Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Double Clip Diamond Brooch, 1930-1940

Lady Abingdon's Double Dress Clip Brooch
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum


I thought that this double-clip diamond brooch would be the perfect jewel to conclude today’s posts. 

I don’t need to tell you that this was made between 1930 and 1940 during that luscious period when dense concentrations of diamonds and other gemstones were en vogue. The fashion started in the 1920s and is also known for the use of platinum settings which did not intrude on the look of the piece. 

Brooches like this one were quite popular during this period. Not only were they attractive, but they were versatile. And, in a way economical since a lady could get several looks from one piece of jewelry. The brooch can be worn as a whole or it can be divided into two identical halves which were worn as clips. Diamond clips were placed on lapels or opposing one another on the neckline of a gown. 

This example gleams with brilliant-cut, baguette and square-cut diamonds. It was made in England by a now unknown jeweler. It’s part of the beautiful collection of The Bettine, Lady Abingdon in the V&A. 

Other brooches (with a necklace and earrings) from the collection.  We've studied most of these.

Song of the Week: Accentuate the Positive, 1944

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

(To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark)

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me, hmm?

(Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the elininatin' of the negative
And the accent on the positive)
And gather 'round me children if you're willin'
And sit tight while I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

(You've gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between)

You've got to spread joy (up to the maximum)
Bring gloom (down) down to the minimum
Otherwise (otherwise) pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate (well illustrate) my last remark (you got the floor)
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they say (what did they say)
Say when everything looked so dark

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No! Don't mess with Mister In-Between

"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” published in 1944, features music by the famous Harold Arlen and lyrics by the celebrated Johnny Mercer. By 1945, this plucky song remained at the top of the charts for 13 weeks. With its positive lyrics and reminder to focus on the good in life, this was the song the world needed in the years following the Second World War. Now a beloved standard, the song has been recorded by some of the world’s most popular artists.

This 1945 recording by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers was one of the first and most enjoyed recordings of the song and demonstrates Mercer’s desire to couch the song in terms of a sermon.

Print of the Day: "Going Ashore?" c. 1940

Going Ashore?
Chromolithograph, c. 1940
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since today is Pearl Harbor Day, I thought we'd look at a few WWII related things.

This World War II propaganda poster was printed in English, Greek, French, Dutch and Norwegian. Like most such posters, it warned against careless talk—not just from the military, but also by civilians. The idea, and quite a correct one, was that you never knew who was listening and how the most innocent comment or data could be used against the cause.

I like these posters quite a lot because they are, often, graphically stunning and wholly demonstrative of their era. Many relied on shadowy, fearsome images of stylized spies and looming danger. But, often, they used bright and humorous images to make their point.

This one is especially charming. “Going Ashore?” our parrot friend asks us. He reminds us that even the most unthreatening individual could be working for the other side. After all, he’s wearing a Nazi officer’s cap.

Lousy Nazi Parrots!

The copy reminds us to “
keep what you know to yourself.” Not a bad idea even when not threatened by Nazi parrots.

Drawing of the Day: Old Cottages at East Bergholt, 1940

Old Cottages at East Bergholt
Algernon Newton, 1940
The Victoria & Albert Musuem

This 1930 charcoal drawing is part of the “Recording Britain” initiative of World War II which served to capture the changing face of the British landscape.

The scene depicts East Bergholt, John Constable's home—an almost hallowed spot for landscape painter Algernon Newton (1880-1968). Newton had a particular affinity for “Constable Country.” While others in the Recording Britain program attempted to mask the encroaching passage of time on the landscape, Newton embraced it and made sure not to conceal modern marks such as the telephone poles and wires which we see to the left of the cottage.

Building of the Day: St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

"Old St. Paul's"
St Paul's Cathedral
Five churches have stood on the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral since AD 604. The first three were destroyed by fires—a common theme in the history of London. The fourth cathedral known today as Old St. Paul’s lasted from 1087 until 1666. That’s a very good run for any building. Of course, Old St. Paul’s had its fair share of drama. The grand Episcopal cathedral took 200 years to complete, and, that’s not counting delays in construction due to damage sustained by another fire in 1136. In 1561, the spire of Old St. Paul’s (one of the tallest in the world at the time) was struck by lightning which, frankly didn’t do wonders for the spire nor for the church. The damaged spire was removed and never replaced. By 1630, Old St. Paul’s had begun to fall apart. Famed architect Inigo Jones added a new façade to the existing building in his celebrated Classical Style. But, still, the interior of the edifice was crumbling.

