Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: The Fabergé Bell Push, 1900

Bell Push
Fabergé, 1899-1900
bowenite, gold, sapphire, ruby, amethyst,
moonstone, and diamond
The Royal Collection
When I first came across this interesting object, I guessed (incorrectly) that it must have been one of the many shiny things that my favorite dead Royal and notorious magpie, Mary of Teck, managed to bring into the Royal Collection. I was mistaken. This pretty little thing pre-dates Mary of Teck’s days of collecting and is actually one of Queen Victoria’s additions to the collection.

Here, we see a bell push of enamel, bowenite, gold, sapphire, ruby, amethyst, moonstone, and diamond. Of course, it’s the work of Fabergé and looks every bit of it. I love it. I can’t quite figure how it worked, but I love it anyway. It just goes to show that when you’re Royal, you don’t want to soil your hands by ringing for the servants with just any old brass crank or button.

Painting of the Day: “The Nest” by Sir John Everett Millais, 1887

"The Nest"
Sir John Everett Millais
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
Millais’ paintings were always considered to be tender and touching. Critics of his later works often complained that they were so sentimental as to overpower Millais’ immense talent and make them appear “cheap.” The critics may have thought them trite, but Millais’ works never failed to sell quite well and were eagerly snatched up by art collectors.

Lord Leverhulme, like many of his contemporaries, liked a good bit of sentimentality and bought this painting by Millais—The Nest—knowing that reproductions of it would sell a lot of his soap. And, they did. Of course, once the ads had run their course, he kept the painting and gave it to his wife. Today, it lives in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The Art of Play: Wooden Dog Toys

Wooden Toy Dogs
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
These whimsical carved wooden figures of dogs come from the Liverpool, England area and are the work of a local Nineteenth Century artisan. They are stylized and charming with painted features and smooth edges.

These items, along with other similarly canine-related objects are part of the display of Decorative Arts from the Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.

At the Music Hall: “Over There,” 1917

George M. Cohan
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware -
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over, over there

Still an enduring, nostalgic favorite which finds its way into popular culture. George M. Cohan’s rousing World War I anthem, Over There, is considered one of the defining songs of the early Twentieth Century. This patriotic song helped raise the spirits of the American soldiers during the First World War as well as providing a bit of bolstering pep to the people who were left at home.

For this song and his other patriotic works, George M. Cohan was awarded the Congressional Gold medal in 1936 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 217

The baby’s cries awoke Mr. Punch who quickly bolted upright and hurried to the child who had been sleeping in the large, wicker basket that Marjani had brought for that purpose.

“Here, Colin,” Mr. Punch soothed, picking up the child. “Not to worry, you won’t always gotta sleep in no basket like some bunch of dirty laundry.”

The child hiccoughed and buried his face into Punch’s shoulder. “There now, that’s better, isn’t it? Uncle Punch is here and won’t let nothin’ happen to you.”

Punch yawned as he settled into a chair and rocked the baby. “You just settle down for a few ticks of the clock, and then, Uncle Punch will get you some breakfast. Coo! Breakfast! ‘Spose you’re too little for sausages, right? You don’t got teeth. Pity, that. I love sausages, I do. You’ll love ‘em, too.” Mr. Punch pointed to the partially draped window. “Look at that, Colin, my dear, looks like the sun is startin’ to come up. It’s a new day. So, ‘happy day’ and ‘good morning’ to you, little Chum. Big things will be doin’ today, they will. It’s gonna mean a whole new life for ya. A new life for all of us.” Punch sighed and looked at the bed where Robert snored deeply.

“Your Uncle Robert’s gotta get his rest—noisy though he is. He does so much for us, that one. So kind, he is. Here, you’d think he weren’t a human, he does so much. But, he is. So, we’ll let him sleep, we will. Your friend Marjani’s gonna bring somethin’ special today. You know what she’s gonna bring? Do ya?”

Punch looked at the baby who gurgled at him. “She’s gonna bring you a friend, she is—me chum, Toby. Toby’s a dog what’s soft and kind and he will look after you, too. She’s gonna bring somethin’ else, also. A puppet! You know what a puppet is? I were a puppet once, but I ain’t no more. Your Uncle Cecil, he made this one and it looks like me, it does. Well, looks like I look inside me head…” Punch paused for a moment, contemplating the ownership of his head. “Our head.” He nodded, correcting himself. “I share the head with your Uncle Julian. Here, but you got a lot of uncles, don’t ya? I ‘spose I count as one though I’m really two. But, you got an aunt, too. Aunt Adrienne who’s ever so kind. She’s from France. That’s where me cousin Guignol lives. He’s got a long braid of hair—or somethin’. Little nose—different sort of puppet. Still, I ‘spose we’re related. We’re both puppets at heart with a similar kind of purpose. That’s what makes him me cousin. Your Uncle Punch’s cousin.”

The baby began to fall asleep as Punch chattered away.

“That’s good, little Chum,” Punch sighed. “You sleep again. Marjani’ll be here soon. Today will be a good day, I swear it. You’ll see. Everything will be all right from now on.”

Meanwhile, at Louis’ little shack, Barbara Allen awoke from a terrible dream. She blinked her eyes rapidly as she studied her surroundings. She smiled when she realized that the warmth she felt next to her was Charles. She gently brushed his hair from his face and examined him. He looked quite handsome, asleep next to her. She felt a sort of comfort she’d never felt with Arthur.

“Arthur,” Barbara thought. “Gone to sea—forever.” She leaned against Charles. “I don’t suppose he’ll ever return. Perhaps he’s dead.” She thought. “How will I know if I’m ever free to marry again? There must be laws about such things.”

Barbara wondered what she’d say to Arthur if he ever did return. How would she tell him that she’d taken their child, and, then, gave him up again? Would he even care? Arthur had never shown a paternal interest in the boy. That’s why she sold him in the first place. Barbara’s sense of comfort began to fade as she thought of her baby. She cuddled closer against Charles who moaned slightly. “No,” Barbara said to herself. “Everything will work out. It must.”

In her small room on the ground floor of the house on Royal Street, Marjani grunted as she rolled over in her little bed. Her body ached and she was still weary from the night before. Getting back into the house had been exhausting. Once again, Edward Cage had stopped her as she returned, and once again she lied to him about having to nurse a sick friend. How would she manage to get out again that morning? And, how would she explain why she was carrying a puppet and a terrier?

