Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Sapphire Cloak Clasp, 1914

Cloak Clasp
Henry Wilson, 1914
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A beautiful combination of gold with cloisonné enamel, cabachon sapphires, emeralds, pearls and seed pearls, this cloak clasp is by Henry Wilson whose jewelry is celebrated for its rich color combinations in stones and enamel, and applauded for its sculptural qualities.

Wilson’s work is considered the apex of Arts and Crafts design. Like C.R. Ashbee, Wilson originally trained as an architect, but became interested in metals and precious stones in the early 1890s. After learning his craft, he went on to teach at the Royal College of Art where he published a practical manual called, “Silverwork and Jewellery” in 1903.

Like many Arts and Crafts designers, Wilson was influenced by nature. This is evidenced in the leaf motif of the clasp.

The Art of Play: Queen Anne and her Children Doll Group, 1835-1850

Queen Anne and her Children
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Since the Eighteenth Century, wealthy families—especially the English—had a distinct love of enlcosing decorative artifacts in glass-fronted frames and boxes. This paractice reached the height of fashion in the 1850s.

Aside from souvenirs, artifacts, religious relics, personal items and memorials, these cases often held delicate playthings such as this group of dolls which is housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The name of this group of dolls is “Queen Anne and her Children” which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and has long been considered rather mysterious.

As the curators of the V&A put it, “Queen Anne (reigned 1702-1714) had such a tragic experience of motherhood.” The group of dolls shows three adult females in addition to the queen. Even if the three additional figures are ladies in waiting, or the governesses of the Queen’s young children, at no point did Queen Anne have children who survived to the ages represented here.

Queen Anne married Prince George of Denmark in 1683 and had at least thirteen miscarriages or stillbirths. Five surviving children each died young - Mary and Anne under the age of two, and George and a second Mary a few hours after birth. The longest surviving of her children, William, died of smallpox in 1700, at the age of eleven.

Another mystery is the figure of the queen herself. The doll is fair-haired whereas Queen Anne was dark. Similarly, the costumes are from 1835-50, rather than 1684-1700 when the Queen was at her height. While this may be artistic license such as that of painters like Charles Robert Leslie, the queer costumes are hard to overlook. And so, the group does not match its historical counterparts at all. Why it is so named, no one knows. Yet, the name has stuck for almost two hundred years.

The group of dolls—eight in all—rests in its original fronted wooden box which is covered with white and gold-colored paper and lined with red and gold paper. The whole is trimmed with gold tinsel and imitation pearl ornaments. The dolls have cotton bodies and limbs, and leather hands with separate fingers and thumbs. Their costumes are of silk trimmed with lace, artificial flowers, pearl beads, metallic lace, gold foil and mother-of-pearl.

Two panels of red velvet, edged with mock ermine adorn the Queen who wears a crown of metallic lace decorated with beads and gold foil and holds an orb and sceptre.

Saturday Sparkle: Seal and Case, 1580

Seal and Case
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This beauitful engraved sapphire seal mounted in enamelled gold dates to about 1580 and was most likely the seal of Sir Thomas Knyvett (1539-1618). Kynvett was the grandson of Sir Thomas Knyvett, Master of the Horse to Henry VIII. Sir Thomas the younger was knighted 1579/80 and was created the High Sheriff of Norfolk. Sir Thomas later married Muriel, the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, Treasurer of the Household to Queen Elizabeth.

While such a household was not considered Royal or even aristocratic, such close association with the monarch ensured that the family would want for nothing. Their position is evident in the quality of this seal with its enamelled gold case. An object such as this one would, most likely, have been a gift from the Royal Family—given for loyalty.

Painting of the Day: Queen Katherine and Patience, 1842

Queen Katherine and Patience
Robert Charles Leslie
The popularity of historically-themed paintings began to wane during the Nineteenth Century and was soon replaced by an increase in commissions for oil paintings based on scenes from popular literature. Very often, history and literature overlapped. Here’s one such instance.

Charles Robert Leslie was one of the most prolific painters of the Victorian era and was a favorite of Queen Victoria herself. In this canvas from 1842, Leslie depicts Act III, Scene 1 from Henry VIII by William Shakespeare which was obviously based on the portly regent’s life. The painting shows Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon (Shakespeare's “Queen Katharine”), as she bemoans Henry’s growing estrangement. When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1842, Leslie included a quotation from the play.

