Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Plaid Brooch, 1848

The Plaid Brooch
Commissioned by Prince Albert
Scotland, 1848
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A work of cairngorm (a form of quartz native to Scotland), gold, enamel, seed pearls and garnets, this handsome brooch is called “The Plaid Brooch.” It dates to about 1848 and was commissioned by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. The Prince Consort presented the brooch to his Royal wife in November 21, 1848. The cairngorm had been collected by Prince Albert himself while on a walk with the Queen at Lochnagar, the highest mountain near Balmoral, in September 1848.

The brooch was intended to record their bravery in attempting to climb the mountain, even in the most inclement weather and fog. Furthermore, it was meant as a gift to the Queen from Prince Albert to celebrate the birthday of Princess Victoria.

Saturday Sparkle: The Thistle Badge of the Prince of Wales

Thistle Badge
Blue-Grey and White Onyx,
Diamonds, Gold, Silver, Enamel
Miniature on Ivory
Originally made for King James II
The Royal Collection

The onyx cameo of St. Andrew set into this badge dates to the early Eighteenth Century and was originally carved as a garter badge for King James II. Over the centuries, the badge was altered considerably. Its present condition owes to a redesign from around 1764 when the reverse of the cameo was layered with an enamel design of a thistle. In 1772, a locket was embedded into the enamel. The locket housed a portrait miniature of Princess Louise.

There’s some debate about the origin of the opulent diamond mounting. Some records indicate that this garter jewel was set in a frame of large diamonds as early as 1703 with its presentation to King James II. However, other records show that the diamond mounting was added with the enamel backing in the mid-Eighteenth Century. It could be that the badge has had several settings though the cut and quality of the diamonds suggests creation in the Eighteenth Century.

In 1807, the Cardinal of York, bequeathed the Thistle Badge to the Prince of Wales. Later, the Thistle Badge (having become symbolic of Scotland) was displayed by King William IV as part of the “Honours of Scotland.”

Gifts of Grandeur: The Union of England and Scotland Box, 1707

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

Click image to enlarge.

A circular box of tortoiseshell, this object boasts a cover with concave sides inset with a silver medal of Queen Anne in profile to the left.  Her Majesty wears regalia and a crown.  The medallion is inscribed, "Anna Dei Gratia Mag. Britan Fra. et Hib. Regina."  

The box and medal were made to commemorate the union of England and Scotland in May of 1707.  The reverse of the medal depicts a figure of Britannia engraved "Novae Palladium Troiae."

King Edward VII (1841-1910) was presented with this treasure by a now unknown party in 1907.

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

Click image to enlarge.

The Home Beautiful: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Wallpaper, 1897

The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve seen other examples of wallpapers created expressly for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.  This is the most abstract and vibrantly-colored, indicative of the coming rise of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  

The design for the wallpaper depicts a crown, rose, thistle, shamrock and acanthus, in green, yellow and blue.
  This sample is signed in ink by C. F. A. Voysey. Architect. 23, York Place W.

Unfolding Pictures: The Sleeping Beauty Fan, 1888

The Sleeping Beauty Fan
Phoebe Traquair
Scotland, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By the 1880’s, hand fans were still fashionable, but they weren’t the social requirement that they were for ladies of the early Nineteenth Century. Fans continued to be made in huge numbers, and, varying materials and quality. Even by the end of the century, many ladies felt that their ensemble was incomplete without this comforting accessory.

Artists working in the then-growing Arts and Crafts style were always looking for new surfaces to adorn, and saw the fan leaf as unexplored territory for their stylistic movement. Among the most prolific of the Scottish Arts and Crafts designers was Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936) who is often considered the leader of the style in Scotland.

We’ve had a look at some of Traquair’s jewelry designs, and, they’re quite impressive. So, I thought it might be nice to look at a fan which features her painting. This fan leaf by Traquair depicts the story of the “Sleeping Beauty” and is distinguished by the artist’s celebrated dream-like style.

The silk leaf is painted with watercolors only on the obverse, with the reverse of the fan left natural. The Sleeping Beauty is being approached by Cupid as adolescent Pans cavort around her. The fanciful scene is typical of Traquair’s work. 

The fan itself, made in Edinburgh, features ivory sticks and guards. 

