Monday, April 30, 2012

Accessories in a 1785 Watercolor

'January' from 'The Months', by Robert Dighton
Great Britain, c. 1785.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Museum no. E.33-1947

I love all the fashionable accessories depicted in this 1785, British water color. And is it just me, or do those chairs look like they have slip covers? Did they use slip covers that long ago?

So back to her outfit. The lady has a powdered and frizzled hair style, covered with a large dormeuse style cap, trimmed with green ribbon that matches the bows on her rust-colored gown. I imagine the dress is silk. It looks nice a shiny in the water color. The sleeves are long and trimmed at the wrist with small ruffles that look embroidered. She wears a kerchief, tucked into her gown. Her petticoat, which is a light pink, is trimmed in a ruffle and looks like it may be scalloped or pinked at the edge. Over it, she wears a very delicate and sheer apron. The apron looks to be embroidered with white work. Her shawl has a small repeating print - maybe embroidered or roller-printed? Her shoes are light pink - maybe silk? They have latchets and buckles that appear to be silver.

I love her outfit. I especially like the long sleeves, which you don't see every day, and that apron is beautiful! Where ever will I find sheer enough fabric to recreate one?

Are those people out the window ice skating? Looks fun :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trying something new: Tablescape Thursdays.

Recently I heard about Tablescape Thursdays, from Between Naps on the Porch, and I thought it would be something fun to participate in. I have been a little obsessed with china lately...

Basically, each Thursday, any one who wants to play along gets to submit a "tablescape" to her blog and the blogger does one too. They're quite fun to browse through, and it's almost like a fun homework assignment to come up with a new one each week (I wish we had done that in school!). I don't know if I will participate every time, but I thought I would give it a shot.

With one added rule.

To keep with the theme of my blog, and what motivates me to collect china/silver in the first place, the table has to involve a historical element. Think antique plates, vintage linens, reproduction pieces, etc. I encourage anyone who wants to give it a try. You can link to her page, or just to mine. I would love to see what beautiful, historically inspired tables others can create. Even if it's just a vintage tea cup on a nifty napkin. Go for it!

Since this is my first one, and it's already Thursday (eek! Where has the week gone?), I thought I'd pull a picture from a couple weekends ago. Sunday breakfast. It's the last time I took a picture of my table.

And to note, this is only inspired by history, it in no way is a historically accurate table. Just clearing that up! Also, it's more a set table, than a "table scape" but eh whatever. It's for fun.

Yummy! All gone! 

Coffee set: Herend "Queen Victoria" and "Rothschild Bird"
Tray: Wallace "American Chippendale"
Silverware: Wallace "Grand Baroque"
Plates and Tea Cups/Saucers: Royal Copenhagen "Flora Danica"
Crystal: Waterford "Lismore"
Salt Cellars and Silver Serving Dish: Unknown, but purchased at a silver shop in Merchant Square, in Williamsburg.
Jam Pots: Bacarrat
Egg cups: Unknown, purchased from Bloomingdales.
Small Plates: Bernardaud "Constance"
Butter server: Unknown maker, c. 1920.
Muffineer/Castor: Unknown maker. Purchased on Portobello Rd, London.
Linens: Waterford hemstiched

So a bit about each piece, and why this table is inspired by history:

Starting with the china, I went a bit in depth about Royal Copenhagen's Flora Danica recently. In short, it has been in production since the 18th century. It was originally commissioned as a set for Catherine the Great. The Herend coffee pot is in the "Queen Victoria" pattern. The original set was introduced in 1851 at the First World Exhibition in London. It was purchased by Queen Victoria herself and was later named after her. "Rothschild Bird" was first created in 1860 for the Rothschild family. It portrays a 19th century tale about Baroness Rothschild, who lost a pearl necklace in her garden. Days later it was found by her gardener, who saw birds playing with it in a tree.

The smaller, green plates are by Bernardaud, "Constance," and are Limoges porcelain. Limoges is a hard paste porcelain that has been made in Limoges, France, since the 18th century. Bernardaud was established after the Revolution, and the Contance pattern is reminiscent design during the French Empire.

