Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Charles Ricketts Garnet Ring, 1899-1903

Garnet Ring in the shape of a castle
Charles Ricketts, c. 1903
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This ring once belonged to Miss May Morris, the daughter of the socialist, artist and designer William Morris.  May was, in her own right,  a well-known and talented embroideress and jeweler.

The artist Charles Ricketts designed this ring of a cabochon almandine garnet in a high setting in the form of a turret or small castle for May.  This architectural ring was favored by Miss Morris who was particularly impressed by the ring’s shoulders which resembled gothic buttresses.

Ricketts also created various embroidery designs for May Morris. The artist usually designed jewelry for specific friends. These pieces were made by the London jeweler Carlo Giuliano.

Saturday Silliness: The Original Color Pilot for “The Munsters”

The Munster Residence as we knew it from the show.

Personally, I preferred The Addams Family because, to me, at least, they seemed more realistic. However,The Munsters was not without its appeal. I always loved the façade of the Munsters’ house. That set still exists (though drastically altered and nearly unrecognizable) at Universal City and was most recently used as a façade for Desperate Housewives.  Universal doesn't value its old sets the way the former Columbia Ranch (now Warner Brothers) does, but that's one of my hot-button topics and I'm not going to start on it just now.

As is often the case, the pilot show for The Munsters was quite different than the program that was picked up. The pilot was filmed in color with a largely different cast. The house is the same façade, however, it is in its original state—known at the time as “Maxim House.” The set was changed when the show went into production. The Second Empire tower and central gable were altered for the final show.

The Original Munster Facade
Known as "Maxim House"
Network executives felt that the unaired pilot was too similar to The Addams Family. The character of “Phoebe” was changed to “Lily.” Phoebe as played by the stunning Joan Marshall (also known as Jean Arless) was stylistically too close to Morticia Addams. When the show was picked up, Joan Marshall was replaced with Yvonne DeCarlo.

This clip from the unaired pilot is quite interesting, especially if you’re a fan of The Munsters. It’s always a bit startling to see pilot episodes, but they’re an integral part of the history of any production. Imagine what the show might have been like had the cast remained the same.

History's Runway: The David Thomas Topaz and Garnet Pendant, 1967

David Thomas, 1967
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As fashions changed in the 1960s, jewelry designers played with conventional and traditional forms to make unusual pieces which were meant to be wearable art. London was a center for such designers and David Thomas (born 1938) was among the leaders of this new approach to jewelry design.

Here we see an example of Thomas’ cutting-edge work. This pendant (can also be worn as a brooch) features a raised central cluster of irregular topaz crystals. From these, individually-applied gold wires radiate--some of these are adorned with a granular decoration. These are peppered with narrow, rectangular garnets.

Drawing of the Day: General Sir Garnet Wolseley at Alexandria, 1882-1901

Click on image for larger size
General Sir Garnet Wolseley at Alexandria
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Created in Egypt between 1882 and 1901, this drawing is the work of Orlando Norie (1832-1901). The work of pencil, pen, ink and watercolor has been accented with white gouache.

The illustration shows General Sir Garnet Wolseley who, aside from having a nifty name, landed in Alexandria on August 16, 1882. There, he took command of the British military campaign which was set against the revolutionary forces of Arabi Pasha. And, thus began the British occupation of Egypt. Depicted here are the General and his men at their arrival in Alexandria.

Masterpiece of the Week: The Joicey Garnet Parure, c. 1835

Parure of Gold and Garnets
English, c. 1835
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This posh parure looks affords the look of enormous wealth, however, it’s a bit of clever jewelry trickery. With mounts stamped from a thin sheet of gold, the pieces appear to be heavier than they are. The lushness of the stones is real enough, the warm red glow of carbuncles (almandine garnets, cut en cabochon), and, when combined with the swirling mounts, the overall impression is one of immense richness. 

Gifts of Grandeur: An Italian Garnet Ring, 7th C.

Gold ring with a garnet bead and pearls, 7th C., Italy
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This magnificent ring was made in Italy in the Seventh Century and is comprised of a gold band with a projecting cone-shaped bezel set with a garnet and pearls. The hoop of the ring is pierced and chased with a pattern of foliage and an applied beaded border.

