Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

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.

Serpents & the Sea

November 15th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate

Bursting with the boundless power of Mother Nature, the ocean has been the subject of some of the most evocative pieces in art history.  In considering that economies and lives have been made and ended on the ocean it is easy to understand the fascination it holds, besides its purely aesthetic value.  This role of the ocean in our collective psyche has given birth to countless myths and legends.  Of course some of the most lasting and beloved myths in Western culture have been handed down to us from the Greeks and the Romans.  Poseidon to the Greeks and Neptune to the Romans, this God of the seas plays muse to several dynamic pieces here in the gallery.Sacred to Neptune Ewers

These amazing vessels are crafted in the famed “Sacred to Neptune” design created by renowned artist John Flaxman in 1775. Featuring finely modeled figures of tritons serving as the handles, as well as dolphin masks and swags of cattail plants, the treasures are laden with aquatic symbolism.  The acclaim of this design exemplifying the love of ancient Greco-Roman styles shared between England and France.   This exceptional design is most often found in pottery form, as the renowned maker Wedgwood produced it in both black basalt and jasperware. It was also beautifully realized in silver by the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. However, bronze versions of this neoclassical masterpiece are exceptionally rare, with French examples being even rarer.

30-0977_1Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t share this fantastic work of art we recently acquired when discussing Neptune.  While the dark waters represented here are those off the shore of Hendaye Beach in France, this piece is a phenomenal reminder of the awe-inspiring powers of the sea.  Painted by Hippolyte Pradelles, tumultuous waves and a steel grey sky painted with bravura brushstrokes combine here to create a work with an incredible presence.

This sculpture is a replica of arguably the most famed sculpture ever created.  In fact, Michelangelo referred to the original as “The greatest piece of art in the world”.  This is the fantastic marble sculpture thatLaocoon tells of the death of Laocoön and his sons when the Goddess Minerva sends serpents from the sea to silence them forever.  Their deaths were byproducts of the famed Trojan War; it was Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who was not swayed by the Greek’s offering of a large wooden horse. He started to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.  According to Virgil, the God Minerva, anxious to protect her Greeks, immediately sent two sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his twin sons before they could warn more Trojans of this deception.

The sea, its symbols, myths, and bounty figure prominently in all three of these pieces, to fabulous results.  Sinewy creatures and windswept seas are expertly executed in bronze, oil paint and marble.  If you find these items as captivating as I do, let’s talk soon to discuss how we can make them yours.

Dining Elegance

November 8th, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Grape ShearsFor many, some of the most pleasurable memories we hold are of evenings spent around the dinner table.  The way we eat together now, however, is still a relatively new construct.  In fact, the fork was not commonly used in Western Europe until the 1500s and the concept of a separate room for dining would not take hold until the 18th century.  Once these changes were underway, however, dining quickly became an elaborate affair.

As coursed meals came into vogue, a plethora of specialized utensils began to appear on the table, and silversmiths spent more and more time on crafting and decorating these items.  These grape shears by the preeminent British silversmith Paul Storr, for instance, were crafted in 1817 and made to serve only one function: to separate small clusters of grapes away from their woody stems.29-0921

In modern society these lavish details have been reserved for special occasions, such as holidays.  In fact, “Bringing out the good china” has become synonymous with efforts to elevate a dining experience from the everyday.  Of course, if you want to really make the evening one to remember, all you have to do is bring this impressive tureen to the table. Extremely rare due to its size, this highly-collectable silver vessel was crafted by Paul de Lamerie and is hallmarked London, 1741.  It is such a superior example of his work, in fact, that an almost identical tureen is pictured in Ellenor Alcorn’s book Beyond the Maker’s Mark: Paul de Lamerie Silver in the Cahn Collection.

Whether you’re looking for silver serving dishes, porcelain place settings, or crystal stemware, I know that we can help you find the perfect piece for your next evening of entertaining.

« Prev - Next »