When I was out in LA, our friends took us to an amazing museum – The Autry Museum of the West.
It included artifacts of the real west of America’s past, as well as the movie and TV versions of that same history. In fact, the museum is named after the famous “Singing Cowboy” of the early television days, Gene Autry, also the former owner of the Los Angeles/California/ Anaheim Angels Major League Baseball team from 1961 to 1997.
I took so many photos, I’m going to divide them up into three separate posts. This one will be devoted to clothing – a fascinating aspect of history.
I’ve been fascinated by all kinds of archaeology since I was in high school. As a senior, I took a course called “The History of Science.” It was science for the unscientific, those of us who couldn’t deal with physics — though oddly enough, the course was taught by a PhD in Physics. I guess he was really interested in the subject, so we all got a whole year studying Stonehenge. And yet I still don’t know nearly enough.
I collect very old Chinese porcelain. I used to have a lot more of it, but in the name of de-cluttering, I divided my collection and gave the other half to my best friend who I knew would appreciate it.
The Chinese government has not always been diligent in managing their national treasures. Sometimes, it was a political decision. Many times, foreigners have stolen the best and most beautiful, which is why you will see so much Chinese art in English and American museums. They didn’t give it to us; we didn’t buy it. We stole it. What a shock they aren’t as in love with us as we think they ought to be.
In recent decades, the issues have been pragmatic — lack of money. There is so much that needs preservation. The U.S. has difficulty preserving our 250 years of history. Imagine how hard — and expensive — if your nation’s history goes back thousands of years. And your country is huge and densely populated.
Suddenly, preservation becomes more than slightly daunting.
Private collectors — like me — who have become custodians of some of these very old things have an obligation to care for them. We have to make sure they will be inherited by others who will treasure them. That’s not as easy as you might think. Not everyone “gets it.” And many people have no room; they have their own stuff and can’t help with yours.
I could have sold my pots but I didn’t want them to go to the highest bidder. I wanted them to be where they would be loved. If that sounds weird, you have never collected antiquities.
When you hold one of these pieces, you in the most literal sense hold history in your hand. Imagine how many people have held this vase, this statue, this oil lamp. How many lives this pot has touched. Imagine!
We have tons of art in the house. I like to think we also have a fair bit of truth, but if no one seems able to define truth, how in the world do you define “art?”
Is that the stuff which is just pretty but serves no “useful” purpose … or is it anything that has a certain eye-appeal, no matter what you might want to call it.
I collected dolls for years and antique Chinese porcelain … and for a long time, teapots and other oddities. Some people find the dolls creepy. I love them. We have paintings and photographic prints and small items that really are pretty, but currently (in this world) useless.
Is anything that makes you feel better about life not serving a useful purpose? If it makes you feel good, isn’t that enough?
I don’t know how people manage to live in houses without any art or pictures or prints. Don’t they need the color and the motion? Something to tickle their fancy?
I decided to try to see if I could get some better photographs of two of my old bronze figurines. I’ve pretty much pinned down the provenance on Vishnu riding Garuda as being most likely 17th or 18th century Chinese — or possibly from Tibet.
He has his original medallion from Chinese authorities indicating his status as an antique. It’s a small piece, as most of these items are. It has been certified by the Chinese government as an official authorized antique.
The other item has been harder to pin down. I have no provenance on him. he is a buddha — what is called a “Bhoddivista” — a perfected soul that has returned to be a help to others seeking perfection.
When I talk about provenance, that is the issue. Identical items may come with “official” a government or museum insignia. Even though they are identical to items which do not have the same insignia, their value is significantly lower because without it, proving provenance — where the piece came from and its likely age — is difficult.
It’s easier when you are dealing with porcelain because porcelain was fired in kilns that often leave specific markings on the base of pieces fired within. Most of my pieces came without provenance because getting them certified would have cost me at least three more money.
Identical piece, but the seller didn’t want to battle with the Chinese government for their insignia. And who could blame them?
That little metal tag is the Chinese government’s seal of authenticity. This piece is old. How old? I don’t know. 1500s? 1700s? Somewhere in between? Hard to tell with anything made of bronze.
This is the only Black & White Sunday this month, and I decided that it should be Traces of the Past (the recurrent photo challenge on this blog). Here is one of the most beautiful landmarks of Northumberland – the famous Bamburgh Castle. The day I took this photo it glistened nicely in late, golden sunlight, but for this opportunity I decided to show it in silvery tones i.e. in black and white.
World War 2 tank
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The landing field at the Tuskegee site
What would I do without squirrels and antiques? In this case, I would be lost! The moment I realized I had pictures of squirrels — in my case, stuffed dog toy squirrels — and a lot of antique whatevers, I knew I was “home free,” so to speak. Welcome to my Q world!
And finally, antiques, from an airplane to a cookie jar and an iron doorstop. Old, older, oldest!
Photo: Garry Armstrong –
Famille Rose plate, mid 19th century
The pig-chicken-cow antique canister where i store the Greenies
Qing dynasty rice bowl, typically used by field workers. The blue chicken is a cultural thing. The bowl is almost 200 years old — and it isn’t even close to my oldest pieces of pottery.
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