Signed Etching by Paul-Edme LeRat (1849-92)

On my recent travels in Maine, I acquired a signed etching at the Cabot Mills Antiques in Brunswick, ME. The store titled it "Tambourine Girl" and stated that it was signed by P.L. Pat. After a careful study of the signature, I decided that it was P. Le Rat and when I looked up this name online, I soon discovered that what I actually had was an etching by Paul-Edme LeRat, a French etcher noted for his interpretations of other artists paintings into etchings and engravings which were often used for book illustrations. Paul LeRat was born in Paris in 1849 and died still in Paris in 1892. He studied under Lecoq de Boisbaldran and L. Gaucherel and first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1869. Today many museums and libraries include his works in their catalogs.

When I acquired the print it was already framed and it appeared that there might be some issues around condition. I took it to my framer and when we unframed it, we found that there were a number of problems. The etching had been glued to a backing board and a framing mat had also been glued on top. While the result is not perfect, re framed it looks very good and will hang with honour in our collection. I might note that when we removed the framing mat, we found that the etching was numbered "197". I did not get an opportunity to photograph the print while it was out of its frame but I have done my best to show the result. In the lower right hand corner, there is a small soldier like figure standing in front of a bench and there is also some printing at the base of the gypsy figure. I could not read this on the print itself, but it shows up well on enlargement and confirms that Paul LeRat was the etcher. I can only assume that the other name (L. LePorr ?) refers to the original artist who drew or painted the gypsy depicted, but I cannot find that name online. I would be very grateful if someone could identify who is being referred to here.

I would describe the print as depicting a gypsy woman holding a tambourine. The tones are soft, almost as if it were drawn in charcoal.




A long time ago, I spent five and a half years in India, as a student in Delhi and then as a volunteer in Kolkata (Calcutta). I love India with a passion, and ever since Betty Lynn started her interest in the frame drum, I have kept my eyes open for examples of Indian frame drumming. In northern India, the frame drum is known as the Dafli and there are many artistic representations of singers and dancers playing on such a frame drum. My favourite god, Ganesha, is often depicted with the Dafli in hand. So, on my recent travels through Maine, I was delighted to find a hand-illuminated page from a book written in Arabic script in the York Antiques Gallery, York, ME. I am not sure if the page is from Persia or India or if the text is written in Arabic or Urdu, but it clearly shows a man playing a Dafli while a woman dances and another man appears to be singing. In the background a king or prince is receiving his guest on a carpet, while a servant offers refreshments. You will notice that the musician holds the drum high on his chest above his heart. This is how the Dafli is often played in India. If anyone can tell me more about this page and what it represents, I would be delighted to hear from you.



Transferware (updated)

Betty Lynn and I have just returned from a trip which gave me the opportunity to explore for antiques along U.S. Route 1 in Maine from York to Nobleboro. I made a number of acquisitions on this trip which I intend to share with you in the weeks to come, but for today, I am going to focus on a spectacular find from the Nobleboro Antique Exchange.

It was here that I found a Victoria Carlsbad Austria centrepiece which stands about 14 inches tall. It features a transfer design which I had already had on two other pieces in our collection. One a six inch tall vase with the same decorative pattern and colours around the transfer, and the other, a unique charger plate. Why unique? An artist took two stock classical motif transfers, the design I had on the first two items, and another transfer design, and integrated them together on the charger with a freehand painted landscape. 

The centrepiece from Nobleboro is a great addition to our collection. Although I am no expert, I would describe the urn shape as Chinese inspired although the transfer on it is of a Classical Greek motif and the ornamentation in forest green, red, and gold would appear to be popular in the late 19th century. Yet somehow, the effect is one of symetry. The smaller vase is painted in the same style with the same transfer as the centrepiece, but, as you can see, the vase itself is completely different. The charger plate is strikingly simple in contrast.



Update: December 29th, 2013. While wandering around the house looking again at our collection, I suddenly realized that we had yet another charger painted in the same style as our centrepiece in forest green and gold. It too is from the "Victoria" works in Austria. See the illustrations below.


Not to Mention German Bisque Pairs

I have been bidding my time before tackling the question of 19th century German bisque figures. There are so many of them! Almost every antique shop or mall will offer a few good examples, many of them in pairs, and a surprising number of these holding a frame drum! In the past couple of years, we have collected a fair number, some in pairs, but occasionally a single figure. They are usually painted in soft pastels and some are very richly decorated.

I usually think of pre-World War I Germans as stern followers of Bismark, but these figures clearly appeal to the romantic side. They are so very sentimental! Pink and baby blue are favourite colours, even for some of the male figures.

