Saturday, September 8, 2012

At the Music Hall: Put that Down in Writing, 1932

Famously featured in the 1938 film “Gold Diggers in Paris” (one of a series of “Gold Diggers” films made by Warner Brothers in the 30s), “Put that Down in Writing” is highly representative of the popular music sensibilities of the Art Deco. The song even incorporates the sound of a typewriter!

Enjoy this version by Ray Noble and His Orchestra which features the always interesting, talented, but wildly unstable pianist/actor/professional-mental-patient Oscar Levant.

Mastery of Design: The Joseph-Etienne Blerzy Snuffbox, 1775-1776

Click on image to enlarge.

France, 1775-1776
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another snuffbox from the collection of Sir Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert, this one is a true masterpiece of translucent red enamel over an engine-turned background. One would think that engine-turned patterns would be easier to produce than those engraved by hand, but, in reality, precise engine-turning requites a vast amount of skill from the operator who must constantly be alert that the individual portions of the design line up properly. Another difficult task in this process is ensuring that the engraving isn’t too deep and that the depth remains consistent. Therefore, this snuffbox is a triumph and a glorious example of the workmaster’s skill. 

This is the work of Joseph-Etienne Blerzy, a French goldsmith working in Paris. It was made between 1775 and 1776, and, I should note that the jeweled monogram “LM” came at a later date. The rectangular box features canted corners and is adorned with a white border of enamel and enameled fruiting foliage and pilasters draped with swags. The interlaced ribbon of rose-cut diamonds is original to the piece, but, as I said, it’s believed that the diamond monogram was added in the Nineteenth Century.
Make sure to come back later for a special bonus "At the Music Hall" post which I'll put up this afternoon.

History's Runway: A Ball Gown from 1820

Ball Gown
England, 1820
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Can you picture a lovely woman wearing this gown as she made her entrance to a lavish ball in 1820? During the Regency Era, women’s fashions were meant to create an illusion of the ethereal. Lavish gowns such as this one were adorned with gold thread, shimmering beads and spangles atop gauzy materials. The overall effect, in the candlelight of a ballroom must have been effectively dreamy.

This gown is an excellent representation of the fashions of London in 1820. The short-sleeved ball gown features an under-dress of silk satin and an over-dress of silk net which has been embroidered with metallic thread and trimmed with blonde bobbin lace.

Typical of the period, the gown boasts a low oval neckline and slightly puffed sleeve-caps. The waist is higher than earlier examples and wedge-shaped panels gather at the waist. 

Unusual Artifacts: A Shagreen Pocket Book and Stylus, 1680

Click image for detail.
Shagreen Pocket Book with Gold Mounts and Stylus
English, c. 1680
This and all related images from
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Seventeenth Century pocket book is just that—a pocket book. While we tend to think of a purse when we hear that term, this object is actually a small book with a matching gold stylus which would have fitted into a person’s pocket to use as a diary or notebook.

The cover of the book is covered in black shagreen (shark or fish skin) which has been adorned with rounded gold studs. The inside of the cover is lined with a thick paper which has been painted with gold foliage on a purple ground.

Four bands of engraved gold create a holder for the stylus. When first used, this book would have been filled with paper which had been coated in wax. The metal stylus would have left a track or mark in the wax which could be later smoothed out and used again. We know to whom this lovely little item belonged. The end of the stylus is mounted with a seal which depicts the arms of Burnet impaling those of the See of Salisbury. In this case, “impaling” refers to two coats of arms which appear on a shield which has divided vertically into two. Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715) was a prolific politician of the Late Seventeenth Century in Britain and Europe. He was, as many were at the time, staunchly anti-Roman Catholic. This bias caused his dismissal from his post as King's Chaplain under Charles II (ruled 1660-1685). Burnet was then exiled to The Hague in The Netherlands where was appointed as an adviser to William of Orange (1650-1702), and, later William III of England. This led to his commission as the Bishop of Salisbury. Known also as a writer and historian, Burnet is best known for his book “History of My Own Times,” which is ostensibly an amalgam of anecdote, history and autobiography.

Saturday Silliness: Greedy Humpty Dumpty, 1936

Deep in the horrors of Fairytale Town, Humpty Dumpty lords over the citizens with a miserly fist and a desire to see sheep humiliated.

From Flesicher Studios, this 1936 animated short requires no further explanation. Well, it needs a lot of explanation. But, I have none. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 134

Chapter 134:

What of Miss Barrett, Your Grace?” Charles asked as he returned to the nursery with Colin in his arms.

