Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Sparkle: The Hilliard Locket, 1610

English, 1610
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This small circular locket is decorated with opaque and translucent enamel and houses miniatures from the studio of Nicholas Hilliard. One shows James I, King of England (ruled 1603-1625), and, the other, Noah's Ark. The portrait of James I is based on an earlier work by Hilliard, painted around 1605, which is now at Windsor Castle.

Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) was the most notable miniature painter of his day. He was trained as a goldsmith and is known to have worked on a jewel for Edward Seymour, 2nd Earl of Hertford (died 1621) and to have designed a Great Seal for Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603). 

Mastery of Design: The Heneage Jewel, c. 1595

The Heneage Jewel
Circa 1595
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Known both as the Heneage Jewel and "The Armada Jewel,"  this glorious locket of enameled gold is set with table-cut diamonds and Burmese rubies.  The obverse displays a bust of gold under rock crystal depicting Elizabeth I.  This depiction is apparently an early version of the Garter Badge, which, alone dates to about 1585.

The inside of the locket is set with a miniature of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) painted by Nicholas Hilliard.

Meanwhile, the hinged reverse of the locket is enameled with the Ark of the English Church on a storm-chopped sea--representing the Protestant church steered by Elizabeth through religious turmoil. The interior of the reverse is enameled with a Tudor rose encircled by leaves.

Tradition tells us that the  jewel was given by the queen to Sir Thomas Heneage, a Privy Counsellor and Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.  The important jewel remained in the possession of the Heneage family until 1902. 

Often, the jewel is referred to as the "Armada Jewel," though it was probably made in about 1595, some seven years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. 

The jewel is inscribed in Latin:

(Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland)

(peaceful through the fierce waves) 

'Hei mihi quod tanto virtus perfusa decore non habet eternos inviolata dies' 
(Alas, that so much virtue suffused with beauty should not last for ever inviolate)

Sculpture of the Day: Bust of Tsar Alexander III, 1900

Bust of Tsar Alexander III
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII (1844-1925), acquired this bust by Fabergé of Tsar Alexander III. The miniature bust, dating to 1900, is carved of smoky quartz and mounted on a column of nephrite applied with the imperial double-headed eagle. Obviously, the portrait was created after the Tsar’s death in 1894.

The piece was central to Queen Alexandra’s collection of Fabergé miniatures. Her Majesty was the Tsar’s sister-in-law. It’s possible that the bust was a gift to her from the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.

Another bust of Alexander III, cast in gold, was included as the “surprise” inside Fabergé’s Alexander III Commemorative Egg, given to Maria Feodorovna at Easter 1909 by Tsar Nicholas II.

The Tsar and Tsarina frequently visited with their British royal relations, showing close dynastic ties, in England, Russia or Denmark. Queen Victoria recorded such a visit paid by Alexander III (then the Tsarevich) and Maria Feodorovna (Minny) in her Journal on July 1, 1873:

“The Csarevitch led me in [to dinner], as 36 years ago his Grandfather, the Emperor Nicholas had done. He is very goodnatured. I wore the Russian order, & sat between him & Minny.” 

Victoria is said to have mourned deeply when she received word from the new Tsar Nicholas II, that his father, Alexander II, had died. He wrote “dearest beloved father has been taken from us. He gently went to sleep.”

Painting of the Day: Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia, in Repose, 1855

Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia
Watercolor on Ivory, 1855
H.P. Heidemanns
The Royal Collection

Well, by “repose,” I suppose I mean, “dead.” This rather grim miniature was painted in watercolor on ivory in 1855, the year of Emperor Nicholas I’s death. The usually sturdy Russian leader caught a chill during the Crimean War and ignored it, continuing his strenuous work schedule. He developed pneumonia and died.

Queen Victoria purchased the miniature in 1879. Most likely her interest in the object stemmed from her ongoing feelings of guilt about the Crimean War. Despite its somber subject matter, it’s a lovely little painting from the hand of Henri Philippe Heidemanns.

