Captured in History: Artifacts of the Vatican

April 25th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

A place of legends, spirituality and myth, Vatican City is the epicenter of Catholicism worldwide. For many, Vatican City stands as the ultimate place of piety. As the seat of the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years, it is a landmark filled with a rich history that has come to symbolize devout holiness. It is the smallest independent country in the world, yet wields greater influence globally than any other.

This incredible KPM tazza was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III for Pope Pius VII

This incredible KPM tazza was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III for Pope Pius VII

Within this influential structure, the Pope reigns supreme – his actions and words have held remarkable import for as long as the position has existed. In March 2013, a monumental event took place as the 266th pope was elected, Pope Francis I. The first pope hailing from Argentina, Pope Francis I embraced the modern era unlike any other before, sparking a renewed global interest in the Vatican. Recently popularized by blockbuster films and top-rated pop fiction novels, the Vatican is headlining news now more than ever before. Stories about secret archives and ancient symbols within the walls of the Vatican seem farfetched, but the true history that envelops the world’s smallest country is no less intriguing.

In the art and antiques world, revelations of this city are particularly exciting. Because it is the history that many find most alluring, let’s backtrack to the early nineteenth century and look at one of the most pivotal stages in papal history.

This "peace dish" is hand-painted with the Monument surrounded by an intricate bouquet of flowers

This “peace dish” is hand-painted with the Monument surrounded by an intricate bouquet of flowers

As George IV became King of England, Susan B. Anthony led the American suffrage movement, and Napoleon I died in exile, significant change took place during the 1820s. All around, the tumultuous political atmosphere caused massive diplomatic upheaval as countires clamored to ally with neighboring states. This diplomacy was highly embraced by the Vatican City. Dedicated to forming diplomatic relationships with surrounding states, the early 19th century aim of the Vatican was focused on solidifying relations with the country Prussia, and each took part in the passage of the Concordat of 1821. Highly advantageous for both parties, this diplomatic pass further intertwined the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Prussia under the direction of King Wilhelm III and Pope Pius VII.

This important porcelain tazza was once part of the famed Twininght Collection of Royal Porcelain, New York

This important porcelain tazza was once part of the famed Twininght Collection of Royal Porcelain, New York

Naturally, in this age a diplomatic agreement was not finalized without the gracious offering of a gift to the neighboring party. Pleased with the outcome, King Wilhelm III commissioned one of the finest porcelain manufacturers to create two tazzas, also known as peace dishes, to be delivered to the Vatican. KPM, arguably the greatest name in porcelain history, crafted these tazzas with a level of richness and intricacy that would have only been appropriate for the high taste of the pope.

Because papal artifacts are extremely rare to come by, their rarity becomes all the more important. By being directly connected to the papacy, provenance of items, such as this and other furniture pieces, take on a whole new meaning of immense, unceasing importance.

Dining as an Art: Caring for Your Silver Collection

April 18th, 2016 | posted by James Gillis
This incredible English King flatware service by Tiffany & Co. comprises 664 impeccable pieces

This incredible English King flatware service by Tiffany & Co. comprises 664 impeccable pieces

Since its inception in 1837, silver flatware by Tiffany & Co. has brought a touch of luxury to dining rooms in a manner of unparalleled craftsmanship and elegance. Synonymous with timeless style, the Tiffany & Co. Silver Company began retailing silverware at the onset of an era of rapid wealth expansion in America. This new wealth, coupled with discoveries of vast silver deposits in the West, spurred an entirely new way of living and socializing for the upper classes. Social calendars of the elite were now filled with evening gatherings, dinner parties, and highly exclusive social events. The new sumptuous tastes were on full display, and extensive silver flatware sets and centerpieces served as a visual affirmation of economic prosperity and affluence. Tiffany designed large flatware sets, comprised of utensils for serving and consuming nearly every food imaginable, to accompany the glittering and extravagant dinner parties of the age. An art all their own, today these sets are prized not just for their opulence, but also their remarkably quality and craftsmanship.

