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