You probably own a snow dome or globe or two, most of us have one somewhere about. They can be varying sizes and may have outer decorations which can be elaborate. Snow globes and snow domes may also have a built-in musical box to further enchant you. They are not too difficult to find for collectors, although there are some very rare and precious ones for the serious addict. Snow globes and snow domes are for everyone. Indeed, they do have a magic of their own – and you are never too old to turn the globe and watch the snow falling, falling, falling…
Moorcroft has designed a unique style of tube lined works with brilliant colours and great artistic appeal. The earlier pieces featuring flowers and fruits have been extended to modern abstract designs, yet still using the traditional methods of manufacture. If you are a collector of Moorcroft, then you are in good company. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, adds them to her royal collection, former US presidents, British prime ministers, together with many well-known actors and singers, collect Moorcroft. You can always find something interesting and stylish for your collection, prices ranging from the highly valued limited editions to the more affordable, yet still valuable ceramics.
Before there were portable music players and apps, there was the music box. This carefully crafted contraption made of wood or other material plays a certain melody whenever one winds the key or opens the box. Music boxes in the 21st century have become novelty items. They often make lovely presents, especially for young girls and ladies. They also come in many forms: from the usual box to clocks, snow globes, figurines, and the most common variety as jewellery boxes. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia, and as the box is opened or the key turned, memories seem to rise with the melody. Despite all the modern musical inventions, there’s nothing quite like a music box.
Cigarette cards were originally blank card inserts that were used to stiffen soft and flimsy cigarette packets and protect its contents. It wasn’t long until someone decided that these stiffeners could serve another purpose: advertisement material. Eventually, these cards began to come with pictures of a particular theme, compelling customers to buy more of the product to complete the set of a certain theme. No matter the reason one has for indulging in cartophily, it cannot be denied that cigarette cards not only served as a hobby. The information printed on them helped people to see places they would never see, learn things they wouldn’t have known, and reflected the sentiments of the people of their era.
Paul Storr is revered as one of the finest and legendary English silversmiths. He built a reputation for perfecting the works, styles and designs of the grandiose Neo-Classical style developed in the Regency period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of his works can be easily found in European royal palaces, museums and throughout the world. But contrary to the notion in people that his works were commissioned only by the royalties, the truth is that he embraced a higher level of craftsmanship and superior quality into his products. Up to date, his legacy lives on, and his works command very high prices in many global auctions.
Fra’ Filippo Lippi was sent with one of his brothers to the Carmelite convent at Santa Maria del Carmine. It was here that he was inspired to create art, by watching the artist Masaccio creating frescoes in the convent. Lippo went on to paint his own frescoes in the church and the cloister. Instead of studying, he spent all his time scrawling pictures on his own books and those of others. The priory recognised his talent and allowed him to pursue his artistic interest. He was a rogue, being featured regularly on court rolls for charges including embezzlement and forgery, which he attempted in order to rescue himself from regular financial predicaments.
Archibald Knox was a Manx silver designer of Scottish descent. He became best known as being Liberty’s primary designer. One of his notable works is the epitaph or gravestone for Liberty’s founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty. Knox’s premier and prolific work acted as a bridge of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Celtic Revival, Art Nouveau and Modernism. Knox’s family engineering background somehow influenced Archibald’s design process for he used metalwork designs that were produced in the style of ready-to-engineer blueprints. Archibald’s design talent consisted of a wide range of objects, ornamental and utilitarian, and also included silver and pewter tea sets, jewellery, inkwells, boxes, gravestones, watercolours, graphic designs, calligraphy, house design, fonts and bank cheques.
Pietro Perugino was born Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci. He came to be known as Il Perugino, the man from Perugia. In 1500, he was known as ‘the best master in Italy’. He was one of the first Italian artists to make use of oils, used in frescoes he created for the convent of the Ingessati. Perugino was also noteworthy for his portraits. His star pupil was Raphael. Their work was very similar, but the student eventually outshone the master. Later in life, Perugino had been laughed out of Florence as his style had become stale and repetitive. He returned to Perugia, where he continued to work. Despite a lifetime of painting religious images, he was a non-believer.
Hester Bateman happened to be the most famous English female silversmith of the 18th century. However, she had no education, which explains her ‘X’ signature and why many of Bateman pieces had been outsourced elsewhere from talented craftsmen. There is no single known Hester workpiece after 1760. Most of Hester’s pieces are over-stamped with their marks, meaning they were from other artists. Despite this, Hester was an adept businesswoman who learnt the smithing trade from her husband. The Bateman family had a catalogue of various silverwares that included flatware, serving dishes, inkwells and horse-racing trophies. Due to their quality, any antique silver made by Hester Bateman and her family is still very collectable today.
