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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for December 2008
In This Issue
- Happy Holidays from Ruby Lane!
- Celebrating the Christmas Tree
- Bakelite Dress Clips - a Sound and Affordable Investment by Jonathan Fried of Sally's Turn
- Sir Edwin "The Master" - The Rise of Dog Portraiture by Susan Green of Green's
- December Lane Sampler: Vintage Clothing & Accessories
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM RUBY LANE!
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CELEBRATING THE CHRISTMAS TREE
The Christmas Tree is one of the most widely used symbols of the Holiday Season. Along with our version of Santa Claus, it only began to see widespread use in the 19th century.
Christmas celebrations in the United States often drew on the traditions of the culture from which our early settlers came. After the Revolutionary War, many of these traditions were associated with England, and some fell into disfavor. Some settlers had religious objections to the tradition of celebrating Christmas which pre-date this time.
There were problems in England, during their Civil War, when the Puritan Parliamentarians actually banned the observance. Riots broke out in Canterbury, and the insurrection seems to have consisted of the decoration of the town with holly by the Royalists. The Puritans brought similar restraint to the New World, banning the holiday in Boston from 1659 until 1681. Other colonies were free to celebrate the Holiday, with the German settlers of Pennsylvania being some of the most conspicuous. The Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania may be where the first Christmas trees appeared on American soil, although nearby Easton and Lancaster also make the claim. Connecticut claims the first Christmas tree on American soil was erected by a captured Hessian mercenary.
The tradition of the decorated tree goes back to at least the 16th century in Germany. The tree first appeared as a Holiday decoration in England during the reign of George III, who was also King of Hanover. It remained popular with the Anglo-German royal family and was copied widely by many in the United States by the mid-19th century. German immigrants helped spread this tradition and make it part of an American Christmas as well. August Imgard, a German immigrant, is credited with the first decoration of a tree with candy canes, in 1847. His grave, in Wooster, Ohio, is marked by a pine which is decorated every Christmas, in memory of this.
It was during this period that the caricatures of Santa Claus by American illustrator Thomas Nast gave us the version of Santa Claus which we are still familiar with today. By mid-century, Clement Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas, published in 1823, was part of America's Christmas tradition.
The Christmas Tree is also one of the most widely used jewelry motifs. While jewelry is adorned with all the traditional icons of Christmas-holly, Santa, reindeer-no other motif is probably featured on as many different pieces of jewelry as the Christmas Tree.
It would be hard to find a major maker of costume jewelry that has not made a piece featuring a Christmas Tree. While Weiss may be the best known (and most copied and counterfeited), Art, Coro, Eisenberg, Florenza, Hobe, Kramer, Lisner, Monet, and Napier have all made jewelry on this theme.
The shop owners on Ruby Lane have a fine selection of these vintage pieces, and many of our artisan jewelers make contemporary Christmas designs.
BAKELITE DRESS CLIPS - A SOUND AND AFFORDABLE INVESTMENT BY JONATHAN FRIED OF SALLY'S TURN
As many readers will know, Bakelite was wildly popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It eventually fell out of favor, spent years in obscurity, and then rose again to its former glory - only this time the prices for the best bangles, pins, and necklaces quickly became either A) high, B) prohibitive, or C) insane. What was originally an affordable and often useful piece of American folk art in the depths of the Depression ( the first one! ), is now an investment and/or a luxury on a par with gold.
I've often wondered about the reasons why Bakelite dress clips have been mostly left out of that story. For me, they represent the same artistry and inventiveness as do the greatest of the bangles and pins and buckles. The only difference I see is the size of the canvas.
It's changing a little bit. I'm sure the current ample supply of wearable Bakelite dress clips plays a factor in the low demand they still experience - after all, they were mass produced. But then so were many other items from the 30s and 40s which now command astronomical prices. And mint condition dress clips are now starting to turn up less and less. Plus, though there were many made, it was still a finite amount. Their time just hasn't come yet.
I suppose one reason that dress clips have not yet fully caught on is that they are by and large an unfamiliar piece of jewelry to our 2008 eyes. A woman in the 1930s was likely to have read or heard of Coco Chanel's famous declaration that dress clips were the most important items of jewelry a woman could own. Certainly their versatility was unchallenged. Given the vast range of design, size, color and embellishment that Bakelite dress clips appeared in, the 1930s was clearly a time when that most important piece of jewelry was also widely available and affordable in any imaginable version. It must have been too easy to match a dress clip to an item of clothing. For every scarf that could use a clip, the thousands of options must have been both an overwhelming and an enormously fun challenge to meet.
