Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Royal Scent Bottle

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

Little is known about this hardstone scent bottle from the Royal Collection.  Its date of creation is uncertain, and no one is quite sure from where it came.  It's likely, however, that Queen Mary added it to the Royal Collection since it's the sort of thing that was right up her alley.  

The bottle of carved blue-green agate is oval in section and meant to hold a fragrance.  It tapers to the gold base and the neck is mounted with four circle link chains from which it is meant to hand.  Gold mounts in floral arrangements are set with garnets, coral, a pearl and a diamond.  The stopper is fitted with garnet flower-heads.  

The Art of Play: A Bottle Opener Depicting Karagoz, Punch's Turkish Cousin

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mr. Punch has many cousins throughout the world.  His Turkish counterpart is known as Karagoz.  Unlike Mr. Punch, however, Karagoz is not primarily presented as a glove puppet, he is always performed as a shadow puppet, a flat, joined figure manipulated by rods from behind a screen.  It's this method of performing which lends Karagoz his name which literally translates to "Black-Eye."  The figures were always designed so that the pupil of Karagoz's eye appeared as a black circle.  This outgoing, amorous and sometimes violet and obscene character sports a thick, curly beard and a bald head.  So, I guess he's a puppet hipster.

Karagoz's nemesis is called Hacivat who is somehow always wiser and more sophisticated than Karagoz.  He is usually represented with a neat beard and a tall pointed hat. The female characters included Karagoz and Hacivat’s wives.  A wealth of other characters added humor and complications to these farcical shows which were usually improvised.

This brass bottle opened of unknown origin and creation date represents Karagoz.  It was likely made in Turkey.

To Serve and Project: The John Addis Jun Ware Bottle, 12th C.

Jun Ware Bottle, Song Dynasty, 12th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This celestite blue bottle is representative of a type of Chinese ceramics known as Jun ware. Overall, Chinese ceramics are typically categorized by the geographical area in which they were made since the kilns of a particular region usually only produced one or two types of ceramics at any given time in history. 

Jun ware was a product of the kilns of the Henan province, reaching its apex during the Song dynasty (960-1279). This pottery is identified visually by its coarse stoneware body and its shiny blue glaze. Another identifying characteristic is the presence of a red spot or spots on the vessels, a visual cue evident in this example. This is due to the copper-rich pigment on the ceramic body beneath the glaze.

While some types of Chinese ceramics were made exclusively for the imperial household, Jun ware, conversely, was produced for popular. By the Qing dynasty the status of these ceramics had elevated since the Qianlong emperor (reigned 1736-95) was an admirer of them and used them for decorating his home.

At the Music Hall: Champagne Charlie, 1867

I've seen a deal of gaiety through out my noisy life
With all my grand accomplishments I ne'er could get a wife,
The thing I most excel in is the P. R. F. G. game,
A noise all night in bed all day, and swimming in Champagne.

For Champagne Charlie is my name, Champagne Charlie is my name.
Good for any game at night, my boys.
Good for any game at night, my boys,
Champagne Charlie is my name, Champagne Charlie is my name.
Good for any game at night, boys, who'll come and join me in a spree?

The way I gain'd my title's by a hobby which I've got
Of never letting others pay, however long the shot.
Whoever drinks at my expense are treated all the same;
From Dukes and Lords to Cabmen down, I make them drink Champagne.


From Coffee and from supper rooms, from Poplar to Pall Mall,
The girls on seeing me exclaim "Oh! what a Champagne swell!"
The notion 'tis of ev'ry one, if 'twere not for my name.
And causing so much to be drunk, they'd never make Champagne.


Some epicures like Burgundy, Hock, Claret, and Moselle,
But Moët's Vintage only satisfies this Champagne swell.
What matter if to bed I go, and head is muddled thick?
A bottle in the morning sets me right then very quick.


Perhaps you fancy what I say is nothing else but chaff.
And only done, like other songs, to merely raise a laugh.
To prove that I am not in jest each man a bottle of Cham.
I'll stand fizz round - yes that I will, and stand it - like a lamb.


