Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Prince of Wales Pendant, 1814

Pendant of blue enameled gold, 1814
J. Barber for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This pendant was created as a gift for Sir William Knighton, one of the Prince of Wales's (the Prince Regent, later King George IIV) physicians. Knighton was created a baronet in 1813 and from 1822, he served George IV as private secretary and keeper of the privy purse.

The inclusion of the attributes of peace (olive) and victory (palm) in the design (marking the successful outcome of the wars against Napoleon) suggest an 1814 creation for the pendant which also features a portrait head of the Prince of Wales with a laurel wreath.

J. Barber, a medalist associated with Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the Royal Goldsmiths, created the medallion of gold and blue enamel. The head was modeled by Peter Rouw (1771-1852).

Unusual Artifacts: Left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales

Left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales
Later King Edward VII
Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This curious object is a plaster cast of the left hand of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII, r. 1901-1910), the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was made in England between 1862-1876 by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890). This item was given to the V&A by executors of the sculptor’s estate in 1892 along with a series of casts of hands of notable persons.

Boehm created a number of works associated with the Prince of Wales, perhaps most notably the monumental sculpture of the Prince on horseback which was erected in 1879 in Bombay, India. This casting shows exact detail of the Prince’s left hand, including a ring on the third finger.

At the Music Hall: I've Danced With a Man Who Danced With a Girl who Danced with the Prince of Wales, 1927

He danced with a girl who danced with a man who married the Prince of Wales.

I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
It was simply grand, he said "Topping band" and she said "Delightful, Sir"

Glory, Glory, Alleluia! I'm the luckiest of females
For I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
My word I've had a party, my word I've had a spree
Believe me or believe me not, it's all the same to me!
I'm wild with exultation, I'm dizzy with success
For I've danced with a man, I've danced with a man-
Well, you'll never guess
I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.
I'm crazy with excitement, completely off the rails
And when he said to me what she said to him -the Prince remarked to her
It was simply grand, he said "Topping band" and she said "Delightful, Sir"
Glory, Glory, Alleluia! I'm the luckiest of females;
For I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales.

“I've Danced with a Man, who's Danced with a Girl, who's Danced with the Prince of Wales” was written in 1927 by Herbert Farjeon at the height of the popularity of Edward, Prince of Wales – eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary. Such celebrity for a Prince of Wales was unprecedented to that date and “David” (as he was known to the family) loved every minute of it. Of course, he went on to be one of the greatest disappointments in Royal history when he chose American two-time divorcee and rumored lady-boy Wallis Simpson over the throne, breaking his mother’s heart in what I call “The Abdication Kerfuffle” ™ and what is more normally called, “The Abdication Crisis.”

The girl that inspired the song is thought to be one Edna Deane--a ballroom dancing champion of the era. The song, notably, was used as the theme for the 1978 ITV television series “Edward & Mrs. Simpson” which is a lot of fun to watch, but frustrating because it is so very pro-David. Nonetheless, thank God for the while Kerfuffle because without it, World War II would have had quite a different end.

Speaking of the Abdication Kerfuffle ™, we’ve commemorated the whole mess with a rather charming line of products available exclusively in our online store.

Antique Image of the Day: Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, 1859

Albert Edward, P. of Wales, 1859
After Winterhalter
J.H. Lynch, Lithographer
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Aw, look how cute and un-debauched he is. Here, we see Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and future philanderer King Edward VII in a three-quarter-length portrait when a boy. He is wearing military uniform, a sword at his left side, and the star and sash of the Order of the Garter.

Produced in 1859, this lithograph of Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s eldest son was created by James Henry Lynch based on an original by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. It was printed by M. & N. Hanhart in London. It is marked, “Albert Edward P of Wales 1859/J. H. Lynch, Lith. M. & N. Hanhart Impt.”

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 454

Name?” A gruff ship’s officer asked.

Affecting his best imitation of the Duke of Fallbridge, Mr. Punch smiled and responded. “Julian Pulcinella and party.”

“Pulcinella?” The man narrowed his eyes, studying his passenger list. “Italian?”


“You don’t sound Italian.”

“I was raised in England.” Mr. Punch responded.


“Of course,” Punch nodded, producing the paperwork which Adrienne had so expertly forged for all of them.

“All these folks with you?”

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “Roberto il Dottore—the gentleman to my right with the dark hair. This is,” he pointed to Cecil, “the Tussaud family. Cedric and his wife Cecilia and their child Frederick.”

The officer looked back and forth from the paperwork to the group—tired and hungry who stood before them.

“Behind me,” Punch continued, unrattled, “is my man, Carlo. He is holding my son, Arlecchino.”

“What’s with him?” The officer pointed to Gerard. “We don’t want no sick folk not with the fever spreadin’ here.”

“He’s not ill.” Punch continued, still unfazed. “He was in an accident. He fell down a flight of stairs. He’s my companion’s man, Gregory.”

“It all checks.” The officer grumbled. “What about the Africans?”

“These are…” Punch began.

“I don’t need their names. Just how many.”

In his head, Punch quickly counted Marjani, Gamilla and Columbia. “Three. I trust there will be space for them.”

“Sure, but they gotta stay below decks.”

“Of course,” Punch nodded. “May I keep my dog with me in the cabin?”

The man frowned.

“I’ll take full responsibility.” Punch smiled charmingly.

“Fine.” The man growled.

Punch wanted to whoop with glee, but he kept his reserve.

“Pulcinella and son are in Cabin 17 A. Dottore is in the adjoining 17 B. Mr. and Mrs. Tussaud are in 19 A and B.” The man continued curtly. “Your valets will be below in number 92.”

“What of…”

“The Africans can find a place in steerage.”

Punch looked nervously over his shoulder at Gamilla, Marjani and Columbia. Marjani smiled reassuringly.

“They will be treated well?” Punch asked.

“Sure.” The man laughed.

Punch began to argue, but Robert gently touched his elbow.

“Let’s get to our cabins, then.” Robert nodded.

