Archive for April, 2013

Redware vixen stirrup cup, c.1775

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

This redware pottery figural stirrup cup was made in England in the third quarter of the 18th century and is in the form of a cunning little vixen’s head. L-shaped, it measures 4″ tall by 6-1/4″ wide and is freestanding, which is unusual, as most stirrup cups are base-less and unable to stand on their own. Stirrup cups, traditionally filled with port or sherry, were given to guests as a parting drink at the conclusion of a fox hunt, while their feet were still in their stirrups. This tradition began in the United Kingdom in the 18th century and continued for hundreds of years. As this sport never ended well for the fox, it was finally banned in Scotland in 2002 and in England and Wales just three years later.




The original handle must have broken off after an inebriated hunter grabbed the cup at the conclusion of the hunt, downed his sherry, then promptly fell off his horse, dropping and breaking the prized vessel. I imagine the host was not pleased by the guest’s unruly behavior and surely did not invite him back anytime soon. Luckily, a metalsmith, most likely in the 19th century, came to the rescue and fashioned a new handle with support bands, thus enabling another, more sober guest to stay in the saddle and toast his gracious host.



An original paper label on the bottom links this cup to esteemed collector and author Frank Falkner of Cheshire, England. The June 1905 issue of Glass and Pottery World contains an article that includes this amusing excerpt: “Mr. Falkner and Mr. Lidelstham had a hobby for old pottery, but they did not follow the usual practice of collectors by acquiring rare specimens of old Sevres, Worcester, Crown Derby, Wedgwood or others of the same high class. They directed their attention to the homely figures and ornaments with which ‘the rural population of a century ago used to deck their dresser or mantel shelf. These common rustic figures, made by men who were little more than peasants themselves, had been passed over in silence for the most part even in ceramic histories.'”


The Stirrup Cup by Heywood Hardy (1842-1933) shows hunters being offered drinks in figural stirrup cups by their host.


Another fine example of a rare L-shaped stirrup cup, this one is in the form of a hare, and still with its original handle.


Photo courtesy of Earle D. Vandekar

Medium-sized toy cannon, c.1880

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

There seems to be a multitude of original toy cannon barrels married to wood replacement bases, as I have encountered numerous examples since I started collecting antiques with inventive repairs. This fine toy was most likely made in America in the last quarter of the 19th century and is made of brass with a replaced wood base, freely carved from a block of what appears to be pine. It measures 7-1/2″ long, stands 2-3/4″ tall and the barrel alone is 3-1/2″ long. The remains of the original barrel are firmly nailed to the replacement base using a leather strap. The original green painted surface reveals much wear from years of imaginative playing. Two sets of nail holes on one side suggest perhaps a length of chain was once attached. I purchased this in the same lot as two other toy cannons, all with the same green painted surface and graduating in size. Please take a look at the smallest one, previously posted, and stay tuned for the largest example, which I will post sometime in the near future.






This toy cannon, also made of brass, is in its original form and shows what mine may have looked like before the barrel was strapped on to its wood replacement base. Though not up to military code, I still prefer mine!


Photo courtesy of Esty

**UPDATE 4/23**

An astute  subscriber and former gun collector has informed me that this cute li’l toy cannon is actually made from the barrel of a REAL GUN! Please read his amusing and telling comments below, which shed some light on this toys former life on the streets, defending helpless women. And this is what the European ladies percussion muff pistol looked like when it was still intact and used as a deadly weapon, c.1840:

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Photo courtesy of Sailor in Saddle


Worcester teapot with thimble spout, c.1770

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

A fine example of a globular form porcelain teapot made in England by Worcester in the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, it is hand painted with polychrome enamels in the Conjurer pattern, with unusual cobalt blue underglaze rim decoration.



Teapot measures  7-1/2″ wide from handle to spout and stands 4-1/2″ high minus its original flower finial lid. Metal replacement spouts on teapots are one of the most common inventive repairs I encounter and I have dozens of examples ranging from crudely cut tin, to ornately chased silver.



I purchased this one a few months ago under the guise of the spout’s having a typical metal replacement, as I was interested in owning my first Worcester teapot. But as I unpacked, upon closer inspection I discovered that the replacement spout was actually a repurposed 19th century sterling silver thimble!



What an ingenious solution to saving two precious, much used household objects. It seems that the thimble, which must have been jabbed by a needle one too many times, and finally bearing a hole in the end, was crudely cut at an angle and cemented to the damaged end of the ceramic spout. With such a simple DIY solution, I am surprised I haven’t seen more repairs done in this manner. I can only imagine that had Hints from Heloise appeared in 19th century newspapers, there would be many more examples like this in existence today.


Another Worcester example with similar form and decoration shows what the lid and end of the spout would have looked like on my teapot.


Photo courtesy of Trocadero

Pair of armorial sauce boats, c.1790

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

As collectors, we all have stories of “the one that got away” and for me it happened in June 1991, on the very first day I started collecting antiques with inventive repairs. Having landed in London the night before and still jet lagged, I stumbled down Portobello Road and wandered into a crowded stall selling porcelains. I spotted a pair of Chinese Export sauce boats each with a replaced metal loop handle. Pleading with the dealer to sell me just one, which I could barely afford, she broke up the pair and I happily walked away with what would be the start of my collection. Even then, I immediately regretted not being able to afford its mate, but I was pleased to at least own the one. To this day, I keep hoping I will come across the orphan I left behind and be able to reunite the two. So, if anyone can help me locate the long lost twin, I will be forever grateful and you will be rewarded for your excellent sleuthing!

The lone survivor of my maddening “Sophie’s Choice” moment


You can imagine how happy I was to have been recently contacted by dealer Polly Latham of Boston, MA, offering me a pair of Chinese Export sauce boats, each with identical replacement handles and decorated with an armorial coat of arms, no less. This pair, a part of a larger dinner service, was made for export to the English market at the end of the 18th century and bear the Arms of Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale (1759-1839). Maitland, a noted statesman, politician and controversial social and political critic of his time, criticized the clergy, condemned slavery and was an ardent supporter of the French Revolution. The motto under the coat-of-arms, intricately painted in polychrome enamels with gilt highlights, translates to “Wisdom and Courage”. Each measures 2 inches high and 7.75 inches long.

I am pleased to proclaim that as long as I am the caretaker of this fine pair, they shall remain unseparated. You can click here if you want more info.

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The replaced handles are made of forged brass, covered in woven rattan, and pinned to the end of the sauce boats with two metal rivets. The rattan covering is not only decorative but also used to insulate the metal handle from the hot contents.





Take a look at the rest of the large dinner service, all bearing the arms of Maitland, including a pair of identical sauce boats with original handles intact, located in the center of the middle shelf.


Photo courtesy of Polly Latham Antiques