Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Naples Sun Pendant, 1830-1860

The Victoria & Albert Museum
 The jewels made by the master artists of the south of Italy are vastly different from that of the north of the country. This pendant is an excellent example of the exuberance of Neapolitan jewelers who favored very fine yellow gold-work. The filigree, overlaid with shapes cut out of red sheet gold, and small plaques of enamel is designed as stylized rays of the sun.

Intended as a wedding gift, this pendant has gold marks which show that it was made in the south of Italy in the first half of the Nineteenth Century. It was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the Castellani Collection of Italian Peasant Jewelry at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867.

The Art of Play: A Silver Toy Coffee Pot, 1720

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This miniature coffee pot is a toy in the sense that, in the Eighteenth Century, any knick-knack or fashionable trinket for adults, as well as a child’s plaything, was called a toy. If you think about it, the same idea is still true today. Whether it’s a plush animal or a diamond ring, something that amuses us is still a toy—luxurious or not.

This particular “toy” is made of silver and the maker took great care to copy the exact details and proportions of a full-size coffee pot. Silver toys like this might have been designed to furnish dolls’ houses. Some might have been miniature trade samples. Others were made as practice pieces for apprentices.

However, more so than anything else, these items were made as fashionable novelties for adults to collect and as playthings for the children of wealthy families. Because they were light and small, silver toys are not fully hallmarked, so it’s hard to say who the maker of this particular example might have been.

Her Majesty's Furniture: The Hintz Tea Table, 1737

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This mahogany tripod, tilt-top table is inlaid with brass and mother-of-pearl. The top features beautifully scalloped edges, and is dished to hold tea wares. The edges around the dished portions are decorated with inlaid gentian flowers and leaves. The central pedestal is joined by three legs which are, curiously, in the form of human legs complete with stockings and buckled shoes. These anthropomorphic legs are rare, and are most likely inspired by Dutch prototypes.

In the 1730s, furniture of the utmost quality was decorated with brass inlay and mother-of-pearl. This is especially true of the Hintz Furniture Company—the makers of this table who advertised their use of mother-of-pearl as well as brass inlay from 1737-1738.

At the Music Hall: The Sun Has Got His Hat On, 1932

The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today
Now we'll all be happy, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play.
So jump into your sunbath, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today
All the little birds are singing
All the little gnats are stinging
All the little bees in twos and threes
Buzzing in the sun all day

The Sun Has Got His Hat On found a new place in popular culture as one of the main songs in the 1990s revival of the musical Me and My Girl. The song was written by Noel Gay and Ralph Butler and recorded for the first time in 1932 by Ambrose and his Orchestra, with vocals by Sam Browne.

Singer Sam Browne (1898 – 1972) was an English dance band singer, and can be considered one of the most popular British dance band vocalists of the 1930s. He is best known for singing with Jack Hylton and with Ambrose and his Orchestra, at the Mayfair Hotel and Embassy Club.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 398

Gerard walked as softly as possible, hugging the corridor wall with his back. He could hear the voices of Edward Cage and Robert Halifax in the mansion’s foyer.

“Do you really think I’m going to let you leave?” Edward growled.

“You’ve no grounds to detain us.” Robert responded. “You purchased a child—a human life…”

“Which your lunatic companion stole from me.” Edward interrupted. “After, I might add, striking an officer of the law.”

“There’s no harm done to the man.” Robert snapped. “It’s a mild concussion which will heal on its own.”

“There’s harm done to me. And my wife!” Edward bellowed.

“Your wife?” Robert laughed. “Your wife who so very quickly revealed the truth? Your wife who is abed at this moment, spitting up blood from the Yellow Fever? Suddenly, you care for her well-being?”

“How dare…” Edward began.

“Please,” Robert laughed. “Mrs. Cage told me herself that she wished that the child would be freed from this house, that he would be returned to the Duke.”

“She’s mad with fever.” Edward growled. “You and your…” He glared at Marjani. “Servant—came into my house with the intention of stealing that child.”

“A child who was already stolen from us.” Robert shouted.

“You heard the voice of the law. The boy is mine. I own him.”

“You can’t own another person!” Robert screamed.

“Really?” Edward chortled, looking again at Marjani.

“He don’t own me, Mr. Cage.” Marjani said plainly. “No one owns me. Not no more. I’m a free woman.”

“Keep thinking that.” Edward howled. “When your dear friend here is taken to prison, you’ll be sold off quick enough. You may have been freed by one man, but that doesn’t mean you’re free in this world! And, you, Dr. Halifax, will know, too, what it means to be confined. You’ll rot in prison—along with your brother and your…companion.”

“The Duke of Fallbridge will not be placed in a prison in this country. Don’t forget his ties to the Sovereign of our native land.”

“Your queen has no authority here. We shook your people loose almost a century ago.”

Gerard stood as still as possible, listening—hoping for a moment that Edward would step away so that he could guide Robert and Marjani out of the house. Yet, Edward showed no signs of stopping or moving.

“You realize, of course, that the Duke of Fallbridge has attacked an officer of the law. It’s not the first time he’s been known to be violent. And, now, he’s taken a child. A menace is a menace no matter what his connection to the monarchy of a foreign land.” Edward rambled.

