Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Dame Joan Evans Micromosaic Brooch, 1820 - 1830

Brooch of silver and micromosaic
Rome, C. 1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Nineteenth Century, works of micromosaic were most closely associated with Italian craftsmen.  Panels of these intricate mosaics were popular souvenirs brought back by travelers to Rome.

This brooch from the collection of Dame Joan Evans was made from such a panel which was brought from Rome to England.  The panel consists of minute pieces of colored glass arranged on a surface of mastic or cement using tweezers. Set in a silver-gilt filigree, the mosaic depicts a bird, possibly a pheasant. The silver-gilt resembles spirals of string string, almost like a bird’s nest.

The Home Beautiful: A Chippendale Mirror, 1762-5

Chippendale Mirror and Girandole, 1762-5
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This exceptional Eighteenth Century mirror was designed to serve double-duty as a girandole or a sconce with three arms to support candles and reflect the candlelight to increase the light in a room.

A work of Chippendale (1718-1779), dating between 1762 and 1765, this mirror boasts an elaborately-carved Rococo frame adorned with flowers, leaves, bull-rushes and birds (probably cranes). The carved pine frame was gilded creating a surface which, when combined with the brass fittings and mirror, also served to reflect light.

Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) engaged a team of engravers to prepare his designs, so its difficult to say whose specific hand created this piece.  The glass—as with most large sheets of glass at the time—was most surely imported from France.  This complex design incorporates both smaller and larger sections of glass. The smaller sections were crafted from off-cuts from the larger pieces—economically utilizing as much of this expensive material as possible.

Unusual Artifacts: A Dalmatian Hairpin, 1850-1900

Hairpin of Silver
Dalmatia, 1850-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The hairpin has been a part of a woman’s daily life since antiquity.  Though these clever little items have fallen out of favor today, in large part, they enjoyed a long and happy existence, rising above their utilitarian roots to become decorative and even coveted objects of great monetary and personal value.

Here, we see a small hairpin which dates between 1850 and 1900.  Made of cast silver, it heralds from Dalmatia, Croatia and takes the form of a bird standing on a flat vertical triangle.  The bird depicted here is thought to be a cockerel—a traditional symbol of fertility.  Such a pin would have been used to secure a headpiece to a rather complicated coiffure.

When we think of Dalmatia, we tend to have images of spotted dogs.  In the Nineteenth century Dalmatia was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—stretching from from Trieste (now in Italy) to the borders of modern Albania. 

At the Music Hall: Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing, 1932

Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.
Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Sweet, sweet sweet, sweet sweet.
Let's all warble like nightingales,
Give your throat a treat.
Take your time from the birds,
Now you all know the words,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.

Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Bubbaboo ba-bubbaboo ba-boo.
Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet tweet tweet - my that bird sings sweetly.
Let's all warble like nightingales,
Ah, Mimi...c'est magnifique!
Take your time from the birds,
Now you all know the words
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet

Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.
Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Sweet, sweet sweet, sweet sweet.
Let's all warble like nightingales,
Give your throat a treat.
Take your time from the birds,
Now you all know the words,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet, tweet.

This popular music hall song extolling the virtues of melodic avian creatures has endured to this date in large part because of its longtime association with Disney foolishness.  The song was written by Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell and Tolchard Evans in 1932 and was a favorite of performers during the 20s because of its cheerful theme and easy lyrics.

I’m posting this video clip from a Disney cartoon.  I’m not entirely happy about it.  But, it’s what one typically associates with this song.  

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 466

 Iolanthe Evangeline stood on the dock and watched the billows of smoke rise black and angry from three separate sections of the ship.  She inhaled deeply and grinned.  Smoothing her gloves over her burnt skin, she took delight in watching the people scurry about the decks in mortal panic.

She turned to Mala who stood behind her.  “Think of it, you monstrous hobgoblin, just now, Marie Laveau, Barbara Allen, Ulrika Rittenhouse, the Duke of Fallbridge and his foolish companions are all drowning in that thick smoke.”

Mala nodded.  “And, Big Ollie and a whole lot of innocent folk.”

“Why must you always spoil my enjoyment?”  Iolanthe grunted.

“Ain’t tryin’ to spoil nothin’, Miss.”  Mala shrugged.

“Why do I continue to employ you?”  Iolanthe growled.

“Cuz I’s the only person who’ll stick with ya.”  Mala smiled.

“Maybe so.”  Iolanthe responded.  She sighed.  “Well, Ollie’s no fool.  After all, he started the fire.  Surely he’ll get back here before he chokes to death.”

Mala chuckled.  “Ain’t no thing if he don’t.”

