C. and S.B. sent me a photo of one of my passions, a red half-century-old Manton de Manila, locally knows as the Spanish shawl, worn for fiesta. This is a cultural hybrid. Laugh, C.B., but the Manton was to the 19th C. what the hot dog was the 20th C. Think of the hot dog: it is JUST as American as the Spanish shawl is Spanish.
The dog was an export from Germany, specifically Frankfurt, since the 13th C., the treat of pork the peasants received on coronation days. Over in Vienna (Wien) this sausage was made of beef. In the 18th C. an enterprising German mixed pork and beef and the hot dog (minus the bun) was born.
Like any great invention, two German immigrants to the U.S. thought of serving the dog on a convenient bun, inspired at the same time, separately: Charles Feltman on Coney Island, and Anton Ludwig Feuchtwanger at the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. So the most American of foods known by association with the most American of pastimes, baseball, was a cultural import.
Likewise, C.B.’s shawl comes from Asia. Spanish imports passed from Canton to Spain through Manila in the Philippines. Beginning in the late 15th C., European tastes for silk had necessitated a trading route that joined the world together: the Silk Road overland. By the 18th C. silk, tea, spices and porcelain traveled on sea galleons from Asia through Manila and on to Spain, sometimes stopping in New Spain – that was us, and how we got the shawl bug.
Yet how the shawl became all the rage was due to the incorrigibility of female nature – which is to say, if you tell us we can’t have something, we want it MORE. The Catholic Church in Spain banned the covering of faces of women with veils (a backhanded hit at Moorish (Islamic) women), but they couldn’t ban shawls. Shawls of silk exported from China began to be flaunted on the streets of Seville in very bright colors. Originally the shawls were Asian in embroidered design, then enterprising Philippine and Spanish craftswomen began to “Europeanize” the designs to simpler gorgeous open flowers (which held secret symbolism), ornamenting the shawl with fringe. The Asian embroiderers took this trend up and a further cross-pollination ensued.
When the Spanish settled New Spain (Mexico and California), Manila galleons sailed with shawls to Vera Cruz, then on to Spain. Not wanting to miss out on Spanish fashions, those of us in New Spain craved them.
C.B., visit the Santa Barbara Historical Museum: view Mrs. De La Guerra’s belongings, including her Spanish (Chinese silk embroidered in Manila style designs) shawls: the display reflects the way the shawl was worn between 1828-58, over full skirts, nipped waists, long sleeves, upon dresses in dour colors in lesser fabrics. To add a silk shawl of bright color to your outfit was wonderful; ladies in early Santa Barbara flocked when a trading ship was sighted.
A book of that period, Letters from California (1846-1847) by William Robert Garner and Donald Munro Craig is a first-hand account of this feminine willpower. The author’s note that the average California woman of the mid 19th C. was formidable and headstrong: “The washerwomen must have as many and as rich dress as the person she washes for, or she would feel debased in her own eyes…economy is contrary to all the ideas and customs of a Californian.” The Californio women, say the authors, earned her OWN money for such finery: “The Women are always occupied in some useful employment, either in their house or out of them, and do a good deal more service than the men…(women) actually maintain their husbands and children by their own personal labor, the husband existing as a mere cypher in the family.” We worked for those shawls, not always during our daylight hours.
As Bancroft writes in California Pastoral, in the period when the shawl was popular, the Californio family had an average of 10-children. The aforementioned mid 19th C. author Gardner notes that some California women had 20-25 children; for example, Juana Cota left 500 descendants, Secundino Robles’ wife bore 29-children, Jose Antonio Castro’s wife bore 26. Mrs. Wep Hartnell (born Maria Teresa de la Guerra) bore 25 children, and wore her shawl as an accomplished grand dame and fashionable hostel. C.B., the value of your shawl is $300 if the condition is perfect, and to keep it so, do not store it in plastic.
K.L. wonders about the history behind a serving dish he picked up on eBay for $26.
The story of silver plate traditionally used for family holidays originated in Warsaw, Poland, in the late 19th century to early 20th century. Such pieces were once called Fraget ware, because two French businessmen, Alfons and Jozef Fraget, brought the process of electroplating to Poland in the third quarter of the 19th century. Silver-plated tableware sold to Polish and Russian families who could not afford silver was simply called Fraget at the turn of the last century.
Competition reared in the neighboring Norblin factory, established by Vincent Norblin (1805-1872), who produced similar silver plate in Warsaw; he left this concern to his son and daughter, a wise move on his part. Female ownership of a factory was rare in those days: Vincent's daughter had an excellent business head and capably ran the company after the assignation of the male of the team.
