Saturday, June 11, 2011

Painting of the Day: Florizel and Perdita, Charles Robert Leslie, 1837

Florizel and Perdita
Robert Charles Leslie, 1837
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Charles Robert Leslie made a name for himself with sentimental scenes, but also enjoyed painting historical and literary images. Here, we see one of his most famous literary-themed painting.

With characters from Shakespeare's play A Winter's Tale, this richly painted scene depicts one of the best known moments in Shakespeare’s play. We see the charming and beautiful shepherdess Perdita ( who is really the daughter of King Leontes) with Florizel ( who is actually the son of King Polixines) with Dorcas, another shepherdess. To the right of the scene, we also see two other characters from the play, also in disguise—King Polixines and Camillo, a Sicilian nobleman.

A friend and biographer of the landscape painter John Constable, Leslie was American by birth, but studied and spent his later life in England where he found a devoted audience for his theatrical artwork.

Saturday Sparkle: A Diamond and Ruby Tiara, 1835

Ruby and Diamond Tiara
Western Europe
The Victoria & Albert Museum
While slightly earlier in creation than yesterday’s tiara, this masterpiece of diamonds set in silver on a gold frame is similar in spirit. This one, however, adds shimmering bright rubies to the mix of brilliant-cut and rose-cut diamonds.

For such a tiara to survive is quite rare. Usually floral tiaras were broken apart in the late early Twentieth Century and made into brooches. This one has only had one adaptation. The frame was slightly altered so that it could be worn as a necklace.


The Art of Play: A Pull-Along Bear, 1920

Pull-Along Toy
German, c. 1920
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By the 1920’s, toy manufacturers were often producing cuddly teddy bears that offered snuggly companionship to youngsters. However, some manufacturers recognized that many children preferred more active and realistic toys, and, in response to that produced soft animals which were more natural looking than their cute counterparts. These toys were regularly mounted on wheeled platforms so that their child could move them around easily.

This Pull-Along Bear dates to about 1920 is comes from an unknown German manufacturer. Still in excellent condition, his wood frame shows more wear than does his mohair coat. No doubt, he was rolled more than he was cuddled.

At the Music Hall: My Old Dutch, 1892

Albert Chevalier
I've got a pal,
A reg'lar out an' outer,
She's a dear good old gal,
I'll tell yer all about 'er.
It's many years since fust we met,
'Er 'air was then as black as jet,
It's whiter now, but she don't fret,
Not my old gal.
We've been together now for forty years,
An' it don't seem a day too much,
There ain't a lady livin' in the land
As I'd "swop" for my dear old Dutch.

Written and performed by Music Hall and Vaudeville star, Albert Chevalier (with music by his brother, using the name Charles Ingle), “My Old Dutch,” was actually meant as a tribute to Chevalier’s wife, Florrie.

The title for the song has been explained n a variety of ways, most of which refer back to a Cockney rhyming slang phrase for companion or friend, or, even for wife. The Cockney slang for mate was, “Dutch plate.” Meanwhile the Cockney slang for “wife” was “Duchess of Fife.” Both phrases were shorted to “Dutch.” Chevalier also stated that the song title comes from a nickname he had for Florrie because he said her face was as smooth and white as the face of a Dutch porcelain clock.

The song was quite popular for its wholesome themes of domestic harmony and purity and eas regularly applauded by both the common man and the most famed celebrity. Chevalier would perform the song in the guise of an elderly gentleman who was separated from his wife of forty years upon being sent to the work house. This sentimental presentation never failed to move the audience.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 267

Iolanthe smiled. “You are somethin’, you ginger beast.”

“Get me some water, will you?” Ulrika croaked.

“In a minute.” Iolanthe shook her head. “How’d you manage it?”

“What?” Ulrika groaned.

“Givin’ those two the fake diamond?”

“A footman and a sailor? What do they know of diamonds? That fake was almost good enough to fool you. I paid enough for the thing, I’m just glad to know it got some use.” Ulrika coughed.

“You know, I have never given you enough credit,” Iolanthe sighed.

“No.” Ulrika rasped.

“Probably because I hate you so much.” Iolanthe grinned.

“Water,” Ulrika insisted.

“I can give you somethin’ better than water.”

“I doubt that.” Ulrika tried to get out of the bed on her own, stumbling backward.

“Oh, here.” Iolanthe walked over to the dresser and poured a glass of water for Ulrika. “Since you won’t stop talking about it.”

She forcefully handed the glass to Ulrika who gulped the liquid greedily.

“Not very lady like.”

Ulrika swallowed, cleared her throat and scowled. “I’m sure you were the picture of the perfect lady in prison.”

“Oh, you are fiery.” Iolanthe sighed. “That’s why I want you to work for me.”

“We’ve discussed this before, and I have no intention of being one of your whores. I’m a lady. I come from one of the wealthiest families in the South. What possible reason could I have to need to work for you?”

“Not as one of my girls—though I’m sure I could get a fine price for you.” Iolanthe winked. “I have other business interests than just the trade of flesh.”

“Likely.” Ulrika frowned.

“As I’ve already made clear, I detest you, and I know you have no special fondness for me. Yet, fate somehow keeps bringing us together. Maybe it’s a sign that we…”

“A sign?” Ulrika sputtered. “The loathsome Elegant Ogress believes in signs?”