“Champagne Charlie” is a music hall song composed by Alfred Lee with lyrics by George Leybourne. It was popularized in the Nineteenth Century by the celebrated performer George Leybourne who first performed at the Sun Music Hall, Knightsbridge in 1867. Leybourne  famously made his entrance in top hat and tails—in the style of a "swell" with the requisite dress gloves, cane, and scarf.  As Champagne Charlie, he carried a bottle of vintage Moët et Chandon.

The Music Hall business was full of fierce competition between acts.  Leybourne's main rival, Alfred Vance, that same year introduced a similar number called “Cliquot” much to the continued chagrin of Leybourne. 

The song has had a long and varied life.  It’s melody was later adapted by the Salvation Army for their song “Bless His Name He Sets Me Free,” intended for the exact opposite purpose of the original good-times-loving version.  The original song became the centerpiece of the play “Champagne Charlie” and the subsequent film of the same which featured Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway. Leon Redbone featured the song, with altered lyrics, on his album of the same name in 1978. 

Unusual Artifacts: A Silver Bottle Ticket, 1840

Items such as this are actually quite fashionable again today. Here, we see a bottle ticket with the word CLARET in pierced lettering. Made to be suspended from a bottle or decanter to identify its contents, this ticket is made of silver decorated with a vine leaf with branch above. A silver chain is attached.

Gazettes of the era began to refer to "labels for bottles" in the 1770s and by the 1790s, these tickets were made for specific wines and spirits.

Silver bottle tickets tended to reflect fashionable designs and allowed metal workers to showcase their skills, often in miniature.

The Home Beautiful: The Froment-Meurice Bottle, 1854

French, 1854
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This exceptional bottle of rock crystal is mounted in silver and silver-gilt, enameled and set with rubies and Baroque pearls. Its rectangular body is cut with oblique grooves, spreading neck, and a circular foot. The silver and gilt mounting is made up of sprays of enameled foliage set with pearls of various shapes and colors, tied by a ribbon enameled in black and set in rubies.

This is the work of François-Désiré Froment-Meurice in Paris, 1854. Here, François-Désiré Froment-Meurice is imitating the mounted rock crystals produced by Renaissance goldsmiths for court collections and earlier Egyptian vessels. The foliate decoration and the form of the bottle are, however, distinctively in the fashion of the 1850s.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: George IV’s Gilt Bottle Cooler, 1827

Bottle Cooler
Silver Gilt, 1827-1828
John Flaxman for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
Made for King George IV
One of a set of four.
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
John Flaxman, the chief designer at the Royal Jewelers of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, shared King George IV’s love of antiques and passion for exotic architecture. This bottle cooler of silver gilt by Flaxman was part of a set of four designed specifically for George IV. Its marine theme would have appealed to George IV who preferred to stay at the seaside in Brighton. Combined into a magnificent marriage of Renaissance and Rococo style, we see a figure of Venus rising from the waves, surrounded by three tritons.

So thrilled was George IV with this piece and its companions, that he ordered similarly-themed suites of silver gilt to use in the Brighton Pavilion. These eclectic pieces showed George IV’s interest in the arts as well as foreshadowed the trends in design which would rise in prominence during Queen Victoria’s reign.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Harlequin Mask Stickpin, 18th Century

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Today’s sparkly thing is a handsome Eighteenth-Century pin with a head in the form of a porcelain Harlequin’s mask. The mask is surrounded by gold foliage set with rose-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds. This is the work of an unknown Western European maker.

Painting of the Day: A Masked Lady, c. 1700

Study for a Masked Lady
Luca Carlevarijs, 1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted around 1700 by Luca Carlevarijs, this image is a study of a woman wearing a pink and white dress with a laced bodice and long sleeves. Notably, she is wearing a type of mask which is known as a “volto” or “larva” and is also holding a fan in her left hand. The mask is unusual in that it was held in place in the mouth by biting on a small piece which protruded from the back.

