Auctions | Polar Pilgrims, Darwin, Snakes, Aden, Mont Blanc

Thursday, April 30, 2009 7 comments

It's one thing to breeze through those painting auctions, but "Travel, Natural History, Atlases and Maps"??!? I had no idea what I was getting into: reading, squinting, French translations! But what treasures can be found (and acquired if you're the Smithsonian or a lucky real estate short seller who managed to escape the downturn).  These all hit the block at Sotheby's London on May 7. 

Above: A Norwegian Flag (350 X 520mm.), silk, inscription on paper signed by "Polar Pilgrim" Gustav Amundsen at foot, framed and glazed, some soiling

 Estimated at GBP 7,000-9,000 

HMS Beagle: Stokes, Commander Pringle. Manuscript Journal Kept As Commander Of HMS Beagle, 28 March To 24 July 1828

The final journal kept by the commanding officer of one of the most famous ships in maritime history, Charles Darwin's HMS Beagle, detailing the dramatic end of her first hydrographic surveying voyage to patagonia...

Est at GBP 45,000 to 55,000

Andrew Smith, Illustrations Of The Zoology Of South Africa. London: Smith, Elder And Co., 1838-1849

Est. at GBP 4,000 - 5,000 

A rare and important photo album including the first known photographs of Aden, which are among the earliest shots of the Arabian Peninsula, taken around 1852 by Col. Sir Robert Lambert Playfair (1828-1899), who was in Aden from 1852-1862. These photographs of Aden are earlier than any held in the Oriental and India Office Collections in the British Library.

Est. at GBP 20,000 to 30,000

John Macgregor, The Ascent Of Mont Blanc, a series of four views. G. Baxter, 1855

Est. at GBP 1,500—2,000

Auctions | The Tie Inside

Thursday, April 30, 2009 4 comments
I like to think that this Irish boy, totally tired of potatoes and corned beef, developed a major hankering for spaghetti arrabiata.  Accordingly, he put on his best white linen and took the care to tuck in his red tie to prevent any precarious splashes.  Or maybe he just didn't want the tie to fall into the paritoneal cavity during cadaver class.  (No link between culinary urges and cadavers intended). Regardless, he looks great and could be yours for an estimated GBP 2,000-3,000 at the Irish Sale at Sotheby's London on May 7.

Dissecting Science Class

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10 comments
Oh, the right of passage that is one's first science class dissection. Mine were mostly uneventful, although I did give up clam chowder for 10 years after prying open one of those bivalves in 7th grade (my god, they have a "foot"!). All my specimens, whether fetal pigs or worms came to me very dead, soaked in formaldehyde. My mom didn't have it so easy.  Her teacher wanted to give the kids a glimpse at living anatomy. He doled out fully living and breathing frogs and told the class to administer an ether-soaked cotton ball, bop them on the head and then "pith" the spine (stick a needle-like thing through its vertebrae to scramble the spinal cord). All very sweet serial killer-type stuff for a bunch of 12-year olds (Charles Starkweather lived sort of near by...maybe they did that in his science class, too). 

Mom had landed a brain surgeon's son as her lab partner and thought she was home free.  They etherized, they bopped, they pithed, they split that guy open and pinned him down...and then that thing came back to life with the rage of an angry chimp.  It ripped itself off the wax tray and flailed about the room, innards exposed to the world.  I suppose it eventually died. My mortal fear of frogs (disemboweled or not) always reared its ugly head at that point and I never really let her finish telling the story.  I do sort of wish someone had been around to take a picture, though.

It seems a lot of people actually did like bringing cameras to anatomy labs.  John Harley Warner, chairman of Yale’s History of Medicine program, and James M. Edmonson, curator of a museum of medical memorabilia at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have put together a tome of old dissection shots in their new book, Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930.  Today's NY Times offers up some nice anecdotes about the guys who cut up bodies during those times.

(Photo: Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, from “Dissection” via The New York Times)

More great images on the incomparable Morbid Anatomy blog.

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Monday, April 27, 2009 5 comments

Everyone's favorite stoned vampire as Salvador Dali during his Residencia years when he ran wild with Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca.  A potentially hokey story (the font in the trailer scares me) with undeniably beautiful costumes.  (Yes, HHH has given up on proper sentence structure and is apparently referring to herself in the third person).

