V&A Ceramics Galleries revisited

April 25th, 2015

I am back in London for a brief visit on my way to Ireland and the very first thing I did upon arrival was to head over to see the magnificent ceramics collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I could spend an entire day peering into the endless floor to ceiling glass cases filed with worldwide and world-class ceramics. Here are some of my favorite examples of inventive repairs found among the collection.

IMG_9576

IMG_9593

IMG_9578

IMG_9591

IMG_9585

IMG_9554

IMG_9556

IMG_9564

Take a look at this previous post from just over a year ago, showing other examples from the collection.

Mortlake stoneware jug , c.1800

April 18th, 2015

This heavy salt glazed stoneware ale jug was made in Mortlake, London, in the late 1700s to early 1800s. It has an attenuated baluster shape with applied sprigged decoration including a panel of “The Two Boors”, horses and hounds, classical figures, trees and a windmill on a mound. It stands 8″ high and has a rilled neck and a narrow base, much of which has been chipped away.

It’s apparent that the original handle is long gone but luckily for me, a tinsmith in the 1800s fashioned a wonderful metal replacement handle. It has crimped edges for extra support and a finger rest for comfort when tightly gripped. I imagine the original owner and a chum were inspired by the front panel depicting “The Two Boors”, drank too much ale and dropped the jug. But if it weren’t for our ancestors who drank to excess, my collection of ale jugs with inventive repairs would be minimal to nonexistent.

IMG_7114

IMG_7135

IMG_7120

IMG_7132

IMG_7134

IMG_7128

IMG_7136

IMG_7122

IMG_7139

This jug of similar form has its original handle intact.

mortlake saltglazed jug 12912014162818

Photo courtesy of Nest Egg Antiques

Make-do’s at the MET, part 3

April 11th, 2015

Earlier this week I took a stroll through one of my favorite spots in Manhattan, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the Smithsonian Museum is known as “The Nation’s Attic”, then I’d like to christen the Luce Center “The City’s Yard Sale” as it is packed from floor to ceiling with glass showcases filled with over 18,000 tchotchkes, including Tiffany lamps, Shaker boxes and Revere silver. This impressive collection of the museum’s overflow allows the public to research and take a peek into the MET’s closets. If you look closely among the rare Chinese porcelain and early English pottery you will find dozens of pieces in various states of disrepair including visible cracks, chips, worn paint and missing parts.

Here are some of my favorite make-do’s, all hoping to one day escape the confines of the study center’s curio cabinets and be placed alongside their more presentable friends in the “big house.”

luce

IMG_9102

IMG_9104

IMG_9099

IMG_9107

IMG_9109

IMG_9116

IMG_9118

IMG_9120

IMG_9122

IMG_9127

Qianlong period chamber pot, c.1770

April 4th, 2015

I own a classic book about collecting antique English household pottery, “If these Pots Could Talk” by Ivor Noel Hume. Regarding the early usage of this particular pot, I’d rather not hear what it has to say. This Chinese export porcelain chamber pot with cover dates from the Qianlong period (1735-1796) and measures 5-1/2″ high to the top of the lid and is 9-1/2″ wide to the end of the handle. It is hand decorated in the Famille Rose palette with panels of birds and flowers with gilt highlights.

The thought of about how this pot lost its original handle is something I’d rather not dwell on but I just hope it was empty when it broke. As this was an expensive and necessary asset to the household, it was not thrown out but immediately repaired and put back in to use. Most likely it was taken to a china mender who made a sturdy metal replacement handle, then covered it in woven wicker to aid against further slippage.

I remember a certain customer in my parents antiques shop years ago who purchased a large Victorian ceramic slop bucket from a bedroom chamber set. Knowing what it was, she proceeded to boast that she intended to use it as a soup tureen at an upcoming dinner party she was throwing. If that pot could talk, I hope it would have warned the dinner guests not to eat the chowder!

IMG_8790

IMG_8792

IMG_8795

IMG_8800

IMG_8801

IMG_8803

IMG_8805

IMG_8806

IMG_8808

IMG_8810

This identical example shows what the original handle on mine looked like before it broke off. Notice the multiple chips along the rim. I’m guessing that many chamber pots went bump in the night.

og_614057

Photo courtesy of Andrew Dando

English mocha banded jug, c.1840

March 27th, 2015

This mochaware slip banded jug with concentric thin black rings and wide drab and blue bands measures 6″ tall and has a flared base. It was made in England in the mid-1800’s and has a poorly made 20th century replacement handle made of clay compound formed over a metal armature. I applaud those who attempt to repair broken ceramics using the same techniques as 19th century tinkers but I would like to strip away the compound and expose the metal handle on this otherwise striking jug.

The original loop handle on my jug would have looked like the handle on the jug below with similar form and decoration.

Photo courtesy of Burchard Galleries

Chinese teapot with hinged lid, c.1770

March 21st, 2015

This globular form teapot with hand painted floral decoration in cobalt blue and polychrome enamels was made in China for export to the European market in the mid to late 1700s. It measures 5-3/4″ high and 8-1/2″ wide from handle to spout.

After the teapot was dropped it was taken to a china mender who added an unusual crimped edge pewter sleeve at the base of the spout. Additionally, a hinge was added to attach the lid to the pot. I have many examples in my collection with metal chains added to keep teapots and lids together, but this is the first time I have seen an elaborate hinge of this sort.