“And, you, Sir?” Robert narrowed his eyes. “Are you innocent? It’s clear you’ve bribed the authorities. Your partnership with Iolanthe Evangeline certainly calls your integrity into question. I can’t believe that this land is so lawless that…” Robert suddenly caught sight of Gerard who peered around the corner.

“That what?” Edward smirked.

“Why bother?” Robert sighed, making sure not to look at Gerard or call attention to the man in any way.

“I see. Once again, the English give up.” Edward laughed.

“There are more important things at present than arguing with you. Rightness will win. In the meantime, I’d like to check on the officer. Where have your men taken him?”

“He’s out back.” Edward squinted. “What do you need to see him for? You said yourself that he’ll heal on his own.”

“I’m a physician. It’s my sworn duty to…”

“No.” Edward laughed.

“Then, at least let me look in on Mrs. Cage. If not me, then, Marjani.” Robert countered.

“No.” Edward shook his head.

“Aren’t you curious to see how she is?” Robert asked.

“Not especially. If she’s dead, she’s dead. There’s nothing much I can do about it either way.”

Marjani clucked her tongue.

“You got something to say?” Edward spat.

“No, Sir.” Marjani whispered.

Gerard began to grow frustrated as he listened. Silently, he cursed Edward’s stubbornness. Furthermore, he knew that, soon, Zettie would return to the kitchen and to Gamilla—thereby removing their only means of escape.

On a narrow table in the corridor, Gerard spotted a crystal vase. Suddenly, he had an idea. Very quietly and carefully, he picked up the vase and with all of his might, flung it down the corridor. It crashed through a window at the end of the hall.

“This’ll either save us or kill us all.” Gerard thought as he crouched down.

Did you miss Chapters 1-397? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, November 21 for Chapter 399 of Punch’s Cousin.

Obscure Book of the Day: Queen Elizabeth II

In 1977, for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee (twenty-five years on the throne), Judith Campbell wrote a lovely biography and tribute to Her Majesty which not only chronicles the history of the long-reigning Monarch and her good works, but also her personal tastes and activities.

Lavish color-plates and historical photographs illustrate the book and give us a rare peek into the private life of one of the world’s most famous and important people.

Let’s take a look inside.


Young Elizabeth with Queen Mary, her "Grandmother Britain."

Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh enjoy their time at Balmoral.

Forever fashionable.

Her Majesty with her father, King George VI (and my fingers).

Elizabeth II follows in the footsteps of Britain's great queens.

Wearing the Cambridge Emeralds.

Just sitting at home.

I concur.  Betty rules.  Ok.

Nice wheels.

Objects of the Day: A Royal Commemorative Coffee Service

This is, I think, the newest of all my Royal memorabilia, but it fits right in with the themes of coronations and jubilees. Here, we see a lovely china coffee service commemorating the Golden Jubilee (fifty years on the throne) of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. This is actually a portion of a larger set which included cups and saucers. I’ve got the coffee pot, creamer and sugar.

Each item is trimmed in gold with Her Majesty’s cipher and the dates 1952-2002.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mastery of Design: Les Fils d'Eos Brooch, 1963

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Georges Braques designed this brooch in 1963. It was produced by Baron Heger de Loewenfeld of polished lapis-lazuli, textured gold and diamonds pavé-set in platinum. Braques’ design reflects the post-war trend of jewelry being a “wearable art.”
Since Georges Braque was one of the most influential artists and painters of the period and he already worked in sculpture and stained glass, jewelry design seemed a natural next step. He designed this sumptuous brooch to represent—as birds--the three sons of Eos, the goddess of dawn: Phaeton, the guardian of Aphrodite’s temple, Phosphorus, the morning star and Hesperus, the evening star. Braque, who disliked shiny surfaces, often mixed sand into his paint for a granular effect and ordered that the Baron replicate this look with the goldwork.

Friday Fun: The Children of King George V

The Royal Collection
Crown Copyright
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
 This beautiful video pays tribute to the five children of King George V and Queen Mary: “David” (King Edward VIII/The Duke of Windsor); “Bertie” (King George VI); Mary, the Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood; Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester; Prince George, the Duke of Kent; and poor little Prince John.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Good Night, Mr. Punch

The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive, we have another hand-painted glass magic lantern slide that is the final slide of the set of 12 housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The slide was made in London at the end of the Nineteenth Century by Theobald & Co.

This is my favorite of the lot! I adore it! It proves to me that Punch takes his slapstick to bed.

The following text accompanies the slide during a magic lantern show:

Punch: I’m not such a bad old man as they make out. Don’t you believe it. I didn’t mean to hurt my dear darling baby, it was all a mistake; and I will be extra kind to dear old Judy, and dear old Toby shall have a penny ice all to himself, and my dear old donkey what a feed he shall have, and what a happy family we’ll all be for the future. Good night, my dears, good night. Don’t forget poor old Punch.


