Saturday, October 26, 2013

Farewell, Mrs. K.

Marcia Wallace

Mastery of Design: An Ivory and Precious Stone Comb, 1906

The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’ve been collecting antique combs for quite some time and certainly wish I had this one. Made in 1906 by English designer Joseph Hodel, this comb is a msterpiece of ivory, mounted in silver and set with mother-of-pearl, sapphires, green stained chalcedony and a fire opal.
Joseph Hodel was a member of the Bromsgrove Guild and showed this comb at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1906 in London. There, it was likely purchased by May Morris--the younger daughter of the artist and socialist William Morris. May Morris, also an artist was showing her own jewellery at the Exhibition and was drawn to the comb with its colourful cabochon-cut stones—typical of Arts and Crafts jewellery. 

Masterpiece of the Week: A Gorgeous Art Deco Brooch, 1920

The Victoria & Albert Museum
The work of an unknown maker this assemblage of platinum, gold, diamonds, mother-of-pearl, common light opal, moonstones and sapphires is the epitome of Art Deco jewelry design.

Its central mother of pearl panel and the reverse of this brooch appear to have been inspired by a rug design. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, “Simple rug designs, with their flat, stepped geometric patterns fit well with the principles of Art Deco but appear to have been used only very rarely as a design source for jewellery.”

The icy diamonds and gentle blend of colored stones create a hufe visual impact when combined. It is the perfect brooch and neatly sums up the ideals of the period. 

History's Runway: The May Morris Opal Stickpin, 1903

May Morris, 1903
The Victoria & Albert Museum

May Morris (1862-1938); the daughter of the artist, designer and socialist William Morris; was a talented embroideress and jeweler in her own right. She started designing jewelry around the turn of the 20th century--inspired by the Birmingham jewelers Arthur and Georgie Gaskin, who were old family friends.

As was the style of the time, May favored colorful stones, usually cabochon-cut or uncut entirely, and found much inspiration in European folk jewellery.

Here, from the V&A, we see an excellent example of her work.  This stickpin of gold is set with a white opal, water opals and pearls.  It was made by May Morris around 1903.

Other jewels by Miss Morris.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Opal Heart, 1875

Brooch of opal, demantoid garnet and diamonds, c. 1875
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A symbol of love, this heart-shaped brooch would have been a suitable gift of affection. In the mid-Nineteenth Century, such symbols were considered appropriate gifts during a courtship. Jewels in the shape of hearts, cupids, flowers, hands, anchors, knots, birds, or musical instruments each had special meanings, but ultimately conveyed a romantic interest, just as they do today.

This lovely piece is crafted in gold with opal, tsavorite or green demantoid garnets and diamonds. It’s provenance is unknown, but it has been speculated as having been made in the U.S. or, possible, Central Europe. 

Saturday Sparkle: The Partridge Opal Brooch, 1928

Opal Brooch
Fred Partridge
England, 1928
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Famed Twentieth-Century English jeweler Fred Partridge made this oval brooch in 1928. The enameled gold frame is set with an exceptional opal.

The brooch was made by Fred as a twenty-first birthday gift for his daughter, Joan. He engraved the reverse with Joan’s birth sign of Virgo. 

I wonder if there's any relation...

Gem of the Week: The Opulent Opal

Queen Charlotte's Opal Ring, 1810
The Royal Collection

Opal is actually a mineraloid composed of a system of small silica spheres which refract the light and cause tension within the stone. The spacing and number of these spheres governs the color of the light which is refracted from the opal. These spheres often exhibit tiny cracks which further change the “color play” (the rainbow effect that the stone demonstrates). Some gem-quality opals are backed with a dark stone material which serves to emphasize the color play.

Opals come in an array of colors and each exhibits unique color refractions. Fire Opal displays warm colors—oranges, yellow, reds and sometimes greens. Often, a Fire Opal is backed in dark stone. Peruvian opals show a blue-green body color. Opals also occur naturally in clear, white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black. Black opals which exhibit flashes of red are the rarest of these stones.

Opals need special attention. They should not be cleaned in commercial jewelry cleaner as it will dry the stone out. Opals are prone to cracking. The best defense against this is handling your opals. The natural oils in your skin will serve to keep the stones from becoming brittle.

