Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Cinnamon Shamrock Brooch, 1890

Cinnamon and Colorless Diamonds
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This brooch of cinnamon and colorless diamonds in the shape of a shamrock was made in New York in 1890 for export to England. It is especially important for two reasons: this is one of the first records of cinnamon diamonds in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Also called cognac-colored, these diamonds are not quite canary, not quite brown and not quite white, but offer a lovely glow all of their own.

Secondly, this brooch marks the continued acceptance of diamonds for less formal occasions. With its light-hearted shape, a lady could wear this brooch to casual event, but because of its beautiful stones, could also wear it to a grand event. 

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Prince Albert Chair, 1851

The Prince Albert Chair
English, 1851
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Prince Albert’s role in the Great Exhibition of 1851 cannot be discounted. This chair commemorates the Prince Consort’s leadership. This large armchair of carved and inlaid walnut with its painted porcelain plaque and arms and seat covered in fringed pink cotton velvet was designed as a companion to a light, feminine chair representing the Queen.

The porcelain plaque depicts the Prince Consort and serves as a reminder of his tireless work in the planning the Great Exhibition. Further homage to the Prince comes from carved emblems such as the lion, rose, shamrock and thistle on the back of the chair.

This is the work of Henry Eyles who displayed the chair with other examples of his work in Class XXVI (Furniture). Eyles was an upholsterer in Bath with premises at 31 Broad Street whose work was received favorable by the Queen and her consort.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Gaskin Clover Necklace, 1920

Georgie and Arthur Gaskin, 1920
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Arthur and Georgie Gaskin, the renowned husband and wife team, were known for their Arts and Crafts style jewelry.   Georgie was chiefly responsible for the designs while Arthur carried out the bulk of the enamel work alongside their many assistants.  Their designs were defined by representations of closely-packed leaves, birds and flowers sprinkled with gemstones.

Here, we see a pendant of silver wire framework with gold details, set with opals and pink tourmalines.  This was made in 1920 by Georgie and Arthur and is actually a re-working of a theme first used by Georgie in about 1910.  The depiction of clover is typical of the Gaskins work, but the use of the plum-colored tourmaline is unusual for them.  

A grouping of jewels by the Gaskins.

Print of the Day: Blackheath Park, 1852

Click image to enlarge.Blackheath Park
William Mulready, 1852
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Chances are, you don’t spend as much time poking around the collections of the V&A as I do. Maybe you do. If you were to do so, you’d notice that a good many of the paintings were given to the Victoria & Albert Museum by one John Sheepshanks. Sheepshanks was a hugely prolific collector of art and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his dogged dedication to preserving these masterpieces.

Sheepshanks, being a patron of the arts, enjoyed friendships with many of the greatest artists of the Victorian era. Among them was the Irish-born William Mulready (1786-1863).

Mulready created this piece in 1852, especially for Sheepshanks. The painting depicts the view across the park from the gate of John Sheepshank’s commodious home in Blackheath, South London. Sheepshanks loved this view of fields, trees and water and was especially pleased with the painting which a critic described as “a refreshing green bit of nature.”

Antique Image of the Day: St Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon December 22nd 1888

St. Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon
December, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This colored lithograph is entitled “St Stephen's Review Presentation Cartoon December 22nd 1888,” It was both engraved and drawn by one Tom Merry and depicts a stage on which a group of puppets perform an elaborately choreographed dance routine. The puppets resemble key figures of the day, dressed in vibrant costumes, most of whom are depicted as characters from the Punch and Judy tradition (the policeman, Mr. Punch and Judy). Some of the others are stock theatrical figures.

The identities of the performers are shown on name plates which are attached to a set of strings being manipulated by two black-suited figures seated under the stage. One of the puppeteers wears a black half mask and is shown next to a dagger and pistol (both discarded on the ground beside him). Two additional puppets wait in a box beside the mysterious puppeteers whose names are marked as O'Shea and O'Donnell. The names of the puppets appear to be Labby, Granville, Trevelyan, Gladstone, Harcourt, Herbert, Sir W Lawson, Bradlaugh and Morley—contemporary Members of Parliament.

