Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reminder: New Posts Will Continue on Tuesday

In celebration of July 4th, Bertie and I will be taking a hiatus from our daily writing. New posts will continue on Tuesday, July 5th. Until then, there are a few thousand other posts to read here at Stalking the Belle Époque, plus 285 chapters of Punch’s Cousin.

We’ve got some new and exciting things coming next week that I can’t wait to share with you. So, here’s wishing all of our friends in the U.S. a very happy Independence Day, and to all of our friends in the U.K., sorry about that whole Revolution kerfuffle, but, now it’s really just a day to eat grilled meats and get sun-burnt.

Image: Toile, Furnishing Fabric, Plate-printed Linen and Cotton showing scenes from the American Revolution including George Washington, English, 1780-1790, The Victoria & Albert Museum.

(of course I would use an English textile as the image for my Fourth of July message.)

Gifts of Grandeur: The Cartier Hand and Flower Brooch, 1930-1940

Cartier, 1930-1940
Gold, Enamel, Coral, Diamonds
The Victoria and Albert Museum
This is kind of creepy, but also quite beautiful. The two states often find themselves married. So, here, we see the undeniable influence of surrealism on world culture. The French especially enjoyed surrealism, so it’s no surprise that the jewelers at Cartier would give it a try as well.

This intriguing brooch is one of a number of similarly odd pins made by Cartier between 1930 and 1940. They all featured a combination of a hand and jewel-set flower. The differences were in material, color and scale. Here, a carved coral hand (adorned with diamond and gold “bracelets”) holds a large black enamel flower set with a brilliant-cut diamond.

Other variations include a black enameled hand with a brightly-polished gold flower of a smaller size as well as a myriad of different set stones. This one is, perhaps the most attractive of the examples, and, also, due to the fleshy color of the coral, the creepiest.

The Art of Play: A Steiff Donkey on Wheels, 1910

Donkey on Wheels
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Donkey on wheels! What could be bad about that? This just isn’t just any wheeled donkey, either. This is an original Steiff soft toy (from Germany, of course). He still has the tag in its left ear stating that it is made by Steiff. The Steiff Company was founded in 1877 by one Margarete Steiff and quickly became the chief exporter of soft toys (especially bears) from Germany. Their biggest customers were the U.K. and U.S.

What sets this donkey apart from other Steiff donkeys is its previously mentioned wheels. Occasionally, Steiff produced different animals on wheels (usually dogs and horses) and in a variety of sizes. The largest ones were large enough to carry a teddy bear as a rider. Originally, the wheels would have been made of cast iron, or even bronze, but those proved treacherous. Later, the wheels were changed to the far gentler medium of wood. Figures made after this sometimes featured rubberized wheels. This unusual mobility allowed a newfound sense of free play for children who enjoyed pulling these toys around. Consider it an early interactive toy.

Mastery of Design: A Sapphire, Pearl and Diamond Bracelet, 1890

Gold, Sapphires, Pearls, Rose-Cut Diamonds
St. Petersburg, 1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The magnificent bangle, made in St. Petersburg in 1890, combines a variety of styles into one gorgeous piece. As was often the case with Russian jewelry, it’s made of beautiful quality materials—gold, cabochon sapphires, pearls and very clear rose-cut diamonds. The style is geometric, a nod to the popular work of Fabergé, but also inspired by Eastern designs and Indian jewels.

Clearly, this bracelet was made for export to England. The influence of Indian artistry is evidence of that as is the vague sense of the medieval about this piece. Russian jewelers often produced special wares for export to the English who were always eager to add the perfect accessory to their wardrobes.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 285

Barbara shut her eyes and relished the feeling of being weightless. Though the water was positively freezing and though its cruel waves buffeted her about, knocking her head and shoulders painfully into the pilings, she couldn’t help but feel somehow liberated—as if all of her mistakes and sins were being cleansed from her skin.

Refuse and detritus floated past her and became entangled in her hair as the feeling of weightlessness began to pass and the weight of her wet clothes began to pull her down into the river.

Suddenly, a sharp, stabling panic pierced her heart and she began to regret jumping from the dock. Without her consent, her arms began to paddle and her feet began to kick. She inhaled deeply, sputtering as she was pulled under the angry water.

Before she knew it, she wasn’t alone in the water. She felt the strong arms of a man whose face she couldn’t see grasp her around the waist. She tried to push him away, but her strength failed.