For a moment, Marjani felt as though she could hear Naasir speaking to her. “It’s for The Great Man of the Rocks,” he said, “It’s your destiny.”

Marjani smiled and took a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she yawned and sat up.

Suddenly, Marjani gasped. “What you doin’ here?” She exclaimed at the shadowy figure which sat at the foot of her bed.

“I’ve come to settle our score, woman.” Marie Laveau smiled in the dim morning light.

Did you miss Chapters 1-216? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, April 11, 2011 for Chapter 218 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Make the Most of Leftovers

Sometimes, we can do wonderful things with leftovers. The extra food from meals can be repurposed into something delightful. Similarly, the scraps left behind from just about anything can be re-used for great purposes. Take the slag glass below, for example. Had that been discarded as simply “left over glass,’ we’d not have the attractive sculptural form that we do.

Whether you’ve got leftover lumber, food, paint, cardboard, or, frankly, just about anything else, you can always find a purpose for it. Who knows what you can create if you use a little creativity.

Object of the Day: Blue Slag Glass

The term “slag glass” actually refers to two vastly different collectible items. In the first meaning, slag glass is an opaque, marbleized glass. Often called “marble glass,” or “brown malachite,” this slag glass takes various shapes and was a popular glass-making method for vessels in America in the Nineteenth Century.

The second meaning of “slag glass” refers to large chunks of glass which have an organic, natural shape similar to mineral deposits and rock formations. This type of glass, seen here, are remnants of glass left over in the kilns of large glass companies. There are as many different colors of slag glass as there are glass.

This bright blue chunk of slag glass was given to me many years ago and I’ve always enjoyed it. The fluid shape and brilliant blue color are extremely appealing. It’s difficult to believe that this was simply an accidental occurrence and not the design of a sculptor.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Royal Pets: “A Rough Dog,” by George Stubbs, 1790

A Rough Dog
George Stubbs, 1790
The Royal Collection
The Royal Family, historically, has always had great affection for their pets. King George IV was no exception. Though George also enjoyed the company of people (women, mostly), he also cherished his animal companions.

In 1790, George Stubbs was commissioned to paint this portrait of a friendly, but somewhat messy dog for King George IV. Stubbs was known primarily as a painter of horses, but showed a remarkable versatility with this painting which is not only a great portrait of the dog, but also a rather impressive landscape.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Punch & Judy Postage Stamps

Punch & Judy on the Web
You know you’re really an integral part of a country’s heritage when you get your face on a postage stamp. Of course, Mr. Punch is the most important wooden-headed bloke in Britain and has been for hundreds of years. So, it’s only natural that our Mr. Punch and his unusual companions would find their visages on stamps at some point.

In 2001, The Royal Mail created a line of “Mr. Punch” themed postage stamps. A limited edition set of “First Day” covers was also created. I’m not a stamp collector, but I wouldn’t mind having some of these.

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Alexandra When Princess of Wales with Three of Her Children, 1868

Tinted photograph of Queen Alexandra while
Princess of Wales with three of her children,
framed in a silver strut frame mimicking the Star of
the Order of the Garter.
The Royal Collection
 At first glance, this exquisite frame of silver and red and blue enamel appears to be simply an artistic reproduction of the Star of the Order of the Garter (1820). However, upon further inspection, you can see that the center of the star is hinged on either side and opens to reveal a photograph of Queen Alexandra (consort of King Edward VII) while she was still the Princess of Wales.

Also pictures are three of Alexandra and Edward’s children: Prince Albert Victor, Prince George and Princess Louise. The photograph has been carefully tinted and still retains much of the original color from 1868.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the real Star of the Order of the Garter which was created by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.

Star of the Order of the Garter
Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
The Royal Collection

Friday Fun: The 2009 Covent Garden May Fayre

The Punch & Judy Fellowship
Compliments of our friends at the Punch & Judy Fellowship, this fun video from the 2009 Covent Garden May Fayre shows several of the many Punch & Judy Professors who exhibited their many talents at this all-Punch event. This video was recorded by Chris van der Craats who is known as “Professor Whatsit” and who, in addition to being a grand performer, creates some of the most attractive puppets for sale anywhere.

This is a great video in that it shows a variety of different professors and their individual puppets—each of which is wonderful in its own way. Of course, we see Mr. Punch trying to teach the baby to walk. And, of course, he becomes frustrated and grinds the child into sausage—as one does. I love seeing this various performances. I hope you enjoy it!

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 216

Where are we?” Barbara asked as she squinted in the darkness. “There’s an odor.”

“Linseed Oil. Just a moment,” Charles said softly, lighting a kerosene lamp.

Barbara blinked as the light flared momentarily. She looked around. “This is…”

“I know it’s not the sort of thing you’re used to, Miss Allen,” Charles smiled.

“Charles, I’m so far removed from life at Fallbridge Hall, I have no sense of pretention about me anymore. Since I’ve been here, I’ve slept in a stable, I’ve taken shelter in a swamp, I’ve felt the bugs crawl on my skin as I’ve tried to erase the pain of each day. To me, this is a palace.”

“Well, I don’t think you’ll find your Queen Victoria in a place like this.” Charles laughed, arranging some blankets on the dusty floor.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Barbara smiled. “Her Majesty is a very plucky woman. All that time in Scotland—she’s bound to have had a fair amount of dirt on her skirts.”

“Have you met her?” Charles asked.

“Yes, I’ve been presented to Her Majesty.” Barbara nodded. “I’ve not had as many opportunities to be in her presence as Julian has. Prince Albert rather fancied Julian’s work as a jeweler. Once, while Julian was in London, he worked with Garrard’s in creating one of the garter badges. Julian’s been to the palace on several occasions. Peculiar, isn’t it? All the opportunities my brother has had, and yet, he loathed every minute of it. He so much preferred staying in his townhouse and sorting through his gems. While most people would have been brimming with excitement to stand alongside the Prince and the Queen, Julian was bubbling with fear.”

Barbara sighed.

“Miss Allen?”

“He’s going to make my son as much of a coward as he is.” Barbara whispered. “My boy will be a madman like his uncle.”

