Archive for March, 2022

Early repairs in ancient Italy

Sunday, March 20th, 2022

I just returned from a memorable trip to Italy and in addition to eating my way from Rome to Naples, I spotted quite a few examples of inventive repairs. Although I didn’t find many make-do’s hiding in plain sight in the many museums I visited, I did find these outdoor repairs.

In the Archaeological Park of Herculaneum, I came across a pair of partially buried earthenware jars with multiple cracks at a thermopolium (cook-shop.) Both jars have multiple butterfly inlay repairs made from what appears to be wood or resin.

As you can imagine, the ruins of Pompeii are home to many early repairs. I mean, the city itself is practically one giant make-do. Long ago, most of the important artifacts were moved to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, yet I was still able to find a few early repairs left behind.

This large cylindrical jar with a rolled rim and a decorative foot was sitting next to a trash receptacle and showed many ancient battle scars. Overscaled iron rivets have done a terrific job of holding it together for hundreds of years.

The Fountain of Mercury in region VI of Pompeii is host to a quartet of enormous iron clips.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Roman Forum, where I found a bird sitting serenely on a carved chunk of stone with large metal braces.

Parian jug with ornate handle, c.1850

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

This unglazed Parian porcelain cream jug measures 3.5 inches high and is decorated with a molded relief design of water nymphs. Although I believe it was made in the mid-1800s, it has a later Art Nouveau feel to it. It is marked on the underside with the incised number 463.

There’s no doubt this is a lovey little jug, but it would be nothing without its ornate replacement handle, added after the original broke off. Typically I find small jugs such as this with simple metal tinker-make handles, so I was surprised to see such a fancy replacement. I appreciate the ingenuity of the repairer for attaching the top part of the new handle over the remains of the broken original and adding a band around the base, rather than drilling though the jug. Even though the original handle was much smaller than the replacement (see last photo), I much prefer the juxtaposition of the two material mashed up together on my unique jug.

Here’s an example of the jug with its original handle intact.

Photo courtesy of eBay