“I believe in many things.” Iolanthe said.

“Get out of here,” Ulrika lay back on the bed again. “My head is spinning.”

“Don’t you even want to know why I’ve come here in the first place?” Iolanthe asked.

“Not especially.” Ulrika croaked.

“After I’ve just saved you from being murdered, you don’t even want to know what’s brought me here?”

Ulrika grunted. “Obviously, you wormed your way out of prison after they found out that the Duke and the doctor aren’t dead. You came here looking for revenge for the fact that I just left you there to rot and you want your child—who is being looked after downstairs— and the diamond that you think you’re owed.”

Iolanthe squinted. “Well, yes, that’s about it.”

“Now, why don’t you go collect your child and leave me to suffer in peace?” Ulrika said.

“And let Arthur get away with what he’s done?” Iolanthe shook her head.

“What’s it to you?” Ulrika sighed. “Really, I’m not bothered by Arthur.”

“He tried to kill you.” Iolanthe laughed.

“He didn’t get away with it.” Ulrika shrugged. “And, frankly, he didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t have done myself.”

“Listen to me Ulrika,” Iolanthe glowered. “You still want to get rid of the Duke, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I have even more reason to want to make that aristocratic lunatic suffer than you have. Not only him, but his sister and his companions. Together, you and I can rid ourselves of many problems.”

Ulrika smiled.

“I’ll make it worth your while,” Iolanthe said firmly.

“There’s only one thing that I want from you.” Ulrika chuckled.

“Do tell,” Iolanthe smired.

“I want you to admit that you need me.”’

Meanwhile, Cecil watched as Robert gently knocked on Julian’s door. Receiving no answer, Robert opened it slowly and peaked into the room.

“Julian?” Robert whispered. “Mr. Punch?”

Cecil and Robert walked over to the bed and peered at Julian’s slumbering body.

“Which one of them will wale up?” Cecil asked.

“Who knows?” Robert shrugged. “I just hope it’s not that insufferable Scaramouche.”

“It ain’t.” Mr. Punch muttered as Julian’s eyes fluttered open.

“Ah, dear Punch,” Robert smiled. “You’ve returned.”

“Thanks to you.” Punch sat up stiffly. “Here, that Scaramouche made the body sore.”

“And, how is Scaramouche?” Cecil asked.

“Tiny, like a little angry monkey.” Punch grinned. “He’s runnin’ ‘round in there.”

“So, Julian managed to take the wind from his discontented sails?” Cecil asked.

“’Spose he did.” Punch nodded.

“Mr. Punch?” Robert asked. “Do you think it’s possible to call upon Julian for a moment?”

“Why?” Punch asked.

“We need him to look at this.” Cecil held up the “diamond.”

“That hunk of glass? Here, what for?” Punch tilted his head to one side.

“You know it’s glass?” Robert smiled.

“”Course.” Punch shrugged. “Don’t forget, Chum, the real diamond was in me puppet head for many years. Now, don’t think I’d know it from a hunk of glass? Coo, who gave you that?”

“Arthur.” Robert sighed.

“He got it from Ulrika Rittenhouse.” Cecil added.

“Don’t care where he got it!” Mr. Punch grumbled. “It’s just a hunk of glass! Where’s the rogue now?”

“In the back parlor.” Robert replied.

“He ain’t seen Barbara yet?” Punch asked.

“Well, yes. He’s down there with her now.” Cecil responded.

“You left him with Barbara?” Punch got out of bed. “We got to get down there!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-266? If so, you can read them here. Come back on June 13, 2011 for Chapter 268 of Punch's Cousin

Card of the Day: The King at the Front

The sixth in the series of Wills Cigarette Cards commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary depicts a scene of King George V at the front in France. King George V led his nation through the First World War. Though the war took a great toll on his health, his unending guidance and care led to triumph.

The reverse of the card reads:


The first week of December, 1914, the King spent with his army in France, thoroughly surveying the British poistion, visiting all Corps and Divisional headquarters and many field hospitals. Sir John French received the Order of Merit and among the Allied Generals given audience were Joffre and Foch. On the King of the Belgians, the King personally bestowed the Order of the Garter. The two monarchs met in a quiet country road, and crossing the Belgian frontier in King Albert’s car, and together reviewed detachments of Allied troops. This was the first journey of a British monarch to a seat of war in 171 years.

Happy Birthday Bertie!

Taking a cue from some of his favorite celebrities, no one is quite sure exactly how old Bertie is. However, today, we celebrate his birthday. You see, Bertie is a rescue dog. I don’t know when his real birthday is, but his papers say he was born on June 11, 2000. That was just a guess according to the vet who first examined him. At Bertie’s first visit to the vet, he appeared to be a fully-grown Westie of about two years old. But, after he was adopted (nine years ago), he grew. Quite a bit. So, I guess he was still something of a puppy when he first trotted into my house and my heart.

Bertie as a baby.
Regardless of his age and his actual birthdate, here’s wishing Bertie a very special day. I know all friends of canines believe that their dog is the best in the world, but in my case, it’s true. He is. So, happy birthday to Bertram Wilberforce Wooster! Many happy returns to a very good boy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Rose Tiara, 1850

Silver, Gold, Rose-cut and Brilliant-cut Diamonds
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This is just too stunning. Made in England in 1850 of brilliant and rose-cut diamonds in silver prongs set in gold, this tiara mimics the look of a wreath of flowers without the added hassel of having to be kept watered.

