Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: The Crouzet Bodice Ornament, 1860-70

Bodice Ornament
Designed by Crouzet
The Victoria & Albert Museum
If you had to guess, wouldn’t you think, at first glance at least, that this jewel was much newer than it really is? It dates to 1860-1870, but immediately looks more like a work from the 1940’s. Here, we see an enameled gold bodice ornament in black, set with pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds.

It is designed in the Moroccan manner of the jeweler Crouzet worked for all the major Parisian goldsmiths of the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century, producing jewelry of exceptional quality and innovative design. Crouzet was celebrated for creating pieces in the Moroccan taste.

The particular jewel was probably designed to be worn during mourning, allowing a woman in mourning to add some flare to her wardrobe and also stay current by donning herself with a piece designed in the then-fashionable Middle-Eastern manner.

Painting of the Day: Ballroom at the Shire Hall, 1940

Ballroom at the Shire Hall
Bayes, 1940
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This relatively modern watercolor painting dates to 1940 and depicts the grand English tradition of an opulent ball. Here, we see a luxurious celebration in the County Room of Chelmsford's Eighteenth-Century Shire Hall.

This is the type of scene which would have been readily seen at the Shire Hall--men in white tie and tails and women in elegant evening dresses. However, there are strong, individual personal scenes of interaction as well. For example, in the left foreground, a woman in a green gown appears to be either shouting at someone or laughing loudly—not uncommon in either case at such an event.

Designed in the Neoclassical Style, the County Room in Chelmsford's Shire Hall was a frequent location for balls throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Here, the artist Walter Bayes depicts the sort of event which characterized the location.

Shire Hall is also famous for being the scene of one of the strangest events in Early Twentieth Century Society history. In 1938, a woman departing such a dance was killed when her crinoline caught fire on the steps. Curiously, the Coroner's inquest was unable to find the cause of the fire and under subsequent tests, the same dress failed to ignite. Thankfully, we don’t see that scene depcited here.

Mastery of Design: The Sene and Detalla Snuffbox, 1800

Snuff Box
Sene and Detalla, Geneva
With Original Leather Box
Gold, Diamonds, Enamel
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We’ve looked at a good many snuffboxes over the last year, but this one is exceptionally fine. Here, we see an oval gold snuffbox enameled in translucent blue within taille d'épargne (a popular decorative technique of the Eighteenth Century also known as “sparing cut” in which engraved lines in a metal base are filled in with opaque enamel, without any variation in the depth of the lines) borders .

The cover of the snuffbox is set with glittering diamonds depicting a Chinoiserie pavilion which is trimmed with foliage and flowers within an additional border of diamonds with champlevé (The technique of decoration by enameling in which the design was made by lines or cells cut into the metal base by carving, engraving, etching or stamping and filled with powdered enamel of various colors and then fired to fuse the enamels) foliage between. The base of the box is beautifully engine turned and engraved with a temple beside a lake upon which ships float.

The box comes from Geneva, Switzerland and was probably produced for the Ottoman Empire, where there was a keen market for European-made objects in the Chinoiserie style.

The Art of Play: A Clockwork Bear, 1850-1899

Clockwork Bear
The Victoria & Albert Museum
While the concept of a “Dancing Bear” seems quite cruel to us now, it was a staple of Nineteenth Century carnivals and an idea that was often incorporated into children’s playthings. To begin with, the bear was already a favorite subject of toy makers of the Nineteenth Century both in Europe and in the U.S. Here’s a rabbit skin and clockwork example which not only looks disturbingly realistic, but also dances just like the bears that people would see in traveling shows.

This poor bear stands on its hind legs and balances its weight on a walking stick. A figure of wood and cardboard covered in fur, it contains a clockwork mechanism. The bear has a brown glass eye (the other is missing), red plush jaws and teeth made of bone. Its nose and paws are of carved and painted wood. Upon his mouth, he wears a brass wire muzzle from which hangs an attached chain and ring.

Probably the work of a French toymaker, the toy is operated by a large brass key with a circular handle which is inserted into the right side of the body. When the metal rod on the left side is moved, the figure is animated--alternately rocking from side to side to give the impression of walking and dancing.

It’s attractive and horrible all at the same time, sort of like the very idea of a dancing bear.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 339

Do come in,”’ Adrienne said, rushing over to Agnes Rittenhouse and guiding her to a chair. Cecil began to speak, but a quick glance from Adrienne silenced him. “Tell me what’s troubling you.”

“Lady Barbara has left the house,” Agnes replied breathlessly.

“Which house?” Robert frowned.

“You know very well which house,” Agnes snapped.

“Ah, yes, the bawdy house where she has once again settled.” Robert nodded.

“She’s still an innocent young woman.” Agnes gasped.

“Robert, would you like to continue judging Barbara for her place of residence—a place where I myself once lived—or may we continue?” Adrienne asked.

“I beg your pardon,” Robert whispered.

“No one knows where she’s gone,” Agnes said. “But, I suspect that she’s gotten herself involved with trouble again. Not even Mala can say where she went, and though the woman is hideous, she does seem to know everything that happens in that house.”