Sun (Dress), Shade (Hat)

Monday, April 27, 2009 10 comments
In order to prepare for the summer-in-April onslaught, Port and I hit the stores.  Inspired by the Amish and a stylish boy who sat to the left of Madonna on one of her recent Malawi adoption adventures, I stocked up on madras shirts to wear belted with skirts and my straw hat.  Porter went with that great Skywriter Dress from Anthropologie and the straw hat from J.Crew (which isn't posted online yet!). It's very important to put in a little effort this early, because after about two more days of 80+ temperatures, we'll all just throw in the style towel and sweat it out in t-shirts.
The Gather | Swamp Road Baskets

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11 comments

Jamin Uticone seeks out the Swamp Ash of Upper Upstate New York and coaxes out Adirondack-style baskets from within.  He hand pounds, cuts, shaves and shapes each basket splint -- a craft, he says, "is as much an art as the basket making itself."  He learned his splinting and weaving style during a six year apprenticeship with master basket maker Jonathan Kline of Trumansburg, New York.  Today Uticone adorns his Swamp Road pack baskets and strapped carriers with bridle leather and brass fittings and treats the wood with a blend of citrus and linseed oils.  Screw those little totes, this is how one should carry his/her organic potatoes/cherry tree branches/berries/corn/truffles out of the woods (or Whole Foods).

Also known as the Black Ash, these trees are found in “rare pockets of cool bottomland spanning from the Great Lakes, east to Maine, and from Virginia north through Canada, where some of the oldest weavers still practice the art...”

Full Pack, $975

The smaller Urban Pack, $650
The Hunt | Pat Laursen, Queen of Skeet

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 12 comments
All ladies should wear aviators, lipstick, pin curls and spectators when they take up arms.   National Skeet Shooting Champion, Pat Laursen -- possibly the most adorable woman ever known for blowing things to smithereens -- captured tending to her craft by the incomparable Alfred Eisenstaedt for LIFE in 1940.

(Many thanks to ACL's Michael Williams for the terrific heads up. We all should spend more time immersed in the LIFE archive).
The Hunt | Matthew Benedict's Mystery Stories

Monday, April 20, 2009 2 comments
Given the wildly worldly hunting tales told in the post below (by so many very well-travelled readers!), the theme continues...

Brooklyn artist Matthew Benedict tells tales of mystery through trompe l'oeil and 20th century adventure story-inspired paintings. Death, he says, is the "greatest mystery story of all." He explores that in The Killers (2009)...

...and in Requiem (2008-2009) where he displays Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem of that name on the spines of the books. A portrait of the author hangs on the right panel.

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This is the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be;
Here is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.'

Baking Bread for the Boys, 2000

The Visitor, 2006

Benedict's "Mystery Stories" are on display at the Alexander and Bonin Gallery through May 2.

(Many thanks to Porter for the heads up on this one. Interview and Art in America have been dispatching her to shoot gallery openings and - some very seedy - parties across the city, so she's my eyes into the art world these days).

Hovey Hunting Tales...(Well, Not Exactly)

Friday, April 17, 2009 15 comments
One Thanksgiving back in the '40s, my Grandma Vi and Grandpa Pete opted for true tradition and bought a live turkey.  Grandpa had grown up raising rabbits on his family's acreage and had always fished, but must've been quite a stranger to proper bird hunting, killing and dressing. "Go out and kill that bird, Pete," Grandma Vi said.  Roughly nine hours later, Grandpa was putting the final touches on a turkey guillotine.  "Jesus Christ, Peter!" she yelled as she walked over to that bird and broke its neck.  

That's the closest I come to a childhood hunting story -- and it wasn't even my childhood or legitimate hunting.  But we certainly grew up with bouts of country.  Our aunt and uncle owned the only bar in Benedict, Nebraska, a farm town outside of York. We'd visit and our aunt would fry up giblets and gizzards for me, which I washed down with Grape Welch's (a beverage that never touched my lips in the 'burbs -- we were a 95% Coke family with Dr. Pepper and A&W rounding out our pop - yes, pop - repertoire). One year, she entered me into two contests at Benedict Days: frog jumping and greased pig.  Guy Leaf, a farmer with the best farmer name ever recorded, brought me a bullfrog from his property. That little bugger jumped like a champ. I won. The pigs were much cuter and much, much harder to control.  What a workout.  A perfect way to burn off bacon. (That's me washing off the pig grease, summer '82). 

