Jasper52 marks Ash Wednesday with religious icons auction March 6

Arising from all reaches of the European Orthodox world are icons that carry rich histories and intricate religious symbolism. More than 200 objects from this category are being offered in a Jasper52 online auction on Ash Wednesday, March 6.

Russian icon of the Three-Handed Virgin Mary, hand-painted on wood panel with egg tempera, gesso, levkas and gold leaf, 19th century, 37in. x 30in. (94.5 x 76 cm). Estimate: $9,000-$11,000. Jasper52 image

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Whimsy meets function in butter prints

NEW YORK – Wooden butter prints were designed to be neither strictly utilitarian objects nor objets d’art but instead fall somewhere in the middle. Highly carved and ornate yet with handles or edges worn smooth from frequent use, butter prints are curious examples of material culture. In some areas, they are all that remains of a once-thriving dairy industry.

“These deceivingly mundane tools convey changes in dining habits, rural women’s participation in local economies, and the transition to a consumer economy,” said Jennifer L. Putnam
Villanova University, in a 2017 article in butter prints for the Madison Historical Review available online.

A carved and turned tulip butter print, dated 1834, fetched $4,392 at Pook & Pook Inc. in April 2017. Photo courtesy of Pook & Pook Inc.

Butter prints were not exclusively American, as fine examples were Swiss, Austrian and English to name a few. As far as American examples go, however, Pennsylvania probably held the biggest share as more butter prints were made here in the 19th century than any other state.

Before the advent of commercial creameries, people used to make butter at home and they would take it to market,” says antique dealer John Rogers of New London, New Hampshire, who specializes in early American woodenware, including butter prints (aka butter stamps). “There would be roadside markets so people were looking for ways to differentiate their butter from other people’s butter and the butter print was a way of doing that.”

Some theories hold that printed butter sold better than unprinted butter as people considered this butter to be of a higher quality than unprinted butter but that’s probably just some very good marketing.

When it comes to collecting, forms are more important than the pattern design with double-sided and lollipop forms of the highest interest, says James Pook, vice president of Pook & Pook, Inc. in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

A small but beautifully assembled collection of truly fine prints includes lollipop forms on the top shelf. Photo courtesy of John Rogers

Butter prints come in a variety of forms from the traditional round to a half round, rectangular or block prints and the rare and highly desirable lollipop form. “Some people collect only Pennsylvania Dutch round prints, there are those who collect only lollipops or only collect animals,” Rogers said. “There is a wide variety of preference within the butter print family, I happen to be one who likes them all.”

The rarest or hardest one to find today is called the shouldered oval, he added. “It’s an oval print that has a sort of a side shoulder on both sides. Those are the rarest. They are very hard to come by; they can go for a gazillion dollars.” Semi-oval shouldered prints also can be found.

A finely carved Pennsylvania Dutch tulip print. Photo courtesy of John Rogers

Decorating motifs are infinitely more varied than the forms, ranging from flora and fauna (sheaves of wheat are common) to animals and miscellaneous objects. “The most sought-after designs would be tulips and stars and then the animals. The eagle is a frequently found motif, and the cow obviously is very popular,” Rogers said. “Other animals are harder to come by so a rooster is highly sought after. A beehive and a double beehive are very, very hard to find and expensive when you do find them.”

Craftsmanship and the level of detail in the carving are among attributes buyers most look for. The earliest examples (pre-1860) are the most sought after and all having hand-carved faces. In general, the larger the face diameter a print has, the better.

A highly desirable half round eagle butter print. Photo courtesy of John Rogers

“I would say look at the quality of the carving,” Rogers said. Butter prints were made in shops as well as by people working in their own homes so quality varies greatly. “Look for the quality of the carving and the care with which the face of the butter prints is inscribed,” he added. “Is the overall effect pleasing or cluttered? Does the design itself occupy the whole face or is it reduced by easily carved concentric circles, which go around the entire print so the actual print is smaller?

The size of the print itself, its artistry and the obvious skill in the carving are all important as is condition. “This was just a common household tool, so they were not very well treated. Because butter making stopped with the advent of commercial creameries, they were carelessly put on shelves and rodents liked to chew on them because of the salt content in to the wood.” Many of them mysteriously also bear scorch marks, which Rogers said is curious as fire certainly has no part of the butter-making process.

Two carved and turned eagle butter prints, the oblong example with a chip carved handle, made $9,150 at Pook & Pook Inc. in April 2017. Photo courtesy of Pook & Pook Inc.

While a passion for Americana has waned a bit in recent years as evidenced by the changing lineup of what once was known as Americana Week in New York City every January, the popularity of butter prints endures. “The market is pretty good,” Pook said. “We sold one for over $9,000 in 2017. As with anything in the antiques market, if you have a great example, it’ll bring good money.”

Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Bulgari jewelry sparkles in Jasper52 auction Feb. 27

Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Bulgari are several of the famous names that stand out in a diverse mix of designer jewelry offered by Jasper52 in an online auction Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Van Cleef & Arpels retro 1940s ‘Ludo’ bracelet, 18K gold, ruby (5.86 carats) and diamonds (6.00 carats), stamped with Van Cleef & Arpels maker’s mark, French hallmarks. Estimate: $36,000-$48,000. Jasper52 image

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Washington portrait first of many highlights in NHADA auction Feb. 28

Nearly 200 authentic Swiss-made luxury watches are being offered in a Jasper52 online auction that will take place Wednesday, July 11. More than half of the auction catalog is devoted to Rolex watches, from vintage to contemporary models that are like new and in their original boxes.

Portrait of George Washington by an unknown artist, oil on board, circa 1840, 13¾ x 12in. Estimate: $4,500-$5,500. Jasper52 image

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Much loved and admired portrait miniatures

Miniatures, originally, were tiny, decorative images that embellished illuminated medieval manuscripts. Portrait miniatures, head-and-shoulder portrayals of individuals about the size of large marshmallows, developed from their techniques and tradition.

From the mid-1400s, illuminators not only illustrated manuscripts and costly hand-printed books. For wealthy patrons, they also created stand-alone miniatures for private worship or as luxurious collectibles.

Gentleman, oil on copper, framed and glazed, inscribed ‘A: 1588’, 5.5 x 3.9 in., British, realized £7,000 in 2015. Image courtesy of Busby and LiveAuctioneers

During the following century, English and French illuminators created portrait miniatures on backs of stiff playing cards, copper wafers or velvety calfskin parchment using watercolors. At the time, aristocrats and royalty, like Henry VIII, commissioned these small, colorful depictions as diplomatic gifts, signs of royal favor, and to facilitate long-distance marriage negotiations.

During the Elizabethan era, miniatures depicting likenesses of lovers were intended for personal, private use. When Spain threatened England, however, wealthier subjects sometimes bore copies of Elizabeth’s image as signs of loyalty. Similarly, some bore images of James I when he inherited the throne.

Portrait miniature of Adam Babcock, signed ‘HP’ l.r. by Henry Pelham (after noted American painter John Singleton Copley), watercolor on ivory, c. 1774, 2 x 1¼ in., 18K gold case, illustrious history and provenance known, documented and exhibited through the U.S. Department of State, realized $55,000 in 2011. Image courtesy of Skinner and LiveAuctioneers

Though traditional techniques continued through the early 1700s, miniaturists usually preferred smooth, translucent ivory wafer backings, because they enhanced skin with realistic radiance. Since watercolors tended to slide off, however, many first degreased or roughened their surfaces.

In time, painting portrait miniatures became an acceptable pastime, even for women. Yet with the rise of the middle class, their demand rose dramatically. Clerics, soldiers, dignitaries, as well as common folk, not only commissioned depictions of themselves. Many also commissioned multiple copies, to be distributed to family members or as tokens of affection.

Violinist, possibly Mikhail Glinka, watercolor on ivory, signed ‘I. Gerin’ along with finely penned inscription in Cyrillic, “To my dearest friend Sofia Nikolayevna Treskina with the fondest of memories, 31st of August 1835,” 3.1 in. high, realized $5,500 in 2012. Image courtesy Jackson’s Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Women often wore these stunning, tiny portraits mounted in brooches, bracelets, or lockets backed by locks of hair coiled into love knots Young men, rakes and politicians concealed lovers’ portraits under lids of snuff boxes. Soldiers and sailors bore miniatures of wives and sweethearts into battle, leaving self-images for those left behind. In addition, seafaring merchants carried portrait miniatures to the American Colonies.

At first, Colonial painters produced tiny, traditional oval portraits for wealthy clients alone. Toward 1800 however, when enterprising British, French and Italian miniaturists arrived, this fine art thrived. Yet within a few decades, American miniatures, larger, brighter, sharper and featuring full-length figures, tended to resemble full-size oil paintings.

Miniature portrait of Auguste Marie von Engelhardt on ivory by Alexander Molinari, signed lower right, titled and dated verso, 1800, 3½ in. high x 2¾ in. wide, provenance known, realized $8,500 in 2011. Image courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

British portrait miniatures gained popularity during the reign of Queen Victoria, especially following the death of Prince Albert. Since public mourning had become fashionable, women not only wore brooches of their near and dear. Many also wore ones depicting images of their dear departed.

