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Author Topic:   witches' brew?
swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 06:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[19-0727]

Head of eagle, tail of fish, feet of lion. What am I?

This creamer is undoubtedly American, probably from the second quarter of the 19th Century.* Unfortunately, it is unsigned. As it was probably a part of a larger set, other pieces may still be around, one or more of which might be signed. It is probably also not one of a kind. Has anyone seen one like this?

Unicorns, centaurs, and other chimeras such as this have existed since fanciful beasts began appearing in the earliest bestiaries, written and drawn by authors who had never seen the exotic animals described to them. They persist in heraldry, so perhaps it is not surprising that they appear in silver as well.

One wonders if this improbable combination is a deliberate association of features or a random assortment of design elements?

---------------------
*N.B. After reviewing dated examples of Empire styles. this could be from the first quarter of the Century as well.

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vathek

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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For some reason Anthony Rasch comes to mind.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You may be thinking of his widely illustrated snake-handled sauce boats, but you might be right.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't make it out too clearly, but I don't think that is actually a fish tail. There is a stylized plant form -- a wavy leaf and a callalily-like stamen that can be straight, curved or re-curved depending on its use -- that goes back to late roman architectural decoration. It is one of the forms revived by Adams et all in the late 18th century.

All that said, it's still one whacky bird

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 08:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, the revealing lens.

You may be right about the tail - it does not look like a fish, but the head looks like it has a wattle above the bill - which would make it a turkey - and the paws have cat-like claws, but have feathers (facing the wrong way) on the legs! There is no such thing as accuracy here. It is all fanciful.

Remember, though, Ben Franklin advocated the turkey for the national symbol, but eagles were popular symbols in the new Republic. so which is it? Maybe neither, or the mold maker/designer didn't know one from the other.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Or he shared the same weekness as his fellow tradesman, the printer -- long beer all day long. I've seen some strange things lurking over the composing stone. . .

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-12-2006 10:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, whichever it is, it'll never fly. Right now that beer sounds good!

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-14-2006 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More wee beasties:

These are on top of handles (photos rotated 90 degrees). At a distance, they look the same, but close-up they are quite different. The left example (from Shepherd & Boyd of Albany) represents a lion; the right one (from John McMullin of Philadelphia) is anybody's guess; although I suspect that it may have been intended to convey the same impression, the lion's ear has become an eye!

Surprisingly, the lion's heads (there are three on two pieces) have quite a bit of handwork - only the ears, eyes and mouth are cast; the whiskers, eyebrows, hair and mane are all engraved, and each of the three show differences in these features, and right and left sides are not symmetrical. The McMullin
example is single, so it cannot be determined how much handwork there is, if any.

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salmoned

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iconnumber posted 10-14-2006 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for salmoned     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To my eye all the castings on the original object look like plant motifs for which one can project animal-like forms. Such projections are not intrinsic to the object, but rather thrust upon the object by the viewer. An amusing 'trick' by the maker.

[This message has been edited by salmoned (edited 10-14-2006).]

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vathek

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iconnumber posted 10-14-2006 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
the 'feathers' on the feet look more like acanthus leaves to me.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-14-2006 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I guess truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

The finial on akgdc's Lownes teapot certainly is floral, but I don't know about the dragon's head.


[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 10-14-2006).]

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-15-2006 10:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are two dolphins - one a fish and one a mammal. The mammal is a porpoise like animal - actually a small toothed whale - while the fish is properly the Dolphin-fish (to fishermen AKA the Dorado, or to the restaurant trade, Mahi-Mahi). The dolphin has been a classic figure at least since Greek and Roman times, and has been used as a decorative device since then, but the two forms have been confused and even combined.

The left figure is Fletcher & Gardner's rendition, which combines the head of a mammal with the body of a fish (and not even the Dolphin-fish) as a finial. The right one is a copy of a photograph of Shepherd & Boyd's version -- it is more impressionistic, but at least it has gills - and yet it has been referred to as a dolphin.

Does anyone else have any others to contribute?

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