Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: The Georges Fouquet Brooch, 1903

Georges Fouquet
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We wrap up our week-long celebration of beautiful brooches with this amazing French piece by Georges Fouquet. The brooch, which dates t 1903, is a work in gold and silver with a subtle relief of young women, framed by diamonds and decorated with a sprig of mistletoe in enameled gold and pearls.
This is the perfect example of Edwardian era jewelry as designs transitioned from the florid pieces of the Victorian era to the more stylized Art Nouveau and Art Deco. This piece is firmly in the middle of these design trends and shows both the sentimentality of the past century and the stylization of the Twentieth.

At the Music Hall: Ukulele Lady, 1925

I saw the splendor of the moonlight
On Honolulu Bay
There's something tender in the moonlight
On Honolulu Bay

And all the beaches are filled with peaches
Who bring their ukes along
And in the glimmer of the moonlight
They love to sing this song

If you like Ukulele Lady
Ukulele Lady like a'you
If you like to linger where it's shady
Ukulele Lady linger too
If you kiss Ukulele Lady
While you promise ever to be true
And she sees another Ukulele
Lady foolin' 'round with you

“Ukulele Lady” actually dates to after the true height of the Music Halls, but it is such a popular standard, that, for our purposes, I’ll include it. This charming song by Gus Kahn and Richard A. Whiting was published in 1925 and tells a delightful tale of Polynesian love.

The song has been recorded by many a popular artist including: The Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Peter Sellers, Arlo Guthrie, Bette Midler and even Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

The Art of Play: German Toy Birds, 1910

Toy Birds, 1910
Based on Designs from 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Museum of Childhood, there are several examples of German wooden toys which demonstrate the originality of German designs for children. Here, we see one of a group of traditional German toys which were made in the 1900s.

Though they were made in the Twentieth Century, they were based on designs which dated to the previous century. The toy consists of a carved hummingbird at each end of a cross bar. Beneath each bird is a leather bellows. When the upright bar is moved from side to side the bellows are operated causing the birds to whistle.

Such clever toys were wildly popular both in Germany and in England. However, due to their delicate nature, few survive.

Painting of the Day: The Rival Performers, 1839

The Rival Performers
John Callcott Horsley
The Victoria & Albert Museum
John Callcott Horsley created this charming painting in 1839 during a period when domestic scenes were quite fashionable. The scene, set in the dining room of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, shows a young woman with her companion who is playing the flute.

The title of the painting, “The Rival Performers,” at first implies that the two figures—both musicians—are the rivals, but on closer inspection, we see that the woman’s instrument is nowhere near her. The rivals in question are the flute player in the bird. Some critics believed that the scene shows the young woman silencing her companion so that they can listen to the caged bird. However, most believe that the bird is simply out-performing the musician.

John Callcott Horsely first visited Haddon Hall in 1835. Horsely was the son of the organist and composer William Horsley, and the great-nephew of Sir Augustus Wall Callcott RA. He studied at Sass's art school and the Royal Academy Schools and was known as a painter of portraits,

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 334

Now, Chum,” Mr. Punch began steadily.

“Mr. Punch,” Cecil held up his hand, “Let’s be reasonable. I’ve gone along with most everything that’s been presented to me. I’ve put the lives of my loved ones in danger as well as my own. And, I’ve not complained. But, I cannot condone any further risk at this point. We’re so close to our escape. We’d be fools to threaten that.”

“What choice do we have, Cecil?” Robert asked. “Could we, in good conscience, leave Charles to those wicked people? There’s no telling what they’ll do to him.”

“It isn’t our concern.” Cecil replied firmly.

“Isn’t it?” Punch frowned. “Ain’t we, as his masters, responsible for what happens to him? Ain’t it up to us to see that he’s safe?”

“He’s a smart young man.” Cecil shook his head. “He’ll survive.”

“Brother,” Robert began. “I’m shocked.”

“Sure, if he does survive, what then?” Punch answered. “Marie Laveau is up to somethin’ what’s only gonna prove to be dangerous not just to us but to lots of folk. Could we possibly leave knowin’ that what she’s about will only bring pain to folk? Now, I know you don’t believe it what Naasir said, and, I don’t know if I do or not. But, so far, all that he told us has come to pass. If it is my destiny to put a stop to this, wouldn’t us leavin’ only make everythin’ worse for all of us?”