“The Africans gotta go down now.” The officer barked.

Marjani spoke up. “We’ll find our way, Sir.”

“But…” Punch blurted out.

“What?” The officer snarled.

“I think Mr. Pulcinella is concerned because these women are invaluable servants and we do require their services. We can’t lose access to them.”

“They can serve ya.” The officer shrugged. “But, they gotta stay out of the saloons and reception areas.”

“We know what cabins you’re in.” Marjani nodded. “We will find you, Sir.”

Punch smiled weakly.

“Go on, then.” The officer ordered.

Punch nodded, walking away. He took a deep breath as he watched Marjani—Columbia’s hand in hers—hurry off behind a group of other African people.

“I hope they’ll be safe.” Punch whispered to Robert.

“They will.” Robert responded, picking up Toby. “If anyone can handle anything it’s Marjani. She’ll look after Columbia and Gamilla. Don’t fret.”

“That were awful.” Punch spoke as himself now that they were away from the officer.

“Indeed.” Cecil shook his head.

“However, we managed it.” Robert smiled. “Thanks to Adrienne’s handiwork.”

“I’ll never remember all of our false names.” Adrienne said quietly.

“No need.” Robert said. “We’ll keep to ourselves now that we’re on board. Just remember that, until we reach England, your family name is Tussaud.”

“I don’t see why we couldn’t have gone with the name we originally discussed.” Cecil mumbled. “I don’t like to be reminded of that Tussaud woman.”

“Because you don’t look like a Scaramouche.” Robert chuckled.

“And you look like a ‘Dottore’?”

“Apparently I do.” Robert grinned.

Charles followed them, carrying Colin and Gerard limped at a distance behind.

Punch stopped and studied Gerard.

“Here, Charles. Why don’t you give me Colin? You can help Gerry down to your bunks, then.”

“I’m fine, Sir.” Gerry croaked.

“Mr. Pu…Pulcinella is correct.” Robert paused. “Charles, do take Gerry. I’ll be down to check on your shortly.”

“Oh, you musn’t, Sir.” Gerard shook his head painfully. “It’s not fitting.”

“Yes, it is.” Robert said firmly.

“Yes, Sir.”

Charles handed the baby to Mr. Punch. His face, for once, was relaxed and peaceful—content knowing they were on their way from New Orleans.

“I’ve got you, Gerard.” Charles smiled.

Gerard looked at Charles cautiously.

“I’m sorry I was so rough with you in the past. I want for us to be friends now.” Charles whispered.

Gerard nodded. “I’d like that.”

“Good.” Robert said proudly. “Go on.”

The two men went off in search of their quarters.

“Here we are,” Adrienne pointed down the corridor.

“We done it!” Punch said, trembling with excitement.

“You see,” Robert smiled, putting his arm around Punch’s shoulders. “In an hour we’ll be at sea, on our way home.”

“You was right, Chum.” Mr. Punch answered, his eyes filling with happy tears.

“Now, nothing can stop us.” Adrienne exclaimed.

Little did she know, but on the docks, a group gazed upon the ship.

“They’re already aboard.” Giovanni sighed.

“No matter,” Barbara Allen responded.

“Really, Barbara?” Ulrika grunted. “Do you think we can just charge aboard with no papers?”

“We don’t need papers.” Marie Laveau said stiffly.

“Miss Laveau is right.” Odo added.

“Keep quiet, Odo.” Marie spat.

“Just do as I suggested,” Barbara said. “And, we’ll all get what we deserve.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-453? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, February 6, 2012 for Chapter 455 of Punch’s Cousin.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Miniature of King Charles I when Prince of Wales, 1616

Miniautre of King Charles I when Prince of Wales.  Watercolor on vellum applied to card.
Sir Balthazar Gerbier, 1616
Nineteenth Century silver frame.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

What a pretty lady. Oh! Wait…it’s not a lady. This rather awkward miniature of a very feminine-looking gent is by an amateur painter, Sir Balthazar Gerbier, explaining its rough and confusing look. Gerbier was born in the Netherlands, and basically, he trained for the life of a courtier, including the useful art of drawing. Unprepared for anything else, Gerbier entered the service of Prince William of Orange in 1615 who sent the man to England in an ambassadorial capacity in 1616. While in England, Gerbier transferred his services and allegiance to the then Earl (later the Duke) of Buckingham who was a very close companion of King James I. Gerbier became the Duke of Buckingham’s domestic architect and adviser on art, roles for which he was ill-suited.

During the early 17th century in England, a gentleman was expected to show an interest in miniature painting as a complement to their gentlemanly knowledge of heraldry which was a favored skill under the early Stuart monarchs. Gerbier was ambitious, but not especially skilled in much of anything, so, to him, a knowledge of miniature painting techniques must have seemed useful.

Gerbier entered the service of King Charles I in 1628, just after the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham. The Dutchman’s charms found favor with Charles I and he was knighted in 1638. The two had previously been quite chummy through his association with Buckingham.

This youthful portrait of the future Charles I shows Charles just after he had been made Prince of Wales. The prince is depicted wearing the blue ribbon of the Order of the Garter. Clearly, this clunky miniature was not painted from life, but rather is a clumsy copy of a full-size portrait.

This is not the original frame. The miniature was re-set in the Nineteenth Century in this silver frame with a rolled edge bezel and a loop made up of wire flanked by two detached scrolls of flat wire.

The same miniature on the right with another by Gerbier on the left depicting, perhaps, the Duke of Gloucester.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Comet, 1789

A Return of the Comet is expected this Year and to be within our horizon from the month of Octr 1788 to Augt 1789 but is expected to be most -visible (if it forces itself upon our Notice).

"The Comet"
Aquatint by James Sayers, 1789
Version housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum
This aquatint (a printmaking technique like engraving wherein an acid is applied to a metal plate) is entitled “The Comet” and is the work of engraver James Sayers. A satirical piece, Sayers has placed in the composition the Prince of Wales at the time (later the Prince Regent, later still King George IV) at the head of the comet, notable contemporary characters make up its tail.