"The Great Model"St. Paul's Cathedral
In the 1650’s, officials had decided that St. Paul’s needed a complete renovation. Much debate ensued as to whether the cathedral should be salvaged or pulled down and started anew. The Great Fire 0f London of 1666 promptly answered that question for them. The conflagration which had destroyed huge portions of Central London managed to gut Old St. Paul’s.

Architect Sir Christopher Wren had already been hired to oversee the renovation of the Cathedral and continued in that capacity after the Great Fire. Once the decision had been made to pull down the gutted cathedral, Wren began presenting plans for a new St. Paul’s. His first three ideas were rejected as being too modern, un-British, and not in keeping with other Anglican churches. The third design had been Wren’s favorite. To demonstrate the proposed final product, Wren built a large model of the plan which he called, “The Great Model.” The thirteen foot tall model from 1673 is still on display in the Cathedral and gives us a sense of what Wren had really wanted to do with the building.

Wren's Final DesignSt. Paul's Cathedral
 After the rejection of the Great Model, Wren decided not to show anyone his designs anymore, and presumably set about building the cathedral. In point of fact, he had quietly shown a fourth design to the proper authorities who had given him permission to begin. This design—known as The Warrant Design—was the basis for the building we see today. Meanwhile, Wren had gotten special permission from the king to make any ornamental changes he wished to the building. And, so, as the Cathedral was constructed, Wren quietly introduced a fifth design with a vastly different ornamental scheme.

The final design, as built, was based in large part on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The dome of St. Paul’s—the tallest structure in London until the 1960’s—stands at 365 feet and is actually a “triple dome” meaning that the internal structure of what appears to be one piece is actually three complicated domes combined within themselves to support the massive lantern.
The Interior of the DomeSt. Paul's Cathedral
The final stone was placed in the lantern of the “new” St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1708, and in 1711, on Christmas Day, Parliament declared the cathedral complete. In reality, it wasn’t complete, and construction continued for several more years afterwards.
During the Blitz
The cathedral has stood since then, basically unaltered and in very good condition. It has survived considerable mayhem of its own having been struck with bombs in 1940 and 1941 during the “Blitz” of World War II. In each instance, the bombs that hit the cathedral were removed before they could detonate.

Today, St. Paul’s remains a working Episcopal Cathedral, a center for the arts, and serves as the burial place of many an important figure. Open to the public, St. Paul’s is doubtlessly one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, and one that everyone should see at least once.
The NaveSt. Paul's Cathedral

Weekend Viewing: In This Our Life, 1942

I know it’s hard to imagine, but every so often, if Bette Davis didn’t get her way, she could be a trifle difficult. This was certainly the case during production of the 1942 Warner Brothers film In This Our Life. In many regards, this film is quite important. It was John Huston’s second directorial project (though toward the end of shooting, the bombing of Pearl Harbor meant that Huston was called away to war and replaced with an un-credited Raoul Walsh who clashed with Davis at every turn). Similarly, it was one of the first realistic film portrayals of the horrors of racism—a fact which prevented the film from finding international release.

Davis was thrilled with the source material. She described Ellen Glasgow’s novel of the same name to be “brilliant.” The story concerned two sisters in the present (1940’s) Southern United States. The sisters—both of whom had male names, Stanley and Roy—were the daughters of a formerly wealthy man who was forced to sell part of his business to his conniving brother. Roy—the older and more sedate of the sisters—is a successful interior decorator with a seemingly good marriage. Stanley—impetuous and childish—likes to drink, drive fast and flirt with a variety of men including her fiancé, a lawyer named Craig, and, most disturbingly, her rich uncle.
Bored with her life, Stanley decides she wants Roy’s husband and seduces him away from her sister. What follows is a tale of reckless behavior with ends with the unjust use of a refined and intelligent black man as a scapegoat for murder.
Bette Davis battled to be cast as Roy—the “good girl.” She knew her fans wanted to see her in “good girl” roles and she thought that she’d be perfect for the part. Warner Brothers had other plans. They liked Bette as the “bad girl” and cast her as Stanley while placing Olivia de Havilland (true to form) in the “good girl” role. Davis showed her dissatisfaction by acting as a tyrant—insisting that she have total control over her wigs, her makeup and her wardrobe. Curiously, when the film was previewed, audiences wrote that they thought Davis’ hair, makeup and costumes were all quite atrocious.
Davis did have her helpful moments—between bouts of faux laryngitis—and helped in the casting of the African American character who takes the fall for Stanley’s crimes. Ernest Anderson—a relative unknown—gives a brilliant and educated performance as “Parry.”

