Author Archives: Gwendolyn L. Smith

Aubusson Tapestries: Weaving a Story at Skinner’s October European Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction

There was a time when courtly life unfolded ceremoniously in rooms adorned with vibrant, grand and lavish tapestries, displayed as large woven murals often depicting scenes conjured from dramatic paintings, particularly mythological and battle scenes. Such tapestries served both as a function to help insulate a room, but most importantly, provided a very powerful political statement of the noble classes.

Historically speaking, tapestries held significant value for centuries.… Read More

Exceptional Carrara Marble Stations of the Cross Plaques


At over four feet in height each, the Fourteen Carrara Marble Stations of the Cross Plaques (Lot 589) to be auctioned in Skinner’s European Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction on July 14th, make a commanding statement as an ensemble. Heavily carved, the marbles are realistically modeled in high relief, depicting the series of events on the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, each inscribed with station number to the projecting base.… Read More

Gilded Age Showpieces: Herter Brothers Furniture in April 7th European Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction


On a recent snow-globe March day in Portland, Maine, I was delighted to have Curator Arlene Palmer Schwind take me through the Morse-Libby owned Victoria Mansion, designed with handsome Herter Brothers furniture and decorative arts collections. The whole tour experience was happily teetering on the realm of gustatory – a confectionary concoction of forms, finishes, and textures that you could almost taste.

Italianate-style Victoria Mansion was built by Henry Austin for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse (1814-1893) and his wife Olive (1820-1903) as a summer retreat from their New Orleans home.… Read More

Porcelain Passion: The Refined Botanicals of Flora Danica

There are a robust 35 lots of Flora Danica porcelain tableware items (from a coffee service to egg cups, butter pats and plates of all sizes, platters, tureens and more) in Skinner’s European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction on October 7. For those who seek out Flora Danica’s beautifully rendered botanical specimens that are the “trademark” of the service, there will be something for everyone in this upcoming sale, and a perfect time to add to or start a collection.… Read More

Music and Marquetry: A Late Victorian Steinway Piano Designed by Cottier & Co.

On July 15th, Skinner will offer an elegant late 19th century Steinway Marquetry Model B piano as Lot 512 in their European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction. The history of the origins of Steinway & Sons is now legendary. The kitchen of Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg’s home in Seesen, Harz, Germany, served as laboratory and workshop for the first handcrafted piano under his name, which debuted in 1836. Fourteen years and well over four-hundred “Steinweg” pianos later, the Steinweg family immigrated to America.… Read More

The Rare Flintlock Alarm Candle Clock

Those who have ever been slaves to the “snooze” button on cell phones or alarm clocks in the morning, will want to take a closer look at the Flintlock Alarm Candle Clock, one of 750 lots offered in Skinner’s European Furniture & Decorative arts auction on July 15, 2016 in Marlborough, MA. I am going to venture that when this clock was made, c. 1745, the mechanism likely functioned in such a way that the idea of a “snooze” button would not be necessary.… Read More

School of Rock, Lesson Number One: Malachite, Marble, and Stone Are Making it Big in the Design World

Skinner’s April 8th European Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction Offers Hard Rock Highlights to Take Home

Hold on to your legwarmers! Time to get out the rugby shirts, oversized sweaters, and gold jewelry – in case you haven’t  noticed, the fashion designs of the last few years are all trending toward the color-centric hairspray-induced 1980s, and these tokens of pop culture are influencing the interior design world as well.… Read More

Captivating KPM Porcelain Plaques at Skinner’s European Decorative Arts Auction January 9

There are ten exceptional KPM porcelain plaques in Skinner’s upcoming European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction on January 9, 2016. The story of KPM porcelain is a fascinating one that reaches deep into the 18th century, and is still relevant today.

When Frederick the Great purchased the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin (Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur) in 1763, he commenced his mission to vastly improve the quality of porcelain wares made. … Read More

Killarney Ware, Fashionable Tourist Treasures of Victorian Ireland
Victorian Irish Marquetry Inlaid Games Table (Lot 630, Estimate $800-1,200)

The rugged terrain of Killarney, Ireland, much like its American topographical cousins such as the Catskill Mountains and White Mountains, became a fascination for early well-to-do Victorians looking for a travel respite in the country.  The idea of tourism to Ireland’s stately homes and ghostly abbeys was soon entered into as a pastime for those that could enjoy leisure travel.  Around this time in the 1830s to mid-nineteenth century, tables, trinkets, boxes, and other souvenirs all became fashionable tourist items to take home, perhaps even as a reward of sorts to those who could navigate the steep green climbs of the West coast of Ireland. … Read More

The design history of Coe Hall, a Long Island great country house
Late George III Needlepoint Settee, England, 19th century, with later components, (LOT 526, $800-1,200)

On Saturday, October 3rd, a symposium entitled “Gilding the Coasts: Art and Design of Long Island’s Greatest Estates” will be held at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York, a Smithsonian affiliate, to explore the artful design and preservation of Long Island’s greatest country houses. This event is in conjunction with an exhibition by the same name at the museum.  These country houses numbered over 1,000 about 100 years ago with now only a few surviving today.… Read More

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