Saturday, March 22, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A Pearl, Moonstone and Peridot Pendant, 1815

English, 1815
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This delicate pendant of seed pearls mounted on mother-of-pearl is decorated with moonstones and peridots set in gold. The work of an unknown British jeweler, the piece dates to about 1815 and shows the sensibilities of designs of the time.
There’s a distinct reliance on the natural beauty of the stones that allows them to speak for themselves. It’s an interesting piece in that it demonstrates the ideals of the Rococo with a definite nod toward what was then modern design.

Unusual Artifacts: The Mermaid Cane Handle, 1730

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This cane handle of porcelain takes the form of a mermaid, painted in enamels. It was made in France around 1730 at the Saint-Cloud Porcelain Factory and shows the love of fantastical creatures which was demonstrated by makers of gentlemen’s accessories during that era.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: King George IV’s Bath Cabinet

Bath Cabinet
Morel & Seddon, 1828
Made for King George IV
The Royal Collection

Once King George IV had finished redecorating Carlton House, he turned his attention to refurbishing the Royal apartments at Windsor Castle. The first order of business was to redo his bedroom and bath. The trouble with George IV was that he had so many passions and so many tastes that combining his desires into one cohesive interior design was somewhat complicated if not impossible. George IV wanted his bedroom and bath to be hung with blue silk—like a tent in the Persian style—into which mirrored alcoves would be inset for his bed and bath.

To this end, this bath cabinet was made from panels from a cabinet built in 1810. The three-sided casket of purplewood, satinwood, pietra dura and gilt bronze was set on casters. It opened at the top to allow access to the bathtub. By all accounts it was strange and awkward to use—being at once difficult to get into and out of and quite sloppy to transport. The King quickly grew tired of the cumbersome tub and its preventative case and had the thing put in storage soon after it was introduced to him in 1828.

Later, Prince Albert, being an industrious and frugal sort of chap, came upon the bath cabinet in storage and thought it would make a nice folio cabinet. He had the bathtub removed and the back closed-in so that the piece would have some degree of usefulness.

The Home Beautiful: Marie Antoinette's Armchair, c. 1785

Arm Chair
French, c. 1785
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This chair, surmounted by a monogram of “MA”, was made for a now-unknown palace for Marie-Antoinette, queen to Louis XVI of France. While we’re not sure for which of the French Royal residences this chair was made, it’s notable that a similar suite of chairs was made for the Château de Saint-Cloud. Another two sets of chairs of a corresponding style can be found at Versailles and at the Tuileries. 

One of two carved walnut chairs remaining from the set, this chair (and its pair) were reupholstered with the present silk fabric in 1971. The original upholstery is long, long lost. The restorer took liberties with the silk swags, modeling them after a small wax model of a similar chair which was made about 1780—five years before this chair is thought to have been constructed.

Carved, gilt and painted a gray-white, the armchair features a bowed back and canted sides, above a D-shaped, bow-fronted seat. Turned and tapered legs, the back legs slightly raked and splayed, support the piece. Carved figures of the goddess Diana add drama.

The chair has been attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené, (1748-1803) who had been commissioned to create furnishings for a number of the French palaces in the 1780s. 

A newer photo showing the chair, cleaned, with the flounces removed.  

Drawing of the Day: Windsor Castle: The King's Bedroom (west elevation), 1827

Design for the Bath at the King's Bedroom, Windsor Castle
More & Seddon, 1827
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This drawing was returned to the Royal Collection when Queen Elizabeth II purchased it at an auction in 1971. The drawing was created by the Office of Morel & Seddon, decorators who were contracted to redecorate Windsor Castle in 1827 during the reign of King George IV.

The watercolor depicts a view of an alcove with a bath cabinet in the center. The recess is framed by curtains and backed with a mirror. It was part of the new private suite which King George IV has envisioned for himself in the central part of the east front of the castle. This part of the suite was to be hidden behind a cabinet with doors of pietra dura.

The blue silk hangings were based on some made by Grand Frères of Lyons in 1823 for the Salon des Princes at the château of Saint-Cloud. Despite the room’s handsome décor, King George IV didn’t like the finished product. He found the room unsuitable and moved to an adjacent room in 1829. The suite, however, was used by Queen Victoria and, it was in the bedroom in which Prince Albert died in 1861. 

