Puzzles Please

 

I recently noticed this excellent set of children's puzzle cards printed in England around 1800 by Benjamin Baker. Each image is engraved and hand-colored and the set retains its original tooled leather case.  The cards depict everything from childhood pursuits like badminton, donkey rides, and mock battles, to animals: exotic and domestic, to a large plum pudding.

The images are wonderful as they are both very adult and at the same time intended for children. 

The set sold in February at PBA Galleries in San Francisco for $3,250.

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Corrections..

A Regency Mahogany 'Corrections' Chair, c. 1815

A Regency Mahogany 'Corrections' Chair, c. 1815

furniture provides physical evidence of A way of life...

This English Regency "corrections" chair (c.1815) is a great example.  Made of mahogany with a fashionable lyre-back splat, this chair is like any high-end upper-middle class dining chair. However, upon closer inspection one can detect evidence that this chair served a different purpose.

First, its size indicates that it was made for a child. Second, the high seat was likely intended to keep the child from jumping down easily. Third, the sharply vertical back would ensure that the child's posture would be ram-rod straight. The final piece of evidence is the chair's high-quality.  It was made of a costly, luxury wood and carved with detail and skill. So what can this chair tell us about the person who used it in the early 19th century? 

Well, its high quality indicates that it was not a piece of furniture made to be hidden away in the nursery. It was probably used in a more formal setting (i.e. dining or sitting room) and serve as a sort of 'child-display' (I just made that up); a spot where one's child can be presented, sit quietly (trapped at high altitudes)  and display impeccable posture. So what have we learned about the English Regency household from this simple chair? Proper posture and good behavior was highly valued in children in the Early 19th century, and that it must be taught through conditioning and "correction" and that was worth the investment.

Can you really put a price tag on good posture?

 

Under Glass...

Glass Display domes have become a ubiquitous design scheme of late. In truth, one can be very creative when deciding what sorts of items and how they wish to place them under a glass dome.  Their roots can be traced back to the Victorian era, a time when people were fascinated by nature, collecting and display. A time when people began large migrations to cities where they were confronted with a constant battle to keep the filth of the outside city at bay. Glass domes enabled owners to display their valuable, rare or decorative items while protecting them from coal dust and smoke (a result of heating and city living throughout the 19th-century). Anything from wax flowers, wax desserts, sculptures, specimens of nature or  taxidermy creatures could be found under glass domes that adorned mantles or library tables in the Victorian home. The glass dome not only allowed delicate items to be viewed, but also conveyed a Victorian sensibility of pride and preservation of one's home. Thus glass display domes became symbols of prosperous middle-class life.  

Dome with 18th-Century Human Skull

Dome with 18th-Century Human Skull

E.H. Shepard, illustrator of  Winne the Pooh,  captured a scene of his childhood by the hearth.

E.H. Shepard, illustrator of Winne the Pooh, captured a scene of his childhood by the hearth.

A Victorian (esque) Vignette

A Victorian (esque) Vignette

Glass Dome with Butterfly Specimen

Glass Dome with Butterfly Specimen

Victorian Glass Dome available at www.van-royen.com

Victorian Glass Dome available at www.van-royen.com

Glass Domes to Protect an Assortment of Items

Glass Domes to Protect an Assortment of Items

Peacocking around...

Peacock Chairs are pretty much the most flattering chair you can own…seriously. It's not surprising that 1960's beauties were always being photographed in them (who doesn't look good in a throne?). Furthermore, they have the ability to make any space look chic (not just the porch of your Bahamian villa). Bring one inside and mix with patterns: rugs, fabrics, pillows, whatever….both you and your room will look great. 

Marilyn and her Peacock

Marilyn and her Peacock

A Fantastic Pair of Peacocks available at Van Royen Antiques

A Fantastic Pair of Peacocks available at Van Royen Antiques

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot

The San Giorgio Hotel, Mykonos

The San Giorgio Hotel, Mykonos

Mixing of styles

Mixing of styles

The Glade @ Central London

The Glade @ Central London

"Derelicte" Peacock

"Derelicte" Peacock

Coral Cure-All...

Coral can do no wrong! Since ancient times red coral was believed to cure madness, give wisdom, prevent sterility, calm storms, and provide protection against plague and pestilence.(Oh my!)  

As a talisman used to ward off the evil eye and bad luck, it was common throughout history to see children and young women to wear coral necklaces for protection and to find babies' rattles made out of the wonderful stuff. 

The Goldsmith   by Petrus Christus, 1449. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Goldsmith  by Petrus Christus, 1449. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

American Silver and Coral Baby's Rattle, 1735-1745. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

American Silver and Coral Baby's Rattle, 1735-1745. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of a Boy with a Coral Rattle, 1650-1660.

Portrait of a Boy with a Coral Rattle, 1650-1660.

18th-Century Mahogany  'Cabinet of Curiosity'.  Collecting  & Display,    Alistair McAlpine

18th-Century Mahogany  'Cabinet of Curiosity'. Collecting  & Display,  Alistair McAlpine

Faux Red Coral Sconces (source unknown!) That vibrant red color is so striking it is not uncommon to find imitation coral designs.

