Saturday, February 9, 2013

Let Me Brooch a Topic: Cameos as Sculpture

Are there any coincidences in the world?

Well one would tend to think no, especiallu not if

a) you watch any TV shows starring Kiefer Sutherland
b) you watch any doomsday movies
c) you watch any romantic comedies
d) you stay still now and then and pay attention...

Since I have partaken in a+b+c with some regularity in my life and am now, at 50, suddenly partaking in d, I am, too put it mildly, gobsmacked by all of the coincidences/connections that I keep running across now that I am paying attention to things!  I am like the newly pregnant woman who believes that suddenly EVERYONE got pregnant in July of 1991!

What is even worse, you all are here and I cannot help myself from sharing all of these newly discovered interesting "coincidences"!  

Today's post ties my sitting room curtains with some old cameo brooches I have with the book I am reading about Americans in Paris with New York City and New Hampshire!  If you knew me in real life - this post is pretty typical of every conversation I ever have with friends at a dinner table.  My mind is a bit of a mexican jumping bean.

What started this?  Well actually, it was me beginning my 2012 spring cleaning in early January of 2013.  Oh you read that right!  My house has been "cleaned" weekly during that last year, but the deep cleaning (where you take everything out and clean and organize) did not not occur last year.  My husband and I were simply too busy in our jobs.  Now that he is semi-retired and I am home on my self-imposed leave, I have been doing two years worth of spring cleaning.  It is very therapeutic to do manual labour and if this was summer, I would be out in my garden up to my armpits in good dirt as well!

So there I was in the old secretary in my hallway, cleaning out all of the cubbies - old cards, old cheque books, etc, when I came across the two ties for the curtains which are in my sitting room.  Surely every one has one of these kind of cupboards?  Mine is a beutiful old secretary desk that I inherited from  my great-great aunt, but the beauty of its outside belies the chaos of its insides...

The curtains I refer to currently hang straight - we have never used the ties to tie them back when they are open - but I thought to myself "Wendy old girl, either toss 'em or use 'em - they are no good here."  So I brought them out.  I didn't have any of those fancy little hardware thing-ys to put on the wall to hang them off, so I thought I might simply pin them all in some way. 

Then it hit me - I had recently come across two old cameo brooches in my jewellery box, inherited from my Mother, when I was digging out other jewellery to take to get fixed.  Wouldn't they look delightful pinning the ties to my curtains?  They weren't being used in my drawer and cameo brooches are not particularly worn with great regularity, at least around here.  Did it matter that the brooches didn't match?  Not to me!







Don't they look nice? Like they should have always been there.

I am sorry to say that I pinned them up and didn't look all that closely at them.  But some things WANT to be noticed.  And they will ensure that they are.  And this is where these coincidences come in.

Fast forward two weeks.  I am continuing to work my way through The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough.  I know I have harped on this book before, but I cannot help myself - I am learning so much and right now, a lot of what I am learning about are the soon-to-famous artists who went to Paris to study in the late 1800s.  I think all history books should immediately be thrown out and David McCullough should write and teach the rest.  I know this will be a big job for him since he is in his late 70s, but he is an american treasure and he brings history alive as I have never experienced history bought alive by a book.  Every night at dinner I tell a new story about the chapter I have read the night before, so family is also reading the book vicariously through me!

I know: I digressed.  Anyhow, this week I am reading about Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a penniless youth from New York who went on to be arguably one of the, if not the, greatest American sculptor of his generation.   You can see his work in many major monuments:

His very first commission of Admiral Farragut of Civil War Fame, located in Madison Square, which I have determined I must visit while in NYC, given how much I have read about the artistic and physical creation of this statue:

File:Farragut Mad Sq jeh.JPG

File:Lincoln The Man.JPG

Standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park in Chicago


Okay Wendy, sort of interesting you think (or maybe not!), but what struck me most was that Saint-Gaudens began his artistic career as an apprentice to a cameo-cutter in New York City, his talent soon surpassing his master's.  And this experience as a cameo cutter, the details and the intricacies, is said to have informed and bettered his subsequent work as a sculptor.

