Jun 222017
 

From a bygone age of elegance survives this exquisite bronze and green marble-glass letter-holder by world famous Tiffany & Co. Dating from about 1910, this object has everything one could desire in a classic piece of Art Nouveau: quality, color, pattern, patination, and luminance! Letter-holders like this were once popular items in the early 20th century. This example is in Tiffany’s timeless pine cone pattern; pine trees were a popular motif of the era, inspired from the arts and crafts of Japan and China.

A scintillating antique jewel from Tiffany & Co.!

status: available

(please enquire)

 Posted by at 12:41 AM
Jul 272016
 


This wonderful item is an Indian spice box, the traditional container for the essential spices required for cooking authentic curry; and, like the dish itself, there are many imitators, but few are truly genuine. Many such boxes claiming to be antique are actually cheap, modern reproductions. Thankfully, careful observation will reveal clues of authenticity: the hand-carved decoration should be well worn — the edges and corners will be soft and rounded, worn smooth by centuries of human hands; the patination should be dark, even black at the edges; and also the hardware that holds the lid to body should be appropriately primitive and hand-forged (not just a repurposed nail).

I’ve seen a lot of these boxes — both genuine antiques and reproductions — and this is one of the finest and oldest I’ve had the pleasure of handling. The construction is stout and strong, and the elegant decoration extremely worn. In fact, there is even an old repair at one corner of the lid where an artisan has expertly matched the old border trim. When you hold this box, you can feel the many, many years it has in it. This spice box is at least c. 1800, very likely much older.

The wood is a jungle hardwood, likely rosewood. The lid turns smoothly and evenly, and the base is heavy enough to support the lid when opened (because they are often made of much lighter wood, most reproductions will flop-over and spill when fully opened — you should be very suspicious of any box that isn’t shown with it’s lid open and the box still upright!); it was crucial that the box stayed upright when opened, so none of the valuable spices would be spilled!

This authentic Indian spice box makes an intriguing item of decor and an excellent jewelry box or container for sacred treasures!

status: sold

 Posted by at 2:06 AM
Feb 122016
 

 

Here is an absolutely magnificent Jugendstil hammered copper jardiniere with bronze handles attributed to Ludwig Vierthaler (1875 – 1967); manufactured by J. Winhart & Co., Munich, Germany, c. 1905.

A formally trained artist, Vierthaler first worked as a silversmith and bronze-caster with Tiffany & Co. in the late 1800s. He later became the design director of the Josef Winhart & Co. metal workshop in Munich. In 1906, he partnered with Eugen Ehrenböck, a competing Munich metalsmith, and they formed the company Ehrenböck & Vierthaler.

Vierthaler’s forms are known for their deeply organic nature enhanced by rich patina. His work can be found in many distinguished collections, both public and private, as well as numerous books on the applied arts of the Jugendstil and Art Nouveau movements.

status: sold

 Posted by at 6:48 PM
Jan 262016
 

 

This object is an ancient kantharos, a two-handled wine cup of Etruscan origin, originally used in Dionysian celebrations and funerary rites; it dates from 625 to 550 BCE. It matches the “Rasmussen Type 3e” as described in the definitive text, “Bucchero Pottery from Southern Etruria“ (Cambridge University Press, 1979) by Tom B. Rasmussen; it also compares favorably with other kantharoi held in the collection of the British Museum, London.

The kantharos measures approximately 8” in width, 6” in height, and 5” in diameter. Considering its great age, overall condition is excellent: beyond one significant chip at the inner rim, and one much smaller opposite, this object is essentially unbroken and without repairs or restorations. Amazingly, the handles are completely intact, and the foot undamaged. This exquisite object presents and displays beautifully, and would look absolutely magnificent in any mid-century modern decor, or collection of antiquities and classical artworks.

status: sold

 Posted by at 2:28 AM
Jan 252016
 

In the Victorian era, romantic courtship happened almost entirely by correspondence; thus a rich and romantic culture developed around letter-writing and related ornaments; and this item is a perfect example: a lovely hanging letter clip in the shape of an lady’s elegant hand. A young suitor’s post or calling-card would be safely guarded under these delicate fingers, awaiting timely delivery to her mistress . . .

