Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Falize Cloisonné Necklace, 1867

Enamel Necklace
In the Japanese Style
Alexis Falize
France, 1867
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the 1860’s, Parisian jewelers became enamored of the Japanese style and tried to replicate Asian enamels. Prior to the 1850s, and since the 1820’s, Japanese style was barely recognized in Paris. However, the Japanese Court at the London Exhibition of 1862 and similar displays at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867 caused quite a stir amongst the artistic community. Designers of all types were inspired by what they had seen.

This is a great example of the intricate technique of costly cloisonné enamel wherein the precise outlines of the design are the result of the tiny 'cloisons' or cells that hold the enamel and which have to be individually shaped from thin gold strips. The flower and bird motifs that we see in this 1867 example by Alexis Falize (1811-1898) are taken from Japanese prints, although the vibrant shades show the influence of Chinese work. The necklace of cloisonné enamel and gold shows Alexis Falize’s expert eye as well as the skill of Falize’s chief enameller, Antoine Tard. The circlet is made up of ten long panels of enameled gold which are punctuated with gold rosettes. Five circular pendants hang from the lower edge of the piece. 

Unusual Artifacts: The Angel Chalice, c. 1905

"The Angel Chalice"
Phoebe and Ramsay Traquair with J.M. Talbot
Scotland, 1905
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Edinburgh, Scotland around 1905, this cup is constructed of an abalone shell mounted in silver and decorated with enamel. A pierced silver foliate border adorns the rim of the cup which is supported on three, sculptural wires which terminate in moonstone mounts at the rim. Mounts of enamel mimicking cabochon-cut gems adorn the junctions of the supporting wire frames which hold enamel paintings of angels with musical instruments. The monogram “PT” is visible on one of these three triangular panels.

This chalice is the work of Edinburgh artist and jeweler Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936) whose celebrated enamel work is praised to this day. Phoebe’s husband, Ramsay, assisted on the design and the physical work was carried out by their frequent assistant J.M. Talbot. It’s the first, and finest, of a series of five chalices set with shells designed by Ramsay and Phoebe Traquair, and crafted by Talbot.

At the Music Hall, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am, I am,” 1910

This song is not about the corpulent monarch.
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am,
Henery the Eighth I am, I am!
I got married to the widow next door,
She'd been married seven times before.
And every one was an Henery
She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam
I'm her eighth old man named Henery
Henery the Eighth, I am!

Long before it was recorded by Herman’s Hermits in 1965, “I’m Henery the Eighth I am,” was a beloved music hall song written by Fred Murray and R.P. Weston and popularized by Harry Champion, a music hall star of the time.

Typically sung in a Cockney accent, the song tells the tale of a man whose wife had seven previous husbands, all of whom were named “Henry.” Since the song is meant to be performed with Cockney pronunciation, the name Henry is always spelled as “Henery,” the third syllable being important to the rhythm of the tune.

Fox Television
Champion would perform the refrain at rapid speed, sweating and flailing his arms wildly as he sang at breakneck speed. Other versions of the song are equally enthusiastic, but certainly not as speedy. This pub favorite has been recorded numerous times by many artists and has been referenced frequently in popular culture. In 2004, in an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Magical History Tour,” Homer plays the role of Henry VIII, and though the song has nothing to do with the monarch per se, he sings a parody of the tune with the following lyrics:

I'm Henery the Eighth, I am, 
I'm Henery the Eighth, I am, I am, 
I've been eating since six a.m. 
For dessert I'll have dinner again, 
My name's synonymous with gluttony 
I'll always eat a turkey or a ham.

Gifts of Grandeur: The True Lovers Knot Enamel and Diamond Locket, 1670

Enamel, Gold, Diamonds
Possibly Spanish
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This magnificent locket of gold, enamel and table-cut diamonds from the late Seventeenth Century represents several different symbols of love. First, the diamonds represent eternity. Secondly, the front of the locket is adorned with a “True Lovers Knot” showing how two lovers entwine forever. The locket is also decorated with an “S” which has been struck-through with a diagonal bar—a symbol of being a “slave to love” or “esclavos.”

The locket’s reverse is marked with a floral pattern in the enamel which matches the many gold and enamel drops. The original owner of this locket donated it to Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar, Zaragoza from whom it was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1870.

Happy Gotcha Day, Bertie!

Eleven years ago today, a little white dog came into my house for the first time and, then, promptly took over.  And, I can't be happier that he did.  Adopting Bertie was one of the smartest things I ever did.  As far as I'm concerned, my Bertie deserves all the best that life can offer since that is what he offers me every day.

