Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Cory Mourning Bracelet, 1860

Cory Bequest
Crouzet, 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum
We've seen several pieces of jewelry by Crouzet. This bracelet certainly fits the style of Crouzet's from the early 1860s. Crouzet worked for all of the major Parisian goldsmiths, and was celebrated for producing jewelry of fine quality and original design. He is especially well known for designing pieces in the Moroccan taste.

This bracelet is definitely a piece of mourning jewellery in traditional black enameled gold, pearls and brilliant cut diamonds. It is hung with five small lockets, each of which opens to allow for a photograph or lock of hair. The lockets are set with diamonds in the form of symbolic images: a cross, anchor and heart, which symbolise the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. It also shows a locket with a star and the initial, "A." 

The bracelet once belonged to Lady Cory whose incredible collection of jewels forms a large part of the jewelry exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Sculpture of The Day: The Sailor's Lass, 1765

The Sailor's Lass
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This figure in soft-paste porcelain is painted with enamels and gilded. It depicts a winsome Sailor's lass. She wears a black apron and skirt blown sideways by the wind as she stands, awaiting her love. She wears only one glove.

As a symbol of her missing nautical paramour, around her neck is a ribbon with a pendant consisting of a heart pierced by an arrow.

Sadly, they will never be reunited as she will forever stand by her floating tree (representing her fading youth) on her decidedly Rococo base.

This was manufactured in Derby, England, by William Duesbury and Co. in 1765.

At the Music Hall: I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now, 1909

Billy Murray
You have loved lots of girls in the sweet long ago, And each one has meant Heaven to you.
You have vowed your affection to each one in turn,
And have sworn to them all you'd be true.
You have kissed 'neath the moon while the world seemed in tune
Then you've left her to hunt a new game,
Does it ever occur to you later, my boy,
That she's probably doing the same.


I wonder who's kissing her now,
Wonder who's teaching her how,
Wonder who's looking into her eyes
Breathing sighs, telling lies;
I wonder who's buying the wine,
For lips that I used to call mine,
Wonder if she ever tells him of me,
I wonder who's kissing her now.

If you want to feel wretched and lonely and blue,
Just imagine the girl you love best
In the arms of some fellow who's stealing a kiss
From the lips that you once fondly pressed.
But the the world moves a pace and the loves of today
Flit away with a smile and a tear.
So you never can tell who is kissing her now,
Or just whom you'll be kissing next year.


"I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" remains a popular standard to this day. It was written by Joseph E. Howard and Harold Orlob, with lyrics by Will M. Hough and Frank R. Adams. First published in 1909, it was introduced in the 1909 musical The Prince Of Tonight. The song was initially made popular in performances and recordings by Billy Murray.

The Art of Play: A Mechanical Popeye, 1929

"I'm Popeye."
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Ah, Popeye! Of course he would have a place of honor in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here's a look at our sailor friend as he was in 1929.

This clockwork toy figure of Popeye the Sailor Man is made of metal and celluloid, painted pink. He wears a white cap and a black and red shirt with white buttons, blue trousers, black shoes, orange hair, and, certainly, anchor tattoos on arms.

When he is wound, his head moves up and down and side to side on his conspicuously long neck. His arms dangle down from a rod stuck through his body and no longer function, but once went up and down.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 386

Mrs. Cage, I can try for to make ya more comfortable,” Marjani said gently.

Corliss Cage weakly reached for Marjani’s hand.

“Honey,” Marjani shook her head. “You got your cross to carry and you got to carry it.”

Mrs. Cage gurgled.

Marjani placed her hand on Corliss’ forehead. “You’re gonna live Mrs. Cage. You got to.”

“Why?” Corliss rasped as Robert and Punch looked on.

“You gotta go back to Marionneaux. You gotta raise your son. There’s much you gotta see, honey. Even if you don’t want to see it. You got a place in all of it. Much pain, yes. But, triumph. Now, listen to me, Mrs. Cage. Ain’t no tellin’ what kind of pain sits out there waitin’ for us. I think of that, each day. I do. I think of it when I look in the eyes of my grandchild. I see her look up at me with them big brown eyes and I think, ‘Chil’, I wish I could keep the pain from you forever.’ But, I can’t. She’s gotta live and feel pain. And, so do you. Maybe life’s got nothin’ but pain for you. But, that don’t mean that one day, because you done lived—somebody, maybe even my grandbaby—might do somethin’ good. And, if not her—then somebody a hundred, two hundred years from now. All because of you. All because on this night, you lived.”

