French ‘Cornflower’ pattern jug, c.1778

January 14th, 2017

This hard paste porcelain baluster-form jug with sparrow beak spout was made in Paris, France, by Andre Leboeuf at the Fabrique de la Reine factory, circa 1778. It is hand decorated in the ‘Cornflower’ pattern, also known as ‘Angoulême’ or ‘aux Barbeaux’, a favorite of Marie Antoinette. It measures 4.75 inches high and is marked on the underside with the letter ‘A’ and a gilt crown. Work of this kind is known as Porcelaine à la Reine and Old Paris Porcelain.

Unlike obvious repairs, such as replacement handles, spouts and lids, this jug possesses a chip off the old block, or more precisely, a chip off an old pot. The lip must have been so badly damaged that a jeweler or china mender had to graft on a piece from another vessel. The replacement piece, unintentionally cut in the shape of the State of Nevada, was fitted to the enlarged hole in the jug, just like a jigsaw puzzle, using two small brass rivets along the rim. An adhesive compound was applied along the edges to seal the deal. Not the most elegant of repairs but this jug must have meant so much to its original owner that a delicate jug with a Nevada-shaped patch was better than no jug at all.

This jug shows what the missing cover and metal mount on my jug might have looked like before Napoleon smashed it to the floor.

Photo courtesy of Rouillac

Chinese teapot with wood handle, c.1750

January 8th, 2017

This beautiful porcelain teapot was made in China in the mid-1700s and is decorated with cherry blossoms, bamboo, and birds using cobalt blue underglaze with red and gilt overglaze enamels. It stands 5 inches high and is 7.25 inches wide from handle to spout. The matching lid has a skep shaped knob.

For me, the real beauty of this teapot is in the overscaled wood replacement handle, which would look more at home on a pewter teapot of the same period. I have many teapots in my collection with similar wood replacement handles, each with slight variations. I find the fanciful carved wood handle is in direct contrast to the simple globular form of the body, making for a quirky mashup. Naturally, I prefer this unique example over a “perfect” one any day.

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

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Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Happy New Year 2017!

December 31st, 2016

Wishing you all the best for a Happy New Year!

And about that champagne glass…

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Happy Holidays!

December 24th, 2016

May the joy of the holiday season shine bright!

And try not to break any of your grandmother’s “good china” during your holiday meal.

But in case you do…

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Chinese dollhouse snuff bottle, c.1700

December 18th, 2016

I seem to have a thing for miniatures. I marvel at the craftsmanship of creating tiny versions of larger pieces, which requires more time and skill, as well as good eyesight and nimble fingers. When I was at a street market in Egypt many years ago, I saw hundreds of lanterns made of tin and painted glass. One vendor had minuscule working lanterns, no more than 3 inches, which held tiny birthday cake candles. Even though they were a fraction of the size of the other lanterns, they were the same price and took just as long to make, if not longer.

So you can imagine how I was doubly thrilled when I found this miniature porcelain dollhouse snuff bottle with an inventive repair. It was made in China during the Kangxi period (1662-1722), has blue underglaze decoration of figures, and measures 2.75 inches tall. But there’s more to the story, as this bottle started its life as a vase. Well over 150 years ago, after its neck broke off, a silversmith added a silver collar with etched decoration, cork, and a top attached to a spoon, transforming the broken vase into a functional snuff bottle. It has a sword shaped Dutch hallmark dating the repair to the mid-1800s.

I now have five tiny Chinese dollhouse miniatures in my collection and try not to inhale too deeply around them.

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This pair of miniature vases with similar form and decoration show what the original neck on my vase looked like before it was transformed into a snuff bottle.

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Photo courtesy of Santos

Paper box with handsewn edges, c.1880

December 11th, 2016

Veering away from my more typical posts showcasing inventive repairs on ceramics and glass, today I am featuring the art of a mended paper box. Before the invention of masking and Scotch tapes, damaged paper products were repaired using strips of thin fabric, patching with paper, and mending with thread. I have long admired the unintentional artistry created by patterns made by tiny stitches used to repair torn pages in a book.

This small green paper box, most likely made in New England in the late 1800s, measures 4.75 inches by 4.25 inches and is 1.75 inches tall. It seems the entire box fell apart and rather than tossing it into a roaring fire, someone quite cleverly stitched up every edge, giving it a unique folksy look.

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Minton Bute shape cup, c.1802

December 4th, 2016

This bone china Bute shape tea cup is decorated with two-tone blue flowers, puce tendrils, gilt foliage and bands. Measuring 2.25 inches high with an opening of 3.25 inches, it was made by Minton in Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England, at the turn of the 18th century. The Minton mark and pattern number 76 is handwritten in blue on the underside.

When this delicate cup slipped from the hands of a previous owner, unusual symmetrical breaks resulted. It was most likely reassembled by an itinerant china mender in the 1800s who used nine brass staples to put the four porcelain puzzle pieces back in place. The integration of the staples, along with the existing floral motif, create an unexpected and exciting new pattern.

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This tea cup with matching saucer is shown without staples.

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Photo courtesy of WorthPoint

Kintsugi at the MET

November 27th, 2016

Last week I attended my first advanced Kintsugi class given by Gen Saratani, master Japanese lacquer restorer and artist. Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics using lacquer and gold. In the spring I took a beginner class with him and repaired a chipped plate, which I posted earlier.

Hoping that I would find examples for inspiration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I did indeed stumble upon these early pieces. They are all Korean pottery: stoneware, porcelain & Buncheong ware.

Oil bottle decorated with peony leaves Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), late 12th century. Stoneware with reverse-inlaid design under celadon glaze.

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Maebyeong decorated with cranes and clouds Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), late 13th century. Stoneware with inlaid design under celadon glaze.

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Small bowl decorated with chrysanthemum Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), 12th century. Porcelain with incised design.

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Dish with inscription and decorated with chrysanthemums and rows of dots Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), mid-15th century. Buncheong ware with stamped design.

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Chinese jug with pewter handle, c.1775

November 20th, 2016

This porcelain cream jug with baluster form and a sparrow beak spout was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-96.) It is decorated in the Famille Rose palette and measures 4 inches high and is about 4 inches wide. The floral swag decoration suggests it was made for the French market.

I can just imagine a French maid in the early 1800s, clearing the breakfast table, grabbing this little jug with fingers still dripping with butter from making croissants, and letting it slip and tumble to the ground. Sadly, the cover and handle must have broken into too many pieces to repair, so a tinker was engaged and created a pewter replacement handle. Not sure if the shattered cover or the maid with shattered nerves were ever replaced.

This jug with similar form and decoration shows what the the original handle and cover on mine looked like before it took a tumble.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Dando

Pewter teapot, c.1850

November 13th, 2016

This unassuming pewter teapot was most likely made in America in the mid 19th century. It stands 9 inches tall and has a fanciful wooden handle and knob. As pewter is a soft and malleable metal, many early pieces did not survive intact. This pot is one such example.

At some point during the past 160+ years, the original base was damaged and the tea stopped flowing. A tinsmith fashioned a simple tin conical foot as a replacement and the teapot was able to function once again. At the time of the repair, the shiny metal base stood in stark contrast to the dull pewter. But today, both metals appear to have melded and the repair is now hard to detect.

This pewter teapot with similar form suggests what the original base on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of eBay