Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: "Adelaide, Adelaide, Ever-Lovin' Adelaide"

"Read me the part about the Nathan Detroit."

Image: Portrait of Maria Adelaide of France in Turkish-Style Clothes, Etienne Liotard (artist), 1753,

This painting entered the Uffizi collection in 1932. An inscription on the back of the painting identifies the subject as Maria Adelaide, daughter of Louis XV and sister of Luisa Elisabetta, Duchess of Parma. Liotard (Venice, 1702 - Venice, 1789), a portrait artist of Swiss origin who trained in France, lived in Constantinople and in Vienna. He often represented his subjects in exotic costumes. Copyright, The Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy.

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.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Hull Grundy Garnet Aigrette, c. 1770

This and all related images from The British Museum

With its trembler bird which would have quivered as the wearer of this jewel walked, this aigrette of rich garnets set in gilt silver would have been the height of fashion in the mid Seventeenth Century when it was made.  

Another jewel from the Hull Grundy Gift to The British Museum, this aigrette is one of three similar pieces in the collection.

Click Image to Enlarge

The Home Beautiful: The Chelsea Turkish Table Figure, 1755

Chelsea Porcelain Factory, 1755
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Eighteenth Century, in response to the popular dessert table figure groups made in France and Germany, Britain’s Chelsea Factory began making their own sets of porcelain figures designed to be brought out with the dessert course during a stylish meal in a wealthy household.

In Britain, in 1755, when this figure and its companions were made, porcelains depicting people in Turkish dress were highly fashionable.   The Meissen factory in Germany was the first to make porcelain figures of Turks. Those figures were quickly copied by the English porcelain factories in Staffordshire and Chelsea. The Chelsea porcelain factory copied the figure pictured here from a Meissen example modelled by Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1695-1749) in 1746.  This figure was part of a group meant for a dessert table.

Horace Walpole wrote of this decorative phenomenon in 1753 that displays of sugar plums and other confectionery had “long given way to harlequins, gondoliers, Turks, Chinese, and sheperdesses of Saxon china.”

This set is unique in that it wasn't just purely decorative, but useful.  The shell-shaped dishes attached to each figure would have served to hold candies, nuts or small pastries.

Painting of the Day: Two Turks, with a Servant, 1828-1840

Two Turks, with a Servant, Smoking on a Terrace Overlooking a Lake or Sea in Turkey or Greece
William Page
British, 1828-1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This graceful painting has been saddled with a very cumbersome title, “Two Turks, with a Servant, Smoking on a Terrace Overlooking a Lake or Sea in Turkey or Greece.”  It is the work of William Page (1794-1872). This William Page is a British painter, not to be confused with the American artist of the same name who lived roughly during the same period.  Page demonstrates his delicate skill with watercolors in this work on rough paper.  Highlights and details are accentuated in pencils.

Painted between 1828-1840, the work is inscribed on the back, probably partly erroneously, “Turks. Village of Scutari.”  Later notes by the artist suggest that the scene may be in or near Ioannina.

Page’s style went through two distinct stages.  This painting represents Page's later, more picturesque, style.  Previously, during the 1810s and early/mid 1820s, Page focused mainly on costume studies.  During the late 1820s and  early 1830s, he mainly depicted graceful landscapes.  Here, he appears to have combined the two.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A Turkey Work Chair, 1605

The Victoria & Albert Museum

We have looked at “turkey work” before. “Turkey work” is a technique of hand-knotting wool pike in an imitation of Eastern carpets. The “turkey” in question is the country, not the bird.

Chairs of this type were quite fashionable in the Seventeenth Century. In this particular example, the turkey-work cover wasn’t created for the chair, but was, rather, cut down from a carpet of earlier date than the chair.

The curators at the V&A contend that the application of the carpet to the chair doesn’t date to the chair’s 1605 creation. In fact, though the carpet is older than the chair, it appears to have been used as upholstery on the chair in the Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century as a replacement for the original turkey work, which was probably ruined. Doing so would have ensured that the chair maintained a “suitably antique appearance.”

This fine chair comes from Beaudesert, Staffordshire, from a house of Sixteenth-century origins. The house had to be substantially rebuilt in the Nineteenth century. A fire in 1909 destroyed much of the property and its contents. This chair is probably part of those furnishings that were damaged in the fire—explaining the replacement of the turkey work. The house was demolished in 1935 and the historical contents were acquired by the V&A. 

Drawing of the Day: The Yellow-Breasted Chat and the Turk's Cap Lily, c. 1765

The Yellow-Breasted Chat and The Turk's Cap Lily, c. 1765
Mark Catesby
Purchased by King George III
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

From the Royal Collection, we have this handsome watercolor by Mark Catesby (1682-1749). Catesby created the painting of a small bird (known as a Yellow-Breasted Chat) with a Turk’s Cap Lily. To give emphasis to the bird, Catesby has only faintly sketched-in the plant with it’s maple-shaped leaves. 

