Archive for the 19th cent. Category

Remembering the Ladies Behind the Men

Posted in 18th century, 19th cent., Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln on February 21, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Wishing  my countrymen a happy Presidents Day!

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

wife to the first President of the United States

b. 2nd of June 1731

d. 22nd of  May 1802

Mary Ann (née Todd) Lincoln

wife of the 16th President of the United States

b. 13th of December 1818

d. 16th of  July 1882

“Lady Washington”

Mrs. Lincoln


Martha Dandridge Custis

after the 1757 painting by John Wollaston

Mrs. Lincoln

Thank you Ladies!

Happy Presidents Day,

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


Martin Ware satisfying fin de siècle taste for the grotesque, one Wally Bird at a time.

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, Benjamin Disraeli, Martin Bros., Wally Birds on February 15, 2011 by babylonbaroque




Having recently finished a course in Ceramics, quite basic stuff, pinch pots, coil construction and a most pitiful attempt at the wheel;I am left with , aside from an alarming amount of lumpy earthenware, a very new appreciation for the ceramic arts. I have always admired porcelain, faience and majolica, but the rather garden -variety thrown vessels have left me a bit cold;I’m still not terribly fond of crunchy textured, oatmeal hued bowls, but I do admire the craft.

All that said, I am now more appreciative then ever of the incredible earthenware fantasies that came out of the Martin Brothers Studio.

The Martin Brothers

from left:

Walter Fraser Martin(1857-1912), responsible for decorating.


Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923), founder of the company, trained as a sculptor, responsible fro throwing and modeling, most notably the bird jars known affectionately as Wally Birds.

Edwin Bruce Martin ( 1860-1910), responsible for glaze development.

Charles Douglas Martin (1846-1910) not shown, responsible for management of the studio.







Almost immediately upon immersing my hands into the pile of clay, perverse little images began to emerge: grinning priapic demons, winged dragons, winking skulls; so immediate was this emergence my friend Gina promptly dubbed my creations Evilware. As clever as that may be, I felt (hoped) my natural inclination towards more macabre expression was richer then the current dark fashions inspired by such pop culture horrors as the Twilight series. I was inclined to believe, given my own fascination with fin de siècle culture, that my inspiration was a by-product of my interest in Beardsley, the Decadent-Symbolist movements and some of the more perverse ornament of Christopher Dresser and Frank Furness. It was not until the wee hours of the course that I realized, as I was lamely trying to unearth the beauty the clay held within, that I was face to face with a Wally Bird from the famed studios of the Martin Bros., London.



Robert Wallace Martin most likely the modeller



My own, pitifully amateur creation failed to exhibit the finesse that the Martin Brothers exhibited in such shameful abundance; but through the lumpy clay mass, the unmistakable Neo-Gothic grin of my silly dragon-bird exhibited direct roots to the Wally Bird.

Jar with Cover


glazed stoneware with a wood plinth


Martin Ware Pottery was founded by the eldest brother Robert Wallace Martin  in the city of Fulham in 1873; the firm which was in operation from 1873 through 1923, moved from Fulham to its final location in Southall, Middlesex. Martinware was an industrial fixture of Southall , situated upon the Grand Junction Canal. The company enjoyed great success with a wide range of pottery items, vessels, jars and decorative tiles; their greatest success then and now was the amusing Wally Bird, said to be a caricature of then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Benjamin Disraeli



stoneware, wooden plinth


Hints of anti-Semitism aside, the Wally Bird is quite charming and beautifully wrought. The salt -glazes the firm was famous for enhanced the well-crafted details; ordinary glazes would have obscured the delicately rendered feathers and scales. The Martinware palette was in the fashionable Aesthetic Movement’s vogue for “muddled”colors, muted greys, greens, and ochre browns.

“If Martinware […has] not the transparency of porcelain nor the elaborately and costly ornamentation of Sèvres [it is] pure and honest artwork” so said the art critic Cosmo Monkhouse in 1882.  The Martin brothers were riding the wave of fashionable London with its Aesthetic craze; their art pottery, inspired (as I am) by the 16th century potter Bernard Palissy, saw stoneware as an appropriate medium for “honest” art. Robert, trained at the esteemed Lambeth School of Art was well equipped to marry his knowledge of historical derivative design with the contemporary fashion for “Art for Art’s sake”.

