Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mastery of Design: The FIDELLE ET SECRET Locket, 1780

England, 1780
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Though locks of hair had long been kept within compartments in sentimental jewelry, by the Eighteenth Century, the use of hair as a medium took on new distinction. Instead of just being housed in a jewel, hair became a part of the design and was used to make complicated patterns, ornate motifs and even delicate images. Such pieces were meant to not only honor the memory of the deceased, but also to show an attachment to someone living. 

This enameled English gold locket from 1780 features a design in hair on ivory with a watercolor inscription under glass. The painted monogram—M.C.G.—is traced with hair and a delicate (and barely visible now) pattern is set behind  the motto “Faithful and Secret” in French--FIDELLE ET SECRET. The back of the piece is set with more hair.

Figure of the Day: The Höchst Pierrot, 1750

Figure of Pierrot
Germany, 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in Höchst, Germany, in 1750, this hard-paste porcelain figure depicts Pierrot on a gilt-edged plinth near a tree stump. Bent-kneed Pierrot is leaning backwards a bit. He wears the brim of his black hat upturned, patches adorning his face. A turquoise jacket with gilt detail contrasts his white collar. Unlike most pierrots, he’s not in the traditional white pajamas with black buttons, but, instead wears a costume more akin to that of Harlequin with a lozenge-pattern. He’s playing cards—as pierrots do.

The underside of the piece is marked with “I E” and “G.” The whole is painted in brilliant enamels.

Unfolding Pictures: The Assam Peacock Fan, 19th C.

Hand Fan
Assam, India
Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This feathered fan was made in Assam, India, and is constructed of peacock feathers. The work of an unknown Nineteenth Century fan maker, the piece was made for export to Europe where, at the time, feather fans were quite fashionable.

Mounted on a wooden handle, the fan takes a circular form. Edged in natural peacock feathers, the center of the fan has been cleverly patterned with peacock feathers which have been dyed and bleached. These red, white and black feathers were cut and shaped in order to create this intricate, and wholly Indian pattern. Bits of shell, metallic thread and ribbon add dimension and shine which would have been quite enchanting reflected in candlelight.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Baynes Locket, c. 1775

Gifts of Grandeur: The Baynes Locket, c. 1775

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A plait of hair from some long-gone beloved has been preserved in this locket since about 1775. In the Eighteenth Century, locks of hair went from being mementos that were hidden away to being the centerpieces of important jewels. Some jewels used the hair or strands of hair as part of the pattern or in a miniature painting. Hair was even used to make sentimental objects. 

This locket with its openwork gold bow, bequeathed to the V&A by Mrs. Isobel Baynes in 1950, was made in England in the late Eighteenth Century. A work of gold, it is set with pearls, emeralds and green pastes (likely replacements). The plait is protected by glass. On the reverse, a painted coronet surmounts a monogram. 

Gifts of Grandeur: The Elkington Trophy, 1870-71

Silver Trophy
Elkington & Co.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Elkington & Co. of Birmingham England was a silver manufacturer who is remembered for their sterling and plate pieces.
  Elkington’s pattern books showed the range of objects, patterns and shapes which were available—each in carefully produced sketches.

The inscription on the trophy that we see above is noted on the original sketch which was made when the piece was commissioned. Elkingtons later reproduced this pattern in electroplate, beginning in 1881 when they were offering it for £7 under the category, 'CLARET JUGS', and describing it as “Plated, Celtic, richly engraved.”

Known as a “pilgrim flask,” this  trophy was commissioned as the grand prize of a dog show between 1870 and 1871.

The Home Beautiful: The William Morris "Fruit" Wallpaper, 1862

Sketch for Fruit Wallpaper
William Morris, 1862
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Designer and famous socialist William Morris (1834-1896) is known for his handsome designs and patterns. His style developed over the decades. Here’s a look at an early wallpaper pattern which is known both as “Fruit” and “Pomegranate” and dates from around 1862.

Morris used visual motifs from his medieval-style tapestry work, relying on the historical look which his earlier work shared with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. We see, however, the awakenings of Morris’ interest in naturalism and plants.