There are places where I do see dress clips worn - at antique shows. The most recent example was at the wonderful Vintage Show here in Manhattan in October. I saw numerous beautifully carved Bakelite dress clips holding things up, keeping things closed, and generally behaving like a useful and authentic piece of vintage jewelry should, I also saw many women wearing mismatched pairs. It was intentional - these people were dressed to be seen - they weren't kidding around. So there are places where one can see these wonderful objects being fully used and enjoyed, even in new ways. I just haven't seen it happen yet in the general public.
I believe that a well-carved Bakelite dress clip in top condition is one of the best investments a collector can make in 2008, whether or not the buyer is on a budget. They still come in an amazing variety of colors and styles, they are still affordable, plus they can be worn. Try wearing that Unger Brothers tea service.
For this reason, I've listed many such clips in my shop, Sally's Turn. I encourage collectors to take a few minutes and look at a couple of them with fresh eyes. It's true that they are still considered the poor relations of bangles, but I believe that within a few years, as happens with poor relations, they will begin to share down-stage center.
And great place to see a stunning array of these clips is in a relatively new book, THE ART OF THE CARVER, by Deborah Lyons and Lyn Tortoriello. Both authors have superb shops on Ruby Lane. The number and variety of magnificently carved Bakelite dress clips on display in this book is reason enough to reconsider their appeal and their future.
Years ago, when I was in college, a popular Providence antique store had a display of carved, laminated, dotted, faceted, you-name-it Bakelite bangles. They started at $20 for singles and went up to around $45 for matching pairs. Time has passed and now that's the price range, and it's a good one, for top-notch Bakelite dress clips at Sally's Turn here on Ruby Lane.
(Please note that this essay is not in the least bit scientific. My own experience is the only data.)
We invite you to visit Sally's Turn
SIR EDWIN "THE MASTER" - THE RISE OF DOG PORTRAITURE BY SUSAN GREEN OF GREEN'S
In the Western, pre-Renaissance world, subjects considered suitable for master artists were biblical themes and the great mythic stories from the classics. Painting the portrait of a humble dog would have been unthinkable. And even as a bit player the pet dog [a griffin terrier] only makes his first appearance in 1434, in Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage - the first painting in the history of Western art to realistically portray a domestic interior.
Pet dogs were an essential feature of court life during the Renaissance - many royals feeling, quite reasonably, that their pet dog was the only living creature which they could entirely trust. At first, royal dogs were painted as the ‘face in the corner' in much larger compositions, or were placed in hunting scenes. But this all changed with the advent of the Italian genius Titian (c.1480-1576) who introduced the classic dual portrait of royal with faithful friend. Titian's first patron was Marchese Frederico Gonzago I of Mantua - a Renaissance aristocrat and patron of the arts who was simply mad about dogs. He owned over a hundred in his lifetime.
One might have thought that Titian would have painted Gonzago with a hunting hound, or a mastiff, breeds which implied virility, puissance and wealth. But instead, he chose to paint him holding a sweet lap dog. This was, of course an inspired choice - for the message that the portrait gave to the Renaissance world was that Gonzago, was so powerful, so masculine and so self assured, that he had no need of symbols to make this clear. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V - the most powerful man in the world at this time - saw this ground breaking work and commissioned Titian to paint him with his Irish wolfhound. Titian was made, and his consummate success in this genre has meant that his influence has stretched through the centuries. For even today, traditional Royalty and Pop Aristocracy alike often choose to be painted with their best friend.
However it wasn't until the eighteenth century, that dogs began to be painted as subjects in their own right and to be endowed with character, with emotion. The French masters Alexandre-Francois Desportes and Jean-Baptiste Oudry were frequently commissioned to paint the superb hunting dogs of the French nobility - but these paintings still showed their subjects, no matter how fine, simply as adjuncts to humanity.
The seminal painting showing a dog as a true individual, painted towards the end of Oudry's career was ‘Bitch Hound Nursing her Puppies'. Here, was an aristocratic hound, being herself. Bathed in sunlight like a canine Madonna, she nestles on the straw of a stable floor with her six chubby puppies, who variously sleep, play and suckle. She lovingly, and tolerantly holds one paw in the air allowing one of her puppy's to snuggle closer her to her. Exhibited in the 1753 Paris Salon, it caused a sensation. Soon the painting was simply referred to as ‘the mother' and it became a symbol of true maternal devotion.