The Wally Birds though wildly popular, kept proud company with their Face Jugs.



maker, Robert Wallace Martin


The jugs, first thrown, then bulked up with a pad of clay were individually sculpted. The artisans, working from a rendering by Robert, created individual works of utilitarian sculpture; no two jugs are exactly alike.

The firm was capable of producing more conventionally decorative objects as this bottle illustrated  with its incised and painted decoration.



salt-glazes stoneware, incised and painted decoration (first painted with white slip, then incised and decorated) cork and metal


But upon closer inspection the viewer is exposed to the slightly sinister ornamentation that is unique to Martinware; in this instance, underwater grotesquerie.  This aquatic theme with a perverse twist was quite a speciality of the Martin Brothers; I believe from what I have read (primarily the Victoria & Albert site) that  Walter Fraser  Martin was responsible for the decoration.Whoever came up with these whimsies, kudos to you!



salt-glazed stoneware with painted decoration




salt-glazed stoneware with incised decoration



salt-glazed stoneware with incised decoration and coloured glazes




stoneware, incised with colored glazes




salt-glazed stoneware



Objects such as chess pieces,  tradition-bound to be fashioned in mock Gothic ,were well suited to the Martin Brothers oeuvre.

Chess piece


salt-glazed stoneware


In exploring Martin Ware, pottery that was once held in high esteem but now seems to be familiar to only  a limited circle of connoisseurs, has rekindled my love of mock Gothic playfulness; I look forward to further developing this aesthetic in clay (and paint), hopefully with more  competent results!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the “indelicate” Ephebe

Posted in 19th cent., Ellen Terry, John Singer Sargent, Saint-Gaudens, Wojnarowicz on December 29, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I  recently stumbled upon a controversy concerning the censorship of a work deemed obscene by the morally conservative. In the wake of the recent  Smithsonian uproar concerning David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly,  I felt a comparison of the prudery worth examining.

The controversy arose in the 1890’s around a design proposal for the “prize medal” to be given out at the World’s  Columbian Exposition of 1893 . The designer was the illustrious Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and his graceful design was initially accepted; that was until a nasty caricature made a mockery of his work prompting conservative outcry.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens


Kenyon Cox


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saint-Gaudens was reluctant to enter the competition according to his son Homer in The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but he was eventually persuaded ; ultimately coming up with a design that according to the actress Ellen Terry was “emblematical of young America”.

Young America was depicted as an ephebe, that loveliness of youth so admired by the Greeks, and enlightened society from the Renaissance onward.


Homer Saint-Gaudens goes into great detail concerning his fathers design,

Homer Saint-Gaudens and his Mother


John Singer Sargent

Carnegie museum of Art




Homer describes the “great distress of mind” the controversy caused his father. He also gives quite a vivid account of the design, “the obverse he created a design representing Columbus at his first landing on this hemisphere. On the reverse he placed a nude boy holding a shield which should bear the name of the recipient of the prize”.

The work was accepted, then as Homer claims ” came the catastrophe”. A perverse caricature of Saint-Gaudens  work was created by the Page Belting Company of Concord, New Hampshire that was ” so villainous that the boy, who on the original stood as a bit of artistic idealism, appeared in all the vulgar indecency that can be conveyed by the worst connotation of the word nakedness”.

Priggish outrage was the result.

It hardly seems possible that this image (on the left) could have stirred such controversy.

For a closer look follow this link.

According to the New York Times, January 20th 1894, “protests were made on the grounds of indelicacy”, ultimately forcing Saint-Gaudens work to be “modified by draping the figure”. The changes were made under the direction of Secretary of the Treasury John Griffin Carlisle. Perhaps instead of the “obscene” ephebe, this jolly image should have been minted.

The work was modified , and an acceptable design by Charles Barber, Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint replaced Saint-Gaudens design.

Apparently Barber had a long running, seemingly one-sided competitive tiff with Saint-Gaudens; he would ultimately be critical of another Saint-Gaudens design, the Double Eagle coin in 1908.

Envy is a terrible sin.