The painting was created for one Thomas Cadell from whom it was purchased by King George III in 1768.

Figure of the Day: The Banyan Man, 1760-1780

The Banyan Man
France, 1760-1780
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The work of The Lunéville Pottery Factory in France, this wholly Rococo figure of a standing man was made to appeal to the Eighteenth Century fascination with the exotic and the asian. The figure is dressed in a turban and a banyan, and is likely a lost member of a set of dessert figurines.

The figure was made of tin-glazed earthenware adorned with enamel colors and dates between 1760 and 1780.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Hellenistic Gold, Emerald and Garnet Necklace, 200 B.C.-100 B.C.

Gold, Emeralds, Garnets, Glass
Greek, 200-100 B.C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In Greece, during the Hellenistic period (323-27 BC), all of the arts thrived and artists of every conceivable medium began to examine the relationships between different colors. Even Hellenistic jewelers had become fascinated with the concept of color and began to play with different combinations of gold and gemstones. 

During this period, garnets were the most popular gemstone—prized for their deep, wine color. Garnets were often combined with emeralds, carnelian, rock crystal, agates, onyxes or lapis-lazuli to great effect. While the gems were not faceted in the manner of more modern gem cuts, they were often elaborately carved, pierced, and polished. Jewelers even began to toy with the idea of using colored glass to simulate the look of costlier stones. In this necklace, for example, glass was used to imitate onyx and pearl.

The fashion of the day dictated that necklaces should be worn tight around the neck like a modern-day choker. This magnificent necklace of gold, polished garnets and emeralds, originally featured a ribbon at the back to allow the wearer to fasten it snugly against her throat. Necklaces such as this were meant to be worn with others, rising high upon the neck. Usually, the central piece was ornate, as is the case of this one, augmented by tight strings of beads in matching colors.

History's Runway: An Ivory Button Painted with a Butterfly, 1880

Painted Ivory Button
India, 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see the first of a set of twenty-six buttons which were painted with an image of a butterfly.  Made in India about 1880, for an ivory button like this to be painted with a naturalistic subject is quite unusual for the time.  Most often, Delhi miniatures like this were painted with scenes of Indian monuments and portraits of Mughal emperors.

The painting is preserved under a glass disk which would have prevented wear to the image as the button was used.

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Birley-Randell Marble Table, 1862

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The International Exhibition of 1862 in London revisited some of the artistic triumphs of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Manufacturers and artists from across the world sought to show their skills. S. Birley of Derbyshire made this table for the Exhibition. The magnificent work of pietra dura won prizes in the furniture and the mining classes.

Samuel Birley was known for gorgeous inlaid marble objects which imitated the Italian mosaic inlaying technique that had been prized for centuries since being developed for Italy’s powerful Medici family. This is one of Birley’s most exceptional pieces--thin polished slices of hardstone and semi-precious stone have been used to create a brilliantly colored, naturalistic pattern of flowers and foliage. The design, much admired by Queen Victoria, was created by Birley’s associate, J. Randell.

Matthew Digby Wyatt, in judging the group, compared Birley's table with the pietra dura exhibited by the Italian firms in attendance. He said, “Many very good samples of the usual imitations of flowers, &c., inlaid in black marble for table tops and cabinets, are contributed by various Florentine manufacturers, amongst whom the jury specially noted the houses of Barzanti, Betti, and Rinaldini. In the same class of goods the table top exhibited by our solitary producer in the same line, Mr. Samuel Birley, of Ashford, Derbyshire, was much admired. Observations were, however, made upon the inequality of scale in which the centre group of flowers and the surrounding wreath had been worked out.”

Gifts of Grandeur: The Jean-Pierre Ador Snuffbox, 1762-66

Enameled Gold Snuffbox
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The base of this handsome snuffbox bears the arms of Baron Nicolaus von Korff (1710-66) who was a distinguished soldier in the Russian army. The, made in St. Petersburg between 1762-66, is enameled with the five chivalric orders that the baron received: the Russian Orders of St Andrew (cover) and Alexander Nevsky (right side), Prussian Order of the Black Eagle (front), Polish Order of the White Eagle (back) and Order of St Anne of Holstein (left side).

Made by Jean-Pierre Ador, the box is part of the magnificent Gilbert Collection at the V&A. The original stamped leather box remains—still lined with silk. 

Unusual Artifacts: The Mysore Model, 1923

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This strange architectural model depicts a medieval Hindu temple. It has been carved in sandalwood upon a polished teak-wood base. The model is a composite of styles, but is clearly, loosely based on details of Hoysala dynasty temples at Halebid, Somnathpur and Belur.