Completing the cast are George Brent as Stanley’s onetime fiancé, Dennis Morgan as Roy’s onetime husband, Billie “Are you a good witch or a bad witch” Burke as the girls’ mother, Charles Coburn as the girls’ lascivious uncle and Hattie “It ain’t fittin’” McDaniel as Parry’s mother.
It’s an interesting, if not slightly overwrought, film. Davis blasted it and claimed she hated it. Quickly putting it behind her, she went to work on Now, Voyager—a film Bette enjoyed much more than this one. Nevertheless, the film is a must for any fan of Davis, de Havilland or McDaniel and is a very well produced picture. 

Father Christmas through the Ages: A Victorian Christmas Card

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here, we see another card featuring an image of Father Christmas. This one was designed and published in England in the late Nineteenth Century by an unknown artist and publisher.

A work of chromolithography and embossing with gold block printing, on paper, the card depicts Father Christmas in a bell-shaped frame.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Anne Hull Grundy Camellia, c. 1860

All Images From the British Museum.

I'm in love with this brooch.  So much so that I can almost forgive the fact that it's made out of elephant.  Made around 1860 in England, the chased green gold ornament takes the form of a camellia with the blooms crafted of finely-carved and tinted ivory.

From the Hull-Grundy gift to The British Museum, the intricately worked ivory is, as The British Museum puts it, "of unusually high quality, demonstating a concern for naturalistic accuracy rather than any interest in intrinsic value."

The brooch was wholly restored by The British Museum in 2009.  It has been purchased by Anne Hull Grundy from N. Bloom & Son, 40 Albemarle Street, London W1 for, according  a 1973 invoice, £440.  The jeweler mistakenly described the ornament as a "Gold and ivory rose spray brooch, c. 1820," when it is in fact, a camellia from c. 1860.

Friday Fun: Santa Claus, Punch and Judy, 1948

It's that time of year again!  Yes, I like to trot this thing out every December.

This edited down version of the 1948 short film, Santa Claus, Punch and Judy omits the rather unnerving Santa Claus bit and some other politically incorrect business and focuses on the performance of famed American Punch Professor George Prentice who is credited with keeping Mr. Punch and his chums vital and relevant throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. Here, you can see some new characters of Prentice’s own creation. There’s a particularly belligerent monkey, and Mr. Punch has some rare interaction with a cat. Prentice very cleverly incorporated popular songs of the day into his show while keeping Mr. Punch’s spirit close to that of his predecessors.

And, so, I give you, 
Santa Claus, Punch and Judy (minus Santa, but plus one monkey).

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Mr. Punch and Father Christmas, 1878

An Arduous Quest
Joseph Swain, 1878
Punch Magazine
Heritage Images
This engraving by artist Joseph Swain from the December, 1878 edition ofPunch Magazine is entitled, “An Arduous Quest.” Here, we see Mr. Punch (looking quite tall), with his terrier, Toby, as they happen upon Father Christmas. Mr. Punch asks, “What are you looking for, Father?” Father Christmas, holding his torch aloft, replies, “Peace on Earth, and Goodwill Toward Men!” The light of Father Christmas’ lamp does not reveal what he seeks, but rather, the words, “War, Failures, Commercial Depression, and Distress.”

One hundred thirty-five years later, Father Christmas is still looking for the same things, and still finding the same. However, as long as we have Mr. Punch to ask the question, perhaps, the next time any of us faces “An Arduous Quest,” we’ll find something better.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 24

Chapter 24:
When you Daydream

"Where do ya want me to put Master Colin's little hats?"  Ethel asked as she continued to unpack the baby's things.

"Hmmm?  Oh.  Just on the top shelf of the wardrobe, I think."  Gamilla answered.  "Oh...except for the pudding hat.  He can wear that for when he's papas come up after dinner tonight.  Ya know how he toddles 'bout now when his papas and his auntie come up.  Keeps him from boppin' his little head on things."

Gamilla winced and gripped the dresser.