“True,”  Iolanthe nodded slowly.  “After all, if he doesn’t return he won’t have to be paid, and I can get my hands on the diamond.”

“And, he won’t be threatenin’ to tell folk you done tol’ him to start the fire.”

“Yes,”  Iolanthe smiled, not taking her eyes off of the burning ship.  “That would be convenient.”

“Miss?”  Mala said nervously.

“What is it now?”

“Ain’t that Miss Ulrika over there?”

“What?”  Iolanthe snapped.

“Over there.”  Mala pointed to two huddled, wet figures sitting on the dock.  One of them—a woman with broad shoulders and a thick, long neck—had upon her head a mass of titian hair—made almost burgundy from being damp.

“Damn!”  Iolanthe hissed.

“I thought you said she was on the ship.”  Mala chuckled.

“I thought she was!”  Iolanthe growled.  “And, it ain’t funny.”

With that, Iolanthe hurried to the two nearly-drowned figures—Mala trotted obediently behind her.

Did you miss Chapters 1-564?  If so, you can read them hereCome back on Monday, February 21, 2012 for more of Punch’s Cousin.  

History's Runway: The Exotic Bird Bodice, 1700-29

Bird Bodice
Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Women’s clothing of the Eighteenth Century was particularly complicated to put on and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time, yet, fashion and propriety dictated that, at formal events, a woman should be outfitted in a certain way.  Nevertheless, when at home, a woman could dress a little less uncomfortable and would often wear an informal bodice such as this one under a loose robe which was left open at the front. 

What we see here is only the front of a bodice.  The back has long since been lost to time. 

The yellow silk bodice is adorned with an embroidered pattern in colored silks of exotic birds, large blossoms and leaves rendered in a chinoiserie style. The background is cord quilted, a quilting technique wherein thin cords are inserted between parallel lines of stitching.

It was made between 1700-1729  by an unknown embroiderer.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Martin-ware Tobacco Jar, 1903

“If Martin-ware [… has] not the transparency of porcelain nor the elaborately and costly ornamentation of Sèvres [it is] pure and honest art work.”

Cosmo Monkhouse, the renowned British art critic described the work of the Martin Brothers' studio in “The Magazine of Art” in 1882 with the above statement. The studio was founded by the allegedly eccentric founder Robert Wallace Martin and his siblings Charles, Walter and Edwin who, together, enjoyed a life of artistic experimentation with the forms of the flora and fauna of the sixteenth-century potter Bernard Palissy.

The brothers' works, known as Martinware, relied on grotesque and peculiar forms which demonstrated  a quirky amalgam of fantasy and imagination—producing a series of anthropomorphic lidded wares, known overall as “tobacco jars.”  

Martinware Bird, 1903
Glazed Pottery on wooden stand.
The Victoria and Albert Museum

Some art historians conjecture that the Brothers Martin were inspired by the traditional English owl-shaped pottery jugs as their wares often took on fantastical fowl forms.  Martin-ware birds are not of any known species—evading classification.  The heads are often made to swivel in odd directions, further adding to their whimsy.

Here, we see an example of a Martinware Tobacco Jar and lid in the form of a bird.  Like its pottery brethren, it features a large head - tapering towards the feet.   It was made in 1903 to be displayed on a wooden stand.  Marked “Martin Bros London & Southall 11-1903,” this jar, like other similar examples is known as a “Wally Bird” and was meant to appeal to a society that was growing to appreciate Japanese-inspired art.

The tobacco jar joins one of its owl brothers.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Janey Morris Brooch, 1820-30

Brooch belonging to Janey Morris, 1820-1830
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This fine citrine brooch originally belonged to Mrs. Jane Morris (known as Janey), the wife of the artist, designer and socialist William Morris. Janey was a favorite subject of her famous husband and his artist friends.  She was often painted by the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti who had a special fondness for her.  Rossetti often made innocent gifts of jewelry to his friend’s wife, some of which—including this jewel--were bequeathed to the V&A by her daughter May in 1938.

The brooch is oblong with rounded corners. Twelve small rubies and emeralds are set in the filigree decoration surrounding the central sunny citrine.  The brooch was made between 1820 and 1830 in the style of gold filigree which was fashionable at the time in London.  

Others gifts presented to Mrs. Morris

Antique Image of the Day: Punch's Puppet Show, or, The Humours of Bartholomew Fair, 1792

Punch's Puppet Show, or, The Humours of Bartholomew Fair
Robert Sayer, 1792
This and all related images from:
The George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

“Punch's Puppet Show, or, The Humours of Bartholomew Fair” is a fold-out flip book depicting sixteen scenes from a Punch & Judy show as well as other entertainments.  This unusual book was published by Robert Sayer in London, 1792.