The pair I would like to feature today has an interesting back story. I found them in a small shop called Acorn Farm Country Store on a rural property outside of Carmel, IN last October. They stand 15 inches tall, making them the tallest pair in our collection. When I found them, they carried a tag which read; "Bisque Boy and Girl / Wonderful Painting / Number on Base H.15 Circa 1890 (Price is for Girl ---- Boy is damaged and included at no cost)" When I read the price, I gulped as it was well over my usual spending limit for Bisque, but then it was the undamaged girl who was holding the frame drum! Here was a situation where where I would have to bargain. Thankfully it was a small shop and I was soon speaking to the proprietor. 

I began my appeal by complimenting her on her shop and her collection. Getting down to the figure I was interested in, I remarked that while the price she was asking would seem appropriate if  the pair was in good condition,  the boy had been repaired, and bisque figures were at their most valuable when one had a matched pair without damage or repair. After hearing me out, she asked how much I would be prepared to offer. Thinking fast, I came up with a figure which I hoped would be acceptable. I offered her roughly 2/3rds of her asking price. She hesitated and then said that she would have to consult her notes. She brought out a binder which clearly must have recorded the prices she had paid, scribbled out something,  and looked up. I was expecting her to make a counter-offer, but instead she said that she could accept my price. So I had them. By the way, I would read the mould number on the back of the boy as 5175 (not H. 15). The figure on the girl is too faint to read.  


Staffordshire Figurine?

With the flooding in High River in the news these days, I have been thinking back to our road trip to Saskatchewan and Alberta in September and October of last year and the frame drumming workshop we did there. The tour focused on Saskatoon SK, High River Alberta, and Lloydminster Alberta.

While Betty Lynn taught her introductory classes in frame drumming, I was off to explore the countryside. I did not find a significant frame drum artifact in High River, but I did find something of interest in an antique store called "Sentimental Journey Antiques" which occupies a magnificent old storefront in Nanton, Alberta,  just down the highway south of High River.  What I found there  was a seven and a half inch figurine which the shop owner described as an "1800's Victorian Staffordshire Figurine." I was not sure if she was right, but the figure was attractive and the price was reasonable; and so the purchase was made.

Looking at other examples of early Victorian Staffordshire wares online, I can see the possibility that I may have purchased a genuine Staffordshire piece. This figure is clearly of earthenware and heavy in comparison to our pieces in porcelain or china. There are no markings on the base which is common for early Staffordshire and it is decorated on all sides which suggests that it is an early nineteenth century piece. In the latter part of that century only the front sides were usually painted. It is possible that this figure was originally part of a set of four, as I found two other examples of such sets with one of the figures representing Spring holding a tambourine. The choice of a frame drummer for Spring is most fitting: it is the season of resurrection and new birth through the Coming of the Spirit.

Again, if anyone has further insight on what we have here, I would really appreciate hearing from them. Thanks.


Wedgwood at Last!

For the last couple of years I have been straining my eyes trying to find an example of Wedgwood Jasperware depicting a frame drummer. Given that Jasperware is usually decorated with classical motifs, it seemed only natural to me that at least one of the figures depicted thereon would have a frame drum in hand. But such a figure never showed up. I was almost ready to give Wedgwood a pass in the antique malls and shops on the mistaken theory that old Josiah Wedgwood himself must have had a thing against frame drummers and had given strict orders to his heirs that no frame drum should ever be depicted on wares bearing his name! 

But then, last May, we stumbled upon a Mother's Day Plate for 1984 in the Ontario Antiques Mall in Farmingham NY. It was indeed a little blue Wedgwood Jasperware cabinet plate entitled "Cupids and Music" measuring 6 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Which shows that one should never give up!



Over the weekend, Betty Lynn attended a Drum Retreat with the Mark Street United Church Drummers at Five Oaks Centre near Paris ON. As the roadie, I did the driving, but once Betty Lynn was established I was off to explore the Guelph, Kitchener Waterloo and Cambridge areas. Guelph turned up nothing of interest, but at St. Jacobs ON I did find a new angel drummer for our collection in (appropriately) a shop called Angel Treasures on King St. N. There was also an extensive Antiques Mall in St. Jacobs, but I found nothing there, nor did I find anything in Kitchener Waterloo. My last destination for the day, was Cambridge ON, and there I struck gold! After a couple of shops left me disappointed, I came to a large mall called Southworks Antiques in the upper level of a restored factory complex. Here I found two figurines, the one a little Lefton China Angel, and the other a wonderful figure of a blind North African mendicant holding out his hand for alms while holding a large tar with jingles. You can imagine my delight when I had the cabinet opened and was able to read the mark on the base. I had indeed found "Mendicant" by Royal Doulton!