During the 1850’s the English interest in botany and Romantic themes culminated in a deep affection for floral designs. This tiara with its roses in full bloom and delicate leaves would have most assuredly appealed to many a lady of the era.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Mr. Punch Ceramic Jug, circa 1920

Mr. Punch Jug
Barlows Ltd.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I was so delighted to find this ceramic Mr. Punch jug in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. He looks awfully cute, all cuddled up with his dog/chum, Toby. I couldn’t help but laugh at the description of this object on the V&A’s Web site, “This jug shaped as Mr Punch sitting cosily with his dog Toby, presents a far more benevolent image of him than the wife-beating bully we know from his Punch and Judy shows, but many representations of Punch over the years have come to show him as a more avuncular figure than the criminal of his youth.”

That statement is quite true. Punch is, really, a murderer, but we collectively have given him the benefit of the doubt and assigned him playful, loveable and, even, “avuncular” characteristics which belie the murderous choices he makes. We have cuddly feelings for dear Punch, even when he is beating someone to death. Of course, puppet on puppet violence doesn’t really hurt anyone, and that’s why he can get away with it.

This jug dates between 1920 and 1950 and is the work of Barlows Limited, an English ceramics-maker. Though he’s holding his stick (which here is more of a club than it is a slapstick), he looks quite mellow as he smiles, embracing Toby whose returned affection for Mr. Punch is shown by the heart painted on his chest. As the V&A states of Mr. Punch, “He was always an anarchist, flouting authority, and became one of the nation's best-loved, bad-tempered brutes.” And, we love him all the more for it.

Antique Image of the Day: A Framed Photo of Queen Alexandra, 1896-1903

Frame with photo of Queen Alexandra
Frame by Michael Perchin
The Royal Collection
Queen Alexandra found herself with a lot of time on her hands. Her husband, King Edward VII, kept himself quite busy with matters of State and matters of a more person nature (Alice Keppel, among other female companions). Alexandra devoted herself to her children, to her pets, and her home as well as the many charities about which she cared. She also enjoyed collecting antiques, especially fans, and Fabergé, and shared her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria’s, passion for photography.

This photo shows Queen Alexandra while still Princess of Wales. Taken between 1896 and 1903 by an unknown photographer, the image shows the future Queen from behind, showcasing her celebrated profile and lovely hair. The photo was placed in one of the Queen’s collection of Fabergé frames. This frame of bowenite, guilloché enamel, and gold, is adorned with rose-cut diamonds. The unusually stark, modern design is the work of Michael Perchin.

Friday Fun: Punch and the Beadle

The Beadle
as envisioned by Chris van der Craats
Well, as much as I love him, I must admit that Mr. Punch is a rather naughty fellow. For all of his cuteness and charm, he does occasionally do some things that just aren’t “the way to do it.” So, it’s inevitable that his actions should attract the attention of the law. In traditional Punch & Judy shows, Punch is confronted by a variety of representatives of the law. He usually meets a constable or beadle, a judge, and even the hangman. Still, we know that the wooden-headed hero can “beat the Devil,” so something as simple as escaping the law shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

Let’s watch this snippet from a Punch & Judy show as performed by Australian Punch Judy Man, “Professor Whatsit,” also known as Chris van der Craats. I have a particular fondness for van der Craats’ puppets. He makes them himself and they are some of the best out there. These puppets have the look and charm of the figures used in the earliest Punch performances. You can buy Professor Whatsit’s hand-made puppets on his Web site.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 266

Cecil narrowed his eyes, “Man, we had an arrangement that was mutually agreed upon. Who do you think you are coming in here at the last minute and changing the terms of our agreement?”

“I’m the one with the diamond.” Arthur smirked, holding the stone between his figures.

“I’m prepared to reward you handsomely for your troubles, and, then, you agreed to leave us—permanently.”

“And, I aim to keep that promise.” Arthur said. “Only it may not be as easy as I thought.”

“You’ll figure something out, I’m sure,” Robert frowned.

“Sure, ‘bout that,” Arthur nodded. “I’m gonna need a coach and horses.”

“Absurd!” Cecil spat. “I’ve not got either to spare! With the money I’ll be giving you, you can hire a carriage!”

“That’s just it.” Arthru shook his head, “I can’t do that. I’ve got to get out of here as quick as I can.”

“You said Ulrika was still alive. That was true, wasn’t it?” Robert asked cautiously.

“Sure, it is.” Gerard interrupted. “But, she’s goin’ to be awful angry when she comes to.”

“Comes to?” Robert asked.

“What have you done?” Cecil asked.

“Never you mind ‘bout that. The less you know ‘bout it, the better.” Arthur answered. “But, I’m sure you can appreciate that she’s gonna come after us. That’s why I gotta get out of here, see.”

“Just give him Dr. Biamenti’s coach and two of his horses. I’ll cover the cost of replacing them before her returns. I’m sure Meridian can tell us if he has any attachment to a particular horse. I know he won’t mind.”

“If you’re sure.” Cecil sighed.

“I am. I just want these men out of the house.” Robert nodded.

“How kind of you.” Arthur grinned.

“Give me the diamond, then.” Robert demanded.