“I can’t allow myself to dissolve into this hysterical Voodoo madness with the rest of you.” Cecil replied angrily. “And, Robert, you say you’re shocked? Well, think how I must feel. You’re a man of science. Can you honestly put any stock in any of this foolishness?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.” Robert sighed. “But, I’ve seen and experienced things since we’ve been here that fly in the face of anything I ever believed before. Are you so pompous and egotistical that you can believe that our world is defined only by practices of our own making? I don’t think that you are. I’ve seen you on your knees in prayer. You must believe in something beyond ourselves and our own actions.”

“Blasphemy.” Cecil snorted.

“When did you become so pious?” Robert asked.

“I’d hardly call myself pious.” Cecil growled. “I believe in what’s proper. None of this is proper.”

“Suddenly you’re the judge of what’s proper?” Robert snapped. “You who has sat alone with a nude woman while you sculpted her form. I don’t think that most of London Society would consider that proper behavior for a gentleman.”

“That’s hardly the same thing.” Cecil snarled. “What you and Punch are suggesting is…” Cecil’s voice trailed off as he looked around the room.

Suddenly, Robert realized that he was alone with his brother.

“Dear God,” Cecil groaned. “He’s gone off on his own.”

“This is your fault,” Robert grunted as he fled the room.

Robert hurried down the stairs. “Marjani!”

Meridian met Robert at the base of the stairs. “Marjani’s gone out, Sir. She and His Grace left not a minute ago.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-333? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Tuesday, September 6 for Chapter 335 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: Westminster Hall

Earlier this week, we explored the Palace of Westminster—the seat of British government—and took a quick look at Westminster Hall which is one of the oldest original parts of the palace. Westminster Hall has long played an important part in the coronation procession. This fact is recorded in the 1935 Silver Jubilee series of cards by Churchman’s Cigarette Company.
Westminster Hall was erected in 1096-7 and was, at the time, the largest such hall in Europe. The Hall was originally intended to be used for judicial purposes, and consequently housed three of the most important courts in Britain: the Court of King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of Chancery. By 1875, these three courts were combined into one: the High Court of Justice. This court retained Westminster Hall as its seat until 1882 when it moved to the Royal Courts of Justice.

The historic structure was also the scene of many important trials such as the impeachment trials and the state trials of King Charles I at the conclusion of the English Civil War, Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal John Fisher, Guy Fawkes, the Earl of Strafford, the rebel Scottish Lords of the 1715 and 1745 uprisings, and Warren Hastings.

The Coronation Banquet of King George IV, 1821
The Royal Collection
However, the most celebrated purpose of Westminster Hall has been its role in ceremonial functions. From the Twelfth Century, this was the home of the coronation banquets in honor of new Sovereigns. This tradition lasted through the coronation banquet of King George IV in 1821. William IV, George IV’s brother and successor, stopped this practice as part of his effort to at least appear to be more frugal with the Empire’s money.

Westminster Hall has been used for less jubilant, but equally important services. It has been the backdrop for lyings-in-state during state and ceremonial funerals. The honor of lying-in-state at Westminster Hall is usually reserved for the Monarch and/or their consorts. However, non-Royal persons have been laid out in the Hall. These exceptions are: Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts (1914) and Sir Winston Churchill (1965). The last time the Hall was used for this purpose was the lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Eagle Slayer by Edward William Wyon, 1846

The Eagle Slayer
E.W. Wyon
After John Bell
The Victoria &
Albert Museum
This powerful statuette is a reduced-scale bronze version of the full-size figure by John Bell. The figure is inscribed on the side near the right foot: “EXECUTED BY/ E.W.WYON/ AFTER THE ORIGINAL OF/ J. BELL/ FOR THE ART UNION OF LONDON/ 1846.”

The original version of this figure was exhibited (in plaster) at the Royal Academy in 1837. The same subject was again shown at an exhibition in Westminster Hall in 1844. This time the figure was titled, “The Eagle Slayer” where it had been previously exhibited under the titles, “The Archer” or “The Eagle Shooter.”