She could neither scream nor struggled, and as she was carried from the water onto the mud and rocks at the narrow bank, she allowed herself to be placed onto the squishing, filthy ground. Opening her eyes, she hoped to see Charles—dripping, staring down at her with relief and recrimination. Alas, his was not the face she saw.

A dark countenance scowled at her. “What’d you want to go an’ do that for?” The man growled.

At first, Barbara felt the urge to rise up and slap the black man for daring to speak to her in such a way. But, she soon realized that though it had not been worth saving, the man had saved her life.

“I fell.” Barbara coughed.

“Nah,” the man groaned, plunking down into the mud next to her. “You done went and jumped right in. I seen ya.”

Barbara didn’t answer.

“Who you belong to?” the man asked.

“Myself.” Barbara sputtered.

“Don’t think so.” The man shook his head. “A girl with your looks don’t not belong ta someone.”

“Thank you for helping me, but I’m all right now.” Barbara said, trying to sit up.

“No, ya ain’t.” The man smiled calculatedly.

“Really.” Barbara said. “You may leave.

“Nah.” The man winked. “I think I just got myself a real lucky break.”

Meanwhile, Marie Laveau sighed as she tried, once again, to explain her wishes to Iolanthe Evangeline.

“I have already heard you argument,” Iolanthe spat. “I don’t wish to hear it again, and I don’t want you thinkin’ that I do.”

“Now, Iolanthe,” Marie replied angrily. “I don’t see why you’re fightin’ me on this. I ain’t like it don’t fit into what you were already gonna go and do for your own self anyway.”

“She’s right, Iolanthe,” Ulrika interrupted. “And, she’s saved you the trouble of having to retrieve Edward’s child.”

“I don’t recall askin’ you.” Iolanthe growled.

“Well, then, really, why’d you bring me?” Ulrika moaned.

“I don’t know now.” Iolanthe said stiffly.

“The two of ya are somethin’.” Marie chuckled. “Now, listen, Iolanthe. You are getting’ everything handed to ya. I’m only askin ya to give me one little thing. That ain’t so bad. What’s the problem?”

“I swore when I first broke my ties to you, Marie Laveau, that I’d never return to your ways again.”

“Your ways ain’t so much better, Iolanthe, nor are they very different.” Marie smiled.

“But, they’re mine.” Iolanthe shrugged.

“I ain’t askin’ for ya to come back here and live with me. Jus’ do for me this one little things and we’ll let all that old hate and hurt we got between us go. It may just prove to be what we both need.”

“Just agree to it, Iolanthe.” Ulrika sighed.

“”Listen to the girl.” Marie said hopefully.

“Very well.” Iolanthe grumbled. “But, only this once.”

At that very moment, above the dress shop in the French Quarter, Robert’s eyesight became blurry as his eyes burned with sweat and tears. He’d tried blowing his own air into Julian’s body, he’d tried compressing the man’s chest, but still he would not breath.

Robert looked down at Julian’s increasingly blue face and wept.

Marjani and Adrienne both tried to help Robert to his feet, but he would not budge. “I’ve got to save him!” he shouted.

“I don’t know how you can, my dear.” Adrienne said softly.

“He’s got to save himself,” Marjani shook her head.

Just then, unbeknownst to the people outside of him, Mr. Punch was fighting a fierce battle with Jack Ketch, striking him mercilessly with the stick he’d imagined.

“Die!” Punch screamed as he clubbed the hooded figure.

“Never,” The hangman barked.

Punch panted and growled as he barraged the hangman with blow after blow.

“Punch! For God’s sake!” a voice called out from beyond them.

“Master?” Punch said, not pausing in his assault on the hangman. “Is that you?”

“No!” the unfamiliar voice cried. “You’re fighting the wrong foe!”

“What?” Punch grunted.

“Don’t forget the rest of you!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-284? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 for Chapter 286 of Punch’s Cousin. We’ll be taking a brief hiatus on Sunday and Monday for the holiday, but the Chapter Archive is always available.

Card of the Day: The King at the Cup Final, Wembley

I understand history. I understand Royalty. I even understand the words “cup” and “Wembley.” But, I don’t know a thing about sports, and, frankly, my mind wanders if I try to think about it. So, with that said, here’s King George V doing something with sports at Wembley. Now, I DO know that King George and Queen Mary wanted to give the people the impression that Britain would be able to return to normal after the Great War and that everything was all right in the Empire, so they went to all manner of events to make sure they were seen having a good time doing regular things. This, it seems, was one of them.

