Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Place - Part Thirty-Six

Summer Place

Part Thirty-Six

            What SHOULD happen to ‘Sophia’s desk’?
            At the current date; August, 2013, the near forty year old New England antiquarian collector’s mantra of John T. Kirk’s “Buy it ratty and leave it alone”... a chapter title found in his 1975 book “THE INPECUNIOUS COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO AMERICAN ANTIQUES”... is a collector’s religion standard, a market place proven and a ‘no brainer’ for both New England antiques collectors and dealers .  Daily, these days, splendid ‘untouched’ New England antique discoveries are NOT ‘fixed up’.  They are ‘not touched’.  They are very promptly protected from any and all of that ‘fixed up’ by the market.  The market continues without a waver to honor the ‘untouched’ with the most money and this keeps all others desires... scared away.
            At this moment... ‘Sophia’s Desk’ is ‘untouched’.  This means that physically the desk has come down through its time just as it ...has come down through its time.  It was bought... along the New England coast between... 1790’s to the 1815’s... ‘loaded aboard’ ship, ‘brought home’, used in the home by “Sophia”... for SIX (?) generations of ‘Sophia’s’.  It then attempted to follow a ‘last’ (?) “Sophia” to ‘assisted living’ and failed.  Its return to the ‘home’ was rejected and the desk was ‘saved’ by the home’s caretaker taking it to his workshop’s storage shed where it remained ...until he died and his heirs ‘found it’.  They are now, after modest attempts at ‘selling it’... storing the desk under an ‘old cloth’ at the head of a garage bay at a modest suburban home.  The desk is ‘untouched’, ‘as found’.
            To the lay eye AND many antiquarian eyes... the desk is... ‘it needs work’.. to make it ‘living room ready’... for... WHO?  Those people do not count anymore; the market removes them with the word ‘untouched’ followed with a ‘flood’ of ‘cash’.  The only attack force that “COULD be one” is the ‘full makeover’ ‘restoration’ group who... ‘would pay’ for such a ‘wreck’ to accomplish the ‘there’s a lot there already’ sophistication ...opportunity.  THEY will increase the price (the value) of the ‘untouched’ desk with their interest.
            “Ratty” adjusts to ‘untouched’.  This PHYSICAL state of the desk is protected by cash.  From there this physical ‘untouched’ gathers further aura; further aura of the ‘untouched’.
            The first aura halo is the stark realm that there simply are NOT many... or ‘any’, ‘untouched’ New England sea captain’s wife’s Tambour desks ‘around’.  MOST ALL have been ‘found’ and ‘fixed’... for 150 plus years.  A desk like ‘Sophia’s’ was attracting notice as ‘old’ by the 1850’s.  They were, back then... being fixed.  VERY FEW escaped this attention... over the centuries.  To have a desk ‘just sit there’ in a coastal Maine sea captain’s mansion... was (is) a rare occurrence QUICKLY noted as ‘a rare survival’.  ‘Untouched’ ‘Sophia’s Desk’ is intensely singular.  Touched anyway at all including such lunacy of, for example, one of the H&W couples endeavoring to do a “FIX IT” “THAT” with a ‘glue gun’, et al...;  “YIKES” in addition a trailing off into plunging darkness “NOOoooooo”.  Under the old cloth in the garage... it has a wonderful aura halo... ‘intact’.  TRY and find ‘another one’.  TRY IT... and get back to me.  The rule?  IF Great Grandmother gives one a New England Federal period Tambour desk... LEAVE IT ALONE; leave it just the way SHE GAVE IT TO YOU. SHE (Great Grammy) didn’t fix it and one should SEND HER a thank you note for ‘doing that’.
Put the desk in your living room ...just the way you received it... and if a visitor says “AREN’T YOU GOING TO GET THE TAMBOURS FIXED?” say “No.”.  If needed, add that it was your grandmother’s, grandmother’s, grandmother’s desk and that is ‘exactly the way I inherited it’.  If conversation continues about the condition of the ratty desk in the living room, the home’s visitor should be... as politely as possible... for being one’s unenlightened visitor politely informed... that... ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about’.  It is well understood that even saying that ‘fixing them’ (the Tambours) will ‘destroy the value’ of the desk... will NOT GET THROUGH so... reconcile oneself by knowing that... THANK YOU... the visitor will most probably never have a piece of art to destroy ‘anyway’.  Past using the first one word response of ‘No’, ‘don’t even bother’ to continue the rest of the conversation UNLESS ...they... ‘get it’ about the ‘things from my grandmother’ ...THEY HAVE... that, among those things... ARE a something that IS ‘GOOD’ to the antiquarian realm.  “MOST” of most people’s “from my grandmother” ‘are not good’.  Rest assured on this point and BET ON IT.
Once one has had one’s stomach stapled on the physical ‘untouched’ aura halo found hiding in New England decorative arts AND their resulting premium cash value...  Once one has... from this stapled state... uttered defensive and balanced declarations... in the living room of one’s own home... about the ‘things’ ‘from my grandmother’... that one is found to be protecting from destruction... one gets the hang of it and the radiance of the aura of knowing ‘I’m right’ becomes a warm glow throughout one’s home.
Enhancing this aura halo is another aura halo:  “IT’S HISTORY”.  That is, the HISTORY of the antique ‘untouched’.  Here, aside from one big point, we have very clear “HISTORY” about Sophia’s desk.  This whole tale planted a garden of seeds of history about the desk and those blossomed into a variety of historic fact... tale... lore and... aura; an aura halo TOO, around the desk.
What is the big ‘aside’ point?  It is that NO ONE knows this history about the historic setting of the desk at all.  There is no ‘written down’, no tale told, no ‘publication on’, no ‘lecture tonight’, no museum tour, no... one.. but... my grandmother ...and I.  NO ONE knows about the desk or the history of the desk or ANY THING ELSE about ANY OF THIS.  NONE THE LESS, this aura halo of and about the desk; it’s ‘history’ IS WONDERFUL and greatly enhances ‘Sophia’s Desk’.  It should be merged with the physical desk ‘untouched’.
And... the physical ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s sea captain’s mansion... now a ‘summer place’.  THIS, too, IS an aura halo TOO ‘about the desk’.  A very grand and prominent aura halo.  A mere side glance of the ‘driving by’ at the ‘estate’ ‘up there’ assures even the most lay that “IT”; the mansion, IS an aura halo... itself.  Have I yet gone to ‘see’ if the front room furniture ‘is there’; to see if there... is there too... a table upon which a ‘Sophia’s’ Roger’s Group rested white she wrote her letters at the ‘Sophia’s Desk’?
No.  I’ll get to it.  But... I fear that those rooms when entered will have... only new ‘summer people’ furniture in them with the original Kimball ‘sold with the property’ furniture LONG GONE (several ‘summer people’ owners ago).  The best I hope for is it was ‘stuffed in the barn’.  The worse is ‘taken off by their caretaker’ to ‘get rid of’ ‘then’ (twenty-five years ago) and ‘sold’.  Oh ...I’ll find out... why not?
If one takes the desk and its aura halos to the ... wider realm of New England decorative arts study... one does have a study.  A weekend seminar.  A publication.  An ‘it’s beautiful’ (desk, history, mansion).  Or just cart the whole wagon load down to the local historical society and let THEM run up the flag?
Or do nothing.
Say noting.
Why would one do that? 
We come back to the very beginning of this tale.  I will do and say nothing because...:

