Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Nine of Us and Mom Workin' All Day

"C'mon, get your hand off of my foot."

Image:  Queen Victoria (1819-1901), John Partridge (1790-1872) (artist), Creation Date: Inscribed 1840,    Materials: Oil on canvas, Provenance: Commissioned by Queen Victoria and given to Prince Albert as a Christmas present in 1840, Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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.

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria's Rock Crystal, Diamond and Ruby Clock, 1900

Michael Perchin
c. 1900
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Created by Fabergé workmaster Mikhail Evlampievich Perkhin (1860-1903) around 1900, this desk clock of carved rock crystal is mounted with gold, silver-gilt, enamel, rose diamonds and rubies.  It was p
resented to Queen Victoria by Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, her granddaughter,  in 1900.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

Her Majesty had a fondness for her Tsarina granddaughter.  According to the Royal Collection, "On receipt of the news of the death of Tsar Alexander III, on 1 November 1894, the Queen wrote of the new Tsar and Tsarina in her journal:

‘What a terrible load of responsibility & anxiety has been laid upon the poor Children! I had hoped and trusted they would have many years of comparative quiet & happiness before ascending this thorny throne.'"
The Queen was thrilled with this gift from the young Tsarina and appreciated its unusual, noting its difference from the majority of Fabergé’s clocks in her collection.  The others are in the form of gold strut clocks, enameled in a wide variety of colors and set with gemstones in gold. 

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

This clock, however, is crafted predominantly of rock crystal which has been engraved with trophies incorporating torches and a quiver as well as musical attributes. The rock crystal lobed panels are divided by four mounted gold arrows set with rubies and diamonds. 

White enamel forms the dial which is  surrounded by a bezel of green enamelled laurel with diamond-set ribbon ties. 

Upon the death of Queen Victoria, the clock was given to the future King George V who kept it on his desk until his own death.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

Treat of the Week: A Victorious Birthday

Today is my father's birthday.  Hooray!  Unfortunately, my father's spent more time helping me out the past few weeks than he's been able to spend on himself, and, I've been such a mess that I haven't been able to shop for a gift for him.

Thankfully, my mother is always prepared, and, this past Sunday she made a pre-birthday feast for my father which was fit for a King!

To begin, an entree of pork chops prepared in apple butter and apple cider offered a beautiful combination of sweet and savory.  This was served with asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, and couscous, and fresh, crusty bread.  

But, the star of the birthday show, was the cake.  My mother refers to this monumental cake as a “Victory Cake.” It is certainly a triumph of the art of baking! Freshly whipped cream and sliced bananas are sandwiched between layers of dense, luscious home-made chocolate cake. The whole of it is topped with more whipped cream and sliced banana.  Whipped cream rosettes and candied nuts add further adornment.  A bit of salt on the candied nuts is also a brilliant counterpoint to the sweetness of the chocolate and the cool creaminess of the banana and cream. There’s nothing quite as luxurious as this combination of flavors. This superb creation is the perfect way to celebrate any occasion.

So...happy birthday to my pop!  Thanks for taking such good care of us for all these years!

Bertie's Pet-itations: Hear us Singin'

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

It's so much easier to be happy than it is to always find something to be miserable about.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 363

Chapter 363
Handling Trouble

"Well, really."  Ulrika shook her head as she and Orpha entered the room where Marduk lay sleeping.  "It wasn't the window that was broken at all."  She sighed.  "How tiresome."

"No, Miss."  Johnny Donnan replied.  "It was I.  I dropped one of the empty bottles."

"Johnny, did you see the little witch?"  Orpha asked.

"Went to her cupboard."  Johnny nodded, not taking his eyes off of the two women.  

"Mr. Iantosca needs your help downstairs."  Orpha continued.


"Hurry."  Orpha growled.  

Johnny nodded and went downstairs, scowling once he was out of Orpha's and Ulrika's sight. He arrived in the parlor to see Giovanni impotently aiming a pistol at the Duke of Fallbridge, Lord Colinshire, Lady Fallbridge, Gerard, Gamilla and Maudie.

"What's all this?"  Johnny asked.

"Good,"  Giovanni barked.  "Come and help me."

Johnny looked at the row of people who stood across from Giovanni.   His eye's met Lennie's and, for once, she didn't look away from her father.

"Aye,"  Johnny replied after awhile.  "I'll help ya, lad."  He walked over to Giovanni and extended a hand.  "Give me the pistol, then."

Giovanni nodded, handing over the pistol.

"Right."  Johnny smiled, grasping the handle of the gun.  

"Keep 'em here."  Giovanni ordered.

"Aye,"  Johnny nodded.  "I could do that.  Or, I could do...this."  With that, he raised the pistol and struck Giovanni across the skull with it.  Giovanni fell to the floor with a loud thud.