Charles E. Barber



Artistic society was not pleased with the strong-arming of the morally righteous, the actress Ellen Terry was quite vocal in voicing her outrage.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

John Singer Sargent


Tate, London

Ellen Terry found the outrage an example of “extraordinary official Puritanism”. She was incredulous as to how this “beautiful little nude figure of a boy…emblematical of young America” could have caused offense.

Never underestimate the feeble and fearful mind.

She found the work that substituted Saint-Gaudens graceful work distasteful, “I think a commonplace wreath and some lettering were substituted”.

I was unable to find an image of  the caricature which set off the tempest;but my friend Marge Miccio of Artifacts Gallery in my hometown of Trenton provided me with the sanitized medal. The image of Columbus is Saint-Gaudens work, for more info follow this link.

Thank you Marge!

The point being,  Saint-Gaudens work IS  a bit sensual, not unchaste; but certainly his art arouses (pun intended) our attention.

We all know his Diana,



Metropolitan Museum of Art

Clearly a fleshy object of beauty, created close to the time of the boy, yet the erotic overtones were tolerated.

The pretty boy, too much to handle apparently.

I have enjoyed once again poring over Saint-Gaudens work; in my research I stumbled upon this image of a very worldly Augustus with model, Just a bit unchaste.

portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens


Anders Zorn


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Another fleshy work is Saint-Gaudens Hiawatha.

Always a favorite when I visit the Met.




Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the end I like to think that even if Saint-Gaudens did not share Wojnarowicz aesthetic sympathies he would have fought for the work to remain. A comrade in arms.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

b. March 1st 1848

d. August 3rd 1907

In honor of Saint-Gaudens , I will enclose A Fire in My Belly in its entirety.

Have a great evening.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Tannenbaum Thursday, in praise of the spindly ungainly tree

Posted in 19th cent., Christmas Trees, Hans Christian Andersen, Saturnalia on December 16, 2010 by babylonbaroque

This is to be an unabashedly fluffy post, but this is the season of fluff. Even the New York Times indulged in a vacuous piece on designers “zhoosh-ing” trees for clients. I haven’t a clue as to what zhoosh means, it sounds unwholesome, and the results shown were at best predictable.

I have as my “pile” of Internet ephemera has grown to include  more and more holiday images, been inclined to pine (pun intended) for the ungainly, unstudied trees of the late 19th -early 20th century.

This marvel, replete with patriotic little flags is so much more enchanting then the offerings of this morning’s Home section.

Perhaps we have lost the charm of just “making do” when trimming a tree, a birds nest here, a Chinese puppet above,a hobgoblin tucked there; the mish-mash approach is far more visually satisfying then the self consciously decorated trees I see here in Tinsletown.

Again, I just have always loved little flags tucked into trees, I have trimmed my own trees in this manner for years. I am still surprised at how many folks assume I am some sort of right wing nationalist zealot.

I also believe you can’t have too many homemade garlands, paper, popped corn, berries, or cones, all delight.

Perhaps the great appeal of these wonky little trees is the fantasy that they were selected and culled by the family enjoying them.

A far cry from the mono culture of today’s farms.

A disheartening image .

My own tree I am ashamed to say is an artificial “pencil’ tree ( pre-lit, I know, I know…) from Target, a far cry from my fantasy; but from the street, five stories up, it evokes the spirit I so love.

The following sweet image of rugged men around their own little “feather” tree really tickles me. I love the little paper garlands we all were forced to make in grade school.

More flags!

A Facebook friend posted this clip from 1898, it really is too wonderful not to share.

Children may love the sparkle of Christmas morn, but they aren’t alone…

Concerning Christmas Trees some options are just not Kosher…

Purple Pencil Trees &…

bling bedazzled, knee-sock wearing Santas &

Perhaps the most poignant image of Christmas is the few days after, my heart has always broken seeing forlorn holiday trees abandoned to the trash heap. My sympathy may stem from my childhood reading of Hans Christian Andersen’s heart-wrenching fairy tale The Fir Tree read it here and weep. When I do have a live tree, I always remember to leave a few ornaments on the tree when I place it on the curb. A fond memento for a happy time.