To Serve and Project: The Chelsea Chinaman Teapot, 1745-9

Chelsea Porcelain Factory
The Victoria & Albert Museum 

The Chelsea porcelain factory, in its early years, produced several examples of novelty teapots in unusual shapes.  Here’s a rather interesting example of these early pieces.  Dating to about 1745, this rare teapot takes the form of a squatting Asian gentleman which the factory insensitively called a “chinaman.”  He is clutching a parrot—as one does.  This model was actually an experimental form.  Only a few were produced.  The design just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.  His hat formed the lid of the pot and it proved to be very cumbersome when used.  Furthermore, the twig handle—applied with soft-paste porcelain leaves and berries—was uncomfortable in the hand. 

Teapots like this one were Chelsea’s answer to the novelty figurines and teapots which were produced at the Staffordshire factory.  The Staffordshire pieces were quite popular and proved to be very fashionable, so Chelsea wanted in on the action.

Another influence was the range of Grotesque (fancifully decorated) porcelain teapots made in France at Saint-Cloud.  The then-manager of the Chelsea factory, Nicholas Sprimont (1716-1771), was very familiar with the Saint-Cloud Grotesques.  Those French examples were of the finest porcelains, bright white and very glossy.  The Chelsea porcelain paste of this era was much less refined and could not compete with the French and Staffordshire wares.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Porcelain Figure of William Shakespeare, 1765

William Shakespeare
Derby Porcelain
The Victoria & Albert Museum
When I first saw this Derby porcelain figure from about 1765 in the collection of the V&A, I didn’t immediately recognize it as William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The modern idea of Shakespeare’s countenance has developed over time and is based on hundreds of different representations of the celebrated writer. What he exactly looked like, we’ll never really know. This is but one interpretation of Shakespeare—rendered almost one hundred sixty years after his death.

This figurine of “The Bard” is based on the life-size white marble statue by Peter Scheemakers in the monument designed by William Kent, erected in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. The monument was erected in 1740, 124 years after Shakespeare's death. It was sponsored by the Earl of Burlington, Dr Mead, Alexander Pope and one Mr. Martin. It’s important to note that William Shakespeare is not buried in Poet’s Corner in the Abbey, but is, rather, buried in Stratford upon Avon though many suggested that his remains should be moved from Stratford to Westminster Abbey. That idea was abandoned after awhile and the monument remains just that—a monument and not a tomb.

We see Shakespeare depicted as pointing to a scroll which is inscribed with Prospero's Act IV lines from 
The Tempest:The Cloud capt Tow’rs, The Gorgeous Palaces, The Solemn Temples, 
The Great Globe itself, Yea all which it Inherit, Shall Dissolve; 
And like the baseless Fabrick of a Vision, Leave not a wrack behind. 

The scroll rests on a pedestal which is adorned with the carved heads of Queen Elizabeth I, Henry V and Richard III.

This handsome figure is the work of the Derby factory which produced three versions of the figurine in the late 1750s to mid-1760s. It was often sold as a pair with a figure of John Milton.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mastery of Design: Lady Cory’s Sapphire and Diamond Necklace, 1850-1930

Sapphire and Diamond Necklace
Silver-set Diamonds on gold mount
1850, altered in 1930
Cory Bequest
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Click image to enlarge

European-cut diamonds set in silver and mounted around gold-set, marvelously clean, sapphires, this truly magnificent necklace was created in 1850 in England. Originally, the piece was one long necklace which was designed to be worn in conjunction with a jeweled stomacher.

When acquired by the aristocratic Lady Cory, it was treasured for the exceptional quality of its stones, but found to be an unflattering style. In 1930, Lady Cory had the necklace adapted into a shorter, double-strand piece. The excess links were made into earrings, making a valuable and gorgeous parure. Lady Cory bequeathed the necklace to the Victoria & Albert Museum along with the bulk of her impressive and celebrated collection of priceless gems.


Mr. Punch in the Arts: G. Hadfield’s Sheffield Champion Punch & Judy

G, Hadfield's Sheffield Champion Punch & Judy
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This print is a mid-Nineteenth Century reproduction of a pen and ink sketch titled “G. Hadfield's Sheffield Champion, Punch and Judy.” Depicted is a Punch and Judy fit-up (booth), within which are suspended a row of gentleman hanged from their necks--evidently unconscious or , worse, dead. Well, that’s not very cheerful. Is it?

