Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014!

We will be back with new posts on Monday, January 6.

Of particular interest will be the Christmas and New Year's Editions of "The Treat of the Week."

Here's wishing everyone a Happy 2014!

History's Runway: Lady Haig's Schiaperelli New Year's Gown, 1938

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Lady Alexandra Dacre (then Lady Alexandra Haig) wore this fascinating ensemble at a masked carol party in December 1938 to mark the change of the year to 1939. The gown was designed by Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) who was celebrated for her attractive, sophisticated, and whimsically designed evening clothes. 

Salvador Dalí, Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau were among the contemporary artists who designed fabrics and accessories for Schiaperelli whose designs were largely influenced  by Cubism and Surrealism.In 1935, Schiaperelli was the first to introduce the motif of the exposed zipper—a trend that popular designers of today claim as their own original property.   

Schiaperelli’s masterful work is evident in this ensemble.
  The evening jacket is of black satin backed marocain, with long sleeves--ffitted, collarless and single-breasted with two gathered patch pockets. The neck edge is decorated with a bold embroidered pattern.

The long black dress is crafted of satin backed marocain and features a low V neck, adorned with a ruffle. The back is low and square with the famous exposed zipper.  

Gifts of Grandeur: The Dudley Box, 1579

This pretty little box was made in England in 1579 to hold sweetmeats.  Gifts of sweetmeats, sugared fruits and candies were traditional presents at New Year in the Royal Court.  Sometimes these were presented in special, and often precious, containers such as this one.   

The crest of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (died 1588) is inlaid im silver in the lid. Dudley was the favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, and was, therefore, a very important fella about the court.  No doubt, this box must have been made especially for Dudley as a New Year's gift.  

Curiously, after the box had been donated to the V&A, it was untouched for many years.  In fact, it was not opened until 1968 when the crest of Dudley and inscribed date  was discovered for the first time.

The box is decorated in the technique known as damascening, a process, especially popular in the Sixteenth Century, in which gold and silver ribbon is forced into a cross hatched surface of iron using a copper tool. The base iron was darkened with heat and chemicals so that it would develop a blue or black hue which would contrast with the gold and silver ornament.  


Print of the Day: New Year's Eve at the Savoy Hotel, 1925

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a menu card from London’s famed Savoy Hotel which days to 1925. The front bears an illustration depicting a group of clowns emerging from behind a curtain which is presently being drawn open by a chubby cherub, flying above. The drawing is signed “Kennedy North.”

The menu was printed specifically for the Savoy’s opulent New Year’s event and was meant to be taken as a souvenir.

A Recipe for Punch Will Continue Next Week

Hello all,

Yesterday, I'd said that I'd be putting up a new chapter of A Recipe for Punch today, but, the truth is, I've got a yucky chest cold as the remaining bit of 2013 grinds its bony claws into my tender flesh.  I'm functional, but I just don't feel quite myself, so, I think it best to let Mr. Punch and his friends take a hiatus this week.

So, on January 6th, we will be back with all new chapters.  Similarly, regular posting will pause until then as well.  However, you never know when I might sneak something in, so come back every so often.

Here's wishing everyone a happy 2014!


Film of the Week: Lola, 1961

C’est moi. C’est Lola.

The ease with which “Lola” identifies herself belies the confusion in the soul of this young, French “Dance Hall girl” (to phrase her profession gently). Lola is a lost soul. She’s in love with an ideal—a strapping blond sailor who left her alone with a child to raise in the French coastal city of Nantes. Lola is not without her amusements. She takes delight in the simplest things—adding some fringe to what seems to be her one, rather brief, costume, having a nice glass of wine, leaving her son unattended at night, and taking American sailors to bed. Lola’s not a prostitute, per se. She doesn’t get paid for her company. Sure, she gets whiskey and cigarettes and an increasingly large collection of toy trumpets for her son, Yvon, but that’s not legal tender. She’s got a good heart under all that fringe. She’s not really “Lola.” That’s just the name she adopted for the stage. She’s really Cecile—a sweet French girl whose heart has been broken.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Nantes, Roland Cassard is having an equally difficult time. He just can’t find himself interested in anything. He doesn’t care about his job—which he promptly loses. He doesn’t care about his music anymore. He craves adventure—something he finds in books, and he craves love. He fondly remembers a girl from his childhood—Cecile. When Roland stumbles across Cecile as the newly-transformed Lola, he thinks that this might mean his life makes sense. But, alas, this is a French film. So, no. What follows is an interesting tale of broken hearts, yearning, jewel smuggling, amorous sailors, peculiar dancing, and youthful angst.

Lola marked the directorial debut of the celebrated Jacques Demy and also serves as the first entry of his beloved trilogy which includes Les Parapluies De Cherbourg, and Les Desmoiselles de Rochefort. While the latter two films are strictly musicals set to lavish scores by Michel Legrand, Lola is, as Demy described, “a musical without music.” Legrand provided the orchestral themes—music which was adapted for Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. The character of Roland Cassard played by Marc Michel, appears as a lead character in “Parapluies,” taking the story of Lola to Cherbourg along with his own theme tune.

