Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Saragosa Ornament, 1650

French, 1650
Gold, Diamonds, Enamel
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I think this is just stunning. A gold breast or hair ornament, this jewel is enameled in blue and white and set with table-cut diamonds in the form of a bow and jabot which is pierced in imitation of lace.

The ornament was made in France around 1650 and eventually found its way to Spain. IT was part of a group of jewels which were presented in 1679 to the Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar, Saragossa, by the Marquis de Nevarens.

The group of jewels was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1870, when the Cathedral authorities auctioned off their treasures in order to raise funds to add a new structure to the Cathedral.

History's Runway: The Callot Soeurs Evening Dress, 1922

Evening Gown from the House of the Callot Soueurs, 1922
Collected by Cecil Beaton
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This romantic evening gown dates to 1922 and represents the very best quality workmanship and materials available at the time.  The gown comes alive with light-reflecting beads and sequins as well as intricate embroidery which follows the lines of the printed floral design.

This gown is the work of the fashion house Callot Soeurs which four sisters, Marie, Marthe, Regina and Joséphine, opened initially as a lace shop in 1888. The eldest, Marie (Madame Gerber), introduced the couture side of the business at 9 avenue Matignon, Paris, where it continued until the mid 1930s. The sisters enjoyed working with rare and exquisite materials such as Chinese silks, rubberized gabardine, lace and decorated sheer fabrics.

This dress was worn by a British aristocrat, Winifred, Duchess of Portland. It came to the V&A as part of the collection of fashion amassed by famed photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980).
  Beaton contacted the well-dressed elite of Europe and North America to create this lasting monument to the art of dress in 1971.

The sleeveless evening dress is comprised of printed silk voile with a lamé petticoat and net embroidered belt.
  It features a straight bodice and a dropped waistline marked by the wide matching belt with a bold jeweled buckle.  It is embroidered with pearlized sequins and bugle beads in pinks and greens. 

At the Music Hall: “I’ve Got Rings on My Fingers,” 1909

Sure, I've got rings on my fingers, 
Bells on my toes, 
Elephants to ride upon, 
My little Irish Rose 
So, come to your Nabob 
And next Patrick's Day 
Be Mistress Mumbo Jumbo Jijjiboo J. O'Shea 

Written in 1909, with lyrics by Weston and Barnes, and music by Maurice Scott, “I’ve Got Rings on My Fingers,” quickly became a popular song of the late Edwardian era. The song tells the tale of an Irishman, Jim O’Shea who finds himself a castaway in the East Indies. The natives are delighted by O’Shea’s ginger hair and bright smile and make him their leader whereupon he writes to his girlfriend to invite her to join him there.

The lyrics borrow a line from a popular nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.

The song debuted in the musical comedy, “The Midnight Sons” and was popularized by stage star Blanche Ring.

Unfolding Pictures: Queen Mary's Coronation Fan, 1911

Queen Mary's Coronation Fan, 1911

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

Presented by the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers to Queen Mary on the occasion of the coronation on June 22, 1911, this fan of a cream cotton lace leaf is supported by plain blond tortoiseshell guards and sticks. Upon the front guard is an applied gold monogram of “MR” surmounted by a crown. The bottom of the fan is punctuated by a gold pin with diamond heads and a gold loop

This lace fan lead is painted with four shields of arms and a decorative border containing the rose, thistle and shamrock. Very often in the inventory of the Royal Collection, this fan was noted by Queen Mary as being “in use” throughout her lifetime. So, obviously, it was a favorite. It is shown in photographs as being used in India during the Durbar celebrations.

The fan was designed by the industrial designer, fan-maker and fan historian George Woolliscroft Rhead while the leaf was created in the workshop of Miss Fowler of Honiton. The guards and sticks were carved by Robert Gleeson under the direction of Mr Joseph Ettlinger, Past Master of the Fan Makers Company. The original box survives.

A similar fan was created by the Honiton lace-makers at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s (the Queen Mother) coronation in 1937. That leaf, however, incorporates roses, thistles and ferns and was designed by the niece of Miss Fowler.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 254

Chapter 254 
To Pieces 

What do you want?” Orpha growled as she opened the door of Eudora Stover’s house to find Lady Contance on the other side.

“I want my daughter.”

“Well, you can’t have her.” Orpha shrugged. “You didn’t give me what I wanted, and, now, you can’t have your daughter.”

“I’ve come for my girl and I’m not leaving without her.” Constance replied levelly.

“Is that right?” Orpha chuckled. “I’ll return her to you in time…and, in pieces. You received her hair, didn’t you?”