As tomorrow is the traditional day for the ancient Roman festival honoring the god Saturn, I wish you all a most Joyous Saturnalia!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Fouquet & Mucha, an inspired collaboration.

Posted in 19th cent., Alphonse Mucha, architecture, Art Nouveau, Paris International 1900 on December 1, 2010 by babylonbaroque

The Art Nouveau found particularly beautiful expression in the collaborative work of the jeweler Georges Fouquet (1862-1957) and the designer/artist Alphonse Mucha ( 1860-1939). For a brief glorious moment, extravagant beauty reigned supreme.


ca. 1900

Manufacturer- Georges Fouquet

Designer- Alphonse Mucha

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Georges acquired his skill and taste early on through the acclaim and talents of his father Alphonse Fouquet ( 1828-1911). A pioneer in jewelry design, Alphonse  re-introduced the female nude figure into his designs , a radical departure from Victorian mores. When his work was exhibited in 1878 at the Universal Exposition in Paris, Alphonse was awarded a gold prize for his exceptional skill, craft, and taste.

Alphonse Fouquet

b. 1828

d. 1911

Although considered to have made an even greater impact concerning the  of art jewelry  then his father, I was unable to locate an image of Georges. His legacy will have to suffice.

Georges teamed up with his father in 1891. Alphonse had set up shop at 35 avenue de’l Opera, clearly Georges had grander plans.

Upon his father’s retirement in 1895 Georges rejected the Classicism of papa and allowed himself to be fully embraced by the seductive charms of the Art Nouveau. Who better to secure the union then the maestro Alphonse Mucha.

more concerning Alphonse Mucha, previous post

The collaborative efforts with Mucha created quite a buzz. Although Georges had a stable of esteemed artist on staff, the work with Mucha resulted in particular acclaim. Georges enjoyed the fruits of this fame at the Paris International Exhibition of 1900.

Flush with recent triumphs Georges opened a new shop in  1901, 6 rue Royal. A jaw-dropping masterpiece, entirely designed by that master of sublime beauty, Mucha.


As spectacular as the exterior was, the interior engulfed visitors in a heady  harem atmosphere redolent of kohl eyed , ambergris scented lusciousness.

I was tickled beyond belief when I first encountered this image.

Mucha oversaw every detail, such as the exquisite peacock preening over the main jewelry case. Woe to the hapless fellow, when his lady love crossed this threshold.


I really love the voluptuous “fabric” rendered in a hard material, I am assuming glazed terra cotta.



I enclose a few un-documented images, but they do bear the distinct mark of a Fouquet -Mucha collaboration.

If they happen to not be authenticated, they do illustrate the influence of this dynamic duo.


ca. 1900



ca. 1900

Sadly all greatness ends, the passion for the excesses of Art Nouveau passed, 6 rue Royal was looking dated.

In 1936 the shop was redecorated. Georges’ son Jean joined the family business in 1919, and like his own father, he had a new artistic vision, the streamlined Art Deco.

I must confess I have never appreciated the chill of Art Deco glamour, I have often found it a dowdy period, 1936 particularly so.

Thankfully the Fouquets had the integrity to donate Mucha’s architectural masterwork to the Museum of the City of Paris, the Musee Carnavalet

I will focus on the glory days of Fouquet in closing with this little clip from the 1900 Exposition Universelle, Paris would not be Paris without Gustave  Eiffel’s wonder and the glories of Fouquet and Mucha.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

The Bounty of Demeter,a moment of praise

Posted in 17th century, 18th century, 19th cent., Demeter, Frederic Leighton, Hendrick Goltzius, Palissy, Peter Paul Rubens on November 22, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As the frantic rush for the upcoming day of gluttony fasts approaches , I have turned to thoughts of Demeter, goddess of the Harvest.

Ceres mit zwei Nymphen

Peter Paul Rubens

Franz Snyder

ca. 1620-1628


Demeter is best known for the horror of her loss, her  beloved daughter Persephone swept to the underworld in a rage of Pluto’s lust. In her anguish, Demeter tears cause the world to chill, germinating seed wither within their husks, and man huddles hungry and fearful, at the mercy of his gods.

