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Curious Objects

The Magazine Antiques

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Through interviews with leading figures in the world of fine and decorative arts, Curious Objects—a podcast from The Magazine Antiques—explores the hidden histories, the little-known facts, the intricacies, and the idiosyncrasies that breathe life and energy into historical works of craft and art.
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This week on our Curious Objects podcast, host Benjamin Miller is joined by Marina Wells to discuss scrimshaw. Whalebone, teeth, and other products of the sea adorned with nautical scenes and remembrances of home, scrimshaw is a portal into the lives and daydreams of whalers confined for months at a time aboard bobbing, blood-and-blubber-spattered …
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This week, Ben is joined by Dan Rubinstein, design journalist and host of the Grand Tourist podcast, to discuss TRENDS. But first of all . . . do they even exist anymore? Or are we living in a post-trend world ruled by the math of the algorithm and the magnetism of sui generis celebrities? Ben and Dan consider trends through historical and pop-cult…
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In Part 2 of a special two-part podcast, host Benjamin Miller speaks again with Peter Siebert, president and CEO of Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum, this time about a Revolutionary War–era naval signal book made for English Admiral Richard Howe. “Prepare to haul to the wind together on the starboard tack when in order of battle, and the …
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In Part 1 of a special two-part podcast, Curious Objects’ host Benjamin Miller speaks with Peter Siebert, president and CEO of Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum about a folk art watercolor from the late 1700s that’s been the subject of a major research project. Called Navigation Lesson, the painting is believed to depict the artist, Cornel…
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On this week’s episode, Ben Miller speaks with Elena Kanagy-Loux, lacewear trendsetter and co-founder of the Brooklyn Lace Guild. The focus object is a seventeenth-century Italian handkerchief, but Ben’s and Elena’s conversation also touches on that time she worked for Courtney Love; good (and bad) representations of lace and lace production in cin…
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The Romanov dynasty was wiped out in 1918 . . . but what happened to all their stuff? Well, some of it ended up at Heritage Auctions, whose Imperial Fabergé and Russian Works of Art auction on May 17 hopes to move a treasure trove of ikons, furniture pieces, diaries, and gold-encrusted baubles. To discuss the sale—and in particular a Fabergé bonbon…
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In the newest installment of our advice series, Ben Miller speaks with Jordan Heres, co-founder with his wife, Ingrid, of the Charlottesville, Virginia, rug purveyor Weft and Wool. The focus object is a rug from Karaja, Iran, made in about 1900, but Ben’s and Jordan also tackle such subjects as how often a rug should be washed, why you should never…
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In this special throwback episode, Benjamin Miller speaks with Ellery Foutch, assistant professor of American studies at Middlebury College, about a “relic Windsor chair” assembled by Henry Sheldon (founder of the Middlebury museum named in his honor) in 1884. This unique piece of furniture was built with fragments of wood salvaged from structures …
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In this Curious Objects Bites episode, Benjamin Miller examines an 1830s manuscript tune book from rural Vermont. Bound crudely in leather, this book of sacred music was made by a farmer named Bernard Ward as a gift for his grandson, and many years later passed into the major collection of musical instruments, books, scores, and ephemera assembled …
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Rebecca Romney, co-founder of rare book dealer Type Punch Matrix and a frequent guest on Pawn Stars, returns to our podcast Curious Objects this week. She has with her a mid-nineteenth-century abecebestiary, or calligraphic treatment of the alphabet with animal motifs, made by Englishman Charles Eduard Stuart . . . except that wasn't really his nam…
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This week Glenn Adamson returns to the pod to discuss an exhibition he co-curated at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York. Worlds Within: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu focuses on the work of the Okinawan-American ceramicist, which bridges the gulf between art and craft. In this inaugural installment of Curious Objects Bites—bingeable conversations a…
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Taylor Thistlethwaite, proprietor of Thistlethwaite Americana in Middleburg, Virginia, returns to the pod to defend the merits of “brown furniture.” Whether it’s earthy, richly figured black walnut or the sometimes-overlooked black cherry, it’s important not to “think of wood as just something brown,” Taylor says. “There’s so much life in it. And i…
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If you ever start to feel like history is abstract, spend a little time with an object or two that were actually there. For instance, a silver bowl and a pair of candlesticks that once belonged to New York grandees Pieter and Elizabeth Delancey, which suddenly reappeared recently after being lost for three hundred years. In this special rerun of on…
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Last month Benjamin Miller made a guest appearance on Art Slice, hosted by the podcasting power couple—and artists and art historians—Stephanie Dueñas and Russell Shoemaker, and now available here. The trio’s conversation focuses on a dazzling group of mixed-metal wares made by Tiffany and Company in the latter part of the nineteenth century, inclu…
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How much should you spend? What kind of stone should you get? Is antique better than modern? These are just a few of the many questions that any courter must consider when ring-hunting. Here to share his ring lore on this special Valentine’s Day episode is a true jewelry expert, Matthew Imberman of Kentshire Galleries. First things first: don’t wor…
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In 1909, Daisy Makeig-Jones was hired by the Wedgwood firm in Staffordshire, England, to decorate pottery. She would go on to develop the “Fairyland” luster pattern, which combined dazzling iridescent glazes with motifs from fairy tales and would serve to revitalize the Wedgwood brand. Bailey Tichenor, one half of the duo behind Artistoric gallery,…