No, but it is somehow fitting. After all, Punch was able to beat Jack Ketch, the hangman, as well as the Devil, but these gents seem to have not been so cunning. Oh, speaking of the Devil…

To the left of the chandelier of corpses is the Devil himself with his lovely pitchfork. Before the Devil, downstage, we see another figure. This bloke wears our Mr. Punch's cap and has affected the famous “punchinello hump” which has been marked “TELEGRAPH.”

Ah, we’re making a statement, are we? It seems we are. You see, this is also fitting. Despite his slapstick antics and anarchic glee, Mr. Punch has always been a way of communicating social issues and a need for reform of one sort or another. In fact, the basis of the show has always been something of a satire on current conditions.

So, let’s look at our faux-Punch a little more closely. This ersatz Punchinello carries a club marked 'Truth and Honesty under his left arm. He is depicted smoking a cigar as he states "We have settled them all, Tear'em.”

How odd. What could it mean? This comment is addressed to a dog-like who is meant to be Punch’s canine chum, Toby. But, he’s no more Toby than this fellow is Punch. This grotesque figure is smoking a pipe and wears a collar marked “TEAR'EM.”

The two figures perform for I a group of living gentlemen in top hats and caps who have gathered to watch. Some of them comment, "Look at Bobby Stainton and Little Nadin" and "It's all o'er lads".

So, what’s it all about, Punchy? The Punch-like figure marked TELEGRAPH is meant to resemble the editor of the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper, Edward Levy-Lawson, 1st Baron Burnham (28 December 1833 - 9 January 1916). Levy-Lawson acted together with Thornton Leigh Hunt, as editor of the paper from 1855-1873.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure to precisely what this is referring because it’s undated and by an unknown artist. My guess, however, is that it is an editorial cartoon which makes light of the change of the “Daily Telegraph” from a Liberal point of view to a Conservative point of view in 1879 under the leadership of Levy-Lawson and Thornton Hunt. I could be wrong. Similarly, this seems to involve the alignment of the Telegraph with radical politician George Hadfield who had a reputation for being a troublemaker. I don’t quite know about the reference to Bobby Stainton.

This print, like most of the Punch & Judy ephemera at the V&A, is part of the George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection.

The Home Beautiful: Edward Burne-Jones' Marriage Piano, 1860

"[I] lived inside the pictures and from the inside of them looked out upon a world less real than they."

--Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, in a letter to May Gaskell

Frederick Priestly, 1860
Painted panels by Edward Burne-Jones
This and all related images courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

The name Edward Burne-Jones immediately puts one in mind of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and theatrical images of languid, titian-haired beauties, rich turquoise and emerald hues and deceptively sparkling waters.  Burne-Jones was one of the most influential of the Brotherhood, the conductor of a beautiful orchestra, if you will.

Georgiana Burne-Jones
And, so, such an artist should have a lovely instrument.  This piano, made in 1860, is the work of Frederick Priestley, an otherwise, as the V&A puts it, unknown piano maker.  The piano was presented as a wedding gift to Edward Burne-Jones and Georgiana "Georgie" MacDonald in 1860. 

Burne-Jones decorated the otherwise modest and plain instrument's case of American oak with a scene from the Medieval Romance,  the Chant d’Amour as an allegory of death--you know, standard wedding stuff. 

In her biography, The Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, Georgie referenced a portrait of Death on the panel below the keyboard of their piano.  She described Death as  "standing outside the gate of a garden where a number of girls, unconscious of his approach, are resting and listening to music."

Friday Fun: Punch and the Beadle

The Beadle
as envisioned by Chris van der Craats

Well, as much as I love him, I must admit that Mr. Punch is a rather naughty fellow. For all of his cuteness and charm, he does occasionally do some things that just aren’t “the way to do it.” So, it’s inevitable that his actions should attract the attention of the law. In traditional Punch & Judy shows, Punch is confronted by a variety of representatives of the law. He usually meets a constable or beadle, a judge, and even the hangman. Still, we know that the wooden-headed hero can “beat the Devil,” so something as simple as escaping the law shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

Let’s watch this snippet from a Punch & Judy show as performed by Australian Punch Judy Man, “Professor Whatsit,” also known as Chris van der Craats. I have a particular fondness for van der Craats’ puppets. He makes them himself and they are some of the best out there. These puppets have the look and charm of the figures used in the earliest Punch performances. You can buy Professor Whatsit’s hand-made puppets on his Web site.

