Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Queen Victoria Cameo, 1851

Shown to much acclaim at the Great Exhibition.
Commesso Brooch of Gold, Shell, Diamonds, and Emeralds
Felix Dafrique, 1840-1851
Shown at the Great Exhibition
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This brooch is set with a commesso (a type of cameo further decorated with enameled gold and jewels) portrait in shell of the young Queen Victoria. The shell cameo is embellished with enameled gold, diamonds and emeralds.  Meanwhile, the gold frame is decorated with enameled roses of Lancaster and York.

The design of the cameo is based—in reverse--on a portrait of Her Majesty in Garter Robes which was painted by Thomas Sully in 1838. The creator of the piece, the French jeweler Félix Dafrique. showed this brooch at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London where it received a Prize Medal for its “polychromic cameo.”  The reverse of the shell is signed: “Paul Lebas / Graveur / 1851 / Paris,”   The gold mounts are struck with the maker's mark of Felix Dafrique and a French export mark in use from 1840 onwards.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Empress of India Gold Writing Desk, 1887

Presented to Her Majesty for the Golden Jubilee
Writing Case
Presented to Queen Victoria, Empress of India
on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, 1887
The Royal Collection
Crown Copyright
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
On loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum since 1926

Gifts and declarations of loyalty, made by Queen Victoria’s subjects, were not unusual.  She was, after all, Queen as well as Empress of India.  But during her jubilee years—1887 (Golden) and 1897 (Diamond), the gifts were more than plentiful.

Gifts to the Queen from India often took the form of caskets constructed of precious materials. These items were usually only ornamental.  This one, however, is actually useful.  And, she did, in fact, use it as a writing box.

The lap desk of solid ivory contains a hand-written address relating the donor's intention to build a bridge over the river Kali Nandi at Sidpur.  It also includes an explanatory key useful in deciphering the 39 miniatures which  dorn  the casket.  The box was presented by the Rais, or nobleman, of Chhatari, a town formerly in the Bulandshahr District of the United Provinces.

The ivory miniatures mounted on the box are framed with silver.  The case also has silver corner pieces and mounts. The miniatures all depict famous Mughal monuments, scenes from Delhi, India-- such as the Clock Tower in Chandni Chowk--or monuments of the Muslim world outside the Mughal empire.

This magnificent piece has been on loan to the V&A from the Royal Collection since 1926 when it was removed from the Queen’s summer residence of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.  


Figure of the Day: Harlequin with a Bird Cage, 1743

Commedia dell'Arte-inspired German porcelain figure from the V&A
Hard-Paste Porcelain Figure of Harlequin
Meissen, 1743
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Modeled by the famed Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775) for the Meissen Porcelain Factory in Germany, this figure of Harlequin is crafted of hard-paste porcelain.  The impish character from the Commedia dell’Arte is depicted seated on a grass-topped rock upon which a bird cage is resting.  In his hand, he holds a green bird.  However, at his feet is a crouching cat—not a good sign for the bird.

Such figures were made, as this one was, in the Eighteenth Century to adorn the dining tables of luxurious households during the dessert course.  A renewed interest in these figures developed during the Victorian era.  Many members of Britain’s upper-classes, including the Royal Family, collected these Eighteenth Century figures, actually spurring the creation of then-new figurines in the same style. 

At the Music Hall: Bird in a Gilded Cage, 1900

The ballroom was filled with fashion's throng,
It shone with a thousand lights,
And there was a woman who passed along,
The fairest of all the sights,
A girl to her lover then softly sighed,
There's riches at her command;
But she married for wealth, not for love he cried,
Though she lives in a mansion grand.

She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she's happy and free from care,
She's not, though she seems to be,
'Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth cannot mate with age,
And her beauty was sold,
For an old man's gold,
She's a bird in a gilded cage.

I stood in a churchyard just at eve',
When sunset adorned the west,
And looked at the people who'd come to grieve,
For loved ones now laid at rest,
A tall marble monument marked the grave,
Of one who'd been fashion's queen,
And I thought she is happier here at rest,
Than to have people say when seen.