This is one of fifty-three sketches by Carlevarijs which the artist put together in an album. The group includes figures he appears to have painted in the open air in preparation for inclusion in other formal compositions. This figure is a study for a figure which appears in his painting “The Bucintoro Departing from S. Marco” which is now in The Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 

Gifts of Grandeur: An Enameled Figural Snuffbox, 1760-65

English, 1760-65
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We’ve looked at many snuffboxes at Stalking the Belle Époque, but this is the first portrait head we’ve seen. This box of enamel, gold-mounted hardstone and soft-paste porcelain is formed as a girl's head atop a base of agate mounted in gold.

The words, “Je te connais beau masque” (“I know thee, beautiful mask”) are enameled around the base with a scrolled thumb-piece at the front. The mount is chased with scrolls and flowers. The enamel work shows a masterful hand as the head is painted with red lips, flesh tones, black patches and mask. Her eyes are set with diamonds.

The English preferred snuffboxes of precious metals or stone, so very few porcelain and pottery snuffboxes were ever made, making it exceptionally rare. Though it’s labeled as a snuffbox, others have conjectured that it was made, instead, to hold sweetmeats or pills. Though the porcelain box itself implies German (Meissen) manufacture, the mounts were made in England, possibly Birmingham.

Figure of the Day: An Actor, 2nd C. BC

An Actor
Etruscan, Second Century B.C.
The British Museum

Made in Italy in the Second Century B.C., this terracotta figure depicts a comic actor. As was the theatrical style of the time, the actor has donned a mask. This mask is a broad representation of a bald slave. He carries something in his hand, but what? Is it a purse? We’re unsure. The figure was found in Carino, Italy and is an excellent representation of the figural work of our Etruscan forebears.

Still Having a Busy Week

I'm terribly sorry to be so tardy in posting the next chapter of "A Recipe for Punch."  This week is still hectic.  Let's just say, I'll get to it soon.

Unusual Artifacts: The Pâte de Verre Mask

C.I.H. Cros
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Pâte de verre essentially means “glass paste.” This was a new technique in the 1890s when this interesting mask was made. César Isidore Henry Cros (1840-1907) was the first to use powdered colored glass in the creation of small-scale polychrome sculptures. Cros found inspiration in a discoveries from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt and emulated those archaeological styles in his work.

Cros produced his first pâte de verre in workshops in his own home home in 1890. In 1891, he was offered a spare kiln at the Sèvres National Manufactory. That’s where he made this mask. Though he took the spot at the manufactory, Cros was loathe to reveal his secret process and kept his methods as private as possible. Nevertheless, he influenced an entire generation of glass makers who sought to emulate his style and technique. This mask, made sometime between 1891 and 1895, is signed Cros in enamel. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Blowing up the Pic Nic's, or, Harlequin Quixote attacking the Puppets, 1802

Blowing up the Pic Nic's, or, Harlequin Quixote attacking the Puppets
April, 1802
James Gillray
This version is in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

James Gillray (1757-1815), a popular British printmaker and satirist, was, perhaps, one of the most prolific in his field during the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. Here, we see one of his cartoons from 1802. The image depicts English theater manager Richard Brinsley as Harlequin. He is shown leading a group of professional actors including the famed performer David Garrick (who was, at the time dead), rising from the grave. Also pictured are the actors Mrs. Billington, P. Kemble and, of course the renowned Sarah Siddons. The troupe is protesting members of the Pic Nic Society—an amateur acting group which had been performing at London’s Tottenham Street Concert Rooms. Apparently, they were in the midst of performing the then-popular show, “Tom Thumb.”

Professional actors and theatre managers at the time considered this amateur gang to be a nuisance—taking away revenue from the professionals with their extravagant and decadent displays. Sheridan was among those who launched an aggressive campaign against them. Here, his mask and pen indicate that he has been writing anonymous complaints about the group.

Gillray has cleverly composed this scene to resemble a page from Migel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” wherein the famed title character attacks “Master Peter’s” puppet show because he is convinced that the performance is real. In doing so, he has cast his judgment on the futile actions of Sheridan and his band of protestors. The print was published in April of 1802. The version above is in the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Another is in the British Museum

Version in the British Museum.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mastery of Design: Diamond Ring with Cameos of George II and Caroline of Ansbach

Diamond Ring with Cameos of George II
and Caroline of Ansbach
Onyx Cameos: c. 1730
Mouting: Early Nineteenth Century
Gold, Silver, enamel, twenty-two European Cut
The Royal Collection

Two large European Cut diamonds anchor frames of twenty smaller diamonds which surround onyx cameos of the profiles of King George II and Caroline of Ansbach. On the reverse, inscribed on a field of blue enamel is the garter motto: HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (Evil to him who evil thinks).