This is a stone with a very mystical quality. Opals have long been regarded as beautiful and they have graced the bodies of people for centuries. Opals reached a peak in popularity in Victorian England and were considered a sentimental favorite. Today, opals are often incorporated into silver jewelry. Their earthy, casual quality suits a variety of occasions.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Church Fire Opal, 1800-69

This and all related images courtesy of
the Victoria & Albert Museum

This stunning fire opal of orange-red has been faceted and mounted in a gold ring with a coronet setting.  Not much is known about the setting.  It was originally set around 1800, and, then, probably altered circa 1869.

This ring, like those from the Townshend Collection at the V&A was made  to display the stone more so than for wear.  The important collection of 154 gems bequeathed by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet, represents some of the world’s rarest and finest jewels.  Sir A. H. Church gave donated additional specimens, including this amazing fire opal, in 1913. Church was responsible for compiling the first catalog “Precious Stones: A Guide to the Townshend Collection” in 1883.   This stone is among the most unusual in the collection.

Opal naturally occurs when water containing microscopically small spheres of silica settles in cavities and veins in the Earth. Opal, like many other stones, occur in a wide range of colors, with those which display an iridescent play of color considered “precious.”  Fire opal is a variety of opal which is often reddish or orange. Due to its lower water content and comparative hardness, unlike other kinds of opal, it can be cut with facets.

A sampling of the unusual jewels in the Townshend Collection.
Of note, the first two in the top row are particularly fine--green and pink tourmaline respectively.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Garnet Ring with an Onyx Cameo of George IV

Ring with Miniature Cameo of George IV
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Click on image for larger size.  

Made circa 1820, this handsome gold ring sports a miniature white on black onyx cameo which has been bezel-set into a faceted, foil-backed garnet.

While it was made during the Regency Period, the ring didn't come to the Royal Collection until it was acquired by Queen Mary in 1933.  

Throughout the Regency and the 1820s, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, then the Royal Goldsmiths, supplied George IV with a variety of rings set with cameos and intaglios cut with his likeness. Georgie would give these rings as tokens of affection to his favorites.  

This ring, however, appears to be the only one of its kind, set with a miniature cameo into a garnet.  This cameo, in fact, is the smallest in The Royal Collection.

Unusual Artifacts: A Bottle Opener Depicting Karagoz, Punch's Turkish Cousin

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mr. Punch has many cousins throughout the world.  His Turkish counterpart is known as Karagoz.  Unlike Mr. Punch, however, Karagoz is not primarily presented as a glove puppet, he is always performed as a shadow puppet, a flat, joined figure manipulated by rods from behind a screen.  It's this method of performing which lends Karagoz his name which literally translates to "Black-Eye."  The figures were always designed so that the pupil of Karagoz's eye appeared as a black circle.  This outgoing, amorous and sometimes violet and obscene character sports a thick, curly beard and a bald head.  So, I guess he's a puppet hipster.

Karagoz's nemesis is called Hacivat who is somehow always wiser and more sophisticated than Karagoz.  He is usually represented with a neat beard and a tall pointed hat. The female characters included Karagoz and Hacivat’s wives.  A wealth of other characters added humor and complications to these farcical shows which were usually improvised.

This brass bottle opened of unknown origin and creation date represents Karagoz.  It was likely made in Turkey.

Friday Fun: Clive Chandler's Shadow Punch

Renowned puppeteer Clive Chandler travels across Europe bringing his unique puppet creations to delighted audiences.  This video shows an unusual Punch & Judy show performed with rod-operated shadow puppets.

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 animal drops from the clouds?

And, the answer is...

A Reindeer.  

We had everything from falling elephants and gorillas to dragons and inebriated birds today.  Well done!  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.  

Coming on Monday: A Recipe for Punch

Oh rest thee, my darling,
Thy mother will come,
With a voice like a starling;
-I wish she was dumb!

