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’.