The delicate onyx cameos were created in England around 1730 before the death of Caroline. In the early Nineteenth Century, they were mounted in this ring which was presented to the Prince of Wales (who would later become King Edward VII). Upon the death of Edward VII, his wife, Queen Alexandra, presented this magnificent ring to King George V and Mary of Teck.

Antique Image of the Day: A Dutch Toy, 1814

Image from The British Museum

A Dutch Toy!!!-Or, a pretty Play-thing for a Young Princess!!! Huzza

Titled as the above line reads, this satirical print depicts Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817), only child of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick.  

In this scene, Princess Charlotte is seated enthroned under a canopy.  She wears the "Prince of Wales' Feathers."  In her hands, she's holding a pantin (a jointed puppet), pulling the string so that the figure's legs and arms are extended.  The pantin is holding a flag inscribed surmounted by an orange.  The flag reads, "Orange Boven."  Meanwhile, the puppet looks at the princess pleadingly.

What's behind this hand-painted engraving?

Princess Charlotte, like many a princess before her (especially one who was thought to be Queen one day) was essentially being told who she should marry.  She preferred Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Uncle of Queen Victoria as well as Prince Albert, Victoria's consort).  Meanwhile, George preferred his daughter to marry the Prince of Orange, and, soon, Orange and Charlotte were engaged.

Charlotte wrote:

No arguments, no threats, shall ever bend me to marry this detested Dutchman.

Eventually, George gave in for the sake of his only (legitimate) child and his only hope of having one of his own continue on the throne after he died.  Princess Charlotte broke off her engagement in a letter of June 16th, giving as reasons, that 'from recent circumstances:

I am perfectly convinced my interest is materially concerned with that of my Mother, and that my residence out of this Kingdom would be equally prejudicial to her interest as to my own.

That Charlotte did this only increased her popularity more.  Though this print suggests that Princess Charlotte had a thing for the Marquis of of Lansdowne (not to be confused with the Baron Lensdown), she really only liked Leopold.  

George IV consented to this and Charlotte and Leopold were married May 2, 1816.

But, she died.  

Charlotte passed away after giving birth to a stillborn son.  She complained, "They've made me tipsy," and was found dead after bleeding terribly.

Had she lived, she would have been Queen after the death of her father and Leopold would have been Prince Consort.  After the death of George IV, the throne went to his brother, William IV, and, then, to his niece, Queen Victoria who married Prince Albert as her consort.  Leopold really pushed for the marriage of the two cousins (Victoria didn't mind, she fancied Albert) so that at least ONE Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha at the side of the British Queen--a role which escaped him in his own life.  Still, he did okay, becoming King of the Belgians.  So, don't cry for him.

Print of the Day: The Coronation of King Punch, 1821

The Coronation of King Punch
Satirical Print, hand-colored
The British Museum

This hand-colored satirical print was featured in a July, 1821 pamphlet. It’s entitled “The Coronation of King Punch!!” and it was made by J. Lewis Marks.

Made for the coronation of King George IV, the image shows the former Prince Regent sitting before a huge bowl of punch which rests on a three-legged stool. King George IV has one famously gouty leg resting on a cushion and he jovially holds up goblet and ladle while an Archbishop places a chamber-pot on his head. Another archbishop pours dark liquid on to George’s face, saying, “With oil and Treacle—I anoint thee,—and King of jolly dogs—appoint thee.”

As we can guess, George IV, Queen Victoria’s uncle, was not well-liked. Considered debauched and, frankly, corrupt, he inspired many unflattering drawings like this when he ascended the throne.