            “Growing up under the antiquarian tutelage of a grandmother who would “set off” from her kitchen table with a rubber banded “roll of money” at the slightest sign that a …takeover… by summer people of “an old place” or preferably “old sea captain  ****’s PLACE has “schooled me” in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance.”  (Part One, paragraph three).

            I am ‘schooled me’.  I live ‘in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole ...Maine... romance’.  It is the romance that is the last and most fleeting of the aura halos found with the desk.  This halo is the tradition of the Maine romance.  For fifty years I have lived here within THIS aura halo surrounding all the other aura halos; the desk, the mansion, the Kimballs, the Parkers, Sophia, the wrecker’s daughter, the punch bowls, the tea service, the chest, Mr. Simon’s barn, the platter, my grandmother’s estate, Charles’ workshop, the casts of visiting players and grandmother’s ghost.  This aura halo of romance is a pure New England haunt passing... that should go on... ‘untouched’.

The End

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Place - Part Thirty-Five C

Summer Place

Part Thirty-Five C

            “I cannot find Sophia’s desk.” (my grandmother, Part Eleven).
            Where is Sophia’s desk?
            What is Sophia’s desk?
            What COULD happen to Sophia’s desk?’
            What SHOULD happen to Sophia’s desk?

            Where... is it?  I do know.  I understand it is the head of a garage bay in one of the H&W couple’s two car garage; in front of the ‘wife’s car’, against the back wall... under an ‘old cloth’.  I understand.  It is not ‘local’ but is not that far away and is... ‘still in Maine’.  It is still a peanut under a shell.  I understand I know this; where the shell is ...with the peanut under it.  It has been ‘sitting there’ since the January ‘bought in’ auction return.  When the desk was ‘brought back’ no one knew what to do with it or where to put it so ...the out of state H&W couple who’d done the ‘that’ of the auction endeavor ‘dropped it off’ at this H&W location where it was “stuffed” (the actual word used) at the back of the garage and has... “been there (undisturbed) ever since” meaning ‘forgotten about’, sort of... too.  “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?” is, occasionally, brought up?
            Removing the cloth and taking a photograph of it with the cell phone has been done?
            That photograph has been ...emailed to more prominent Maine auction houses?
            The response to ‘that’ has not been rapid, active and “good”?
            I understand this is the circuit in progress.
            Does anyone realize how many idiots are emailing crummy photographs of “AN ANTIQUE” “THEY HAVE” that THEY “THINK IS GOOD” to “PEOPLE” “WHO WOULD KNOW” (read “WANT IT”).  It is a national pandemic.  Where does the email with the photograph go?  To a ...staffer... who... “looks at it” and ‘gets back’ “TO YOU”.  I consider Sophia’s desk to be safely ‘ensconced’ ‘in storage’.  It is being saved for me?
            This ‘where’ of Sophia’s desk will become more assured in a few more months... leading to a ...year... leading to a... ‘few years’... as... the H&W trio... don’t ever ‘know what to do’.  Within this tale; in Parts Sixteen, Seventeen and Eighteen, I record through another example, this probable direction of the desk.  In those parts I record my purchase of much of the ‘inherited’ ‘antiques’ from my grandmother’s heirs TWENTY YEARS after they ...fetched the stuff home and... stored it... for me (?).  This ...procedure is complimented by the Mr. Simon’s chest saga of ... that chest being stored in his barn for FIFTY YEARS ‘under a sheet’.  Merged, these two destinies of record create a ‘probable’ for the desk... unless it’s... ‘shaken loose’ by ...someone who knows about ‘it’.  Am I the only one alive who... ‘knows (FULLY) about it’?  Right now I am just ‘letting it sit there’.