“Not ‘til Mr. Halifax gives me my gold.” Arthur clasped the diamond in his fist.

“Dear God,” Robert muttered, nodding at Cecil.

“I’ll return shortly.” Cecil grumbled.

As Cecil opened the back parlor door to fetch the money, he brushed past Barbara Allen who was walking down the hallway. Through the open door, she spotted her husband and shuddered, involuntary grunting as she did.

Arthur spun around and grinned coldly at his wife. “Well, if it ain’t my bride.”

“Don’t speak with him, Miss Allen,” Robert shook his head.

“Keep to yourself,” Arthur spat. “She’s my wife. She can talk with me if she so wants.”

“I have nothing to say to you, Arthur,” Barbara said.

“Not even if I show you this?” Arthur asked, holding up the diamond.

“What do I want with a hunk of blue glass?” Barbara sniffed.

“What?” Arthur growled.

“Glass.” Barbara nodded. “Did you think you’d fool us with that? I’ve been around jewels all my life. And, I know that particular diamond quite well, if you’ll recall. Even from this distance I can tell that it’s counterfeit.”

“Is it, Miss Allen?” Robert asked.

“Certainly,” Barbara nodded.

“Liar.” Arthur snarled.

“If you don’t believe me,” Barbara shrugged. “My brother, His Grace, is a jeweler. Ask him.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-265? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: Alexandra Rose Day

The fifth card in the series of collectible cards produced in 1935 by Wills Cigarettes for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary concerns itself with honoring the “Queen Mother” (at the time), George’s mum, Queen Alexandra, long-suffering wife of the late Edward VII and collector of fans and Fabergé animals.

The reverse of the card reads:


“Rose Day” will always commemorate the well-beloved Queen Alexandra, whose death in November, 1925, deeply grieved the nation. This summer festival when rose-sellers in the streets raise money for hospitals and charities first became associated with the Queen Mother in 1912 when she abandoned the semi-retirement in which she remained since King Edward’s death, and paid a round of visits to London rose sellers. This drive became an annual event until her final progress in 1923, and charity has benefited from millions of money [sic]. The last rose day she lived to see was on June 10th, 1925, when Queen Alexandra sent a kindly message from Sandringham.

And, so, coincidentally, since today is June 10th, let’s wish Queen Alexandra—wherever she is—a happy anniversary of her final Rose Day—86 years ago. Today, in honor of Queen Alexandra, would be a perfect day to make a contribution to a favorite charity or, even, pick up a bunch of roses on your way home.

Object of the Day: Museum Edition: An Antique Papier Mache Spectacle Case, 1850

Spectacle Case
Papier Mache and Mother-of-Pearl
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Last September when I posted an article about the Victorian Papier Mache spectacle case that is part of my collection of antique Papier Mache items, I was amused to learn that one of Stalking the Belle Epoque’s friends has an identical specimen in his collection. With its mother-of-pearl inlay set against ebonized Papier Mache, it’s one of several kinds of similar cases which were produced from 1850-1875.

I’ve recently learned that there’s an almost identical spectacle case in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A acquired their case in 1875 as part of the “Animal Products” collection which was started at the suggestion of Prince Albert who enjoyed making things out of animals.

As I pointed out yesterday, it’s always fun to see examples of items from your own collections in museums. It doesn’t change the way you feel about your own objects, but makes you realize that there are other people who also enjoy them.

My Spectacle Case

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Don’t Look Behind You

“Sure, give the treat to her.  Go ahead.  Just because she can ‘shake’ on command.  I won’t even mention the fact that there’s a creepy baby hiding behind you.  Maybe you should keep your eyes open.”

Image: Open Your Mouth and Shut Your Eyes, William Mulready, 1838, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Diamond Hair Ornament, 1820

Hair Ornament
Diamonds, Gold, Silver
English, 1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the early Nineteenth Century, the cultures of England, France and Italy became especially interested in natural themes and the beauty of plants and flowers. In England, this coincided with a renewed interest in Botany and also with the swell of both the Romantic Movement and the Rococo Revival.

Jewels were often employed in complicated recreations of flowers and plants. In the earliest parts of the century, these were usually diamond works set in gold or silver. By 1830, jewelers were becoming more adventurous and also sought a new level of realism with their designs by incorporated colored stones and enamel into their works.

This hair ornament from 1820 by an unknown English maker is an early example of the trend toward Nature-themed jewels. Dozens of diamonds of various shapes and sizes are set in silver, backed with gold and mounted on a gold armature. Worn at the back of the head, this ornament would have glittered magnificently in the candlelight. The piece could also be worn as a brooch.

The Reverse
Showing the Gold Backing and Clip

Mastery of Design: A Brilliant Jeweled Clock-Watch, 1738

Medallion: 1738
Gold, Enamel, Agate, Diamonds, Garnets, Emeralds
Watch Movement: 1690
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This interesting piece of art isn’t quite sure if it’s a watch or if it’s a clock. The curators at the V&A call it the “Clock-Watch,” with good reason. The object consists of a medallion created of a gilded copper alloy and mother-of-pearl which has been mounted with agate cameos of the Roman Emperors Augustus and Vespasian and a carnelian bust of Minerva. The helmet and armor are rendered in gold. The medallion is further adorned with settings of diamonds (predominately brilliant cut in an early appearance, but some are table-cut), almandine and hessonite garnets, emeralds and ornate enameled plaques. This medallion has been fitted with a separate gold watch movement which is accessible by removing the gold backing on the piece as a whole.

