Sunday 29 July 2018

Rogues’ Gallery: The Specials

Moi, Roguish? Just Special!

After a satisfying yum cha today with friends, Mr Pipistrello and I wandered down to the Museum of Sydney to see the soon-to-close exhibition, Underworld: Mugshots From The Roaring Twenties. The Classic Police Mugshot had settled into the formal front-and-side profile formula around the world from the 1880s, but for a brief window in Sydney in the 1920s when a keen amateur photographer, Constable George Howard, took the Rogues' Gallery down a unique aesthetic path, recording local underworld players with images known as The Specials. Suspects were free to pose as they chose, à la studio portraiture. Whilst most people would not be accomplished in front of the camera, back in the day, these very natural and attractive photographs make for particular, character-laden mugshots:

Impish Petty Crims

It's All About The Hair!

Messrs Suave & Co.

Sydney's Answer to Peaky Blinders?

Another Charming Special

Relaxed & Comfortable

Harry High-Pants, Suspected of Wilful & Indecent Exposure. Of Course!

Another Flasher & Thief who asked the jury to think like Passionate Frenchmen. Acquitted!
A Minor looking Well Pleased with his Life Choices

Let's not forget the Glamorous Ladies!

Cheeky Fashionista

Striking a Nonchalant Pose

Dear Edna, who tried a bit of cheque forgery to pay for her Flapper Lifestyle!

If your Life of Crime leads you to enter the Rogues' Gallery, ask to join the criminally chic Specials!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Behold, Beautiful Things

The Cartier Exhibition Catalogue
It may come as no surprise to learn that Beautiful Things gladden the heart of the Pipistrello household. As our nation's capital was playing host to this luscious exhibition, Mr. P., the Effervescent R and I could not help but take a day trip in the winter sunshine last week to see for ourselves. As we none of us are Royalty, nor Patrons of the House of Cartier, to get up close and personal with gems and artwork that until now have only been familiar through the joys of Pinterest was a rare opportunity, and well worth six hours in the car - thank you again for driving, R!

The exhibition travels through three-quarters of a century of jewel artistry, showcasing through magnificent examples the development of Cartier's diamond and platinum garland style in the Art Nouveau period, the shift toward more abstract styles in the 1920s and 30s and the inspiration of the exotic finds coming out of Egypt and The Middle & Far East finding expression in the embrace of colourful stones and larger and flashier settings. Alongside, there were examples of the new wristwatch, Mystery clocks and smoking accessories, nécessaires and bibelots.

Some of these glorious objects were shown with accompanying paintings and costumes, Cartier's design drawings & ephemera, which were in themselves a beautiful adjunct to the jewellery and objets. It had been well-publicised that Queen Elizabeth II (a.k.a. "ER" in cryptic crossword circles) loaned an unprecedented number of her gems for this exhibition, but so did other Princely Houses and private collectors and I'm pleased to report that the owners of these treasures are evidently in possession of Very Good Taste. However, the highest praise is reserved for the master jewellers at Cartier for their incredible skill at transforming the earth's raw materials into such Beautiful Things.

Behold, a selection*, in no particular order:

Barbara Hutton and her Jadeite Necklace, for which
The Cartier Collection paid US$27M

Bejewelled and BeMOPed Vanity Cases,
So Nécessaire

Onyx Accents Chinoiserie & Panthers

The Maharaja of Patiala Gussied Up

Philip de László's Portrait of Queen Marie of Romania, 1924
Wearing this 478 carat Sapphire Pendant

Nouveau Guilloche and the Divine Deco Combination of Turquoise & Lapis Lazuli

Glorious Cabochon and Crystal Brooches

Mad for Tutti Frutti

Art Nouveau Garland Style Tiaras,
Pinterest Staples

Mystery Clock Magnificence

Something For The Gentlemen

William Dargie's Portrait of ER II, Our Wattle Queen, 1954
Wearing her Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace

Art Deco Egyptomania puts those archaeological finds to use 

* My exhibition photographs were v. disappointing so, at the risk of copyright infringement, I've relied upon Margaret Young-Sánchez's gorgeous NGA publication.

Monday 16 July 2018

A Long Time Between Drinks

Old-School On Paros

Twenty-three years, to be precise. The drink I speak of here is the humble Greek Frappé. For the uninitiated, it is not merely an iced coffee, which is and can be enjoyed in Any Old Place. Indeed, the traditional frappé is a Cultural Staple, if not National Treasure, and is made from a heady mix of instant Nescafé coffee (I know), ice and water and optionally finished with a goodly dash of UHT or evaporated milk (again, I know). It comes in three shades of sweetness: very sweet, toe-curlingly sweet or not sweet at all. You sip it leisurely over many hours, confident in the knowledge that the subtly distinctive flavour cannot be found beyond the birthplace of the Twelve Olympic Gods.

The Object Of My Affection On Antiparos

It is a little known fact that before the Barista became a tattooed and twirly-moustachioed international noun, sporting a certificate of competency, Pipstrello spent a summer on a dusty Greek island as a Coffee Maker, as the occupation was so quaintly called. And not your fancy Italian variety of coffee - these being pre Mr. P. days, after all. Rather, my repertoire deftly switched between the Classical Frappé and Ye Olde Greek, thick and muddy and beloved by the old men who cluttered up the tables in the square all day long, playing with their worry beads and their endless games of backgammon and generally staying out from under the feet of their busy wives at home.

Dead Posh In Athens - Behold The Freddo Cappuccino

The frappé was my hands down winner for personal preference. Greek Coffee? ... Well, it’s just muddy and way too strong and so I never really drank it. Upon getting a bit of a demonstration of how to make it on my first day, I asked my “boss” (I was, ahem, working for subsistence drachmas*) how I would know if I'd made it properly, to which the reply was that the Old Men would finish it. Suffice to say, one of the said old men did compliment me once with the praise that I made it just as well as his wife ... as you would hope, as I'd churned out hundreds & hundreds over the season.

Crafted By Hipsters In Athens

Chasing down the perfect frappé, the Greek National summertime drink, was an enjoyable part of my holiday experienced with the Lovely L, if not just to recapture the memory of my time on the Dodecanese outpost of Patmos. Between then and this past month spent in Athens and the Cycladic islands of Paros and Antiparos, 23 years have flashed by. Unsurprisingly, coffee drinking has become rather more sophisticated in Greece, with baristas and single origin roasts muscling out the humble “Nescaf” with the options of iced espressos and freddo cappuccinos, not to mention the liberal use of fresh milk (shocking). However, my more particular idea of perfect was met at least once when the magic formula of Nescafé and long-life milk collided. Just call me a Coffee Snob.

Turmeric Latte, Anyone? Antiparos Is Moving With The Times!

* Illegally, I have to admit. Oh, those carefree pre-EU days!

Bats In The Belfry