            WHAT is ‘Sophia’s desk’?
            Now we can get ourselves a little dirty.  Using a very old and very classic American antiques furniture reference book; Albert Sack, FINE POINTS OF FURNITURE EARLY AMERICAN,  Crown, NY, 1950, - the ‘old school’ lay antiquarian slang titled “GOOD BETTER BEST” manual of American antique furniture... WE?
            I....:  The book, here shown in a beat up dust jacket covered 1977 “twenty-third printing”, is VERY EASY TO FIND and can usually be found being ‘dumped’ at yard sales, etc. “for nothing” ($2.00 or less) by ...those who have no notion of the book’s value, have never seen it, never read it, never looked at it and... never will use it or CARE... just like the H&W trio...  This WORK HORSE tome has been a near “ALL I NEED” for me since I was harped at about it and the need for... me... to “memorize it” FORTY PLUS YEARS ago.  My grandmother “had it”, “used it” and NEVER MENTIONED IT TO ME EVER.  I ‘was told about it’, ‘memorized it’ and HAVE NEVER STOPPED USING IT.  I use it with ...emailed cell phone photographs?  Isn’t that cute.

            I flip to, for our review, Sack’s coverage of ‘Tambour’ desks; pgs. 153-156.  This, in redundancies of being brief, show ME ‘good better best’ of ...Tambour desks.  Brutally faint and short in both the photographic illustrations and text, these pages burn the house down on “Sophia’s Desk”.  I am not going to digest the brutal, faint and short.  Sack quickly shows ...the knowing reader’s eye... WITH supportive text... where in the realm of good, better, best Sophia ‘is’.  She’s ...pretty good... but not ‘best’.  Close runner up.  The key points are form... in the three drawer (over the stated preferred two drawer) WITH the proportion of the tambour above (its size with the words “heavy” and “clumsy” used by Sack in the text) WITH Sophia’s having the... balancing-weight reducing... drawers ABOVE her tambour... and... the ‘extra taper’ to the leg bottom but NO inlay and ... one needing to file Sack’s “over done and not properly placed” commentary of inlay... for later.
            “Ha, ha, ha” if that was too fast for I did all that way back in the shed room with my “May I?” cell phone photograph.  Yeah; I have to be that good that fast or ‘I’m not a player’ (a verbal statement I must utter to I... and all... RIGHT THEN)  I recall I said “15K”.  I’m a player and we will get to that.
            I’m lucky I have my photograph... ‘to check’.  After peering at “SACK’S” I bet all ‘can see why’.
            So that is that:  A good -three drawer- plus; a little big (but not a ‘she’s a big girl’) and... ‘carrying that’.  Classic form... balanced well... clean to the eye... and just a little... fancy... a little ...NEW ENGLAND male ...ish... but sized still ‘ok for her’.  I bet if Sophia had picked it out herself it she would have picked a ‘lighter one’; a two drawer.  The ‘CAPTAIN Merritt Kimball buys a desk’... does show.  Doesn’t it?  See how good YOUR eye is getting?
            Where’d he buy it?  I like saying “Salem”.  But... this desk is not top tier Salem.  Boston?  Portsmouth?  Portland MAINE?  Newburyport?  In that order.  Anyone of them. It’s not New York.  It IS New England.  He went into the store, said “That one.”  He put it on the boat and sailed it ‘home’.  “Captain”.  “Sir”.  “For my wife”.  Girls; don’t let him buy your (antique) desk.  Study, get to know someone who ‘knows’ and... buy it yourself.

             What COULD happen to ‘Sophia’s Desk’?
            The shortest cram down is... it is shaken loose by a someone who does one of two things.  ONE:  Buy it, “restore it” (‘fix it up’; the tambours, etc., so ‘everything works’), “slick it up” (the finish) and sell it... to an appropriate retail collector for their ‘New England Sea Captain’s Mansion’.  The key would be ‘buying it cheap, doing ‘the work’ cheap (‘yourself’) and.... AND... selling it ‘to that’ (the sea captain’s mansion).
            TWO:  Buy it, “restore it”...that is... ‘sophisticate it’.  That is... give it a full makeover where EVERYTHING is ‘sophisticated’ including becoming ‘inlayed’.... AVOIDING THE ‘overdone – not properly placed’ noted by Sack... onward to even replacing the drawer front veneers with ‘something fancy’ (bird’s eye maple).  Yeah; THAT grade of ‘sophistication’... GOT IT?  It WILL BE Salem then.  I promise.  AND it... is worth doing to this desk for ‘there’s a lot there already’ to work from and... ‘she’ ‘can support it’.  Especially with the balancing drawers at the top to ‘keep everyone’s eyes busy’.  I’m not going to detail the procedure but a ...partnership... between the owner and the restorer on a restoration that ‘could take several years’ before ‘entering’ the market (as a ‘recently discovered New England furniture MASTERPIECE’).  The rule to remember?  When ever one is looking at an antique that is THAT GOOD... an ‘over the top’... with a THAT GOOD price tag too... just say ‘sophisticated?’ to one self.  I do it all the time and... it works.