This piece was published in London by Thomas Cornell. Those pictured behind the future King George IV are: Edmund Burke, Sir Grey Cooper, Edward Stanley Smith the Twelfth Earl of Derby, Charles James Fox, Frederick North the Second Earl of Guilford, Thomas Powys the First Baron of Lilford, William John Kerr the Fifth Marquess of Lothian, David Murray the Second Earl of Mansfield, Charles Howard the Eleventh Duke of Norfolk, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck the Third Duke of Portland, William Douglas the Fourth Duke of Queensberry, Alexander Wedderburn the First Earl of Rosslyn (Lord Loughborough), John Montagu the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Sawbridge, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Warren, Richard Watson and Christopher Wilson.

To quote Homer Simpson, “Mmmmm…Fourth Earl of Sandwich.” As for the rest, well, they’re less delicious.

Another version of this piece, located at the V&A, is in the collection of The British Museum. So, what makes this so important that two major museums display it? What’s going on here?

The piece was produced during one of George III’s famous bouts of illness—leading to his famed madness. The King was not expected, at first, to recover and supporters of the randy Prince of Wales expected him to ascend the throne.  However, George III rallied and his eldest boy's followers found that they were no closer to the throne than ever.  Still, the Prince of Wales looked forward to surpassing his rickety father.  This is summed up visual in the drawing we see above.

A comet is cutting through the design diagonally and downwards from the right to the left. The comet’s head is that of the future King George IV surrounded by a star, while the tail contains the heads of his disappointed followers. Immediately after the Prince is the head of Richard Sheridan, with a gloomy expression. Behind him are James Fox, with a melancholy countenance, and an angry Duke of Portland.

After them comes the wig in back view of Lord Loughborough and a host of other disgruntled hangers-on. On the background is etched “A Return of the Comet” which appeared in 1761. The text reads:

A Return of the Comet is expected this Year and to be within our horizon from the month of Octr 1788 to Augt 1789 but is expected to be most -visible {if it forces itself upon our Notice) in the Winter months Febry & March ------ vide Dr Trusslers Almanack

By some of the ancient Astronomers Comets were deemed Meteors kindled in the Air and designed as Presages or unlucky Omens of some disastrous Catastrophe------

The Peripateticks deemed them not permanent Bodies but bodies newly produced and in a short Time to perish again, and affirmed that they were made up of Exhalations in the terrestrial Regions------

Sr Isaac Newton asserts That the Tail of a Comet is nothing else than a fine Vapour which the Head of the Comet emits by its heat that Heat the Comet receives from the Sun and the magnitude of the Tail is always proportional to the degree of heat which the Comet receives, and Comets which are nearest to the Sun have the longest Tails------' 18 February 1789

The version exhibited at The British Museum.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Mastery of Design: A Porcelain and Diamond Breloque, 1750

Breloque of Porcelain, Gold and Diamonds, 1750
The Victoria and Albert Museum

A breloque is a seal or charm for a watch chain. Here, we see a breloque of soft-paste porcelain, molded and painted with enamels. It depicts a face wearing a mask and a plumed cap which suggests Pulcinella or Harlequin. It is mounted in gold, and the eyes are set with diamonds.

This curious and attractive ornament was made in London between 1750 and 1760 at Charles Gouyn's Porcelain Factory.

Friday Fun: Pulcinella e il prosciutto di Molfetta

Italian puppets. Pulcinella. Ham. It’s the perfect video for this week. I’ll let you figure out what’s going on.

And, remember, "That's the way to do it."  You can dress yourselves in Mr. Punch's catch-phrase with our exlcusive line of designs available only in our online store.

Painting of the Day: Pulcinella and Lucretia, 1742

Pulcinella and Lucretia
Portion of a Mural of Sixteen Panels
by Andien de Clermont , 1742
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Wealthy landowners in the Eighteenth Century (as now) always sought ways to show their status. One of the best ways to do this was to adorn their grand homes in the most fashionable manner. Mural painting in a grand house was a sure indicator of wealth and status. Noble and wealthy families would commission artists (usually from France, The Netherlands or Italy) to decorate the walls of their homes with fantastical scenes which demonstrated the owner's learning, allegiance and sophisticated taste.

Here, we see a portion of a mural comprised of a series of 16 panels which were originally commissioned by Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, in 1742 to decorate the “Scaramouche Parlour” in his house, Belvedere, in Kent.

The panels show scenes from the Commedia dell'Arte, depicting a number of the tradition’s stock characters which included Scaramouche; the Capitano, a swaggering, blustering coward; Arlecchino (who became the Harlequin of pantomime); Pulcinella (who inspired the English Punch); Pedrolino (later Pierrot); and Colombine (a serving maid with an amorous association with Harlequin or Pierrot).

The scenes were the 1742 work of the French artist Andien de Clermont (active 1716-1783) who was considered the most avant-garde and highly-inventive artist working in Britain during the Rococo period.

This scene depicts Pulcinella and Lucretia. We see a man in a blue shirt and a woman in a pink skirt in foreground. To the right of the woman is a large urn filled with flowers. In the background, we see a scene of buildings and a woman chasing a man, trying to beat him over the head with a club (these two figures are dressed identically to the two main figures in the foreground). Clearly, this is meant to show the love/hate aspect of most romantic entanglements and one of the main themes associated with Pulcinella. Evidence of the development of Punch and Judy is quite clear in the depiction of violent romance and potential clubbing.

Antique Image of the Day: La Famiglia di Pulcinella

Famiglia di Pulcinella
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Not much is known about this engraving entitled “Famiglia di Pulcinella” (Family of Pulcinella) which depicts, fittingly, a group of multigenerational figures clad in the costume of Pulcinella. The work of an unknown publisher from the 18th to 19th century, I’d guess pretty safely that this originated in Italy. It is now part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection at the V&A.