The model is adorned with figures of various Hindu gods nestled within niches, amidst scrolling foliate stems, lotus and lotus flowers. From above, we see that the plan of the temple is a twelve pointed star where each point rests upon the back of an elephant. This is not a replica of a particular building, but rather an amalgam of details from several important temples.

This ingenious work of art was first seen publically at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. It was loaned to the Exhibition by King George V and Queen Mary to whom it was given by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1923. 

Photograph of the Day: The Dining Room (Francis Place) (II), 1997

Does this furniture polish have alcohol in it?  Hmm...tastes like I might die.
--Roger Smith

The Dining Room (Francis Place) (II)Sarah Jones, 1997
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Photographer Sarah Jones was born in London in 1959 and graduated from the MA Photography course at Goldsmiths College in 1996. Jones is celebrated as one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists and her work in carefully staged, large-scale color photographs has brought her considerable acclaim.   The photographs are almost life-size, accentuating the relationships between the subjects through their staging and proportions

Here we see an example of Jones’ work in this is engaging and elegant image of adolescent girls in a polished, posh setting reminiscent of Nineteenth Century portraiture.

The piece is called, “The Dining Room (Francis Place) (II),” and dates to 1997.

Object of the Day: Museum Edition: A Medieval Sapphire Ring, 1250-1300

Engraved Gold and Cabochon Sapphire
Possibly English or French
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The human fascination with gemstones has thrived for thousands of years. In the middle ages, gems were cherished not only for their inherent value, but for their talismanic properties. Sapphires were most especially coveted. They were considered quite exotic—coming mostly from Sri Lanka, and were, therefore assigned great monetary value. However, they were also assigned significant spiritual powers which made them all the more desirable.

Sapphires were considered as contributors to peace, reconciliation and chastity. Furthermore, the wearer of a sapphire was said to have a clearer communication with God who would be more inclined to hear the wearer’s prayers more favorably.

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Jewelers options were limited. The tools available in the medieval period didn’t allow for intricate facets and cuts on gemstones. Stones such as rubies and sapphires were not faceted, but rather polished into shining cabochons, usually of irregular shapes.

This ring from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London dates to between 1250 and 1300 and shows the predominant trend of jewels of the era. The sapphire has been polished into a cabochon and secured to the ring in a thick claw setting. The setting is mounted at quite a height. Though it seems ridiculous to modern eyes, this tall setting allowed for more light to enter the stone. The ring itself is crafted from engraved gold with the kind of foliate pattern which appealed to medieval sensibilities. This was the stuff of the very wealthy and, unfortunately, very few pieces of jewelry from this time period survive.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Liberty Blood Red Fire Opal Ring and Necklace, 1926-1927

Fire Opal Ring and Pendant in Platinum and Diamond Settings
The British Museum

Click Images to Enlarge.

Liberty & Co. of London and Paris produced this platinum-set finger ring and pendant for Christmas of 1926-1927.  The set glitters with the pristine sparkle of diamonds and the unusual glow of blood red fire opals.  

This extraordinary pair of rare fire opals is part of an impressive collection of jewels from the 1920s-1950s which was donated to the British Museum in 1978 by Professor John and Anne Hull Grundy.  

To Serve and Project: The Summer Tile, 1881

Tile of "Summer"
Kate Greenaway, 1881
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the late Nineteenth Century, ceramic wall tiles were considered quite fashionable and the demand for them grew considerably, especially to be used in conjunction with fireplaces since the new cast-iron grates that began to appear during this period were specifically designed to be set with tiles. The tiles were fitted to metal panels that bolted onto the frame. At the start of this trend, pictorial tiles with pastoral scenes were especially popular and, often, tiles with series of different scenes were used.

The invention of “dust-pressing,” which developed in the 1840s, aided the mass production of tiles. The process allowed tiles to be formed by compacting powdered clay under high pressure in a screw-press. As many as 1,800 tiles a day—of a consistently high quality--could made on a single press, operated by two people. The result was tiles which were much less prone to warping than earlier examples.

Here, we see a tile made in such a manner—in 1881. It is one of a set of four tiles of the seasons. In this example, a woman is in her garden watering flowers, wearing a Japanese hairstyle and clothing. The style of the figure on this tile is close in appearance to figures drawn by one Kate Greenaway (1846-1901)-- one of the most celebrated children's book illustrators of the period. It is highly likely to have been her work since she often lent her talents to especially commissioned tile pieces.

