Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sweet Silhouettes Have a Bit of History!

       One of the items we took to the Antiques Roadshow was a pair of silhouettes that I found at an auction in Missouri.  I was after a pair of penguin scissor cuts, cute little fellows that no one else was showing any interest in.  (OK...I love the movie "Happy Feet"!!)  When the auctioneer got to them he picked up 2 more framed pieces and said that these would sell as one item.  No problem...I got the penguins plus a silhouette of a young Thomas Jefferson ("by Nan Maury Lightfoot" printed at the bottom)  and of Elizabeth Monroe, the fifth president's wife ("by Marietta Minnegerode Andrews" at the bottom).    My thought was "that's nice" and we took them home.
        It wasn't until that evening that I looked at the brown paper backs...they were old and crumbly, both written on in a barely legible script:  

                                                     Lenore Cornwell

                                                    Jefferson Memorial Pilgrimage
                                                    Paris 1925

                                                   Marietta Minnegerode Andrews

                 That made me curious enough to forget the little penguins for awhile!

                 First of all I looked up the name "Minnegerode".  First up was Charles Minnegerode, who had emigrated from Germany and become the minister of a large congregation in Richmond, VA.  Wildly popular, he attracted many dignitaries, most notably Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and stayed Davis' confidant during the Civil War and his subsequent imprisonment.
                Then came Marietta, Charles' granddaughter, who became quite an accomplished and recognized artist in several media as well as a poet, illustrator, and author.   She had quite a dignified career, lived in Washington, DC, but that's as far as I got.

                On to Lenore Cornwell.  All I could find on her at first was that she had graduated from high school in St. John, Kansas and college in South Dakota.  Her father was a newspaperman; her mother encouraged her girls to study music...Lenore sang and played the piano and cello.    The only other mention was her being in the ensemble of "Castles in the Air" on Broadway.
               When I decided to take the silhouettes,  I decided at the last minute to do a little further research on my two mystery women.  I had really wondered how a young girl from Kansas and an established artist in Washington, DC could have crossed paths.  That night was "pay dirt"!!!  It's amazing how new material from archives and such, when made available on the internet, can help!  This time I found a series of newspaper articles on Lenore.

               It seems that there was a movement in the early 1920's to buy and restore a fading Monticello (oh, boy!...I'm hooked now...Jefferson is one of my heroes!!).  One of the fund-raising ideas was to have a person or group "sponsor" a girl and to get people to "vote" for her at 10 cents a vote.  Arthur Hammerstein (uncle of Oscar) sponsored Lenore with his Broadway cast of "Rose Marie" behind her; Senator Capper of Kansas endorsed her as well.   It seems that the top vote getters would make the Jefferson Memorial Pilgrimage to Paris!

              She was a winner (her native Kansas contributed a lot!), sailed to Paris, was even interviewed by a newspaper there.  One article mentions that she had a further career:  singing Mimi in a production of "La Boheme" and the lead in the debut of Xenia...... so she must have had a great deal of talent and a beautiful voice!

              The information on Nan Maury Lightfoot who did the silhouette of the young Thomas Jefferson is still scanty at best outside of the fact that she married John B.Lightfoot of the Lightfoot family of Civil War fame and wrote the article on the Bloomfield plantation garden in a book "The Historic Gardens of Virginia."  She lived during the same period as Andrews.

              Back to Marietta:  the Revolutionary War Collection in U. of Virginia Archives lists silhouettes she did of various notables of that period:  the Washingtons, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.   Elizabeth isn't mentioned.   I wonder if she did Elizabeth Monroe as a special item for Jefferson's centennial?  Still a question there.  (I love the silhouette of Elizabeth...the tiny lorgnette is so perfect!). 
              Is it possible these 2 silhouettes were created just for and presented to the "Jefferson Memorial Girls", as they were called, when they made their Paris trip? 
             At least this gives a little something that could tie the two women together, even if indirectly...the common ground of the Jefferson fund-raising and pilgrimage?   Or with a common background in the arts, did their paths cross to the extent they became friends?  We don't know.
              The last entry that I found for Lenore was that she (and either her sister or mother) endowed music scholarships in Kansas State University.   She obviously stayed with her love of music throughout her life and was financially able to create a legacy at KSU!  Brava!

