Monday, 28 February 2011

Camper shoes, Chinese 18th century tankard, tulips.................... painting

This painting features a pair of Camper shoes of 2001.  These shoes were created in Mallorca the Spanish island in the Mediterranean, camper being the Catalan word for peasant.They  were    inspired by farmer footwear and steeped in island tradition. The firm  was started  in 1975.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Chinese 19th century painting on rice paper

This is a small 19th century Chinese watercolour painting on ricepaper painted in the Western style. These fragile paintings are always exquisitely executed, subjects ranging from natural history, land/ seascape etc.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Fashion for women 1806, 1929, 1942.......Plus ca change....?

At this time of important fashion shows throughout Europe and the US for Autumn /Winter 2011-2012  here are three fashion plates showing how womens'  fashion has changed radically , or has it?  since 1806.

1. A  French pale pink empire style dance dress, rear view, showing a demure and fragile girl holding a small fan and spray of flowers. her matching hat  adorned with pink draped  feathers , the  upper sleeves slashed and puffed on upper arm and the lower edge of her bodice cut in slightly medieval style. Very 'feminine'! 

2.The front cover  of the famous French store Printemps Summer 1929. Here  two women  wear straw cloche hats and elegant day dresses. One dress is made in crepe de chine, the other in crepe de laine, both  are well tailored with lowered waistlines that have  plenty of swing  in the skirts. The hemlines are spot on for this year's fashion 2011-12,  they both hold small box leather handbags. This period was between World War 1 and 2 so it was a comparatively carefree and wealthy period.

3. Two women in completely different mode. World War 2 is well under way,  and the two women look quite practical and  masculine in their 1942 Winter wear. Their blond hair is severely swept up and they both wear  high silk cravats at the neck. One wears a precariously perched astrakan hat that matches the collar etc on her slightly military styled suit with its broad shoulders. Hemlines are again de rigueur for season 2011-12, and even the rather heavy weight brogues and sturdy walking shoes worn with ankle socks wouldn't look out of place on the cat walk for  this Autumn - Winter 2011-2012!
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose - The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Tories are warmongers, and David Cameron is weak.

They say that leopards never change their spots and the Tory Party have just managed to prove that point!
No sooner than the Eygptian 'revolution' starts to settle than David Cameron waltzes into the country and starts nosing about with his killer entourage of Arms dealers and other nefarious business men hungry for new contracts! As if Britain hadn't caused enough damage in these countries already!
These business men form a fraction of the massively honed lobbyists that haunt the corridors of our parliament,  steal away our democracy, and inevitably cause corruption in their wake.
These are dangerous groups, the arms dealers, the huge medical bio-tech manufacturing and drugs groups, the gm and cloning lobbyists, the banking industry, the alcoholic drinks lobby,  there are many more.
Who actually runs the country? Is it parliament anymore? it is certainly not the people. Ministers always seem to have an axe to grind, and laws are never now brought in for the good of the people.
Mr Clegg, despite the problems in the country caused by cut-backs gaily sets off on his hols! He is the Deputy Leader, and North Africa is in a state of turmoil! So while David Cameron gets shuffled around Eygpt by arms dealers, Mr.Clegg (that wet piece of seaweed) goes off skiing with his family, and  the country is left to the articulate fox William Hague!
Parliament is losing out, ministers all have their axes to grind, their lobbyists to feed, the people, through their mps have little say in best decisions for the people. Sadly it won't be any good turning to the Labour Party, because they are exactly the same. Is it time for the people of Britain to get out there and protest?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Ancient Peruvian pottery, small jar with animal decoration

Three views of an Ancient Peruvian pot 8 inches high made in dark brown clay with monkey like creature at base of spout and incorporated into curved over handle.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Wild Flowers picked in French Hedgerows, pencil drawings by Tessa Bennett

 Wild flowers picked in French hedgerows.

1. Common dog violet.
2. Wild Strawberry.
3. Greater celandine.
4. Broom.
(all drawings by Tessa Bennett)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Mahatma Ghandi, Indian 'King' of People Power.

Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi,  (Mahatma Ghandi, Great Soul), was born in Porbandar India in 1869. He was the political and idealogical  leader of India during the Indian Independence Movement.
He studied law in London returning to India in 1891 to practice as a barrister.
As an expatriate lawyer in South Africa he first employed civil disobedience pioneering 'satyagralia' - resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience founded on 'ahimsa' (truth and total non-violence).
In 1915 he returned to India to organise protests for peasants and farmers concerning excessive land tax and discrimination. In 1921 he became the leader of the Indian National Congress, and among other causes,  'swaraj' (Independence of India from foreign domination), he led his followers on the famous march and non-cooperation movement against the imposition by the British of the salt tax. He spent a number of years in jail in South Africa and India. He lived modestly, wore a traditional Indian Dhoti and shawl spun by hand himself, fasted frequently, and was a vegetarian. A great man. He was assassinated in January, 1948.
' Strength doesn't come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will'. Mahatma Ghandi.

Above....picture of Indian hand-embroidered muslin c1815. This example of the fine loosely woven cotton cloth  muslin was made for the export market for ladies dresses etc, in c1815. Made mainly in Dacca India, muslin was loved for it's daring transparency and exquisite embroidery. In 1787 the value of the imports of muslin into England was estimated at $2,000,000 annually.  Unfortunately, with the introduction of the spinning jenny in England a heavy duty was imposed on all Indian goods and manufacture of Dacca muslins for export purposes was killed.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Beauty of the human hand, part 3 of 3, James Montgomery, poet

James Montgomery the poet was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1771. He was brought up by the Moravians near Leeds after his parents left for America,  never to return. He went into journalism acquiring a newspaper - the Isis  that advocated reformist causes at an unpopular time, and was imprisoned for a while. He brought out poems and hymns from 1797. He died in 1854, throughout his life he worked for humanitarian causes.

This poem, The Blank Leaf,  was written by James Montgomery into the personal album of Agnes Appleby, Sheffield, England, Nov 21.  1829.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Beauty of the human hand, part 2(a)/3

This is a mid-sixteenth century binding in leather with decorative  tooled scroll work on a central oblong panel with a border of small heads and vases. The leather (probably sheep) is glued to wooden boards, and the spine has heavily raised bands.

Beauty of the human hand, part 2(b)/3

This manuscript book was written on paper in  c1564. It is a collection of Acts written in old English.The hand is small, delicate,  and even throughout, every page bordered carefully with pencil lines. The paper is handmade with the chain lines and watermarks clearly visible when held to the light.
Paper was invented by the Chinese Han Dynasty,  in 105AD, and eventually taken to the West by c1400. It  derives its name from papyros which was made from laminated natural plants, and was used in Ancient Egypt for writing, then it was made from various fibres whose properties were changed by a process of maceration and disintegration. In the Middle Ages most books were made from parchment derived from animal hides, but from the c14th century onwards writing and the production of books underwent  rapid 'improvement'  in many work processes.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Beauty of the human hand, part 1 of 3 - manuscript leaf.

 Early piece  manuscript on vellum, used as part of a later binding to cover inside back board, with red  illuminated initial,   pre c1450. Sacred books and Bibles were copied by monks in "carols" (small cubicles) set up in  the cloisters of the monasteries and great cathedrals, monks were known to speak the words as they wrote them. The copyists wrote on vellum which was a specially prepared skin, used natural quills,  and  two major types of ink - basically black encaustic, and a mixed common lampblack. Coloured inks were mainly red and blue, though gold etc was used for specially illuminated works. Introduction of moveable type and the printing press in c1455 signalled the demise of handwritten works.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Aesop's Fables, The Fox and the Ass

Aesop was born as a slave probably in Thrace ancient Greece in about 620BC, and he may or may not have been the writer of  the fables!
No writings of his survive but many editions of' 'his' fables exist and are currently available. Aesop was highly regarded by the Greeks despite his origins as a slave.
In his cautionary tales animals speak and have human characteristics, the fables  are often now told to children, but to the  ancient Greeks the fable was a technique  of criticism and persuasion especially valuable to the weak as a weapon against the powerful. In this particular fable the ass lets himself down when he opens his mouth - despite his finery, and makes a complete ass of himself!  Politicians manage to do this on a regular basis.

This 8vo edition of Aesop's Fables was presented by Samuel Croxall, and printed in London in 1786.The illustrations are woodcuts,  probably c1722.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

English mochaware mustard pot 1830-50

English mochaware  mustard pot c1830 with 'seaweed' designs on pale blue band.

