Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

In celebration of July 4th, Bertie, Mr. Punch and I will be taking the day off tomorrow.  As you all know, we (meaning I) have been quite busy of late, so, I think a day spent in quiet celebration will be just the thing.

We will return to the usual posting schedule on Monday, July 8th with all manner of Punchy goodness as well as a "Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture." 

Of course, we'll also have a new chapter of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square as we see Gerard struggle with his thoughts in trying to decide whether or not he should give Lennie the letter from her biological father.  As the week ends, we'll be gearing up for Gerard's and Gamilla's wedding.  I have a feeling there will be some surprises pre-nuptials.

If you've missed any chapters, you can read a summary of each as well as get a link to the full chapter in the Chapter Archive.

We'll see you tomorrow!  Here's wishing all of our U.S. friends a very Happy Fourth!  And, to our friends in the rest of the world...have a great Thursday!

Original Image:  

Libération. La Fayette, Nous Voilà, France, 1944, Secrétariat Général à l'Information (issued by), Color Lithograph, Gift of the American Friends of the V&A; The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Mastery of Design: The Cartier Link Necklace, 1954-5

Link Necklace
Cartier, London, 1954-55
The Victoria & Albert Museum

For a period after the Second World War, gemstones were prohibitively expensive and difficult to find through honest trade. As a consequence, gold jewelry became fashionable and was in great demand throughout European and American high society.

While such gold pieces appeared to be quite thick and heavy, they were often hollow, augmented by wire internally. However, the often showcased elaborate and playful designs like this exceptional necklace made by London Cartier between 1954 and 1955.

The necklace of gold is designed in flexible links in fashionable brickwork pattern.

History's Runway: The Miss Emilie Grigsby Fringe Dress, 1925

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This short, jazzy dancing dress is alive with orange silk velvet.  It features a straight-cut, low-waisted,  low-cut, sleeveless bodice and a skirt comprised of two rows of tapering pointed knee-length streamers, each attached to the bodice via decorative stitching: the topmost is of orange velvet stitched in beige, the lower of peach velvet stitched in pink.

Each streamer is edged with fringe of gold beads and lined in a brilliant yellow silk. A narrow sash in orange is lined with peach velvet to match the lower set of streamers.

The height of Jazz-Age chic, this gown was made in France circa 1925 by the designer Voisin and was worn by Miss Emilie Grigsby (1876-1964), a wealthy American who came to England from New York.

Grigsby established a salon and was considered to be one of the great international beauties.  Her ghostly pale, almost transparent, skin and golden hair were as much admired as her avant-garde style.

This dress, part of the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, perfectly reflects the spirit of mid-1920s fashion when a woman's gown was an extension of the dances she loved and her spirit of freedom.

Unusual Artifacts: A Stereograph, "A Family at Afternoon Tea," 1855-60

A Family at Afternoon Tea
Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at stereographs from my own collection before, but here’s one from the V&A.

To refresh your memory,  a stereograph is a pair of photographic images of the same subject taken from slightly different angles. When viewed through a special “stereo viewer” or “stereoscope”, these images give the illusion of a single three-dimensional image when viewed through a stereoscope designed to hold it.  They remained popular from the 1850s well into the Twentieth Century.

Occasionally, these images were colored by hand in watercolors, paints or inks to make them more life-like.   In this case, I’m glad the image was colored since it gives us an idea of look of a typical American, Victorian home.  Here, we see a group which has been posed in the act of taking tea from a silver tea set and china cups and saucers. Domestic scenes like this one--of a model family like or of the institutions of society such as school, church or marriage --were typical subjects of popular stereographs.

This stereograph was made between 1855 and 1860 by Underwood & Underwood of New York, USA.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 350

Chapter 350

"I have been ringing for you for twenty minutes!"  Orpha snapped as Johnny Donnan hurried into the parlor of Hamish House.   "Where have you been?"

"Miss Rittenhouse sent me on an errand."

"It's taken you this long to walk up the street to deliver a parcel to the Duke's staff?"  