Quickly turning, Johnny hurried to the Duke.

"Your Grace,"  Johnny urged.  "Please leave and take all these fine folk with ya."

Punch nodded.  "We will.  But, first, I want to free Fern.  Gerard, take Gamilla, Maude and Lady Fallbridge home while His Lordship and I go after Miss Fern."

"Punch, I'm not leaving you." Lennie shook her head

"Nor are we, Your Grace."  Gerard added.

"There,"  Lennie laughed.  "You see.  None of us are leaving you."

"Aye, Miss,"  Johnny pleaded.  "Your brother is right.  You'd do well to listen.  This ain't no place for ya."

"I'm not leaving that little girl to be mistreated the way...."  Lennie began, but trailed off.

"Come, then, before Giovanni wakes."  Robert smiled.

"Besides, I'd like a few parting words with Orpha."  Lennie muttered as they all climbed the stairs.

Did you miss Chapters 1-362 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 364.

Precious Time: The Lilies Lantern Clock, 1650

Lantern Clock of Silver
David Bouquet, 1650
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Lantern clocks such as the one pictured here were first developed in England in the 1620s. The name “lantern” is thought to have come from the word “laton” - meaning brass - as most of these timepieces featured brass cases.

These clocks were always driven by weights and were made to stand on a bracket or to hang on the wall.

This clock is exceptional in that it is the only known lantern clock with a silver, and not brass, case. The dial plate, chapter ring, alarm disc, side doors and pierced silver gallery are all comprised 
 of silver. Because of the unusual medium, we can only assume that this clock was a special commission for a wealthy patron from David Bouquet, a French immigrant who was admitted to the Blacksmiths' Company in 1628.  Bouquet joined the Clockmakers' Company as a founding member in 1632.  He was known for his fine engraving—work which we can see nicely here.  The front of the clock is engraved with pinks, tulips, lilies and other flowers.  Meanwhile,  above, an openwork gallery is surmounted by pierced floral crestings with vases at the corners.

The clock dates to about 1650.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Williamson Diamond Brooch, 1952

The Williamson Diamond Brooch
Pink and White Diamonds
Cartier, 1952
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II
Some consider the central stone in this brooch to be the finest pink diamond in the world. Certainly when it was mined, it was, and probably ties with the Graff Pink for that honor now.  Weighing 23.6 carats, the diamond was found in Tanzania by geologist Dr. John Williamson who presented the diamond to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) as a wedding gift in 1947.  In 1948, the diamond was cut by London’s Briefel and Lemer.  Longing to wear the diamond, Queen Elizabeth II commissioned Frederick Mew of Cartier to create a fitting setting for the pink sparkler in 1952.  The result was this unique brooch which remains in Her Majesty’s private jewel collection. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Countess Portman Oak Parure

Diamond Oak Leaf Parure
From the Hull Grundy Gift
This and all related images from:
The British Museum

All images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Something about the description for this magnificent jewel in the collection of The British Museum put me in mind of "The Phantom of the Opera."  However, instead of a "chandelier in pieces," here, we have a tiara in three pieces.  

The diamonds are set, open-back, with silver prongs on a structure of gold which takes the form of branches of oak leaves and acorns.  

The three diamond sections can be worn mounted to two tortoise-shell combs, hooked together on a special mount as a brooch or on the golden crown frame as a tiara.  The various parts are still housed in their original case from the jeweler:  Hunt & Roskell, 156 New Bond Street.  The jewelled elements are interchangeable between the combs, the brooch-frame and the tiara. The lid of the case is stamped with a Viscount's coronet and the initials MP."

This suite is part of the Hull-Grundy gift to The British Museum which we've been examining these past few days.  

Text from catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift tells us:

This set was sold at Sotheby's in 1970 (19 March, lot 140) with its original case. The gold initials and coronet on the lid suggest that the tiara may once have been owned by Mary Selina Charlotte Portman, daughter of Viscount Milton and wife of William Henry Berkeley, 2nd Viscount Portman; she was married on 1 June, 1855, and died in 1899.

Sculpture of the Day: The Prince and Princess, 1845-1850

Princess Victoria and Prince Edward
Staffordshire, 1845-1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Staffordshire figures often depicted popular people of the era. As we know, when these figures were first produced in 1840, the first subjects were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, so it’s only fitting that their children would also find themselves to be the subjects of these colorful porcelain sculptures.

Here we see a figure group of lead-glazed earthenware depicting Edward, Prince of Wales and his sister, Victoria, the Princess Royal—the first two children of the Queen and her consort. The Princess Victoria was the first born and was heiress presumptive to throne until the birth of her brother who, being male, took precedent in his place in the line of accession—later becoming King Edward VII.