Mocha decorated pottery was made in England between  c1770 and c1930. It is a utilitarian earthenware, slip-decorated, lathe-turned, and in addition to coloured slip bands on white and buff-coloured bodies is sometimes adorned with geological markings. An unknown potter discovered that by dripping a coloured acidic solution into a wet alkaline slip on a pot body the colour would instantly spread into dendritic/seaweed markings. Mocha is highly valued and collected in America where it was exported in the 19th century.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Scotland, schools in Dundee, c1880

Cabinet photographs taken c1880 showing  boys and  girls schools  in Dundee. The photographers are D & W  Prophet of 23 High Street, and 59 Wellgate, Dundee. Each class of 21 children is accompanied by their form teacher. The boys look uncomfortable in their little semi-tailored  tweed and velvet suits (some strangely in a 'cavalier' style!)  with the stiff or huge white collars, and the girls look shy wearing their Sunday dresses with the added pinnies.

One wonders, where are they or their ancestors now?!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day - 3 pin-ups - French, American, and British, by an Italian

These First world war postcards are by the Italian artist and illustrator Giovanni  Nanni (1888 - 1969).
They represent in an art deco style 3 beauties - USA, Britain, and France. The cards  were sent 'On Active Service'  to Saltcoats, Ayrshire,  then forwarded to Leeds, October 1916.
These postcards are original pin-ups and have  original pin holes still in evidence.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

African carved ebony heads

These African carved heads could be c1900.  The woman's head  is carved in a naturalistic style and the man's in an abstract style,and  they were   probably made for the European market.
The origins of African art lie long before recorded history, Rock art in the Sahara in  Niger preserves 6000 year old carvings, and the earliest known sculptures of the Nok culture of Nigeria were made around 500 BC.
At the beginning of the 20th century there was an explosion of interest in abstraction,  artists like  Picasso (his Les Demoiselles D'Avignon 1907 where he  used African tribal masks in the painting), Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin, and Modigliani  all became aware of and inspired by African art.  European architecture too was heavily influenced by African art.
These two carvings are made from ebony, a dense very dark wood, one of the most intensely black woods known, and it polishes to a very smooth finish. Unfortunately as a result of unsustainable harvesting many species yielding ebony are now considered threatened, and most of the indigenous ebony in Africa has been cut down illegally.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Tories, they're at it again.

News that the Conservative party are relying on tycoons to financially prop up their party doesn't come as a great surprise.
Ten wealthy business men, mainly City tycoons,  have donated  more than £13million between them to the Conservatives since 2005,  the City has handed over almost £43 million since 2005,  and in the first ten months of this year  hedge-fund managers and financiers gave  the Tory party £11.4million, and  that's not counting donations from the former wealthy Tory treasurer Michael Ashcroft.
These hedge-fund managers, financiers, venture capitalists, and property tycoons etc, expect to gain regular access to Mr.Cameron and other senior figures in the government, business deals can be done behind the scenes, honours arranged, and  favours inevitably result from high-powered lobbying. So much for democracy!
The £800million tax levy George Osborne intends to levy on the banks  represents less than a week's profit for the top five banks.  Wealthy men don't give something for nothing, they're not stupid.

Monday, 7 February 2011

2 French Dogs relax, Louis Georges and Jacques.

This is a painting of Louis Georges, a French miniature poodle, and Jacques a French standard dachshund.
Their intelligence and charm  will be featured  in a detective story that takes place in Paris,  to be published  in 2011.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Chinese year of the rabbit!

Congratulations! This year the Chinese celebrate their Year of the Rabbit.
A child  born during the year of the rabbit is one of the most fortunate of the 12 animal signs, and will have a sweet disposition.
Rabbit people are extremely lucky in business and monetary transactions, they make ideal diplomats or politicians, but don't like a competitive or aggressive environment.
A rabbit person has grace, culture, and beautiful manners,  and they pay attention to  everything  from colour, design, and furniture to food and conversation. They are sweet, romantic, and faithful too.
Their lucky numbers include 1 3 5 9 15 19 35,  their element is wood, colour green, and their direction is East.       Good luck to all Chinese  rabbits this year!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Libraries are threatened with closure!

