Tenniel Chess Set and Other Sundry Alice Items at London Boutique

As reported in the December 2012 issue of the Lewis Carroll Society (UK)’s Bandersnatch, there is a new boutique at 14 Cecil Court in London called Alice Through the Looking Glass. (It’s right next door to well-known Carrollian rare book dealer Marchpane.)  The founders of the boutique say they were inspired to start the business when they learned of the recent discovery of some draft designs for an “Alice” chess set by illustrator John Tenniel.  They offer a couple of picture of the expensive, limited-edition set on their web site, along with teasing images of other Alice items.  Sadly there are no conversations to go along with the pictures, so after visiting their web site, if you don’t happen to be in London, you’ll have to contact them directly for more information about what they actually have for sale!  But at least you can see a couple of teasing glimpses of the chess set, if you’re curious.  Or curiouser.

To visit their site, click me.

Alice in LEGOLand

Tyler “LEGOhaulic” Clites grew up watching the Disney Alice in Wonderland film and loved its absurdity. It inspired him as he grew older to read the books, which sparked the idea of re-creating these worlds in miniature. When asked where he feels his work draws most from, Clites cites both Disney and Tenniel, whose versions he combines in whimsical ways that fans of either­–or both­–can spot. Clites has completed four Alice-themed projects so far: the Mad Tea Party, the croquet game, the hall with the glass table, and the caterpillar. Each has an extraordinary attention to detail, as well as a palpable sense of play and enjoyment. The projects are all made with off-the-shelf LEGO pieces and parts, though some date back many years, culled from his personal collection. You can see his work here.

G.A.H.! (Gardner’s Annotations Hyperlinked) – The Ugly Duchess

John Tenniel's illustration of "Pig and Pepper," from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll

When we first meet the Duchess in Chapter VI of The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner’s footnote (on page 82) is this:

A glance at the portrait of the Ugly Duchess, by the sixteenth-century Flemish painter Quintin Matsys (it is reproduced in Langford Reed’s book on Carroll) leaves little doubt that it served as the model for Tenniel’s duchess. Matsys’s duchess is popularly supposed to be Margaretha Maultasch, a fourteenth-century duchess of Carinthia and Tyrol. “Maultasch,” meaning “pocket-mouth,” was a name given to her because of the shape of her mouth. The unhappy life of poor Margaret, who had the reputation of being the ugliest woman in history, is told by Lion Feuchtwanger in his novel The Ugly Duchess. (See “A Portrait of the Ugliest Princess in History,” by W. A. Baillie-Grohman, Burlington Magazine, April 1921).

Classic Gardner, in that is fascinating, imformative, but slightly dated, as it references a bunch of books and articles that are difficult to find in the 21st Century. The Life of Lewis Carroll by Langford Reed was published in 1932, and rarely or never afterwards. A few used copies turn up on Amazon for as cheap as $19.50. (The picture to the left is from an eBay copy listed for $14.99. A scanned copy is on Google Books, but the full text is currently restricted.) If one wanted to see Matsys’ painting, and can’t make it today to the National Gallery in London where it hangs, it’s still a quasi-famous if not iconic image and there are copies all over the internet. Recent research about the painting, as reported by the Guardian in 2008, solved a few old mysteries: “firstly, the portrait is truthful and she almost certainly looked like that, and secondly, a long held historical theory that the painter was copying Leonardo da Vinci is wrong. The medical research shows that she was suffering from an advanced form of Paget’s disease – osteitis deformans – which enlarged her jaw bones, extended her upper lip and pushed up her nose. It also affected her hands, eye sockets, forehead, chin and collarbones.” Gardner says there is “little doubt” that the Matsys image inspired Tenniel, and I presume he can state that without a reference because the portrait was famous enough, and his illustration evocative of it enough, to be obvious. (The nose, the headdress, the “pocket-mouth.”)

"An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess')" by Quintin Matsys, c. 1515, Oil on Oak, 25.6" by 17.9"

The Google Art Project has a very high quality image of the painting here. You can zoom in close and see every crack in her décolletage. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Google Art Project, it lets you wander around famous museums all over the world, virtually wander from room to room, and then study paintings in spectacular detail.)

Margaret, Countess of Tyrol, better known as Margarete Maultasch (1318 – 3 October 1369) has a Wikipedia page here. Of her posterity, it’s written: “Though contemporaries such as the chronicler John of Winterthur called her beautiful, the nickname Maultasch led to the widespread notion of a woman with deformed features. Quentin Matsys‘s 1513 portrait The Ugly Duchess, after a sanguine by Leonardo da Vinci, may refer to Margaret, and it was Sir John Tenniel‘s model for the ‘Duchess’ in his illustrations of Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Lion Feuchtwanger utilized her story in his novel The Ugly Duchess and in 1816 Jacob Grimm collected the ‘Legends of Margarete’ in his book German sagas.” Did you catch that? The original Margaret may actually have been “beautiful,” and it was centuries of folklore that created the figure of the Ugly Duchess. And then centuries later, people began to associate her with the painting of “An Old Woman.”