“We know where she’s gone.” Robert replied stiffly. “She’s with Marie Laveau, and, you’re correct. She’s in danger.”

“Oh dear!’ Agnes said, putting her hands to her mouth.

“His Grace, the Duke, has gone to fetch her.” Adrienne said comfortingly.

“I suppose I’m to take comfort in that?” Agnes sighed.

“I suggest that you do.” Cecil sneered.

“Please, can’t you two gentlemen go, too?” Agnes asked.

Adrienne looked at her husband and brother-in-law.

“I had already planned on doing so. But, not, I should note, for Barbara’s sake.” Robert nodded. “Unless, of course, my brother wishes to object further.”

“No. I will accompany you.” Cecil answered gravely.

“And you shall wait here with me.” Adrienne said to Agnes.

Cecil raised his eyebrows.

“Do you have a comment, my dear?” Adrienne asked.

“No.” Cecil said as he exited to get dressed.

At that very moment, Mr. Punch was struggling to free himself from the ropes which bound his wrists. The heat from the fire blazed against his back and made him sweat. He looked over at his sister who sat next to him on the ground, slack-jawed, her arms also bound.

“Here, Barbara,” Punch hissed. “If we help each other, we can break free of this and go get Marjani.”

“Charles,” Barbara whispered.

“We can get Charles, too.” Punch nodded. “Only I don’t know where he’s gone to. Last I saw his brother carried him off, he did. But, he’s still here somewhere.”

“Charles,” Barbara repeated.

“Oh, you’re no good to me!” Punch spat.

Mr. Punch looked over his shoulder at the fire where he could barely make out the burning corpses of Arthur and Nellie.

“Well, least there’s some justice, I ‘spose.” Punch sighed. “Funny. Once I thought that I’d killed him me-self. Tossed him in the sea. I ‘spose that was too quiet a death for such a man. Serves him right he’d end up dying from fever and burnin’ in fire. It’s the perfect entrance to Hell, it is. And, that’s where he’ll end up.”

“Charles,” Barbara muttered.

“Coo! What you goin’ on ‘bout? We ain’t forgotten ‘bout Charles! What you doin’ here anyway? Thought you were takin’ a bath at Iolanthe’s. Seems to me this all coulda been avoided, it does. Shoulda listened to me chums and stayed home with the dog and the puppet and the babies what are all nice instead of bein’ here tied up by a fire with the likes of you.”

He looked at Barbara who didn’t respond.

“Ain’t that grand?” Punch grunted. “Here, what’s this all ‘bout anyway? Is it some kind of celebration? I ain’t been to many, but I somehow doubt that guests are regularly tied up at these things.”

Barbara didn’t answer.

“Nothin’, huh?” Punch sighed. “Once again I’m on me own.”

From within the body he shared with Julian, Punch heard a familiar voice—his master’s. “You’re never alone, Mr. Punch.”

“I ‘spose that’s true,” Punch replied without moving his lips. “You got any ideas?”

“I think we need some forceful assistance.” Julian answered wordlessly.

“What do you suggest?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I don’t really know,” Julian said privately. “But, I suspect that Mr. Scaramouche may be of some assistance.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-338? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, September 12, 2011 for Chapter 340 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: The Confessor’s Chapel Prepared for the Coronation

One of the most sacred parts of Westminster Abbey, the chapel containing the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor is situated east of the Sanctuary at the heart of the Abbey. The Confessor’s chapel is obstructed on the west by a stone screen from approximately the Fifteenth Century which bears carved scenes from the Confessor's life.

The current chapel has taken the place of an earlier shrine which was erected in 1163, after the Confessor had been canonized. The shrine that we see today is a ghost of its former grandeur. The “New” chapel built by Henry III originally consisted of three parts: a stone base decorated with Cosmati work, a gold feretory (a reliquary) containing the saint's coffin, and a canopy above it, which could be raised to reveal the feretory or lowered to cover it. The whole of the shrine was decorated with gold images of kings and saints.

During the Reformation the shrine was broken apart and stored by the Abbey monks, and the gold feretory was lost. For its safety, the Confessor's body was interred in another part of the Abbey. However, in the reign of Queen Mary I, the shrine was rebuilt, but without much of its adornment and visual appeal.

For many years the Chair of St. Edward, also known as The Coronation Chair, was stored in the Confessor’s chapel. This practice has long since stopped. However, both the chair and the chapel continue to be major parts of the coronation service as seen in this card which was produced by Churchman’s Cigarettes for the 1935 Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Photograph from the 1902 Coronation

Sir Benjamin Stone, 1902
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In many ways, the Shrine of Edward the Confessor is the heart of Westminster Abbey. King Edward ruled Britain from 1044-1066 and, in the Anglican Church, is considered a saint for what has historically been regarded as his pious nature. Since the Confessor’s shrine is near the altar and is in plain view of important events, it has been historically draped with an embroidered cloth for occasions such as coronations.