"Gamilla?"  Ethel turned around.  "Are you feelin' all right.  You don't seem yourself tonight."

"Oh, sure, honey.  I'm fine.  I reckon we're all just a little tired.  Nothin' takes the spark out of a body like a long trip."  Gamilla smiled.  "You sure are doin' a fine job.  I'm lucky I got you to help me."

Ethel smiled.  "Maybe you oughta sit down for a bit.  Want me to get Gerry?  He can run your feet.  I can finish up in here.  You two can go in your room and rest a spell before dinner."

"Now, don't you bother Gerry, child.  I'll tell you what I told him when he came up here earlier tryin' to get me to go to our room.  His Grace ain't payin' us to lie down."  She laughed.

"Gamilla, His Grace wants us all to be well.  And,'re with child.  You gotta get your rest."

"I'm fine, honey."  Gamilla insisted.  "Tell ya what, we can stand here and argue 'bout how fine I am or we can both finish up what we gotta do and then we'll both have a sit-down."  She winked.  "How's that sound?"

"That's a bargain."  Ethel grinned.  "Though I still think I oughta get Gerry."

"You leave my husband to his duties.  When Lord Colinshire gets back to their room, he's gonna wanna change into his dressin' gown and get all cozy for the night.  Gerard needs to get all His Lordship's comfortable things laid out for him."  Gamilla nodded.  "We're all gonna rest nice and sound tonight."

"Cor, don't it sound fine?  A nice, warm bed."  Ethel sighed.  "Been an odd day."

"That it has, my lamb."  Gamilla nodded.

"Is it bad that I want to go home already?"  Ethel asked softly.

"No, angel, it ain't."  Gamilla shook her head.  "I do, too."

"Funny, when we was in Scotland, I didn't want to go home the first day.  I liked it when His Grace took us there--until the bad things started.  But, here...I just don't like it right off.  I got a bad feelin'.  Do you?"

"I do."  Gamilla nodded.  She inhaled and went on about her work.

"Are you sure you ain't feelin' sick?  You look a little funny.  Is it the baby?"  

"No, honey."  Gamilla shook her head.

"What's it like?"

"What's that?"  Gamilla asked.

"Havin' a baby in ya?"

"It's hard to say,"  Gamilla chuckled.  "You'll know one day.  Best I can say, honey, is that all the things I done already felt, I feel--more so."


Gamilla nodded.

"Even...ummm...them...special feelin's?"

"How do ya mean, chil'?"  Gamilla smiled.

"Ya know."  Ethel whispered.  "Like how you'd hear things and know 'bout things before they'd happen.  You'd tell me and Jenny sometimes.  Said you'd been that way since you was a little girl."

"Yes, those feelings, too."  Gamilla replied.

"Is that what you're feeling now, Gamilla?"  Ethel asked.

Gamilla paused.  "Well, I can't lie to ya, honey."

"That's why ya look like you don't fell well."  Ethel nodded.  "You're seein' of feelin' somethin' what's worryin' ya sick."

Gamilla sighed.  "Ethel, you can't tell Gerard.  Not yet.  No sense worryin' him until I understand it better."

"I won't, Gamilla."  Ethel replied gently.  "You're my dearest friend.  You can trust me."

"I know I can, honey."  Gamilla smiled.  "You're my English rose."

"Will ya tell me what you're...seein'?"  Ethel leaned in.  "Is it like...dreams?  Like seein' pictures in your head?  Like when you daydream?"

"It's hard to say..."  Gamilla shook her head.  "Right now, I...when I blink my eyes, there's...there's a picture, but it's movin', and I can hear it, hear what's bein' said--like bein' there."

"What is it, Gamilla?"

"It's that Miss Blessum.  That Ivy.  Ya know the old woman from downstairs."

"The one what was the lady's maid to the dead duchess."  Ethel nodded.

"She's somewhere dark, dim."  Gamilla continued.  "She's talkin' to someone."

"What's she sayin'?"

"She's sayin', 'You know the rules.  I won't give you your dinner if you scratch me.  You have to learn your manners.  If you scratch me, no dinner for you.'"

Did you miss Chapters 1-23 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 25.  

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...

I'm hard yet soft, 
I am colored yet clear, 
I am fruity and sweet, 
What am I?

I shall post the answer this evening...

Listen, at least I'm not doing annoying "giffing out" commercials.  Come on, buy some shirts and mugs.  

Ho, ho, ho, and such...

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