Archive for July, 2008

This is a beautiful hand painted cup and saucer set by Nippon. There are gilded moriage decorations and beading on both pieces.

Style: Art Deco – Unmarked

Age: C late 19th – early 20th century

Nippon Porcelain

Nippon is not the name of the manufacturer as many think, but rather the country of origin. Today, Nippon items are among the most sought after collectibles on the antique market. In October of 1890, the “McKinley Tariff Act” required items entering the United States be marked with the country of origin. In September of 1891, the Nippon era began and lasted until 1921. During that time, merchandise from Japan, had to be marked Nippon, the Japanese name for Japan. After 1921, the United States required that imports carry the word Japan or made in Japan.

During the Nippon manufacturing era the Japanese government commissioned a number of foreign artisans to come to Japan to instruct them in the production and painting of porcelain in the European style. They were highly successful in their efforts at imitation, and much Nippon porcelain that was produced bears a strong resemblance to such European porcelain products as Limoges, Sevres, KPM, R.S. Prussia, Beleek, Wedgwood, Gouda, Royal Bayreuth, and the list goes on and on. The advantage to the American consumer of the day was that hand painted Nippon porcelain could be acquired at a fraction of the cost of its European counterparts.

Early unmarked Nippon is of higher quality. The artwork and decorations are superior. The gold was used quite lavishly on the pieces exported during this time. However, much of this gold was not very durable and today we find that a number of these pieces have much of the gold worn off.

Nippon has secured a reputation as fine art in the world of porcelain. This is because its superb techniques are being re-evaluated and the art deco and moriage (1) of Nippon are not just viewed as second-rate western style porcelains. They are viewed as outstanding artistic porcelain works.

(1) Moriage or “raised enamel decoration”: is a special type of raised decoration used on some Japanese pottery. It is the art of laying “beads” of porcelain on the item prior to firing in the kiln. Most typically it was decorated later in gold. Sometimes pieces of clay were shaped by hand and applied to the item; sometimes the clay was squeezed from a tube in the way we apply cake frosting.

Examples of Nippon Porcelain

Reproduction Alert

The authentic cracker jar is on the left. Note that the gold on the reproduction cracker jar is darker and looks burnished.

Again, note the color difference in both the porcelain and gold.

Note that the inside rim of the authentic cracker jar lid (on the left) is shaped differently than the inside lid of the reproduction.

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Delicatelyart nouveau silvered pewter box with ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree) leaves and nuts, circa 1890.

Other similar boxes

Art nouveau bronze box with blue enamel decorative on top and side. Item was purchased by Mr. Neal A. Prince, architect and interior designer, in ZagrebYugoslavia.

Ginkgo biloba and Art Nouveau inPrague

Ginkgo biloba and Art Nouveau in l’Ecole de Nancy

Ginkgo Biloba in bronze

Art nouveau cast bronze chandelier

Buckle by Paul Emile Brandt

Ginkgo poem by Goethe

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.

Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?

To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?

Fascinating Facts

  • Ginkgo biloba is known as a “living fossil tree”. This tree’s genetic line spans the Mesozoic era back to the Triassic period. Closely related species are thought to have existed for over 200 million years.
  • The nut-like gametophytes found inside the seeds are a traditional Chinese food and are believed to have health benefits.
  • Several ginkgoes were the only living survivors of an atomic bomb blast dropped on Hiroshima.

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This is an antique hammered copper cigar cutter in art déco style. Has great patina. As you can see in the picture, it is spring loaded. Insert the cigar, press down and cut. The cutter accommodates two different size cigars.

Country: Germany or Austrian


Marked: stork (in triangle) – Ges. Gesch. (The abbreviated form of Gesetzlich Geschutzt: legally protected, patented, copyrighted, used in Austria and Germany)

Another examples

  • The closed end (or head) of a cigar is the end that you put into your mouth, but you have to cut it, first. When a cigar is hand rolled, a cap is put on the head of the cigar to keep it from unraveling and drying out. A cigar should not be cut until you are ready to smoke.

J.D. Hogg is the “Boss” in The Dukes of Hazzard

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This is a very pretty Limoges porcelain centerpiece with floral décor and gilded. It stands on an ormolu (1) pedestal with two dolphins (2).

(1) A gilded metal alloy of copper, zinc, and tin used in France since the 17th Century for candelabra, clocks, and other decorative luxury objects, and for mounting elaborate furniture. It was adopted more sparingly in England from the mid 18th Century.

(2) The Dolphins of the Triton Fountain: This fountain Finished in 1643 and situated at piazza Piazza Barberini, Rome, Italy is one of Bernini’s more famous works. It is positioned in the center of the piazza, and its main figure is Glaucus – half fish half man – rising from an open seashell and below him four dolphins, which keeps his seat afloat.

