Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mastery of Design: An Enamel and Diamond Necklace 1660-1900

Enamel and Diamond Bow Necklace
with Pearls and a Large Sapphire Drop
Western Europe
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This necklace was over two hundred years in the making. The centerpiece of the gorgeous work is a bow of turquoise, opaque enamel, set with diamonds. This was made in Western Europe around 1660 and was acquired by Lady Alma-Tameda. This enamel and diamond brooch was adapted into a necklace in 1800. The chain consists of alternating enamel bows of white, black and blue, backed in yellow gold. Near 1900, the pearl and large sapphire drop was added to the central bow along with two mounted enamel pieces in a floral design.

The floral pieces, as well as the necklace as a whole, insist on maintaining an organic feel. Therefore, the sapphire drop mimics the natural shape of the Baroque pearls and the diamonds—even the later additions—are table-cut so as to rely on their own inherent sparkle as opposed to overworked faceting.

Painting of the Day: “A Garden Scene,” Charles Robert Leslie, 1840

A Garden Scene
Charles Robert Leslie, 1840
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though of American birth, painter Charles Robert Leslie studied in England and made it his home. There, he quickly gained a reputation as being a painter of immense skill and sensitivity. Leslie excelled at historical scenes, but also had a knack for sentimental subjects of daily life.

An excellent example of the latter is this painting of Leslie’s son, George Donlop Leslie, still in baby clothes, at play in the family garden at their home located at 12 Pine Apple Place, Edgware Road, London. Leslie has painted his boy with his favorite companion, a toy horse and cart. George would, one day, follow in his father’s steps and become a celebrated painter and writer as well.

The Art of Play: A Scottie Dog Soft Toy, 1933

Scottie Soft Toy
Unknown Maker, possibly Chad Valley
English 1933-34
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Soft toys have always been popular with children who delight in cuddling these inanimate friends. Aside from bears, one of the most popular subjects for stuffed animals have been doggies. And, aside from a Westie, what better dog for a soft toy than a lovely, little Scottie?

This soft Scottie was made in England between 1933 and 1934. The body of straw if covered with soft, black mohair which has been tipped in gray. The dog’s black nose has been embroidered beneath its brown and black glass eyes.

The maker of this toy is unknown. Originally, he would have had a ribbon or collar around his neck which would have contained a paper tag or metal button with the maker’s name. That has long since been lost, but this Scottie is just as dashing as ever.

At the Music Hall: Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay, 1891

A sweet tuxedo girl you see
A queen of swell society
Fond of fun as fond can be
When it's on the strict Q.T.
I'm not too young, I'm not too old
Not too timid, not too bold
Just the kind you'd like to hold
Just the kind for sport I'm told

Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!

Everyone knows this song. It’s been a part of American culture (as well as International fame) since it was first written and its melody has been borrowed for a variety of other uses, including the theme song from the Howdy Doody Show.

The true authorship of the song has been the subject of much debate for many decades. Early printings of the song attribute it to Henry J Sayers who claimed the copyright after introducing the song in a musical revue entitled, “Tuxedo” in 1891. Sayers would later admit that he did not, in fact, write the song, but had heard it performed by an African American performer, Mama Lou, in a notorious St. Louis, Missouri, brothel.

Sayers would give the rights to the song to music hall star, Lottie Collins, who made the most of its suggestive lyrics and caused quite a stir with her titillating and scandalous performances. Richard Morton added to the lyrics, making them even spicier than the original version and Angelo A. Asher composed a new arrangement to give the song a little, "oomph."  Since then, the piece has been used for more innocent purposes and is often associated with programs geared toward children. Though everyone may not know the lyrics (in fact, several different sets of lyrics exist), everyone knows the tune to this day.

Here’s a version of the song as performed in 1943 by Mary “Mother of Larry Hagman” Martin.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 256

Arthur groaned with pleasure as he lay back on the bed. He held the diamond high above his face and watched it catch the light from the windows in blue flickers.

“Come on, Artie,” Gerard whined. “Let me see it.”

“You can see it from where you are.” Arthur snapped.

“I ain’t gonna steal it. We’re mates, you and I.” Gerard mumbled.

“I’m not takin’ any chances with this. Imagine, this just sittin’ in the cornice of that old wardrobe. Right there. No, I ain’t taken no chances. ” Arthur grinned, drawing the huge diamond to his lips and kissing it wetly. He wiped the stone on his shirt and laughed. “No, not with this. This here is my future.”

“Our future, Artie.” Gerard said quickly.

“Sure, sure.” Arthur nodded.

Gerard pointed to the tangled heap of flesh, silk and red hair that was Ulrika Rittenhouse.

“Here, what ‘bout her?” Gerard asked. “We can’t just leave her on the floor.”

“Why not?” Arthur frowned.

“Well, when that stuff wears off, she’s gonna remember what we done and she’s gonna say we stole from here. Might call for the authorities and all.”