Now I freely admit that I have never ever thought about who made those vintage cameos I have had in my possession (I in fact even have a few more tucked away unworn as well).  For some reason, I never considered them as art.  But of course, once you start looking, how could you not?  The work to carve these little cameos is no different than the work of any sculptor and I have long admired similar visages on vases in museums around the world.  To think of a young man of 13 sitting for hours at a bench carving out these little delights humbled me.    And made me go back and look at the cameos I had in a completely different way.

Saint-Gaudens went on to have a celebrated career and McCullough's description of the work involved in creating the artist's first statue, the Farragut, was inspiring - I shall never look at a bronze statue in a park the same way again.  I am sure that Kathy could speak to all of this much better than I, since she does sculpt as well as paint, and I thought of you a lot while I was reading this chapter, Kathy!

So I am determined to visit Admiral Farragut when I go to NYC.  But in further research, it turns out that Saint-Gaudens, when he moved back to the US, moved to a bucolic farm in New Hampshire and it is now an historic site near the Village of Cornish.  Which is only about 8 hours from where I live and which has over 100 of his smaller works on display.  You know what that means: another road trip this summer!

But now I must turn my attention back to the cameo brooch for a moment:

Some can be very intricate and beautiful:


Source: here

Source
 They typically portray greek-like images and can be arved of shell, gemstone, or lavs like the cameo above.

I tried to find a new cameo pin to purchase for you all from a reputable store so we could ensure we were getting the best quality money can buy.  I couldn't find a cameo brooch at Tiffanys online, but that good old Canadian stalwart, Birks, has come through and how:

Large scale cameo pin
The site says: Large scale cameo pin, trademarked Birks, handmade bezel setting in 18 karat yellow gold featuring a shell cameo measuring 59 x 45 mm (low relief, modern theme, average detailing). Late 20th Century.

$1,500.00 CAD

I think she is quite lovely and when I look at her I am ever-mindful of the hours that went into her creation.  At that price I can sadly not purchase one for each of you, but if you would like one you can order it here.

How about you?  Do you own any cameos?  Do you wear them?  Have you been to any of Augustus Saint-Gauden's statues or his home in New Hampshire?  Or like me, is Mr. Saint-Gaudens a new discovery?

Today we have the blizzard.  Barry somehow did not believe that the storm was coming.  He will regret that later, since he left the car in the driveway, not the garage.  After 28 years of marraige, you learn to drink your coffee and be quiet about such things, especially if you were the one who happened to suggest it be moved the evening before...
This will be a good Saturday to continue to go through my closet and do some more reorganzing and purging.  And who knows what will come of that? What other coincidences I will come across?  The greatest gift of this leave has been re-discovering that there is a whole world out there.  We miss too much of it when all we do is work.  At least I missed too much of it.

I will also be looking out the window a lot, looking past my little cameos, at the lovely artistic show Mother Nature is putting on for me. 

Have a great Saturday and Stay Safe out there!  Mind those shovels!







37 comments:

  1. DRAW THE CURTAINS WMM, smiling at "drink your coffee and be quiet." Within brooches, I have a bit of an affinity for black & ivory cameos. Elva Fields, who you know I have a crush on, does modern-vintage pieces with them pretty regularly. I'd like one where the brooch still comes off the beaded necklace, for a lapel.
    I didn't know about the farm monument. Added to our summer road trip list now (likely do-able since we plan a QC stop then cross the border.)

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    1. Oh now i have to go visit Elvira's site. I used to wear cameos in the 80s during the big puffy shirt phase, worn so well by myself and Spandau Ballet - in fact I think we owned the same shirt - but no really since then. Now I am inspired to get back in! The wind is howling here and the snow is sideways! How is it today in the Big City? Hope roadtrip involves stopping near Porter restaurant!

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  2. Hi Wendy,
    So nice to of you to think of me, as you were reading that chapter - I must read that book before we leave for Paris.
    Strangely, as I was falling asleep last night, my mind was wandering about the "connect-ness" of things, due to a dinner we'd had with an old friend.
    Your cameos are gorgeous! And if you don't mind my saying so - far too beautiful to be used a curtain hold backs.
    If they were mine, I'd have a bale attached to the top, and hang them from either long vintage chain, leather, or ribbon, and use as a necklace.
    The first "real" present I got from a boyfriend, was a cameo ring for my 18th birthday, as he knew I loved them. Cameos are very much back in fashion again, and there's this amazing jewelry designer, that I'm going to link to you in my next comment after I stop my rambling here.
    Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy - I have a few more and I must see if some of them bales attached I think - now I have to go and look! I think these two ladies will stay put for awhile - they make my husband happy too!

