Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

What Antique Beer Tankards Tell Us About Ancient Monarchs

March 5th, 2014 | posted by Ryan Clark

The worldwide fascination with antiques lies not just in their impressive age, but in the way that centuries ago, people used these prized objects much in the same way that we might today – say, for example, with an exquisite antique beer tankard. From the extravagant palaces of colonial-era Europe to the majestic estates of imperial China, wealthy individuals commissioned the creation of truly luxurious tankards so that they could – to put it succinctly – drink in style. While the function of these antiques is something that most people could relate to, the expert artistry and skill used in their design and construction is probably not. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful antique beer tankards we’ve ever stocked and, along the way, gain an increased appreciation for the artistic, aesthetic, and historical lessons they can teach us:

Large Chinese Export Silver Tankard

This mid-19th century silver tankard made by Lee Ching of Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong was made specifically for export, with a wealthy Western buyer in mind. The high-quality repoussé work reveals an exciting battle scene, while the handle’s vibrant dragon sculpture evokes Chinese symbolism of good luck and strength. Price: $9,850

German Ivory Miniature Tankard

While the first German ivory sculptures date back to well over a thousand years ago, the ivory trade to Germany was cut off during Ottoman rule in Northern Africa and the art form subsequently went into decline there. In the late 15th century, when the Portguese re-established reliable trade routes to sub-Saharan Africa, ivory began flowing back into central Europe and the famous wood carving artisans of Odenwald subsequently adapted their meticulous skills to ivory. This specialized artistic tradition grew throughout Germany for centuries, yielding such marvellous works as this 4.75-inch-high miniature tankard with a silver plate vessel. Price: $8,850 (SOLD)

Chinese Garden Export Silver Tankard

This double-skinned silver presentation tankard was built for export by Cutching of Canton in the mid-19th century. Its exterior repoussé shows a peaceful garden scene complete with animals, old men, trees, and a sky filled with wispy clouds. Just like the aforementioned Lee Ching tankard, this piece features a powerful looking dragon handle. Price: $14,850

Hester Bateman George III Silver Tankard

Made by Hester Bateman, who is widely regarded as the 18th century’s top female silversmith, this sterling silver tankard harkens back to the golden age – or should we say silver age – of European royal families. The engraved crest on the exterior of this tankard is both immaculate in its detail as well as regal in its design. The hallmark is dated 1787, placing it just before the French Revolution. Price: $14,850

Ivory Artemis and Actaeon Tankard

Carved entirely out of ivory, this 6 3/4″ x 12 1/8″ tankard from the mid-19th century boasts a degree of detail and craftsmanship that is truly wondrous to behold. It tells the ancient Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, with the goddess Artemis represented in the nude on the lid, and Actaeon shown in fine detail on the frieze itself. The myth involves the hunter Actaeon stumbling across the goddess Artemis bathing in the forest, whereupon Artemis – outraged that a mortal man had see her nude body – turns him into a stag, at which point he is eaten by his own dogs. Price:$34,500 (SOLD)

German Ivory Tankard, Kings of Poland

Crafted circa 1850, this German ivory tankard pays homage to the 16th and 17th century Polish monarchs Sigismund I, Sigismund II Augustus, Stefan Báthory, and Sigismund III. A national symbol, in the form of the Polish white eagle, stands guard atop the  silver plate vessel and is itself immaculately carved out of ivory. At 12.5″ in height, this antique beer tankard is a large, well-preserved testament to the refined tastes and sensibilities of the 19th century European nobility. Price: $38,500 (SOLD)

Luxurious Lighting

January 25th, 2014 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter
Regency Cut Glass & Ormolu Candelabra

Regency Cut Glass & Ormolu Candelabra

Before electricity flooded interiors with on-demand lighting, the rhythm of life was dictated by natural light.  While, of course, illumination by flame (whether fueled by oil, tallow, or any manner of other substances) has existed for millennia, its use could often be curtailed by means and access.  Today the singular dance of a flame, and the play of its glow against nearby objects, is a special presence that is too often absent from modern life.  No matter what your taste may be, we have a number of precious items to help you bring back the romance of candlelight.

In the pre-electricity days of lighting design, craftsmen were conscious to maximize light in any way they could.  This was achieved through the use of reflective materials such as glass, crystal, or polished metals.  Dripping with cut glass, these candelabra would be an ideal way to scatter slivers of light around a room.  Maximum light and maximum drama, this 1815 pair attributed to John Blades are the height of Regency elegance.

18th Century Rock Crystal Chandelier

18th Century Rock Crystal Chandelier

While many fixtures have been converted for electricity, some still maintain their bygone allure.  Infinitely more practical than raising and lowering the chandelier every time you need to make a lighting adjustment, this electrified chandelier boasts rock crystal adornments.  The natural mineral characteristics inherent to rock crystal help divert light in novel ways, not unlike candlelight.

Lighting is everything.  To highlight a favorite painting or to set the tone of an evening, your home should have the very best.  I encourage you to look around our gallery and our website for your next candelabra, chandelier, sconce, or lamp.

Time for Tea! Exquisite Tea Caddies

January 17th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

This extraordinary pair of George III period tea caddies are enveloped in ivory, with tortoiseshell and sterling silver trim and mounts. Circa 1790.