The caption below the image, “Parnell's Puppets,” is best explained as a reference to Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), an Irish Protestant landowner, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

The piece was published on December 22nd 1888 and now resides in the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

At the Music Hall: Love's Old Sweet Song (Just a Song at Twilight), 1884

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng,
Low to our hearts love sang an old sweet song,
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.


Just a song at twilight
When lights are low
And the flick'ring shadows
Softly come and go.
Tho' the heart be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us at twilight
Comes love's old song.
Comes love's old sweet song.

Even today we hear love's song of yore
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day,
So till the end when life's dim shadows fall
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.


Just a song at twilight
When lights are low
And the flick'ring shadows
Softly come and go.
Tho' the heart be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us at twilight
Comes love's old song.
Comes love's old sweet song.

This popular song features words by J. Clifton Binghamton and music by James Lynam Molloy (1837-1909) who was born in Cornalour, Rahan, Ireland, to a wealthy Family. He studied in Dublin, Paris, and Bonn and, in 1872 became a lawyer.

Molloy married and moved to England where continued his hobby of writing songs. In 1884, he wrote what would remain his most popular song, in fact, one of the most popular Irish songs ever-- "Love's Old Sweet Song." John McCormack's recording (see below) is perhaps the best-known version.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Needlepainting of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1825

Napoleon Bonaparte
Linwood, 1825
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Needlepainting, a type of embroidery, in which oils or other paintings were, as described by the V&A, “faithfully copied, with the brush strokes rendered by stitches worked in crewel wool,” was popularized in the second half of the Eighteenth Century. No one, however, was better known for needle painting than Mary Linwood (1756-1845) who is pictured in the post below.

Linwood, who lived in Leicester, exhibited needlework pictures at the Society of Artists in London. In 1787, she was introduced to Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), who encouraged an exhibition of some of her pictures at the Pantheon at Oxford Street.

In 1798 she opened an exhibition of sixty-four pieces, at the Hanover Square Concert Rooms in London, which eventually toured to Scotland and Ireland. After the tour, the collection returned to Linwood's own gallery in Leicester Square, where it remained on display until the artist’s death in 1845.

Her best known work was this needlepainting of Napoleon Bonaparte from 1825. It is said to have been done from life, and, was especially stunning in the gaslight of Linwood’s gallery—the first gallery in Britain to be illuminated by gas.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Brilliant Royal Heart, 1936

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

This small diamond heart came into the Royal Collection in 1936.  That's really all we know about it.  I like to think that the future King George VI purchased it for the Future Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) during his period of grief over the death of his father, King George V, and confusion during the whole Abdication Kerfuffle (TM), as a way of thanking her for standing by him.  But, I have no proof of that.  It's more likely that Queen Mary picked it up somewhere.

The small white gold heart-shaped brooch is designed to depicts a ribbon twisted through the heart.  It is studded with brilliant-cut diamonds. A small yellow gold pin and hook fastener attaches the brooch to a garment.

Interested in the "Abdication Kerfuffle?"  Show your own opinion of the late Duke of Windsor with our unique, exclusive "Abdication Kerfuffle" ™ designs. 

Drawing of the Day: Punch & Judy from "The Studio," 1905

"Punch and Judy"
Margaret Lloyd
"The Studio," 1905
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From Britain’s “The Studio” magazine, in 1905, we see this color print depicting a Punch and Judy performance in front of a crowd of children.
Physical description

The image is circular at the top of page, and the credits are written at the bottom of the page. A sheet of tissue paper folds over to cover the page and protect the image.
  The original drawing was the work of Margaret Lloyd. 

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...

What is the difference between a hill and a pill?

The answer is...

To get up a hill is a struggle.
To get down a pill is a struggle.

We had a wonderful array of answers today from Darcy's and Dashwood's poetry, Matt's and Carolyn's fancy word-play, some nerdy stuff from Barb, politics from our Kathy, the usual sunshine from Angelo, relative gloom from Gene, and a new poster.  Welcome Zak!  

