Masonic creamware mug, c.1800

November 22nd, 2014

This cylindrical form creamware mug was made by Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool, England, circa 1800. I am a sucker for bold graphics so you can understand why I like this mug so much. It is covered with black transfer decoration of Masonic symbols and stands 5 inches high, with an opening of 3-1/2 inches.

What makes this early mug so special to me is the sturdy silver replacement handle. Although unmarked, it appears to have been made by a silversmith in the early 20th century. An elaborate silver mounting system was devised to hold the new handle in place by mounting it to a broad plate and attaching it to a rim and base. The choice to mount the replacement handle, as opposed to drill through the body and bolt on a new handle, may have saved the mug from possible leakage and more damage. Typically, I do not polish metal repairs, as I feel the darkened patina adds to the overall appearance of the piece. I like how the tarnished silver is close to the color of the printed decoration, enhancing this clever repair even more.

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This mug with the same form and decoration shows what my mug would have looked like with its original handle intact.

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Photo courtesy of Bramfords

Chinese teapot with European subject, c.1750

November 16th, 2014

This delicate porcelain teapot was made in China for export to Europe during the Qianlong reign (1711-1799.) It is decorated “en grisaille”, a pencil style drawing in black, with touches of overglaze enamel of iron red and gilt. The European subject depicts a lady in her boudoir daintily clipping her toe nails as a male attendant watches nearby. This must have been a racy subject for the Chinese porcelain painters, raising more than a few eyebrows in the studio. Decoration of this kind was typically based on current popular engravings, reinterpreted by Chinese painters with sometimes amusing results.

When this 3-3/8″ high teapot dropped and broke in half, a china mender stapled it back together. I like how the bold metal staples and the darkened cracks add another layer of pattern to the decoration. The lid, possibly broken at the same time that the pot was damaged, has since gone missing. I am hoping to make a tin replacement cover for it one day.

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Inventive repairs in Florence

November 8th, 2014

Last week I was in Florence, Italy, and although I was there to celebrate my friends’ recent marriage, I was also on the search for antiques with inventive repairs. Even with numerous antiques shops scattered throughout the narrow winding streets, finding examples to photograph proved challenging. The few shops I found with antique ceramics had mostly “perfect” examples, and even the museums I visited had nary a plate with staples. Remembering some great examples from my last visit, I hightailed it over to Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy, to see a few early majolica apothecary jars with elaborate replacement handles. Delighted by the recent renovation to the stunning interior, I was disheartened to discovered that the wonderful jars were no longer on view. This photo from my previous visit shows the front jar with two metal replacement handles, as compared to the jars in the rear with their original handles intact. Hopefully one day soon they will be back on public display.

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On my last day I walked back to my apartment using a different route and literally stumbled upon the Biblioteca Pietro Thour, an early stone building with attached benches along the front. The cracked stone on the top of the benches was repaired using over a dozen HUGE metal staples, serving the same purpose as the tiny ones that hold together ceramic plates in my collection. The giant staples appear to have been installed sometime during the 20th century so it’s great to see a modern application of this early method of repair.

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Also on my last day, I found in a small antiques shop a majolica tankard with a pewter lid dated 1796, and sporting a heavy, clunky metal replacement handle. Sadly, the piece had been dropped, leaving it and my spirits shattered, as it had been glued together poorly. If only the piece had been repaired with staples I would have been thrilled. But apparently, the tankard was a favorite with the shop owner and his customers, and recently an art student asked to borrow it to use in a still life. The resulting painting is lovely, and I actually prefer it to the tankard itself.

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Worcester coffee pot, c.1753

October 26th, 2014

This small porcelain baluster shaped coffee pot with spreading foot was made in England by Worcester during the scratch cross period (1753-1755). It is decorated with Chinese figures, a parrot on a stand, furniture, and tea set; my favorite detail. Decorated in England, it copied the Mandarin style done by the Chinese, who themselves adapted European decoration for wares exported to North America and Europe. Marked on the underside with a scratch line and a painted anchor artist mark, this pot, minus its original lid, stands 5-3/4″  high.

Although the fragile and more apt to break “S” shaped handle with curled thumb rest remains intact, the original curved spout did not fare so well. A silversmith fashioned a fine silver spout with scalloped plate to replace the missing original. I have many silver replacement spouts with the same form on pots in my collection, so I imagine this must have been a popular style used by silversmiths in the 18th and 19th century.

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This is what a “perfect” example of the coffee pot and lid look like

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Photo courtesy of Bonhams

German Annaberg jug, c.1680

October 18th, 2014

This early black-brown salt glazed stoneware pewter-mounted Birnkrug “pear jug” was made in Annaberg, Germany in the second half of the 17th century. It has incised scaled body decoration of stylized relief palmettes and leaf ornamentation divided by applied molded borders, the front with a figure of Jesus. It is embellished in polychrome enamels and gilding, which have remained surprisingly vibrant after over 330 years. The hinged pewter lid is connected to a ball thumb piece and inset with what appears to be a coin with a crucifixion scene.