Depicted here is a scene of a shepherd shooting an arrow at an eagle which he has just spied killing the lamb which lies at the shepherd's feet. Following the 1844 exhibition at Westminster Hall, the figure was purchased by a group known as the Art Union--an organization which reproduced contemporary works of art. Those reproductions—such as this one—were then raffled and awarded as lottery prizes.

The Art Union served another important purpose. The Union allowed for the wide distribution of many contemporary sculptures which they reproduced in bronze or in Parian. This allowed many middle-class art lovers to acquire important pieces of art for the first time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Ostertag Brooch, 1927-1940

Ostertag, Paris
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Since I’ve made a study of attractive brooches this week, here’s one more. And, it’s quite lovely. A brilliant work of platinum, white gold, baguette and brilliant-cut diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, this handsome brooch is the work of Parisian jeweler Ostertag and dates between 1927-1940.

This is part of a suite of gems donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum in the last century. We have examined many of them already. They’re all related in their clever use of platinum and diamonds to contrast with bright, colored gemstones in dramatic patterns.

Friday Fun: Mr. Bimbamboozle’s Punch & Judy Show

Mr. Bimbamboozle
I like this. I like this a lot. Here we see Mr. Bimbamboozle—the stage name of Punch & Judy Professor Chris Somerville who I consider Wales’ finest Punch & Judy man. I find his routine terribly clever. In fact, I often come across Mr. Bimbamboozle in my Punch & Judy studies. Many a Punch & Judy man considers his work to be exemplary.


Mr. Punch in the Arts: G. Hadfield’s Sheffield Champion Punch & Judy

G, Hadfield's Sheffield Champion Punch & Judy
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This print is a mid-Nineteenth Century reproduction of a pen and ink sketch titled “G. Hadfield's Sheffield Champion, Punch and Judy.” Depicted is a Punch and Judy fit-up (booth), within which are suspended a row of gentleman hanged from their necks--evidently unconscious or , worse, dead. Well, that’s not very cheerful. Is it?

No, but it is somehow fitting. After all, Punch was able to beat Jack Ketch, the hangman, as well as the Devil, but these gents seem to have not been so cunning. Oh, speaking of the Devil…

To the left of the chandelier of corpses is the Devil himself with his lovely pitchfork. Before the Devil, downstage, we see another figure. This bloke wears our Mr. Punch's cap and has affected the famous “punchinello hump” which has been marked “TELEGRAPH.”

Ah, we’re making a statement, are we? It seems we are. You see, this is also fitting. Despite his slapstick antics and anarchic glee, Mr. Punch has always been a way of communicating social issues and a need for reform of one sort or another. In fact, the basis of the show has always been something of a satire on current conditions.

So, let’s look at our faux-Punch a little more closely. This ersatz Punchinello carries a club marked 'Truth and Honesty under his left arm. He is depicted smoking a cigar as he states "We have settled them all, Tear'em.”

How odd. What could it mean? This comment is addressed to a dog-like who is meant to be Punch’s canine chum, Toby. But, he’s no more Toby than this fellow is Punch. This grotesque figure is smoking a pipe and wears a collar marked “TEAR'EM.”

The two figures perform for I a group of living gentlemen in top hats and caps who have gathered to watch. Some of them comment, "Look at Bobby Stainton and Little Nadin" and "It's all o'er lads".

So, what’s it all about, Punchy? The Punch-like figure marked TELEGRAPH is meant to resemble the editor of the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper, Edward Levy-Lawson, 1st Baron Burnham (28 December 1833 - 9 January 1916). Levy-Lawson acted together with Thornton Leigh Hunt, as editor of the paper from 1855-1873.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure to precisely what this is referring because it’s undated and by an unknown artist. My guess, however, is that it is an editorial cartoon which makes light of the change of the “Daily Telegraph” from a Liberal point of view to a Conservative point of view in 1879 under the leadership of Levy-Lawson and Thornton Hunt. I could be wrong. Similarly, this seems to involve the alignment of the Telegraph with radical politician George Hadfield who had a reputation for being a troublemaker. I don’t quite know about the reference to Bobby Stainton.