“Fern!” Lady Constance screamed through the door. “Mummy’s here!”

“Oh, she can’t hear you.” Orpha smirked.

“What have you done to her?”

“Nothing she didn’t deserve.” Orpha sighed in exasperation.

“She’s innocent…”

“No child is innocent. No one is innocent!” Orpha snapped. “Now, go back to your little, mad friend, the ginger Duke who thinks he’s a puppet and get Victor Lensdown to meet me as we had planned. Convince his wife to cooperate. I know she’s there, too.”

“I can’t do that.” Constance answered.

“Why not?” Orpha hissed.

“The Duke…he ejected me from his home.” Constance responded.

“Did he?” Orpha smiled. “So, let me understand, Constance. You…you were too much of a bother for a man who is known to take in anyone, including former criminals. I suppose matricide is a rather ponderous sin. Too much even for the mad Duke. Don’t tell me that you are so insufferable that even the puppet man can’t endure you. Or…was it that he was afraid of you—given the sins to which you’re prone.”

“No worse than anything you’ve ever done.”

“I didn’t kill my mother.” Orpha winked. “She died before I could get to it. More’s the pity.”

“Orpha, please…” Constance began.

“I don’t have time for this. My child needs me.”

“Your…your child? I thought he was…”

“Hidden away?” Orpha interrupted. “He was. However, I thought it time for him to meet his father, and his uncle.—conveniently, the same man. And, then, he can watch me kill the filthy bastard. It’s so important for mothers to spend time with their children, don’t you agree?”

Constance opened her eyes in horror.

“Oh, but you couldn’t agree. The last time you spent with your mother, you eviscerated her. No more teatime games for you, Connie.”

Constance’s mouth opened slightly.

“Do stop gaping at me. You’re such a bore. Now, move along, I have things which require my attention and you’ve nothing to offer me.”

“I want my daughter.”

“I know.” Orpha’s eyes widened. “And, you shall have her, when I get what I want.”

“I have information for you.” Constance said quickly.

“Oh? Train schedules? Where to buy the best face powder to conceal spots? What could you possibly know which I don’t?”

“I can tell you what I learned of the Duke and how he intends to stop you.”

“You’d betray this man of whom you’re supposedly so fond?”

“I would do anything for my daughter.”

“Even kill you own mother.” Orpha grinned. “If the Duke tossed you out into the street, how could you possibly know anything to tell me?”

“I knew of a meeting he intended to keep.”

“Fascinating.” Orpha shrugged.

“A meeting with a man named Donnan and a man called Stover.”

“Donnan?” Orpha scowled.

“They spoke of you.”

“How would you know?” Orpha frowned.

“They met in the garden.” Constance replied. “I was passing through the mews and I overheard them.”

“Lurking, more like.” Orpha scoffed.

“The Duke and his companion asked Mr. Donnan to kill you.”

“Did they?” Orpha beamed. “How flattering.”

“I’m in earnest.”

“I’ve no doubt.” Orpha nodded. “Very well, Constance, come inside and tell me all about it.”

“Will you take me to my daughter?”

“No.” Orpha chuckled. “However, I long to introduce you to my son. He’ll just love you to pieces.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-253? If so, you can read them here. Chapter 255 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square will be posted on February 12. We’ll be taking Monday off.

Unusual Artifacts: Queen Victoria’s Costume for the Stuart Ball, 1851

Queen Victoria's Costume for
the Stuart Ball, 1851
Designed by Lemi
Pearls, Silk, Gold Braid, Silver Fringe,
Irish Lace
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II
For the Stuart Ball of 1851, Queen Victoria commissioned the Royal Dressmakers to create a truly breathtaking gown for her—drawing inspiration from her court of King Charles II. Though we often tend to remember Victoria as the Dowager Queen, we must remind ourselves that during her marriage, she was a vibrant and vivacious woman with a taste for fine clothes and gems.

Beaded with seed pearls, the silk gown is also adorned with gold braid, silver fringe and lace. The underskirt was a luxurious brocade created in Benares. The lace is of the finest quality—created in Ireland—in a Venetian raised-point needle style. The lace was most likely purchased at The Great Exhibition of 1850.

While the exact makers of the gown are unknown, it is known to have been designed (with much instruction from the Queen) by Eugéne Lemi—a favorite of the Queen. In this magnificent costume, she’s sure to have made the grand entrance that she’d hoped for.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Queen Alexandra’s Handkerchief, 1880

c. 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum
At Sandringham House, Queen Mary had assembled a collection of odd items which constituted a family museum. In this collection, she added souvenirs, clothing, lace and personal objects which had historically belonged to members of the Royal family.