This service for 24 features rare pieces such as orange knives and spoons and a cheese server

This service for 24 features rare pieces such as orange knives and spoons and a cheese server

Tiffany began to gain international recognition abroad as the breadth of their output grew in the late 19th century. At the 1878 Paris World’s Fair under the directly of John C. Moore, Tiffany became the first American firm to earn the Grand Prize for Excellence in silver.  The spotlight soon became a familiar place for Tiffany. By creating some of the grandest flatware sets imaginable, Tiffany led the way as the unchallenged master of the silver craft in the United States. Yet, it was not just international acclaim that brought Tiffany its fame, but a sterling reputation for high quality flatware and exquisite designs.

Regarded as extraordinary treasures of American silver today, Tiffany pieces – along with other quality silver – do require periodic maintenance and proper storage. When owning a large flatware set such as this Tiffany English King flatware set, consider the array of pieces the require care. From gilt salad servers and grapefruit spoons to terrapin knives and nut picks, all 664 utensils in this set require some upkeep to fully appreciate the intricacy of the renowned English King design. Simple, habitual care for your flatware set is the most efficient way to keep your silver in pristine condition.

Introduced in 1885, English King is among Tiffany's most prized and beautiful patterns

Introduced in 1885, English King is among Tiffany’s most prized and beautiful patterns

The first step in caring for your silver flatware is keeping the natural tarnishing processes of silver at bay. Though it is the most common way your silver loses its shine, tarnish is one of the easiest things to treat and remove. Caused by exposure to air, more tarnish occurs in damper environments, so keeping you silver properly stored in a dry environment is the best way to avoid tarnishing. Yet, if it does occur use a soft cloth and polish to restore shine to your silver. When choosing a polish, pay close attention to the techniques and directions for each one. Creams, for example, take at least an hour to dry. If using a cream on a piece with an intricate design such as the English King, be sure to remove all excess polish in the swirling low reliefs of the pattern on each utensil.

Cotton wadding is also a convenient and effective way to remove tarnish. Pre-treat your cotton with silver cleaner and simply buff the surface of your flatware with the wadding. This technique proves highly effective for engraved and chased silver pieces with various intricacies. If short on time, a simple silver cloth will easily remove any finger prints and smudges while enhancing the shine. After properly cleaning, store your silver in lined cabinets or treated cloth.

The Tiffany legacy and their classic designs have stood the test of time – with a little care and attention, so too can your prized silver pieces.

 

 

 

Glitz and Glamour: Art Deco Jewelry

April 11th, 2016 | posted by Susan Lapene

Glitzy. Glamourous. Flamboyant. The Roaring 20s were a period of evolving fashion and sparkling society. For many, this decade evokes ostentatious “Gatsby-esque” celebrations, as well as the birth of mass culture, jazz music, and the ‘new woman’. The onset of new fashion trends that broke all the rules mimicked the changing society as a whole, and those changes continue to reverberate through the decades.

The exceptional Art Deco bracelet features approximately 21.75 carats of diamonds

The exceptional Art Deco bracelet features approximately 21.75 carats of diamonds

Following the Great War, culture in the United States experienced a seismic shift into the modern era. Monumental skyscrapers soared above cities, and the brilliant sheen of steel that seemed to nearly swallow New York City. Airplanes and automobiles made travel easier than ever before. The rapidly changing culture expanded throughout all aspects of life: politics, social issues, and even fashion. As society shrugged off the final vestiges of Victorian era culture, modern women traded in their old-fashioned corsets for the low waistlines and loose silhouettes that today epitomize the flapper style.

A rare Art Deco period brooch that boasts 16.25 carats of diamonds

A rare Art Deco period brooch that boasts 16.25 carats of diamonds

The opulence and abandon during the 1920s certainly shows American glamour at its height. Coupled with the push and pull of the ever stimulating new metropolis, fashion now established itself as ultra-feminine and chic. This streamlined style was seen throughout the aesthetic culture of the age, becoming what we know today as Art Deco. In this emerald and diamond bracelet, the striking effects of geometry and symmetry are most evident. This piece reflects designs reduced to its rudimentary geometric essence, resulting in cleaner style, yet still incorporating brilliant colored stones for vibrant effect.