            THIS desk... shaken loose... COULD HAVE THAT happen... to it.  To ... ‘Sophia’s desk’.  My grandmother would burst into tears?  Her ghost is sobbing?
            Then what SHOULD happen to ‘Sophia’s desk’?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Place - Part Thirty-Five B

Summer Place

Part Thirty-Five B

            On schedule with my plan of conclusional verbiage, I resurrect the ‘old china’ platter that travels through the tale.  From my professional vantage, it is the simplest of ‘good taste in New England decorative arts’.

From Part Five, I repeat:

By formula, Mr. Simon quickly became a very docile ‘client’.  Arriving, seated, whiskeyed, storied and second corked… the next thing Mr. Simon knew he would be… assisting my grandmother in ‘pulling’ the sofa away from the living room wall so she could ‘get at’ …a cupboard behind it that …Mr. Simon had never even noticed before but NOW had his ‘100%’.  Exposing the cupboard door slightly… to allow it to be opened slightly… to show ever very slightly… that it was more than SLIGHTLY ‘jammed full’ and that ever so …slightly… my grandmother’s hand slipped in just …slightly… to ever so slightly… remove for Mr. Simon’s inspection… a somehow worked into the conversation ever so slightly… of a he ‘must be aware of’ “aren’t you slightly?” a:
Sixteen inch “View of Pittsfield, Mass.” dark blue American historic scene decorated English Staffordshire earthenware transferware… platter… “in perfect condition” “Two hundred and fifty dollars (remind; 1962 prices), Mr. Simon.  It’s quite a FINE ONE.”
It was the trail… and the tale… with each antique that captivated Mr. Simon and his ‘summer people’ type.  Explaining “WHAT” that platter was …was very… third tier to my grandmother.  Mr. Simon did not need to know “THAT” “well”.  Just sort of vaguely AND that it is assured as ‘good’.  It helped if the antique LOOKS good to Mr. Simon ‘too’.  Usually, through the inherent quality of the antique… it did this; ‘look good’.  To Mr. Simon. 
What really counted to Mr. Simon was the adventure of traveling the trail of finding this “I THINK I remember I have” antique in the “NEVER BEEN IN A PLACE LIKE THIS BEFORE” wandering MAZE of my grandmother’s object stuffed ‘farm’:  “OLD MAINE FARM” “SHE LIVES IN”.  While befuddled by being whiskeyed.  Once found, and before closing the cupboard door, usually Mr. Simon was allowed a single vague and distant searching gaze off toward a “there’s quite a bit MORE in there”.
            “Yes… I DO keep some BETTER THINGS back IN THERE.” my grandmother would say as SHE pushed the sofa back against the wall with… her butt.  Mr. Simon had never seen a woman push a sofa with her butt before.  That just added  a “little spice” my grandmother called it… to ‘the trail’.
As check out and payment of that day’s visit approached, my grandmother would, with courtesy, review the TALE of the platter; the old captain’s home. The wife “was from down that way I recall” , the “family’s china”.  The “mostly broken” over the years.  The “broken up” among the descendents over the years.  The “surprised I found any of it left at all” “in there”.  The “probably really shouldn’t sell”.  “But of course it IS going to a FINE HOME”.

            From the safety of this ‘selling’ we are reminded well of the platter but only lightly touch the “was very... third tier to my grandmother”.  There are two tiers within this denotation of third tier.  The foremost of the two is that the object IS historically substantive as being an ‘antique’; American NEW ENGLAND historic CLASSIC ‘old china’ ‘old paste’ and ‘the old blue’ on to even the miss-applied ‘the flowing blue’ which it ‘is not’.  So surely ‘collected’ BY THE CIVIL WAR era (1850’s) and onward, it ‘has been good’ a whole century to reach my grandmother in 1962 ‘behind the sofa’.  My grandmother herself would have ‘discovered’ the ‘antiques’ of dark blue American scene historical English transferware earthenware ‘china’ as soon as she ‘started’ to be ...New England antiques ‘interested’.  I, too, ‘learned that way’, too.

            Tier two ‘within’ is a touch more modern in influence.  Accepting ‘historic’ for the platter is easy, as is it being ‘old china’.  The next little leap... in appreciation... is art.  Actually... ‘the positive art qualities’.  Not only is this very simply found in this ...flat composition by transfer in blue... but it is very simple ‘to see’ in this particular scene ...too.  The ovals, the verticals, their lines and spaces.  The empty space of the ovals (the actual ‘common’), the spilling verticals (the tree above the steeples), the motion (of the figures) within the stillness (of the common).  Then the rings of the ...border, the border, the border... framing and framing and framing.  The halos (mountain horizon line) and the lightning (in the cloud line of the sky) of white light to pull out the murky depths of the passion of the ‘dark blue’... UPON these abstract lines and shapes, thrusts and blanks.  Too much art too quickly?  Don’t worry; there is no need to dwell on THAT unless... one needs to do the same to ALL antiques... ALL the TIME ALWAYS... ‘with my eye’... in fractions of time.  I do... ‘need’ to do that and, I delight to report, I ‘live there’. 
            It is safe here with the platter?  This is the simplest of examples.  Mere minor seconds send almost all to ‘I like it’.  Little ‘art’ is needed.  Simply follow the Mr. Simon’s example.  HE never needed to bother with ‘all that’ because ...because... my grandmother put down the crumbs of his art trail and shooed him... and his wallet... ‘along’.  She simply showed him objects with positive art qualities that, for him, ‘couldn’t fail’.  THAT is NOT a bad way to go IF one ‘isn’t sure’.