Sadly, there are thousands of dogs out there whose stories don't have such happy endings.  These dogs...and cats...and, other pets...deserve loving homes, too.  So, today, if there's room in your heart and your home to welcome a new pet, check out a local shelter or rescue organization.  There's a new lifelong friend waiting for you out there, someone who can offer you as many joyful years as Bertie has brought to me.

Note:  Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will continue on Monday in this spot.

The Home Beautiful: An Enamel Pencil Holder, Circa 1900

Two-tone Gold and Enamel Pencil Holder
Russian, 1896-1908
The Royal Collection

Made between 1896 and 1908, this beautiful two-tone gold and guilloché enamel was clearly inspired by the work of Fabergé, and was, in fact, made a a Russian artist. The artist was known only by his initials A.R. Little else is known about this master craftsman. His work was sold by the finest shops in Europe and sold for high prices. His initials are visible beneath the enamel.

The enamel is a particularly fine color—a light robin’s egg blue. This was a particularly popular color of the era, and, later, was a favorite color of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who was often seen wearing the hue. Perhaps it was the soft color of this unusual pencil holder that attracted the Queen Mother to it. On an unknown date, he purchased this lovely little piece and entered it into the Royal Collection.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Meissen Envelope Snuffbox, 1755-c.1880

Meissen Porcelain, Enamel and Gold
Painted Interior--1755
Mountings and possibly exterior panels made in Nineteenth Century
This and all related images from:
The Gilbert Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum

This unusual snuffbox is one part of a small group of Meissen boxes that were made in the shape of envelopes. The exterior of the box is rather plain, just like an envelope, but, when opened, it reveals a wondrous scene of musical entertainment beside the river Elbe—painted in enamels. Albrechtsburg, the castle outside Dresden, is visible in the scene, in the background behind the musical scene. That castle was the location of the manufacture of Meissen porcelain. Given this, it is highly possible that the scene used in this box may have been made as a souvenir of a visit to the Meissen Factory. While the porcelain and enamel scene was made in Meissen around 1755, the mounts and execution of the box came about much later—likely during the Nineteenth Century. 

The box’s mounts are of a particularly high quality. While the goldwork is rather simply, it is wholly elegant with its two flaring thumpieces and handsome sheen. The top of the box, in keeping with the envelope theme is "addressed" as any package would be.  Inscribed in enamel, the "address" reads:  “à Celui qui le Merite,” or “To the one who deserves it.” Cute.  The reverse is "sealed" in envelope style with an enamel painting of an impressed blob of red sealing wax.  It's a truly splendid piece.  

Click the images to enlarge.

The piece is part of the collection that Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde amassed during their lifetimes. Theirs is one of the world's great decorative art collections. It includes treasured examples of silver, mosaics, enameled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996, leaving it to the V&A where it remains a centerpiece to this day.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Bejeweled Pelican in her Piety

A Pelican in Her Piety
The Royal Collection

This strange and beautiful pendant heralds from the late Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Century and is most likely Spanish or Portuguese in origin. Perched on a round base of gold and surrounded by diamond-studded foliage, the pelican has pierced her breast so that she might feed her three children. Without getting into a discussion of more practical ways a pelican could feed her children, we’ll just accept that this rather grisly image is meant to be allegorical of Christ and also representative of works of charity.

Regardless of the unusual subject matter, this pendant is a true masterpiece. The figure of the pelican and her children are rendered in beautiful white enamel with blue markings. On one of the three babies, red enamel shows where his mother’s blood has spilled upon him. The pelican’s wound is a rather sizeable ruby surrounded by diamonds. The mother’s wings are also set with diamonds, faceted much like those that surround the entire piece. The whole is topped by a diamond and black enamel cross, and is finished with five dangling pearls.

This piece entered the Royal Collection in 1872. Little is known about its origins though the gold work and design correspond to Spanish jewelry-making of the time. Today, the piece is on display as part of the Royal Collection thereby continuing to prove that piety can be found in the oddest of places.

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 5 letter word can have its last 4 letters removed and still sound the same?

And, the answer is...


Congratulations to BOOK GURL for coming up with the right answer.  And, many thanks to the rest for their clever and funny answers ranging from lunch menu choices for Darcy and Gregg to instruction on Welsh spelling from Dashwood, and, even a quote from a sheep from Matt.

Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Friday Fun: “Wicked Mr. Punch,” 1932

Punch Magazine, 1892
This unusually dark children’s song was recorded on September 21, 1932 in London for Decca Records. “Wicked Mr. Punch” was Al Bowlly with Arthur Lally and His Orchestra. The lyrics are as follows:

Wicked Mr. Punch meets Judy,
Makes a date for lunch, gets broody.
When she appears, he boxes her ears instead.
Now, Judy’s on the floor, shouts “Murder!”
Somebody next door, has heard her,
Follow the clue, it’s covered, it’s true, she’s dead.
What a dreadful tale of grief and woe,
To the village jail, Old Punch must go.
So the people cry, “Arrest him!”
And the coppers try to get him, 
But, Mr. Punch defiantly shouts, No! No!