Faux Red Coral Sconces (source unknown!) That vibrant red color is so striking it is not uncommon to find imitation coral designs.

 An exotic deep-sea creature,  Coral's has always been difficult to obtain and scarce in quantity. Thus, it is often found the locked doors of so called 'Cabinets of Curiosities'. Today, because of its scarcity, red coral is a protected species and most large specimens are usually antique, difficult to obtain and costly. 

Antique Giltwood 'Cabinet of Curiosity'.   Collecting  & Display,   Alistair McAlpine

Antique Giltwood 'Cabinet of Curiosity'.  Collecting  & Display,  Alistair McAlpine

Red Coral Specimen on a Carved Wood Base   Van Royen $350

Red Coral Specimen on a Carved Wood Base

Van Royen $350

Coral's unique red color is described by no other name. 

A Very Large and Antique Piece of Red Coral available for sale  Van Royen

A Very Large and Antique Piece of Red Coral available for sale Van Royen

Coral for Decor!

The Lover's Eye

It's February and when we are not thinking about ice-slicks and snow plows we are thinking of love…….

Nowadays you can carry around a digital photo (clothed or otherwise) of your loved one on your phone at all times, but in the late 1700's and early 1800's it was popular to have a "lover's eye" (a term later coined by New York-based antique collector Edith Weber), a tiny portrait of your beloved's eye, pinned or worn on a necklace close to one's heart. Unlike today's threat of cyber leaks and phone "break ins" the lover's eye was able to conceal the portrait sitters identity thus a treasure between only two people. 

Georgian Style Snake Border

Georgian Style Snake Border

Inscribed initials on reverse: “J.A.T.,” “W.V.T.,” “J.M.T.” Circa 1835–40

Inscribed initials on reverse: “J.A.T.,” “W.V.T.,” “J.M.T.” Circa 1835–40

Lover's Eye Painting by  FATIMA RONQUILLO

Lover's Eye Painting by FATIMA RONQUILLO

Pendent Lover's Eye

Pendent Lover's Eye

Just one eye is enough

Just one eye is enough

Salad Days...

I would like to talk about a little lady named Dodie Thayer. I (embarrassingly) only recently came upon her name when I was admiring a wonderful lettuce tureen that had come up for auction. Naturally, as an antique lover and flea market rummager, I have come across pieces of this so-called "lettuce ware" and have thought nothing of it (read: thought it was pretty hideous). HOWEVER, once I saw this magnificent tureen made by one Dodie Thayer "Pottery Queen of Palm Beach", my opinion changed…..forever. 

The life-changing tureen…

The life-changing tureen…

Thayer's work was a design staple throughout the 70's and the 80's. Famous collectors included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Perry Como, the Duchess of Windsor, C.Z. Guest, Dina Merrill, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, and Brooke Martin Astor. When Queen Elizabeth visited a horse farm in Kentucky in 1986, her hosts served lunch on Lettuce Ware specially ordered for the occasion.

Autumnal Cabbage

Autumnal Cabbage

Dodie Thayer Signature

Dodie Thayer Signature

Cabbage Candlesticks

Cabbage Candlesticks

Lettuceware in action...

Lettuceware in action...

Dodie Thayer Lettuce Ware collection at C.Z. Guest's country home.

Dodie Thayer Lettuce Ware collection at C.Z. Guest's country home.

Ms. Dodie Thayer….queen of lettuce ware (and bold print dresses…apparently)

Ms. Dodie Thayer….queen of lettuce ware (and bold print dresses…apparently)

Lock it up

Nowadays most locks are boring number codes….birthdays, phone digits…..blah! A hundred years ago you could lock up your treasures with your favorite word! or perhaps the name of a lover (scandal!)  I think we can all agree that society has regressed…..

Antique Combination Locks with codes: "EMMA", "LADY" AND "ALBERT" ..the fourth code is unknown (I've tried).

(For sale at www.van-royen.com! So you can try your hand at the fourth lock…)

Advertisement for Combination locks from 1907

Advertisement for Combination locks from 1907

Snow Goggle Season!

In light of the Northeast's recent snow (ahem) storm Juno. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss a little winter fashion. Often touted as the precursor to sunglasses, inuit snow goggles have been around for centuries! Designed to protect the wearer from snow-blindness and sunlight intensity while hunting or traveling, these fashion forward items can be found in both wood, bone and a number of styles (depending on your face shape). 

Northwest Coast Inuit Snow Goggles

Northwest Coast Inuit Snow Goggles

Decorated Ivory Snow Goggles by the Punuk Eskimos of Alaska (1200-1600)

Decorated Ivory Snow Goggles by the Punuk Eskimos of Alaska (1200-1600)

Carved Bone

Carved Bone

Sun-Safe and Stylish

Sun-Safe and Stylish

Classic Bone and Leather

Classic Bone and Leather

Westernized Wood Snow Goggles

Westernized Wood Snow Goggles

Wood and Bone c. 1890- 1930

Wood and Bone c. 1890- 1930

Ivory Snow Goggles from the Baffin Island In Canada

Ivory Snow Goggles from the Baffin Island In Canada

Quick, Hide the Tea!...