Given the age of the piece, it’s in remarkably good condition though it is missing a pearl. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Parrot Ring, 1850

Calcutta, 1850
Gold, Sapphire, Rubies, Garnet
The Victoria and Albert Museum

This is an exceptional piece, made in India in 1850. It features a fully-sculpted parrot (carved from a single sapphire and set with rubies and a garnet) perched atop a band of gold.

Purchased by the Indian Museum in London in 1855, the ring was purported as having been made in "Bengal.” At the time, the term “Bengal” referred to the overall “Begnal Presidency” which comprised a vastly larger area than present-day Bengal. In light of that, historians feel the ring was crafted in Calcutta which, at the time, was considered part of “Bengal.” Calucutta was a major hub of the arts in the Nineteenth Century, and the location for makers of opulent and highly-desirable jewelry made in the British and European style for export.

The ring appears to be an Eastern adaptation of traditional European rings (especially those from Ireland and Wales) which included a visual motif of two hands clasping one another—a symbol of love or friendship. The theme of friendship is rather lost in this retelling of the classic visual tradition, as the maker has inaccurately rendered the design. The gold hands, joined at the wrist, atop the gold band, face away from each other instead of touching one another. Perhaps this change was made to accommodate the true centerpiece of the ring—the parrot. While the “hands” motif seems an afterthought, the bird has been carefully rendered. He perches atop the hands, glittering blue from the single sapphire from which he is carved. His ruby eyes glint in contrast against his smooth blue body as does his beak—carved from an impressive almandine garnet.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Phillips Bros. Garnet Necklace, 1870

Garnet Necklace
Robert Phillips
The Victoria & Albert Museum

London jeweler Robert Phillips was doubtlessly one of the most influential jewelers of the late Nineteenth Century. His firm, Phillips Brothers, was known for spearheading the Revivalist taste in London--a trend which borrowed visual cues from a range of historic periods and a variety of sources.

Mrs. Haweis, a society writer, recalled one visit to Phillips in Cockspur Street in her book, "The Art Of Beauty."

She wrote:

"Under the direction of Messrs Phillips, the most perfect models are sought for the ornaments they furnish. Museums and picture galleries are ransacked for devices of necklaces, earrings and pendants."

This garnet necklace, dating to c. 1870, is a great example of Phillips' historically-inspired wares. The necklace of gold mesh is punctuates with gold pendants in the form of vultures which are hung with almandine garnet carbuncles. The reverse shows the plumed mark of Phillips Brothers of Cockspur Street.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Watercolor Mr. Punch and His Bottler

Punch & Judy
E. Masters
Nineteenth Century
Ink and Watercolor on Paper, Unique
Tate Britain

While not much in practice today, earlier Punch & Judy shows often featured a “bottler.” The bottler acted as an assistant to the “Professor” by corralling people toward the stage. He would attract interest by playing an instrument—a drum, a violin—and acted basically as a warm-up act. Sometimes, the bottler would interact with the puppets.

Here, we see a Nineteenth Century watercolor, pen and ink drawing by English artist E. masters depicting a scene of a Punch & Judy show about to begin. The bottler bangs his drum to alert the crowds. He also seems to be playing a mouth organ which is attached to a support around his neck. Curiously, Mr. Punch appears to have already captured “the Devil” who is either impaled on the end of his slapstick or hanging from the top of the tent.

This whimsical drawing neatly captures the playful spirit of a live Punch & Judy performance. It was purchased as part of a larger collection by the Tate Britain in 1996.

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.

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...

Is it safe to write a letter on an empty stomach?

And, the answer is...

It's safer to write a letter on paper. 

Congratulations to GENE for answering correctly, and my continued thanks to all of you for your clever and creative responses.  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.  

Drawing of the Day: The Polish Mr. Punch, 1991

"Polish Version of Mr. Punch," 1991
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This drawing portrays the Polish version of Mr. Punch.  Poland’s Punch wears a different costume from the traditional red cap and ruffed coat that we associate with Punch or the black mask and white pajamas of Punch’s Italian ancestor, Pulcinella. 