The reverse of the card reads (though it’s mostly gibberish to me):


On St. George’s Day, 1927, the King—keenly interested in football under either code—watched the F.A. Cup at Wembley between the Arsenal and Cardiff City. Among the welcoming crowd of 90,000 were 10,000 Welshmen, largely miners, some of whom had walked to London. The teams having been presented: The Arsenal—playing their first Cup Final, and favourites –did most of the attacking: but the one goal of the match was scored by Ferguson for Cardiff, and the youngest among leading clubs secured the trophy from the King’s hands. His Majesty, with Lord Derby on his left, and Mr. Churchill behind, is in the Royal Box, joining in the community singing.

Things I know here: St. George’s Day, King George V, Wembley, Cardiff, Welshmen, miners, London, trophy, Lord Derby, Churchill, Royal. I also know Queen Mary wasn’t there because I’m sure she wouldn’t have known what the hell was going on either. Lest you think me too thick, I am aware that this was some sort of championship match for what we yanks would call soccer, and I’m almost positive that the Arsenal is still doing whatever it does to this day. The rest is up to you.

Now, let’s look at some art and jewelry.

Wembley Stadium, Cup Finals, 1927
Whatever happened that day, happened here, and this is what it looked like from the sky.
The stadium still looks like this--only without all the little gray people.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, 1977

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. “

--H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

By 1977, twenty-five years into her long reign, Queen Elizabeth II joined Britain in celebrating her Silver Jubilee. At her coronation in 1953, Elizabeth declared her dedication to her people, and has not wavered since. She has always been realistic about her position in the United Kingdom, also stating at her coronation, “I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else - I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.” And, so she had. While the Queen may have her detractors and while her popularity may rise and fall, few can debate her devotion to her people and her kingdom.

This cup was produced in 1977 as a souvenir of the Silver Jubilee. It’s unusual inasmuch as it’s a two-handled cup. These are rather difficult to come by, and I was glad to find it. I’ve only otherwise seen two-handled cups of this nature in museums, so it was quite a treat to find it.

The cup features a transfer-printed portrait of the Queen in a circle surrounded by the Royal animal attendants and surmounted by the crown. Curiously, the reverse is specific to the town of Bovey Tracey. Bovey Tracey is a small town in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor, near the market town of Moretonhampstead, which advertises itself as, "The Gateway to the Moor.” Natives simply refer to the town as "Bovey" (pronounced "Buvvy").

In the twentieth century (more often, but sometimes before), Royal souvenirs were occasionally produced with specific towns, cities or regions emblazoned on the reverse. This served not only to appeal to local consumers, but to reinforce the solidarity of the commonwealth on special occasions.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Turquoise Snake Necklace, 1830-40

The Victoria & Albert Museum
This strangely beautiful necklace fits right into the symbolism of the era both in design and media. Created around the same time as the lovely turquoise and diamond necklace that I shared with you last week, this piece consists of articulated silver and gold, pavé-set with turquoises, rubies, pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds.

The mid-Nineteenth Century was a good time for turquoise which found itself frequently employed in significant pieces of jewelry for its brilliant blue color which put one in mind of forget-me-nots—floral symbols of true love . Furthermore, the stone was believed to strengthen the bond between husband and wife and to protect the wearer from harm. This caused the stone to be used often as a wedding gift, a souvenir for bride’s maids (as Queen Victoria did) and as a gift to children from their parents.

The reverse, which is kind of creepy-looking.
The snake theme has also been an enduring one. A figure of a snake swallowing its tail fits nicely with the implied meaning of the turquoise. An ancient symbol, known as the ouroboros, it meant “love eternal” and was associated both with marriage and mourning jewelry. Queen Victoria also re-popularized the theme with two of her private pieces of jewelry: her engagement ring from Prince Albert (in the shape of snake) and a figural serpent bracelet which she wore in 1837 when attending her first council meeting.

This particular necklace dates between 1830 and 1840 and has the look of an English-made piece of jewelry.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Postcard of Mr. Punch and his Horse

Late Nineteenth Century
George Speaight Collection
The Victoria and Albert Museum
This late Nineteenth Century postcard by an unknown artist is another item from the comprehensive collection of Punch & Judy ephemera amassed by George Speaight over his lifetime and now in possession of the V&A.