IMG_8071 - Version 2

IMG_8072

IMG_8073

IMG_8080

IMG_8074

IMG_8075

IMG_8078

IMG_8084

Florence Upton decorated child’s mug, c.1905

March 14th, 2015

This English child’s mug, boldly decorated with characters created by illustrator and author Florence Kate Upton (February 22, 1873 – October 16, 1922), is made of porcelain and measures 2-3/4″ high. Her ubiquitous Dutch Dolls and Golly characters are represented here with strong graphics and in full color. The underside has an embossed lithophane image of a girl and boy, visible only when held up to the light. The printed registration mark on the underside dates this mug to 1905.

Second only to the Teddy Bear, the Golly was the most popular toy in Europe in the early 1900s. Although Upton wrote Golly as a lovable, benign character, the image and original name Gollywog eventually became a controversial figure, sparking outrage. Without a patent, other manufacturers copied the likeness and portrayed the character as lazy and evil, becoming a negative symbol and an embarrassment to the black community. The Guardian wrote an article in 2009, “From bedtime story to ugly insult: how Victorian caricature became a racist slur”, explaining the controversy.

Perhaps, during an all-doll tea party, the fragile mug was dropped by its young owner and the handle snapped off. Rather than being tossed out, the broken mug was taken to a china mender who reattached the handle using two metal cuffs and rivets. I am surprised that I don’t come across more examples of early repairs on children’s items, as I imagine many tiny hands had trouble grasping the precious ceramic toys they were given to play with, long before the invention of plastic.

IMG_8749

IMG_8762

IMG_8755

IMG_8753

IMG_8764

IMG_8766

IMG_8771

Chinese jug with silver handle, c.1770

March 7th, 2015

This Chinese export baluster form milk jug with sparrow beak spout was made during the Qianlong period (1736-1795). The Mandarin style decoration of a child visiting a doctor or dentist while his parents look on is finely painted in the Famille Rose palette using polychrome enamels. Jug measures 5″ high

It is not uncommon to find 200 year old examples of Chinese porcelain with inventive repairs, as they were used daily and accidents happened. What makes this one extra special is the finely made silver replacement handle. It is more common to find replacement handles made of tin with support straps or bronze wrapped with rattan. But judging by the fineness of the repair, the owners were most likely wealthy and took their broken vessel to a silversmith who made this delicate replacement handle. The jug also has a metal staple stabilizing a crack near the rim, further proof of its early, rough life.

IMG_8736 - Version 2

IMG_8742

IMG_8737 - Version 2

IMG_8743

IMG_8738

IMG_8741

IMG_8740

IMG_8745

This jug of similar form and decoration shows what the original handle on mine would have looked like.

jug chinese

Photo courtesy of eBay

Honeycomb pattern goblet, c.1860

February 28th, 2015

I don’t like to use the term “make-do” to describe antiques with inventive repairs, as I feel it diminishes the artistry and integrity of the piece. But this EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) 5-1/2″ tall goblet in the Honeycomb pattern is a make-do in the best sense of the word, a fine example of Yankee ingenuity. Made in America between 1850-1870 during the Industrial Revolution, machine-made pressed glass examples such as this were mass produced and available to all.

Though more affordable than hand blown glass counterparts, this goblet was still cherished enough by its owner to be repaired after it broke. In this case, after the base snapped off, a simple unpainted and overscaled wooden base was attached to what was left of the broken stem. The result is a bit comical, as we are left with a short, stout goblet with an extra wide wood base that resembles half of a yo-yo.

This example with its original base shows what my goblet looked like before it took a tumble.

EAPG-FLINT-GLASS-HONEYCOMB-PATTERN-GOBLET-CORDIAL

Photo courtesy of eBay

Stapled octagonal crab plate, c.1750

February 21st, 2015

Most people I encounter are astonished the first time they see broken ceramics held together with staples. I was, too, at a young age when I saw a small stapled dish. The first words uttered are typically “how did they do that?” If you type that very question into my search box on this page, a post from a few years ago will pop up and help answer that much asked question.

Sadly, most pieces repaired with staples, aka rivets, are not signed by the menders so we have no idea who repaired them. I have seen 18th century English and American newspaper advertisements and calling cards from tinkers and jewelers offering their repair services, as well as early prints showing “china menders” with their tools. Today, antique ceramics with staple repairs are not uncommon but many rare examples are quickly disappearing, as restorers will carefully remove staples, fill the holes and erase all evidence of the original “honest” repair. Although I have dozens of examples of early staple repair on a variety of forms, I still get a thrill when I encounter a rare or unusual example untouched by a modern restorer.

This porcelain plate was made in Jingdezhen, China, during the Qing dynasty (1740-1760) and measures 8-1/2″ in diameter. It is decorated in the Famille rose palette and features a large blue crab, crayfish, flowers, and a border with gilt detailing. Early in its life it was dropped, cleanly breaking it in half. An experienced china mender reattached the plate using six small evenly spaced brass staples. Repairs such as this are so tight and secure that the plate can be returned to the dinner table without fear of it coming undone. That is, unless another clumsy person lets it slip from his or her hands.

IMG_8772 - Version 2 IMG_8774 IMG_8776 IMG_8788 IMG_8778 IMG_8781 IMG_8784

Another example, nearly identical to mine, is in the permanent collection of the British Museum. It was donated in the 19th century by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, described by Marjorie Caygill, historian of the British Museum, as “arguably the most important collector in the history of the British Museum, and one of the greatest collectors of his age”.

AN00391981_001_l

Photo courtesy of the British Museum