Here, we see a photograph by Sir Benjamin Stone taken at the 1902 Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The Confessor’s tomb has been draped, according to tradition, with an elaborately embroidered textile.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Magnificent Emerald and Pearl Necklace, 1620-1640

Gold, Enamel, Emeralds, Pearls
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This enameled gold necklace of scrolling openwork is set with emeralds and hung with pearls. In remarkable good condition, this necklace dates to about 1620-1640 and is the work of an unknown Italian maker.

Though we can’t say exactly who the maker is, we can deduce a few things about this necklace’s origins by the marks that it bears. It bears a French mark for articles from countries with customs conventions from 1864-1893. The mark indicates that the necklace came to France from Italy.

The quality of the gold, the style of the openwork and the make-up of the pearls tells us that this piece was most likely made in Sicily. The necklace clearly didn’t spend long in France. It was donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1910.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Painting of George Cameron as Mr. Punch, 1945

Charles Cameron as Mr. Punch
Albert Houthuesen, 1945
The Victoria & Albert Museum
 Our Mr. Punch has had a deep influence on all of the creative arts for many a century. Not only has he been directly incorporated into a variety of media, his image has been used as inspiration and has been copied to send a host of different messages. In many ways, he’s more than a puppet. An argument can be made that he’s the most famous man in Britain.

Here, we see a full-length portrait of the clown Charles Cameron as Mr. Punch. While most of us don’t know who Charles Cameron is, we do know Punch. So, clearly the celebrity of our wooden-headed friend has far outlived that of those who would mimic him.

Cameron wears a night cap and baggy white trousers which owe more to Mr. Punch’s Italian ancestor, Pulcinella, than they do to Punch himself. It’s the actor’s face, however, which most resembles Punch. Seen in profile, Cameron has been painted with the characteristic Punch-like nose and jutting chin. He holds his hands to his face with palms turned outwards, and one foot and affects a balletic pose with one foot in front of the other.

The painting heralds from the Doncaster Theatre and dates to 1945. It is signed in ink on the reverse, “Houthuesen.”

This painting is the work of Albert Houthuesen who, it seems, enjoyed painting clowns. Charles Cameron was one of several clown portraits that Houthuesen drew while at the Doncaster Theatre in 1945. During this period, Houthuesen and his family were living temporarily in Tickhill, near Doncaster, and had a close affiliation with the theatre. But, what was it exactly that drew the artist to clowns? Houthuesen's biographer reports that for the artist, the clown became a symbol of art and poetry. Houthuesen often portrayed the clown as philosopher and saint.

Albert Houthuesen (1903-1979) was born in Amsterdam. He traveled to London with his mother in 1912 after the death of his father. There, he attended the Royal College of Art and became a teacher and a full-time artist. He often depicted scenes which showed his affection for the theatre, dance and clowns, and he enjoyed a long friendship with The Hermans, a family of Russian Jewish clowns.

Antique Image of the Day: King Edward VII on His Way to Open Parliament, 1901

As I’ve mentioned before, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were keen fanciers of photography. So, their children grew up familiar with the concept of photographs and having been the subject of dozens of photos. By the time King Edward VII ascended the throne, he probably thought nothing of photography since it was already a well-established art form.

Edward VII was the first monarch whose reign was entirely captured by photographers. His mother, Queen Victoria, hadn’t been photographed until she was firmly established in her reign. Because of this, important moments in the Edwardian era are forever preserved.

Procession of King Edward VII Past Westminster Abbey to
Open Parliament
S.J. Beckett, 1902
The Victoria & Albert Museum

For example, here is an image by S.J. Beckett of the state procession which took King Edward VII to open Parliament for the first time—months before his coronation and only shortly after his mother died.

We can see the procession—grand and glorious—as it passes Westminster Abbey en route to the Palace of Westminster. This is a site that’s all too familiar to many a Briton. The path has not changed much in the past one hundred ten years.

Sculpture of the Day: A Staffordshire Figure of Edward VII, 1902

Figure of Edward VII
Staffordshire, 1902
The Victoria & Albert Museum
 I’ve been very drawn to Staffordshire figures lately. We see a lot of them on our weekly antiquing excursions. There’s something about the use of color and the creaminess of them that I find very appealing.

This Staffordshire earthenware figure depicts King Edward VII and was made in 1902 to commemorate his coronation. Obviously, it was made in Staffordshire by an unknown artist. Since it is glazed in lead, it would probably be best not to suck on it. Of course, the V&A wouldn’t let you anyway, but if you have one had home refrain from gnawing on it. Materials and Techniques

It really is quite handsome, isn’t it? Though the proportion is somewhat off, Edward should have been quite flattered by the representation since he hadn’t been that thin since he was the young Prince of Wales.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 338

Marjani was surprised when Iolanthe Evangeline approached her with compassion in her eyes.

“Watch this one, Miss Iolanthe,” A man behind Marjani snarled. “She’s tricky.”

“I’ll make sure she does nothing.” Iolanthe nodded.

Ulrika rushed forward and Marjani took a step back, keenly aware that her path was blocked by several of Marie’s followers.

