Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mastery of Design: Lady Cory's Holly Sprig Brooch, 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Oh that Lady Cory--did she have some jewelry or what? Here we see a brooch from Lady Cory's collection which was made in France between 1859 and 1865.

The piece is in the form of a sprig of holly, with leaves of enameled gold and berries of coral. Lady Cory was sure to wear this pretty pin at Christmastime.

Saturday Sparkle: The Georges Fouquet Brooch, 1903

Georges Fouquet
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We wrap up our week-long celebration of beautiful brooches with this amazing French piece by Georges Fouquet. The brooch, which dates t 1903, is a work in gold and silver with a subtle relief of young women, framed by diamonds and decorated with a sprig of mistletoe in enameled gold and pearls. 

This is the perfect example of Edwardian era jewelry as designs transitioned from the florid pieces of the Victorian era to the more stylized Art Nouveau and Art Deco. This piece is firmly in the middle of these design trends and shows both the sentimentality of the past century and the stylization of the Twentieth. 

Print of the Day: "May Christmas Bring Delight," 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here's a pretty Christmas card from 1850 which shows that mistletoe has been part of popular culture for a long time. In fact, the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe originates in an old Norse practice of enemies calling a truce under mistletoe--sealing their pledge with a kiss. How sweet. The kiss symbolized an exchange of souls. Even sweeter. In addition to representing peace and reconciliation, mistletoe was thought to have medicinal and healing properties.

In this chromolithograph, we see two elfin figures--one donning a blue "bobble hat," engaged in a kiss. An inscription "May Christmas Bring Delight" is incorporated into the design as each of the small figures appears to be both floating above and supported by the oversized sprigs of mistletoe.

The Home Beautiful: The Mistletoe Wallpaper, 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a design for a festive wallpaper which depicts a festive line of formal, yet, stylized, pattern of pale-green birds who are perched amidst trees and mistletoe. The background is of black, white and yellow vertical stripes.

This proposed design of pencil. and watercolor on paper is Signed in ink C. F. A. V and inscribed with notes about possible production and variation.

Made in England around 1850, this design is the work of an artist known only as "Voysey." it's unknown if the paper was ever manufactured.

Unfolding Pictures: The Christmas Fan, 1881

The Christmas Fan, 1881
Presented to Alexandra, Princess of Wales
from Queen Victoria.
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria was very particular when choosing Christmas gifts for those close to her. Instead of letting members of her staff select presents, she made sure to do it herself. This fan was a gift from the queen to Princess Alexandra of Wales, wife of Victoria’s son and the woman who would one day be the queen consort to Edward VII. Queen Victoria commissioned celebrated painter Alice Loch to paint an elegant scene of holly, mistletoe and Christmas roses on a pale green silk leaf. Pleased with the painting, Victoria had the leaf mounted on mother-of-pearl sticks by her favorite fan-makers, Develleroy’s of London. This gorgeous gift was presented to Princess Alexandra on Christmas Eve, 1881.

The pale palette of the painting blends harmoniously with the mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and is accented by a silver clasp with a mother of pearl head. Princess Alexandra was so pleased with the fan that it’s rumored she used it even after the Christmas season had ended. 

The Art of Play: Santa’s Christmas Train, 1975

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another toy from the mid-1970s, like yesterday’s example, this one was made in China. However, this charming toy was made for export to the U.S. Here, we see a Christmas-themed train engine constructed of lithographed tinplate.

A interior clockwork mechanism, when wound, moves the engine on two wheels and a cone-shaped piece of plastic simulating smoke spins around when the train is in motion.

The whole is decorated with a Christmas-theme: holly, bells and reindeer faces at the windows. The words MERRY CHRISTMAS and SEASON'S GREETINGS are printed on the sides and the front depicts the face of Santa Claus.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Christmas Card, c. 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This chromolithograph Christmas card depicts two children engaged in collecting mistletoe and holly branches in a forest. A cartouche bearing a Christmas poem fills the open clearing. The boy carries mistletoe and a holly branch as the young girl reaches for a sprig of mistletoe.

The verse reads:

Christmas Greeting
The leaf shall laugh,
The berry shall glow,
For joy of our hearts
'Neath the mistletoe

This card celebrates the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe, a practice which originated in an old Norse practice of warring enemies calling truce under mistletoe, and sealing their pledge with a kiss. Not what one exactly pictures when one thinks about Vikings. The kiss, it seems, symbolized an exchange of souls. Plus, I guess, it was a way to keep warm.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Spirit of the Season

Buy things.
'Tis the Season, etc.