Unusual Artifacts: Italian Silk Velvet Woven with Metallic Threads, 1450-1500

The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the late Medieval period, silk velvets were considered the most luxurious textiles—the stuff of courtiers and clergymen throughout Europe. By the Fifteenth Century, the most elegant silk velvets were produced in Italy as Italian weavers grew more proficient in producing more complex designs incorporating colored silks and gold threads.

This Italian example, made between 1450 and 1500, is considered a traditional “pomegranate pattern”, but it more closely resembles a thistle than it does a pomegranate. The center motif is outlined in dark emerald green, filled in with gold, and peppered with deep red “seeds.” This is surrounded by gold leaves, and green flowers, within a wine-colored trefoil shape.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for Blood Bitters

Click on image to enlarge.

Burdock Blood Bitters. That sounds tasty. It wasn’t made of blood. It wasn’t made by someone named Burdock. Apparently, this medicinal elixir was made from a type of thistle called burdocks. Burdocks have been ground up for centuries and used in a suspension to calm the stomach. The practice was especially popular in monastic orders who, I suppose, have little else to do when not praying and baking bread. Blood Bitters were meant to cleanse the blood and to encourage intestinal health.

And, so, here’s another trade card from my collection. Printed by Coback and Company of Buffalo New York, I’d guess this card dates to the late 1870s. The front features a chromolithograph of a happy tot in a fine little outfit of turquoise velvet, a rough and cute little sash of gold and red silk. He even has little shoes and attractive pink socks.

I can’t help but be a little disturbed by the face that he’s making. I suppose that’s the face of a being with happy bowels. He holds aloft a bottle of Burdock Blood Bitters and he seems to be saying, “Look at this. This will please your bowels.”

Sadly, the reverse of the card is a little ruined after having been first glued into an album (which is really for what these cards were intended), and then, ripped out of said album a century later. On one hand, being in an album preserved this card for over a hundred years and allowed me to add it to my collection so I can preserve it even longer. However, it also compromised the integrity of the reverse printing.

Let’s see if we can’t make out some of it.

_________ on receipt of 3 ct _______ 
____________ & Co. Buffalo, N.Y. 

DON’T DO __ T 
     Don’t get married if you have dyspepsia _____
stomach are pretty sure to breed misery in __________
     DON’T attempt a big job of work with the __________
plaint, as ten to one you’ll fail.
     DON'T try to be a society favorite if you are bilious.
Sour folks are poor company.
     Don’t aspire to any high position in the world if you
are debilitated, nervous or weak. It is the strong and
tough who win.
     DON’T imagine that ______________ life if your bloos
is impoverished.
     DON’T labor to loo_______________ a case of scrofula
on your hands.
    DON’T malign t______________ you’ve no appetite.
Tone you your stomach ___________
     DON’T drag through _______ with any of the dis-
eases we have here _________ is a way to avoid it.
     DON’T forget that Burdock Blood Bitters cure dys-
pepsia, cure disorders of the liver and kidneys, cure
nervousness, biliousness, constipation, debility, any
disease of the blood.
     DON’T forget that Burdock Blood Bitters are whole-
some, economical, quick to relieve, thoroughly satis-
________, and can be obtained of any druggist ____. 

Well, that’s not scary at all. Very uplifting ad copy. Not at all like a demented scrofulous Mad-Lib.

Then, on the bottom, stamped crookedly in pink (which I suspect was once red), it reads:

Sold by A.L. Field, Druggist 
251 Thorndike St., Davis Corner 

Lowell, Mass. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

All Creatures Great and Small

As it's already past noon, and I've not gotten to the blog today, I think it would be wise to accept that other obligations are going to have to take priority on this late March Friday.

Bertie and his cat, Oscar, are laughing at me, muttering about "time management" and how silly human beings are.

Tomorrow and Sunday will be full of all sorts of nifty things for you to enjoy.  Today, however, I offer my warm wishes for a good weekend.

A Recipe for Punch will continue as usual on Monday, and do have some new, pretty old things lined up for your pleasure next week.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Can Do

"It IS exhausting.  I know."