The engraving depicts a family of eleven adults and children dressed as Pulcinellas, drinking and eating on a table and on the floor. I love it!

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 453

Mr. Punch sobbed as he bent over the side of the dock. He was overcome with fear as his borrowed body was gripped by a wave of queasiness. He vomited again. Loudly and painfully—afterwards, shaking, sputtering and spitting.

“Chum?” Punch cried pitifully.

Robert helped Punch into a sitting position and sat with him on the edge of the dock, unashamedly cradling the man in his arms, rocking him softly.

“Me vittles is comin’ up outta me.” Punch moaned. “I don’t understand, I don’t.”

Robert smoothed Punch’s sweaty chestnut hair, wondering if—deep inside—Julian, too, was suffering.

“Help me,” Punch whimpered.

“I will, dear Punch.” Robert whispered.

Punch nodded slowly.

“Let me look in your mouth. Will you?” Robert asked.

Punch nodded, looking up and Robert and opening his mouth slightly. Robert studied Punch’s gums and teeth and smiled, patting the man’s smooth cheek. “You may close your mouth now.”

“Do I got the Yellow Jack?” Punch asked nervously.

“No.” Robert smiled.

“Then, why’s me vittles tryin’ to escape?” Punch asked. “It’s horrible, it is.”

“I know, dear Punch.” Robert replied softly. “I think you’ve just been overtaken by nervousness. It’s not unusual for our worries to make our bodies ill.”

Punch put his head on Robert’s shoulder and wept. Robert looked around, and seeing that only the members of their party were nearby, placed his arm comfortingly around Mr. Punch’s borrowed shoulders.

“We must remain strong, Mr. Punch.” Robert whispered. “Remember who you are.”

“Who am I?” Punch sniffed. “I don’t know no more. Seems to me I’m still meself—still ol’ Red Nose. But, sometimes, I feel like I’m more Julian than I am anyone else.”

“The longer you dominate this body, dear Punch, the more you become the Duke. At least, that’s what I’ve noticed.”

“Does that mean that me master’s dyin’ inside me?”

“I don’t know.” Robert sighed. “I’ve never encountered anyone like you before.”

“Poor chum,” Punch replied sincerely. “You love me master as much as I do.”

“But, I love you, too.” Robert answered quietly.

“I just wanna go home, I do. I wanna go back to the tall house in Belgravia. I wanna sleep in the big bed near the fire and take tea in the big blue drawing room. I wanna play with the babies and the dog Toby and take them in a carriage to Fallbridge Hall. And, when I get there, I’m gonna take all the portraits of the Duchess off of the wall and hide them away in wardrobes where their cold eyes won’t make no one shiver.”

“We’ll go home.” Robert nodded.

“Not if you ask Mama Routhe.” Punch began to cry again. “She says we can’t. Yet, it can’t be do, it can’t. There’s the ship—right there—so close I can smell it with me new small nose. Why? Why, Chum? Why can’t we go home?”

“We can.”

“No.” Punch blubbered. “Marjani don’t think we can neither. I know it. When I threw that awful gris gris in the water…”

“These people—though they mean well—have their own set of beliefs. Though they believe, it doesn’t mean they’re true. Some cultures believe in many gods—creatures with the heads of elephants and dozens of arms. Just because they believe and because they take comfort in those things, that doesn’t mean that we must.”

“But, there’s got to be one truth.” Punch looked up at his friend. “How do we know which is the one?”

“We must keep trying until we find it.” Robert smiled. “Now, you see, you feel better. Don’t you?”

“Don’t feel like I’m gonna unswallow me breakfast no more.” Punch nodded.

“Good.” Robert said, rising. He offered a hand to Punch and helped him to his feet. “Now, you must stand and smile. We need not worry the children nor the servants. Think of all we have.”

“Such as?” Punch wiped his eyes.

“Look over there. Two healthy baby boys. Look at them. Fuller will grow strong and brave. He will be loved by Cecil and Adrienne who are now safe from harm. And, there—there is Colin. You and I will raise him to be a fine young man and when we’re gone, he will be the Duke of Fallbridge and he’ll be a fine man like…”

“Like me master.”

“Yes.” Robert nodded slowly. “Who else is there?”

“Marjani and Columbia.” Punch nodded.

“And, we’ll take them to a new land where they’ll have opportunities and freedoms that they never imagined. Think of what Columbia can do with her life. And, Gamilla, there. She will enjoy a new, exciting world. Gerry and Charles, too. Remember when we first met Gerry—a poor simpleton under the sway of that mad Arthur. Now he’s a loyal, courageous young man. And, when he heals, he will thrive. And, Charles will be free of his brother’s evil influence.”

“Coo.” Punch whispered.

“And, all of this is owed to you, dear Punch.”

“But, Mama Routhe said we can’t leave. She said Marie cursed us and the sea.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Did you believe that you could hear the thoughts of other folk?” Punch asked.

“Well, no.” Robert replied.

“And, yet, you do. Don’t ya? Sometimes you hear. Don’t ya?”

“Yes.” Robert nodded. “But one thing does not make all circumstances true.”

“I ‘spose.”

“Look again at all of those people who rely on us.”

Punch did as instructed.

“Don’t we owe it to them to continue?”

“We do.” Punch smiled.

Robert returned the smile.

“Let’s go, then.” Robert took a deep breath. “In about an hour we’ll be on that ship and far away from Marie Laveau, Iolanthe Evangeline, Ulrika Rittenhouse and Edward Cage, and these worries of curses and black magic will be nothing but memories about which we’ll only joke one day as we watch Colin play in Belgrave Square.”

“You truly believe that, do you, Chum?”

“I do.” Robert grinned.

“Here,” Punch nodded. “I believe, too.”

Punch hooked his arm through Robert’s and together they walked briskly back to their party. As they walked, Robert forced himself to keep smiling because, in his heart, he did not really believe.

Did you miss Chapters 1-452? If so, you can read them here.