Corliss closed her eyes.

“Now, Mrs. Cage. We will see each other again. Your life and mine will forever be tied together. And, in ways that not one of us can guess. So, we both gotta live so that what’s ‘sposed to happen will happen. And, we gotta live until the day that the Holy Mother comes for us. You understand?”

Mrs. Cage nodded slowly.

“Well said, Chum.” Mr. Punch whispered.

“It’s just true, Sir.” Marjani smiled.

“We have to go, Mrs. Cage,” Robert said. “Try to rest.”

“Find him.” Corliss coughed hoarsely.

“We will,” Punch nodded. “Make no mistake. And, well, though my words can’t make no difference, I hope you feel better. I think you’re a nice lady, I do. I think you got yourself caught up in somethin’ awful. I know what that’s like. But, I also know that even in the most awful web, you can find love and peace. And, coo! I hope that’s what’s gonna be left for you, one day. None o’ this is your doin’, Mrs. Cage. And though what I say may mean nothin’ to no one, I hope you know—even when the day’s are terrible dark—that this strange man’s got respect for you.”

Mrs. Cage nodded.

“Good night, Mrs. Cage.” Robert said as he, Marjani and Punch left the room.

“Poor lady,” Punch shook his head.

Robert nodded.

“Here, let’s hope Cecil and Adrienne have had better fortune than we did.” Punch continued as they descended the stairs.

As they came down, Edward Cage—still flanked by the two officers—stared up at them smugly.

“I told you that you’d find nothing. I only hope you didn’t disturb my wife too much.” Edward smirked.

“Your poor wife, Mr. Cage,” Punch spat. “Has got bigger troubles than us. She’s a good woman only she’s got you hangin’ on to her. Ain’t fair, it ain’t.”

“Spare me your folksy English morality.” Edward frowned. “And, round up your kin and get out of my house.”

“My brother and his wife will join us when they’ve finished their search.” Robert snarled.

“They should be well on their way.” Edward laughed. “Last I glimpsed ‘em, they’d gone to inspect the outbuildings. There’s nothing there either.”

However, when Cecil and Adrienne entered Edward Cage’s workshop, they did, in fact, see something—something they hadn’t counted on.

Ulrika Rittenhouse and Barbara were locked in a terrible brawl as the child wailed from his wooden crate.

“Leave us!” Ulrika screamed as she scratched at Barbara’s face.

“Cecil!” Adrienne yelped, scrambling for the baby. “It’s Colin!”

“Don’t touch him!” Ulrika howled, trying to fend off Barbara Allen.

Adrienne picked up the baby and handed to Cecil who rushed from the building.

“Where’s my son?” Adrienne shouted as she backed toward the door.

“You’ll never find him,” Ulrika laughed as Barbara struck her in the stomach.

Adrienne fled from the structure as Barbara and Ulrika continued their nasty fight.

Did you miss Chapters 1-385? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, November 7, 2011 for Chapter 387 of Punch’s Cousin.

Obscure Book of the Day: Princess Anne, the First Souvenir Album

Today’s book surprised me. To be honest, of this batch of Pitkin Guides, this was one of the ones that least excited me. At first glance, I figured it was just sort of a baby album of Princess Anne. But, it’s much more than that. When I began to study it, I realized that it’s very nicely detailed history of Queen Mary’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Now, had I paid better attention, I would have noticed that the title of the book is actually, “A Pictorial Souvenir of Queen Mary’s Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren to Commemorate the Birth of H.R.H. Princess Anne.”

Not only does the book offer the “first photographs” of Princess Anne, but it also shows the relationship between Queen Mary and all of her family in the years just before her death in 1953. Again, there’s no date of publication, but since Anne was born in August of 1950, that’s a good indication of when this book was printed.

