Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Make-do’s at the MET, part 4

Saturday, 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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Imari teapot with silver spout, c.1720

Saturday, 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

Wednesday, 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

V&A Ceramics Galleries revisited

Saturday, 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.

Make-do’s at the MET, part 3

Saturday, 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

Saturday, 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

Chinese teapot with hinged lid, c.1770

Saturday, 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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Chinese jug with silver handle, c.1770

Saturday, 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

Stapled octagonal crab plate, c.1750

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Most people I encounter are astonished the first time they see broken ceramics held together with staples. I was, too, at a young age when I saw a small stapled dish. The first words uttered are typically “how did they do that?” If you type that very question into my search box on this page, a post from a few years ago will pop up and help answer that much asked question.

Sadly, most pieces repaired with staples, aka rivets, are not signed by the menders so we have no idea who repaired them. I have seen 18th century English and American newspaper advertisements and calling cards from tinkers and jewelers offering their repair services, as well as early prints showing “china menders” with their tools. Today, antique ceramics with staple repairs are not uncommon but many rare examples are quickly disappearing, as restorers will carefully remove staples, fill the holes and erase all evidence of the original “honest” repair. Although I have dozens of examples of early staple repair on a variety of forms, I still get a thrill when I encounter a rare or unusual example untouched by a modern restorer.

This porcelain plate was made in Jingdezhen, China, during the Qing dynasty (1740-1760) and measures 8-1/2″ in diameter. It is decorated in the Famille rose palette and features a large blue crab, crayfish, flowers, and a border with gilt detailing. Early in its life it was dropped, cleanly breaking it in half. An experienced china mender reattached the plate using six small evenly spaced brass staples. Repairs such as this are so tight and secure that the plate can be returned to the dinner table without fear of it coming undone. That is, unless another clumsy person lets it slip from his or her hands.

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Another example, nearly identical to mine, is in the permanent collection of the British Museum. It was donated in the 19th century by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, described by Marjorie Caygill, historian of the British Museum, as “arguably the most important collector in the history of the British Museum, and one of the greatest collectors of his age”.

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Photo courtesy of the British Museum

Teapot with Rococo silver spout, c.1750

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

This striking globular form teapot was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-1795) for export to North America and Europe. It stands 5-1/4″ high and is decorated in cobalt underglaze with pavilions on islands in a lakeside setting.

After the original spout became damaged, the teapot was taken to a silversmith sometime in the 19th century, who replaced it with a silver Rococo style spout. I have seen many other examples of the same silver spout used on repaired teapots from the same period, so I imagine they were mass produced. In addition to the replacement spout, the broken handle has been riveted to the body and appears to be a later repair. By this point, the owner was taking no chances and chained the lid to the spout and handle to avoid further damage. On the underside is an etched signature Hood (?), but I am not sure if this was the owner of the teapot or the mender. I am hoping that it’s the latter and am on the hunt for more examples of signed ceramics.

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This teapot with similar form and decoration shows what the original spout on my teapot might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of eBay