Since next week is Thanks-a-ma-giving (and Chanukkah) in these parts, there will be no riddle next Friday, but, come back the following week for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  And, Sam, wherever you are...we'll be thinking of you.

Christmas is coming.
The goose is getting fat.

He's going to need some new shirts.

o why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Victor Herbert's "Punchinello," 1900

Victor Herbert

Born in Ireland and raised in Germany, Victor Herbert (1859-1924), remains one of the most celebrated American composers, cellists and conductors. Herbert, despite his other talents, is best known for composing a host of successful operettas which debuted on Broadway from the 1890s through World War I.

One of the most influential of New York’s “tin pan alley” composers, Herbert was also a founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He is credited as composing two operas, a cantata, 43 operettas, incidental music to 10 plays, 31 compositions for orchestra, nine band compositions, nine cello compositions, five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, 22 piano compositions and numerous songs, choral compositions and orchestrations of works by other composers, among other music.

In 1900, Herbert produced this beautiful concerto inspired by Mr. Punch and entitled, “Punchinello.” Enjoy this antique Ampico piano roll of Herbert performing the piece himself.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 19

Chapter 19:

"Charlie, you ain't serious."  Violet whispered, taking Charles' hand as they hurried through the service passages.

"I certainly am."  Charles nodded. 

He stopped, and pressed Violet against the wall. Blushing, Violet looked away.

"What?"  Charles smiled.  "You think I'm gonna kiss you?"

"Are you?"

"I might."  Charles winked.  "But, not just now."

"Charles Iantosca..."  Violet began.

"Don't start howling at me just yet."  Charles put a finger to her lips.

Violet sighed.

"You got me all at sixes and sevens."  Violet muttered, jerking her head away again.  "What business 'ave we got goin' into Mr. Jackson's pantry?  Furthermore, what makes ya think that we can even get in there without bein' seen?"

"Which question do you want answered first?"

"Your choice."  Violet shook her head.

"I think we ought to be looking around because as you said upstairs, there's something odd going on here.  We've heard the way the natives here speak of His Grace and how they talk about the late Duchess.  You didn't know the woman.  I did, and I can tell you, she was a real witch.  Not worthy of the reverence these people give her, unless they're just as debauched as she was.  Everyone we've met here, except William, has shown behavior that's exceptionally strange and, as we can see, their leader is Jackson.  What's it all about?  It's our jobs to look after The Duke and Lady Fallbridge.  Gerry's is to look after His Lordship, but, he's also got a wife and a child on the way to think of.  So, it falls on you and me to make sure that our masters ain't in harm's way.  Not just because we're in their employ, but because...because we love 'em."

"That we do."  Violet replied sincerely.  "And, little Colin, and that sweet little Dog Toby."

"So, isn't it worth a look around Mr. Jackson's lair just to see that there's not something more than just poor attitudes going on here?  Something William said earlier bothered me--about how Jackson and the Land Agent and Parson all went away after the Duchess was killed.  I have a bad feeling."

"Well, Charlie, I trust you.  You know I do.  And, you know I'd do anything to make sure the family was safe.  Only, ya didn't answer me other question."

"Didn't I?"

"How are we gonna get in there without bein' seen?"

"Oh, that."  Charles smiled.  "Well, as soon as dinner is served, Jackson will be in the dining room watching like a hawk whilst William and Gregory serve.  The Second Footmen and Under Footmen have their duties and will be in other parts of the house.  I heard their orders earlier.  Also, the housemaids will be carrying out their end-of-day chores.  The grooms and coachmen have already been fed.  The only people in the servants' hall will be Georgie, Maudie and Mrs. Pepper, and they're on our side.  In, fact, they'll keep watch for us."

"Very well,"  Violet nodded.  "I'll do it."

"I knew you would."

A commotion further down the passage startled both of them, causing Charles to protectively lean forward.

"It's just the natives getting into their places.  I imagine upstairs dinner is being served."  Charles whispered.

"Must be."  Violet said softly.


"Now, what?"

Charles gently kissed Violet.

"Oh."  Violet smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-18 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 20.