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Welcome to our November 2010 Newsletter!

If you missed any of our previous newsletters or are having trouble viewing this page correctly, you can find a link to it on our website at our newsletter archives.

Please feel free to visit our website FindersFayre.com where you will find an array of furniture, accessories, and information about our interior design services. Read on! and email any questions, comments, or suggestions to Newsletter@findersfayre.com.

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News from the world of art and antiques

Carnival glass sold for record prices

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Highlighted by several one-of-a-kind pieces, as well as spittoons, plates, red and aqua opal, Seeck Auctions’ Oct. 2 sale was the largest grossing carnival glass auction in history, bringing a total of more than $677,000. This cracker jar sold for $67,500.

The collection featured the 40-year collection of Floyd and the late Cecil Whitley who founded the Texas Carnival Glass Collectors Club and were active members in several carnival glass clubs. They conducted many seminars on their love of collecting and their carnival glass collection. Cecil passed away a few months ago but her passion for tumblers is preserved in her book, “Enameled Carnival Glass Tumblers,” assuring that the legacy of her knowledge and love of carnival glass will not be forgotten.

Some of the rarest carnival glass tumblers will be sold with the rest of the Whitley tumbler collection at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011.

Oil painting on canvas, “Jules and Jazz” by Martha, signed lower right. Contemporary, size with frame: 40” wide x 50” tall.


Chinese Vase Sets New World Record
by Deidre Woollard, Luxist.com - Nov 12th 2010  

In a week that has seen quite a few huge sales in contemporary art, an 18th century Chinese porcelain vase managed to still stun the world. The vase, which was discovered when a house was cleared out was sold for £43 million ($69.3 million) at Bainbridges Auctions (£53.1m after commission which pushes the total to over $85 million). The vase was only estimated to sell for £1.2 million but fierce bidding among Chinese would-be buyers drove up the price. The vase sold to a Chinese bidder who turned up to bid on behalf of an undisclosed buyer.

Bainbridges, the auction house in the London suburb of Ruislip, knew they had something special on their hands but no one expected the piece to sell for quite this much money. It is believed to be the most expensive piece of Chinese art ever sold. In a blog post before the auction, Bainbridges said that the vase was "what must be one of the most important Chinese vases to be offered for sale this century."

They speculated that the delicate vase with the fish motif would have spent time in the Chinese Royal Palace and was likely fired in the Imperial kilns. One of the things that makes this vase so amazing is that it has a reticulated double walled construction. There is an inner vase that can be viewed through the perforations of the main body. It is of the Qianlong period, circa 1740s and decorated with four cartouches each showcasing different styles of fish at play on stylized water backgrounds. It has a delicately painted yellow trumpet neck and vase set off from the central decoration by orange bands.

The Care and Feeding of Antiques

                  Oil Paintings

Dexter S. Augier by Dexter S. Augier

And you thought all it took was a hammer and nail . . .

Whether your art is antique or modern ~~ whether its value is decorative, sentimental, or financially important ~~ what follows is some basic information to help you enjoy it…and take care of it.

With this many important facts, I need an outline to organize my thoughts…

I. The Parts of a Painting
II. Handling and Hanging
III. Maintenance & Housekeeping
IV. Danger Signs & What to Do
V. Conservation (Repairs)

I. The Parts

Traditional paintings are constructed, from back to front, of:

  1. The SupportThe Support, which is usually canvas or a wooden panel. Canvas supports are stretched over a wood stretcher frame with “keys” in the corners to adjust the tension of the canvas. This prevents bulges, creases, or wrinkles from marring the paint surface. (See Danger Signs below)

  2. The Ground, also called sizing, is applied to the canvas or wood panel to provide a smooth painting surface, and to hinder the oils in the paint from absorbing into the fabric or wood.

  3. The Paint, the object of all this, is applied by the artist onto the ground. It can be very thin, with no texture, it can be thick, from multiple brushed layers or even thicker if the artist uses a palette knife. (Heavy texture is called impasto)

  4. The Coating, or Varnish. Applied on top of the paint, it’s there to protect the paint underneath from dirt, abrasion and moisture.

II. Handling and Hanging

N.B. Most damage to paintings occurs when they are off the wall!

A. Transporting, Handling, and Storage.

  1. Only handle paintings that have an intact paint surface and a stable frame and stretcher. If the canvas is loose, it should be tightened using the keys on the back of the stretcher bars. (See Danger Signs below)

  2. Use two hands, and DON’T pick it up by the top of the frame or stretcher!

  3. Cover the front and back with cardboard or thin plywood to transport the painting.

  4. Don’t lean the canvas where anything can push against it.

  5. Never store an oil painting in extreme heat (like the attic!), cold or humidity

B. Hanging ~~ Do’s and Don’t’s

  1. Make sure all the hardware, eye screws, bails, wires, etc, are in good condition, solidly in place, and sized according to the weight of the painting.