“No one’s thought to look in on her with all this chaos in the house.” Mr. Punch replied.

“I’m sure she’s fine.” Charles frowned.

“But, a lady alone—and she’s sick, too. I’d hate to think that someone took advantage of her weakened state.” Mr. Punch wrung his hands.

“She can look after herself, Sir.” Charles shook his head.

“I concur.” Robert nodded.

“Maybe we ought to…” Punch began.

Robert raised any eyebrow.

“Chum…” Punch protested.

“I thought we’d already agreed that you’d stay here with Colin and Charles.” Robert sighed.

“We did.” Punch muttered.

“Dear Punch,” Robert embraced is companion. “I adore you for how you worry about everyone. Your compassion is inspiring, but I can’t see fit to endorse risking your own life for the sake of Miss Barrett.”

Mr. Punch nodded.

“I’m certain that Speaight has thought to look in on her.” Robert smiled.

“Prob’ly.” Punch replied.

“Now I must go back to Gerard.” Robert said softly.

“I know.” Mr. Punch replied. “I’ll hold good thoughts.”

“I shall let you know when we’ve finished.” Robert nodded. He paused and then said. “You may hear…well…”

“I know.” Mr. Punch said. “I’ll try to keep Colin from listening to the poor bloke scream.”

Robert nodded again.

Charles spoke up, “Your Grace, if you don’t mind, I’ll hand Master Colin to you.”

“I don’t mind at all.” Mr. Punch smiled. “I love holdin’ our boy.”

Charles passed the sleeping child to Mr. Punch. “I’ll fetch his cradle and then join you in here, Sir.”

“Course.” Punch replied. “Oh…I think his soft doggy is in me chamber. Left it on the chair, he did.”

“The mohair Scottish terrier?”

“That’s the one.” Punch answered. “He’ll be wantin’ it, he will, when he wakes. Makes him feel safe.”

“I’ll look for it, Your Grace.”

“It’s a doggy. Looks like our Dog Toby,” Punch continued nervously. “Only a different color.” Punch pointed to Dog Toby who sat patiently by the nursery fire.

“I know the plaything, Sir.”

“Makes the baby feel safe,” Punch repeated.

“Would you like for me to get your puppet for you, Sir?” Charles suggested, hoping that his own toy might make him feel more comfortable.

“Oh, yes please.” Punch replied gratefully. “You can get the other, too. He’s also in me room.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“That way, you can have a puppet what you can play with, too.”

“I’m honored, Your Grace.”

“Ain’t nothin’.” Punch shrugged.

With that Charles returned to the Duke’s adjoining room where Robert nodded to him.

“Listen, Charles, when His Grace worries like this, he tends to act rashly and venture out on his own to satisfy his desire to be helpful.”

“I know, Sir.” Charles replied. “I’ll keep an eye on him. I’m going to bring his puppet to him. That ought to soothe him, I think.”

“Thank you.” Robert sighed. He looked toward the bed where Gerard writhed in pain. Gamilla looked back at the doctor helplessly.

“Well, then,” Robert began. “Gamilla, we’ll begin.”

“You’ll need your bag, Sir.” Gamilla answered.

“I will.”

“Do you want me to get it?” Charles asked.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “Just take the cradle back into the nursery. I’ll fetch it.”

“I can go, Doctor.”

“No.” Robert repeated. “I’d rather you stay with Gerard. I’m just going to pop off to my rooms. I won’t be a moment. But, I’d rather you not tell His Grace that I’ve slipped out.”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles replied. He grabbed Colin’s toy dog and the two puppets from the armchair in the corner of Punch’s room and placed them in the cradle. Picking up the crib and taking it toward the nursery, he added. “I’ll make sure that the Duke is comfortable and content, Sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Dr. Halifax,” Gamilla rose once Charles had left. “I don’t like you goin’ out there alone.”

“Gamilla, there’s no other way. I can’t suture the wound until I get my instruments.”

Gamilla sighed.

“It’ll be fine. I assure you.”

“Yes Sir.” Gamilla answered nervously.

“Is there something else?” Robert asked.

“Yes, Sir.” Gamilla whispered.

“What is it, Gamilla?”

“Sir—watch out for Miss Barrett and Finlay.”

“Oh?” Robert raised his eyebrows.