Poland’s Punch wears a multi-colored robe with over-sized long sleeves which trail over his hands. 

This image was sent to famed theatre historian George Speaight from Adam Kilian in 1991. This Mr. Punch does demonstrate Punch’s traditional hunchback, but he wears Pulcinella’s mask.  It is marked:

'Polish vevrsion/ of Mr. Punch'
'Poppenkst v/d Dam-Amsterdam' Puppet show in Dam Square, Amsterdam.’

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 378

Chapter 378

"Mrs. Pepper, you've outdone yourself."  Robert grinned, gesturing to the tall cake which the hired servants had carried out with much flourish.

"Oh, Your Lordship, thank you."  Mrs. Pepper blushed, looking away.  "I couldn't 'ave done it at all without Maudie.  It was her idea to make the colorful sugar flowers.  She made most o' 'em on 'er own, she did."

"I must congratulate her on a job well done,"  Robert nodded.

"Me chum's spot on, Mrs. Pepper."  Punch said, happily.  He was relaxed and relieved that the wedding went off without further complication, and, so, since he was in his own home spoke freely and in his own voice even though Matthew was nearby.  "I'll make sure to tell Maudie how pleased I am with her progress.  But, I gotta say, though she 'elped, it's clear the genius behind this beauty is all our Mrs. Pepper."

"You're too kind, Your Grace."  Mrs. Pepper replied.

"Now, the real test is in the tastin'."  Punch winked, elbowing Robert.  "When we gonna cut into it so we can offer up some more praise for the best cook in Belgravia?"

"I'm afraid that's not our decision,"  Robert chuckled, "however, I'm just as eager to have a piece.  We'll have to wait until Gerard and Gamilla have finished with the photographer."

"Coo."  Punch muttered.  "I didn't think they was doin' that 'til just before they left for their weddin' trip."

"I didn't either."  Robert shrugged.  "However, they're with him now."

"Oh, I know 'bout that,"  Mrs. Pepper said proudly.  "Just when I was talkin' to Gamilla and Gerry, right as they came back from wherever they snuck off to--to steal a kiss, no doubt--that man with the photo machine came and told Gerard he'd another appointment and asked if they could do their time with him soon."

"I see."  Punch nodded.

"Your Grace, you'll be happy to know, their first thought was of you.  Gamilla said, "Oh, I'm sure it can wait.  His Grace will want to see us cut the cake."

"Ain't that kind?"  Punch smiled.  "By the way, Mrs. Pepper, we made sure that the cake was photographed."

"Did you, Your Grace?"

Punch nodded.

"Wait until I tell Maudie!"  Mrs. Pepper exclaimed.

"There she is."  Robert gestured with his chin.  "His Grace and I must go and talk with Her Ladyship, if you'll excuse us."

"Oh, please and thank you."  Mrs. Pepper gushed.  "I 'ppreciate all them kind things you said.  Looks like Miss Lennie...I mean, Her Ladyship, could use some company, sittin' all by herself.  I'll go and tell Maudie about the phot...o...graph."  She smiled, pleased she'd said the word correctly.

"We shall see you again shortly,"  Robert nodded.

"Oh, yes, Your Lordship."  Mrs. Pepper said.

As Punch and Robert walked away, Robert looked with affection at his companion.

"You seem very happy."

"I am."  Punch nodded.  "Even with all the 'orrible folk in the world, we got the kindest ones here."

He waved to Lennie who nodded and met them in the middle of the Drawing Room.

"Hullo, sister dear."  Punch smiled.  "You seemed kinda glum over there.  Anything wrong?"

"Not exactly."  Lennie inhaled, forcing a smile.

"Where's Matthew?"  Robert asked.

"Taken his pipe into the garden."  Lennie answered.

"Oh?  He's welcome to smoke in here."   Punch shrugged.

"He wanted to be alone for awhile."  Lennie replied.

"Why?"  Punch raised an eyebrow.  "Did you two have words?"

"In a manner of speaking."  Lennie hedged.

