Antique garden furnishings and framed antique printsSummerhill Gallery

Summerhill Gallery

Rare copperplate engravings of Roman triumphal march
November 2, 2012 - 7:10 pm
Fine Art : Prints : Engravings

Rare copperplate engravings of Roman triumphal marchCaesar's triumphal parade after Andrea Mantegna

These fine double plate engravings were executed by the Dutch engraver Cornelius Huyberts in London ca 1696.  They are after Andrea Mantegna's series of nine oil paintings executed for the Gonzaga Ducal Palace in Mantua between 1484 and 1492.  Mantegna's paintings, considered to be his finest work, were bought by Charles 1 in 1629, and have resided at Hampton Court since 1630.  It was here doubtless that Huyberts found them after being commissioned to produce illustrations for a new edition of Caesar's "Commentaries",  edited and annotated by Samuel Clark.  Jacob Tonson was chosen to publish the volume.  Tonson was publisher of Dryden and Milton , and was the first to acquire the copyright to Shakespeare's works after the "Statute of Anne", which placed copyright under the jurisdiction of goverment regulators.  The finished volume published in 1712, which also included the famous early engraving of a bison, is considered one of the finest publications of the eighteenth century.  The wonderfully designed plates are meant to follow in a continuous, processional, flow each plate separated by decorative pilasters.  They are engraved on rag paper and protected in conservation rag mats.

Francis Willughby bird engravings 1678
November 2, 2012 - 5:58 pm
Fine Art : Prints : Engravings

Francis Willughby bird engravings 1678Prints from the first publication on birds in the English Language

Willughby's "Ornithology" was a joint effort between Francis Willughby (1635-1672) and John Ray (1627-1705).   Willughby (of aristocratic background) was the author of much of the work, but it was Ray ( son of a blacksmith who went on to Cambridge, was ordained, and taught there) who completed and published it.  Ray, several years Willughby's senior, met his friend and colleague at Cambridge.  They shared an interest in natural history and when Ray was forced to relinquish his position on the restoration of the monarchy it was Willughby who enabled him to survive by becoming his patron.  They travelled together doing research in Europe from 1663-1666.  Unfortunately Willughby died at the age of 37 in 1672 leaving Ray a generous annuity.  Ray returned the favor of his patronage by completing and publishing Willughby's work.  Published in Latin in 1676 it was re-published in English in 1678.  The publication in English was perhaps aided by the secularisation of learning evident in the founding of the Royal Society in 1660, coinciding with the Restoration.  Both Ray and Willughby were early Fellows.  The illustrations for the volume were commissioned by Emma Willughby (Francis' wife) and were made by foremost engravers of the period William Sherwin, William Faithorne and the Dutch immigrant Frederick van Hove.  They employed the relatively new method of copper plate engraving, which would revolutionise book illustration for years to come.  The illustrations were published on fine quality rag paper which, other than a little browning at the edges, is in as fine a condition as the day they were produced.  They have been hand-colored with water colors in France ca 1980 by one of the last fine practitioners of this lost art.




Cast iron garden curtain bench marked John McLean
November 1, 2012 - 5:50 pm
Antiques : Furnishings : Garden : Furniture

Cast iron garden curtain bench marked John McLeanJohn McLean and the American curtain bench

John McLean was a machinist and engineer working in New York producing more everyday industrial objects such as fire hydrants before branching out into decorative iron work.  In this he followed the pattern of many others involved in the nineteenth century iron industry.  In 1891 he received a patent for a cast iron bench ( see Barbara Israel  "Antique Garden Ornament" p223), and produced a number  of designs in the following years.  He worked in the uniquely American style of the "curatin bench", which consisted of a formal three panelled back incorporating scrolling designs, each panel surmounted by a decorative crest.  Typically there was an apron to face off the bench seat and sometimes decorative scrolling beneath the arm rests as well, and sometimes variation in the scrolling design between the three panels (see trocadero # 1068219 elsewhere on my website).  As with many manufacturers his designs were not always his own and were reproduced by many others (see a bench in the same design trocadero # 1068222).  Many makers did not bother to label their wares but John McLean did - as we can see stamped on the face of the this bench, and sometimes less obtrusively in the form of a sunburst on the back of the crest surmounting the central panel ( see # 1068219).  Marking one's own work has to have been a sign of pride in one's workmanship, not to mention a useful way of advertising one's  presence.  Another sign of a quality product, and rare for its time, is the zinc coating applied  after casting to prevent rust.  We can see here that it has been quite successful.  Zinc coating was used by the JL Mott foundry and Fiske in many of their products.  Note that zinc coating is included as part of the re-finishing process by modern day quality media blasting and powder coating firms.  

Rare spring steel button chairs and table set
November 1, 2012 - 5:33 pm
Vintage Arts : Furnishings : Garden : Furniture

Rare spring steel button chairs and table setCarre strap metal table

The table here is a rare find indeed.  I had only ever seen a photograph of it in some forgotten publication.  I have seen only one other Carre style table in the flesh - smaller than this, circular, and with a wire mesh top.  Probably earlier than 1950, but badly beaten up.  The four side chairs are part of the original set.  The original armchairs were of the Casablanca variety, and didn't sit as well in the grouping.  I waited until I found two suitable armchairs before I put this set on the web.  Now all they need is a new home!