“And tell them that we stole a diamond what she stole from a whore what that whore stole from another who stole it from the Duke of Fallbridge?”

“When you put it like that,” Gerard shrugged. “But, you yourself say she’s got a vicious streak in her. Don’t want to take any chances.”

“You’re correct, Gerry.” Arthur nodded, sitting up. “Pity, too.”

“You like her, don’t ya?” Gerard winked. “Even if she is a beast.”

“I don’t like her,” Arthur sighed. “But, I don’t hate her neither. There’s somethin’ ‘bout her. Maybe it is that she’s such a beast and takes such delight in bein’ so. Maybe it’s her wildness and her cunning.”

“Maybe you just like sleepin’ with her.” Gerard laughed.

“That doesn’t hurt.” Arthur chuckled.

“So, what are we gonna do with her?”

“Not ‘we,’ Gerry.” Arthur grinned.

“What are you like?” Gerard’s eyes widened. “I ain’t gonna do that.”

“Sure you are.” Arthur said. “If you want your share, you gotta do your part.”

“I can’t kill a woman!” Gerard argued.

“Here, keep your voice down.” Arthur spat. “It ain’t like you never killed no one before.”

“Not a woman.” Gerard shook his head.

“So, she’ll be your first.” Arthur winked.

Meanwhile Robert and Marjani made their way through the misty streets of the French Quarter.

“Do you think that Adrienne and the baby will be safe?” Robert asked Marjani as they hurried along.

Marjani panted, “We done left ‘em with Charles and I know that Mama Routhe ain’t gonna let no one in the house. They’ll be jus’ fine, Sir. You jus’ worry ‘bout His Grace and Mr. Punch.”

“Are you sure that there’s trouble?” Robert asked.

“You can’t tell me that you don’t feel it, too, Sir. You got the gift, same as me.” Marjani said breathlessly.”

Robert sighed. “I can’t deny it. For so many years, I’ve ignored my—well, I don’t know what to call it. Instincts? Intuition? Feelings? I’ve tried to deny them, but…”

“I understand, Sir.” Marjani answered. “What are them feelin’s tellin’ you right now?”

“That there’s another entity at play. A new foe—one that is close, yet far away.”

“Right you are, Sir.” Marjani nodded.

“But, how will we get into our house?” Robert asked. “You know Edward Cage—or his henchmen—will be lurking nearby.”

“We’ll find a way, Sir.” Marjani smiled. “We always do.”

At that very moment, Mr. Scaramouche tore through their borrowed house on Royal Street, stuffing his pockets and filling a large satchel with anything that he saw which caught his eye. “I want this!” He’d declare triumphantly as he spied an object which appealed to him. “This will do nicely!”

“He’s gone utterly mad,” Barbara whispered to Cecil as they watched helplessly.

“I don’t know what to call it.” Cecil shook his head.

“At least the other one—Mr. Punch—is pleasant despite being as rough as he is.” Barbara said.

“True.” Cecil sighed. “Oh, I wish Robert were here. He knows how to deal with this sort of thing. I’m rather at sixes and sevens.”

“Perhaps he’ll tire himself out,” Barbara suggested.

He shows no signs of slowing down.” Cecil replied as Scaramouche skittered past them to steal a clock key from a sideboard. He howled with delight as he shoved the key into his bulging pocket.

“I wonder,” Cecil began.

“What?” Barbara asked.

“Well, I don’t know how to say it.” Cecil grunted.

“Try, please.” Barbara shook her head. “Mr. Halifax, I know that you neither like nor trust me, and you certainly don’t believe that I’m sincere—with good reason, of course. However, at this particular moment, we must try to work together—no matter our personal feelings. So, what were you going to say?”

“It’s only that Mr. Punch and His Grace must be present—somewhere. They must both be inside of him. Musn’t they? Once, Mr. Punch tried to describe what it was like for them. He described a sort of room inside of their body—some sort of waiting room where he or Julian, now both of them—wait while the other has control of the body. Certainly, the Duke and Mr. Punch are waiting in that room—trapped somehow. There must be a way to release one or the other of them and cease this Scaramouche from his manic rampage.”

Barbara pinched her lips together thoughtfully. “That must be. So, how do we contact them?”

“I don’t know.” Cecil grunted.

“Surely, they must be aware of what’s happening? Yes? Are they aware? I don’t know the mechanics of this madness.”

“You’d think so,” Cecil said. “However, for years, Julian wasn’t aware of Mr. Punch—or at the very least denied his existence. I wonder if either of them knew about Mr. Scaramouche.”

“Or how many others their might be.” Barbara sighed.

“Why are you standing there like statues?” Scaramouche shouted from the staircase. “You’re meant to assist me! Don’t make me flog you!”

“What would you have us do, Scaramouche?” Cecil asked calmly.

“Find things for me! Pretty things. I must have them!” Scaramouche screamed. “I’m owed!”