Masterpiece of the Week: A Mosaic of Nicholas I, Czar of Russia, 1828

Tsar Nicholas I
Glass Mosaic, c. 1828
Michelangelo Barberi
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Composed of glass tesserae, this bust portrait depicts Nicholas I, Czar of Russia in military uniform.  This mosaic was made in the traditional Italian style in Rome around 1828 by Michelangelo Barberi (1787-1867).  

Gifts of Grandeur: The Grand Duchess Olga Gold Casket, 1800-1850

Gilt Bronze and Micromosaic Jewel Casket
St. Petersburg, 1800-1850
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Collection

Tsar Paul I (reigned 1796-1801) built Gatchina Priory, south of St. Petersburg, commissioning the monumental structure in the Gothic style which he favored. This jewel casket exhibits a similar style. It’s believed that the casket (made either in Rome or St. Petersburg) was created for the Grand Duchess Olga (1822-92), the daughter of Tsar Nicholas I.

The casket is constructed of gilt bronze with relief friezes of intricate archways, each interrupted by a central oval. Many of the oval medallions have been inset with micromosaics of putti in the act of play. The jewel case’s top section is adorned with a relief of arcs, arches and fleurs-de-lis set against foliage. At the center of the lid, a rectangular mosaic has been set. This intricate scene depicts the Gatchina Priory nestled into a lush landscape.

Made between 1800 and 1850, the casket is thought to be the work of Georgi Ferdinand Wekler, considered one of the foremost mosaicists of his day. The box is now part of the Gilbert Collection at the V&A.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Pendant with a Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I, 1585-1600

Pendant with Portrait of
Queen Elizabeth I
Nicholas Hilliard, 1585
Case, 1600
Gold, Enamel, Rubies, Diamond
The Royal Collection
Within this small case of gold, enamel, rubies and an old table-cut diamond, lies an unexpected treasure. The case was constructed in 1600 expressly to house this miniature portrait of Elizabeth I which had been painted fifteen years earlier.

The painting on ivory was created by Nicholas Hilliard presumably to be eventually set into an item of jewelry. Elizabeth I was fond of giving lavish gifts of jewelry which often featured her image. No doubt, this was one of them. To whom she made the gift is uncertain, however, in the Nineteenth Century, the pendant was sold to the jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell who quickly sold it to King George IV in 1816.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mastery of Design: The David Thomas Necklace and Chain, 1967-8

Pendant/Brooch and Chain
David Thomas, 1967-8
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In 1960s London, fashions were changing in dynamic and dramatic new ways.
 This contemporary style found its way to the world of jewelry as well and launched a visual philosophy amongst modern jewelers which focused on asymmetrical contours, splintered surfaces, textured gold and unusual gemstones often left rough or in crystal form.

One of the most prominent proponents of this new London style was David Thomas (born 1938).  Thomas studied at Twickenham School of Art and the Royal College of Art, and was one of the several innovative young jewelers who were included in the “International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890-1961”held at Goldsmiths' Hall in 1961.

This magnificent necklace was commissioned from him by the celebrated model Ann Mollo, who is pictured wearing this pendant as a brooch in her portrait of 1969 by photographer Michael Seymour in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

We can see Thomas’ aesthetic with this pendant with a raised central cluster of irregular topaz crystals.
  From these radiate individually-applied gold wires, some with granular decoration, which are scattered among narrow rectangular garnets.

On the back of the pendant is a hook to attach the chain, and, also, a pin allowing the piece to be worn as a brooch. The chain is comprised of long alternating links in two distinct patterns.

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 walks all day on its head?

And, the answer is...

A shoe nail!

As usual, you all came up with some much more clever answers than the real answer.  Come back for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles on an upcoming Friday!

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.  