This print, like most of the Punch & Judy ephemera at the V&A, is part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

Antique Image of the Day: A Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1860

Queen Victoria
May 15, 1860
John Mayall
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert always showed a keen interest in the new technologies which developed during their lifetimes. Among these, they had a special fascination for photography and sat before many a camera and photographer.

On May 15, 1860, the Royal Couple sat for photographer John Mayall. This photographic session was especially notable since it marked the first time that photographs of the Queen were published for all the world to see. Previously, the public had never seen or been able to buy a photograph of the Queen or the Prince Consort. Once published and on sale, the images were terribly popular. This particular image of the Queen was a big seller.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 333

Cecil shuffled out into the upstairs corridor, rubbing his eyes.
“What is this?” Cecil grumbled as he staggered into Mr. Punch’s room where he found Punch hurriedly attempting to put on his own boots.

“Puttin’ me boots on me feet!” Punch said quickly.

“Why?” Cecil frowned. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“I know ‘tis.” Punch shrugged. “But, we got somethin’ to do, we do.”

“And, what is so pressing at this hour that you’re rummaging about so loudly that you might wake the children as you woke me?” Cecil asked, settling onto Punch’s bed.

“We got troubles.”

“Not surprising.” Cecil yawned. “We have had a surfeit of those lately. But, surely, we’re on our way toward better times. After all, we have your nephew. We’ll be departing tomorrow. What could be so urgent that you’ve gotten yourself so alarmed?”

“Iolanthe,” Robert explained as he joined Cecil and Punch. “And, Marie.”

“They can’t touch us now.” Cecil sighed. “We’ve done all we could. Barbara Allen has made her own decisions. We’re not going to get her to change her mind. If she wants to stay with those women, then, let her. We have the child. That’s what matters. So, you didn’t get your diamond back. How many diamonds would you be willing to trade for Colin?”

“It ain’t no diamond what I want nor is it Barbara Allen!” Punch chirped. “It’s that I gotta put things right.”

“For whom?” Cecil asked.

“For…” Punch stuttered. “For everyone, for all of us. Even Charles.”

“Charles? What in Heaven’s name does he have to do with anything?” Cecil growled.

“He’s gotten himself in a predicament. It seems that Marie Laveau is staging some sort of ritual—one she claims has conceived a powerful child within her. She stole Arthur’s corpse as part of this and now she seems to be using Charles for the same purpose.” Robert explained.

“How do you know this?” Cecil narrowed his eyes.

“We received a letter from Marie herself. Not with all of those details, of course. Those were supplied by Gerard who saw it with his own eyes.”

“Gerard? The idiot?” Cecil grumbled.

“I don’t think he’s as much of an idiot as he wants people to think that he is.” Robert shook his head.

“Fine. So, Gerard is no idiot. And, Marie has Charles. What of it? He’s a servant. We can find Punch and His Grace another footman.”

“Brother,” Robert scowled. “I’m surprised at you. Have you been affluent for so long that you’ve forgotten the circumstances of our youth? Have you forgotten the humanity of each man?”

“I’m sorry, Robert,” Cecil sighed. “You’re right. But, you have to agree that it’s not as if Charles has been the most loyal of men to us. From the outset, his priority has always been his misguided affection for that whore Barbara. No offense, Mr. Punch.”

“None taken,” Punch shrugged. “You’re correct. That’s what she is.”

“Be that as it may,” Robert interrupted, “We can’t very well leave the man in the clutches of Marie and Iolanthe.”

“What has Iolanthe got to do with this?” Cecil asked.

“We don’t know. That Ulrika what’s got the wide neck and the deep voice is there, too. See, they’re the monsters, they are. Them ones what Naasir told me ‘bout. I gotta make sure they can’t hurt no one. Naasir told me that that’s what was written.”

“Nonsense.” Cecil argued. “I’ll tell you what’s written! In this house there are two infant boys, my wife, me, Marjani and her grandchild who are all ready to be taken to England to safety. We owe it to those people to do as we promised. Risking your lives once again to carry out some prophesy told to you by your deceased African valet is sheer lunacy.”

“I gotta do it, Chum.” Punch shook his head.