“Really, I won’t do anything to you,” Ulrika said. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Neither of us will,” Iolanthe whispered.

“Why should I believe you?” Marjani asked, staring daggers at the two women whose faces were both queerly illuminated by the light of the fire in the distance.

“Because we’re in the same position.” Ulrika answered flatly.

“How you figure?” Marjani tilted her head to one side.

“Aren’t we also being guarded here?” Ulrika shrugged. “Marie made sure we couldn’t interfere.”

“Why’d you want to interfere? Ain’t you both under her spell?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Ulrika laughed.

“Listen to me,” Iolanthe said. “I understand why you feel that way. Now, I don’t want you thinkin’ I don’t. Marie’s gone mad, I think. We tried to stop her from usin’ that man—Charles, and from torturin’ Barbara Allen.”

“We did. And, believe me, really, I’m not even remotely fond of Barbara. However, at a point, enough is enough. As much as I want Barbara to be gone—and I have my own reasons for that—I don’t want to see her tortured. Even I wouldn’t enjoy that.”

“We are sincere, Marjani.” Iolanthe added. “We may have had our quarrels, but, but in this, we are united. Your master is out there right now, yes?”

“His Grace is not my master. He is my friend. And, yes, he is out there now.”

“No doubt trying to get his servant and his sister away from Marie.” Iolanthe asked.

“Well, what do you think?” Marjani grunted.

“Now, I hate that man. If I said otherwise, you’d know I was lyin’.” Iolanthe sighed.

“True.” Marjani nodded.

“I loathe him.” Ulrika smiled. “I really do.”

“But, we’re willin’ to help you and he get out of here.” Iolanthe said.

“Why?” Marjani asked.

“Well, as much as I’d enjoy watching the Duke get what he was due from Marie, we both realize that if Marie uses him for her particular purposes, it will only increase her power. And none of us want that.” Ulrika smiled.

“We sure don’t” Iolanthe agreed.

“Between the three of us, we can, at least, get the Duke, Barbara and Charles out of here.” Ulrika snorted. “I know that Giovanni wouldn’t let anything happen to his brother. He’s playing along, certainly. But, he’ll protect his kin. And, I know he’ll protect me. He’ll help us.”

“Will he?” Marjani shrugged.

“Will you join us?” Iolanthe asked.

Marjani was silent.

Meanwhile, at the house on Royal Street, Robert very sharply shouted at Agnes Rittenhouse entered the parlor. “You’re not welcome in this house!”

“Please, I need to his His Grace.” Agnes begged.

“He’s not here.” Adrienne said, pulling her dressing gown tighter around herself.

“It’s terribly important.” Agnes moaned. “I know that His Grace is not well. We all know this. This very night, he struck me with an umbrella.”

“Did he?” Cecil smiled.

“He did.” Agnes nodded seriously. “But, I’m still loyal. Loyal to Lady Barbara at least. I fear she’s in danger.”

“We are aware of that.” Cecil responded.

“So, you know something?” Agnes asked.

“Nothing we wish to discuss with you.” Robert interrupted.

“Please,” Agnes pleaded, tears rising in her eyes. “Put aside your contempt for me so that we may help an innocent girl.”

“Innocent?” Robert spat.

“Please!” Agnes groaned.

Did you miss Chapters 1-337? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Coronation Ceremony: The Anointing

A major part of the coronation ceremony is the anointing of the new regent. He or she sits on the chair of St. Edward for this moment when they are anointed as Sovereign and Head of the Church of England.

When I fist looked at this card, I thought, “well that’s certainly not George V. That’s Edward VII.” Since this series of cards in honor of the Silver Jubilee of George V and Mary very neatly show scenes from previous coronations, it makes sense that they would wish to show the anointing of George’s father, the former Prince of Wales and least favorite child of Queen Victoria.

So, then, of course, I had to go in search of proof that I was correct that this was Edward VII. And, look—here’s some. This photo (from the public domain) shows this particular moment as it happened.


And, what’s more. Here’s some very rare film footage of the procession to the Abbey for the coronation itself. Enjoy!

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Invitation to the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra

Invitation to the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Yesterday, we looked at a rare surviving example of an invitation to the 1821 coronation of King George IV. Those are rather difficult to come by. After all, the King didn’t even invite his wife to the coronation.

Today, we’ll skip ahead to 1902 and have a look at an invitation to the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Given the fact that it was more recent, a few more of these invitation survive, but they’re still incredible rare. An invitation to a coronation was not sent to just anyone. Of course, Edward invited his wife since it was her coronation, too. And, although he was just as much of a cad as his great-uncle, George IV, Edward VII was, at least, much nicer to his wife, the former Alexandra of Denmark, while he was cheating on her.

Edward VII was not quite sixty years old when he ascended the throne. He was Prince of Wales forever since his mother, Queen Victoria, reigned from 1837 to 1901. By the time Edward took the throne, he was already quite set in his ways and there was no hope he’d begin to walk the straight and narrow. He reigned nine years and was succeeded by his second son, who became King George V.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Merry Wives of Bertie

“You’re in my light.”

