Posts Tagged ‘miniature’

Chinese dollhouse snuff bottle, c.1700

Sunday, 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

Miniature cup with staples, c.1910

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

This is the one of the smallest antiques with inventive repair I have ever seen. Made in England by the Crown Staffordshire Porcelain Co. Ltd. in the early 1900s, the cup is a mere 3/4 inches high and the matching saucer has a diameter of just 1 inch. Both are decorated with pink flowers on a cobalt and gilt ground. The cup is stamped in green on the underside CROWN above the image of a crown. The same mark is barely visible on the underside of the saucer.

The smallest of the 3 metal staples on the cup measures a mind-boggling 1/8 of an inch long. After the staples were applied, they were painted over to blend in and appear less offensive. I can only imagine the precision and skill needed to make this delicate repair.

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Here is an entire miniature tea service also made by Crown.

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Chinese dollhouse sugar bowl, c.1690

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

This Chinese export porcelain dollhouse miniature with blue underglaze floral decoration dates from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and stands nearly 2 inches tall. Contrary to popular belief, miniatures like this were displayed in doll houses owned by wealthy adults and were not intended to be played with by children.

Surprisingly, this little gem was not always a sugar bowl but actually started life as a baluster form vase. After it took a tumble, a silversmith kept the surviving middle section, added a minuscule silver lid, handles and base, and voila…a sugar bowl was born. A tiny Dutch hallmark in the shape of a sword can be seen on the bottom of the base, dating it to 1814-1905. The small sword mark was used on silver pieces too small to accommodate full hallmarks.

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Shown below is an intact miniature vase, standing just 2-1/2″ tall. It appears that the middle section on a similar vase was used to make the sugar bowl.

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Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season and for a healthy and Happy New Year!

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Miniature Chinese Kangxi teapot, c.1720

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

This wee globular form teapot was made in China during the Kangxi period (1661 – 1722) and measures just 2-1/2″ high and 4-1/4″ from handle to spout. It has Famille Vert decoration of floral bouquets tied with ribbon in blue underglaze enamel, iron red and green washes, and gilt highlights. The domed cover, decorated with plum blossoms, has a tiny vent hole, just as its full-size counterpart would have. I believe that this was part of a larger tea set purchased for a child from a wealthy family, as only the upper class were able to afford imported Chinese porcelain.

Without seeing the coin to show the lilliputian size of the teapot, I doubt you would have guessed that this is a miniature. The exquisitely crafted metal replacement spout and rattan-covered bronze handle are superior to the more standard repairs seen on most other miniatures. It seems that someone truly appreciated the stellar repair work, as is evident by the teeth marks at the end of the spout. Perhaps this was just a child’s way of saying “This new spout tastes better than the old one. Thanks, and job well done!”

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This nearly identical miniature still has its original handle and spout, but I think my teapot is the more interesting one of the pair.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Miniature Coalport cup & saucer, c.1900

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

This minute bone china porcelain cup & saucer duo, made at the turn of the 20th century at the Coalport factory in Shropshire, England, has some of the smallest metal staple repairs I have ever seen. It has printed Japanese style floral decoration in the Japanese Imari palette, consisting of iron red, cobalt blue and gilt enamels. Both pieces are marked with a green stamp on the underside, dating them to 1890-1920. The saucer measures 3-1/4″ in diameter and the cup stands nearly 1-1/2″  high with an opening of 2″.

After the dainty saucer fell to the floor, breaking into six small fragments, it was brought to a china mender who pieced the puzzle back together. Using 10 custom made metal staples, the smallest being a mere 1/4″ long, the saucer was once again able to function as a support to the tiny cup it carried. Imagine the nimble fingers capable of creating such fine work!

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Miniature cranberry glass punch cup, c.1890

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

This diminutive hand-blown ribbed cranberry glass punch cup has an applied clear glass handle and polished bottom. I purchased it about a year ago from a dealer in the UK who thought it was made in Bohemia around the turn of the 19th century. Standing just a mere 1-1/2″ tall, it is one of the smallest examples in my collection. It would have been a part of a larger set, including a punch bowl, ladle and up to 12 matching cups. After this cup broke, a tinker very carefully bore eight minute holes through the sides of the glass, using a drill bit covered in diamond dust, and attached four 1/4″ long metal staples. These are some of the smallest staples I have ever seen. It must have taken nimble hands and years of experience to repair this tiny gem.

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This elaborate cranberry glass punch set with gilt decoration, made by Moser, would originally have had a dozen matching cups and an undertray.

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Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Staffordshire pottery cradle, c.1820

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Miniature pottery cradles were a popular form of wedding gift throughout the UK during the late 17th to mid-19th century. The not-too-subtle message to the newlyweds was to encourage fertility. This humble example, measuring 3″ high by 3-3/4″ long, is made from yellow glazed pottery and decorated with an incised circle pattern. It was made in Staffordshire, England, in the early 1800s. Perhaps after the young couple took the hint of the cradle’s implied message and had a child, the little darling grew up and one day broke the cradle. But one can’t blame the child who simply thought the cradle was a toy to be played with and not a symbol of its own mere existence. Distraught over their broken gift, the couple took the two halves to a china mender who repaired the cradle using two 3/4″ metal staples. Although the cradle is back in one piece and suitable for displaying, the obtrusive scars bear witness to the unfortunate event.

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This grouping has similar cradles with molded babies in swaddling, rarer than my empty one.

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Photo courtesy of John Howard

Tiny Chinese Imari teapot, c.1700

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Though this octagonal-shaped Chinese porcelain teapot from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) appears to be a miniature, it is indeed a functioning vessel. Tea was only for the wealthy in the late 17th century; brewed in highly concentrated batches in tiny teapots and consumed in small amounts. This fine example, which stands nearly 4″ high, has cobalt blue underglaze decoration with iron red and gilt detailing. The remains of the original porcelain spout have been replaced by a much smaller silver cap, most likely in Amsterdam in the 1800s. As a precaution against loss, the lid has been shackled to the handle using a fine-link chain. This embellishment may have been added at the same time as the replacement spout.

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This nearly identical teapot with the same form, size and decoration as mine shows what the original spout looked like before the addition of the silver replacement.

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Photo courtesy of Pater Gratia Oriental Art

Small toy cannon, c.1880

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

I hit the jackpot this past November while visiting friends in southern Vermont for the Thanksgiving holiday. On “Black Friday”, my dear friend Hilary and I ventured out to visit a few local antiques shops when I stumbled upon a set of three toy cannons, graduating in size, and each with a unique inventive repair.

This little gem, the smallest of the three, measures 3-1/2″ long and is 1-1/2″ tall. The tiny cast brass barrel, with its lovely green patina, is set in to the simple, yet effective, replacement base carved from a small block of wood, and held in place by two metal loops.

I particularly like the the three steps in the back and how the top of the wooden base was carved out in the exact shape of the cannon’s barrel so it would fit snugly in place. The dark greenish-brown painted surface remains mostly intact but shows some wear due, no doubt, to endless hours of battles played out in the safe confines of a patriotic young boy’s back yard. These toy cannons might have been manufactured in 1876, to help commemorate America’s centennial.

I will be posting the other two cannons from the same lot in the coming months, so be on the lookout. And please take a look at another small toy cannon, with a much cruder home-made repair, previously posted in these pages.

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This toy cast iron ship’s signal cannon from the early 1800s shows what the original base on my cannon might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Land and Sea Collection