Sculpture of the Day: A Relief of King George V, 1924

The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in London in 1924, this medal features relief sculptures by Percy Metcalfe on the reverse and Sir Bertram Mackennal on the obverse and was produced by the Royal Mint in bronze. The medal was made for the British Empire Exhibition which opened on St George’s Day, 1924 at Wembley Park in north-west London.

The British Empire Exhibition was to promote trade within the countries of the Empire and to pay homage to those who had fallen during the Great War. This medal, with its handsome bust of King George V, was the winning entry of the competition which was sponsored by the Goldsmith's Company for a medal commemorating the exhibition. Subsequently, it was used as the official award medal for all exhibitors.

It is inscribed:


Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 397

Gamilla knocked gently on the rear door of the Cages’ house. Zettie answered, wiping her hands on her apron before she opened the door.

“Zettie,” Gamilla smiled. “I hear ya got sickness in the house. I brought ya some of Meridian’s nice broth.” She held up ceramic tureen. “And, I got some fine cornbread I done made myself.” She nodded to the basket which hung from the crook of her arm.

“That’s fine of ya.” Zettie nodded. “But, we got more than sickness here. You know—your master, he done hit an officer and then ran off with the baby!”

“No.” Gamilla shook her head, trying to look as if the information was new to her.

“He’s a loon, ain’t he?”

“No, not really.” Gamilla smiled. “He’s a right nice man. It’s just he gets all kinds of excited. He loves his family. You know that baby ain’t really Mr. Cage’s. Don’t ya?”

“I know.” Zettie nodded sadly. “He’s a nice baby though.”

“Sure is.”

“Still shouldn’t ‘a’ hit that man like that, your master.” Zettie shrugged.

“What ya gonna do with these folk?” Gamilla replied, realizing that she’d gotten into Zettie’s confidence and becoming more comfortable.

“I don’t know, Girl.” Zettie laughed. “I jus’ hope dem babies get to stay wit’ the folk who’s gonna love ‘em best. Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Cage is a good daddy. You seen their boy, Orman? He’s a devil.”

“True.” Gamilla smiled. “Hold on, did you say there’s more than one baby?”

“Sure.” Zettie said. “I done saw Mr. Cage upstairs with two of ‘em. One was bigger—a boy.”

“Well, where’d he get that one?”

“Who knows?” Zettie shrugged.

“You know—Missus Adrienne’s baby done went missin’.” Gamilla probed further.

“Now you say it,” Zettie frowned. “The boy did look like the chil’ I seen with your lady.”

“Where is he now?” Gamilla asked.

“Miss Ulrika tol’ me she wanted to watch him. I…” Zettie paused.

“What is it?”

“Well, I done saw Mill Ulrika fightin’ with that Barbara Allen. I didn’t think ‘bout the baby, then. But, what she do wit’ him?”

“You think he’s still here?” Gamilla asked.

“Dunno.” Zettie sniffed.

“Can we look?” Gamilla wondered.

“Oh, no. I can’t, Gamilla. You know I can’t. Mr. Cage—he’ll kill me if I let you go up there.”

“I ain’t gonna take him. I jus’ wanna make sure he’s safe.”

“No,” Zettie shook her head. “I’m sorry, but…”

“Well, can you go look, at least? I’ll stay right here. I swear it.” Gamilla chose her words carefully.

Zettie snorted. “You gonna stay right here? You ain’t gonna go in the front? You know Mr. Cage has got Marjani and your master’s doctor friend in there.”

“I swear I’ll stay right here.” Gamilla promised.

“Fine,” Zettie scowled. “I’ll go look. But, if you get me in trouble…”

“I ain’t gonna go nowhere else in this house. If you want, Odo can watch me an’ everythin’.”

“Odo ain’t here.” Zettie replied, walking to the back stairs. “Who knows where he’s gone? You wait here, understand?”

“I promise.”

Zettie looked suspiciously over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs.

As soon as Gamilla was certain Zettie was out of ear-shot, she rushed to the back door and let Gerry in.

“The Doctor in Marjani are in the front hall.” Gamilla whispered. “Go on in there, and help ‘em. I’ll see what’s become of Miss Ulrika and master Fuller.”

“You’re a sweetie,” Gerard winked.

“Shut your mouth and go on.” Gamilla scowled as she shoved Gerry toward the hallway door.

Did you miss Chapters 1-395? If so, you can read them here.

Obscure Book of the Day: The Life of King George V

I was so thrilled to find this book recently. The Life of King George V was published in 1937 with the subtitle “Being a Complete Record of the Late King’s Life of Seventy Eventful Years.” It was complied by W.J. Makin and published in London by George Newnes Limited.

The book, in addition to its in-depth history of the life of George V, contains “nearly 250 half-tone illustrations.” This particular copy is not in the greatest condition. The insides of the covers have been scribbled on in pencil in the 1950s by a little British girl who enjoyed drawing pictures of lovely ladies in lavish gowns and Elvis. Nonetheless, the interior of the book is unmarred.

Let’s take a look inside…

George, on the right, with his ill-fated elder brother and Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg

The Marriage of Prince George to Princess Mary of Teck

With their first born--"David"--later the Great Abdicator and Kerfuffler, King Edward VIII