Click Image Above to Enlarge

Image: Slender and Anne Page, Sir Augustus Wall Callcott, based on Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1800-1844, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: A Gold, Jade and Ruby Necklace, 1825

Gold, Jade, Rubies, Chrysoprase
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made just four years after the coronation of King George IV, this necklace of gold filigree with cannetille (fine gold work of thin or flattened wires in rosette patterns) and grainti (spirals and volutes of gold wire) decoration, is set with jade, chrysoprases and rubies and shows emerging resurgence of Gothic style which dominated the era for awhile.

The work of an unknown artist, this necklace most likely comes from France. It is curious to note that the earrings were not made at the same time as the necklace and, in fact, were not purposely made to match. These were purchased at a much later date and just coincidentally matched the necklace.

Sculpture of the Day: A Porcelain Figure of William Shakespeare, 1765

William Shakespeare
Derby Porcelain
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When I first saw this Derby porcelain figure from about 1765 in the collection of the V&A, I didn’t immediately recognize it as William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The modern idea of Shakespeare’s countenance has developed over time and is based on hundreds of different representations of the celebrated writer. What he exactly looked like, we’ll never really know. This is but one interpretation of Shakespeare—rendered almost one hundred sixty years after his death.

This figurine of “The Bard” is based on the life-size white marble statue by Peter Scheemakers in the monument designed by William Kent, erected in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. The monument was erected in 1740, 124 years after Shakespeare's death. It was sponsored by the Earl of Burlington, Dr Mead, Alexander Pope and one Mr. Martin. It’s important to note that William Shakespeare is not buried in Poet’s Corner in the Abbey, but is, rather, buried in Stratford upon Avon though many suggested that his remains should be moved from Stratford to Westminster Abbey. That idea was abandoned after awhile and the monument remains just that—a monument and not a tomb.

We see Shakespeare depicted as pointing to a scroll which is inscribed with Prospero's Act IV lines from The Tempest:

The Cloud capt Tow’rs, The Gorgeous Palaces, The Solemn Temples,
The Great Globe itself, Yea all which it Inherit, Shall Dissolve;
And like the baseless Fabrick of a Vision, Leave not a wrack behind.

The scroll rests on a pedestal which is adorned with the carved heads of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry V and Richard III.

This handsome figure is the work of the Derby factory which produced three versions of the figurine in the late 1750s to mid-1760s. It was often sold as a pair with a figure of John Milton.

Painting of the Day: The Coronation of King George IV at Westminster Abbey, 1821

Coronation of King George IV
A.C. Pugin, 1821
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The opulent coronation of King George IV took place on July 19, 1821 and was concluded by a lavish banquet at Westminster Hall. George IV took great pains in making sure that the celebration was a fitting tribute to his tastes and what he considered to be his tremendous importance. No one can be sure what George IV was thinking when he approved the huge expense of the coronation. Perhaps he wasn’t thinking at all. Perhaps he only considered the satiation of his own wants. Or, maybe—possibly—he hoped that allowing the people of Britain to see such a spectacle in his honor might convince them to raise their opinions of him. It didn’t. Throughout his reign, he was largely loathed and vilified with good reason.

Here, we see a watercolor painting of the coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1821. The painting by Augustus Charles Pugin (relative of A.W.N. Pugin—one of the designers of the Palace of Westminster—and member of the famed Pugin family) serves not only to record the coronation, but also as a topographical drawing of the Abbey as it was in 1821. This view of the event depicts the moment when Archbishop of Canterbury placed the Crown on the King's head, and is seen from the vantage point of looking down the choir and nave of the Abbey.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 337

What is all of the commotion?” Adrienne asked as she came downstairs in her dressing gown.

“Ask your husband,” Robert spat.

“I knew you would blame me,” Cecil growled. “It’s easier than examining your own role in all of this. If you had simply taken the time to understand what I was saying to you, Punch wouldn’t have crept out!”

“Keep your voices down!” Adrienne whispered fiercely. “There are three children in this house who are trying to sleep and I don’t think either one of you is prepared to soothe them when they awake in tears at the confusion the two of you are creating.”

“My apologies, Adrienne,” Robert replied softly.

“Now, will you kindly explain to me what’s happened?” Adrienne asked, leading her husband and her brother-in-law into the parlor.

Robert explained the message from Marie Laveau and the news from Gerard that Charles was in trouble at the Place Congo.

“And Mr. Punch and Robert thought it was best to risk our chances of escape in order to help these people.” Cecil concluded.

“They were correct.” Adrienne nodded.

“Adrienne, you surprise me.” Cecil snapped.

“And, you surprise me, husband.” Adrienne replied sternly. “I would have thought you to be more compassionate.”

“I am compassionate,” Cecil sniffed. “But, not at the exclusion of my family’s safety.”

“The people who work for us are part of our family.” Adrienne sighed. “They are our responsibility. They live in our homes, they handle our belongings. In many ways, they are closer to us than anyone else. Should we reward their loyalty by leaving them to the wolves?”