Being Queen Mary’s biggest fan (certainly her biggest in Texas, at least), I will admit, that I found the many photos of George V’s widow with many assorted Royal babies to be quite interesting. It is often said that Queen Mary didn’t like children. That’s not entirely true. She was quite involved with her own children when they were young and enjoyed reading to them and visiting with them. She was not allowed the luxury of being a hands-on mama. She was, after all, the Queen Consort (and before that, the Duchess of York, among other things) and had a lot of duties. As devoted as Mary was to her family, nothing outweighed her two top devotions—her husband, the King; and the Empire. Above all else, Mary loved Britain. Her love for her children was colored by the fact that, for her, they had a role in the Empire—an obligation that she always tried to make clear to them.

By the time her grandchildren came along, Queen Mary had a little more time on her hands. She was very involved with the children of her second son, “Bertie” and his wife, Elizabeth (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother). Mary and George V often stated to one another that their eldest grandchild, Princess Elizabeth, showed—even as a child—the makings of a good Queen. George, in fact, was known to have bemoaned the fact that “David” (later, briefly, King Edward VIII) would get in the way of “Bertie” and “Lilibet” and the throne.

George V and Mary with their favorite grandchild,
now Queen Elizabeth II
After the death of her husband and the whole abdication kerfuffle with her eldest son, Queen Mary realized that “Lilibet” would one day, in fact, be Queen, and began to spend as much time with the girl as possible. Still, war and other assorted crises got in the way. By the time Mary’s great-grandchildren came along, she did, in fact, love them and delighted in their births. But, her diary makes her position clear. More than their individual natures, Mary loved the fact that these children meant the future of Britain and the Royal family.

The simple truth is, Queen Mary was uncomfortable with children. It’s not that she didn’t like them, she just didn’t understand them. They surprised her. They acted in ways that she couldn’t comprehend. That made her uneasy. She just didn’t know what to do about it. And, so, as you’ll see, her discomfort is apparent. She valued each baby that she’s holding in these pictures. But, the sense of the unknown that came with each one was just a little too much of a source of discomfort.

Let’s take a look inside:

Queen Mary and her first grandchild--the son of her daughter, Princess Mary.

Then-Princess Elizabeth with her daughter, Princess Anne and Prince Charles

The Family of the Duke of Kent.

The Queen Mother and her hat and Princess Anne.

Queen Mary called her granddaughter Elizabeth, "a simply delightful baby."

"Queen Mary obviously has a way with her granddaughter."  Christmas, 1926.

Royal babies a-plenty.  Isn't it funny?  We just saw this little boy's eldest son get married at Westminster Abbey.

When the Duchess of York first held her eldest girl, she had no idea that the child would one day be Queen.

"Then, my dear, simply tell your hostess that you admire her brooch.  She'll have to give it to you."
"Thank you, Grandma Britain."
Or, so I'd like to think this exchange went.

Coronation Day--May of 1937.  Uncle David went off to marry that American and Daddy became king.
On the balcony: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen) and Princess Margaret.
Crowns and coronets for all.

"Oh, dear.  Another one."
Queen Mary holds Edward, son of her son, the Duke of Kent.  She is flanked by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

Queen Mary with an infant Prince Charles.  I can't imagine what she was thinking.  Here's a woman who was engaged to one heir to the throne--who died, was married to the King, was the mother of two Kings, the grandmother of a Queen and, here, holds in her arms a child who would be the next heir to the throne. 

Buy more books--in the past.

Object of the Day: Another Victorian Calling Card

Yes, another trade/calling card. Get ready, because there’re a bunch more of them. Again, I was drawn to this card because of its colors, but I also like the scene of two young woman engaged in a private chat. This is a quintessential Victorian scene and shows the tender immediacy which defined such commercial art.

The card is embossed so that the two figures have more depth. Again, it is not printed on the reverse. And, again, it shows signs of a long-ago smeared and faded signature. Most likely, this card was left behind when a friend visited the home of another—probably during an “At Home” when a young lady would set aside the family drawing room for a set morning each week in order to receive callers. This token of esteem clearly meant a lot to the recipient who made sure to preserve it so that one day some guy and his dog could find it in an antique store.

