Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Sparkle: The Bettine Diamond and Pearl Buckle, c. 1910

The Victoria and Albert Museum

From the collection of "The Bettine," Lady Abingdon, we have this handsome buckle of ebonite, gold, silver, pearls and diamonds.

Made circa 1900-1910, this buckle pin probably heralds from the United States.  It's the sort of pin which would have adorned a lady's jacket, or even her shoes, worn in pairs.

Unusual Artifacts: An Embroidered Pin Cushion, 1670-80

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I love little objects like this that tell a story and speak of the individuals who made them.  This embroidered pin cushion has an obverse of white satin embroidered in colored silks in a pretty design of flowers, a double-headed bird (of course) and the initials “ME.” The back is covered in a rich, deep midnight-blue satin while the edges are bound with a plaited cord of blue silk and twinkling silver thread.

This adorable and beautiful little object was among the contents of an embroidered casket used by a young girl called Martha Edlin, to store her small personal treasures. Needless to say, as young ladies of the Seventeenth Century did, she would have embroidered this herself.
  Curiously, neither the casket nor the pin cushion appears to have been used.

Through other objects in the Victoria and Albert Museum, we know that the girl in question, Martha Edlin (1660-1725). worked a number of fine embroideries during her childhood.
  Thankfully, these were cherished by her descendants and passed down through the female line in her family for over three hundred years. We owe these ladies a debt of gratitude as without their care, we’d not have them to enjoy today.  Other than this, little is known about Martha’s life, with the exception that she married a man called Richard Richmond and appears to have been a prosperous widow, with daughters and many grandchildren.  Later, she is known to have lived in Pinner in Greater London at the time she drew up her will.

Among the other objects which Martha embroidered are a multi-colored sampler which she created at the age of eight, and a more complicated piece in “whitework” and cutwork at nine. By her eleventh birthday in 1671,, she had embroidered the panels of this elaborate casket, and by 1673, she worked an impressive 
 beadwork jewelry case. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Prince Albert Tie Pin, 1865

Stickpin with Enamel Portrait of Prince Albert
England, 1865
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The enamel portrait contained in this handsome tie-pin is based on a photograph by John Edwin Mayall which was taken within weeks of the Prince Consort's death in December of 1861.

The portrait by William Charles Bell (1831-1904) is set in a gold stick-pin with a chased Greek key design.

The pin was presented to one Nestor Tirard by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1865. On the pin’s reverse this gift has been inscribed: “Nestor Tirard/fromVR. Coburg Aug 26./1865.” The piece still retains its original blue velvet presentation case. After Prince Albert’s death, the Queen often made commemorative gifts in her beloved husband’s honor.

So, who was this Nestor Tirard. Jean Nestor Tirard (d. 1888) was the hairdresser to Queen Victoria from 1846 until 1867.

Unfolding Pictures: An Unusual Handscreen, 1820

Silhouette Handscreen:
"Lady with a Broom."
French, 1820
Turned and carved ivory handle,
linen gauze, paper and card.
Found at Frogmore House, 1979
"Probably Purchased" by Queen Mary
The Royal Collection
Though fans have been a part of daily life since the earliest of recorded times, the handscreen (a relative of the folding fan) became a popular accessory in the Seventeenth Century and continued to be utilized well into the late Nineteenth Century.

A handscreen, or face-screen, has its roots in the designs of rigid hand-fans. Essentially a decorative panel (usually of linen-covered card, paper or painted canvas) mounted on a turned stick, the handscreen served to shield a lady’s face from the direct heat of the fire. Cosmetics, until recently, were largely wax-based. The heat of the fireplace would often cause a lady’s make-up to run. When not in use, handscreens would often be displayed as decorative items on the mantelpiece.

Given their dual nature—both practical and decorative—handscreens, by the Nineteenth Century, were often created as interesting novelties. This handscreen from 1820 is constructed of painted linen gauze over paper, atop a carved ivory stick. It is distinctive because of the two figures in silhouette which have been cut from black card. By means of a lever on the reverse of the screen, the figures are made to move, giving comedic life to a scene of a woman with a broom beating a portly fellow who holds fire tongs and a shovel.

The creator of this interesting novelty is unknown, but certainly French. The handscreen was found in 1979 among several unusual items which had been tucked away at Frogmore House. The only notation of its origins is that it was “probably purchased by Queen Mary.” Not only is it a charming antique, but it’s also further evidence that Mary of Teck, the Antiquities Magnet, was like a magpie—furnishing her nest with pretty little things.