The watch movement dates to about 1690, predating the medallion by almost half a century. The movement, which was most certainly the work of a London watch-maker, was possibly set in another case before being set into this medallion which seems to have been made expressly for the purpose of housing it. The movement’s top plate bears the name of Du Thuillay of Halle. The medallion is the work of goldsmith Johann Salomon Mëyer of Zerbst. His signature is on the reverse of the medallion, together with the date, 1738.

New Feature: Mobile Phone Version of “Stalking the Belle Époque” Has Launched

"Technology is the bees knees, Mate."
The Victoria & Albert Museum
While most of the regular visitors to Stalking the Belle Époque are coming to the site on a computer, some of you visit via a mobile device. In doing so on a mobile phone or iPad, you may have noticed that you had to do a lot of scrolling and magnifying to read the articles and view the pictures. This is the case no longer. Starting today, those who visit via a mobile device will see a special version of Stalking the Belle Époque designed to fit that screen specifically. Not to worry, at the bottom of each page you can still click, “View Web Version,” if you want to browse the extra features and interesting ads and offers from that are on the right sidebar of the full online site. If you want to go back to the mobile version on your device, simply click, “Mobile Version.” So, now, with your iPhones, Blackberries, Droids and other mobile devices, you can easily read all of the articles and view the pictures without having to scroll or expand.

In honor of our new feature, I’ve also launched a new look for Stalking the Belle Époque. The online version of the site features a new background design in the Rococo Revival Style just to remind us that while technology may change in the blink of an eye, true beauty lasts forever.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 265

Arthur?” Robert bellowed, rising to his feet. “He’s been shipped out to sea! It can’t be he!”

Meridian looked startled, unaware that Cecil had not yet explained to Robert that Arthur was back.

“Meridian,” Cecil said quickly, “Show Mr….” He paused and looked at Robert. “Does the man have a surname?”

“I don’t know.” Robert snapped. “Do murderous footmen have surnames?”

“Please show Arthur and his companion to the drawing room. We’ll be in shortly.” Cecil concluded.

“To the drawing room?” Robert’s eyes widened. “Why not just take him to my Julian’s bedroom and empty out his jewel case for the man? Or maybe we can give him the key to the knife cellar!”

“Go on, Meridian,” Cecil nodded. “I need to talk with Dr. Halifax.”

Meridian answered, “Sure thing” and shut the door behind her as she exited. “She muttered to herself as she walked to fetch Arthur and Gerard. “I’ll say this, it’s a lot more excitin’ ‘round here than when Dr. Biamenti was home. But, land sakes, I wouldn’t mind if we had a few less wicked folk trottin’ in and out of this house.” She forced herself to smile as she opened the door for Arthur.

“Mr. Halifax says you’re to wait in the drawing room,” Meridian said stiffly.

“Thank you so much,” Arthur smirked as he brushed past the woman. “I know where it is.”

Meanwhile, in the back parlor, Robert fumed. “You knew about this? You knew this man had returned?”

“Yes,” Cecil said. “I’ve not had a chance to tell you yet with Julian being…different again. I…”

“How long as he been back?”

“That I don’t know.” Cecil shrugged. “Long enough to find himself a new set of clothes and some man that he calls his servant. He came here earlier and spoke with me and with Mr. Punch.”

“Why would he come here? Was he looking for Barbara? Who, may I add, I’m disappointed to learn is also here.”

“Arthur was, I think, looking for any possible opportunity he could find to better himself. And, so, we gave him one—one that would benefit all of us.”

“What, exactly, was that?” Robert sighed with irritation.

“We asked him to obtain the blue diamond from Ulrika Rittenhouse.” Cecil said softly.

“You what?” Robert growled. “You’d trust him for such a…”

Robert was interrupted as Arthur and Gerard entered the room.

“You were told to wait in the Drawing Room.” Robert snapped.

“Didn’t feel like waitin’.” Arthur winked. “Not with this burnin’ a hole in me pocket.” He held the diamond aloft. “It’s heavy. Makin’ me tired.”

“I say,” Robert narrowed his eyes.

“Well, then,” Arthur grinned. “Doctor, you look surprised. Didn’t you think I’d carry out my assignment?”

“I’ve only just learned of your assignment. However, no, I didn’t think you’d do it.”

“And, is Ulrika Rittenhouse still living?” Cecil asked.

“Sure, she is.” Arthur laughed.

“Almost didn’t…” Gerard began.

“Shut it!” Arthur snapped.

“Sorry, Artie,” Gerard frowned.

“Listen, it don’t matter how we got it, just that we got it.” Arthur muttered.

“Well, then, hand it over.” Robert said.

“I’ll make arrangements to compensate you.” Cecil walked forward.

“No, Sir,” Arthur shook his head slowly. “I’m afraid my terms have changed a bit.”

At that very moment, Ulrika sat up and sputtered, looking around her room and coughing.

“Ah,” Iolanthe smiled from a dark corner. “I see you’re coming back to us.”

“What?” Ulrika coughed. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve been watching you—making plans, trying to decide what to do with you. I wanted to see what chances nature would give me.” Iolanthe walked into the light.