And, that's just it--isn't it?  Anyone who knows me will agree that I'm not a chatty man.  I'm not prone to extended conversations, but I do appreciate human connections.  These little items from the past allow a human connection that transcends time, and for just a moment, I'm connected to some person who has long ceased breathing.  And, in that second, more is communicated than in most shallow daily exchanges. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Treskow Fish Brooch, 1953

Treskow, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, we have a brooch which plays on the tradition of the Victorian and Edwardian ideals of creating jewelry in Naturalistic forms. This brooch, clearly modern in design, takes the form of a fish--the eye suggested by a sapphire set into a depression lined with granulation, the scales are indicated by diamonds set into lozenges of granulation. A baroque pearl is set into the upper part of the tail fin.

While jewelry had always been “wearable art,” in the early post-war years, jewelers really began to play with this idea and the concept that jewels allowed the expression of the character of the wearer as much as that of the designer. Jewels of this period are defined by abstract designs which bend the traditional through the use of Naturalistic motifs which are heightened by stones with unconventional shapes and asymmetrical composition.

This is the work of Elisabeth Treskow whose early jewelry follows the Bauhaus principles. In the 1920s, Treskow showed her interest in ancient jewelry—incorporating ancient gems in many of her contemporary pieces. Treskow owned a large collection of ancient jewels which she bequeathed to the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, in Cologne.

Treskow was particularly fascinated by the Etruscans, and explored the technique of granulation in which minute grains of gold are applied to the surface without of a piece without using solder. This fish shows her desire to revive the technique of granulation.

Family Tradition: Making "Grandma Cookies"

Growing up, one of my favorite treats was always “Grandma Cookies.” These cookies of lemony-glazed knots, sugar-dusted s-shapes and jelly-filled loafs were always welcomed with eager, quick fingers. They are named for my great-grandmother Carr, my mother’s grandmother. “Big Grandma” Carr always made these cookies and my mother has carried on the tradition.

Now, it is well-known that I’m not a confidant cook. I’ve never had to be. My mother, as you’ve seen the past couple of years on this blog, is one of the best chefs around. I grew up eating well. I’m an eater, not a cook. Even as an adult, living on my own lo these many years, I’ve never really even tried to cook because I know that what I produce won’t be nearly as good as what I’m used to. And, Bertie’s not picky.

Yet, it occurs to me, that I should try because I have the opportunity to learn from a master, and I want to make sure that these cherished family recipes and traditions continue. So, a couple of weekends ago, I spent the day with my mother, learning the beloved art of “Grandma Cookies,” and, now, via the magic of the Internet, I’m going to share it with you.

So, here it goes.

To begin with you’ll melt half a pound of butter with a cup and a half of sugar in half a cup of milk. Do this in a saucepan on medium heat until it’s nice and smooth.

When it is smooth, add four and a half teaspoons of baking powder, and let the mixture come to room temperature. It’ll start to bubble! And, it’ll look like this.

Meanwhile, you’ll beat three eggs slightly and add a teaspoon of vanilla to the eggs.

In a mixing bowl, you will take six cups of flour and a pinch of salt and gradually add the eggs and the milk mixture to it. We used a mixer with a dough hook for this. Mix it until it forms a ball.

Let it rest for an hour.

It’ll look like this.

Then, you can start with your cookies.

For the S-Cookies, roll out a snake and divide it, forming S-shapes which you’ll rest on a cookie sheet. We put Silpat on the cookie sheets so that the finished cookies will slide right off.

For the Knot Cookies, you’ll also make a snake from the dough and divide it. But, then, you’ll tie the length into a small knot. Place those on a cookie sheet, too.

For the jelly cookies. Roll out a length of dough until it’s flat. Add a layer of your favorite jam (we used apricot and strawberry) and fold the dough over so it forms a low, flat loaf. Score the unbaked loaf with your knife so that it’ll be easier to cut later.

Then, bake them. Fifteen to twenty minutes at 350 or until they’re golden brown.

They’ll look like this.

Typically, the S-Cookies are dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

The others are glazed with an icing made from confectioners’, a pinch of salt, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. You’ll need to play with the amounts until you get the consistency you desire.

Spoon the glaze over the knots and add colorful sprinkles. Simply glaze the jelly loaves and cut them into segments.

And, you’re done!

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.