Wednesday, 11 July 2012

JEWEL BOX ~ Winged Things

I saw Butterflies in the garden this week. A Peacock, some Brimstone and a small brightly coloured one that I could not identify. The Peacock nearly landed on me while I stood and admired it. Then it was gone, off over the houses towards the fields of wildfowers and grasses. Last year our village was full of so many Butterflies of all size and colour that we were inspired to fill in an online survey to count them in the United Kingdom.

I love all of them, even the Brimstone and whites which are considered common and somewhat of a pest as their caterpillars will devour brassicas in no time at all. Really there is nothing common about a Brimstone these days, even they are threatened and in decline. Their wing colour can vary greatly from very  pale, almost silver to a bright rich yellow. Their caterpillars decimated the brussel sprouts we were growing, but I forgave them.

We had a fairy like lodger over winter. She arrived one cool Autumn day and nestled herself in our garden greenhouse at the back of a shelf inside an empty terracotta pot. There she settled into a deep sleep to wait for Spring. I noticed her before winter came and all through the snows and storms I continued to check on her and ensure no frost came near, no fungus tarnished those soft wings and no spider wound a stealthy web over her.

My Sleeping Beauty rewarded me come the first sun. Out she flew and perched upon the red brick wall. Her wing edges were in tatters, wear and tear from her year as a Butterfly. Now all she had to do was find a bed of nettles, preferably in a wood where they will not be cut down until next Spring,  lay the eggs she had carried within her, and die. She had slept all winter just to provide her young with a future. Still cold from her deep sleep and exposed to the winds where she was sitting, she was in danger of failing in her mission. I took her and gently cupped her in my hands where she sat quietly for a few minutes. Suddenly she flapped those jeweled Peacock wings - and flew away. On that day, in the sun that was shining I felt sure that her offspring would be born and thrive. Now I am not so full of hope for her or the other Butterflies. I've seen almost none this year.

BBC Homes & Antiques August 2012 issue

Being a vintage dealer in England I like to watch the BBC Antiques Roadshow and read the magazine that they produce, BBC Homes & Antiques. The magazine has a balance of real antiques and vintage, and a very useful diary of events. It is filled with beautiful, real homes from all walks of life. I love the way it runs pieces on large and small antiques dealers, artists and home workers.
This month they have run a feature on Butterfly brooches. Long out of fashion they have now become quite collectable. There are some wonderful examples available, from the ornate and intricately made victorian jewel encrusted to simple enammelled, finely twisted silver and delicate gold. In all price ranges.

I remember as a little girl how fascinated I was by the giant brooches that my Grandmother liked to wear. I love them and often wear 2 or 3 together on a coat or a wool hat or scarf. Some are so beautiful that they can even be used to decorate a room, on a curtain tieback or a lampshade.

 These are available on ebay now, and I am very tempted.

Sterling silver & filigree enamel

great example of Czechoslovakian glass and gilt
I love this one, glass and daisies!
From the 1930s/40s
Perhaps the most beautiful one of all,
a tiny Millefiori from Italy

Earlier this month the Wiltshire illustrator, artist, sculptor and jewelry maker Joanne May (she is a multi tasking much talented lady) and I were wandering on one of our 'treasure quests' and we found ourselves in a most amazing antiques shop in Hungerford called Great Grooms. It is housed in a large red brick victorian house, of the grand design, and every room and staircase is decked in Objects of Desire.  We came across some works and jewels which we would not have expected to see outside of a museum. Joanne often paints the Fairy Realm in her work and always has an eye for a beautiful example of this art. This is what she found!

‘Prospero releasing Ariel from the tree.’ Arthur Bentley Connor 

Oil on canvas: 60x37 inc. (Frame: 67 x 44 Inc.) Signed & dated 1911 l/l
PRICE £28,000

"Commissioned by the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre the painting shows Prospero in his magic robes in act 5.1 of ‘The Tempest’ releasing Ariel from his prison inside a tree, before finally renouncing magic. The Dragonfly almost certainly represents one of the characters in Prospero’s circle, and Calaban as the toad.

Arthur Bentley Connor was a portrait painter from London who exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Royal Academy from 1903-18.