Leslie’s representation of Queen Katherine was not strictly archaeological. In fact, as he did with most of his paintings, he combined the visual aspects and costumes of several periods. The depiction of Queen Katherine owes more to 1842’s fashions than it does the style of her own time, but her sense of distress is not hampered by her anachronistic costume.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 328

Marie Laveau opened her arms as Ulrika and Giovanni joined the undulating crowd at the Place Congo.

Ulrika couldn’t help but squeal with uncomfortable delight as Marie embraced her.

“You came,” Marie cooed.

“Your invitation was too, too deliciously intriguing.” Ulrika said stepping backward.

Marie reached for Giovanni’s hand and placed it over her abdomen. “Feel that?”

Giovanni nodded.

“That’s life inside of me.”

“I see,” Giovanni smiled weakly, pulling his hand away.

“I must say,” Ulrika said, looking toward Iolanthe who stood behind Marie. “that I was surprised to receive your invitation. I was under the impression that you detested me, Marie. Iolanthe, did you encourage Marie to ask me to join this celebration?”

“No. I detest you myself.” Iolanthe smiled. “Mostly.”

“I done it on my own, Girl.” Marie laughed.

“Why?” Ulrika asked.

“Come,” Marie said, grabbing Ulrika by the hand and dragging her toward the bonfire.

Giovanni smiled and Iolanthe and the two followed Ulrika and Marie.

“This is all quite odd.” Giovanni whispered as they walked.

“New Orleans,” Iolanthe chuckled. “Is an odd city.”

“I’m learning that.” Giovanni nodded.

Ulrika gasped as she reached the fire. Her eyes first settled on Nellie’s corpse.

“You knew this girl?” Marie asked.

“I did. Not well, but I did.” Ulrika muttered.

“But, you knew him well. Didn’t you?” Marie asked, pointing to Arthur’s body.

Ulrika stiffened upon seeing Arthur.

“You loved him?” Marie laughed.

“I don’t know.” Ulrika said.

“I know.” Marie winked. “In your way, you loved him.”

“I loved part of him,” Ulrika replied slowly.

“Then, you’ll do.” Marie answered firmly.

“For what?” Ulrika asked cautiously.

“To help me with the last stage. You—you and Iolanthe and my daughter—will help ensure that my child is imbued with the power of these three lost souls.”

“How?” Iolanthe asked.

“You’ll soon see.” Marie growled. “But, first, we need one more thing.”

“He’s comin’, Mama.” Young Marie shouted from behind her mother.

Marie turned to watch as a gray-haired black man carried the limp body of Charles toward the fire.

“That’s my brother,” Giovanni gasped.

“Yes.” Marie chuckled. “All the better that you’re here, Sir. You will be the greatest help of all.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-327? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, August 29, 2011 for Chapter 329 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: King Henry VIII Making Obeisance Before the Altar

Oh, Henry VIII. He was a lot of trouble. A man with appetites as large as his belly, he went through women as often as he went through chickens. And, he ate a lot of chickens. Nonetheless, we remember him and he did father several powerful historical figures including Mary I, Elizabeth I and Edward VI.
Still, his historical importance notwithstanding, I’m not quite sure why his image is included in a set of cigarette cards devoted to the 1935 Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. They weren’t even the same strain of the Royal Family of Britain.

I suppose these incongruous images owe more to the desire of Churchman’s Cigarette Company to show the historical progression of Royal Coronations and Jubilees through the ages. Here, we see King Henry VIII—looking rather thin—making obeisance before the altar.

Each of these steps, both the glorious and the misguided, were step closer to our current place in world history—not just the history of Britain or the U.S., but the world as a whole.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Hat Badge with St. George and the Dragon, 1520

Hat Badge
English, 1520
The Royal Collection
St. George has long been emblematic of Britain and his figure has graced many an important work of art from jewelry to painting. Here, we have a high-relief figure of St. George on horseback as he slays that eternally troublesome the dragon. St. George, as he usually does, holds aloft a sword with a seed-pearl handle. The saint’s armor is adorned with a pattern of crimped gold ribbons. The same pattern is repeated on the translucent red enamel of the horse's caparison. The background shows a walled town in opaque white and blue enamel. George is not the only figure in the scene. To his right is a Princess, kneeling in prayer. The whole of the scene is mounted in a raised frame with scale-like ornament in black enamel and gold and is meant to be worn as a hat badge.

