Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Castellani Helios Brooch, c. 1860

This and all related images from The British Museum.

This gold brooch, from The British Museum's Hull-Grundy collection, comes from the Italian Castellani workshop and dates to between 1860 and 1870.  Castellani looked to then-recent archeological discoveries for inspiration and this brooch is an ideal representation of that passion for the past.

The jewel depicts Helios, a Roman sun god, with a mask cast in relief and enameled eyes.  Fine granulation in rows represent the god's hair and rays of light emanate from his head in the form of twisted gold wires. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Pugin Headband, 1848

A.W.N. Pugin, 1848
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We have previously looked at a brooch which comprises partof this suite by famed architect (of Palace of Westminster fame) A.W.N. Pugin. Let’s, now, take a look at another piece from this same parure dating to 1848.

Designed by Pugin and made in Birmingham, this headband of enameled gold is set with a ruby, brilliant-cut diamonds, turquoises and pearls, and is one of the few, rare pieces of jewelry designed by the architect. Like the other pieces in the larger parure (suite) of jewels, the headband is created in the Gothic style that Pugin favored. Pugin was inspired by medieval ecclesiastical decoration in almost everything he set his mind to.

The headband bears the inscription “CHRISTI CRUX EST MEA LUX” (Christ's cross is my [guiding] light). Pugin designed this suite of jewels for the lady he proposed to make his third wife, but that marriage was not to be. A few months later, he met and married Jane Knill and offered the parure to her. The new Mrs. Pugin allowed for the suite to be shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London as part of the Medieval Court.

Film of the Week: Light in the Piazza, 1962

Meg Johnson—the wife of a wealthy American executive—has taken her twenty-six year old daughter, Clara, on holiday to Italy. Clara, a delicate blonde seems like any other young American girl, at first. She’s delighted by the sights and smells of Italy, has a love for dogs and babies and is attracted to the dark-haired gents who find her appealing. On closer inspection, there is something a little different about Clara. He mother seems overly protective of the young woman who does, in fact, seem a little more innocent than most, a little more naive.
Meg has good reason to be protective of Clara. As a child, Clara suffered severe injuries in an accident and, as a result, is severely brain-damaged. While quite functional, Clara has the mental age of a small child. So, when a handsome Italian man named Fabrizio takes a fancy to Clara, Meg is rightfully concerned. As much as Meg tries to avoid Fabrizio, he keeps showing up with small tokens of affection for Clara and offers to show them the beauty of Italy.
Despite Meg’s concerns, Fabrizio and Clara fall in love. Soon, Meg has a difficult choice to make. Should she put a stop to the romance? Should she tell Fabrizio and his well-meaning family that her daughter is “different”? Of course, Meg’s husband has a lot to say on the subject—as does Clara herself. Eventually, Meg makes a decision, but is her choice the right one?

Based on the 1960 novella of the same name by Elizabeth Spencer, Light in the Piazzastars Olivia de Havilland as Meg Johnson, Yvette Mimieux as Clara and a young, remarkably un-leathery George Hamilton as Fabrizio. Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Guy Green for MGM, this beautifully photographed film has long been a fan favorite as well as a source of inspiration for many people facing equally difficult romantic choices. In 2003, the novel and film were adapted into a musical which won a Tony Award in 2005. 

History's Runway: A Boating Suit, 1890-1900

Gentleman's Boating Suit
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Light-colored suits such as the one pictured above became fashionable for gents from the 1890s. Matching coats, trousers and waistcoats (these were known as “dittos”) in pin-striped flannel were acceptable casual dress for summer sports and holidays. An outfit like this was often completed with a straw boater hat. I would like to dress this way, I think. But, people might stare.