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 80

Chapter 80

"This is wholly unacceptable!"  Punch shouted at Mr. Hargrave.

"Dunno what to say, Your Grace."  The estate agent replied.  

"You should say, Hargrave, that you will cooperate."  Punch replied.  Though exhausted, he was able to maintain an aristocratic air to mask his own speaking voice.

"I should like to very much, Your Grace, only I can't see going to ask the men on the farms to stop their work to search for two footmen who've gone off."

"It isn't just the two footmen,"  Robert interrupted.  "It's also His Grace's aunt."

"Honestly,"  Lennie chimed in, "you are impertinent to even suggest that you will not do as His Grace says."

"What you don't understand, M'Lady, and Your Lordship is that His Grace is asking these men to set aside their livelihood in order to serve those in the Hall."

"They do serve me!  They work this land because I allow it!"  Punch growled.  "Have they, and have you, forgotten the arrangement?  That is how these estates function!"

"These men have their pride, Your Grace.  Also...well, there's not a lot of good feeling for the...for them in the Hall."  Hargrave replied with a smirk.

Punch inhaled and studied the man--tall and lean with an air of impertinence permanently etched in the lines of his sun-browned face.  "That isn't my doing, Hargrave.  That owes largely to you and whatever edicts set forth by my mother in the past.  As I have had to explain to everyone here more than once since we have arrived--my mother is dead!  I am the master now."

Robert and Lennie exchanged an anxious look. Robert knew Lennie was recalling the horrible sight she endured when the specter of their mother appeared to her.  Dead, yes--she was.  Nonetheless, the late Duchess was still very present.

"Now, I insist that you go the the farms and gather the men to search the estate for my aunt and for William and George!"  Punch said firmly.

"I'll do as you say, Your Grace, only I can't think they'll be too keen on it--especially when I tell them what your aunt is."

"What is our aunt?"  Lennie stepped forward.  "No one has said anything about her other than that she's missing.  We've given you no description of her.  So, I'm curious, Mr. Hargrave, what it is that you think?  Will the farmers object because of the circumstances of her relationship to the family?"

Knowing he'd been cornered, Hargrave stiffened.  "No, M'Lady."

"So, you refer, then to the physical appearance of my aunt?"  Lennie narrowed her eyes.

"Yes."  Hargrave answered.

"What do you know if it?"  Robert spoke up.  

"We all know what she is, Sir."  The man smirked.

"How is that?"  Punch bellowed.  

Hargrave was silent.

"You are complicit with Jackson in this, aren't you?"  Punch demanded.  "You and Jackson and Ivy Blessum.  Who else, Hargrave?  What has Jackson told you?  Did you help him with his ghoulish crime when my mother died?  Did you assist in the purchase of another human being from a traveling show?  Did you?  What have you and Jackson been about?  Did you help keep that poor soul, my aunt, locked away.  Tell me all about what you and Jackson have been conspiring to do!"

"I haven't said a thing about Mr. Jackson."  Hargrave replied.  "All I know is that he's been dismissed from the Hall.  What business have I with Mr. Jackson?  It isn't as if my work requires that I converse with the butler of the Hall.  I'm the land agent.  My doings have nothin' at all to do with the great house."

"You're cut from the same cloth as Jackson."  Lennie frowned.  "Both full of too many words and no substance.  Have you forgotten that His Grace was raised in this house?  Have you forgotten that he knows how the lot of you function."

"M'Lady, I don't know what you mean.  I know that His Grace spent most of his life here.  I watched him grow from a young man to what he is now, and I know that he abandoned the estate for a life in London."

Punch sputtered.  "How dare you?  I didn't abandon anything!"

"Only I've not had any words with Mr. Jackson of late."  Hargrave continued as if the Duke hadn't spoken.  "Nor have I spent much time with the man prior to his dismissal.  The running of the Great House has nothing to do with the running of the estate.  What business had I with Mr. Jackson?  He looks at me as a dirty worker, that one--even though I outrank him here.  Whatever would he wish to tell me, looking down on me so?"

"I can think of a good many reasons Jackson would speak to you--especially given that you were both so loyal to my late mother."  Punch replied.

"He's trying to deflect us from our point."  Lennie grumbled.

"No, M'Lady, I am not."  Hargrave said.  "I'm only stating my innocence in the face of many accusations.  Whatever business Mr. Jackson had with His Grace's aunt is none of my concern.  He did not look to me for approval, after all."