“No.” Cecil replied firmly. “I won’t allow it!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-332? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Lord High Constable of England

The ninth card in the 1935 Silver Jubilee Series by Churchman’s Cigarettes shows the Lord High Constable of England. The Lord High Constable is the seventh highest ranking of the Great Officers of State. He ranks beneath the Lord Great Chamberlain and above the Earl Marshal. Today, the holder of this office is only called out for coronations.
Originally the commander of the royal armies and the Master of the Horse, The Lord High Constable was also, along with the Earl Marshal, considered the president of the Court of Chivalry (also known as the Court of Honour). The role was especially important during the feudal era when martial law was administered in the court of the Lord High Constable.

In order to become a Lord High Constable, a man had to be created as such by the Sovereign who granted the constableship as a grand sergeanty with the Earldom of Hereford. Since the time of Henry VIII, the rank has not existed as a separate office with the exception of coronations of a monarch. Today, overall, the Earl Marshal carries out the traditional duties of the office.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Coronation Bedcover, 1838

Bed Cover
Coronation of Queen Victoria, 1838
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The coronation of a new monarch has always been an exciting time in Britain. However, as Britain prepared for the coronation of Queen Victoria, they did so with renewed hope and a sense of excitement which had long been absent. Victoria was young and charming, but most of all, she had the power to erase the bad memories of the reigns of her uncles—especially King George IV who was all but detested throughout the land. Households amused themselves by creating their own coronation celebrations and honored the date in their own private ways. A few examples of this joyful handiwork remain. Here’s one of them.
At the time of Victoria’s coronation—1838—the English market was glutted with an increased assortment of printed cottons which were available at reasonable prices. Such new fabrics were perfect for use throughout the home and many crafty ladies took to creating new bedcovers with intricate patterns. Many of these covers celebrated military victories and other important events such as Victoria’s coronation.

The cotton panel that creates the centerpiece of this bedcover was printed with a special pattern to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria. The print shows the second in Westminster Abbey when the crown was placed upon the young queen’s head.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Village Vet

“Gosh, your vet looks mean. Mine is much nicer. I never had to put my leg on a barrel.”

Image: The Wounded Leg, originally The Village Doctress, Thomas Heaphy, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Admiral Jervis Bonbonnière, 1785

Russia, 1785
The Victoria & Albert Museum
John, Regent of Portugal, presented this elegant Russian bonbonnière (candy box) to Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent (1734-1823). Jervis is famous for leading the British fleet to Lisbon in 1806 in a pre-emptive strike against French forces. Evidence suggests that the present Portuguese miniature of watercolor on ivory that is mounted in the center of the box is probably a replacement for a Russian miniature—perhaps an image of Catherine the Great. The present miniature depicts John VI of Portugal (1769-1826) who is shown wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece.

This gold bonbonnière has been enameled in translucent blue over an exquisite engine-turned ground which has been bordered by rose-cut diamonds. To further adorn the box, a guilloche of blue on an opaque white ground encloses enamel “pearls” (some of which are missing). These neatly off-set the entwined ribbons of rose-diamonds. An inner border of blue and white petals completes the design.

Mastery of Design: The Pinecone Brooch, 1960

Jean Schumberger, 1960
Tiffany & Co.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This attractive brooch is of a more modern origin than the pieces which we usually examine on Stalking the Belle Époque, but it has its roots in the designs of the late Victorian era. Jean Schlumberger of New York’s Tiffany & Co. designed this glittering gem in the form of a pair of pinecones--one is set with emeralds, and the other with sapphires. The pinecones are surmounted with diamond-set leaves.

During his career, Jean Schlumberger (1907-87) worked with Schiaparelli in Paris before joining Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger came by his love of gems naturally. He came from a family of textile manufacturers in Mulhouse (in eastern France). During this time, he grew to love studying combinations of colors and textures. Initially his mother and father urged young Jean toward a career in banking, however, in the 1930s, he began working for as a designer of costume jewelry for the couturier Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris. The Second World War led him to the French army and soon he made his way from England (to where he’d been evacuated) to New York.

Once in the United States, in 1947, he set up a small jewelry business with his childhood friend Nicolas Bongard. Their work quickly garnered much attention and soon Tiffany & Co. invited them to open a design studio and salon within the Tiffany New York store in 1956. To this day, many of Schlumberger’s designs are still produced by Tiffany & Co. and remain among their biggest sellers.