As for Feuchtwanger’s 1923 historical novel, Die häßliche Herzogin Margarete Maultasch (The Ugly Duchess), also recommended in Gardner’s footnote, it also appears to be out of print. First Editions in German go on Amazon for over a hundred dollars, but used copies of later editions can be found for $11. Used copies of Willa Muir and Edwin Muir’s translation into English, also out of print, can be found for pretty cheap. The text for the Feuchtwanger is also on Google Books in German and English, but it’s also currently restricted.

But just as we were beginning to get discouraged that none of the books Gardner referenced could still be found easily, Whala! ”A Portrait of the Ugliest Princess in History,” by W. A. Baillie-Grohman, in Burlington Magazine’s April 1921 issue, can be found on the Internet Archive here! Thank you, Brewster Kahle.

Vol. xxxviii, p. 31 (Jan., 1021). 

A PORTRAIT OF THE UGLIEST PRINCESS IN HISTORY
BY W. A. BAILLIE-GROHMAN 

HE accompanying plate [a] is from
the portrait of Duchess Margaret of
Tyrol, better known as Pocket-
mouthed Meg, by the hand of Ouen-
tin Matsvs. [continue reading...]

(‘Y’s sometimes look like ‘v’s when text is scanned in, et cetera.) Subscribers to the Burlington Magazine can still read back issues online, but I’m not sure if that goes all the way back to 1921. (If the quote from the Internet Archive above can be believed, the article might be from January 1921, not April.)

This is the first blog post in a series I call “G.A.H.! (Gardner’s Annotations Hyperlinked),” named after the exclamation (“GAH!”) we sometimes speak softly when a footnote references a book that is increasingly difficult to put your greasy paws onto. The Annotated Alice is still the definitive edition of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, but sometimes it needs some links.

Europese Fotomontage: Mabel Odessey & Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev

Before there was Instagram, people used chemical emulsifying processes to make their photographs look cool. An American artist named Mabel Odessey will have a site-specific installation at France’s Château de Lacaze from May 6 thru 30th, using the distinctly retro technique of pinhole photography. She described the show to us in an e-mail:

The photographs are made from marionettes made in the 1940s based on Tenniel illustrations. The installation will use different parts of the château to consider different aspects of the the Alice books. Visitors will descend (like Alice through the rabbit hole) into a cave like area where the photographs will pose questions of identity and perception. Visitors will then climb up to the mezzanine areas and consider the philosophical, and nonsense aspects of the books, another passageway will lead to the domain of the Queen of hearts and Carroll’s satirical look at Victorian society.

Lacaze is in the Southeast Tarn department of France. Mabel Odessey has many more galleries of her pinhole photography at her website www.mabelodessey.com. An article by Odessey and pictures from the installation will be featured in the Spring 2012 Knight Letter number 88, available to LCSNA members.

In Russia, a forty-year-old professional photographer named Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev has also been creating beautiful old-fashion images of Alice. His series called Alice in Wonderland can be seen at his website here. There’s also a nice YouTube montage:

The Mouse from the Caucus-Race babbles on a Wine Label at Trader Joe’s

We saw this Instragram photo on Twitter (thanks @1devo) and lo! it’s Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on a bottle’s label. The wine art tastefully adds a glass of red wine in hand of the Mouse, who is telling a very dry tale about a dry wine. (You can see the added color slightly better in the image at the bottom of the post.) Is this a commentary that all descriptions of the wine on wine labels are babbled nonsense? The mouse is babbling “It’s an insouciant little vintage that’s both playful and brash, brawny and confident but with a smidgen of unctuousness that allows its provocative f lavor s to blend into a voluptious tastescape – …” [I couldn't go on transcribing...] If that’s not the wine industry self-parodying itself, then what is? The back label begins, “We won’t bore you with overwrought descriptions of Babble,” et cetera.

It also replaces Alice for some reason with the Gryphon from Chapter IX. Maybe the vintners didn’t want to offer wine to a young girl (even though the March Hare does.)

Babble Mendocino Red Wine is a designer blend available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s (one of their unique distributions I believe.) The promotional article from their Fearless Flying is far from dry:

Something to Talk about

The English poet Edward Young once quipped, “They only babble who practice not reflection.” Au contraire. They who partake of a fine, high value red wine can reflect thoughtfully, then run at the mouth enthusiastically. (Case in point.)

In honor of our thoughtful prattlers, we bring you Babble Red Wine from Mendocino County. Crafted exclusively for us by a renowned vintner, whose 40 years of wine making experience is as legendary as his infinitely quotable wit, this red blend is verbose but harmonious. 36% Petite Syrah, 26% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 10% Carignane, 10% Grenache and 1% Malbec, this full-bodied red boasts aromas of savory plum and blackberry preserves. It’s creamy on the palate with hints of blackberry cobbler and baking chocolate that roll around the tongue, along with substantial-yet-rounded tannins that lead to a long, wordy finish. As you can imagine, this is a wine that pairs well with hearty fare. We’re selling each 750 ml bottle of Babble Red Wine for $6.99 – a price so good, it will only stir more chatter.

