A Proper Afternoon Tea

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It is said that the tradition of afternoon tea was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. Anne requested that light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a “sinking feeling” during the long gap between meals. She then began to invite others to join her and thus became the tradition.

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Theo van Rysselberghe – Summer Afternoon (Tea in the Garden)

It is important to use proper etiquette when attending afternoon tea.

  • After sitting down, place your purse on your lap or behind you against the chair back.
  • Unfold your napkin and carefully place it upon your lap. 
    • If you must leave the table, temporarily, place the napkin on the chair.
    • Never blot or wipe your lipstick with a linen or cloth napkin or use it as a handkerchief!
  • Sugar is placed in your teacup first, then thinly sliced lemon.
    • If you like to have milk in your tea, add it after the tea is poured. Never use milk and lemon together.
  • Hold the handle of the teacup using your thumb and your first one or two fingers.
    • Never put your pinkie out whilst drinking. That is deemed rude.
    • Do not loop your fingers through the teacup handle or cradle the side or bottom of the cup with your hands. 
    • A guest should look into the teacup when drinking, never over it.
  • When stirring your tea, be careful not to clink your spoon against the cup. 
    • Gently swish the spoon back and forth without touching the sides of the cup.
    • When through stirring, remove the spoon and place it on the saucer behind the tea cup and to the right of the handle. 
    • Of course, never take a drink of your tea without removing the spoon first, and please never, ever sip from the spoon.
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Soulacroix Frédéric – Tea Time
  • Take small, quiet sips of your tea. Do not blow on the tea if it is too hot.
  • When you are not drinking tea, place the cup on the saucer. 
    • If seated at a table, never pick up the saucer.
    • If standing, you may lift the saucer with the cup.
  • It is fine to eat most of the foods with your fingers with small, dainty bites.
    • Use a fork when trying to eat messy foods. 
    • Scones are a traditional part of a proper tea. Split the scone with a knife. Since the knife is now used, either place it on your knife rest, or lay it gently on the side of your plate. 
    • Jam or curds are usually placed on the scone and then top off with a dollop of clotted cream.
      • Simply spoon a small amount of jam or curds onto your plate then spread the jam, curds, and clotted cream onto your scone. 
      • Never use the serving spoon for this task.
  • In the privacy of your own home one might dunk biscuits into tea, however, do not partake in this practice when taking Afternoon Tea!
  • Be sure to take small bites, since attending a tea is a social occasion and you will want to participate in the conversation without always having a full mouth. 
  • Chew and swallow completely before taking a drink of tea, since it is hot and is not meant to wash the food down.
  • The hostess will signal the end of the tea by picking up her napkin.  Everyone else will then pick up their napkin by the center and loosely lay to the left of their plate.
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    Federico Andreotti – An Afternoon Tea

    “But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.”
    — Jane Austen

 

Victorian Spiritualism

During the Victorian Era, the infant mortality rate was alarmingly high, countless lives were lost to industrial equipment, and all the while a single disease could take an entire family.

With such an abundance of death, survivors were left full of anguish. Thus Spiritualism – the belief that ghosts exist and we can communicate with them – came into existence. 

A key component of spiritualism are séances. A séance, is a meeting centered on a medium who seeks to communicate with spirits of the dead. One usually takes place in darkness and it generally involves six or eight persons, who normally form a circle and hold hands. 

 

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The séance pictured above took place in 1909 at the Rome, Italy studio of Baron von Erhardt.

Three American sisters: Leah, Margaret and Kate Fox, were the world’s first mediums. The trio hit the headlines when they claimed to communicate with a spirit haunting their home. The girls used a series of knocks – one for ‘yes’, two for ‘no’ – to communicate with the spirit.

 

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The Fox sisters. From left to right: Margaret, Kate and Leah

 

 

Spiritualism was the answer many Victorians were seeking. An official religion, the Spiritualists’ National Federation, was started in the UK in 1890. Known today as the Spiritualists’ National Union, the organization has 350 affiliated churches with almost 16,000 full members and over 2,000 associate members in England.

 

 

Sources:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/12824/12-weird-vintage-pictures-s%C3%A9ances
https://www.howitworksdaily.com/victorian-seances-debunked-the-secrets-of-speaking-to-the-dead/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_sisters
https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/spiritualism/history/history.shtml

The Symbolism of Crescent Moon Jewelry

Victorians were incredibly thoughtful and symbolic. Every aspect of their life from clothing to tapestries to paintings were brimming with symbolism.  Jewelry in that period was no exception- be it on pendants, brooches, bracelets, rings and more – it imbued symbolism.