The reverse of this badge which dates to 1520 features an arabesque-style ornament of the same crimped gold ribbons which are inset with stylized gold rosettes on a translucent green enamel.

This is part of a suite of small gold and enamel reliefs (émail en ronde bosse), made by the same workshop. The exact identity of the workshop is uncertain and theories about its location range from Spain and southern Germany to the Danube region.

The oddest thing about this hat badge is the unusual representation of St. George. In usual iconography, St George is represented as a young beardless knight with helmet. However, here St. George is shown with a full beard and curly hair.

How the badge came to be entered in the Royal Collection is unknown, however, it is exactly the type of jewel that shop-a-holic King George IV liked to purchase. It’s thought to have been acquired from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell (the Royal goldsmiths from 1797 to 1840). When one looks back at the historic log of inventories of the Collection, one can see an entry that states the existence of a “curious ancient enamelled Badge of the Garter, in glass case” listed in an inventory of jewels at Windsor Castle in 1830. Most likely, that refers to this particular jewel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Scrap from a Theatre Program, Nineteenth Century

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This card scrap depicting Mr. Punch in a fit-up (booth) is all that remains from a Nineteenth Century theatre program which is part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection at the V&A.

Victorian people very often cut up printed materials to put them in scrapbooks or use them as part of a decoupage project. For this reason, complete printed objects from the era are hard to come by, but we can learn a lot from these surviving scraps.

Friday Fun: Punch and Judy Pantomime Weirdness

Is that the way to do it?
This is odd. I’m not quite sure what the heck is going on here. But, it’s clearly a non-puppet Punch & Judy panto performed by the Big Fish Theatre Trust at the Rochester Dickens Festival.

Enjoy the weirdness.

Painting of the Day: Queen Victoria’s Coronation 1838

The Coronation of Queen Victoria
Sir George Hayter, 1838
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria—at the time of her accession in 1837, formed long-lasting relationships with a variety of artists and jewelers who enjoyed her patronage and support. Sir George Hayter had been appointed as Queen Victoria’s “Painter of History and Portrait,” in 1837, but had impressed Her Majesty seberal years before. Later, Sir Hayter succeeded Sir David Wilkie as “Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen” in 1841.

The relationship between the painter and his patron would not sour, but Victoria, after 1842 never commissioned another portrait from Hayter. She quickly began to prefer the personalities and styles of Sir Edwin Landseer and Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

However, in 1938, Victoria commissioned her official State Portrait, from Hayter who painted the nineteen year-old Queen as she looked at her Coronation in Westminster Abbey on June 28 of that year. Victoria is shown seated in her Homage Chair, wearing the Coronation Robes and the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross. Originally, Hayter’s background for the painting showed Westminster Abbey, but the Queen did not care for the coldness of the setting and asked him to change it to an unspecific regal setting.

The Baroque and almost religious feeling of the painting belies the reality of the day which did not go smoothly at all. The coronation had been badly planned aside from a dish of sandwiches which had been placed behind the altar—the only sustenance available during the long ceremony. Everything else was as complicated as possible. Yet, the Queen suffered it without a beat. Even as the orb and scepter grew too heavy in her hands, she didn’t bat an eye, and did not express her extreme disgust when other parts of the ceremony went wrong. For instance, the Coronation Ring, which had been made to fit her little finger, was forced on to her fourth finger by the Archbishop, causing the finger to swell and bleed. Later, the hurting Queen was forced to soak her hand in iced water after the ceremony before she could remove the ring. Despite the myriad complications, the Queen described the day as ‘the proudest of my life’.

The Art of Play: The Old Pretender Doll, 1680

The Old Pretender Doll, 1680
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in 1680, this doll of gessoed and painted wood, leather, and satin trimmed with metallic lace and fringe is known as “The Old Pretender” and is one of the oldest dolls in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The doll was carved from wood which was then covered with gesso (a mixture of plaster and glue) before being elbaborately painted. The doll is fashionably dressed in the style of the time of its creation. It wears a wig made of human hair and has been adorned with “beauty spots” which have been painted on the face. Such beauty spots or “patches” were worn over blemishes and scars from pox during this period and were considered by some to be fashionable, and, by others, to be quite vulgar.