This sketch varies from the finished wallpaper. The olives were replaced with peaches in the finished product. Morris deemed the olives too delicate and difficult to see. The pattern forms the basis for the original wallpaper which was used for the V&A's Green Dining Room, circa 1866—now long gone.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Coronation Golden Persephone Salad Crescent, 1953

Salad Crescent
Wedgwood, 1953
Golden Persephone Pattern
The Victoria & Albert Museum

For the Coronation Banquet following the crowning of a new monarch, it’s customary to create new china which represents the incoming sovereign’s tastes and sensibilities. For the Coronation Banquet of Queen Elizabeth II, a new set of beautiful china was designed—at the Queen’s request--which was based upon the pattern used for the Queen’s father, King George VI.

The pattern, entitled, “Golden Persephone” was inspired by the 1936 design of Eric Ravilious, made by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd. An impressive new service in gold upon cream bone china was manufactured by Wedgwood. Here, we see a salad crescent from the set. Examples from the service were donated to the V&A by Her Majesty following the banquet.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Henry Wilson Choker, 1910

Necklace of Seed Pearls, Emeralds, Star Rubies, Moonstone and Enamel
Henry Wilson, ca. 1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The famed Arts and Crafts jeweler Henry Wilson's (1864-1934) was celebrated for its brilliant color combinations worked in stones and enamel as well as its natural sculptural qualities.  Wilson, after training as an architect, became interested in metalwork in the 1890s, and went on to teach at the Royal College of Art.   He later penned a practical manual “Silverwork and Jewellery” in 1903 wherein he encouraged his students to “feed his imagination on old work,” and incorporate historical themes.

This necklace is a great example of Wilson’s sensibilities.  Here, we see that the back as well as the front of the central pendant is decorated with enamel in the manner of Renaissance jewelry.  The necklace of gold is set with star rubies, emeralds, moonstones, emamel, seed pearls and pearl drops and adorned with an enameled plaque of a running stag.

The necklace was made by Wilson in Kent around 1910.

The Art of Play: The Laughable Game of What D'ye Buy by Professor Punch

Professor Punch's Laughable Game of "What D'Ye Buy?"
The Victoria & Albert Museum

“The Laughable Game of What D'ye Buy by Professor Punch” was a boxed card game with a picture of Mr. Punch and Dog Toby on the lid. The game is comprised of ten cards which depict people of various professions, and 67 cards which have objects written on them that would be sold by the people depicted on the other cards.

The game is described as being played by giving each player a profession and the cards that are specific to that Profession. One player is elected as the “conductor.”
  This player reads out a story, as found in the rule book.  At various points within this story there is a blank space in the text and the conductor looks to one of the vendors who must read out one of the items they sell to fill the gap in the story.

In this example from 1890, five of the printed object cards, and two of the vendor cards are missing.
  These have been replaced with hand-written cards. The original rule book is missing but there is a hand-written transcript of it in the box.  Obviously the game was beloved and played to the point that it fell apart.  This version may have been made by the Edwin Wallis Co.

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

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle. The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.

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

When is a dog's tail not a dog's tail?

And, the answer is...

When it is a-waggin'.  

Ha!  Wagon.  Many clever answers from the lot of you.  I look forward to seeing your responses to next week's Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

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

Drawing of the Day: Mr. Punch and the World, 1843

Click image for larger size.

Punch and the World
John Leech or After John Leech
Britain, 1843
The British Museum

Here’s another drawing by John Leech (or in the style of John Leech) which dates to 1843. Of course, we know that Leech, among his many other successes, was known for his work with 
Punch Magazine. It’s possible that this drawing was created “after Leech” to match other illustrations in the publication.

Created for a November, 1843 edition of 
Punch, this study for an original drawing depicts Mr. Punch and the world—literally. Punch stands next to a figure with a globular head. The exact meaning of this satirical scene is somewhat lost to modern eyes, but, as with all Leech or Leech-inspired works, it is brimming with charm.

This pencil version was later inked and refined for publication.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 14

Chapter 14:
The Past

With Robert finally napping, Punch sat up and quietly lowered himself from the bed.  He slipped on the soft leather shoes that he typically wore around the house, and secured his velvet dressing gown over his shirt and breeches.

As silently as he could, Punch crept out of the Turquoise Suite and into the labyrinthian passage which, like the rest of the great house, was lined with portraits of Fallbridges past.  He tried not to look at them as he made his way to an all-too-familiar door.