            I repeat from Part Twenty-A, when the platter reappears:

            “You have old used furniture.  I seek antiques.”
            “But that dry sink is old.” She said gesturing toward a… 1950’s cobbled together from old wood and then having its surface unified by heavy handed sanding, beating with chains and ‘varnishing’.
            “Ah.  It’s fifties.  Not old.” I said robotically.
            “Not old?  It’s ALWAYS been there.”
            I looked at the sink.  It had a copper planter with a nearly dead plant in that planter.  The planter sat down in the well of the ‘dry sink’.
            “It’s made-up of old wood.  1950’s.  Very common.  It’s not antique.” I said and walked over to the dry sink.  The near dead plant was bone dry but the planter had been recently ‘watered’…meaning that morning… just before I arrived.  I didn’t care because my eye caught a classic antique blue color beneath the planter.  My eye searched further… fast.
            Seeing… what my eye was seeing, my mind instructed my hand to reach out and lift the copper planter where upon that lifting revealed the abominable affirmation that I had before me found… an antique.
            I reached with the other hand and lifted my heart beating prize away from ‘under’ and set the planter back.  Up came a piece of ‘old china’… a sixteen inch dark blue transferware English Staffordshire American Historical scene – the common at Pittsfield, Mass.- decorated… platter.  I said “Ah.” and reversed the platter to …denote the maker/title mark on its bottom.  I continued the firm grip with that hand as I quickly and lightly rapped the platter with the other hand to ‘hear if it’s cracked’.  It was not cracked.  It was ‘dirty’ from being an under the planter with the near dead plant for… HOW MANY DECADES?
            “Here’s one.” I said.
            “Here’s one?” Jenny said.
            “An antique.” I said.  “Forty bucks”.
            “Antique?  That?” she said as I waved that platter toward her in one hand.  She paused, peered and then said  “It’s so DIRTY”.
            “Been under the plant”.
            “That’s old; an antique?”
            “Pittsfield MASS.” I said.  “Old china.  Historic view.  Forty dollars.”
            “Pittsfield?” Jenny said bending slightly forward to squint at the front of the platter as I stepped toward her. “I’ve been there”.
            “Right.  Not that tranquil there today.” I said referring to the pastoral view of the common.
            “No.  I didn’t like it.  Dirty.”
            “This I can buy.  It’s old enough.”
            “Buy?  That.  You’ll pay forty dollars?  For that?”

            When the study of decorative arts is NOT done.  When object history is not considered.  Observed.  Noticed.  Thought of.  When THAT is the ‘normal’.  And that ‘normal’ IS THE WAY IT ACTULLY IS... ‘out there’ (from my vantage)... all the time... I ‘cannot fail’ in my quests.  Thank you for being ‘of that’.
            One of the hardest to understand for I; a need to sit down and point out to myself constantly... is the phenomena of my raking eye of antiquities and art... NOT being the way everyone else ‘is’.  Jenny goes on from her dirty platter to lead me off to the barn to find more old china ‘just like’.  It is not ‘just like’ but:  I buy that china from her using HER art view of ‘it’... ‘with additions’ (the chest) THAT I ALSO include using my projection of HER ‘art view’ it ‘it’ TOO.  THIS IS VERY, VERY,  VERY common for I to do.  In most settings there is NO OTHER TRAIL (with crumbs).  It is ‘that’s the way it is’.
            So start paying twenty-five dollars a throw and admit oneself to ‘museums’ ‘to see’?  Yes.
            “IS THERE NOT A HELPFUL” ....anything?  A ‘reference book’? 

There are many, MANY reference books... that combined with ‘exposure’ and ‘study’ “WILL”.  One example?  “Yes please”.
            Philip Zea, “PURSUING REFINEMENT IN RURAL NEW ENGLAND 1740-1850’, Historic Deerfield, Deerfield, MA, 1998.  This may be considered a flawless peek at ‘good taste in New England decorative arts’.  Hardcover or paperback; buy the hardcover.  The paperback wears... out.  The hardcover costs a lot more... if a copy can be found.