              What I finally found was two women in the past whom I would have loved to have known...both artists and both leaving a legacy of excellent work behind them.  I think there's more to both their stories, so I'll keep looking.   I'm delighted that these two little "pieces of the past" found their way to me to cherish!  As a musician and a writer I can appreciate both of their accomplishments, so they couldn't have found a better home!     
             For now... to Lenore, who was a beautiful young and talented soprano who participated in a historical undertaking, and to Marietta, who devoted her extensive artistic talents to so many areas and obviously participated somehow in this same undertaking... a  warm thank you from me....almost 100 years later!

            PS:  The appraiser at the Roadshow didn't even look at the short provenance that I'd written out for him, but he appraised these two charmers quite nicely...enough to make me smile!! 

            And that's good enough!!  

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Interesting Time at the Antiques Roadshow

        The Antiques Roadshow people have their system down pat!  Our tickets were for the 9 AM group.  Parking was close by and after watching other folks unload their cars and truck things inside, I was very grateful we had chosen to take what we did!  There was a bit of everything..from a massive hand-painted wardrobe (I guess that's what it was!) that was "parked" along one wall to papers tucked into huge portfolios.  Made me grateful for my tiny Victorian pins...much easier to handle! 
        The huge auditorium area was roped off into hourly segments which was set up so that you "snaked" up and back through the aisles. What was left of the 8 AM group was moving quickly through their area.  By the 9AM hour we were all "upgraded" right in behind the last of the "8'ers".
        Les and I had both brought small folding stools so that we could wait in semi-comfort, but our group of hundred's moved quickly enough that we never had a chance to sit!  After a couple of ticket checks we were finally to the tables where we could "declare" what we brought.  These ladies handed us bookmark-sized tags, Les had the lithographs tag with a folk art tag for the silhouettes; I got books and jewelry tags.

       Then we had arrived!   In the next room the appraisal tables were curtained around the perimeter.  Occasional openings in the curtains dictated the entry points.  Once through the door we were shown which line to get into again.  We were sent in opposite directions; I had to go around to the opposite side.  I passed the jewelry line which was incredibly long and opted for the book one instead.  A lot had to do with what you brought.  The "opening" I was in had 3 taped off lines: dolls, books, music.  The dolls line only had about 4 people come through the entire time I was waiting.  The music line had about twice that; both lines moved very quickly.  The book line evidently was a popular one! 
        After another long wait, I handed my book to the appraiser who was a bit distracted by what was going on next to us with an old collection.  I'd been told that my book belonged to a lady whose sisters had been the models for some of Harrison Fisher's work.  She had written their names next to the pictures here and there.  He was not impressed.  He looked at a few inscriptions, shrugged, handed the book back to me saying that it would be impossible to determine whether this was true or not, that any relevance was lost in history and could never be known.  My interview and valuation took less than two minutes.  

        Les got his 2 appraisals in less time than I was able to get my one!   He had gotten further information on his lithographs and the appraiser was quite outspoken on how beautiful they were (that was delightful!)  The valuation wasn't earthshaking but nice.

         As for the silhouettes...I think I'll save that story for the next blog!

        With people milling everywhere, I told Les that the jewelry line was horribly long and that I really didn't want to wait.  Each of the pieces is signed, so I think I'll just continue to research them on my own when my curiosity builds up again!  We took our little treasures and scooted out since the 10 AM group was already coming in .
        As we walked back to the parking garage, new people were carrying and hauling their treasures toward the doors.  It was interesting to see so many different items...many Native American things of course, lots of framed items from prints to manuscripts, lots of furniture being balanced delicately on everything from makeshift dollies to heavy furniture moving equipment.  Some things were being kept under wraps by their owners by choice, I'm sure.