Here, we see Mr. Punch astride his horse (who is curiously not called Hector—see today's “Friday Fun”-- two posts down). The horse is referred to as “Dobbin.” Perhaps Mr. Punch had some sort of relationship with Endora early in his life, and has named this particular horse after the ginger witch’s nickname for her future son-in-law. He delcares, “Gee-up, Dobbin; soon we’ll be in London town!”

Why Mr. Punch is traveling to London on a horse named Dobbin is beyond me since, by all accounts, he spent a great deal of time there already. Nevertheless, it’s a nifty postcard and one which I would have been pleased to have received.

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and her Daughters, 1941

HM Queen Elizabeth with
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose
Marcus Adams, 1941
The Royal Collection
In 1941, Marcus Adams enjoyed his last sitting with Princesses Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret Rose. Adams, celebrated for his photographs of noble children, had a strict rule that he would never have a sitter (except for the child’s parents) over the age of sixteen. At this point, Princess Elizabeth was fourteen.

The two princesses are photographed here with their mother, Queen Elizabeth (later known as The Queen Mother). The affection the three share is readily evident. What I also find fascinating is that the current Queen, has not changed too much since her fourteenth year.

Friday Fun: Hector the Horse

Mark Poulton
Since the time of Britain’s earliest appearances of Mr. Punch, Hector the Horse has appeared early in the wooden-headed pantomime. Hector, a spirited equine, is due to be saddled and ridden by our Mr. Punch, but has ideas of his own—ultimately throwing our hunchbacked hero and causing him to declare, “I’m dead.” It’s Punch’s declaration of his own death which precipitates the need for the doctor, and, ergo, moves the play forward.

This performance by Punch & Judy Man Mark Poulton, a professor since 1989, beautifully demonstrates this portion of the traditional show.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 284

Barbara Allen staggered tearfully through the mist of the evening. As she lumbered—in a daze—through the French Quarter, she did not even pause to apologize to the people on the banquettes whom she bumped with her shoulders and upon whose feet she tred.

Her hair had become loose, flowing dark and tangled over her slumped shoulders. Her face was a pink mound of agony, shining with tears and the skin around her nose was raw and chafed.

She walked with no particular purpose and in no particular direction. Truly, she had nowhere to go and was in no hurry to reach any destination. Her legs moved simply because the idea of being still was simply too awful, propelled by her grief, fear, disappointment and self-loathing.

Could she return to Iolanthe? Did she dare? Barbara growled to herself, “that’s what I am, after all. Isn’t it?”

But, no, as bleak as everything seemed, a return to Iolanthe seemed too terrible to imagine. Perhaps Marie Laveau would take her back. Perhaps. But, what would be gained by that?

“If I apologize again—sincerely…” Barbara said aloud, “Julian might…” But, no.

Should she have stayed with Arthur? The sight of him disgusted her—that face and figure which had once so excited her. Gone was the picture of his better features, replaced with a more accurate portrait of his countenance. Behind his full lips, yellowed teeth glinted. Beneath his long lashes, beady eyes shone coldly. At the end of his firm arms hung cruel hands. She shivered, and, soon realized that she’d walked toward the river.

She hurried down a dock and rushed toward the edge, stopping with her toes just over the end of the pier. She leaned over dramatically and stared at the choppy water. And, then, the answer became clear to her.

Meanwhile, in the dusky flat above the Routhe’s dress shop, sweat dripped down Robert’s face as he loosened Julian’s scarf and waistcoat. His friend’s face had begun to turn blue from a lack of breath.

“What can I do?” Adrienne asked quickly.

“Fetch some water and rags.” Robert grunted.

“Doctor,” Marjani began.

“I know.” Robert nodded. “We’ve got to get him breathing.”

“I don’t know what good it will do.” Marjani said, placing her hand on Julian’s chest. “He done got a far greater battle goin’ on inside him.”

At that very moment, in the imaginary room within Julian’s body, Mr. Punch squinted and rose to his full height—which, admittedly, wasn’t very great.

“Now, Jack Ketch,” Mr. Punch snarled. “You stop speakin’ in one word grunts and tell me what you done to me master and why.”

“No.” Jack responded.

“You said you punished him.” Punch spat. “Why? What’s me master ever done to anyone?”