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In what has become an annual tradition, Curious Objects host Benjamin Miller capped off January with a panel discussion at the Winter Show. This year’s edition was named “Catching the Bug: Enriching Your Life Through Collecting,” and featured three distinguished collectors and the objects they live by and through. The Hawkes bowl belonging to conse…
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In the summer of 1966 the Beatles were in Japan, whirling through the first leg of what would be their final world tour. Hoping to forestall the dangerous excesses of Beatlemania, Japanese authorities confined the Fab Four to their hotel suite at Tokyo’s Hilton Hotel for almost the duration of their one-hundred-hour stay. Casting about for things t…
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In 1543 Andreas Vesalius published a seven-part book that would become the foundational text of modern anatomy: On the Fabric of the Human Body. With it, the Flemish anatomist overturned more than a millennium’s worth of medical dogma, many of his breakthroughs coming while dissecting human corpses—a method of study unavailable to physicians of cla…
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In this week’s episode, interior designer Tara McCauley gives listeners an inside look at her practice, which she likens, curiously, to a travel agency. She says: “I like to think of myself like I’ve gone into the market and I’ve done the research and I’ve talked to the experts and the locals and I’m bringing you the best kind of experience you’re …
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Over the past couple weeks we’ve been fielding and compiling questions that listeners have put to host Benjamin Miller. A taste: “Has any object ever truly baffled you?” “What’s the best town for antiquing?” and “Will Curious Objects ever do an adults-only episode?” This week’s episode represents a taste of his own medicine for Ben, usually the int…
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A top-tier orchestra might well have tens of millions of dollars–worth of instruments on stage. Many of them are antiques. And there are few people who know these instruments more intimately than Paul Becker. He’s the fifth-generation owner and director of Carl Becker and Son, a 150-year-old luthier business in Chicago. He and his family have resto…
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“Conservative” by the standards of its day, the three-piece suit worn by American statesman and bon vivant Lewis Littlepage (1762–1802) at the court of Catherine the Great is sewn of silk and embroidered with sprays of blue, white, and grey flowers. Neal Hurst, curator of textiles and historic dress at Colonial Williamsburg, comes on our Curious Ob…
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This week Benjamin Miller is joined by filmmaker Rachel Gould, better known on YouTube as the Art Tourist, to discuss Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire cycle of about 1834–1836. A watershed in the genre of landscape painting, Cole’s canvases use an allegory of empire—germination, prosperity, decline—to preach a cautionary tale about environmental and …
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This week we travel back to the seventeenth century, to the glorious court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in France, and his astonishing commission for a suite of ninety-three carpets to cover the 1440-foot-long Grande Galerie at the Louvre, then a royal palace. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is now the proud owner of three of these carpets—the creati…
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This week Ben speaks with three bigwigs of Gem X, an international club for jewelry aficionados. Founder Lin Jamison, Simon Teakle gallery director Christine Cheng, and returning Curious Objects guest Levi Higgs of David Webb discuss men in brooches, women in cuff links, and the fail-proof “smell test” for detecting real gold. These glitterati also…
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In this special throwback episode of Curious Objects, Ben Miller takes listeners on a virtual tour of the suite of beaux-arts abodes built for the Vanderbilts, Oelrichs, Astors, and Berwinds by the likes of Richard Morris Hunt and Stanford White. These houses—referred to as “cottages” by their nouveau riche owners—have been lovingly maintained by t…
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Friend of presidents and billionaires, nemesis of Hitlerism, and helicopter skiing enthusiast, Kenneth Rendell is an antiquer who needs no introduction. But listeners hankering for more had best apply to Safeguarding History: Trailblazing Adventures Inside the Worlds of Collecting and Forging History, Rendell’s recently published memoir and the occ…
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This week host Benjamin Miller checks in with the intriguingly named Salt Lizard, a two-woman antiquarium at the center of hipsterdom: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Lizzie Trinder and Rita Nehmé bring all their vocal-fried charm to bear on the shortcomings of fast furniture, what it was like doing business with reticent Millennials and Zoomers during the…
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This week host Benjamin Miller engages Lillian Stoner, a scholar of classical antiquity, in a wide-ranging discussion about the quirks and inequities of provenance, tomb robbery, and repatriation as it concerns objects of the ancient world. Of particular concern is the infamous “hot pot” that was once on display in New York City: the Euphronios or …
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Amber gameboards became very popular in northern Europe at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the subject of this week’s episode represents the very best of type. A symphony of richly figured amber, silver, and silver gilt, the Danzig-made board was used to play chess and the ancient Roman strategy game known today as Three Men’s Morris.…
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Like host Benjamin Miller, Oliver Newton specializes in silver—specifically, that from England, and especially silver from the nineteenth century and before. He has in hand a 1713 Anthony Nelme shaving bowl, one of those otherwise workaday objects made exceptional by fine craftsmanship, distinguished provenance, and, of course, the luster and value…