Now that it's almost BBQ weather, tell us your best childhood hunting (or interaction-with-non-domesticated-animals-that-will-eventually-land-on-a-plate) stories...they've gotta be better than mine.
Speaking of BillyKirk...

Thursday, April 16, 2009 4 comments

The Brothers Bray invited me to their West Village showroom last week to see the whole BillyKirk collection, much of which is stitched up by Amish bridle-making craftsmen.  Afterwards, they told me childhood hunting tales over Scotch eggs and brewskies...

Christopher Thomas ("Chris"/"CT") and William Kirkland ("Kirk"/"BillyKirk"/"BK") Bray were born in east Tennessee and reared in Minnesota, just outside St. Paul.  They lost their accents, but kept ties to their Southern roots through years of trips to see their grandparents. They fished. They hunted. They once watched their uncle field dress and cook a squirrel in a span of five minutes.  (Tennessee squirrels aren't like NYC squirrels, Chris explained).  After college, they moved to L.A. where Kirk bought a '70s leather watch band at a pawn shop. Everyone loved that watch band -- and they figured someone should recreate it.  The brothers, who always knew they wanted to work together, had their business.  They went out and bought leather, apprenticed under a third-generation leather craftsman and eventually acquired a bunch of his equipment.  They've been turning out vintage-inspired men's leather goods and accessories ever since.  They enlisted the Amish when they moved East, but still do all the finishing in house. Fantastic stuff.

Two generations of Bray (the brothers, their dad, Tom, and Chris' best friend, Paul) shooting BB guns and .22s in the Minnesota woods.

Raybans, Sperry's and a load of crappies (and sunfish) in East Tennessee.

Kirk, who's also a painter, with the No. 214 Waxed Cotton and Leather Laptop Satchel w/adjustable shoulder strap ($380).

Chris with the No. 196 Waxed Cotton Game Bag w/adjustable shoulder strap ($300).

One of my personal favorites (top shelf, left): the No. 179 Leather Tote w/Two Sets of Handles ($300)

(Many thanks to the Brays for the childhood photos!).

Addendum to Safari Bedroom Shopping Guide...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 3 comments
My clothes hang off exposed pipes in my room, so it's crucial that I only invest in items that match (in a very non-matchy-matchy way) my interiors. This rule becomes even more crucial when jewelry, bags and accessories (the most important tchotchkes of all!) are concerned (so when I included the BillyKirk satchel and the pith helmet as home accessories, I wasn't kidding). That said, these handmade organic Borocera silk shawls from the women at the Firaisankina Cooperative in Madagascar both would look just as exceptional casually hanging over the edge of the Lillesand Bed as they would draped around your neck. Available from Ebay's softer side,, for $54.99 each.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 2 comments

While it continues to rain cats and dogs in NYC, we've been promised three days of impending heaven, our first stint this spring. Come tomorrow, Gothamites will hit the streets (and the bars) stripped down to their skivvies, praying that they expose themselves to someone's, er, spring fever.  The great Wynonie Harris can provide the absolutely filthy background music.
HHH Shopping Guide: Safari Bedroom

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 8 comments
(...without spending a fortune).  {1} Indian Nautical Lantern, Vermont Lanterns, $89.97  {2} No. 95 Shoulder Satchel (inspired by a WWII Belgian map case), BillyKirk, $325  {3} Adventure II Treated Mosquito Net, Travel Health Help, $49.95  {4} Field Chair, Design Within Reach, $65  {5} Alseda stool, Ikea, $29.99  {6} African Safari Pith Helmet, Village Hat Shop, $42  {7} Crochet Tailored Bedskirt, Touch of Class, $49.75 (twin) to $89.75 (king)  {8} Lillesand Bed, Ikea, $179
Polariod, The Resurrection

Monday, April 13, 2009 5 comments
Hope and life spring eternal for that nearly forsaken film of nostalgic instant gratification! The folks at the Impossible Project have purchased the old Polaroid factories and machines to resurrect the medium from its deathbed. Wahoo! But they will need our support, so it's time to enlist! (Many thanks to CB for the heads up!)