This edition is the original design as produced in Birmingham, England by J. & B. Ratcliff Patentee, c, 1845.  — not a later re-cast or copy! The item’s backplate bares the original hallmark: “J&B Ratcliff Patentees Birmingham”. The detail here is absolutely stunning, crisp and elegant, like a piece of classical sculpture with a dark, rich patination that’s completely original — never polished! And the backplate is far longer than later editions (or copies), extending well past the fingertips, allowing plenty of purchase for letters, as well as ensuring artistic balance to the original composition (by 1850, Ratcliff had severely shortened this feature).

An exquisite antique from the age of romantic elegance!

 

status: sold

 Posted by at 5:47 PM
Jan 252016
 

 

Here is an absolutely exquisite antique portrait miniature painting of a beautiful young woman. The technique and draughtsmanship in this piece is absolutely stunning, the subject well observed and gloriously rendered: from the diaphanous lace of the veil to the bright, bold curls of her blond hair. A multitude of almost microscopic brushstrokes create subtle tones and hues of incredible dynamism and vitality. Truly a museum-quality piece!

The subject is a blushing bride in a Regency style wedding dress of pale violet and ivory white, complete with elbow-length gloves and a lace veil with powder-blue rosettes. The classical background is a firmament of clouds opening after a rainstorm, the proverbial silver-lining promise of happily-ever-after.

This portrait miniature is signed “Helene Bogdan” and dated 1913 on the reverse. And yet, despite the date, everything about this piece harkens back to the early 19th century: the fashions (that dress is distinctly not Edwardian!); the quality of the painting is equal or better than most painted 200 years ago (or more); and even the frame belies its origin. This wooden frame is handmade of wood, and designed to be a traveling love-token, to be either hung from the ring or to stand upon a desk using the expertly built prop (that folds away flush within the frame when not deployed). And the fittings also are of a quality not typically seen in the early 20th century: a solid brass hinge and clips, and an exquisite ormolu banding around the portrait itself (this piece, I might add, is also designed like those seen in the 18th and early 19th century, with triangular tabs  to hold the artwork in place).

To be honest, my expertise on portrait miniatures is limited; however, I would not be surprised if both the date and the signature were added later, long after the original creation of this piece. (And, after all, nothing is known about this artist, and that seems odd, given that her talent is so admirable; wouldn’t such an accomplished mistress of the art-from be well known — if not famous — if she were painting just 100 years ago?) Such is the quality and other clues that mark this portrait miniature as a very important piece. And if, indeed painted in 1913, then this was certainly made to reflect and pay homage to the Regency era of portrait miniatures.

Whatever its history and origin, the quality of the artwork speaks for itself — a true masterpiece!

 

status: available

(please enquire)

 Posted by at 2:10 AM
Dec 132015
 

 

Here’s another fine old handmade object to wet your historical whistle! Long before our modern stainless-steel models, unbreakable water bottles were made of wood. This example dates from the mid-18th century, certainly American Revolutionary War-era. The cylinder of the flask is made of a single piece of carved hardwood, making this a ‘log style’ canteen (as opposed to the later, staved barrel type); the two ends have been finely joined, and held in place by hand-forged brass bands with dovetail fittings; the top of the canteen features a decorative brass pour-spout, as well. The leather strap and peg-stoppers have almost been replaced, but approximate the originals.

 

status: available

(please enquire)

 

 

 Posted by at 6:07 PM
Sep 182015
 

 

In the early 20th century, photography fought to be acknowledged as an authentic art-form in its own right. Consequently, some photographers of the era took inspiration from classical painting and sculpture. This work is a perfect example, taking as its muse Greek architectural decoration, specifically the elegant and noble frieze of the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece . . .

The photographer’s name is Nikolas Boris, about which there is some historical information. Research has found that he was a Greek artist and graduate of the Art Academy of Athens who, as a teenager, immigrated to the United States in 1917, and quickly began a successful career as a photography with a studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although almost unknown today, in his time, Boris was a well known and respected artist, publishing his work in the leading photography magazines of the day. He was known for both landscape and portrait photography that embraced the aesthetic of classical oil painting. The Smithsonian Museum owns nine of his photographs made in Greece during the 1920s. This piece is likely from the same era of his career. (For those seeking more information on Nikolas Boris, the 1930/Janurary—December/vol. XXXVII issue of the photographic monthly, Camera Craft offers a brief biography, as well as high praise reviews of his work.)

The bottom margin of the mounting board is signed with the artist’s name and the total of the piece: “Bas Relief”. The name is a reference to the sculptural friezes of the Parthenon in the Acropolis in Athens which depict similar scenes; by placing the models against a mottled backdrop with diffused lighting,and shooting the pose with a shallow depth-of-field, the artist conveys the sculptural technique of low-life stone carving so famously used by Phidias in the Parthenon’s frieze. One last note on the title of this photograph: I believe this is a very early edition of this piece; apparently, later editions (only one of which I was able to locate) were re-named “Greek Athletes”.

Although very old and in less than perfect condition, this photograph still retains is primal power, the artist’s vision and classical composition captured for immortality. This is a rare artwork, and very likely the only one like it you will find available anywhere else! And it will make a stunning addition any decor or collection of early photography, representations of athleticism in art, or, indeed, any admiration of the male figure in motion.

status: sold

 

 Posted by at 2:02 AM
May 032015
 

 

 

Countless faces: portraits of men, women, and children; endless landscapes; Manifest Destiny and the westward expansion of the nation; the American Civil War; the advent of the automobile . . .  What marvelous, strange and wonderful, or even tragic moments has this lens witnessed and documented?

Manufactured in Paris by famed opticians, Jean Theodor Jamine and Alphonse Darlot, and produced in great numbers in the second half of the 19th century, lenses like this were the Nikon of their day.

Whenever you think of the archetypal, antique wood-box camera, a photographer standing under a black shroud behind it, this was the lens on the front, Jamin-Darlot’s most popular model: the Cône Centraliser featuring rack-and-pinion focus, and a reversible lens-element for taking either portrait or landscape photographs.

This exacting instrument is a triumph of machined brass and ground glass, handmade with precision yet idiosyncratic characteristics that make it desirable to this day — both for aficionados of traditional large-format, wet-plate photography, and also modern devotees that mount these lenses to the latest digital cameras!

 

status: sold

 Posted by at 12:41 AM
Mar 162015
 

 

Pictures machine woven from colorful silk strands were first produced in the 1860s by the Englishman Thomas Stevens. He adapted Jacquard looms, designed to weave intricate decorative patterns, to produce figurative designs. (Jacquard looms created their designs by means of a series of punch-cards that regulated the color and placement of the strands, a method that was, interestingly, an early ancestor of computer programing). The resulting “Stevengraph” process was quickly adopted by various manufacturers in Britain’s textile industry, and the resulting bookmarks, pictures, portraits, and postcards became very collectible — and still are today. 

This is a very rare and unusual example of a large landscape Stevengraph, dating from the early 20th century. The picture is the view from Victoria Peak, located in the (then) British colony of Hong Kong, looking out over Victoria Harbor to mainland China. Judging from the style of architecture and its density, this scene dates from the late Victorian era, c. 1890 — a view that looks rather different today! (See below.)

An absolutely fascinating example of art, industry, social and colonial history woven together in a single, beautiful textile.

 

status: sold

 Posted by at 6:41 PM

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