“How has Charles been loyal to us?” Cecil argued.

“Did he not return Punch’s nephew to us?” Adrienne raised her eyebrows. “When we needed him, did he not help us to try to defeat Iolanthe and the others? What is his crime? His loyalty to Barbara? What’s wrong with that? Though we may not think she deserves his love, he feels differently. Are we to tell him who to love? Are we? What if someone had told you not to love me? I’m not so different from Barbara!”

“You never hurt people. You never endangered the life of your child! You never aligned yourself with the Devil!” Cecil retorted.

“Still, our marriage was hardly one that would have been condoned by polite society. A celebrated artist and a cast-off, fallen French girl from a brothel!”

“I will not hear such talk from you.” Cecil snorted.

“Why not? It’s true.” Adrienne replied. “And, truly, would you object to the union of Barbara and Charles if you didn’t think him superior to her? For that, you must hold him in some regard. So, why not help him?”

“Because the well-being of my family is at stake!” Cecil shouted.

“Quiet,” Adrienne urged her husband. “It’s a moot point anyway as Punch has already taken it upon himself to be of assistance, and rightly so. So, now he’s gone to that wild place where he’s in God knows what kind of danger. Meanwhile, you two are here arguing about the appropriate ways of helping while he and Marjani are fending for themselves. Is that the way to protect your family? Isn’t Punch part of the family?”

“Of course he is. He’s like my brother,” Cecil sighed. “We’ve done all of this for him.”

“I’d be lost without him.” Robert said quietly, looking away. “Both he and Julian.”

“And what of Marjani?” Adrienne asked.

“Of course!” Robert nodded.

Cecil did not answer.

“How many times has Marjani come to our rescue?” Adrienne questioned her husband.

“I don’t deny that she’s important to all of us.” Cecil sighed.

“And, so, you’d leave her in peril?”

“Certainly not!” Cecil snapped.

“Well, then, put your pride aside and stop your sibling argument so that you may go to their aid. And, not just the two of them, but Charles, too. And, Barbara if need be. Mon Dieu! Even Ulrika Rittenhouse deserves our aid in this matter. In this, we are all equal. Our past arguments can be put aside.” Adrienne continued.

“I’ll dress quickly,” Cecil rose from his chair. He looked at his brother. “I am terribly sorry.”

“As am I.” Robert nodded.

As Cecil went to the parlor door, he was interrupted by Meridian.

“Has Mr. Punch returned?” Robert asked eagerly.

“No, Sir.” Meridian shook her head sadly.

“What is it, then?” Cecil asked briskly.

“You have a visitor.” Meridian replied. “Agnes Rittenhouse.”

“Julian’s former nanny?” Cecil snorted. “Destitute cousin of Ulrika and her kin?”

“And, Barbara’s present maid.” Robert added.

“Yes, Sir.” Meridian nodded.

“Whatever does she want?” Cecil asked.

“She says she wants His Grace.” Meridian responded.

Did you miss Chapters 1-336? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: Westminster Abbey Presbytery Prepared for the Coronation

As we continue with the series of 1935 Silver Jubilee Cards from Churchman Cigarettes we return to Westminster Abbey, the seat of Royal Coronations. Here, we see the Presbytery at Westminster Abbey prepared for the Coronation. I’m not quite sure WHICH coronation this image refers to, but I’m assuming it’s the scene of the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary since this set of cards is dedicated to them.

A Presbytery, architecturally, refers to the portion of the choir of a church in which the high altar is placed. This is usually raised by a few steps above the rest of the church and is reserved for the priests or clergy as opposed to the laity who occupy the choir. In Westminster Abbey the space east of the transept is the presbytery and this is the area used by the Archbishop of Canterbury to prepare for the Coronation.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Admission Ticket for the Coronation of King George IV, 1821

Admission Ticket to the Coronation of King George IV
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We’re running a little slow today. For some reason, our Internet connection has been sporadic. So, let’s take a look back to a time when Internet connections weren’t sporadic because they didn’t exist. Let’s go to 1821

What was happening in 1821? Well, the eldest son of mad King George III was about to ascend the throne as King George IV, formerly the Prince Regent. George IV was not a popular King. Most people thought he was a debaucher and was far too quick to spend the empire’s money. Both of these assertions were true. His brother, William IV was a little bit better. And, certainly, his niece, Queen Victoria was a lot better.

Still, upon his coronation in 1821, the public was hopeful that George IV might mend his lavish ways when he ascended the throne. He didn’t. In fact, his coronation was one of the most expensive and ridiculous in history. Of course, the event took place at Westminster Abbey with a very posh banquet to follow at Westminster Hall—the last of its kind to be held there.

This invitation card was for the ceremony in the Abbey itself. The entrance to the Abbey was carefully guarded. It was so guarded, in fact, that admission was refused to Queen Caroline—the King’s “Consort.” You see, the new King and his wife had been separated for many, many years. They had separated after the birth of their daughter, the ill-fated Princess Charlotte (named for the Prince Regent's mama). And, there was certainly no love lost. The soldiers at the entrance refused to allow Caroline to enter. She had definitely not been invited, and did not have a ticket. Much drama ensued.