The antique silver pieces speak for themselves. The covered butter, which can be seen next to the jam pots, is from the 1920's. The sugar castor was a gift, brought back from Portobello Road, and my husband and I picked up the salt cellars and covered serving dish (holding the waffles) when we were in Virginia. 

The silverware is new, but is in the "Grand Baroque" pattern, reminiscent of baroque design. Wallace has been making Grand Baroque since 1941.

The crystal is Waterford, which is one of the oldest crystal manufacturers. It was established in 1783 in Ireland. "Lismore" had it's 50th anniversary in 2002.

The linen under the coffee set is displayed pressed. In the 18th century, linens were set out with creases to show that the house had a press.

P.S. If you want to join in, take this handy badge for your blog:

Some very pretty fabric, an inkwell and a snuff box.

Last time I was in Williamsburg I bought a ton of reproduction printed cotton. I got enough for two simple dresses. I am absolutely in love with this "bat wing" fabric (above), but I don't know what to do with it. Part of me thinks the answer is pretty straight forward: simple anglaise, but another part of me loves the print so much (and it's surprisingly modern), I almost want to make something I can wear out of the house. Or something for my house, like some great throw pillows. I'm saving it till the lightbulb clicks.

Below is more reproduction cotton from Williamsburg. This is much more "18th century", and I'm sure I will be whipping it up into a dress soon enough. Though it would make very pretty bedding...

But in the mean time, while I wait to get inspired, I will still be working on my 1804 dress embroidery. I've been picking it up as I can, fitting it in while I watch TV. I haven't been super diligent about finishing it, but since I have no deadline I'm trying to relax and appreciate having something fun to work on. I really enjoy embroidery.

In other news, I have been doing a lot of antique shopping. A couple especially cool finds: I found a beautiful silver, late 18th century ink well and my husband found the most awesome silver snuff box. It's 1780's and is in AMAZING condition. It looks like it was never used. The hinge is very strong and smooth. He uses it for vitamins :)

The little box in the middle is fixed to the tray.
I wonder what to put inside... Maybe my seal and some sealing wax?

The ink pot.

The pounce pot, or sander.

The ink pot and sander still have their original crystal pots.
They have a lovely etched circle design down the sides,
echoing the beading along the edge of the silver.

Isn't the filigree work on the sander superb!?

The charming little snuff box.

No doubt the design is hand tooled.

The inside is gold washed.

The Anchor is for Birmingham, the "ML" stands for the maker,
Matthew Linwood, and the "P" in the shield denotes the year, 1787.

To give a perspective of size. It's very cute and small!
Just a little teeny bit of scratches.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And what is that for??

The more I browse old silver and china, the more I unearth the strange and interesting pieces that have been lost to time. So many pieces, most stemming from the Victorian era, are now mostly obsolete, or have been moved from the silver pantry to kitchen drawers, being redesigned and now made of silicone and stainless. Boo. Boring.

For me, it's totally fascinating to uncover these pieces, and more often than not, I learn the use and find myself saying, "ah, that makes sense!" And then I want one!

Some of my favorites...

Hooded asparagus server, La Scala by Gorham

I have actually acquired two of these guys. I have this special place in my heart for the now-neglected asparagus servers. There's something super frivolous (only for asparagus? How often does one actually eat asparagus?) but also super functional about them. Just you try lifting asparagus with a regular spatula. They will roll right off onto your floor. I suppose you could use tongs, but whatever. Of course, they make special asparagus tongs as well...

Saratoga/cracker spoon, Chrysanthemum by Gorham

The Saratoga spoon is interesting. It it used for chips, crackers, etc. The name comes from Saratoga, the city, where some early chip-maker served up chips and the name was given to this shape of spoon. They are fantastic for big serving bowls of chips or popcorn, where you don't want someone sticking their grubby fingers... or just to be extra classy :)

I have an excellent Grand Baroque Saratoga spoon, but it is solid. I find the Chrysanthemum spoon above, with its cut-work, especially lovely.