“Nature.” Ulrika croaked. “There’s nothing natural about any of this.”

“You’ve been given some sort of potion by Arthur,” Iolanthe smiled. “My dear, you do trust the wrong men.”

“I trust no one.” Ulrika tired to get off of the bed, but found herself too weak.

“Yet, you led him right to the diamond.” Iolanthe shook her head.

“Even under the influence of that potion,” Ulrika grinned weakly, “I’m no fool, Iolanthe.”

“Then, why is that Arthur and his hired idiot walked out of here with that stone?”

“They didn’t.” Ulrika coughed. “They left with the fake.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-264?  If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Coronation Durbar in India

The fourth in the fifty-piece set of Royal Commemorative Cards produced in 1935 by Wills Cigarettes for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Mary of Teck depicts the Coronation Durbar in India wherein the King was proclaimed Emperor of India.

The reverse of the card states:


At Delhi, the historic city of the Moghul Emperors, King George V was acclaimed Emperor of India in December, 1911. His visit with the Queen-Empress for the Durbar was the occasion of Administrative changes and the transfer of the Seat of Government from Calcutta to Delhi. The welcome received in Calcutta, Bombay and wherever the Royal Standard was hoisted was astonishing. The ruling princes vied with each other in expressing loyalty and homage, and the Royal progresses were witnessed by multitudes of every race, class and creed. The picture shows Their Majesties on the balcony of the Shah Jehan’s palace at the Durbar Garden Party.

Object of the Day: Museum Edition: A Girandole Garniture by Cornelius & Co., 1851

The Set at the Art Institute of Chicago
As a collector, it’s always fun to see an example of something you own in a museum. Whether it’s a similar style, the same artist or maker or an identical material, there’s a special feeling when you see that other variations of your favorite things are being protected and preserved.

Months ago, I shared with you photos of my Cornelius & Co. girandole and garniture. Cornelius & Co. was a Philadelphia-based maker of lamps and candelabra. Another example of such a girandole—though in bronze with different figures, exists in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. This set with bronze figural groups dates to 1851 and was a gift to the Institute.

My Set

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Precious Time: An Ormolu and Enamel Clock, 1855

Ormolu and Enamel
Levy Frères, 1855
The Victoria and Albert Museum
A masterpiece of ormolu and deep blue enamel, this clock by the celebrated clockmakers Levy Frères, depicts the four seasons as dancing putti. This magnificent timepiece was displayed at the Paris Exhibition of 1855 where it was purchased for £19 4s.

The clock’s style is evidence of the growing Rococo Revival which had swept mid-Nineteenth Century France. The revival of the style was more restrained than its Eighteenth Century inception. Considerably more rigid and less wild, the Rococo Revival borrowed the ideals of Neoclassicism and combined them with the curves and volutes of the Rococo.

Unusual Artifacts: A Russian Kovsh, 1909-1913

Silver Gilt, Enamel
The Royal Collection
A kovsh is a Russian drinking vessel with a single handle and a boat-shaped body. These vessels were often presented by the tsars as gifts to followers and favored subjects. Often made of precious metals and adorned with enamel and gemstones, these valuable objects were more for display than they were practical.

This kovsh is enameled en plein and depcits a scene of the Zaporozhye Cossacks (suggested by a painting by Ilya Repin). Created in the Moscow workshop of Feodor Rückert, the kovsh utilizes brilliantly hued cloisonné enameling. The vessel was distributed by Fabergé for import to England in 1913 and was purchased in London by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Unfolding Pictures: The National Progress Fan, 1877

The National Progress Fan
Commissioned by Queen Victoria, 1877
The Royal Collection
Commissioned by the Queen after the death of her beloved Prince Albert, “The National Progress Fan” commemorates an event which took place in August of 1850-- Prince Albert’s speech at the laying of the foundation stone of the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. The fan is inscribed with passages from the speech, along with other phrases which expressed the Prince’s many, varied interests and causes, including the “education of women,”

Women’s education was a cause of great importance to the fan’s maker--Marianne, Viscountess Alford who took great care in creating the fan. The Viscountess represented the Prince’s speech through an allegorical image depicting “Art personified” on the left, with a representation of Science on the right. Both figures point towards the central building, described by Lady Alford as a “Temple of Instruction.” The fan also features intricate mother-of-pearl sticks and guards with a pin of silver and pearls.

Painting of the Day: A Portrait of Charles Dickens, 1859

Portrait of Charles Dickens
William Powell Frith, 1859
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Long before you could search for images within seconds and save them to your hard drive, long before everyone had a camera in their pockets, the only way to display an image of yourself, a member of your family or even a favorite celebrity was to purchase or commission a portrait of said person.

Wealthy people frequently purchased paintings of other wealthy and famous people. One of the most popular celebrities of his time, Charles Dickens, was the frequent subject of portraits which found their way into the homes of his well-heeled friends.