“Yes.” Gamilla nodded.

“Why?” Robert asked.

“I think they done this, Sir. I think they done killed Mrs. North and that countess--I heard ya through the door, Sir, when ya told his Grace 'bout her. I think they done stabbed my Gerard.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-133? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 135 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Precious Time: The Goujon Watch and Pair Case, c. 1730

Click Image to Enlarge
Watch and Pair Case
Made in London, c. 1730
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made around 1730, this embossed and chased gold watch and pair case is signed (on the movement’s dust cap) “Gerret Bramer, Amsterdam.” The case is embossed with a scene which was modeled after Gérard de Lairesse’s image of Cleopatra just as she is about to dissolve the pearl before Anthony.

The chasing is signed “H Manly fecit” and both cases are marked “SG” for Stephen Goujon of London who served as the maker of the case.

The watch with its ¼ repeating movement was made in London by Goujon and decorated by Manly for export to Amsterdam where it was sold by the retailed Geret Bramer.  This gorgeous timepiece features a stem set with a diamond and diamonds mounted on the face and hands.  

Object of the Day: The Gold Dust Twins

Click image to enlarge.

Throughout the 1880s, New Yorker Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank worked to develop an inexpensive multi-purpose washing powder. The result was Fairbank’s Gold Dust Washing Powder which launched in 1890. By 1892, the company had devised a rather clever marketing scheme which introduced two of the first brand “mascots” in U.S. advertising—the Gold Dust Twins.

The twins—a pair of African American boys—became the company’s logo. They were depicted on packaging, seated amongst a mass of gold coins—sitting side-by-side with their arms around one another, they quickly became a hit with buyers. By 1900, the twins, however, had developed visually into a rather bizarre duo of asexual boys wearing tutus—which, oddly enough, sounds like something Liza Minnelli would say. Still, they were very popular and remain in our collective memory as one of the earliest forms of cross-promotional marketing. They did, after all, have their own radio show which was, essentially, a way of hawking soap.

Now, obviously, this depiction wasn’t the most racially sensitive. So, by the mid-Twentieth Century, the company tried to distance themselves from their longtime mascots.

Here, I have a very, very rare die-cut trade card dating to the earliest incarnation of the Gold Dust Twins. I found this card tucked in with a lot of trade cards which I recently bought.

The twins are sitting in a tub of what I can only assume in Gold Dust soap—which, we should remember was not meant for bathing.

The reverse says:

Best     Purest 


Gold Dust Washing Powder cleans 
everything about the house in half the 
time, with half the labor and at half the 
cost of soap or any other cleanser. 

Washing Powder 

Saves a woman many an hour of worry and makes 
her housework easy. Largest package is great- 
est economy. 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Mastery of Design: Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother's Crown, 1937

Crown of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Garrard & Co, 1937
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Garrard & Co made this crown in 1937 for the Coronation of King George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother). The frame of the crown is constructed of platinum which is set with over 2,800 diamonds (these are mostly cushion-shaped, however, some are rose-cut and some are brilliants). The crown’s band is made of alternating mounts in the shape of crosses and rectangles. This band is bordered with rows of brilliant-cut diamonds.

At the front of the crown, a large diamond has been mounted. This diamond was given to Queen Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey in 1856. Four fluers-de-lis and four crosses- pattée surmount the bottom band. The central cross was created to hold the remarkable Koh-i-Noor diamond. This monumental gem was set in a detachable mount so that it could be removed after the Coronation for use elsewhere.

The half-arches are detachable as well so that the crown could be worn without them by the Queen upon the State Openings of Parliament. Her Majesty wore the crown without these arches, also, at the Coronation of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953. The arches are surmounted by a pavé-set monde and a cross which once held the Lahore Diamond which had been given to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851. Presently, since the Lahore is in use elsewhere, a rock crystal replica is set into this cross.

The crown is fitted with an ermine band and purple velvet cap. In addition to the three major diamonds, the majority of the stones on this crown were removed from Queen Victoria’s Royal Circlet. It’s notable that the Koh-i-Noor has been set into the crowns of Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Drawing of the Day: A Rustic Show, 1852

Click image to enlarge.
Watercolor Sketch
Charles James Lewis
England, 1852
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Created in 1852 by Charles James Lewis (1830-1892), this watercolor sketch shows a group gathered in a country village to watch a Punch and Judy show. Lewis clearly wished to not only highlight the puppet show, but to show the crowd’s reaction to it in conjunction with the daily activities of life.

