September 30, 2016
September 28, 2016
Last week I attended the Oswaldo Rodriquez Roque Lecture and Symposium held in conjunction with the Art and Industry in Early America exhibition of Rhode Island furniture at the Yale University Art Gallery and was able to tour the exhibit over several days. You can listen to the opening keynote and view other videos concerning other aspects of the exhibition here.
September 19, 2016
I was pleased to be asked to speak at the Foundation for Appraisal Education annual conference this weekend at Freeman’s. This years theme is fakes and forgeries in the art market. It’s an impressive line-up of speakers with at least three of us dealing with the furniture trade.
The conference is only open to professional appraisers who gain credit for attending. I believe this seminar could sell out multiple times if open to the public. It’s rare for institutions to take on this topic though there have been museum exhibitions dedicated to fakes in the past. Bravo to Freeman’s for taking this on for for all of the speakers for agreeing to tell their stories and discuss the issues in public.
September 3, 2016
The David Rittenhouse astronomical and musical clock now in the collection of Drexel University in West Philadelphia has been called the “Most Important Clock in America”. It is a stunning achievement. The gearing calculations would have been difficult if Rittenhouse had access to modern computing technologies. That this work was done by hand calculation in 1770 is beyond belief to use mere mortals. The case commissioned to house it is an extraordinary achievement in design, woodworking, and carving as well. The Drexel Collection, free and open to the public, is well worth a visit. The clock and case can be seen in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery on the 3rd floor in the beautiful 3141 Chesnut Street main building. Recalling how similar the design and execution of the ornaments on the clock case are to the Batsto Furnace stove plate, I pulled out a set of photographs I made while attended the removal of the movement for cleaning and repair in 2005. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia or Drexel University, this can be the next best thing for now. All images will open in a new window when clicked. I will add images of the movement in a later post.
August 25, 2016
Ken Finkel’s post on the “Rise and Fall of PhillyPalladian” on the PhillyHistoryBlog along with the upcoming Beer Mansion Mash at Mount Pleasant this Saturday encouraged a visit to the house this week to check on recent developments. There is a cleaned up and restored path on the back/river side of the house but most striking – the two tall trees which have obscured the view of the west façade since at least the early twentieth-century are gone!
Photographing the west side of the house that faces the Schuylkill River has been a challenge if you didn’t want two large trees masking the view. You could work around them with wide-angle lens but couldn’t escape them in long views.
During the eighteenth-century trees would never have been allowed to grow immediately behind the house as the views towards the house and to the river from inside the house would have been of fundamental importance to the owners and those they wished to impress. Mount Pleasant’s Palladian or Venetian windows, constructed 10 years after the Venetian window on the State House stair tower which Thomas Nevell also worked on, are central to the history of domestic architecture in Philadelphia if not the American colonies. They are the earliest Venetian windows in Philadelphia for a private residence – and there are not one but two – designed using three Classical Orders – creating the extraordinary architectural experience in second story hall.
I’m thrilled that I can now make the images I’ve always seen in my mind’s eye. Here are some of the first from this Wednesday.
August 6, 2016
In this blog I don’t write about my day-to-day work with the Dietrich American Foundation’s furniture collection that we are in the process of researching, photographing, and conserving. That will remain proprietary to the Foundation as we gear-up to go live with a website of the Foundation’s collection in the near future. Findings from the furniture survey will also hopefully find their way into publications in various formats. I have relied on my extra-curricular activities and earlier years involved in the conservation and restoration trade for material for posts. This post is a slight divergence.
Later this month the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America, Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830” opens at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Dietrich American Foundation’s four-shell Goddard family bureau was loaned to the Art Gallery for the exhibition and I was in New Haven this week attending the bureau’s installation at the end of a line of four other three and four-shell bureaus made in Newport in the second half of the eighteenth century.
“Daniel Goddard His Draugh” is written in white chalk on the back of the top long drawer.
Did Daniel participate in crafting the bureau, did he carve the shell drawer, or was he the owner? Was it made in Newport in the shops of the Goddards and Townsends or in Nova Scotia where Daniel appears to have moved sometime after 1779? The early provenance of the bureau is unclear, we can only go back to its discovery in London in 1968. It possibly left New England with Daniel Goddard when he moved from Newport to Nova Scotia. If that was the case, this is likely the first time the bureau has been in back New England in over two hundred and twenty-five years.
July 30, 2016
Responding recently to a question about the quality of carving gouges marked C. Maiers, I noticed that in the post I wrote two years ago about some of the C. Maiers tools I own and use I said I had never seen a C. Maiers tool with a shoulder. Since then I’ve acquired two Maiers carving gouges that do have bolsters and have seen images of several others. The first is one of the larger Maiers tools I’ve come across, a fishtail gouge with a 9/16″ cutting edge that is about a number 6 based on the Sheffield list of edge profiles. Second is a 1/4″ front bent gouge that corresponds to a number 29 on the list. What I still haven’t seen are C. Maiers carving gouges marked with numerals that link them to the Sheffield list.