Princess Victoria is riding in a carriage drawn by a horse on which the Prince ridden by the Prince. The oblong base is decorated by a scrolled front picked out in gilding, and inscribed “PRINCE AND PRINCESS” in black.

Painting of the Day: “Queen Victoria Riding Out,” Sir Francis Grant, 1838

Queen Victoria Riding Out
Sir Francis Grant, 1838-1839
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
During the 1830’s and 1840’s, a popular subject for paintings was a scene of a young, eligible heiress riding out on her horse, followed by potential suitors. When Queen Victoria inherited the crown from her uncle, King William IV, she was similarly depicted in this affectionate, tongue-in-cheek, painting by Sir Francis Grant.

The Queen was in on the joke and was quite amused by it, asking special and favored members of her court to pose as “suitors” for a position in the Royal favor. After the first sitting for the painting, she wrote in her journal of Lord Melbourne, “looking so funny, his white hat on, an umbrella, in lieu of a stick in one hand, & holding the reins, which were fastened to the steps, in the other . . . it is such a happiness for me to have that dear kind friend’s face, which I do like & admire so, so like . . . and Uxbridge, George Byng, & old Quintin ludicrously like.”

Also pictured are two of 
her favorite dogs, Dash and Islay, as well as her beloved horse, "Comus."

After her marriage to Prince Albert, this painting was reproduced with a figure of Prince Albert at the lead, giving this painting a whole new meaning, but one more in tune with the genre.

Antique Image of the Day: Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose on a Rocking Horse, 1932

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Photographer Frederick Thurston took this unguarded photo of Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, astride their favorite rocking horse in 1932.

This portrait was taken long before the death of King George V and, certainly, long before the Duke of York imagined that he’d one day be King instead of his elder brother. The photo of the two Princesses was taken in the nursery at St Paul’s Walden Bury, the country home of the Bowes-Lyon family (the family of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) in Hertfordshire. The rocking horse had once been a play-thing of the Queen Mother when she was a girl. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 363

Chapter 363

"Oh!"  Ulrika exclaimed.  "Brilliant!  I hit one."

"Lennie!"  Punch screamed.  

"I'm all right.  It wasn't I who was  hit.  It was Fern."  Lennie answered.

"You would shoot a child?"  Punch bellowed.

"I would eat a child if I could." Ulrika laughed.  "I would do whatever is needed to see to it that Marduk takes his rightful place as ruler of all the forces of the dark."

Robert knelt down next to Fern.

"It's nothing, it's nothing."  Fern said quickly.  "Please don't worry about me.  The ball only grazed my leg.  I'm not injured."

"Are you sure?"  Robert asked.

"Quite, Dr. Halifax.  Don't worry about me."

Punch leaned down next to them.  "Fern?"

"I'm not hurt.  I swear it, Uncle Punch."

"I'm glad of that."  Punch whispered.  "Listen, Fern.  We gotta get outta here.  Where's Marduk?"

"Upstairs, Sir."

"Do you know where exactly?"  Punch asked quietly.


"Stop that whispering over there!"  Orpha screamed.

"Yes, really, do pay attention lest I'll be forced to shoot again."

"Oh, Ulrika."  Punch snapped.  "I oughta beat your head in first."

Before Ulrika could reply, footsteps in the hall alerted them that Giovanni had returned.

"What is this?"  He barked as he saw the crowd which had gathered in the parlor.

"The mad Duke managed to gain entrance while you were out!"  Orpha retorted.

"Where was Johnny?"  Giovanni growled.

"It doesn't matter now, really."  Ulrika sighed.  She wrapped her fingers around Giovanni's arm.  "Darling, really, they're so many of them.  They're going to ruin our sacrifice.  Do something, darling."

"Wait!"  Orpha howled.  "Where's the girl?  Where's Fern?"

"I think she's gone upstairs."  Gamilla answered.  "To wash the wound that Ulrika gave her."

Orpha, Ulrika and Giovanni exchanged looks.

"Where's Marduk?"  Giovanni asked.

Just then, from upstairs, the sound of glass breaking sliced through the growing sense of confusion.

"Once, several weeks ago,"  Punch began.  "Gamilla caught Fern up to no good with my son.  Didn't ya, Gamilla?"

"I did, Your Grace."  Gamilla answered.

"Oh, yes, that's right."  Gerard added.  "I remember that, 'Milla."

"Wasn't that when Fern had opened a window and was holding Colin dangerously close to it?"  Robert deadpanned.

"Yes, Lord Colinshire."  Gamilla nodded.