Sculpture of the Day: The Ivory Pulcinella, 1750

Ivory Pulcinella
Technically, "Polizinell"
Germany, 1750
The Victoria and Albert Museum

Here’s something peculiar. This ivory figure of a dancer clearly represents Pulcinella, but, he’s not the work of an Italian sculptor. He comes from Germany, c. 1750. The figure is delicately rendered in a fantastic costume, a conical hat and a ballet skirt.

So, how did this character from the traditional Italian Commedia dell' Arte come to be rendered by a German artist? He was already known in France as Puchinelle and in England as Punchinello or Mr. Punch (first recorded in Britain on May 9th, 1662 by Samuel Pepys). The first sighting of our hero in Germany came in 1649. He was spotted in Nuremberg where he was called “Polizinell.” This was performed by a splashy Maltese showman called Blasius Manfredi who, that same year, had the acquaintance of the Franco/Italian showman known as Brioche who was first noted as performing 'Polichinelle' in Paris. So, they’re all connected.

As we approach Mr. Punch’s three hundred fiftieth birthday, it’s important to remember the minor moments over the last three centuries that led to his widespread, global fame. This little ivory figure which could so easily be dismissed is just one tiny piece of the puzzle.

The figure was given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A. to the V&A where it remains along with a host of other historical items, each of which—when assembled—spell out the Punch family tree and history. Notably, from 1971 to 1977, the figure was on display at the Clawning Castle in Nottingham, England. Prior to 1971, it lived for an unknown time at King George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. How George IV came to own it is unknown.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Pulcinella Mask, c. 1670-1700

Leather Mask of Pulcinella
Naples, Italy, Late Seventeenth to Early Eighteenth Centuries
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Seventeenth Century, street performers, pantomime actors, opera stars and puppeteers across Europe were, unbeknownst to each other, developing a set of common characters who would eventually join into one great satirical genre populated by stock characters which endure to this day. While these characters still retain their individual identities in their countries of origin, they all married to produce, in Britain, Mr. Punch and his companions.

The main source for Mr. Punch, as we know, is his Italian cousin, Pulcinella from the Commedia dell’arte who not only gave birth to Punch, but also lent some of his puppet DNA to France’s pig-tailed Guignol. We must remember, however, that before these little fellows (with the exception of Guignol who was born as and remained a puppet) initially strutted for the delight of society as masked human actors in a tradition that is still enjoyed today.

This molded leather mask is from an Italian Commedia dell'arte troupe which performed in Naples around 1700. This black mask is immediately recognizable as that of Pulcinella. In fact he still wears a similar mask.

Pulcinella was initially portrayed as a dimwitted servant, known for his big beaky nose, hunchback, distended stomach and a prominent wart on his forehead. By the time he became Mr. Punch, he had had his wart removed and lost the black mask, but the other characteristics remained. As the Seventeenth Century progressed, the character of Pulcinella became more well-rounded. By the time this mask was made and used, he was not necessarily a servant, but rather a trickster peasant, a dentist (like his cousin, Guignol), a physician, a painter or a soldier.

As Pulcinella changed, the mask also changed. The earliest versions of the mask featured a moustache and beard which served to obscure most of the actor's face. But, by the time Pulcinella reached Britain where he would become Punchinello, and ultimately, Mr. Punch, the character donned a half-mask like this one.

Curiously, as Italian performers of the period traveled to England to seek new audiences, the retained some of the old Commedia dell'arte characters, creating a type of early pantomime called a “harlequinade” (which is great with ice on a warm day). But, Pulcinella was not among them. He, in typical Punchinello fashion broke out on his own. Ever the independent spirit, Punchinello was a star in his own right and the English embraced his shocking and amusing antics, calling him “Mr. Punch” and making him the voice of the people. Mr. Punch introduced new versions of some of the traditional stock characters, assigning them characteristics and roles which better suited his own story.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Stray Snack

"I'm pretty sure we can't eat it."

*Click image to enlarge*

Image: The Stray Shuttlecock, Frank Dillon, 1878, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Don't forget our special Bertie Dog designs available exclusively in our online store.

Mastery of Design: The Lady Bettine Abbingdon Pink Pearls, 1900-1910

Pink Cultured Pearls, Japan, 1900-1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This necklace of four strands of pink pearls of graduated size closes with a gold clasp set with sapphires and diamonds. It was made in London between 1900 and 1910 using Japanese pearls. By the early Twentieth Century, the Japanese had perfected a technique for cultivating pearls which imitated the process by which a natural pearl is formed. The process involves inserting a small irritant into a farmed oyster. The oyster, then, slowly coats the foreign particle with layers of iridescent nacre (mother-of-pearl), eventually producing a perfect pearl.

The necklace was made for Lady Bettine Abbingdon who bequeathed this exceptional piece to the V&A.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Brighton Pavilion Clothes Press, 1815

Clothes Press
Made for the Prince Regent, 1815
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A triumph of high-quality japanning, this cabinet and stand are inset with cartouches of actual Chinese lacquer-work. The cartouches are set in a background which has been adorned with delicate touches of gold paint to imitate the look of lacquered snakeskin. The doors of the case open to reveal three trays which have been veneered in expensive rosewood, exceptionally, on all sides.

This magnificent piece once belonged to a suite of furniture which (including a day bed and a sécretaire) which was designed by Frederick Crace for a bedroom at the Brighton Pavilion, the Orientalist fantasy palace commissioned by the Prince Regent (later King George IV).

Frederick Crace (1779-1859) was the son of the fashionable and celebrated decorator John Crace (1754-1819). Together, they supplied their high-tone London customers with numerous objects for the home ranging from textiles and ivories to furniture and art—mostly from East Asia.

Precious Time: The Markwick Tall-case Clock, 1725

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This japanned tall-case clock shows the Eighteenth Century desire to imitate the expensive imported lacquer from Japan and China. It is decorated with Chinese figures, vases and flowering shrubs. Like many works of Japanning, the effect on this clockcase was achieved by applying coats of colored varnish over a gesso base layer. This layer has been built up in relief for a three-dimensional effect.