"A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” composed by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer (music) is  a long-favored, sentimental ballad which debuted in 1900.  In its first year, it reportedly sold more than two million copies of the sheet music.

According to Von Tilzer, the composer of the music, said that he was approached by Lamb in 1899.  Lamb presented the lyrics for the song, and although Von Tilzer liked it, he requested that Lamb alter the lyrics so that it was apparent that the woman in the song was married and not a wealthy man’s mistress.

Together, the duo worked on the song at a local public house and were pleased to see that some of the nearby girls were in tears upon hearing the tale of a beautiful young woman who married for money and not for love (a prospect, I’m sure, which one of them were considering).  At that point, they knew that their work was a success.

Enjoy this version sung by Music Hall siren Florrie Forde.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 496

 You look tired,”  Gerry nodded as Charles returned to the little closet in Marie Laveau’s house in which they had been allowed to stay.

“Not terribly,”  Charles smiled.

“I feel pretty bad, you havin’ to do my work for me.” Gerard said.

“You’ll be back on your feet soon enough.  I think the voyage will be good for all of us—the Duke and the doctor included.  We’ve all been through an ordeal and could use a rest.  Before you know it, you’ll be back to your old self.”

“I will.”  Gerard answered quickly.  “And, when I am, I want you to know that I’ll make it up to you.”

“There’s nothing to make up.”  Charles chuckled.  “We’re in this together.”

“Never thought I’d hear that from you,”  Gerard laughed.

“We did get off to a rather bad start, then, didn’t we?”  Charles shook his head.  “I hope you’ll accept my apologies for that.  I was…under a spell of sorts.”

“Sure.  It’s nothin’.”  Gerard grinned.  “Think no more of it.”

“I was unkind to you.”

“And, maybe I deserved it.”  Gerard shrugged, cringing a bit as pain darted between his shoulders.  Though he was much improved, he still was suffering from the beating he’d received from Marie’s men.  “I think we were both under a spell of sorts.  Don’t you?  You had Miss Allen in your ear, and I had Arthur.  He had all sorts of promises, that one.  Sad to say, but I’m glad the fever got him.  It set both him and me free.  If it wasn’t for the Duke, I’d be out on the street, so I’m thankful for each day.”

“As am I.”  Charles nodded.  “I suspect we can learn quite a lot from His Grace.”

“Sure we can,”  Gerard responded.  “He’s a fine fella.  Once yet get past him bein’ a bit…err…different.”

“I confess I had difficulty with that at first.”  Charles sighed.  “I shouldn’t have judged him.”

“It’s hard not to.”  Gerard said.  “I did it, too.  Had Arthur whisperin’ to me ‘bout how much a loon the Duke was.”

“Arthur.”  Charles shook his head.  “He was the ruin of many.”

“And now he’s gone.”

“And, here we are in Marie Laveau’s house.”  Charles teased.

“Never thought I’d be here as a guest—not after what she done to me.”  Gerard muttered.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better.”  Gerard smiled.  “Still stiff.  But, I’m better each day.  Thanks again for lookin’ after His Grace and the Doctor tonight.  Like I said, I’ll be back at my post in a few days.”

“We’re not going to say anything more about it.”  Charles tossed a pillow at Gerard.  

“Right.”  Gerard laughed.  “Glad we’re friends, you and I.”

“Me, too.”  Charles settled back onto his cot.  “Just think, soon we’ll be back in England—in a fine house in Belgrave Square, takin’ care of two proper gentlemen.”

Gerard nodded.

“One of whom is a Duke with ties to the Queen and the Prince Consort.”  Gerard chuckled.  “Wouldn’t me mum be proud?”

“I’ll wager.” Charles sighed.

“And, a fine boy in the household, too.  Always nice to have a child about.”

“They’ll need a governess.”  Charles replied thoughtfully. 

“They’re plentiful in Belgravia.”  Gerry laughed.

“True enough.”  Charles answered.  “Pity Gamilla can’t come.  I know you’re fond of her.”

