Saturday, August 24, 2013

Masterpiece of the Week: The Star of the Order of the Star of India, 1861

Star of the Order of the Star of India
R. & S. Garrard & Co., 1861
Gold, White Diamonds, Yellow Diamonds, Enamel, Silver
The Royal Collection

In 1861, The Royal Jewelers at R. & S. Garrard and Co. took gold, white diamonds, yellow diamonds, silver and enamel and created this magnificent star for Queen Victoria for the first investiture of the Order of the Star of India on November 21, 1861.

After the Indian Rebellion of 1858, Westminster assumed responsibility for the government of India. Victoria found it imperative to restore order and chivalry to the nation and sought for ways to encourage a good relationship between the Crown and the people of India. The Order of the Star of India was a suggestion of Prince Albert who set about designing this glorious star pin.

Mastery of Design: The Valentine Rippon Brooch, 1953

Valentine Rippon, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in London in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this brooch by Valentine Rippon is a simple and elegant design of gold and aquamarines. It was made for T.M. Balson, and is engraved “T.C.F. Wise, London 1953.”

The brooch’s design draws from traditional Royal jewelry motifs. The serpentine gold work refers to Queen Victoria’s engagement ring—a winding snake representing eternity—while the bow-like shape reminds us of the jewels of Queen Mary who favored bow-brooches. Aquamarines play a large part in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II’s jewels as she seems to favor them. 

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Mary II's Orb, 1689

Queen Mary II's Coronation Orb
Robert Viner, the Younger, 1689
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Since Queen Mary II (1662-94) ruled as a joint sovereign with her consort William III, she required the creation of an additional orb and sceptre for the coronation ceremony of 1689. This is the orb which was made for Mary II. It looks quite grand, but there’s a story behind it.

The stones which were originally set in the orb were hired (as in rented) for the occasion of the coronation. These would originally have included diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. After the ceremony all of the stones were removed, returned to their supplier, and replaced with pastes. Huh…

Since this orb is basically a fancy costume piece now, it has not been used since the 1689 coronation, with one exception. On the occasion of Queen Victoria's funeral this was placed with the other, real, royal orb on Her Majesty’s coffin, to signify her two titles as Queen and Empress.

This orb was created by Robert Viner, the Younger—the Royal goldsmith at the time. It’s not without value. Aside from its historical significance, it is comprised of heavy gold, pearls, silver and rock crystal in addition to the glittering pastes. The orb, in general, was meant to symbolize the Christian world. To this end, it is surmounted with a cross and features bands of “jewels” and pearls dividing it up to represent the three continents known in medieval Europe.

The Orb in its Original Velvet Case
Crown Copyright
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Drawing of the Day: Homage to the Queen, 1953

Homage to the Queen
Design for the Coronation Ballet
Oliver Messel, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum

“Homage to the Queen” was choreographed by Frederick Ashton as the Sadler's Wells Ballet tribute for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June, 1953. The production was performed at the Royal Opera House. We can tell from production notes which were made at the time that it appears that the production designer, Oliver Hilary Sambourne Messel, (1904 - 1978 ) conceived the ballet opening with an extravagant procession, incorporating both English folk and mythological figures which would close with an Apotheosis showing Elizabeth I as Queen of the Past, handing the Imperial orb to Elizabeth II as Queen of the Present. At the end of the opening, the image of the Queen would be left, as Messel put it, “surrounded with all the virtues and gifts.”

Messel, one of Britain’s leading theatrical designers of the 1930s through 1950s, envisioned this spectacle to be something like a 17th century Jacobean court masque in the manner of Inigo Jones and produced “lavish, fantastical designs” which managers of the ballet noted, “would have cost more than his sets and costumes for the main ballet.” Because of the potential expense, the stage procession of the homage was reduced to a simple entry for the queens of the four elements - Earth, Water, Fire and Air - and their attendant. Messel still got his way—partially. After the ballet, an apotheosis is performed wherein the spirit of the first Elizabeth passes the orb to the second. Here we see one of the storyboard images which Messel produced for his original concept of the homage ballet. This image shows the lion and the unicorn of the Royal arms. The sketch shows the two figures, dancing, facing each other, and carrying flowers which were to be presented to the Queen.

Lord Snowdon, onetime husband of Princess Margaret, and Oliver Messel's nephew, inherited Messel's theatrical designs and other artifacts. According to the V&A, “The designs were briefly stored in a disused chapel in Kensington Palace before being housed at the V&A from 1981 on indefinite loan. The V&A Theatre Museum purchased the Oliver Messel collection from Lord Snowdon in 2005.”