The book is sandwiched with two sheets of paper and a book plate is stuck to one of these sheets which features a crest on it and reads: "Be Just and Fear Not, Ex Libris, Edward Arnold, Andrew W. Arnold, The Grove, Dorking, Surrey".

Eight scenes are clearly visible when the book is flat and each of these individually folds down to show another image beneath. 

Unusual Artifacts: Punch and the Beadle

Punch and the Beadle
Magic Lantern Slide, 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Number ten of the set of twelve glass, Punch and Judy-themed magic lantern slides by Theobald & Co. in the V&A’s George Speaight Archive, this hand-colored slide depicts Mr. Punch and the Beadle (the policeman).   

The following text accompanies the slide during a magic lantern show:
Beadle: Now, Mr. Punch, you just come along of me. I’m going to lock you up for throwing your baby out of window.

Punch: Lock me up? No you wont! I wont be locked up! Here take this tuppence and be off.

Beadle: Now look here Mr. Punch, none of that. You just come along with me quietly, or I shall make you feel my staff. If you don’t come without trouble I shall strike you.

Punch: And you just see my stick. If you don’t go I shall strike you. Take that, and that.

Beadle: Help, help, he’s striking me. Come on you ruffian, you bad wicked old man, off you come to prison.

Painting of the Day: Punch in the Country , 1852

Punch in the Country
Charles James Lewis, 1852
The George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Click to enlarge.

The celebrated and prolific watercolor and oil painter Charles James Lewis RI (1830-1892) specialized in landscapes and bucolic genre paintings of children and animals. Here, we see the subject matter and detailed brushwork which defined Lewis’ painting.

The scene from 1852 depicts the Punch and Judy booth of a traveling showman with Mr. Punch visible and a drummer (acting as a “bottler” to collect money) accompanying the performance.  While Punch is the centerpiece of the painting, Lewis is careful to reveal that his real interest was not in the performance but in the audience and the small details of daily life in the countryside.  These details include a baby in a wheeled cart, children peeping into the booth, a picturesque countryside cottage with a family gathered outside, and a puppy.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 465

Mr. Punch narrowed his eyes.  “Who is Ollie?”

“He’s called ‘Big Ollie.’”  Barbara responded.

“That don’t help me.”  Punch sighed.  He turned in the direction from which the odor of sweat and filth was coming and gasped when he saw Ollie come lumbering toward them.

“Coo!”  Punch shuddered.  “Poor soul.”

“I don’t need your pity, Duke.”  Ollie growled.  “You are the Duke, yes?”

“Yes.”  Punch nodded.  “Occasionally.”

“English humor, eh?”  Ollie frowned.  “So, you’re this one’s brother?”

“Sadly.”  Punch nodded.

“Don’t look like you’re siblings.”

“I take more after our father’s side.”

“Ginger lunatics.”  Barbara nodded.

“While me sister takes more after our mum—jet-haired bitches.”  Punch spat.

“Ain’t nothin’ like family love, is there?”  Ollie said dryly.

“New Orleans humor?”  Punch asked.  “How do you know Miss Allen?”

“Shall I tell him?”  Ollie laughed.

“Oh, bother.”  Barbara sighed.  “I gave him the Fallbridge Blue.”

“It were the ‘Molliner Blue,’”  Punch corrected her.  “And, it weren’t yours to give.”  He looked at Big Ollie and tried not to shudder again.  “Not that I much care at this point, but what did you do with me pa’s diamond?”

“Nothin’ yet.”  Ollie shrugged  “Jus’ tryin’ to sell it.”

“That why you’re on this ship?”  Punch asked.  “Wastin’ me time?  Are you here to try to get somethin’ from one of these wealthy folk?  Here, if you got it with ya, I’ll buy it right now.  You can split your profit with me sister in whatever way you planned.  Then, I can be rid of both of you.”

“I don’t got it on me, Sir.”  Ollie smiled.  “But, I do find your offer appealing.”

“What’s that I smell?”  Barbara asked.

“Here,”  Punch hissed softly.  “It’s this giant bloke only don’t make him feel bad ‘bout it.  He can’t help it if he stinks.”

“No—“  Barbara snapped.  “Not him!  I smell smoke.”

Punch squinted.  “Wait!  There’s folks screamin’ below!”

“I set fire to the ship.”  Ollie answered plainly.  “In many different areas.  There’s no way they’ll extinguish all of them.”

“Why’d you want to go and do that?”  Punch hollered in panic.

“Made a deal with a lady.”  Ollie grinned.

“With a devil, more like.”  Punch said, pushing passed Ollie.