         I felt that the Roadshow had the organizational part down to a fine science (according to one blue-shirted assistant it's much better than it was years ago when everyone showed up at once and you simply waited all day and hoped you got in).  Now, with the tickets giving a designated time, they can work with a given number more efficiently.  I was told (and I have no idea if this is accurate) that they give out 3,000 tickets per show; that translates to 500 people and 1,000 items per hour. 
        I'm quite sure that they have developed the ability to make most appraisals very short...simply because they are looking for the more unique items to build a show around...and if they don't make them short, the lines will simply get longer, frustrating for everyone.  

        The most amazing part of the Roadshow, however, didn't happen until we saw the 10 PM News that night.

         It  seems that until Saturday the highest appraised item in Roadshow history had been $1 million.  Last Saturday the Tulsa show broke the record...a group of Chinese cups carved from rhinoceros horn was appraised for $1.5 million!!  The Tulsa show won't air until sometime early next year but until then we'll be wondering if "Gee!   Wonder if that was the fellow next to us in line?"

         It sure made the Tulsa show a spectacular success!

Friday, July 22, 2011

We Get to Go to the Antiques Roadshow!!

     Saturday, July 23, we are going to the Antiques Roadshow in Tulsa.  We each can take two items...we're taking the Boucher lithographs, "A Dream of Fair Women" by Harrison Fisher, a set of silhouettes that were a gift from an artist/poet to a young singer and are inscribed on the back, plus some Victorian jewelry.
     For the moment I'm posting some pictures of the Boucher's for reference.  Can hardly wait to tell you what we find out!  What an adventure!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Emma - A Name That Says Romance!

          I had an order about a week ago from another country to purchase two vintage rhinestone pieces.  The girl's name was Emma and she wanted to wear them for her wedding.  They were definitely beautiful and I was delighted that these delicate beauties from the past would have a chance to become a part of a new tradition!
          In our correspondence she told me that she had chosen these to match her art deco styled engagement ring and another part of her ensemble.  What a delightful find for her!  I was thrilled that I had them!   I sent the jewelry on its way with all my best wishes and asked her to let me know if they traveled to her safely.

          As I made up the package I had a another Emma in my who brought another romantic story to me.  

          A few years ago when I started doing replica porcelain dolls, I had a telephone call from a young man I didn't know.  I think I remember his name as Jason.   There had been a newspaper article about my dolls and he had gotten my number from that.  He asked me if I was familiar with the movie of Jane Austen's "Emma."  I wasn't.  He asked me if I could get a copy of it (the Gwyneth Paltrow version), watch it and then call him.  I did. 

          Jason told me that his girl friend was a great fan of this particular version and she wanted to rent it over and over to watch...and wanted him to watch it with her.  He would brush it off, saying that it was "girl stuff", that it simply wasn't his "thing."  
          Finally, when he decided to ask her to marry him, he had a moment of brilliance.  Jason rented the movie and watched the part where Mr. Knightley declares his love for Emma and proposes.  You must know the scene...magnificently filmed under the huge oak tree...just about as romantic a setting possible!
           Finally Jason decided he was ready.  He told his girl friend that he would "give in", would watch her "girl stuff" movie with her....just once.  She was delighted and got the movie for this landmark evening.   When it got to the scene under the live oak, Jason paused the movie, got down on one knee....and recited Mr. Knightley's speech in its entireity!  Just for her!
           In my books he rates as one of the most original and most romantic young men ever! 
           Fast forward now to where he contacted me.  Their first anniversary was coming up and when he saw the article, he decided that that would be the best first anniversary gift for her...a replica of Emma!  Is that not perfect???
           It was a race against the clock to get the doll done...the worst part was trying to find the right proportioned fabric for her shawl.  I made the bonnet NOT to be would have ruined the doll's hair anyway!   She really turned out beautifully with the regency styled dress, tiny satin slippers, the bonnet and the shawl.

           The anniversary was to be celebrated with a weekend at Grand Lake with some friends, so I met him in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Grove  (of all things) .  Jason brought a friend with him to take care of the doll on the drive back...a rather burly outdoors type.  The look on the friend's face was priceless when he was handed the large box with this delicate doll in it and was told to hold it "just like that" until they got back to the lake!!! 