Anouk Aimée plays Lola and gives what could be a very one-note character a considerable amount of depth and subtle emotion. She’s nicely matched with Marc Michel who delivers a similarly brave performance.

This film is something of a New Year’s tradition with my family. It would be odd not to ring in the New Year without our favorite French stripper and her many loves. Of course, the film is in French, but you don’t really need to read the subtitles to know what’s going on. It’s incredibly interesting to watch, and, if you’re a fan of Jacques Demy, a must-see film.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A New Year Card, 1894

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The front of this handsome greeting card from 1894 depicts a girl in French Revolutionary costume, with a bicorne hat, blue coat and pink skirt. The card is printed with the words: 


This card is signed "With Julia's love to dear Amy Xmas /94.” It comes from a collection of cards given to the V&A by the mother of the “Amy” in question—Amy Piercey (b. 1882). The card was printed in Germany for export to the English market.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Dame Joan Evans "Dove of Peace" Brooch, 1755

Brooch of silver, diamonds, emeralds and a ruby
England, 1755
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a brooch, made of silver which as been set with brilliant-cut diamonds. It takes the form of a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak with emeralds for leaves, a ruby for an eye and diamonds as feathers.

The brooch was made in 1755 in England and was altered in the Nineteenth Century. This comes from the glorious collection that Dame Joan Evans bequeathed to the V&A. 

A New Year's Honor: Badge of the Order of Victoria & Albert, 1864

Badge of the Order of Victoria & Albert
Sardonyx with Diamonds, Silver, Enamel, Rubies
and Emeralds.
The Royal Collection

This magnificent badge with its cameo of the jugate heads (two portraits set side-by-side) of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was given to Princess Alexandra of Denmark by Queen Victoria on the day of Alexandra’s wedding to the Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII). Alexandra proudly wore the badge on her wedding gown. Not only was it a sign of approval from her future mother-in-law, the Queen of England, but it also marked her appointment to the Royal Order of Victoria & Albert, an important achievement.

The cameo of sardonyx was created in 1862 by Tommaso Saulini, and Italian artist known for his exquisite cameo work. The frame, made in 1864, features a row of small diamonds around the cameo which is surrounded by a border of twenty-one very large brilliant cuts. The frame is surmounted by a diamond-set suspension loop atop a royal crown of red enamel set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

This piece retains the original ribbon from which Queen Alexandra wore it on her wedding day. 

Gifts of Grandeur: King George V’s Cigarette Case

Cigarette Case
Before 1896
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Alexandra’s famed good taste extended to the gifts that she gave to her friends and family. Take this cigarette case for example. This was a gift from Queen Alexandra to her son, The Duke of York (later King George V) and his wife, Mary of Teck.

King George V was a longtime smoker. Even Queen Mary was known to take a puff or two—especially later in life. Cigarette smoking was quite fashionable by the Nineteenth Century, and, of course, was also a good excuse to collect a good many handsome items which only made smoking more glamorous. Chief among smoking related objects was the cigarette case.

Fabergé perfected the art of producing cigarette cases and created cases which ranged rom the simplest styles to the most elaborate gold and enamelled versions. Cases by Fabergé feautured concealed hinges, smooth edges and jewelled push pieces. These details made them the poshest accessory of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

This particular case of gold, brilliant diamonds, cabochon sapphires was designed by Eduard Schramm for Fabergé. The goldwork is rendered in a technique known as samorodok (gold nugget), in which the plate metal is brought almost to a melting point and then removed quickly from the furnace. This causes rapid shrinking which creates a crumpled appearance. 

History's Runway: The Cory Lilies of the Valley Spray, 1830-70

Bodice Ornament
The Victoria & Albert Museum 

This spray of diamonds is another perfect example of the mid Nineteenth Century sensibility for naturalistic jewelry. Such jewels often depicted floral arrangements, sometimes peppered with jeweled “insects.” This piece shows the trend of adding “tremblers”—jeweled pieces mounted on thin wires which moved as the wearer walked. Dense clusters of diamonds, like the bodice ornament we see here, were the height of fashion during this period.

This ornament, owned by Lady Cory, was made in Britain between 1830 and 1870 and features a plethora of brilliant-cut and European-cut diamonds mounted in silver and backed in gold. Of particular note is the sprig of lilies of the valley which surmounts the piece. Such sprays were designed to be worn on the bodice, either centrally or to one side at the shoulder.

By the Twentieth Century, these pieces were still fashionable, but many were broken apart to make other jewelry. So, it's quite exceptional when they survive unaltered. Not surprisingly, in the 1920s when densely set diamond pieces were once again in vogue, many of these remaining sprays found new popularity--worn on coats.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 34

Chapter 34

"Blast!"  Punch bellowed when he saw Gregory and Ivy trudging up the steep staircase.  "Where's Jackson?"