Figure of the Day: Queen Mary II , 1695

Model of Queen Mary II
John Nost
Terracotta, 1695
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This statuette of painted terracotta depicts Queen Mary II, consort-of and co-regent with King William III, holding an orb and sceptre and looking towards her left. The Queen wears her crown and bejeweled dress ( and presumably her coronation robes). This figure was a model for a full-size statue which has since been lost, following the fire at the Exchange of 1838.

The 1695 sculpture is the work of John Nost, a native of Malines in The Netherlands, who was first recorded in England around 1678, working at Windsor Castle under Hugh May. Notably, Nost specialized in lead figures, though he also worked in other materials, such as assorted stones and terracotta. A popular artist of the Seventeenth Century, Nost was commissioned to make a numerous lead garden figures for great houses and palaces, including Castle Howard and Hampton Court Palace.

Painting of the Day: Queen Victoria’s Coronation 1838

The Coronation of Queen Victoria
Sir George Hayter, 1838
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria—at the time of her accession in 1837, formed long-lasting relationships with a variety of artists and jewelers who enjoyed her patronage and support. Sir George Hayter had been appointed as Queen Victoria’s “Painter of History and Portrait,” in 1837, but had impressed Her Majesty seberal years before. Later, Sir Hayter succeeded Sir David Wilkie as “Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen” in 1841.

The relationship between the painter and his patron would not sour, but Victoria, after 1842 never commissioned another portrait from Hayter. She quickly began to prefer the personalities and styles of Sir Edwin Landseer and Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

However, in 1938, Victoria commissioned her official State Portrait, from Hayter who painted the nineteen year-old Queen as she looked at her Coronation in Westminster Abbey on June 28 of that year. Victoria is shown seated in her Homage Chair, wearing the Coronation Robes and the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross. Originally, Hayter’s background for the painting showed Westminster Abbey, but the Queen did not care for the coldness of the setting and asked him to change it to an unspecific regal setting.

The Baroque and almost religious feeling of the painting belies the reality of the day which did not go smoothly at all. The coronation had been badly planned aside from a dish of sandwiches which had been placed behind the altar—the only sustenance available during the long ceremony. Everything else was as complicated as possible. Yet, the Queen suffered it without a beat. Even as the orb and scepter grew too heavy in her hands, she didn’t bat an eye, and did not express her extreme disgust when other parts of the ceremony went wrong. For instance, the Coronation Ring, which had been made to fit her little finger, was forced on to her fourth finger by the Archbishop, causing the finger to swell and bleed. Later, the hurting Queen was forced to soak her hand in iced water after the ceremony before she could remove the ring. Despite the myriad complications, the Queen described the day as ‘the proudest of my life’.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Photograph from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

The Coronation, 1953
The Crowning
The Royal Collection

From the Royal Collection, we have this 1953 image by an unknown photographer of the very moment when St. Edward’s Crown (the crown used during the coronation) was placed on the head of Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.

At this point in the coronation, the monarch has been anointed and dressed in the “Supertunica” and Imperial Mantle of cloth of gold. The new Sovereign is, then, invested with the outward symbols of monarchy: the Armills (golden bracelets), the Orb, the Coronation Ring and the two Sceptres.

This act is followed by the actual crowning of the Monarch, with Saint Edward’s Crown. With this, the congregation stands as the Archbishop lowers the crown onto the Sovereign’s head. At this moment, all the princes, princesses, and peers place their own coronets on their heads. The congregation then declares, “God save The Queen” as Royal Salutes are sounded in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Diamond-Set Sword and Scabbard, 1750

Sword and Scabbard
German, 1750
Additional work
in 1820 by
Rundell, Bridge &
The Royal Collection

This sword and scabbard, created around 1750, in Germany features elaborate sculpted gold figures set with diamonds. Clearly meant for ceremonial use as opposed to actual battle, the sword bears a figure of a recumbent lion, winding foliage and a barred helmet.

British King George IV purchased the sword in 1820, but didn’t think it was sparkly enough. He asked the Royal Jewelers at the time—Rundell, Bridge & Rundell—to add additional diamonds. They added many sparklers, particularly two large brilliant-cut diamonds which they supplied themselves.

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 is the principal part of a horse?

And, the answer is...

The MANE part (main part).

Wonderful.  I rather enjoyed today's crop of answers, but I think the real stand-outs were Darcy, Dashwood and Shawn.  Well done, All!  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.  

