In the Memory of CP OE

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am devoting today to an article of jewelry I purchased several months ago, but have only just started wearing. When I purchased it I was rarely leaving the house except to run in the mornings so there weren’t many opportunities. However, it also seems so fragile (and special) that it took me awhile to get my head around wearing it even now that I find myself putting jewelry on again more frequently.

It was sold to me by a very thoughtful purveyor of jewelry on Instagram, @marsh.and.meadow. (Heather Hagans lives in the Midwest with her daughter Opal who appears, even at a young age, to have inherited her mother’s excellent eye as they travel the US trolling for items.) I began buying photographs from her on another account, but quickly morphed to jewelry as well. I have mentioned her in a prior jewelry post which can be found here. (A very wonderful Easter Bunny pin was one item featured, shown below, which I must dig out to sport over the next few weeks!)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This type of memorial jewelry took hold in the 1800’s and exploded into popularity toward the end of the century. Queen Victoria honored the memory of her beloved husband Phillip by wearing mourning jewelry after his death in 1861 which helped to entrench the trend further. It gets very elaborate and decorative, but to the extent I am interested in it I like the most personal pieces.

I own a few other pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry. Most notably I have a larger gold brooch given to me by a close family friend. Our family histories entwine over several generations and somehow it feels appropriately like family to own and wear that piece, which does sport a superlative decorative bit of braided hair within.

I have also acquired two memorial rings (one with my initials!) as well that just sort of crossed my path, which maybe I will consider further in a future post. It isn’t something I actively collect, but these objects were so lovingly constructed I suppose I feel it honors the memories they hold for them to continue to be worn.

Front of pendant. The chain shown was made by a contemporary jeweler, Muriel Chastanet Jewelers in LA. Both Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I purchased this item because it was especially interesting and for something that isn’t even two inches long it packs a lot of history. On one side of the piece is the inscription, In the MO RP OE. I believe it is an abbreviation for, In the memory of RP OE, so probably Rest in Peace OE? OE could be another Latin abbreviation, but I cannot find reference to it. (OB for example would mean died as a bachelor according to one article I read which also said that some of these references are hard to trace.)

This side has a tiny window revealing a small snippet of hair. It is a black enamel paint on gold, the sides are crimped, as is the decoration around the window. It has a bezel for it to be a pendant and I consider this the front of the piece and the direction outward that I display.

The back, or what I think of as the back, is more unusual and very touching. Etched into the gold in tiny script it states, WBB, Jr. returned home April 1 and then below another window, this time tiny hair is tightly braided decoratively, it reads Obt April 5th…1842.AE 23 yrs. 2. mos. WBB returned home (from where we wonder) and died four days later in 1842. Died from illness? Wounds? Accident? For me it is also the notation of the two months after 23 years that is notable – each day and moment was precious and noted.

Verso of pendant. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The object has an outer hinge, but the tiny window for the braided hair also has a hinge so small you don’t see it at first. It is beautifully constructed and I can only imagine how the act of engaging someone to make this, designing it, and then wearing it must have been for the owner. I hope the act gave her some solace as did wearing it hopefully.

Frankly I am somewhat puzzled by my desire to own this piece, although it is undeniably beautiful it is sad. There was just something so poignant about it and how lovingly constructed and designed it is however that it reached out to me. I think for me these pieces are a reminder not only about honoring those who are gone and remembering them, but to remember to embrace the moment of today as well. Meanwhile I am the willing steward of them for this period of time.

London Fog: Chapter 2

Pam’s Pictorama (Adventure) Post: When I left off of my last entry I was wandering around a sodden, snowy London, briefly cheered by my encounter at Marchpane books and meeting the lovely Natalie Kay-Thatcher. (London Fog, Chapter 1 for those of you just tuning in.) After a cozy solo lunch and a run off to another part of town for an appointment, I found my brain chanting buy the Louis Wain book! Therefore, before heading up to Covent Garden to look up Natalie’s toy friend, Simon at Benjamin Pollocks Toy Shop, I wandered back to Marchpane and purchased the coveted volume. By that time Natalie was ensconced in conversation with a musician named Stuart, who was stuck in London on his way to a gig out-of-town. (Yes, clearly this children’s antiquarian bookshop is some sort of crossroads of the universe.) Stuart was going to a Pinter play that evening and enticing Natalie to come along. (I would have happily horned in if I could, however I was to spend my evening at a Pizza Express with a jazz contact who turned out to be very nice and whose job is to book jazz and other music for the numerous venues of this oddly named chain.) Louis Wain indulgence tucked safely in my bag I wandered up to Convent Garden.

By now on this trip I have also acquired snow boots and on this day, despite layers under a good, heavy wool coat, umbrella and all, I am a soaking mess, as is all of London. Nonetheless, a long buried walking map of the city floats up in my brain and I find my way to the above mentioned toy store, which specializes in toy theaters. (I have always thought Kim and I should design one of these – can we just pause to imagine how great a Kim Deitch toy theater would be?) Although they have a small section of antique toys, I did not make a purchase there. However, I had a splendid conversation about the state of purchasing antique toys with Simon, who gave me a few toy tips while I informed him of the existence of photo postcards of mostly denizens of Britain’s seaside past, posing with giant Felix dolls – those of course Pictorama readers know I collect. His family is from a small seaside town and he promised to keep an eye out for such items.

Pollock toy shop

Undeterred by Bermondsey as a no show and by Natalie and Stuart’s warnings that the snow would deter dealers, the next morning at dawn and with hotel room tea and a muffin under my belt, I was up and out to get to the long anticipated and much beloved Portobello market as early as possible. Much as I remember from other trips, crowds gather several blocks away, tourists and interested locals, building in numbers and snaking their way up the narrow street which serves as a quiet avenue of expensive homes the rest of the week. I will however get to the point – there were no toy dealers at Portobello market! I was very sad indeed. I emailed Kim who sent words of sympathy.

That is not to say there were no dealers however, and with what I like to think of as amazing adaptability and fortitude, I rallied and dove into what was available – jewelry. I know I am going to lose some of you on this tributary, but I have long been interested in Victorian mourning jewelry and it abounded at this market. A close friend, whose family has been intertwined with mine for several generations, gave me this stunning hair brooch for Christmas last year and mourning rings had always interested me.

Memorializing and remembering loved ones gone with a physical memento, such as this jewelry, lockets or in other cases a daguerreotype or other photo, has always fascinated me. While these were not always made with the hair of the dead, that is what they have become most associated with. In the end I treated myself to the ring shown here. It does not have an inscription inside the band as many do, but it does appear to contain a tiny bit of hair, and in gold around the outside it reads in memory of.

ring

Victorian memorial hair ring, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Although no Felix toys were purchased, I will wrap this travel tale tomorrow with an interesting Felix connection and shift to the important work of a closer look at the cat-related loot I did manage to bring home.