Over cup tea strainer, Kirk Stieff Silver

How much prettier is this than a metal mesh strainer!? I want one, but alas I haven't found one for my collection yet.

Crumb knife, Hizen by Gorham

Through the years, bread and butter plates have not always been on the table. For much of history, a diner simply set their bread on the tablecloth (not slathered in butter). When necessary, crumbs could be brushed away using one of these lovely crumb knives, or simply with a hand (but where's the fun in that?). Also for this purpose, the "silent butler" came about. Those usually look like little boxes with a handle and hinged top. Often silent butlers have a matching brush to whisk crumbs into the box.

Fun fact about eating bread at the table: etiquette says that one never bites the bread. To be proper, break off a small piece, butter it (or not) and eat it. Repeat. This was done because in medieval times, leftover bread was given to the poor. 

Orange/Grapefruit spoon, Grand Baroque by Wallace

Now these just make sense. Grapefruits are very hard to section with a regular tea spoon.

Cake breaker, Grand Baroque by Wallace

The cake breaker. Just like the name implies, it was used to cut slices of delicate cakes, like angel food, where a regular knife would squish the frothy dough. Or, in case you get locked in your pantry, a hair brush.

Mote spoon, Georgian silver (possibly George Smith)
via Silver Perfect

An 18th century piece, the mote spoon is along the lines of a tea strainer, but not quite. The perforated bowl could be used not only to skim leaves from your cup, but also to transfer leaves to the pot, shaking out the too-small bits first. The pointed tail is handy to unclog loose leaves from the spout of the pot. I'm especially drawn to the mote spoon because it has such an interesting shape, and sadly, though they are particularly handy to loose tea drinkers, in the modern day of tea bags they have no purpose and so are no longer made.

There are countless other pieces that I have not mentioned. Hundreds, I'm sure. Above is just a sampling of pieces I find especially interesting and frivolous, and at the same time still very useful. Does anyone else have a favorite obscure or obsolete piece of tableware? Perhaps a ramekin or terrapin fork? A jelly spoon? A rooster-shaped egg topper? Do share!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Mantua

Mantua. English, ca. 1708
Bizarre silk in salmon-pink damask with floral
and foliate pattern brocaded with polychrome
silk and gold metallic file
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1991.6.1 a,b

From the Metropolitan Museum of art:

"The late 1670s saw a new development in the style of women's dress that would have a far-reaching effect throughout the following century. The stiff constricting boned bodice-and-skirt style previously worn by women was now replaced with the mantua, a more loosely draped style of gown. The mantua was thought to display silk designs to their best advantage, as they were draped rather than cut; as such, it is believed the garment was named after Mantua in Italy, where expensive silks were produced. However, it has also been suggested that the name derives from manteau, the French term for a coat.

The mantua was a coatlike construction, with sleeves cut in one piece with the back and front. It was pleated at the shoulders and fell to the waist, where it was held in place by a sash. From there it was folded back into a bustle shape and worn over a matching petticoat. As the style evolved, the pleats at the front were reduced in number and the bodice was opened, with the torso now covered by a stiffened piece of fabric in the form of an inverted triangle, tapering into a narrow waist. This piece of fabric was known as a stomacher. Early examples are often intricately embroidered. While these gowns appear quite substantial, they were actually precariously fastened with pins to hold the stomacher in place.

Originally an informal style, and banned for its informality from the French court by Louis XIV, the mantua gradually became acceptable as formal dress and remained a popular choice for court dress in England until the mid-century. Its popularity was such that dressmakers were referred to as mantua-makers."

Mantua, late 17th century.
Taupe wool with stripes of dull orange and blue,
embroidered in silver-gilt thread
Metropolitan Museum of Art
33.54 a,b

Comtess Mailly wearing a mantua, 1698

Lady, 1690.