Antique Image of the Day: The Staircase at Frogmore House, 1861

The Staircase at Frogmore House
Unknown Photographer, 1861
The Royal Collection
This is one of a series of images taken by an unknown photographer of the Royal Residence at Frogmore House. Frogmore House long served as the home of The Duchess of Kent who was kept there by Queen Victoria.

At first glance, this image doesn’t appear to be a photograph, but it is. It has been meticulously and painstakingly hand-tinted to preserve the memory of the house’s original color scheme. A century and a half later, it’s just as vivid an image as it was in 1861.

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary’s Seal, 1896

Michael Perchin for Fabergé
The Royal Collection

This attractive seal by Michael Perchin of Fabergé was a gift to Queen Mary on the occasion of her birthday, May 26, 1935 and also for her Silver Jubilee on the throne from Prince and Princess Nicholas of Greece. The Prince and Princess were the parents of Princess Marina who would marry the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary and become the Duchess of Kent.

The seal’s unusual handle is formed of rutilated quartz-- rock crystal containing rutile, a mineral which occurs in columnar-shaped crystals. Queen Mary happily added this handsome item to her collection of Fabergé—a large grouping of objects which she kept in a series of vitrines.

Queen Mary adored her Fabergé collection. After the death of her husband, King George V, her Fabergé collection was one of the first things that she moved with her from Buckingham Palace to her new home at Marlborough house. When the danger of the Second World War forced the Queen Dowager to move from Marlborough House to Badminton House in the country she brought the collection with her, and when the war was over and the Queen set about rebuilding Marlborough House which had been badly bombed, she declared that the ruined house was looking “like home” again when her collection of Fabergé was in place. 

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

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Set of Five Platinum Eternity Bands or Guard Rings, 1920-40

Guard Rings
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a set of five platinum guard rings set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Today, we’d refer to these rings as Eternity Bands and, they’re quite in fashion again. This set was made between 1920 and 1940.

These narrow rings are set with a continuous line of matching, single-color stones. Such rings initially became very fashionable during the 1930s. They were worn either next to or instead of a plain, gold or platinum wedding band. Of course, diamonds were the most popular choice, others were often set with emeralds, rubies or sapphires. One famous lover of such rings was Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent. On her marriage in 1934 to Prince George, the Duke of Kent (son of George V and Mary of Teck), she selected three - one of rubies, one of diamonds and one of sapphires, the colors of the Union Jack.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: Prince Albert’s Bookmark, 1840

Book Mark of Gold and Gemstones
Given by the Duchess of Kent to Prince Albert at his 1840 Wedding to Queen Victoria
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This handsome bookmark was made in 1840 and was given as a gift by the Duchess of Kent (Queen Victoria’s Mother) to Prince Albert on the day of his marriage to Queen Victoria—February 10.

The gold bookmark was inserted into the prayer book which Prince Albert held on his wedding day. The structure of gold hangs from green silk ribbons. It is set with eight gemstones which spell out the name, “Victoria.” Let’s take a look at it, beginning with the deep red stone at the top, center.
V – Vermillion. This deep red stone is actually a garnet. At the time, it was commonly called “Vermeil” for vermillion as a description of its color. In modern jewelry terms, this can be quite confusing since the term now refers to silver which has been plated in a metallic blend of gold and other alloys. 
I – Jargoon. Yeah, I know. That doesn’t begin with an “I.” However, in 1840, a “J” was often used in place of an “I.” 
C – Chrysolite. Wow. This one actually means what it is and starts with the right letter. 
T – Turquoise. 
O – Opal 
R – Ruby 
I – Jargoon, again. By the way, this is a reddish-amber colored natural zircon. 
A – Amethyst

Masterpiece of the Week: The Russell Square Puppet Show, 1827

Click on image to enlarge
View of Russell Square with a Puppet Show
Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1827
The British Museum

This drawing of pen and brown wash on paper dates to 1827 and is the work of Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. The scene gives us a view of Russell Square with the statue of the Duke of Bedford prominent on the left. 

In the square, a crowd has gathered to watch a puppet show. The bottler draws attention to the show by beating a large drum. His efforts clearly work because we see that a mother will two children are about to join the crowd.

This drawing was once part of the collection of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford. It gives us a rare topographical representation of a part of London which has changed considerably over time.