      Funny we were both thinking of the connectedness of things - I find that now that I am not going 200 miles an hour, I am able to see things more clearly and have more time to learn things other than what I was doing in my job!

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    2. I just looked online at Bergdorf Goodman's, and they don't show these incredible cameos online - but when you're in NY, if you have a chance, go and see them there, on the first floor. Your cameos do look beautiful on the curtains, and it's nice that you have a few others too.

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    3. Done - will add to the list! I will be dragging husband hither and yon as we visit significant "things" I have been reading about in the book!

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  3. Dear WMM, if you like Admiral Farragut you must come visit me sometime--I will take you on a tour of the Naval Academy and you can see all our delightful and weird monuments, like the giant bust of Tecumseh in the middle of campus (and there are many more)! I live halfway between Annapolis and DC so we can do many many monument-y road trips!

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    1. Hi Danielle - now THAT would be a treat! I have only visited DC once for a few days and was just saying again, whilst watching the inauguration, that we have to get back there! I am trying to think of a second act career that will let me travel more! My husband would be over the moon at the naval academy. Last time we were in NYC, he and son split off from daughter and I and visited the USS Intrepid. He was in heaven!

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  4. The only statue of Lincoln outside America is in Edinburgh, I must take a pic when I'm town next week. The cameos look great on the curtains! I have "the world's most expensive tiebacks" when I was about 31 and single I was looking for tiebacks, came across ones that I absolutely loved, forgot to ask the price, ordered them - I have never told anyone how much they cost and will take it to my grave - it was a disgusting price, they are stunning but I often wince when I think of what I could have spent that money on.

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    1. Oh - that has happened to me, too! I went to a local lingerie shop, didn't have on my glasses, tried on a beautiful belgium lace bra, it fit perfect, most of the bras in the store were less than $100 (or so I thought), I brazenly tore off the tag and kept it on and gasped when it was $175 at the cash register. Now I am starting to wear my glasses all the time!

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    2. That is not true about the Lincoln statue only in Edinburgh. There is a statue of Lincoln in London right across from Westminister Abbey and Parliament. Oh and Mr. Darcy's first name is Fitzwilliam. Thanks for the book recommendation.

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    3. Hi Anon - I know folks thought it could be Fitzwillima, but does it say so definitively? I would love to know where as I honestly have missed it all these times!

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    4. Sure, the end of chapter of 35. He gives his name at the end of his letter to Elizabeth.

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    5. Oh awesome! I don;t know how i missed that! Thanks Anon!

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  5. DC is so wonderful. We try to go often, and all of the museums in the Smithsonian are free! If you stay in Alexandria(gorgeous!) parking for the metro is free as well. The Kimpton Monaco is charming and quirky. I am sure you would like it. I have always been intrigued by cameos, and I like your display of them better than I like them as apparel. A few years ago Either Barney's or possibly Bergdorfs had a cameo print on their fitting rooms. I always admire the intricate handwork and I am equally awed by the figures on Wedgwood Jasperware.Thank you for the book recommendation- I am going to try to get the book right away- after we dig out, of course. Stay warm and dry!

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    1. We are right in the middle of the storm now - no nice at all! I know Dani really liked the book, too and I hope you do - it is certainly an interesting read!!

      I loved all of those museums. We haven't been since August 2001, so am sure much has changed to see!

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  6. Wonderful post! I have a connecting mind as well. I'm sure we would have been on medication were we 12 now.

    I have a small cameo I wear on my blazer lapel in rotation with many other pins( one day I forgot to pin one on a a patient asked"where's your pin?"). They do look singular on your curtains, but I like Kathy's idea too.

    We have 26-28 inches of snow so far, very windy, 6 foot drifts. LOVE it! Stay safe ( Barry will def. regret not putting the car in).

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    1. Hey Lane - it is still coming down! I think Nova Scotia is getting the brunt, but we must have 2 feet down already!

      I really do have to dig out my pins - I just had one fixed that I got from my grandmother - it is a brass clown and bear joined together by a we little golden rope. I don't know how old it is - would be fun to find out!

