Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Weekend!

Hello, all!  As it's Easter weekend, Bertie, Mr. Punch and I will be taking a break from the usual posting schedule.  We'll be back up to our usual hijinks on Monday.

So, let's start celebrating with a glimpse at my collection of ephemera and some of the Easter-related articles there-in.

I like this trade card quite a lot, and want a similar hat.  I often make the face which the bunny is making.

Here, another bunny sits on a very handsomely printed 1907 postcard, complete with metallic ink.  He, too, looks a trifle grim, but I think he's tired from delivering the eggs.  Look at his lovely little outfit!  

how cute is this postcard from 1910?  Don't think about the fact that the chicks are as big as the little girl.  Just love its inherent Edwardian cuteness.

Next, we have a dour bunny.  I'm not sure if he's delivering or stealing the eggs.  I like to think he's stealing them.  I think that might cheer him up.  I just want to hug the little fella.  Bertie, of course, wants to eat him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Basket of Flowers Egg, 1901

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

Click image to enlarge.

The Basket of Flowers Egg
Fabergé, 1901
Enamel, Silver, Gold, Diamonds
The Royal Collection
Queen Mary liked the work of Carl Fabergé. Well, actually, my favorite Royal magpie liked anything shiny. I’ll always have that in common with good ol’ Mary of Teck. Through a variety of means, Mary somehow managed to obtain a lot of the Fabergé which had been confiscated during the Russian Revolution. Among those items were several of the legendary Fabergé Eggs.

The eggs were made by Carl Fabergé each year in absolute secrecy. They were presented by Tsar Nicholas II for Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna as Easter gifts. This—The Basket of Flowers Egg—was considered one of the most magnificent. An egg-shaped vase of silver, gold and enamel is adorened with a delicate pattern of diamonds. Diamonds also spell out the year—1901. The vase is filled with an assortment of enamel and diamond flowers.

When Queen Mary obtained the egg, it had been badly damaged in the Revolution. Queen Mary had the original oyster-colored enamel stand replaced with a bright blue enamel base. The pattern of diamonds was continued all the way to the bottom.

Say what you will about Mary of Teck, but she managed to rescue and repair thousands of gorgeous objects which would have otherwise been lost. 

Friday Fun: Bunny Mooning

Another Max Fleischer cartoon to remind us that, in the 1930s, people had odd ideas about how animals functioned.

Treat of the Week Pappardelle and Poundcake


Even though for many of us there's a chill in the air, that doesn't mean that it's not Spring.  You can warm up your heart and home with a Spring-themed meal like one that my mother recently made for the family.  

A tremendous serving bowl of pappardelle with artichoke hearts, leeks, tomatoes and pesto brought the flavors of Spring into their house and warmed our spirits.  

Meanwhile, we were reminded of good things to come with a salad of fresh herbs, lovely tomatoes and brilliant green castelvetrano olives (a veritable work of art).

Afterwards, a gorgeous vanilla pound cake (which smelled as heavenly as it looked), hinted at the flowers of spring with piped cherry blossoms atop a delicious sugar glaze.  Just look at the work that went into that!  Amazing!

It was, by the way, scrumptious!  Served with whipped cream and fresh berries, we knew that it was the start of a season of many good things.

Masterpiece of the Week: Children Playing with a Lamb, 1840

Children Playing with a LambSwiss, 1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The painter Barthélemy Menn (1815-1893) was born in Geneva where he studied with some of the greatest Swiss and French painters of the Nineteenth Century.  Menn later studied with the famed Ingres and followed him in Rome where he produced portraits and landscapes similar in style to those of the school of Barbizon.

This 1840 painting, “Children Playing with a Lamb,” is a great example of Menn's transitional style when he ceased historical painting in favor of a freer approach based on natural themes.

The genre scene depicts two women and two children playing with a lamb, which may be understood as a symbolic representation of the traditional image of Mary and Anne with the Infants Jesus and St John the Baptist.

It’s very Easter-y.  So, there you are.  

This painting was part of the collection of Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend whom we know largely for his important collection of jewels.
  The work was listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of his villa in Lausanne as “Oil on millboard. Children playing with a Lamb. By B. Menn. In frame. Signed. Swiss. Present century.”  It was bequeathed by Townshend to the V&A in 1868.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 96

Chapter 96
A Battle

"Miss Lennie,"  Gamilla leaned over Lennie's pale body.  "Can you hear me?"  She patted Lennie's hand.

From a distance, Robert and Gerard watched.

Gerard scratched his head nervously, messing up his dark blond hair.  "Gamilla says she's strong enough for this."

"I believe that she is, Gerard."  Robert replied.  "You must trust me, I'd not do anything that would put Gamilla or your child in danger."

"Oh, Sir, I do trust you.  I know...only..."

"I understand.  This is your wife, and you're about to be a father.  Gamilla has just fainted and you're concerned."  Robert replied.

"Don't think I'm not sick with worry about Lady Fallbridge, too."