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and Scaramouche

Mr. Punch and Scaramouche
George Cruikshank, 1827
From the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
at The Victoria and Albert Museum

We have previously enjoyed a video by Australian Punch and Judy Man, Chris van der Craats which showed us a recent recreation of some of George Cruikshank’s 1827-era drawings of the “Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch.” Here’s another recreation—complete with Piccini Punch. This one shows Mr. Punch and Scaramouche.

In the early Nineteenth Century version of the puppet show, Mr. Scaramouche was Mr. Punch’s neighbor and the original owner of Dog Toby. Punch encounters Dog Toby who bites his “beautiful nose,” and, then, Scaramouche confronts Punch about harassing his terrier. Punch confused Scaramouche by dancing with him, and, then beating him with his cudgel—eventually, taking Dog Toby as his own companion. This video begins just after Punch has had his first meeting with Dog Toby.

Drawing of the Day: Children Watching a Puppet Show

Children Watching A Puppet Show
Stefano della Bella
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Oddly enough, here’s another drawing which I’ve not seen before. This one is by an Italian artist with a sing-song name, Stefano della Bella (1610-1664). The work of black chalk, pen and ink was purchased by King George III from Consul Joseph Smith in 1762, and depicts a group of children watching a puppet show. A young mother holds her child on her lap so that the baby can see the show, too.

I am familiar with a similar drawing by Della Bella which is housed at the British Museum. While the subjects are similar, the example in the British Museum includes a bagpiper accompanying the show.

Given the age of the piece, the paper has deteriorated a bit and the other sketches on the verso are visible.

Obviously, the drawing is incomplete, and, is clearly a study for another work—perhaps a painting.

Print of the Day: Cruikshank's "Punch and the Cat," 19th C.

Engraving depicting "Punch and the Cat"
George Cruikshank
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Some of the earliest, most accurate and famous drawings we have of the Nineteenth Century Punch & Judy shows in Britain are those created by the celebrated illustrator George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

Here, we see an engraving after one of Cruikshank’s renowned drawings.  The print crisply depicts not only the Punch & Judy performance, but also, the audience.  Here, we see Punch and the Cat in a booth in the upper center. Some Punch & Judy Professors in the Nineteenth Century used a cat in lieu of the Dog Toby.  At the time, many Punch & Judy men still employed real animals as Punch’s companion as opposed to puppet counterparts.  If a dog was unavailable, Mr. Punch was joined by a cat. 

This trimmed piece of paper has, on the reverse, part of a music score entitled “The Magistrate.” “Old G. Cruickshank” is inscribed in pencil on the upper left center.

Object of the Day: Punch Presents Quick Meal Coal Ranges, circa 1904


This little booklet will amuse the Children. Let them
copy the pictures on the Tissue Paper.

Punch and Judy 
          of olden times
     Are now the subject of
          our rhymes.
Punch’s appetite was
     So he ordered Judy to 
          cook a steak.

Now Judy, you know,
     had an old time
     And to cook for
          Punch she often
But Punch could not
     be pleasant or glad,
     And oft at mealtime
          he was mad.

One day, when he was
          in a fit,
     And Baby cried ‘till
          it was sick, 
Punch threw it madly,
          out of doors;
Poor Judy shrieked
          aloud, of course.

A Policeman came
          into the door,
      And Judy cried
          aloud some more;
But Punch could not
          be taken in,
     And swore the battle
          he would win.

He won the battle
          To be sure,
     But could not win
          Poor Judy more.
A bright idea popped
          in his head—
     “I’ll get a QUICK
          MEAL RANGE,”
               he said.

So when the Range
           was set up right,
     Judy worked with
          all her might,
And cooked, and
           noon and night,
     You never saw such
           a pretty sight. 
Click images to enlarge.

This fanciful little booklet, complete with its original tracing paper inserts, was made to advertise St. Louis-based “Quick Meal Coal Ranges” and Gas ranges for the Ringen Stove Co. of Missouri. Since the booklet mentions the World’s Fair, we can guess that it was made after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

This American company has cleverly featured Britain’s Mr. and Mrs. Punch and their baby. Punch, as you’ve just read, is annoyed by Judy’s slow range and tosses the baby out of the window. But, after gleefully smashing the Beadle, Punch decides he can make everything right by buying Judy a new range. And, actually, it does seem to do the trick.

I can’t tell you how much I love the illustrations in this booklet. They’re too wonderful, and I adore the look of utter joy with which Punch approaches everything he’s doing. He’s as happy with his meal of turkey and hams as he is just to throw the baby out of the window. And, that’s why we love Mr. Punch.