"Mr. Jackson, it seems,"  Gregory smirked, "has taken his dismissal rather seriously."  He nodded to the burden which he and Ivy carried between them, draped with a black cloth.  "Never fear, Your Grace, Miss Blessum and I've got what ya asked for."

"So..."  Punch narrowed his eyes.  "The two of you have known about this...Morgana?"

"I've been looking after her, Your Grace."  Ivy nodded.  

"I don't have nothin' to do with her."  Gregory said quickly.  "Only I know she's been here.  And, I'm one o' the few strong 'nough to deal with 'er when she gets rough." He boasted, still hoping that the Duke would look favorably on him and bestow him with Jackson's position.

"How many others know of her?"  Robert asked.

"Just the three of us.  And, Mr. Quick."  Gregory answered.

"And, Mr. Causer."  Ivy mumbled.  "And, Mr. Hargrave."

"Wonderful."  Punch narrowed his eyes.  "I shall expect a full account of this later...including Mr. Jackson's claim that this woman is my late mother's half-sister..."

"Oh, she is, Your Grace."  Ivy nodded.

"However,"  Punch interrupted.  "At the moment, my sister's maid has been taken by the creature..."

"Don't call her that!'  Ivy spat.

"Pardon me!"  Punch growled.

"Excuse me, Your Grace."  Ivy flushed.  "It's only that..."

"We haven't time for this!"  Lennie shouted.

"Is that...the...what was it?"  Robert scowled.

"The Jar of Heads."  Gregory smiled unctuously.

"It's rather heavy.  Might we put it down?"  Ivy asked.

"No."  Punch frowned.  "Gerard, would you please help Gregory with it?  We shall need Miss Blessum to assist with Morgana since she seems to have some sort of...rapport...with her."

"Yes, Your Grace."  Gerard obliged.

"Here, let's just put it on the floor for a second."  Gregory nodded, "So you can get a grip."  

As he did, the cover slipped from it, revealing a large glass jar--an enormous variation of the sort used for pickling--filled with what appeared to be miniature human heads.

Lennie gasped.  "God!  What is it?"

"It ain't as bad as it looks, Your Ladyship."  Gregory laughed.  "Only it's the only thing what soothes her."

"What is it?"  Robert examined the jar.

"I made it."  Ivy said defensively.  "It is not unlike those glass globes with snow scenes in them."

"It's very much unlike them."  Punch snorted.

"It's only some fluid and dolls heads."  Ivy sighed.  "She likes to watch them float around."

Punch closed his eyes and shook his head.  "Gerard, please help Gregory carry it to the south end of the house so we can have a chance of stopping Morgana before she harms Violet."

"She won't harm the girl."  Ivy protested.

"Won't she?"  Gregory scoffed.  "Tell that to Mrs. Foster and our first William."

"What do you mean?"  Lennie stepped forward.

"Gregory!"  Ivy snarled.

"Killed 'em both, Morgana did."  Gregory revealed.

"Hurry, then!"  Punch said, taking Robert by the arm.  "Miss Blessum, if anything happens to our maid, I shall hold you accountable!"

Did you miss chapters 1-33 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 35.

Also, come back tomorrow for a special Treat of the Week!

Rare Gems: An Exceptional Emerald Ring, 1850

Emerald Ring
Unknown Maker, 1850
Part of the Townshend Collection, 1869
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In 1869, cleric and poet Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend bequeathed an impressive collection of 154 rare gem stone pieces to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Among them, this emerald ring is one of the most magnificent.

A perfect, square-cut emerald, surrounded a border of twenty-four brilliant-cut diamonds and set in gold. The shoulders of the ring each feature four brilliant-cut diamonds and two rose-cut diamonds.

While most of the stones in the Townshend Collection are set as rings, they were, most likely never meant to be worn.

A Portion of the Townshend Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Man in the Moon Brooch, 1888

Moonstone, Gold, Diamonds,
circa 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As 2013 limps to a conclusion, let's look at some lively, sparkly objects which might add some cheer to the otherwise dismal year.

This charming brooch by an unknown jeweler dates to about 1888 and features a carved moonstone in a crescent-shaped frame of brilliant-cut diamonds, with a “shooting star.”

I’ve dated this brooch to about 1888 based on the fashions of the day. For example, in 1888, “Ladies World” magazine reported that pins, hair ornaments and brooches in the shape of the moon was the height of fashion.

Just as is the case today, whenever such an article is published, this usually signals a rise in the sales of a particular trend and the desire for artists and manufacturers to supply related items.

By 1888, the rules regarding when diamonds could be worn were relaxing. Until this point, a lady or gentleman was discouraged from wearing diamonds outside of the city and before the evening, and usually reserved diamonds for grand occasions. A casual, whimsical brooch such as this could have been worn in less formal situations and was suitable for a variety of events.

The rules relaxed so much, in fact, that by 1900 it was even fashionable to wear diamonds in the morning. It’s important to note that this change in outlook and taste was encouraged more by the increased flow of diamonds from South Africa—a trend which began in the 1860’s.