Cricket, tennis and rowing were very fashionable seaside pursuits during the summer. Suits like this would have been perfect for these events. Since social conventions were relaxing a tad during the end of the Nineteenth Century, a gentleman only had to sweat through these light layers instead of the usual heavy, dark wool outfit he’d previously have been forced to wear. One gentlemen's etiquette book, “Manners for Men,” by Mrs. Humphry (known as “Madge of Truth”) was published in 1897. In it, Mrs. Humprhry writes that:

'There are special suits for all kinds of outdoor amusements, such as shooting, golfing, tennis, boating, driving, riding, bicycling, fishing, hunting, &c., but into the details of these it is unnecessary to enter. It may be remarked, however, that it is easy to stultify the whole effect of these, however perfectly they may be built 'by the tailor' by the addition of a single incongruous article of attire; such as a silk hat or patent boots with a shooting-suit.'

The example that we see here was made between 1890-1900 by an unknown English tailor and consists of cream wool with blue pinstripe. It is both hand- and machine-sewn.

Painting of the Day: Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room, 1658

Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room
Pieter de Hooch, 1658
Acquired by King George IV
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Pieter de Hooch (Rotterdam 1629-Amsterdam 1684), the great Dutch master produced this painting in 1658. Typical of Dutch painting of the era, and also demonstrative of de Hooch’s body of work, the finely rendered composition gives us a glimpse at an interior scene frozen in time.

The piece was acquired by King George IV (1762-1830) in 1825. The painting is notable because it’s illustrative of that brief moment in time when de Hooch and Vermeer were working simultaneously on similar subjects. While similar in approach and style, the two artists—when comparing respective works of this same year—clearly tackled their pieces with different spirits.

De Hooch’s masterful exploration of the quality of light is evident here. The fall of the filtered light on the detailed floor almost gives the composition a sense of being a landscape. This comparison is reinforced by the presence of a landscape on the wall.

This is one of two de Hooch paintings which were recorded in the inventory of King George IV’s personal residence, Carlton House. 

At the Music Hall: Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, 1910

Meet me tonight in dreamland,
Under the silv'ry moon.
Meet me tonight in dreamland,
Where love's sweet roses bloom.

Come with the love light gleaming
In your dear eyes of blue.
Meet me in dreamland,
Sweet, dreamy dreamland,
There let my dreams come true.

Meet me tonight in dreamland,
Under the silv'ry moon.
Meet me tonight in dreamland,
Where love's sweet roses bloom.

Come with the love light gleaming
In you dear eyes of blue.
Meet me in dreamland,
Sweet, dreamy dreamland,
There let my dreams come true.

This popular song ranked at the very top of the charts in November 1910. Popularized by singer Reine Davies, the song was a resounding success.  Davies was known as "The New American Beauty.”  Others of you may better know the song as sung by another American beauty--Judy Garland in the 1949 movie, "In the Good Old Summertime.”   

A waltz, with emotionally-chared lyrics, the song was written by Beth Slater Whitson and Leo Friedman who saw it published in Chicago in 1909. Friedman and Whitson sold the rights to the song to the largest publisher in Chicago, Will Rossiter. 

An enduring favorite, “ Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland” will forever be connected, mistakenly, with the opening of Coney Island's Dreamland.  Coney Island’s Dreamland opened in 1904, five years before the song was written.  However, the location adopted the song as its own and many a crowd was known to have filled the air of Coney Island with the poignant lyrics.  

Object of the Day: A Model Form

This is certainly one of the most clever trade cards in my collection. It’s a testimonial to the ingenuity of Victorian advertisers. The card for corsets boasts a lovely chromolithograph of a smartly dressed lady of the 1880s. After all, she has a “model form.” But, there’s more to it than that. You’ll notice that the card asks us to “Hold to light and see how she acquired it.”

And, when you do, you see the poor lass’ undergarments. She opens her eyes in shock as you gaze at her foundation.

It’s a simple trick really. On the reverse, printed, in reverse, is the image that we’re seeing when we hold it up to the light. Simple though it may be, it’s really quite ingenious and a sneaky way of showing off the product. I’d also like to point out that this card was overprinted by a retailer of the corsets—our friends at the 
Bee Hive Store.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Castellani Peace Necklace, 1870

The V&A
Micromosaic and gold necklace
Castellani, 1870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Roman jewelry company of Castellani is considered as one of the first and finest makers of jewelry based on various ancient styles which had been uncovered through then-recent archaeological findings.

