Thursday, August 13, 2009

19th Century French Confit Pots

French glazed earthenware confit pots,once used to store duck confit, were ubiquitous storage vessels in farmhouses across rural regions of southern France in the 19th-century. Today, these beautiful and simple pieces of domestic pottery evoke a sense of rural life and are considered to be one of the most essential elements of French country style. And there is much to admire in these domestic wares – the rich, honey colored yellow-slip glazes that contrast beautifully with the unglazed, light colored terracotta surfaces, the glaze runs and the organic patterns they form when the pots are half-dipped in liquid glaze and the beads of randomly pooled glaze on the rims. Over time, these pots acquire a beautifully worn and weathered surface that reflects their long and utilitarian past. Today, the chipped and flaked surfaces seen on these pots contribute to their character and charm.
A wide range of sizes were produced with ones at the extreme ends of the size scale being the most desirable and highly sought after. This is particularly true of the tiniest sizes -ones that are no more than 5” to 7” in height can command high prices partly because they are rare and partly because most of us tend to have a love affair with objects that come in miniature form. Very often an impressed numerical mark can be found near the bottom of the jar with “1” found on large pots that measure 14” to 15” in height while the tiniest examples are marked as “5”, “6” or “7”. Both green and yellow colored slip glazes were used with the green colored ones being the less common of the two.
As decorative objects, they’re particularly beautiful when used as vases and filled with generous bunches of wild flowers. But the biggest decorative impact is to be had is when a variety of sizes are juxtaposed. When displayed in multiples, the endless and subtle differences in color, texture, size and shape can be highlighted and used to add visual interest.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Antique English and French Lantern Cloches and Bell Jars

This is an example of a Victorian English glass and cast iron lantern cloche, c.1870 - 80. Sometimes referred to as handlights or even hand glasses, these were quintessential elements in a Victorian garden – in effect robust miniature greenhouses designed to protect plants from wind and frost. This one is a large example and has a rarer form – an octagonal base with a removable pyramidal dome top with a handle -the more common form being a square lower section with a pyramidal top. These days, striking examples such as this one tends to serve a more decorative function inside the home. It easily becomes a focal point - adding interest, drama and grand scale to a room or display. And seldom do they turn up in condition as good as this. This one has a cast iron frame with glass panes that are held into place by casement putty – early 20th century examples had zinc frames secured by clips rather than putty. As working tools, repairs to the glass were often necessary - broken glass was either completely replaced, or in times of thrift, a section of the damaged pane was removed and replaced. Both kinds of working repairs are evident on this cloche.

The classic glass bell shaped cloches originated in France several centuries ago but became popular gardener’s tools in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were hand-blown, semi-globular or cylindrical forms with applied knob handles and sometimes a rolled rim at the base. The glass often contained air bubbles, inclusions and striations. It’s not unusual to find these with their knob handles sliced off at the very tip as knobs were thought to hinder the diffusion of heat and light. And green colored glass was advertized as a better choice for some plants. Today, much of their beauty and appeal lies in their organic and imperfect forms – each one is unique.