Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rich, not Gaudy

My grandmother, Märta Cederström (1879-1934), traveled to Italy in the 1890’s when she was a teenager. She was likely accompanied by her mother Clara Blixen (1855-1925) and her three sisters. Their visit included stays in Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples.

Both Clara and Märta were interested in art, art history and antiques. Besides extensive sightseeing they did some shopping. I have several items that the ladies may well have purchased in Florence: a small oval box, an oval waste basket, and two picture frames, all covered in elegantly gilded leather.

For hundreds of years Florence has been a center for gilded tooled leather work. Today the Franciscan monks in the monastery at the Santa Croce church run a leather working school keeping this old art form alive. Barbara has several small gilded boxes that belonged to Moster Brita. They are newer, in excellent condition (except the one that Claes bit when he was one) and were likely gifts from some of Brita’s close friends who lived in Italy.

I got the waste basket from Moster Brita after she died in 1993. It sat next to the antique Italian writing desk in her living room. My mother gave me the oval box, when I was 11 or 12. I got the two picture frames after my mother died in 1990.

The leather is in excellent condition on the smaller items, but the waste basket shows signs of wear and tear. The thin leather has worn off in places and there are a number of spots. I occasionally oil the leather, but I doubt anybody else has ever done it. My guess is that all the pieces date back to the late 1800’s.

The little box is one of the many things I have that I really treasure. I have seen it most days of my life, but never given it much thought. I love the patina of the faded soft leather, the dainty gold leaf work, and the graceful shape of the box. I think about my mother when I see it, and I wonder about the grandmother I never knew.

Oval gilded red leather box (3h x 5w x 3w cm)
Oval waste basket (30h x 28w x 19w cm)
Gilded brown leather frame (26h, 20w, frame width 17mm)
Gilded brown leather frame (30h, 25h, frame width 35mm)
This is part of a collection of notes I make about objects I have.
Each item has a picture, size, materials, condition, age, place of origin, history.
I also tell whatever I can think of in connection to the object: the object becomes the starting point to a story of a person or an event.
The collection has family tree information, where people lived etc. as separate entries.


1 comment:

  1. I so admire you for doing this project. What a legacy for your family. I wish my mother had done that for the pieces of jewelry I inherited.
    Did you think about starting the piece with your personal memories before getting into the history?