This delicate plaything is associated with the court of King James VII of Scotland who was also known as King James II of England and Wales and was kept at the palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The doll is throught to have later been given to a family of loyal supporters by James II's son James Edward (acknowledged James VII in Scotland but not James III in England and Wales who was subsequently known as “The Old Pretender”). Hence the doll’s name—an homage to the giver of this unusual gift.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 327

Charles felt the heavy cold of the wet pavement seep into his coat before he opened his eyes. He knew that he had been wounded. His stomach burned and a drowsy warmth spread across his stomach in stark contrast to the chill he felt beneath him.

He moaned, “Barbara.”

His vision was blurred by pain as he studied his dark surroundings. Wooden crates were piled up around him and he heard the sharp skittering of rats close to his head.

“Barbara,” he repeated.

Yet, the only answer was the chirping of vermin.

“God help me,” he croaked.

Meanwhile, Marjani opened the front door of their borrowed Royal Street mansion to find a messenger poised to knock.

“Got a message for a Charles Van Eyck. He live here?”

“He’s a servant.” Marjani said. “You shoulda brought this to the back.”

“You gonna take it or not?” The man asked.

“Sure.” Marjani nodded.

The man left without another word.

Marjani slowly walked into the house.

“Here, what’s that?’ Punch asked as he and Robert joined Marjani in the front hall.

“A letter.” Marjani sighed.

“Not another for me?” Punch squinted.

“No. For Charles.” Marjani shook her head, holding the letter in front of her face. She handed it to Mr. Punch. “Here. He’s your man.”

Punch sniffed the letter. “Comes from Iolanthe’s. I can tell by the scent, I can.” He studied the handwriting carefully. “You were right ‘bout evil on our doorstep. It’s from Barbara.”

“You gonna give it to him?” Marjani asked.

“He’s probably asleep.” Robert added, unaware that Charles had left the house.

“I don’t know if we need Barbara continuin’ to try to witch that poor man.” Punch sighed.

“If you don’t give it to him now, he’ll be quite angry tomorrow.” Robert shook his head.

“I ‘spose.” Punch said.

“Want me to bring it to him?” Marjani asked.

“Sure,” Punch nodded. “Maybe she changed her mind and is ready to leave Iolanthe. I hate to think I didn’t do everything I should have to help the poor wretch. A promise is a promise, even if it is made to a witch.”

Marjani took the letter and smiled at Punch and Robert. “You two best get some sleep.”

“Shortly,” Robert nodded.

“Want I should bring you up some warm milk and brandy?” Marjani asked.

“Please,” Punch said happily.

“I’ll be back in a clock’s tick.” Marjani winked.

Robert and Punch silently settled in front of the parlor fire and Punch felt his eyes begin to grow heavy. He wasn’t sure how long Marjani had been gone, but when he opened his eyes again, he saw Marjani run into the room.

“He’s gone, isn’t he?” Punch grumbled.

Marjani nodded, “Yes.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-326? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Coronation of King Edward I

Here’s the third card in the series of Churchmans Cigarette Cards that was produced in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. So, what does the coronation of King Edward I have to do with King George V? Well, aside from some historical connections, there is the chair. King Edward’s Chair to be exact—also called St. Edward’s Chair. This has played a part in every coronation of a British Monarch since its creation.

The chair was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I expressly to house the coronation stone of Scotland — known as the Stone of Scone. The stone was captured from the Scots who had kept it at Scone Abbey and was placed in a compartment beneath the coronation chair which has historically been kept in the shrine of St Edward's Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

Since 1308, all of the soveriegns of Britain (until 1603) have sat in this chair at the moment of their coronation. The exceptions are Queen Mary I and II. Mary I was crowned in a chair given to her by the Pope and Mary II was crowned on a copy of the chair. Otherwise, St. Edward’s Chair has been used by all sovereigns--last used on the occasion of the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

The high-backed chair is created in the Gothic style and was carved in 1297 from oak by a celebrated carpenter who was called Master Walter. The legs in the shape of four gilded lions are a a relatively new addition, having been added in a restoration of the chair in 1727. The new legs replaced similar lions which were added in the 16th century.

Today, the chamber beneath the chair is emptry. In 1996, the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland with the provision that it be returned to the chair on the occasion of the next coronation.

Evidence suggests that St. Edward’s Chair was once brightly painted and gilded. Similarly, it is believed that the chair once had an image of Edward the Confessor painted on the reverse. The chair, as it remains today, is bare wood which has been defaced over the centuries as tourists, pilgrims, and choir boys in the Abbey carved their initials and other marks onto the chair—mostly during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. The chair was also mangled when the carved finials at the back of the chair were sawn off.

