub. By all accounts it was strange and awkward to use—being at once difficult to get into and out of and quite sloppy to transport. The King quickly grew tired of the cumbersome tub and its preventative case and had the thing put in storage soon after it was introduced to him in 1828.

Later, Prince Albert, being an industrious and frugal sort of chap, came upon the bath cabinet in storage and thought it would make a nice folio cabinet. He had the bathtub removed and the back closed-in so that the piece would have some degree of usefulness.

Drawing of the Day: Windsor Castle: The King's Bedroom (west elevation), 1827

Design for the Bath at the King's Bedroom, Windsor Castle
More & Seddon, 1827
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This drawing was returned to the Royal Collection when Queen Elizabeth II purchased it at an auction in 1971. The drawing was created by the Office of Morel & Seddon, decorators who were contracted to redecorate Windsor Castle in 1827 during the reign of King George IV.

The watercolor depicts a view of an alcove with a bath cabinet in the center. The recess is framed by curtains and backed with a mirror. It was part of the new private suite which King George IV has envisioned for himself in the central part of the east front of the castle. This part of the suite was to be hidden behind a cabinet with doors of pietra dura.

The blue silk hangings were based on some made by Grand Frères of Lyons in 1823 for the Salon des Princes at the château of Saint-Cloud. Despite the room’s handsome décor, King George IV didn’t like the finished product. He found the room unsuitable and moved to an adjacent room in 1829. The suite, however, was used by Queen Victoria and, it was in the bedroom in which Prince Albert died in 1861. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Pietra Dura Table Cabinet, 1680

Table Cabinet
Italian, 1680
Purchsed in Rome, 1760 by
Queen Charlotte and King George III
Pietra Dura, Ebony, Oak, Ormolu
The Royal Collection

This table cabinet, now denuded of its stand, is really nothing more than a means of cleverly displaying thirteen masterful petra dura panels depicting scenes of birds, florals and landscapes. The Florentine panels are set into frames of ebony, oak and gilt bronze.

King George III and Queen Charlotte purchased this cabinet while visiting Rome in 1760. Queen Charlotte has a well-documented enthusiasm for the art of hardstone peitra dura and collected several pieces of furniture similar to this one. Her affection for the medium seems to have been inherited by her son who purchased the cabinet at the 1819 auction of Queen Charlotte’s belongings while he was still Prince Regent. As King George IV, he displayed this cabinet proudly in his private apartments.