The world was finally ready for the natural world to be expressed in its own terms.
Landseer was born in 1802 and started drawing when he was six. He lived near Finchley Road, and Hampstead, areas which are part of central London now, but which then were farm land - occupied by a wondrous variety of domestic creatures, boars, sheep, donkeys, cows. Landseer spent every spare moment studying these animals and in his drawings expressed these animals in their own terms, allowing their characters and emotions to surface.
When not on the farm Landseer was at the Exeter Exchange - a zoo which contained lions, leopards and many other wild beasts. In the 1860s, at the pinnacle of his fame, he was to carve the monumental lions which grace Trafalgar Square in London, and it was this early experience, which a little later included dissecting a dead zoo lion, which gave these sculpted lions such grace, grandeur and realism.
Landseer was one of the greatest and certainly the most adored animal painters of all time, and the reason for his success is no doubt because he captured the essence and spirit of his subjects. He spent his whole life studying animals - on one level, he could be compared to a naturalist - and vividly expressed their complex emotions in his work; suspicion, faithfulness, envy, slyness, rage, even the contented almost sensual sleep of a fat farmyard pig. He even visited knackers' yards, and his study of a dead horse ‘The End of All Labour', executed when he was just eighteen, stirs in all who see it intense compassion, because he captures the pathetic life of the horse, without demeaning it. There is a truth in the work that goes beyond its anatomical correctness, but without which it would have said less.
But of all the world's creatures it was the dog, that most human of all animals, which thoroughly conquered his heart -as one commentator noted, he had ‘love and sympathy with every shade of the canine nature'. He captured the individual, different manners of their walking, the lifting of a paw, the rolling of an eye, their watchfulness, sagacity, guilt and joy with such skill and variety that even in his own lifetime he was known as the Shakespeare of dogs. Many individuals, even today, refuse to believe that animals possess emotions or sentience - a convenient stance as it allows for the horrors of factory farming and casual cruelty with a clear conscience - and they mock art which portrays animal emotion, using terms such as sentimental or anthropomorphic. But it is they who have failed to see into nature. Landseer humanised dogs, but as anyone who owns a dog knows, their emotions are complex, they scheme, they love, they hate, they envy, just as humans do. And if he used them to express satire or the humour of human situations, he did so in a way which left the integrity of the dogs intact - they, were never the butt of the joke.
He was fascinated, not only by the dogginess of dog, but by the age-old sympathy which exists between a human and his dog, and this became an eternal theme in his work. ‘The Dustman's Dog', drawn when he was 14, was the first example of this genre, and it perfectly expresses how the dog's character has been affected by his owner's work. His humble life, trudging after his master, scouring the rubbish for bones, is in expressed in every line which delineates this ‘ill-favoured' animal.
In 1824, aged just 22, and already a master of his craft, Landseer went to Scotland with Sir Walter Scott, and this country's wild beauty and magnificent animals were to have a marked effect on his work. Romantic works of ‘robust drama often set in malevolent nature.' [Robert Rosenblum -The Dog in Art]' now flowed from his brush.
Two of the high quality Victorian prints in my shop - taken from the original steel engravings: Low Life and High Life illustrate clearly the change that came over Landseer's work. Low Life represents his pre-Scottish era, when he painted pariahs, and spirited working class dogs - curs, mongrels, rapscallion terriers, and hefty bulldogs - with a tremendous vigour. Post Scotland these wonderful almost ‘East End' characters were thoroughly replaced with High Life - with, greyhounds, and wolfhounds, with King Charles Spaniel's, with sporting pictures, with Romanticism, with poetry, and with ‘society'.
But as Landseer grew older, although he never abandoned High Life or satire, his work contained a third theme. Ill and depressed, his empathy with nature became ever more intense and his heart deplored the horrors inflicted it on it in the name of sport. This preoccupation is expressed in many paintings but finds greatest form in Random Shot,a factual piece, lacking melodrama, in which a tiny fawn tries to suck from its mother, who lies dead in the snow, shot at random.
Queen Victorian and Prince Albert adored dogs, and it was this which endowed England with its reputation for being a nation of animal lovers. They owned at various times between 43 and 88 dogs - the most beloved, such as Albert's greyhound Eos, residing in the palace, the rest in extremely well maintained quarters.