"My apologies for being so slow, Miss Polk."  Johnny replied.

"What's happened to you?"  Orpha growled.  "You weren't so broken down and wretched in Scotland."

"Miss Polk,"  Johnny narrowed his eyes, "When a man sees his own child drowned, when he loses the position he's held all his life, when he's fooled into thinking his daughter has returned to him only to find it was all a lie...aye, these things tend to ruin a man."

Orpha smirked.  "Well said.  I suppose, then, you're suggesting that I shouldn't complain about you being a broken wretch when it was I who made you so?"

"What might I do for you, Miss Polk?"  Johnny ignored her.

"Marduk wants changing."


"Well, I can't do it with one hand.  Now, can I?"

"Who usually does this, Miss?"  Johnny asked.

"Ulrika, but...Miss Rittenhouse and Mr. Iantosca have already retired for the evening."

"I may not be the best person for this task."  Johnny shook his head.

"You had a son.  Didn't you ever look after Finlay when he was a baby?"

"No, Miss."

"Of course you didn't."  Orpha barked.  "Just help the poor child, Johnny."

"As you wish."  Johnny replied.  He lifted Marduk from the bassinet and removed the twins' soiled cloth nappy.  

"The child is ill, Miss."  Johnny shook his head.  "Look..."

"I don't need to look."  Orpha snapped.  "I know that he's ill.  Clean him and redress him."

Johnny paused.

"What?"  Orpha grumbled.  "Why are you staring at him?"

"Well, Miss, his lower half is really quite like it should be.  I often wondered."  Johnny answered.

"What did you expect?"  Orpha snarled.

"I didn't quite know what to expect from a babe with two heads and three arms, Miss."

Orpha rolled her eyes.

"Miss, perhaps it's not my place, but..."

"It's not."  Orpha interrupted him.  "I assure you."

"Pardon me sayin' so, Miss, but for awhile, I did think you were me own daughter.  Aye, and even though it ended badly, I...still, from time to time, I...tend to think of you as me own still.  I'm not tryin' to overstep.  Still, I must confess, master Marduk is the closest I'll have to a grandchild."

"How pathetic."  Orpha scoffed.

"I'm sorry to have bothered you, Miss."  Johnny sighed.  He finished with Marduk and lowered the child into his bassinet.  

Orpha nodded.

"If there's nothing else, then?"

"No."  Orpha replied.

"Good night, then, Miss."  Johnny walked off.

"Wait!"  Orpha shouted.

"Yes, Miss?"  Johnny replied.

"I'm going to need your help with something tomorrow.  Miss Rittenhouse will explain the details to you, but, in short, we plan to abduct the African woman from the Duke's residence."


"Yes, that's her name.  Insufferably sweet.  I hated every moment I had to spend with her, listening to her simpering goodness."

"What do you intend to do with her?"

"Never you mind."

"She's to be married the day after tomorrow, Miss."  Johnny said quickly, forgetting himself for a moment.

"I know."  Orpha belched.  "Go to bed, Johnny, you disappoint me.  Perhaps some rest will allow your contemptible side to regain its strength."

"Yes, Miss."  Johnny nodded, wondering how he could sneak out of the house without being noticed.

Tomorrow, we'll be taking the day off for the Fourth of July.  Come back on Friday for Chapter 351 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.  

Painting of the Day: “The Washington Family,” by Edward Savage 1789-1796

The Washington Family
Edward Savage, 1789-96
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
The National Gallery of Art, U.S.

American painter Edward Savage was known for his historical paintings and, sadly, the fact that his ambition outshone his talents. His paintings are often stiff and anatomically awkward due to his lack of formal training and natural artistic instincts. He did, however, manage to secure several well-known sitters, most notably George Washington and his family.

Washington, his wife Martha, and her children from her first marriage (she was widowed) sat for Savage in 1789-90 so that he could produce a series of sketches of the group. In 1790, Savage traveled to London where he sketched and was meant to study. He spent most of his time in England drawing and making a name for himself as a collector of art. Savage’s greatest achievement perhaps, is that of a curator more so than an artist. When he returned to New York, he opened the Columbian Gallery and is considered one of the first American museum proprietors.

