Friday, August 27, 2010

Characters from Charles Dickens: Mr Stiggins by Kyd – 1903

I'm back from my summer vacation in England and Wales and as on previous trips back to the UK I've returned home with my suitcase full of postcards having spent many happy hours perusing flea markets! I'll be sharing some of my finds here on the blog, of course, and today's postcard is one I was particularly thrilled to come across – an artist signed postcard featuring one of Kyd's Characters from Charles Dickens.

Some months ago I wrote a post about The Dickens House Museum and one of Britain's most famous postcard publishers Raphael Tuck & Sons who published many, many sets of Dickens-themed cards over their long publishing life. This undivided back postcard, printed using the chromolithographic method, is from a much earlier series by Tuck featuring watercolors of beloved characters from Dickens, such as this one of Mr. Stiggins, who appeared in The Pickwick Papers. The red-nosed Reverend Mr. Stiggins, is the hypocritical and drunken parson who meets his downfall in Chapter 52.

Kyd” was the pseudonym of English illustrator Joseph Clayton Clarke (1856-1937), who after only a single day's employment for Punch magazine became a freelance artist specialising in Dickens for most of his career. His illustrations from Dickens were also published by Raphael Tuck in book form – this particular image appears to have first been published in 1889 in The Characters of Charles Dickens: Portrayed in a Series of Original Water Colour Sketches by “Kyd”, a collection of lithographs after original water colors by the artist.

The reverse of the postcard is proudly emblazoned with the Royal Warrant whilst a very early version of their palette and easel insignia is visible, albeit rather faintly, on the front left hand edge of the card. The inscription reads:
Raphael Tuck & Sons' “Dickens” Postcard Series 541 II.
Designed in England Chromographed in Bavaria
The postmark is a little blurred, but looks very much like 1903 or possibly 1908 – given that Great Britain was the first to adopt the "divided back" postcard in 1902, this makes the earlier date more likely.

Happy Postcard Friendship Friday!

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Monday, August 2, 2010

Palazzo Venezia, Rome - 1953

As regular readers of this blog will know, I live in Rome, Italy and therefore often feature vintage Italian postcards. Whilst I love my adopted city, there is one thing about the place that I hate – its crazy traffic and the sheer number of cars that are allowed to drive through the centre of a city that is one of the most historically important on the planet! Thankfully, there is one month a year when things get a little quieter and almost half of the population either take their cars elsewhere or leave them parked at home when they fly off on their annual vacation, which traditionally falls during August to coincide with the Public Holiday of Ferragosto on 15th August. The Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the occasion nowadays, although Romans have celebrated the day, albeit as a pagan festival, as far back as the days of the ancient Empire.

With Ferragosto in mind this 1953 postcard of Palazzo Venezia rather made me smile – this photograph was probably taken on a typical day, but Piazza Venezia looks impossibly quiet, with several cyclists, a horse and cart and one solitary motor car! Anybody who has attempted to cross the square from the Victor Emmanuel II monument (off camera, but found to the left of this shot) to the other side and Palazzo Venezia, knows how perilous this can be, with drivers gleefully ignoring even zebra crossings!

I also love this postcard because it features one of my favourite buildings. Palazzo Venezia (originally called Palazzo San Marco) is a perfect combination of Renaissance architectural elegance thanks to Leon Battista Alberti's 15th century designs, mixed with medieval fortification, built as it is around a medieval tower and incorporating the 4th century Church of San Marco. The very stuff of the building is even older however - much of the stone was plundered from the nearby Colosseum! Used for most of its history as a papal residence, with part of the building also used as the embassy for the Republic of Venice (hence the name), at the time this postcard was issued the people of Rome would no doubt still have had the dark decades of Mussolini in mind – he kept an office in the Sala del Mappamondo and used a balcony in the palazzo for delivering some of his most famous speeches during the 1930s to the crowds below in Piazza Venezia.

This postcard is one of series published by Enrico Verdesi, a local Rome-based company, issued as a souvenir of the first Congress of the International Federation of Engineers which took place in the city from 8 – 11 October 1953 (the event name is written in French on the reverse of the card - Congrès de la Fédération Internationale d'Ingénieurs). I featured another card a few weeks ago in my Rome Termini Station post. This is also a stunning glossy black and white real photograph postcard with pristine scalloped edges – I only wish I had the entire set!

Happy holidays wherever in the world you are and Buon Ferragosto!

Watch the video below to get an idea of how busy Piazza Venezia is today (or click here to watch on YouTube).