Pausing for a moment, Mr. Punch wondered if he was making the right decision.  What could possibly lie beyond that tall archway which he'd not seen before?  After all, hadn't he already observed--either from Julian's point of view or his own--each corner of those rooms?

Yet, he knew he had to see them again--if only one last time.  They were, as Punch recalled, the only spot in all of Fallbridge Hall, in which he ever, well, in which Julian ever, felt even remotely safe.  Remotely--if at all.  

Inhaling deeply, Punch grasped the tremendous door handle and with a determined push, opened the door whose hinges emitted a pained moan.

Grabbing a candle from one of the torcheres which lined the passage, Punch tensed his shoulders and entered the suite which once had been his home.

Directly in front of him, the monumental fireplace with its pedimented mantel welcomed him.  To its right sat the well-worn aubergine velvet chair in which Julian had lost many unhappy hours.  Just beyond that, in the massive bay of pointed arches was nestled the gilt-wood cabinet.

Ah, the cabinet.

The reliquary which once housed the puppet.

The puppet, Mr. Punch.  From that puppet had grown the Mr. Punch which now lived life for Julian, in Julian's body.

Punch sighed.

The room had been untouched since the day Julian had packed and hurried to The Hyperion to sail for America in search of his sister, Lady Barbara.  The day that his mother, the Duchess sat in the aubergine chair and mocked him for being weak and mad.

What would she say to him now?

What would she say to Lennie?

Or Robert?

How would she react to Colin?

Shaking his head, Punch set the candle down and sat in the chair, scanning the room with his eyes.

It was time, he thought, to bury the past.

Did you miss Chapters 1-13 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 15.

Print of the Day: Mr. Punch's Fancy Ball, 1844

Click image to enlarge.

Mr. Punch's Fancy Ball
Unknown Origins, 1844
The British Museum

The oversized comic scene shows traditional Punchinello characters gathered for a fancy ball and dance. The engraving is printed on two folding sheets and dates to 1844. We’re not sure who produced this wood engraving. Though the title is printed along the bottom, there’s no mention of artist, engraver or publisher. Even the date is not printed, but rather was added later in pencil.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Mr. Punch by John Leech, c. 1850

Graphite Drawing
John Leech, c. 1850
The British Museum

Click image to enlarge.  

Hullo, all!  It's Friday, and that means, Punch-related art and things, so, let's begin with this handsome graphite drawing by the celebrated illustrator John Leech.  Leech, known for his work with Mr. Dickens, as well as "Punch Magazine," depicts our Mr. Punch rolling a ball or a pizza down a slope.  He doesn't seem concerned at all about keeping his balance, and is, generally "havin' a ball."  A separate drawing on the same side (upside down) shows a study of a tree.  Obviously, this was a quick sketch which Leech intended as a study for other pieces.

It's hard to pin a date on this, but I'd guess it was created around 1850.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: No Tidings From the Dog

"What?  No!  Don't tell me!  That orange cat got in again, didn't it?"

Click image for larger size.

Image:  No Tidings From the Sea, Frank Holl (1845-88) (artist). Creation Date: Signed and dated 1870, Materials: Oil on canvas, Provenance: Commissioned by Queen Victoria.  Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Via The Royal Collection Trust.  Original image is courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this important work of art, visit its entry in the catalog of the Royal Collection Trust.  

Crown Copyright
Click Image for Larger Size

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

Gifts of Grandeur: The Cory Pearl Tassel Necklace, 1855

Indian-inspired Enameled Gold Necklace with Pearl Tassels
Donated by Lady Cory to:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The design of the necklace, particularly the pearl tassels, is an excellent example for the fashion of Indian-inspired jewelry which arose from the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Visitors to the Great Exhibition went wild for the Indian jewelry which was displayed.
  These Indian gems were praised for their rich appearance which was achieved by combining enameled gold with dense settings of pearls and colored stones.

This gold necklace, made in Britain in 1855, is enameled in black with links set with pearls. Pearl tassels define the style, based on examples from India.
  In the court of Queen Victoria, courtiers were eager to show off such jewels in order to demonstrate to Prince Albert the impact of the Great Exhibition on British style.  This necklace is part of the important collection of jewels amassed by Lady Cory. 

Bertie's Pet-itations: Timing is Everything

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

I find that, very often, the best time to react to a situation is after it's already happened.