"I don't mean to pry, I don't, only..."  Punch began.

"If something's troubling you, Lennie, I do wish you'd tell us."  Robert finished the thought.

"Nothing is troubling me at all.  I'm afraid, however, that Matthew is displeased."

"Ain't he enjoyin' the party?"  Punch asked.

"He is, brother dear.  Of course.  He's not enjoying the fact that I've told him that I'm in no hurry to set a date for our nuptials."  Lennie confessed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-377 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can catch up here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 379.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The “Punch Coronation Number,” 1953

Founded in 1841, Punch Magazine took its name from our favorite puppet imp, Mr. Punch, and offered a satirical and upscale look at British society. Much like, Mr. Punch, however, Punch Magazine knew when to be respectful. Such was the case of the “Punch Coronation Number” which was dedicated to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

This is a fascinating item to peruse. The articles about the coronation, English history and tradition are fascinating. Equally delightful are all of the vintage ads. Some are downright reverential to Her Majesty while others are more light-hearted. All of them however are extremely patriotic. I’ll reproduce some of them for you below.

Peppered throughout the edition are dozens of the delightful illustrations for which the magazine was known. I have a favorite, of course—for obvious reasons. I adore this drawing of Mr. Punch and Toby as they await the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Enjoy these selected pages. I wish I could share the whole thing.

Object of the Day: Punch Presents Quick Meal Coal Ranges, circa 1904


This little booklet will amuse the Children. Let them
copy the pictures on the Tissue Paper.

Punch and Judy 
          of olden times
     Are now the subject of
          our rhymes.
Punch’s appetite was
     So he ordered Judy to 
          cook a steak.

Now Judy, you know,
     had an old time
     And to cook for
          Punch she often
But Punch could not
     be pleasant or glad,
     And oft at mealtime
          he was mad.

One day, when he was
          in a fit,
     And Baby cried ‘till
          it was sick, 
Punch threw it madly,
          out of doors;
Poor Judy shrieked
          aloud, of course.

A Policeman came
          into the door,
      And Judy cried
          aloud some more;
But Punch could not
          be taken in,
     And swore the battle
          he would win.

He won the battle
          To be sure,
     But could not win
          Poor Judy more.
A bright idea popped
          in his head—
     “I’ll get a QUICK
          MEAL RANGE,”
               he said.

So when the Range
           was set up right,
     Judy worked with
          all her might,
And cooked, and
           noon and night,
     You never saw such
           a pretty sight. 

Click images to enlarge.

This fanciful little booklet, complete with its original tracing paper inserts, was made to advertise St. Louis-based “Quick Meal Coal Ranges” and Gas ranges for the Ringen Stove Co. of Missouri. Since the booklet mentions the World’s Fair, we can guess that it was made after the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

This American company has cleverly featured Britain’s Mr. and Mrs. Punch and their baby. Punch, as you’ve just read, is annoyed by Judy’s slow range and tosses the baby out of the window. But, after gleefully smashing the Beadle, Punch decides he can make everything right by buying Judy a new range. And, actually, it does seem to do the trick.

I can’t tell you how much I love the illustrations in this booklet. They’re too wonderful, and I adore the look of utter joy with which Punch approaches everything he’s doing. He’s as happy with his meal of turkey and hams as he is just to throw the baby out of the window. And, that’s why we love Mr. Punch.

I’ve scanned most of the book for you. Enjoy the pictures. They’re quite a treat. You’ll see that some of the pages are covered by the original tissue paper. I’ve moved the paper out of the way in the next image.  I'm just surprised it was never drawn in.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Diamond-Eyed Pug Snuff Box

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

Of Prussian origin, this snuff box of bloodstone takes the shape of a recumbent pug dog.  He sports diamond-set eyes and teeth, a tongue of rhodonite and the gold inlaid inscription "TOUJOURS FIDELE" on his collar.

The doggie sits upon a rectangular four-color gold base which has been chased with a scene of three hounds attacking a bull in a wooded landscape.

The box was given by George, Duke of Cambridge to King Edward VII.  Edward bequeathed the box to his son, King George V.