"I think we're all sick with worry about everyone."  Robert sighed.

"How is His Grace?"  Gerard asked.

"He's trying his best to remain strong."  Robert answered.  "I've sent him to our rooms to rest a bit before...before this procedure.  I..."

"Your Lordship?"  Gamilla called out, waving for Robert.

He came over, leaving Gerard behind.

"Pardon me,"  Matthew addressed Gerard from the fireplace.  

"Yes, Lord Cleaversworth."  Gerard replied.

"On your way here, did you happen to notice my man?"  Matthew asked.

"Perkins, Sir?"  Gerard shook his head.  "No.  I've not seen him since early this morning when he..."

"I know about the trouble."  Matthew nodded.  "He seems to have disappeared again."

"I apologize, Sir.  I wish I knew more.  If anyone knows where Perkins has gotten to, I'd guess it'd be Gregory.  Shall I look for him?"  Gerard asked.

"No, no.  It's not terribly important."  Matthew shook his head.  "I know you're concerned for your wife and for Lady Fallbridge.  Your place is here until Lord Colinshire tells you otherwise."

"Thank you, Sir." Gerard nodded, retreating to get a better view of what was transpiring between Gamilla and Robert.  He went to stand in the corner where Charles and Violet were waiting for instructions.

"I don't think," Gamilla whispered, "that it's a poison that's taken hold of Miss Lennie."

"No?"  Robert asked.

"No,"  Gamilla shook her head.  "I put my hands on her.  I think it's more than that.  I felt somethin', and saw somethin' in my head.  She's at battle, Sir."

"Battle?"  Robert raised an eyebrow.  "With whom?"

"With her mother."  Gamilla replied.

"How can that be?"

"Whatever got into her body through that cut--it was some kind of potion, it made her sleep. It made her body sleep but left her mind open so that the duchess' spirit could prey upon it.  I...I think the duchess is countin' on makin' Miss Lennie's body weak so she can take Miss Lennie's spirit."

Robert inhaled.

"I know what you must be thinkin'."  Gamilla said quickly.  "Only, by doin' so, by takin' her spirit, it would make the duchess more powerful."

Robert nodded.  "Still, by making Her Ladyship's body stronger, wouldn't we be helping her?"

"Only you wouldn't be makin' her stronger.  Not with that battle goin' on inside her.  No matter what ya done..."

"How do we stop this...this battle?"

"I think I could do it, Sir."  Gamilla replied.

Did you miss Chapters 1-95 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 97.  

Object of the Day: An Antique Easter Card Featuring Mr. Punch

Embossed creamy yellow-lilies and an ornate cross-like pattern form the background of this Edwardian Easter card.  Made in the early Twentieth Century, the card is stamped 1912.  Three embossed Easter eggs adorn the phrase “Easter Greetings.”  As beautiful as these elements are, they are not what I like best about this wonderful card.  Obviously, I’m drawn to the little framed scene in the upper center.

Depicted are a group of children against a springtime backdrop.  They are engaged by a Punch & Judy show being performed in a blue and red striped fit-up.  But, it’s not Judy who joins our Mr. Punch.  It’s an enormous rabbit holding an Easter egg!  Actually, a giant rabbit does sometimes make an appearance in the Punch and Judy tradition—usually as a novelty or trick puppet.  But, here, he serves as the Easter Bunny. 

Mr. Punch, very correctly, has made a point to not hold his slapstick aloft.  In a show of politeness for the Easter Bunny, he cradles his stick in his arms, making sure the gargantuan rabbit doesn’t feel threatened.

The reverse of the card says simply, “Post Card” with no other information.

The card has been used and mailed.  Let me see if I can make out what has been written on it.

To:  Mrs. Mary Miller
R.R. #326, Ohio

Hello all, this is…

…errrr…Okay.  Sorry.  I can’t do it.  I can’t make it out.  Sorry.  In short, the writer wants someone named Norma to come visit.  Click the image to enlarge it.  See if you can make it out.  It's faded, and, on top of the reversed embossing, it's hard to read.

Regardless of the indecipherable writing, the card is absolutely adorable.  

At the Music Hall: Easter Parade, 1933

In your Easter bonnet
with all the frills upon it,
you'll be the grandest lady
in the Easter Parade!

I'll be all in clover,
and when they look you over
I'll be the proudest fella
in the Easter Parade!

On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue,
the photographers will snap us
and you'll find that you're
in the rotogravure.

Oh, I could write a sonnet
about your Easter bonnet
and of the girl I'm taking
to the Easter Parade!

Oh, I could write a sonnet
about your Easter bonnet
and of the girl I'm taking
to the Easter Parade!

"Easter Parade" is a popular song written by Irving Berlin in 1933.  The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in the Broadway musical revue “As Thousands Cheer.”