“I wouldn’t quite classify His Grace has a madman, Miss Allen.” Charles replied thoughtfully. “Yes, he’s different, but even when he’s—well, behaving as Mr. Punch--he’s still one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Both facets of him, they’re intelligent and gentle and generous. I’ve not known him—or them—very long, but, I can tell a good man when I meet one, and your brother is a good man.”

“Yes, I suppose he is.” Barbara nodded slowly. “He was always kind to me—even when I was difficult. Most men wouldn’t have taken any interest at all in their infant sisters. He’s a great deal older than I. But, for as long as I can recall, he always tried to show me respect and gentleness. How did I repay that?” She chuckled mournfully. “I’ve made him suffer terribly.” She wrung her hands together. “I can only hope that he’ll show my son the same kindness.”

“You know that he will, Miss Allen.” Charles answered supportively.

“I have to believe that he will.” Barbara said, beginning to cry. “Oh! I miss him—my Colin. How could I have let him go? Another soul which loved me unconditionally, and I, too made him suffer. Charles, I’m a horrible woman. Why? Why am I like this? And, why are you standing by me? You ought to just cast me out on the street where I belong.”

“Miss Allen, I…” Charles blushed. “I care. I know our association has been brief, but when I look at you, I don’t see a ‘horrible woman.’ I see a beautiful woman who has made mistakes, but I believe you will be triumphant.”

“Triumphant?” Barbara said, wiping her eyes.

“In anything you so choose.” Charles smiled.

“Thank you,” Barbara took a deep breath.

“Now, my Lady, your bed awaits.” Charles pointed to the floor.

“I’ve not been called, ‘Lady Barbara’ in so long, I’ve forgotten that it’s my name.”

“Never forget that. You were born Lady Barbara. That’s who you are. You’ve only been Barbara Allen briefly. You don’t have to remain so.”

“Don’t I?” Barbara asked.

“You can be whomever you so desire.” Charles replied.

“Tonight, I only wish to be the woman who is here with you.” Barbara blushed. “By the way, where is ‘here’?”

“This is the home of my friend, Louis. He’s away—gone to Atlanta. He’s an artist. A painter. He doesn’t mind if I come here. Since I’ve been in service, and living in other people’s houses, I like to know that I have a private place to go every so often. Even if it is a little dirty, at least it’s a place where no one expects anything of me.”

“And this Louis—he won’t mind that you’ve brought a woman here?”

“He’d encourage it.” Charles laughed. “Now, go and rest. I’ll see if I can find us something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.” Barbara shook her head. “I feel rather ill. My stomach is in knots.”

“You must eat something.” Charles argued.

“No.” Barbara said.

“It will make you feel better.” Charles answered.

“Just put your arms around me,” Barbara said softly, “that’s all the comfort I need.”

Meanwhile at their hotel, Mr. Punch sat in one of the stiff, wooden chairs at the corner table and cradled Colin in his arms.

“Them women….” He shook his head. “You shoulda let me bash ‘em on their wicked heads.”

“You know that wouldn’t have solved anything.” Robert smiled.

“Maybe not, but it would have been satisfyin’.”

Marjani laughed.

“Marjani, did you manage to talk with my brother and Adrienne?” Robert asked.

“I did.” Marjani nodded. “They’ll do whatever we need them to.”

“Good.” Mr. Punch grinned. “Here, we got ourselves the perfect conditions now.”

“How so?” Robert asked.

“See, we can make it seem like Iolanthe flew into a rage when she didn’t get her blackmail.” Punch explained. “We got a witness in Marjani who saw them witches here, demandin’ we pay them for their silence.”

“This is all quite unsettling.” Robert sighed.

“It is,” Mr. Punch said. “But, the most important things always are. Yes?”

“They are, Mr. Punch,” Marjani said emphatically.

“So, Chum,” Mr. Punch winked. “Are you ready to be killed?”

Did you miss Chapter 1-215?  If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Join a Club

We all have something which interests us. It’s only natural that you’d want to learn more about your passions. A great way to do that is to join a club or organization which will provide you with more information, but also give you a means of communicating with other people with similar interests and experts on the subject.

Thankfully, we live in a world where it’s not necessary to go to a stuffy convention center and sit in a room with people you don’t want to talk to. We all have the opportunity to join clubs around the world and to get the communication and information you desire without any hassle. For example, I’m a member of The Punch & Judy Fellowship. That organization is based in England, so it would be rather difficult for me to go to regular meetings all the way from Texas. However, as part of the group, through electronic communication, I have access to all sorts of great Punch-related information and can stay abreast of the goings-on of my favorite puppet and the people who love him.

So, take some time to research groups which might interest you. You’ll find that joining such a club can give you a greater enjoyment of the things which already excite you.

Object of the Day: A Caithness Collectors Club Pin

I haven’t changed much over the years. Sure, I’m taller and my hair is redder, but otherwise the same things that thrilled me as a kid, thrill me today. I’ve always had an interest in art and antiques—even as a child. In my early teens, I started collecting paperweights. You’ve all seen many of my paperweights here at Stalking the Belle Époque.

My parents always encouraged my interests in the arts and humanities and when I began collecting paperweights, they enrolled me in the Caithness Collectors Club. The artisans at Scottish Caithness Glass have been producing exceptional paperweights since 1961. They understand that collectors of their glass are always interested in finding out more about the items which excite them, and, so they founded the Collectors Club. As part of my membership, I received this attractive pin. A miniature paperweight of crystal and millefiori, it is marked “CCC.” I’ve kept this little pin for nearly thirty years and it still makes me smile.

These days, Caithness calls their club, “The Paperweight Collectors Society.” Membership is quite reasonably priced. If you’re a collector of paperweights and have an interest in Caithness Glass, joining the society would be a great way to learn more.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Cookmaid with Vegetables and a Westie

“Mmmm…unexpected Bacon.”

Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit
Sir Nathaniel Bacon,  circa 1620-5, Tate Britain

Mastery of Design: Pendant Jewel with Apollo and Daphne

Pendant Jewel with Apollo and Daphne
Mid-Sixteenth Century with Eighteenth
Century Additions
The Royal Collection
Gold, émail en ronde bosse (enamel work), sard (carnelian), orange and white sardonyx, black and white onyx, table-cut diamonds, table-cut and cushion-cut rubies, cushion-cut Colombian emeralds, turquoise, saltwater pearl are combined in this magnificent pendant jewel.