This masterpiece is the work of James Markwick the Younger, who made this clock around 1725. Markwick was a member of the Clock Makers Company in London, becoming master of the Company in 1720.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 452

I can’t walk no more.” Marie Laveau moaned to her daughter.

“We’ll stop soon, Mama.” Young Marie answered. She tightened her grip around her mother’s waist.

“The baby,” Marie mumbled.

“I know, Mama.” Young Marie sniffed, trying to hold back her tears.

“I’ll make that Iolanthe pay for this.” Marie trembled.

“You won’t have to do it alone, Mama.” Young Marie growled.

“All my plans…” Marie Laveau groaned. She paused and gripped her abdomen.

“Why don’t we stop here?” Young Marie pointed to a tavern to their left. “We can get you some water.”

“We can’t go in there.” Marie snapped.

“Sure we can. There’s a place for colored folks through the alley.”

“How you know that?” Marie narrowed her eyes.

“Cuz some o’ the men talk ‘bout it.” Young Marie sighed.

“Fine, fine.” Marie croaked.

Young Marie helped her mother through the alleyway and into the rear door of the tavern. With considerable effort, she helped her mother sit upon a stiff, mean wooden chair.

Marie moaned as her daughter waved for help.

“How’d you know where to find me?” Marie whispered to her eldest child. “How’d you know where I was?”

“That Italian man.” Young Marie answered, cringing as she spoke, knowing that the answer would anger her mother further.

“What Italian man?”

“Calls himself Charles. He’s always with that Barbara Allen.”

“Why? How’d you see him?”

“He came by the house after the fire marshal.”

“Fire marshal?” Marie squinted.

“I know now that it was a trick. That Charles was tryin’ for to get Mrs. Routhe.”

“And did he?”

“Yes, Mama.” Young Marie lowered her head.

Marie was silent for a few minutes. Finally, she spoke. “Don’t matter now. Ain’t no baby for her to…” She grunted. “Don’t matter now.” Sighing, she looked around the tavern. Suddenly, she spotted Ty Odo who, next to the ample frame of Amber, was crouched by the lattice-work screen which separated the two sections of the tavern.

“Ain’t that Edward Cage’s man?” Marie asked.

“The wiry little runt? Yes.” Young Marie nodded.

“Odo!” Marie Laveau barked.

Odo turned around, his eyes widening when he spotted Marie Laveau.

Marie crooked her finger at him.

Odo shook his head.

“Come over here, Odo!” Marie snarled.

Odo put his finger to his lips. He didn’t want Barbara, Ulrika and Giovanni to hear her from the other side of the screen.

“Keep your eye on them.” Odo whispered to Amber.

“Sure, Sugar.” Amber winked. “For a price.”

“Whatever you want.” Odo grumbled.

He approached Marie and recoiled when he saw her bloody dress.

“What happened?” He gasped.

“Iolanthe Evangeline.” Marie growled.

“Did ya…”

“Yes.” Marie said.

“I’m sorry.” Odo answered sincerely.

“I believe you are.” Marie replied.

Odo wiped his eyes. “Long, long ago,” he began, “I had a bride. Well, she weren’t really my bride, but we loved each other. She died tryin’ to have our chil’.”

“So, that’s why you’re so cruel?” Marie grinned.

“Maybe.” Odo shrugged. “I never was very kind.”

“Join us, Odo.” Marie pointed to the chair next to her daughter.

“Forgive me, Miss Laveau, but I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m doin’ somethin’.”


Odo inhaled.

“You got somethin’ goin’. Huh? Don’t bother lyin’ to me, Odo. I’ll find out anyway.”

“Wasn’t my plan.” Odo said.


Odo sniffed.

“Whose, Odo?”

“Barbara Allen, Miss.”

“Tell me more, Odo.” Marie grinned through her pain. “Tell me all ‘bout it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-451? If so, you can read them here.

The Home Beautiful: The Duke of Beaufort’s Dressing Table, 1754

Dressing Table, 1754
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Designed by John Linnell (1729 - 1796) and supplied by his father, William (1703 - 1763), this dressing table is made of gilded, painted and japanned pinewood and mahogany, with lattice doors in the Chinese style. It was made around 1754 for Noel Somerset, 4th Duke of Beaufort (1709 - 1756). The Duke used the table at his home, Badminton House, Gloucestershire. The Duke of Beaufort was considered the leading authority on Shakespeare at the time.

John Linnell, the designer, had been a pupil of St. Martin's Lane Academy, and was celebrated for his Chinese-inspired furnishings. Another of his pieces, a lovely chair, is housed in the V&A. This chair is very similar to a group of eight made for Duke's bedchamber at Badminton House.

This style was all the rage in the mid Eighteenth Century. William Halfpenny's “New Designs for Chinese Temples” (1750) and Thomas Chippendale's “Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director” (1754) helped incite the fashion for all things Chinese. Wealthy home-owners, always eager to stay in fashion, commissioned many Chinese-inspired pieces.

This dressing table is an excellent example of the fashion. This japanned (a technique which arose in the Seventeenth Century to replicate costly oriental lacquers wherein layers of shellac are built up and dried before being polished to a high sheen) and parcel-gilt pinewood and mahogany cabinet is decorated with Chinese landscapes and figures, pagodas and animals as well as a complicated lattice-work pattern on the face and a fretted gallery.

When Dr. Richard Pococke visited Badminton in 1754 he wrote of the “Bedchamber finished and furnished very elegantly in the Chinese Manner” (Travels through England, II, p.31). An inventory of Badminton House from 1835 mentions “a Chinese sideboard with Drawers” which was then located in the South Breakfast Room. It is called a “Wide Queen Anne Lac Cabinet fitted three drawers in centre at six ditto at sides the latter enclosed by trellis doors, decorated Chinese landscapes river scenes pagodas set in gilt top with pierced gallery shaped from on square legs.”