The streamlined and stylish Art Deco design of this exquisite pin is bedecked in sparkling diamonds and simmering emeralds

The streamlined and stylish Art Deco design of this exquisite pin is bedecked in sparkling diamonds and simmering emeralds

Inspired, in part, by society’s new adoration of technology and architectural design, Art Deco jewelry mimicked the streamlined aesthetics of these crisp angular and geometric styles.  This statement period diamond brooch fully embraces this new “cosmopolitan chic” which surged with popularity. Reverberating with the crisp angles, symmetry, and high stylization of the Art Deco style, it represents the exuberant spirit of the culture.

A stunning rubellite tourmaline is at the center of this striking cocktail ring

A stunning rubellite tourmaline is at the center of this striking cocktail ring

 

 

 

 

 

The interpretation of the Art Deco style varied widely, from emphasizing separate aspects to depictions of different themes. For some, this interpretation resulted in energetic colors and accents; for others, this meant emphasizing jewelry’s intrinsic, graceful values, like in this elegant emerald and diamond pin. However, for many savvy and modern jewelers, this interpretation resulted in large scale pieces and gemstones. For instance, this rubellite cocktail ring brings a unique example of the taste and personality of Art Deco characteristics. At a monumental 16.12cts, the rubellite gemstone reflects the exuberance of the 1920s culture. Almost certainly worn as a cocktail ring, it is the epitome of the free-flowing personality and high style of the time.

Now, more than ever, Art Deco pieces have experienced a particularly popular resurgence in the jewelry world – movies such as The Great Gatsby glorify the high-spirited Jazz Age and all the glamour that came with it. Exploring the boundaries of geometry in a way that is both stylish and fun, Art Deco jewelry reflects the confidence of its age. Classic, yet bold, Art Deco designs remain one of the most enduring sought after styles of the last century.

Opposites Attract: Incorporating Antiques into a Modern Space

April 6th, 2016 | posted by Deborah Choate

Throughout the centuries, furniture inside the home has essentially remained the same in terms of functionality. Tables remain a place to gather for a meal; the desk is still a place to pen letters and conduct business; and arm chairs and sofas continue to bring people together in comfort. Furniture staples such as the dresser, bed, and wardrobe are still essential to the comfort of one’s home. Yet, while the function of these pieces may be steadfast, their aesthetics have changed drastically. From Victorian period pieces of elegant and refined designs, to the clean lines of Chippendale, furniture in all different styles act as markers not only for one’s personal taste, but also tell the story of the period in which they were crafted. What links these different furniture styles is the desire to cultivate one’s home as a relaxing and inviting space.

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Originating in Switzerland in the mid-1800s, Black Forest is a distinctive European style that exemplifies traditional Swiss folk traditions

Consider the incredible wealth of styles available on the market today, both antique and contemporary – the choices seem daunting when confronted with so many options. Yet, there is no rule that says all of your pieces of furniture need to be the same style – or even from the same era. When furnishing your home, embracing both modern and antique pieces gives you the unique opportunity to imbue your home with an eclectic style all your own.

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This incredible Art Nouveau work table is a one-of-a-kind tour de force of French cabinetmaking

Antique side tables are perhaps the easiest way to incorporate antique pieces into a modern environment. These diminutive pieces can help pull the entire look of a room together, while expressing your own taste and personality. For instance, this Black Forest Billiard Scene table is a perfect addition to any eclectic room. Carved in Switzerland’s remarkable Black Forest style, the table depicts lively folk scenes of animals in a popular European motif. The table’s rich, dark finish not only speaks to the mid-1800s Swiss tradition of carved oak pieces, but to an earlier style that is the perfect complement to any modern room.

