Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Gold, Diamond and Enamel Memorial Slide, 1775-1800

Memorial Slide
French, 1775-1800
The Victoria & Albert Musem

This gold brooch with silver-set rose cut diamonds, adorned with a basket of flowers in seed pearls, mother of pearl and gold--mounted on blue enamel—represents the sort of memorial jewelry which was prevalent in France in the Late Eighteenth Century.

Memorial jewelry was designed to honor a lost loved one. Given the mortality rate, memorial jewelry is one of the largest categories of jewels from this era to survive since it was the most prevalent.
Memorial medallions, brooches or lockets was quite the fashion during this era both in France and Britain. Some of them, like this brooch, could be worn in a variety of ways. For example, this brooch is considered a “slide” since it was, most frequently, worn on a ribbon around the throat. These pieces often incorporated the hair of the deceased either displayed behind glass or Stuart crystal or woven and braided into a design amongst the jewels.

Nei-classical motifs of funerary urns, plinths and obelisks were common themes along with the more traditional cherubs, angels and weeping willows. We should note, however, that not all of these pieces were meant as memorial jewelry. Some of it was meant to express love, friendship and devotion for the living and to act as a keepsake.

The Home Beautiful: An Egg Stand, 1785

Sheffield Plate Egg Stand
Sheffield, 1785
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Eggcup sets or egg cruets first came about in the Eighteenth Century during a period when the upper classes began a long-standing preoccupation with elegant and refined dining. The earliest recorded eggcup frame that’s been found thus far dates to about 1740.

This egg stand was made around 1785 in Britain of Sheffield Plate (copper plated with silver) and conveniently boasts a salt cellar, in the center of the stand, in the form of an oval basket with a swing handle. Originally this cellar would have had a (probably cobalt blue) glass liner to protect the silver from the corrosive effects of the salt.

The stand and the pierced and chased egg cups are made in the Neo-classical style. This very clever contraption also features hooks for six egg spoons (which are now, sadly, missing).  Boiled eggs would have been nestled in each cup and carried into the dining room by a footman on the stand. Then, each person at table would have been given his or her own egg cup and spoon and could have salted his or her egg from the central cellar. 

Print of the Day: Aérostier; Souvenirs Du Siége De Paris, 1870-1871

Satirical Lithograph
France, 1870-1871
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This satirical print depicts two men in the basket of a hot air balloon. One of the two men thumbs his nose at a Prussian soldier who is attempting to shoot them down. The basket of the balloon is hung with a bird cage containing pigeons.

Printed in France between 1870 and 1871, this print is from a set of caricatures, broadsheets and illustrations by caricaturist Jules Renard (1833-?) which have been bound in ten volumes.  This one, like many of the others in these volumes, has been hand-colored with watercolors.  

Painting of the Day: A Basket of Fruit for the Empire Marketing Board, 1931

Click image to enlarge
Still-Life of Exotic Fruit
Mark Gertler
The Empire Marketing Board, 1931
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted in 1931 by Mark Gertler (1891-1939), this still-life of a basket holding pineapple, apples, bananas and pears on a cloth-draped table, was commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board.

The Marketing Board had been established in 1926 in order to promote trade with the Colonies and Dominions of the British Empire.  This original painting was one of several lush designs which, through using brilliant, enticing imagery, were commissioned to encourage British people to support these growing industries.  

Posters printed with these paintings, many of which were the work of Gertler in a similarly appealing style, were emblazoned with effective slogans such as "Buy Empire Every Day" and "Follow the Flag in all your Purchases."

Saturday Sparkle: The New York Flower Basket Brooch, 1930

Cartier, New York
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By 1930, traditional themes in art had become stylized into geometric patterns of cool-tones and shine. The floral jewels of the Nineteenth Century gave way to icy sprays and baskets of diamonds, rock crystal and platinum. 

Take, for example, this floral basket brooch made by Cartier New York in 1930. With its Eastern and geometric influence, the blooms are stylized, and the base of the basket is emphasized by baguette-cut diamonds. Cartier has combined rock crystal with diamonds and platinum to create a study in shades of white which is brought to life from icy splendor by brilliant-cut diamonds.

The Home Beautiful: The de Lamerie Silver Basket, 1731-1732

Silver Basket
Paul de Laremie, c. 1731
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This silver basket was inherited by the great grandson of Sir Robert Walpole—the first prime minister of Great Britain. Sir Robert had a great appreciation for silver and was one of the earliest patrons of the Huguenot silver smith Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751), the maker of this piece.

The Huguenots (French Protestants) had no choice but to leave France after Catholic King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This edict had allowed a degree of religious tolerance in France, but after it was revoked, non-Catholics were in a sticky situation.

Many of the Huguenots, like de Lamerie, were skilled craftsmen. A large portion of them settled in London where they found a ready market eager to snatch up their wares—mostly luxury items, silver, furniture, jewelry, watches and such. These items also had the appeal of a distinctly French style.

A silver, two-handled oval basket, it sits on a rim foot of pieced ornament. The sides are pierced and chased in a simulation of woven basketwork. The basket’s handles are fashioned as twined rope-work. A coat of arms is engraved on the interior. De Laremie made this basket between 1731 and 1732.