Painting of the Day: Leopold I, King of the Belgians, 1840

Leopold I, King of the Belgians
Magdalena Dalton, 1840
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria described Belgian King Leopold I as, “That dearest of uncles who has always been to me like a father.” Leopold was actually her uncle as well as Prince Albert’s uncle and was one of the people most responsible for their marriage. Albert was the son of Leopold’s brother, Victoria was the daughter of his sister. He knew that theirs would be a fitting marriage and he worked to arrange the union. Both before and after Victoria’s ascension to the throne, King Leopold acted as her advisor and had a tremendous influence on her decisions, especially early in her reign.

This miniature on ivory was painted in 1840 by Miss Magdalena Dalton (née Ross) in London. Miss Dalton was Queen Victoria’s personal miniature painter and created a series of similar watercolor paintings on ivory of people that the queen dearly cherished.

Friday Fun: Rod Burnett's Punch & Judy Show

If you don't keep a crocodile in the bath, they go dry.

This delightful show, in its entirety, was performed by Rod Burnett of the Storybox Theatre as part of the 35oth birthday celebration for Mr. Punch.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 373

Chapter 373
Something Wise

The ride to Eaton Square was short, and as he and Gamilla sat in happy silence in the carriage that they shared, Mr. Punch considered what he would say to her when they arrived at St. Peter's.  Surely he had to say something, Punch thought.  Something wise, something fatherly--that would be best.

Before Mr. Punch had a chance to draw a conclusion, he saw the columns of St. Peter's, Eaton Square.  As the carriage pulled up, Punch could see Robert beneath the handsome portico.  Robert smiled broadly at the approaching carriage.  

Before everyone had left Belgrave Square, Punch and Robert had agreed that they'd give one another a sign upon arrival at the church, to let the other know that all was well.  The sign was simply to be a smile.

Punch sighed with relief and nodded at Robert, returning the smile.

Turning his back, Robert happily returned to Gerard who waited at the altar.

Lennie and Violet hurried from the central door to greet the bride and help her from the carriage.  Punched descended first and offered a hand to Gamilla while the girls fussed over her wedding gown.

"Oh, you do look beautiful."  Lennie sniffed.

"It's thanks to you, Miss Lennie, for takin' me for this dress and Vi for all ya done.  Well, it's thanks to all of you."

"Sister, dear; Violet, would you leave me with Gamilla for a moment.  I just want to walk in with her."  Mr. Punch said.

"Certainly, dear Mr. Punch."  Lennie said.  "Violet and I will queue in the vestibule."

"That dress will want arranging some more."  Violet protested.

"Once, His Grace escorts Lennie to the vestibule, we shall do just that."  Lennie smiled demurely.

"Yes, my lady."  Violet agreed.

Watching the girl climb the stairs, Punch offered his arm to Gamilla.

"Here," He began, "I ought to say somethin' grand and wise just now.  Only, Gamilla, I got nothin' to teach ya.  Coo!  It's you what's been teachin' me.  All this time we known each other, it's you what's been givin' me things to learn.  We survived a good many wicked things, we have.  And, yet, you always been the picture of beautiful grace, loyalty and innocent affection."

"Oh, Your Grace."

"No, no.  It's true."  Punch shook his head.

"You got no idea what I done learned from you.  You and Dr. Halifax alike.  I think whatever good you see in me is just the good in yourself reflected back."  Gamilla answered.

"See?  That's just what I mean."  Punch smiled.  "Listen, Gamilla.  I'm terrible proud of you and the best I can say is that I hope you and Gerry is as happy as I am with my Robert."

"I can only hope that we come a mite close to that."  Gamilla said softly.

"Well, then."  Punch said after a moment.  "Let's go inside and get you married."

Come back on MONDAY, August 26, 2013, for the long awaited wedding of Gerard and Gamilla!

Print of the Day: A Dutch Toy, 1814

Image from The British Museum

A Dutch Toy!!!-Or, a pretty Play-thing for a Young Princess!!! Huzza

Titled as the above line reads, this satirical print depicts Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817), only child of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick.  

In this scene, Princess Charlotte is seated enthroned under a canopy.  She wears the "Prince of Wales' Feathers."  In her hands, she's holding a pantin (a jointed puppet), pulling the string so that the figure's legs and arms are extended.  The pantin is holding a flag inscribed surmounted by an orange.  The flag reads, "Orange Boven."  Meanwhile, the puppet looks at the princess pleadingly.

What's behind this hand-painted engraving?

Princess Charlotte, like many a princess before her (especially one who was thought to be Queen one day) was essentially being told who she should marry.  She preferred Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Uncle of Queen Victoria as well as Prince Albert, Victoria's consort).  Meanwhile, George preferred his daughter to marry the Prince of Orange, and, soon, Orange and Charlotte were engaged.