Provenance: This fabulous painting was commissioned by the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford –Upon-Avon for the production of ‘The Tempest’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company which opened July 31, 1911.
According to the artists daughter the painting was returned to her father for restoration after being damaged by a fire at the theatre. The Great War then took place and the painting remained in the artist’s possession and never returned to the theatre. The theatre was finally destroyed in the great fire of 6 March, 1926 (and not re-built until 1932).The picture remained with the artist until his death, and left to his daughter-Isabel Ward, née Conner. The painting was sold by Isabel Ward together with a note of provenance in 2002.The artists restoration to fire damage has since been carefully reversed and the painting conserved and restored using modern techniques to museum standards."

This painting is being sold by Thomas Fine Art, one of the dealera at Great Grooms.

A photo really does not do this justice, we felt very privileged to have seen it in person and hope someone buys this who will share it with the public. The painting has a long and interesting history which should be preserved. Look closely and you will the frog and dragonfly. It is really stunning, Aerial's wings are as delicate as can be, you can see through them. We were both delighted to find art which paid a small tribute to the beautiful wings of Butterflies.

Joanne is inspired by them in her own work where she sometimes gives her Fairies such wings. This is a detail from one of her paintings called Fairy Thief. We have a print of this for sale in Mrs Black's This n That at The Emporium in Hungerford.

Joanne is currently busy with work and is taking a summer break from blogger but this is her own site: Willow Treefox


  1. I love the story you tell about the butterfly. Lovely pictures and have a nice evening.


  2. I havent been in Great Grooms for years but there are some stunning stalls in the Arcade in the High St. too. Also a bit of dross, so you have to be selective! Lovely images.

    1. Hi Jenny, We sell in a new antiques shop, called The Emporium, across the street from the Hungerford Arcade. The high street has changed a lot and is contining to improve. I love the old arcade too, slways new dealers and things to see. x

  3. The series of lovely photos and interesting stories. Butterflies soothe our hearts, inspire imagination and please the eye.

    Butterfly brooches are all amazingly beautiful!! Especially I love the last one.

    Thanks a lot for sharing and have a great week!

    1. Thank you Keiko, Sometime you must tell us about the butterflies in your home. x

  4. Such a lot in this post.
    For a few years, after the government sprayed for gypsy moth, we didn't see any butterflies. It was such a sad thing. They are returning now, and it's lovely to sit outside in the afternoon to watch them vie with the hummingbirds for the flowers.
    I have a couple of old butterfly brooches that I must dig out!

    1. You are so lucky to have hummingbirds! There are a few things I miss from my old life in America, and they are one. x

  5. I love your posts they are always so interesting! What beautiful butterfly broaches. All the vintage jewellery and clothing seems to be coming back in fashion. Did you watch Sarah Raven's programme on bringing back the butterflies and bees into our gardens...Have a lovely weekend. Sharon

    1. Hi Sharon, Thank you! I love Sarah Raven, she is so passionate about gardens and nature. I always try to catch her when she is on tv or radio. x

  6. Nothing like real butterflies in all their splendid perfect glory but oh me oh my, these brooches are stunning!! Oh wow!!! Take care

    1. I totally agree, the magic of a real butterfly is so wonderful! x

  7. I love butterflies and attract them to our yard with blooming plants and shrubs (like budlea). Your lovely photos remind me that I probably have some antique and vintage butterfly pins long forgotten...

    Love your beautiful blog, and of course.... Mrs. Black!


  8. There shouldn't be a time for butterfly broaches! They should be in fashion all of the time. That is it, I'm going to dig all of mine out.

    I love that last scan of the Fairy Thief painting. What a pity the shop is closed, I would have liked a print of that.

    1. Hi Emm, For some reason your comment went into spam, blogger is so fickle! I will let Joanne know you might like to buy a print of her Fairy Thief. I think she might have some cards printed up and maybe a few actual prints left too.

      I agree, we can wear Butterflies all year! x

  9. OOOh a lady after my own heart ~ i love butterflies, there seems to be a sad lack of them in our waterlogged garden this year. I love the Antiques roadshow, how beautiful ais the painting Joanne came across! ( lovely lass that she is, i proudly own one of her beautiful necklaces).

    1. Ruthie - great to see you back! Catch up on your blog soon. xx


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