Suddenly, Scaramouche dropped the objects that he held in his arms and let the satchel slide from his shoulder. The object clattered and broke as they tumbled down the stairs. He gripped his head and screamed in agony. “No! You rogue! Stop that!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-255? If so, you can read them here. We’ll be taking a break on Monday, May 30, 2011 for Memorial Day. However, come back on Tuesday for Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 257!

Goal for the Day: Give Your Pets a Holiday

As the U.S. settles in for a long weekend in honor of Memorial Day, we are all making plans for the various diversions which will give us a chance to rejuvenate. Everyone loves a three-day weekend and we always look forward to them as a time to relax before returning to our daily duties.

But, what about our pets? They deserve a holiday, too. So, this weekend, make a point to do something special for your pet. A new toy, a special treat or even an extra bit of playtime will remind your pet how special he or she is.

Object of the Day: A Mug Commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mar, 1935

On May 6, 1935, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated their Silver Jubilee, marking twenty-five years of their tenure on the throne. As the public gathered to honor their King and Queen, few were aware just how ill the King really was. He had suffered from poor health off and on since 1925 and by the time of his Silver Jubilee his breathing had become so labored that he was frequently administered oxygen in the privacy of the Royal Apartments.

By Christmas of 1935, George had taken a turn for the worse and fifteen days into 1936, he retreated to his bedroom, never to emerge alive. He was frequently visited by family and friends who watched as the once vital man drifted in and out of consciousness. Prime Minister Baldwin commented, “each time he became conscious it was some kind inquiry or kind observation of someone, some words of gratitude for kindness shown. But he did say to his secretary when he sent for him: ‘How is the Empire?’ An unusual phrase in that form, and the secretary said: ‘All is well, sir, with the Empire,’ and the King gave him a smile and relapsed once more into unconsciousness.”

This commemorative mug records the love that the “Empire” felt for their King and Queen. Handsome portraits of the two in their crowns are set above a banner which shows the dates of their tenure.  On the revese, another banner reads, “Long May They Reign.” While George V’s reign was not to last much longer, Queen Mary, as the Queen Mother, continued to have a dramatic influence on both her family and her beloved countries until her death in 1953.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mastery of Design: An Exceptional Emerald Ring, 1850

Emerald Ring
Unknown Maker, 1850
Part of the Townshend Collection, 1869
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In 1869, cleric and poet Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend bequeathed an impressive collection of 154 rare gem stone pieces to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Among them, this emerald ring is one of the most magnificent.

A perfect, square-cut emerald, surrounded a border of twenty-four brilliant-cut diamonds and set in gold. The shoulders of the ring each feature four brilliant-cut diamonds and two rose-cut diamonds.

While most of the stones in the Townshend Collection are set as rings, they were, most likely never meant to be worn.

A Portion of the Townshend Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Antique Image of the Day: Princess Maud of Wales, 1905

Frame with Photograph of Princess Maud of Wales
Unknown Photographer
Frambe by Viktor Aarne
The Royal Collection
Later Queen of Norway, Princess Maud was the daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. A keen patron of the arts, Princess Maud was also a champion for the rights of children and animals. Though she fulfilled her duties as Queen Consort of Norway, after her marriage to Haakon VII of Norway, she always loved England first and most.

This photograph was taken in 1905 just before becoming Queen Consort. Queen Alexandra placed the cherished photo in a frame by Viktor Aarne of Fabergé. The frame of gold, silver-gilt, guilloché enamel, pearls, diamonds, mother-of-pearl is a masterpiece unto itself.

Pets of the Belle Époque: Queen Alexandra’s Fabergé Griffon, 1907

Carl Fabergé
Agate, Diamonds, Gold
The Royal Collection
King Edward VII, though not the most devoted of husbands, was a good giver of gifts and enjoyed presenting his wife, Queen Alexandra, little sculptures that he commissioned from Fabergé. Alexandra built an impressive collection of bejeweled animals, particularly dogs.

Edward VII commissioned this Fabergé Griffon in 1907 to add to his wife’s collection. The Griffon was—and is—a relatively rare breed and was not a common subject for Fabergé. Carl Fabergé executed this agate figure with rose-cut diamond eyes himself, possibly using one of the dogs at Sandringham as a model.

Friday Fun: Punch and the Courtier

The Courtier
As recreated by Chris van der Craats
In the 1820’s artist George Cruikshank famously illustrated scenes from the Punch & Judy shows of the Professor known as Piccini. Many of the characters in Piccini’s puppet plat have fallen out of use. Among these was the “Courtier” who was a great source of irritation to Mr. Punch.

Piccini’s puppet play introduced the Courtier character who Piccini based on the traditional notion of the romantic Italian. The Courtier is notable for his long, extending neck—a trait he shares with the irascible Mr. Scaramouche. As Punch is courting “Pretty Polly,” just before his murderous spree gets truly underway, he encounters the Courtier and is, of course, wildly irritated by him. In some versions, Punch merely threatens the Courtier. In others, he knocks the man’s head off of his long neck. In most cases, the Courtier serves as a symbol of the threat of Punch’s demise by hanging.