In 1794, Savage began the actual painting of this nine-foot wide portrait of the Washington Family—four years after the initial sketches. Ever the master showman, he advertised this fact quite broadly and invited visitors (for a fee) to see a “life-sized” image of the first “first family.” In fact, Savage became quite wealthy from this painting—not only from the many engravings that he sold of the finished work, but by charging people to see it.

The portrait is meant to be set at Mount Vernon. However, Savage had never seen Mount Vernon and had no idea what it looked like. The background shows marble columns and a liveried footman in the English manner that Savage had learned to copy while abroad. The composition is rigid, flat and awkward, showing the artist’s lack of skill. He relied heavily on his assistants to do much of his painting for him.

Savage was quite pleased with himself for the “symbolism” of this work. He fancied that he had imbued the figure of Washington with a sense of military and presidential dignity by costuming him in his uniform and putting papers in his hand. Martha Custis Washington holds a map of the unfinished District of Columbia—pointing with her fan to what is now Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s a curious painting indeed, but an important one as it is, as Savage would have been the first to tell you, one of the few looks we’ll ever get at the entire assembled Washington family.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Florida Water

Florida Water, an American Eau de Cologne, was introduced in 1808 by the New York City perfumer I. Murray who marketed the cologne as a light fragrance appropriate for use by both men and young ladies. The scent is citrus base with a dominant sweet orange aroma with added notes of lavender and clove. 

The bottle today.
In 1835, Mr. Murray was joined by David Trumbull Lanman and the Florida Water concern became known as “Murray & Lanman.” The company contends that their product still is made using the original 1808 formula, and that the current label is essentially the same artwork used in 1808 with only slight modifications.

Here’s a trade card from 1886 for Florida Water which I recently acquired with a large job lot of antique ephemera. It’s quite attractive, yes? The front shows a bottle of Florida Water being cooled in a clear lake. Upon its neck sits a handsome cockatoo who is framed by a luxurious background of palms, roses and exotic plants. All of this effectively puts one in mind of a cooling, fragrant product. 

As a fan, and daily user of Florida Water, I can attest that the marketing is essentially the same to this day. 

The reverse of the card reads:



The Universal Perfume



Professor Alexander Wassiliewitsch Poehl 

Analyzing Chemist for the Russian Gov- 

ernment, St. Petersburg: 

“Murray & Lanman’s FLORIDA WATER 
does not contain any integral parts 
which could be pernicious to health.” 

“The comparative investigation has 
shown that Murray & Lanman’s FLORIDA 
WATER possesses in a volatilized state 
a greater ability and power to purify 
the air than ‘Eau de Cologne;’ and in 
this respect Murray and Lanman’s FLORIDA 
WATER is far preferable to the well- 
Known Cologne Waters.” 

No. 6404 – Sept. 30th, 1886

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mastery of Design: Ring with a Cameo of Demeter, 1799

Cameo Ring
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the fashion for cameos prompted jewelers to take ancient carvings and set them in new gold mounts and bezels. This ring from the Royal Collection is a nifty example of that trend.

The cameo of white and brown striated sardonyx is an ancient Roman piece from the First Century B.C. It was mounted in this gold ring with an open bezel in 1799 and first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1872, likely a gift to Queen Victoria. The cameo depicts a half-figure of a woman in left profile. She’s holding two stalks of corn and almost certainly represents Demeter. 

Treat of the Week: Braciola and Speculoos

This weekend was excellent from the standpoint of food.  It was a feast of foods with difficult to spell names.

Bertie and I went to visit my parents and we all enjoyed a magnificent feast.  The meal began with my mother’s homemade braciola (pronounced brah-jole) and polenta.  We haven’t had this in quite some time, so I was particularly happy about it.  Braciola (sometimes inaccurately spelled braciole) is an Italian dish wherein a tender beef roulade is filled with cheeses, herbs (and sometimes spinach and pine nuts).  It’s smothered in a magnificent, tomato sauce.  