St. Edward’s Chair was also damaged in 1914 when it was the seat of a bomb attack, at the hands of suffragettes.

Presently, the chair is highly protected and is only removed from its pedestal in Westminster Abbey for a coronation.

Queen Elizabeth II
on King Edward's Chair
The Royal Collection

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Jewelled Pencil Case, 1880-1900

Pencil Case
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This sparkling beauty dates between 1880 and 1890 and is a masterpiece of chased gold, rose-cut diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and an opal. The work of an unknown maker, it most assuredly comes from Britain. Though quite sceptre-like, it is actually a case for a pencil. The case is chased and engraved with a rose, a thistle and a shamrock--emblems of the United Kingdom. Even after over a century, the case still contains two spare nibs and three pencil lead fragments.

This oppulent object has been thought to have been made from jewels belonging to King George IV. These jewels may have been worn during George’s 1821 coronation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Healing Bertie Speaking

“Did the vet shave your leg, too?”

Image: The Wounded Traveler Halting, Jean-Léonard Lugardon, circa 1850, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: A Gorgeous Art Deco Brooch, 1920

The Victoria & Albert Museum
The work of an unknown maker this assemblage of platinum, gold, diamonds, mother-of-pearl, common light opal, moonstones and sapphires is the epitome of Art Deco jewelry design.

Its central mother of pearl panel and the reverse of this brooch appear to have been inspired by a rug design. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, “Simple rug designs, with their flat, stepped geometric patterns fit well with the principles of Art Deco but appear to have been used only very rarely as a design source for jewellery.”

The icy diamonds and gentle blend of colored stones create a hufe visual impact when combined. It is the perfect brooch and neatly sums up the ideals of the period.

Precious Time: Lacloche Frères Watch, 1930

Watch, 1930
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This strange and beautiful watch of gold, platinum, enamel, brilliant and rose-cut diamonds, sapphires, jadeite, black-backed chalcedony, pearl and silk is the work of the French firm Lacloche Frères and dates to about 1930. The contrast of the red and the black materials in this watch shows the influence of Oriental lacquer on Art Deco jewelry. This is further evidenced by the floating stylized flowers which were also a theme of textile design of the period.
Lacloche Frères were amoamong the many upmarket jewelers on the rue de la Paix in Paris. The company was initially founded in Madrid in 1875, later opening branches in Saint-Sébastien, Biarritz, and f London. One of their best-known pieces was the tiara made in 1930 for the Duchess of Westminster.

Painting of the Day: Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, 1938

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
The Royal Collection
This handsome portrait of Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) was painted between 1938 and 1945. It is the work of Sir Gerald Kelly who was initially commissioned to paint the state portraits of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1938.
Kelly was nearly finished by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The two paintings were relocated during the war from his studio in London to Windsor Castle where Kelly spent the next five years slowly completing his commission. Kelly remained at Windsor Castle during the war and was kept company by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose who were sent to the safety of castle for the duration of the war while their parents remained at Buckingham Palace.

Here, we see Queen Elizabeth wearing her coronation robes and regalia. According the the curators of the Royal Collection, Kelly enjoyed his sittings with the Queen and said of her, “It is hard to suggest the admiration and affection which grew all around her. From wherever one looked at her, she looked nice: her face, her voice, her smile, her skin, her colouring - everything was right.”

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 326

Charles knocked on Marie Laveau’s door and stiffened his back as he waited for it to open.
A burly, older man with leathery dark skin opened the door and frowned. “What?”

“I’m here to see Marie.” Charles answered as bravely as he could.

“She ain’t here.” The man barked.

“Where is she?” Charles asked.

“Ain’t gonna tell ya that.” The man laughed.

“I think you will,” Charles replied, withdrawing the gun from his pocket.

The man laughed. “Boy, you don’t know what you’re doin’.”

At that very moment, Mr. Punch picked up his puppet and curled up in front of the parlor fire with Toby. He looked helplessly at Robert and Marjani.

“None of this makes no sense,” Punch said softly. “Even if Marie is gonna have a baby, how will that be any trouble for us. Now, I don’t know much ‘bout how these things work, but don’t it take a while for a baby to come—like a year or somethin’?”

“Not quite a year,” Robert smiled.