  2. Make certain the painting is secure in its frame, but not nailed!! It has to have space to move.

  3. Use two picture hooks. This will keep it from getting crooked when someone slams the door.

  4. Choose a location that doesn’t get direct sunlight or hot or cold drafts.

  5. Avoid hanging your painting where it is likely to get bumped, like a narrow hall, or behind a door.

  6. As a general rule of thumb, the vertical center of the painting should hang at the eye level of a six foot person.

III. Maintenance & Housekeeping

  1. DO NOT dust or move the painting if there is any flaking or heavy cupping ~~ Even touching it can cause paint to fall off…not good. (see the next section on Danger Signs)

  2. Dust the painting and the frame with a soft bristle brush...something like a soft, 4” wide natural bristle paint brush works great. Do NOT spray or apply anything to the surface of the paint…it will darken and or damage the paint film.
    • Dusting is important. If you let dust stay too long, it becomes fused to the paint and varnish surface…this will darken the painting and call for cleaning by a qualified painting restorer.
  3. Cigarette smoke, candle smoke, grease-ladened cooking fumes, fireplace smoke…all will darken the surface of a painting.

  4. Paintings should be taken off the wall every so often and checked for loose hardware, rusty wire, mold, and bugs. (For a reason known only to roaches, they seem to love the backs of paintings.) I’ve seen a heavy painting fall because the picture wire got rusty from normal humidity!

IV. Danger Signs

Things to be on the lookout for before they get really bad.

  1. All paintings crack. There is even has an elegant French name for it: “craqueleure”. The different layers, i.e. the support, ground, paint film and varnish, all contract and expand with temperature and humidity changes. The cracking occurs because all these layers don’t move at the same rate. As the paint film cracks, it forms islands…the cracks that form the island allow moisture to attack the ground…this can cause the paint film to separate from the ground, and cause the little islands to “cup”, and eventually flake off. If you notice severe cupping, don’t clean or flex the canvas…call a qualified restorer, there is nothing that you can do yourself.

  2. Sometimes the canvas will sag or belly out, or form wrinkles or creases near the corners. This is a normal occurrence, and easily fixed. This is what those little triangular shaped “keys” in the back corners are for. These can be gently tapped in a specific alternating pattern to force the stretcher bars outward, thus stretching the canvas tight again. If the painting is old, dry or brittle, extreme care should be taken to avoid splitting the canvas.

  3. If the painting is on a wooden panel, be alert for changes. If the wood is acclimated to one heat or humidity level and that changes, then the panel might split or warp. This can be stopped and in many cases corrected by a qualified painting restorer using a process known as cradling.

  4. Bugs…not artistically inclined, see paintings as food. Call a qualified restorer…they’ll know how to exterminate without damaging the paint!

V. Painting Restorers, aka Conservators

If you have questions about how to handle your painting or if you just want to know more about its care, paintings conservators are your best source of information. They have years of education and experience working with all kinds of paintings in all sorts of conditions. Their goal is to guide you in the preservation and care of your painting so it will appear its best for the longest time. In fact, most large museums have their own staff of restorers who work on a continual basis.

  1. Every painting is different. Even paintings by the same artist can be different, depending on what has happened to them during their lives. Restorers are trained to move slowly, calling on their knowledge of art history, historical and modern artists' materials, the structure and behavior of these materials, chemistry, and knowledge of the scientific methods available for examining, restoring and preserving objects of art. Doing it yourself will just about always damage the appearance and value of your art.

  2. Generally a restoration includes:
    • Stabilizing the paint film
    • Cleaning the surface and removing the old varnish
    • Replacing any lost paint
    • Repairing any holes or tears
    • Re-varnishing
    • Re-mounting into the frame

  3. A conservator can also advise on:

    • suitable environmental conditions for hanging or storing
    • proper lighting
    • hanging techniques and locations
    • security
    • routine housekeeping methods

If you think you might need a qualified restorer, please contact us. We offer these services or can refer you to others.

post scriptum

In addition to oil paintings on canvas or wood, there are paintings on metal, paper, leather, etc. Some of the information above will apply to these, but some require special care. Again, a restorer can help here.

Acrylic paintings, too, fall into a separate category. Introduced in the 1950’s, they have become popular with artists for a number of reasons. However, there’s a lot we don’t know about them, and what we do know is not good in terms of their preservation. Here’s a statement from the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation department:

“Acrylic emulsion paintings have unique characteristics which require diligent preventative care. Their soft paint films attract and hold dirt and are difficult to clean and varnishing is not an ideal solution. It is important to store acrylic paintings in a dust free environment to reduce the amount of dirt deposited. It is also important to keep the display or storage temperature below standard room temperatures to reduce further softening of the paint film. Protective framing is one possible way to exclude dirt from the painting surface. One might have to accept that as time goes on, acrylic paintings will experience some visual change due to dirt deposition and that dirt removal will also cause visual damage.”


Did you know...?

by Dexter S. Augier

Oil paints are a mixture of pigments with oil, like linseed oil. They have been around since about 650AD, but had to be mixed by the artist or an apprentice…by hand…and they had to be made fresh every day. One practically had to be a chemical engineer to consistently compound accurate colors! Then, in the 19th century, paint in tubes became available, and artists for the first time were free to leave the studio and paint in the outdoors.

By putting oil paint in tubes, artists could pack up arid go outside to paint.John Rand, an American created a way to store oil paint in a tin tube in 1841, replacing the former method of storing oil paint in animal bladders, or compounding the colors fresh every day by hand. By putting oil paint in tubes, artists could pack up and go outside to paint. Pierre Auguste Renoir, the French Impressionist painter, has been quoted as saying, without paints in tubes, there would have been no Cezanne, no Monet, no Sisley, or Pissarro.


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