            On page 60 at Figure 84 our visiting eye... has already ‘I spy’... what they ‘Figure 84 – Platter”.  In color.  Nice.  There is no positive arts mentioned in the Deerfield history focused descriptive text.  In the text they also positively mention the New England preference for the ‘dark’ blue.  The reverse of that positive is the ...legacy... negative of the English mocking Americans for this  preference for ‘dark’ blue... that stands to this day... and DOES qualify one’s art eye when ‘looking’ at transferware... but that too much for today’s lesson.  Rest assured:  Point upon point upon New England good taste point is found... in this book.
            As a spot-focus on ‘I am trying to tell a bigger tale’ from within these stories, vignettes and pontificates, this actual page in the book; page sixty... with the platter at the bottom... JUMPS at the top of the next page; sixty-one... to ‘Figure 87 – Tobacco Tongs’, with description ...that again focuses on Deerfield history.  These are ‘Pipe Tongs’ by consensual lay antiquarian title, ...and... ‘A SET’ of pipe tongs were the subject of a whole tale by I; “A DOOR KNOCK”, a nine part tale.  The tongs at Deerfield are ‘signed’ ‘American’.  The tongs in the tale were ‘unsigned’.  But:  The ‘lines’ of the story’s tongs ...were ‘better’.  The Zea set is ‘a little clunky’.
            But who cares about ‘clunky’ in art?
            THE MARKET DOES.
            I see that; the art qualities, in fractions of a second.  Using my ‘memorized books like this’?  And more... including ‘feel’ (Part Twenty-One).  I do not ‘look it up’ ‘on my cell’.
            THAT brings us back to ‘Sophia’s Desk’.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Place - Part Thirty-Five A

Summer Place

Part Thirty-Five A

            I am at the end of the tale?  Yes.
            JUST some postulation, conjecture and supportive reference for some of the objects within the tale ... that I wish to ‘go on’ about... for a while.  I start with the ‘tea caddy’ just purloined and go back from it to the other ‘old china’ pieces I found of Compass Parker’s wife; Sophia’s... ‘tea china’ (Parts Twelve, Eighteen, Twenty-Four, et al).  And I wish to speak of the tea china’s ‘good taste’ within New England decorative arts.
            From that old china I will expand to ...and go on about... another ‘piece’ of old china from the tale; the Pittsfield platter (Parts Five and Twenty A).  The intent here will be to further speak of ‘good taste...within New England decorative arts’ AND THE REFERENCE EOOK that supports this ‘particular” ...AND... by my good fortune to be found in this reference book too...  a whole other object... from a whole other tale... from my word processing fingers... that is already posted on this blog (A DOOR KNOCK).  And again with that object too; ‘good taste’... ‘in New England decorative arts’.
            Then I will take this pleasantness over to Sophia’s desk (Parts Eleven and Twenty-Seven, then continuing).  I will look over, again, the predicament in progress AND the future finery of the desk after passing its crossroad of destiny and... a little reference source to support its crossroads and feelings on the domestic ‘good taste’... ‘in New England decorative arts’ for the desk.  This last is a sort of ‘the right thing to do’ about the desk and why... too.
            Then the tale is done.

            The tea canister was a true ‘plum of a find’.  It anchored the previous found teapot and tea cup with saucer.  It more than anchored... me.  I deserved it.  I didn’t actually be the actually FOUND IT... a lasting disappointment.  HOW it was found; the verbal summary quizzically endeavored to be brought forth from the verbal skill depths of ... the contractor who... did not ‘find it’ but ...received it from the hands of the electrician who was ‘wiring’ ‘in there’ “by the chimney I guess”.  Ok so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get that squared away especially because the faux composite marble wall SEALED the chamber crawl space chimney site ‘for eternity’. 
            I did rumble my thoughts about I ...there and... ‘missing that’, “huh; could have” BUT concluded that the caddy was actually found in an ‘in-under’ space that was exposed by the wiring process.  NOW... I... PRIDE MYSELF... on my lunatic scrutiny of this sort of space JUST IN SEARCH of such hidden iota but... here admit ...that I was a touch under the gun of my hunting skill deployment that day so... simply ‘missed it’ and truly ‘lucked out’ that the electrician DID find it, DID retrieve it, DID hand it over to Mr. Contractor who DID save it and DID GIVE IT TO ME.  Maybe there’s some of my grandmother’s ghost in that somewhere... too?
            At home alone with the caddy I... admiringly inspected its... undisturbed forlorn old damaged condition.  I fussed with the cap pieces, assembled the cap pieces, fitted the pieces of the cap on the caddy and ...denoted that the ...truly capping... the aesthetic balance of the whole caddy AND of this cap.... little tiny ball final cap top finger lift... was gone; not there in the pieces, and had been GONE A VERY LONG TIME... meaning that Sophia number one could have ‘busted that off and lost it’... “huh”... but  none the less...I love it.  I did not join the caddy with its companion ‘old tea china’.  I sort of just left it ‘around’... like I have the punch bowls... and the teapot and cup & saucer.  “Around” means very obscurely ‘set’ very here or there ish ‘out there’ in the catacombs of my antiquarian in progress stuff-in-buildings and spaces.  One does need a flashlight to see ‘it’ but, well, I’m around there all the time with one so I can... ‘deal with that” display ‘set’.  I see all of it often and... like that.
            “Sell it?”
            “Of course”.  It’s just that it won’t bring that much money and I’ll have to listen to condition whines so... including that most who ‘could buy it’ do not have exposure to ‘that’ (King’s Rose Creamware) so are not ‘active buyers’ or are ...actually stumped... as to ‘WHAT’ ‘IT IS’... so... ‘no hurry’.  Particularly to I is that the teapot, et al, is absolutely the way it was last used... by Sophia... in the the very latest... 1820’s; her last teas before she died... undisturbed, as found... by I.