The reality of the puppet, however, was that Piccini wished to show off his skills as a puppeteer. The Courtier is unique to Piccini’s version of the play and served to showcase Piccini’s talents. The Courtier performs a rather difficult trick of arranging and removing his hat—not an easy task with wooden hands that are incapable of grasping. Skilled puppeteers have been known to recreate this unique scene which, according to Piccini’s original script plays as follows.

Cruikshank's drawing of
Piccini's Courtier, 1829
From Punch and Judy:
A Short History with the
Original Dialogue
[Enter a figure dressed as a courtier who sings a slow air, and moves to it with great gravity and solemnity. He first takes off his hat on the right of the theatre, and then on the left, and then carries it in his hand. He stops in the centre, the music ceases; and suddenly, his throat begins to elongate, and his head gradually rises until his neck is taller than all the rest of his body. After pausing for some time, the head sinks again; and as soon as it returns to its natural place, the figure exits.]

ENTER Punch from behind the curtain, where he has been watching the maneuvers of the figure.

PUNCH: Who the Devil are you? Me should like to know, with your long neck? You may get it stretched for you, one of these days, by someone else. It’s a very fine day [Peeping out and looking to the sky]. I’ll go fetch my horse and take a ride to visit my Pretty Poll’.


Of all the girls that are so smart,
There’s none like Pretty Polly:
She is the darling of my heart,
She is so plump and jolly.

Here, we see this original scene as performed by Australia’s Professor Whatsit, otherwise known as Chris van der Craats who has brilliantly recreated this figure based on the drawings of Cruikshank.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 255

Cecil tried to restrain Mr. Scaramouche who pushed past him and walked stiffly into the hallway.

“Mr. Pun…” Cecil shouted.

“Scaramouche!” The man in Julian’s body spat. “Don’t call me by the name of that rogue.”

“Where are you going?” Cecil hurried after him.

“I’m looking for what’s mine!” Scaramouche answered angrily.

Cecil reached the man and put a hand on his shoulder. Scaramouche turned quickly and shook Cecil’s hand off.

“Are you trying to interfere?”

“I’m trying to help.” Cecil replied firmly. “I don’t know who or what you may be, but I do know that you’re in the body of someone about whom I care very much, so I must make sure that he—they—are protected.”

“Do you think I’d harm this vessel?” Scaramouche scowled. “I’d never be such a fool! Without this body, I’d have nothing.”

“What is it that you want?” Cecil panted.

“Do you wish to hear my inventory?” Scaramouche smirked. “To begin with, I want my dog. That rascal Punch has stolen my dog. I want my diamond. I demand that that be returned to me. And, most especially, I want the child. Mr. Punch’s precious child! That will show him!”

“How do you intend to get these things?”

“The things that I’m owed!” Scaramouche shouted.

“If you insist.” Cecil shrugged helplessly.

“”How do you think?” Scaramouche yelled. “By force, if I must. I’m owed! I’m due! I’ve grown weary of all of those people who continually take from me, those who have ill-used me! I won’t stand for it any longer!”

Barbara Allen hurried up the stairs and gasped. “What’s all this shouting? I heard you all the way in my room. What’s happened? Julian?”

“I am most assuredly not Julian, you painted trollop!” Scaramouche shouted.

Barbara stepped backward and looked at Cecil who shook his head.

“Miss Allen, this is Mr. Scaramouche, it seems.” Cecil sighed.

“Oh dear.” Barbara sighed. “Another one?”

“It would appear so. He had some sort of seizure, and, then emerged as this…”

“I’m standing right here!” Scaramouche growled. “Don’t speak of me as if I’m not here!”

“Why don’t we try to rest?” Barbara suggested.

“Spare me your false kindness and your feigned concern. We all know who and what you are, Barbara Allen. You may not know me, but I know you!”

“I’d like to know you,” Barbara replied.

“No doubt.” Scaramouche laughed. “But, you’re of no use to me now. You served your purpose by birthing the child. And, the boy shall be mine. I don’t care what that dead servant says. The child will be mine!”

“What’s he talking about?” Barbara whispered.

“I’m not quite certain.” Cecil replied, his eyes wide with confusion.

“Useless!” Scaramouche spat. “You should both be punished for your uselessness!”

Within their shared body, Mr. Punch paced around in the imagined room where he and Julian waited. He muttered as he paced and Julian sighed impatiently.

“Don’t know what to do, I don’t. Didn’t know there was another of us. This one’s a real terror, he is. How am I ‘sposed to stop him?”

“You’re stronger than he is.” Julian said.

“Am I?” Punch grumbled.

“Well, I like to think so.” Julian responded. “Certainly, the two of us together have enough strength to best him and return him to his slumber.”