The jewel—in its present condition—was first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1830, though it predates that by a century or two. Three pendants are suspended from a central jewel set in gold scrollwork. The pendant on the left is a sardonyx cameo of a female bust in three-quarter profile which is framed by fourteen emeralds set in a gold mount with two small pearls above. The central hanging pendant is a turquoise cameo representing a draped female bust, in profile,, in a gold mount, also with large pearl above. And, to the right, hangs an onyx cameo with the head of Bacchus en face, framed by fourteen rubies in a gold mount with two small pearls above.

The original jewel, created circa 1650, from which the three pendants hang, seems to have included a cameo with a painted portrait where the largest sard cameo is set today. Alterations were made to the piece, most likely at the request of King George IV who had very definite ideas about the way things should look.

As it is today, the central frame is suspended by two chains from the ruby-set clasp. It is set with an enamel figure of reclining Cupid, the figures of Cupid and Apollo, a dragon and a harpy. The reverse features full-length figures of Apollo and Daphne. The overall theme here is that of unrequited love. That’s a theme that never goes out of style, even when the piece was altered for changing tastes.

Unfolding Pictures: Fan Depicting the Siege of Barcelona, 1740

Fan Depicting the Siege of Barcelona
English, 1740
Vellum leaf on ivory sticks with ivory guards.
The Royal Colllection
The leaf of this magnificent hand fan has been painted with a scene of the 1714 siege of Barcelona by Bourbon forces. This was the final stage of the War of Spanish Succession (1704-1714). The painting here, completed in 1740, is based on an earlier engraving of the siege which was the work of Jacques Rigaud in 1732.

The reverse of the fan depicts a solider in a red coat. He carries a musket. A note accompanying this fan—tucked into its original box, indicates that it once belonged to Queen Louise of Denmark who bequeathed it to her daughter, Queen Alexandra (consort of King Edward VII). The curious thing about this fan is that it appears to have been cropped and rebuilt at some point in its existence. The left side of the fan is slightly shorter than the right and the sticks on the left have clearly been cut and reassembled in the wrong order. Regardless of this damage, it’s still quite attractive. With its brilliantly-colored single leaf mounting (in the English style) on ivory sticks, this is an important bit of history for many reasons.

Painting of the Day: “The Fairytale,” by James Sant, 1845

The Fairytale
James Sant, 1845
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
A favorite painter of Queen Victoria’s, James Sant enjoyed painting landscapes, but was better known as a portrait painter. This member of the Royal Academy was welcomed into the most prominent homes in England, including the Royal residences, where his prestigious sitters were delighted by his beautiful canvases and marveled at his exceptional work ethic. The collections of many of England’s stately homes include portraits and landscapes painted by Sant.

Every so often, Sant combined his two loves—landscape and portraiture—into genre paintings, domestic scenes and historical or literary groups with strong compositions and delicately painted figures. He especially thrilled in painting mothers and children. One of his more famous paintings is a portrait of a mother and child in a allegorical composition entitled “The Fairytale.” Now housed in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the painting is at once tranquil and tender as well as urgent and mysterious. On the surface, it is simply a scene of a mother telling her young child a fairytale, but look closer. This is a study of Victorian-era ideals. Examine the painting and see what it says to you.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 215

Iolanthe straightened her skirts as she sat at the small table in the corner of the hotel room.

“Didn’t say you could sit, I didn’t.” Mr. Punch mumbled, rocking the baby gently so he would fall asleep again.

“And, I didn’t say you could steal the child I sold to Edward Cage.” Iolanthe smiled.

“I didn’t steal it.” Mr. Punch retorted.

“You didn’t return him, either.” Iolanthe winked.

“What do you want, Miss Evangeline?” Robert asked.

“Yes, what do you have in mind, really?” Ulrika wondered aloud, going to stand next to Iolanthe.

“As I said,” Iolanthe began, “I can provide Mr. Cage with another child, but, getting another one will cost me dearly. If you were to assist me with the financing of that endeavor, I wouldn’t question your decision to keep Barbara Allen’s son.”

“So, basically, you’re selling this boy—again.” Robert frowned. “That will be twice that you’ve profited from this child’s life.”

“It’s not much of a profit.” Iolanthe chuckled. “You make it sound so mercenary. I’m just tryin’ to help everyone get what they want. That’s no crime, and I don’t want you thinkin’ that it is.”

“And, if we don’t pay you for your ‘kindness’?” Robert asked.

“Well, then, I’ll have to let Mr. Cage know where you are.” Iolanthe shrugged.

“Oh, you are clever.” Ulrika chirped. “It’s wonderful.”

“Shut yer gob, you ginger beast!” Mr. Punch spat. “I think you’re the worst of the bunch, I do. Least, the Ogress doesn’t declare her joy at other people’s misery.”

“No, I keep it to myself.” Iolanthe smiled.

“This is blackmail.” Robert growled.

“It’s business, Doctor.” Iolanthe fluttered her lashes.

“Two swift strikes on each head with somethin’ blunt, Chum.” Mr. Punch pleaded. “Just let me do ‘em in.”

“It’s tempting, dear Punch,” Robert answered, “but we can’t go about killing everyone who interferes with us. It would only make us more like them.”

“I ‘spose.” Punch sighed. He looked at Colin who’d fallen asleep in his arms. Then, he looked at Robert who seemed to be quite exhausted. Mr. Punch shook his head.

“Listen, Ogress…” Punch began.

A knock on the door interrupted him. He knew the knock. It was the pre-decided pattern of rapping which they had worked out with Marjani before she’d left.

She came into the room without waiting for a response. Marjani’s eyes widened when she saw Iolanthe and Ulrika.

“I knew somethin’ was wrong.” Marjani grunted. “That’s why I done left in such a hurry.”

“However did you get past Mr. Cage’s men?” Ulrika grinned.

“Never you mind,” Marjani grumbled.

“Marjani, we were just gettin’ some things clear with Miss Evangeline.” Mr. Punch said seriously.

“Oh?” Marjani asked.