Charlotte wrote:

No arguments, no threats, shall ever bend me to marry this detested Dutchman.

Eventually, George gave in for the sake of his only (legitimate) child and his only hope of having one of his own continue on the throne after he died.  Princess Charlotte broke off her engagement in a letter of June 16th, giving as reasons, that 'from recent circumstances:

I am perfectly convinced my interest is materially concerned with that of my Mother, and that my residence out of this Kingdom would be equally prejudicial to her interest as to my own.

That Charlotte did this only increased her popularity more.  Though this print suggests that Princess Charlotte had a thing for the Marquis of of Lansdowne (not to be confused with the Baron Lensdown), she really only liked Leopold.  

George IV consented to this and Charlotte and Leopold were married May 2, 1816.

But, she died.  

Charlotte passed away after giving birth to a stillborn son.  She complained, "They've made me tipsy," and was found dead after bleeding terribly.

Had she lived, she would have been Queen after the death of her father and Leopold would have been Prince Consort.  After the death of George IV, the throne went to his brother, William IV, and, then, to his niece, Queen Victoria who married Prince Albert as her consort.  Leopold really pushed for the marriage of the two cousins (Victoria didn't mind, she fancied Albert) so that at least ONE Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha at the side of the British Queen--a role which escaped him in his own life.  Still, he did okay, becoming King of the Belgians.  So, don't cry for him.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Will Judge Mr. Punch, c. 1900

This and all related images from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

[He] kissed like Punchinello, or a sucking pig.
--a Seventeenth-Century Ballad

Our amorous, violent, vocal, gentle Mr. Punch has been a part of the history of art for over three hundred fifty years, and, before that, he trotted about Italy as Pulcinella.  Throughout all this time, Punch has been relatively unchanged in his characteristics to his red corduroy suit and conical hat to his squeaky voice and anti-establishment personality.

Every so often, we'll come across a Mr. Punch who is a little different from the norm, an idea which would not bother Punchinello in the least.  Since, in the Summer of 2013, The V&A has added quite a few new antique puppets to their collection, I thought that we'd take a look at some of them.

Made in 1900, this glove puppet of Mr. Punch features the carved, painted, wooden face with characteristic hooked nose and chin associated with our chum.  From his black-painted eyes to his wig of rabbit fur, he's all Punch, complete with wooden arms, hands, calves and feet.

What's different about this Punch is his costume.  He wears a yellow silk conical hat with red bias binding trim, and a yellow silk tunic and breeches. His hat, ruff, hump, jacket and trousers are decorated with a purple, green and pink embroidered trim with a triangular repeating edge.

While we don't know who made him, we do know that this is one of a set of Punch & Judy figures donated by the son of the "
Norfolk Comedian," Will Judge (1882-1960) who was also known as the "Refined Comedian and Patterer." Will's son, Patric Judge, who donated the figures, does not remember when his father acquired the set, or seeing him perform with them.

Along with the puppets, Patric Judge gave his father's records to the V&A.  Curiously, while Will Judge's career in Panto and on stage is well-documented, there's not one mention to his time as a Punch & Judy Man.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Hull Grundy Garnet Aigrette, c. 1770

This and all related images from The British Museum

With its trembler bird which would have quivered as the wearer of this jewel walked, this aigrette of rich garnets set in gilt silver would have been the height of fashion in the mid Seventeenth Century when it was made.  

Another jewel from the Hull Grundy Gift to The British Museum, this aigrette is one of three similar pieces in the collection.

Click Image to Enlarge

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Comfort

"Well, maybe your arm wouldn't fall asleep if you didn't lean on a stone wall."

Image:  Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton, Naples, Italy (painted), Angelica Kauffman (born 1741 - died 1807), The Victoria and 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.

Mastery of Design: A Georgian Trembler, c. 1770.

This and all related images from The British Museum.

Thought to have been made in Italy, this aigrette (an ornament simulating the feathers of an egret , often worn on a turban or hat) dates to circa 1770.  It is made in the form of crescent with a trembler spray of flowers of silver and gold with a closed-back and set with diamonds of assorted cuts and sizes.  

Such an ornament, with its moving pendant drops, would have been quite the thing in the Seventeenth Century when jewelry design leaned toward the Naturalistic and jewelers looked for new ways to create a sense of motion with their work.  This fashion would be resurrected in the mid-Victorian period.

This is one of three such Georgian pieces which were given to the V&A as part of the Hull-Grundy Gift of 1978.

Click Images to Enlarge.

Bertie's Pet-itations: Standards

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:

There's no reason to be uncomfortable.