The Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art contains 3,000 items, many from the Renaissance. After its acquisition in 1969 and display in the Robert Lehman Wing in 1975, the museum began cataloging the collection, publishing what is now a 15 volume set of books that categorize and describe the objects. The final volume is titled “Decorative Arts” and amongst the snuffboxes, ceramics, furniture, and porcelain are 49 Renaissance and Mannerist jewels. However Charles Truman, author of the chapter covering those jewels and jeweled objects, decided 34 did not live up to their supposed provenance. This discovery, says the Wall Street Journal, will “cause consternation and controversy” as it reinforces that there are more fakes sitting around ready to be revealed. Truman recounts the history of the peak of Renaissance forgeries, which of course matched a peak in demand in the era in which the Lehman family amassed their collection. Perhaps the most egregious forgery tale from Truman is of antiques dealer Salomon Weininger who in 1860 was hired to restore objects from Vienna’s Holy Treasury. He replaced the items with copies and kept the real ones. I suppose that’s one way to perfectly restore something from the 1400s.
The bouquets presented at the Olympic medal ceremonies are distinctive and suitably British. Designed by Susan Lapworth, the vibrant mix of roses and herbs comes from Jane Packer Flowers of London. Packer was a fashion leader in the world of florists and provided the flowers for the Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson’s wedding. She died in November of 2011, midway through the design process for the fashions and flowers of the 2012 Olympics. It was critical that the flowers in the bouquet not only reflected the host country but could also be grown there. Flowers had to be specially sourced from UK growers as there is no longer a commercial rose industry in the UK. The pink, yellow, orange, and green roses are separated by classic British food ingredients: lavender, rosemary, apple mint, and wheat. The quadrant layout of the roses is meant to reflect the (often derided) 2012 Olympic logo. Consideration was given to the sustainability and re-use of the packaging materials and plants. The 4,400 bouquets needed for medal-winning athletes are being prepared with the help of floristry students. The Olympic medals will last longer, but the accompanying flowers will add a lovely smell of victory.
In December 2010 I posted about the Bevin Brothers bell factory in Connecticut, last of its kind in the United States. Alas the East Hampton, CT factory burned down on Saturday. The factory was built in the 1880s. In the past there were over 30 bell factories in the area, which came to be known as “bell town.” Owner Matt Bevin, descended from the founding brothers, is cautiously optimistic about rebuilding but only if it is cost effective.
We get the newspaper (emphasis on paper) delivered every morning and will likely continue to do so until it ceases to exist or someone makes a reading device that plays well with food and liquids. I realize more often nowadays that I’ve drifted into the “get off my lawn” camp of the more experienced population, and I look back to previous generational shifts for perspective. A YouTube commercial (below) from the late 1950s caught my attention as I struggled to relate to the time of its creation. The “Live Better Electrically” campaign was launched in 1956 by the electrical industry (General Electric) to encourage homeowners to use more electricity. Print ads included checklist quizzes to rank your electrical prowess by how many appliances you had plugged in (the opposite of one you might see in today’s “green” campaigns). “Live Better Electrically Medallion Homes” were built and certified with all electric kitchens, washer/dryers and electric heat (much to the dismay of today’s occupants who wish they had gas lines running to their homes, especially in the cold months). Electricity is still fundamental to our modern lifestyles, but the idea of having one’s home awarded for (over)consumption runs counter to today’s culture. Perhaps an amazing energy discovery will lead us back to a time where nobody can recall being yelled at for leaving the lights on.
Each year I read about the Edible Book Festival and it’s around April 1st so I think “does that really happen?” It does really happen (Wikipedia says so). It’s a contest to create edible art inspired by books. The timing, besides being the perfect date to fool around with words, coincides with Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s birthday on April 1st. Since 2000, various literary-minded organizations in multiple countries hold local competitions, award prizes, and then let the entries succumb to their edible fate. Seattle’s Edible Book Festival was held on Saturday with more than 100 entries. Many creations are puns on titles: “A Separate Piece”, “Tequila Mockingbird”, “Anne of Green Bagels”. Some are simply illustrative of the book. Then there are the creative stretches such as “The Invisible Manwich.”
The 573 love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning record the progression of their romance starting from the first letter sent by Browning in admiration of Barrett’s poetry. The collected letters have been housed at Wellesley College since 1930. On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, the college made the letters available online, scanned and indexed for searching. Even the envelopes are in there. The letters were digitized in collaboration with Baylor University, home of another significant Browning collection. Along with the letters, Wellesley has the box and case used by Browning and Barrett to store the letters they exchanged and the door from the Barrett house with the mail slot through which Browning’s letters were delivered. According to college lore, the slot was screwed shut years ago to prevent Wellesley students from slipping in their own hopeful letters.
I’ve pulled together all my old Oscar gift basket posts into one page. When we moved this site off old Blogger to WordPress I made the difficult decision to convert my old static archive pages, losing all the valuable search engine indexing and incoming links. The search hasn’t recovered with how my archives are set up and I never took the time to cook up an incoming link convertor or other solution. My most popular posts were about the crazy-stuffed gift baskets the Academy Awards gave to their presenters. So I decided to catalog those and add a “Best of” link on the sidebar. It was a nice trip down memory lane.
Davidson Galleries in Seattle is running an exhibition of bookplates both contemporary and antique. Over 200 of these labels of book ownership are on display including those of well-known bookplate artists (yes, they exist!) who were, not surprisingly, usually printmakers. Bookplate subjects are as varied as their owners, though of course reading-related illustrations are common. My bookplates aren’t custom but they’re Laura Ashley (how luxe!) and I’ve only used them on a few very special books. Etsy is a good place to find bookplates to match your personality. I’ve written about bookplates twice before so here are some links I’ve gathered: Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie (still going strong after 5 years), The American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers, The Bookplate Society, University of Notre Dame’s Bookplate Registry project, and Stanford’s online Bookplates Exhibit. There are many more bookplate resources out there and collections at many universities.
It’s old news that American shoe manufacturing has moved overseas, mostly to China. One of the few companies still making shoes in the USA wants to tip the balance the other way by marketing its shoes to the Chinese. Allen Edmonds, a privately held manufacturer of men’s shoes in Wisconsin, is opening a store in Shanghai this year. They’re hoping that “Made in the USA” will be as distinctive in China as it has become back home. If the approach succeeds, they have plans to expand into Hong Kong and Macau, but they won’t move production to Asia like so many others have. Allen Edmonds shoes were worn by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and the Bushes for their inaugurations.
The U.S. Geological Survey started creating topographic maps in 1884. They don’t even know how many maps they’ve produced since then but they’re estimating it at 200,000. It’s such a fascinating endeavor and they’ve written papers on its history. Their National Geospatial Program is scanning all of the old topographic maps into electronic format and making them available for free download. 90,000 are available already. You can also order a reasonably priced print, the same paper format many of us are familiar with for modern USGS topographic maps (available at stores that cater to hikers like REI). The maps are in GeoPDF format, viewable in Adobe Reader and you get even more functionality with the TerraGo Toolbar extension. I downloaded Mount St Helens from 1919. Yup, it’s a lot different now. And back then the maps were all done by people hiking around taking measurements. (Here’s more geeky detail on Mount St Helens topography if you’re interested.)