Mr. Punch in the Arts: “Sonnet to Punch,” circa 1796

One of Bryan Clarke's
exquisite hand-made
Mr. Punch figures based on
the designs of Piccini as
illustrated by
George Cruikshank.
Sonnet to Punch
Triumphant Punch! with joy I follow thee
   Thro’ the glad progress of thy wanton course;
   Where life is painted with such truth and force,
It’s equal on our stage we never see.
Whether thou kill’st thy wife with jolly glee,
   Hurl’st thy sweet babe away without remorse,
   Mount’st, and art quickly thrown from thy horse,
Or dance with “pretty Poll,” so fair and free;
   Having first slain with just disdain her sire,
   Deaf to music of thy sheep-bell lyre:
Who loves not music, is not fit to live!
   Then, when the hangman comes, who can refuse
   To laugh, when thou his head into the noose
Hast nimbly thrust, while he gets no reprieve?
             Who feigns to grieve
Though goest unpunish’d in the fiend’s despite,
And slay’st him too, is but a hypocrite.
             ‘Tis such a delight
To see thee cudgel his black carcase antique,
For very rapture I am almost frantic.

Scholars of literature, theatre and puppetry have long debated the author of this sonnet which appeared for the first time circa 1796. Though some disagree, it is believed to have been written—in the Italian style—by Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron). Regardless of the author, it’s a very clever poem and one that neatly summarizes the character of our dear Mr. Punch.

Unusual Artifacts: Punch and Jack Ketch, the Hangman, 19th C.

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another hand-colored “magic lantern” glass slide from the set of twelve by Theobald & Co. This one depicts Mr. Punch in jail, being confronted by the hangman, Jack Ketch. It is number eleven in the set.

The following text accompanies the slide during a magic lantern show:

Punch: Oh dear, Mr. Hangman, I didn’t mean to do it, you wouldn’t hurt a poor old man like me. Take that nasty looking thing away, it makes me feel sick. I shan’t enjoy my dinner.

Hangman: Well, Mr. Punch, you deserve to be hanged, but I did hear this morning that the baby is getting better, and you may get off after all, but don’t you never go and do such a thing again. Now off you go quick, here comes the Bogie man.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 64

Chapter 64
A Lady Nonetheless

"Auntie," Lennie smiled as she poked her head into the Vermillion Suite.  "May I come in?"

"Oh, please do, Lennie."  Morgana brightened.

Lennie entered, twirling a bit to show off her gown.  "How do I look?"

Morgana gasped.  "Stunning.  Oh, my dear, just...just stunning.'re a delight in your springtime green.  Such a fine color on you.  You're so very pretty.  And those jewels..."

"The jewels and the gown are all owed to my very generous brother."  Lennie chuckled.

"Nevertheless, it is you who give them life."  Morgana smiled.

"So, I don't look like a woman who has just encountered the shade of her dead mother?"  Lennie sighed.

" at all."  Morgana shook her head.

"Matthew's just in his rooms."  Lennie sat on the bed next to her aunt.  "You know, Auntie, I find that I'm rather excited to have him here."

"Of course you are.  You are to be wed."  Morgana nodded.

"I'm fond of Matthew.  Truly.  Yet, I do not tend to become excited by his visits.  Not typically.  Perhaps after the horrors of this morning, the idea of anything more pleasant is appealing."

"You do your young man an injustice."   Morgana shook her head.

"That's just it, Auntie.  He's not a particularly young man."  Lennie replied.  "Not that I am aglow with the dew of youth either.  However, he is...well, he's a good deal older.   Perhaps that's why my feelings for him are, at times, avuncular."

"Give it time, my dear."  Morgana replied.  She smiled.  "Oh, you do look so pretty.  How I wish you were my very own daughter."

Lennie looked fondly at her aunt.  "In a way, I am."  She leaned in.  "This is why I very much want you to meet Matthew."  She paused to raise her hand.  "Now, before you say that you cannot, Punch and Robert have already told Matthew about you..."

"Oh dear, whatever did he say?"  Morgana blushed.

"At first, he was slightly taken aback.  I will be honest with you."

"Of course."  Morgana nodded.

"However,"  Lennie continued.  "The Earl of Cleaversworth, while not the most scintillating of men, is kind-hearted.  His world...until meeting our rather..."