--a line from a Nineteenth-Century 
Punch & Judy script

This week, Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square concluded after four hundred chapters.  Throughout the novel, Punch and his beloved Robert battled foes both old and new, discovered a half-sister, Lennie, about whom he never knew and he and Robert adopted a troubled young girl named Fern.  Meanwhile, downstairs in the handsome Belgravia townhouse, Gerard and Gamilla were engaged, and, then married.  We fell in love with Mrs. Pepper, Ethel, Georgie and Maudie, while Charles and Violet flirted with the idea of romance, and, we mourned the loss of beloved kitchen-maid, Jenny.

On Monday, October 28, we'll follow our friends on a new journey in A Recipe for Punch.  This new online novel will focus on Punch's return to Fallbridge Hall in Yorkshire.  Always magnanimous, our Mr. Punch has volunteered to take his newly-found sister to Fallbridge Hall so she might learn a bit about her heritage and so that Colin can see his future inheritance.

Their plans are quite simple.  Lennie is to be schooled in Fallbridge history and become acquainted with the legacy, both good and bad, of her mother, the late Pauline, Duchess of Fallbridge.  The trip will also give Lennie a chance to spend some time with her fiance, Matthew, Earl of Cleaversworth, before they set a date for their wedding.  Meanwhile, Robert will be working on his book about other like Punch who live with more than one "personality."  The visit to the country is meant to be relaxing and educational--a time for Colin to grow and explore, a time for the staff to have a break from the city and for pregnant Gamilla to enjoy some clean air.

However, beneath it all, our Mr. Punch will be faced with the very demons which created him within Julian, the Duke of Fallbridge.  

The sprawling stately home holds more than just the Fallbridge Family treasures.  It harbors secrets both new and old, and on the outskirts of the estate lurk many dangers which will not only challenge Punch's "sanity," but also the lives of Lennie, Colin and Robert.

Furthermore, the staff will face new challenges as Mrs. Pepper realizes that she doesn't have as much say at Fallbridge Hall as she did in Belgrave Square.  Georgie is tempted by some new voices and Ethel and Maudie discover that they must come together to protect the boy they both love.  While Charles and Violet grow closer, Charles' genetics get the better of him. And, Gamilla's pregnancy reveals some inner powers which she never knew she had.  

You'll meet some new characters and learn more about those who have figured prominently in Punch's Cousin.  We'll explore racism, homophobia and changing ideas about mental health, as Gamilla, Robert and Punch realize that though they've made a peaceful world for themselves, others may not share their ideals.  Furthermore, we'll test the notions of genetics as Charles and Lennie, and even our Mr. Punch, worry that the sins of their ancestors will ultimately be their own.

It's going to be a touching, frightening, and wild visit to majestic Fallbridge Hall.  I hope you'll join me as we assemble an intriguing puzzle in A Recipe for Punch.

The Art of Play: The Wellington Mr. Punch, c. 1925

Professor Wellington's Mr. Punch
Circa 1925
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome Mr. Punch was once used by Yarmouth's Professor Wellington--a celebrated Punch & Judy man of the first half of the Twentieth Century.  This glove puppet is part of a varied and beautiful set of Punch and Guignol puppets which belonged to Wellington.

As is the nature of Punchinellos, he features a painted wooden head, hands and feet.  His green and black velvet hat is trimmed with holden braid which matches the trim on the green panel at the front of his scarlet velvet coat.  Black breeches and a yellow ruff are also constructed of velvet.  Two wooden buttons adorn his ensemble.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Parian Punch and Judy Jug

Circa 1880
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I find this to be a rather odd item.  It's parian/biscuit, but it's glazed.  Parian isn't usually glazed, which, actually is what makes it parian as opposed to "porcelain."  The whole point of parian was to mimic the look of costly marble items and allow for mass production of attractive, affordable art pieces.  Every so often, however, parian items found themselves glazed so that they'd actually be useful.  Such is the case of this peculiar jug.

Though it's hard to see, this pale blue Parian ware jug features a charming relief on both sides.  Each side has the raised title, "PUNCH."  On one side, in relief, we see a depiction
of Mr. Punch seated in front of an easel behind which is his dog Toby.  The other side shows two figures surrounding a traditional Punch and Judy booth.  Always at his best, our 
Mr. Punch hangs from the proscenium opening reaching down to the figures in front of the booth who most likely represent his Mrs. Punch and the baby.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Princess Anne, Bird Catcher

"That's it...coax her in, nice and easy."