If you were alive any time between the 17th and 19th Centuries and had the money ($$$) to buy tea you probably needed somewhere to lock it up from nosey guests and sticky-fingered servants. Enter the Tea Caddy. Crafted in a number of shapes and materials and lovingly displayed, it is the fruitwood tea caddy that has stolen my heart.

Tea Caddies made in the Shapes of Apples, Pears and Melons throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries. They were typically made of fruitwood (obviously).

Settle Down Now...

Yes, it is just a high-backed bench, but it is called a "settle" and that is what you are expected to do…settle down into this cozy nook. Settles have been around for hundreds of years designed to protect its occupant from draughts in medieval buildings. Usually placed by the fire, these wonderfully dramatic pieces can be still be found in old English pubs today. 

 
Dr. Syntax Reading his Tour in the Kitchen of the Dun Cow,   aquatint by T. Rowlandson (1817)

Dr. Syntax Reading his Tour in the Kitchen of the Dun Cow,  aquatint by T. Rowlandson (1817)

 

Hats Off…

Stove Pipe, High Hat, Chimney Pot Hat, Cylinder, Topper….the top hat is both ridiculous and wonderful. Replacing the popular "tricorne" hat at the end of the 18th century, the top hat maintained popularity as a symbol of "urban respectability" until the middle of the 19th century. Like women's lavish hairstyles in the previous century, top hats grew in size and proportion until the sensible invention of the collapsible top hat in 1812. What's not to love?

A gentleman is always dressed in a top hat...

A gentleman is always dressed in a top hat...

Top Hat Silhouette 

Top Hat Silhouette 

Top Hat Styles

Top Hat Styles

Beaver Skin Top Hat with Leather Box

Beaver Skin Top Hat with Leather Box

Hat Banks

Hat Banks

American Campaign Hat

American Campaign Hat

1970's Champagne Cooler

1970's Champagne Cooler

Top Hat Dandies

Top Hat Dandies

Ladies Riding Habit c.1900

Ladies Riding Habit c.1900

Lawn Games...

It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean we can't take a moment to appreciate the silhouette of a well designed garden chair…Forced to withstand the elements, these metal chairs are works of art (too much?…well they are)

High-Backed Wrought Iron

High-Backed Wrought Iron

Vintage Jockey Scale

Vintage Jockey Scale

Pair of Rusty MII-126's

Pair of Rusty MII-126's

Orange Cafe

Orange Cafe

Graphic English

Graphic English

Simple Cafe in Blue

Simple Cafe in Blue

Perforated Iron with a Raking Leg

Perforated Iron with a Raking Leg

French Tennis  c.1930's

French Tennis  c.1930's

French c. 1930's

French c. 1930's

He Cuts a Striking Silhouette….

From the mid-18th to early 19th centuries, paper-cut silhouettes served as a less-expensive means of portraiture. While you can find cheap versions at flea markets and rummage sales, detailed versions are quite remarkable. Alone, a single silhouette, may be too precious for modern interiors, but a collection of silhouettes is truly striking.  

Silhouettes from all eras...

Silhouettes from all eras...

 
18th Century Reverse Painted Mirror

18th Century Reverse Painted Mirror

 
Staircase of Silhouettes. 1850 Charleston mansion, interior by Mario Buatta via  Architectural Digest

Staircase of Silhouettes. 1850 Charleston mansion, interior by Mario Buatta via Architectural Digest

Silhouette Styles

Silhouette Styles

Drawing a Silhouette   by   Johann Rudolph Schellenberg   (1740–1806).

Drawing a Silhouette by Johann Rudolph Schellenberg (1740–1806).

A Strong 19th-Century Profile

A Strong 19th-Century Profile

Antique Prosthetics….not just for creeps and nostalgic doctors…..

This wonderful 19th-Century Hook Prosthetic was recently sold on 1stdibs for nearly $2000 . These days antique prosthetics can sell in the thousands, making one question how "curious' one's "cabinet of curiosities" must really be? My personal tendency is to steer clear of the macabre, but a simple search through modern antiques dealer's collections you are sure to stumble across the odd medical ephemera, bottled specimen, or wacky circus side show material. Don't believe me? Check out Obscura over on Ave A.

 
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So if you are not ready to take the plunge into the truly creepy, might I recommend an item such as above. This piece is particularly special as it is both sculptural, totally improbable to our modern minds, a little scary AND YET evokes fond and (somehow) friendly memories of Captain Hook. 

If nothing else, a truly great conversation piece…

Ottoman Artwork...

If sculpture, craftsmanship and function had a baby it would be this beautiful ottoman……Franco Albini (1905-1977) was a noted Italian Architect and Interior Designer. Bravo.

In its natural habitat...

In its natural habitat...

Franco Abini Woven Rattan Ottoman

Franco Abini Woven Rattan Ottoman