December 2016 Newsletter

  • By Antiques-Art-Design Sydney

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works

Steve Jobs

Hello there,
With Christmas around the corner, we want to wish you all a very happy holiday season and say thank you for your support throughout the year. This month we bring you the beauty of small things, with a discussion on portrait miniatures.

Blowing out the Candles in December...
Milton & Dickinson have words, Woody & Brubeck raise the roof, Sinatra croons, Mrs Lincoln swoons, Newton drops in, Matisse draws the line...
New in store this month...
Clockwise from top left: Bent Knudsen silver spiral bracelet $1,450, Chopard 18k gold ladies bracelet watch 1970s $11,500, Gucci 1960s silver double loop bracelet $1,850, 18k gold and diamond half hoop earrings $6,750
The Joy of Littleness
Late 19th century intricately hand carved ivory panel showing varied lifestyle scenes Canton c.1890 $695

We live in a big-is-better world, encouraged to upsize our homes, super-size our food, shop in monster malls at giant sales and watch blockbusters on wide-screens while juggling buckets of popcorn and vats of Coca-Cola, where portraits in the Archibald Prize rival the presidents on Mt Rushmore, novels take three volumes (at least) to resolve and no child is safe in any vehicle smaller than a tank, in short, a world where hyperbole is hip.*

So this modest plea for smallness may go unnoticed but here goes: some foods taste better when small; asparagus, strawberries and lamb chops, there are people whose smallness made them great; Napoleon, Shirley Temple and Baryshnikov, there’s the economy of haiku, the delicacy of bonsai, the charm of Chihuahuas, the artistry of the portrait miniature, the convenience of the wristwatch and the sly comfort of the hip-flask. In nature there’s the Tiny Possum, the Dwarf Rhinoceros and the Pygmy Hedgehog and perhaps best of all, classic literature comes in Pocket Penguins.  

Lorna Lesley
*When everything‘s either “fantastic!”, “amazing!” or “awesome!” it’s time to grant Macquarie’s lexicographers Reserve Bank powers to combat linguistic inflation with an injection of “good”, “fair” and “pleasant” or, if the republic’s still going bananas, perhaps even a bracing dose of “adequate”. 
From L to R: Portrait miniature by Eduardo Moira c.1885 (one of a pair $12,500), Ivory fish motif card case $3,950
From L to R: Gucci 18k gold and blue enamel bracelet watch $12,500, David Anderson silver multi coloured enamel butterfly brooch $495
The Portrait in Miniature....
The Portrait Miniature, as it has come to be known, may well have ended up being known as the Pocket Portrait, or something similar, for that was its purpose. The idea was being able to easily carry the likeness of someone. They were developed from the techniques used in illuminated manuscripts in the 16th century and were initially used for introduction, often showing noble or royal husband’s their prospective brides.
Then, as travel became all the more adventurous and far reaching, they became a means of keeping loved ones near. Of course like all things, as their popularity increased, so did their affordability because of the number of artists who had learnt to produce them. So, by the Napoleonic wars, it was usual for soldiers to have their likenesses taken, and young ladies to give their soldier sweethearts a token to keep with them.
While initially used in England and France the fashion spread throughout Europe and eventually the New World. As a result, a great variety of astounding masterpieces of the art were created. Materials and techniques varied from gouache on vellum, oils on copper or tin, watercolour on card or ivory, and even fired vitreous enamels.
Sadly, the invention of photography ultimately lead to the demise of the craft, and it is difficult to find any good examples of portrait miniatures being created today.
The collection of the these rare, romantic pieces in which so much effort is focused in such a small area, and which carried so much significance for the people to whom they were given is, in a world that seems obsessed with space and size, a private pleasure that we can easily enjoy without disturbing the equilibrium of modern life.

Christopher Becker
A selection of portrait miniatures and micro mosaics from our current stock, prices range from $1,250 to $2,500
Christmas Haiku

wrapped desire
waits patiently
under the tree

Lorna Lesley
The Last Word…
an idle spectator, unlike a
who always wants to know what’s going on
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