Sunday, May 17, 2009

Owning a Piece of History

So...show of hands.....how many other paper filigree aficionados have ever said to themselves,

"Some day, I want to own a piece of antique quilling."

Have you ever daydreamed about it?

C'mon now, be honest...you're among friends here!


I have often thrilled at the thought of owning a piece of artistic filigree work from the 1800's, when William Bemrose's booklet "Mosaicon" was printed and paper filigree patterns were found in many of the ladies' periodicals. I've searched repeatedly for this book, but alas, no luck. Much less any quilling for sale from that time period except a quilled reliquary on eBay. Interesting, though not very artistic--the only thing going for it was its age (late 1800's).

Then, out of the blue I received an email from a delightful woman, Sally, about a framed paper filigree piece. It had been a gift from an older cousin, who was prominent in historic preservation in Virginia, and he believed it was from the early 18th century. She was seeking information about its current value, history and restoration. She sent photos and we've enjoyed back-and-forth correspondence for a number of weeks.

I couldn't begin to give an accurate valuation of this treasure, or even presume to guess. My best recommendation was to contact Malinda Papp, with Florian-Papp Museum in New York City.
Ms. Papp researched and curated an antique paper filigree exhibition through Florian-Papp some years ago. If you are intrigued by antique pieces, I highly recommend acquiring the full-color booklet from the exhibition, titled Rolled, Scrolled, Crimped and Folded: The Lost Art of Paper Filigree. The workmanship of the featured pieces is remarkable, though it only provides full pictures without the benefit of close-up detail shots.

Ms. Papp attributes Sally's piece to the second half of the 1700's, and English rather than Colonial or early American. I wonder if one of the topics discussed while these papers were rolled, shaped and glued was about those upstart Colonists across the ocean and their treasonous rebellion against the Crown!!

Gives me shivers just to contemplate...what history is locked up inside those papers?

Sally has graciously given permission to share these photos with you. Look at the colors on that teacup [correction: it's actually a vase - there is another handle on the left side]--still so vibrant after 225+ years! Sally wanted me to note that the photo was taken in very bright light in order to capture the details--the piece definitely has an antiqued, aged patina to it.
Notice the ornate scroll work motifs surrounding the inner edge of the frame? I've never seen (or noticed) this 3-D aspect in other antique borders, where the filigree work is 'suspended' out from the sides of the frame near the top, making it appear to float over the center composition, rather than having it mounted firmly on the flat bottom of the framed piece. Just contemplate for a moment the patience required to achieve that effect!

Ms. Papp's other comments to Sally on her piece point out some of the more unique and noteworthy features of this piece:
  • The polychrome pattern of the vase, vivid blue and red, as well as the pair of attenuated handles are handled in a very individual and artistic way.
  • The use of cut flat paper, leaves and flowers, as well as the filigree work is, again, a departure from the standard examples. The tulip in particular is beautifully handled.
  • The swirling border, bold and confident with it's rococo inspired curves, is an extra embellishment.
  • The diamond patterned background is something I have not seen before and I assume it is pin pricked.
All this demonstrates the makers very artistic hand creating an example which is better than most.
Melinda Papp, in an email to Sally

So...have you ever indulged in similar dreams about owning an antique paper filigree work?

If so, here's the really exciting news!


Sally has made the difficult decision to sell this piece. Now, a few of the border motif pieces are loose (on the left side in particular) and it will require some TLC, but can you imagine having this piece of history displayed in your home? Dating back to the mid-to late 1700's? oh my!

I am asking my fellow paper filigree artists to help spread the word about this rare opportunity to purchase such a priceless treasure! Please refer folks to this post to view the photos. I ask that you not copy them, as they belong to Sally and I want to honor her rights. If you do a blog post, could you please alert me in the comments section, so Sally can see how widespread the coverage is? One thing that has always amazed me about the quilling world is the spirit of helpfulness and genuine care found in so many. Thanks in advance for your help.

Sally has not yet named a price or selected a venue for selling this piece, but she will have a reserve price on it. Serious buyers are encouraged to contact her at quillinginquiry@gmail.com to discuss it further.

History--within your grasp!

8 comments:

Gene and Charli said...

Paula the piece is remarkable. I find it interesting that the colors are still so vibrant. I'd love to know how they dyed the quilling strips. I know that many of the cloth pieces from that period are still bright because of the processes used.

Thank you so much for sharing it. It's a shame I haven't won the lottery or I would surely buy it.

Thanks for taking the time to create this resource and to share your knowledge with us.

Paula B. - GemStateMom said...

Charli, thank you very much for your visit and comment. The comment box is generally pretty quiet, despite all the visitors popping by.

I continue to be struck by the color also. So intriguing, isn't it?

I do hope Sally is able to find an appreciative new owner for this piece soon.

Sonya said...

Wow! This is the "real thing"! I wish we could see more quilling art from this time. It is beyond beautiful. I have always admired the intricate detail from pieces like this. Most of the pics that I have seen have been in black and white, this color photo is a real treat. I can only imagine the time it took to create it. If I only had the money! I would like to link to your page to show it off.

Paula B. - GemStateMom said...

Sonya, thanks for stopping by to drool with me! :)

I continue to marvel at the age of this piece and what was happening around the world when the artist created it. It is a fun historical exercise in imagination, isn't it?

Please, link away. I know Sally will appreciate the help in getting the word out of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to purchase a piece of paper filigree history.

runnerbean said...

Hey Paula - what's the latest word on Sally's piece? Has she had any interested buyers yet, or decided on a venue for selling it?

Paula B. - GemStateMom said...

She has had a few people get in touch with her and also some contact with private museums. She was waiting to hear back from one in particular before making a decision regarding the auction.

Will post an update as soon as I get more info - hopefully with some bigger photos.

Thanks for checking, Tracy. Hope you and your sweetkins are doing well!

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