Category Archive 'Antiques'

14 May 2015

New Old Rug

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You can display old rugs like this as art.

Good old ones have lots of wear, or costs lots of thousands.

Close-up view of pattern.

Described by seller as an “antique Caucasian Gendje rug, 19th Century, size: 37” x 65”, natural, vegetable dyes, worn condition.”

JBOC’s notes on Gendje rugs.

I thought I’d post some photos, since Bird Dog over at Maggies’s Farm is an aficionado of old rugs. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you just how I came to appreciate shot-down old carpets exhibiting lots of wear.

20 Sep 2014

Roentgen Royal Desk

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From the workshop of Abraham & David Roentgen, made for King Frederick William II of Prussia.

The clueless ninny writing at Metapicture says:

Watch what it can do and then remember this was all done with hand tools.

Young people who have never been in personal contact with the production of physical objects and who have been brought up to believe in the Whig Theory of History and the notion of Coueist Technological Progress inevitably suppose that machines can do everything better. In reality, if you want real precision, you build it with hand tools.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

26 Nov 2013

Not Fond of the Emperor

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Also in the December Maine Antiques Digest Letter from London, sold at the 18-19 September last Sale 1186, the Collection of architect and scholar Professor Sir Albert Richardson, P.R.A., a patriotic Georgian Pearlware chamberpot, painted on the exterior with a band of ochre leaves within brown trailing circular branches and bands, and featuring within a bust of Napoleon accompanied by the motto: PEREAT. Let Him Perish!

The item, Lot 271, estimated to bring £400 – £600 ($610 – $900), actually fetched a whopping price of £6,250 ($10,081), despite a (repaired) crack across, a chip, and more than one riveted repair.

12 Oct 2013

Barn Ornament

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Down in Somerset County, next Saturday, the John Henry Mellot auction company will be holding an estate auction at a local farm.

Since they posted a photo of this round object mounted decoratively at the gable of the barn, I expect it will probably be for sale.

I’m not actually looking to own one of these myself, but I am curious as to what is the identity of this large, obviously antique, article of agricultural technology?

09 Oct 2013

A Centre County Foot

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We’re planning to spend the winter at our Pennsylvania farm, something we’ve never previously done in the quarter century that we’ve owned the place.

I’ve been frequenting farm auctions recently trying to find a cheap, but useable tractor. Last Saturday, at one of these, I picked up a 1994 Ford F-250 pickup with a snowplow. We have more than a hundred yards of driveway, and I’ve been worrying about getting marooned.

At the same auction, I could not resist buying an ancient, paneled and red-painted stepback kitchen cupboard. It was in ruinous condition, missing a piece of crown molding and several drawers. It had been sitting in the farmer’s barn, demoted from the place of honor in the farmhouse kitchen generations ago, and consigned to the mercies of the mice.

Its two pieces were still massive and when it was about to be knocked down for $80, I bid $90 and bought it myself. Karen was shaking her head at me, but I told her for that price I’d be glad to put in my own barn and store tools in it.

Someday, if I find the right furniture restorer, I might have the missing bits replaced and rehabilitate it. It certainly merits it. The auctioneer, trying to drum up some more bidding, reproached the crowd for its lack of interest, describing it as the “real article” and mentioning that it has “a Centre County foot.”

If I can get Karen to take a picture, I’ll put one up sometime.

Why are we moved by antique country furniture? The best answer I know is given in the moving 1981 cartoon Crac! by the Québécois director Frédéric Back. Just picture Pennsylvania Germans instead of Québéc French and a huge kitchen cupboard instead of a rocking chair.

14 Mar 2013

Oldest Piece of Furniture Still In Use in Britain

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A furniture retail chain, as a promotion for British furniture, set out to find the oldest piece of furniture still in daily domestic use in Britain.

I don’t suppose their search was absolutely exhaustive, but they did find the Berkeley Bed, listed in a 1608 family inventory, used by 15th generations of the Berkeley family, and still being slept in by John Berkeley, 81, and his wife Georgina, 73, in the Great State Bedroom in Berkeley Castle, site of the presumed murder of Edward II in 1327, and the third oldest continuously-occupied castle in England after the royal fortresses of the Tower of London and Windsor Castle), and the oldest to be continuously owned and occupied by the same family.