More notably, the song was performed by Bing Crosby in the film “Holiday Inn” (1942), which featured an Irving Berlin song focused on each major holiday.  However, most famously, in 1948, the song was performed by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in a musical film which borrowed the name of its song as the film’s title.  The film—a long-time Easter tradition—also stars the crazy-eyed, disturbing Ann Miller and her machine-gun taps as well as the icky Peter Lawford and…his overall ickiness.  The film is described as “the happiest musical ever made” and that characterization has nothing to do with the fact that Judy was high throughout the entire picture.

The song was also featured in the Rankin/Bass special “The First Easter Rabbit,” in 1976. 

Interestingly enough, Irving Berlin originally wrote the melody in 1917.  At the time he called it "Smile and Show Your Dimple."   It was a tremendous flop.  But, the melody was good and Berlin trotted it out again in ’33. 

Enjoy this scene from the 1948 film.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Not-so Identical Cousins All The Way

"You're looking the wrong way."

Image:  The cousins: Queen Victoria and Victoire, Duchesse de Nemours, Creator: Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73) (artist), Creation Date: Signed and dated 1852 Materials: Oil on canvas, Acquirer: Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-61), when Prince Albert, consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1840-57), Provenance: Commissioned by Queen Victoria (payment dated 1 July 1852, £100, RA VIC/ ADD T/ 232/ 30) and presented to Prince Albert on his birthday, 26 August 1852.  

Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection.  Via The Royal Collection Trust.  Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.To learn more about this masterpiece, visit the entry for this 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: The Townshend Deep Blue Turquoise and Diamond Ring, 1850-60

Turquoise Ring
from the Townshend Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another ring from the 
 collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. Again though the stone has been set into a ring, it was never meant to be worn.  The setting—which dates between 1850 and 1860--serves only to showcase the stone.

The central turquoise is of exceptional quality.  It has been surrounded by diamonds to accent the unusually deep color of the stone.  Turquoise naturally occurs in shades of pale blue through greenish blue to green—the blue color being caused by the presence of copper with green tints developing with the presence of iron.

The most valuable turquoise stones are those of the deepest color.  A deep sky blue is greatly prized.  This midnight blue, however, is truly rare and extremely valuable.  Few examples of turquoise this deep are known.

Turquoise is a porous stone and it must be handled with care.  It’s best that this incredibly rare stone was never worn.  The stone is prone discoloration by the absorption of oils from the skin or from perfume.  Compromising the superb depth of color here would have been a true crime against nature. 

Film of the Week: One Touch of Venus, 1948

"I'm not a murderer--this time."
Ava Gardner and Robert Walker
Whenever I see Robert Walker in something, I immediately expect whatever character he’s playing to turn out to be a murderous little weirdo. This isn’t really fair, I suppose. But, in a way, it’s a compliment. Walker’s star turn as the psychotic Bruno Antony in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 merry-go-round thrillerStrangers on a Train was just that convincing and smartly played. However, if you look closely at Walker’s body of work (which was all too short because of his untimely death at the age of 32), you’ll see he didn’t make a career of playing lunatics, but rather, was more often cast as the charming bumbler. And, so he was in 1948 with the fantasy/comedy/almost-musical One Touch of Venus.

Directed by William A. Seiter for Universal in 1948, the film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name. The original stage version featured a book written by S. J. Perelman and poet Ogden Nash, with music composed by the wonderful Kurt Weill with lyrics by Nash. While the film borrows the play’s story and theme, most of Weill’s music has been cut out of the show and largely replaced with dialogue.  One of the songs that remains, "Speak Low," with lyrics by Nash, remains a sentimental favorite.

The film stars Walker as Eddie Hatch, a young window dresser at an upscale department store owned by a pompous, wealthy cad played by brother-of-wife-beater-George-Sanders, Tom Conway, who looks and sounds so much like his more-famous sibling that it’s rather startling. The owner of the store, Whitfield, has just purchased an ancient and valuable statue of Venus for his art gallery, much to the amusement of his secretary, the droll and dry Molly, played by Eve Arden. Eddie finds himself summoned by Whitfield and happily allows his clingy girlfriend, Gloria, and his roommate to go off to dinner. Alone with the statue as he tries to prepare her display, Eddie sneaks a sip from Whitfield’s drink, and, slightly intoxicated and drawn to the sculpture’s beauty, he kisses her. This, of course, is enough to bring the statue to life and she takes the form of Ava Gardner, as statues often do.

If it sounds rather familiar (window dresser + animated inanimate object = awkward situations and hilarity), that’s because the film was the inspiration for the 1987 weirdness, Mannequin.

All in all, it’s a fun film, a light fantasy which offers no stress. To borrow a phrase from Mystery Science Theater 3000, when watching it, “you should say to yourself it’s just a show, and really just relax.” And, that’s what it does, relaxes you. So, if you want a nice fun family movie with Robert Walker not killing people in an amusement park, this is a good choice. 

Bertie's Pet-itations: To Satisfy An Itch

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:

Sometimes you just need to stop and scratch.