Viticulture Veracity: Mendocino County profited heartily from the California Gold Rush. Failed prospectors planted vines on the rugged hillsides, turning the lack of nugget gold into pure liquid gold – wine.

Hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica:A harmonica to produce music for the soul played by fingers dipped in water… It’s a real thing. To make a wine glass sing, simply wet your finger and gently rub it along the rim of the glass. Or just pour in some Babble.

Pick up where Tenniel left off with this poster and coloring book

Alice in Wonderland: Giant Poster Coloring Book (2012)

What color do you think Alice’s dress should be?

This coloring book contains two copies of each of twelve Tenniel illustrations – one in the original black and white to color as you please, and one pre-colored to frame and enjoy. The 12 by 15 inch posters are detachable and the book also contains the full text of the story.

The book was first published in 2010, but appears to have been re-released with a different cover on March 1 this year. Reviews of the original book on Barnes and Noble are very positive. The newer version is selling for around $9 on Amazon.

Detail from the original 2010 edition

Management Strategies from the Mad Hatter

they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapotWould you take lessons in business management from the Mad Hatter? Charles Jennings, British “thought leader” and learning and performance consultant thinks that might not be such a bad idea.

In a January blog post Managers and Mad Hatters: Work that Stretches, Jennings takes events from tea party and turns them into lessons in leadership for today’s managers.

“Alice looked back once or twice, half hoping they would call after her: the last time she saw them they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot”

Many [learning and development] people struggle with the challenge of engaging and enrolling business managers in employee development. Trying to wedge them into a place they don’t really want to be. More…

The post is the last in a series of three which uses Alice’s adventures to illuminate strategies for effective learning in the workplace wonderland. Previous posts covered “The Lobster Quadrille for Learning and Development” and topical advice from the Cheshire Cat.

 

 

Secret supper club leads diners down the rabbit hole

Secret supper clubs are all the rage, so we’ve heard (we’ve never found one). Right now, somewhere in Vancouver, the Swallow Tail Supper Club is entertaining diners with fine food, cocktails, and live entertainment on a Wonderland theme. Local blogger Ariane Colenbrander seems to be in on the secret:

The evening starts at the outskirts of a moonlit forest, where guests are greeted by a frantic White Rabbit, who ushers them down the rabbit hole, to a nostalgic world of childhood fairytale characters. The Mad Hatter pours tea and soup is served in a “Drink Me” bottle labeled either “Big” or “Small”. The bottle guests drink from will determine their next course. More...

According to the same blog, celebrity chef and Food Network star Bob Blumer may also be involved, though it is not clear how. The supper club will be operating for only a few more days—they don’t seem to be sold out yet. Tickets cost $129 a head.
Tenniel's Leg of Mutton

Half off Tenniel breakfast accoutrements at Fishs Eddy

Fishs Eddy Alice Glass

Fishs Eddy ($2.50)

It looks like Fishs Eddy might be liquidating their line of Alice in Wonderland dinnerware.  Cereal bowls, drinking glasses, and plates are now 50% off and many of the items listed last time we checked have disappeared with nary a smile or a wink. If you have ever wanted that Tenniel highball/juice glass set, you better get it now!

Alice’s American Cousin: Joyce Carol Oates

See if you can’t dig up a copy of the August 2011 Princeton Magazine. There’s a good  cover feature by Stuart Mitchner called “Alice’s American Cousin,” about author Joyce Carol Oates and her lifelong love of Alice.

"Wonderland," By Dallas Piotrowski. Giclée Print, 2004.

Once upon a time an eight-year-old girl living in upstate New York received a birthday present that changed her life. The girl’s name was Joyce and the gift from her paternal grandmother was the 1946 Junior Library edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, illustrated by John Tenniel. It was a match made in literary heaven, from the companionable sight-rhyme of Joyce and Alice to Alice’s idea that there “ought to be a book written about me….And when I grow up I’ll write one,“ a goal her American cousin Joyce shared and fulfilled many times over when she grew up.

In her essay, “First Loves from ‘Jabberwocky’ to ‘After Apple Picking,’” reprinted in The Faith of a Writer (2003), Joyce Carol Oates calls her Grandmother Woodside’s gift “the great treasure of my childhood and the most profound literary influence of my life.” It was “love at first sight,” not only with Alice (“with whom I identified unquestionably”) but with “the phenomenon of Book.” Six years later, Grandmother Woodside gave Joyce her first typewriter, a Remington portable.

On view in the grown-up author’s Princeton study is her artist friend [and LCSNA member!] Dallas Piotrowski’s colorful reworking of the Tenniel sketch showing Alice “opening out like the largest telescope there ever was,” having just eaten the Eat Me cake. The altered Alice has a pencil in one hand and a book in the other and a face not unlike that of the study’s inhabitant. Joyce’s title for the picture of herself as Alice is “Curiouser and Curiouser,” which is what Alice is saying as the cake has its way with her. [...]