Image:  Queen Anne When a ChildCreation Date: 1668, Materials: Oil on canvas, Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), First recorded in the reign of Queen Anne, This portrait was probably painted in c.1667-8 when Princess Anne was around 3 years old. The great tit bird appears to have been painted over the curtain and might have been added later by one of Lely's assistants.  Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image via The Royal Collection Trust and courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this important portrait, visit its entry in The Royal Collection.  

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our 
online store. 

Mastery of Design: The Eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1817

Eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales
English, 1817
The Royal Collection

Traditionally, English artists often represented a single eye of a woman as an homage to her beauty. These intimate miniature souvenirs were often incorporated into pieces of jewelry.

Such is the case of this beautiful charm bracelet from 1817. The centerpiece of the bracelet is a miniature of watercolor on ivory of the eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a gold locket, framed in diamonds and rubies.

The gold bracelet also features eight other charms of various shapes and sizes featuring enamel and an assortment of diamonds and other precious stones. We can thank 
Mary of Teck for keeping this bracelet in the Royal Collection. It’s just one of the many shiny things she managed to collect over her long life. 

Click on the image below for an up-close look at these beautiful charms.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images via The Royal Collection Trust
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Painting of the Day: Bogdani's Birds and Fruit in a Landscape, c. 1708

Birds and Fruit in a Landscape
Jakob Bogdani, 1708-1710
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Jakob Bogdani (c. 1660-1720) created this lovely and colorful painting between 1708 and 1710 either for King William III or Queen Anne. The piece is done in the Dutch style. In Holland, Melchior de Hondecoeter (1636-95) had established the fashion for large-scale paintings devoted to showcasing exotic birds in the setting of a formal garden. Soon, the fashion spread and was emulated by artists like Bogdani for important aristocratic or royal clientele.

Bogdani was born in Hungary and moved to Amsterdam in 1684. There, he saw first-hand the works of Melchior de Hondecoeter and learned from the artist. Soon Bogdani had perfected his own specialty-- the depiction of plants, birds and animals. By 1688, Bogdani settled in England, where, according to George Vertue, he was "much encouraged” by Queen Anne as well as hired to work as a court artist for William III.

This piece is actually one of a pair of bird scenes created at the same time by Bogdani. Some say they were for Queen Anne, but they could have easily been commissioned by William III. The existence of the paintings was first recorded in the “Painted Staircase” at Kensington Palace during the reign of George I. On the left of this canvas, a large cockatoo is perched on a stone near a large tree trunk. Meanwhile, to the right, parrots and passerines gather around a cluster of peaches, grapes and fruits.

Sculpture of the Day: A Wax Relief Plaque of Queen Anne, early 19th C.

The V&A
Polychrome Wax Relief
Samuel Percy, early 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at other bas relief wax tablet portraits before.  There’s something interestingly odd about this one which is said to depict Queen Anne.  We see the Queen, rendered in polychrome wax, wearing an alarmingly low-cut gown trimmed with ermine and bands of gold across the corsage. The dress is further adorned with the representation of a chemisette of lace.  Queen Anne’s ebony hair falls in curls on her shoulders, and she wears a crown with applied loose pearls on the front arch as well as an applied string of pearls around her neck,

The wax is set within folded drapery of real puce velvet within an oval black frame.  The collection notes’ call the velvet, “purple,” and it may have been at one time, but it seems to have faded to a puce-like taupe.   The curators of the V&A state that, “The purple velvet mounting and possibly the oval frame are modern. The velvet probably replaces the wax draperies generally used by Samuel Percy.”

And, this makes sense.  Originally, when this portrait in wax was created, the background was surely also in wax.  For some reason—probably due to damage—when the tablet was re-framed, the original polychrome wax background was replaced by actual fabric drapery.

This is almost certainly the work of Samuel Percy (1750-1820) who seems to be responsible for the majority of these wax relief portrait plaques.
  His style seems to have become more confident over time and this figure from later in his life and career is far more successful than some of the crude portraits of his early life.