“I am.”  Gerry frowned.  “More than I should be, I think.”

“I understand.”  Charles said softly.  “It’s a shame.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know.”  Charles rolled over.  “That—well, you like Gamilla, but you can’t court her because she’s…”

“Different than me.”  Gerry suggested.

“Sure.”  Charles nodded.

“I know what that’s like—in a way.”  Charles snorted.  He sat up.  “If Barbara Allen had still been a lady, well, she’d never have fancied me.”

Gerard was about to remind Charles that before him, Barbara had “fancied” Arthur, another valet, but he thought better of it—especially since they had just begun to be friendly with one another. 

Instead, he asked.  “Did you love her awful much?”

“I did.”  Charles mumbled.  He took a deep breath.  “Ah well.”

“The world is strange.”  Gerard sighed.  “Ain’t it?”

“It is.”  Charles responded.  “Still, I suppose there’s hope.  Look at the Duke and Dr. Halifax.  They’re both different in their own ways.  Yet, they’ve quietly made a family of themselves.”

“Yeah.”  Gerard answered.  “But, they’re rich, eh?  They can afford to be different.”

“The doctor’s not rich.”  Charles cocked his head to one side.

“He is now, ain’t he?”  Gerry nodded.  “Now that he’s gonna stay with the Duke.  His Grace is very wealthy.”

“Hmmm…I guess so.”

“Either way, they’re both richer than us.”  Gerard chuckled.

“Isn’t that the truth?”

“Gold gives you a little more freedom.”  Gerry sighed.

“Maybe just a little.”  Charles shrugged.  “But, the Duke and Dr. Halifax—people in their class may not ask questions, but you can bet they’ll talk amongst themselves.  There isn’t freedom in the words of others.  You and I—no one cares so much what we do as long as we seem to stick to the rules.”

Gerry snorted.  “I guess no one’s so awful free, are they?”


They sat in silence for awhile.

“Yep, it’ll be a good rest.”  Gerry mumbled after awhile.  “Rockin’ back and forth on that ship.”

“A good rest,”  Charles repeated drowsily.  “And, then, home.”

“My first…”  Gerry whispered.

“Mine, too.”  Charles sighed as they both fell asleep.

Did you miss Chapters 1-495?  If so, you can read them hereCome back on Monday, March 26, 2012 for Chapter 496 of Punch’s Cousin.  There are only four chapters remaining in this series.  So, make sure to not miss the conclusion of Punch’s Cousin.  On April 2, 2012, a new series—Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square—will debut in this spot.  

The Home Beautiful: The Queen Victoria Tapestry, 1877

This is perhaps the first piece created by the Royal WIndsor Tapestry Co.
Royal Windsor Tapestry Co., 1877
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Some art historians believe that this portrait of Queen Victoria is the first tapestry which was ever woven at the Royal Windsor Tapestry Company. The portrait is based on a painting by the Austrian artist Baron Heinrich von Angeli (1840-1925).  The original painting was completed at Windsor Castle in 1875.

The Royal Windsor Tapestry Company was very closely associated with the Royal family, so its only fitting that its inaugural work would depict Queen Victoria who was their patron.  The connection, in fact was so close that the Queen’s children were appointed Presidents and Vice Presidents of the concern.  The Queen made several visits to the tapestry company and notably recorded in her diaries her pleasure with the business.

The cartoon from which this tapestry was created was drawn in 1876 by Phoebus Levin, a German painter who was recorded as working in London between 1855 and 1878. According to the V&A, “the tapestry bears the names of Michel Brignolas, who became the first Manager, and of Henri C. M. Henry, Art Director of Gillows, the Oxford Street decorators who founded the Royal Windsor Tapestry Company.”

The finished product was presented to the Queen in 1877 in honor of her fortieth year on the throne.

Object of the Day: An Embroidered Piece of Silk Honoring Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

Collection of Joseph Crisalli

Collection of Joseph Crisalli
In 1887, as Her Majesty Queen Victoria emerged from her self-imposed, mournful seclusion to celebrate fifty years on the throne, a variety of souvenirs were manufactured and marketed to the public who sought to honor their reclusive, but mostly beloved Queen.  This bit of silk was one of those items.