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Nick Dawes knows as much about antiques as probably anyone alive. With more than one hundred appearances on “Antiques Roadshow” since its US edition debuted in 1996, Dawes has sifted through thousands, perhaps millions, of family heirlooms in the thirty to sixty seconds allotted for each supplicant by the busy TV production schedule. Talking antiqu…
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Benjamin Miller is joined by Nathan Raab, principal at the Raab Collection, a purveyor of historic documents, manuscripts, and autographs that range from medieval codices to notes, signatures, and letters by the likes of Napoleon and Amelia Earhart. The firm’s inventory includes several items of especially national significance, such as the never-b…
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Clarissa von Spee, curator and Chair of Asian Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, comes on the pod to discuss a pair of ornately carved Qing Dynasty jade vessels, made by masters in Suzhou, China. Probably luxury objects and perhaps gifts, they’re just a couple of the more than two hundred objects on view as part of the exhibition "China’s Southern…
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This week host Benjamin Miller welcomes back an old friend: Glenn Adamson, ANTIQUES contributor and now editor of Material Intelligence, an online quarterly published by the Chipstone Foundation. The upcoming issue of the journal concerns leather, one of the oldest as well as the commonest human-worked materials. From its sartorial to industrial ap…
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Benjamin Miller continues his odyssey through the PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Collection Center, which embraces a sizeable portion of the museum’s nearly 2 million objects sourced from around the globe. Christian Louboutins and a $2.1 million copy of the Declaration of Independence are on the menu, as Ben speaks with Angela Segalla, director…
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The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is the United States’ oldest continuously operating museum. Today it embraces nearly 1 million objects from around the globe. However, as with most museums, space and programming constraints mean that only a fraction of these can be on view at any one time. Enter PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes C…
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In 1963, archaeologists from the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York began excavations in an ancient Levantine town called Jalame, in today’s Israel. For eight years they uncovered objects—many of which were brought back to the Corning—related to the production of glass in the Late Roman Empire. Most of the pieces produced in the Jalame wor…
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Host Benjamin Miller welcomes back his erstwhile co-host, Michael Diaz-Griffith, to discuss the latter's new book, "The New Antiquarians." A survey of the up-and-coming generation of antiques collectors, who are taking up the mantle of the wealthy, socially competitive collectors who preceded them, the book takes readers into the homes of “people w…
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The cope, a long, loose-fitting ceremonial cloak worn by a priests or bishops, is a curious object. “Imagine a circle cut in half—a cope is the shape of that half,” explains Thomas Campbell, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Henry VII commissioned thirty of these richly embroidered vestments for the English clergy, helping to lay …
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Curious Objects guest Kay Collier, who is the owner of Kathryn Hastings and Company, purveyor of fine antique and modern wax seals, has always been a letter writer. You can thank her grandmother for encouraging the habit. Every week when she was a child Collier would receive a card with a piece of bubblegum and a dollar bill, and would send mail ba…
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A couple of months ago, Ben Miller turned up at the Salmagundi Club in New York’s West Village to assume an unfamiliar role: that of interviewee rather than interviewer, sharing his expertise on nineteenth century American silver with the audience of the Gilded Gentleman. It’s a conversation that we are proud to present to you now.Silvery was in a …
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For nearly two hundred years, from his death in 1823, New York potter Thomas Commeraw was out of sight. In 2010 it finally became possible to positively identify him: as a prosperous free Black craftsman with a manufactory in Corlears Hook employing seven people, an enterprise that provided stiff competition to the legacy affairs of Pot Baker’s Hil…
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A conversation about broadening the scope of collecting practices beyond traditional Anglo-European material, discussing the challenges and opportunities for collectors taking an interest in previously overlooked or under-recognized fields. Led by Ben Miller, featuring Jeremy Simien, collector; and Jesse Erickson, Curator of Printed Books and Bindi…
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In 1750, a millenarian religious movement, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, arose in England. More commonly known as the Shakers for their ecstatic dance, today this movement can claim only two living exponents. But the legacy of Shakerism—ideals such as equality between the sexes and among races, sublime music, and simple…
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In 1750, a millenarian religious movement, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, arose in England. More commonly known as the Shakers for their ecstatic dance, today this movement can claim only two living exponents. But the legacy of Shakerism—ideals such as equality between the sexes and among races, sublime music, and simple…
  continue reading
 
In 1837 a family group that flew in the face of convention was committed to canvas, presumably by portraitist Jacques Guillame Lucien Amans. It showed four children. Three were white, dressed in their Sunday best and gazing placidly at the viewer. The fourth, standing behind them in a Brooks Brothers livery coat, was a Black teenager. This is Béliz…
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In 1837 a family group that flew in the face of convention was committed to canvas, presumably by portraitist Jacques Guillame Lucien Amans. It showed four children. Three were white, dressed in their Sunday best and gazing placidly at the viewer. The fourth, standing behind them in a Brooks Brothers livery coat, was a Black teenager. This is Béliz…
  continue reading
 
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