It’s now part of the Gilbert Collection at the V&A.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for the Great Eastern Tea Co.

Click above image to enlarge.

From my collection of ephemera, we have another trade card. This American card advertises for the San Francisco-based Great Eastern Tea Co. as well as their Colima Baking Powder.

The front of the card is alive with a depiction of a colorful basket of flowers. Being a stock card, it also features a spot on the front (in the form of a card on the basket) wherein the advertiser could have put additional information. The Great Eastern Tea Company seems to have declined to do this. Sadly, the back is mostly unreadable as it has been glued into an album and, then, removed, leaving parts of the page behind. I’m not going to try to recreate it as I usually do, but instead, let you try to read it on your own.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Hull-Grundy Garnet and Pearl Necklace

Garnet and Seed-Pearl Necklace
Circa 1830
The Hull-Grundy Bequest
This and all related images from:
The British Museum

A delicate necklace, designed in the form of leafy entwined flowers, this work of seed-pearls and gold-set diamonds was made in England in the 1830s in the Naturalistic style which was rising in fashion at the time.

Given to The British Museum as part of the Hull-Grundy bequest, the necklace is displayed in its original presentation case though the satin lining of the lid was replaced in the 1970s. 

Treat of the Week, Double Feature

This week's "Treat of the Week" is a double edition.  


We begin with a special dinner which any mother would love.  For Mother's Day, my father, as he usually does for the occasion, cooked a lovely meal for my mother.  He worked very hard on it, and, he did an excellent job.  

Look, he even made his own bread from scratch!

Rotisserie-made roast beef, seasoned and marinated to perfection was the centerpiece of the meal, served with a lovely potatoes au gratin (with leeks) and broccoli rabe.  Quite tasty!

For dessert, we feasted on a beautiful ice-box cake.  My father baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch and arranged them into this handsome ice-box cake, layered with delicious mocha cream.  I'd never had anything like it, and, it was especially yummy.

The following weekend, we enjoyed a scrumptious meat-less meal.  Bertie, I must confess, wasn't too thrilled with this vegetarian dinner, but, those of us with thumbs really loved it.


My mom's grilled portobello mushrooms served as the entree.  These fantastic mushroom caps were joined by an attractive side of spinach and bright tomatoes.

 A new side-dish was very happily received, and, eaten...

Farro--a grain which has been served for centuries--was new to us, and I have to say, after one bite, I was hooked!

Tender grains of wheat, the farro is a bit like rice, but with a naturally nutty flavor.  My mother's ingenious recipe incorporates nuts and sweet currants.  Curls of imported cheeses added a bit of a salty counterpoint to the sweetness of the currants.  It was a grand dish which I look forward to having again...and again!

This colorful meal was followed by an equally colorful dessert.  Two kinds of brownies were cut into even squares and piped with homemade icing.  Butterscotch brownies with nuts and chocolate chips were joined by a spicy new espresso brownie which was rich with the flavors of coffee and chocolate chips.  

It was truly a day of perfect flavors.

In fact, it was two weekends of great food!

Mr. Punch in the Arts: John Anthony Puller’s “Punch and Judy”

English genre and landscape painter, John Anthony Puller, was born in London in 1799. Puller showed at the Royal Academy at the young age of twenty-two, and from 1825 to 1867 exhibited over eighty paintings at the Royal Society of Artists. Known for his sensitive and colorful scenes, Puller always demonstrated an easy manner in depicting everyday life. His particular forte was showing natural scenes of the way people really lived.

This circa 1850 painting entitled,
Punch and Judy, shows observers of a small village, “Punch” show. Young and old of varied classes have gathered to watch Mr. Punch and his wife. Even a dog sits passively by to watch. To mirror the mischievous Mr. Punch, Puller has included children sneaking a look into the rear of the performance tent in an effort to see the puppeteers. This sort of painting is what set John Anthony Puller apart—his skilled hand was able to combine the human-themes genre scenes that he so loved with the beauty of landscape painting. 

Drawing of the Day: Sheet Music Cover for 'Le Petit Carnaval,' 19th C.

Sheet Music Cover
Mid Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Our Mr. Punch inspired many a composer, it seems, and, similarly, he has appeared on a host of sheet music covers.  Here’s one such cover for “Le Petit Carnaval” a “quadrille facile,” depicting Mr. Punch among a group of people at a carnival in a tent.

I imagine that Punch would rather enjoy a carnival, and, this is a rather posh carnival in a heavily draped tent, festooned with garlands of flowers and hung with a brilliant chandelier.  The attendees, aside from the clowns, and, of course, Mr. Punch, are attired in court dress.  Punch is greeting an elegant young lady.

This print was created in the mid Nineteenth Century with artwork by John Brandard (1812-1863).

A Recipe for Punch will Continue on Tuesday

As I had said yesterday, this week turned out to be very busy, so, the next chapter of "A Recipe for Punch" will be posted on Tuesday, May 27.

Print of the Day: A Ticket to Wynnstay, 1786

Click on image for admission.

