Sarah D. Coffin

Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve and jacket front.


A set of eighteen remarkable buttons each feature a small painting of groups of people of mixed races in a British West Indies island, then called Dominica, now Haiti and Santo Domingo. The artist, subjects and traditional history all collide to make the buttons an extraordinary combination of artistic significance, social history, and inventive design use.
buttons, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Haiti, Brunias, West Indies, jacket, scenes, landscapes, costume, textiles, hats

Whimsy and Shamrocks


A collector of English furniture once asked me if I recognized who might have made a chest of drawers he had purchased.  It had beautifully executed inlays and was in an early neo-classical style that appeared to say it was made in London. In fact, the inlays looked like the work of the firm of cabinetmakers Mayhew and Ince who produced very fine furniture there from about 1759-1800, much of which featured sophisticated inlays in the style popularized by architect Robert Adam, with whom they worked. However, there was more whimsy in the style of the inlays on the chest.
Adam, neo-classical, inlays, marquetry, pier table, honeysuckle, anthemion, palmetto, satinwood

From the home of mustard comes another tale...


It is hard to imagine a time when spices were so precious that their containers were designed as jewelry or a rare accessory. Yet, that is what this pomander is; it's name is derived from the French, pomum ambrae, referring to perfumes and perfumed ointment.
pomander, spices, scents, allegories, Dijon, mustard, silver, silverwork

When Scents were as Precious as Gold and Wood carving told the Tale: The Adoration of the Magi


"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11).
wood carving, adoration, Magi, walnut, panel, gold, frankicense, myrrh

How many bubbles do you like?


Those who drink champagne have varying ideas how bubbly it should be. This glass prompted me to think about how the shape of a glass affects the taste of champagne. Although we tend to associate saucer-style champagne glasses with elegant figures from the 1920s, this shape existed well before then.
champagne, Glass, saucer, flute, celebration, bubbles, fizz, Lobmeyr

Finding animals in furniture


I love to try to “read” an object. Looking at the Elephant Trunk Table (Elefantenruesseltisch in German), it is easy to see why it was so named. What is less clear is why this design came into being. The table’s eight legs, which might suggest an octopus, look like elephant trunks. They also suggest the S-shaped cabriole legs found on tables and chairs starting in the first half of the 18th century, such as in this chair, also part of the Museum's collection:
elephant trunk, table, furniture

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