Friday, August 2, 2013

We'll be back on Monday

From the Victoria & Albert Museum

I am going to need one more weekend to reassemble myself.  However, we'll be back on Monday, and hopefully...hopefully be back on a normal schedule.

See you then!

Mastery of Design: Her Majesty's Prize from the Queen's St. Leonards Archers, 1839

This and all related images from The Victoria & Albert Museum

As a young princess, the future Queen Victoria was an avid archer and became the patron of the archer's club when it was founded in 1833. 

This bracelet of gold, enamel and diamonds demonstrates the romantic interest in archery, an ancient English skill associated with the medieval battles of Agincourt and Crécy. The bracelet was made as a prize.  It was was presented, in 1839, by Queen Victoria to the Society of Archers at St Leonards, Sussex.  Victoria appreciated that women played a major role in the St. Leonards Society.  

The front of the piece is inscribed: "Queen's St. Leonards Archers," and, on the reverse, "Her Majesty's Prize, 17th Aug 1839."

Treat of the Week: A Tale of Two Sundays

While I may have had a rough time of things these past weeks, one area which hasn't suffered is the food I've been given thanks to my mother's clever culinary creativity.

It was the meatiest of times, it was the veggiest of times....

Already this week, you've seen a lovely treat of pizza and ice cream, but the weekend before that, Bertie and I feasted on beautifully-grilled filet mignon, noodles with pesto, roasted baby eggplant and a beautiful tomato mozzarella salad with creamy avocado.  

That delightful dinner was followed with a brown sugar and but pound cake which was served with fresh whipped cream and sliced, juicy peaches!

And, the weekend before that, we enjoyed an equally delicious treat which began with pasta, asparagus and pancetta.

This was followed by a most fanciful and fancy dessert of homemade ice cream on the half-shell--literally.  Well, maybe not too literally.  My mother put her new oyster-shell dishes to good use, serving up pearls of ice cream with croutons of toasted pound cake and beautifully candied nuts!

So, you see, no matter how bleak things are, I can always count on my mother to make everything better.

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...

Who are the two brothers who live on opposite sides of the road, yet, never see one another?


A person's eyes, on either side of his nose.  

Well done, today, all!  Bertie picks Darcy's and Dashwood's answers as his favorite.  And, I think you were all quite clever.

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.  

Drawing of the Day: Punch and Muffins Academy

The British Museum

I would like to attend the "Punch and Muffins Academy," especially if the Punch in question is Mr. Punch.  Here, from between 1820 and 1825, we see a design for a card which features a drawing of Mr. Punch seated on inverted bowl, at a table eating from another bowl.

The work of pen and gray ink was drawn by Edward Hull and is inscribed: 

"Punch and Muffins Academy by NED HULL Poplar Grove, Oval, Kennington."


Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 360

Chapter 360:

The sounds of Ruthy's screams sliced through the floors of the towering mansion at No. 65 Belgrave Square.  

Charles and Georgie, who'd only just come into the servants' hall after searching for Gamilla around the City of Westminster, were urged by Mrs. Pepper to go upstairs as quickly as possible.

Before the two even reached the service staircase, the door from the front hall burst open and, there, appeared Violet holding Ruthy tightly by the arm.

"Let me go!"  Ruthy screamed.

"What's going on, Vi?"  Charles asked.

"This bitch let Ulrika Rittenhouse's lover in here, the rotten blackguard.  He took Gamilla!"  Violet growled angrily.

"What?"  Charles coughed.  "My brother?"

"Oh, Charlie,"  Violet said quickly.  "I forgot he was  your..."

"Never mind that."  Charles shook his head.  "He is a blackguard and..."  he narrowed his eyes at Ruthy, "if this is true, you are a bitch."

"Is it true, then, Ruthy?"  George Pepper asked.

"Yes!"  Ruthy screamed.  "Now, let me go."

Mrs. Pepper, Ethel and Maudie gathered at the foot of the stairs.

Charles cooly turned and looked down at Mrs. Pepper.  "Where's Mr. Speaight?"

"Still out lookin' for Gamilla."  Mrs. Pepper answered.

Charles scratched his chin.  He inhaled.  "George, my lad, go with your mum.  Take the baby upstairs to the nursery and stay with your mum there."

"Charlie!"  George argued.  "I want to get me hands on this witch what gave up our sweet Gamilla."