Alessandro Castellani remarked upon the firm’s introduction of micromosaic jewelry based on archaeological finds:  "At the time when we took up the subject the greater number of those who followed the occupation of working in mosaic at Rome were almost unemployed; […] We therefore applied mosaics to classical jewellery, imitating at first the antique scenic masks, and many Greek and Latin inscriptions, and our designs were very soon copied elsewhere."

This necklace of gold, made in 1870, shows Castellani’s fine micromosaic work with its woven chain of diverse-shaped pendants matching on each side. The medallions are arranged symmetrically on the chain and depict various symbols of peace, starting at hook clasp: a cherub, doves of peace, two crosses, another cherub and the Christian chi-rho motif; the central pendant with Cupid. The large pendants are hung with smaller pendants which show: roses, christian symbols, flowers, bunches of grapes and the moon and sun.

This necklace is part of an import parure which was once owned by Rosalinde Gilbert who, along with her husband, Sir Arthur, donated this suite along with their impressive collection of gems, gold, snuffboxes, enamels, portrait miniatures and other assorted treasures to the V&A.  

Gifts of Grandeur: The Punch Tobacco Box, 1880

The Victoria & Albert Museum

It makes sense that Punch would adorn a tobacco box. Many smoking-related items featured Mr. Punch. What I find rather strange is the fact that the lid of this German porcelain and enamel tobacco box depicts a child in a pram. I don’t tend to associate children with smoking. But, maybe that’s just me. Nevertheless, the little girl is a continuation of the theme of cherubic little ladies holding figures of Mr. Punch—symbols of both the angelic and the impish.

This box was made in Pössneck, Germany, ca. 1880 by the manufacturers of Conta and Boehme.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Enamel Punch Candlestick, 1755-60

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This delightful candlestick features a figure of Mr. Punch rendered in soft-paste porcelain which has been gilded and painted with enamels. Punch dances--his right foot raised as holds aloft a lantern in his right hand.

He is cheerfully dressed in a striped and floral-patterned jacket, flowered trousers, yellow shoes and a hat. The socket for the candle is formed from a swirl of leaves atop a stump with yellow and crimson applied flowers and details picked out in green.

Made between 1755 and 1760 by the Derby Porcelain factory (manufacturer), the modeling is the work of William Duesbury & Co.

A Recipe for Punch and the Treat of the Week

Hello again, all.  As regular readers know, I've had something of a hectic week and haven't kept up with the usual posting as well as usual.

So, lend me some patience once again as I've got too much on my plate.  Speaking of plates, we will have TWO Treats of the Week next week.  This week's is really great and I want to give it the write-up it deserves.

Similarly, we'll continue with "A Recipe for Punch" on Monday.  My apologies for being so slow this week.

Thanks for your patience.

Print of the Day: A Small Chromolithograph of Punch & Judy Show, 19th C.

Small color print from the V&A
Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s a wee bit of fun from the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive.  This small chromolithograph might actually have been made to be a stamp.  It depicts two children and a woman watching a Punch & Judy Show.  A jaunty red border makes it all the more charming.

This was printed in the late Nineteenth Century and is the work of an unknown artist.  

Now, here's some weirdness...

My friends at the V&A have concluded that this was, in fact, printed in England in the late Nineteenth Century.  Yes?  Well, on the reverse, written in pencil decades ago, someone has inscribed what appears to be "Swedish Match Box Label (Modern)."  I don't know why.  Apparently, they didn't know why either.  Surely they noticed this when they were writing the inventory number on it (again, I do wish they'd stop writing on things over there at the V&A).  

Another odd thing is that the Punch & Judy fit-up (booth) bears a sign in French reading "Theatre de Guigno(l),"  (the "l" is missing) in reference to Punch's French cousin.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Young Professor, Nineteenth Century

Chromolithograph after an unknown artist
Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I very much like this Nineteenth Century print of a beautiful drawing of a budding Punch professor. A young boy with a puppet booth carries a drum on his back. In front of him he walks his puppet, a marionette figure of Mr. Punch.