I hope you enjoy this amusing little song...

The Home Beautiful: The Mrs. Wood Bed Cover , 1875-85

Bed Cover
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made between 1875 and 1885, this bed cover (or wall-hanging) was able to be dated due to the fashionable dress of the characters depicted. The cover was made using a piecing technique, known as “inlay” or “intarsia” wherein cut-out fabric shapes are inlaid into an identical cut-out space in another fabric.
  The pieces are then stitched from the reverse side, using extremely small stitches that are not visible on the front.  Sometimes the pieces are further adorned with appliqué.

In this example, the central panels depict the various rituals and emotions associated with courtship.  The scenes move from “Admiration” to “Zingari” (an archaic Italian term used in England for the Romany community (that’s Gypsies, you know)).   The themes depicted are:  Admiration, Beauty, Cupid, Doves, Eyes, Flowers, Guardian, Hopes, Introduction, Jealousy, Kisses, Love letters, Matrimony, Nonsense, Offers, Papa, Quakings. Refusal, Spells, Tiffs, Uncle, Valentine, Wedding, Expression, Yes, and Zingari.

A decorative border frames these romantic images.  The border depicts a variety of popular cultural figures including our Mr. Punch.

This cover came to the V&A from Beckenham, Kent where it was long in the family of the donor who stated that the object was made by a male ancestor while on a long sea voyage.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 343

Chapter 343

"I say, Your Grace."  Matthew smiled as he entered the drawing room of No. 65.  "I hope I've not made a nuisance of myself.  Seems I take my meals here more than I do in my own home these days."

"Not at all,"  Punch shook his head.  "After these last weeks, it would seem odd, it would, for you to not be at table with us for dinner."

Matthew smiled.

Mr. Punch, over the last two weeks, had gradually let Matthew hear his natural speaking voice and mannerisms.  Eventually, Lennie, Robert and Punch had taken Matthew aside, after a satisfying and comforting dinner especially prepared by Mrs. Pepper for the Earl's particular enjoyment, and explained that Punch was one body comprised of the minds of several different men.  They feared that Matthew would be nonplussed by the news, but, surprisingly, the gentleman simply nodded and said, "how terribly noisy it must be for you."  He then asked for a brandy and picked up the conversation as if he'd simply just been told that Punch had a tendency to developing canker sores.

"When I walked up just now,"  Matthew continued, taking a chair across from Punch, I thought I caught a whiff of a roast of beef coming from your downstairs.

"You got a fine nose on ya,"  Punch grinned.  "Mrs. Pepper's made a roast for ya, knowin' as she does how you love it so."

"With those fine swiss potatoes?"

"That's right."  Punch nodded.  "And, the carrots with the sugar glaze."

"Fine, fine."  Matthew swallowed.

"Pudding will be a surprise, however."  Punch winked.

"Oh?"  Matthew pressed his hands together.  "Do tell."

"No."  Punch shook his head.  "It's a surprise, like I said."

"Bother.  Now, I can't wait."

"You'll do."  Punch laughed.

"Will there be a savory as well?"

"Isn't there always?"  Punch laughed.

"Listen to me,"  Matthew shook his head, "I wouldn't want you to think that I come here only for Mrs. Pepper's cooking."

"I'd never think that.  No, no.  Happy, I am, that you come and that we can talk 'bout food together.  Robert, I fear, gets weary of my food chatter after a spell."

"Where is Lord Colinshire?"

"He'll be down in a tick.  Got a late start in dressing today.  He 'ad a patient...rather unexpectedly."

"Nothing too serious, I hope."


"I shouldn't ask."  Matthew said apologetically.

"I don't mind.  I'm sure Robert wouldn't either.  Only it's nothin' too pleasant.  Involved that poor child you saw when you walked with Lennie the first time.  The one called Marduk, and them ladies what's so cruel to us."

"I see."  Matthew sighed.

"Let's speak of happier things."  Punch said brightly.  "Lennie will be down shortly as well.  She's been 'elpin' our Gamilla this evenin' with somethings that only ladies know 'bout.  Ya know, our Gamilla is to be married to our Gerard in two days."

"I know."  Matthew smiled.  "Her Ladyship has kindly invited me to attend."

"Will you?"

"To be sure.  I've never attended the wedding of servants before.  Until meeting you, I've never thought of servants as being part of  However, I'm seeing that they are.  Furthermore, Her Ladyship is so delighted by the marriage that to witness her joy at the nuptials is enough enticement for me."

"And there's to be cake."