This Royal Doulton figure depicting a beggar entitled "Mendicant" H. N. 1365 was issued from 1929 to 1969 and depicts a turbaned figure sitting on a carpeted brick plinth holding out his hand for money while cradling his drum on his lap. The colours are particularly rich and the expression on the figure's face appears to be one of contentment and satisfaction.  

Looking further, I found that Mendicant was designed by Arthur "Leslie" Harradine (1887-1965) who was one of Royal Doulton's premier, and most prolific, figurine modellers from 1920 until the 1950s. I was particularly struck by the fact that there is a Canadian connection. Harradine emigrated to Canada and farmed with his brother from 1912 until 1916 when they both returned to England to do their part in the Great War. Leslie was injured and on recovery took up design work for Royal Doulton but not as an employee, preferring to do freelance work and thereby preserving his artistic independence. For forty years, Harradine provided a regular supply of new figures to Royal Doulton. In 1961 Harradine moved to Spain where he modelled local peasants in terra cotta for his own pleasure until his death in 1965.


How did this all begin?

The other day, I asked myself the question when did I actually begin to take this collecting thing seriously? I remembered that Betty Lynn had already gathered a few frame drumming figurines, but I had paid little attention to the whole business.

My beginning as a serious collector started when we were driving to Lake Junaluska NC in August, 2011 for a frame drum workshop to be led by Layne Redmond and Tommy Be. We had stopped for the night in Bristol, VA and while there decided to look around in an antique mall called "In the Attic Antiques and Uniques." While Betty Lynn was looking around the front of the store, I wandered into the back area where I found a young woman working on a cabinet stuffed full of little three and a half inch high Raggedy Ann and Andy figures playing with just about every toy and musical instrument you could imagine. Almost facetiously, I remarked: "Surely, there is one playing a tambourine." Almost immediately, the young lady pulled out a Raggedy Ann who was indeed pounding away on her frame drum! 


I might mention that I knew that Raggedy Ann had a special significance for Betty Lynn who still keeps the stuffed Raggedy Ann that comforted her and reminded her of home when she was a student in France many years before. So when I went off to show Betty Lynn my find, I started off by reminding her of her beloved Raggedy Ann. Imagine her surprise and delight to learn that I had actually found a figure that united her student past with her drumming present. It also told me that I could do no wrong, if I could just keep finding frame drummers in future. That's how it all started. 



Drumming for Joy

Yesterday, Betty Lynn attended the Ontario Womyn's (sic) Drum Camp Four Day Retreat at Camp Oconto near the town of Sharbot Lake to take part in a senior drum class offered by her friends Amy Oak and Barb Pitcher from Michigan. As roadie, my job was to get Betty Lynn to the camp gate and then return to pick her up, four hours later.

There I was, with nothing to do, but with a beautiful area of eastern Ontario to explore. So, I headed back towards Perth with the idea of trying to find some new antique shops. Just to the west of Perth on Highway 7, I stopped at a roadside shop called Antiques and Things. From the outside, it did not look promising, but once inside, I was impressed with the quantity and quality of the items for sale, including a good number of figurines. There was one cabinet of Hummel figures, but it was so situated that I could not get within four feet of it. Still, I carefully scanned each shelf from that distance in the hopes of spotting a frame drummer. Nothing. There were also three smaller objects lying on their sides on the shelf which I could not quite make out, but which I assumed were not Hummels. Could one of them be holding a drum?

I moved on, and might not have gone back to that case if I had not spotted, in another case, a figure that did indeed look as though it was holding a frame drum. That was good enough to get the proprietor to come over and open the cabinet.  That object was a disappointment, but since I had already had her over, I thought I might as well ask her about the objects in the Hummel case. When she opened that door, and lifted out the piece I was asking about, I was delighted to find that it had two little Hummel inspired figures on a German style Christmas tree candle holder, one of which was indeed banging away on her frame drum! The attached card stated that this was "Drumming for Joy," set One in the Berta Hummel "Sharing the Light of the Season, Heirloom Classics, Ornament Collection." 2002 Bradford Editions  87601.

I am surprised that I spotted it, given that the figures on the ornament are only two inches high, and the total ornament is just four inches. Not bad for these old eyes! My basic rule is to look at each figure with the question: "What are the hands doing?" Nothing else is of importance. 

