Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s 1842 Christmas Brooch

Princess Victoria Brooch
Presented to Queen Victoria on Christmas, 1842
Designed by Prince Albert
Crafted by William Essex after William Ross, miniaturist
Enamel, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, &
The Royal Collection
To celebrate Christmas with his wife and their first child, Princess Victoria, Prince Albert designed a beautiful enamel and jeweled brooch for Queen Victoria. Inspired by a painting by Raphael, the prince envisioned an angel with sparkling wings and the face of their infant daughter.

Jeweler William Essex was commissioned to create the brooch to Prince Albert’s specifications. For Princess Victoria’s enameled, cherubic face, Essex used as his model a miniature painting of the child princess by William Ross. The resulting brooch of enamel, gold, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and topazes shows the young Princess as a putti draped in a regal blue robe. In her tiny hands, she clutches a cross of diamonds and rubies.

Queen Victoria was—rightfully—thrilled with the brooch and wrote in her journal, “The workmanship and design are quite exquisite, and dear Albert was so pleased at my delight over it, it’s having been entirely his own idea and taste.”

History's Runway: A Leather Reticule, 1819

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a rectangular brown leather reticule with a flap and a brass catch, a stamped gilt border and panels of tortoiseshell surrounding two ivory panels incised with designs of floral baskets. This surprisingly current-looking bad features a gilt chain. The leather is marked, “BATH 1819,” though it looks like a handbag which would be in vogue in 2013.

The leather handbag was first introduced around 1815 in the form of an envelope-like pocket with a flap which fastened by means of a metal catch. Many, like this one, were adorned with metal plaques, or insets of tortoiseshell or ivory panels.

This bag still contains a letter with the watermark BATH 1819. It is addressed to Mrs. Kennedy, Capel Street, and reads “May I request My dear Mrs Kennedys acceptance of this small Christmas tribute - and wishing you many happy returns of the day. I remain very very affectionately M. Hamilton, Christmas Day.”

Clearly both the letter and the Christmas gift were cherished by Mrs. Kennedy as they have remained in pristine condition for nearly two hundred years.

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Victoria’s 1849 Christmas Brooch

Brooch, 1849
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This simple and elegant brooch was purchased by Prince Albert and presented to Queen Victoria at Christmas 1849. In the Royal Collection there exists a receipt for payment for two brooches dated 14 January 1850, £14—this was one of the two.

The brooch was acquired during the royal visit to Dublin in August 1849. The design of the piece was based on an ancient prototype and demonstrates the revived interest in Celtic history that was developing at the time.

Prince Albert selected the brooch expressly to show royal patronage of the Irish jewelry trade and was created by West & Son, one of the largest jewelers at the time in Dublin. Set with garnets, the brooch mimics Celtic knot-work.

Seasonal Saturday Special: Ho, Ho, No...

Soon it will be Christmas!  Yep, I trot out these treats every year.

Celebrate with the Little King as he picks up and bathes with some of whom is wearing something special under his rags.

And, what's Christmas without Popeye?

Or Little Audrey and some demented cake?

The Home Beautiful: A Vintage Biscuit Tin, c. 1920

Biscuit Tin Bank
England, 1920s
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This biscuit tin from the early 19th Century was made for the Christmas season. After the First World War, the typical English biscuit tin—a convention which arose in 1861—had become more reserved than the Nineteenth Century, opulent, printed tin models. The exception to this was the Christmas Season when fanciful and clever designs were produced for biscuit companies wishing to appeal to children and their parents. 

These tins were made to be saved, and, often, they’d offer a feature which gave them extended use. This one, for example, was made to serve as a money box or bank after the cookies had all been eaten. It is decorated with printed scenes from “Alice in Wonderland” as well as depictions of Nursery Rhyme characters. The coin slot at the top could be punched out when the biscuits were all gone.

Traditions: King George V's Christmas Broadcast, 1935

The following recording from 1935 is not only an interesting glimpse into the past, but also historically significant.  Little did the listening public know, but this would be the last annual Christmas broadcast from the beloved King George V.  He would die soon after, and, the Abdication Kerfuffle (TM) that followed would surely have annoyed him ceaselessly.


Looking for a last minute gift?  Take a look at our online store.  You're sure to find something perfect for that for whom you forgot to shop.

Drawing of the Day: The Three Kings, c. 1965

The Three Kings
Marion Wilson
Circa 1965
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Created around 1965, this drawing of colored ink depicts the tradition of the Three Kings.