Jack Ketch didn’t respond.

“What’s he done?” Punch screamed. “Oh, if only I had a stick, Hangman, I’d…”

Punch paused and narrowed his eyes.

“Why can’t I have a stick?” He said slowly. “None o’ this is real. It’s whatever I want.” Mr. Punch closed his eyes and clenched his wooden fingers. Before he opened his eyes, he could feel—somehow—the smoothness of the slapstick in his hand.

“Ready for your lesson, Jack?” Punch grinned.

Did you miss Chapters 1-283? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The Opening of the National Museum of Wales

The twenty-sixth card in the series of commemorative cards produced by Wills’s Cigarette Company for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary shows another event in the campaign to bolster Britain upon which the King and Queen embarked following the Great War. Here, we see the King welcoming the public, for the first time, to the then-new National Museum of Wales. Just a historical note, George was never Prince of Wales. That title had been held by his late brother (as well as the initial engagement to Mary). Upon his coronation, George V was The Duke of York, just as his son, the future King George VI was the Duke of York upon his accession to the throne.

The reverse of the card reads:


The King opened the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff on April 21st, 1927, having laid the foundation stone about fifteen years before. Having rapped for admission on the massive doors with a mallet offered by the Chief Architect, the Sovereign entered, and praised the ideal of the founders of the Museum, “to teach the world about Wales and the Welsh people about their own Fatherland.” This fine building provides both for the general public and the special student. Among those privileged to see the opening was a detachment at Chelsea Pensioners, invited as guests of the Lord Mayor.

The National Museum of Wales stands today, the façade largely unaltered. It faces the world with the same spirit with which it was founded.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, 1937

“The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the King will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever.”

--Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, during the Second World War

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
While Duchess of York
The Royal Collection
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was never meant to be Queen Consort. In fact, it’s a role to which she never aspired. Elizabeth shied away from Royal life altogether. Though she was the daughter of a Peer of England, and therefore a “Lady,” Elizabeth Bowes Lyon refused the proposal of marriage of Albert, the Duke of York because she couldn’t stand the thought of the restrictions of Royal life, stating that she was, “afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to.” The Duke of York’s mother, Queen Mary, stated that Elizabeth was “the one girl who could make Bertie happy,” upon visiting with Elizabeth, but decided to let the young couple work it out for themselves. Bertie proposed again, but was refused. The third time brought the desired answer. She agreed to the marriage and became the Duchess of York, and was content to be so. A devoted mother, she loathed leaving her daughters Princess Elizabeth (now Queen) and Princess Margaret Rose to carry out her official duties, but did so without complaint because of her fierce devotion to both her husband and her nation.

Elizabeth was known for her slightly quirky, impulsive, but utterly charming behavior—actions which endeared her to people around the globe. For example, in Fiji, while the future Queen consort was shaking hands with a long, dull line of officials, a stray dog wandered past. She paused to shake the dog’s paw as well—an act which made her quite popular with the people of Fiji.

Both Elizabeth and Bertie preferred a quiet life at home, but their peaceful existence was compromised following the death of the Duke’s father, King George V and the accession of his eldest brother as King Edward VIII—a short-lived situation which ended in abdication and the unexpected coronation of Bertie and Elizabeth as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

That occasion is commemorated with this china cup. Bearing portraits of the King and Queen Consort above the date of their coronation and flanked by symbols of the Empire, this cup, on the reverse, shows the cipher of King George VI nestled below the Imperial crown and the flags of the Monarch and Britain.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Fender Bender

“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, Johnnie, but I like to sit in fireplaces.  So, let’s put the fire out.  Okay?  And, while you’re at it, you can take the barricade down.”
(click image to enlarge)

Image: John Forster in His Library, Edward Matthew (E.M.) Ward, 1850, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: The Coral Tiara, 1860-1870

Coral and Gilt Metal
Philips Brothers, London
This and all related images courtesy of
The Victoria & Albert Museum
During a period when most tiaras glittered with diamonds (or paste), some ladies wanted to stand out from the crowd by adorning their elaborate hairstyles with something a little different. While, in my opinion, nothing’s better than a nice lot of diamonds, this coral tiara has a great deal of appeal of its own, and, is really very handsome.