Beautifully woven and embroidered, the silk depicts a portrait of Victoria with her blue sash and orders and the wee diamond crown which she favored.  Beneath her, the Royal Standard and Union Jack flank a shielf emblazoned with the words “For Valour.”

Above her is embroidered:

1837 JUBILEE 1887

So, what was this?  Was it a bookmark?  Perhaps.  But, I don’t think so.  I think, when first made, it was the ribbon attached to the bottom of a badge or medal.  We’ll never really know.  However, I’m so glad to have it, and so happy that it has survived all this time.

I do apologize for the glare on the photos and wish I had taken pictures before I framed it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mastery of Design: A "REGARD" Locket, 1830

Heart-shaped locket.  English, 1830.  Language of Stones.
Two-color gold, rubies, emeralds, garnets, amethysts, diamonds and turquoise.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I have a special fondness for Victorian (and earlier) jewelry in general, but I’m always tickled by those British pieces which adhere to the "language of stones.”  This concept allowed a sentimental message to be conveyed using the initial letter of each stone in the design to spell out a word or phrase.

Here, for example, the stones adorning this heart-shaped  locket spell "Regard.”  Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond.  The stones are set in two-color gold around a “forget-me-not” of five turquoises centered by a ruby.

Such a piece of jewelry would have been a brilliant way to declare affection for family and friends, passion for a lover.  Some pieces even showed loyalty to a monarch or a cause, and also religious devotion and grief.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Mr. Punch's Puzzles

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  And, this week, the winner will receive a fabulous prize from our online store—your very own “That’s the Way to Do It!” tote-bag!

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

What is the difference between a light in a cave and a dance in an inn?


Well, no one got this one.  Perhaps, as our chum, Matt, suggested this one was a little too hard.  We'll try for the tote bag next week.  Okay?

As for this one, the answer is:

One is a taper in a cavern; the other, a caper in a tavern.

Ha!  Good times.  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  

And, remember, if you want to remind people “That’s the way to do it,” one of our exclusive designs is just the thing you’re looking for!

Drawing of the Day: "Capsize," 18th C.

Comic Illustration from the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
"Capsize -- To Upset or Turn Over Anything"
Eighteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This comic illustration from the Eighteenth Century is entitled “Capsize: - To Upset or Turn Over Anything.”

Now part of the George Speaight Archive at the V&A, this illustration depicts a fit-up which has been overturned as the puppeteer is being attacked by a clearly disgruntled audience member.

The following caption accompanies the scene:

'There, I told you I'de ge you von/ if I cotebed you making game/ o'me agin' 
'Vy they ar'always taking us off'

I’m not sure what this all means exactly, but we get the gist of it.

The Art of Play: "Happy Days," Punch & Toby Stickers, c. 1950

Printed color stickers from the V&A
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

These stickers, dating to about 1950, portray Punch and with the Dog Toby.  Beneath their cheerful scene the words “Happy Days” are written.

Now part of the George Speaight Archive, these stickers were printed as a give-away with a letter from the Society for Theatre Research during a mid-Twentieth Century donation drive.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 495

Coo!”  Punch chirped as he took a stack of ribbon-tied boxes from Charles.  “Look at all them presents.”

Charles chuckled, having become a little more accustomed to Mr. Punch’s mannerisms.  “I think I’ve gotten everything you requested.”

“Where’s Gerry, then?”  Punch asked.

“He’s on his way, Sir.”  Charles responded.  “He’s still moving a little slowly, but he insisted on carrying some things himself.  He would not accept any assistance.”

“Good,”  Punch nodded.  “Glad you let him.”

“Now, Sir, the rest will be delivered in the morning.  This should be what you, Dr. and Mr. Halifax, Colin and Fuller need for tonight.”

“You got somethin’ for yourselves, too, I hope.”  Punch raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, yes, Sir.”  Charles smiled.  “Thank you.”

