This is a wood carving on my mother-in-law’s living room wall.
Tagged With: Objet d’art
As you may know, we’re going though things at Cathy’s mom’s house. There have been many “treasures” found and one of Cathy’s favorites was a box filled with little glass animals. They belonged to her dad and she had never seen them before. Presumably they were packed up when the family moved to Afghanistan long before Cathy was born. They must have stayed packed up when they returned and so they were a real surprise. Happily they were all in really good shape, that box never got crushed by other boxes, or anything. This little duck is one of them. I may post more pictures in the future, if I have a day when it’s getting late and I haven’t taken any photos yet.
I didn’t have anything in particular to take a picture of today and didn’t get outside much, so I took this picture in our dining room. We’ve been moving things from both my mom’s house and Cathy’s mom’s house and adding things to what we already had. The photo in the center of this is a Winter & Pond photo titled “Lights o’ Juneau” On the left, the blue bowl filled with Easter Eggs is from Istalif, Iran. There are two sets of matryoshka or nesting dolls, one traditional (in the back and on the right) and one modern with (from largest to smallest) Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Leonid Brezhnev, Joseph Stalin, and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (otherwise know as Lenin).
We don’t know a lot about this porcelain rhinoceros. In fact, I don’t know for certain that it’s made of porcelain. It’s some sort of ceramic and it’s white, which generally implies kaolin clay and porcelain. It’s glazed mostly green and it has an interesting pattern in the glaze, possibly from the firing technique. It gives the figurine a more natural appearance, because rhinoceroses are not a uniform color (or course, they aren’t green, either, but that’s another matter). There are currently five extant species of rhinoceros, two native to Africa (the white and the black rhino) and three to Asia, the Indian, the Javan, and the Sumatran rhinos. I’m going to go with this being an Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and guess that the figurine came from central Asia somewhere, but of course it could easily have been bought in the United States.
This is a plate that my mom made in 1955 and I’ve always loved it. She was at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She insists it wasn’t graduate school because she didn’t get a degree, but I still think of it as grad school. She had finished college and was in art school. Ceramics wasn’t her main thing, but they did a little of everything including painting and sculpture, as well. Her interests were in textiles and she did a lot of silk screening. I still have the curtains that she made and which we now use as drop cloths for painting. But this plate is, I think, really nice. I wish we had some clue about the composition of the glaze, which is lovely. We have her wheel and kiln and would really like to get around to using them again.
Three (Piggy) Graces
I happened to be a few minutes early for a meeting down the hall from Cathy’s office today so I stopped in to say hello. I had brought my camera with me, as I sometimes do when walking across campus but I didn’t take any pictures on the way. As I was chatting with Cathy I decided to take a few pictures of this small figuring of the Three Graces done as pigs. As you can see, Cathy has put ribbons around their necks and one of them is wearing a fluff of some sort, which I have to assume came from Solomon (our Amazon Parrot). They are sitting on her window sill near two plastic alligators and a gecko.
Post Office Desk and Knicknacks
Some of the individual items in this photograph have appeared here before but I don’t think I’ve posted a picture showing the desk at large. On the left, hanging by one hand from the bookcase, is Edmund, a paper mache (a.k.a. Papier-mâché) monkey. Actually, when I asked Cathy if he had a name she said he did not. Then she said if he did it would be Edmund. Coco the stuffed baboon in 3,5, the bridal couple in 1,3, and the little blue pitcher in 2,4 have been photographed for posts before, so if they look familiar, that’s why.
This fairly large chunk of petrified wood was used for many years as a door stop at my grandparents house in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and I can still see it there. When we cleaned out their house in the early 1980s, my mom took it and when we cleaned out her house last year, I did. For now, it’s on a shelf in our upstairs office, which is mostly a storage room for various things at present. We’ve slowly but surely (well, slowly, anyway) going through things and reducing the amount of stuff and this room is in pretty bad shape. If I can get my slide digitizer built and working, perhaps I can eliminate a significant amount of stuff in that room, which has all my photographs from when I bought my first camera in 1979 or so to when I switched to digital in 2003. There are also notebooks of slides from my grandfather, various boxes of negatives, and miscellaneous other items to be scanned. It isn’t going to be finished anytime soon.
Dot and Some of Her Art
As you know, if you’ve been following me for a while, my mom moved from the house she lived in for 59 years into a retirement community nearby. As they do with most new residents they published a short bio of her for the community paper. In that she talked about some of the art she has created over the years and she was asked if they might display a sample in their small gallery. They have a dozen or so display cases like the one shown here and she gave them some painted china and some small quilt work that she has done, to be displayed for six months.