No other practice evokes British sophistication and elegance quite like the drinking of tea. It is hard to believe that this now-common beverage was once an incredibly expensive commodity that could only be enjoyed by nobility and the social elite. These connoisseurs would soon demand elaborate and luxurious accoutrements to store and prepare this prized drink.

Tea was introduced to England from China sometime in the middle of the 17th century. It is believed that it was Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, who was responsible for bringing the tea habit to the country around 1660. The practice gained momentum and became an en vogue activity by the 18th century. The country’s respect for this drink is reflected in the ceremonial way in which it was stored, prepared, and drunk, and craftsmen of the period soon discovered a new avenue in which to exercise their skills–the creation of beautiful tea caddies.

29-949729-1941The rarest tea caddies were crafted of the most costly materials of the era, boasting stunning veneers of tortoiseshell and ivory, often with sterling silver mounts. This George III tea caddy is enveloped entirely in tortoiseshell, with ivory and silver detailing of exceptional quality. With its unique decagon shape, this caddy contains two interior compartments for holding different types of tea leaves. Tea connoisseurship developed into something of an art form, and accordingly, more than one type of tea was necessary for refined palettes. Double chests such as this could hold two types of leaves, usually one green and one black variety that could be custom-blended to achieve the desired flavor. Incredibly rare indeed, this original pair of George III ivory tea caddies are encased in creamy white ivory, highlighted by tortoiseshell veneers and silver accents.

Beloved for its flavorful, exotic, and even medicinal qualities, few would have guessed that the importation of a simple plant would have give rise to over two centuries of culture and decorative art.

A Trip To Fairyland

December 21st, 2013 | posted by Justine D'Ooge
Imps on a Bridge and Treehouse  pattern, Roc Centre variation

Imps on a Bridge and Treehouse pattern, Roc Centre variation

Wedgwood has a long legacy of creating delicate wares adorned with classical motifs and meticulously crafted replicas of artifacts from antiquity.  There were just certain things you could expect from Wedgwood. This was before Daisy Makeig-Jones broke the mold.

Candlemas design

Candlemas design

Born in 1881 in a small mining village in England, Susannah Margaretta ‘Daisy’ Makeig-Jones showed artistic talent from a young age.  Shortly after attending art school, as luck would have it, Ms. Makeig-Jones was introduced to Cecil Wedgwood.  This event would prove to be fortuitous not only for the young artist, but also for the entire Wedgwood firm.

At the time she was hired there was some concern over whether the daughter of a doctor could adapt to factory life.  Daisy did adapt, and thrived.  In 1909 Daisy was hired as a trainee designer, by 1914 she would be given her own studio.   It was around this point in time that the Wedgwood factory was facing possible bankruptcy.

Woodland Elves VIII - Boxing Match motif

Woodland Elves VIII – Boxing Match motif

 

WWI proved difficult for most luxury and handicraft industries, but Wedgwood’s saving grace from the looming tailspin would be Daisy Makeig-Jones’ fanciful Fairyland Lustre.  Dotted with mythical creatures, vibrant colors, and intricate gilding, this series continues to mesmerize all those who get a chance to admire it in person.  Lustrous and unique, these pieces are regular favorites in the gallery and never last long in our store.  We would love for you to stop by and see the curious little imps that march across Daisy Makeig-Jones’ various vases, plates, and bowls.

From Bolshaya Morskaya Street To The Palace

December 13th, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
Faberge Jeweled and Enamel Cufflinks

Faberge Jeweled and Enamel Cufflinks

In just looking around the gallery, I realize we have many reasons to be thankful for Tsar Alexander III.  It was under his Royal patronage that the already considerable talents of Carl Faberge flourished.  A legendary name in luxury goods, Faberge’s company is responsible for some of the most refined pieces in the gallery.

In 1870, at the age of 24, Carl Faberge took the helm of his father’s shop in St. Petersburg.  At this point, the elder Faberge had already built a thriving silver and jewelry business at the Bolshaya Morskaya Street location.  Growing up in his father’s store undoubtedly forged Carl’s path as craftsman but, more importantly, it afforded him opportunities that were not available to those without a similar support network.

Fabergé Silver Flatware Service

Fabergé Silver Flatware Service

In his youth Carl Faberge attended St. Petersburg’s German-language grammar school, but his studies later took the budding craftsman abroad.  This education included the practical aspects that came with an apprenticeship at the Frankfurt am Main jeweler Friedmann, and also a solid framework for his future as a businessman furnished by studies in economics.

A testament to Faberge’s vision, the man is quoted as having said: “expensive things interest me little if the value is merely in so many diamonds and pearls.”   Carl Faberge truly believed in bringing out the intrinsic beauty of natural materials through his work; he would pioneer a shift towards the use of materials native to Russia, and not just rely on the stones and materials more commonly associated with luxury goods.

Faberge Jeweled and Enameled Cane

Faberge Jeweled and Enameled Cane

The freedom to pursue his artistic whims came with the Easter egg.  This, of course, was the Imperial Easter egg.  His first endeavor at crafting this item was so admired that he would win Alexander III’s Royal patronage, giving him access to almost unlimited resources and a security of creativity that was not available to him previously.

Carl Faberge was now responsible for crafting gifts not only for the Royal family, but also for statesmen, visiting dignitaries, and tokens to be awarded at important ceremonies.  The foreign recipients of his creations brought these goods back to their home countries, spreading Faberge’s popularity across the world; a popularity still enjoyed to this day, and one that we are happy to be able to share with you.

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