I’ve scanned most of the book for you. Enjoy the pictures. They’re quite a treat. You’ll see that some of the pages are covered by the original tissue paper. I’ve moved the paper out of the way in the next image.  I'm just surprised it was never drawn in.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Drunk Punch, 1990

Drunk Punch
Richard Slee
Victoria & Albert Museum
Contemporary studio potter Richard Slee was inspired by English ceramics of centuries past and their relationship to British culture. Driven to create a modern adaptation of English “Tobies” (jugs, or large drinking mugs in the form of a stout man), Slee inverted the popular phrase, “Punch Drunk” and created this figure of Drunk Punch. What’s more British than Mr. Punch?

Here, we see Mr. Punch, clearly in his cups, made of coiled earthenware and colored glazes. He is surrounded by spent cobalt blue bottles which refer to Slee’s famous modern reworking of vase shapes.

Located in the Victoria & Albert Museum, 
Drunk Punch is usually exhibited at the end of a display of antique Tobies which show the progression of the vessel over centuries.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie's Birthday Table


Image:  The Queen's Birthday Table at Osborne, 24 May 1856,  Creator: James Roberts (c.1800-67) (artist), Creation Date: dated 1856, a detailed view of a table, displaying the Queen's gifts. Signed.

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 watercolor masterpiece , 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.

The Home Beautiful: “Dot and Cairnach, Skye Terriers” by Otto Weber, 1874

Dot and Cairnach, Skye Terriers
Otto Weber, 1874
The Royal Collection

Royal Academician Otto Weber was appointed portrait painter to The Royal Family in the 1870’s by Queen Victoria. Being as Victoria considered the royal pets to be as much a part of the family as anyone else, she commissioned Weber to paint portraits of her dogs, too.

This 1874 portrait shows two Skye Terriers who lived amongst the other dogs in the royal household. Known as Dot and Cairnach, these spirited companions were known to frolic through the corridors in typical terrier fashion. This wasn’t Cairnach’s first time posing for a portrait. He had previously been painted by Sir Edwin Landseer on several occasions and served as a great source of inspiration for the artist who used the terrier’s visage in quite a few masterpieces.

Curiously, another of Landseer's portraits is of a dog also called Cairnach.  This one dates to 1842.  This handsome pup, who was honored later by the name given to the Skye, was a Maltese Terrier.    The 1842 portrait roundel was a Christmas gift to Queen Victoria from Prince Albert.

Sir Edwin Landseer, 1842
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Painting of the Day: “Silence!” By Jean-Baptist Greuz, 1759

Jean-Baptist Greuz, 1759
Acquired by King George IV, 1817\
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Images Courtesy of Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

This French painting was acquired by King George IV in 1817. It was a peculiar purchase for the King who wasn’t prone to picking domestic genre scenes. He was, however, enchanted by all things French, and perhaps this intimate painting with its frank depiction of raising children, put him in mind of French attitudes toward life.

This handsome piece comes from the hand of Jean-Baptist Greuz who achieved considerable fame with his paintings of Eighteenth-Century, French domestic life. This work from 1759 who created, along with a companion piece for one of Greuz’s most loyal patrons who allowed the works to be displayed that year at the Paris Salon.

The following was displayed on a card alongside the painting:

A Painting representing Rest, characterized by a Woman who obliges her son to be silent by pointing to her other sleeping children.
The rather disheveled little boy has been up to considerable mischief. We can see that he’s been irritating his mother by making noise on his toy trumpet. We can assume that he’s responsible for the broken drum which hangs from the back of the chair of the slumbering child. His mother urges him, “Silence,” by pointing at the other little boy who is fast asleep.

The companion painting to this work showed the same mother with the disheveled boy. That painting, entitled “The Spoilt Child,” depicted a scene of paternal indulgence as the mother watches her son feed his dinner to a happy dog.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Fabergé Border Terrier, 1907-1908

Border Terrier of Agate and Rose Diamonds
1907-1908, part of the Sandringham Commission
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This Fabergé figure is part of King Edward VII’s Sandringham Commission which ordered the creation of a menagerie of animals made of gold and precious stones for Queen Alexandra. The animals depicted in these figures reflected the many which lived at Sandringham House.

Made between 1907 and 1908, this sculpture of agate is set with rose-cut diamonds, and depicts a Border terrier. Border Terriers were just one of the many breeds kept in the kennels at Sandringham. The sculptor, now unknown, has done an excellent job capturing the playful character and inquisitive nature of the dog.