Most of the blocks used for printing this card were also employed to print the invitation to the banquet in Westminster Hall afterwards, however, on that card, a different stamped border pattern and slightly differing lettering were used.

You’ll notice that the border of the invitation was stamped with the name, “Dobbs.” This was H. Dobbs whose firm (founded in 1803) developed the use of decorative blind stamping for decorating invitation cards.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Philippe Wolfers Hair Ornament, 1905-1907

Hair Ornament
Philippe Wolfers
Belgium 1905-1907
Gold, Diamonds, Enamel
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The four petals of this orchid of gold, plique-a-jour enamel, diamonds and rubies radiate from the large central diamond, catching the light both from the front and from behind and offering a mesmerizing, exotic shine and sparkle.

The work of Beglian jeweler Philippe Wolfers, this hair ornament was created between 1905 and 1907 in the extremely technically difficult art of plique-à-jour (French, "letting in daylight"). This is a a technique of vitreous enameling in which the enamel is applied in cells. In this respect, it is similar to cloisonné. However, the similarity ends there. Where the cells of enamel in cloisonné enamel are backed in metal, in plique-à-jour, the backing is removed once the work is finished. In a similar concept to stained glass, this allows light to pass through the transparent or translucent enamel. This technique is difficult to master and is only successfully seen in a few surviving pieces.

Philippe Wolfers was one of the few to truly conquer the technique. He was the most prestigious of the Art Nouveau jewelers working in Brussels. He shared stylistic tendencies with his French counterpart René Lalique. Both men were heavily influenced by the nature and both often incorporated orchids into their designs. You see, orchids symbolized the Art Nouveau movement and served as a visual means of communicating the movement’s fascination with nature and sensuality.

Unusual Artifacts: An Eighteenth Century Brass Shoe Horn

Shoe Horn
Brass, Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’d have been quite thrilled to find this shoe horn in a box of shoes or with the sewing kit in a hotel room instead of the faux-shell brown things that one gets today. Do people even use shoe horns anymore? Do young people know what shoe horns are or do they just fasten the Velcro on their light-up/rollerblade sneakers and roll away?

This is a sturdy shoe horn! For those who don’t know, a shoe horn is used to ease a person’s feet into shoes. They are named as such because shoe horns were originally made from animal horn. Not this one. This one is brass. Sturdy brass.

We can’t be certain who made this since there’s no manufacturer's mark, but an educated guess leads us to believe that it is likely from Birmingham since we know that locksmiths, button and buckle makers there were using brass before the end of the 17th century. In fact, the first brass foundry was established in Birmingham around 1690 and the town was on its way to being the center of brass manufacturing in England—a position it maintained for quite a long time.

Mastery of Design: A Pair of Diamond Shoe Buckles, 1750

Shoe Buckles
Diamonds, Sapphires, Silver, Gold, Steel
The Victoria & Albert Museum
If you’re going to have ornate, colorful shoes, you might as well go the extra mile and hang some diamonds on them. In this instance, we have a pair of diamond shoe buckles from 1750. These would have been worn on shoes which were shaped something like those pictured below—only without the ribbons. These buckles feature brilliant-cut diamonds and sapphires, set in silver and gold with steel prongs.

Shoe buckles were worn by both men and women during the Eighteenth Century and while msot people wore simple buckles, some were elaborately decorated. Very often, buckles were set with paste or glass stones since, let’s face it, shoes really get quite dirty. But, those who had money to spare and didn’t care if their diamonds got muddy would wear the real thing. Few examples of shoe buckles set with precious stones have survived. To begin with, there weren’t that many to begin with. And, secondly, most of those were broken apart later to make other pieces of jewelry after the shoe buckle fell out of fashion.

This particular pair of buckles was formerly part of the Russian Crown Jewels. See, if you’re a tsar, you can wear diamonds on your feet. They were sold by the Bolshevik government after the Russian Revolution in 1917. Dame Joan Evans owned them for awhile and donated them to the V&A in 1961.

History’s Runway: A Pair of Silk Brocade Shoes, 1720-1730

One of a Pair of Shoes
Silk Brocade, Leather
Great Britain
The Victoria & Albert Museum
These shoes obviously weren’t made for comfort. But, they certainly were made for style. So, obviously, not a lot has changed in almost three hundred years. At least for women. Made in England between 1720 and 1730, the shoes are a creation of green, cream and red silk brocade with short “latchets” for a lace of ribbons over a long tongue. Green silk ribbon seals all the edges and seams. They sport red “Louis heels” and leather soles.

I can’t quite decide if these are men’s or women’s shoes and the supporting literature from the V&A doesn’t specify for which gender these were made. I think to quickly deem them women’s shoes would be to do them a disservice. First of all, men’s shoes (in the aristocracy) in Britain in the Eighteenth Century weren’t the boxy loafers of brown and black which have become the stuff of men’s footwear in the last century. Men’s fashions allowed for color, rich materials, gems and ribbons and I could see a gent wearing such shoes with his legs sheathed in hose. That’s not necessarily a pretty picture. It depends on the man you picture, I suppose. Monty Clift would look better in them than say, Burl Ives. But, that goes for just about anything. I digress.