When portrait miniatures fell from fashion, the European middle class continued to seek small, affordable ornamental items. Mass-produced miniatures, reproductions of full-scale oil paintings and depictions of famed musicians, military leaders or maidens in fancy bonnets, were especially popular. These purely decorative works, many created in Germany, were not produced to deceive the public, but to fulfill their wide demand.

Girl wearing black dress with muslin trimmings and matching hat, on ivory, signed and dated, gold frame with bright-cut sides, the reverse with glazed aperture containing hair-work monogram, John Smart (1740-1811), 1.9 in. high, realized $7,773 in 2016. Image courtesy Matthew Barton Ltd. And LiveAuctioneers

Many can be readily identified. The quality of their painting may vary, they may bear French-sounding signatures, and most are produced on low-cost, translucent ivorine wafers made from milk curd or rennet. In addition, they may be framed by lavish brass filigree or ivory piano keys backed by pages from old books, to simulate great age. Yet these attractive, available, affordable decorative miniatures are becoming antiques in their own right.

More serious collectors, however, usually seek unique miniatures featuring actual sitters. Those portraying a famed monarch, actress, or admiral, for instance, are especially collectible. So are those featuring sitters identified through historic research or genealogical studies. Works by celebrated miniaturists, like Samuel Cooper, John Smart, Robert Field and Laura Coombs Hills, are also desirable, especially if they are signed and dated. That said, rare, masterly portrait miniatures, in prime condition, in original, high quality frames, signed and dated by famous artists, and portraying known, interesting, and attractive sitters, are most collectible of all.

Child identified as ‘Aspinwall Maxwell/born in/Saugerties N.Y.,’ watercolor on ivory in locket type velvet covered case. 19th century, unsigned, 1¾ x 1⅜ in., realized $300 in 2007. Image courtesy of Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Since scores were produced by unknown artists, however, many may be found at appealing prices. Furthermore, those featuring unidentified sitters – even those not particularly attractive, may hold a certain charm. After all, these miniatures not only reveal fads and fashions of their day. They also illuminate real lives.

In addition, these miniscule, incredibly delicate works of art are wonders of survival.

Online auction devoted to teddy bears, Steiff collectibles Feb. 20

The first teddy bear was inspired by an encounter President Theodore Roosevelt had with a live bear cub while on a hunting trip in 1902. The incident prompted toymakers to produced cuddly stuffed bears. The German version of the teddy bear was made about the same time by the Steiff company. Nearly 200 lots of Steiff teddy bears and animals are offered in a Jasper52 online auction that will be held Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Steiff Limited Edition 1357 Polo Varsity mohair bear, 1993, limited edition 1357 of 3500. Estimate: $350-$400. Jasper52 image

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Good vibes coming from Jasper52 vintage guitar auction Feb. 20

Whether you play gypsy jazz, blues or garage band rock ’n’ roll, the Jasper52 online auction of vintage guitars on Wednesday, Feb. 20, likely has an instrument to amp your interest. Acoustic Spanish, Romantic and concert guitars are joined by a chorus of more than a dozen electric guitars. A 1920s banjo and a three-quarter-size French violin are included for good measure.

Fenton-Weill solid body electric guitar made in England in 1961, with original case. Estimate: $1,600-$1,700. Jasper52 image

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Falling in love with vintage Valentine’s Day cards

NEW YORK – For New Jersey historian Nancy Rosin, her love affair with antique Valentine’s Day cards began while antiquing in the 1970s in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

“The first things I bought were the die-cut scraps that embellish many of the Victorian Valentines. I thought I would one day use them for decoupage, a popular craft, when my children were older,” she told Auction Central News. “When I discovered they were on Valentines, I started looking for Valentines – and then the serious collecting began. It was a combination of their beauty, the messages, and the history that drew me in.”

Cut‐paper Valentine card, British, circa 1810; made by Elizabeth Cobbold (1765‐1824). Image courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

After her collection numbered somewhere over 12,000 examples of Valentine, friendship and devotional ephemera, her son and his wife, to whom she had given it, entrusted the collection to The Huntington Library Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., in 2018.

Rosin remains as passionate about Valentines as ever, cataloguing examples at such renowned institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and giving lectures on this subject.

The most striking of Valentine’s cards are the handmade ones, particularly those dating to the Victorian era, and the skills used to make cards that fold-open, boast three-dimensional features or have intricate designs cut out of paper lace are impressive to behold. Particularly desirable are those employing cobweb devices where one pulls on a string to lift up the cobweb, exposing a hidden image (sometimes several) or a secret message.