Coral branches and beads have been fitted to a gilt metal frame, giving an immediate look of both the natural and the ornate. Still in its original leather case, this coral tiara has its original comes from “PHILLIPS. 23, COCKSPVR STREET LONDON,” as embroidered into the silk lining.

Phillips Brothers, largely managed by one Robert Phillips, was the leading supplier of coral objects in London, in addition to their status as celebrated and jewelers. So influential in the world of coral exporting, they once advertised in that Phillips Brothers was in possession of “the most complete collection of fine coral work in the world.” They weren’t alone in that assessment. Robert Phillips received the order of the Crown of Italy for his support of the coral industry in Naples.

Precious Time: A Cabinet Clock from Augsburg, 1700-1725

Cabinet Clock
Augsburg (Made)
Meissen (Tea Set, Made)
This and all related images courtesy of
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This artful arrangement of wood, boulle marquetry, tortoiseshell, silver, silver-gilt, inlaid mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel, brass, pietre dure, faceted garnets, turquoise, micromosaic, velvet, porcelain, mirrored glass, gilt bronze, and oil paint on copper sheeting makes for one very involved, brilliant timepiece.

This monumental cabinet clock comes from Augsburg. Both Augsburg and Nuremberg were hubs of important clock making from the 1650 through 1750. Master craftsmen from a variety of media would join forces to create majestic and unusual cases for the clock. This, surely, is one of the finest examples of their capabilities.

Truly extraordinary, this cabinet clock is comprises of nearly twenty costly different materials. Coupled with the high cost of labor for such a piece, surely this was a royal or, at least, noble commission. We don’t know for whom the clock was originally produced, however, the curators at the V&A have determined that this was the same clock that once belonged to Lord Rosebery, British Prime Minister from 1894-5, as evidenced by photographs of the Lord from that time period (see the black and white picture detail below).

Though the clock is certainly interesting in all that’s apparent, from the little Buddha figures to the impressive inlay-work, it also contains some hidden treasures which aren’t immediately seen. For example, a neatly in-set drawer contains a Meissen tea set in a pattern which matches the clock as well as a silver picture frame.

This was a gift to the V&A from Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde—two of the world's foremost decorative arts collectors, and was included in their 1996 bequest of silver, mosaics, enameled portrait miniatures and gold boxes.

Gifts of Grandeur: An Openwork Diamond and Gold Ring

Forked Openwork Gold Shoulders
Rectangular openwork bezel-set diamonds lined in gold.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
At first glance, this impressive diamond ring appears to have been produced during the Art Deco period. However, it’s a much, much earlier creation, the work of a French jeweler dating between 1775 and 1825.

Mounted atop a band of “forked” openwork gold with a pattern that mimics the top surface of the ring, European-cut diamonds are set in silver, lined in gold. The cut of the diamonds is quite advanced for the age of the piece. They’re a few facets beyond the traditional European-cut diamonds and bordering on the modern brilliant-cut.

This ring was part of the collection of Dame Joan Evans who donated this, and other pieces, to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 283

Mr. Punch allowed his ethereal body to go limp in the darkened phantom room. He held his breath, and became aware that the body he shared with Julian (and Scaramouche and apparently Jack Ketch and another) had also ceased to breathe. Punch knew that outside—in that small flat above a dress shop—his “chums” were watching, and he hoped that they were not alarmed by this strange behavior.

“Musn’t think too much,” Punch thought silently. “I’ll wager he can hear me, that hangman.”

Punch lay as still as he could, but it was difficult because of his hunched back. That’s when he realized that—internally, when not out in the world using Julian’s handsome body--he was, in fact, Mr. Punch entirely: hunchback, potbelly, hooked nose and jutting chin. He wanted to grin at the very thought of his own figure, the point of his back, the sharpness of his jaw, the comic eyes which never blinked.

Mr. Punch tried to control himself. His hunchback did pose something of a problem. As he’d collapsed in an attempt to trick Jack Ketch—still unseen in the pitch-black imaginary room—Punch had landed on his back which rather served liked the rockers on a toy horse or an old man’s chair. Punch slowly tightened his muscles as best he could so that his body would not rock, and, thusly, he waited for some sign from the hangman—some indication that Jack Ketch had retreated or, at least, loosened the noose. “If he thinks he killed me, he’ll set me free.” Punch thought.