“Julian!”  Barbara screamed.  “Wait!”

“Sure,”  Ollie added.  “I’ll take you up on your offer.  Iolanthe can fend for herself.”

“Ain’t no offer no more!”  Punch shouted over his shoulder.  “And, you Barbara!  I don’t care if you roast!  My only concern is me family, it is!  Colin and Robert and our chums!”

With that, he rushed toward the deck.

“So, Barbara.”  Ollie winked.  “Here we are again.”

“You did this for Iolanthe?”  Barbara asked.

“Yep.”  Ollie nodded.  “You’ll still get your cut.”

“There’s nothing you can give me that will make up for what you’ve just done.”

“What?  What’s it to  you if your brother burns up?”

“Nothing!”  Barbara screamed.  “It’s the others I care about.”

“What others?”

“Those I brought on the ship.”  Barbara spat.

“You don’t want ‘em to die?”

“No!”  Barbara howled.  “I want them to suffer first!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-464?  If so, you can read them here.  

Print of the Day: Mr. Punch Portrayed by Different Hands, 1895

"Mr. Punch Portrayed by Fifteen Different Hands"
First published in "The Sketch," 1895
The George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I could not possibly love this engraving any more than I already do.  It is entitled, “Mr. Punch Portrayed by Different Hands” and it was published by “The Sketch” Magazine in 1895. The print depicts the Punch figures used by fifteen different Punch & Judy Professors of the late Nineteenth Century. 

The artist is unknown.  Today, this is part of the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Magistrate, 19th C.

Engraving based on a drawing possible by Cruikshank, 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Nineteenth Century engraving showing an audience enjoying a Punch and Judy performance faithfully reproduces an earlier work which was possibly drawn by George Cruickshank (1792 -1878).

Instead of his usual companion, the Dog Toby, Mr. Punch, here, is pictured with a cat in the fit-up.  The booth is in the upper center of the scene with the audience in the foreground. The trimmed piece of paper upon which the image is printed has, on the reverse, part of a music score entitled 'The Magistrate'.

“Old G. Cruickshank” is inscribed in pencil on upper center-left.  The image is now part of the impressive George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Ignorance: Girl with a Dog

"You do know I'm gonna eat that, right?"

Image:  Innocence: A Girl with a Dove, Jean-Baptiste , 1795, The Victoria and Albert Museum

And, remember to check out the Gratuitous Bertie Dog Face products available exclusively in our online store.

Mastery of Design: The Townshend Orange Sapphire

Ring with Orange Sapphire and Diamonds, 1850
From the Townshend Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the collection of the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, we see this exceptional orange sapphire.  Rubies and sapphires are varieties of corundum (aluminum oxide) which in its purest form is colorless. However, during formation of these crystals, local impurities in the earth create a range of different colors.  Rubies are colored by chromium and are always red, and while, sapphires typically are colored blue by iron and titanium, other colors of sapphire result from different combinations and proportions of impurities. When this occurs, the name sapphire is always prefixed with the color.

This ring is set with a stunning orange sapphire with a border of brilliant-cut diamonds, in a gold setting of about 1850.  It was made solely to showcase the stone.  

Sculpture of the Day: Esmeralda, 1856

Earthenware Flatback
Esmeralda, 1856
Staffordshire, England
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in 1856, this earthenware flatback from Staffordshire represents the character “Esmeralda” with her pet goat, from Victor Hugo's “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Hugo's famed novel was first published in 1831.  Five years later, it was adaptedinto an opera in Paris by Louise Bertin, and, later into a ballet by Antonio Monticium for La Scala, Milan in 1839. In March 1844 another version of the story was performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, choreographed by Jules Perrot to music by Cesare Pugni.

Following the success of the ballet, a music sheet illustrated by John Brandard was produced with a selection of its music arranged as “The Esmeralda Waltzes.”  The illustration on that cover was the inspiration for this figure which probably represents the dancer Carlotta Grisi as Esmeralda. 

Carla Grisi as Esmeralda

History's Runway: A Costume Design for Wendy Hiller, 1935

Dress Design for Wendy Hiller, c. 1935
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Wendy Hiller (1912-2003) was trained at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1930 and made her West End debut, to exceptional acclaim. In 1935, at the apex of her illustrious carrer, Miss Hiller appeared as Sally Hardcastle in “Love on the Dole.”  Later, she went on to star in countless roles on the stage and, then, in film and television.  Her grand career led to being awarded a DBE (Dame of the British Empire) in 1975.

