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Past Times Newsletter - March 2001
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
and Fine Art ... and now Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o Hot Shop of the Month: Royal Oak Antiques
o HEADHUNTERS ANONYMOUS - COLLECTING HEAD VASES by Ruth
Harris of Heads Up! Antiques
o AMERICAN FOLK: THE MFA, BOSTON COLLECTION by Mark Favermann
of The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles
o Open your own Shop on Ruby Lane
HOT SHOP OF THE MONTH: ROYAL OAK ANTIQUES
Welcome to Royal Oak Antiques!
Royal Oak Antiques offers unique items you won't easily find
anywhere else. Here you'll find such items as a Western
Electric Wall Phone (circa 1910), a Stromberg Carlson Telephone
(circa 1900), a Turn of the Century Music Cabinet, a Miniature
Child's Kitchen Cabinet, a collection of antique pool and
billiard tables from the early 20th century as well as pool
table lighting, and more. Restoration and repairs are lovingly
made to bring every item back to their original splendor and
Located in West Bend, Wisconsin (30 miles from Milwaukee),
William Adams prides himself on customer satisfaction. If you
find that the item you receive is not to your satisfaction you
may return it for a refund of the purchase price within 15 days
from the delivery date. Royal Oak gladly accepts PayPal Visa/MC:
our shop is a Verified Business account, Personal Check, Money
We invite you to visit their online shop Royal Oak Antiques.
RUTH HARRIS OF HEADS UP! ANTIQUES
I used to be a normal person-we all did. Then one day we
acquired our first lady head vase. And it doesn't matter if it
was inherited, salvaged, purchased or a gift - from that day
forward we were changed forever - we became powerless over the
urge to Head Hunt! And now, with the help of the Internet, the
urge to hunt out heads in every shape and form can take place at
Head vases have come a long way since they were hidden away in
the back rooms of florist shops, basements and attics. They are
now all the rage as collectors seek out images and memories from
the past reflected in the changing ladies' fashions of the 50's
and 60's. Prices have risen dramatically to reflect the ravenous
demand. They are getting harder to find at the local antique
stores and flea markets, so hungry collectors have turned to the
Internet as a prime source. Price ranges on head vases vary
dramatically from dealer to dealer as well as across the
country. It can be a challenge to find even the smallest head
vase for under $30 these days. For most ladies in the 4-6"
range you can expect to pay anywhere from $60-$150. In
general, as the size and features (e.g. rings, hands, hats)
increase, so does the price tag. It is not surprising to see
prices well over $200 and $300 dollars for decked out 7" and
taller ladies. Also, if the head is costumed or represents a
famous personality, such as Jackie O, watch the price tag really
As with any antique and collectible, if you are buying for
investment, always try to buy in the best condition possible for
best resale value. In general, I have found that a minor flaw is
not a problem for most collectors if the vase still displays
well and is more affordable to boot! My advice to you: buy
what you can afford and what you makes you smile. If a
particular lady brings back wonderful memories for you then she
is all the more valuable than the most rare and expensive lady
It is a good idea to become familiar with markings and labels on
the bottom of head vases. Many vases (but not all) were labeled
and/or marked with a number. Reproductions from China have
infiltrated the market over the last couple years and buyers
need to beware. Tip offs are a super glossy finish, harsh rosy
cheeks (or poor paint job), and no mark despite the fact that
the original has one. If the price seems to good to be
These books offer great information on reproductions, info,
values and tips for collecting head vases: Head Vases:
Identification & Values by Kathleen Cole, Head Vases by Number
Price Guide, Fall 2000 , and "Heads Up!" Collectibles Magazine:
Flea Market Finds, Fall 2000, pg.40-45. I would also be happy
to answer any questions you might have about head vase
Happy Head Hunting!
We invite you to visit Ruth online at Heads Up Vintage
FAVERMANN OF THE JOURNAL OF ANTIQUES AND
"A Rose is a Rose," Gertrude Stein's clear descriptive object
formula, just does not work when defining American Folk Art.
Defined in many ways by primitive, stylized, indigenous,
regional, naive, hand-crafted, non-academic, vernacular, rustic,
unschooled or (for the 20th Century) outsider art, Folk Art is
often highly recognizable but not easily prescriptively
definable. Collectors, dealers and scholars have been involved
in debate and continual controversy around folk art. Not only
have its aesthetic definitions been questioned, but issues of
social class, ethnic identity and cultural heritage have been
weighed against issues of taste and history. However, what has
not been debatable is that at times utterly extraordinary pieces
have been created by quite ordinary people.