           Jason called me later to tell me that she cried when he gave the Emma doll to her...I cried too.  He goes down in my history as one of the most innovative and caring young husbands ever!
           I regret one thing.  I was working so fast that I didn't take the time to get pictures of the Emma doll...of all the dolls I've made, it's the only doll I don't have a picture of to share.  I can share the story though...and I'm so glad the "new" Emma brought it back from my memory bank for me!
          From now on, I know I'll think of the name Emma as one of the most romantic names ever!

         Thank you, Emma...and thank you, Jason...I hope both your love stories will blossom forever!

Monday, July 11, 2011

One More Look at Jo Ellen's Treasures

        The past month has been unbelievable!  My ISP started a long awaited equipment upgrade right around Memorial Day that didn't end until just after the Fourth of July!!  For one long month my internet service was spasmodic at best...I never knew whether I'd be on-line, off-line, even cut off in mid project!
         I'm sure the engineers, the technical staff (and especially the ones who had to answer the phones and listen to frustrated customers) were doing their best, but for those of us who were always guessing, it was not the best of times!  All is well now though...and we are enjoying a much improved, faster service.   Since we live in a highly rural lake area this is a great improvement...let's hope that there won't have to be any more "improvements" any time soon!!!

         So, after a long hiatus, it's time for another peek at my friend Jo Ellen's treasures...this time some of the vignettes she has created with her finds.  All these pieces invite you to stop, linger, and enjoy treasures from her past, treasures she has found...all blended together with the hand of an artist who has an eye for the unique.
        One of her favorite nursery rhymes was Humpty Dumpty.  This collection winks at you happily from the shelf...look at the Humpty Dumpty handkerchief she uses as a doily!
        A baby dress, a beloved doll, one of her quilts and a wicker doll buggy share the fun with other collectibles.
        A miniature sewing machine, a bit of her quilting, and a jar that displays vintage thimbles.
         A darling child's cupboard with tiny dishes and a thought of school.
         Some of Jo Ellen's childhood clothing define a bit of hall wall space.

           A real antique collar box! 
         Complete with a "brand new" collar!
         A great cupboard with leaded glass top, cherished china, and a treasured doll.
         A gallon jug becomes a showcase.
          A rare find...a vintage seed display box with some of the seed packages still inside!
             My pictures didn't turn out as well as I had hoped...the combination of indoor lighting and her well-shaded yard were a challenge for my camera.  My friend loves sharing all these pieces...some from her own childhood and some she's found and saved that tell stories of other's a fascinating walk through time...and a walk to be enjoyed time and time again!
             I certainly came home with lots of ideas to display some of my own treasures in better ways.  Thank you, my friend, for a fascinating trip!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Celebrate! It's Independence Day!

        Amid all the fireworks, parades, picnics, and other outdoor fun that we associate with our Fourth of July, it's good to look back at some of the patriots that worked so hard to get us here.  Two of my favorites, John  Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were diligent in their work to create the framework of our young country in a way that it would set a precedent for others. 

        When I was researching Abigail Adams before starting on a replica of her, I was astonished to read in her biography the letters that she exchanged with her husband.  He admired her intellect and was quite open in sharing with her the great depth of thought that went into every word and phrase that was used in the documents of our country.
        The founding fathers labored to frame each part of these documents so that they would stand behooves us to remind ourselves (and our children) of what they stood for and what they believed gave us the freedoms we enjoy today!  May we always protect these freedoms!  These words come from two of my "heroes:"

John Adams:

                   But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

                  Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.

                  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

                  The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.

Thomas Jefferson:

                  The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
                   It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.  A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
                   I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

                  To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

      Let's take some time to reflect on the words of those who well understood the pitfalls on the road ahead.  Their words ring as true today as they did over 200 years ago.

      Let's take some time also to thank and say a prayer for all those in the military who put their lives on the line each day, who also believe in those words, and stand tall...for all of us! 

                                                              GOD BLESS AMERICA!