Chinese Mandarin cup, c.1760

July 5th, 2015

This cup is a mess! It’s a 2.5 inch high Chinese porcelain cup from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) with multi-color enamel decoration in the Mandarin style. Well over 150 years ago when it dropped and shattered into 12 pieces, it was most likely taken to an itinerant “dish mender” who carefully applied 15 metal staples to bring it back to life. A bit of plaster was used to fill in a few gaps left by lost fragments. Past owners really must have cherished this little mug, as it managed to survive many centuries looking like this. As my grandmother would have said, “Oy Vey!”

This cup, in much better condition than mine, shows what an intact example looks like.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Make-do’s at the MET, part 4

June 20th, 2015

I spotted this during my last visit to the American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The description in the showcase says more than I could possibly say:

“This extraordinary punchbowl features a remarkably faithful replica of the engraved certificate, dated December 1785, issued to Ebenezer Stevens (1751-1823) by the Society of the Cincinnati. Stevens was a major-general in command of the New York artillery and was vice president of the New York branch of the society. The decorative silver-gilt mount on the rim and around the foot were probably made during the early nineteenth century in response to an earlier crack—evidence of the extent to which the bowl was valued by its owner…”

Punch Bowl
Date: ca. 1786–90
Geography: China
Culture: Chinese, for American market
Medium: Porcelain
Dimensions: Diam. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Classification: Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Lucille S. Pfeffer, 1984
Accession Number: 1984.449

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Liverpool Porcelain teabowl, c.1770

June 14th, 2015

I purchased this unmarked soft-paste teabowl from an antique ceramics dealer in the UK who appreciates early repairs and has provided me with many interesting examples of “make-do” repairs over the years. This piece was made by Philip Christian Liverpool Porcelain, c.1765-70, and measures 1-3/4″  high x 3″  diameter. It has a fluted body with molded leaves & flowers, cobalt blue underglaze border decoration of leaves & berries, and a flower motif painted on the inside.

This delicate teabowl boasts multiple repairs done by a 19th century “china mender.” After the bowl broke, a large chip was reattached using tightly bound brass wire wrapped around holes drilled through the body, appearing at first like more commonly used staple repairs. A large blob of lead was applied to the center of the crack, acting as an anchoring rivet. A smaller chip along the rim, perhaps lost or too small to repair, has been replaced with a thin sliver of porcelain decorated with iron-red scrollwork from another piece entirely. This type of repair, using thin wire instead of metal staples, is typically associated with 19th century repair work done in Belgium and the South of France.

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Below is a “perfect” example with matching saucer.

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Photo courtesy of Antique Porcelain Online

Bohemian milch glass mug, c.1750

May 31st, 2015

This 18th century Milch Glass mug with hand painted polychrome hunting scene decoration of a stage pursued by a dog  was made in central Europe in the 18th century and measures 6-1/4″  high.

After this mug was dropped, breaking into two pieces, it was most likely taken to an itinerant “china mender” who repaired it using 16 metal staples of various sizes. It is more common to find ceramics repaired with staples or rivets, but skilled repairers drilled through glass as well.

“Bohemia was also renowned for ‘milch glass’ or milk glass, and tumblers, mugs, bottles and such things made of it were decorated with Watteau scenes and floral designs. The technique is often good, but the shapes are generally clumsy and the decoration insipid.” from The Glass Collector: A Guide to Old English Glass by MacIver Perciva, 1919.

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Here’s another example of Milch Glass with similar form and decoration.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Dando

Imari teapot with silver spout, c.1720

May 23rd, 2015

This thrice repaired Chinese porcelain globular form teapot with Japanese influenced Imari decoration is painted with a large chrysanthemum motif in underglaze blue, overglaze iron red and gilding, surrounded by stylized scrolling foliage. The bullet shape was inspired by European silver of the same period. It measures 4-1/2″  high and 7-1/2″  wide from handle to spout and dates to around 1720.

After the teapot was dropped over 200 years ago, resulting in a broken handle and spout, it was taken to a skilled silversmith who created this unusual silver zoomorphic replacement spout, added an engraved silver collar and used metal staples to repair the handle. In my opinion, the silver additions transform a perfectly nice teapot into a unique work of art.

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This nearly identical teapot shows what the original spout on mine looked like before it took a tumble.

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Photo courtesy of Moorabool Antiques

Porcelain jar with figures, c.1890

May 13th, 2015

This small Chinese porcelain “Kangxi revival” jar was made during the latter part of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), Guangxu period (1875-1908). It is decorated in cobalt blue underglaze with eight figures and stands about 5″  high, with a four character mark on the underside.

At some point during its early life this jar was dropped, resulting in a complex fracture. But rather than tossing the broken pieces out on to the curb, they were taken to a china mender who lovingly restored the jar using metal staples/rivets. Judging by the form and the use of double rivets, the repair appears to have been done in the Middle East, where recycled wire was used by itinerant street menders to form flattened rivets.

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This jar has a similar form and decoration and remains in one piece.

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Photo courtesy of Petrie Rogers

Sunderland Bridge etched glass jug, c.1840

May 3rd, 2015

This unusual hand blown commemorative glass jug with applied handle was made in England around 1840 and stands 6-1/4″ high. It features beautifully engraved images including a frigate in full sail under the Wearmouth Bridge in Sunderland, an oval cartouche with “WH” monogram, an elaborate fruit basket, a spray of wheat, roses and grapes. Examples of Sunderland souvenirs made of glass are more unusual than the popular pottery pieces with colorful transfer decoration, overglaze washes and pink lustre highlights.

The Wearmouth Bridge was completed in 1796 but was still being commemorated well into the middle of the 19th century. When opened it was the longest single span bridge in the world. The original bridge was replaced in 1929 and is still in use today.

It must have taken a skilled hand to stabilize the large horizontal crack using just 5 metal rivets. The underside reveals a ground pontil mark, as well as scratches and wear, showing that this jug has been well used. But it’s remarkable that a fragile glass jug such as this hasn’t sustained even more wear and damage over the past 175 years.

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Photo courtesy of The Sunderland Site

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.

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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.

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This jug of similar form has its original handle intact.

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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.”

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