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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.