Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Tiger Claw Necklace, c. 1865

Tiger Claw Necklace
India, c. 1865
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In Nineteenth Century India, a tiger’s claws were considered to be powerful charms against evil. They were frequently used as amulets. Visitors to India, especially the British, found this custom charming and started to bring tiger claw amulets back to Britain as souvenirs. By the middle of the century, with a growing market, makers of tiger claw charms branched out into more elaborate pieces such as this one.

It was clearly made for the British market. The design is very similar to the shape and form of European jewelry. This particular necklace was exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867. Ten tiger claws of graded size have been set in engraved gold. The claws are linked by chains and the whole piece hangs from a gold snake. 

It’s quite ghastly, no?

Unfolding Pictures: King George IV’s Ivory Cockade Fan, 1790

Ivory Cockade Fan
China, 1790
The Royal Collection

Cockade fans differ from standard hand fans in that they open to a full 360 degrees. Such fans were first recorded in use during early medieval times though they may have been employed much earlier in their country of origin--China.

This cockade fan is one of a pair, and does, in fact, herald from China where it was made for the Western market. Asian craftsmen were celebrated for their ivory-carving skills, often using intricate patterns and templates to create unbelievably complex scenes. This fan features a scene of musical instruments, feathers and chrysanthemums around a depiction of a tiger hunt, and archers. Because the fan was intended for male use, the grip is broader and thicker.

In addition to the scene described above, the fan, having been made expressly for George IV (while still Prince of Wales) bears the coat of arms and motto of the Prince of Wales in addition to the three feathers of the Prince of Wales and his cipher which are repeated on the carved presentation box. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Sèvres Vase Aubert No. 40, 1924-37

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

This is one of a pair of vases, called “Vase Aubert No. 40” which was made in hard-paste porcelain between 1924-37. One of the pair depicts “Africa” while the other depicts “India.” The vases were presented by the President of the French Republic to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) on the occasion of their coronation, May 12, 1937

The vases themselves were produced by Sèvres as early as 1924, but were evidently left undecorated. One, seen here, was painted in 1928 by Henry-Joseph Lasserre with a tiger hunt in the Indian sub-continent. The scene depicts huntsmen seated in howdahs on the backs of elephants, shooting at tigers in a lush jungle.

The other was painted in 1930 by Louis-Jules Trager, depicting an African scene of antelopes, camels and native dancers amongst the pyramids. In May 1937, the English royal arms was added at a cost of 6,000 francs.

The two vases, each valued at 40,000 francs, were sent in 1937 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for presentation to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth by the President of the French Republic, Monsieur Albert Lebrun. However, after the whole Abdication Keruffle ™ with his older brother the King had announced that, as a general rule, he would not accept coronation gifts. To avoid embarrassment, the French ambassador was informed that the gift would be treated as personal rather than as official.

The Art of Play: A Chinese Shadow Puppet, late 19th C.

Shadow Puppet
China, Late Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Shadow puppets are neat. But, then, I’m a puppet fancier, so I suppose I’d be inclined to think so. This one comes from China and dates to the late Nineteenth Century. It’s a tiger! He’s got very handsome tiger striped and a feline face—all hand painted.

This tiger is made up of eight individual pieces which are joined with twine at the head, neck, body, waist and tail. These moveable joints allow the puppet to be manipulated in realistic-looking way. Rods at the head and tail are used to move the joints. He’s composed of oil parchment and painted with watercolor.

Figure of the Day: The Death of Munrow, 1830

The Death of Munrow
Staffordshire, 1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Though rather naïve in its modeling, this ceramic sculpture depicts a serious subject--the death of Lieutenant Hugh Monro (Munrow), a young British army officer serving in India, who was mauled by a tiger while picnicking on a hunting trip in 1792. 

Monro's gruesome death is thought to have been the inspiration for the creation of the automaton and mechanical organ called “Tippoo's Tiger” which is one of the V&A's most popular exhibits.  “Tippoo's Tiger” was created for the Indian ruler Tipu Sultan, who was said to have loathed the British so deeply that he commissioned the piece showing the dominance of India over Britain. 
This ceramic Staffordshire group from 1830 mirrors the design of the famed automaton, causing one to conclude that the modeler must have seen images of Tippoos Tiger which was a popular theme for engravings.  

Here, Monro reclines at the feet of the tiger, wholly unaware of his fate.  Monro was  molded from a model for a standing figure of a military hero.  The piece is brightly enameled and labeled as, “THE DEATH OF MUNROW.”  

