Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shelf Life

by Daddy X

Oh boy! Here’s where I get to show an aspect of my life in the non-literary arts. In fact, this post is pretty much how writing occupied my life before the filth. Momma and I used to design, cut-and paste (scissors and glue) my promotional materials and exhibit catalogs. I also did free-lance attributions, authentications and descriptive copy for auction houses.

Regarding this topic, the virtues of a minimalist lifestyle have been extoled. Although that’s good and fine for some individuals, there are others to whom objet d’art occupy a more important position. 

Consider living with: 

          A fragment from a Roman marble statue. 

  1st century b.c. -2nd century a.d.
   H: 5 inches

Turn this around, and there’s no doubt as to gender. A fragment yes, but what remains attests to the quality of the original piece, although we’ll never know if this gal ever looked any better than she does right now. Not a Canova tush, not a Katherine-Zeta-Jones tush, but a fine tush just the same.

Ex- David Hendin, private collection. Mr. Hendin, a noted Levantine scholar, has published numerous references on biblical numismatics. This piece occupied a spot in his private office for many years.


A socketed bronze fitting from a Roman chariot or cart.  
3rd – 4th century a.d. 
H: 6 inches
 Ex. Richard Pearlman

Finely cast bust of a youth. Curved water bird necks form hooks for reins or tie-downs. Very little wear.

Below that, a small Southern Arabian banded alabaster head. 
100 b.c. -100 a.d.   
H: 2 inches. 

Momma X kept this on her desk for years as production manager in a publishing house. Note how the artist used qualities of the stone when considering how to carve this piece. Like war paint.

A Roman double unguentarium. 
1st century b.c. – 1st century a.d.
H: 5 inches

Swirled, light green glass, 2-reservoir vessel with contrasting dark blue handles and trailing. Such a pretty presence, most likely used to store and display cosmetics for a woman of very high rank. Absolutley perfect, no chips. This is the stunning iridescence that inspired Tiffany and later modern glass masters.

Ex- Merv Griffin collection

I had the opportunity to appraise the Griffin ancient glass collection. IMO this was the most attractive piece he owned. Nice to have first glance at it when it came to market. I knew I wanted it, and bid successfully at auction.

A Hawaiian Poi Pounder.  Red volcanic rock. Island of Kauai, Pre-European contact.
H: 5 inches

Pacific Islanders gleaned their carbohydrates from the starchy poi root. But Kauai is the only island in the Hawaiian chain that uses the ‘ring’ type poi pounder. In fact, this graceful example is in red tufa, from the little island’s northern end, where this type of rock is found. Quite rare.

Ex: Juaquina’s Antiques, Kauai. Purchased from a field worker in the 1970’s

Found Art:

Pleasing objects are all around us, and often may be picked up free of charge.

Mother and child?
H: 5 ½ inches


Found while walking in the woods in Northern California.

A friend has a 16th century, life-size Madonna and child in his home. The features on both heads have been worn from five centuries of worshipers’ caresses and look pretty much like this. I think I’ll give it to him some day.  


                                     Momma X spotted this along the same path.             

                                     What an eye!
                                     H: 4 ½ inches

Years ago I took this dynamic object to the guy who mounts my art on stands. He gave me a funny look. When I got his bill, it simply said ‘mount stick’.  It’s more than just a stick to me.
H: 15 inches

                                                                “Salute to the Sun”
                                                          Karl Tutter   c. 1930 Germany
                                                                       H: 9 inches

Most Tutter porcelains wind up painted under the glaze. But I’m sure glad they left this one white. 
Rare as such.

A jade hair ornament.
China c. 3500 b.c.
H: 5 inches

Purchased within 20 meters of the China/Burma (Myanmar) border. The shop owner tried to explain that it was a ‘scoop for measuring grain’. Not only was this carved from one piece of premium jade; it’s also hollow straight through, with holes drilled near the base. Not very useful as a measuring device, I surmised.

There are pictures depicting ancient Chinese royalty wearing these on the top of their heads, hair hanging over like palm fronds. Under the hairdo, a tube like this held the coif in place with what probably resembled a chopstick, stuck through holes drilled in the sides.

Far eastern art was never my most confident area of expertise, but I do know how to field-test for jade. The price the shopkeeper quoted just about covered the price of the gorgeous stone. 

Soon after arriving back in the states, I took the piece to several experts. It’s real! An auction house wanted to estimate this gem at many multiples of what I paid. But for the amount spent, even I can afford to keep it.

Also met up with Lisabet and her husband on that Asian trip. Double good fortune.


A Costa Rican Gold Earring c. 600-900 a.d.
Ex. Denver Art Museum
W: 2 ½ inches

Collectors often see these described as nose rings. Not so.
Yes, that’s my pink hand holding it.


                                                                  Coca de Mer
                             Seed casing from a palm that grows only in the Seychelle Islands
                                                                  H: 13 inches

 When the early Japanese found these washed up on beaches, they were considered sacred. This example has been smoothed and polished. I’ve always wanted one in its natural state with a tangle of thin vines… you got it. Right in there.

Questions anyone?

 Happy New Year from the X household to yours.


  1. this is fascinating, Daddy X. happy year to you & Momma X!

  2. So beautiful! I can't think of a better reason for shelves, even if they have to be dusted. Come to think of it, I have some beautiful things on the tops of bookcases and desks,rather than on shelves, like a carved Inuit soapstone bear and many types of glassblower Josh Simpson's "exoplanets" that are especially striking lit from beneath. And many types of handmade pottery on the shelves of my kitchen cupboards. I just didn't have the imagination to think outside the box (or the books) the way you did, Daddy X.

  3. Wow! Another fabulous twist on the topic, and great photos, too.

    We dumped most of our objets d'art when we moved to Asia. The only thing I kept was art by my (very talented) family members. I never had any items as nice as these, however.

    Oh, and about the Coca de Mer - my husband told me about these. He visited the Seychelles once on a trip around the world and found the Seychelles exquisite and exquisitely boring. Anyway, apparently these trees are locally known as "ass palms".

  4. Wow, so beautiful! Being originally from Hawaii, I am particularly gratified to see the poi pounder.

  5. I love the photos and the commentary, Daddy X. Good catch about the Chinese jade hair ornament. Each of these is definitely a collector's item (as distinct from garage-sale junk, but treasures show up even there).

  6. Happy New Year, Amanda et al!

    Sacchi- Some of those inuit pieces can be collectible. See if it's signed. I'm also a fan of glass from all time periods.

    Lisabet- I once bought and sold an 'ass palm' (never heard that cool bit of info) that in the 19th century had been made into a box with a hinged lid. I really like the feminine form of these.

    Hi Annabeth- Which Island? Our faves are the Big Island and Kauai. Every five years Momma X and I try to celebrate our wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Planning Feb. 2015 for our 50th.

    Yes, Jean- Momma's gotta distract me when I drive past a dumpster, let alone a garage sale. She's a patient woman. To a point.

  7. I'm from Oahu and have family on Maui as well. Kauai and the Big Island are gorgeous, though, so I completely understand. And that's an awesome tradition you have going about the wedding anniversary. How did that get started?

  8. Haven't spent any time on Oahu, except for flying in and out. Thought Maui was too fabricated, but do love the variety of the Big Island and the tightness of Kauai. I think we were on the big Island not long after our 15th anniversary, and decided to make it a tradition. We got married right between Christmas and New Year, and we usually go to Hawaii in late February or March after to take advantage of somewhat reduced rates.

  9. It sounds like a great tradition! I hope you enjoy your next trip there!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.