“Now,” Punch turned back to Iolanthe. “As much as I don’t like the thought, I’ll pay you. How much do you want to keep quiet?”

“I’m not sure.” Iolanthe smiled. “I’ve so many expenses.”

“Think on it, then.” Punch scowled. “Here, come back in the morning and tell us your price. I’ll get the money for you quickly.”

“Well, then,” Iolanthe rose. “I think that would be fine, however, how can I be sure you won’t flee in the night?”

“Perhaps your two henchmen outside can keep an eye on us.” Marjani grimaced. “Did you think they’d not be noticed? I spotted them right off when I came in.”

“You are wily, aren’t you?” Iolanthe laughed.

“More than you could ever guess.” Marjani answered.

“I’ll give you my list of expenses in the morning.” Iolanthe nodded.

“And mine.” Ulrika added.

“Yours?” Robert guffawed angrily. “Are we to believe that you, too, are going to purchase an alternate child for Edward Cage? What expenses do you have?”

“My suffering comes at a price.” Ulrika grinned.

“Speaking of which, Ulrika, I’m reminded that you still have something of mine. We’ll have to take that into account when we decide what you’re owed in this transaction.”

“Perhaps, His Grace, can make it possible for both of us to get what we want.” Ulrika answered nervously..

“Whatever it takes,” Mr. Punch said hurriedly. “Now, will you both please leave? Lookin’ at you both makes me sick. I hate you so much.”

“Isn’t it interesting how, in a lunatic, honesty is almost endearing?” Ulrika laughed.

“Almost.” Iolanthe chuckled.

“Good night, gentlemen.” Ulrika winked as they left the room.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch exclaimed as the door shut behind the women.

Marjani took the sleeping baby from Mr. Punch’s arms and sat in the corner of the slightly dingy hotel room. “It never stops.”

“No.” Robert said angrily. “And, paying them off isn’t going to stop them either.”

“Don’t ya see, Chum?” Punch asked. “Now, our plan will work. We now got everything we need to get this child out of her and to see Iolanthe Evangeline imprisoned for the rest of her life.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-214? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make Your Triumphs Permanent

Being proud of your accomplishments is healthy. You can show pride in your life without being an obnoxious, pompous jerk who thinks the sun rises and sets on his tiny, little pin-head. We all know someone like that. We all have an acquaintance who is so impressed with herself that every time she sneezes, she thinks she solved all the ills of the world with her magical nasal rain.

However, a balanced sense of pride is healthful as well as necessary. When you accomplish something truly great, make that triumph permanent by finding some way of commemorating it. Frame a document to preserve it. Buy yourself a little treat which always reminds you of your good work. Keep a journal of your undertakings, so that you can revisit your achievements on those days when success is hard to come by. By providing yourself with reminders of what you have accomplished, you’ll be able to realize many more dreams to come.

Object of the Day: A Fiery Fleur-de-lis

After finishing The Garnet Red, my parents, Bertie and I traveled again to Louisiana where The Garnet Red (as well as much of Punch’s Cousin) is set. Of course, the emblem that is so closely associated with Louisiana, and especially, New Orleans, is the fleur-de-lis.

The Fluer-de-lis is an ancient symbol which has long been a heraldic representation of nobility of many cultures. It is, however, most often thought of as a French symbol, and therefore all the more fitting for Louisiana and its French history.

I purchased this fleur-de-lis as a souvenir of our travels. Cast in deep red glass, this paperweight has a delightful garnet glow which not only reminds me of our enjoyable journey, but commemorates the completion of my first novel.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Painting of the Day: Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses, 1569

Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses
The Monogrammist, H.E., 1569
The Royal Collection

In the Sixteenth Century, artists often flattered their subjects (especially if that subject was Royal) by painting them in the guise of mythological or heroic figures. This painting of Queen Elizabeth I from 1569 casts the ginger monarch as Paris in this sycophantic re-telling of the story of “The Judgment of Paris.” Set against the backdrop of that mythological beauty contest, we see Elizabeth I keeping the prize (here, the Orb of State as opposed to the golden apple in the original story) as a symbol of her triumph over the goddesses Minerva, Juno and Venus.

The painting is the work of an artist who styled himself as “The Monogrammist, H.E.” The frame is inscribed with Latin text which translates to “Pallas was keen of brain, Juno was queen of might, / The rosy face of Venus was in beauty shining bright, / Elizabeth then came, And, overwhelmed, Queen Juno took flight: / Pallas was silenced: Venus blushed for shame.”

Building of the Week: The Tower of London

Founded in 1066, The Tower of London has changed
over the past nine and a half centuries.
Technically, the Tower of London isn’t a “building,” it’s several buildings. While commonly called “The Tower of London,” its proper name is “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress.” A series of fortified buildings, the Tower has grown and changed since its founding in 1066. The nickname, “The Tower” comes from a specific tower within the castle’s fortified grounds—the “White Tower” which was built in 1078 by William the Conquerer. For centuries, the “White Tower” was considered a symbol of oppression and torture.

The White Tower as seen behind the curtain wall in an
early photograph.
To recount the entire fascinating history of this intimidating structure on the North bank of the Thames would, we would well exceed the limits of a comfortable blog post. So, we’ll focus on the highlights. When the castle was initially built, the White Tower was the dominant building—in fact it dominated Central London and stood as a symbol of the power of the monarchy. Within the castle’s walls (and behind a moat which has been moved many times), a complicated complex of buildings was erected which served multiple purposes. Though the Tower always acted as a prison, for centuries, it wasn’t a prison for common people, it was a prison for nobility wherein they were contained, but could have parties and some relative freedom. What most people don’t realize is that The Tower of London—in its earliest form—was actually a palace and served as a Royal residence for centuries until the Tudor Period in the Sixteenth Century. The Tudors found the location to be uncomfortable and although it had been renovated and expanded countless times at exorbitant costs, it was thereafter used primarily as a prison, an armory and treasury.

The White Tower

Prisoners were held at the Tower well into World War II. By the Tudor period, it wasn’t just nobility that were kept at the Tower. Though accounts of murder and torture within the walls of the Tower complex have been greatly exaggerated over the years, it has been the scene of some gruesome deaths as well as the temporary prison of some very famous names, including Queen Elizabeth I before she ascended to the throne.