Queen Mary donated part of this collection of lace to the Victoria & Albert museum. Her donation included this handkerchief of linen, white-work embroidery and lace which had belonged to her mother-in-law Queen Alexandra.

Handkerchiefs such as this one were really not for utilitarian purposes, but were designed to be be carried purely as fashionable accessories and to be given as gifts. These elaborate pieces of linen incorporated the initials of their owner in an ornate monogram—especially if the object was part of a trousseau. White-work embroidery such as is seen here made for some of the most desirable handkerchiefs. White-work was made with such skill that it was reversible, being equally attractive on each side. These handkerchiefs were always trimmed with hand-made lace.

Because it was made for Queen Alexandra (when Princess of Wales), it has the initial A with a crown. Queen Mary’s preservation of such objects allowed for future generations to see the personal objects which were used on a daily basis. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Chaumet Bangle, 1935-1945

Jewelry of the 1930s, especially later in the decade, relied on clusters of gems and diamonds in geometric patterns which mirrored the weight of the more florid designs of the previous century, but reduced the designs to less organic shapes. 

French, 1935-1945
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This bangle of gold, rubies and diamonds reflects the Naturalistic themes of the Nineteenth Century while presenting them in a purely Twentieth Century light. The bangle appears to be sliced open to reveal a core of rubies in contrast to a field of pavé-set diamonds. This is the work of the renowned French firm of Chaumet. It is, at once, organic and meaty, all the while being cold and architectural. 

Gifts of Grandeur: Gendarme et Voleur Belt Buckle, 1946

Gendarme et Voleur
Belt Buckle
Gilt Bronze
Line Vautrin, 1946
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The name of this bronze belt buckle, Gendarme et Voleur (policeman and thief) refers to the Guignol (the French equivalent to the Punch and Judy show). Here depicted is specific scene from the Guignol--a mustachioed policeman in his helmet, chasing a thief. The thief, as they often were, is shown with a knife. The excitement of the chase is reinforced by relief figures of two dogs which “jump” over the central rings and the elongated limbs of the figures.

This unusual buckle is the work of Line Vautrin, a prominent and celebrated Parisian fashion designer. Vautrin began her career at the age of thirteen, making costume jewelry which she sold through her father's ironmongery business. 

Later, she was briefly hired by the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, becoming independent in 1933 when she began to craft her own jewelry from gilt bronze. In 1937, at the ‘L’Exposition universelle’ in Paris, she had a successful showing and, subsequently opened a string of boutiques.

Her use of gilt bronze made her quite popular (and profitable) during war time when a decided lack of precious materials caused considerable problems from most jewelers. Today, she is remembered for her wit and the charm she brought to all of her designs. 

Friday Fun: An Introduction to Guignol of Lyon

This video with English voiceover gives you a charming introduction to the tradition of the Guingol Puppet Theatre in Lyon, France.  

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  Some week, I may offer a nifty prize from our online store.  But, this week, again, I don't feel like it.

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

I am a merry creature,
     In pleasant time of year,
As in but certain seasons,
     I sing that you can hear:

And yet I'm made a by-word,
     A very perfect mock;
Compar'd to foolish persons,
     And silliest of all folk.

And...the answer is, a CUCKOO.  

Well, that makes sense.  There were so many clever, funny answers today that it's hard to single any one out.  Well done, all!  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 253

Chapter 253 
Marriage Banns 

Well, well, if it isn’t the bride to be and her eager groom,” Charles smiled as Gerard and Gamilla returned to the Servants Hall of No. 65.

Charles had been trying to be as cheerful as possible since they returned from the funeral—with little success. He was relieved that Gamilla and Gerard had announced their engagement. Though he felt Jenny’s loss deeply, and, like Mr. Punch, felt responsible for not protecting the girls better, he wanted very much for the household to find some sense of peace again. And, so, he tried to remind everyone of the good things to come.

Sadly, however, Gamilla and Gerard did not look too pleased.

“Were you able to enter your banns with the vicar at St. Peter’s?” Charles asked, still trying to be light.

Gerard nodded. “We did.”

“Then, why the long faces?”

“Because everyone bleedin’ feels like they oughta give us lectures.” Gerard snapped.

“Gerry,” Gamilla smiled. “It ain’t that bad.”

“Sure, it is.” Gerard shook his head. “But, I don’t even care ‘bout that so much as the way he looked at ya, ‘Milla. I coulda…well…if he wasn’t a vicar.”