History's Runway: A Late Nineteenth Century Corset

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A lady’s corset didn’t just offer a supportive foundation, it molded her body into unnatural shapes in order to fit whatever peculiar silhouette was in fashion at the time. By the 1890s, women’s bodies were being forced into angular shapes which went against any natural human form. The one we see above, at least, claimed to relieve pressure on internal organs while supporting the stomach. I seriously doubt that it did.

This…thing…is made of whalebone which has been constructed, essentially to be a second ribcage…a restrictive, uncomfortable ribcage in a different shape than the woman’s body. But, just so it didn’t look like a torture device, it had some very attractive embroidery on its pink satin surface. It’s also trimmed with dark pink satin ribbon.

It was made in England between 1890 and 1895. 

The Home Beautiful: A Cast Iron Fireplace with Ceramic Tiles, 1905

The Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum is filled with almost anything imaginable from toys to diapers and diamonds to entire rooms from houses.  So, it’s not surprising that we should see an entire fireplace from 1905 in their collection.  

This fireplace is an example of the sort of modern fireplace which came about in the early Twentieth Century--its raised grate was developed when coal replaced wood as the standard domestic fuel.

Like others of the era, this fireplace is made of cast iron and set with decorative ceramic tiles. Cast-iron fireplaces were made of flat plates cast in moulds and then assembled later. 
 Iron founders such as Carron and Coalbrookdale offered a large range of fireplaces in their catalogs in a variety of styles and tile colors. The tiles serve as decoration, but also to reflect the heat efficiently.  

This particular cast-iron fireplace came from a house in Chiswick.
  It is stamped with the name and address of the original founder, Planet Foundry Co. Ltd, Guide Bridge, Manchester.

Back to business...slowly

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House
Thomas Rowlandson, 1809
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Click image to enlarge.

Well, wasn't THAT an unusually long absence on my part?  Sorry for not having posted the last few days.  

At any rate, I'm easing back into our regular schedule.  

We'll pick up with A Recipe for Punch in coming days, and get back to the usual order of things.  If you'd like to catch up with the story, you can access all posted chapters in the Chapter Archive.

More "stuff" coming soon.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Dudley Box, 1579

This pretty little box was made in England in 1579 to hold sweetmeats.  Gifts of sweetmeats, sugared fruits and candies were traditional presents at New Year in the Royal Court.  Sometimes these were presented in special, and often precious, containers such as this one.   

The crest of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (died 1588) is inlaid im silver in the lid. Dudley was the favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, and was, therefore, a very important fella about the court.  No doubt, this box must have been made especially for Dudley as a New Year's gift.

Curiously, after the box had been donated to the V&A, it was untouched for many years.  In fact, it was not opened until 1968 when the crest of Dudley and inscribed date  was discovered for the first time.

The box is decorated in the technique known as damascening, a process, especially popular in the Sixteenth Century, in which gold and silver ribbon is forced into a cross hatched surface of iron using a copper tool. The base iron was darkened with heat and chemicals so that it would develop a blue or black hue which would contrast with the gold and silver ornament.  

Object of the Day: Buy Peoria Stoves

She’s looking to her right with an expression that says, “Isn’t my costume a bit…well…Seventeenth Century.” 

She pauses and breaks her gaze.

"What?"  The artist asks.

"'s just that this...collar.  It's rather...out-moded."

“No, no…” The artist must have said. “It’s fine.”

“What’s this drawing for?” She asked.

“I dunno, canned meat…or…I dunno. Kettles or something.”

“Should I smile?”

“Not a lot.” The artist replies.

“Are you sure I’m not over-dressed for kettles?”

“Maybe it’s stoves. I dunno.” The artist replied. “Now, stay still.”

“Oh, if it’s stoves. Then, this is perfect. The hat’s my own. Do you like it?”

“Stay still!”

"Georges?  Why is it you always get to sit in the shade while I have to stand in the sun?" 

"Don't move the mouth."  He replies.

Oh...hold on.  I slipped into Sondheim-mode.  Let's refocus.

Above this decidedly over-dressed woman, we see the words:

Peoria, Ills.

And, on the reverse, we see…






     The fire pot for coal is double and heavy. Single Fire
Pot and separate Wood Grate for wood.
     Fire Pot is LOW DOWN, retaining and radiating the heat
near the floor, where it is needed.
     The base Section is ornamental and ventilated, distributing
heat from its entire surface.
     Large deep Ash Pan in base rendering stove cleanly and
convenient in service.
     Mounted with extra heavy, best quality Boiler Iron Drum.
     Every joint made gas and air tight—preventing leakage.
     Check Draft Registers in doors and collar, giving perfect
control over fire.
     Grate shakes from outside, with solid center pull dump.
     Spun nickel and Bronze Urn.
     Full Nickel Trimmed.      Polished Edges.

I do worry about having a solid center pull dump. 

Ah, the days when cooking was truly, truly dangerous.