Happy Holidays!

December 21st, 2014

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season and for a healthy and Happy New Year!

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Spode bat printed cup, c.1820

December 14th, 2014

This handsome porcelain cup was made in England by Spode, circa 1820. It is decorated with a bat printed pastoral scene of a person approaching a cottage, with gilt trim at top and bottom. It measures 2-1/4″ high, with an opening of 3-1/4″.

At some point in the 1800s the cup was dropped and broke into three pieces. A china mender with a steady hand used eight tiny brass staples to hold the cup back together.

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Black basalt teapot, c.1820

December 7th, 2014

This small earthenware pottery teapot with squat round shape was made in England during the first quarter of the 19th century. It has a black basalt glaze, aka Jackfiend and Egyptian black, and stands 4-1/2″ high. Due to its small size it is known as both a Bachelor’s and a one-cup teapot. Some collectors and dealers believe that these tiny teapots are miniatures or part of a child’s tea set, but they are actually functioning teapots.

By now my readers know that the main reason I purchased this teapot is due to its early replacement handle. Made by a tinker in the 19th century, the workmanship is a bit crude, as is evident by the malaligned horizontal band laden with excess soldier and the twisted wire support around the base. But even a funny looking tiny teapot with a clunky metal repair is better than burning your fingers on a teapot with no handle.

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This teapot of similar form shows what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Ancient Point 

Chinese Imari helmut jug, c.1750

November 28th, 2014

This porcelain helmut-shaped cream jug, decorated in the Imari palette of blue, iron red and gilt, stands 4-1/4″ tall. It was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-1795.) The hand painted decoration of floral sprigs and alternating blue panels suggests it was made for export to the Persian market.

At one point in its early life, the original porcelain handle snapped off, leaving it impossible to gracefully pass the cream at the dining table. It was brought to a tinker or metalsmith who fashioned this ornate replacement handle, possibly repurposed from an existing silver item. The delicate silver replacement is more ornate than the original branch-form handle, but adds just the right touch of class and whimsy.

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The center jug, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original handle on my jug might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Christie’s 

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