"Drumming for Joy" is not a new Hummel figurine for us. Indeed, in April of this year, we found and purchased the larger original the BH 58 copyright Goebel 1998 Thailand at the Springfield Antique Center, in Springfield OH.

We had been on the lookout for a Hummel frame drum player ever since we found a "Made in Japan" figurine in 2011 which looked like it might have been modelled from a Hummel original. It is interesting to contrast the crude painting on this latter figure, with the "real" Hummel. 


Elsie Maynard

A favourite figurine in our collection is this limited edition 12.5 inch high Royal Doulton image (H.N. 2902) of Elsie Maynard, the wandering singer from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Yeomen of the Guard". It was designed by William K. Harper and was only issued between 1982 and 85. We found it in November 2012 at The Quinte Antiques and Consignment Centre in Belleville ON.

While one may have some questions about the character of Elsie as outlined in the libretto, she is usually depicted on stage with a frame drum in hand and so definitely belongs in our collection. The Royal Doulton Company issued an earlier version of Elsie Maynard (H.N.639). This mauve and pink figurine created by Charles J. Noke stands only 7 inches high and was issued from 1924 to 1949. We now keep an eye out for it whenever we go antiquing.


German or Bohemian Majolica Figure?

The Heritage Antique Center in Adamstown PA described this as a German Majolica Figure when we purchased it, in the summer of 2012. There is very little to go by. It does have a mould number 2542 over 41 and was decorated by an artist who is identified as 73, but beyond that there is no clue as to its origin. It stands some 16 inches (40 cm) high, and the bowl is 5 inches (15 cm) in diameter. By the costuming, colouring and the quality of the moulding and glazing, I thought it could have indeed originated in Germany. If you have any ideas or information, we would be delighted to hear from you.    

I have just (Sept. 24, 2013) received an e-mail which reads: "Hi. It not Germany, is Bohemia, a turn of centuries 19-20." This makes some good sense. Would anyone else care to weigh in with an opinion?


Majolica Centrepiece (Updated)

Having blogged about our only two Capodimonte pieces, I turn now to a Majolica style centrepiece fruit bowl which I found in the Stittsville ON Flea Market in the suburbs of Ottawa ON in December of 2011. There are no markings on the base and so all I can say is that it is a somewhat crude large moulded bowl which has been hand painted. The design showing human figures playing musical instruments and dancing is similar on both sides and the ends have an attractive floral pattern. We purchased the centrepiece for our collection because there is a musician playing on her frame drum prominently displayed on each side. Clearly the style is Mediterranean, but is it from Italy, Spain, Portugal or Majorca? Does anyone know? Love to hear from you. Thanks.


Since posting the above entry, I was able to purchase a companion piece to this bowl. It is a little ceramic lidded box with figures and decorations which clearly indicate it must have been manufactured in the same area, if not the same atelier. I found the box in a mall called "Antiques USA" in Arundel, ME, in July of 2013. To my delight, it was marked on the bottom as having been manufactured in Italy which answers my earlier question of where the large bowl above was from.


Another Capodimonte!

Before moving on to other pieces in our collection, I thought I might show you a massive Capodimonte centrepiece bowl which we found last summer at the Cheshire Cat Gallery in Raleigh, NC. The same bowl on eBay is described as: "A stunning cherub or muses figural (sic) vintage Capodimonte centrepiece fruit bowl ... about 50 to 70 years old, signed on the bottom, all hand-painted." Of course, we did not purchase this bowl just because it was a Capodimonte, but because, front and centre, there is a figure with red hair playing on her frame drum.


I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this

The post immediately below took me an entire afternoon of frustrating trial and error. So, I was satisfied to just close it off there. Now I would like to try and add a bit more to my previous post.

Looking at the mark which shows up on the leg of the cherubim, one's first assumption is that this is a Capodimonte figurine manufactured at the royal factory in Naples established by King Charles the VII of Naples and Sicily, in 1743. Further investigation suggests that it was more likely manufactured in Florence. The version of the Capodimonte mark on my figurine, (5 points representing a crown, but not drawn as a crown), was used by the Ginori factory in Doccia, Florence between 1830 and 1890. Ginori represented their porcelain as Capodimonte but in fact it was not really from Naples.

And yet, even if it is not a true Capodimonte, I still am happy to include this impish little cherubim in our collection.



Playing with the Drum

One of the first drumming figurines I ever found was a delightful Capodimonte cherubim who chose to play with his drum, rather than on it. As a non-drummer, I could relate! I found it in the While Owl Antique Store on Mill Street, in Almonte, Ontario a few years ago and have always considered it one of my best finds.