“Well, don’t thank me.”  Mr. Punch shrugged.  “Mr. Halifax paid for all of this.  Make no mistake, as soon as I get back to England, I’ll make sure to reimburse him.  It’s only that since all our things was burned up, I don’t have a coin to me name.  Here, that’s pretty funny—me bein ‘a Duke, but poor as a church mouse.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard you refer to yourself as the Duke,”  Robert smiled, coming into the room.  He smiled at Charles.  “Welcome back.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Were you able to find proper liveries for yourself and Gerry?”  Robert continued.

“No, Sir.”  Charles shook his head.  “Just black suits.  Pity I lost my livery in the fire.  It was a fine suit.  But, they don’t have anything like that here.”

“We’ll have you properly attired when we return to England.  In the meantime, we’ll just have to  make do with what we have.”  Robert nodded.

“I think I picked some fine, handsome things for you and His Grace, Sir.”  Charles blushed, quite pleased with himself.

“I have no doubt.”  Robert grinned. 

“There’s a handsome blue cravat in one of those boxes.  That is for you, Sir.”  Charles continued, relaxing a bit.  “I remembered your blue eyes and thought it would look fine on you.”

“Well done,”  Robert nodded.

“And, for His Grace, there’s a lovely crimson waistcoat which I thought would do well with his chestnut hair.  Besides, Mr. Punch does wear red, doesn’t he?”

“I like red.”  Punch mumbled softly.

“You’ve outdone yourself, Charles.  I’m so glad you’re with us.”  Robert praised the man.

“Well, thank you, Sir.”  Charles nodded eagerly.  “I’ll go see how Gerry’s doin’.”

“Here, let him carry on his own, still.”  Punch warned.  “He’s proud, our beardy chum.”

“He is, Sir.”  Charles smiled.  “However, he won’t be bearded for long.”

“No?”  Robert asked.

“No, Sir.  We used the remainder of the coins you gave us to purchase a razor for him.”  Charles boasted.

“I think it’s best.  A valet shouldn’t be bearded.”  Robert nodded.

“I thought so, too.”  Charles said before scurrying out to find Gerard.

“He seems quite cheerful, our Charles.”  Robert chuckled.

Punch nodded.

“I think he’s quite eager to leave.  I’m glad that we retained him.  Gerard, too.  They seem to be getting on well.  I think we’ll have a happy household.”  Robert continued.  He paused and placed his hand on Punch’s shoulder.  “You’ve become unusually quiet.  When I came in, you were bubbling with excitement.”

“I like presents.”  Punch sighed.

“Well, then, my dear, you should be smiling.  There’s a whole table stacked with boxes which want opening.  Not just for us, but for Colin, too.  And, more on the way—a whole new wardrobe.  That’s cause for celebration.”

“I ‘spose.” Punch shrugged.  “Colin’ll like his new little duds, he will.”

“I see some soft toy animals over there.”  Robert said brightly.  “Colin will like those, too.”

“Me too.”  Punch mumbled.

“Dear Punch,”  Robert smiled, sitting on the edge of the table.  “What’s troubling you?  You might as well tell me now because you know I’ll keep at it until you talk.”

Punch shrugged again.

“It’s just the two of us.  You don’t need to be shy.  Adrienne is out with Gamilla shopping for the ladies.  Marjani and Columbia are with the boys.  Cecil is talking business with Pete and his friends and both Maries are in the kitchen.  We’re alone until Charles and Gerry come back in, so, now’s the perfect time to tell me what’s on your mind.  Why has your mood shifted so?  Did I say something that upset you?”

“Not really.”  Punch muttered.

“I know you’re sad about leaving everyone.  However, you heard Cecil.  They’ll all join us soon enough with the possible exception of Marjani and Columbia.”

“I am sad ‘bout that.”  Punch sniffed.  “But, that ain’t what’s troublin’ me now.”

“What is it, then?”  Robert asked, patting Mr. Punch’s arm.

“I called me-self the Duke.”  Punch confessed.