Here, we see people paused in their common daily chores to enjoy a moment of frivolity. Meanwhile, some children—curious about how Punch works—peep into the booth to spy the Professor.

Charles James Lewis, RI was known both for his watercolor works as well as his charming and handsome oil paintings. He specialized in landscapes with a decided leaning toward the rustic. His paintings were celebrated for their detail and sensitivity.

Friday Fun: Sausagemaker, 2002

This is...

Well, it's...

It's a student film.

I...ummm...okay, it's a student film.  Student films are usually like this.  I made student films.  I thought I was clever.  I thought I was brilliant.  

I wasn't.

However, I do give them credit for trying, and, frankly, it's nice to see young people still know and appreciate Mr. Punch.  So, let's watch.

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

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.  

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...

I view the world in little space, 
Am always restless, changing place; 
No food I eat, but, by my power, 
Procure what millions do devour.


And, the answer is:

The Sun.

Well, I think that was a fun round of answers today.  You're a witty lot, you are.  And so, I leave you with this thought.  WWLS.  What would Liza say?  Make sure to come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 133

Chapter 133:
Missing Something 

Mr. Punch raised his eyebrows. “Chum?”

Robert took a deep breath. “Gamilla, can you stay with Gerard for just a moment?”

“Of course, Dr. Halifax.” Gamilla nodded, taking Gerard’s limp hand in her own.

“Charles,” Robert nodded to the Duke’s valet. “Please come with us to the nursery.”

“Should I bring Colin, Sir?” Charles asked.

“No.” Robert shook his head.

“I’ll watch him, too, Sir.” Gamilla offered.

“We won’t be but just a moment.” Robert said by way of thanks.

Punch and Charles followed Robert into the nursery—Dog Toby trotting behind.

“Well?” Punch began.

“When Gerard and I went downstairs to investigate that scream that we heard, we discovered Lady Lensdown.”

“Is she hurt?” Mr. Punch asked.

“No.” Robert replied. “She was, however, quite distraught.”


“She’d discovered that the Countess Hamish had been killed.” Robert replied plainly, unsure of just how to couch the announcement.

“The countess?” Punch’s jaw dropped. “How? Who did it?”

“We don’t know the identity of the killer. She was…stabbed, I suppose. But, more than that. It’s really quite awful.”

“How dreadful.” Punch leaned against a chest of drawers.

“As we were about to exit, Gerard was attacked from behind in the dark. We came right up here via the service stairs. I wanted to tell you, however I thought it best to see to Gerard first. Once I’d assessed how he’d fare, I thought…”

“You don’t gotta ‘xplain, Chum.” Punch shook his head. “I understand. You did the right thing.” He sighed. “I can’t say I’m sad that the Countess is no more, but I will say that no one should die in such a way. I don’t wish that on a soul, I don’t. Truly. It’s awful, it is, that it happened here, too. I feel like it’s my fault. How’s Lady Constance?”

“Quite upset. Mrs. Pepper, the girls and Georgie took pity on her and brought her to the Servants’ Hall with Lady Lensdown who is, understandably, quite shaken.”

“What of the Baron? Didn’t he attend his wife?”

“No.” Robert shrugged. “In fact, he showed no concern whatsoever.”

“Sir, should I go downstairs?” Charles asked. “You said that Mr. Speaight was preparing rooms for the guests, but I don’t like to think that he’s unaided.”

“Some of the men from the estate, led by Johnny Donnan, are guarding the entrances and exits.” Robert explained.

“Well, maybe no one can get in or out, but whatever bloke what killed our Mrs. North and the countess is still in the house, I ‘spect.”

“Precisely why I forbade you to leave these rooms.” Robert said softly, brushing his fingers against Punch’s arm.

“I’ll go help Mr. Speaight, then.” Charles volunteered.

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Robert shook his head. “As evidenced by the placement of the stolen jewels in Gerard’s pocket, I can see that someone has also targeted the two of you. I’d really prefer that you stay here with us.”

“Sir, we can’t let Mr. Speaight do all of this on his own. Johnny Donnan may be able to control the men from the fields, but he’s too rough to be of any help to Mr. Speaight. With Mrs. Pepper, Georgie and the girls in the Servants’ Hall, that rather leaves Mr. Speaight on his own. Who’s to help him? Vi? I don’t think she’d be much protection. Finlay? I suspect he’s somehow a part of this wickedness. We don’t really know the others on the staff here.”