And everyone of these literally hundreds of dogs had their portraits painted, and their painter of choice was, naturally, Landseer. So greatly did Victoria admire him that she knighted him in 1850 and on his death, honoured him with a state funeral. At this time, she owned thirty nine of his oil paintings, sixteen of his chalk drawings, two frescoes, and innumerable sketches.
Landseer was the most famous and most beloved animal painter of his time, perhaps of any time. He won, as an artist, the respect and love of the entire country. His paintings of animals, in particular of dogs and stags, are timeless. He never painted the vulgar or the ignoble, and his feeling for the sublime in nature gave everyone of his works a truth. Timeless in aspect they speak to us today, just as they spoke to Queen Victoria and her Victorians. The Shakespeare of Dogs, lives on.
We invite you to visit Green's
DECEMBER LANE SAMPLER: VINTAGE CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Baubles Bangles Beads-Vintage Jewelry Clothing: Everything a Vintage Glamour Girl Needs To Dress Her Best And Sparkle! Let Me Be Santa's Helper
RARE Iconic 'Margaret Smith of Gardner Maine' Vintage Dress~Soft Floral, Pussy Bow! Size 10
Rare and very hard to find 'Margaret Smith of Gardner Maine' vintage dress, a lovely 1960s A-line in one of her iconic floral prints. Renowned world ...
TOINETTE'S Vintage Clothing Jewelry Patterns MORE: Vintage Sewing Patterns ~ Fabric ~ Collectibles ~ Party Clothes ~ Added Daily
1950s Circle Skirt Pink Roses Rose LACE Print Medium
SO FUN! Rock A Billy Baby, full circle cotton skirt, just for you from Toinette's. This is a DARLING skirt! All cotton, the print is on a very black ...
ViVa Vintage: Vintage Clothing, Accessories Collectibles ~ Proud Member of the Vintage Fashion Guild
Sassy Vintage Textured Tam with Bow
An original by Dayne, this sassy tam will brighten your mood just by putting it on! What feels like heavy grosgrain is detailed with vertical ...
Fragrant Glass: Vintage Vanity and Boudoir Items - Specializing in Purses, Jewelry and Perfume Bottles
Vintage Tapestry Style Purse - Jeweled Frame
This very pretty vintage purse measures 6 wide x 6 1 2 long. The chain drop is 6.2 . The scene is different, front and back with people hard at work...
Empire Vintage Clothing: 1940s~1950s PinUp~1960s MOD~1970s Hippie to 80s Pop>unique purses, dresses, shoes jewelry for all!
Vintage 1960s ladies whiskey ALLIGATOR cowboy Boots 9
so Im obsessed with cowboy boots- I have over 12 pairs, and finding ones like these are equal to the needle in the haystack! Lucky for you, they are ...
LILAC VINTAGE Jewelry Antiques Collectibles: Holiday Savings Sale Up to 60% Off!(*prices as marked) $10 Jewelry Special Buy One Get One!
Vintage Double-Woven Gloves with Gimp Faux Pearl Embellishments
Beautiful vintage gloves, in soft Doette-type fabric (double-woven with a soft, suede-like feel) in creamy, off-white ~ has a Victorian-style feel to...
Lambs Corner Antiques Collectibles: Quality Antiques Vintage Collectibles
Vintage Child's Embroidered Dress - Sash Tie Back
This pretty little cotton dress is marked: PEMAE PHILIPPINES HAND MADE SIZE 1. The collar and top front has an embroidered design. It ties in the ...
8right Catseye Vintage Estate Collection: Specializing In Vintage Decor and Vintage Clothing Accessories
Vintage 50s Rhinestone Embellished Chiffon Full Skirt Lipstick RED Party Dress -- Ruched Shelf Bust -- Size S -- M
From Catseye Vintage is this stunning lipstick red chiffon full skirted party dress ~ circa 1950s. Gorgeous fitted lipstick red bodice with ruched ...
Wonderfully Quirky~ Antique Vintage clothing: ~Clothing from the Regency era to the 1960s~
Edwardian Lawn bell sleeves Fancy Lace nightgown
Oh so so pretty the first of many beautiful Edwardian whites i have to add to my shop in the coming weeks, This is super, beautifully elegant, with ...
WHAT'LL I wear? VINTAGE! Dare to be different!: VINTAGE Clothing accessories- Wide selection! Reasonable prices! 40's-'80's!
Vintage White Angora Cloche Soft, Sweet Like New
I sure wish I looked good in hats because if I did you would find this darling on my head and not in my shop. Its color is a warm white, the ...
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