"Why'd ya do it, Ruthy?"  Mrs. Pepper asked, tearfully.  "Gamilla's been good to ya.  When His Grace wasn't certain 'bout ya, she spoke up on your behalf."

"Oh, yes, the African girl is so bleedin' kind!"  Ruthy scoffed.  "That's why you all make such a fuss over her, is it?  She don't do a blasted thing!  No one here does!  No one but me! All you do is let the masters dote on ya like children.  You're all as simple as the God damn mandrake Duke and his fancy man."

"Shut yer gob, ya sow!"  Violet slapped the girl who yelped.

"Ya hurt me!"  Ruthy howled.

"I'll do a site worse in a moment," Violet snapped, slapping the girl again.  "Ya jealous cow!  So ya let them take Gamilla because you felt you--a maid--was overworked?  Did that satisfy your hate?"

"No, but the five sovereigns did."  Ruthy sneered.

Violet pulled back on Ruthy's arm, and, then, with one swift motion, tossed the girl down the rest of the stairs.  She landed at the feet of Mrs. Pepper, Ethel and Maudie.

"Cor!"  Ethel gasped.  "Ya killed her, Vi!"  Ethel smiled.  "I'm glad you did."

"So am I!"  Maudie replied.

"She ain't dead."  Violet shook her head, descending the stairs.  "Are ya?"

"I'm hurt!"  Ruthy wailed.

"Oh."  Maudie sighed with disappointment.

"Someone help me up."  Ruthy struggled.

Charles took George gently by the arm.  "Georgie, now listen, I need you.  As you know, Gerry's gone off with Her Ladyship and the masters are at the palace.  With Mr. Speaight gone, that leaves us the men in charge.  You gotta be the other footman.  Understand?"

"Yes, sir."  Georgie nodded.  

"Good.  Master Colin can't see nor hear what's about to happen.  Right?"


"So, your mum has gotta take him upstairs.  I want you to take them up and I want Ethel and Maudie to go, too.  You care for Ethel, yes?"

"Very much."  

"Well,  you know she's only just gotten over the horrible things she saw at Hamish House and losing Jenny.  There's no good in seeing anything upsetting.  So, help me, mate, by taking the girls upstairs.  Please."

"But, what about Ruthy?"  George asked.

"Violet and I will handle her."  Charles replied.

Did you miss Chapters 1-359 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 361.  No chapter tomorrow.  But, hopefully, by next week, I'll be back on schedule.

Print of the Day: State-Jugglers, 1788

James Gillray
The British Museum

There's SO much of late Eighteenth-Century political significance happening in this print by James Gillray, that I couldn't possibly begin to do it justice in a short post.  So, let's take a look at it from the top down.  

Teeter-tottering on a post projecting from the facade of St. James Palace (which has been adorned with the sign from the Crown Inn), we see King George III in the guise of Mr. Punch and Queen Charlotte dressed as Judy.  By this point, George was quite out of his head and the monarchy was being supported by a variety of pandering handlers who are depicted here in a pyramid of various fairgrounds activities, including fire-breathing.  Military officers, hold out there hats for donations while the common people are kept at a distance.

Below the title is inscribed:

"Who wrought such wonders as might make
"Egyptian sorcerers forsake
"Their baffled mockeries, & own
''The palm of magick our's alone.''

Churchll, 16 May 1788 Hand-coloured etching

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Mr. Punch by John Leech, c. 1850

Graphite Drawing
John Leech, c. 1850
The British Museum

Click image to enlarge.  

And, this is how I have been feeling the past couple of weeks.  

Despite my best intentions, I've just not been able to spend as much time with this site as I usually do.  In fact, I've not been able to spend as much time with ANYTHING as I usually do.

Nevertheless, it's Friday, and that means, Punch-related art and things, so, let's begin with this handsome graphite drawing by the celebrated illustrator John Leech.  Leech, known for his work with Mr. Dickens, as well as "Punch Magazine," depicts our Mr. Punch rolling a bowl down a slope.  He doesn't seem concerned at all about keeping his balance, and is, generally "havin' a ball."  A separate drawing on the same side (upside down) shows a study of a tree.  Obviously, this was a quick sketch which Leech intended as a study for other pieces.