Vincent's daughter met competition in terms of tableware in silver plate by the Buch brothers of Warsaw, famous for fine pieces of Judaica silver plate. In the late 19th century, Norblin merged with the Buch brothers, and the Fraget as well as the Norblin-Buch concerns flourished until the outbreak of World War II.
A close relationship between Poland and Russia increased the interest for fine silver plate in middle- to upper-class, primarily Jewish, households throughout Poland and Russia. The history of this relationship and trade goes back to the Congress of Vienna of 1815
when Warsaw became the center of the Congress Poland, a monarchy under union with Imperial Russia. Not always a friendly mix, the 1831 Polish-Russian War saw the subjugation of Poland: Russia closed down the congress, the university, and dissolved the Polish army. Jews were forced to stay in the margins of Warsaw.
However, the strong Jewish banking community in Warsaw was responsible for the lending of the funds to build the great Polish railway lines in and out of Warsaw; in 1864, the most modern railway bridge in the world, the Most Kierbedzia, was built. The Technical Institute was established in 1898. The growing industrial might of the city was flourishing, and Jewish merchants played an important role.
This was the high point of the great tradition of Polish silver plate, as most middle- to upper-middle-class Jewish families wanted to set a glorious and respectful rich-looking High Holiday table and had the money to do so, even if they could not afford silver itself.
Warsaw at the turn of the last century was a cosmopolitan center, yet the 40 percent of the total population who were Jews were forced to live in a certain district in Warsaw under the Pale of Settlement rules. Influential business people and merchants called this district home, such as the owners of the manufactories of K.L.'s silver tray.
More Jews immigrated to this area in Warsaw with the riots in Russia of 1881. The area of the Jewish quarter may have been tight and restricted, but Jews were involved in the high-style crafts of the city. Some of the most valuable of all silver plate comes from these craftsmen, such as Buch brothers Polish silver plate.
Most silver plate is not worth anywhere close to sterling and high- content silver metal wares, but the beautiful Bros. Buch pieces, made for the Jewish market, have a strong value on the marketplace today. Bros. Buch made silver plate Hanukkah lamps, serving trays, spice containers, beakers, eyeglass frames, Kiddush cups and cutlery for the Holy Days tables. It has been said that the use of silver plate for the table in middle- to upper-middle-class homes (check the abundant silver plate in your boomer mom's house) originated with the Polish silver plate manufactories of the late 19th century.
Silver plate manufactory in Poland outlived the troubles of Poland in WWI: In 1915, Germany and Russia were at war; Germany bombed Warsaw, but realized they needed Polish support to beat the Russians. The Germans allowed the Polish to expand the city, opening schools that taught in the Polish language. After German domination, the great Polish statesman Jozef Pilsudski was given military and civil authority; he made Warsaw the capital of Independent Poland, as Warsaw was first established as a Duchy by Napoleon 1807-1813.
The hallmark on the back of K.L.'s tray shows the shape of the Polish double eagle in the abstract of the laurel wreath and crown to the top. The value of the tray is $250.
D.G. has a chest of drawers from her mother's house in Upstate New York; her mom bought it in the glory days of
collecting American antiques of the Classical period, in 1940. American Classical furniture hearkens back to 100 years before, to the early- to mid-19th century, especially favored by craftsmen from the great growing cities of the East Coast from 1810-1840.
I had the pleasure of studying the collections at Winterthur Museum in Delaware, where I fell in love with the austere designs of the N.Y. maker Joseph Meeks and Sons. Another classical designer and maker to watch for is Duncan Phyfe, a cabinetmaker who designed for the shipping classes in Manhattan. A small good Phyfe table will set you back $350,000; I have attended the Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory and seen such transactions.
American Classical furniture is confusing as a name, because even my mother in Illinois thought she was furnishing our 1960s home in the American Classical style; it was, in fact, Neo-Colonial style. Then my newly married aunts in the 1980s furnished in the American Classical style, which to them meant knockoffs of Chippendale or any
kind of dark mahogany future.
One style only is American Classical. If you have a chance, you can see the richness and elegance of the style at the newly opened (2012) American wing of the MET, with a cross section of a New York Westside brownstone dining room.
By many other names, the decorative arts world will know American Classical, and they are all partially correct. Late Sheraton, early to mid Hepplewhite are slight misnomers because the designs they reference are English: America looked to England for taste in design.
American Classical is easy to spot, but hard to value. That's because, by the early- to mid-19th century two important events took place: the rise of very fine American cabinetmakers (not British) and
the rise of imitations for the upper middle class by virtue of growing machine-made technology. Yet the handmade cabinets by the best East Coast makers command the big bucks.
