Talking About Chatterboxes

Chatterbox Polka, sheet music cover illustrated by Brandard
Chatterbox Polka‘, by Hermann Koenig, published by Jullien & Co (London, s.d.), illustrated by Brandard.

The British used to sing about almost everything. Even about chatterboxes. The two girls on the cover above, apparently liked their bit of gossip. But so did the French ladies on the cover for the Polka des Commères (commère being the French word for gossip).

Polka des Commères, sheet music cover illustrated by Laporte
Polka des Commères‘ by Gabriel Allie,r published by Philippo (Paris, s.d.), illustrated by Laporte.

The French have another beautiful word for a chatterbox: une pipelette.

Bonjour Madame Pipelet, cover illustrated by Pousthomis
A nice looking pipelette on the cover of ‘Bonjour Madame Pipelet‘ by Albert Grimaldi (Paris, s.d.), illustrated by Pousthomis
Mme. Pipelet millionaire, petit format sheet music cover
A not so nice looking pipelette: ‘Madame Pipelet Millionnaire‘ by Victor Robillard, published by P. Tralin (Paris, s.d.), illustrated by… (Can someone identify this illustrator?)

The French word pipelette (feminine) or pipelet (masculine) comes from a character in the novel Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris) by Eugène Sue (1804-1857). Madame Pipelet is the wife of a caretaker. She talks too much and has an unhealthy interest in other peoples private lives. The word pipelet(te) is now used to indicate a caretaker or concierge and by extension a chatterbox or a gossip.

Eugène Sue himself introduces Madame Anastasie Pipelet as follows:
‘When Rodolphe ventured into this den, Monsieur Pipelet, the porter, momentarily absent, was represented by Madame Pipelet: seated near an iron stove which was in the middle of the room, she appeared to be listening to the boiling of the pot. The French Hogarth, Henri Monnier, has so admirably stereotyped la portière that we will content ourselves by begging the reader, if he wishes to figure to himself Madame Pipelet, to recall to his mind the most wrinkled, the most pimpled, the most niggardly, the most ragged, the most quarrelsome, the most venomous of portières immortalized by this eminent artist.’

Thankfully the Bibliothèque Nationale satisfies our curiosity and shows us Monnier’s portière for what she is: ready to quarrel!

Le roman chez la portière, illustration by Lhéritier
Le roman chez la portière, sketch by Henry Monnier and Gabriel : portrait of Jules Brasseur / drawing by Lhéritier (1809-1885)

I Love You Sunday

I Love You Sunday, sheet music illustrated by Helen Van Doorn-Morgan
I Love You Sunday‘ music by Charley Straight, published by Forster Music (Chicago, 1920), ill. Helen Van Doorn-Morgan

This lovely cover is by the hand of Helen Van Doorn-Morgan. We couldn’t find much about this illustrator: she was born in 1902 (Springfield, Ohio) and lived until 1986. Her nice designs for sheet music were almost exclusively for Forster Music Publisher (Chicago).

With her highly stylised covers Van Doorn-Morgan is a forerunner of American Art Deco in sheet music during the Thirties, as seen in the work of Ben Harris and his wife Georgette (‘Jorj‘). This style appeared in America a few years later than its European precursor (which strictly made its debut with the 1925 Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris). Perhaps this time lag partly explains why the American Deco sheet music covers are mostly nice and pleasantly decorative. Often, European Art Deco music illustrations are more dynamic and forceful, but also frivolous and lively. See for yourself in our various Art Deco illustrated sheet music

We wish you a nice and pleasant Sunday!

The Hippopotamus Polka: A Royal Affair

Sheet Music - The Hippopotamus Polka
The Hippopotamus Polka‘ by L. St. Mars published by Charles Jefferys (London 1852) and illustrated by Brandard.

In February two giant pandas arrived in Belgium from China with a lot of pomp. On their journey they were accompanied by a team of two animal handlers, a veterinary physician and a plentiful supply of 100 kilograms of bamboo. Their panda house was inaugurated by the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Belgian King Philippe, along with their lovely wives. The pandas are called Hao Hao & Xing Hui.

In 1850 the first hippopotamus arrived in England from Egypt with a lot of pomp. On his journey he was accompanied by two snake charmers, a keeper and a plentiful supply of fresh milk, provided by cows travelling on the same boat. Queen Victoria, along with her lovely children, visited the hippopotamus at the London Zoo. The hippopotamus was called Obaysch.

The British people got The Hippopotamus Polka, composed in honour of Obaysch. The Belgians are still waiting… for The Panda Hop?

Obaysch (1852) – Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan, Belgian King Philippe and Queen Mathilde visit the panda house at the Pairi Daiza zoo in Brugelette, Belgium March 30, 2014.