This handsome (and much idealized) portrait of Dickens in the work of William Powell Frith and was painted at the apex of Dickens’ fame during his lifetime. John Forster, Dickens’ longtime friend and biographer, commissioned Frith to create the portrait. Forster was thrilled with the work depicting Dickens in his study with the manuscript for A Tale of Two Cities arranged on the desk. Dickens, however, hated the painting and complained bitterly about the way Frith had rendered his expression. Dickens had a history of disliking images of himself, even photographs. Truly, he should have been pleased with the finished painting since it is, most definitely, a flattering depiction of the author.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 264

Julian couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of Mr. Scaramouche hanging by his miniature collar, pinched between Mr. Punch’s thumb and forefinger. The little creature emitted tiny, angry squeaks and high-pitched growls as it swatted at the air with open palms.

“Ain’t he adorable?” Punch laughed as he dangled Scaramouche in front of himself.

“In a ferocious kind of way,” Julian grinned.

“Here, what are you doin’ back in here, Master?” Mr. Punch asked. “I figured once you got out, you’d want to spend some time with our chums, you would.”

“I wouldn’t have minded,” Julian said as he stepped closer to Punch. “However, given the fact that we were administered a rather strong sedative tonic, I’m quite surprised that I lasted as long as I did before falling asleep.”

“True,” Punch nodded. “I’d not thought of that, but I guess it were your anger what kept you alert.”

“Anger has a way of interrupting everything else, doesn’t it?” Julian sighed as he peered at the continually wriggling miniature Scaramouche.

“Until you take the wind from its sails.” Punch laughed. “Then, it’s just a little nothin’.”

“Indeed.” Julian nodded.

“I heard what you were sayin’ to Robert.” Mr. Punch said softly. “Coo! I didn’t know you could raise such a fuss. It were real nice to hear.”

“Thank you,” Julian smiled. “It seems to have served its purpose.”

“What should we do with him?” Punch asked. “Maybe we ought to lock him up somewhere. Pity there ain’t a cabinet in here like what you used to keep me in back when we was a Fallbridge Hall. Here, you still got that wee key what Naasir gave ya? Maybe we can open up that cupboard in the wall where the memories live.”

“It’s an intriguing idea, dear Punch,” Julian nodded again. “However, it may not solve the problem.”

“Whatever do you mean, Master?” Punch asked. “When somethin’s bad, you lock it away. True? Look at Iolanthe. She were bad and they put her in a cage. So, why not do the same to Scaramouche? He’s a bad one, he is.”

“He’s only as bad as we allow him to be. Locking him away and trying to ignore him—or forget about him—might just be what allowed him to get as big and fierce as he was.”

“Oh, like hatchin’ an egg.” Punch nodded. “Before you know it, you got a chicken what’s peckin’ at your guts.”

“Something like that.” Robert said. “Certainly, that’s a decidedly more colorful way of phrasing it.”

Scaramouche chirped and groaned, still hanging from Mr. Punch’s pinch.

“I think, Punch, we should let him roam free in here. We can keep watch on him and make sure that he only gets smaller and weaker. Perhaps, one day, he’ll disappear.” Julian explained.

“I ‘spose.” Punch frowned.

“Besides, dear Punch, when the time comes for us to awaken, it’ll be you who manages the body. So, I’ll be the one who’s in here with him most of the time.”

“You ain’t goin’ back out?”

“I don’t think so.” Julian shook his head. “Not for now. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No!” Punch smiled. “I’m glad to do it.”

“I think it’s time to drop him,” Julian winked, pointing to Scaramouche. “Let him scurry off an nurse his wounds. We’ll keep an eye on him.”

“As you wish,” Punch shrugged, letting Scaramouche’s newly tiny body fall to the floor. He squeaked as he landed and skittered off like a rodent.

Punch laughed heartily.

“Well done, Punch.” Julian sighed. “Well done.”

Meanwhile, Robert and Cecil were chatting in the back parlor. Barbara Allen had wisely left the brothers to discuss all of the many matters that plagued their family. Their intimate chat was interrupted by a knock on the front door.

Cecil shook his head. “Meridian will send whoever it is away.”

But, she didn’t. Within seconds, Meridian was entering the back parlor.

“Trouble’s knockin’, Sir.” Meridian groaned as she opened the door.

“Which one?” Robert asked.

“Don’t tell me that Marie Laveau dares to come to this house!” Cecil spat.

“Not that smart.” Meridian shook her head. “It’s Arthur and his friend.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-263? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Investiture of the Prince of Wales

When Wills’s Cigarette Company created a series of fifty trading cards in honor of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, they did an excellent job in making sure that everyone in the Royal Family was depicting in the group. This card shows the Investiture of the Prince of Wales—the man who would be King—briefly. Of course, now we know how that worked out. The future King Edward VIII abdicated the throne and was succeeded by his brother who was called King George VI.

The reverse of the card says:

When the Prince of Wales assumed his title on July 13, 1911, he was the first Heir to the Throne for 600 years to whose Investiture had taken place within the Principality. The superb ceremony was enacted in Carnarvon Castle, that stronghold where according to tradition, the first Edward showed the first Prince of Wales to the native Chieftains. When the King had invested his son with a mantle and other insignia, and when the Prince had acknowledged himself as the King’s ‘liege man,’ he was presented to the people at the castle gates; and, later drove forth in full regalia through the decorated streets packed with cheering crowds.


Object of the Day: Two Miniature Lhasa Apsos

Long before Bertie was ever born, my family enjoyed the friendship of a Lhasa Apso named Mrs. Odetts. A sweet and clever dog, Mrs. Odetts lived to be 17 years old and was an important part of the family.