A specific symbol in Victorian jewelry was the crescent moon. 

Crescent moons symbolize the feminine moon goddess, and as such, is associated with female empowerment. The moon also symbolizes change, for just as the moon cycles through phases, so does life.

Stunning examples of antique Victorian Era Crescent Moon jewelry are shown below.

 

The moon creates the ebb and flow of the tide; it casts light into the darkness of night. Thus the moon will always captivate and resonate with past, present, and future generations.


Source:

“Victorian Turquoise Crescent Moon Star”. The Three Graces Fine Jewelry, The Three Graces Copyright, 2002- 2019, https://www.georgianjewelry.com/items/show/18694-victorian-turquoise-crescent-moon-star.

“The Hidden Language of Victorian Jewelry”. Joy Jones Jewelry, Joy Jones Copyright, 20 August 2016, https://www.joyjonesjewelry.com/blogs/news/the-hidden-language-of-victorian-jewelry.

“Seven Meaningful Motifs in Victorian Jewelry”. Bejeweled, Bejeweled, 2017, https://www.bejeweledmag.com/seven-meaningful-motifs-victorian-jewelry.

The Arts & Crafts Movement

Following Britain’s Industrial Revolution, a design movement emerged as a way to create products that not only had integrity but were made in a less dehumanizing way. The movement was coined “the Arts and Crafts movement” and it had a huge impact on how Victorian society viewed production. The movement reformed the design and manufacture of everything from buildings to jewelry.

A key leader of the movement was William Morris, a renowned designer. He is quoted as saying, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris strived to create beautifully constructed everyday objects in a harmonious manner that kept the craftsman connected to the consumer. He pushed back on factory work, in hopes to return to small-scale workshops. Morris wanted to rid the working class of repetitive tasks so that they might engage directly with the creative process from beginning to end.

The Arts and Crafts movement thrived in rural communities and created employment for local people, such as amateurs and students. And it also created an environment in which, for the first time, women as well as men could begin to take an active role in developing new forms of design, both as makers and consumers.

Below are a few examples of objects produced during the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Although the movement did not withstand the test of time, the sentiment of handcrafted and delicately made objects continues to today.

 

 


Source:

“V&A · Arts and Crafts: an Introduction.” Victoria and Albert Museum, https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction.

Five Classic Victorian Novels

Five Classic Victorian Novels

Either through satire or dramatic prose, these five novels give us keen insight into the Victorian Era.

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Lady Reading By A Window

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1855)

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The most original heroines of Victorian literature, Margaret Hale, becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice.

Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

Tenant

Equally praised and controversial at the time of publication; this is a story of a woman’s struggle for independence from her abusive husband.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)

Vanity

An excellent satire of English society in the early 19th Century. It chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: an ambitious orphan with loose morals and a naive pampered Victorian heroine.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)

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In its atmosphere, symbolism, and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens.

George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans), Middlemarch (1872)

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Often described as a masterpiece, this novel is psychologically insightful portraying a rich portrait of the life of a small early 19th-century town.

Have you read any of these, dear reader? Which five books would you choose?

Mourning Jewelry

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Memorial ring in gold and black enamel, the bezel containing a microphotograph, reversed, of the Prince Consort in 1861, which is attributed to J.J.E. Mayall. 

Queen Victoria lost the love of her life, Prince Albert, to typhoid fever after 21 years of wedded bliss. This tragic loss plunged her majesty into a deep state of mourning for the remainder of her life- almost forty years. To satiate her broken heart, Queen Victoria wore black garments, black jewelry, and black hair accessories. As an example, the above ring was commissioned in honor of her beloved. Along the side of the ring the initials ‘V’ and ‘A’ are linked in white enamel.

And as Queen Victoria set the example for her court, mourning clothing and jewelry became the pinnacle of fashion. Materials such as jet, onyx, pearl, dark tortoise shell, black enamel, and vulcanite became vastly popular, as they could emulate the color well.

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A pearl and black chalcedony Victorian mourning pin with a floral motif reflects a gentler view of death. Thirty-six natural pearls surround the pin and seed pearls adorn the flower petals and leaves. Photo: Robert Weldon/GIA. Courtesy: KCB Natural Pearls

By today’s standards, mourning jewelry might seem morbid. But in Victorian times, death was abundant. Middle class men might live, on average, to 45. The average lives of workmen and labourers spanned just half that time. Children’s fate was even worse. One in three died before the age of five.

Mourning jewelry brought solace to the survivors who had to cope with frequent losses. In the end, perhaps mourning jewelry can be thought of more as an expression of love than of grief. Its purpose was to keep a departed beloved near to the heart. And that is a sentiment that transcends culture and time. 