Plus, I'm not gettin' any younger over here.

Visit our online store for gifties.


Have you read my first novel, The Garnet Red?  I wrote it many years ago.  It even ties into the Mr. Punch stories.

Christmas is coming up.  Do you know what makes a great gift?  Books.  Books make great gifts.  Or, if you're one of those e-reader types, you can do that.  You can download it at the iTunes store by going here.  If you've got a Nook, you can buy an e-Book here through Barnes and Noble.  Or you can buy an actual book book on Amazon.

As you know, I don't hawk a lot of things here.  I keep the self-promotion to the bare minimum.  But...go a book, so I can keep doing this, and keep feeding the dog and the puppets and the cats...  

Mastery of Design: The Crown of the Emperor Bahadur Shah II, c. 1830

The Crown of the Emperor Bahadur Shah II
India, c. 1830
Purchased by Queen Victoria, 1861
The Royal Collection
Though referred to as a crown, this beautiful sculpture of gold, turquoise, rubies, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, feathers and velvet is more accurately, a skull cap. The piece was worn at the back of the head held in place by the emperor’s turban which was similarly bejeweled.

This piece, along with a set of two throne chairs, was purchased by Major Robert Tytler following the 1857 Indian Mutiny. Tytler returned to England and refused offers from a high-end Bond Street jeweler (amounting to a staggering £1000), instead preferring that the jewel was first offered to Queen Victoria. As Prince Albert handled the purchase of all of the queen’s jewelry, he was told of the “crown” and expressed great interest in its value as a work of the jeweler’s art, but also as a symbol of power over India. The Prince did, in fact, want the “crown” as well as the two thrones and offered £500 for the lot. Tytler felt the offer was far too low, but could not refuse Prince Albert who stated that the major would receive a special appointment from Her Majesty when he returned to India in order to make up the difference between the true value of the pieces and their offer. Tytler agreed. And, he returned to India. However, he did not receive any sort of appointment—special or otherwise. This slight so angered his wife that in her memoirs—written forty years later—she was still fuming about the episode.

Crown of the Emperor Bahadur
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


History's Runway: Christmas and New Year's Party Fashion Plate, 1875


Fashion plates such as this one from the V&A often formed the centerpiece of publications for women—rather, they still do.  This landscape format plate from 1875 is set in a ballroom draped with garlands, and depicts twelve women and 8 small children.  Nine of the women are in party dresses with one small boy in a brown suit.

Two women in the background wear the long-sleeved day dresses which were fashionable at the time, and a third woman wears a formal reception gown with elbow-length sleeves. The others, in their party dresses, show the elaborately bustled and embellished evening gowns with low necklines and short sleeves that dominated the fashions of the 1870s.

One female child in the centre foreground holds a fashionably dressed doll, and another to the far left holds a doll dressed as a Polichinelle (the French version of Mr. Punch).

While the artwork was created in Paris, the piece was published in London, in December 1875, in “The Young Ladies' Journal.”  A descriptive line states:  “Christmas and New Year's Party Fashion Plate December 1875. The Young Ladies' Journal.” 

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 that of which the common sort is best?

And, the answer is...

Common Sense

which also happened to be today's chapter title.  I think you all gave some very funny and/or intelligent answers today.  It's difficult to single out anyone in particular.  We will see you soon for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.

Print of the Day: Harlequin and Mother Goose, 1811

Click image to see original size.
"Harlequin and Mother Goose"
William West, 1811
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print from 1811 was produced by William West (?-1854) and was meant to honor the popular play “Harlequin and Mother Goose” or “The Golden Egg” which debuted at Covent Garden Theatre on Christmas of 1806. The play marked the first major appearance of Joseph Grimaldi (Joey the Clown) who premiered his famed “Bang-Up” song.

William West became known as a publisher of prints and sheets depicting theatrical characters. He worked from the “Circulating Library” which was located on Exeter Street near the Strand. By the end of his career, West published over 140 play sheets at an unheard of rate of one every month. His works served to record the most successful plays and theatrical productions of the London stage for a period of 20 years. 