Polenta is a dense paste of cornmeal which has been boiled (usually in stock).  Sometimes this is served as it is, but often, it is formed into patties or into a loaf which is sliced and either fried or baked.  I love my mother’s polenta.  She takes the slices and bakes them topped with fresh herbs.  This was served with the same amazing sauce in which the braciola had been baked and fresh mozzarella.  Fresh green beans rounded out the meal.

For dessert, we enjoyed a new treat.  My mother tried a new recipe for "Belgian Spice Cookies" or "Speculoos."  These spiced shortbread biscuits are popular in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France, especially around Christmas time.  Traditionally, they are baked to be thin and crunchy with flat backs and, on the front, images cut into the dough.   My mother used a cookie cutter to create a leaf design.  Sometimes the recess is filled with chocolate, but, my mom decided to dip the ends of the speculoos in chocolate and white chocolate.  

I very much enjoyed this new treat, especially the blending of the flavors of cloves and ginger with the chocolate.  A quick search will bring up several recipes for speculoos so you can try them in your own home.

Drawing of the Day: The Corn Rose, 1680

Page from the Florilegium of Alexander Marshal
c. 1680
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The delicate drawing, dating to 1680, is the work of Alexander Marshal (c. 1620-82). Marshal was part of a league of “gentlemen gardeners” living in London in the Seventeenth Century. These gents looked to the cultivation of rare and exotic plants to learn about the workings of the natural world. They reveled, especially, in those plants which had been imported from the Near East and America at the start of the Seventeenth Century.

Marshal spent thirty years compiling a “florilegium” (flower book) which, in the end, contained 154 folios recording interesting and rare plants growing in the English gardens of his friends. Curiously, Marshal didn’t consider himself an artist, but his talent is evident. His florilegium is the only English flower book from the Seventeenth Century that survives. He never intended the folios to be sold or published, but rather, produced the book for the enjoyment and education of his friends.

King George IV was presented with the florilegium by an unknown party in the 1820s.

This leaf from the book features watercolors of three plants including: the Red Poppy (or Corn Rose), the Cockle and a Jacob's Ladder. The flowers are identified on the reverse.

Alexander Marshal, 1680
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Painting of the Day: A German Farmer in his Cornfield, c. 1873

A Gentleman Farmer Surveying His Corn
FH Pfeiffer, c. 1873
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I’m tickled that the Royal Collection identifies the subject of this painting as a “corpulent farmer.” I just like the word “corpulent.” And, it’s a good description for this fellow.

The painting is the work of FH Pfeiffer (presumably he was born and died, but we don’t quite know when—only that he was active around 1873). It’s one of those combination genre paintings and landscapes which were popular in the 1870s, a period during which artists liked the idea of depicting the “noble poor” as well as images of aristocrats engaged in common activities.

This “corpulent” farmer is attired in a red waistcoat and yellow breeches. He’s a bit overdressed for his work as he surveys his corn crop. He’s joined by his faithful dog who is clearly bored with the whole thing. I guess he doesn’t like being a…corn dog.

Oddly enough, this is the only photo of the piece—cropped strangely as it is.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 349

Chapter 349

"Your Ladyship!"  Gerard pounded on Lennie's bedroom door.

Lennie flung the door open, "Gerard!  Gamillla!  Hurry, please."  She pointed across her bedroom to the window.

Gerard and Gamilla rushed to the window.  As Lennie's room was at the rear of the house, her window overlooked the small garden behind No. 65.

"What are we lookin' for?"  Gerard asked.

"Don't you see him?"  Lennie cautiously approached the window.  She peered over Gerard's shoulder.  She sighed.  "He's gone.  He must have hear my scream."

"As did we,"  Robert hurried into the room, tying his dressing gown as he entered.  He was followed by Mr. Punch.

"We heard ya from the floor above, Lennie."  Punch began.  "What's happened?"