The piece is the work of Marion Wilson (born, 1933) whose work typifies the style of 1960s graphic design. Completed in pencil, paint, inks and ball point pens, the drawing was made by Wilson as a design for a Christmas card published by the Gordon Fraser Gallery. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary's Christmas Egg, c. 1900

Egg of Enamel, Diamonds, Gold, Rubies and Emeralds
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal COllection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This egg of cream guilloché enamel is set with a diamond band around the middle and features an upper section adorned with ribbon swags. The lower portion is set with heart trophies of rubies and emeralds. A gold ring allows for hanging from a gold stand with a circular base chased with a spiral pattern.

This beautiful object was a gift to Queen Mary, consort of King George V, for Christmas of 1927. It was given to her by Prince David (later, briefly, King Edward VIII, and, then Duke of Windsor); “Bertie,” a.k.a. Prince Albert George (later King George VI); Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (later, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother); Princess Mary and Harry Lascelles and their children. Though it looks like Fabergé, it’s actually the work of Dreyfous of 128 Mount St., London.

The egg itself dates to about 1900.

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

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

"Mama" would have wanted me to share this.  She also told me...she said, "Liza, bring Joey Bishop another martini."  And, then, well...Mr. Mayer was just...well, he was as big as a bear and Mama was...well, she told me that there was one time when I was at Great Adventure riding the roller coaster with Ann-Margret and Alice Ghostley  and well, Alice was so cold she...she stuck to the seat!  So, I've had the chance to work with some of the real know the greats!  Dick Gautier.  Lyle Waggoner.  Legends.  I got that quality from my father.  Mr. Vin-shen-tey Meee-nelli.  Oh, he was a fine, fine...This one time, Paul Lynde and I went to see Michael York in 'Othello' or 'Hamlet' or 'Madea Goes to Jail' or something and I broke the heel of my shoe and...well, Paul was a small man, so, he couldn't lift me, and then comes in Dom DeLuise, it was James Coco.  So, we all drank him with whipped cream, and Paul was the center square so, it really wasn't Regis Philbin's fault.  You see?

Anyway...this is...Mama would have wanted me to share this.

From here, of course.

Print of the Day: Mr. Punch at Madame Tussaud's, 1999

Poster by Denis Piper, 1999
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I don’t usually write about recent objects, but this one was too perfect for today that I couldn’t resist. Well, obviously, we can see that it’s a poster letting us know that Punch and Judy would be appearing at Madame Tussaud’s in London for Christmas. They actually look quite pleased to be doing so.

The advert for this special Christmas appearance was designed by Denis Piper.

Cold-war Christmas Classic: The Russian Boy, 1959

Since we won't be doing a "Mr. Punch's Puzzles" this week (as I'm rather a busy boy), I thought I'd share (or share again) something appropriately (or inappropriately) zany with you.

I was introduced to this animated short from Russia at Christmastime last year and it is now amongst the other beautifully horrid and bizarre cartoons which top my list of things to watch over the holiday.

It's known as "The Christmas Visit," "The New Year's Visit" and "The Russian Boy," depending on the translation and who is distributing it.

It defies explanation in a variety of ways.  


A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 33

Chapter 33

"Here he is.  It's taken you long enough!"  Ivy rattled as Mr. Jackson stumbled into the servants' hall.  "Have you found her?"

"No."  Jackson barked.  "However, she's found Lady Fallbridge."

"Ha,"  Gregory howled.  

"It isn't a matter of amusement, Gregory!"  Ivy retorted.

"My apologies, Miss Blessum, only, I just imagined the look on that plain girl's face when she saw Morgana."

"How is she?"  Ivy ignored Gregory.

"Oh, quite fine, I'm sure.  The two margeries came to her aid."  Jackson snapped.

"I don't care about Lady Fallbridge.  I am asking about Morgana!"  Ivy moaned.

"I have no idea.  Nor do I care.  You see, Ivy, I've been dismissed.  I frankly hope Morgana slaughters the lot of you."

"You've been dismissed?"  Gregory grinned.

"Yes, Gregory, the mad mandrake sacked me, as you would say."  Jackson hissed.

"Cor, I suppose that puts me next in line for butler."  Gregory boasted.

"I would not be so sure."  Jackson smirked.  "You're not lady-like enough for the tastes of those upstairs."

"That's all fine,"  Ivy screeched, "but what do you intend to do?"

"I'm not going to leave this house."  Jackson replied.

"How can you not?  You've been sacked."  Gregory laughed.

"I have my..."  Jackson began.

"Not about you!"  Ivy shouted.  "About Morgana!"

"You are being impertinent, Miss Blessum."  Jackson snarled.