"However, he has told you of His Grace's aunt?"  Robert asked.

"People talk on the estate.  The goings on in the great house are a source of entertainment.  Your Grace, don't you think that when the likes of your Aunt was set up in such a fine suite of rooms after seemin' to come from nowhere that the maids would talk?  They've seen her now, Your Grace.  They know what she is.  Maids talk.  They talk to the farm wives who tell their husbands."

"A weak answer."  Punch hissed.  "You have known well before this."  He looked to Robert.  "I don't know why I'm shocked that the corruption extends all the way to the ends of the estate."

"Go now, Mr. Hargrave, and do was you've been instructed."  Lennie waved her hand in disgust.  "Our own men will be following behind you soon enough to see to it that you've done what we asked of you."

"Mark my words,"  Punch added, "Every eye on this estate will be looking for my aunt and those two young men."

"Yes, Your Grace."  Hargrave smiled.

"Meanwhile,"  Punch raised a brow, "I'll look to meet you again today.  Let's say in an hour.  I shall be paying a visit to the vicarage.  I trust that you and Causer will meet us there."

"The vicarage, Your Grace?"  Hargrave looked away quickly, and, then, set his face into as bucolic an expression as possible for such a leathery visage. 

"Yes.  In one hour."  Punch nodded.  "Now, go."

Hargrave  nodded, squeezing his soft hat in his hand, and hurried off.

"They're all thick with the stench of their corruption."  Punch spat once the man had left.

"We can't trust him."  Lennie shook her head.

"No.  We can't trust any of those who served the Duchess."  Robert sighed.

"Once again, it falls on us, it does,"  Punch grumbled, speaking as himself.  

Did you miss Chapters 1-79 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back on Monday for Chapter 81.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Punch Hangs the Hangman, 1854

Punch hangs the Hangman—serve him right;

I’ve no compassion for the Fellows
Who ‘stead of the way from, delight
In showing folks that to the gallows.
(“Fellows” and “gallows” don’t exactly rhyme,
But you shall have a better one next time.)

So states the caption of this 1854 engraving from the book, The Wonderful Drama of Punch and Judy by “Papernose Woodensconce, Esq.” The title of the drawing is “Punch Profits from the Introduction He Has Made and Hangs the Hangman.” Papernose Woodensconce was the whimsical penname of author Robert Brough who often wrote about Mr. Punch and his family as illustrated by the renowned George Cruikshank.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Laura Lyttleton Memorial Tablet by Edward Burne-Jones, 1886

Memorial Tablet
Edward Burne-Jones, 1886
One of two.  This one, polychrome; the other, white.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Since antiquity, memorial tablets have been produced to mark the passing of a loved one.  These tablets aren’t meant to be tombstones, but are used in private venues away from the burial place to serve of reminders of the deceased.

These colored plaster memorial tablet was designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) in memory of his close friend Laura Lyttleton (née Tennant).  Lyttleton died in childbirth in 1886 within the first year of her marriage.

This is one of two that Burne-Jones created for Lyttleton.  The original—of plain white plaster--was installed in the church of St Andrew in Mells, Somerset. The colored version which we see here was made for Burne-Jones's own house, The Grange, in Fulham.

Burne-Jones, like many artists in his Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood--favored the symbolism of the peacock.   He had been studying Byzantine art and discovered that the peacock was a symbol of the Resurrection in Greek culture of the Christian era.

Lady Georgiana Burne-Jones described this tablet in her biography of her husband.  She wrote:

Laura, the daughter of Sir Charles Tennant: in our house she so fascinated us all that we called her ‘The Siren’ [Her memorial] is eight feet high and an effigy of a peacock which is the symbol of the Resurrection standing upon a laurel tree - and the laurel grows out of the tomb and burst through the side of the tomb with a determination to go on living and refusing to be dead and below was a Latin inscription made by Dean Church one of the many who loved her.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Lennox Bristle

"You couldn't find a more comfortable place to sit with your palm frond?"

Image:  Lady Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1622-85), Creator: Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) (artist), Creation Date: c. 1637, Materials: Oil on canvas, Provenance: Probably painted for Charles I.

Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection via The Royal Collection Trust.  The original image is courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

To learn more about this masterpiece depicting Lady Mary Villiers as St. Agnes, visit the entry for this painting in the online catalog of the Royal Collection Trust.

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.