I’m going to state that I think they’re men’s shoes. Any shoe historians out there, feel free to correct me.

They are quite nice looking. Here is one thing, however, that I’m glad has changed. While women suffer through terrible ordeals for foot fashion, men don’t have to. I don’t think I’d last long in shoes like this. I can barely keep my balance in Doc Martens. So, while I appreciate the look of them, I’ll say that boxy loafers are a practical improvement. That and hot running water. I like that, too.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 336

I’m gonna push you in the fire. I’m gonna push you in the fire. I’m gonna push you in the fire,” Punch thought repeatedly as he walked steadily into the crowd at the Place Congo. He approached Marie Laveau who stood triumphantly in front of the bonfire.

“I’m gonna push you in the fire. I’m gonna push you in the fire.” Punch continued to run the thought through his mind. He had no intention, of course, of pushing Marie into the fire though he didn’t think it was such a bad idea, really. He hoped--if Marjani’s assertion was correct—that his thoughts of a threat would distract Marie from learning why he’d really come to that frightening, wriggling circle.

“Look,” Marie exclaimed eagerly with a great amount of glee. “The Duke of Fallbridge has come to throw me in the fire.”

Punch smiled as a throng of dark-skinned men, some holding snakes, came toward him.

“Who was correct?” Marie grinned as Mr. Punch grew closer.

He tried to mask his frustration as he realized that Marie had recognized his thought that Marjani had been correct about Marie’s ability to read minds. Mr. Punch quickly filled his mind again with ideas he hoped would distract Marie from what was about to happen behind him.

“So, you’ve come?” Marie laughed. “I don’t suppose you’re gonna offer your congratulations?”

“What for?” Punch narrowed his eyes.

“For the birth of my son!” Marie howled.

“Ain’t been born yet. No reason to congratulate you.” Mr. Punch responded slowly as he continued his chant from within. “Here, tell your men to back away.”

“Boys!” Marie clapped her hands.

The men stepped backward.

“He can’t do nothin’ to me. As much as he wants to.” Marie smirked.

“Come talk to me, Marie.” Mr. Punch said firmly.

“Why?” Marie grinned. “So you can trick me and push me into the flames?”

“No.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “We have much to discuss.”

“Such as how you think you can fool me while your servant, Marjani, frees Charles and Barbara Allen?”

Punch frowned.

“Bring her to me!” Marie demanded.

Within seconds, two men with feathered masks escorted Marjani toward the bonfire.

“Let her go!” Punch shouted.

Marjani shook her head.

“Now, why’d I want to go and do that?” Marie chortled.

Punch tried to charge toward Marjani, but he was stopped by some of the snake handlers.

“I’m sorry, Marjani,” Punch called out to his friend.

Marjani nodded.

“You wanted to talk with me?” Marie snarled. “Do you still?”

“I just want you to let them folk what are innocent go. This ain’t got nothin’ to do with Marjani or Barbara or Charles or even Iolanthe or Ulrika.”

“Ever the hero, aren’t you?” Marie sniffed. “I’m glad you mentioned Iolanthe and the red-headed girl. Boys, bring the Duke’s servant to Iolanthe. She’ll know what to do with this Marjani.”

“Don’t take her anywhere!” Punch screamed.

“You have no authority here.” Marie said. “You’re in my kingdom now. And, here, I’m the Queen. If you cherish your life and the life of your friends, you’d best bow before me.”

“Never.” Mr. Punch spat.

“You’ll regret that.” Marie sighed. “As you’ll soon see.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-335? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Scene of the Coronation at Westminster Abbey

The Churchman’s Cigarette Card series for the 1935 Silver Jubilee differs from the others sets that I have in that it chronicles the history of British coronations in general as opposed to simply focusing on King George V and Queen Mary. Here, we see the scene of the coronation—Westminster Abbey.

The Abbey has been the seat of the coronations since 1066 with the accessions of King Harold and William the Conqueror. One exception to this was Henry III who was unable to get to the Abbey since London had been seized by the French prince Louis. Henry III was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral first, and, later, finally had a coronation at the Abbey in 1220 after the ceremony at Gloucester was deemed by the Pope to be improper. Typically coronations are administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir Handkerchief from the Silver Jubilee of King George V

Regular readers of Stalking the Belle Époque already know of my immense fondness for Royal Souvenirs. And, there are many of them around here. You all also know of my tremendous respect for Mary of Teck and King George V. So, of course, I just love this new addition to my collection.

This beautiful and colorful handkerchief commemorates the 1935 Silver Jubilee of King George V and his consort, Queen Mary. It is gorgeously decorated with scenes of the Royal Residences, Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster as well as the corners of the British Empire (at the time). George V and Mary are center stage in handsome oval portraits.

This handkerchief is now preserved in a lovely frame made by my father. And, now, here are a lot of pictures…