Lady Georgina Berkeley testified to the Telegraph that: “Despite its great age, it is the most comfortable bed in the castle.”

26 Sep 2012

Collecting Addiction

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An opium pipe made of Canton enamel with a jade bowl.

Steven Martin, interviewed in Collectors Weekly, developed a connoisseur’s interest in collecting antique opium pipes and smoking paraphernalia, which ultimately led to his publishing two books: in 2007, The Art of Opium Antiques and in 2012: Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction.

You have to give him credit. All collecting is addictive, but Martin managed to achieve two addictions for the price of one.

I met an expat from Austria, who was able to get opium that had been prepared specifically for smoking. This is a reason why opium smoking will never come back. First, the paraphernalia is so bulky and easy to identify that there’s just no way you can hide an opium pipe and lamp under your jacket and take it around with you. Secondly, while tons and tons of opium is harvested every year in places like Afghanistan and Burma, it’s all going straight to heroin. There’s just no demand for chandu, which is what they call opium that’s been prepared specifically for smoking.

However, this Austrian was somehow able to get enough raw opium to prepare his own chandu for smoking. And I had this bright idea—bright at the time, I thought. I said to him, “Well, you’ve got this high-quality opium for smoking, the type that isn’t even being produced anymore. You’re the only one that’s got it, and I’ve got all this great, old paraphernalia, some of it in pristine condition.” So I asked him if he’d be interested in combining the two. Over the next few years, he and I collaborated. I’d go out and visit him every month or two in the rural area where he lived, and he set aside a room in his house specifically for smoking. We decorated the room with Chinese antiques like scrolls and a traditional opium bed. …

I was going through books and getting ideas, and we tried to make it as authentic as possible. As I was still collecting and still getting different pieces of paraphernalia and pipes, I would bring them to his place and we would try them out to see how they worked. In old books, we’d read about how some of the old smokers preferred a pipe whose stem was made of sugarcane to one made of bamboo, while others preferred bamboo to a pipe made of ivory. The old books said this, but why? That’s what I wanted to know.

I was smoking so infrequently that I felt it was research. That’s how I justified it. He and I smoked every month to two months. Everything seemed fine. I started to believe that the alarmist vocabulary you find in the old books about the evils of opium was just completely overblown. I had been smoking for years and still wasn’t hooked. …

[O]pium smoking is very involved, very time-consuming. At first, that’s what I was attracted to, the whole ritual aspect of it. But then I started bringing the stuff to my apartment. That’s when things went crazy. I went from smoking opium a couple of times a week to round-the-clock. I tried getting off the stuff, but couldn’t. It was just impossible, so painful. I ended up checking into a Buddhist monastery a couple of hours north of Bangkok that specializes in treating people with addictions. …

You go through this period where it’s just unbelievably good. You just think, “I’ve discovered this great, little secret that nobody knows about.” And then at some point, it just turns the tables on you. You go from looking forward to it to absolutely needing it. It’s insidious the way it plays with your brain. It just makes life without the pipe, without the intoxication, seem really brutal and pointless. You get to the point where you can only relate to your smoking friends.

04 Jul 2011

Pair of Singing Bird Pistols Sold by Christie’s (Hong Kong)

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Not useful for combat, these exquisite mechanical toys made in Geneva circa 1820 were probably used for amorous duels in some European court.

Bloomberg reported the sale results.

A pair of singing-bird pistols made of gold and inlaid with gems sold for HK$45.5 million ($5.8 million) at a Christie’s International sale in Hong Kong [on May 30th].

A huge round of applause erupted after a 10-minute fight that Christie’s head of watches Aurel Bacs described as “an epic bidding war between two of the world’s most connoisseur collectors.” The only publicly known matching pair in the world were included in a 456-lot sale of timepieces that raised HK$164.7 million ($21.2 million), the highest tally for an Asian watch sale, the London-based auction house said. Two Patek Philippe watches sold for more than $1 million each.

Hat tip to Fred Lapides.

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