Monday, September 28, 2015

Miniature Portrait Mystery

I had a trip to Denver last month and had a little too much fun there with the shopping. We checked out their Goodwill Outlet stores which put our Omaha store to shame! In case you don't know, they sell stuff by the pound and it's like a giant treasure hunt! Or a disgusting mess, depending on your thrifting level. I spent $30 and got an antique quilt, a pouf (which I looked up on wayfair and it was $125), a combined 30 pieces of clothing for me and the little one, a couple pairs of shoes, misc. toys I got talked into and some other random stuff. It's a good thing I don't live near those suckers or I would be a level 10 hoarder in about 2 months!

l have most of my treasures boxed up yet because I'm still working on the plaster etc. on the walls so why pull it out to get dirty (my excuse *cough* hoarding?) I did pull these out of my stash because they fascinate me. It was the last sale before lunch and these were just sitting on the table. This was the first to catch my eye.

At first I thought it might be a good gift for my brother but nah, the style is what would you guess? 1850's?? English?? a little pre-Victorian era so it would be a little too "old fashioned" for his house. (I know he's reading this right now going "whatever") I then noticed the glass was hand beveled and also the metal on the frame was all hand cut.

I examined the what I thought (and probably what the estate people thought - since you see the $2 price tag) was a print only to discover it is a painting! Perhaps a very old painting?? (I have a minor in art history so I only know enough to get myself in trouble) I can see she is on velum but I'm not going to take it apart and disrupt it.

The artist signature looks to be D.J. She's only about 3" tall but the detail is incredible! These photos just don't do her justice and I personally think she should be in a museum somewhere but I know next to nothing about miniature portraits and she seems pretty happy at my house...

This gal was $4 so maybe they could tell she was hand painted? as she's not as detailed and looks to have been in a fire (or maybe just was sitting above my fireplace for 50 years, ha!) She also is in a celluloid frame so maybe is newer? or perhaps the frame was added later as the painting almost looks like it has been trimmed, perhaps something in hopes of minimizing the fire damage??

She seems to be painted on something solid ivory? celluloid? so not as fragile as her friend. I am tempted to free her from her 1950's velveteen job and it also looks like she might pop out if I remove the metal trim but need I say "half finished project" again? Her signature is also hard to make out (I guess I should get a closer shot of it) and it looks like part of it has been trimmed away to add to the illegible-ness of it.

I think my mom and I are fighting over these still but you can see they are at my house. I do love a good mystery item! I enjoy looking at these ladies, wondering about their history and imagining them sitting in a fancy parlor somewhere long ago! I was reading a little into the history of miniature portraits and it's very interesting. In this era of having a cell phone full of photos, I never thought about what one did if they wanted an easily portable picture of a loved one pre-photography. If anyone has anymore information or good reads about these let me know!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ongoing Projects: Bookcase and Fireplace

With the temperature cooling down a bit outside, I have added to my list of busywork. My ongoing weed battle has returned and hopefully will be ending for the season soon! After everyone else is in bed I can also escape to the garage and work on this project:

Yes, this is the bookcase which I had in my dining room.

A normal person would have just put it back in after finishing painting and then worried about it after the rest of the house was under control in the project department. I guess I felt I needed a 57th item to add to my daily schedule last spring. Off course it got to be 110 degrees before I finished so it has just been sitting in the middle of the garage for 6 months. It's ok though because I find stripping paint with a heat gun at 11 o'clock at night rather therapeutic.

Another thing I've been working on is cleaning out 100 years of crud from the fireplace.
This is what we've had in the fireplace for 5+ years.

Yep, the first thing you see when you walk in the door. A spray painted, squished gas insert which is way too small for the fireplace opening. This, and the gross carpet on the stairs. But I won't add another half finished project to my list yet so just this, a weird looking fireplace insert.

And here is the actual size of the unit without all of the extra metal framing they added to make it "fit".

I am now left with:
At first glance, I thought they had painted the inside of the fireplace but once we finished pulling out the gas insert I could tell it was just gross fire crud. I looked online to see if vinegar would clean a fireplace and sure enough, Apartment Therapy had that suggestion. About a 50/50 water, vinegar mix. They also mentioned not using it on an old fireplace due to the acidity but wouldn't any official fireplace cleaner be harsher? Maybe if I was cleaning it out every week? But I have a delightfully tacky, log shaped electric heater to sit in here so I don't plan on really scrubbing it again. I used the vinegar on the bottom stones to the left in the photo and you can see they cleaned up nicely (they were the same as the right side). Of course, the gunk on the right side barely budged when I used my vinegar concoction so I'll have to test something a little stronger on it.

It was nice they ran the gas line through the ash trap door and tucked the original cast iron trap door and frame behind the insert so we just popped them back in place. I figured there was going to be a giant hole of some kind under the insert we were going to have to patch. The porcelain log is sitting on the trap door as it pops open if you put pressure on one side or the other. Convenient if you're sweeping away ash, not convenient with a curious cat and hyperactive 3-year-old. My dad was concerned about the cat. I was more concerned about fishing out a Thomas or favorite race car from amongst 100 years of ash/dead whatever in that hole in the basement. Yuck!