“You are the Duke.”  Robert smiled.

“But, I ain’t.  The Duke is Julian.  And, Julian’s inside our body.  I’m Mr. Punch.  Charles even said so.  I like red and…and…”

“You know you’re both.”  Robert replied gently.

“And a few others,”  Punch muttered.

“Well, they’ve been quiet, so we’ll not worry about them.”

“Chum,” Punch began, “I don’t think Julian’s gonna come back out any time soon.”

“I didn’t think so.”  Robert tilted his head to one side, looking affectionately at his friend.

“I know you miss him.” 

“I do.”  Robert nodded.  “However, I’ve realized that he’s a part of you and you’re a part of him.  You’ve actually become more like him as time has passed, and I think he’s actually become more like you.”

“What if he never comes back out?”  Punch asked.

“Then, you will just have to become even more like him.”

“But still be me?”

“Yes.”  Robert nodded.

“I don’t know how to be the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“You’ve done a fine job of it thus far.”  Robert shook his head.

“But, that’s just play.”

“Is it?”

“Well, maybe.  When we get back to England, I’m gonna have to go to the Palace and to Balmoral and see the Queen and…be a jeweler!  And, go to long, boring dinners…and…the opera and…”  Punch began to sob.

Robert hugged his friend, rubbing his back.  “Dear, Punch.”

Punch withdrew from Robert and wiped his nose on his own sleeve.

Robert chuckled.  “Don’t you see?  You—you alone, dear Punch—are a remarkable man who is capable of anything.”

“But, I ain’t a man!”  Punch moaned.

“Yes, you are.”

“I’m a puppet, I am.”

Robert thumped Punch’s chest and grinned.  “You don’t feel like a puppet.”

“But, I’m Mr. Punch!”  He snorted.  “I hit folk with me stick and eat sausages and fight the crocodile and…”

“We may call you ‘Punch.’  You may call yourself ‘Punch.’  But, you’re not a puppet.”

“But, I feel like a puppet.”  Punch cried.

“Don’t you also feel like a man?”

“I…I…do.”  Punch wiped his eyes.

“You’re both.  You’re a creature unto yourself and we all love you.  I love you—just as you are.”

“So, I’m not quite all Mr. Punch and I’m not quite all Julian, Duke of Fallbridge.”

“Either that or you’re entirely both.”

“Can that be?”

“If you want it to be.”  Robert winked.

“I do sorta feel like both.”  Punch nodded.

“There you have it.”  Robert smiled.

“Sometimes I feel very much like Mr. Punch.”  Punch smiled, too, beginning to chuckle.  “So much so that I want to slap people with a stick.”

“But, you don’t throw our baby out of the window.”  Robert joked.

“No, but, I do beat the devil.”  Punch giggled.

“That you do.”

“I reckon I really am something all my own.”

“You are.”

“So, if I ain’t Mr. Punch, what am I?  Not the Duke?”

“You…you’re…”  Robert smiled broadly.  “You’re Punch’s cousin.”

“Punch’s cousin?”

“Julian’s, too.  However, you don’t really need to label yourself.  Just be what you are.  And, when Julian’s ready—or not—he can be whatever he is.  I’m here for both of you.”

“Coo!”  Punch nodded. 

“You’re my companion.  You’re Colin’s new father.  You’re Toby’s master and friend to many.  What we call you is irrelevant.  It’s how you behave and how you treat others that counts.”

“Will you still call me, ‘Mr. Punch?’”

“If you like.”

“I like it—‘specially when you call me, ‘dear Punch.’”

“Then, that’s what I shall call you.”

“And, when Julian comes out again?”

“I’ll call him by his name.  I’m ready for whatever comes.”  Robert answered.

“Me too, then.”  Punch nodded.

“Now, dear Punch, we must sort through these clothes before dinner.  And, then…”

“One more sleep before we get on the ship again.”  Punch smiled.


“Hopefully this one won’t burn.”

Robert laughed.  “It won’t.  I’m sure of it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-494?  If so, you can read them here.