"That, too, is enticing."  Matthew chuckled.  "However, again, I don't visit only for the food."

Punch nodded.

"I very much like coming here, Your Grace."  Matthew continued.  "I've grown terribly fond of you and Lord Colinshire."

"And we of you, to be sure."  Punch nodded.  "Only, given our fondness, I do wish you'd call us Punch and Robert as we asked."

"It's difficult for me to break from protocol, Punch."  Matthew said.  "My upbringing was most strict."

"As was mine."  Punch sighed.  "Or...well...not mine as much as Julian's."

"I understand."  Matthew replied.  "Or, I'm beginning to."

"You've done well, you have."  Punch responded reassuringly.

"Yes, yes, I do enjoy the company of you and Lor...Robert."  Matthew said.  He paused.

"And, of Lennie?"

"Well, yes,"  Matthew  blushed.

"I believe she enjoys yours as well."

"I suppose since we have this moment to ourselves, I should make my intentions known, Your Grace...Punch."


"Well, yes,"  Matthew continued to blush.  "I am quite taken with Lady her wit and intellect and keen spirit and bravery and her gentleness...and her beauty."

Punch smiled.

"I knew,"  Matthew went on, "that first moment that I saw her that she was not just a handsome woman, but one who would be a very fine wife and an excellent companion.  I...well..."

"Go on, Matthew."  Punch leaned forward.

"I do believe that I would like to ask for her hand in marriage."

Punch waited for Matthew to continue, and seeing that he wasn't going to do so, he smiled.  "Here, did ya think I'd be surprised by this?"

"No."  Matthew confessed.  "Still, you are the head of the family.  And, I cannot ask for her hand without your permission first."

"You've my permission and that of Robert's, I'm sure."  Punch said.  "Head of the family or not, I should tell ya, it isn't up to me, it's not.  Robert and me, we like ya and like havin' you 'round.  Only, it's Lennie what's got the final say."

"Certainly."  Matthew nodded rapidly.

"When were ya thinkin' o' askin' 'er?"

"Well..."  Matthew began.  He stopped as he heard the doors to the room open.

"Matthew,"  Lennie smiled as she swept into the room.  "Forgive my tardiness."

Punch and the earl stood as Lennie entered.  She studied their faces.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything."  Lennie raised any eyebrow.

"Just the chatter of gentlemen."  Punch answered.

"I see."  Lennie said.  "Well, then...may I be included."

"That ain't up to me."  Punch laughed.  "What say you, Matthew?"

Did you miss Chapters 1-342 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 344.

Print of the Day: "Who said we looked unhappy?"

Britain, c. 1890-1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum 
George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive

This postcard from the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive illustrates a scene of Mr. Punch and Judy and dates to the late Nineteenth Century to early Twentieth Century.  This is one of a series portraying Mr. Punch in various scenes from the traditional puppet play.

Each of the postcards in the series features the image of Mr. Punch as a cut-out which can be manipulated by moving a paper handle. In this scene, he is playing a lute for his wife.  The card is captioned, “Who said we looked unhappy?” in reference to their famous spats which usually end with the death of Mrs. Punch.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: One of Cruikshank's Punch Drawings, 1828

Mr Punch with Jim Crow and the Blind Man
George Cruikshank, 1828
Engraving, 1859
Lacy & Larker, Ltd.
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The great George Cruikshank (1792-1859) created some of the most enduring images of Mr. Punch. In fact, Cruikshank’s illustrations of the traditional puppet show remain the benchmark for the look of Punch and his puppet friends.

Here, we see some illustration proofs (nos. 1437-1438) for the fourth edition of “Punch & Judy” which was first published by the firm of Lacy and Parker. This work contained the famed play “The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy” which was famously illustrated by George Cruikshank in 1828.

The two etchings are printed in black ink on India paper and both depict scenes from the traditional “Punch & Judy” show as performed in a puppet theatre or “fit-up.”

The top etching shows Jim Crow--Punch's servant—who has been defeated, killed and thrown off the stage by Punch. The etching below this shows Mr. Punch taking the Blind Man's staff prior to knocking him off the stage too.

This Mr. Punch hasn’t been civilized yet. But, that what makes him so lovable. 

These particular etchings, being from the fourth edition of “The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy,” were produced in 1859 based on Cruikshank’s 1828 illustrations. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Le Fairgrounds

"I didn't know France was a funhouse mirror."

Image:  English Tourists at the Louvre, Object: Oil painting, Place of origin: Paris, France (probably, made), Date: ca. 1860 (made), Artist/Maker: Philippe Jacques Linder, born 1835 - died 1914 (attributed to, painter), Materials and Techniques: Oil on artist's board, Credit Line: Given by Daniel Katz Ltd. to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  

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