“Here, how are we gonna do that? You say I gotta knock his head off his shoulders and take charge again. How’m I ‘sposed to do that when he’s out there usin’ our body to storm about and rant?”

“I have an idea.” Julian said. “It may be difficult, but Scaramouche does have one weak spot. Where there’s anger, there’s always guilt.”

“Go on,” Punch smiled.

“Sit beside me, Mr. Punch.” Julian pointed to the chair across from him. “Together, we must make a plan.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-254? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Expect the Unexpected

We all make plans. Even the most spontaneous of us has a schedule and a list of goals. Still, very often, we’re not able to see those plans unfold as we had anticipated. Life has a way of interrupting us and we’re frequently called upon to handle unexpected issues—both minor and large—before we can complete the tasks that most matter to us.

So, always expect the unexpected and don’t mourn the fact that things don’t always happen according to your timetable. The really important events will always happen, no matter what.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of the Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, 1981

On the morning of July 29, 1981, the world watched the “fairytale” wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer. Resplendent in diamonds and silk, she entered St. Paul’s Cathedral to greet her Prince and future husband, and people around the globe were immediately captivated with her.

What started as a fairytale proved to be a nightmare, constantly chronicled by the press and under endless amounts of scrutiny. Still, the event was a day of celebration—not just in Britain, but across the entire world. Dozens of souvenir items were manufactured to commemorate the event. This is one of them.

This small china plate, rimmed in gold, bears the likenesses of the Prince and future Princess in a heart-shaped frame surrounded by symbols of Britain and surmounted by the Imperial crown. While their marriage didn’t last, these souvenirs remain as a reminder of the innocence and joy of the day and the expectations held by the world for this couple.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Androcles and the Bertie

“You know, you could wear shoes.”

Image: Boy Extracting a Thorn from His Foot, Thomas Barker, 1810, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mastery of Design: An Art Deco Diamond and Emerald Pin, 1927

Platinum, Gold, Diamonds, Stained Chalcedony, Emeralds
French, 1927
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Retailed by French jeweler Lacloche Frères in 1927, this sumptuous pin is the height of Art Deco style. Designed in the shape of a stylized Cyprus tree, the pin showcases the popular black and white style which dominated jewelry design of the 1920’s. Here, again, we find that black onyx has been substituted with stained chalcedony. A shock of color comes from beautiful natural emeralds.

Set in platinum with white gold prongs, the pin was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Miss J.H.G. Gollan.


Unfolding Pictures: A Fan Depicting King George III and His Family Visiting the Royal Academy, 1789

Fan Depicting King George III and his Family
Visiting The Royal Academy
English, 1789
The Royal Collection
In 1768, King George III established the Royal Academy, and, in 1780 provided the Academy with a permanent home in Somerset House. Before his first major illness in 1788, King George III and his family visited the Royal Academy in their new home. The famous visit was recorded in drawings and paintings. A favorite painting of event was one created by J.H. Ramberg in 1788. An engraving of this painting by P. Martini became a popularly purchased print.

In 1780, the Martini engraving was incorporated into the leaf of this fan. The image had to be somewhat altered in printing so that it would fit neatly on the paper fan leaf. Supported by japanned bamboo sticks and guards, the finished fan became a model for several reproductions—some of which survive in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The original fan ended up in the collection of Queen Mary who had, by the time of her death, amassed a tremendous collection of antique fans—most of which had significance to the Royal Family.

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Mary’s Emerald and Diamond Choker, c. 1920

Diamonds, Emeralds, Platinum
circa 1920
The Royal Collection
This shimmering choker of emeralds and brilliant-cut diamonds was originally set in yellow gold and contains several of the Cambridge emeralds from the Delhi Durbar Parure. In the 1920’s, the always fashionable Mary of Teck commissioned Garrard’s to re-set the stones in a platinum setting as was fashion of the Art Deco.

This was one of the special pieces of jewelry that were bequeathed to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II upon Queen Mary’s death in 1953. This choker was famously worn by Diana, Princess of Wales who adapted it into a headband when she borrwed it from Queen Elizabeth. 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 254

Arthur approached the door cautiously and pressed his ear against it, listening to see if whoever had knocked was still there. He heard heavy breathing on the other side of the door.

“Artie,” A voice whispered.

Arthur quickly opened the door and grabbed Gerard’s arm, pulling the man into the room.

“How’d you get in here?” Arthur rasped.

“I came in through the kitchen.” Gerard whispered.

“Idiot!” Arthur spat. “Did anyone see you?”

“’Course not, Artie,” Gerard smiled. “I ain’t so stupid.”

“I wonder,” Arthur smirked.

“Say, what’s with her?” Gerard pointed to Ulrika who had once again curled up in a ball on the floor.

“She’s resting,” Arthur grumbled.

“Did ya give her the stuff what I stole for ya?”

“I did.” Arthur nodded.

“Is it working?”

“Well, what do you think?” Arthur scowled. “She’s on the floor, isn’t she?”