“Here,” Punch thought to himself, “how long can a body go without breathin’?” It was easy enough for a spirit—a thought—a persona of light and memory to function without air, but a human body—one of water and flesh and warmth needed breath in order to maintain itself. Aware that he was also controlling the exterior body—the creature as a whole—Punch began to panic, thinking perhaps their shared shell might expire during this sweaty pantomime.

“Where’s me master?” Punch thought. “Why don’t he take over the body?”

“Gone.” Jack Ketch responded deeply, loosening the noose.

“Here, what do you mean?” Punch gasped.

“Gone.” Jack repeated.

“So, you can hear me?” Punch replied, rubbing his throat.

“Yes.” Jack answered mockingly.

“Why’d you stop chokin’ me if you knew I was fakin’?”

“Because.” Jack grunted.

“See, you realized what I done just. That you can’t choke the breath out of a thought. Right now, I ain’t nothin’ but an idea.

“Yes.” Jack growled.

“What’d you do with me master?”

Jack didn’t answer.

“Come on, what’d you do with him?”

“Punished.” Jack barked his response.

“Here, what for?”

“Foolishness.” Was Jack’s singular response.

“Where is he?” Punch shouted, realizing that he was free to stand. Still unable to see in the dark “room,” he stumbled into the chairs that surrounded the massive dining table.

“Fool.” Jack laughed.

“Where is me master? Where’s Scaramouche? Why don’t you light a lamp?” Punch squawked, attempting to retreat from the hangman.

Jack’s response came right into Punch’s ear—his flat, painted, wooden ear. “No.”

Punch put his hands on his face. “Hold on, then.” While his hands moved and his fingers bent like those of a human, they were rough and rigid as if made of wood. His face, too, seemed made of wood—smooth and cool and…

Punch squinted in the darkness.

“In here, I ain’t a man.” Mr. Punch said aloud.

“No.” Jack responded with disinterest.

“But, I ain’t really a puppet. I am whatever I think I am because I’m nothin’ but a trick of me own master’s mind. It don’t have to be dark if I don’t want it to be.”

With that, the room grew bright and there before Mr. Punch stood the hangman—draped in a black robe with a hood which covered his face. Only a long pink nose peeked out from beneath the hood.

“Stop!” Jack bellowed, turning away quickly.

“I won’t.” Mr. Punch smiled. He tilted his head to one side. Did he smile? Was his face capable of smiling? Regardless, the emotion he felt was the same as if he had actually smiled. “I see now I don’t have to do anything I don’t want.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-282? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: The King at the Tate Gallery

I can imagine that Queen Mary was particularly excited about the opening of two new galleries at the Tate Gallery in London. An avid patron of the arts, Mary of Teck showed an interest in a variety of media and time periods. The opening of these new galleries was particularly important after the Great War when evidence that British culture was flourishing was more important than ever.

The twenty-fifth card in the series of Wills’s Cigarette Cards commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary shows the King visiting the newly opened portions of the Tate Gallery.

The reverse of the card reads:


The two splendid new galleries—The Sargent and Modern Foreign Art Galleries—which the munificence of Sir Joseph Duveen added to the Tate Gallery, were opened by His Majesty on June 26th, 1926. He is seen walking with the Queen through the extensions, Lord D’Abernon, Chairman of the Board and Trustees, on his left, and Lord Peel, then First Commissioner of Works, immediately behind. The pictures of modern foreign artists were inadequately represented in this country until room was thus found for them, and a gift of £50,000 by Mr. Samuel Courtauld enabled discriminating purchase. The Tate is now the largest gallery in Europe.

Here’s a glimpse at the Tate Gallery as it is today. The original building now houses Tate Britain while the Tate Modern is a different facility. Plans to expand the complex are in the works.

Tate Britain

Object of the Day: A Coronation Teacup, 1953

This smart, little teacup was found this past weekend. It’s the mate to a saucer that I already had in my collection.

A souvenir of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this china teacup features a portrait of the beautiful young queen surrounded by the flags of the empire and surmounted by the Imperial Crown and animal attendants.

The 1953 coronation was one of great hope for Britain. The press hyped the occasion as the dawn of a “new Elizabethan age.” Queen Elizabeth II is soon to tie Queen Victoria as longest reigning monarch in British history, and, like Victoria’s, her reign has been marked by both tragedy and triumph. But, also like Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II has faced each new situation with dignity and grace, working for what she believes is best for her people.

The reverse of the cup shows the entwined ciphers “E” and “P” to include Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.