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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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Photo courtesy of eBay