“What’d he do?” Charles asked.

“It was nothin’, Charlie.” Gamilla shook her head. “Now, come and sit by the fire, Gerry, and we’ll tell our friends all ‘bout it.”

“Mrs. Pepper’s got some nice cold plates for you.” Charles said. “We’ve all been waiting.”

“She oughtn’t done that.” Gamilla said. “She should be resting.”

“I know me-self.” Mrs. Pepper said as she came out of her kitchen into the vestibule by the area door. “Come on, Gerry. Come sit. Mr. Speaight said that Dr. Halifax was most firm you should go back to bed after this only I don’t think no one will mind if you have a bit to eat, first. Besides, we need some cheer, and there’s not much more cheerful than a weddin’. Come tell us, you two. Vi and Georgie are waitin’ in the ‘all.”

“Mr. Speaight’s gone to valet for Dr. Halifax tonight.” Charles added.

“I should be doin’ it, me-self.” Gerard shook his head as they all walked into the cozy parlor at the rear of the servants’ hall.

“Dr. Halifax says you can come back to work next week.”

“Yeah?” Gerard’s eyes brightened.

“That’s what he said.” Charles nodded. “His Grace said the same thing when I was drawing his bath just half an hour ago.”

“Wait!” Gamilla interrupted. “Vi’s here!”

“What of it?” Violet shrugged.

“Who’s with the baby?”

“Not to worry, Gamilla.” Charles said quickly. “Colin’s with His Grace in the Morning Room. His Grace is puttin’ on a puppet show for the little fellow who is quite happy. After his Grace had his bath, he said that he wanted to spend some time with his son and that Violet should come downstairs and rest. Dr. Halifax will join them once he’s dressed. They’re most firm that we’re all to take the evening to ourselves.”

“Oh.” Gamilla exhaled with relief. “How’s poor Ethel?”

Charles shook his head ever-so-slightly. He glanced quickly at Mrs. Pepper.

“Now, come on, you two, tell us all about your visit to the church.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “And, come and have your dinners, then.”

“Well,” Gerard said, pulling out Gamilla’s chair so she could sit at the table. Once she was seated, he, took his place next to her. “Ain’t much to tell.”

“But, your banns is entered, then?” Mrs. Pepper asked impatiently.

“They are, Mrs. Pepper. The first readin’ will be at Sunday’s service.” Gamilla smiled

“Then, after two more Sundays, we can be married.” Gerard said.

“So, it’s settled!” Charles declared. “And you both came in with such long faces…”

“That vicar sure had a lot to say,” Gerard scowled.

“It weren’t nothin’ to get so upset ‘bout.” Gamilla shook her head.

“Tell us what happened, dearie.” Mrs. Pepper reached across the table and patted Gamilla’s hand.

“Do, Gamilla,” Violet nodded, joining the group. Georgie Pepper followed.

“The vicar was concerned because I have got no surname. At first, well, he was not gonna enter our banns because of it. Said all ladies gotta have a surname.”

“He was just makin’ trouble because you’re African.”

“Is it…is it not legal?” Georgie asked innocently.

“It’s legal!” Gerard roared. He blushed. “Sorry, Georgie, mate, I reckon I’m a trifle sensitive today.”

“We all are, Gerry.” Georgie smiled. “But, even though this mornin’ was all sadness, we’re all so ‘appy for ya. Jenny would be, too. Wouldn’t she, mum?”

Mrs. Pepper nodded sadly. She changed the subject back to the couple. “But, he posted the banns?”

“Of course.” Gamilla smiled.

“So, there ain’t a problem.” Mrs. Pepper said firmly.

“I had to give ‘em a surname, is all.”

“What name did ya give?” Violet asked.

“Well, I went through a whole bunch o’ names in my head—all quick like. First I thought I’d say, Molliner or Punch or Halifax, but then I looked up at the church and remembered how just hours ago our Jenny lay under that same ceilin’. So, I wanted to honor her.”

Mrs. Pepper dabbed her eyes. “I think that’s lovely.”

“So, I gave the name Gamilla Linnet. Just like Jenny’s name was.” Gamilla said.

“Just lovely.” Mrs. Pepper nodded.

“Then, it’s done.” Charles declared. “We’d best start planning the…”

“Well, then, there’s Gamilla not bein’ Church of England…” Gerard interrupted.

“But, I tol’ him that I done been goin’ to services there ever’ Sunday since I been here, and, that softened him up.” Gamilla nodded.