Lady, 1693.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Robe Volante

Robe Volante, France, 1735.
Les Arts Decoratifs

A little about the robe volante, an early 18th century style of gown, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

"This robe volante is an exceedingly rare example of a well-documented form of dress that marked the transition from the mantua of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to the robe à la française, the dress style that became ubiquitous in the eighteenth century. The unstructured silhouette of the robe volante, with its unbroken expanses of cloth, made it particularly appropriate for the display of large-scale patterning."

Jean-François de Troy, The Declaration of Love, 1731
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Robe Volante, France, 1725.
Les Arts Decoratifs

Robe volante, France, 1730's.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pots de Creme

Set of two Chinese Export brown
Fitzhugh Crested Pot de Creme, 1785.
Vandekar of Knightsbridge

I always think they are just the cutest little things!

Originally popping up in the 17th century, these little pots were created with their lids to keep broths and meat juices warm. According to Clare Le Corbeiller, decorative arts curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art "in the eighteenth century this shape cup was called pots à jus." In the 19th century, they started using them to serve desserts, most notably, pot de creme.

Pot de creme is a loose, french custard. It's unbelievably easy to make. I know this, because I made it for the first time last night and it was amazing! I had a friend over so I thought I would give making pot de creme a shot. We took a bite and ohmygosh! The best thing I have had in a while.

I don't have pots yet, so I used porcelain ramekins. I have also seen them made in teacups - just make sure they are oven safe!

Pot de Creme au Chocolat (with a little almond - yum!)
This makes 4 full pots, or 6 smaller portions.

2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate
1 cup half and half
3 Tbs sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt

Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and add the milk. Keep warm. In a second bowl, beat the egg with the sugar and add the almond extract and salt. Temper the egg mixture into the milk/chocolate and remove from heat. 

Fill your pots de creme and place in a pyrex pan. Fill with boiling water, up to 1/2inch from the top of the pots. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. 

Remove the pots from the water bath and cool for about an hour. They will not be fully set until they cool. Cover and chill in the fridge for (suggested) 3 hours, but we ate ours after about 90 minutes. As long as they are chilled through so they set up.

Some other suggestions, if you are not fond of almond: orange zest, vanilla, grand marnier... Lots of options!

Sevres pot de creme, 1765

 English Creamware Covered
Pot de Creme, 1785-95
Vandekar of Knightsbridge

Sevres pot de creme
via Live Auctioneers

Sevres Porcelain Covered Pots-de-Creme, 1768
via Live Auctioneers

Lahoche & Pannier, 1855.
Vandekar of Knightsbridge

Friday, April 13, 2012

The cutest 1830s purse!

Silk twill, silk chenille, wire.
French, c.1830.
Dewitt Wallace Dec. Arts Museum

Too charming! Wouldn't this still be just sweet for spring time? I love it! 

From the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum:

"Drawstring purse of green silk twill embroidered with flat and raised motifs made of chenille threads with wire centers in a design depicting a basket of flowers. The bottom of the purse is latticed with chenille to look like a basket that widens at the top. Upper section of the purse tapers back in toward the top and is ornamented with large raised chenille flowers and leaves in pink, blue, gold, orange, rust, green, purple, and cream. Purse closes with a double silk cord drawstrings. The strings forming the handle terminate in a green tassel. Unlined."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eye Candy: Stomachers

Silk/metal. British, 1750-59.
Metropolitan Museum

Silk/metal/paper/linen. European, 1750-75.
Metropolitan Museum

Linen. British, 18th century.
Metropolitan Museum

Silk/cotton. German, late 18th century.
Metropolitan Museum

Silk/metal/horn/cane (probably). British,
first third of the 18th c.
Metropolitan Museum

Silk/cotton/metal. Britain, 1730-50.
Victoria and Albert

Silver bobbin lace. Britain, 1740-50.
Victoria and Albert

Silk/linen. Britain, 1730-50.
Victoria and Albert

Silk with fly fringe and self-fabric rouchings.
Britain, 1770-80.
Dewitt Wallace Dec. Arts Museum

Silk satin. France, 1700-50.

Silk/metal. Italy (possibly), 1730-40.
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Silk/metal. France, 1740-60.
Philadelphia Museum of Art