This image has been nicknamed, “The history of the coronation of Punch, and the humours of his wife Judy.” This refers to George IV’s wife, Queen Caroline, from whom the adulterous king was famously separated. They enjoyed a rather Punch & Judy-like relationship. He refused to recognize her as Queen, and, in fact, barred her from his coronation. And, she, was rightfully bitter about it. That day, she fell ill, and died shortly after, declaring all the while that she believed she had been poisoned by her husband’s goons. 

This week's schedule

I am still playing catch-up after another morning spent with technical problems.  I will try to get the next chapter up tomorrow, along with a "Treat of the Week."

Gifts of Grandeur: The ‘Queen Anne’ and ‘Queen Caroline’ Pearl Necklaces

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

These two necklaces are part of the private collection of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The first, a string of forty-six pearls once belonged to Queen Anne and, the next, a necklace of fifty pearls was owned by Queen Caroline.

They are always worn together and were given by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present in 1947. Prior to the wedding, they were cleaned and serviced by Garrards who has looked after the pearls since 1896.

Painting of the Day: A Miniature of Caroline Lamb, 1815-1820

Miniature on Ivory
of Lady Caroline Lamb
Emma Eleanora Kendrick, 1815-1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted between 1815 and 1820, this miniature of watercolor on ivory is the work of Emma Eleanora Kendrick (1787-1871) and depicts Lady Caroline Lamb.

Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828) was a well-known British aristocrat and novelist.  She often found herself at the center of scandals.  Perhaps, she is best known for her tumultuous affair with Lord Byron in 1812. Lady Caroline also had a famous husband--the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who later became Prime Minister (and controversial buddy) to Queen Victoria. Lady Caroline, however, was never  created the Viscountess Melbourne because she died before Melbourne succeeded to the peerage.  She is, therefore, known to history as Lady Caroline Lamb.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Admission Ticket for the Coronation of King George IV, 1821

Admission Ticket to the Coronation of King George IV
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Today, we're looking at women named Caroline.  Let's start with Queen Caroline,  the contentious consort of King George IV.

What was happening in 1821? Well, the eldest son of mad King George III was about to ascend the throne as King George IV, formerly the Prince Regent. George IV was not a popular King. Most people thought he was a debaucher and was far too quick to spend the empire’s money. Both of these assertions were true. His brother, William IV was a little bit better. And, certainly, his niece, Queen Victoria was a lot better.

Still, upon his coronation in 1821, the public was hopeful that George IV might mend his lavish ways when he ascended the throne. He didn’t. In fact, his coronation was one of the most expensive and ridiculous in history. Of course, the event took place at Westminster Abbey with a very posh banquet to follow at Westminster Hall—the last of its kind to be held there.

This invitation card was for the ceremony in the Abbey itself. The entrance to the Abbey was carefully guarded. It was so guarded, in fact, that admission was refused to Queen Caroline—the King’s “Consort.” You see, the new King and his wife had been separated for many, many years. They had separated after the birth of their daughter, the ill-fated Princess Charlotte (named for the Prince Regent's mama). And, there was certainly no love lost. The soldiers at the entrance refused to allow Caroline to enter. She had definitely not been invited, and did not have a ticket. Much drama ensued.

Most of the blocks used for printing this card were also employed to print the invitation to the banquet in Westminster Hall afterwards, however, on that card, a different stamped border pattern and slightly differing lettering were used.

You’ll notice that the border of the invitation was stamped with the name, “Dobbs.” This was H. Dobbs whose firm (founded in 1803) developed the use of decorative blind stamping for decorating invitation cards.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Dame Joan Evans Putti Locket, 1570-1600

Memorial Locket with Cameo and Enamel Painting
Cameo:  1570, Setting: 1600
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the collection of Dame Joan Evans, we have this layered agate cameo which depicts two male busts. The cameo is set in gold and adorned with painted enamels and rubies. It’s believed that the cameo was made in Germany circa 1570 and was set into the gold mount around 1600. 

The reverse of the cameo has been painted with an enamel landscape which shows a skull and a putto blowing bubbles—a clear representation of the brevity of human life. Given this, it’s entirely possible that this was meant to serve as a memorial locket or, perhaps, a memento mori.