The table was sold at Christie's on June 20, 1921, later passing through the ownership of Sir Philip Fandel Philips, Lady Ludlow and Mrs. James Rank before finally being purchased by the V & A in 1952.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Hamilton Palace Screen, 1670-1700

Japanese Eight-Panel Screen, 1670-1700
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I call dibs on this in case the V&A ever wants to unload it. This six-paneled screen is adorned with a landscape design featuring buildings, figures, trees, birds and monkeys. The figures depicted are: men fishing at a river; a man walking with a stick; a man carrying a bag on a stick and women in brightly colored clothing sitting by a river. The scene comes alive with gold houses on hills, trees with shining monkeys nestled in the branches, a wise owl in a tree, birds in flight, and flowers with their glistening petals inlaid with gleaming shell. The images all glimmer in gold, silver and red on a dark lacquer ground in the fashionable technique of japanning. Each panel is attached to the next with metal foil and stud hinges.

This decorative screen, used for privacy or to divide a portion of a room (or simply to look pretty) was made in Japan between 1670 and 1700. It is believed that the screen may have come from the collection of Hamilton Palace. This important collection included many pieces previously owned by William Beckford (1760-1844) including the Van Diemen box and the Mazarin Chest.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gifts of Grandeur: An Italian Garnet Ring, 7th C.

Gold ring with a garnet bead and pearls, 7th C., Italy
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This magnificent ring was made in Italy in the Seventh Century and is comprised of a gold band with a projecting cone-shaped bezel set with a garnet and pearls. The hoop of the ring is pierced and chased with a pattern of foliage and an applied beaded border.

Given the age of the piece, it’s in remarkably good condition though it is missing a pearl.

Unfolding Pictures: The Macao Fan, 1840

Macao Fan, 1840
Queen Victoria, by whom bequeathed to
King Edward VII, by whom given to Queen Alexandra, 1901.
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image courtesy of:
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
This Cantonese fan, known as “The Macao Fan” was made in 1840 of paper leaf with lacquered bamboo guards and sticks. It features a silk tassel supporting beads of pink tourmaline.

The fan was made for Queen Victoria who, in 1901, bequeathed it to her eldest son, Albert Edward (King Edward VII) who, in turn, presented the fan to his wife, Queen Alexandra.

This fan is a high-quality example of the Cantonese fans produced in the 1830s and 1840s. This fan, like others from Canton, depicts a large number of figures in which the faces are painted on tiny pieces of ivory and the clothes are made of real silk which are pasted onto the paper ground.

At either side of the central scene, in which a magistrate greets his son who has returned home on a white horse, are views of Macao. The Royal Collection states, “The Cantonese origin of this fan is confirmed through the survival of the original coloured lacquer box, finely decorated with Oriental figures, flowers and buildings. On the base of the inside of the box is the trade label of the shop (Volong) in Canton which supplied the fan.”

The Art of Play: An English Pandora, 1755-1760

England, 1755-1760
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made between 1755 and 1760, this Pandora (a fashion doll) was created to convey the latest fashion among the courts of Europe. Pandoras were in use from the Fourteenth Century, but the practice reached its apex the Eighteenth Century as these three-dimensional fashion plates were sent all over Europe and America to promote the wares of dressmakers. By the end of the Eighteenth Century, Pandoras gave way in importance to fashion magazines.

Technically, these were not designed as toys, but, after they had served their original purpose, they often found their way into the eager hands of children.

This wooden Pandora is dressed in a silk sack-back robe, luxuriously sparking with glass beads, with a matching petticoat and stomacher. The figure wears all of the accessories and underpinnings expected of a fashionable lady of the late 1750s. Since the clothes are secured with the original pins, we can see that the garments have remained in position since the 18th century. Clearly, this figure was never played with.

The doll is marked "Eliz. Bootle, London.” This Pandora is associated with the Loveday family. According to the V&A, the Bootle name entered the Loveday family, “on the marriage of Robert Wilbraham to Mary Bootle in 1755. Robert took Mary's name under the terms of her uncle's will, therefore the Wilbraham-Bootle family of Rode Hall, Cheshire became the Bootle-Wilbraham family (connected to 1st Baron Skelmersdale).”

Prior to being acquired by the V&A in 1980, the figure was displayed for a number of years in the Fashion Gallery as a long loan from the family.

History's Runway: The Mirman Amoeboid Cocktail Hat, 1950

Cocktail Hat
Simone Mirman, 1950s
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The famed English Simone Mirman designed custom-made hats to coordinate with any dress or ensemble. Additionally, her boutique offered a vast array of ready-to-wear evening and cocktail hats in various unusual shapes which would have not only been versatile accessories for any sort of outfit, but would have sat neatly upon the popular sleek hairstyles of fashionable women.

Mirman was inspired by mid-Twentieth Century scientific discoveries. Her fascination with science of the day--atoms and cell structures—served as a muse for patterns and original forms such as the shape of this bejeweled silk cap which was inspired by the undulating shape of an amoeba.

Mirman created this clasp hat of beige embroidered silk twill, lace and beads in the early 1950s as part of the line of amoeboid-shaped pieces offered in her boutique.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 451

Really, Odo,” Ulrika grumbled as she pulled her shawl over her shoulders. “This had better not be one of your tricks.”

“Why would I wanna trick ya?” Odo shrugged as he weaved his way through the bustling streets of the French Quarter.

Ulrika and Giovanni followed him, trying to keep up with his quick gait.

Giovanni moaned—his wound hurting him with every step.

“Can we slow down a tad?” Ulrika asked. “Mr. Iantosca is in poor health.”

“We can slow down all ya want.” Odo stopped, grinning. “But, Miss Allen ain’t gonna wait forever.”

“Where are you taking us?” Giovanni coughed.

“You’ll see.” Odo frowned. “With respect, Sir, if you can’t keep up, maybe you should stay back. Ain’t like Miss Allen wanted to see you anyway. She tol’ me only to bring Miss Ulrika.”