Precious Time: The Louis Reymond Watch, 1860

Louis Reymond
Switzerland, 1860
The pocket watch was one of the most important parts of any individual’s suite of jewelry. Before the advent of wristwatches and certainly before you could buy a cheap watch at any apothecary or street corner, a person’s watch was treated with the utmost care both in creation and in design.

This enameled gold watch case is set with diamonds and comes from Le Locle, Switzerland. It is the work of Louis Reymond and dates to about 1860. While the case itself is not marked, the lever escapement bears the mark of Louis Reymond.

The case is adorned with a romantic design of cherubs flaking an oval of sky blue enamel into which the diamonds have been set. The reverse shines with a similar design replacing the cherubs with roses and with a blue swan atop the central enamel oval.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 332

Gerard walked into the kitchen of the house on Royal Street. As he did, his mind was muddied by the memories of what he had just seen at the Place Congo—the burning bodies of Arthur (his one-time companion) that woman he didn’t know and the man he assumed was a relative of Marie Laveau. He recalled Barbara’s blood-curdling cries as Marie’s men wrapped long snakes around her body and the ensuing quarrel between Iolanthe Evangeline and Ulrika Rittenhouse with Marie who laughed at their protests as a bowl was filled with Charles’ blood which was then thrown upon the fire along with a fistful of his hair.

Gerard cleared his throat and grabbed the porcelain pitcher with sat on the large wooden table in the center of the kitchen. He drank directly from the pitcher and was saddened to learn it was only water.

“We like to use a glass when we drink in this house,” Meridian said from the corner of the room.

Gerard jumped. He hadn’t seen Meridian in her rocking chair by the kitchen fire when he first entered.

“Didn’t mean for to startle you,” Meridian smiled.

“Sorry,” Gerard said sheepishly as he put down the pitcher. “Want me to wash it for you?”

“No.” Meridian shook her head. “His Grace and Mr. Halifax are waitin’ for you in the front parlor. Marjani’s in there, too.”

Gerard nodded.

“Did you find Charles?” Meridian asked.

“No.” Gerard lied.

“I see,” Meridian nodded slowly. “That’s too bad. You think he’ll come back before ya’ll sail?”

“I don’t know,” Gerard shrugged.

“Maybe Marjani’ll know,” Meridian smiled.

“How’s that?” Gerard asked.

“Well, Gerry, don’t you know? Marjani’s got a sense ‘bout things. She can see through all the falseness in the world and see what’s gonna happen. Sometimes, she just knows things without seein’ ‘em first.” Meridian explained.

“Oh.” Gerard nodded. “I didn’t know that.”

“It’s true. Even Dr. Halifax has got a bit of that sense to him.”

“Uh huh,” Gerard frowned.

“So, is there anything you want to tell me before you go in to see those fine gentlemen who took a chance by lettin’ you stay here with us? Those men who showed you such kindness when most would have just thrown you out on the street.”

Gerard sat down at the table. “I know that they been kind to me. I’m grateful, you know. More grateful than I think anyone can see.”

“That’s right fine,” Meridian nodded. “So, I’m sure you’ll show them the respect they’re do and tell them the truth.”

“I want to tell them the truth,” Gerard nodded.

“Then, that’s what you should do.” Meridian answered firmly.

Gerard sat still.

“You sure there’s nothin’ you want to tell me?” Meridian asked.

“Miss…” Gerard began.


“Meridian, you ever know somethin’ what’ll hurt someone and think that it’d be better if they didn’t know?”

“I think we all have, honey.” Meridian answered.

“What’d you do?”

“I told them anyway.” Meridian replied gently.

“Ah,” Gerard sighed.

“Go tell them men what you saw, honey.” Meridian said sweetly.

‘I’d best.” Gerard said, standing up. “Thank you.”

“I ain’t done nothin’.” Meridian chuckled. “Now, you go and talk to them before His Grace wears a hole in the carpet with his pacin’.”

Gerard nodded and walked toward the front parlor.

“Gerry!” Punch said, leaping toward the door. “Did you find the fake Dutchman?”

“I did.” Gerard answered quietly. “And, your sister, too, Your Grace. And, Arthur as well.”