It's hard to pin a date on this, but I'd guess it was created around 1850.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Liberty Blood Red Fire Opal Ring and Necklace, 1926-1927

Fire Opal Ring and Pendant in Platinum and Diamond Settings
The British Museum

Click Images to Enlarge.

Liberty & Co. of London and Paris produced this platinum-set finger ring and pendant for Christmas of 1926-1927.  The set glitters with the pristine sparkle of diamonds and the unusual glow of blood red fire opals.  

This extraordinary pair of rare fire opals is part of an impressive collection of jewels from the 1920s-1950s which was donated to the British Museum in 1978 by Professor John and Anne Hull Grundy.  

To Serve and Project: The Dresser Vegetable Dish and Lid, 1884

Vegetable Dish and Lid
Christopher Dresser, 1884
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Designed by the famed Christopher Dresser (1834 – 1904) for Old Hall Works in 1884, this vegetable dish is from a dinner service of earthenware is adorned with a transfer-printed pattern. As we know, these were the most affordable methods of creating dinnerware at the time, and, so, materially, the set is not out of the ordinary. However, Dresser didn’t create anything which didn’t have something special about it, and this dinner set does have some interesting features.

Christopher Dresser was as much of a slave to practicality as he was to beauty. With this set, he included some special features which were designed to make life easier. For example, Dresser designed an extra dip in the soup bowls to help in scooping up the last spoonful. The design of the dinner plates incorporated indentations in the rims for condiments and sauces.

The design of the set is perfectly represented by this vegetable dish and lid with their strongly geometric form. This shape was typical of Dresser's design style as was the decoration. He trained as a botanist and, therefore, always had an interest in organic forms. Even during his own lifetime, Dresser was described as a “pioneer of modern design” and one of the most prolific designers of his time. He famously promoted quality, machine production and the use and discovery of new materials. Furthermore, his work was considered quite fashionable—elegant enough for the finest homes, but inexpensive enough for daily use.

Though made in 1884, this particular design was not registered until 1886. Curiously, Dresser called the pattern “Shanghai” even though there is no hint of Chinese or Asian ornament or style. The Victorians enjoyed referring to china patterns by unrelated names. Dresser also introduced two other patterns the same year, both named for places which had nothing to do with their design—“Persian” and “Hampden.”

Treat of the Week: A Magnificent Italian Feast

Today, we begin the first of three "Treats of the Week."  This delightful meal came about this past Sunday.  Tomorrow, we'll go back in time for a look at some other treats which I enjoyed during my recent convalescence.

This past weekend, at my parents' house, Bertie and I relaxed with a casual feast of homemade pizza and a delightful salad. Four Italian cheeses, olives, eggplant, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, artichoke hearts, zesty olives and sundried tomatoes topped my mother’s special pizza sauce and a crust fashioned from homemade dough. My parents actually made five pizzas. One for dinner and then four smaller ones—two of which I brought home.

The perfect complement to the pizza was a cool salad of fresh greens.
The meal concluded with a true summer treat—homemade brown-sugar and cinnamon ice cream from my mother’s Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. Dark chocolate was melted into a wonderful hot fudge sauce which shone like polished mahogany. And, that’s not all! In keeping with the Italian theme, my mother made gorgeous cinnamon biscotti—the perfect texture and packed with pecans—which she carefully dipped in smooth chocolate.

Now, that's a healing meal! 

The Home Beautiful: The Rousseau Dinner Service, C. 1866

Part of a Dinner Service by Milliet LeBeuf et Cie, c. 1866
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This plate of earthenware depicts a lobster, flowers and an insect on a white ground.  It was made in Creil, France between 1866-1867 as part of a superb and impressive dinner service known as “The Rousseau Dinner Service.” 

The pattern was designed by Feliz Braquemond and made by Milliet LeBeuf et Cie for François-Eugène Rousseau (1827-1891).  Braquemond’s motifs were taken from Japanese prints including the Mangwa of the artist known as Hokusai.

The set was shown in the Universal Exhibition of Paris, 1867.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 359

Chapter 359

"You're not to be in here."  Ruthy snapped as Mrs. Pepper and Violet entered the day nursery.

"We're to be anywhere we damn well please."  Violet scowled.

"The cook shouldn't be in the nursery!"  Ruthy continued.