"What do I care?  You've been dismissed.  You're not my superior any longer.  Now, what about Morgana.  Wilmer Jackson!  You tell me!  Where is she?  Where is she?"

"She's gone to the south side of the house and carried off Her Ladyship's maid."  Jackson replied cooly.

"The blonde?"  Gregory squinted.  "Pity.  That one's a proper bird.  Not gonna be so pretty now."

"My poor Morgana."  Ivy began to cry.

"You're worried about the monster?"  Gregory shook his head, "and not the pretty young thing?"

"And, no one is worried about me, so, if you'll pardon me, I have matters to which I must attend."  Jackson barked.

"Such as?"  Gregory stepped in front of the butler.

"That's not your concern."

"As the new butler, it is."

"No one has declared you my replacement, upstart."  Jackson spat.  

"Does His Grace know you're down here?"  Gregory asked.

"Now, he's 'His Grace'?  Earlier you referred to him as a 'Midnight Spider'."  Jackson laughed.  "And, yes, he knows I'm here.  I told him I was going to fetch the Jar of Heads to subdue Morgana."

"So why aren't you?"  Ivy gasped.

"Simply put, Miss  Blessum, because I don't care.  As I said, I hope she kills all of you."  Jackson turned around, stepped past Gregory and retreated to his pantry, locking the door behind him.

"Gregory!"  Ivy wailed.

"Bloody hell, Ivy."  Gregory shook his head.  "Don't screech at me.  I'll take the jar up there.  I ain't so keen on it, but there's no sense in seein' that pretty bird all scratched to shreds or choked blue like what she done to old Mrs. Foster.  You gotta come with me.  Maybe she'll listen to ya."

"Yes, of course.  Thank you, Gregory."

"I ain't doin' it for you."  Gregory laughed.  "Only if those two mandrakes think me a hero, maybe they will let me take up after old Jackson."

"Whatever is needed to protect Morgana."

"You really care for that thing, don't ya?"

"You'd never understand."  Ivy shook her head.

"Doubt I would."  Gregory nodded.  "Now, come on.  Help me with the jar.  That thing is heavy."

Just then, on the floor above, Violet realized the more that she struggled the tighter the woman held her and the more she screamed, the fiercer the woman's face became.

Violet tried to remain as calm as possible as Morgana carried her off.  She worried for Maudie.  With one swift kick of her trunk-like leg, Morgana had managed to topple Maudie.

Just what was this--woman--this creature which held her, Violet wondered.  She looked up from looked into its face which was familiar and relatively normal.  Yet, the supernatural grip  of it, and the strange claws...

Finally, feeling somewhat brave, Violet decided to speak.  "Who are you?"

The woman moaned.

"I'm Violet.  You don't have to carry me.  I'll walk.  If you want to show me somethin', I'll go with ya.  But, you don't 'ave to carry me.  I ain't gonna run off."

Morgana narrowed her eyes and considered this.  Her hunched back was growing weary even though Violet was light.

Gently, Morgana lowered Violet so that she could stand.  

"There now."  Violet nodded nervously.  "That's easier, ain't it?"

Morgana grunted.  

"Now, where, you wanna take me?"  Violet asked, forcing a smile.

As Morgana looked forward, Violet took a chance and tried to shove the woman out of her way so she could take off running.

However, Morgana was sturdy and difficult to upset.

A strong swat of one of her pincers sent Violet flying--knocking her first against the wall, and, then, sliding to the floor.

Morgana moaned again.  Parting her lips, she whispered gruffly.  "Hands..."

Did you miss Chapters 1-32 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here?  Come back on Monday, December 30 for Chapter 34.

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Alexandra's Christmas Gift Book, 1908

Queen Alexandra's Christmas Gift Album
"Pleasant Recollections."
Britain, 1908
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A page from the album.
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

In 1908, shutterbug Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII (1844-1925) amused herself—while her husband was doubtlessly amusing himself in other, yuckier ways—by producing an album of her photographs which she intended to be published to raise funds for her favorite charities. 

Though known as “Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book,” the album was actually titled “Pleasant Recollections.” The leather, gilt-tooled book with relief duo-tone photographs was enclosed in a deep red jacket of suede and velvet. Queen Alexandra personally chose the photos of her family and friends which were to be included in the book from her huge collection of personal photos, most of which she had taken herself.

We see here the Queen’s own personal copy of her book. Ninety of the 137 photos were printed in photogravure (a very detailed intaglio print from a copper plate) and forty-six of them were mounted by hand on the dark green pages, so that those who purchased the photograph book would feel that they had, in fact, the Queen’s personal album.