What’s interesting about this is that by the Nineteenth Century, most Punchinellos were glove puppets which were performed in the Victorian style fit-up which first comes to mind when we think of Punch & Judy. In fact, marionette Punch and Judy shows were a century out of vogue in the U.K. So, this was a sort of nod to the antique and that makes it all the more charming.

Of course, this is from the George Speaight Archive at the V&A.

The reverse shows a page from an album.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Old Flame

"I'm guessing your WiFi is down, too."

Image:  A Girl with a Candle Drawing aside a Curtain, Creator: Godfried Schalcken (Made 1643-The Hague 1706) (artist), Creation 
Date: c.1670,   Materials: Oil on panel, Acquirer: George IV, King of the United Kingdom (1762-1830), when Prince Regent (1811-20), Provenance: Purchased by George IV in 1819.

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

To learn more about Godfried Schalcken's masterpiece, visit the entry for this painting of an enchanting maiden in the online catalog of the Royal Collection Trust.

You could have some gratuitous Bertie Dog every day.  Just pop over to our online store to check out our exclusive Bertie Dog Designs.  

Mastery of Design: The Arthur King Brooch, c. 1970

Arthur King, c. 1970
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The abstract and sculptural jewels of the 1960s and 1970s tended to shy away from polished gold, introducing new textures which were created through the use of flame and heat. Furthermore, symmetrical cuts were out of fashion and jewelers played with new gemstone cuts and shapes. The work of Arthur King typified this modern spirit.

King taught himself the art of jewelry-making during the Second World War. His success in the U.S. spurred the opening of galleries in London, Paris, Miami and Cuba. His work was known for its irregular shapes, uncut and unpolished stones, unusual textures, unexpected color combinations and the use of scrap metal.

This abstract brooch of gnarled gold is scattered with diamonds. Made in 1970, it’s a perfect example of King’s design sensibilities. 

Unusual Artifacts: The Burnous of Napoleon I

Good morning, it's been a strange week from a scheduling standpoint.  Tomorrow, I thought we'd change things up a bit and have "The Treat of the Week" instead of a riddle.  Mr. Punch always enjoys a nice meal, so, it seemed fitting to have a food-related post on one of our "Punch Fridays."

In the meantime, let's continue our look at dramatic objects with this dandy little number created for a little dandy--Napoleon I.

Felt, Silver Thread, Silk
French, 1798
The Royal Collection

Napoleon I was not without his little affectations and he had a bit of a tendency toward theatrical dress. During his campaigns in Egypt, Napoleon I admired the North-African-style cloak known as the burnous and commissioned one to be made in his size. Napoleon was often seen wearing the flame-red cloak with its dramatic hood and embroidery.

The burnous was taken from Napoleon I’s carriage at the Battle of Waterloo and presented to King George IV as a symbol of victory. Since that time, this garment has been neatly preserved in the Royal Collection.

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

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

Bertie's Pet-itations: Scents and Sensibility

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:

Isn't it fun when we just go outside and smell the air?  I'm pretty sure you don't really sit and smell the air when you take me out and let me stay in the sunshine with you.  Still, I appreciate it that you let me do it, and that you ask me if I can smell anything good.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 75

Chapter 75

Georgie Pepper moaned as the light filtered through his eyelashes.

"Stay still, my boy."  An unctuous voice cooed.

He felt something cold and damp on his forehead.

Squinting, George tried to focus his eyes.  He felt a strange, bilious tickling in his guts, and coughed.

"Poor lad,"  The voice whispered.  "Don't hold it in."

Panting for breath, Georgie attempted to sit up, but found that he couldn't.  He groaned loudly.

"You're sick, my boy."  The man continued.  "You've made yourself sick with the devil's water.  The wages of sin, lad."

Forcing his eyes open all the way, George winced as the sunlight made his head both pound and spin.  The agony behind his eyes seemed tied with a thick rope which ran through his body and to his stomach--a great noose of pain and nausea which seemed to tighten.