            My grandmother found Compass Parker’s tea bowl and really did “show you” so THAT gets touchy there.  Or do I care.  That she cared.  Cared?  Or was she too a ‘kept that’ due to forces outside and away from IT; the commercial realities and actual cash value... ‘of it’.  Remarkably, what I am saying again is that ...the stuff doesn’t bring that much because... no one knows about it except deep within the condition conscious antiquarian collector’s realms... so... WELL:
            It is ALSO ‘is rare’, in fact; IS hard to find... and THAT further restricts ‘it’ to make it easy for my grandmother to ‘just leave it’ in the back of her old ratty china cabinet with, occasionally a ‘someone’ ‘spies it’.  I use that sales method all the time.  Too.  My grandmother ‘taught you that’.

            So what could make this ‘of good taste within New England decorative arts?  ASIDE from the ‘obvious to the eye’ qualities; the positive art qualities.  Aside from the design history of the ‘old china’, the history of its usage in Colonial New England and the history of its ‘survival’ in the ‘homes’... of old New England...:  The Queen and her ‘ware’, the King and his ‘rose’.  The tea, the caddy, pot, cup, saucer... ON the ‘tea table’ “PLEASE”.  What I like the best in books that circles all this just postulated... AND steps it attic lore further... with delight... is the ...may be used as a handbook-manual of good taste of Colonial New England decorative arts:  “THE WARNER HOUSE (Portsmouth, NH) A RICH AND COLORFUL HISTORY”, Joyce Geary Volk, editor, Warner House, Portsmouth, 2006.
            This wave-wand book of colonial New England good taste... touches the I (my eye) of my New England antiquarian soul by showing in photograph illustration with textual discussion ...on page 79-80 and figure 7.7... a ‘like Compass Parker’s’ punch bowl WITH a large fragment of another punch bowl; a fragment actually found IN THE ATTIC... of the Warner house.  “OH don’t I JUST... wish with MY flashlight I be that finder”.  I thank them for ‘doing that’ ‘with that’ piece of ‘found that’.  THERE is ‘good taste’ found in New England ATTICS.  Of course... one has to LEARN this by... GOING to collections and SEEING and TOUCHING and... finding by flashlight (?).  Some of us ARE CRAZY... but if one DOES “find it by flashlight” one DOES remember ‘it’ well.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Place - Part Thirty-Four