The book, sold at 2s 6d (12 ½ p) a copy and it was published simultaneously in England and America on November 12, 1908. Huge orders were also rushed to Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France. The album proved incredible successful, and, much to the Queen’s pleasure and satisfaction, raised vast amount for over thirty charities of Her Majesty’s choosing.

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

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Gala Performance at the Paris Opera, 1855

A Gala Performance at the Paris Opera
Dieterle and Lami, 1855
Commissioned by Napoleon III
Presented to Queen Victoria, Christmas, 1855
The Royal Collection

In 1855, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveled to Paris for an official State Visit and were greeted by the French people and Emperor Napoleon III with warmth and opulence. In their honor, a special evening was planned at the Paris Opera which included a sampling of what Napoleon considered the finest of France’s operatic and ballet stars. While Queen Victoria very much enjoyed the architecture of the opera house and was enchanted by their luxurious box, she was less than impressed by the performance itself finding it too long and rather dull.

As a gift for the Christmas of 1855, Napoleon III presented Queen Victoria with an album of paintings which he had commissioned to chronicle their visit to Paris. Among them was this watercolor of their evening at the Paris Opera. The Queen and Prince Albert can be seen entering their box on the right. The architectural portions of this watercolor were painted by the Paris Opera’s scenic designer known as Dieterle. The figures were painted by celebrated French society painter, Eugene Lami.

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


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Harpo

"Where are Zeppo and Chico?"

Image:  Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Princess Charlotte, Creator: Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) (artist), Creation Date: 1801, Materials: Oil on canvas, Acquirer: Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901), Provenance: Painted at Blackheath for the Marchioness of Townshend; purchased by Queen Victoria.

Original Image -- Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection.  Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this painting, visit its official entry in the catalog of the Royal Collection here.  I also wrote about this painting of Queen Caroline (when still Princess of Wales) a couple of years ago, and you can read that here.

Go a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, bag or other nifty thing.  It's not too late for Christmas.

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: The Pinecone Brooch, 1960

Jean Schumberger, 1960
Tiffany & Co.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This attractive brooch is of a more modern origin than the pieces which we usually examine onStalking the Belle Époque, but it has its roots in the designs of the late Victorian era. Jean Schlumberger of New York’s Tiffany & Co. designed this glittering gem in the form of a pair of pinecones--one is set with emeralds, and the other with sapphires. The pinecones are surmounted with diamond-set leaves.

During his career, 
Jean Schlumberger (1907-87) worked with Schiaparelli in Paris before joining Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger came by his love of gems naturally. He came from a family of textile manufacturers in Mulhouse (in eastern France). During this time, he grew to love studying combinations of colors and textures. Initially his mother and father urged young Jean toward a career in banking, however, in the 1930s, he began working for as a designer of costume jewelry for the couturier Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris. The Second World War led him to the French army and soon he made his way from England (to where he’d been evacuated) to New York.

Once in the United States, in 1947, he set up a small jewelry business with his childhood friend Nicolas Bongard. Their work quickly garnered much attention and soon Tiffany & Co. invited them to open a design studio and salon within the Tiffany New York store in 1956. To this day, many of Schlumberger’s designs are still produced by Tiffany & Co. and remain among their biggest sellers. 

The Art of Play: The Ebenezer Scrooge Marionette, 1979

Marionette of Ebenezer Scrooge
Frances and Peter Grant, 1979
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Though made in 1979, this marionette puts me in mind of the Victorian puppets made in the Nineteenth Century by the Tiller-Clowes troupe. Here, we see Ebenezer Scrooge. He was made, along with twenty-two others, by Peter and Frances Grant for their puppet production of “A Christmas Carol.” Their Theater of Marionettes toured Britain in 1979 with this production. 

The Grants had a long history of puppetry. They began their company in the 1960s, and, over time made their way across Britain and Europe to the delight of many.

Frances Grant sculpted the bodies of their marionettes. She used obeche, a tropical wood valued for its smoothness and lack of resin. The faces, hands and feet were also sculpted by Frances who employed epoxy resin to create expressive features. Peter Grant costumed the figures and created all the props. 

Bertie's Pet-itations: Oh...Christmas Tree!

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:

I'm not sure why, but every year, you drag in those big boxes of fake trees from the sheds and take all those boxes of glass balls down from the really high-up cabinets.  And, then, you somehow put them all together and it all lights up and twinkles.  I don't know why you do it.

But, I like it!  It makes my tail wag.  

(Also, I know eventually those trees will hatch things for me underneath them.)