Unusual Artifacts: “Tippoo’s Tiger,” c. 1790

Tippoo's Tiger
Victoria & Albert Museum
This magnificent object is really more of a musical instrument than it is a toy.  Well, to be honest, it’s more of a curiosity than anything else.  Indian in origin with distinctly European working parts,Tippoo’s Tiger (also known as Tipu's Tiger) is a magnificent life-sized animated sculpture of a tiger devouring a man in a 1790’s style costume. Within the tiger’s body, an organ is operated by turning a handle.  This organ—by means of a system of bellows—produced the growls of the tiger and the anguished cries of his victim. Another miniature organ—also built into the tiger’s body—features 18 pipes which can be played by means of ivory keys and stops set into the tiger’s side.  This really is a peculiar thing.  However, it’s also quite spectacular.  When it came to England in 1808, it was the talk of London society.  On display for many years at the East India Company’s Museum, it eventually reverted to the Crown and is now displayed at the Victoria &Albert Museum.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Lace Program from Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, 1887

Program for Victoria's Golden Jubilee
English, 1887
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’m always looking for these unusual pieces of history that were made with no intention of permanence. To me, these objects speak volumes about the moment they were made and give us a little window into a particular era.

Here we see a program from an 1887 Golden Jubilee soiree in honor of Queen Victoria’s fifty years on the throne. The program is of blue plate-printed silk satin edged with bobbin lace. The central cartouche of oak leaves depicts Queen Victoria as Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India. The design also includes six flags, a lion, tiger, kangaroo and beaver. The animals represent Africa, India, Australia and Canada. The back of the program shows depicts Windsor Castle. It is inscribed with “Wanstead Young Men's Association” and “Jubilee Soiree.”

The inside of two pages lists the entertainment for the evening in two parts with piano, violin and vocal turns and recitations to be performed by a number of individuals, both male and female. Prizes, apparently, were to be awarded for the best recitation.

The Wanstead Young Men's Association was just one of a number of local Victorian working class organizations with a strong interest in the performing arts. Such groups allowed young people to enjoy some artistic freedom and they were very much supported by the Queen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Cartier Ruby and Diamond Parure, 1954

Necklace, Clip and Earrings of Diamonds, Rubies and Platinum
Cartier, 1954
This and all related images from
The British Museum

Click image to enlarge

Made around 1954, this parure consists of a earrings and a necklace which boasts a detachable clip brooch as the dramatic central element. The group is made of fine Burmese rubies and diamonds set in platinum. They’re the work of Cartier’s London location. The parure is still fitted into its original red leather case. The Cartier name is emblazoned in gold on the lid.

Friday Fun: Professor Mark Poulton by the Seaside

Mark Poulton
This week’s “Friday Fun,” is another Punch & Judy show—this time performed by the talented Professor Mark Poulton. Professor Poulton brings decades of experience to the art form. Enjoy his version of Mr. Punch as “Old Red Nose” is introduced by Joey the Clown.

Painting of the Day: A Town Fair with a Puppet Show, 1803

Click on image to go to the fair.

"A Town Fair with a Puppet Show"
Jan Anthonie Langendijk, 1803
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This lively and colorful painting is the work of Jan Anthonie Langendijk (1780-1818). The canvas is dated 1803. The artist shows us a busy city scene. People are milling about, some are seated a café or pub. But, on the right, we see a crowd watching an elaborate puppet show performed by five actors on an elevated platform.

Several examples of Langendijk’s work are part of the Royal Collection. The majority of them appear to present military scenes—a subject frequently depicted by the Dutch artist. He did, however, finish several city scenes such as this one and also was known for his romantic genre paintings.

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...

Poke your fingers in my eyes to open wide my jaws and fuel my greedy lust.

And, the answer is...


This was a weird one, I know.  You all gave brave and ingenious answers and I am duly proud, as is Mr. Punch.  Come back next Friday 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.  

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 43

Chapter 43

"Auntie Morgana?"  Lennie entered the Vermillion Suite after knocking,  "Are you awake?"

"Y...yes."  Morgana answered.

"Were you able to rest?"  Lennie asked.

Morgana nodded.

"I'm glad, Auntie."

Morgana looked up emotionally.

"Is something troubling you?"  Lennie asked.

"No, no.  Just having you...hearing you call me, 'Auntie.'  I...I am...everyone has been kind.  I am not used to it.  To think that you would like to call me 'Auntie.'"

"Well, you are my auntie,"  Lennie smiled.  "And, I'm most pleased to have an auntie.  In this last year, I've discovered a brother I never knew I had, a nephew, and, well...I think of Robert as a brother, too."

"I suppose you must."  Morgana nodded.  "They are married people Punch and Robert, are they?"

"They are."  Lennie smiled.

"This is not something...not something of...of which people approve?  Is it?"

"No, not generally, though I can't think why."  Lennie replied.  

"Nor can I."  Morgana sighed.  "People don't approve of me either."