“Does that mean it’s workin’?” Gerard tilted his head to one side. “Seems to me she ain’t gonna be much help to ya if she’s coiled around herself like a baby.”

“What are you like?” Arthur growled. “Of course it’s working! She’ll be on her feet in no time.”

“Dunno.” Gerard shrugged. “I kind of fancy her on the ground like that.”

“Shut yer gob.” Arthur sighed.

“She give ya the diamond?”

“Not yet.” Arthur answered.

“Well, why not?” Gerard whined. “Listen, mate, we gotta get outta here. This place is crawlin’ with folks. Somebody’s gonna come up here and find ya.”

“Not if you keep quiet.” Arthur responded. “Now, help me get her up. Come on.”

Gerard shrugged and walked over to Ulrika, trying to life her up by her armpits. “You could help me, ya know.”

“Fine.” Arthur took one of Ulrika’s arms and helped Gerard carry her to the bed.

Arthur patted Ulrika’s face. “Now, come on, Pet. Tell us, where’s the diamond?”

“Chiffarobe.” Ulrika murmured, almost inaudibly.

“I already looked in the bleedin’ chiffarobe.” Arthur growled.

“Top.” Ulrika grunted.

Arthur turned around and studied the tall piece of furniture. At the top of the chiffarobe, an ornate cornice rose almost to the ceiling.

“Here,” Arthur gestured to Gerard. “Move a chair over there. I think we’re finally gonna get what we want.”

Meanwhile at the small apartment above the Routhe’s dress shop, Robert tried to wipe the blood from his hands.

“I’m so sorry, Charles,” Robert sighed as Charles handed him a towel.

“Couldn’t be helped, Sir.” Charles answered kindly. “Don’t worry any more about it.”

“I may have killed a man—your brother.” Robert replied emotionally.

“Giovanni’s got a way of surviving things.” Charles said. “He’s Marie Laveau’s problem now. Let’s not think about it until we’ve got to.”

“I broke my oath.” Robert answered.

“Sir, we’ve got other matter which are more pressing.” Charles said.

“Of course,” Robert nodded, taking a deep breath. “What did the message from Cecil and Mr. Punch say?”

“That they’re well and that they’ll find a way to come to us as soon as possible.” Charles responded.

“They ain’t well,” Marjani said, interrupting the two men.

“Pardon?” Robert asked.

“I got a feelin’.” Marjani shook her head. “Somethin’ ain’t right. I feel like there’s some kind of power that’s causin’ great pain. I fear for His Grace.”

Robert looked helplessly at Marjani.

“What should I do?” He asked.

“I think ya gotta get back there as quick as you can.” Marjani responded.

Did you miss Chapters 1-253? If so, you can read them here.

Object of the Day: In Commemoration of The Silver Jubilee of Queen Mary and George V

Mary of Teck and Prince Rupert
Yes, it’s another souvenir of the Silver Jubilee (1910-1935) of King George V and Queen Mary. I have several. I thought this was a fitting “Object of the Day” in honor of the 144th anniversary of the birth of Queen Mary. Besides, you all know how much I like Queen Mary.

Born on May 26, 1867 at Kensington Palace, Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes was the daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, the son of Duke Alexander of Württemberg by his wife, Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde. Known affectionately as “May” by her family, Victoria Mary of Teck developed a strict sense of dignity and tact at an early age. Queen Victoria considered her a suitable match for her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, and believed that “May” would make the perfect Queen Consort. When Prince Albert Victor died from influenza in 1891, “May” grieved and took comfort from Albert’s brother, George. George and Mary were soon engaged and married in 1893. Upon the death of King Edward VII, Victoria Mary became Queen Consort to King George the fifth, styling herself as “Queen Mary” so as not to compete with the memory of her husband’s grandmother, Queen Victoria.

In 1935, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated twenty-five years on the throne. George would pass away soon after and Mary would witness the rise and fall of her son King Edward VIII and the ascension of her second son, King George VI. She was an attentive grandmother to Princess Elizabeth, the current Queen and, though she knew she was dying, insisted that should she die before Elizabeth’s coronation, that the event not be postponed. She died ten weeks before the coronation in 1953.

This souvenir mug shows King George and Queen Mary in oval frames surrounded by symbols of the Empire. They both wear their crowns. The reverse of the mug shows the Royal crest surrounded by the countries of the Empire. Made by “Empire England,” this mug is just one souvenir of the remarkable reign of King George V and Queen Mary.

Happy Birthday to Queen Mary!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Diamond Spray Ornament, 1850

Spray Ornament
Diamonds, Silver, Gold
The Victoria & Albert Museum
With the rise of the Romantic Movement in the Nineteenth Century, Naturalistic jewelry with motifs of fruit, insects and easily-recognizable flowers became quite the fashion. These pieces often took the form of pins and brooches and by the middle of the Nineteenth Century had become quite large and ornate.