“What’s this?” Robert tilted his head to one side.

“At the Place Congo.” Gerard continued.

“Marie,” Marjani muttered.

“That’s it,” Gerard nodded.

“What’s that witch done now?” Mr. Punch growled.

“I don’t know for sure, but Miss Iolanthe and Miss Rittenhouse were there too—all standin’ ‘round a fire.”

“Fire,” Punch sighed. “Just like Naasir said.”

“Punch?” Robert asked.

“Naasir said that ‘The Great Man of the Rocks’—which were me—would battle the monsters before a terrible fire. I ‘spose the time has come.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-331? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The King’s Herbwoman

The King’s Herbwoman (or Herb Woman or Herb Strewer) was a ceremonial position most evident during the Coronation procession. As we look at the Silver Jubilee cards commemorating the 1935 celebration of King George V’s and Queen Mary’s twenty-five years on the throne, we get a glimpse at this custom which had long since fallen out of practice.

Typically, The Coronation Procession was led by the King's herb woman who was accompanied by six young attendants who strewed the path of the procession with herbs and flowers. Not only was this attractive to behold, but it served two practical purposes as well. It would scent the air as the horses stamped on the herbs and flowers. Let’s face it, the streets of London didn’t always smell so wonderful. And, secondly, the release of the aromas of certain plants was considered a way of protecting people from the threat of Plague. That thinking was rather flawed, but it was a nice idea.

The Herb Woman and her attendants would walk from the starting point of the procession (wherever the new monarch happened to be staying, this differed from coronation to coronation) to Wesminster Hall (now part of the Palace of Westminster) and then to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation itself.

These ceremonial ladies performed their office at the Coronation of each of the former Georges (I-!V), and were especially involved at the Coronation of George IV (seen in this card), where they wore matching wreaths upon their heads, and garlands of flowers about their dresses. The Coronation of George IV was the last occasion of the appearance of the Herb Woman and her girls. Upon the coronation of King William IV, his consort, Queen Adelaide, who was always determined to save money put a stop to the custom. Adelaide was wise to do this. Her husband’s brother and her father-in-law had done a splendid job of plunging the Empire into debt for their own personal pleasures. The Queen Consort wanted to show the people that more frugal times were ahead. While William IV was certainly more careful with funds than his predecessors, it wasn’t really until Queen Victoria’s reign that the family debt began to be erased.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Heraldic “Swete Bag,” 1540

Swete Bag
The Victoria & Albert Museum
To find an object such as this from the Sixteenth Century is quite rare. Here, we see a very formal, heraldic purse which was often used as part of a marriage ceremony to hold gifts of money for the betrothed couple. However, this purse would later have a more practical use than simply being a receptacle for coins.

Purses such as this one of four linen panels (cut in a shield shape) and embroidered in silks were called “swete-bags” and were used for carrying perfumed herbs to scent the air. Such purses were carried by both men and women either on the arm, in the hand over around the waist.

This example appears to have been intended to hang from the waist. Though we tend to think of objects from the Sixteenth Century as being somewhat rough, that’s not the case. We can see from this swete bag that the workmanship is extremely fine and features 1,250 silk stitches per square inch.

These bags and other personal items also offered a wonderful opportunity to display the family coat of arms as a way of not only proclaiming ownership, but reinforcing station and lineage. Here, we see the arms of the Calthorpe family, and we can tell by associated records that the purse was used in four wedding ceremonies.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Reflection Brooch, 1940

Brooch by Travert & Hoeffler-Mauboussin
1940, New York
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This handsome brooch of white gold, sapphires, moonstones and diamonds is part of the famed “Reflection” line of jewelry by Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin. The company was formed in 1929, and quickly became a fashionable stop on New York’s Park Avenue. Known for its distinctive line of “Reflection” jewelry, Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin supplied gems to some of New York’s most elite clients. The “Reflection” line was the first to introduce the unusually bold shapes and colors which had defined 1930’s European jewelry to the wealthy American comsumer.

The jewels in the “Reflection” line were made by casting. This technique allowed the firm to experiemnt with a range of standardized parts and thereby create continuity within the collection. The company advertised the line with the slogan, “Reflection – Your Personality in a Jewel,” which they hoped would encourage women to create their own desired pieces by selecting from several different arrays of standardized parts. This sort of customization was new to most consumers who enjoyed the chance to purchase personalized jewelry of their “own” design.