(Above: Polaroid of Turkish naval graffiti near the Istanbul Modern by Porter Hovey, a gal who's doing her best to keep the medium alive and well.)
Guns! Ruffs! Monkeys! Cocks! (and a Dead Bunny)

Monday, April 13, 2009 2 comments

Nothing's more of a drag than shopping out of one's price range, so, we'll ignore all those zeros and pretend like this is a cyber museum tour!  Sotheby's Amsterdam puts these Old Master Paintings on the block Tuesday May 5 at 2 p.m. Dutch time.

The Property Of A Gentleman, Johannes Leemans, The Hague, 1633 – 1688, A Trompe L'oeil Hunting Still Life With A Rifle, A Bird In A Cage, A Hunting Horn, A Bird-Whistle And Other Hunting Gear.  Estimated at 50,000—70,000 EUR

Attributed to Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt, Portrait of Abraham van der Meer (1584-1638), half length, wearing a black costume with a white ruff, and a signet-ring. Estimated at 30,000 to 50,000 EUR.

(I'd love it more without those birds, but...) Melchior D'hondecoeter, Utrecht 1636 – 1695, Amsterdam, A Diana Monkey On A Chain In A Landscape With Four Colourful Birds In The Sky. Estimated to go for 40,000—60,000 EUR.

(Perhaps too soon to show Easter's pagan mascot in this state, but...) Bartholdt Wiebke, A hunting still life of a dead hare and a cockerel suspended from a hook, a dead partridge and two songbirds, together with various hunting gear. Estimated to go for 15,000—20,000 EUR

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009 12 comments
I went on a little Easter egg hunt around the apartment this morning and came up with quite a load. Our mom was mad for the decorative egg -- and Porter and I are certainly of the same yolk.  We found the grey/bird motif one in Copenhagen...the little gold-lined speckled one's a necklace pendant from Catbird...the rest all belonged to mom (who apparently liked her eggs to look like mammals).
Ebay Shopping: Victorian Bird Clamp

Thursday, April 09, 2009 2 comments
Screw one of these little Victorian pin cushion/sewing clamps onto your desk and invite your co-workers to write viscous notes about your enemies and stick them in the beak while you're away. You'd enter your office in the morning greeted with news about the newest round of layoffs (that don't apply to you) or office affairs, and when you spread the news to others, you'll be able to - honestly - say that a little birdie told you.  Bids for this one (with very nice, in-tact pin cushions) start at 99 cents.
Vanity Fair's Pseudo Green Issue

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 No comments
Graydon Carter et all snuck a Green issue out a month early this year. You've got Gisele's body makin' every woman walking the planet green with envy...Teddy "If You Know Me, You Call Me Theodore" Roosevelt shootin' big game while wildly protecting the smaller species...and V.F. contributing editor Alex Shoumatoff digging up dirt about that old San Francisco club of blue blooded rich boys who apparently like to chop down even older red wooded trees. offers up some extra tidbits on those Bohemian Grovers, including their a deep appreciation for soul music. It's no surprise really -- they've just grown up from those good ole days with Doug Clark and His Hot Nuts.

Bohemian Grove memorabilia. Photograph by Karen Kuehn/memorabilia courtesy of Mary Moore via Vanity Fair.

Professorial...AND Still Able to Read

Monday, April 06, 2009 10 comments
For only $65 a pop, you can help save your parents' (or your) arms from menu-reading stretching strain. It's a serious affliction!  The fantastic site Eyebobs has the best collection of reading specs I've ever seen.  {1} Acid Trip {2} Wide Awake {3} TV {4} Gone Public {5} Mr. Digler {6} Scored  {7} S-Old {8} WASP {9} Old Money Sun Reader  {10} Total Wit
Thank You (Again!), House Beautiful!

Monday, April 06, 2009 11 comments
If it wasn't cool (and a total honor) enough for my living room to be included in the February issue of House Beautiful, they've now included the blog as one of the sites they love!  So many thanks to Dara Adeeyo for the wonderful write up and cheers to HB for all the great taste in every single issue.
Spring in the Hermès

Sunday, April 05, 2009 13 comments
Hermès pumped out over 100 pages of publishing perfection and fantasy for its spring catalogue.  Photographer Tim Walker takes us into a world where we can fly by baguette or hot air balloon basket...where giant snails and a tribesman take over a Paris flat...and where hay makes a perfect facade.

(all images by Tim Walker for Hermès)