Sunday, April 17, 2011

Something old, something new.

We can't resist a good antiques fair. Even if the venue is colder inside than it is outside in the rain, and crowded, besides, so that we are constantly bumping into or being bumped by other enthusiasts; even if the closest parking is blocks away, our feet are sore, and our bags heavy. It's worth it all to see the beautiful things people have created, so long ago, and the ingenious, practical, or just wacky ideas they came up with.

Laurie has been collecting Japanese porcelain for years, and more recently, Chinese jade. I look at everything, enjoying the glimpses into an older, sometimes comforting, sometimes strange and foreign world. I learn something new at every fair.

Yesterday, Saturday, we bought several good jade carvings; mythical beasts, a dancing shaman/cricket, a sensitive father/son portrait. And in the Baker's Dozen Antiques stand, I found this ghostly mask:

Fine wire mesh mask with painted features, copper trim, and cloth ties to hold it in place.

Red, well-shaped lips, and a wavy mustache. The nose is a mere crease in the mesh.

The mesh is so fine that the mask allows the back of the child's chair and the face of the painting behind that to show through. Only the eyes and mouth mark the character it portrays.

I'd never seen anything like this before, so I had to research it when I got home. It is an Oddfellows mask from the end of the 19th century.  They used these in their initiation ceremonies; every member except the newcomer wore a mask, although he was blindfolded, so the masks were not meant as disguises. Some descriptions of the ritual - dunking him in water, rolling him in the shrubbery, rattling chains at him - sound as if it were mostly horseplay, maybe a spoof of more serious rituals from other societies.

Here are a few photos of similar masks.

Close-up of the eyes. I moved the mask away from the painting. The "headband" is the edge of the chair seat.

I didn't buy this, although I was tempted. After a pep talk I had given Laurie on the way there, about not buying anything if we didn't have a place to display it, I felt silly about suggesting it, even. Now I sort of wish I had; I think I know where I would have hung it.

It had been cold and windy, with a bit of rain when we went back to the car to get our lunch. But when we left in the afternoon, the sun was bright and warm. The residential district we crossed on our way back to the bridge was lined with trees in full bloom, mostly cherry and star magnolias. I stopped so we could take a few photos.

Pink star magnolia.

Pink and white.

Laurie's favourite. Cherry, magnolia, and feathery branches blowing in the wind. What is that tree?

In the lawn underneath a magnolia, tiny blue flowers, Veronica, I think, nestled in the grass.

At home, I parked the car, yawned, stretched and groaned. Oh, my back! And then we said, almost in unison, "A very good day!"


  1. Congrats on your wonderful finds. Love the flowering trees. Just Beautiful!

  2. that mask was neat. i hate it when the practical side wins out and then later you wish it hadn't. :)

    i like that wispy tree. must be some sort of willow.

  3. lovely post. That Magnolia is just so beautiful

  4. Thanks, all. Texwisgirl, Laurie says it's probably an exotic willow, too. That area of town is heavily landscaped, and most plants are from nurseries, and many are non-native.


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