Pluto and Proserpina

ca. 1565-1571

Vincenzo de Rossi



Pluto Abducting Proserpine

Francois Girardon

ca. 1693-1710


The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Of course this situation cannot continue, if the altar remain bare, will the gods continue to exist?

Worship provides the deities identity.

Like a marriage gone awry, Demeter and Pluto arrange visitation rights.  Having tasted of the Fruit of the Dead, the pomegranate, Persephone will remain in Hades one month per kernel eaten.The Earth shall remain darkened by Demeter’s shroud of grief until this time has passed.

Upon release, Persephone back in the arms of devoted Demeter, seed will once again sprout, life will begin anew.

The Return of Persephone


Frederic Leighton

It is indeed time to give thanks.

Statue of Ceres

oil on wood

ca. 1612-1615

Peter Paul Rubens

Hermitage, St.Petersburg


Demeter, or her Roman equivalent have been a popular motif in fine and decorative arts. The allusions to bounty and the table too great a temptation.


17th cent., after 1652

after design by Michel Anguier



From bronze to porcelain her figure has delighted.

The Goddess Ceres

ca. 1765

William Dueberg and Company

soft paste porcelain


I have a great fondness for the theme Without Bacchus and Ceres , Venus Grows Cold, the artist Hendrick Goltzius was particularly adept at depicting the scene; lewd and  provocative, they still delight.





Perhaps more chaste, yet no less delightful, this calling card depicts our Goddess o’ Plenty.

Decorative Design

ca. 1750

artist unknown

pen and ink, red chalk on paper


Demeter continued to be a popular theme well into the 19th century as this staged image attests.

Actress Fanny Coleman as Ceres

Guy Little Theatrical Photograph



As no Thanksgiving spread is complete without a gravy boat, I thought this little number would suit the theme.

Sauce Boat


Bernard Palissy


lead glazed earthenware


Wishing everyone the bounty of the season,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Babylon Baroque

Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Chinoiserie, Chung Ling Foo, Koekkoek, Madame Pamita, Orientalist, Silent Film on November 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At the turn of the 20th century an exotic Chung Ling Soo was enchanting Western audiences with the  mysteries of the East.

Chung Ling Soo, with the lovely “slant eyed maiden” Suee Seen were a smash captivating crowds with smoke and mirrors.

But behind the veil of fame and mystery a different truth could be discovered.

For behind the Orientalist facade lurked William Ellsworth Robinson ( 1861-1918), the Asian beauty by his side?, his wife Dottie.

In May of 1900, William E. Robinson took up the persona of Chung Ling Soo, so sincere was he in maintaining this charade that apparently he never spoke in English again. At least not until his last words, but we’ll get to that…

Quite a ‘stache he had to sacrifice for chinoiserie splendor!

The decision to adopt the stage name Chung Ling Soo was quite deliberate.

At the time there was an actual Chinaman, a renown magician, Ching Ling Foo (1854-1922)


So great was the fame of Ching Ling Foo, the REAL Chinaman ( I know it is terribly confusing), that Thomas Edison felt the need to expose his trickery.

Perhaps part of Robinson/Chung Ling’s plan was to “coat-tail” on Ching’s genuine fame. I don’t know, but a rivalry was set across Europe.

Both seemed to benefit from the competition, Chung Ling Soo engaging in flashier and flashier acts.

One such act was a macabre twist on the Boxer Rebellion.



Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek



The final performance of this bizarre trick would be at London’s Wood Green Empire, March 23rd 1918.

Something went terribly awry, instead of the trick giving the allusion of a gun shot, an actual bullet escape.

This ended Chung Ling Soo’s vow to not betray his true identity; his last words in his mother tongue:

“Oh my God. Something happened. Lower the curtain.”

A true showman to the end!

Much of the myth around Chung Ling Soo is difficult to verify, I was unable to gather info concerning Dottie the “slant eyed maiden” ( I can’t believe they got away with saying that!) for example. But I did stumble upon this silly clip narrated by the wonderful Boris Karloff, it’s great fun.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, my dear friend Madame Pamita, Sideshow Entertainer Extraordinaire suggested i might find Chung Ling Soo of interest.

She was correct.

Thank you Madame Pamita.


Pirate Jenny… I mean Madame Pamita.

Thank you, enjoy the week.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque