Margaret Berwind Schiffer was a scholar, collector, and an authority on the material culture of early Chester County, Pennsylvania. Researching local records such as wills, inventories, and ledgers, she collected data about early residents, craftsmen, domestic life and home furnishing. Of her first book, “Furniture and Its Makers of Chester County, Pennsylvania”, Charles F. Montgomery of Winterthur Museum wrote that it was “the finest study in depth of the furniture of one county ever prepared.”1 Pouring over countless primary documents, she recognized regional characteristics such as inlay and the production of spice boxes and raised panel furniture, sometimes even revealing the individual craftsmen. Acquiring specimens as she discovered them, over time Margaret Berwind Schiffer built the finest private collection of Chester County furniture known.
Chester County was one of three original counties established by William Penn in 1682. The same year, settlers began arriving from the British Isles, the majority of whom were Quakers escaping religious persecution, along with smaller numbers of immigrants from Germany and France, and non-Quakers. Purchasing tracts of land from Penn they settled into enclaves such as the Welsh Tract in Tredyffrin, the London Company holdings in the southern central region of the county, the Nottingham Lots in the southwestern corner, and Germans in the north. “Most of the early immigrants were middling or poor families from Wales and Cheshire,”2 and many who were not farmers were craftsmen.
According to Schiffer’s perception, “Perhaps the most notable characteristic of Chester County furniture is the decorative effect of a volute inlay.”3 Inlay designs using a series of half-circles scribed with a compass, the ends dotted with a group of three circles, has become known as line and berry. No templates or pattern books have been discovered, and each design appears original.4 The black walnut furniture, usually with oak and chestnut secondary woods (later replaced by oak and poplar), were inlaid with light holly, red cedar or cherry, and black locust. Line and berry production peaked in the 1740’s, and ended in the 1780’s. Line and berry includes other inlay designs such as herringbone borders, compass-scribed stars and flowers, hearts, and dates and initials. It was customary to have a piece of furniture made for a special occasion such as a wedding or anniversary with inlaid initials and dates. In Lee Ann Griffith’s study, of the known 128 line and berry examples, 73 were inlaid with the owner’s initials, and 47 with the date. (The same Chester County Quaker families also purchased initialed Delftware, all dated 1738. Lots #244-247 are part of this very important known group.)
There is now evidence that a number of the earlier examples of line and berry were produced in the Delaware Valley, particularly Philadelphia.5 Christopher Storb’s research has revealed the Delaware Valley/Philadelphia makers used secondary woods of hard pine, red cedar, gum, and Atlantic white cedar, with designs composed of single berries or clusters or four, and more elaborate volutes marked with many compass points.6 Following the migration of craftsmen, line and berry later spread westward and also to the south, down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.
Early inlaid William and Mary furniture indicates production began with the first English and Welsh settlers in 1682. While the identity of the first craftsmen to introduce the inlay technique is a mystery, evidence points to the Welsh. In a survey the collection of the National Museum of Wales, Griffith wrote, “While the Welsh designs were much simpler than those that were developed in Pennsylvania, they shared many of the same motifs.”7 Scrolling compass arcs with single berries run across drawer fronts, terminating in tulips, leaves, and diamonds. The Welsh Museum’s inlaid furniture has a history of ownership in southern Wales, in the Vale of Glamorgan, with other known pieces from Pembroke. Griffith finds it is “clear that this vernacular Welsh inlay tradition formed the basis for the school of inlay decoration that developed in Pennsylvania.”8 In “Welsh Furniture 1250-1950,” Richard Bebb attributes the distinctive Welsh inlay specifically to traditional makers of holly and bog oak inlay from the Vale of Glamorgan. (Bog oak, buried in a peat bog for centuries, is nearly black and semi-fossilized.) Other sources the Welsh technique draws upon are English William and Mary boxwood line and arc inlay, and the herringbone checkered banding of the Renaissance. Griffiths concludes the origins of Welsh line and berry inlay are ultimately Flemish. Large Flemish colonies in south Pembrokeshire, first established in the year 1100, influenced Welsh furniture style, making it more closely related to Continental furniture than English.
Griffiths found “only one Pennsylvania cupboard bearing any resemblance to a Welsh tridarn (three-part) cupboard”—Lot #24. “Although undated, its Queen Anne bracket feet suggest it was made well after the first Welsh settlement.”9 Of the cabinetmakers working in Chester County before 1720, Schiffer’s data reveals no fewer than twenty with Welsh surnames. The number of Welsh craftsmen is not disproportionately large, meaning the style quickly dispersed throughout the community. The conclusion drawn by Griffiths is that “the popularity of the inlay technique shows consumer demand for locally produced and conceived objects.”10 Of the 128 known line and berry pieces studied by Griffiths, only 31 had original owner or township provenance, with most known owners being of Quakers of English or Irish descent, and only one was signed by the cabinetmaker.
Schiffer writes, “For over two hundred years the population of the county was primarily rural, conservative, and middle class with a strong Quaker element.”11 Conservative Quakers preserved their Old World preferences in rural Chester County long after Philadelphia styles had moved on. “A regional material culture evolved in southern Chester County, manifesting itself in unusual furniture forms and detailing, as well as in the more widespread line and berry decoration.”12 Rooted in English and Welsh origins, Chester County’s Quaker material culture favored the form and construction methods of the late 17th c., with its baroque taste. “The demand for joiner-made furniture which often had raised panels, continued in Wales long after it had died out in England.”13 Likewise in Chester County, even with proximity to Philadelphia and annual trips for the Quaker Yearly Meeting, where craftsmen could see the latest flowing Queen Anne styles in the 1730’s and ornate Chippendale in the 1750’s, favored everywhere else in the colony and Britain, they continued the local tradition of joined furniture throughout the 18th c. Schiffer discerned the localism of line and berry inlay, raised panel tall chests and wainscot chairs, spice boxes, and Octorara furniture, and built her collection.
The ultimate form of Chester County furniture is the spice chest. Inherited from English furniture, “By the early 1700’s, the form had generally ceased being made outside of Pennsylvania, where it continued to flourish among Quaker families in Chester County.”14 These were inlaid with the most elaborate patterns, with pinwheels and compass stars, many with initials that can be traced to their original southern Chester County owners. William and Mary style turned ball feet on spice boxes otherwise in the Queen Anne style is typical of the conservative Chester County makers. Secret drawers are a favorite feature, spice chests actually functioning as diminutive valuables chests. Displayed in the home, they often bore inlaid dates and initials, reflecting their owner’s status. Lot #53, a cedar spice chest ca. 1725, is rare for being decorated on all sides, and is likely an early precursor made in Philadelphia. It opens to a nine-drawer interior, with a hidden tenth drawer. Its “flowerpot with tulips inlay (a motif common in painted Pennsylvania Dutch dower chests) is unusual for line and berry, which did not use objective representation.”15
An inlay motif used in Chester County furniture that has Pennsylvania German craftsmen origins is the parrot. Lisa Minardi’s research suggests that parrot influence may have come from marquetry traditions in Wurttemberg and Hohenlohe, where “bird motifs were so common that the term Papageieinschrank (parrot cupboard) came into use.”16 Parrots were a frequent Pennsylvania German motif because parrots were everywhere at the time. Sadly, that is not still the case, the Carolina parakeet, once native to Pennsylvania, is now extinct. (Lots 28 and 65 parrot) In contrast to the line and berry inlay, marquetry requires large pieces of pattern to be cut whole, with images such as birds or flowers pieced together. “The Continental marquetry style of inlay and the Welsh-derived line and berry style of inlay were practiced within close proximity to one another, influencing one another, but not merging.”17 A perfect illustration of this “interaction between two neighboring cultures” is Lot #14, a tall case clock with works signed B. Chandlee / Nottingham. Benjamin Chandlee, Jr., a Quaker clockmaker, evidently worked with cabinetmakers trained in the German tradition, or his clients bought their cases from German makers. The case is inlaid with marquetry compass pinwheel and tulips.
Herringbone inlay is “rarer than the berry and line inlay.”18 Schiffer’s study revealed it was sometimes combined with line and berry, sometimes with marquetry birds. No pieces bear dates, but the cases appear to be from the first half of the 18th c. Lot #42 has classic Chester County form, with three arched drawers over two, formerly secured with “Quaker” or spring locks, and raised panel sides. A brilliant herringbone pattern borders each drawer. Another technique long out of fashion elsewhere is found on three of the four lower drawers, which formerly hung on side runners. “This continued use of early forms and stylistic details parallels continued use of line and berry inlay in Chester County throughout the 18th c. and was part of the same vernacular tradition.”19 Far from being simply anachronistic, Chester County cabinetmakers were creating their own localized form of the tall chest. Octorara Valley furniture is another distinctive local form, from the western boundary of Chester County. The Queen Anne high chest, Lot #57 with the typical tall, tapering ogee feet with closed circle cut out, and raised panel sides.
Chester County line and berry inlaid, and raised panel furniture are unabashedly beautiful, so how did they satisfy the Quaker doctrine of plainness in material possessions? Given Chester County’s proximity to Philadelphia, the colonial center of culture, furniture making, and a city of very wealthy Quaker families, plainness was a relative matter. Some Quakers were more economically successful than others. Preferring their local styles, which were based on a shared cultural past, the Chester County Quakers chose furniture that was not ostentatious, but still of the very best quality. Chester County vernacular was based on origins, and on identity as a community. Craftsmen used the highest quality materials and anachronistic techniques to create furniture with a perceived honesty and integrity that reflected the values of the conservative, industrious community.
1 Margaret Berwind Schiffer, “Furniture and Its Makers of Chester County, Pennsylvania”, 1966, University of Pennsylvania, Introduction.
2 Wendy Cooper and Lisa Mindardi, “Paint, Pattern, and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725-1850”, 2011, University of Pennsylvania, p.8.
3 Schiffer, p.262.
4 Lee Ellen Griffith, “Line and Berry Inlaid Furniture,” 1988, University of Pennsylvania, p. 25.
5 Griffith, p.204.
6 Christopher Storb, “Lines and Dots,” 2021, WordPress.
7 Griffith, p.158.
8 Ibid, p.169.
9 Ibid, p.171.
10 Ibid, p.182.
11 Schiffer, p.10.
12 Griffith, p.156.
13 Ibid, p.170.
14 Cooper and Minardi, p.12.
15 Griffith, p.80.
16 Lisa Minardi, “Philadelphia, Furniture, and the Pennsylvania Germans,” Chipstone, 2013.
17 Griffith, p.194.
18 Schiffer, p.263.
19 Griffith, p.114.
The Collection of F.R. “Bud” Lear III is an exceptional lifetime assemblage of copper-alloy candlesticks manufactured before 1700, which illustrates the history of development of socket candlesticks and the relationships between different forms across Europe. The Collection is composed of notable and rare examples. A lifelong antique collector with a fascination for early lighting, Bud Lear met kindred spirit Christopher Bangs in London in 1985. Their meeting led to a great friendship and collaboration. The culmination of their studies, The Lear Collection: A Study of Copper-Alloy Socket Candlesticks A.D. 200 – 1700, was a significant addition to the study of early lighting. A thorough investigation, it included metallurgical tests and revealed previously unpublished finds. Sadly, Christopher Bangs passed away in 2022. He will be greatly missed.
Bud Lear was fascinated by the idea that so much of human history was spent in darkness illuminated by a single flame. The Dark Ages really meant living a dark life, especially during winter in Northern Europe, where twilight falls at half past three. The lights went out for much of Europe when the fall of the Roman Empire and breakup of international and regional trade meant the olive oil widely burned in lamps could no longer be obtained. Only wealthier households would have had a candlestick. A luxury item, it would have been carried from room to room. Although common in ancient Rome, socket candle holders were not widely manufactured again until the late 13th century, when the demand for domestic use rose, most likely an effect of the rise of the merchant class. Smaller households could make tallow candles from kitchen waste, and they were an easy byproduct for butchers and the main business of chandlers, who also offered the more expensive beeswax variety. Socket holders functioned better for small candles than prickets, which continued to be used for larger candles. For churches and monasteries, beeswax was not difficult to obtain, drawing upon their beekeepers and vassals. Throughout the Middle Ages, dependents were burdened with wax payments to ecclesiastical lords.1 Accounts of feasting long into the night occur frequently in secular Medieval and Renaissance records of the upper classes. The poorest homes were lit only by hearth and rush light.
Mr. Lear’s focus is on copper alloy candlesticks, which are primarily brass, composed of copper and zinc, plus whatever elements existed in the local materials. Due to varying geographic components and metallurgical imperfections, the nuances of color among the candlesticks in the collection range from pinkish to yellow to silver hues. Every piece has been tested, analyzed, and researched.
Among the earliest forms in the collection is a bronze lathe-turned socket candlestick from the Roman provinces, 2nd/3rd c. A.D. Collected in Maine, it was tested with X-Radiography for structural and metal analysis, and corrosion profiling. A millennia saw little advancement in lighting technology. With designs derived from the coeval lion aquamaniles, Lots 733 and 734 are two lion form candlesticks from the 13th/14th c. Both are designated North West European, yet Lot 734 was found in England and bears distinct resemblance to period English depictions of lions and leopards. A dredging of the Thames River revealed miniature tin alloy candlesticks, possibly once used in a religious context as votives, a continuation of a Roman practice. The miniature tripod pewter candlestick inscribed “ECCE AMCVS” (“Behold, Friend”) is in an excellent state of preservation. Tripod-based candlesticks are recognized as the earliest type of North West European socket candlesticks of the mediaeval period, their design derived from Romanesque prickets.
The early English group includes several fine 15th c. Three Kings form candlesticks, with Lot 735 one of only two known English detachable double-socket arm candlesticks in existence. Of Lot 732, another rare form, Christopher Bangs wrote, “this exquisite small candlestick exhibits a rare combination of austerity and adornment in its design,” its two castellated sockets on Gothic pierced arms. Acquired in England, elements of its form and alloy lean towards an English attribution, but it is classified as North West Europe on account of the shallow-lipped integral-drip base with conical skirt. A Safavid double-armed candlestick, is described by Bangs as a “tour-de-force.” Except for the sockets, it is a single casting. Its high cylindrical base, common in Near Eastern forms, directly influenced the circular-based European candle holders.
Arriving in the 16th century, English Tudor candlesticks inspire prose such as Hilary Mantel’s: “in the king’s chamber a gentleman brings in more tapers; the light flutters across the ceiling like an influx of cherubim.” The Chalice and Paten shape of Lot 753 was influenced by the growth of trade with the highly developed metal casting centers on the Continent. This particular example “epitomizes the excellence of both the design and the execution of this group,” (Bangs, p.89).
Lot 748 is extremely rare. It is the only known example of a copper alloy candlestick depicting Martin Luther, probably Nuremberg, 17th c. Luther symbolically holds the candle socket aloft, the light symbolizing his faith. In “Against the Antinomians,” 1539, in which Luther chronicled his struggles, he compared faith to the light of a candle, which the devil was continually trying to blow out, “I feared he would carry light and wax and wick away. But God again helped his poor candle and kept it from being snuffed out.” Lot 749 is a counterpoint, a bronze High Renaissance candlestick in the form of a standing satyr, from the workshop of Severo Calzetta da Ravenna (active ca. 1496 – ca. 1538). Severo specialized in small bronzes of mainly pagan subjects, which today can be found in the collections of major museums.
The English Trumpet candlesticks of the late 16th and early 17th century include rarities: Lot 737, a rare early English trumpet form, is one of only two surviving examples known, its elegant shaft with central knop resting on a graceful domed base. Lot 729 is an extraordinarily large, unique form with a highly unusual 5” removable bobeche, most likely used as a hand held pan light, perhaps for pacing, as Shakespeare might have done when devising a metaphor to reveal to Macbeth the brevity of life.
One of the jewels of the Collection is not a candlestick, but a Flemish brass lavabo of the 15th c., with zoomorphic spouts and female mask handle brackets. The form is straight out of the Merode Altarpiece (Robert Campin, ca. 1427-32, Metropolitan Museum of Art), in which a similar lavabo hangs in the background above the Angel Gabriel’s head.
Bud Lear and Christopher Bangs have assembled one of the finest candlestick collections in the world, representing a level of effort, erudition, and commitment that must be seen to be appreciated. To see the march of time and technology is to better understand humanity’s struggle against the dark. To hold an early candlestick in your hand is to touch the past. One can then well imagine being that early householder carrying a candle at night, its illumination throwing shadows against the walls, corners of the room deeply dark, the path lit by a single flame.
1 Heinrich Fichtenau, Living in the Tenth Century, 1991, University of Chicago Press, pp. 74-75, 270.
Bangs, Christopher, The Lear Collection: A Study of Copper-Alloy Socket Candlesticks A.D. 200 – 1700, King’s Hill, 1995.
On October 6th, Pook & Pook will auction Chinese botanical watercolors from the Estate of Peter Tillou. Three pairs of watercolors, lots #344, 345, and 346, attributed to Win Achun and other artists, have provenance from Peter Tillou, “According to an early auction catalogue clipping the collection was ‘executed expressly for the Late J. Roberts, Esq. (A Director and Chairman of the East India Company) and are sold by order of his executors. It would be difficult to convey an adequate idea of the taste, beauty and spirit with which the Drawings are executed, and I am assured by a very competent judge who was in China, when the Drawings were made, that their fidelity is equal to their beauty. All the Botanical Drawings were submitted by the Artist to the inspection and received the approbation of Mr. Kerr, the Botanist, who was sent from Kew to China by his Britannic Majesty.’ The collection was also listed in the auction catalogue of Wentworth Henry Canning, 2nd Viscount Allendale.” (Also see Christies London sale 5792, lot 14, The Property of the Beaumont Family, 29 April, 1997.) A fourth entry, lot #437, is a trio of Chinese watercolors of fruit trees, showing peaches, pomelos, and possibly loquats.
Beautiful products of a collision between worlds, the watercolors and gouaches were painted by artists of the ancient academic tradition of Chinese botanical painting, first recorded in the Han Dynasty; to the detailed specifications of Western naturalists and botanists fueled by the Enlightenment, who were exploring and attempting to understand the world through science.
In the scientific awakening of the Enlightenment, a knowledge of botany was part of a well-rounded individual’s education. In 1751 Carl Linnaeus published his system of taxonomy, giving scientists a common language of classification to use. After Captain Cook’s 1768 voyage, Joseph Banks convinced King George III to turn his royal gardens at Kew into a botanical collection and research institution for the nation. The first colonial botanic garden was established in 1765 by the East Indian Company on St. Vincent in the West Indies. In the effort to break the Dutch spice monopoly, a Calcutta garden was founded in 1787. Eventually a network of gardens spanned the globe, proving vital to the British Empire, allowing crops like rubber and quinine to be collected and grown. The botanical gardens were imperial tools, intended for the reproduction of useful plants for the military, colonists, and trade. Crucial to the future expansion of the British Empire would be a supply of quinine. Economic crops like tea, tobacco, cotton, and, infamously, opium, were grown. Also centers for research, their plants, seeds, and information sailed the high seas. The gardener-botanists from Kew transported spices, breadfruit, coffee, quinine, and rubber around the globe, as well as newly discovered ornamental plants. Enlightenment thinking also transformed economics, producing growth through the application of science. Enriching trade by the introduction of new plantation crops for colonies became one of the main sources of wealth for the British Empire. Local substitutes for imports stemmed the drain of silver from the exchequer. William Bligh, captain of the HMS Bounty, was transporting breadfruit tree cuttings from Tahiti to the St. Vincent garden for Joseph Banks when his journey was so famously interrupted.
Banks appointed William Kerr to be Kew’s botanist in China, making Kerr the first western professional plant hunter. Kerr was sent to Canton with the British East India Company, which held a monopoly charter on eastern trade. Banks equipped Kerr with a set of botanically accurate watercolors. Made in Canton in the late 1700’s by Chinese artists supervised by John Bradby Blake, an East India Company supercargo, the drawings detailed plant, flower, fruits, and seeds, and were labeled with names in both Western and Chinese characters. “He was to look out for unusual plants, or especially those that grew in China’s more northerly provinces, which would have the best chance of surviving England’s climate… the main document he entrusted to him was the Book of Chinese Drawings which, as Banks put it, ‘will Enable you to Enquire after many Plants that might not possibly have become known to you.” 1,2
The world Kerr sailed into was governed by the Canton System (1757-1842), a Qing protectionist arrangement designed to control trade with the West. All trade and movement of westerners was confined to a small warehouse district on the Pearl River in the southern port of Canton, specifically to thirteen large buildings called hongs, or Factories, and transacted only with officially licensed Chinese merchants, the Cohongs. Foreign merchants were not permitted permanent residence at Canton. They were allowed to stay at the Factories only during the shipping season, relocating to Macao during the offseason. Kerr lived in the British hong with the other officers of the British East India Company. The Cohongs maintained elaborate gardens and introduced their clients, who were otherwise confined to the Factory compounds, to many previously unknown plant specimens. A contemporary of Kerr in Canton, the Cohong Howqua had just inherited his father’s company in 1801 and was on his way to becoming the richest man on earth. Howqua’s famous garden was an impressive space for entertaining his trading guests, with a river entrance, a nursery and potting sheds on the grounds.6 Henan had been a popular location for garden making since the Ming dynasty, and the availability of potted exotic plants, flowers, and dwarf trees produced in the neighboring nurseries, explains why Howqua, and other local gardeners, possessed such a wide collection of plants. In Cantonese gardens, flowerpots were arranged in ever-changing combinations.3 Aesthetic gardens with precious specimens were traditionally a hobby of Chinese scholars, who deemed commercial gardening vulgar. “The Hong merchants’ motives for collecting plants were not so different from their Western associates. Foremost was a desire to acquire a status symbol – Chinese literati at the top of the social hierarchy in China frequently kept gardens with rare flowers, and the Hong merchants wanted to attain such social circles… For the Western plant enthusiasts and collectors, finding a new species and bringing it home carried significant prestige, sometimes accompanied by substantial monetary gain.”4,5 Foreigners had to rely on a network of Chinese contacts to gather local plants, which they then frequently grew in Macao. “Contrarily to scholar or imperial gardens the Hong merchants’ pleasure grounds and Guangzhou nurseries contained plenty of plants to buy, ready to be carried in pots.”4
“Kerr arrived in Canton in October 1803 and quickly settled down, growing plants in his own garden and choosing which to send to Kew, using the Book as a guide…” Facilitated by the Hong merchants, Kerr gathered specimens from the plant nurseries in Huadi.5 Robert Fortune later described Fa Tee Gardens, “the flowery land, as the name implies”, consisting of about a dozen small nurseries. “Potted plants were mostly placed in rows alongside narrow paved walks, with houses for gardeners at the entrance. There were stock-grounds where planting out was done and also here the first process of dwarfing their celebrated trees is put into operation… These gardens were most beautiful in spring with a brilliant display of tree peonies, camellias, roses and particularly azaleas… Every garden was one mass of bloom… and full of the scents of olea fragrans and Magnolia fuscata.” On New Year’s Day Fortune “saw boats on the river laden with branches of peach and plum blossom, camellias, cockscombs, magnolia and enkianthus brought down from the hills, and at every street corner jonquils grown in water with a few white stones were for sale. Large parties of young Chinese crowded floral boats bound for the Fa Tee Gardens.”6 China’s native botanical bounty included oranges, peonies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias, lilacs, and tea, to name a few.
John Roberts (1739-1810) was no ordinary wealthy customer ordering a set of illustrations to boost the prestige of his library, and it is no coincidence that he ordered them from William Kerr. From 1764 to 1808, John Roberts was alternately the Chairman, or a Director, of the British East India Company. “In London, the Court of Directors, with Banks’s assistance and support, had something in mind for themselves. They wanted Kerr to put together a set of drawings of Chinese plants to be displayed in the newly-founded India Museum, adjoining the Company’s headquarters. In Canton, Kerr soon found a Chinese artist to produce the drawings… The first set of drawings was a big hit in London and Kerr arranged for a second set to be made. These arrived in 1806, two years after the first set – nearly 400 drawings in total. These were the first Chinese drawings the Company commissioned.”1 The most powerful corporation the world had ever known, the Company was at the peak of its power. Roberts became Director one year prior to the Mughal emperor relinquishing the right to collect taxes and duties to the Company, which laid it’s foundations of empire. By 1800, it ruled over millions of people and maintained a standing army of over 200,000 soldiers. It was more powerful than most countries, and Roberts and the Directors more powerful than many rulers. In the late 18th century, high-ranking Company employees commissioned their own collections of natural history paintings.8 Influenced by Banks, and commissioner of botanical works on behalf of the Company, Roberts would have naturally desired a set for his own library, reminders of the Company’s, and his own, role in botanical history.
Kerr worked in Canton for eight years, discovering many plants in local Chinese gardens and nurseries. The job was both challenging and lonely. “Despite the impressive title of Royal Gardener, William Kerr had ‘no one…to associate with’ in the Factory…the small salary Kerr received from Kew Gardens also trapped him in disgrace. While the sum of £100 a year might have been a passable income for a gardener in England, in Western China, it was a pittance.”5 A Company contemporary in Canton, John Livingstone later reported that Kerr had been “sent… with the most carefully contrived chests and boxes, but with so small a salary as to lose respect in the eyes of his Chinese assistants.”7 Kerr’s situation would have also been made difficult by the Company illegally smuggling opium into the local market, which began a decades-long conflict. Afterwards Kerr moved to Ceylon as the superintendent of its colonial botanical garden and died in 1814, reportedly from opium addiction. Writing about Canton decades later, Fortune visited “the garden which at one time belonged to the East India Company and which was still in existence: ‘It is but a small plot of ground on the river side, not more than sixty paces each way’, now neglected.”7 Kerr’s botanic legacy has been more lasting than his garden. He sent back to Britain 238 plants new to science.
Kerr also left an artistic legacy. In the botanical watercolors produced for Kerr, “the boundary between ‘fine art’ and ‘scientific documentation’ blurred.”9 Prized for their practical contributions to botanical science, they are also highly regarded as a continuation of an ancient and evolved art form. Nearly a millennia after the first Han bird and flower paintings, 12th century Sung Dynasty artists began to combine lyric poetry and flower painting, evolving a complex style as symbolic and metaphoric as it was aesthetic. Painted without background or setting, single blossoms or branches became objects of contemplation. Layers of meaning ranged from beauty, purity, scholarship, nobility, and asceticism to emotional expressions like resilience and the search for perfection on a personal level.10 Chinese artists applied their skill to the westerners’ requirements for botanic accuracy and comprehensive detail. The resulting art form of botanical illustrations are a synthesis of Chinese art and the scientific observation of the Enlightenment. In later years, “the botanical role for Cantonese artists in the 19th century was largely that of decorative ‘export’ art as upmarket souvenirs. These included flowers and fruits produced in huge quantities painted on the smooth, brittle surface of ‘paper’ made from the pith of Broussonetia papyrifera.”9 Future works were usually made from templates, based on the early originals. The nearly-translucent quality of pith paper facilitated a method of creation that included tracing, and then painting over the pattern. Here are four lots of early originals, works of both beauty and historical significance, the artists working in tandem with Kerr to get every last detail perfect for posterity. They are the results of the artists and botanist combined search for perfection—their lyricism beautiful to contemplate.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Kew Botanic Gardens
1 Goodman, J. & Jarvis, C., The John Bradby Blake Drawings in the Natural History Museum, London: Joseph Banks Puts them to Work, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 2017, vol. 34.
2 Banks to Kerr, April 18, 1803, State Library of New South Wales, Papers of Sir Joseph Banks.)
3 Richard, J.C., Uncovering the garden of the richest man on earth in 19th c. Canton: Howqua’s garden in Honam, China, Garden History, 2015, vol. 43.
4 Richard, J. & Woudstra, J., “Throughly Chinese” Revealing the plants of the Hong merchants’ gardens through John Bradby Blake’s paintings, Curtis’ Botanical Magazine, 2018.
5 Fa-ti Fan, British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter, Harvard UP, 2004.
6 Fortune, R., Three Years Wanderings in China, 1847.
7 Le Rougetel, H., The Fa Tee Nurseries of South China, Garden History, 1982, vol. 10.
8 Archer, M., Natural History Drawings in the Indian Office Library, HMSO London, 1962.)
9 Williams, I. & Ching, May Bo, Created in Canton: Chinese Export Watercolors on Pith, Lingan Art Publishing, 2014.
10 Harrist, R., Ch’ien Hsuan’s “Pear Blossoms”: The Tradition of Flower Painting and Poetry from Sung to Yuan, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 22, 1987.
Kusama Affandi (1907-1990), the father of Indonesian modern painting, was the first Southeast Asian artist to gain worldwide recognition. From his sponsorship of organizations for young artists to the inspiration of his self-taught expressionism, he helped raise future generations of Indonesian artists. Attracting international attention, he traveled the globe, in his earlier years studying in India, participating in the Sao Paolo and Venice Biennales, and in the US on a 1957 State Department scholarship. His career spanned the eras of Dutch colonial rule, Japanese occupation, early independence under Sukarno, and the dictatorship of Suharto. A resident of Java, he was involved in the struggle for Indonesian independence and acquainted with the major political and social actors of his time. His art was influenced early on by participation in artists’ guilds dominated by Lekra, the cultural arm of the Indonesian communist party, and its preference for Social Realism. In 1990 he was honored with a posthumous exhibit at the Smithsonian. Today his work is held mainly in private collections throughout the world, the Singapore Art Museum, the Neka Museum, and the Affandi Museum.
Affandi’s subjects were drawn from ordinary life, especially ones that carried emotional freight, and were painted from reality. His method of painting was all his own, squeezing pigment directly from the tube to create bold lines of impasto, and spreading with his fingers and hands. He believed that blending and swirling, possessed by the moment, would imbue the canvas with his own human spirit and convey more depth of humanity. His spontaneous and dynamic working style captured energy and emotion. Above his signature, he placed his “life symbol” summarizing his style: consisting of the sun, source of energy, life, and creativity; feet for connection to the ground; and hands, powered by his own life force, connecting him to the paint and canvas.
First visiting Bali to paint in 1939, Affandi returned often. The Balinese pastime of cockfighting was a frequent subject of his interest. The Indonesian government opposed the fighting, Islamic tradition being that roosters have the gift of being able to see angels, but allowed its continuation on Bali for religious ceremonies. Blood spilled onto temple grounds is an offering to evil spirits, a sacred purification ritual. Temples in Bali are the meeting place of humans and the gods, where cosmic harmony between humans and the gods above, and demons below, is maintained. Bali-Hinduism is animistic, everything is inhabited by spirits. The unseen spirit world coexists with the human, intertwining in everyday life (Eiseman). The earliest reference to cockerel fighting in the Hindu rituals of Bali is found in the 10th century. After a millennia, cockfighting has taken on a wider social context, to include village friendships, rivalries, notions of masculinity, and gambling. It is deeply rooted as a tradition and pastime. Men raise cockerels like athletes. Training, breeding, diet, and care are endlessly perfected. The cockerels become “symbolic expressions and magnifications of their owner’s self,” and also “of what the Balinese regard as the direct inversion, aesthetically, morally, and metaphysically, of human status: animality,” (Geertz). The blood spilled at cockfights is an offering to pacify the demons of human nature as well. “In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative power of aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death.” The deep religious and social aspects of cockfighting were fertile ground for the artist Affandi.
This canvas, Balinese Cock Fighter, isolates one participant and his treasured cockerel as they wait for their turn to participate, all hopes and fears, in the excitement of the gathering. A shaft of light falls on the pair, the owner’s sinuous muscularity interlacing with curves of the cockerel’s plumage, the bodies appearing as one; as are their spirits, fates intertwined. The negative space in the painting is not empty. Affandi’s swirling fingers and smoky colors evoke the world unseen, the coexisting world of the spirits, the pulsating emotions, and the whirling of natural forces. Ghosts and ancestor gods would have indeed been very present in this unseen world Affandi painted in 1966.
In the summer of 1964, the young nation of Indonesia barely held together as communist, military, and Muslim factions vied for power. In his Independence Day speech, President Sukarno proclaimed the following year would be “the year of living dangerously.” And it was. A failed coup attempt on October 1st of 1965 gave rival Suharto his opening to ascend to power. State-sponsored purges of suspected communists, by both the army and civilian vigilante groups followed. The massacres were brutal, particularly in Java and Bali, with death squads moving from village to village hunting communists. Over the following 18 months, an estimated 500,000 Indonesians were killed and many more were dispossessed or incarcerated. Officially, the period has never been examined. Books about it were banned by the dictatorship. “Its shadow falls across islands where millions live side-by-side with former tormentors or victims.”(The Economist) Indonesians likewise live side by side with the ghosts of the hundreds of thousands slaughtered.
Affandi’s Balinese Cock Fighter, painted in “the year of living dangerously,” provokes a visceral reaction. There is fear, there is the suggestion of pain; it is dark and uncertain. The atmosphere teems with unseen spirits and ancestor gods. Those whirling natural forces that drive the emotions of the cockfight also drive the events of the world. Yet, standing there, their souls bared, they are calm, looking inward. The shaft of light illuminates the key to enduring it all. Amongst the dark clouds and uncertainties, burns the human spirit.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Fred B. Eiseman, National Geographic, 1980.
The Economist, Open Wounds, Banyan, April 23, 1016.
Clifford Geertz, Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight, Daedalus, 2005.
Admiral Jacob van Heemskerk (1567-1607) was an explorer. Before he captured the treasure ship Santa Caterina in the Straits of Malacca, and died defeating the Spanish fleet off Gibraltar, he was already a hero of an epic book, Nova Zembla. Published in 1598, the book was Gerrit de Veer’s first-person account of an ill-fated 1596 Arctic expedition led by van Heemskerk and navigator Willem Barents. Their objective was to find a northern passage to Asia, bypassing the Portuguese-controlled trade routes. After a harrowing journey through masses of ice, the expedition pressed on, in the mistaken belief of the time that sea water could not freeze. To the horror of the crew, at the onset of winter the ship became ice-bound in the Arctic Ocean. Hurriedly, a shelter was constructed from driftwood and what could be spare from the ship. For the next ten months of the Arctic winter, de Veer’s journal recorded harrowing details of the struggle for survival on the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. The entire crew nearly expired from carbon monoxide poisoning when they burned coal indoors. The one time they dined richly on polar bear nearly killed them from hypervitaminosis A. They already had scurvy. Hauntingly, de Veer described “a natural phenomenon that is now known as the Novaya Zemlya Effect. Two weeks before the sun was due to re-appear he and others saw it rise. De Veer describes how he tried to verify his and other’s observations by making calculations of their position. He was not to know that the sun he saw was only a mirage.” (Marja Kingma, Overwintering: the Dutch search for the Northwest Passage). When the sun returned, the crew waited in vain for the ice to release their ship. Left with no option, they set out for home in the ship’s two small open boats. Completely exposed in the extreme climate, on the inhospitable sea, four perished, including Barents. Eight weeks later, the survivors were found off the Kola Peninsula. In the 1870s the expedition’s abandoned cache of goods, including pewter candlesticks, was discovered in Novaya Zemlya. The style of candlestick became known as Heemskerk. Heemskerk also had a ship named in his honor, Barents, the sea in which he perished.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Why do we all love blue and white china? Perhaps because it is hard-wired into our system. Across history and continents, the love of blue and white Chinese porcelain has launched ships and industries.
For a thousand years, China had a complete monopoly on porcelain, which was traded along the Silk Route and the maritime trade routes of Asia. Around 1320, the kilns of Jingdezhen began using imported Persian cobalt, which was twice as expensive as gold, and blue and white china was born. In imitation, Middle Eastern potters developed a tin glazing technique to whiten their ceramics. The tin glazing technique spread to Europe via Majorca in Islamic Spain, and then to Faenza in Italy. Religious strife and the Eighty Years War pushed a wave of Protestant potters north to Delft and to England in the late 16th century. Their early majolica was rooted in the Italian style, polychrome, and with the expensive tin glaze used only on the front. But this style was to be influenced by China again…
On the other side of the globe, the Dutch continued their struggle against allied Spain and Portugal by attacking routes of the spice trade. To finance this venture, in 1602 the Dutch created the VOC, the Dutch East India Company, selling equity shares of ownership and bonds to public investors to raise capital. The VOC became the first real public company and the first to harness the massive potential of capitalism. Investment, and the ability to use military force, made it the greatest commercial enterprise in the world. Its first venture, led by Admiral Jacob van Heemskerk, was also a watershed event. In 1603 “the Portuguese carrack Santa Caterina fully laden with silk, musk and porcelain was captured near the shores of Singapore, and the cargo was sold in Amsterdam—this was the first big auction of Chinese porcelain in northern Europe.” (Thorsten Giehler, The Ceramics of the Maritime Silk Route). The 1604 auction was wildly successful, setting off a China Mania, proving the European elite were willing to pay enormous sums of money for blue and white porcelain.
Delft majolica potteries began manufacturing affordable imitations of Chinese porcelain. A refined faience was achieved for the higher end of the market, copying both the shapes and decoration of the Chinese porcelains, with white tin glazing on both sides and designs in cobalt blue. The Delft potters also created their own interpretations, melding Chinese and European design features into a new style, chinoiserie. Delft blue became famous, eventually becoming the name for all of the blue and white objects. Made in different locales, what it had in common was the white tin glaze and cobalt blue decoration. Delft tiles and pottery became fashionable and were in demand in the homes of the gentry and merchants to show prosperity. Tiles were used around chimneys, hallways, staircases, kitchens, and as lintels, and were often painted with scenes of daily life, or biblical or mythological figures.
In England, Delft production grew dramatically after 1688, when, on account of his marriage to Mary II, the Dutch William of Orange was crowned King of England. William and Mary brought designer Daniel Marot with them to their English court. Marot’s ornate Dutch style was highly influential, shaping both the design of Delftware and the way objects were used in interior design. Delftware was displayed all over the house, rather than solely inside cabinets. Rows of gleaming blue and white garnitures lined mantels, stepped chimneys, and furniture. In the words of Daniel Defoe, the new fashion, “spread to lesser mortals and increased to a strange degree afterwards, piling china up on the tops of cabinets, escritoires and every chimney-piece, to the tops of the ceilings… till it became a grievance.” Delftware was not only the tableware of choice for the middle-class clientele who could not afford Chinese porcelain, but also a prominently displayed status symbol in the homes of the elite, including Queen Mary, who commissioned Delft items in fabulous baroque forms, but also collected fine Chinese porcelains. While Mary died in 1694, the reign of Delft lasted until the creation of a European porcelain industry in the mid-18th century.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Delftware was the most common type of ceramic export to the American colonies, the wide range of products doing everything from adorning elegant tables and displaying flowers to serving utilitarian purposes in apothecary shops and beneath beds (Antiques and the Arts Weekly, Delftware at Historic Deerfield, 1600-1800). By the close of the 17th century, England controlled American colonial trade, but it was the Dutch who dominated global trade, and continued trading in the Americas long after their colonial presence. When England’s 1642 Civil War disrupted supply lines, colonists pivoted to Dutch and French traders. The desire to eliminate Dutch competition gave rise in 1651 to Britain’s Navigation Acts, mercantilist policies designed to protect colonial markets and trade routes. Only British ships were allowed to carry goods to the American colonies, cutting off trade with foreign powers. However, archaeological and archival evidence indicate that Dutch ceramics were common, if contraband. “A minute of the English Privy Council of 1662, concerning the ‘secret trade with the Dutch,’ charges that the plantations were ‘delivering tobacco at sea… carrying the same to New England… and thence shipping it in Dutch bottoms,’ and were committing other illegal practices contrary to the Navigation Acts,” (Charlotte Wilcoxen, Dutch Trade with New England). Colonial governors continued to allow Dutch, Spanish, and Venetian ships to trade in their ports, circumventing British trade policy- particularly with the Dutch. Dutch traders could provide a wide variety of goods needed by the colonists at lower prices. The Dutch were also the largest market for tobacco, colonial America’s most important cash crop. Once in Holland, the imported tobacco was stored in warehouses in Delftware jars designating origin and type, such as rappé for snuff.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Pewter is undoubtedly the crown jewel in the Herr collection. Auctioneer and appraiser James Pook discusses a highly important Lancaster, Pennsylvania pewter flagon, ca. 1770, bearing the touch of Johann Christoph Heyne (Germany, Lancaster 1715-1781), 11 1/4″ h. James explains, “This Pennsylvania German ecclesiastical pewter flagon is the highlight of the sale. Only one other is privately owned.” Describing the mainly ecclesiastical output of Heyne, Donald Herr wrote, “His splendid flagons, with their strongly Germanic elements of cherub’s head feet and body combined with a cast hollow English handle, are remarkable examples of cultural assimilation of styles” (Pewter in Pennsylvania German Churches). Most American pewterers of the time were trained in the English tradition. After working in Sweden, the German-born Heyne immigrated to American in 1742 as a member of the “First Sea Congregation” of the Moravian Church. The provenance of a canteen, ca. 1770, bearing Heyne’s touch, was a memorable find at a flea market in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Due to protectionist British trade policies, the exportation of tin, the primary component of pewter, to the American colonies was prohibited. The export of unworked pewter was heavily taxed. Finished pewter imports were thus both a consumer and, eventually, a capital good. A soft metal with a low boiling point, pewter goods had a lifespan of only about ten years. Lacking an American source of tin, colonial pewterers melted old, worn-out British pewter to recast into new wares. The best American pewter exhibits simplicity, beauty, and innovation in the ways makers used their limited molds to create finely proportioned objects. One gifted pewterer stands above the rest. William Will (Germany, Philadelphia 1742-1798), patriot, statesman, and pewterer, was the son of New York pewterer John Will, who arrived in America in 1752. Donald Herr wrote, “Without question, no Colonial American pewterer equaled the variety of forms or had greater ability to make new designs from existing molds than the Pennsylvania German pewterer William Will” (Pewter.., p. 90). The Herrs collected the works of both father and son. Nine objects by William Will, include sugar bowls, mugs, a tulip tankard, a drum teapot, and the jewel of the collection, an important coffee pot, ca. 1780. While few examples of this form exist, it has remained one of the most iconic pieces of American pewter. Standing sixteen inches in height, its clean neoclassical lines and symmetry lend it visual impact. Tucked inside of many pieces of hollowware are Donald Herr’s handwritten notes, receipts, and other documents. A heavily lidded William Will sugar bowl contains a note that its lid “appears to be the base of a salt”. Of the works attributed to and bearing the touch of John Will (Germany, New York 1696-ca.1774), an important flagon and chalice, ca. 1760, has been traced to the Round Top Lutheran Church, Bethel, Duchess County, New York.
Pewter highlights include a New York, New York oval teapot, ca. 1745, bearing the touch Francs Bassett I, one of the rarest forms of American 18th c. design. Francis Bassett I was active in New York from 1720 until 1758. Of the seven Philadelphia items in the collection bearing the Love touchmark, a standout is a highly rare Queen Anne teapot, late 18th c. Only a few Love teapots are known. Of five works by Parks Boyd (Philadelphia ca.1771-1819), a pewterer who worked at various places, including Elfreth’s Alley, is a quart tankard, ca. 1805, in a style found only in the Philadelphia area, its high dome and multiple fillets exhibiting a strong Scandinavian influence. The Herrs explored connections between makers. Robert Palethorpe Jr. (Philadelphia 1797-1822) was Boyd’s neighbor, eventually purchasing his shop. The rare 3 ½ pint barrel mug, ca. 1820, is possibly the only known example by Palethorpe. Simon Edgell arrived in Philadelphia from England in 1713 or earlier, purchasing property on High (Market) Street. “Simon Edgell’s pewter is among the earliest and rarest of surviving American pewter,” with fewer than a dozen signed pieces known. (Herr, Pewter… p.131) A rare beaker, ca. 1730, bears his touch. It is likely the earliest marked American beaker and was purportedly used by the Bowmansville Mennonite Church. Of the twelve porringers featured are three with simple tab handles, a form made exclusively in Pennsylvania. There are two by Chester County makers Robert Porter, ca. 1780, and Simon or Samuel Pennock, ca. 1820, and a rare example from Yorktown maker Elisha Kirk, ca. 1785.
Furniture includes a Pennsylvania painted pine dower chest, dated 1829, with lid, front, and feet profusely decorated with stylized flowers, birds, and pinwheels on a red ground. A Johannes Baughman (Bachman) (Conestoga Township, Lancaster County (1746-1829), Lancaster County Chippendale walnut schrank, ca. 1790, is signed under a drawer and is topped with a bold stepped cornice over a case with raised arched panels centered by fluted pilasters, all resting on a base of two drawers. A Lancaster County Chippendale walnut tall case clock, ca. 1780, is signed Jacob Gorgas.
A selection of rare and important objects, The Collection of Donald and Patricia Herr exemplifies their love of Pennsylvania German decorative arts. In the words of the Herr family, “These items represent heritage, craftsmanship, scholarship, and above all, cherished moments
by: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
For more information on William Will, please read our earlier blog:
Among his favorite items in the sale, owner Ron Pook selects an important John Palm Boyer (1833-1901), Brickerville, Lancaster County, painted pine seed chest, ca. 1860, retaining its original faux grain decoration, the case with a fall front lid over fifteen drawers, with a lower row of seven small drawers resting on bootjack feet. This cabinet remains in a remarkable state of preservation and is among the finest known examples of Boyer’s work. “A great decorative item, this seed chest exemplifies the Pennsylvania German love of color and decoration. The drawers are too small to hold enough seed for a farm, so it was probably used to hold garden seed or small household items. It is in great condition,” Ron explains. Donald Herr wrote in Antiques and the Arts Weekly, Sept. 3, 2006, “His pieces are most frequently painted with a sponge and finger decorated brown paint on a mustard-colored base,” and often used cigar boxes for drawers. Interestingly, Herr writes, “Boyer seed chests with desk-lid forms appear to be stylistically related to, but not identical to, at least one seed chest decorated in the Lehnware tradition. Joseph Lehn and John P. Boyer lived within a few miles of each other and likely were familiar with each other’s work.” Of twenty-three Joseph Lehn-related pieces featured, one is a painted poplar seed chest with decoupage decorated crest and sides and a brick red ground. Other Lehn items include a miniature blanket chest, a sugar bucket with lid, rare yellow and blue ground saffron and egg cups, a very rare purple ground lidded saffron cup, an exceptional salmon ground egg cup in pristine condition, and possibly the finest lidded cup known- a pristine saffron cup with salmon ground.
The most coveted makers of wooden boxes hold a special place in the collection. There are two 19th c. Lancaster Weber dresser boxes, one red ground and one blue, each with vibrant floral decoration, houses and trees. Two early 19th c. Lancaster County Compass Artist works are featured. One of very few known examples is a painted poplar slide lid box decorated with red and white pinwheel flowers on a dark blue ground. Another, of more traditional form, is a painted poplar dome lid box intricately and profusely decorated with compass and freehand flowers. An important John Drissel (Lower Milford Township, Bucks County, late 18th/early 19th c.) painted pine slide lid box, the lid inscribed Johannes Stauffer Anno 1797 John Drissel his hand, is decorated with tulips and white wavy lines on a brick red ground.
Highly desirable Pennsylvania German carvings include a Wilhelm Schimmel spread-winged eagle, with original polychrome surface and unusual gilt body, which sits alongside two spirited Peter Brubaker (Lancaster County, 1816-1898) carved and painted horses, one chestnut and one dapple grey. Engaging carved figural groups by George G. Wolfskill (Fivepointville, Lancaster County 1872-1940) include an entire foxhunt. Works by John Reber (Lehigh County, 1857-1938) rarely come on the market, yet here are five of them, including his most ambitious work, an important carved and painted figure of the celebrated Standardbred pacer Dan Patch. Reber captured the majesty of Dan Patch, undefeated holder of the world record for the mile, with a mien of justifiable arrogance. His competition was so hopelessly outclassed that it stopped racing against him altogether.
Metal works by artisans John Long (Sporting Hill, Rapho Township, Lancaster, 1787-1856) and Peter Derr (Tulpenhocken Township, Berks County, 1793-1868) exhibit the best qualities of their type. A rare John Long wrought iron and brass fat lamp, is inscribed Fanny M. Erisman Manufactured By John Long. John Long’s Betty lamps “are considered by many to be among the finest examples of Pennsylvania German smithwork… They exemplify the creativity and the love of form, function and design by the Pennsylvania Germans.” (Donald Herr, AAW, 2006) A Peter Derr iron, brass, and copper fat lamp is impressed P.D 1860, and is one of three Peter Derr works to be offered. A Willoughby Shade (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, mid-19th c.) punched tin coffee pot is profusely decorated, not only with birds and flowers- a parade of elephants march around its flared base. An exceedingly rare item, a York, Pennsylvania copper saucepan and lid marked by John Lay is possibly the only example known.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Owner Debra Pook explains what distinguishes an important Chester County, Pennsylvania needlework grouping of sewing articles. Made by Hannah Darlington, ca. 1785, each piece bearing the maker’s name or initials, included are a rollup sampler pinball dated 1785, initialed HD, with potted tulips and flowers, a vibrant flame stitch wallet inscribed HD 1785, an intricate flame stitch rollup pin case inscribed H. Darlington 1787, and a cross stitch silk and wool on linen sampler with floral border inscribed Hannah Darlington work this in 1785. Provenance: Purchased from Vernon Gunnion in 2003 as a Christmas present from Trish to Don. “This is a wonderful example of Chester County needlework. These very early sewing articles are all made by the same hand, by Hannah Darlington, from the well-known, wealthy Quaker Darlington family. She created the fabulous flame stitch wallet in wool in 1785, and rollup pin case in silk in 1787. The rollup pinball is remarkable for being crowned with a stitched sampler. They are beautifully and expertly done and have survived in fine condition.”
Auctioneer and appraiser Jamie Shearer highlights a Philadelphia silk on silk pictorial embroidery by Ann Marsh, ca. 1730, with a vibrant urn of flowers with insect and bird, all resting on a rolling lawn with sheep and a running dog, retaining the original tombstone arched walnut frame. “Where do you find an almost three-hundred-year-old needlework in vibrant colors, still in its original frame?” he asks, “The skill level needed to create this remarkable work of art is very inspiring. I can envision a young girl spending hours with great care and thought expressing herself through needle and thread. Just as skilled as the best painter on canvas or the furniture maker with a chisel, an everlasting gift to the antique collectors in all of us.” At the Marsh School, the daughters of elite Philadelphia Quaker families were taught by Ann, alongside her mother Elizabeth, from 1723-1795. A core subject in female education, the art of ornamental embroidery taught skills necessary for domestic life. Marsh works are rare, and according to Betty Ring, are the earliest identifiable group of Philadelphia needleworks. Two other Marsh school works include a 1737 silk on linen sampler wrought by Hannah Trotter.
Another needlework school researched and collected by Patricia Herr is the Lampeter School of Chester County. A very rare silk on linen sampler, dated 1799, wrought by Phebe Harvey of Pennsbury Township, Chester County, is possibly the only known sampler naming the school.
Chief amongst the seven works from the Lititz Moravian School is a silk on silk memorial embroidered sampler, attributed to Mary Ann or Rebecca Catherine Peterson, ca. 1833, in memory of their father, John Peterson, with a large willow and urn of flowers, a floral spray, and two children flanking a grave. In the words of Patricia Herr, it is “an outstanding example of the needlework done at the Lititz Moravian Boarding School. The silk needlework is 3 dimensional, the flowers & leaves standing out over the finely drawn girls on each side of the tomb,” (theherrsantiques.com). Other works from the Lititz Moravian School include a silk on silk embroidery, dated 1817, inscribed Ellen B. Hawkins, with Moses in the Bulrushes; and the earliest known Lititz silk mourning embroidery, ca. 1805, attributed to Sara Pim, Columbia mourns for Washington.
From the school of Mrs. Catharine Welshans Buchanan, in Marietta, Lancaster County, a scarce silk on linen memorial needlework, dated 1827, is inscribed Eliz Groshs work made in Marietta in Mrs. Buchnans School in the year of our Lord 1811, with women flanking a memorial under a willow tree, all under a wide floral arch. Also featured is a sampler, ca. 1845, wrought by Fanny Stauffer. Mrs Buchanan kept a school for young ladies beginning ca.1823. Very few samplers are known to name the school.
An important Colerain Township School, Lancaster County silk on linen sampler is rich in detail. A floral border surrounds floral urns, over two houses with green lawns, white picket fences, birds, and sheep.
The distinctive style of another Philadelphia group, Mary Zeller’s School (active 1789-1808), exhibits grand homes surrounded by park-like grounds and gardens that teem with people and animals. Attributed to Mary Zeller’s School, a silk on linen needlework inscribed Abigal Jones her work 1793, is the family record of Samuel and Elizabeth Jones and their eight children, born 1732-1771. Adam and Eve appear above a Georgian vision of Eden with a manor house set in gardens, and figures (including a man with a gun) and animals, surrounded by strawberry plants.
Dresden work was widely taught, but became peculiar to Philadelphia in the mid to late 18th c. One of two featured works is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Dresden work sampler, dated 1787, wrought by Susanna Meyer, an excellent example of this form, with decorative ribbon border and original Philadelphia frame.
In addition to collecting members of schools, Patricia Herr linked members of family trees, with multiple works by members of the Trout, Minnich, and Lefever families.
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Pook & Pook is honored to present the Pennsylvania German Folk Art Collection of Drs. Donald and Patricia Herr on Thursday and Friday, June 9th & 10th. Descended from Hans Herr (1639-1725), the first Mennonite bishop to immigrate to America, The Herr family has deep roots in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In 1710 Bishop Herr’s congregation purchased 10,000 acres of land from William Penn. The group was part of a large wave of German immigration to Pennsylvania, begun in 1683 with the settlement of Germantown. By the Revolution, Benjamin Franklin estimated that about one-third of the population of Pennsylvania was German. Leaving the war-torn lands of the Palatinate, families were attracted by Penn’s promise of religious tolerance, abundant farmland, and a peaceful existence. Skilled farmers and artisans, the Herr family, like most, prospered.
Collectors of Pennsylvania German folk art for six decades, Donald and Patricia Herr became true connoisseurs, retaining only the best examples of an artist’s work, the best of a form, and the rarest and most highly sought after examples. Researching and documenting their collection, Drs. Donald and Patricia Herr may have applied the scientific method to antiques. They published studies and research papers on a wide range of Pennsylvania German subjects. They recorded their observations, made comparative studies, and researched provenance and the progress of objects, artisans, and families through time. The Herrs uncovered relationships and made connections, adding greatly to the study of Pennsylvania German artists and craftspeople. Throughout the collection, common family names crop up on diverse items. Alongside the colorful painted wooden creations of Joseph Lehn, one finds his copybook, dated 1843, and a fraktur by his son Henrich Lehn for his grandson, Joseph, born 1829. The Herr name is found on diverse objects, with a Herr family coverlet, a Grandmother Herr quilt, an 1828 David Herr watercolor fraktur of birds, and Herr family birth and baptismal frakturs. The Herr’s research led to new discoveries, such as when Drs. Don Herr and Don Yoder collaborated to uncover the identity of the “Sussel Unicorn Artist.” Schoolmaster Christian Beschler (Germany, Northumberland County, ca. 1800) created only ten known works, eight of which are taufscheine. Two of these rarities were collected by the Herrs; a birth and baptismal certificate for Jacob Jaekle, dated 1796; and for Magdalena Fuchs b. 1801. Both are profusely decorated with compass stars, hearts, unicorns, and parrots amid tulips, flowers, and vines. They might be 20% of Beschler’s known output, but these frakturs are only a small proportion of this stellar assortment. Other works include a Johann Heinrich Otto (Southeastern Pennsylvania active 1762-1797) watercolor fraktur of a parrot and bird perched on stylized flowers, and works by Georg Frederich Speyer, Henrich Dulheuer, Samuel Bentz, John Zinck, Jacob Andreas, and Christian Strenge.
This little painting is quite special. The mother, in a black dress with fancy lace collar and cap, is seated. One arm and the curve of her body envelop a small, intelligent-looking child at the bottom of the frame. The child’s attention is preoccupied by the small flower the mother is holding. Both flower and the mother’s wedding band gleam with finely applied gilt. In contrast to the subjects’ monochromatic dress, the interior of their house is a riot of color. The pair are not quite seated on a Grecian sofa. Outlined in dramatic shadow, the sofa’s classical curves and vermilion upholstery bespeak luxury. Starkly outlined against an apricot wall, the mirror’s smoky blue glass is framed in heavy gilt. The floor is boldly patterned, bringing to mind Dutch mother and child interior scenes with tiled floors in perspective. The composition draws the eye from the gilt frame and mother’s head down the sweeping curve of the arm to the child and gilt flower. An unexpected delight is the old book cover on which the portrait has been painted. The back shows marbled end paper and a remaining strip of book repair tape along one edge.
Lot 582 Small oil folk portrait, ca. 1835, of a mother and child in an interior with Grecian sofa and mirror in background, 7” x 5 ½”.
by: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
When the Spartan army took home the horses of Xerxes as spoils of war in 479 BCE, after the battle of Plataea, it began a movement of eastern horses to Europe that was to last throughout the period of classical antiquity. Horses were a specialty in Persia. Darius the Great (551-486 BCE) had vastly expanded the Achaemenid Empire and set up imperial stud farms to supply his army. Herodotus immortalized the Nisaean name, celebrating their magnificence and swiftness. Centuries later, the Romans imported horses for chariot racing to outposts of Empire as remote as Britannia, favoring the Nisaean horse of Persia, the Spanish horse, and the North African barb.
Fast-forward over a millennia, and the eastern horse is still a symbol of royalty and empire. Henry VIII (1491-1547) is recorded setting up a royal stud farm to acquire and breed essentially the same horses: Spanish, North African barb, Egyptian and Arabian, and “all other Eastern horses.” In 1605 King James I established Newmarket as a center for racing and imported the Markham Arabian in 1616. The Markham was greatly admired and inspired widespread desire for eastern horses, but it was the Restoration and the rule of racing-obsessed Charles II in 1660 (see lot #784) during which the import of eastern horses for the improvement of racing and riding stock dramatically increased. Beyond the diplomatic gift or battles of the Ottoman wars, the main conduit for the horses was through the Levant Company, which held the trade charter for Britain in the Ottoman Empire. Beginning in 1582, its trade was mainly cloth and spices. With the rise in popularity of horse racing and wagering in Britain it was not long before horses were requested. Obtaining horses was no easy task for the Turkey merchants. The Ottoman Empire dwarfed Britain in all aspects of size, wealth, sophistication, and splendor. Their horses were appropriately magnificent. Pampered and pedigreed, they were treasured and not easily parted with.
According to Donna Landry (Noble Brutes, How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture, Johns Hopkins, 2009), over the period 1650-1750, British merchants managed to acquire roughly 200 horses. Exported from the main Levant Company trading centers in Constantinople, Aleppo, Alexandria, and Smyrna, the British called the horses either after their port, or the catch-all appellation, “Arabian”. A number of these horses earned fame in Britain, with three of them credited as foundation stallions for the English Thoroughbred breed. The eastern emphasis on the importance of pedigree made perfect sense to the English aristocracy, all of whom claimed descent from King Alfred (848-899). A mania for breeding and racing purebred “Arabians” gripped the country. Of the three foundation stallions, the Byerley Turk reached England in 1689, the Darley Arabian in 1704, and the Godolphin Arabian in 1724. The British crossed Turkic, Barbary, and Arabian bloodlines, sometimes with domestic horses, selectively breeding for speed, and, adding richer fodder than obtainable in the desert, a superhorse emerged. As the British Empire began to take shape, beginning a maritime expansion, establishing colonies, and becoming a greater trading power, so the Thoroughbred took shape, adopted as a British creation and symbol of Empire. In 1791, the Jockey Club required registry for all racehorses, and the Thoroughbred studbook effectively closed to outside additions.
Explorations in DNA analysis have confirmed 95% of all Thoroughbreds can be traced through their paternal sire line to the Darley Arabian [Bower, M.A. et al. The genetic origin and history of speed in the Thoroughbred racehorse. Nat. Commun. 3:643 doi: 10.1038/ncomms1644 (2012)].
Analysis of male-specific Y chromosomes has further indicated that the Darley Arabian was actually of Turkoman origin, not Arabian [Cunningham, E. P., Dooley, J. J., Splan, R. K. & Bradley, D. G. Microsatellite diversity, pedigree relatedness and the contributions of founder lineages to thoroughbred horses. Anim. Genet. 32, 360–364 (2001)].
Which brings us to our paintings.
Lot 71, School of Thomas Spencer (1700-1763) oil on canvas of an Arabian horse and groom, is an early example of a British horse portrait. Horse portraits did not exist in Britain before the arrival of eastern horses. The equivalent of modern-day Porsches and Lamborghinis, the imported horses were status symbols and huge investments. Every owner of an import or their offspring would have wanted a portrait to hang in pride of place in their stately homes. Horse portraits differed from previous paintings of horses with humans. The horse takes center stage. The horse is noble. He stands taller than the human. His beauty is exalted. His eye is intelligent. Our horse is the image of an elite athlete, with four strong legs under him, fast, and graceful. He wears a racing saddle of the early 18th century. His dramatic mountainous backdrop appears to be the Brecon Beacons. The horse stands out, as monumental as the landscape, heroic.
Lot 764, Manner of John Ferneley (1782-1860) oil on canvas of steeplechase race with three horses and riders taking a fence, identified as Mr. Ben on Dux, Mr. Lowther on Blatchington, and Mr. H. Preston on Clarissa, occurs nearly a century later. In this painting, the development of the English Thoroughbred is discernable. The three elegant horses are built for speed and agility. The dominance of the Turkoman blood is evident, the horses are taller, longer, and leaner, with lower-set tails and straight profiles. The finely colored painting shows the horses’ sculptural physique and the high gloss of their coats. Their long legs flash as they race over the obstacle. They are horses bred to run, enjoying what they do best. An early 19th century painting, all three subjects would be registered Thoroughbreds, and every one a descendant of the eastern imports, and specifically of one or more of the foundation stallions. It is possible that the horses are not the only pedigreed lot in this painting, however, as Ferneley frequently painted the Lowther family. William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1757-1844) was a famous huntsman who owned the Cottesmore pack of foxhounds, one of the oldest in Britain. The Mr. Lowther who looks out at us from this painting just might posess a King Alfred pedigree.
by: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
Manner of John Ferneley (British 1782-1860)
Follower of Sir Peter Lely (Dutch, English 1618-1680),
oil on canvas portrait of King Charles II
Press Release – Americana & International Auction at Pook & Pook, April 21st & 22nd, 2022
By: Cynthia Beech Lawrence
The Americana & International sale on April 21st and 22nd at Pook & Pook will feature the estates of three noted collectors, together with a variety of antique furniture, pottery, folk art, jewelry, and firearms.
Peter Tillou, of Litchfield, Connecticut, was an internationally known art and antiques dealer, scholar, and authority in a wide range of fields. Descriptions of Peter invariably included words such as “Renaissance man” and “polymath.” The true element of genius in his collecting was that, learned as he was, he operated based “purely on personal judgments about the visual merits of each work standing alone,” (Paul Rovetti, Nineteenth-Century Folk Painting: Our Spirited National Heritage, 1973) and, with an eye for the importance and relevance of each item, was able to uncover masterpieces that have been recognized over time. He responded to the rare individualist, and to pure beauty. It is an experience to view the Tillou items that will be offered at Pook & Pook. There is a breathtaking carving of a spread-winged eagle, caught exactly at the moment of maximum torque as it alights on a rocky crag, another ruffled eagle clutching a copy of The Declaration of Independence, and a portrait of a defiant patriot. A well-fed coterie of thoughtful sewer tile spaniels beseech silently with their eyes. Fat olive green fish swim along the walls on their carved plaques and signs, hanging alongside beautiful old flintlock rifles and fowlers. One of Tillou’s favorite items is a large carving of a mild-mannered pig, who looks out the door of his comfortable house as if in greeting. Folk art still life paintings, in pastels on paper, oil on velvet, and watercolor, tempt with heaped fruits, with one small strawberry watercolor theorem so delicate it appears to be painted with the essence of the fruit itself. A magnificent white cat smiles sheepishly from the velvet of a classical Recamier; and an 18th century groom proudly shows off his lordship’s white Arabian stallion. In an early 19th century ink and watercolor fraktur family record, guardian angels watch over John and Catherine Gilmore and their fourteen children. (The fraktur artist has optimistically left room at the bottom for one more). A long-lost portrait by Charles Peale Polk is the result of a successful application of Tillou’s collecting philosophy. Many of Tillou’s other passions are represented by a collection of early German stoneware, pearlware coffee pots and pitchers, Toby jugs, and Dave McGary western bronzes from his former home in Sun Valley, Idaho. In furniture, a Berks County, Pennsylvania painted dower chest blooms with its original panels of potted tulips, watched over by tall case clocks from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Elegant Chippendale slab tables from New York and Philadelphia mingle with other equally fine Chippendale: a Philadelphia dressing table, a Pennsylvania secretary, and, from Connecticut, a cherry oxbow and tiger maple serpentine chests of drawers.
Christopher Rebollo was a highly respected antique dealer who began his career with Philip H. Bradley Antiques in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. His estate collection of 19th century portraits includes four lively children, caught both scissoring each other’s hair and avoiding being scissored. Attributed to Thomas Sully, a portrait of Mary Anne Heide Morris (1803-1865), inscribed TS 1830 verso, is possibly the 1839 portrait Sully recorded painting of the same sitter. Amongst the collection of fine Chinese export porcelain are the provenanced Breck family bowl and pair of covered vegetable dishes, early 19th c., both monogrammed SJB. Samuel (1771-1862) and Jean Breck were prominent in early Pennsylvania history. Breck served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the State Senate in the early 19th century. Fine furniture includes a Pennsylvania Queen Anne walnut armchair, ca. 1760, and walnut semi tall chest, ca. 1755, with raised panel sides. Federal period furniture includes a set of eight Philadelphia Federal mahogany dining chairs, each with a scrollwork back, carved urn and rosettes, over-upholstered balloon seats, and elegant turned and fluted legs; a Baltimore mahogany desk and bookcase attributed to John Needles; and, a Federal mahogany sewing stand, ca. 1810, with an astragal top and brass animal paw casters.
The Estate of Pete Lengel, of Robesonia, Pennsylvania features a large collection of Pennsylvania Shenfelder stoneware with cobalt floral decoration, Hattie Brunner landscapes, a Joseph Lehn painted wooden saffron cup, and a colorful collection of glass to include Stiegel cobalt glass table wares, Pittsburgh cobalt glass, and English glass.
Several highlights in the folk art category are: a Jacob Maentel (American 1763-1863) large watercolor double portrait of Elizabeth and Philip Wolfersberger of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, standing in front of their farm, Elizabeth holding a book and Philip his hat, provenance from the Halpert collection; a fine Johann Adam Eyer (Bucks County, Pennsylvania, active 1755-1837) ink and watercolor fraktur for Maria Magdalena Walterin (Walters), dated 1787, with text encompassed by a heart, with repeated miniature portraits, winged angels, and various birds and tulips; a rare Lancaster, Pennsylvania painted poplar Weber slide lid box, mid 19th c., the front with a large house flanked by trees, the sides and lid with colorful flowers, all on a blue/green ground, an impressive example of this rare form by the artist and remaining in a wonderful state of preservation; and, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania painted poplar Compass Artist dome lid box, early 19th c., retaining its original vibrant pinwheel flower decoration on a blue ground, provenance from the Pook & Pook Machmer collection, 2008.
An early and important Broderie perse quilt, dated 1814, probably Philadelphia or New Jersey, is a highlight. It features a central square with seventeen stars over a spread winged American eagle that clutches a banner inscribed E Pluribus Unum, over the inscribed quatrain Strong in thy strength we bend no knee, To Monarcks or to Tyranny, But borne upon thine ample opinion, We ride to freedom and dominion, 1814.
A provenanced collection of highly desirable redware features Pennsylvania loaf dishes from the early and mid-19th c., New Jersey and Norwalk, Connecticut loaf dishes, with the Connecticut example inscribed Lafayette in yellow slip, which may have been made to celebrate Lafayette’s 1824-1825 return visit to America. A highlight of the collection is a 19th c. Pennsylvania redware toy stove with pots and kettles fitted into a removable stovetop, listed in Pennsylvania Folk Art, from the Allentown Art Museum exhibit in 1974. A sgraffito decorated Pennsylvania redware inkstand incised Jonas Haring 1853 is another featured item. Also not to miss are some rare modeled redware figures, including a Pennsylvania redware parrot from the pottery of John Bell, Waynesboro Pennsylvania, published in Ramsay’s American Potters and Pottery; a rare figure of a seated man holding a turkey in a loaf dish, illustrated in David Schorsch’s The Pearson Collection; a rare large Pennsylvania redware cat with a finely modeled face and perky ears; and, a rare Pennsylvania or Virginia figure of a rearing cat protecting its kitten, the same figure pictured in The All American Catalog of the Museum of American Folk Art.
One furniture highlight is a late 18th c. painted hard pine tavern table, probably Southern, retaining an old gray over green surface, with provenance from the Collection of Linda and Dennis Moyer at Pook & Pook. Also offered is a Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany block front chest of drawers, ca. 1770; a Chippendale walnut tea table, ca. 1779, Pennsylvania or Southern, with a dish top resting on birdcage support with baluster standard supported by shell carved cabriole legs terminating in ball and claw feet makes a graceful statement; a fine Philadelphia combback Windsor armchair, ca. 1775, with an arched crest rail and carved ears retaining a historic black painted surface with gilded highlights over the original green; and, a stained gumwood Dutch cupboard, ca. 1800. Another highlight is a fine provenanced Pennsylvania painted poplar blanket chest, 19th c., attributed to Joe Palmer, Sideling Hill, Fulton County, the front panel with vibrant flowers in vases below the initials AW, Amos Jacob Wink, on a red ground.
Six tall case clocks featured are from the Estate of Charles West Wilson of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, including three mid 18th c. Philadelphia Queen Anne clocks from makers Peter Stretch, John Wood, and Jos Wills, along with three late 18th c. Philadelphia Chippendale examples by makers William Huston, Solomon Parke, and Benjamin Rittenhouse. Other clocks throughout the sale include a Pennsylvania Chippendale walnut tall case clock, ca. 1780, signed Josh. Ellicott Buckingham No. 24 and an Elizabethtown, New Jersey Queen Anne tall case clock, mid 18th c., signed Aaron Miller. The highlight is a rare American bracket clock, ca. 1810, with a fully engraved silvered dial inscribed Richard Miller, a member of the Miller clock making family of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, before he set up shop in Duck Creek, Delaware.
Firearms include a wide selection for the collector: a fine Scottish engraved Charles Playfair ramshead flintlock belt dress pistol, stamped C. Playfair and Aberdeen; a New York Style engraved Remington model 1871 rolling block pistol with scroll engraving and period ivory grips; and, cased back action percussion dueling pistols, inscribed Richardson on the scroll engraved lock and London on the flat barrel. Other pairs of pistols include a pair of flintlock officer’s pistols inscribed Gauvain Gendre de and Cramon Bordeaux, with silver furniture bearing the touch of silversmith J. Petit; a fine cased pair of Irish engraved Edward Dodson percussion pistols; two cased Moore’s Patent no.1 Deringer pistols; a cased pair of engraved Belgian percussion pistols; a pair of French flintlock nickel plated pistols inscribed Faure a Valence; and, a scarce pair of William and John Rigby Irish three barrel percussion muff pistols inscribed Dublin on the right side and Wm & Jn Rigby on the left. The first of two highlights is a fine cased pair of silver mounted W. Greener flintlock pistols inscribed W. Greener New Castle. Another highlight is a deluxe factory engraved political Moore’s no.1 Deringer, with spread winged eagle and American shield, a scarce example made to be given as a gift to U.S. Congressmen and Senators who sat on military committees in hopes of landing a military contract. It is estimated that only twenty-five were produced.
An important piece of history, a Confederate States Civil War Native American Indian bronze medal, dated 22 February 1862, inscribed verso The Congress of the C.S.A. to Stand Waite, Chief of the Cherokee, recalls an eventful time in America’s past. Stand Waite was a Cherokee politician who served as the second principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1862 to 1866, and was the only Native American general officer of the war, and the last Confederate States Army general to surrender.
Another important historical item is a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, printed by Johan Gutenberg and Johann Fust, 1455. The leaf originates from an incomplete Bible, the Mannheim copy, sold at Sotheby’s November 9, 1920, to Joseph Sabin, and contains parts of the 2nd Book of Esdras, chapters 14 and 15. Its portfolio contains a four page introduction by A. Edward Newton. Provenance: The Estate of John Donnelly.
Fine art includes two oil on canvas works by Antonio Jacobsen (American 1850-1921), one ship portrait of the American tug Argus, 1886, and another portrait of a sloop racing off Sandy Hook, 1879, with a light ship and other sloops in the background. Both are signed, dated, and come from a Philadelphia estate. Another maritime painting is a Richard Loud (American b.1942) oil on canvas yacht race, titled Shadow Leads Nimbus c. 1876. An Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American 1819-1905) oil on canvas titled Our Little Pets, will prove popular. A marvelous example of British sporting art, an oil on canvas steeplechase in the manner of John Ferneley (1782-1860) shows a three riders taking a fence, identified as Mr. Ben on Dux, Mr. Lowther on Blatchington, and Mr. H. Preston on Clarissa. An oil by Walter Stuempfig, Tribute to Eakins, has exhibition labels verso for Wadsworth Atheneum and The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, amongst others. A Franz Hans Johnston (Canada 1888-1949) oil on Masonite The Beckoning of Spring, promises fair weather ahead.
Other collections include thirty lots of Historical blue Staffordshire, Staffordshire Whieldon type tortoiseshell glaze punch pot, teapot, coffee pot, and mugs; a Staffordshire cauliflower five-piece tea and coffee service; spatter ware to include a blue spatter beehive teapot; a collection of finely decorated English enamel boxes; and, Chinese export.
Silver will include an English tureen and cover, 1806-1807, bearing the touch WB, probably William Bennett, the base and cover with engraved coat of arms; and, an S. Kirk & Son Baltimore sterling six-piece tea service. A partial French flatware service by Henin & Vivier comes with most pieces in their original fitted cases. A few fine items from the Estate of John Donnelly include a pair of New York sterling shell form bowls, ca. 1909; a Boston five-piece coin silver tea and coffee service, ca. 1850, bearing the touch of Samuel T. Crosby; and, a New York coin silver tureen, ca. 1830, bearing the touch of Geredus Boyce, with knight’s helmet finial.
A beautiful Serapi carpet, ca. 1900, also from the John Donnelly Estate, is one of a number of rugs. Also on offer is a collection of 19th c. hooked rugs.
A very special collection of jewelry, just in, will offer gold and gemstones, works of art to wear.
The most romantic Americana items in the sale might be two automobiles. A candy red 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air with a big block V8 engine, four speed manual transmission, and a 5-digit odometer registering 25,330 will attract a lot of attention. Its muscular companion is a Hemi Orange 1972 Dodge Challenger, with a 340 four barrel motor, three speed automatic transmission, and all the power you could ever want or need. For these special cars, many may find the opportunity to avail themselves of the collecting philosophy of Peter Tillou. If one of these automobiles increases your heart rate and makes your hair stand on end, conjures visions of the open road, classic diners, and a sunset over the mountains, bid.
Charles Peale Polk, Portrait of David Brickell Kerr, 1791 THREE MEN AND A BOOK
David Kerr (1749-1814) was a patriot in the Revolutionary War, commissioned as 1st Lieutenant in Captain George Watts’ company of Militia in Anne Arundel County. Kerr had only been in America for about six years, having emigrated from Scotland in 1769. In 1777 he married Rachel Leeds Bozman and settled in Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, on an estate called Cook’s Hope Manor. From his early days in Talbot County, Kerr was active in politics. He was a supporter of President George Washington and Vice President John Adams, appearing in the Hamilton Papers as a “Federalist member of the House of Delegates 1790 to 1794… and 1797” (Volume 22, p. 302). In 1789 and 1790 he was also commissioned a Justice of the Peace for Talbot County, and in 1801 associate judge. In 1802 he was appointed a judge of the Orphan’s Court. A prominent citizen, Kerr is painted at ease, seated in front of a green curtain giving a glimpse of his legal library. Among the books are The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer by Richard Burns, London, 1755, reflecting his status as a Justice of the Peace. Intriguingly, at his elbow is a copy of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. Lying face-down, half-read, it is to be wondered how this highly controversial pamphlet came to be placed so prominently his portrait.
Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man was published in 1791, in London, on March 16th, to immediate furore. The Rights of Man was a response to Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” and was a defense of the early days of the French Revolution. Attempting to bring the political awakening of America to Great Britain, Paine proposed a written constitution and the abolishment of hereditary government. Originally intended to be published on February 22nd, Paine dedicated the book to George Washington. In the uproar, Paine fled to France for his safety, and for good reason. He was tried in London in absentia and convicted of seditious libel against the Crown.
It took about four weeks for the first copies of The Rights of Man to arrive in Philadelphia, where a debate was growing over the role of government. One early copy was obtained by John Beckley, an ardent supporter of Jeffersonian causes, which included a “frugal and simple” central government. Beckley lent his copy, which had to have been an exceedingly hot commodity, to James Madison to quickly view before Beckley published it, but Madison in turn lent it to Thomas Jefferson to hastily read “and return within the day”. Jefferson took longer with it than expected, and Beckley asked that he send it directly to the printer in Philadelphia, care of Jonathan Bayard Smith, with all speed. Jefferson penned a note to Smith to forward with the pamphlet, a few informal lines that were later recast by Smith into the spark that ignited what James Monroe called “the contest of Burke and Paine, as reviv’d in America.”
The Rights of Man was printed in Philadelphia on May 3, 1791, probably by Smith’s friend and political ally Benjamin Franklin Bache. Thomas Jefferson ordered four copies, which he opened only one week after having returned the pamphlet to Smith, and was “thunderstruck” that the publisher had included his private note in his preface. As excerpted, it was damning: “a direct quotation from the Secretary of State expressing extreme pleasure that with the republication of Rights of Man something at last would be said publicly against the “political heresies” that had sprung up in the United States.” (Rights of Man: the Contest of Burke and Paine… in America,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 20, 1 April- 4 August 1791, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Princeton, 1982.) At the very least, Smith was implying that Jefferson was attacking John Adams, and at the very worst, that Jefferson had sponsored the publication directly. Thus began a very hot summer for Jefferson and Adams. On May 8th, Jefferson wrote a full account of explanation to President Washington, who apparently left him hanging for a response. On June 8th, the first Publicola essay appeared in newspapers, bringing the gossip to the national stage. On June 19th, George Washington wrote his secretary to forward a copy of the pamphlet, that he might read it. On July 21, Thomas Paine himself sent Washington fifty copies of the Rights of Man, to distribute to Jefferson and others. Navigating the waters of political scandal with characteristic restraint, Washington avoided involving himself in the controversy by waiting a full year to thank Paine for the gift. When the Second Congress convened in Philadelphia in October, the emerging party factions continued the contentious debate.
Thomas Paine was a Founding Father. As author of Common Sense, which put the thoughts of the colonies into words, and of The American Crisis, which was read to the troops for inspiration before the crossing of the Delaware, Paine commanded a wide audience in 1791 America. The Rights of Man was distributed by Jeffersonian societies, which championed republican and agrarian ideals. Although the preface was a source of embarrassment for Jefferson, the political fallout of the national debate was massive popular support for the republicans. America’s first political opposition party, the Democratic-Republican, coalesced into being in opposition to the centralizing policies of Hamilton, Adams… and Federalists like David Kerr of Talbot County, Maryland.
Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822) was the orphaned nephew of American portrait painter and Philadelphia museum founder Charles Willson Peale. Polk grew up in the Peale household and, being older than the Peale children, became the first of the next generation of Peale family art students. Beginning his professional career at the age of eighteen, Polk advertised his training with his celebrated uncle. Drawing inspiration from Peale’s portrait work, he borrowed techniques and poses from his uncle, and also painted copies of Peale’s portrait of George Washington. In the late spring of 1791, Polk relocated to Baltimore, where he initially seems to have prospered, carrying out a great number of commissions, and purchasing a fine brick house. This began what Linda Crocker Simmons (Charles Peale Polk: A Limner and His Likenesses, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1981) calls Polk’s middle period, when, as he worked through his many sittings, his personal style diverged from his uncle’s and gained a directness influenced by more primitive American painters. Polk’s figures and shapes were cleanly outlined and brilliantly colored. Curtained backdrops brought the viewer in closer proximity to the subject. Objects symbolic of the sitter were detailed with precise realism.
An introduction to the elite of Talbot County came via his uncle. Peale had been commissioned to paint Rachel Kerr at her home in Easton, and Polk was brought in to later paint the companion portrait of David Kerr, who had been absent during Peale’s visit. Charles Coleman Sellers wrote, with excerpts from Peale’s own diary, “August 27, 1790, ‘We then go to East Town and leave the picture of Mrs. Barkley at Major Ker’s. Mrs. Ker intends to have her portrait painted, but the Major is from home.’ Early in December, he went to Easton, Maryland ‘and began Mrs. Ker’s picture…’ On Jan. 5, 1791, he wrote to ‘Mrs. Car’ (the Eastern Shore name is so pronounced) asking payment for the picture. Its companion piece of David Kerr is in the style of Charles Peale Polk, who must have been brought in to finish the commission after Peale’s departure and the Major’s return to his home.’ (Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1952.)
In Linda Crocker Simmons’ catalogue of Charles Peale Polk’s works, entry 48, David Brickell Kerr I, is without an image, owner unknown. Its provenance, descending in the family to Mark Brickell Kerr, of Staten Island, New York, until 1948 when it was sold, provides its link to the Chares Willson Peale portrait of Mrs. Kerr, which was also owned by Mark Brickell Kerr, and sold sometime on or after 1952 (now in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art). “Although this portrait is unsigned, it has been accepted as the work of Polk by Charles Coleman Sellers, Jacob Hall Pleasants, and the staff of the Frick Art Reference Library. It appears to have been commissioned as the companion to a portrait of Mrs. Kerr painted by Charles W. Peale in December, 1790… The portrait of David Kerr was probably painted by Polk shortly after the Peale painting was completed.”(Simmons, p. 39)
After a series of failed business ventures, Polk relocated to Frederick County, Maryland, and in 1798 advertised once more as a painter. Over the next several years, he travelled through Maryland and Virginia painting portraits. His famous “Belle Grove” series for Isaac Hite and James Madison were painted in 1799 and are representative of Polk’s final period of painting, when he expressed a new vigor of form and color. Painted eight years after the Kerr portrait, James Madison, Sr., is shown in his library, which includes the now-symbolic Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, indicating his political beliefs. It was this commission that gave Polk his introduction to Thomas Jefferson, and resulted in one of his finest portraits, his 1799 Jefferson. It is thought that contact with Hite, Madison, and Jefferson began Polk’s involvement in politics, supporting the Republicans and Jefferson for President. It certainly gave him a resource to fall back on in 1801 when he wrote to then-Secretary of State James Madison for a government position: “It is known to you, Sir, the languid State of the fine Arts in this Country, particularly that of Painting; and it has been my misfortune to meet but with little encouragement for several Years past, owing to a variety of Causes. In the County where I reside, Tho vastly wealthy, that wealth lies in the hands of a Class of Citizens, whose political principles seem to have forbidden not only the encouragement of those who dared to differ in Opinion from them…”(the James Madison Papers, April 2, 1801). With most of his potential portrait customers on the opposite side of the political divide, his art suffered, and Polk remained a federal employee until at least 1815. In 1822 he departed life not as a painter, but as a bureaucrat.
The artistic reputation of Charles Peale Polk was largely eclipsed by other members of the Peale family. Other than in the diary of Charles Willson Peale and family papers, little information about him has been published. Linda Crocker Simmons, who held the first Polk exhibition in 180 years at the Corcoran, observes, “The strong, primitive, non-academic aspects of Polk’s work, which are most appreciated by the modern eye, were the very qualities that earlier critics sometimes compared unfavorably with the paintings of academy-trained painters. Numbers of his paintings have thus languished in storage or in attics, the facts of his life forgotten,” (Simmons, p.1). This proved an ideal situation for the talent of collector Peter Tillou, who, years later, purchased a dusty old unsigned American folk art portrait in the style of Charles Peale Polk.
Peter Tillou was widely recognized as an authority and arbiter of taste in early American portraiture. The true element of genius in Tillou’s collecting was that, learned as he was, he operated based “purely on personal judgments about the visual merits of each work standing alone,” (Paul Rovetti, Nineteenth-Century Folk Painting: Our Spirited National Heritage, 1973) and, with an eye for the importance and relevance of each item, was able to uncover masterpieces that have been recognized over time. He was in an academic field of one, his principles forming his own canon. In a March 11, 2002 essay for Antiques & Fine Art magazine, he revealed “It was perhaps in the development of my folk art collection that I began to understand what I feel should be at the core of every collection: a response to pure beauty.” Purchased from descendants and dusty attics, many of his acquisitions were undocumented works by unknown artists, and existed outside of academia and traditions. In an interview with Laura Beach, Tillou said, “I developed strong feelings at an early age– which I still hold- that in an ideal environment, no works of art would be signed and each work would be judged solely on its own quality and merit.”(Antiques and the Arts Weekly, August 6, 2019) Over the course of his long career, the folk art discoveries of Peter Tillou substantiated the success of his philosophy and judgement.
The portrait was no exception. Tillou saw quality, and Polk’s individualistic style. He saw beauty, and he held onto the painting. Finally, an expert cleaning by Tom Yost removed the years of grime and revealed confirmation, a signature along the lower edge, on the side of Kerr’s table, “Ch Polk pinx / 1791.”
The mystery of the presence of The Rights of Man remains. Why was it included in the portrait? Was Kerr avidly reading the first British edition, which did not contain the controversial preface? Or was it the May 3rd American edition, still hot off the press? Was Kerr, born in Scotland, signaling his support for reforming British government? The symbol’s interpretation could have had a very different meaning for Kerr in 1791 than it did eight years later for Madison. The Talbot County Maryland Historical Society is the authority on David Kerr, owning his former house and personal items. Historian Mathijs Goyens-Harvey summarizes, “It was clear to see that he (David Kerr) was part of the elite and an avid Federalist, so it does make it interesting that he has Paine’s Rights of Man in the painting that he wanted to be memorialized with. While Paine’s work of the Rights of Man was more of a Democratic-Republican view, Paine was considered more radical as time went on and he wouldn’t always fully agree with any side. So, unless more information about Kerr comes to light, there can really only be educated guesses as to why he might have included that in his painting.” The symbolic book is representative of the kind of detail in artwork collected by Peter Tillou that engrosses the viewer, whether that viewer is a historian, a student of art, or collector of Americana. The painting conjures up echoes of history and of shared experience, it leaves one wondering, and with a sense of having had a brush with greatness.
On April 21st and 22nd, Pook & Pook will present at auction the Estate of Peter Tillou, featuring the portrait of David Kerr and many other items from his private collection of art and furniture. Please contact Pook & Pook for any additional information, and visit our website, at www.pookandpook.com.