Building of the Week: The Palace of Westminster

One of the most recognizable and iconic buildings in England, with its famous clock tower and impressive Gothic revival ornamentation, The Palace of Westminster (similarly referred to as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace) is the central home of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The Palace of Westminster proudly stands on the north bank of the River Thames in the high-end City of Westminster at the center of London and is near the famed Westminster Abbey and the important government offices of Whitehall and the Prime Minister’s residence on Downing Street.

So, why is this structure which is the equivalent to the U.S. Capitol referred to as a palace? The name comes from a reference to “The Old Palace” (a series of medieval buildings which were lost to fire in 1834). The structure retains its original style as a palace since it is technically considered a Royal residence—if only for ceremonial purposes.

The original royal palace on the site was built in the Eleventh Century. At the time, Westminster Palace was the primary London residence of the Monarchy. That first complex was destroyed—for the most part—in a fire in 1512. Since Parliament had been meeting at Westminster Palace since the Thirteenth Century, after the fire of 1512, the portion of the palace that was saved remained the seat of Parliament while the monarch’s residence was moved elsewhere. That building was also the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall—the only original part of the structure (built in 1096) which still remains and is a significant part of the Coronation procession.

J.M.W. Turner's Painting
The aforementioned fire of 1834 (which was recorded in a painting by J.M.W. Turner) destroyed most of what remained and the structures that had been added since 1512. All that remained after the 1834 fire was Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft and the Jewel Tower.

Since the Palace of Westminster was such an important part of the inner-workings of the British government, there was no question that the complex needed to be rebuilt. As was often the case with major building commissions, a competition was held to decide upon the best architect and team for the job.

The commission of the reconstruction of the Palace was won by architect Charles Barry who planned an enormous new complex in the Perpendicular Gothic style. What remained of the Old Palace (with the exception of the detached Jewel Tower) was absorbed into the new building which contains over 1,100 rooms which flow around two series of graceful courtyards. The new palace’s principal façade faces the Thames.

Barry was joined on this project by Augustus W. N. Pugin, who was the leading authority on Gothic architecture at the time. Pugin was instrumental in much of the adornment and decoration of the palace—offering designs for everything from floor tiles and windows to the furnishings. Construction began in 1840 and lasted for over thirty years. Progress was slowed by cost overruns, political woes and the deaths of both Barry and Pugin. The loss of Pugin greatly retarded the interior decoration which consequently continued well into the Twentieth Century. A bombing in 1941 during the Second World War greatly damaged the Palace and required considerable repair.

One of the most famous aspects of the palace is its iconic Clock Tower. The tower has become known erroneously as "Big Ben" after the clock’s main bell. The clock tower and the palace are instantly recognizable and have become synonymous with the government of the U.K.

Unfolding Pictures: The Recovery of George III from Illness Fan, 1789

Recovery of George III from Illness Fan
English, 1789
A Gift of Queen Mary to...
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Here’s another fan which Queen Mary (Consort of King George V) managed to wrestle out of the hands of one of her friends and return to the Royal Collection. However, for some reason, Mary didn’t keep the fan. Shortly before her death she donated it, along with a few other objects from her personal collection, to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This fan shows the trend of Eighteenth Century fan-makers to create objects which commemorated important events such as births, marriages and deaths of well-known people, royal occasions or major social events. Here, we see a celebration of George III’s recovery from illness in 1789. Its design is simple and straightforward and well suited to the seriousness of the event.

The elegant, emblematic design includes the rose and thistle which symbolizes the Union of Scotland and England by Act of Parliament in 1707. Above these emblems are the words, “Health is restored to ONE and happiness to Millions.” That seems a little extreme, since George III wasn’t the most beloved monarch of all time, but he certainly was better liked by the average citizen than his offspring: King George IV and William IV.

Chances are, the fan was designed for a lady to carry at the great ball given at the Court in 1789 to celebrate the king’s recovery. His recovery was rather short-lived. As we say in the Southern U.S., until he died, George III, well, “he just ain’t right.”