Books, real books!  They live in libraries for everyone!
Unfortunately, with the threat of the ubiqiutous 'kindle' -(and others similar),  less  reading in schools due to a lack of good  basic education, and too much 'on screen' work,   a too fast moving society that cannot concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time, cuts to council budgets, falling numbers of people bothering to use and treasure the facilities in their libraries, visitors to libraries have fallen off drastically.
The Conservatives are planning to cut the numbers of libraries,- and  they preach the 'big society'. That doesn't make sense does it?
Where are the great philanthropists of the past? There are plenty of super rich out there with more money than they could ever spend in a lifetime, would it be impossible for them to give some of that money back to the community, where it came from in the first place?
Andrew Carnegie, the son of a handloom weaver, built his  first public library in Dunfermline his hometown in Scotland in 1883. "Let there be light" is the carved motto at the entrance. He believed in giving a chance to those who were most anxious to,  and able to help themselves. The libraries he  was responsible for building in America are still  some of the most imposing structures built in hundreds of American communities too.

Above........... oh the beauty and joy of books!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Drunkeness, a modern addiction?

Drunken behaviour in the ancient Mediterranean world led to a variety of consequences from the horrible to the humourous, just as it does today. Notorious  names from ancient times that live on for their drunken excesses include Alexander the Great,  Alcibiades, Attila, Hercules, Mark Antony, Odysseus, etc, and the Banquet of Petronius Satyricon was perhaps the most notorious scene of gluttony and drunkenness ever.
The Bible gives plenty of proof that excessive drinking of intoxicants was as common a vice among Hebrews as amongst ancient peoples, and intemperate drinking was condemned in uncompromising terms by the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament treated intemperance as a grave sin.
The Temperance Movement was  started by Joseph Livesay in 1832 in Preston when he required followers to sign a pledge of total abstinence. Children were instructed  in the perils of drink by the Band of Hope in 1847, and Quakers and the Salvation Army lobbied parliament to restrict alcohol sales. When DORA (Defence of the realm act) was introduced in 1914 beer had to be watered down and subject to a penny a pint extra in tax and  pub hours were licenced.
The danger of drink- driving  that started at the beginning of the century when there was a huge increase in numbers of motor cars has  resulted in legislation in the form of breath testing and sometimes  imprisonment.

The drinks lobby is huge and powerful, and the government take  substantial amounts of tax from the sale of alcohol. In Scotland a multinational drinks company opposed the SNP crackdown on alcohol abuse and minimum pricing for alcohol. In England a very watered down version of minimum pricing is being considered.

 Ill health caused by excessive alcohol is widespread and in particular binge drinking can cause serious brain damage to the young and later on memory loss in adults, women appearing to suffer from this more than men. Other health problems  include liver/heart disease and cancer. Alcohol craving is so great that it suppresses the ability to stop drinking, and apart from the dreadful misery and unhappiness it can cause within families it  is involved in half of all crimes, murders, accidental deaths and

3 mid 19th century lithograph cartoons warning of the dangers of drink!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Food Rationing c1916 - 1921. A reminder.

These postcards were produced in Britain between the 1st and 2nd World Wars.
In 1916 Britain had only 6 weeks of wheat left, this was a serious situation because bread was a staple part of most diets, potatoes and sugar were also in short supply.
DORA (Defence of the Realm Act) was introduced by the government to ensure shortages of food never occurred  because  people had started hoarding and panic buying. Then,  in 1917 the Germans started unrestricted submarine warfare, and merchant ships crossing the Atlantic  carrying food from Canada and America - our main food suppliers, were sunk with great frequency.
Young men had been called up so women and conscientious objectors started to work on the land, and the government took over 2.5 million acres of land for farming. People limited themselves to what they should eat,   gardens being  turned into allotments, and chickens and rabbits etc  kept in back gardens.  Nevertheless  in 1918 rationing, starting with sugar, was brought in to guarantee supplies not to reduce consumption, and in the main intake of calories was kept up to pre-war levels.  By 1920 all rationing was ended, and The Ministry of Food was dissolved after four years in 1921.  Reminder,...... it wasn't a long time ago.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Chinese 18th century tankard

This is an 18th century Chinese porcelain tankard, about 6" high,  painted in polychrome, of the Qianlong period 1736 - 1795. It was made for export, probably for the English market,  for drinking beer.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

2 Quinces, a lemon, and 2 apples

Remembering John Barry Prendergast. A composer of great talent, and pathos.