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    2. Now over 30. Historic! Fun with power.

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  7. My mom has or used to have a cameo brooch that I loved to look at when I was little. I must unearth it when I go in the summer, I don't think she uses it or even remembers that she has it.
    There is a cameo artisan store right after the French Sole store on Lexington, if you go you might want yo take a look even if the last time I walked by the designs were a bit...questiobable (skulls and other macabre things). But it used to make beautiful oned so I hope it is just a phase and that it has already passed!

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    1. Hi Ema! Thanks for the heads up - would be neat to go see! Macabre ones sound kind of cool - like something my daughter or son would wear. I will definitely look it up!

      You should snag that cameo, Ema - it could be really old, given that it is sitting over there in Italy..

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    2. Amadeo - Lexington and 70th - I had forgotten about that place. Very cool - love the skull cameos.

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    3. thanks ladies - it is on the list!

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    4. Thank you Kathy, that's the one. I still don't get the skull-mania, there are so many things at Zadig and Voltaire that I would buy (on sale!) if it weren't for the skulls!

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  8. I think cameos are beautiful. Follow J Crews trend and button that shirt and stick it on your neck. Admiral Farragut was born not more than 15 minutes from us in what is now Farragut (still Knoxville), TN.

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    1. OT, I am following a blog puttingmetogether.com. She is doing a series called Wardrobe from Scratch. Part 3 and 3b are about fit and tailoring. I found it interesting and useful as I go through my closet. Thought you might also.

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    2. BB, I had a really quick look at that website - very interesting, thank you!

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    3. Thanks BB, for the information on Farragut and on the website - I will go check it right now and when I visit him in NYC - will give a salute from you! Oh the 80s are back when we are buttoning to the top and wearing cameos again, aren't they? :-)

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  9. Hi WMM, what a fabulous idea to use your cameos in that way! My mum had a cameo, I must see if I have it here. I never thought it was my style, I prefer more modern lines in jewellery. When we were on our cruise a couple of summers ago, we stopped at the cameo shop at Pompeii. There were some designs there that were very pretty; very expensive though, so much detailed work.
    I love Lane's remark about connecting minds - I sometimes think the same, my mind goes all over the place sometimes!

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    1. WHat a trip that must have been! Pompeii is on my bucket list!!! Especially today in the middle of a storm!

      I think lane was right about how some of us would be on meds if we were 8 o 9 now! In my case my mother would just send me to run around the block three times or "have quiet time" for 15 minutes in my room looking at the wall very quietly (it sounds like a punishment, it was not, she was always trying to help me quiet my mind down, I think it was her version of meditation!

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  10. My Grandmother had a few cameos but none were as grand as yours-just beautiful. Fun story-I bought a cameo, mother of pearl on onyx on a girl's trip to Spain taken right after I moved in my then future husband. I'd used up my traveler's cheques so I charged the cameo. A few days later when I spoke to future husband on the phone, he asked what I bought at the jewelry store-the bank had called to question the charge. I wasn't hiding the purchase but felt I'd been busted. I laugh about it to this day - I love jewelry and he doesn't "get it".

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    1. KInd of like me with shoes, though I am getting better... sort of... okay maybe not so much.. how goes your shoe search??

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  11. Creative idea to use them on the curtains, they look really nice! I have a cameo ring and I've always meant to have it made into a pendant, since I never wear it as a ring. Good luck with all that snow, stay warm! I laughed about the car & the snow, can we tell men anything? lol

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    1. Oh he had quite the time! Everything was closed up here tighter than a drum. Not typical at all - we are usually all quite stoic through such thing, but this was bad, as folks know. Horizontal snow!

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  12. Your cameos are lovely and what a good idea to use them on the curtains, they add a perfect vintage touch! I have a shell cameo which I bought on a whim from a vintage clothing store that was having a clearance sale on their jewellery. It seemed special, not like a regular piece of costume jewellery. When I got home, I noticed it had a mark on the back and with some internet research, I found out it is from an American jewellery company that was well known for producing cameos during the 1900s to the 1930s. It is always so much fun to find out these little bits of history!

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    1. Hi Louise - that is so neat - now I am going to have to go look at the back of mine - I will laugh if they say "Sears and Roebuck"!!

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Kindness is a virtue...