Common design elements I look for are:
Another clue to the era is the unusable nature of many of the forms of the furniture in a house today. I mentioned the dawn of machine-made furniture in this era. That event made pieces more affordable, so, by 1830-40, parlors featured "occasional" pieces such as the flip- top game table, and the drawered box on a stand for sewing, called a
work table. The box-y looking commode held, well, a commode.
Most of the era's design was perfectly symmetrical, so, if on both sides of D.G.'s chest we see turned twisted column, we also will see round pairs of symmetrical pulls centered by equal escutcheons (holes finished for keys and locks).
The key to the value of D.G.'s chest is the identification of the cabinetmaker. My advice is to look to the library at Winterthur, where, online, she will find copies of the antique "cabinet maker's guides" by the New York designers. Some of the designers to search for are Quervelle, Roux, Meeks and Sons, and Phyfe.
Notice the feet on any American Classical piece of furniture, whether it be tables or chairs, sofas or dressers, or a mirror stand. That's because the style was famous for the "hairy paw" foot, a claw-shaped foot with toes and hair, much like a large dog's or a lion's, which will be the terminus of many a sabre-shaped leg. How this came to be
is the commensurate discoveries of the time of Roman and Greek furniture excavated, modelled on natural "stands" such as a dog on four legs, or the more noble lion. Sometimes the form sinks a little into the ridiculous — as I have seen Bovidae or Suidae feet (cows and pigs).
Animal feet are a sure sign of a reference to the Ancients, which is where American Classicism aimed to be. If you are unsure, compare the form to an imposing old city-banking establishment, which was no doubt also classically inspired. Just like D.G.'s chest, that building had serious weighty mass.
Estimated value without a definitive maker's mark attribution? $1,000 to $2,000, on a good day.
J.E. sends me a lithograph in colors by Marc Chagall entitled “L’Accordeoniste” exhibiting some fundamental themes: his childlike style, dream-like figurative images (some of which are chimerical), and wonderful colors. Note the red bird with the human head and the outsized chicken on which the accordionist rests: the chicken beams a string of eyes above its head as if watching the music float up. Chagall’s images of Russian villagers appear in the bottom right corner, springing from Chagall’s childhood in the Jewish shtetl of Vitebsk.
This lithograph was created in 1957 when Chagall had left Russia for France (he lived in Paris 1941-48), and ended up in New York as he was fleeing Nazi rule with his sickly wife and young daughter.
Much of Chagall’s history, he said, was “an unsettling and a profound circus.” How Chagall came to be a master printmaker is characteristically a tale of making lemonade out of lemons.
He began as an oil painter in Paris at the Ecole de Paris, with the great modernists, experimenting with cubism, surrealism and fauvism. Then World War I broke out. (A mention about the creative climate of Paris: Chagall’s strength was his devotion to the figure as opposed to the more difficult to understand abstractions: his work was so beloved that Chagall was one of few living painters to be given a show at the Louvre.) Returning to his Berlin gallery in which he had hung during World War I, Chagall discovered his canvases GONE. Chagall was crestfallen.
The director offered to help by publishing Chagall’s autobiography, but suggested Chagall should illustrate it. Chagall had been a painter in oils. Now, introduced to printmaking via dry point, Chagall would capture a new style in which he was drawn to succeed: a linear innocent childlike “playing” at drawing, facilitated by the medium, which could contain his collective streams of diaphanous imager.
The next stage in making lemonade was Chagall’s fortuitous meeting with art aficionado and book editor, Ambrose Vollard, who had faith in Chagall to commission illustrations for Gogol’s “The Dead Souls,” in 107 plates. Also for Vollard, he etched the illustrations for La Fontaine’s “Fables.”
Vollard had an uncanny knack of knowing just what would fuel Chagall’s creativity and the two became devoted friends. Proving Vollard’s prescience, he commissioned Chagall to illustrate the Bible, 100 images for which Chagall toured Israel. As he returned to Europe, he found a world threatened by the Nazis and his friend Vollard dead in a freak accident. He turned to Jewish myths in his imagery.
Before I tell you more about where J.E.’s image lies in the oeuvre of this artist, a word about VALUE. At auction sales for “The Accordionist,” prices vary from $250 to $6,000; there are good reasons for this variation. I give you a universal truth: prints can be reproduced. However, the artist will have ONE or perhaps TWO special collaborators, and only works produced in THAT collaboration are valuable. The MORE of one image, the lesser the chances are for value; the artist will create a certain number. I have hope for J.E.’s “The Accordionist” as not many were printed (or, not many were struck in this edition).