Rare lead garden urn, French or English ca 1720
November 1, 2012 - 5:31 pm
Antiques : Furnishings : Garden : Fixtures

Rare lead garden urn, French or English ca 1720Classic Lead Garden Ornament

Lead garden ornament has a long history but its popularity has come in fits and spurts rather than a long slow evolution.  Its heyday was probably in its beginnings rather than its more recent history.  Its grandest manifestations, in figures and large vases, were created around the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries as a means of replicating sculptures of fine pieces such as those found at Versailles. Long before cast iron became a possibility lead was used.  It was impervious to the elements, malleable, even paintable - as in the case of many figures of pipers, shepherds, rustic maidens...  It's downside became apparent within a century or so as those wonderful figures began to lean, variously beginning to collapse under their own weight.  This is why many that still remain are leaning at odd angles or a propped up with supports.  It wasn't until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, after the advent of cast iron, that lead ornaments started to re-appear in quantity, only now most were much smaller in scale, to fill garden spaces that had themselves shrunk considerably, middle class gardens as opposed to aristocratic estates.  Along with the smaller size came less the likelihood of long term collapse. 

This piece is a rare one indeed.  I was told it was from a collector who had hoarded it, and a number of other rare pieces, that he had found in France many years before.  It is stylistically a very early piece and its patina could only have developed over a few hundred years.  It has been re-built at the stem so as to be able to support its own weight again, though the repairs are not visible from the outside.  It would be quite a conversation piece outside in any garden or as an indoor sculpture.  Something like this does not surface too often.

Rare carved stone sculptures of embracing putti
November 1, 2012 - 5:28 pm
Antiques : Furnishings : Garden : Statuary

Rare carved stone sculptures of embracing puttiPalm Beach Putti

Where do I start.  These architectural elements, now become wonderful garden statuary are, to my mind, a meeting of the old and new worlds.  The male putti are in the classic European tradition, chubby-cheeked and perfectly at home in their traditional garb (or lack thereof), though perhaps a little older in their figures if not their faces.  The female putti, having less of a tradition to subscribe to, are bold, erotic and in-your-face beautiful, exuding self confidence.  Their poses, artfully contrived, place them quite literally and figuratively in each other's arms.  One pair faces inward in an embrace of togetherness, a slight smile on the boy's face.  The other pair faces outward, facing the larger world.  In each case the girls' hair seems to flow into the folds of the fabric that envelops them.  These pieces are truly New World and not just another another replication of baroque European garden ornament.  Finding indigenous garden sculpture is very rare. Finding an indigenous artistic expression of it is much rarer.  

These pieces are of carved stone, one with a blue/gray tinge (though not to the degree that the photos have picked up).  Perhaps a form of limestone?  Both have been subject to some weathering and the pitting caused by such exposure.  They are supposedly from a Palm Beach estate.   I say "supposedly" as the former owners who have had them for some years never asked which particular estate when they purchased them.  They have resided indoors not far from Palm Beach since that time.  They were purportedly part of an outside wall surrounding a pool; different placement would certainly explain different wear patterning, and such wear would conform to this usage.

If anyone has any useful information I would certainly appreciate it.


Rare strap spring rocker marked Carre, Paris ca 1890
November 1, 2012 - 5:27 pm
Antiques : Furnishings : Garden : Furniture

Rare strap spring rocker marked Carre, Paris ca 1890Francois Carre


I let out one of those rare gasps of amazement when I found this.  It is not only a "Carre style chair", it is made by Carre and marked as such.  This style of garden chair is one of the most resilient, having maintained its popularity from the inception of the form, in the 1860's up to this day.  It received one of the earliest patents of its kind in the US in 1866; made out to the French firm of Lalance and Grosjean recently moved to New York (see Barbara Israel "Antique Garden Ornament" p 182).   I have given this an 1890 production date, but that could well be very conservative, it could be 20 years older.  I don't know that anyone is producing these spring metal chairs at the moment.  The latest versions came out of Mexico, but even they now qualify as vintage.  The style can be found, but rarely with all its elements intact.  Typically one or more of the steel bands will be broken, either through usage or rust, and they are very difficult and expensive to repair, assuming you can find someone to do it.

All of which makes this chair so much more interesting.  It appears to me to be physically stronger than more recent varieties, and is superbly hand-bent and hand-crafted in every respect.  Miraculously, there are no signs of rust.  It has been well loved and cared for.  It is that rarity of a garden item that is both a  work of sculpture and comfortable.  Interestingly enough it also takes the form of many of the earliest garden chairs from the mid nineteenth century of being more of a chaise longue  than an upright rocker.  To top it off the rocker versions of this style of chair are the rarest. 


Antique folk art American eagle with spreading wings
November 1, 2012 - 5:25 pm
Antiques : Decorative Art : Folk Art

Antique folk art American eagle with spreading wingsIconic folk eagle

I very much liked the bold, graphic aspect of this piece.  It is brash, visually strong, iconic, and would make a great display item on a wall.  It is larger than most folk art eagles I have seen. I wonder about its origins.  It appears to have come from New England, where I found it.  It has been carved by hand and assembled in three pieces using metal banding and, in addition, some old horse glue to reinforce the head.  The carving is nicely done before gesso was added and multiple layers of paint were applied - starting with ochre, raw sienna, black ...all contributing to the rich brown finish.   I think it's striking.  My wife doesn't like it at all - is it the pointy beak?

Set of four Carre style button spring steel arm chairs
November 1, 2012 - 5:22 pm
Vintage Arts : Furnishings : Garden

Set of four Carre style button spring steel arm chairsGreat design never dies

Set of four Carre style button spring steel arm chairs

These Carre style garden armchairs are one of the later evolutions of the species.  They are from a Cape Cod beach front estate filled with lots of  wonderful and rare pieces.  I say this because it reinforces my contention that newer pieces, if well made, and regardless of their place of origin, can stand side by side with the best of old Europe. They were manufactured in Mexico some thirty odd years ago, and are as well made as any of the twentieth century variants of this style.  They have also been very well taken care of.  They have the scrolling arms of the very early Carre pieces missing from most 20th c variants, and they do have the arm rest supports typical of later versions.