This spray ornament made in England in 1830 features hundreds of European Cut and several Rose Cut diamonds set in silver which has been backed in gold. The original ornament consisted of the three uppermost leaves. The blooms—roses and carnations--were added sometime before 1850. In addition to the flowers, the jeweler has added “tremblers.” Here, some of the flowers are mounted on springs so that as the lady moved, the jewels would “tremble” and catch the light.

This ornament was designed to wear on a bodice, but could also be worn in the hair. While the maker is unknown, a similar piece was displayed at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Also featuring “tremblers” and various diamond blooms, the exhibited brooch was created by Hunt & Roskell.

Building of the Week: Royal Albert Hall, 1871

Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, was so impressed with the Great Exhibition of 1851 that he declared a need for a permanent facility to be built in the area that would serve as a place of enlightenment for the British people. Progress on Prince Albert’s idea for a palace to the Arts and Sciences was slow, and Albert’s attention was diverted by a series of family issues which required his personal care in addition to his usual duties. In 1861, Prince Albert died. Though he had declared that he wanted no monuments built in his honor, Her Majesty the Queen was so bereft by the loss of her husband that she insisted that his memory survive in the form of lasting public structures.

The first of these was what had been originally dubbed, “The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences.” Using some of the proceeds from the Great Exhibition, and additional funds raised by the crown, work began on Albert’s dream of a complex dedicated to the Arts and Sciences in 1867. Just before the foundation stone was laid, the Queen declared that the structure should be named in honor of her late husband and called the building, “Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences.” A memorial to the Prince was constructed in front of the site. While it is now separated from the hall by traffic, the Albert Memorial was meant to the artistic representation of the national memorial to the Prince with the Hall itself being the practical memorial.

Exterior of Royal Albert Hall, 1871
The building was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott, two civil engineers, who sought to create a structure reminiscent of the great Classical amphitheaters. They also had a petty motive of wanting to outdo the recently finished Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Designed as an ovoid building of red brick, the structure was to be surmounted by a huge dome of glass and wrought iron.

Interior, 1871
The dome was constructed off-site and tested. Before its installation, it was dismantled and delivered to London via horse and cart. When the dome was installed, no one was allowed inside the building when the workmen removed the temporary support structures for fear that the massive puzzle of iron and glass would fall from its place. Their instincts were correct. The dome did fall, but only five-eighths of an inch before wedging itself in place. It has remained in place since 1870.

Illustration showing Royal Albert Hall in 1903
Inset shows the Albert Memorial
 The façade of the dome was decorated with a bas relief mosaic frieze of sixteen scenes of “The Triumphs of the Arts and Sciences.” Counterclockwise from the North side of the dome, these are: (1) Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851; (2) Music; (3) Sculpture; (4) Painting; (5) Princes, Art Patrons and Artists; (6) Workers in Stone; (7) Workers in Wood and Brick; (8) Architecture; (9) The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences; (10) Agriculture; (11) Horticulture and Land Surveying; (12) Astronomy and Navigation; (13) A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students; (14) Engineering; (15) The Mechanical Powers; and (16) Pottery and Glassmaking.

Above the frieze, a band of terracotta letters spans the dome and spells out the inscription: "This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on earth peace." That’s quite a lot to write on a building. I knew that the molding above the frieze said something, but it’s a little hard to make out from a distance. The next time I’m there, I’ll have to run around the perimeter of the building and try to read it.

Royal Albert Hall opened in 1871. Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII and the least favorite of Victoria’s children) gave a rousing opening speech whereupon Queen Victoria became so overcome with emotion that she could not speak. Edward, in a rare moment of alertness, noticed his mother’s distress and declared for her, “The Queen declares this Hall is now open.”

The structure was not without its problems. As evidenced from the inaugural concert in 1871, the auditorium had terrible acoustics and a displeasing echo effect that was somewhat corrected in 1969 by the addition of hanging acoustic disks (known as “The Mushrooms”). For a century, a common joke among performers, due to the echo, was that Royal Albert Hall was the only place in the world that a British composer would hear his work performed twice.

Despite its bad acoustics, the opulent hall has hosted hundreds of thousands events and remains one of the main focal points of British arts. The Web site of The Royal Albert Hall has a very nifty interactive timeline which is definitely worth visiting.

Unusual Artifacts: King George IV’s Uniform Pouch, 1814

Made for George IV
The Royal Collection
As I’ve mentioned before, King George III forbade his son from participating in any actual military maneuvers and insisted that he never carry a weapon. Nevertheless, the future King George IV always had a keen interest in the military and, while he couldn’t actually do anything with his soldier friends, enjoyed wearing the uniform bestowed upon him by his honorary title of “Colonel.” Not only did George like wearing the uniform, he enjoyed collecting extravagant uniforms as well.