Image:  An Old Woman Watering a Can of Pinks
Creator: Gerrit Dou (Leiden 1613-75) (artist), Creation Date: c.1660-65, Materials: Oil on panel, Acquirer: William III & II, King of Great Britain (1650-1702), when King of Great Britain, joint Sovereign with Mary II, Queen of Great Britain (1689-94), Provenance: First recorded at Kensington Palace in 1697; possibly acquired by William III

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 this masterpiece, visit the entry for this handsome genre painting  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: A Gold, Diamond and Enamel "Compass" Ring, c. 1850

The Victoria & Albert Museum

An enameled gold ring with an oval bezel, this piece features a hinged cover which is set with a pink sapphire in a border of rose-cut diamonds.  The center stone has mistakenly been identified as a ruby in previous records.  Nonetheless, a pink sapphire and a pale ruby are close cousins in the rock world.

Below the kinged cover is a compass dial.

The gold shoulders of the ring are adorned with volutes and strapwork.

The piece was possibly made in Germany circa 1850-1900.

History's Runway: The Harrods' Tassel Bag, 1790

This beautiful item had been collected by the Messrs Harrods Ltd. Who donated it to the Victoria & Albert Museum. This Bag or pocket features drawstrings and is embroidered with flowers coming out of a Grecian or Roman urn with a parrot motif in the center. It takes its name from the pink tassel and pink tassel string straps.

The bag is important historically in that it shows the transition between hidden pockets and the external reticule. Though it is embroidered for show and is closed with drawstrings, the bag still resembles a pocket.

Bertie's Pet-itations: Open Your Eyes

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:

People spend too much time looking for trouble and not enough time looking for fun.  There's more fun than trouble in the world if you just open your eyes.

A Recipe for Punch will Continue Tomorrow

Hi everyone.  Today has shaped up to be a busy day already.  So, I'll be posting the next chapter of A Recipe for Punch tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience.

The Home Beautiful: Pochoir Furnishing Fabric, 1925

Click on image to see a pink spaniel.
Furnishing Fabric, c. 1925
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Manchester, England, around 1925 by Tootal, Broadhurst, Lee & Co, this furnishing fabric was designed by George Sheringham. The repeat of the material depicts a couple attired in Eighteenth Century court costume. Their companion is a pink spaniel. 

Such fairytale-inspired scenes were popular in the 1920s. This one borrows its theme from a series of Italian fashion plates which were made by with pochoir stencils.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Vanier-Chardin Fan, 1690

Folding Fan with a Leather and Paper Leaf, Ivory sticks and guards and mother-of-pearl ornament.
French, 1690
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This folding fan was made in the late Seventeenth Century and depicts a domestic scene in the sort of pastoral setting which was fashionable at the time. Here, amongst a view of shepherds an aristocrats, we see a child who has been fitted with tapes from the shoulders. This was a way of keeping a child steady while he or she learned to walk.

Folding fans such as this one originated in Japan and were introduced to Europe in the second half of the Sixteenth Century. While the construction of such fans was adopted by Europeans, they did away with traditional Asian adornment in favor of the European styles of the time. Carving and painting skills specific to fan production soon developed and an entire industry thrived for centuries as a fan was an essential accessory in the formal dress of a wealthy woman.

A perfect example of the work of the era, this French fan is constructed with a leather leaf which as been painted with gouache. It features sticks of pierced ivory, with mother of pearl washers and a brass rivet. The reverse of the leaf is mounted with paper which has also been painted in gouache

The leaves each have a ground wash of silver, some of which is visible in the sky and on the ground in the scenes. The reverse is painted with roses, peonies and jasmine. The original fan box of imitation and pink silk survives.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Dreyfous Rose, Circa 1900

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

Click on image to enlarge.

Created by Dreyfous, a London jeweler once located at 128 Mount Street, this glittering masterpiece came into the Royal Collection by now unknown means.  Given their collecting habits and tastes, it's a safe bet that this figure of a lilac-pink rose was acquired by either Queen Mary, consort of King George V,  or her mother-in-law Queen Alexandra. 

The piece, made around 1900, depicts a three-dimensional rose and bud in yellow gold, and opaque enamels in graduated pinks, greens and yellows.  The enameled leaves are set with rose-cut diamond dew drops and the bloom is permanently presented in a handsome rock crystal vase.