“Well, then, if we leave tomorrow, she ain’t gonna have no baby ‘til far after we’re back in England. And, even if she had it tomorrow, I don’t think a baby is gonna do much to stop us from leavin’. From what I’ve seen of babies, they don’t do much of anything ‘cept make messes and gurgle.”

“You do have a valid point,” Robert nodded.

“If you look at it like it’s a regular baby.” Marjani replied. “But, it’s not the baby that’s the problem. It’s Marie. With this child inside of her, she got all the strength of the child itself. IF it is a child born of pure evil, that means that Marie’s power is all the stronger.”

“I’m sorry, Marjani, but as a physician, it’s difficult for me to believe any of that.” Robert replied.

“I know you’re a man of science,” Marjani nodded. “But, can you explain why I been able to send you messages and thoughts with just my mind? Can you tell me why you—like I done—know things before they happen? Sir, you done seen things these last few weeks that don’t got no explanation in your medical mind, yet, you know that they are all as true and real as I am standin’ here right before you.”

Robert nodded slowly.

“Well, then, we just gotta stay as far away from Marie as we can until we leave tomorrow.” Punch answered quickly.

“I agree.” Robert sighed.

“That might be easier said than done.” Marjani looked toward the front front door nervously.

“What is it?” Robert asked.

“I think evil is lurkin’ on our doorstep.” Marjani replied.

Did you miss Chapters 1-325? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: Proclaiming the King

The second card in the 50 card Silver Jubilee of 1935 series by Churchmans Cigarettes shows the proclamation of the accession of King George V.

After the death of the monarch, the new monarch—the heir apparent-must be proclaimed before officially taking the throne. Then, the monarch will serve as sovereign for several months before the official coronation which takes place several months later after a suitable period of mourning for the past regent.

Whenever I read about history, I am always struck by how difficult a transition this must be. The monarch has been told that his or her parent (or, in some cases, relative or loved one—like William IV and his niece Victoria) and must mourn that loss as well as grapple with the face that he or she is now the monarch and deal with the myriad problems that come with such a transition. It’s a daunting situation and one that most of us could not survive with the grace that we have historically seen.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: King George V’s Bloodstone Box, Before 1896

Bloodstone Box
Before 1896
The Royal Collection
This masterpiece of gold and rose-cut diamonds is the work of Michael Perchin of Fabergé and was created before 1896. It belonged to the Grand Duchess Marie, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (d.1920) and was presented by her daughters to King George V after her death.

The box has been created in the neo-rococo style which was very popular in St Petersburg in the 1880s and 1890s. This is one of several bloodstone boxes which were created by the house of Fabergé. In 1891 Carl Fabergé himself produced the Imperial Easter Egg known as the Memory of Azov Egg in the neo-rococo style and made which resembles this box in that it is designed in a combination of bloodstone with gold mounts set with diamonds.

King George V offered the box to his wife, Queen Mary, who displayed it with her impressive collection of Fabergé objects.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Mary’s Convolvulus, 1900

The Royal Collection
Carl Fabergé created a series of miniature floral arrangements in enamel, gold and precious stones. Many of these objects ended up in the collection of Queen Mary. This elegant bouquet of convolvulus dates to 1900. It was purchased from Fabergé's London branch in 1908 for £35 by the Hon. Mrs Harold Nicolson who, in 1949, auctioned it at Sotheby's where it was purchased by the Royal Family as a gift for Queen Mary on her birthday on May 26, 1949.

The impressive collection of Fabergé in the Royal Collection had been started by Queen Alexandra. King George V and Queen Mary added further examples to the remarkable collection of Fabergé flowers. This example is one of the finest. The flowers are rendered in enamelled gold which has been set with rose-cut diamonds. The leaves are of white nephrite. The plant sits in a bowenite trough. Originally, when Queen Mary acquired it was mounted on a an additional base of white jade, but that has since been lost.

Mastery of Design: An Ivory and Precious Stone Comb, 1906

The Victoria & Albert Museum
I’ve been collecting antique combs for quite some time and certainly wish I had this one. Made in 1906 by English designer Joseph Hodel, this comb is a msterpiece of ivory, mounted in silver and set with mother-of-pearl, sapphires, green stained chalcedony and a fire opal.
Joseph Hodel was a member of the Bromsgrove Guild and showed this comb at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1906 in London. There, it was likely purchased by May Morris--the younger daughter of the artist and socialist William Morris. May Morris, also an artist was showing her own jewellery at the Exhibition and was drawn to the comb with its colourful cabochon-cut stones—typical of Arts and Crafts jewellery.