“And, then, he said folk would frown on us.” Gerard shook his head.

“We knew they would, honey.” Gamilla whispered.

“But, folk don’t need to keep tellin’ us.” Gerard frowned.

“It’s jus’ somethin’ we gotta accept.” Gamilla smiled.

“I don’t see why it’s such a bother for people.” Georgie shook his head.

“But, it is, my dear,” Mrs. Pepper sighed. “It just is. For some reason…” She looked at Gerard. “Is that what’s worryin’ ya, Gerry? You think when the banns is read aloud them three times, someone will object?”

Gerard thumped his fist on the table. “If anyone dares, I’ll…”

“No, you won’t, honey.” Gamilla shook her head. “Ain’t nobody gonna say a word.”

“That’s right.” Mrs. Pepper nodded. “Now, eat your dinner. I’ll fetch ya a nice bit o’ cheese to go with it.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Pepper.” Gamilla smiled.

“Sure, Gerry,” Georgie said, “We’re all real ‘appy for ya both.”

Gerard tried to smile, but as he looked up, he noticed Charles and Gamilla exchanging a concerned glance.

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep me from bein’ a husband.” Gerard said.

“Certainly not.” Charles nodded.

Still, Gerard knew that something very well could.

Did you miss Chapters 1-252 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 254.

Print of the Day: A Guignol Stamp from Lyon, 1914

French, 1914
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The V&A describes this stamp as depicting “a scene from a Punch and Judy Show.” That’s partially correct. As we can see, this is not Mr. Punch. This puppet fellow with his long braid of hair and square hat is Guignol (pronounced Geen-yol), Mr. Punch’s Cousin from France.

While Punch has his immediate roots in the Italian tradition of Commedia dell’ Arte, Guignol has his roots in necessity. Guignol was the creation of a French dentist, Laurent Mourguet, from Lyon who used puppets to try to calm the nerves of his rightfully terrified patients. After awhile, the dentist turned his full-time attention to puppetry creating the characters of Gnafron and Guignol. As time went on, Guignol became a celebrity in his own right, and the tradition of Guignol shows grew just as the tradition of Mr. Punch was growing in England. Guignol began to borrow bits of business and characters from both Commedia dell’ Arte and Mr. Punch. Now, in France, the word Guignol is used in close association with any puppet or puppet show, and curiously, as a vague insult, meaning “Buffoon.” Guignol also lent his name to a theatre and a particular style of grotesque story-telling, “Grand Guignol.”

This stamp from Lyon shows a scene of Guignol with his wife Madelon and the gendarme Flagéolet.  And, here's something in French...  Who knows?

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: La Comédie Humaine by Jean Louis Hamon, 1852

Today, we're going to visit with Mr. Punch's French cousin, Guignol.  Though more physically sedate than Mr. Punch, Guignol is nonetheless equally a voice of the people.  Just as Punch has inspired many an artist in many a medium, Guingol has found a place in the arts.  In fact, Guignol may have served as the turning point in the career of Jean-Louis Hamon.

Though undoubtedly talented, as a young painter, Jean-Louis Hamon struggled for recognition—success eluding him at every turn. In 1850, eager to make a living, he began work in the manufacture of enameled Sèvresporcelain. Strangely enough, an enameled box painted by Hamon brought him the attention he’d always sought. The beautifully painted casket won awards at the 1851 London International Exhibition (The Great Exhibition).

The Musée d'Orsay.

Fueled by the praise he was finally receiving, Hamon went on to exhibit in theSalon of 1852. The painting he submitted was La Comédie Humaine, a reworking of a piece he first created in 1847. Based on a multi-volume collection of related novels and stories which depicted French society in the period of the Restoration, Hamon’s painting breathes with color and a remarkably lifelike fluidity of motion.

The Musée d'Orsay
A Guignol Puppet Theater—the centerpiece of the painting—represents the art of social commentary. A multi-faceted allegory of the arts, society and humanities surround Guignol in assorted tableaus. Unsurprisingly, the painting was widely applauded, offering Hamon a chance to make his mark in the very society that he lampooned. When viewed through modern eyes, the society shown in this painting—despite the costumes—really still resembles ours today. Ultimately, Hamon was able to make a far more everlasting mark on the world than he had even imagined. 

This masterwork is on display at The Musée d'Orsay.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Bertie Interrupted

"That's what you get for waking up the dog."

Click image to enlarge.

Image: The Fight Interrupted, painted and exhibited in 1816 by William Mulready (1786-1863), Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857, to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our 
online store.