When I was a small boy, my parents gave me this pair of figurines depicting a Lhasa Apso and its baby. I always loved them because they looked so much like Mrs. Odetts. Now, thirty years later, they remain by her picture.

Bertie enjoys the stories I tell him about his “Aunt Odetts.” Having these little reminders is a wonderful way to remember a very special friend.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The True Lovers Knot Enamel and Diamond Locket, 1670

Enamel, Gold, Diamonds
Possibly Spanish
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This magnificent locket of gold, enamel and table-cut diamonds from the late Seventeenth Century represents several different symbols of love. First, the diamonds represent eternity. Secondly, the front of the locket is adorned with a “True Lovers Knot” showing how two lovers entwine forever. The locket is also decorated with an “S” which has been struck-through with a diagonal bar—a symbol of being a “slave to love” or “esclavos.”

The locket’s reverse is marked with a floral pattern in the enamel which matches the many gold and enamel drops. The original owner of this locket donated it to Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar, Zaragoza from whom it was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1870.

Sculpture of the Day: A Parian Figurine, 1850

Parian Group
"The Merry Wives of Windsor"
James Hadley, 1850
The Victoria and Albert Museum
This highly detailed work of Parian (unglazed biscuit porcelain) dates to 1850 and is the work of James Hadley. Parian became quite popular in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century since it was an economical way to bring the look of classical marble statuary into the home.

Parian figures often depicted classical or mythological scenes, single figures or groups, and frequently displayed pastoral or domestic themes. This piece depicts the scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor wherein Mistresses Page and Ford humiliate Falstaff as revenge for his untoward advances. In retaliation, the ladies hide him in a laundry basket which Mrs. Ford's servants later leave in the river.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Table of the Grand Commanders, 1806-1812

Table of the Grand Commanders
French 1806-1812
A gift to King George IV while Prince Regent
from King Louis XVIII
Originally made for Napoleon
The Royal Collection
Acquired by King George IV while still Prince Regent, this table would have greatly appealed to the Prince Regent’s great love of all things French and of anything connected to Versailles. Originally, this remarkable piece of furniture was known as the Table des Grands Capitaines. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, the table was initially intended to be part of a set of four impressive and important presentation tables designed to immortalize the reign of the French Emperor.

The surface is comprised almost entirely of hard-paste Sèvres porcelain and was six years in the making due to the technically-challenging nature of the workmanship which includes an internal wooden structure to support the revolving top.

The gingerly and painstakingly painted porcelain sections are the work of the Sèvres artists Louis-Bertin Parant (active 1806-41) and Antoine Béranger (active 1808-48), with the ornate, chased gilt bronze mounts having been supplied by Pierre-Philippe Thomire.

The rotating top has been painted to imitate sardonyx, serving as a frame for the portrait heads and painted scenes in cameo style. The head of Alexander the Great takes center stage, surrounded by 12 smaller “cameos” of other historical commanders and philosophers including: Scipio Africanus, Pompey, Augustus, Septimus Severus, Constantine, Trajan, Caesar, Mithridates, Hannibal, Themistocles and Militiades.

The table was a gift from King Louis XVIII to the Prince Regent. By far, it was the most important gift given to George IV by the indebted French King, two years after the defeat of Napoleon. George IV held this piece in such high regard that he insisted that the table be employed as part of the ceremonial backdrop for all his official state portraits.

Humanitarian of the Week: Keeley Hawes

Model, actress and voice artist, Keeley Hawes is known throughout the U.K. for her notable appearances on long-running television programs. Her image has graced dozens of magazines and she has lent her voice to a variety of popular projects including video games.

In 2010, Miss Hawes joined the elegant and always wonderful Jean Marsh, the redoubtable Eileen Atkins (who created the program with Marsh) and Ed Stoppard for the long-awaited continuation of Upstairs, Downstairs for BBC 1. Portraying Lady Agnes Holland, the newest mistress of 165 Eaton Place, Hawes had some rather imposing shoes to fill as she continued in the path started by Rachel Gurney’s “Lady Marjorie Bellamy,” Meg Wynn Owen as Lady Marjorie’s successor, “Hazel Bellamy,” and, later, Hannah Gordon as “Virginia Bellamy, Viscountess of Haversham.” Still. Hawes doesn’t mimic her predecessors and makes her Lady Agnes a unique creation, a woman of the 1930’s with her own mind. While her portrayal offers a respectful nod to the previous ladies of 165, she commands both the address and the show with strong and sensitive performances.

In addition to her work in television, Miss Hawes has performed in several major motion pictures: The Avengers (1998), The Last September, Complicity (2000), A Cock and Bull Story (2006), The Bank Job (2008),and Flashbacks of a Fool with Daniel Craig.

Despite her impressive work, Hawes most lasting contribution, however, is her work with CHASE (Children’s Hospice Association for the South East). For quite some time, Miss Hawes has donated her time and talents to supporting CHASE, even recording voice-overs for a virtual tour of the hospice’s Surrey location, Christopher House.

For her wonderful work both onstage and off, Keeley Hawes is our “Humanitarian of the Week.” Enjoy this clip of Miss Hawes as Lady Agnes from the recent reincarnation of Upstairs, Downstairs. Here, we see Agnes encountering her mother-in-law (and her monkey-in-law) for the first time.