As rare as this 10″  high jug is, it is even more special to me by possessing a pewter replacement handle, added by an 18th century tinker, most likely in Germany, after the original handle broke off. The delicate handle, with an intricate stippled wave design and border, is supported by a mounted pewter base ring and lid collar. I first saw this pricy jug at an antiques shop over one year ago and passed on it. But I recently stopped by the shop again and was delighted to find that no one else had snatched it up. After a brief bargaining session with the friendly dealer, I was finally was able to purchase this gem and add it to my collection.

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This jug of similar form and decoration still has its original handle.

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Photo courtesy of Bonhams

Pewter whale oil lamp, c.1830

October 11th, 2014

This early American pewter whale oil lamp with squared off acorn shaped font stands a tad more than 6″  tall. Whale oil was the preferred source of lighting in the early 1800s, and was also used for making soap, textiles, jute, varnish, explosives and paint. It fell out of favor by late 1800s as a result of the development of kerosene oil in 1846.

The metal replacement base, made by a tinker in the 19th century, has oxidized to almost the same tone as the pewter, thereby making the repair hard to detect. As a result of the missing double burner atop, this lamp instantly transforms into a unique and quirky vase.

Barrels of Whale Oil – New Bedford, Ma., 1859

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This example still has its original pewter base and double burner.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Raleigh Antiques

Minton cup with butterfly handle, c.1869

October 4th, 2014

This delicate English porcelain bone china cup and saucer each have a transfer decoration of butterflies and flowers with hand painted washes of color. The figural butterfly handle, though lovely to look at, makes for an unsteady grasp on a steaming hot cup of tea. Perhaps that’s how both the cup and the saucer met their early demise and ended up crashing to the floor, breaking into many pieces. But luckily a local china mender was standing by with drill and staples at hand, and able to join together the broken pieces. Six tiny brass staples were carefully attached, three on the cup and three on the saucer, allowing the tea to flow once more.

Marked on the underside of the cup, which measures 1-3/4″ high, is an English registry cypher, dating the piece to April 7, 1869. The saucer, with a diameter of 5-1/2″,  has a faint impressed MINTON mark.

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Chinese export armorial mug, c.1785

September 27th, 2014

This sturdy Chinese export porcelain mug dates from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) and has floral decoration and a pseudo armorial cipher/monogram hand painted in the famille rose palette. The mug stands 6-1/2″  high and holds 2 pints of liquid. I am surprised that the entwined handle survived 230 years of use, as they are fragile and are often found broken.

Now, you may wonder “where’s the repair?” The unsigned sterling silver mount along the top with engraved decoration serves a dual purpose. It stabilizes a long vertical crack running the entire length and most likely masks chips along the rim. A beautiful solution which further enhances an already lovely piece.

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This mug is almost identical in form and decoration but does not have the silver rim that mine has.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Spanish tin glazed plate, c.1800

September 20th, 2014

My friend Marianne gave us this lovely Spanish pottery plate, along with two other similar ones, as a wedding gift when we visited her in Brussels last spring. It is tin glazed with a polychrome design of a bird at center and a wide stylized floral border. The deep plate measures just over 14″  in diameter and was made in Spain at the turn of the 18th century. The enormous iron staples measure a whopping 1-1/4″  long and hold together the three broken pieces. Some of the staples have fallen out since they were first attached to the plate by an itinerant china mender over 150 years ago. At a much later date, metal wire was wrapped and clipped to the back of the plate to form a crude but effective hanging device.

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Amsterdam Bont decorated teapot, c.1740

September 13th, 2014

This Qianlong period globular form teapot has a C shaped handle and an inlaid flat lid with round knob. It was made in China in the mid-1700s and stands 4-1/4″  tall and  7-3/4″  from handle to spout. The original blue underglaze decoration fell out of fashion shortly after it was made, as by the mid-1700s more “attractive colors” were the taste of the day. In order to keep up with the sudden demand for polychrome Chinese ceramics, factories in Europe took the unwanted blue and white decorated pieces and overpainted them with brightly colored enamels, often without regard for the original design beneath. This victim of clobbering, as it is also referred to, or Amsterdam Bont, when done in Holland, has been over decorated with the flower basket motif, one of the most popular designs.

The unusual form replacement silver spout appears to have been made by a skilled 18th century silversmith. It replaced a straight spout, but I think this replacement is much more interesting, and adds to the quirkiness of this twice-decorated teapot.

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This teapot with similar form and decoration shows what the spout on my teapot might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Pater Gratia Oriental Art