"I'm going to help you," the man smiled.

"Who are you?"  George panted.

"I am Mr. Quick.  You're safe, lad, here in the vicarage."

"The vicar."  George muttered.  "Sir, I've got to get back to the Hall.  My mum...  They're all expectin' me."

"Lad, there's no hurry.  I've sent word to the great house.  Mr. Causer himself has gone to tell His Grace where you are.  By now, your mother has stopped her worrying.  She knows you're with me and that I'm looking after you."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite sure, young man."  Mr.  Quick murmured.

"What happened to me?"  George asked.

"Sin, lad.  Sin has happened to you.  You were tempted and you were weak.  And, now, I shall make you strong again."

"I'd like to go back to my mum, and to...Dr. Halifax...His Lordship is a doctor.  He can help me."  George argued though it hurt his head to do so.

"Do you really thing Lord Colinshire can help you?"  Mr. Quick chuckled.  "It's your soul which is sick, young man.  There's nothing that can do for that.  Only I can help you now."

George coughed.  He thought he heard a sound coming from a room behind them.

"Who is that?"  Georgie asked.

"My maid, lad.  She's prepared a tonic for you.  It'll help your body to recover from your sinful ways so that your soul can be made pure again."

"I'd rather...I want his Lordship.  He's a proper physician."

"There's nothing proper about Lord Colinshire.  Nor about His Grace, the Duke."  The vicar argued.  "You are in the proper place for you."  He leaned in.  "Now, let me help you sit up so you might take your tonic."

"I don't want it."  Georgie shook his head.  His irritation gave him strength and though he was still in agony, he rolled over and pushed himself up.  It was then that he saw that he'd been bound.  His feet were lashed together with rope.

"Don't make me tie your hands, boy."  Mr. Quick sighed.

"Why am I..."  Georgie began.  "I..."  He sputtered.  "You haven't told them anything.  No one at the house knows I'm here."

"Are  you doubting me?"  Mr. Quick growled.

"Yes...yes, I am!"  George yelped.

"I told you,"  Ivy Blessum cackled as she came forward from the back of the vicarage.  "They're all like this, the whole lot of them from London.  I knew he'd struggle."  She carried a beaker of a liquid so foul that George could smell it even from a distance.

"Mind yourself, Ivy.  I told you to stay in the kitchen."  Quick snapped.

"He'd have seen me soon enough."  Ivy barked.  "Now, if you would, vicar, hold his head whilst I pour this down his gullet."

"I did hope to do this more gently."  Mr. Quick muttered as he rose to restrain George.  Putting his arm around Georgie's throat, he immobilized the young man's head.  "There's no subtlety to anything you and Jackson so.  There's none of the hand of God in it."

"My dear vicar,"  Ivy laughed.  "God's hand is not in this.  You know as well as I do that the bargain we've made isn't with your Almighty."

Quick tightened his grip on George's throat.  "I know, but, it was different when it was just the monster that Jackson purchased from the curiosities show."

"She is called Morgana!"  Ivy snapped.

"You are a peculiar woman,"  Quick sighed.  "So eager to show sympathy for that deformed creature, and yet, here we have a perfectly healthy...and...very strong..."  He paused to catch his breath.  "Can't you show this boy a little of the compassion you've reserved for that beast?"

"I have no compassion for anyone!  Is that what you think?  Maybe it's true.  Maybe I can feel nothing."  Ivy shouted.  "Not even you, Quick.  I'll see you dead if I must.  My loyalty is to Pauline--the duchess--and to giving her life again.  This boy is nothing to me, nothing but a source of healthy skin!" 

She grabbed Georgie's face and pressed his cheeks together so his mouth would open.

George gasped and tried to fight, but the vicar's grasp on his neck was too strong.

"Drink up, little Pepper."  Ivy laughed as she poured the rancid liquid down his throat.  "If you were able, you'd thank me for this.  It'll take away all the pain."

She looked up at Mr. Quick.  "And, you say I have no compassion."

Did you miss Chapters 1-74 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 76.