Here, we see a pencil and watercolor costume design for Dame Wendy Hiller.  The drawing shows a side view of an elegant lady with her auburn hair swept back into a low bun. She is depicted wearing a pink dress with cap sleeves trimmed with pearls, a row of pearls, and elbow-length white opera gloves.

The costume sketch is unsigned, but it is inscribed “Miss Wendy Hiller. Heavy Silk Dress Flamingo Pink. Organza Pleated Insets. Large Chiffon Scarves in Three (underlined) Pinks.”

The drawing dates to about 1935.  It’s not certain which of her shows the costume was for.  Perhaps it was a drawing for a gown for her to wear personally.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 464

 If it ain’t the doctor,”  Marie Laveau smirked as Robert charged into the cabin shared by Charles and Gerry.  She extended her arms and displayed her bloody gown. 

“Think you can help me?”

“What’s happened to you?”  Robert asked with genuine concern.  Despite his contempt for Marie, he was, at his very core, a physician.

“Lost my baby.”  Marie sneered.

“I’m truly sorry.”   Robert replied.

“As am I, Miss Laveau.”  Charles added.

Gerard was silent—his face still swollen from the beating that he had received at the hands of Marie’s men.

Marie’s voice cracked, “I believe that you are. Even after all I done to ya, I believe that you mean what you say.  Even though I tol’ ya that my baby would have been the death of you.”

“No one should lose a child.”  Robert shook his head.  “I would not wish that horror on anyone.”

“Even me.”  Marie nodded.

“Even you.”  Robert answered quietly.  “Miss Laveau, I must be honest with you.  I charged down here after encountering Giovanni Iantosca in my cabin.  I didn’t know what to expect except that Marjani told me that Odo was also on the ship as well as Ulrika Rittenhouse.”

“This is true.”  Marie said.

“We’ve all quarreled and fought for so long.  We’ve shouted and schemed and plotted.  I admit, I’m angry.  My companion and my family—we’ve suffered terribly at the hands of all of you.  And why?  All we’ve wanted was to protect an innocent child, the Duke’s nephew.  When His Grace came here, he did so to retrieve his sister and a diamond that was stolen—at the request of his mother.  Since he’s arrived, he’s discovered that he is an uncle, he has endured the deaths of both of his parents, not to mention his valet.  He has been injured in more ways than I can count—as have I.  We’re involved in a war which is as bloody as any I can recall, and, like most war, it’s one based on greed.  Miss Laveau—we want nothing.  The Duke has abandoned his quest to bring Miss Allen back to England.  He doesn’t care about the diamond.  All he wants is to return home and to give his nephew—now his son—a chance at a quiet, happy life.  That’s all we ask.  That’s all we want.  Me, His Grace, my family and our servants.  We want nothing from you except to have the freedom to give my nephews—Fuller and Colin—a chance to live.  Surely, surely you can understand that—especially now.”

Marie’s back stiffened.  “I can.”

“Then, please,”  Robert said sincerely, “please, let us go home.  You’ll not suffer for it.  In fact, you’ll only be all that much freer for it.”

Marie nodded.

“If you came here for a specific purpose—if there’s something you want, I can try to supply it so that you don’t leave empty-handed.  In return, just let us go, please.”

Charles’ heart raced as he watched Robert reason with Marie Laveau.  He looked at Gerard who was still too blinded by pain to have any reaction at all, and then, back to Robert—wiping his eyes nervously.

“I’ll let you go.”  Marie replied.

“Thank you,”  Robert responded, his voice heavy with emotion.

“I only come here cuz Barbara Allen done convinced Ulrika and her Italian lover to come.”

“Barbara Allen?”  Robert squinted.  “Why?  I was under the impression that she approved of the Duke raising her son.”

“She said that she could get all sort of riches for Miss Ulrika.  Not just that diamond, but a whole fortune.  You know how greedy Miss Ulrika is.  Barbara explained that Ulrika would get what she’s been after all this time.  I came along, well, because I was angry that your man here,” she pointed to Charles, “done tricked my girl and got Mama Routhe outta my house.  But, I see now that it don’t matter none.”

“Thank you for telling me that.”  Robert said.  “Do you know where Barbara is now?”

“No.”  Marie shook her head.  “Her plan was for us to split up and distract ya’ll while she spoke to her brother the Duke.”

Charles rose with a look of concern on his face. 

“We’ll go to him in a moment, Charles.”  Robert nodded.

“No, it ain’t that, Sir.”  Charles shook his head.  “I smell fire.”

Robert sniffed the air.

“Me, too.”  Marie’s eyes widened.

Before they could react further, they heard shrieks of panic from the corridor.

“That filthy cow…”  Marie shook her head. 

Did you miss Chapters 1-463?  If so, you can read them here.