"I can't imagine why they don't approve of you either, Auntie."  Lennie patted Morgana's pincer.

Morgana wept happily again.

"To be honest with you, people don't generally approve of me.  I was born of a noblewoman and a groundsman--illegitimately.  When Punch discovered my existence he gave me his family name, Molliner, in order to give me some legitimacy.  Furthermore, because of his friendship with the Crown, I was created Lady Fallbridge.  In fact, Her Majesty created Robert a Baron to show her approval of his union with Punch.  It's all because of our dear Punch that we're accepted at all."  Lennie explained.

"I was illegitimate, too."  Morgana nodded.  

"All the more reason that you and I should be close."  Lennie smiled.  "And, all the more reason that our Mr. Punch will fight to see that you are looked on with favor and with respect."

"He is a fine gentleman...a good man."

"Yes.  A man who has had much struggle in his life."  Lennie replied.  "He knows how it feels to be different."

"Because he loves a man and not a woman?"  Morgana asked.

"That, and for other reasons."  Lennie replied.

"Because he is named for a puppet?"

Lennie laughed.

"Why is he named for a puppet?  Did my sister name him for a puppet?"

"No, she named him 'Julian.'  He...named himself 'Punch.'"

"I like that better than Julian."  Morgana smiled.  "He...he was clever to do it.  But, why?"

"It's a very complicated thing, Auntie.  I shall let him and Robert explain it to you one day.  Today, we wish for you to rest and be well-fed and taken care of.  Which is why I've come up to see you.  The boys--that is Punch and Robert--have taken on Jackson's pantry to see what horrors the old boy left behind..."

"They...they are many, I'm sure..."  Morgana shuddered.

"No doubt."  Lennie nodded.  "I joined them for awhile, but I found there to be a peculiar smell in there, and it rather overpowered me after a spell.  So, I decided I'd much rather visit with you.  There are some things which we need to address."


"Yes, to begin with...your wardrobe."


"I don't suppose you have much of one."

"No."  Morgana shook her head.  " shift."

"What of shoes?"

"I have none."

"You have no shoes!"  Lennie exclaimed.

"You've seen my leg."  Morgana looked away, ashamed.

"Nonetheless, you must have shoes of some sort.  You'll be much more comfortable, Auntie." Lennie said gently.  "We shall sort something out.  As for breakfast today, I thought you could wear one of my tea dresses.  They're very loose and I think they'll accommodate your particular figure."


"Yes."  Lennie nodded.


"Mr. Punch and Robert thought you'd like to take your meals with the rest of the family."

"I...I...couldn't...I couldn't let you see me...I couldn't...let you see me eat."

"Why not?"

She held up her pincers.  "I...I can't hold...It's...I'm..."  She shook her head.  "I can't let you see me eat."

"Auntie, we would not..."

"I know, I believe you are all very kind and loving.  But, but...I would be..."  

"I understand."  Lennie smiled.  "Still, we're going to have to have a wardrobe prepared for you.  I thought you might not like seeing a dressmaker..."

"Oh, no!"

"So, I was thinking...our governess, Gamilla..."

"Gamilla, oh, I know her..."

"You do?"

"Oh, yes.  She came to visit me.  She's so very pretty.  So very, very pretty.  She's so kind and sweet.  She came to see me and sat with me and smiled.  She is going to come back to see me later."

"I'm glad."

"She couldn't stay long.  She said her husband would worry if she was gone long because she is with child.  Isn't that...isn't that...sweet?"  Morgana smiled.  "I liked her so much.  She said she was going to be my friend."

"You could not ask for a finer friend.  I consider her a friend as well.  Perhaps my dearest outside of the family.  She and Violet."

"She put her hands on me so gently and whispered something sweet and when she did, I felt so peaceful."  Morgana continued.  "She...she...she is a special woman.  So pretty."

"Well, then, you wouldn't mind if she helped to measure you for some dresses?"

"No."  Morgana answered.  "I wouldn't mind."

"You see, when my brother and Robert met Gamilla in America, they met a friend of hers, a powerful and brave woman named Marjani who is a very talented maker of fine textiles.  She taught Gamilla much about making gowns.  Gamilla and Violet could make patterns which we could take to the dressmaker in the village, and then, we could have a new wardrobe made for you."

"For...for me?"  Morgana's eyes widened.  "A wardrobe of dresses?"

"Yes."  Lennie nodded.  "Pretty, comfortable dresses.  Dresses which will make you feel beautiful because you are beautiful.  Dresses which will allow you to join the rest of the family whenever you like, wherever you like."

Morgana's eyes filled with tears again, happy tears.  "Could it be true?"