Ticket to the Private Theatre at Wynnstay
Wales, 1786
The British Museum

Printed in 1786, this work of rusty red ink on very thick card was produced as a novelty admission ticket for the theatre at Wynnstay. Wynnstay was a grand Seventeenth Century estate in Wales which became the home of Eighteenth Century politician and statesman, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet. Wynnstay boasted an elegant private theatre for which Williams-Wynn would have attractive tickets printed to issue to his guests as mementos of their evening’s entertainment.

This ticket features Mr. Punch, Judy, the Baby and the Devil standing around a barrel which has been adorned with theatrical masks. “Wynnstay” is printed prominently in the center.

In the Nineteenth Century, Wynnstay was a favorite visitation spot for Queen Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent. A hundred years later, the estate had fallen into disrepair and the house was sold off and converted into a school. Later, it was cut up into flats and several private homes. The gardens are now in a continued state of revival.

Object of the Day: Mr. Punch's Alphabet and the Ehrich Brothers

Click image to see Punch's beautiful nose.

It’s Friday! And, as always, Friday is Mr. Punch day here at Stalking the Belle Époque. If not Mr. Punch, then, certainly some of his puppet kin and their appearances in art history.

Today’s “Object of the Day,” is another trade card from my collection. This one is new to me—a gift from my parents. Obviously, you can see why I love it. Commissioned by the Ehrich Bro’s Department Store of New York, the card dates to before 1889 and was a “holiday” advert. Our Mr. Punch takes center stage with his beautiful nose, Punchinello belly and humpy back. He’s dressed in the style of the Piccini Punch known to us through the drawings of George Cruikshank. This Punchinello means business. No slapstick for him. He’s got a sword. But, he looks pleasant and he’s being very patient as this queerly corseted lass tries to teach him the alphabet. Of course, it’s upside down. Oh, for fun. I guess her corset is too tight. She’s got quite a bit of rouge on, too. Or, maybe it’s the corset again.

Above her, we see that the kind people at Ehrich’s want us to be able to find them at “Eight” Avenue and 24th Street.

Now, you may sometimes wonder how I go about dating these items which aren’t specifically inscribed with a date. I say this one dates to before 1889 because my research shows that prior to 1889, Ehrich Bro’s was located at Eighth Avenue and 24th. They’d built a lovely, large emporium there—one of the first. They anticipated great business. However, they did not anticipate that two blocks to the east, on Sixth Avenue, a new shopping plaza dubbed “The Ladies’ Mile” would soon be developed. This, of course, hurt their business considerably. But from 1857 to 1889, they stuck it out. In 1889, they gave up and moved to this building… 

…on Sixth and 22nd. So, since this card lists the Eighth Avenue address, it must be from before 1889.

There you go.

Let’s look at the reverse.

Eighth Ave. and 24th St. 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Lamb and the Ham

"Yes, little girl.  Ten sandwiches would be a good start."

Image:  The Wolf and the Lamb, Creator: William Mulready (1786-1863) (artist), Creation Date: c. 1819-20, Materials: Oil on panel, Acquirer: George IV, King of the United Kingdom (1762-1830), when King of the United Kingdom (1820-30), Provenance: Purchased by George IV for 200 guineas in 1821.

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 work by William Mulready, visit the entry for this painting in the online 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.

Precious Time: The Jerome Gregory Coach Clock, 1660-70

Clock Watch
Silver, 1660-70
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The handsome timepiece features a silver case engraved by Hallam with a sea battle during the Anglo-Dutch wars. The movement by Jeremie (or Jerome) Gregory of the Royal Exchange. London, about 1660-70.

Larger than a typical pocket watch, this object would still have fit neatly in a gentleman’s pocket, but was also big enough that it could be seen by others riding in a coach should the clock be displayed on a hook or strap. While mostly meant to be a utilitarian device, it loses none of its attractiveness in favor or usefulness.

Which Watch?
Such Watch.

Painting of the Day: The Reverend Townshend's Dog

The Reverend Townshend's Dog
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Over the past three years, we have had a nice long look at the Reverend Chauncey Hare Townshend's magnificent collection of jewels which is on display in the V&A. Now, let's look at his beloved dog. Here, we see the Reverend's dog, A black King Charles spaniel as he chases a dragonfly in a plush interior which also shows, at right a pedestal table with a bowl laden with flowers before a window, and curtains on the left.

This is the work of François Bocion (1828-1890) who was born in Lausanne. He trained with Christian Gottlieb Steinlen (1779-1847) in Vevey and subsequently with François Bonnet (1811-1894) in Lausanne. Later, he became a teacher at the Ecole moyenne et industrielle of Lausanne, a position he held until his death.

The Revered Townshend's dog, called Bully, is mentioned and described in the correspondence of Charles Dickens who knew Townshend since the 1840s. I'm glad he is still remembered today.

Bertie's Pet-itations: Bored Room

I'm fortunate to be able to spend all day everyday with Bertie and to have the opportunity to learn from his infinite wisdom.  So, I thought that he should be given an 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:

If you see something that doesn't interest you, just walk away from it.  There's no point in wasting your time sniffing out something boring.