I saw the display a month or so ago but Cathy wasn’t with us that day so after brunch with mom today we went to see it. The plates she painted include a nuthatch in the upper left, which is actually displayed incorrectly with the bird appearing to be on the ground instead of creeping down the trunk of a tree, as they do. At the upper right is a white-throated sparrow and the two birds on the lower plates are a black-capped chickadee on a wild rose (left) and a Carolina wren. The small quilt at the back of the bottom of the display was inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting of fish on a plate.
She has much more, of course, and has made quite a few much larger quilts but they would not fit into the display case. Also, most of the quilts have been distributed to her children and grandchildren. She showed us one she is working on now and I took a picture of her with that but decided to keep it secret until it is finished and given to its recipient.
There was a lot of stuff in Cathy’s mom’s house, including a surprising number of things that Cathy had never seen. The jaguar skin that I posted a picture of recently was one example. This gold pendant in the shape of a camel is another. Specifically, this is a dromedary, the one-humped camel (Camelus dromedarius), currently existing only as a domestic or feral animal, having been first domesticated in Somalia or the Arabian Peninsula about 4,000 years ago. There are two species of two-humped camels, the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) and the wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus), which until recently was assumed to have descended from feral domesticated Bactrian camels. Genetic studies have shown it to be a separate species.
I don’t know for sure but I think these old opera glasses belonged to my Uncle Ralph and his wife, Aunt Florence. Technically my great uncle and aunt, because he was my grandfather’s brother. Assuming that’s where they came from, I have to assume also that they went to the theatre from time to time. I can’t say that I knew them well. They lived in New Jersey and he died when I was only ten years old. He grew up in the west, having been born in what is now a ghost town in a mining area of Nevada. After earning an undergraduate degree in Utah, he went to St Johns College in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar where he earned a B.A. degree and a year later a B.Sc. degree.
Dorothy spent much of the day organizing her things. It’s been a few years since all her things were in one place and she’s taking the opportunity to go through everything and decide what she can get rid of. When I got home today and needed something to photograph she suggested I could take some pictures in her room. Out of the two dozen or so that I took, this one is my favorite. It’s a little shell with an even smaller figurine in it, a mouse (I think), and a metal box with enamel, all sitting on a small Afghan carpet square that she’s using as a table cover.
Samovar Lamp and Ceramic Dog
a few of Dorothy’s friends are passing through the area and asked if they could spend the night here tomorrow night. Naturally we’re happy to have them and I was cleaning up the guest room, which we have used as something of a store room for things we don’t know what to do with. I was in there this evening and this do caught my eye. I don’t know why but I think the composition with the dog in front of the samovar lamp just works. It’s all I have for today, so I guess it has to.
As I mentioned a few days ago, with the shorter days, if I don’t get out during work and if there doesn’t happen to be a nice sunrise or sunset, I have a hard time getting an outdoor photo this time of year (and for the next few months). Because of that, I’m afraid you’re going to have to put up with this sort of photograph. This happens every year and I really should look back at previous years and see if there is anything I did that I might do again now, to deal with this issue.
Dried Flower Decoration
We have a small porcelain dish with a beautiful, dried flower decoration on the bottom. The dish is heart shaped with a ruffled edge and the decoration is beautiful, in my mind. The interesting thing is that when we got the dish, it had no decoration in it but was a simple, ivory color. The decoration shown here is actually real, dried flowers that were in the dish with a little water. The water evaporated and the flowers and their stems adhered to the bottom of the dish. They are, I assume, quite fragile and could be cleaned out very easily. Nevertheless, I think they’re lovely and thought they deserved a photo. Sometimes it’s hard to improve on reality.
Cathy has a small collection of advertising thermometers and they are on the wall in our front hall (you can see the bottom of our doorbell in the upper left). They have been collected over the years from various antique shops and generally have been bought for under $10 or so. We’ve seen some that didn’t really fit the pattern and that we passed on. Just being an advertisement isn’t really enough. It needs to have a photo or illustration and preferably that should be mostly unrelated to the company being advertised. So, for instance, a thermometer in a bottle shaped frame with a Coca Cola logo would not qualify. From left to right (roughly), we have Quina & Miller Co. (furniture), B and B Milk Transportation, Santoni Furniture and Salvage Co., R.M. Pile & Sons (manufacturer of concrete septic tanks!), Geo. D. Deoudes Co., Inc (commission merchants), Randolph Market, and Dr. Beegle’s Chiropractic Health Offices.
Dorothy gave me a set of four prints for Christmas. Three of them are portraits of the three of us, herself, Cathy, and me. The fourth was also of her so technically a portrait but it’s her walking and not facing the viewer. Anyway, she asked me to take photos of them for her and I did. She also said I could use one of those as my photo for the day. So, while I took this photograph, the actual content isn’t mine.