"Yes,"  Lennie laughed, "until meeting our rather peculiar family, Matthew's world has been rather narrow.  Still, he's willing to accept and learn new things to which, perhaps, before he would have closed his eyes."

"That's because he loves you."  Morgana responded.

"No, I think that owes more to my brother's influence."

"As charming as our Punch is, it is not his influence which sways your fiance.  Still, I cannot meet him."  Morgana replied.

"Auntie,"  Lennie began.

" dear."  Morgana shook her head.  "On this I must remain firm."

"I'm not asking you to leave your room.  You may stay in your bed.  I shall bring him to you. Once your wardrobe is prepared, then, you can go out more.  And, when we have solved the issue of shoes for you..."


"Auntie Morgana, I have no mother.  You've said just now that you wished I was your own daughter.  Please."

"Darling girl, I am a monster."  Morgana began to cry.

"The woman who bore me was a monster."  Lennie answered firmly.  "You are a kind-hearted woman whose hands and leg happen to differ from everyone elses'.  In the hours I've known've been more of a mother to me than anyone who ever called herself 'mother' to me.  Auntie...perhaps I'm being selfish, but..."

"No,"  Morgana replied.  "It is I.  I am being selfish."  She sat up as regally as she could.  "Yes, my bring your Matthew to meet me whenever you like.  I am honored do so."

"Thank you, Auntie."  Lennie wiped her eyes.

Morgana nodded.  "No, dear.  Thank you."

"I shall go down to the drawing room.  That's where we're to meet.  After awhile, I'll bring him up to meet you."  Lennie rose and hurried to the door.  "I'm terribly thrilled."

"I'm glad."  Morgana answered.

"I will see you shortly."  Lennie waved as she left.

Morgana sank into her pillows and looked around her rooms, hoping to spot something which would calm her increasing nervousness.

"Pity they didn't leave the Jar of Heads for me."  She muttered.  "No, no."  She said to yourself.  "You're not in a Curiosities Show anymore.  You mustn't think such things anymore.  You're a proper lady.  A lady with pincers, but a lady nonetheless."

Did you miss Chapters 1-63 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back Monday for Chapter 65.

The Art of Play: Mr. Punch's Gallows, c. 1900

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Anyone familiar with the traditional Punch & Judy shows knows that among Punchinello's many tribulations is a battle with Jack Ketch, the hangman wherein our hero pleads, "Please don't hang me."  Well, the puppet character of Jack Ketch does not hang Mr. Punch; instead, he is hanged by Punch upon his own gallows.

And, here's such a gallows.

This is a property for a Punch and Judy show which was owned, and presumably operated by Will Judge (1882-1960), who was, as I've written before, billed variously as "the Norfolk Comedian" and a "Refined Comedian and Patterer."  Again, this is curious as Judge was famed for his Panto Dame roles, but is not ever recorded as being a Punch and Judy man.  Oddly enough, he had a fully formed set of Punch & Judy puppets and props which were donated to the V&A by Judge's son.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Fred Tickner’s “Hangman” from Punch & Judy, 1975

Jack Ketch
Fred Tickner, 1875
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another puppet by the great Punch & Judy man and puppet maker, Fred Tickner. From his group made in 1975, we see “Jack Ketch, the hangman.” 

This puppet comes with his wooden gallows and rope. A glove puppet, jack features a hand-carved and painted face and hands. His head is adorned with brown artificial fur hair. Jack’s character is immediately recognizable. Fred Tickner had a mastery of representing the personalities of his characters. His celebrated work continues to influence puppet makers to this day. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: King of Pressure

"I told you.  I called dibs on the chair."

Image:  Frederick II, King of Prussia (1712-86), Creator: Charles-Amédée-Philippe van Loo (1719-95) (artist), Creation Date: 1769, Materials: Oil on canvas, Provenance: First recorded at Carlton House in 1816.

Crown Copyright.  The Royal Collection.  Image Via The Royal Collection Trust and Courtesy of Her Majesty of Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this painting, visit its official entry in the catalog of The Royal Collection Trust.

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.