Cobweb valentine card (image detail shown), probably British, circa 1830‐1860. Pull a string attached to the castle, and a cobweb device lifts to reveal a mouse in a trap. All images except where noted are gift of Belle and Robert Rosin, Nancy and Henry Rosin Collection of Valentine, Friendship, and Devotional Ephemera. Image courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden

Themes and subject matter are endless, ranging from typical romantic subjects one might expect such as cupids, children, young women and couples, flowers, birds and more to the satiric and political.

There is even a genre of insulting Valentine’s cards known as vinegar Valentines with such snarky sentiments as, “On each Sunday morning to church you repair, And turn up your nose with a sanctified air, But see you at home what a different sight, As you read nasty books and drink gin half the night… ” These were commonly aimed at politicians too.

‘Vinegar’ Valentine card, American, circa 1870‐1885; maker unknown. Image courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

The more unique the card, either in sentiment or design, the more collectors will covet that particular example. Highly detailed Victorian paper lace Valentines are a favorite among many collectors. Often constructed of layers of scalloped and embossed paper, die cuts and paper lace in white and silver, the lace often is set on paper strings to give it a three-dimensional effect.

Among renowned card artists/illustrators are Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, Elizabeth Cobbold, Frances Brundage, Ellen Clapsaddle and Grace Drayton, said Rosin, adding, “I imagine Frances Brundage was the most well-known, and her images of children were fabulous.”

Fold‐open valentine card, German, circa 1900, three‐layer construction of die‐cut, embossed and color lithographed paper with applied elements. Image courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

Collectors and even casual viewers are especially drawn to a card’s message of love. “They were sentimental and tender. Civil War Valentines, for example, were often the connection to home – the Sailor’s Farewell refers to the seafaring men who went off for military, or for whaling – and it was a popular theme that I especially love,” Rosin said. “The ‘Language of Flowers’ is an important component, as messages could be sent with a bouquet – no words necessary, if you knew their meaning.” Each flower had a particular meaning understood by both the sender and recipient in the 19th century (mixed bouquets can be a bit more challenging though for today’s viewers to decode) such as lilies signified purity, red roses were a declaration of love, white chrysanthemums equaled truth and so on.

This is a series from the 1920s featuring animals and figures eating hearts. Made in Germany, it has a rotating wheel and mechanical mouth. Image courtesy of Vintage Valentine Museum

Jolene Sliwka of North Carolina runs the website known as the Vintage Valentine Museum and says collectors vary quite a bit in what they consider most desirable. “For many this would mean the elaborate standup displays and fantastic characters created by known artists like Frances Brundage or Chloe Preston,” she told Auction Central News. “Some of these can be large and feature paper puffs or sections designed for light to shine through pieces of colored paper. These large, pull-down cards don’t have to be by known artists to be very desirable. There are examples of quite large pull-down boats that are so popular I haven’t been able to acquire one at a price I can afford for the museum.”

Valentine card, American, circa 1870, by Esther Howland (1828‐1904), who was said to be the first to produce English-style romantic, hand-decorated cards in large commercial quantities. Image courtesy the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Many collectors focus on a particular artist or sometimes a category such as mechanical cards or puzzle purse cards, Sliwka said. “For others, the paper lace cards, with exquisite embossing and cutout pieces, that the Victorians exchanged are what they most desire,” she said, noting in the latter genre, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, as a woman in 1848 began showing her business prowess at a time unusual for women engaging in commerce, earning a strong following for her romantic cards.

Rosin suggested new collectors do their homework before buying their first Valentine. “Look at Valentines wherever you can – shows, auctions and museums. You don’t have to buy – first look, touch and see what you love and be knowledgeable.”

Western artists shine in Jasper52 woodblock prints auction Feb. 12

Works by two Western living artists, two by American Mary Brodbeck and three by Scottish artist Paul Binnie, are featured in a Japanese woodblock prints auction that will be conducted by Jasper52 on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Mary Brodbeck (b.1958), ‘Gap,’ 2000, first/only edition, numbered 21/40, 18 x 24 inches.
Estimate: $1,000-$1,250. Jasper52 image

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Women photographers featured in Jasper52 auction Feb. 13

Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process used for high-quality photo reproduction. On Wednesday, Feb. 13, Jasper52 will conduct an online auction of more than 50 vintage gravures that boasts several of the most significant women in photography history. The famous Lady at a Masked Ball by Diane Arbus, groundbreaking photo-journalism by Dorothea Lange, and a humanist view by revolutionary political activist Tina Modotti are just a small sample of the treasures in this sale.

Diane Arbus, ‘Lady at a Masked Ball, New York 1967,’ sheet-fed gravure, printed in Italy,
1970s, 9¾ x 9½ inches. Estimate: $400-$500. Jasper52 image

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