One of the key uses of the Tower has been to house the Crown Jewels of Britain. They remain there today though in a different location than their original home. The original Jewel House was pulled down in 1669 and the jewels were moved to Martin Tower where they could be viewes—from a distance—by the public.

The Crown Jewels

The Norman Chapel
After eight centuries, the Tower really began to fall apart despite its numerous restorations. Prince Albert ordered that the complex be restored to its original medieval design. The orders were taken a little too seriously. Most of the palatial buildings were demolished and many of the additional structures from centuries past were destroyed. What remains is as close an approximation of the original structure and design as possible.

The Middle Tower
Now a popular tourist attraction, the Tower is known for its history, its grandeur, its jewels and its ghosts (including Anne Boleyn who lost her head there and is said to walk the courtyards, carrying her head under her arm). It’s also known as the home of some lovely animals. While the Tower was once the Royal Menagerie, it is now the home to the Royal ravens and an adorable herd of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. To learn more about this fascinating series of structures, visit the official Web site of The Tower of London.

Precious Time: The John Pyke Clock, 1750

John Pyke, circa 1750
Painted Pine, covered in paper,
gilt, with gilt brass mounts
Purchased by Queen Elizabeth II
The Royal Collection
This monumental clock created by John Pyke in the mid-Eighteenth Century was not originally part of the Royal Collection. Its original owner is unknown, having been purchased in 1960 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

An exceptionally fine case of pine has been overlaid with paper, painted with an intricate design, gilded and adorned with gilt brass mounts including a figure of “Victory” or “Fame” at the top. In addition to showing the equation of time, the clock also indicates the hours of the sunrise and sunset as well as the sign of the Zodiac. At one point, it housed a musical mechanism which is no longer in existence.

Unusual Artifacts: 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.
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 hilt 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.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 214

Arthur drew back his fist and thrust it forward into the face of the guard one more time. He laughed as the man moaned and hit the ground with a dusty thud.

“Go on,” Arthur grunted at Gerard.

“Blimey, I think you killed him.” Gerard muttered.

“What if I did? It’s no less than he’d have done to us.” Arthur answered. “Now, tie him up, you good-for-nothing.”

“I’m doin’ it,” Gerard spat.

“Quiet.” Arthur hissed.

“Now we gone and done this, how we gonna get off the ship?” Gerard asked.

“You leave that to me.”

“I hope you know what you’re doin’.” Gerard sighed as he wound the rope around the guard’s limp hands.

“Don’t you worry ‘bout that, Gerry.” Arthur smiled. “Nothin’s gonna keep me from gettin’ back to my wife and, ‘specially to her lunatic brother. He and I got some things to settle.”

“And, you ain’t foolin’ me?” Gerard asked. “This bloke is really the Duke of Fallbridge?”

“Sure he is.” Arthur said. “What’s more he’s gonna be my invitation to the life I deserve.”

“My invitation, too, Artie.” Gerard added.

“Sure, sure. And, then, boy, I’m gonna make sure all them women what treated me like I was some kind of toy will get what’s comin’ to them.” Arthur laughed.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in a New Orleans hotel, Mr. Punch began to shout as Iolanthe and Ulrika again walked toward the bed where Robert and little Colin slept.

“You stay away from them, you witches!” Mr. Punch screamed.

Robert sputtered awake and the child began to cry.

“Quiet that baby!” Iolanthe hissed.

“What’s going on here?” Robert sat up.

Mr. Punch took the baby in his arms. “Help me, Chum.”

“You two have got to leave.” Robert said.

“We have no intention of leaving, really.” Ulrika smiled. “Not without what we came for.”

“Let me hit ‘em with somethin’, Chum.” Mr. Punch pleaded. “Two good blows and they’ll be gone forever. That’s the way to do it.”

“That isn’t the way to do it,” Robert said gently to his friend. He cleared his throat and rose from the bed. “Mr. Punch, take the child from the room.”

“Isn’t it sweet, really?” Ulrika laughed. “I just adore how you call him ‘Mr. Punch.’ Such an affectionate name.”

“That’s me name,” Punch grunted. “Affectionate or otherwise.”

“Take the baby, Punch.” Robert repeated.

“No.” Iolanthe shook her head definitely. “He goes nowhere.”

“It’s not for you to say.” Robert said.

“It is. That little morsel of flesh has already been paid for. Edward Cage paid good money for a child and a child he shall have.” Iolanthe said firmly.

“You’ll have to kill me first.” Robert said.

“That could be arranged. I don’t want you thinkin’ that it can’t. I’ve silenced bigger men than you, Doctor.” Iolanthe laughed.

Ulrika clapped her hands together and squealed. “Oh, I do love this sort of thing.”

“Shut up, Ulrika!” Iolanthe growled.

Ulrika laughed. “You shan’t silence my joy.”

“I can silence both of ‘em.” Punch pleaded. “I can do it. Two good smacks on the head and they’ll be as quiet as dust.”

“It won’t be necessary.” Robert said.

“Don’t know ‘bout that.” Punch mumbled.

“I will agree with your companion on that account, at least.” Iolanthe smiled. “Maybe I don’t have to be your enemy.”

“Coo!” Mr. Punch grunted. “You can’t be nothin’ but. You killed me master’s mum, you did. And you killed our chum, too. Don’t think that makes us friendly. And, now, you’re here to take our baby ‘way.”

“Am I?” Iolanthe winked.

“Aren’t you?” Ulrika frowned. “Isn’t that what we’re about?”

“Not necessarily, Ginger.” Iolanthe smirked. “We’re here to make sure that Edward Cage gets what he paid for. He paid for a child. Now, I can give him a child, but that’s gonna be an expensive proposition. And, I find myself in a position of not being flush with extra funds. But, the Duke—mad as he is—has lots of funds at his disposal. Maybe we can work somethin’ out. Maybe we can find a way to give everyone what they want. Edward, his child. And these two imbeciles, theirs—and their chance to get the silence they so desire from both of us.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-213? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make Yourself a Great Breakfast

Tomorrow morning, make a point to wake up a little early and make yourself a big healthy breakfast.  Sure, we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and our bodies need the fuel, blah, blah.  That’s all fine and dandy.  But, the simple fact is that breakfast is fun!  It’s the only meal where it’s acceptable to eat eggs, pancakes, crispy pork products, muffins and pastries all at once.  Okay, that’s perhaps not the healthiest combination.  But, give yourself a treat at the start of the day.  You really will find that your body is more satisfied throughout the day, but you’ll also find that you’re a lot more alert and cheerful for the effort. 