Another examples

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Hand-painted phoenix, floral, butterflies and exotic birds decorated “tôle peinte” (*) tray.

(*)Name for small objects of hand-painted tin-plate such as boxes, trays and coffee mills. The technique originated in France c.1740. Toleware was mass-produced in the 19th century in Birmingham and elsewhere in Britain.

Examples of antique tolewares

Gallery – Phoenix in Art

17th century – Sainte Marie Magdeleine – France

18th century – tile

Shāhnāmé text

13th century – Miniature

The legendary phoenix bird

  • Herodotus – Histories, vol. 2

“There is another holy bird, called the Phoenix, which I have never seen but in pictures. He rarely appears in Egypt – only once in every 500 years, so they say, in Heliopolis- and he is supposed to come when his (male) father dies. If the painter describes him truly, his plumage is part golden and part red, and he is very like an eagle in shape and size. They say that this bird comes from Arabia, bringing the body of his father embalmed in myrrh to the temple of the sun, and there he buries him. First he molds an egg of myrrh; then he puts his father in the middle of it. Lastly, he covers up the body with myrrh. This is what they say this bird does. But I do not believe them.”

  • Publius Ovidius Naso Metamorphoses

“There is one living thing, a bird, which reproduces and regenerates itself, without any outside aid. The Assyrians call it the phoenix. It lives, not on corn or grasses, but on the gum of incense, and the sap of balsam. When it has completed five centuries of life, it straightway builds a nest for itself, working with unsullied beak and claw, in the topmost branches of some swaying palm. Then, when it has laid a foundation of cassia, and smooth spikes of nard, chips of cinnamon bark and yellow myrrh, it places itself on top, and ends its life amid the perfumes. Then, they say, a little phoenix is born anew from the father’s body, fated to live a like number of years”.

  • Job -The Bible

“In my nest I shall die and like the phoenix extend my days.”

  • St. Clement – The Epistles

“Let us consider the wonderful sign that happeneth in the region of the cast, even about Arabia. There is a bird which is called the phoenix. This, being the only one of its kind, liveth for five hundred years. And when the time of its death draweth near, it maketh for itself a nest of frankincense and myrrh and the others perfumes, into which, when its time is fulfilled, it entereth, and then dieth. But as its flesh rotteth, a certain worm is produced, which being nourished by the moisture of the dead animal, putteth forth feathers. Then, when it hath become strong, it taketh the nest wherein are the bones of its ancestor, and bearing them, it flieth from the region of Arabia to that of Egypt, to the city which is called Heliopolis; there, in day-time, in the sight of all, it flieth up, and placeth them upon the altar of the sun, and having done so, returneth back. The priests, therefore, look into the registers of the times, and find that it has come at the completion of the five-hundredth year.”

  • The Exeter Book – The Phoenix

“85 That wood a bird inhabits, wonderfully handsome, strong of wings, which is called Phoenix. There this creature unparalleled keeps his dwelling and, courageous of heart, his way of life; never shall death harm him in that pleasant plateau while the world remains. He is accustomed to observe the sun’s course and to address himself towards God’s candle, the brilliant gem, and eagerly to watch for when the noblest of stars comes up over the billowy sea, gleaming from the east, the ancient work of the Father ornately glinting, God’s radiant token. The stars are hidden, gone below the ocean in the western regions, obscured in the dawning, and the dark gloomy night departs. Then the bird, powerful in flight, exultant in his wings, gazes eagerly upon the main beneath the sky, across the water, until the lamp of the firmament comes gliding up from the east above the broad sea. As the noble bird, unchangingly handsome, frequents the welling streams at the fountain-head, there the glory-blessed creature laves himself in the brook twelve times before the advent of the beacon, the candle of the firmament, and ever as often at each laving sips water cold as the sea from the pleasant well-springs. Then after splashing in the water, exalted in mood he betakes himself up into a tall tree from where he may most easily observe the journey on the eastern paths, when the taper of the firmament, a lamp of light, brightly glints over the tossing of the deep. The land is embellished, the world beautified, when across the expanse of the ocean the gem of heaven, of stars the most glorious, illumines the earth throughout the world”.

  • Jean-Pierre Vernant – “Introduction” to Marcel Detienne Les jardins d’Adonis

“The incandescent life of the phoenix follows a circular course, increasing and decreasing, with birth, death and rebirth following a cycle that passes from an aromatic bird closer to the sun than the eagle flying at great heights, to the state of a worm in rotting matter, more chthonian(*) than the snake or the bat. From the bird’s ashes, consumed at the end of its long existence in a blazing aromatic nest, is born a small earth-worm, nourished by humidity, which shall in turn become a phoenix”.

(*)A chthonian is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos.

  • Hans Christian Andersen – The Phoenix Bird

“In the Garden of Paradise, beneath the Tree of Knowledge, bloomed a rose bush. Here, in the first rose, a bird was born. His flight was like the flashing of light, his plumage was beauteous, and his song ravishing. But when Eve plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, when she and Adam were driven from Paradise, there fell from the flaming sword of the cherub a spark into the nest of the bird, which blazed up forthwith. The bird perished in the flames; but from the red egg in the nest there fluttered aloft a new one—the one solitary Phoenix bird. The fable tells that he dwells in Arabia, and that every hundred years, he burns himself to death in his nest; but each time a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, rises up from the red egg.

The bird flutters round us, swift as light, beauteous in color, charming in song. When a mother sits by her infant’s cradle, he stands on the pillow, and, with his wings, forms a glory around the infant’s head. He flies through the chamber of content, and brings sunshine into it, and the violets on the humble table smell doubly sweet.

But the Phoenix is not the bird of Arabia alone. He wings his way in the glimmer of the Northern Lights over the plains of Lapland, and hops among the yellow flowers in the short Greenland summer. Beneath the copper mountains of Fablun, and England’s coal mines, he flies, in the shape of a dusty moth, over the hymnbook that rests on the knees of the pious miner. On a lotus leaf he floats down the sacred waters of the Ganges, and the eye of the Hindoo maid gleams bright when she beholds him.

The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him? The Bird of Paradise, the holy swan of song! On the car of Thespis he sat in the guise of a chattering raven, and flapped his black wings, smeared with the lees of wine; over the sounding harp of Iceland swept the swan’s red beak; on Shakspeare’s shoulder he sat in the guise of Odin’s raven, and whispered in the poet’s ear “Immortality!” and at the minstrels’ feast he fluttered through the halls of the Wartburg.

The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him? He sang to thee the Marseillaise, and thou kissedst the pen that fell from his wing; he came in the radiance of Paradise, and perchance thou didst turn away from him towards the sparrow who sat with tinsel on his wings.

The Bird of Paradise—renewed each century—born in flame, ending in flame! Thy picture, in a golden frame, hangs in the halls of the rich, but thou thyself often fliest around, lonely and disregarded, a myth—“The Phoenix of Arabia.”

In Paradise, when thou wert born in the first rose, beneath the Tree of Knowledge, thou receivedst a kiss, and thy right name was given thee—thy name, Poetry”.

Arms of Johann Martin Bauer von Eüsenech, Anatomia Auri, Mylius in Musaeum Hermeticum, 1625

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Absolutely beautiful hand painted porcelain gilt bronze-mounted inkwell. Double ink pots, pen holder, beautifully painted flowers and trimmed in gold. Marked Limoges, France.

Limoges Mark

Another examples of Limoges inkwells


This Limoges ink well with feather quill was given by Princess Diana as a Christmas gift to one of her bridesmaids, Sarah Jane Gaselee.

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Antique wooden box with alloy tipe for fitting into an card ticket dating press.

Labelled “Waterlow & Sons” in brass on lid.


There are many diverse areas of interest to collectors. This includes lamps, hand lamps, railway posters, carriage prints, books, jigsaw puzzles, signalling items, cast iron signs, silver plate, china, glassware, clocks and tickets.As the Railways developed so was the need for greater safety, no more so than in the area of controlling the running of the trains. A wide range of signalling apparatus were introduced by the Railway Companies to improve this: such items include signals, signal lamps, block instruments, block bells, telegraph instruments, interlocking frames, single line staff, keys, tokens, tablets and telephones. All of these areas have become popular in recent years. A popular area relates to trespass notices, also highly desirable are bridge restriction notices, notices dealing with specific issues, or locations, boundary posts etc. The most desirable signs are those with the name of a Railway Company or Companies in the title, or body of the text.

Waterlow & sons Limited

In 1810 James Waterlow opened offices at 14 and 25 Birchin Lane and later took into partnership his sons Alfred, Walter, Sydney and Albert. James died in 1876 and a year later the brothers split the firm. Alfred with his sons Alfred Jnr, Herbert and Walter, formed Waterlow Brothers & Layton with the family friend Alfred Thomas Layton. They retained the legal and general printing business at the Birchin Lane offices. Sir Sydney Waterlow founded Waterlow & Sons with his sons Philip, George and Charles. They took the railway, foreign currency and stamp printing to their offices at London Wall and Finsbury Market in London.

Sir Philip H. Waterlow,
(Business and Empire Builders)

Original Chromolithograph by “SPY”:, for“Vanity Fair” May 31,1879

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