In fact, the whole area of American Folk Art was not recognized
as a particular artistic direction or definable craft area until
February 9, 1924 when a distinctive grouping of works was
exhibited at the Whitney Studio Club in New York City. The
majority of these pieces were borrowed from the then major
contemporary artists Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth and Yasuo
Actually, the first show of folk art paintings, "American
Primitive Painting," was exhibited at The Newark Museum in
Newark, New Jersey in 1930. The exhibition later traveled to the
University of Rochester and the University of Chicago. This was
followed in October of 1931 by "American Folk Sculpture--The
Work of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Craftsman." Perhaps
the most influential early exhibition of Folk Art was held in
1932 at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Titled "American Folk
Art--The Art of The Common Man in America 1750-1900," again,
most of the 175 pieces were from Mrs. Rockefeller's
After these first trailblazing exhibits, the rest of the
American museum community quickly followed and soon folk art
became a popular art historical focus. Folk art is an expression
of the living quality of the story of American origins in the
visual arts. Major encyclopedic museums such as the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, Washington's Smithsonian Institution as well as
The Brooklyn Museum all house major collections of folk art.
However, only occasionally does a prominent museum display a
significant amount of American folk art or have a meaningful
major exhibition. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is once
again leading the way with its magnificent exhibition, "American
Folk." The exhibition, which has been enriched by important
loans from New England collectors, highlights over 200 works
including rare monumental family portraits, narrative quilts,
painted furniture, wood decoys and unique toys.
The organization of the "American Folk" exhibition is a creative
structure. Developed to showcase everyday life in 19th Century
America in an entertaining as well as informative way, it is
organized by theme. The four themes are "Family Album," "Birds
and Beasts," "Land and Sea," and "God and Country." Each of the
MFA curatorial areas involved are represented in each of the
thematic sections of the show. Here, clearly the sum of the
parts in each case is greater than the whole.
The "Family Album" section of the show includes the life sized
portrait of "Joseph Moore and his Family " (c. 1839), a Ware,
Massachusetts family. Joseph Moore was a dentist and hat maker.
History does not say what he was the more successful at,
however. Susan Catherine Moore Waters painted "The Lincoln
Children" (1845) with its richly patterned rug, fringed drapery
and plant stand--things that visually demonstrated the family's
middle class comforts. Waters was quite unusual for the time--a
woman itinerant portrait painter
"Birds and Beasts" is a menagerie in metal and wood that
includes barnyard weathervanes, a flock of duck decoys and an
elegant boot-scraper in the shape of a chicken. Also included is
a carousel greyhound created by one of the most prominent makers
of carousel figures, Charles Looff. This highly decorated
elegant figure has glass eyes and ears "rippled" by the wind.
Also there is a wonderful regal lion carved by Wilhelm Schimmel
(1860-1890) and a sweet giraffe drawing done about 1836.
The "Land and Sea" section demonstrates the connection between
the environment, both man-made and natural and the people. A
unique and beautiful illustrative quilt brings to life the
importance and effect that the railroad had in the 19th Century.
This is a prime example of the end of rural isolation that the
railroad signified. Probably made in Peru, Indiana, the applique
letters might refer to the Erie & Western Railroad which passed
through Peru. Then, again the "E. R." may just be somebody's
initials, either the quiltmaker or its recipient. The
"Meditation by the Sea" (1860s) by an unidentified painter is a
moody, eccentric rendering of rocks, stylized surf and somberly
dressed figures that collectively transform a conventional
seascape subject into a masterpiece of folk art.
The fourth section of the exhibition, "God and Country,"
illustrates spiritualism and national pride. One of the
masterpieces of the exhibition (and many, many pieces are
certainly masterpieces) is a truly extraordinary pictorial quilt
(created about 1895) by Harriet Powers, an African American
woman who was born a slave who could neither read nor write.
Through this quilt, she told complicated stories with humor, wit
and dramatic expression. A most elegant patriotic
whirligig , or wind toy, was created by John Green Satterley and
is a momento of the civil War. The toy soldier wears the
distinctive blue and red uniform of a New York State Regiment.
His wonderful painted face and his swinging arms add
qualitatively to this masterpiece in wood. Charming carved
sculptures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by unknown
artists and a fierce eagle by Wilhelm Schimmel underscore the
patriotic fervor of the 19th Century.
Before the discovery and embrace of the Folk Art tradition in
the United States, most art historians, commentators and critics
felt that American Art had only come here on ships. We certainly
now know quite differently. From all aspects of society,
creativity abounded in the building of our American heritage.
Extraordinary works by ordinary people? No, extraordinary works
by equally extraordinary people in an extraordinary exhibition.
For the complete article with many full color photos please
visit The Journal of Antiques.
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