"Oh, yeah,"  Maudie added.  "I remember.  Miss Lennie, ain't it true that you told me that if Gamilla'd not stopped 'er, Miss Fern'd 'ave dropped poor Master Colin outta the window?"

"We believed she would have, Maude."  Lennie nodded.

"If I were you three,"  Punch smiled.  "I'd see to it that your Marduk ain't the one bein' sacrificed instead of the one bein' sacrificed to."  

Did you miss Chapters 1-362 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 364.

The Art of Play: King Charles I’s Rocking Horse, 1610

Rocking Horse Belonging to King Charles I
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Of the two-hundred rocking horses in the collection of the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this is the oldest. The horse, made of softwood and elm, was made in 1610 specifically for King Charles I–son of James VI and Anne of Denmark—when he was a child. Charles’ childhood was marked by ill-health and a variety of speech disorders which kept the prince secluded and largely indoors. This rocking horse probably provided the soon-to-be-king with a much needed distraction.

It’s rather amazing that this item has survived over four hundred years in the excellent condition that it’s in. A plaque affixed to the horse states that the horse was, “Purchased on 18 June, 1906, at Cheshunt House, Hertfordshire.” Theobalds House—the favorite home of James VI—was the location of James death and the announcement that Charles I would be king. Theobalds House stood near Cheshunt House in Hertfordshire. When the house was largely demolished in the Eighteenth Century, most of its contents were absorbed into the surrounding stately homes. This rocking horse seems to have made its way into Cheshunt House where it remained for three hundred years.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Fabergé Shire Horse, 1907

Shire Horse of Agate and Diamonds
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made in 1907 by Fabergé as part of the great Sandringham Commission, this horse of carved brown agate is set with rose-cut diamonds for eyes. The shire horse was one of King Edward VII’s prized horses, so he made sure that the artists Fabergé had access to the animal to sketch it.

The Sandringham Commission was tremendous. King Edward VII, in an effort to offer the long-suffering Queen Alexandra something to cheer her up after one of his many infidelities, asked Fabergé to create a virtual barnyard of precious, miniature animals.

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Cartier Mughal Emerald Dress Clip, c. 1935

Dress Clip
Cartier, 1935
This and all related images from The British Museum

The work of Cartier, an Seventeenth-Eighteenth Century, Mughal carved emerald is set in a diamond and platinum mount dating to 1935.  The clip brooch features a hinged fitting for the platinum double prong at the top and set with round and baguette-cut diamonds, forming a lotus-like flower head. 

The antique carved emerald at the front is adorned with a single bloom with radiating petals, the tips of which are flipped to create a three-dimensional effect. At the back, the carving depicts a triple leaf with surrounding foliage. 

The emerald is drilled with suspension holes at the top and the bottom in order to accommodate hanging on a necklace. 

Drawing of the Day: Simeon Solomon's "In the Temple of Venus," 1865

In the Temple of Venus
Simeon Solomon, c. 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A head-and-shoulders portrait, this watercolor of a woman with ginger hair in a green gown immediately puts one in mind of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, however, the background of the piece with its loosely-drawn statuette and classical columns, is a far cry from the almost-photographic detail inherent in the work of Pre-Raphaelite artists.

This is the work of Simeon Solomon (1840-1905).  Solomon had long bemoaned that he never had been given a classical education and had no understanding of Latin and Greek.  He formed close friendships with the poet Algernon Swinburne, the Eton schoolmaster Oscar Browning, and the Oxford don Walter Pater, the great critic of the Italian Renaissance--thereby giving himself a chance to become deeply familiar with classical subjects.  

Simeon titled this piece, "In the Temple of Venus."  It's part of a series he painted during the middle part if the 1860s which subtly focussed on gay and lesbian themes, a study for which there was no name at the time.  

Sculpture of the Day: A Bust in Classical Style by Joseph Gott, 1830-1840

Bust of an Unknown Man
Joseph Gott, 1830-1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Well-regarded sculptor Joseph Gott (1786-1860) served his apprenticeship under John Flaxman between 1798 and 1802. By 1819, he had won a gold medal at the Royal Academy for a marble group of "Jacob Wrestling with an Angel."  According to the V&A, "He exhibited at the British Institution in 1821 and 1822, and at the Royal Academy between 1820 and 1848. In 1822 he moved to Rome, where he stayed for the rest of his life, though he returned to Britain regularly to meet his patrons and gain commissions."

Gott preferred the Roman style over the austere neo-Greek style which seemed too scientific to him.  Gott's work was idealized, but unheroic, relying on the pastoral and romantic.  This bust of an unknown man, for example, shows Gott's appreciation for creating soft, sensual portraits.  While others during this era were striving to create heroic monuments, Gott preferred to let a the natural beauty of both subject and material endure for all time.