"Oh, yes, it's true."  Lennie nodded.  "Look at me, Auntie."  She stood up.  "What do you see?"

"I see...I see a pretty girl with dark blonde hair in a light green gown...with pearl earrings and a necklace of green stones which glitter...and pearls and gold."

"Only months ago, I was in rags, cleaning the blood and sick of people who loathed me."  Lennie sighed.  "Now, I am Lady Fallbridge.  Now, I am to be wed to an Earl.  Now, I am a beloved sister and an Aunt and, now, a niece.  My dear Morgana, anything can happen."

Lennie removed a lace handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped Morgana's cheeks.  "With your permission," she continued, "I shall send Violet in to help you fix your hair and she and I will assist you with the tea gown I mentioned earlier.  You needn't come down for breakfast. I'll ask Mrs. Pepper to prepare a tray for you.  However, I think you should get dressed.  You'll feel better.  And, you can eat in your sitting room.  Gamilla will visit you once she's gotten Colin settled and, Punch, Robert and I will visit you after breakfast.  My fiance is arriving this afternoon.  So, I may be busy around teatime, but I shall never be far off and will make a point to check on you throughout the day."

"I don't know what to make of all this...this...this kindness.  I've never...I'm not accustomed to..."

"Auntie..."  Lennie smiled.  "Just rest.  Violet will be in shortly, and I'll be back with the tea gown."

She turned to leave, and paused.  "Oh!  And, this afternoon, if you like, Mr. Punch mentioned something about a puppet show."

"Puppet show?"  Morgana's eyes widened excitedly.

"Yes, Robert's brother is a sculptor and crafted Punch a lovely set of puppets which, of course, he brought with us from London.  My brother delights in performing puppet shows for his son, and, he thought you might enjoy coming to the nursery this afternoon to watch."

"Could I?"

"You've been invited."  Lennie nodded.

"I'd like to see the baby."  Morgana grinned.  "But, I won't hold him.  I'll look at him.  That's for the best.  Yes, that's for the best.  Don't you think?  I think that's for the best.  Yes.  Don't you?"

Lennie thought for a moment.  "Well...yes, I think so."

"Oh, but, a puppet show.  How nice!  And, to see a baby.  How lovely!"

Lennie smiled.  "You know something, Auntie?"


"Everyone has always told me how beautiful my mother was.  I think they were wrong.  Looking at you just now, clearly, you are the more beautiful sister."

Did you miss Chapters 1-42 of A Recipe for Punch.  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 44.  

Print of the Day: Picturesque Etchings and Other Rural Studies, 1792

Picturesque Etchings and Other Rural Studies
Thomas Rowlandson, 1792
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Every so often, as I've said before, the Royal Collection exhibits something that's not been seen in a very long time, and, in some cases, centuries.  I was excited to see this etching by Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), a favorite Georgian-era artist of mine, especially since it also touches on one of my favorite subjects.

The hand-colored etching was published in 1792 and depicts a series of seven vignettes of the sorts of people and places which were common to every day life in London at the time.  We see ladies being assisted from their carriage by a Navy Man, a rather stout vicar on horseback, a Punch and Judy show (hooray!), rowers, an assembly of horses, fishermen and a group of soldiers and civilians drinking.

It's hard to say when the print came into the Royal Collection, but it's only recently popped up in the archives.

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

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Masquerading, 1811

English, 1811
After Rowlandson
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Today, I happened upon an item in the Royal Collection which was new to me, and, since it is "Punch" Friday, I thought I would start with this colorful chromolithograph.

Printed after Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), the print, published on August 30, 1811, depicts a fancy dress ball. Amongst the revelers, we see a lady magician complete with wand and spell-book, a lass dressed as a lad, and another as Janus, half male and half female. But, center stage, we see Punchinello, and, that always makes for a good party.

And, now, for the amusement of myself and other Phantom-folks...

Why so silent, good messieurs?
Did you think that I had left you for good?
Have you missed me, good messieurs?
I have written you an opera!
Here I bring the finished score -
"Don Juan Triumphant!"
I advise you
to comply -
my instructions
should be clear -
there are worse things
than a shattered chandelier . . .

Your chains are still mine -
you will sing for me!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Model Behavio(u)r

"That's it, lady.  You're not paying me enough to take my bandana off."

Image:  Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840), Creator: Peter Edward Stroehling (1768-c. 1826) (artist), Creation Date: Inscribed 1807, Materials: Oil on copper, Acquirer: George IV, King of the United Kingdom (1762-1830), Provenance: Painted for George IV.

Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection via The Royal Collection Trust.  Original image courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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

To learn more about this beautiful jewel of a painting, visit its entry in the catalog of The Royal Collection.

Start of 2014 on the right four feet.

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.