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A exceptional Georgian card table is a masterpiece of English woodworking

Using antiques as focal pieces for rooms with an otherwise minimalist aesthetic can also help you achieve a more unique and versatile look. For instance, this stunning Art Nouveau worktable brings a uniquely naturalistic and organic air that can soften more modern styles, such as Mid-Century Modern pieces. This one-of-a kind table truly represents the epitome of the Art Nouveau style. In elaborate craftsmanship, the piece is crafted of numerous fine-grain fruitwoods inlaid with a variety and myriad of intricate designs. Pair it with a modern, stream-lined sofa for a dynamic combination.

More monumental in size is this Georgian card table, which incorporates elaborate Gothic styles. Moreover, it acts as a dual functioning piece: a side table and a green-baize playing board. This complex craftsmanship is a testament to mid-eighteenth century artisans. The strong lines of this piece, understated yet highly elegant, would act as the perfect match to any contemporary piece. Pair it with a modern, stream-lined sofa for a dynamic combination.

Antique pieces, from side tables to arm chairs to armoires, can serve as a focal point in any room, while also creating an individualized space that speaks to your own unique taste. Conversation pieces in their own right, antique side tables of different styles and periods can add a delightful surprise to any space and serve as a testament to one’s own interests.

Curious to learn more about the history of the side table? Read more to learn what constitutes this furnishings fascinating tradition and it’s styles in different eras.

 

The Genius of Vincent Van Gogh

March 30th, 2016 | posted by George Peralta
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This compelling view of a lone cottage was captured by the deft hand of Vincent van Gogh

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Entitled La Chaumière sous les Arbres, the work’s heavy, swirling impasto portend his later work

It is nearly impossible to look back through art history and not encounter the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. Today, van Gogh is widely regarded as one of the most important participants in one of the most pivotal artistic styles to date: Post-Impressionism. Expanding upon the Impressionist ideals of capturing a moment, the Post-Impressionists sought to capture emotions, focusing on themes with deep symbolism. Thick brushwork, vivid coloring, and poignant undertones formed the deeply personal canvasses of these revolutionary young artists. For van Gogh, his real-life subjects became conduits for his own personal expression, which can be seen throughout the development of his distinctive style.

Gaining momentum as an artist in his early twenties, van Gogh was motivated by copying prints from formal 19th-century drawing manuals. Focusing on mastering correct perspective in landscape paintings, van Gogh’s early training exposes a self-taught trial and error that was soon complemented by formal training from Anton Mauve, a leading Hague School painter, in 1882. A pivotal year it truly was, as van Gogh transitioned from drawing to oil painting, which would become the principal medium of his career.

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The piece is distinguished among his other early Nuenen paintings in its heightened use of light

Unquestionably influenced by Barbizon artists such as Jean-Francois Millet, van Gogh was attracted to depicting rural life and landscape infused with explosive energy, earthy tones, and symbolic importance. His work, La Chaumière sous Les Arbres, reflects exactly that mentality. Showing van Gogh’s intense fascination with the simple life of peasantry, this important landscape work was painted during a two-year period in which Van Gogh solely looked to rural cottages and the landscape scenes around him.

Paralleling his own deep essence with the strongly symbolic and meaningful nature of his work, van Gogh’s landscapes are undoubtedly the most telling of this important period in his career. Thick, broad brushwork in earthy tones pervades the work, which depicts a Nuenen cottage in an intimate, quiet setting. Earthy browns and deep greens are heightened by an infusion of lighter color in the sky and wildflowers. This shift towards a lighter color palette, prompted by a suggestion from his brother, is indicative of one of the most significant shifts in van Gogh’s career. A color play of dark and light parallels the quiet, tranquil scene infused with expressive, energetic brushwork. And by depicting just a single peasant, van Gogh fashions a deep connection between the figure and the earth.

On par with the big names of art history such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, van Gogh’s influence reaches far and wide. In the art and antiques world, his iconic style re-introduces itself time and time again as later artists continued to take cues from his thick, energetic brushwork and symbolic subject matter.

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