Of course the actual content of most of my photographs isn’t mine. I just photograph what I see. Sometimes it’s a man-made object and sometimes it’s something found in nature. Rarely is it a me-made object and even then, I only make things with materials that already exist. I like these prints and I think I like the one of me the best, which sounds egotistical but I think it’s the best of the three technically and I just like the way it looks.
The story is that this is a tear catcher or tear bottle, used to collect the tears of mourners in Persia (i.e. Iran and Afghanistan). According to tradition, bottles like this (and in other shapes and from other places) were used to catch the tears and the more tears the more regret over losing the loved one. The shape of the opening, theoretically, is meant to fit over the eye, although it doesn’t really fit very well and I can think of much better designs if that’s really what it’s about.
I’ve never been terribly comfortable believing that they were ever actually used for this, but that’s the story. I’ve never found any convincing proof that they were actually used for this purpose. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on them has very inconclusive and even somewhat conflicting statements about them and most of the statements are tagged as needing a citation, so even those are pretty suspect (not to mention that nearly everything you find there is suspect).
I don’t think this bottle is terribly old. If it is, it’s in terrifically good shape. It is, however, a remarkably beautiful, cobalt blue and regardless of the veracity of it’s origin and original use, it’s a beautiful example of the glass blower’s art.
I was working in the garage this evening and had my camera with me, thinking I might find a few interesting things to photograph. We’ve still working our way through some boxes of things from my in-laws’ house and I ended up taking a few photos. This is a small bottle with some sand painting in it. It’s the smaller but nicer of two sand art bottles. The other one has sand that I believe came from Petra, although I’m not sure how you verify that. This one, as far as I know, is nothing special. That is to say, it’s pretty, but we have no idea who made it or where it came from. It’s certainly better than anything I could do but that’s not really saying much.
We don’t typically get our Christmas decorations up quite as early as we have done this year. I know some people are good about regularly getting things set up the weekend after Thanksgiving. We aren’t that prompt and sometimes things don’t get set up until the week of Christmas itself. This year, with less ‘out of house’ activities, we put our tree up and started decorating on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Dorothy set up the traditional nativity scene on the piano. As usual, all are welcome at the manger and Dorothy makes sure there are many representatives from various places.
I don’t really know anything about this painted box. We assume it’s Persian but don’t know if it was bought in Afghanistan or Iran (Cathy’s family lived in both). It has some writing around the top edge (not seen here) and if I can find someone familiar with the languages, perhaps we can get it translated and that will tell us more. It was difficult to get a good picture of this, because it has a high gloss finish and getting a picture with a large area of reflection was tricky. This one turned put pretty well, though.
Another Strange Ornament
We don’t remember where this little Christmas ornament came from. Cathy thought it was made by the woman who cleaned her mom’s house for so many years but the things she made were more homespun. This is different. Just about as strange but different. It’s a Christmas caroler and it’s one we put out every year, but we don’t really know much else.
It’s a funny little thing but as one person commented on Instagram in reference to the Strange Little Ornament post (see Tuesday, December 01, 2020), our house “is a haven for strange little things.” I think perhaps she was including us in the “strange little thing” category, but I can’t be sure.
I’ll post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper did make in a few days. I think you’ll agree that they, along with this, qualifies as folk art.
This is the top of a small hutch in our dining room. Most of the things on the shelf have appeared on the blog at one time or another but I thought I’d post a photo of the whole collection (or this shelf’s worth, anyway). On the right is a nurse that my grandmother made the clothes for and that was in a store window during the war as part of a display about collecting for the community. In front of her are three matryoshka sets including a traditional one on the left, one with Russian political figures in the middle (that’s Leonid Brezhnev), and a east Asian one on the right. The wine bottle was found in what is now the ghost town where my grandfather was born. Next to that is a figurine that Cathy got from her family of a baby sucking on its thumb.
Mini Art Gallery
We were over at Dorothy’s this evening and enjoyed dinner and a short visit. I only took a few pictures, because it wasn’t really a picture sort of evening but I did take a few. She has put up a fair amount of art in the bathroom nearest her bedroom. This picture doesn’t really do it justice and I’m not sure any would, unless I did a 360 panorama. And even that would be tough. As you can see, it’s a fairly eclectic collection of things, from a key chain to a partially painted deer skull, with various prints and photographs as well. I’ve been to a few art galleries that were more like this, with a wide variety of things on the walls, not just one painting after another, evenly spaced and all at the ideal height. The old Barnes museum, before it moved into downtown Philadelphia was something like that, although it’s collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings are clearly in a class of their own. Nevertheless, it uses a lot more wall space than in a more traditional gallery. I have no idea if the new location has preserved that look and feel, but I would assume so.
Another gallery with the walls more crammed with things is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This is one of my favorite museums and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Boston, unless of course you don’t care for art. But I love it. Of course, I’m not saying Dorothy’s bathroom reaches the level of the Barnes or the Gardner. But it has that same feel to it.