Summer Place

Part Thirty-Four

The days after my historical society visit sidestepped the antiquarian trade and featured, on Thursday, the family passing the antique platters mounded with carved turkey and ‘fixings’. This beautiful and bountiful feast day is followed by the three day evermore commercially focused ‘holiday weekend’.  Although there may be browsing for antiques by a few, the ‘friends and family’ rituals dominate and the true, pure, lean and ...mean antiquarian trade is... sidestepped.  That weekend I do not find myself in old attics hunting antiques alone behind the light beam of my flashlight.
Unless, of course, there is a ‘family is all got together let’s settle this now’ estate emergency.  Those I actually avoid.  By logic.  IF there is an ‘untouched’ (by antiquarians) attic that be... and BE TRULY... undisturbed... due to true neglect... IT WILL all probability... NOT be ‘explored’... on Thanksgiving weekend.  It made it for two hundred year plus without I and my flashlight... so... no reason to suspect we will be ‘in there’ the “NOW” of that weekend.  Of course this then means that I, an antiquarian picker in hot pursuit, must rock back upon my own heals; I ‘get’ the ‘weekend off”.
            Some weekend:  Dull.
            I escaped the family hubbub each dawn and... ‘go into town’ and... back and... not much else.  But:  On the first day; Friday’s morning, I, driving, had a ‘dawned on me’.  Again.  This must be noted, in its ‘again’ process, to show just how SLOW the mind’s dot to dot procedure is amongst even the most vigilant (obsessed?) antiquarian hunters.  My dawn on me SHOULD have been dawned on me WHILE I was walking away ...from the Historical Society... on that day. It was a very simple and direct ‘dawn on me’.
            I could not visit the Captain Merritt Kimball estate to view the supposed ‘original furnishings’ ‘in the front rooms’ of the estate because... the summer people would not be back at their summer place; the Kimball mansion... ‘until next summer’.  I had counter suggested that WE (the Historical Society director and I) roust the estate’s caretaker ...whom we’d surely know... and get that person to let us in to ‘see’.  ‘Good idea’ achieved but, in fact, procedurally SLOW for the Historical Society’s vantage was a combination of ‘we’ll get to it’ and ‘what’s in this for us anyway?’.  I had privately reckoned this myself.  BUT I had not reckoned further until that Friday morning when I ‘dawn on me’ THAT I had ‘recently’ (within six weeks) BEEN INSIDE the Captain Merritt Kimball estate MYSELF (Part Twenty-Two) when ...buying and cleaning out the old crawl space chamber ‘FULL’ of ‘old stuff’ ...that was discovered during the renovation of the upstairs bathroom... by the contractor... that I know well... WHO IS PROBABLY STILL WORKING ON THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW.
            I ...turned the truck around and drove to and UP the Captain Merritt Kimball estate DRIVEWAY ...even though at the bottom of that I could see that there was no one there; no ‘contractors at work’ trucks parked there.  TODAY...
            Because it is THE FRIDAY of THANKSGIVING DAY WEEKEND and... “THEY” “took the weekend OFF”.  So I turned the truck around ‘outback’ of the main house and before the contractor’s dumpster that, by the protruding debris, SHOWED ACTIVITY ‘on going’ so I was assured that ‘they’ are ‘still working’... so... therefore that I ...will comeback MONDAY MORNING and ‘find them’ “HERE”.  The giant and nearly full dumpster disturbed the otherwise breath take beautiful ...on to... stunningly beautiful ...hill top crest ‘view’ of ALL; the site, the mansion, the barns, the ‘down to the river’, the river and... the haze of the horizon beyond.  I stopped the truck... at the front of the mansion... and sat there both staring and ‘taking it all in’.  This was (and IS) my absurd QUEST?  That I be HERE NOW to be the “BE THERE” “BACK THEN”.  Am I HERE... BACK THEN... NOW?  WHY did I STOP... if I be NOT HERE NOW... IN... the BACK THEN... I... quest?  The rumblings and thunder claps of too much thinking meets actual action in space and time... and has brought ME to my own “I” “HERE” “NOW”?  I can see crystal clear “BACK THEN” and therefore the “WHY” and the wholeness of the... ‘way it was’?  The truck idled.
            There was nothing to spoil this whole wholeness EXCEPT I in the truck idling and... the dumpster around the corner of the back of the mansion.  I... idling... WAS THERE.  AM THERE.  I GOT THERE.  SAT THERE.  KNEW I WAS THERE.  AFTER ALL OF ‘it’; the FIFTY YEARS... that followed the Kimball’s one hundred and fifty years... that was founded by the FIFTY YEARS BEFORE of Compass Parker... and his wife, the first (?) Sophia (Parts Twelve A-B-C).  I am there now? 
            “I am there now.” I said.
I put the truck back in drive and ...drove away.
            ON Monday morning, early... for the contractors started at seven... I arrived at the Captain Merritt Kimball estate ... before the contractor’s coffee had cooled.  I parked out back by their trucks and the dumpster.  I did not like that; I wanted to park in front and go in the front door.  I went in the back side door, as they did.  I went to the front of the house, to the hall at the front door.  I turned to go up the front stairs.  AS I turned I glanced at both CLOSED DOORS to the two front rooms denoting not only their closed state but also the key heads poking out from their door lock key holes.
            I went up the stairs to be ...early contractor morning style ‘we saw you coming what do you want’ curtly greeted that I MASTER of factually butted back by saying “I WANT TO LOOK AT THE FURNITURE IN THE FRONT ROOMS DOWN STAIRS IT WILL JUST TAKE A MINUTE”.
            That declaration of beyond contractual scope purpose eased relations to a holding of coffee cup “Sure” and I hesitated not.  I reversed, went down the stairs, turned to the door on my left, turned the knob knowing it was locked.  I turned the key, unlocked the door, open it inward and... saw that the room was completely empty with nothing in it at all.  At all.  I closed the door, locked it, went across the hall, heard footsteps come to the head of the stairs above, turned that door knob while turning that key, opened the door and saw that this room too was completely empty.  Holding on to the door knob I looked up to the top of the stairs to see the contractor looking down at me.  “WHERE’S ALL THE FURNITURE?” I said.
            “The painters took it out.  They’re gonna paint the rooms.  Not until we’re done up here.”
            I looked back into the room.  “Painting?” I said.  I looked at the room.  That room need NO PAINTING that I could see but... well... that’s summer people.  “WHERE’D THEY PUT THE FURNITURE?  WHOSE PAINTING?”
            “He’s around?”
            “I haven’t seen him since we started.  HE’LL SHOW UP.”
            “When?  Like:  February, right.”
            I looked back in the room; a glance, then pulled the door shut turning the knob.  Then locked it.  I still faced the door.
            “MINE?  UP THERE?” I said
            “YEAH:  YOURS.  YOU LEFT IT.”
            “LEFT IT?  WHAT IS IT?”
            “I don’t know what it is COME GET IT.” He said and turned away into the new bathroom.  I went up the stairs and into the bathroom.  He was picking something out of his tool pile at one corner.  He turned and handed me... in his outstretching hand... what I instantly identified to be... an 18th century creamware Queen’s ware Kings rose decorated ‘tea’ caddy.  I took it from his hand.
            I, quickly spun it over and over in my hand while affirming that IT BE A THAT; the what I thought I saw, as he turned away, bent back to the tool pile, fetched something, rose and returned his arm with a small box holding small pieces of broken decorated creamware.
            “The lid.” I said.
            “You know what it is?” He said.
            “Yeah.  A.”  I stopped my planned expostulation of identification.  “TEA BOTTLE.” I said.  “Old tea bottle”.
            “Old tea bottle?” he said.  “They put TEA in that?”
            “DRY tea.”
            “OH.  Anyway:  You left that.”
            “Left that?”
            “Yeah.  We found it  You’d already gone.”
            “In there.” He said gesturing to where the crawl space door once had been but now was covered by a:
            “MARBLE WALL?” I said.
            “Composite” he said.  “Looks real though doesn’t it”.
            “Ah... YEAH.”
            “So take that out of here.  I was worried I was gonna step on it.”
            I did.