"I think you've got some wrong idea about your place in this household, dearie."  Mrs. Pepper replied calmly.  "You seem to have the notion that you somehow outrank us.  Should we draw a picture for you, love?  Somethin' what might show ya the order o' things here."

"I know enough of the 'order of things' to know that you're not meant to be in the nursery."

"Listen, dearie, His Grace asked me and Vi to look in on Master Colin whilst he and His Lordship went to the palace."

"The palace?"  Ruthy's eyes widened. 

"Yeah, the palace."  Violet hissed.  "What's it to you?"

"What took them there?"

"Have ya forgotten?  Gamilla's missin'.  That's why we all ain't gettin' ready for the weddin'."

"What does the Queen care if some African girl is gone missing?"  Ruthy asked.

"Some...some African girl."  Mrs. Pepper's face turned beet red.  "Now, listen, you.  That African girl happens to be your better and, I might add, the only person in this house save Mr. Speaight who reports to no one but the masters themselves.  Furthermore, she's dear to His Grace and he's dear to Her Majesty.  So, it only stands to reason Her Majesty'd be quick to 'elp.  You got some nerve, you do, dearie.  Gettin' too big for your boots, I'd say.  Don't think I won't mention it to His Grace when he and Lord Colinshire return."

"Seems to me I'm the only one doin' my job, Mrs. Pepper.  All the rest of you are moaning about Gamilla while I'm here watchin' the baby."  Ruthy replied.

"Not for long, you're not."  Violet snapped.  She walked over to the bassinet and picked up the baby.  

"What do you think you're doing?"  Ruthy roared.

"I'm taking the child to his aunty, my mistress."  Vi replied.  

"You've no authority here!"  Ruthy said.

"I've seniority!  I'm Upper House Maid as well as the Lady's Maid for Lady Fallbridge.  Maybe we do need Mrs. Pepper to draw a picture for ya!  You're just a low nursery maid.  Even Ethel and Maude got more rights here than you."

"That's enough, Vi."  Mrs. Pepper urged.  "Let's not make it worse.  Just take the baby to Her Ladyship."

"That'll be rather difficult."  Ruthy smirked.

"Oh?"  Vi chuckled.

"Lady Fallbridge left the house with Mr. Gurney not twenty minutes ago."

"How do you know?"  Vi raised an eyebrow.

"I saw them from the window."

"Oh, dear."  Mrs. Pepper shook her head.  "His Grace won't like that at all."

"Why?"  Ruthy narrowed her eyes.

"Because, they've probably gone to Hamish House.  That was precisely what His Grace was tryin' to avoid.  Ain't no place for either o' them.  That's why they went to Their Majesties for help."

"Why?"  Ruthy asked nervously.  "What's anything to do with Hamish House?"

"Well, who else do ya think took Gamilla, though how they got in this house, I'll never understand."

"What...what makes you think..."  Ruthy stuttered.  "I could....  I'm sure it's nothing to do with those women at Hamish House...  As you say, how could they..."

"You're actin' funny."  Violet interrupted.

"She is."  Mrs. Pepper said.  "Here, Ruthy, what do you know?"

"Nothing."  Ruthy shook her head.

"You're lyin'!"  Vi shouted.  "She's lyin!"  Violet turned to Mrs. Pepper.  "Mrs. P., will you stay in here with Master Colin?"

"I will, dearie."  Mrs. Pepper nodded.  "Only what do you aim to do?"

"I just want to remind Ruthy of the order of things."  Violet smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-358 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 360.

Drawing of the Day: Dinner Dress Ensemble; Field Rhoades Haute Couture, 1948-49

Design for a dinner ensemble.
Marjorie Field for Field Rhoades Couture
London, 1948-1949
The Victoria & Albert Museum 

Dating to 1948-49, this drawing is a fashion design for a black dinner dress ensemble consisting of a black sheath under a cerulean and peach bolero jacket, trimmed with black bobble passementerie.

The gown was designed by Marjorie Field for the haute couture firm Field Rhoades of London.  A type-written description of the ensemble is included with the drawing in order to specify the materials required.  Field intended that the gown should be made of crepe while the jacket would be constructed of slipper satin. 

This drawing is one of twelve in an album which Field assembled between 1948 and 1949 to present to her partners at Field Rhoades—allowing the firm to select the designs, colors and materials which they desired for the couture collection.