"Johnny Donnan was in the garden."  Lennie explained.  "I saw him.  I'd...I'd heard a tapping at my window as if someone was tossing pebbles at the glass, so I went to look.  I thought perhaps Matthew was doing something...oh, some antiquated romantic gesture."  She shook her head.  "So, I went to look.  I...I didn't expect to see..."

"The fool."  Robert shook his head.  "Could he possibly be so reckless as to be seen entering our garden?  What would compel him to be so careless as to reveal his association with us?"

"Perhaps he done heard that Her Ladyship accepted the proposal of the Earl."  Gamilla suggested.

"How could he have?"  Robert shook his head.  "It's not been announced yet."

"Maybe someone from downstairs told him."  Gamilla replied.  "Perhaps Ethel or Maudie were chattin' with one of the maids from a nearby house and he heard it second hand."

"I should hope they'd know better than to speak of the goings on of the household with servants from other houses."  Robert clucked his tongue.

"They do, Sir."  Gamilla smiled.  "Only when there's happy news, it's hard to keep it quiet."

"It couldn't have been the girls."  Gerard shook his head.  "They went straight up to the attics from the servants' hall.  We was all together until they went upstairs and they didn't go outside, not once."

"I was only thinkin' aloud, Your Grace."  Gamilla said softly.

"Oh, I know, Gamilla."  Punch smiled.  "It was a smart suggestion, it was.  If Johnny knew Lady Fallbridge was to be wed, he might want to see 'er.  After all, he's made it clear he wants to somehow be a..."  He trailed off.

"You can say it, brother dear.  Silence won't change the fact that the man is my father."  Lennie replied.

"Regardless of what he's heard, he's been warned repeatedly to stay away from you.  Furthermore, he's also been warned that being seen at this house would severely jeopardize the Queen's plan to infiltrate Hamish House.  No matter his reasons, to trespass in our garden is unforgivable."  

"Well, he's gone now."  Lennie sighed.  "And, here I stand, embarrassed.  I'm so sorry to have disturbed everyone so.  I wasn't aware of my scream until after it had issued from my mouth.  He startled me.  I expected to see Matthew smiling up at me, and...well..."  She shook her head.  "Nevertheless, we learned one thing.  I've got quite a loud voice when I want to.  Not only did my brothers hear me from the floor above, but Gerard heard me from the attics."

Gerard and Gamilla exchanged glances.

"I wasn't in the attics."  Gerard  blushed.

Gamilla shifted her weight uncomfortably.

"Ah."  Punch grinned.

"We was just talkin', Your Grace."  Gerard said quickly.

"No need to explain."  Robert held up his hand.

"Oh dear,"  Lennie muttered.

"We really was just talkin', my lady."  Gamilla said.

"It's not that,"  Lennie giggled.  "I just worried that I'd awakened Colin."

"No, no, he went right back to sleep."

"As should we all."  Robert nodded.  "Each in our own room."  He smiled, blushing.  "Well, I suppose that rather makes me a hypocrite."  

They all chuckled.

Lennie glanced out of the window uncomfortably.

"Perhaps before I go up, I could bolt the garden gate?"  Gerard suggested.

"You anticipated my request."  Robert nodded.

"I'll go right now."  Gerard answered.  He looked at Gamilla and smiled.  "May I visit you in the nursery before breakfast?"

Gamilla looked at Mr. Punch.

"Well, of course he can!"  Punch laughed.

Gamilla nodded happily.

"Good night, all."  Robert smiled.  "Lennie, dear, will you be able to sleep?"

"Eventually.  I'll just calm down a bit."

"Would you like me to stay with you for a spell, my lady?"  Gamilla asked.

"I'd love it if you would."  Lennie nodded.  "As long as you think Colin will be all right.""

"Oh, he's sleepin' like an angel.  Besides, Ruthy will be in at midnight to check on him."  Gamilla answered.

"We'll leave you two to your chat."  Robert said.

"Good night.  Don't stay up too late."  Punch smiled.

They closed Lennie's door behind them.

"I knew, I did,"  Punch shook his head.  "I knew Johnny wouldn't be able to stay 'way from Lennie."