“Mr. Iantosca goes where I go.” Ulrika responded firmly.

“Fine,” Odo shrugged again. “But, we better get there.”

“This is foolish.” Giovanni snapped. “We’re following this creature around the city with no promise of any…”

“That woman took something from me,” Ulrika interrupted.

“Do you really think that she’s going to return it?” Giovanni growled. “She’s luring you into some trap!”

“It’ll take more than Barbara Allen to trap me.” Ulrika shot back.

“Really?” Giovanni bellowed. “She managed to get the diamond, didn’t she? I know this girl. She’s involved with my brother. I’ve seen the extent of her madness.”

“She ain’t involved with your brother no more, Sir.” Odo responded.


“No, Sir. Mr. Charles done left her.”

“Really?” Ulrika chirped with glee. “So, the whore has no man on her arm? How difficult that must be for her.”

“She’s a broken woman, Miss.” Odo continued. “She wants to make good so she can go away.”

“So you’ve said.” Giovanni mumbled.

“Ain’t much further.” Odo winked. “Come with me.”

“I’ve never been over here,” Ulrika said nervously as she looked around at the dark faces that stared at her. She chuckled self-consciously. “You know? When I was a girl Mama always told me not to come into this sort of this part of the quarter because these people would steal my hair.”

“Your hair?” Giovanni sniggered.

“Yes.” Ulrika pouted. “They believe that titian hair has some sort of power, I think. Mama said that they’d overpower me to take my hair to use in their rituals.”

“That ain’t true, Miss.” Odo laughed. “It ain’t your hair these folk want.”

“That’s comforting.” Ulrika whispered.

“Here she is.” Odo pointed to a tavern—the tavern where he had met with Amber only hours before.

“I can’t go in there.” Ulrika shook her head. “It wouldn’t be proper for a woman to…”

“There’s women in there.” Odo said quickly.

“Not ladies.” Ulrika protested.

“Miss Allen is in there.”

“As I said,” Ulrika spat.

“Do you want your diamond or not?” Odo growled.

Ulrika snorted. “Very well. Take us in.”

“I can’t.” Odo replied. “I’m not allowed on this side.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s African!” Giovanni snapped.

“Oh, yes.” Ulrika muttered.

“I’ll keep an eye on ya from the other side.” Odo said. “When you’re finished, jus’ signal and I’ll take you home.”

“You’re safe with me, darling.” Giovanni smiled.

“Of course I am.” Ulrika frowned.

“Go on, then. She can’t wait all day!” Odo urged.

Ulrika nodded, taking Giovanni’s hand. Together they walked into the tavern as Odo scurried through the alley and darted into the back entrance.

“Back so soon?” Amber grinned, limping toward him. “Want some company, Odo?”

“Maybe later.” Odo winked. “If you don’t fall over first.”

Amber scowled. “Ain’t like I gotta stand to make my coins.”

“Leave me be.” Odo spat, hurrying to the lattice-work screen which separated the two parts of the tavern.

“You’re gonna get your yella eyes poked, Little Odo.” Amber laughed.

“If this works out, Amber, I can buy new eyes.” Odo replied. “And buy you some new legs.” He glanced at her. “Maybe some that don’t look like the pillars outside a church.”

“You little rat,” Amber sniffed.

“Shut up.” Odo smirked.

“What’re you so keen to see, Odo?” Amber came closer.

Odo grabbed Amber by her soft, meaty arm and pulled her toward the screen.

“See them?” He whispered.

“The lady with the red hair and that handsome fella?”

“Yep.” Odo smiled.

“What’s the likes of them doin’ in here?” Amber asked. Her eyes widened. “Ain’t that the English lady with them? She’s a loon, I hear.”

“Sure is.” Odo laughed. “That loon’s gonna make me my fortune.”

“What you doin’ wrapped up with the likes of her?”

Odo sighed. “Mr. Cage don’t think I’m worth thinkin’ ‘bout. He thinks I’m just a pair of hands with no mind. He’ll see I got a mind.”

“What you talkin’ ‘bout?” Amber squinted.

“What you’re watchin’, my dear, is the fall of the houses of Cage and Rittenhouse and the start of a scandal the likes of which you never saw before.”

“This is your doin’?”

“Part.” Odo nodded.

Amber and Odo watched as Ulrika and Giovanni hesitantly sat across from a grinning Barbara Allen.

“What’s more,” Odo winked. “It’ll mean the ruin of Iolanthe Evangeline and Marie Laveau.”

“Hey, did you hear ‘bout Marie?” Amber said eagerly. “I hear she was tied up in front of Iolanthe’s.”

“Quiet.” Odo whispered. “None of that matters now.”

“You think that little slip of a thing is gonna do all that?” Amber pointed at Barbara.

“I know she is.” Odo nodded.

“How?” Amber laughed.

“She’s got the most powerful hate I done ever saw.” Odo chuckled. “Ain’t nothin’ stronger than that.” He put his arm around Amber’s thick waist. “Nothin’ in the world.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-450? If so, you can read them here.

Unusual Artifacts: A French Beadwork Purse, 1780-1800

Beadwork Purse
Unknown French Workshop, 1780-1800
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The European love of beadwork rose in the Seventeenth Century, and by the Eighteenth Century, this expensive technique became available to a wider audience as many workshops in England, Italy and France produced small items glistening with glass beads. In France, the medium was often found on delicate purses. French workshops produced some of the finest multi-colored beadwork in Europe during this period. These French craftsmen used beads in conjunction with other techniques, to highlight parts of an embroidered pattern. The most expensive examples were made with a single bead for every stitch, producing a dense beaded surface.

This purse is an excellent representation of the fine beadwork produced in France in the Eighteenth Century. It depicts a figure of a woman in a garden, leaning on a plinth with a rolled parasol in her right hand and a small dog at her feet. The purse was made in four sections, each bearing an allegorical figure, one representing Justice, with finish-work of pink silk cords and tassels. It was made between 1780 and 1800.