Luca Signorelli, also known as Luca da Cortona, was probably born sometime between 1445-1450. Although little information is available on his private life, he is reputed to have been a family man, living relatively comfortably. Signorelli was renowned for his use of foreshortening and his aptitude as a draughtsman. His nudes and enormous frescoes also set him aside as an artist of great skill. Michelangelo is said to have used some of these figures for his work on the Sistine Chapel wall. His work, the Last Judgement, is considered to be his greatest accomplishment. Its spectacular composition is regarded as being one of the most important of Italian Renaissance art.
Christopher Dresser was an English designer whose knowledge of past styles and experience with modern manufacturing processes made him a pioneer in professional design. Dresser successfully introduced to British design elements from many cultures across the world, especially Japanese. He created ceramics, metalwork, silver, glass, textiles, wallpaper, and other items. Dresser was notably important in introducing modern industrial techniques by working directly with manufacturers to produce elegant and affordable products. A lot of Dresser’s metalwork designs are still in production today, which are now manufactured by Alessi. One of his Old Hall designs is thought to have inspired Alan Garner’s 1967 novel ‘The Owl Service’.
Drummond & Co. was a partnership between Samuel Brush and William Drummond in Collins Street. It was called the Brush & MacDonnell Company. The name was changed after the death of Samuel Brush in 1878, which was maintained till its closure. The company had been renowned for style and quality since inception. At Drummond & Co., all royalty, entertainers, politicians and gentry have had the Drummond experience, where exclusive jewellery, fine china, crystal and the sniff of snobbery combined to affirm one’s social status. Even some cashed-up underworld figures and brothel madams had a reputable outlet in which to spend their money.
Modern art refers to works of art produced roughly from 1850 to 1970. The term is often used ambiguously to refer to artwork created after the said period. After all, the term modern is used to refer to the current time. One could say that modern art is the art of change. It was born in an era that saw the dawn of industrialisation that created a wave of change, affecting everything. Modern artists’ techniques adapted with the changing philosophies and technological advancements that emerged in their time. They focused on and tried to capture what was happening around them, how they saw it, and how it made them feel.
Kitty Blake was a driving force at the Royal Worcester during her long period of work there. At Worcester, she specialised in small fruits and flowers. Many of her pieces capture perfectly the Autumn colours, the reddish leaves and the glossy blackberries. There are also delicate items with white backgrounds and pretty coloured flowers. Very often, the colours are light but clear. Kitty Blake has left us with some beautiful flower paintings and the most appetising blackberries you can find on a vase. Her work must be a welcome addition for any collector of Worcester Porcelain, or for anyone who likes pretty things.
August Brunkhorst was the successor to Henry Steiner and was another notable silverware dealer in Adelaide. After the famous collapse of the Australian economy and the loss of Steiner’s wife and two children from a typhoid epidemic, Steiner decided to sell off his business. The buyer was August Brunkhorst, who was his employee. The business was again sold by August Brunkhorst to Caris Brothers before his death, at the age of seventy-one years. There is not much known about August Brunkhorst and his business, but many historians and museums are trying to fill in the gaps and recover any of the pieces that he sold or made.
Frida Kahlo is known for many things: her passion, her political activism, her numerous self-portraits, and her turbulent marriage with Diego Rivera, whose fiery temperament rivalled hers. Aside from drawing from her personal experiences, Frida’s paintings were also influenced by her Mexican heritage. Above all, Frida should be remembered for her courage to confront her pain and express it through her art. She painted her struggles in a time when any woman who expressed her pain through her art would be labelled a hysteric or even insane. Through her paintings, Frida may have helped others, artists and non-artists to confront their pain and find the courage to carry on.
Basse-taille, meaning low-cut in French, is an enamelling technique where the artist creates a low-relief pattern in precious metal such as silver and gold by engraving or chasing. The technique was developed in Italy in the 13th century, and its work enamel was very popular in Europe especially during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. This style was used in the late Middle Ages and later revived in the 17th century. And following the invention of the domestic table clock and of the watch in the 16th century, enamelling became one of the most popular forms of decoration for the dials and cases.
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who was best known for his post-impressionistic style of painting and his use of bold colours and empathic brushwork, a highly innovative art style during his time. He is the personified image of the struggling and tortured artist. He was a relative unknown who couldn’t even sell his paintings during his lifetime. Van Gogh also suffered from mental illness his whole life, which led to his early death at his own hands. Decades after his tragic end, he is now recognised for what he truly was: an artistic genius and perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known.