This print from “Mother Goose” was his first offering. Aside from Grimaldi, we also see “Mr Simmons” as “Mother Goose,” a Harlequin representing John Bologna,, and a figure of Mr. Punch with a saltbox and rolling pin. Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy, are also show on the lower left.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 28

Chapter 28:
Common Sense

Mr. Jackson, clearly ruffled, knocked before attempting to enter the Coral Suite, finding the door locked, he announced himself.  "Lady Fallbridge, it is I, Jackson.  You rang for me?"

Robert opened the door, his bright blue eyes flashing with anger.

"Baron Colinshire?"  Jackson looked surprised.

"Come in, at once!"  Robert snapped.  He closed the door behind Jackson and locked it.  "Did you happen to notice His Grace in the passage as you came up?"

"No, Your Lordship."  Jackson responded.  "Does His Grace not know you're here?  I shan't mention it to him."

"You idiot!"  Robert roared.  "Of course he knows I'm here!  He's been here with me.  We've been entertaining."

"You have?"  Jackson asked weakly.

"Yes, Jackson."  Robert nodded.

Lennie stepped forward.  "Jackson, other than the staff, is there another resident of Fallbridge Hall which you failed to mention to us?"

"Another resident, M'Lady?"  Jackson shook his head.  "Many live on the estate and surrounding lands."

"In the Hall?"  Lennie narrowed her eyes.  "A woman...of sorts?"

"I don't know who you mean, Lady Fallbridge."  Mr. Jackson inhaled.

Robert nodded calmly.  "Well, that solves everything."  He smiled.

"It does, Your Lordship?"  Jackson looked puzzlingly at Robert.

"Oh, yes."  Robert replied.  He reached forward as if to pat Jackson on the shoulders, but instead, he grabbed the old man by his lapels and angrily forced him against the wall.

"Tell me the truth, you fetid sack!"  Robert screamed in the man's face.

"Robert,"  Lennie said casually, "Don't press him too hard, he'll crumble into dust."

"Who was the woman who came in here and terrorized Lady Fallbridge?"  Robert shouted.

"Her Ladyship must have been dreaming."  Jackson whimpered.

"Well, then, so must have His Grace and I because when Her Ladyship's screams brought us here, we saw the creature.  His Grace had a conversation with--though rather one-sided--with it.  What is it?  We three saw it.  A deformed wretch with a face very much like that of the late Duchess.  What is it?"

"I don't know what you mean?"

"Robert,"  Lennie sighed.  "Normally, I wouldn't suggest such a thing, but, my experiences with Orpha and Ulrika have made me rather impatient with this sort of foolishness.  Might I suggest that you slap the answer out of him?"

"I'm not really a slapping sort,"  Robert answered, not taking his hands, nor his gaze off of Jackson.  "I'm a physician.  Still, let's not forget that my brother and I grew up in poverty on the streets of London.  I do know how to use my fists."

"Do you?"  Lennie smiled.

"Once, when a man threatened my brother, Cecil,"  Robert replied, still pressing Jackson against the wall, "over just a crust of bread--imagine, I had no choice but to protect my brother.  So, A beat the man into a thick pink paste."

"I don't think Jackson would make a pink paste."  Lennie shook her head.  "Too old.  Gray.  Like mortar."

"You're all mad!  You're just as mad as Julian!"  Jackson screamed.

"Oh dear,"  Robert shook his head.  "Now, I'm going to have to tell you all of the things which were wrong with the statement you just made."  

He threw Jackson to the floor.

"When you saw me for the first time this morning, Jackson, I noticed you looking me over."  Robert towered over Jackson.   "I knew at once what you were thinking.  The Queen can call me a Baron, I can make myself a physician, but, I can wear beautiful clothes and make myself as handsome as I might, but it'll never change the fact that I'm a common street lad.  You're right, I suppose.  And, now, you shall see just what that means.  You see--nothing matters to me more than my family and their safety.  You've not only just insulted us, but you refuse to tell us what's skittering about this house, endangering my companion, our son and our sister."

Robert drew back his leg as if to kick Jackson.

"Robert, wait!"  Lennie shouted.


"I want a monologue, too."  Lennie smiled.

"Carry on,"  Robert nodded.

"You were correct about me as well, Jackson.  I'm no lady.  I'm common.  The fine silks and diamonds which my brother has given me can't hide the fact that I've had to fight my entire life to protect myself.  The only real aristocrat in this house is His Grace, and, yet, he's the one you most disparage.  Oh, poor, Mr. Jackson, how wrong you are to do that.  You understand.  He's the one that we should all be protecting.  And, that's just what my new brother and I are about to do.  From you, from your staff and from that wretched monster which you've hidden away here.  You had your chance.  We asked you civilly.  And,'ll see just how rough we can be."