Unfolding Pictures: The Surrender of the Jacobite Leaders Fan, 1746

Hand Fan
English, 1746
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This delicate fan has been saddled with the clunky name, “Surrender of the Jacobite leaders to the Duke of Cumberland after the Battle of Culloden.” Made in 1746 in Great Britain, the fan features a hand-colored paper leaf on wooden sticks. It was part of the collection of Queen Mary, Consort of King George V, who generously donated the fan to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The fan was created to celebrate the English victory at Culloden in 1746 when the English forces were fighting the Jacobite troops. The troops were mainly Scottish and supported the exiled royal house of Stuart. Here, we see the Duke of Cumberland, leader of the English forces, surrounded by Scottish lords kneeling in surrender. In the background, the English troops have opened fire on the fleeing rebels. The Jacobites were slaughtered in vast numbers, while the king’s troops suffered few casualties. After this battle, the Duke of Cumberland put down the rebellion earned him the nickname ‘The Butcher’.

Fans depicting historical scenes were popular in the Eighteenth Century. Few, however, depicted such grisly scenes. It’s quite possible that this fan was made solely for purposes of display as opposed to use by a lady.

Precious Time: The Jeremias Metzger Clock, 1564

Jeremias Metzger
German, 1564
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made almost five hundred years ago, this clock is as shining and elegant as it was in 1564. It is the work of famous German clockmaker Jeremias Metzger (or Metzker), of Augsburg.

With its vertical, circular dial on a footed base, this type of clock is known as a “monstrance” or “mirror” clock for its similarity in shape to those items. Clocks such as this were fashionable in Europe between 1580 and 1630 and almost always featured cases of cast and chased bronze or of cast and beaten copper. These cases were commonly gilded.

This was not your run-of-the-mill utlitarian clock. This was designed to be a treasury piece and an heirloom and would have formed part of a collection of scientific intstruments and automata which was designed to impress as well as educate.

Jeremias Metzger served an uppercrust clientele and his pieces have graced the collections of notable historical features such as the Archduke Ferdinand II. Today, Metzger’s clocks are considered exceptional museum pieces.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 325

Barbara Allen rolled over on her fluffy bed and studied her new room at Iolanthe Evangeline’s house.
“Quite an improvement.” Barbara mumbled to herself as she considered the room she had previously occupied at Iolanthe’s.

She chuckled to herself. “Now that I’m mad, it seems that Iolanthe values me all the more.” She giggled and rolled over again.

“Madness.” She laughed. “It’s a family tradition.” Her giggles quickly dissolved into a frown. “Well, it’s done now.”

She recalled the moment she decided to feign madness. She knew it had to be done. Had she not killed Marie’s brother-in-law, he would have taken her son. Though she didn’t like the idea of not being with little Colin, she knew that he’d have a better life with Julian and Robert than he ever could have had with her.

Barbara thought of Charles and recalled the look of desperation and sorrow that he wore when he begged her to leave Iolanthe’s and come with him. She wished she could have explained everything to him then—that she wasn’t really mad, that she knew what she was doing, that she had a plan. But, she couldn’t. Who knew what ears listened at the doors of Iolanthe’s house.

She leapt from the bed and rang for Mala who skittered into the room within a few seconds.

“Yes, Miss,” Mala sighed wearily. When did the woman ever sleep?

“Will you do something for me?” Barbara asked.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Mala scowled.

“Will you deliver a letter for me?” Barbara smiled.

“I’m not allowed out,” Mala frowned.

“Oh,” Barbara nodded.

“But, I can get one of them men to do it.” Mala grumbled.

“Wonderful, thank you.” Barbara said. “Come back in a few minutes. I’ll have it for you then.”

“Sure,” Mala grunted, scratching herself and hobbling out of the room.

Barbara shuddered and rushed to her desk to write a letter.

“Dear Charles,” she began.

Little did she know, but Charles was not at home as Barbara suspected he would be. He walked briskly through the streets, Cecil’s revolver weighing down his coat.

Stopping outside of Marie Laveau’s house, he took a deep breath and placed his hand over the revolver, feeling the cool metal through the thick fabric of his coat.

“I’ll put an end to all of this.” Charles whispered to himself. “Even if I hang for it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-324? If so, you can read them here.