History’s Runway: The John Cavanagh Orchid Gown, 1953

John Cavanagh, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Can you picture the young Queen Elizabeth II wearing this beautiful gown?  Here, we see an evening dress of brocaded silk with a design of semi-naturalistic orchids woven in oyster, pale-pink and green silk punctuated with gold threads. The gown has a heart-shaped, fitted bodice with two shoulder straps, and a semi-full skirt with a small train at the back.

This dessert-like creation is composes of two layers of fine silk which are separate except where they are joined together to form the design. Lines of gold thread peek through at random points allowing the gown to shimmer.

This magnificent evening gown is the work of the John Cavanagh (1914-2003) and was part of his Spring/Summer 1953 “Coronation Collection.” The gown was made for and worn by Lady Cornwallis (nee Esme d’Beaumont, 1901-69) expressly for the coronation celebrations in June.

The intricate fabrics were designed by Oliver Messel (1904-1978), at the time Britain’s foremost designer of costumes and sets for stage and film.

Unusual Artifacts: Equipment from Aerialist Pansy Chinnery, 1900

Hook from an Acrobatic Act
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a rather fierce-looking hook with a leather mouthpiece.
  This odd item was once used by the aerialist and variety performer Pansy Chinnery (1879-1969).  Chinnery dutifully collected a wide range of items from her illustrious career--including posters, playbills, newspaper cuttings, hooks and pulleys, printing blocks and costumes.

Chinnery was born in Suffolk, England, beginning her theatrical career with The Zedora Sisters, when she was billed as “Alar the Flying Arrow.”  Together, they went on tour with Barnum and Bailey's Circus for their 1897 tour.  During these performances, she was shot from a giant crossbow above the circus ring.

This iron hook, now rusty, still shows remnants of cream paint.
  It is attached with a bolt and nut to an iron plate which allowed the hook to rotate. The plate attaches to a mouthpiece which still shows the indentions of her teeth-marks. Used in her act around 1900, Chinnery would hang from this hook (attached to a rope) by her mouth.

Antique Image of the Day: A Mezzotint of Queen Mary II, 17th C.

Maria D.G. Angliae Scotiae Franciae et Hiberniae Regina & CT. 
Mezzotint, John Smith
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A mezzotint is a form of tonal engraving made when the surface of a metal plate is pitted with a serrated tool called a “rocker.” The plate is then scraped and smoothed so that different areas of the plate will hold varying quantities of ink depending on the relief. This technique creates a range of rich, textures and tones and white highlights when the image is printed onto the paper.

The print we see here is based on a portrait of Queen Mary II (Who ruled as Sovereign jointly with her cousin/husband King William III and II) which was painted in 1688 by the Dutch painter and engraver Jan van der Vaardt, who moved to England in 1674.

This is the work of one John Smith, a printmaker who is thought to be one of the most important mezzotinters of the Seventeenth Century.

Here, Queen Mary II is depicted as dressed in the height of fashion, in the style set by the French court, wearing a formal mantua of striped and figured silk. Her royal noggin is adorned with an elaborate lace headdress which was called a frelange, with ribbon-bows behind (known as fontanges). The whole ensemble was held up by a wire frame called a commode.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 83

Chapter 83
Under the Earth

"Any luck?"  Gamilla asked as her husband came into the nursery.

"No."  Gerard shook his head sadly.  He embraced his wife and held on for a long time.  Finally he released her, but remained close at her side.  "Charlie's gone to speak to His Grace.  We're gonna go to the vicarage in a few minutes.  I just wanted to pop in an' see ya."

"I was hopin' you would."  Gamilla smiled.

"How are ya feelin', Love?"  Gerard asked.  "I didn't get to spend any time with ya this mornin'.  How's your stomach?  Were ya sick this mornin' like you were the past few days?"

"No."  Gamilla shook her head.  "I think that's gettin' past us."

"Good."  Gerard replied with obvious relief.  "I never understood why women have to suffer so to bring a child.  Don't seem fair.  Oughta be the opposite."

"Honey, didn't ya know?  A long time ago a naked lady took some fruit that wasn't hers, and made it rough for the rest o' us."  Gamilla joked.  "At least that's what I was told when them men came and took me back to America with them."

Gerard chuckled, but, then shook his head, repeating, "Don't seem fair."

"Well, Honey, life ain't fair."  Gamilla smiled, rubbing her husband's arm.  "I don't mind any of it.  Ain't nothin' I wouldn't do so as we could have a healthy, happy baby."