This pouch—designed to be worn on the uniform’s belt—seems to have never been worn. In fact, it appears to have been made for the purpose of display more so than anything else. An ornate creation of wood, leather, velvet, silk, silver thread, and brass, the pouch is far fancier than those which were actually used in battle.

One of the many uniform accoutrements collected by George IV, this pouch is part of a matching suite of items which are on display as part of the Royal Collection.

Precious Time: Napoleon Bonaparte’s Pietre Dura Clock, 1804

Triumphal Arch Clock
Raffaelli and Breguet, 1804
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This magnificent clock wants to be studied. An impressive combination of various stones and gilt bronze, the clock takes the form of a Triumphal Arch of red and white antique marble with shimmering columns of amethyst topped by gilt bronze Corinthian capitals.

The two panels which flank the arch show micromosaic, pietre dure panels depicting military trophies. These pietre dure ornaments as well as other decorative inlays consist of amethyst, lapis lazuli, malachite, labradorite, jasper, agate, marble, and glass.

The whole of the clock case—designed by Giacomo Raffaelli—is surmounted by gilt bronze figures of Victory and Fame while the niche in the archway protects a statuette of Mars. Raffaelli and clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet worked together to create this gorgeous timepiece, hoping it would find its way into a prominent home. And, it certainly did.

Pope Pius VII had entrusted Venetian Sculptor Antonio Canova with the task of finding suitable gifts to present to Napoleon Bonaparte on the event of his coronation. The “Triumphal Arch Clock” (as it is known) was among the items selected by Canova for the occasion.

The Empress Josephine was said to have favored the clock and kept it as the centerpiece of her collection. Later, the clock was sold to pay off mounting debts. Purchased by Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde in 1976, the clock was added to their impressive collection of decorative arts—considered one of the world’s greatest such collections. Gilbert loaned the clock to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1996 where it remains on loan to this day.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 253

What’s this?” Mr. Punch squawked nervously as he felt the walls of their shared phantom room closing in around them.

“It’s what I’ve been fearing,” Julian answered quietly.

“We’re both in here, we are.” Mr. Punch replied quickly. “Yet, I can tell that our body is up and moving. I can hear voices. I know this feeling. I know what it feels like when I wait in here and you’re out—livin’. But, we’re both here. Who’s livin’?”

“He’s awake.” Julian shook his head, still not moving from the rococo chair in which he sat.

“Who?” Punch demanded.

“Mr. Scaramouche.” Julian whispered, afraid to even say his name aloud.

“Who’s that?” Punch yelped. “Does he live in here with us? Why don’t I know ‘bout him? I don’t understand.”

“He does share our body, Mr. Punch.” Julian nodded.

“Why don’t I know ‘bout him?” Punch repeated.

“I’d hoped we’d never need him.” Julian sighed.

“So, you knew ‘bout him?” Punch rattled.

“I did.”

“And you never told me?”

“I didn’t see any reason to do so.” Julian shrugged.

“How many others we got in here with us?” Punch yelled.

“It doesn’t matter.” Julian shook his head.

“Sure it does!” Punch threw up his hands. “Sure, it matters. Lots, I’d say.”

“Do try to settle down, dear Punch.” Julian frowned. “You’ll only make it worse.”

“How could it be worse?” Punch growled. He frowned. “I’m sorry, Master. Only I don’t know what’s happenin’. Who is this bloke with the loud voice, and why does me neck hurt?”

“Mr. Scaramouche dwells deep within us.” Julian said.

“Where’d he come from?” Mr. Punch asked, trying to calm himself. “When did he grow in us?”

“Around the time I was attacked in Covent Garden.” Julian whispered. “That’s when I first felt him. It wasn’t until much later that he’d grown enough to have a voice of his own. When I learned about you, I began to pay attention to him—during the times that I’ve spent in here, alone. I heard his voice, and heard his name.”

“Scaramouche—like in the puppet show?” Punch asked.

“Yes.” Julian nodded.

“Did you name him?” Punch asked.

“He named himself.” Julian replied, looking at the floor.

“Why Scaramouche?” Punch asked.

“I don’t know. He’s a creature of pure anger and bitterness.”

“But, as the story goes, Scaramouche is Mr. Punch’s nemesis, he is. How could we have one who lives within us who’s our nemesis?”

“Doesn’t every man have a part of himself which only serves to work against him?” Julian shrugged. “Isn’t that part just as loud and just as strong—when released—as ours? Ours has a name, yes. But…”

“But?” Mr. Punch took a deep breath. “But, Mr. Scaramouche—in the puppet show—he hits Mr. Punch and tries to fool him with his fiddle. He’s a terrible, mean man!”

“And how does the puppet react?” Julian grinned.

“He kills Scaramouche—knocks his head clear off his shoulders, he does.” Punch spat. “And, in doin’ so, Mr. Punch gets in awful trouble. He’s got more foes to fight, and…”

“And, then?” Julian smiled.

“And, then he must beat the Devil!”

“Then, that is what you must do.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-252? If so, you can read them here.