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Mourning brooches. Photo: Detlef Thomas. Hair jewelry pendant. Photo: Missouri History Museum.

Sources:

Graff, Michelle. “The History Behind … Victorian mourning jewelry” National Jeweler, 3 Nov. 2014, http://www.nationaljeweler.com/independents/2058-the-history-behind-victorian-mourning-jewelry.

Picard, Liza. “Health and Hygiene in the 19th Century” British Library, 14 Oct. 2009, https://www.bl.uk/victorian-britain/articles/health-and-hygiene-in-the-19th-century

Steele, Meredith. “Victorian Mourning Jewelry: Morbid, Macabre, and Magnificent” Interwave, 31 Oct. 2018, https://www.interweave.com/article/beading/victorian-mourning-jewelry-morbid-macabre-and-magnificent/

“Antique Jewelry: Mourning Jewelry of the Victorian Era” GIA. https://4cs.gia.edu/en-us/blog/antique-victorian-era-mourning-jewelry/

“Victoria’s Photographic Mourning Ring for Albert, 1861” Art of Mourning. https://artofmourning.com/2015/03/02/victorias-photographic-mourning-ring-for-albert-1861/?doing_wp_cron=1564494993.1637020111083984375000

Clara Driscoll, the Light Behind Tiffany

Clara Driscoll, the Light Behind Tiffany

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Clara Driscoll in a workroom with Joseph Briggs, another Tiffany employee, in 1901.

What makes Tiffany lamps so iconic? Is it the name “Tiffany” that evokes greatness? Or is it the precise craftsmanship and delicate intricacies of the design? 

To quote the Bard,
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2).

For decades Louis Comfort Tiffany was attributed as the creator of the ever famous lamps. And his last name, Tiffany, became synonymous with elegance and beauty. The lamps were seminal and what all designers strived to render. Today, a Tiffany lamp can be worth anywhere from $4,000 to over $1 million. The most ever paid for an original was $2.8 million in 1997 at a Christie’s auction.

However, thanks to the diligent research of Martin Eidelberg, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Rutgers University, Independent Scholar Nina Gray, and the Historical Society’s Curator of Decorative Arts, Margaret K. Hofer, light was shone on Tiffany’s legacy and a falsity uncovered.

The true designer of the innovative lamps was a woman, Clara Driscoll. This revelation was never mentioned in the Tiffany Studios publicity, because Tiffany never disclosed the names of his designers, preferring to keep the public focus on his own considerable artistic and business talents. Also, the records of the studio were lost after the company closed in the early 1930s.

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Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp designed by Clara Driscoll.

Clara worked at Tiffany Studios off and on for more than 20 years. Engaged or married women were not allowed to work at the company, so Driscoll had to leave because of her marriage in 1889. After Driscoll’s first husband Francis Driscoll died in 1892, she resumed working for Tiffany Studios and remained until her marriage to Edward A. Booth in 1909.

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Wisteria Tiffany Lamp designed by Clara Driscoll.

Clara is now accredited to designing over 30 lamps and numerous other desk and boudoir accoutrements. Driscoll designed many of the most iconic Tiffany leaded-glass lamps from Dragonfly, Cobweb, and Butterfly to Wisteria, Poppy, Laburnum, Arrowhead, Geranium, and the innovative Flying Fish shade and Deep Sea mosaic and glass-jeweled base. Most researchers now believe it was Clara who originated the entire concept of kerosene- and then electric-powered lamps of leaded glass for Tiffany.

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Apple Blossom Lamp designed by Clara Driscoll.

Thanks to those historians, credit is now given where credit is due. Clara Driscoll life’s work is finally attributed to her.


Sources

CNBC. (2019). How To Spot An Authentic Tiffany Lamp. [online] Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/id/39652022 [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].

Terrebonne, J. (2019). Food and Design Come Together at the 2017 Edible Schoolyard NYC Benefit – Galerie. [online] Galerie. Available at: https://www.galeriemagazine.com/top-chefs-devise-innovative-menus-edible-schoolyard-nyc-benefit/ [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].

Cia.edu. (2019). Breaking Tiffany’s Glass Ceiling: Clara Wolcott Driscoll (1861-1944) | Cleveland Institute of Art. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.edu/news/stories/breaking-tiffanys-glass-ceiling-clara-wolcott-driscoll-1861-1944 [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].

Kastner, J. (2019). Clara Driscoll – Tiffany Lamps – New-York Historical Society. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/arts/design/25kast.html?scp=3&sq=clara%20driscoll%20and%20tiffany&st=cse [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].