Object of the Day: A Curious Mid-Nineteenth Century Drawing

Among the lot of drawings from the portfolio of a mid-Nineteenth Century artist that I purchased several years ago was a rather strange oblong scrap of paper. The reverse of the leaf is scarred with the remains of some kind of glue which had once adhered this mysterious drawing to the portfolio.

Unsigned—as are the others—it is clearly the work of the same artist. Rendered in sepia-colored ink, this representation of a female figure in a flowing robe has an almost ethereal quality. One wonders if it is meant to be a study for a painting, a quick portrait or a sketch of a Classical sculpture. She is certainly statuesque. I can’t help but think this may be a drawing of a sculpture or, perhaps, even a costume design. Others of the collection of drawings were most assuredly designs for theatrical costumes. Perhaps this was another. Similarly, the same artist did sketches of sculptural figures as well.

So, what exactly this is, I’m not sure. However, it’s attractive for being so curious. And, a little bit of mystery often makes things all the more alluring.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film of the Week: Dark Victory, 1939

From the greatest year of American cinema comes Dark Victory—one of Bette Davis’ best-known roles and one which earned her another Oscar nomination (though she lost to Vivien Leigh for a little picture about the Civil War that came out the same year). Dark Victory was made during Bette’s meteoric rise at Warner Brothers. She was the reigning queen of Hollywood and she knew it, making sure that Warners was giving her the kind of pictures that she and her talent deserved.

Directed by Edmund Goulding and produced by Hal B. Wallis the film features a moving score by Max Steiner. Bette wanted to make sure that Steiner’s often dramatic music didn’t overpower her performance and was rumored to have said, while shooting the film’s climactic scene, “Either I’m going up those stairs, or Max Steiner is going up those stairs, but not the two of us together.”

Still, she went up the stairs. And, so did Steiner, and along the way she shared the screen with Geraldine Fitzgerald, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, and Ronald “Little Ronnie” Reagan.

Based on the 1934 play of the same name by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch, the picture concerns wealthy, reckless Judith Traherne (Davis) whose carefree lifestyle is threatened when she starts to have dizzy spells, headaches and blurry vision. A visit with a neurosurgeon, Dr. Frederick Steele (Brent) tells Judith that she has a terrible brain tumor. With the support of her best firend/secretary, Ann (Fitzgerald), Judith undergoes a dangerous and complicated operation which she is told has saved her life. Steele, who has fallen in love with Judith, has a secret, however—one which proves to through Judith into a spiral of depression and bad choices.

Davis is superb in the role, despite Max Steiner’s intrusion, and always considered it one of her favorite films. Similarly, Brent and Fitzgerald give brilliant performances. It’s one of the must-see classics that should be part of everyone’s viewing list.

Since the TCM video library is being tricky and there are no YouTube clips from the film which allow embedding, we'll conclude with this fun clip of post-stroke Bette talking about Hal Wallis.

The Belle Époque Today: "Kelda Discovers the Wirral" by The Thingumajig Theatre

The Thingumajig Theatre
Puppets and masks have been used for centuries for both purposes of entertainment and education. Now, as part of Liverpool’s efforts to educate the residents of the Merseyside peninsula known as the “Wirral,” the Thingumajig Theater in Yorkshire has created an unique and wonderful show which will be performed in various locations across the Wirral. Since the Wirral was once occupied by the Norse, the puppeteers have built a gorgeous “giant” puppet known as Kelda—a young Viking girl who visits from the past to see what has become of the land which she once inhabited.

This is part of the “Liverpool Discovers” Program in association with the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Those in the area should make a point to go out an meet Kelda this upcoming Sunday, April 10, 2011.

Humanitarian of the Week: Simon Williams

Since his television debut in the 1967 program Man in a Suitcase, Simon Williams has been enchanting audiences with both his ability to handle true drama and his remarkable comic timing. Over forty years later, Williams is still delighting audiences as a performer as well as a writer.

Best known to American audiences for playing James Bellamy in the original Upstairs, Downstairs for thirty-seven episodes from 1971-1975, Williams, at first, didn’t care much for the character, but soon began to grow protective of the misguided aristocrat.Williams wasn’t just protective of James Bellamy. He has always cared very deeply about the well-being of others. To this end, he has spent countless hours offering his support to a variety of causes which are dear to him. For thirty years, Williams has served on The Actors’ Charitable Trust, and for fifteen of those years he worked as the charity’s Co-Chairman. Mr. Williams’ loyalty to his fellow actors led him to work closely with Denville Hall—a retirement facility for actors. Similarly, Mr. Williams lends his time and knowledge to the Sir Terence Rattigan Charitable Trust, the King George V Fund for Actors and Actresses, and many other organizations dedicated to making life more comfortable and fulfilling for artists.

For all his work in supporting the arts and artists and for bringing us one of the most memorable characters in television history, Simon Williams is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”

Her Majesty’s Furniture: Queen Charlotte’s Botanically-Hued Corner Cabinets, 1770

Corner Cupboard
One of a Pair
Possibly by John Carrack, 1770
Purchased by Queen Charlotte for
Windsor Castle
The Royal Collection
Queen Charlotte was far more adventurous in her tastes than was her husband, King George III. To some extent, George IV seems to have inherited his mother’s sense of color and style. Charlotte had a great passion for color and a keen love of nature. So, she tended toward botanical colors in her décor—greens, reds, pinks and golds. The Queen had a great passion for Rococo design, so it’s no surprise that she purchased this suite of colorful Rococo furniture which included a chest-of-drawers and these two corner cabinets.

Made of beech, pine, mahogany and gilt-bronze, the suite was a central focus in her bedchamber at Windsor Castle. Queen Charlotte was so taken with the furnishings that she carefully selected fabrics to match the pattern of green and gold which graces the front of each piece.

The makers of the suite are something of a mystery. Clues in the styling and workmanship indicate that they were the design of the relatively unknown John Carrack Of Northumberland. However, this cannot be verified. Regardless of their maker, they’re beautiful pieces and speak volumes about Queen Charlotte’s sensibilities.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 213

How did…” Mr. Punch began.

“How’d we find you?” Iolanthe smiled. “It wasn’t too difficult. I have a special arrangement with the hotels in this city.”

“That don’t surprise me,” Mr. Punch grunted.

“All we had to do, really, was ask if anyone had seen two Englishmen, a colored woman and a baby.” Ulrika smirked.

“Did you really think that you could hide from me in my own city, Your Grace?” Iolanthe laughed.

“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” Ulrika chuckled. “It isn’t the first time Iolanthe’s been in a hotel room with two gentlemen.”

“Nor you, Ulrika.” Iolanthe growled.

“I really do hate both of you—so very much.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “I gotta say, I’d rather invite the Devil himself into me room than either of you.” He sighed. “And, ain’t it queer that the two of ya have become so chummy?”

“Anything is possible when two women are united in one cause.” Ulrika answered, pushing past Mr. Punch and entering the room.

“Here!” Punch moaned. “Get out!”

“Oh, isn’t it sweet, really?” Ulrika scowled at Robert and the child who lay asleep on the bed. “It’s like a painting. What would we call it, ‘The Abductor and Child’?”

“We ain’t abductin’ nobody.” Punch snorted. “The boy is ours.”

“He isn’t, actually.” Iolanthe clucked her tongue, entering the room as well.

“He sure as Hell ain’t Barbara’s.” Mr. Punch retorted.

“No.” Iolanthe shook her head. “He belongs to Mr. Edward Cage.”

“He ain’t no sack of dry goods nor some carriage what belongs to no one. Just because you sold him don’t mean that he has to stay where he was. What’s it to you anyway? Huh? Ain’t like Mr. Cage is gonna take you to court to get his money back! He don’t want nobody to know where he got the boy! Coo, he’s my kin, he is. Got me blood in his veins and he belongs with me.”

“And the doctor?” Ulrika chuckled.

“Where I go, so does the doctor.” Mr. Punch snarled.

“Touching.” Iolanthe replied, starting to walk toward the bed.

“No!” Mr. Punch grabbed her by the arm. “Now, listen to me, Ogress. I’ll kill both of ya before I let you put one of your grimy fingers on that child.”

“Like you did with Arthur?” Ulrika grinned. “The people you ‘kill’ don’t stay dead.”

“This time, they will. I learned how to do it proper from you, Ogress. You killed me master’s mum and you killed Naasir. And, isn’t that a damn pity because now he ain’t here to keep me from killin’ both of you right now like what he done with Arthur!”

“You wouldn’t hurt us.” Iolanthe laughed, wrenching her arm from Punch’s grasp. “You’re too much of a coward and you’re far too soft.”

“But, he’s no fool, is he, Iolanthe?” Ulrika winked. “He’s not the utter imbecile that he appears to be.”

“No,” Iolanthe smiled. “He’s no fool. He’s a right smart gentleman. And because he’s so smart, he’s going to make sure we get what we want.”

Meanwhile, in the creaking hull of some foreign-bound ship, Arthur huddled next to the very man with whom he’d previously been fighting.

“Now, Gerard, you know what we’re gonna do?” Arthur said, his eyes wild as he clutched the man’s’ hand in his own.

“I do, Artie, me boy.” Gerard beamed.

“Ain’t this is sight better than fightin’?” Arthur grinned broadly, his yellow teeth shining in the lamplight.

“A lot more profitable, yes.” Gerard nodded.

“We’ll dock soon. You get the rope. I’ll get the iron.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-212? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Know Your Body

This morning, Bertie awoke with an upset stomach. I can always tell when his stomach is bothering him because it’s, frankly, noisy. Over the past nine years, this has happened countless times. Westies have delicate stomachs. I’ve learned how to combat his upset stomachs and can quickly get rid of them and make him, once again, a happy boy. And, he is, now, quite a happy boy.

But, I was thinking that I’m not nearly as attuned to my own body as I am Bertie’s. Sometimes, if I have an upset stomach or a sore throat, I don’t have the slightest idea how to deal with it or make it go away.

So, I’ve decided to pay better attention to my own system. I think it’s a good idea for anyone. Your body sends you cues that are, actually, easily interpreted, if you pay attention. We could all develop a better sense of what our bodies need to function at their best so that we can all be happy boys and girls.

Object of the Day: An Antique Amethyst Stickpin

Amethyst, the most precious member of the quartz family, has been used in jewelry for many centuries. The stone’s hardness allows for it to be durable, yet, easily carved and it offers a brilliant sparkle which is the perfect complement to other stones. Though we tend to think of amethyst as being purple, it does come in other colors. Green amethyst has become a popular stone in contemporary jewelry design.

Our Victorian forebears frequently used amethysts. Combined with emeralds, diamonds or pearls, it was often used in Suffragette jewelry which was worn to represent the colors of the cause—purple, green and white. The Victorians believed in assigning meanings to gemstones. Since the word “Amethyst” literally translates to “without drunkenness,” it was believed that the wearer would be protected from intoxication. Similarly, the amethyst was meant to guard the wearer from evil.

This beautiful stickpin features a large cushion cut amethyst surmounted by a glittering European cut diamond. Its design suggests mid-to-late Victorian sensibilities, and I like to believe that this shimmering purple stone really does promote a healthy life. Anything this attractive must have some power for good.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Painting of the Day: “A Dress Rehearsal,” by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1888

A Dress Rehearsal
Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1888
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
This is one of the many paintings based on the contemporary French naturalistic style which were collected by Lord Leverhulme to advertise his line of soaps. Once the paintings had been employed as images in his ads, Leverhulme brought the paintings home and gifted them to his wife. After her passing, the collection became the centerpiece of The Lady Lever Art Gallery.

Leverhulme used this scene by Albert Chevallier Tayler as an advertising image. He was drawn to this scene of a young bride modeling her wedding dress before her nuptials. Tayler, an artist from Cornwall, specialized in these sentimental domestic scenes and images of working class and pleasant families. This was just the sort of theme that Leverhulme wanted for his advertisements, and found much success with them.