"Well said, sister dear."  Robert nodded.

"Thank you, Robert.  Go ahead."

"I think I'll just stamp on his guts until he speaks."  Robert raised his leg again.

"All right!"  Jackson howled.  

"Yes?"  Lennie raised an eyebrow.

"Morgana!"  Jackson screamed.  

"Go on."  Robert replied.

"Her name is Morgana."  Jackson continued.

"What is she?"  Lennie asked.

"I bought her."  Jackson explained.

"From?"  Robert demanded

"A traveling curiosities show."  Jackson began to cry.

"Why?"  Lennie asked.

"To replace your mother, you little bitch!"  Jackson spat.

Did you miss chapters 1-27 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 29.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Holiday Letter from School, c. 1850

George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum, we see an engraving entitled “The Holiday Letter from School - a Boy's Dream of the Coming Christmas,” which rather puts me in mind of the scene from “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” when Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge sees young Ebenezer singing, “When You’re Alone in the World.”

The engraving is after the painting by Adrien Marie, and was published in the Nineteenth Century. Seated at his desk, the boy writes home, sharing his eagerness to take part in the family’s holiday traditions. He dreams of the joys of Christmas—reuniting with his mother, toys, puddings, feasts, sports and games. Notable is the figure of Mr. Punch at the lower right—riding a croquet mallet.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Theater Bilderbuch, 1885

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

Produced in Germany in 1885, this colorful book comes alive with four pop-up toy theatre scenes - Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Adoration of the Magi and Christmas Eve. Each scene arises in three dimensions on a stage and is accompanied by a verse or scene printed in German.

Notice who is on the cover—our Mr. Punch! He seems to be making a rare German appearance. Actually, this is Mr. Punch’s German cousin, Kasper. They look a lot alike.

This is an unusual variation of the toy theatres which were popular throughout Europe during the second half of the Nineteenth Century. Clearly the book was created to be given as a Christmas gift. The final scene depicts Christmas Eve in a typical German house. Set on a stage with a youthful orchestra in front, the Christmas scene’s three-dimensional effect the best of the lot.

Click the images to enlarge them.  It's worth it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: "Gratuitous Beret Picture" or "Apron Capers of 1891"

"Girls, girls! You're all pretty!"


Image:  "The Rivals,"  Henry Woods (1846-1921) (artist), Creation Date: Signed and dated 1891, Materials: Oil on canvas, Acquirer: King George V, King of the United Kingdom (1865-1936) Provenance: Presented by the citizens of Manchester to the Duke and Duchess of York (later, King George V and Queen Mary) on their marriage, 6 July 1893.

Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, via The Royal Collection Trust.

Original Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this lovely painting by Henry Woods, visit the work's entry in the online collection of The Royal Collection.

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

What better way to say, "Merry Christmas" than giving your loved ones tee-shirts with pictures of a stranger's dog dressed as a puppet clown?

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: Prince Albert’s Birthday Watch, 1859

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


Gold Case Watch
Made for Prince Albert, 1859
Aubert & Klaftenberger
The Royal Collection

The firm of Aubert & Klaftenberger was the favorite clock and watchmaker of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. For as much as Albert loved beautiful things, there was one trait he valued all the more—accuracy. Aubert & Klaftenberger, in the Prince’s estimation, afforded more accuracy in their timepieces than anyone else.

For her husband’s fortieth birthday in 1859, Victoria asked the firm to create a simple, elegant and scientifically nifty watch. The result was this understated piece with a turned 18 karat gold case and self-winding capability. It was quite a marvel of clockwork and gave the Prince the precision and reliability that he so cherished.

Just to make sure it was extra-special, the watch was engraved: “To Dearest Albert, from his ever devoted Victoria R, Aug 26th 1859.”

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

Animation Fascination: “Popeye in Goonland,” 1938

In this early Popeye cartoon by Max Fleischer, we learn some valuable information about our favorite squinty sailor. 

To begin with, he’s forty years old in 1938. Next, we learn that his father abandoned him at birth. Poor Popeye. In search of his “Pappy,” he travels to Goonland—something that does not seem to faze him at all. There, he encounters some unusual beings with extremely large ribcages. Enjoy!