Gerard nodded and peered into the crib at Colin.  "You think they'll be friends?  Our child and young Colin."

"I'm sure they will.  Master Colin will be able to share the wisdom of his extra months o' life to guide our child.  Ya know, Gerry, he's walkin' pretty well these last few days."  She turned away so that Gerard wouldn't see that she'd started to feel a dull headache.

"Is he?"  Gerard grinned.  "His Grace said that he was proud o' how well Colin's taken to talking, but he didn't say that he was walkin' a lot."  He sighed.

"What is it, Gerry?"

"Oh, I was just thinkin' that it's one more bit o' sadness.  All these distractions keep the masters from their time with Colin.  I know it bothers both of them."

Gamilla nodded.  "I know."  She tried to think of something comforting to say, but could think of nothing that didn't sound silly.  Quickly rubbing her temples as the ache grew, she simply said.  "Soon enough, we'll be back to usual.  I know it.  I hate to see you so sad with worry, my sweet man."

"Cor,"  Gerard inhaled.  "I'd best get me-self together, then.  Hadn't I?  Ain't like me to be so sullen."

"You're tired, Honey.  And worried.  I know how fond you are of Georgie.  We all are, but you and he have got a good friendship.  I think he looks on ya like an older brother or uncle.  I seen how he comes to ya for advice and such."

Gerard was silent for a few seconds.  "Yeah, he's a good lad."  He turned away from the baby and looked at Gamilla.  "Promise me somethin'."


"Promise me nothin's gonna happen to ya."  Gerard said, taking her by the shoulders.

"Honey, I can only promise that I'll do all I can to make sure nothin' does."  She answering, trying to ignore the sensation in her head which had turned into a throbbing pain.

"Right," Gerard answered.  "You oughn't be in here alone.  Where's Ethel?"

"I sent her downstairs to be with Maudie for a spell."  Gamilla responded.  She squinted a bit, feeling a trifle dizzy.

"Well, then, lock the door 'til she comes back up."

"I will." Gamilla replied.

"I best go an'..."  Gerard began.  He paused and looked at his wife.  "Gamilla?"


"Somethin's not right.  I can see it in your eyes.  You're sick.'re sensin' somethin'.  Ain't ya?"

"Oh, can't hide a thing from you."

"No.  And, you shouldn't."  Gerard leaned in.  "Do ya see somethin'?"

"I don't."  Gamilla shook her aching head.  "But, I...I smell something.  Earth.  Damp earth and somethin' sharp like medicine."

"Damp earth?  Like after a rain?"

"No."  Gamilla answered.  " when you're diggin' a hole and..."  She staggered backward a little bit.

"I'm goin' to get His Lordship."  Gerard said quickly, leading Gamilla to a chair.  

"I ain't sick, Gerry.  Just tired.  We're all tired."  Gamilla said softly.  "Don't bother Lord Colinshire with havin' to come up here and doctor me.  He and the Duke got enough..."  She inhaled as if to settle her stomach.  "Ya know, sometimes I get these...senses and...well, it ain't nothin' to worry the masters more with."

She was breathing very slowly and Gerard began to panic.

"Tell me, Gamilla...what are you feelin'?"

"They're deep in the earth."  Gamilla said slowly.  "So deep that the fog can't hide 'em.  Miss Morgana, Georgie and William..."

"You don't mean?"

"No.  They're still alive."  Gamilla answered quickly.  "But, they're hurt...they're...they're travelin'.  Slowly."

"Under the earth?"

Gamilla nodded.  "I...I think.  I don't know what it means."

"I'm gonna get Lord Colinshire and His Grace."  Gerard said.  "I know you said not to, but you gotta tell them this.  No...wait.  Come with me, I don't want to leave you..."

"I can't leave the baby."  Gamilla shook her head.

"Bring him, then.  I'll carry him."

"Honey..."  Gamilla started to rise, but she felt too weak.  Her eyelids began to flutter.

"Love?"  Gerard took her hand.  "What is it?"

"Gerry...I..."  She began, but the words caught in her throat.

Gerard watched in horror as Gamilla slumped in the chair. 

He took her face in his hands.  "'Milla?  Love, talk to me!"

Did you miss Chapters 1-82 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 84.