"We may need to rethink our newfound trust of him."  Robert agreed.

"In the mornin'."  Punch sighed.  "Right now, even I'm ready for sleep."  With that, Punch and Robert climbed the stairs to their room.

Meanwhile, downstairs, in the garden, Gerard made his way toward the gate to bolt it when he heard a raspy voice hiss at him.  "Oy, Aussie!"

"Mr. Donnan."  Gerard shook his head.  "Ya know you oughn't be here."

"When I come to the hall with a delivery, your Charles told me 'bout my girl gettin' a ring from that earl fella."

"Ah."  Gerard said.

"Listen, I just wanna talk to my lass."  Johnny stepped out into the moonlight.

"She don't want to see ya."  Gerard said firmly.  "And, she ain't your lass.  Now, Mr. Donnan, you 'eard this from everyone in the house from His Grace to me, and even from the lady herself.  She don't want to see ya."

"It's a father's place to talk to his girl on the day she's promised to wed a man."

"Ain't gonna happen."  Gerard said.  "Now, you gotta get back to Hamish House.  Remember, His Grace is payin' for your services.  Ain't no use puttin' all that at risk.  ya know you ain't to be seen here.  And, like I said, ain't no way you're gonna talk to Lady Fallbridge."

"Call 'er what you want, lad, but she's still Ellen Barrett to me."

"Do ya hear yourself.  Even then, she still ain't your daughter.  Never in her life was she Ellen Donnan.  Never did she think of you as a pa."

Johnny shook his head.  "You'll understand one day, when you and your bride have a child."

Gerard sighed.  "Good night, Mr. Donnan."

"Lad, will ya give 'er this?"  He held up a crumpled piece of paper.

"Lady Fallbridge?"  Gerard squinted.

"Sure, sure.  Just give it to her.  Please."

"What is it?"

"I didn't think anyone'd let me see 'er.  So, I wrote this, best I could.  Just...just give it to 'er, lad."

"Good night, Mr. Donnan."  Gerard repeated.

"Will ya, lad?"

"Good night."

"Fine."  Johnny grumbled, leaving the garden.

"Cor."  Gerard grunted as he latched the gate.

Did you miss Chapters 1-348 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 350.

The Home Beautiful: Jatte à punch, 1790

Jatte a Punch
French, 1790
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

King George IV was given this punch bowl. The work of hard paste porcelain with gilded adornment comes from the Sèvres Porcelain Factory and was made around 1790.

The bowl had been commissioned by Maria Luisa of Parma, Queen of Spain. She was the wife of Charles IV. The bowl, at the time was valued at 10,800 livres. The details of how it ended up in the hands of George IV are somewhat sketchy. It was recorded in the collection of George IV’s Carlton House in 1826 with a notation that it had been a gift from French regent Louis XVI in 1791. The dates don’t match up somehow.

The polychrome bowl is adorned with a border of scrolls and foliate volutes on a white ground. The gilt central band boasts floral garlands, baskets of flowers and vases. Four reserves have been decorated with allegorical scenes of the Seasons. Further adornment includes borders of ivy, myrtle, acanthus, birds, butterflies, corn husks, and pearls. Cupid and Flora, Bacchus, Ceres and Apollo represent the seasons.

The Royal Collection

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Good Harvest of 1854

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painter Charles Allston Collins was a friend of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and, as an admirer, imitated the bright color palette and detail of their paintings. The celebrated art critic John Ruskin lauded “the careful painting in this little study” entitled, “The Good Harvest of 1854.” In this scene, a young girl is shown with a sheaf of corn symbolizing bread. The ivy may alludes to the wine of Holy Communion.

This painting was part of the collection of the Reverend Chauncey Hare Townshend. Regular readers of this blog know the Reverend as a collector of jewels, but he also had an eye for paintings.

Monday, July 1, 2013


There are days when, despite my best intentions, I just run out of time.  This is one of those days.  So, we'll be back tomorrow with the usual fun as well as a "Treat of the Week," and maybe a couple of other surprises.