“I appreciate your loyalty and your willingness, but I do feel strongly about this. I want you to stay here.”

Mr. Punch nodded. “You need to stay, Charlie.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Charles sighed.

“You understand, don’t ya?” Punch asked.

“I do.” Charles nodded. “I simply feel…”

“Helpless?” Robert suggested.

“Yes, Sir. And, maybe a little useless.”

“You’re hardly useless, Charles.” Robert smiled. “I really must go back to Gerard. Please bring Colin in here and stay with His Grace until I return. Then, we can decide what next to do. I’m counting on you to make sure that my family is safe. Not only is the Duke important to me, but he’s, as you know, a favorite of the Crown. Your Sovereign, your country and I are all relying on you.”

“Of course.” Charles inhaled. “I’ll go get Master Colin.”

After Charles slipped into the next room, Robert leaned in and whispered to Punch, “Are you quite all right?”

“I am.” Punch nodded. “Shocked, maybe. Angry. Sad. I can only be thankful that you’re safe.”

“That’s all I want. If nothing else—just to keep our little family, including the staff, safe. But, most of all—you and Colin.”

“Charlie and I will be with him.” Punch smiled. “When you finish with Gerard, I’m sure Gamilla will be happy to stay with our boy, too. After all, Gerry’s gonna need his rest.”

“That he is.” Robert sighed. “Poor Gerard—he always seems to be caught in the wrong place.”

“And he means so well. He’s such a good man. Have you seen him with Colin? How he plays?”

“I have.” Robert grinned. “When he’s with Gamilla and Colin and they don’t realize we’re watching.”

“Don’t know what we’d do without Gamilla, too.” Punch continued. “Especially with Miss Barrett bein’…” Punch’s voice faded.

“My dear?”

“Miss Barrett!” Punch bellowed. “I think we’re missin’ somethin’ here!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-132 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 134. 

The Art of Play: "The Baby" by Fred Tickner, c. 1975

Baby Punch
Fred Tickner, c. 1975
The Victoria & Albert Museum

One of the most influential Punch and Judy men in the history of the tradition, Professor Fred Tickner created gorgeous puppets who, to this day, continue to serve as a model for newcomers like me.

Here, we see one of Tickner’s “babies.” This glove puppet is the child of Mr. and Mrs. Punch. He’s made of carved wood and features a hand-painted face, hands and legs. His hair is crafed of fabric fur. The baby’s tunic mirrors the colors of the costume of his puppet father. This figure was made around 1975.

Object of the Day: A Punch Magazine from the 1937 Coronation

A new addition to my growing collection of Punch Magazines, we see here the Coronation Number from 1937 and the unexpected coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) following the Abdication Kerfuffle (TM). Filled with beautiful images—both color and black and white—Mr. Punch guides us through the Coronation celebrations with his usual style. Aided by Dog Toby, we get Punch’s take on the new king and the dawn of a new era.

Of course, in many ways, the advertisements take center stage and give us a glimpse into the fashion and technology of London in 1937. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Three Putti and One Bertie

"Shove over, Chunk. I saw it first."

Image: Air: Three Putti with Birds, François Boucher (1703-1770), France, late 18th century-early 19th century (painted), Bequeathed by John Jones to the Victoria & Albert Museum

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery of Design: The Fabergé Raspberries, c. 1900

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made at the turn of the Twentieth Century by Carl Fabergé, this miniature sculpture is composed of rock crystal, nephrite and rhodonite. The piece takes the form of a spray of three raspberries carved in rhodonite. Nephrite makes the two leaves while the stalk is made of red gold. The small spray issues forth from a vase of rock crystal. This charming object was purchased by Queen Alexandra 1844-1925), Consort of King Edward VII who had a penchant for Fabergé.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Jeweled Box by Fabergé, 1908

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection Image Courtesy of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made in 1908 by an unknown Fabergé workmaster, this oval silver-gilt box is mounted with two-color gold, pale blue guilloché enamel, and diamonds.

An intricate foliate frieze of enamel on a white ground leads your eye to the diamond thumb-piece. The lid of the box is mounted with a bi-color gold wreath which surrounds a glittering diamond stud. Lest you think that this box was one of the many collected by Queen Mary, I should point out that this one was first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1953. It’s possible that Queen Mary purchased it before her 1953 death, but we can’t be sure.