Back to the Chagall oeuvre time line: J.E.’s image was created in 1957; Chagall had undertaken another commission by the heir of Vollard, the editor – printer Teriade; illustrating the myth of Daphnis and Chloe. Thus, Chagall executed 42-lithographs between 1957-60 in collaboration with his favorite printer, Charles Sorlier, on his favorite presses, at the House of Mourlot.
Since I have not seen J.E.’s image in person, what will determine its value is the quality, the artist’s signature, and the paper. This is true for lithographs in general, and Chagall was taken by the medium from the age of 65 until he died in his mid 90’s. I think this is because he could paint directly on the lithostone, in both colors and line.
More lemonade: at the end of his life, Chagall’s print house said they had received some of the largest lithostones ever at 38” x 24”: the clarity and precision of the images would be an artistic challenge. Chagall was intrigued, and undertook 13 unwieldy lithographs featuring his beloved imagery: lovers, chickens, floating animals, musicians, flowers, villagers and swirls of color.
When your kids tell you that you cannot understand the new modern technology, tell them Chagall mastered lithography, beginning to study at age 65, and finished his masterpiece in this modern medium at the age of 94. That will shut them up.
A few articles back, R.S. saw my column on a print by Roy Lichtenstein Why Not Put All the Men on the Moon? and sent me HIS Lichtenstein print titled Crak. Unlike the previous work I appraised, R.S. thinks his is authentic. Let’s see.
Since R.S.’s is signed and numbered (ed. 207/300) and dated, we have a research starting point. The bottom number of the fraction indicates that Lichtenstein limited this lithograph to 300 examples. That means somewhere there are 299 others known to the art world. How do we find if the art world knows of those other 299?
Some scholar somewhere has been compiling a register of the artist’s print titles: that registry is called a catalogue raisonné, and many great artists ‘belong’ to such scholars of such catalogues. This is a scholar’s life work: to ferret out all the known works of art by their artist. Provenance, edition sizes, type of paper and inks will be researched of all the works in collections. The scholar in this case should find no more than 300 copies, except for artist’s proofs or proofs given to the printmakers.
Artist’s proofs are generally not numbered but bear the marking A.P., or in French art E.A. Likewise, works given to the printmakers are not numbered but bear the initials H.C., which stand for Hors de Commerce (not for sale).
This catalogue raisonné will track details of the edition of a print from start to finish, including all the impressions published at the same time or part of a publishing event. A first edition print is one issued with the first group (in this case 300) of the impressions. The catalogue will also include ‘states’ of a print. A state of one print includes all of the impressions pulled without any change to the matrix; different states of one print may include intentional or accidental changes. Matrix is the term for the object (wood, plate, stone) on which the image is rendered. When that changes, the state changes. There can be several states of a print in one edition. Scholars even research the type of paper and ink and accurate artist-sanctioned sizes of the print.
A catalogue raisonné is a documentary list of all the works of one artist at the time of its writing. A good one includes all kinds of technical and provenance information and is therefore often never finished: as more work surfaces or changes hands, the catalogue will often need to be updated. Some scholar face a losing battle with their catalogues, such as those on Dali or Warhol, because of the proliferation of illegitimate works.
Thus I turned to Lichtenstein’s scholar, Mary Lee Corlett, author of The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonne (1948-1997 which is in its second edition. She ends on the date of the artist’s death in 1997. The book weighs almost 5 pounds and is perhaps the best guide to authenticity of Lichtenstein’s works.
Corlett is an insider: a research associate at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. To make a catalogue, she would have had to be on good terms with the collectors and the estate and heirs of the artist, and evidently she was. She needed to uncover everything anyone knew about Lichtenstein’s work.
I looked to see if R.S.’s print was listed as a limited edition print in her book, as opposed to a poster, an unlimited print, or a mere tear-out from a book. Dealers and collectors cite research into this catalogue as evidence of authenticity.
Now to the good new, R.S. Measure the site size of your image (the edges of the print NOT the paper). Does it measure 18 ½” x 27”? If so check to make sure the signature of the artist is a real signature (not a copy). You can sometimes see the ink sitting on the top of the paper, which is a good thing, or the ink itself discoloring in a different way from the ink used in the lithograph. It is also dated correctly, 1964, the date of creation by the signature, and it is from an edition of 300. All these elements match what an authentic print should contain as we learn from the catalogue raisonné.
Next, I looked at auction records for limited edition lithographs of this title. One of these sold for a good price at auction in 2016 for $22,000. You will need to buy that catalogue raisonné now.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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